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the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain ; and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar: for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” 11
Now, Covenanting must be engaged in intelligently. Not merely must there be a desire to perform the service; but there must be an enlightened apprehension of its nature.
66 It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry."12 Applicable to the intellectual discernment that true faith includes, as well as to that grace in its spiritual character, is the declaration, “ He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”13 The Covenant children of God are taught of him, and draw near to him as if He were not unknown, but revealed to them in his grace. Though none can by searching find out God, nor find out the Almighty unto perfection, yet those whom He saves know whom they worship. According to the instructions delivered in his word, must be the performance of every service of religion ; and the character of God as revealed, is that which must be apprehended in the discharge of each. It was according to a Divine warrant and direction that the saints of old entered into Covenant; and every lawful approach to him by vow or oath requires a just appreciation of his character. “The Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation ; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform
6. This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward 11 Is. lvi. 6,7. 12 Prov. xx. 25.
13 Heb. xi. 6. 14 Is. xix. 21.
parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know ye the Lord : for they shall all know me, from the least of them. unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.”
Secondly. Covenanting must be engaged in cordially. That is not religious homage which comes not from the heart. For an intelligent being in any case to utter any thing that is inconsistent with the thoughts of the mind is sinful; but in this case it is peculiarly foolish and daring. If the affections of the heart be sanctified, they will be elevated to God in every religious exercise, and especially in this. Those who value their own souls, will not be devoid of intense concern for their salvation, when before God they engage in testifying to their acceptance thereof. 'They who seek to glorify God, will in this draw near to him with their mouth, and with their lips do honour to him, but not remove their hearts far from him. If a transaction that concerns only a limited part of this world's good is often important, how much more that which concerns the enjoyment of God as a portion!. If an engagement that concerns a few years' enjoyment is often found to engross all the feelings of the mind, how absorbent of all the best exercises of the heart should be a transaction for communion with God to eternity! The men of Judah, on a solemn occasion, afforded an important pattern in this. “All Judah rejoiced at the oath : for they had sworn with all their heart.”16 And wherever the Covenant of God will be taken hold upon by men returning to him, the whole heart will be engaged. “I
will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart."17
Thirdly. Covenanting must be engaged in with 15 Jer. xxxi. 33, 34. 16 2 Chron, xv. 15. 17 Jer, xxiv. 7.
deliberation. To avow the resolution, to abandon the service of satan and to fight under the banner of Christ, is an exercise that entails momentous consequences. And corresponding to its importance should be the fixedness of heart called to its performance. In it a solemn attestation and adherence to a choice of God as a Lord and Master, is made before him. Joshua's patriotic and pious address at Shechem was delivered, not that Israel should all choose God as if none of them had chosen him before, but that those who had not cleaved to his Covenant should then cleave to it, and that those who had taken hold upon it before, should again adhere to it. He said, “ If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which
; your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell : but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And all attempting such an exercise, should possess a devotedness such as that evinced by the answer returned by the people,
.66 God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods, for the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."18
Fourthly. Covenanting should be engaged in with sincerity, and with a resolution to perform the engagement made. Dreadful are the denunciations uttered against such as swear falsely. The Lord swears in truth : he will not turn from it. And how daring on the part of any is it to swear falsely in making a covenant! In an oath given falsely, God is defied, his power to punish is challenged, and the stroke of his indignation is impiously invoked to descend upon the guilty juror's head. “ If any man trespass against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear,
18 Josh. xxiv. 15–17.
and the oath come before thine altar in this house : then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon
his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness."19 The people of God swear, “ The Lord liveth,” in truth, in righteousness, and in judgment. With David they can declare, “ I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.”20 Each of them may be denominated, “ He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”21 And firm will be their purpose to keep their pledge given in vowing unto God—“Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse."22
Fifthly. In the first ages, the exercise was accompanied by sacrifice. The phrase (nga n73), which is most commonly employed to designate the making of a covenant, consists of two terms, each of which conducts us to the sacrificial rite. The latter of these, (7072, a covenant,) would appear to be derived from a verb which, according to circumstances, bears the significations, to cut, to choose, to eat. The connection between all these and an
. expression which means to purify, is not obscure, nor is their relation to a word (72), with which that so rendered is intimately connected, difficult to be traced. That which is eaten is made choice of for its purity, or because that by cutting, it is separated from what is less fitted for food, or even during the process of eating is cut. It is an opinion held by one class of commentators, that the reason why that term is put to signify a covenant, is, that it may be deduced from the verb bearing the meaning to choose, and to which there would appear no objection, provided that that meaning were
1 Kings viii. 31, 32. 20 Ps. cxix. 106. 21 Ps. xxiv. 4.
1 Chron. xii. 18.
reckoned to be secondary to the signification to eat. The idea implied in the verb to choose is essentially abstract. Not so is that included in either the verb to cut, or the verb to eat. From one of these, which may be considered as collateral primary meanings, it must therefore be deduced. And since it cannot be deduced from the one without the other, it must consequently be derived from the latter. But since, on the occasion of entering into covenant, feasts were wont to be kept, and since the flesh of animals slain for sacrifice was not seldom partaken of by those associated to present them, there is reason to conclude that food eaten on the occasion of solemn Covenanting included the flesh of sacred victims, and that while this term for Covenant may be considered as derived immediately from an expression signifying to choose, it is to be viewed as tracing its origin to the same expression viewed as denoting to eat, because the flesh of sacrifice afforded to the federal parties a means of convivial entertainment in the accustomed friendly feast. The other of these terms (n73) means literally to cut. It is used in describing the operation of cutting in twain the animal sacrificed at the ratification of a covenant. “I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof. The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf; I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth."23
The practice of so dividing the victim was evidently in accordance with the operation performed
23 Jer, xxxiv. 18—20.