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a promise made to God must be made either by vow or oath, or by both; and since no covenant with Him can be made without a promise, it follows that every covenant with Him is ratified by oath in its most explicit form, or by the oath implied in
MANNER OF COVENANTING.
PREVIOUS to an examination of the manner of engaging in the exercise of Covenanting, the consideration of God's procedure towards his people while performing the service seems to claim regard. Of the manner in which the great Supreme as God acts, as well as of Himself, our knowledge is limited. Yet though even of the effects on creatures of His doings we know little, we have reason to rejoice that, in His word He has informed us, and in His providence illustrated by that word, he has given us to see that He does act in wondrous condescension to his saints. Being an infinite, glorious Spirit, He does not perform the deeds of men clothed with flesh and blood, but being the upholder of all things, and the glorious fountain of all the means of operation which men employ, with them He can and does hold communication. In the ordinances of His grace He has made his chosen ones to know him. Proofs of His gracious regard
. to them He has in all ages given. In the earlier part of the history of time, their bodily senses he addressed : in all time their souls, by the inhabitation of his Holy Spirit, experienced the goodness of His grace. What He records of His transactions with His people is after the manner of beings possessed of material qualities, as well as gifted with undying spirits. Though not possessed of bodily organs, He spake to men; though not material, He hears and sees them; and He testifies to their
1 deeds and thoughts. Unchanging, He acts not nor thinks as men do. But through the illimitable resources of His perfect character He has dealt with
them as if He were possessed of the faculties not merely of an infinite, but of a perfect material, being And what in the language of metaphor He has taught, or what He has presented before the bodily organs and minds of all, they are called to receive as bearing the character of truth. When His people, in vowing or swearing to Him, take hold on Him, He covenants with them. Receiving their various services offered to Him, He acknowledges them as covenant children. They vow unto Him; He made promises to them. They swear unto Him; He has sworn unto them. They avouch Him to be their God; He avouches them to be His people.
On occasions of Covenanting, God has actually made promises, and sworn to men. To Noah, to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob; to the whole people of Israel at Sinai; to David and others in these circumstances He spake. To Noah once and again with enlargement the promise of His covenant He uttered. Abraham had addressed to Him the promise on various occasions of this nature, by the ord holding converse with him as a friend. With the people of Israel the Lord talked face to face in the Mount, out of the midst of the fire. To Jacob he spake in a vision of the night at Bethel. And a covenant of royalty with David he made in like manner.
And the oath of God at such seasons was given. He sware to Noah. Though the first inspired historian does not mention the fact, it is recorded. 6. This is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth ; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.” 1
To Abraham he sware, when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and mul
1 Isa. liv. 9.
tiplying I will multiply thee.”2 The oath of God was made to Isaac.3 To Israel at Sinai : when the Lord brought them out of Egypt He lifted up His hand." It is because not merely that with His finger He wrote the law on two tables of stone, but that in lifting up his hand in swearing to them there, while giving the law, that it is said,“ From his right hand went a fiery law for them.” And to David also, in making a covenant with him, the Lord sware. 66 The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.” 6
Even in those ordinary cases in which, on Covenanting, communion with God is enjoyed, He Covenants with them. This is implied in the very designation of the exercise; but it is otherwise obvious. We have no
reason to believe that when Israel Covenanted in the land of Moab such manifestations of God's presence as were vouchsafed at Sinai were made. But then the Lord made an oath to his people, and thereby Covenanted with them. 66 That thou shouldst enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day."Yea there, after whatever manner, He avouched them to be His people. “ Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments."'8 Yea, except the contrary be stated or implied somewhere, we should not be warranted in maintaining that the oath of God was not always given on occa2 Heb. vi, 13, 14.
3. Ps. cv. 9.
4 Ezek. xx. 5. Xxxiii. 2. Ps. cxxxii, 11. 7 Deut. xxix. 12. 8 Deut. xxvi. 17, 18.
sions of Covenanting, before the Canon of Scrip. ture was closed. In the historic record of Jacob's life no account is given of God's making an oath to him. Yet we are certain that He covenanted with him. And that he actually sware to him, is one of the conclusions that may be legitimately drawn from the words, “ As he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”9 And that He, under this last dispensation, always Covenants with believers, when they vow and swear to Him, is manifest from those declarations in which he promises to make a covenant with them. Whether or not on these occasions he absolutely makes an oath, is not revealed. That we should know whether or not he does so, is not necessary, else the book of Divine revelation had not been completed. But even though, as under the law, when the sons of Aaron on entering on the priesthood, took vows upon them to fulfil its duties, he should not actually make a new oath, the vows and oaths of His people came up before Him as formerly they did from before his altar, and the oaths which He had sworn before, even on their behalf, are made available to them. Thus Israel were enjoined, “ That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day; that he may establish thee to-day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath ; but with him that standeth here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day.”10 And thus were encouraged those who should succeed these in drawing near to God. “The sons of the stranger, that join themselves to
9 Deut. xxix. 13. 10 Deut. xxix. 12–15.