The law of God originates in his nature, but the attributes of his creatures are due to his sovereignty. The former is, accordingly, to be viewed as necessarily obligatory on the moral subjects of his government, and the latter -- which are all consistent with the holiness of the Divine nature, are to be considered as called into exercise according to his appointment. Hence, also, the law of God is independent of his creatures, though made known on their account; but the operation of their attributes behove to be regulated according to that law. The principles of eternal holiness, embodied in the law, necessarily existed because of the eternity and infinite glory of God; but would not have been made the basis of a law had creatures not been formed. The constitution of creatures who should be called to give obedience, was wholly due to the will of God, but in perfect harmony with the spirit of his commands. Moral creatures having been formed, the law of God speaks one language to all of them. They, possessed of different characteristic attributes, alike recognise its appeals. Angels have a constitution which distinguishes them from man, yet with him they apprehend the authority of the one moral law. Over a range, therefore, of infinite extent, the principles of eternal rectitude are maintained. Man, in innocence, recognised them. Man, redeemed, cleaves to them according to his attainments in grace. Angels, possessed of a nature different from that of man, acknowledge their obligation upon them. And God himself, distant from his highest moral offspring by a difference that is infinite, exhibits them as a manifestation of his holiness, and the principles according to which he acts towards his creatures. Much, therefore, in common belongs to the constitution of the moral natures of angels and men, and necessarily proceeds from and accords with the nature of God. His law, we have seen, inculcates the duty of Covenanting. From what has been said, we would, therefore, conclude that the constitution of man was fitted to that exercise. That it was so appears, moreover, from other considerations now to be adduced.
Covenanting was adapted to the moral constitution of man in innocence.
First. From the Scripture account of that constitution this appears. In this manner he is there represented -- |God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him.| |God hath made man upright.| These declarations imply that man was created at least |in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness,| and accordingly, in conformity with the will of God, as to his intellect, his affections, his conscience, and will. When brought into existence, his intellectual and moral powers were full grown, and his knowledge was suited to the state of a creature fitted to hold communion with God. His intellect was fitted completely to survey, according to its capacity, the whole scene of natural and moral existence presented before it, from the lowest stage of dependent being to what it was competent to him to know of God. His affections, in a flame alike pure and ardent, glowed at the prospect of moral excellence which appeared in the works of God, and above all, in Himself. His conscience, tender as the perfection of a delicate spiritual organisation worthy the creative energy of a Being of spotless infinite holiness, was in perfect sympathy with the awards of that perfection of judgment which, from eternity to eternity, is unchanged. And his will, the mighty gift, emblem of the volition of the Giver, approved what He decreed. With such capacities, accompanied with corresponding knowledge of the external world and the internal man, and with a perfect acquaintance with the nature and demands of God's law, the favoured creature man could not but acquiesce in it. To the claims of its glorious Author, put forth by it, he was led by the most sure, and yet most gentle and delightful constraints, to give his acquiescence. What it demanded as duty to God, and duty to man, as if bound, yet free, he joyously proffered and endeavoured to give. What it forbade, he, in the same spirit, desired not to attain to, but resolved to reject. That law required, in its first command, the avouchment of God as a God in Covenant; in its second, it demanded the same, in anticipation of whatever evil -- such as the inroads of satan, might tempt to lead from him; in its third, it claimed the fulfilment of the duty of solemn appeal to the I Am by oath; in its ninth, it required the speaking of truth to man, and consequently, the public avouchment of God as a God in Covenant before others; and in entering into Covenant with him, the favoured creature man, to all these and the other statutes of that law, from his holy nature, gave his adherence. In his nature, as a living personification of finite excellence, designed to transact with God, and rendered fit to adhere to his engagements, and true to the constitutional character of his existence, in the presence of his glorious Lord he stood a being in Covenant with him. Had there even not been a representative phase of character provided for Adam, he had, therefore, necessarily, from his very constitution, been in Covenant with God. A law was made known to him by the great Creator and Ruler; a willingness to accept of it as a guide to duty, manifested by receiving it, was given to him. To the formation of a covenant, though any other condition that God should propose might be added, nothing more was necessary. The covenant due to this was embodied in that which, as we shall presently see was, at his creation, in sovereignty made with him.
Secondly. This appears from the fact, that the law of God to man in innocence, was given in a covenant form. From the very origin of his existence, Adam was placed under law to God, both as an individual, and as the representative head of the human family. Under both aspects of his condition he was, accordingly, amenable to that law; nay, more, to that law in a covenant form.
To him, as an individual, it was promulgated, not merely as a law but as a covenant. It could not have been proclaimed to him as the federal head of others, had it not conferred obligation upon him as a moral agent, responsible for his own actions. Now, the law that was given to him in his twofold character was, in reality, a condition of a covenant. Both the positive precept and the statutes of the decalogue unfolded what was designed as a covenant claim. The command to obey, implying the command to agree to obey, is an injunction to enter into covenant, and, therefore, itself the condition of a covenant, to be constituted in the acquiescence of the creature addressed. The giving of any command to man, therefore, in a state of innocence, was a recognition of him as a creature on his constitution designed, and, in the providence of God, to be called, to enter into covenant with him. But this conclusion is corroborated by the very matter of the moral law itself. We have seen that several of the precepts of that law require the observance of entering into covenant. These commands could not have been obeyed as the dictates of God's laws, had the duty of Covenanting not been performed. And that duty could not have been performed otherwise than in the recognition of the commands of the law as the conditions of a Covenant. From other considerations this also appears. We are warranted to maintain that the covenant of God dispensed to men is in reality a covenant. But the positive precept forbidding man to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, is inculcated in the very same terms in which the Covenant of God is enjoined. Both are spoken of as commanded. |And the Lord God commanded ([Hebrew: yetzav]) the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.| |He hath commanded ([Hebrew: tzivah]) his covenant for ever.| A law, when promulgated, cannot but be commanded. A covenant when revealed, as we here see, is commanded. We should, therefore, take an unwarrantably circumscribed view of the law given to man at first, were we to view it as given as a law, but not as a covenant. Even as the matter of the law revealed at Sinai was an exhibition of the provisions of the Covenant of Grace, so that of the law given to man in innocence was the condition of the Covenant of Works. It was not merely by the promise, but also by the gift of life, that the positive law was converted into the nature of a covenant. By that promise, indeed, the Covenant of Works was distinguished; that showed the unspeakably beneficent design of the great Creator, and formed the most powerful motive to obedience. But the making of that promise was not essential to the existence of a covenant between the parties. By the giving of that promise, God indeed became, by explicit intimation, engaged to man; but by giving to his creature capacities for enjoying good, and desiring it, he virtually engaged to give him what was to be beneficial for him, so long as He should choose. Adam was in the enjoyment of good when God revealed to him his law. God addressed him, not as one who might be doubtful whether or not he should receive good from his hand, but as one in possession of powers and capacities even then appropriating extensive benefits. His delighting himself in God -- the highest good that he could enjoy, though no explicit promise of good had been made to him, would have been a token to him that he was in covenant. But the promise in which that good was implied rendered the anticipation of it definite, both as to time and duration.
Again, the law of God was given both as a law and as a covenant to Adam, as the representative of the human race. Though the giving of the positive precept put him into a covenant state as a federal head, and though by breaking it he fell, and in consequence of his sin they fell in him, yet it is unwarrantable to maintain that the duty of abstaining from the tree of life was the only condition of the covenant to be observed by him as the public covenant head of his descendants. What would have been his condition had he neglected any other duty incumbent on him? Would he not have been depraved as an individual personally guilty? and accordingly seeing that he that offends in one point is guilty of all, would he not have been unworthy of representing his posterity, or in consequence of his depravity would he not have resolved to eat of the tree of life, and thus have exposed himself to the stroke of Divine indignation, and have been cut off? As, had he existed alone, he would from the very constitution of his nature have been under covenant obligation to perform whatever duties his Creator might have made known to him, so in his public character, his obedience to the law of God on his own behalf and towards the fulfilment of the peculiar duties connected with his relation to his descendants, was due as required by covenant. As one with his posterity he was bound by requirements that would have brought them under obligation. Feeling himself commanded to obey on behalf of many of whom he himself was one, no less than as if he had acted in an individual capacity, did he or could he recognise his obligations to acquiesce in duty prescribed, nor less was he called and urged solemnly by covenant to engage to them.
Accordingly, man in his original condition, was, from his constitution, engaged in covenant to God by his law. By a twofold bond, the obligation laid upon him was imposed. The authority of God requiring obedience was one of the bonds. The authority of God requiring fulfilment of an engagement made according to his command was the other. The giving of the law implied the disposition of the constitution of man to respond to its appeal, and demonstrated that both were of God. Seeing that He determined to create moral subjects on earth, his arrangements provided that he should make them disposed to acquiesce in that law; and hence, so long as man continued to possess the moral standing in which he was placed at first, he must have had an impression that by the constitution which had been given him, God was engaged to bestow good upon him, which he was brought under obligation by Covenanting to accept.
Covenanting is adapted to the moral constitution of man in a state of grace.
First. Inasmuch as gracious capacities lead to acquiescence in what God requires. All the powers of man, either directly or indirectly, were injured and misdirected by the fall. The range of the intellect was circumscribed, and its power was diminished. The affections were deadened, and subjected to unholy influence; the conscience became callous, and unfit to testify for God as it had formerly done; and the will was exercised to do only evil, and that continually. From the moral nature of man proceeded all the evils that overtook his constitution in consequence of sin. That suffered the taint of a depravity that exposed the sinner to ruin; and the curse of the broken law went out through it, to mar and destroy. Man by nature is degraded, because he is chargeable with original and actual sin, and because he wills not to obey God. Of every characteristic of a creature in covenant with him, he is destitute. Between the tendencies of his nature, and the demands of the Divine law, there is no correspondence. |The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.| But in the day of effectual calling, a complete change is produced upon the moral tendencies of the soul. Before that, there was applicable to it the description, |Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.| Afterwards it uses the language, |It is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.| Men in sin have addressed to them the mandate, |Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.| Men renewed, do each say, |I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people;| |I will look unto the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.| To the wicked is addressed the reproof, |O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing?| To the righteous belongs the description, |that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord.| Of unbelievers, it is declared, |Even their mind and conscience is defiled.| But of those who live by faith, it is said, |How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?| Of those who, though professedly the people of God, were but hypocrites, the record is given, |But my people would not hearken to my voice: and Israel would none of me.| But concerning those who had submitted to him, an apostle gave the testimony, |It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.| Thus, those who are born again, are rendered fit to lay hold upon the proposals of God's goodness and mercy through Christ. Such are a people made willing in a day of power. Corruption continues within them, but it is subdued. They delight in the law of God after the inward man. To the requirement of a covenant like that of works, their resolutions and endeavours are alike inadequate. Under the dispensations of Divine grace, however, no proposals of any covenant designed to confer life through their own obedience is made to them. It is on a covenant, the conditions of which were fully satisfied by One infinitely qualified for his work, that they are invited to take hold, and the powers conferred upon them correspond to the exercise. Imperfection marks the nature of the Christian, even throughout all his earthly career; but the means to be employed by him in making covenant engagements to the Lord, do not less accord to his new covenant relation to him, than those made by him in innocence, did to his first covenant state; and not less are his gracious powers and faculties suited to the one, than the original gifts conferred upon him, were adapted to the other.
Secondly. Inasmuch as the invitations to accede to the Covenant of Grace are tendered to sinners, and through the operation of the Spirit are accepted by those who are born again.
The offering of free favour to man must imply the possibility of him, aided in some manner, accepting it. Had the rational nature of man been destroyed by the fall, then a re-organization of him must have preceded the reception on his part of the benefits offered. But regeneration, and not re-organization, is experienced by him when he is enabled to lay hold of God's Covenant. The former, not less wondrous, perhaps more wondrous than the latter would have been, brings the sinful creature from the state of one exposed to the curse of the law, as both a covenant and a law, to that of one engaged to the duties of a permanent covenant. By regeneration, the intellectual character of the human mind is not changed, nor thereby are changed the conscience and affections and capacity to will. By that the personal identity of the sinner is not altered; for it is the same being that sinned who is saved. But by that the tendencies of the moral nature are changed, and modifications most important are produced upon the operation of the powers of the whole man; -- in one word, the heart in being brought under gracious influence is renewed, and thus is made to possess the character of a new heart. Thus, the understanding that was formerly darkened and misdirected is enlightened; those affections that were sinful are sanctified; the conscience is made tender; and the will which was opposed to God is made to acquiesce in his; the enmity in the heart, like a foreign substance which had not annihilated the nature, but which had assumed dominion over the whole man, and exercised a power for which he was answerable, is displaced; and corruption, though not altogether removed, is gradually bereft of its influence, and doomed to extermination. It is not as if man in sin were altogether ignorant of what God requires, but because he is unwilling to obey, that he does not yield it. His disobedience is not as if that requirement were inconsistent with his natural powers, but as opposed by their tendency. It is not as if obedience were foreign to his nature, but because it is repugnant to his will. But when the sinner is renewed, the requirement of the duty takes effect. The result upon the man proclaims the adaptation of the claim to his state; and the nature of that claim shows that he is prepared for the exercise which it urges. The law of God demands of all what all ought to give, but what man, in consequence of sin, because he is unwilling, is unable to give. That law demands of all what believers are desirous to render, but which of themselves they are unable to implement, and the part of which that is accepted they are enabled by Divine grace alone to perform. Calls to the exercise of Covenanting addressed to men, whether in a state of sin or in a state of grace, though differently apprehended by them, being in a varied manner understood by both, must be in accordance with what is common to the nature of each, and also to that of man in innocence. The wicked show that they know what these calls imply; for they often refuse to attend to them after any manner, and when they attempt to act according to them, they aim at an end that is not elevated above deliverance merely from the effects of sin, not to say comprehensive of the glory of God. And the righteous do in measure understand them. After some manner they obey them. They arrive at their full import progressively. Their feelings are inadequate to them, not in kind, but in measure. As they make progress in holiness they will be more thoroughly conformed to them in fact. When about to enter upon the heavenly inheritance of the promise itself, their conformity with these will be complete. Hence,
First. The reality of the Covenant of Works appears. It was not unworthy of God to enter into covenant with man in innocence. He was the workmanship of his own hands. The constitution given to him admitted of intercourse on his part with his Creator. It was not unbecoming the dignity of God's character to give to man a law. It was becoming his character to give him a moral constitution that would lead him to obey it. It was equally becoming the glory of his nature to accept of obedience to it. His entering into covenant with him was the accepting of Covenanting -- a part of that obedience, and was therefore in perfect consistency with the excellency of His being. It is not allowable to suppose that in order to a covenant relation between God and his creatures, these should be able to give something of their own which might be esteemed as a meritorious condition of a covenant; nor is it warrantable to maintain that because man in innocence was unable to make such a communication, therefore he was not in that state taken into covenant. Neither man in innocence, nor man in a state of grace, was required to make such a tender; nay, no creature is able to afford it. If it is admitted, then, that a covenant exists between God and man redeemed on the footing of the merits of the Saviour, how can it be denied that man in innocence could be taken into a covenant with God on account of the merit or worth of Himself as the Creator and righteous moral Governor of all? In the case of the Covenant of Grace, the merit on account of which man is accepted was displayed in a manifestation of the mercy of God in the obedience and sufferings of Christ. In the case of what is rightly held to have been a covenant between God and Adam as the representative of the human family, the merit for which man was accepted was not his own, but the merit or worth of the Divine character exhibited, in giving him a constitution fitting him for acquiescing in what the Divine law required, and in affording him every facility for glorifying God by yielding obedience to all his commands.
And, besides, various are the considerations that tend to show, that from the constitution of man there is reason to conclude that the representative character and state that are attributed to Adam as a covenant head, and therefore also what is called the Covenant of Works, -- though in a certain sense a covenant of grace -- but not of grace through a mediator, are not inconsistent with the glory of the Divine character.
It would not have been inconsistent with the glory of God to have made any one of the human family its representative head. No one of them would have refused to represent their race. And since therefore Adam would not have refused, it is not warrantable, on the assumption that he would have refused, to deny that he was commanded to undertake the duties of a federal head.
The interests of men were better provided for on the principle of representation than they would have been, had it been given to every member of the human family individually to undergo a trial, on which would have pended their eternal condition. Had the whole human family been together when sin entered into the world, they had all been as liable to seduction by the enemy as the first of men. But the resistance of him by Adam would have been equal to the resistance of the whole human race. Had all the human family at once been present in the very circumstances of temptation in which Adam was placed, would they have acted differently from what he did? They could have done so; but what evidence have we that they would? God did not vouchsafe an extraordinary power in order to keep Adam from falling: such would have interfered with his state as a free moral responsible being. Would he have done so, then, to the whole human race, had they been then present together? But had Adam continued for an appointed period to obey, life to all his posterity would have been the result, and thus benefits through one as a representative would have come to the many with certainty, without all having individually, by being put into a state of probation, in the midst of temptation, to endeavour to secure a title to life for themselves. It is sinful for men to arraign the procedure according to which men come into the world in a state of condemnation, or to deny it. The Scriptures reveal it, and it is a necessary effect of the operation of Divine justice. Had it not been right, God would not have instituted such a relation between Adam and his descendants as would have admitted of the fact; nay, had not that arrangement in itself been preferable to every other, Divine wisdom would not have made it. It therefore has a reason for it the most satisfactory, however little we may be able to apprehend it. Nothing that we know is inconsistent with that arrangement, but it may be but a small part of its reason that we yet observe. Man was not doomed, but permitted to fall. It was not necessary that he should be prevented from sinning, and his fall was the necessary effect of his transgression. Is it urged -- Is it not dreadful to think of man being brought into existence in a state of sin and misery? -- of a nature being given to him which never had the power to make one endeavour to live for ever? It is answered, God did not create men in a state of condemnation, but sin invaded them, and in one all fell. God is righteous, and his justice finds every one of the family of man guilty. The rectitude of God's character did not require that he should create any one with a title to eternal life; but because of sin, it forbade that any of the children of fallen man represented by him should come into existence in a state of acceptance with him. The case of the sinner coming into the world under condemnation, is not worse than that of him, who, first having had power to stand, was tempted, and sinned, and fell. No less consistent with the excellence of the character of God and the sovereignty of his procedures, is the state of one fallen even at the very origin of his being, than that of one who had had an opportunity to avoid falling, but after a short trial really fell. Adam at first had not a right, independently of the sovereign gift of God, to come into existence in a state of acceptance. He had not a right to continue in it when he sinned. And in like manner, no sinner can say that he had a claim upon the Creator to be brought into being free from the curse. The same argument that would suffice to establish that men should not be implicated in the rebellion of Adam, would go to prove that he should not have been allowed himself to fall. And hence the repugnance of men to the doctrine of original sin is unwarranted, and affords no proper ground on which to deny the Covenant of Works.
Secondly. The wicked, whether individuals or communities, and these alone, are not in covenant. Man in innocence was never under the law of God merely as a law. The will of God, promulgated as the terms both of a covenant and a law, had the sacredness of a law; acceded to by man, it had all the sanctity of a covenant. The will of God was propounded as a law, to be received both as a law and as a covenant; the acceptance of it engaged man to it as possessed of both characters. Because of God's authority dictating it as a law, his will revealed conferred obligation. Because of God's will and providential arrangements as to the constitution of man, he acquiescing in the requirement of the law came besides under a covenant obligation to fulfil it. At the very origin of his being he came under both obligations. Under both he was placed according to the appointment of the Most High, and by his authority. At his fall the whole human family became exposed to the curse at once of a broken law and a violated covenant. Then and thereafter the law was a broken covenant. It had been propounded as a law, and offered as the condition of a covenant. As a law and as a covenant it had been acquiesced in, and thus stood as a covenant; but by reason of apostacy it passed from the rank of a law and a covenant to that of a mere law; and as a law proceeded to put forth on the unregenerate the claims for punishment, of a law that should still continue, but also of a covenant that had been broken, and could never again exist in its original state. To the ungodly still it is a law demanding obedience to it, and punishment for past transgression of it as a law, and requiring also not obedience to it as a covenant, but punishment for the breach of it as a covenant. What was the Covenant of Works is not now a covenant to any; to the wicked it is a law which by reason of their sin tends to their ruin. The work of the law is written upon the hearts of men in sin, but not as if it were now a covenant law; for now the Covenant of Works as a covenant, has no demand of obedience to it on men. The tendency that there is in the unrenewed heart to seek life by the works of the law shows, not that the law is there written as a covenant, but that there is there an attachment inconsistent with the will of God, to the law as a covenant, which, while there is not felt the desire either of good flowing from a covenant relation to God or of willingness conscientiously to obey his commands, leads vainly to seek, merely exemption from punishment, or undefined good. Certainly the blinded heathen have not that law which was broken proposed to them as the terms of a covenant; and so neither have others.
The will of God revealed to men in a state of sin, has the character of a law, but not of a covenant. |The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient.| The impenitent transgressor continues under the curse of the law. If not subdued by Divine grace, he will continue to feel here the effects of the wrath of God |revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;| and in the future state will experience the effects of the curse in |everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.| The law of God addressed to corrupt ecclesiastical societies, is not a covenant, but essentially a law. A national compact between rulers and people, when violated, affords an analogy here. The laws, or institutions, or ordinances, of a nation, according to which the sovereign reigns, the other rulers govern, and the people voluntarily give obedience, is a covenant; but against those who violate them, whatever may be their rank, they act not as a covenant but as a law, punishing for breach of covenant. But to proceed. When Israel were holiness to the Lord, his law was to them a covenant. When any of them fell off into idolatry, that covenant was dispensed to those solely as a law taking vengeance for the breach of it as a covenant and as a law. To the true Israel receiving spiritual blessings, it was dispensed as a covenant. But only as a law demanding punishment and obedience, it extended, to many in the mountains of the East, and on the plains of Babylon, and afterwards in every part of the world, to the descendants of the unbelieving Jews. When the Christian Church was pure, the law of God was to her a covenant. When, by the removal of the truth, and opposition to it, she degenerated into Antichrist, it continued not a covenant to her, but acted against her as a law. And before its blighting curse she fell plagued. The judgments poured out on the seat of the Beast were its effects; and to that curse will be due, the accomplishment of the prediction -- |I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain. And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations; but thou shalt be desolate for ever, saith the Lord;| and the realization of the fearful doom proclaimed by an angel come down from Heaven -- |Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen,| and of the woe uttered by a mighty angel, that |took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.| Even the offers of mercy to the unrenewed are made as the requirements of a mere law. So long as they are unaccepted, they possess the same character. They are tenders of what, when acceded to, would be a covenant; but are not the requirements of a covenant till they be appropriated. When received, they are the duties of both a law and a covenant. For example, the injunction to believe on Jesus, addressed to one in a state of sin, is the command of a law, but not of a covenant, to that individual. If not accepted, it binds to punishment for disregard of it as a law, and the non-acceptance of it is a proposed covenant command. If perfidiously received, it binds to punishment for not obeying it, and for deceitfully professing, by vow or oath, to receive it. Accepted in sincerity and truth, and consequently not by the wicked, but by one born again, it is laid hold on at once as a law and a covenant command; -- as a requirement of the immutable law of God, and as a duty of the Everlasting Covenant.
Commands addressed to believers are at once, even while inculcated, a law and a covenant requirement. They have acceded to these. Thereafter, such therefore remain not merely a law, but a covenant duty, and as enforcing covenant obligation, fall to be habitually observed.
Thirdly. Those who are in covenant with God will, as individuals and communities, in some measure make and keep covenant engagements with him. Every believer, that is, every one in covenant with God, will after some manner practise such duties. Covenanting is an exercise of the renewed nature, and is an essential manifestation of it. From gravitation come the movement of the moon in her orbit, that of the planets round the sun, and perhaps a progress of the whole solar system through space; from the living energy of the plant cherished by the moisture and heat of heaven proceed, the expanding of the leaf, and the putting forth of the flower and fruit; from the laws of molecular attraction, come the beautiful forms of the mineral, vegetable, and animal creation; from the principle of love to God comes the habit of delighting in him; from hope come the stimulating anticipations of eternal good; from faith comes the exercise of believing; from the heart, whose energies delivered from the dominion of sin by grace, are, from their native constitution and by the claims of the God of salvation, engaged to him in covenant, proceeds the habitual exercise of Covenanting. Where there is motion, there and there only force prevails; where organic effort is made, there only life exists; where Covenanting is engaged in, there only a covenant relation and title can be found. Every incorporate community that forms a part of the true Church of the living God, with greater or less frequency, or more or less explicitly, recognises its covenant obligations by acknowledging and endeavouring to keep them. Where no attention is paid to covenant obligations, there is no covenant relation. The body that does not attract iron, or possess polarity, is not magnetic. That which does not transmit light or sound, is not elastic. That which does not distribute heat is without life. If a society bind not others to itself by religious Covenanting after some manner, it belongs not to the Church of God. From the law of Covenanting comes all the consistency of the union of believers -- the family that is named in heaven. That family, by displaying God's covenant, invites to its communion many who would have perished. The invisible Church cannot have associated to it any thing dissimilar to itself, but it binds to it those who are congenial to it. It is to the fellowship of the Church visible that the members of the Church of the first-born are drawn. God prepares men for the communion of saints. It is by the power of the Spirit accompanying the means of grace dispensed in the assemblies of the faithful, that a transforming effect is produced on the natural man, and that he is drawn. It is the power and glory of God that draws and unites; and the whole body, like the virgin gold or silver in the veins of the rocks, which is composed of what were grains scattered through contiguous strata, and by a galvanic power continues to accumulate, has its affinities for each of the precious family of grace. The law by which these are drawn is not merely moral, but gracious. The communion of saints was confederated, that, by attracting others to it, it might grow. As a covenant society, and in the use of Covenanting, it attracts. It has a tendency to give utterance to its intention, and that by professing the truth, that sinners may be won. |As it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.| |Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.| By taking the Covenant of God publicly in their mouth, his people in measure fulfil the Redeemer's mandate, -- |Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another;| and the corresponding duty, -- |Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt.| It is a serious mark of a Church's imperfection for it to recognise only implicitly or virtually its covenant obligations. The greater the living energy that inhabits the society, the more regard its obligations receive.
Finally. How dreadful is the condition of those who are not in covenant with God! It is degraded. Man was in covenant with God at first. With all accepted moral beings, and these alone, He deals by way of covenant. Thus, after some manner, he dealt with angels in glory. Thus he dealt with man unfallen. Thus he deals with sinners redeemed. For sustaining the dignity of a covenant relation to him, inanimate and unintelligent creation are not adapted; but for not standing in that, they are not dishonoured. Angels in light, acquiescing in God's law, were at least virtually in covenant with him. Some of them proudly sinned, and fell from their high confederation. They took counsel together thereafter, but it was against the Lord. In hell they appear his foes combined in everlasting league against him, but delivered over forever to the terrors of his wrath. To their case alone, that of the wicked even on earth can be compared. But the case of rebellious sinners here, is, if possible, more revolting. Sinners under condemnation receive outward good here, designed to lead them to repentance. All the good diffused around, comes through the arrangements of a gracious covenant. They receive temporal good themselves indirectly from a covenant on which they will not take hold. They despise the word of him who ordained that good the most extensive should come to sinners through that covenant. Their degradation is extreme. Attempting to go in opposition to all the arrangements of the Most High, and yet kept in the enjoyment of some good, and in the prospect of the greatest, they are an anomaly in the universe. They confederate with one another, but against God. They will not take Him into their counsels. They are, therefore, destitute of his favour, and of all the honour of co-operating with him. The change to which, by sin, they subjected themselves, is more humbling than that produced on any other class of creatures, even on fallen angels themselves; for these resist not offers of mercy. The inanimate creation responds to God's command. He enjoins, and it obeys. There the Divine mandate has the sure counterpart of obedience. In the world of unfallen intelligences, the word of the Lord is fulfilled willingly by all. In the world of perdition, however, it is set at nought. But on earth, where benefits are dispensed, it is spurned by the wicked also. The twofold curse of a broken law and covenant pursues sinners, yet they are invited to escape it; but they will not submit. A covenant of life and peace is made known. Its blessings great and precious are freely offered to them. Yet they cherish the enmity of their hearts against God, and they will not yield. With no sinless creature of God have they communion. They are voluntarily alone in the universe, at war with all God's creatures, and lowest among them. They are most unworthy. Every arrangement of his providence tends to restore them to his favour. Neglecting the duty of Covenanting, they set all these at nought. The beasts that perish are not degraded, but these are. They are worthy to be ranked with apostate angels. In the rage of their rebellion, they are bent on enduring all the terrors of a broken law and covenant in the place of final woe. Let not sinners persevere in their obstinacy. Even yet, there is good largely offered to them, which, if they accept it, they will abundantly receive.
Gen. ii.16, 17.
1 Tim. i.9.
Jer. li.25, 26.
2 Cor. iv.13.