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them in the Scriptures must receive our most unqualified approbation : we must say with St. Paul, “ If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maran-athao;" that is, let him be accursed ; and God will surely come ere long to inflict that curse upon him. Thus, notwithstanding the abrogation of penalties to be inflicted by the civil arm, under the Christian dispensation, we do in fact proceed even further than the Jews did in the covenant before us: for the judgments denounced by them related to overt acts only, whereas ours relate to the heart : and the penalties inflicted by them extended only to the body, whereas ours relate to the soul ; and that too of every creature to whom the Gospel is sent, “whether small or great, whether man or woman.
If it be thought that such covenants are needless, we reply, that they are of the greatest possible utility, if solemnly entered into in our secret chamber before God: for, they contain a solemn recognition of our duty, and a deliberate vindication of God's justice in punishing all who will not seek him in his appointed way: they moreover tend exceedingly to impress our own minds with a sense of the heinousness of departing from God, and to fortify us against all the temptations to which at any time we may be exposed: and it is owing to the low state of religious attainments amongst us, that such covenants are so rarely made.
As to the idea of legality, it is no better than an excuse for our own sloth and Jukewarmness. For, nothing can be more suited to the spirit of the Gospel than such covenant-transactions are; they are a strict compliance with the Apostle's exhortation “ to yield our bodies unto God a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God, as our reasonable service."]
That we may be stirred up to enter into this covenant, let us contemplate, II. The benefits resulting from it
For the discovery of these, we need go no further than the passage before us. In the very act,
[They were filled with great and exalted joy ; "they sware, with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets; yea, all Israel rejoiced at the oath.” This mode of testifying their joy was suited to the dispensation under which they lived. The joy which Christianity inspires is of a more refined nature; it is less tumultuous, but more spiritual, and more abiding: and we will venture to appeal to all who have ever solemnly devoted themselves to God in their
e 1 Cor. xvi. 22.
f Rom. xii. 1.
secret chamber, embracing the Lord Jesus Christ as their only Lord and Saviour, and surrendering up themselves to him as his redeemed people, whether they did not find in that transaction a peace and a joy which nothing else in the whole universe could impart? Do they not at this moment look back to such seasons as the happiest periods of their lives?
- We have no fear of contradiction upon this point: we are well assured, that " all who sow in tears do reap in joy %;" and, for the most part, “the reaper treads upon the very heels of the sower";" so speedily do they enjoy the reward of their labours.] After the act was performed,
[God gave them undoubted testimonies of his acceptance. How he manifested it to them on this occasion, we know not: there were a great variety of ways in which he was wont to give his people an evidence of his approbation : at one time, by a lamp passing between the divided pieces of the sacrificei; at another, by a special messenger from heavenk; at another, by a voice from heaven'; and frequently by sending fire from heaven to consume their sacrifice m. But whatever means he used, we are well assured, that he left them no room to doubt of his approbation of the act they had performed; for we are told, “ He was found of them.” And will he not be found of us also? and has he not still many ways of manifesting himself to us? Yes; by the secret operation of his Spirit he will reveal himself to our souls, and shed abroad his love in our hearts, and “say unto our souls, I am thy salvation."] For a long period afterwards,
[There was peace to the land; for “ God gave them rest round about." By comparing different dates in this chapter, we find that the land had rest twenty years ". It is true, in another part of the inspired volume, we are told, that “there was war between Asa and Baasha all their dayso:" but this, for the space mentioned in our text, was only in small contentions or skirmishes on the borders: there was no serious assault upon him from any quarter.
This exhibits in a most striking point of view the rest which God will give to his believing
and obedient people. Our spiritual enemies will not be so put down as to leave us no occasion for vigilance : their enmity will remain the same as ever; and there will still be occasional skirmishes on the borders P: but they shall
8 Compare Ps. cxxvi. 5, 6. with Jer. xxix. 12, 13. h Amos ix. 13. i Gen. xv. 10, 17.
k Dan. ix. 21. 1 John xii. 28, 29. m Lev. ix. 24.
ver. 10. with ver. 19. • 1 Kings xv. 16.
p Gal. v. 17.
not so come against us as to overwhelm us, or even to destroy our happiness : we shall “ know in whom we have believed ; and feel safety in his protection. “ Weapons may be formed against us; but they shall not prosper :” and “men may fight against us; but they shall not prevail against us.
It is surprising to what an extent some are delivered from painful conAicts for a considerable time after they have devoted themselves in a solemn covenant to the Lord: their very lusts which once led them captive seem almost to be slain, and “Satan himself to be bruised under their feet." True it is, that this will not always continue; but the more frequently and cordially we devote ourselves to God, the more abundantly will he fill us with grace and peace, and give us a foretaste of that rest which remaineth for us in a better world.] We shall conclude with two PROPOSALS, in reference
to the covenant we have been considering; and
we shall make them to two distinct classes : 1. To those who think such an entire devotion of themselves to God unnecessary
[If God do not require this service at our hands, we need not render it to him: and, if we need not render it to him, we may resolve, and even covenant to withhold it from him. We propose then to those who think there is no necessity to seek after God with their whole hearts, Let us make a covenant together, that we never will seek him thus : let us confirm it with an oath; and let us swear aloud that heaven and earth may hear. Let us go further still, and covenant to prevent every one to the utmost of our power from seeking him in this way: let us hate, and revile, and persecute them, and, by every means that the law of the land will admit of, let us deter them from such unnecessary, fanatical, and injurious proceedings. The law will not suffer us to put them to death; but let us at least shew, that we would do it if we dared; and by the whole of our conduct towards them let us say, Away with such fellows from the earth, for it is not fit that they should live!" Or, if any of you think that we ought to leave others at liberty, then we will wave this part of our proposal, and only covenant that we will never seek after God ourselves. Now then let us begin: let us address ourselves to the sacred Majesty of heaven: let us tell him that he has no such claim upon us as he pretends to in his word, and that we are determined never to render him the service he requires. --- What! Do you hold back? Do you shudder at the proposal ? Do you tremble at the thought of entering into such a covenant? Yes; methinks, there is not one person present that is bold enough to give it his sanction: yet there are many who act agreeably to the tenour of that covenant; many who seek God in a mere formal way, or at best with a divided heart. Know then, all
who violate your duties to your God, that you stand condemned in your own consciences; and, "if your own hearts condemn you, God is greater than your hearts,” and will condemn you also. Attend then with becoming reverence to the proposal which we next make,]
2. To those who desire to approve themselves to God in the way that he requires
[The making of covenants in our own strength is in no respect advisable: but in humble dependence on the grace of Christ we may make them, and ought to make them. We read of the Christians in Macedonia, that, previous to serving God with their property, " they gave their ownselves to the Lord!." And this is what the Prophet Jeremiah foretells as characterizing the godly under the Christian dispensation; “ Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten?.” Now then let us do it: let us all be of one heart and one mind in this particulars: let us look up to God for his grace, that we may be enabled to keep the vow which we are about to make: and may God be found of us,” whilst we are thus seeking him; and “give us rest” in our souls, even that rest which our blessed Lord has promised unto all that come to him in truth!
O thou gracious and ever-blessed God, “who hast formed us for thyself,” and hast moreover redeemed us by the blood of thine only dear Son, thine we are by every tie.
We are conscious that we are not our own; and that, having been bought with a price, we are bound to glorify thee with our bodies and our spirits, which are thine.” We desire then now to consecrate ourselves to thee; and engage, as in thine immediate presence, “no longer to live unto ourselves, but unto Him that died for us and rose again.” May we never forget this vow, or act for a moment inconsistent with it! We avouch thee this day to be our God; and we give up ourselves to thee as thy people: and we desire, that “thou wouldest sanctify us wholly; and that our whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christu."]
q 2 Cor. vii. 5.
i Jer. l. 4, 5. s Here the persons confirmed might be particularly addressed. t Matt. xi. 28, 29.
u 1 Thess. v. 23.
God's REGARD FOR HIS PEOPLE.
2 Chron. xvi. 9. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro through
out the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.
IN estimating the characters of men, God looks not so much at their actions as at their motives and principles. It is by them that the quality of our actions must be determined : for though no motives, however good, can sanctify a bad action, no action however good can be acceptable to God, if its motive and principle be not pure. There were, it is true, several things which were blameworthy in the conduct of Asa, which was here reproved. He ought not to have made a league at all, we apprehend, with a heathen prince; but certainly not to have induced him to violate the league which he had already made with Israel. But that which rendered his conduct so displeasing to God, was, the distrust from which it sprang He had not long before been delivered by God from far greater danger; and yet now, instead of applying to God for help again, he placed his dependence on an arm of flesh.
In the reproof administered to him on this occasion, the general providence of God, and his tender care of all who trust in him, is strongly asserted : and it is a subject well worthy of the most attentive consideration.
Let us consider, I. When the heart may be said to be “ perfect
towards God”As for absolute perfection in this world, it exists only in the deluded imaginations of some visionary enthusiasts. Nevertheless there is a perfection to which we should aspire, and which we may all attain, which consists in integrity, where “the heart is right with God.” This may be said to be the case,
1. When our trust in God is entire