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basis of truth, is not to be desired. Unions among Sections of the visible church may possibly be effected at the expense of deviations on either hand from the direct line from each to the perfection of the church's character on earth. And though, after confederation is effected, tolerable approximation to it may be made, the sacrifice required may often not be excused. But when each party aims at the truth, the more they advance, the more they will approach each other; and happy will they be and honoured who will arrive there. Deviations from the path of rectitude made by any Section of the church are not reckoned as trivial by Him who witnesses the conduct of all; and it is, notwithstanding these, (but not as if he disregarded them) that he continues to make, to those chargeable with them, manifestations of his favour.
If some are nearer the consummation of Christian character and profession than many around them, let them not go back or wait on the others, but invite these to follow and unite, that all in due time may together go on to perfection.
Secondly. This act is performed by Christians in a national capacity. Acknowledging the law of God as the basis of legislation -ecclesiastical and civil; recognising themselves as individually and jointly called to obey it; as put in possession of common benefits arising from the dispensation of the law of Christ, in things civil as well as religious; and as called to promote the interests of the kingdom of Him who is king in Zion, the Governor among the nations, and Lord of all—as one body they engage in this. The members of Christ's church are members of civil society, of which, too, he is the Head ; and a reason not less substantial than that for vowing in an ecclesiastical capacity, they therefore have for engaging as members of a civil community in the exercise of Covenanting with God. Only such a covenant as corresponds with his will is acceptable to Him. But there are reasons why all in a Christian nation should collectively enter into such. Were some whose sentiments or practice might not correspond with the Covenant, to seek to enter it, there would be every reason why the federal union with these should not be completed. Such individuals are not fitted to have a charge or trust in the State committed to them. Till they would exhibit signs of repentance and reformation, they should not be received. Were a party in power, or desiring it, possessed of such a character, even apparently disposed to enter into such covenants, wisdom would say, Enter not into confederacy with them.
Thirdly. Various communities may be confederated together in one solemn Covenant with God. By this it is not intended that different churches holding many conflicting sentiments, and entertaining different plans of attaining even to a good end, may warrantably so unite in an ecclesiastical capacity. What prevents different churches from adopting the same standards, and holding communion with one another in waiting on all the ordinances of divine grace, is sufficient to prevent them from associating in league in this manner. Nor is it intended that by such a federal union merely a testimony against error should be given, without a solemn declaration of adherence to specified truths. It is not the fact of a given Section of the visible church adhering to a definite system that invests it with a right to Covenant by itself, exclusively of every other-for that system might be very imperfectbut because that it holds the truth, and is bound to go on to perfection. Its own imperfections are drawbacks upon its avowal of the truth; by uniting with others, who would refuse to give the truth which it might hold the desired prominence, it should not suffer that truth to be inadequately exhibited, or concealed. But the people of God in different states or kingdoms, or in different communities or churches in the same kingdom, may enter into various species of solemn covenants with one another, to carry into effect the design of the exhibition of the truth. It is the variety of opinion that exists among organised churches that prevents these from co-operating together in various benevolent or religious schemes, and that is sufficient to prevent some who maintain the duty of Covenanting, from associating with others in discharging it. Because of the church's imperfection, none of her procedures harmonize completely, either with one another, or with the truth. But individual communities are not therefore warranted in being content with proceeding to bear a testimony for it on a principle of approximative expediency. What different bodies could do together better than singly without sacrificing the cause of the truth on either hand, they are warranted to unite in solemn Covenant to effect. What each body could do for the interests of Christ's kingdom with more effect alone, let its members among themselves strengthen their obligations to perform. Were there to be formed federal unions that would lead to the investigation and discovery of the mind of God contained in his word, and to the diffusion of truth agreed upon, as well as to the reprobation of acknowledged evils, those who form them might by degrees be drawn so closely together, not merely in love and zeal, but also in sentiment, that, instead of being distinguished by so many differences as they now exhibit, they would appear as but one church united in a single consentaneous doctrinal and practical profession of the truth as it is in Jesus.
Fourthly. This act implies all that is included in personal Covenanting The community as a body engage in it. But without the concurrence of each individual the transaction cannot be the deed of the whole. The whole accept of the promise by each receiving it. The whole engage to duty by each entering into an engagement. Between God and each individual a covenant is made when the whole Covenant. The work of acceding to the covenant conditions on the part of each is personal. The provision on which all as a body lay hold is accepted by each in particular. The promise may be one which is not suited to each individually, but adapted to a whole, made up of individuals, each of whom is interested in it. The services promised, one might not of himself have been able to perform; but, in order to the performance of them, each, with the others, might be called to unite. What is not required of all individually, may not be conjoined to form one demand on all.' And what is not promised to men personally, cannot be offered to a community in general. The act of the Covenanting Society is complex, and is the aggregate of the actings of all who compose it. And the responsibility of the whole is a responsibility which each bears. Each, as a Christian, as interested in the prosperity of Christ's kingdom, as a voluntary agent engaged in promoting the truth, as called to endeavour to seek the welfare of men, and as seeking the advancement of the glory of God,—each associates with the others in the transaction, and gives it its Covenant character.
Fifthly. This act is, on the part of the Covenanting community as a body, the acceptance of the benefits of God's Covenant in general, and of special benefits of it, in particular. It is a reception of the benefits, the attainment of which the Covenant as a mean contemplates. These benefits are offered in exhibitions of Divine grace. In the Covenant they are laid hold on by acquiescence and acceptance. The enjoyment of them may
belong to a period near, or even long posterior, and
may be attained to through the use of other means besides; but in Covenanting they are solemnly apprehended and appropriated. In reference to his repeated acceptance of the promises of God in in this act,
here borne to the father of the faithful, the testimony, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that received the promises offered up his only begotten son. And as a people, the Israelites in this act received the promises,
66 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises.”100 The Covenants must have been the different dispensations of the same Covenant—the former dispensations, or the Old Covenant, and the last, or the New Covenant. It was at a renovation of the Covenant under the former dispensation, that the people of Israel received the law; and certainly not less the promises. Are the benefits contemplated in the exercise of Covenanting, individual or general reformation in religion or in practice, or the preservation of peace and truth, or any other blessings spiritual or temporal ? These are included in God's Covenant promise, and in this act they are consequently accepted as thus embodied.
Sixthly. In this act the Covenanting community vow to God to render general and specified obedience. In that is expressed or implied the offer of obedience to the whole law of God, and to particular obvious requirements included in it. When the Covenant was made at Sinai, the people said, “ All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient."101 And at Shechem, before Joshua, this was their language, “ The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.
At the return from the captivity, the oath taken included the
98 Rom. iv. 20_22. 99. Heb. xi. 17. 100 Rom. ix. 4. 101 Exod. xxiv. 7. 10% Josh. xxiv. 24. See also, v. 25.