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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER X. COVENANTING A PRIVILEGE OF BELIEVERS.

The Ordinance Of Covenanting by John Cunningham

CHAPTER X. COVENANTING A PRIVILEGE OF BELIEVERS.

Whatever attainment is made by any as distinguished from the wicked, or whatever gracious benefit is enjoyed, is a spiritual privilege. Adoption into the family of God is of this character. |He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power (margin, or, the right; or, privilege) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.| And every co-ordinate benefit is essentially so likewise. The evidence besides, that Covenanting is a good to which believers, through the grace of God, are entitled, is abundant.

First. Believers Covenanting are a people near to God. To be near to God, is to have special privilege. |He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints, even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the Lord.| Those who honour him will God honour. But with the lip, and consequently in Covenanting as well as otherwise, such draw near to honour him. It is the hypocrisy of the Jews, who insincerely attempted this becoming service, that is challenged in the words, -- |This people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.| While, therefore, He sets before the wicked their sin, he honours his own, or recognises them as gifted with privilege while they draw near to him in the duty. To engage in the idolatry of the ancient heathen, or otherwise to fail to recognise God as a God in covenant, was to be far from him; while to draw near to him, and, consequently, to acknowledge him in vowing to him or otherwise, was good for his saints. Some, as examples of all who were uninterested in the Covenant of God, are represented as destitute of what are accounted the privileges of the covenant children; while the attainments of those after their conversion, and which, by being put in contrast with what appertained to them in their former state, must be viewed as spiritual privileges, are represented as consisting in this, -- that they were made nigh by the blood of Christ. |Ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ.| And, by an apostle, encouragement to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, at once a duty including that of Covenanting, and certainly a privilege, is given in the language -- |Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith.|

Secondly. These Covenanting are in the gracious presence of God. The want of this on the part of the wicked being a curse, the enjoyment of it by the righteous is a privilege. Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, or ceased to attend to the institutions of religion, and thus manifested that he had neither enjoyed nor valued the presence of God reconciled to him. By suffering them to be removed by the Babylonians from their own land, and, consequently, from the ordinances of his grace dispensed in his temple, the Lord cast out the wicked of Jerusalem and Judah from his presence, or deprived them of those opportunities of enjoying his gracious presence which they had not improved. To his people among the heathen, even though deprived of the public ordinances of Zion, He himself proved a sanctuary. Moses received from the Lord, on behalf of Israel, the encouragement, |My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.| The promise must, therefore, have been fulfilled to them throughout their whole journey to Canaan, and especially when about its termination they entered into covenant with Him. The agitation of the earth and heavens, when the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, was a striking intimation that Israel there enjoyed the presence of God. The covenant blessing of peace was to be bestowed, and, consequently, accepted in his gracious presence. |The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.| Yea, the upright shall come into his presence, confessing his name, and shall continue to enjoy his favouring regard. |Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving (confession).| |Surely the righteous shall give thanks (confess) unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.|

Thirdly. These Covenanting, see God. As he is in his essential character, no man hath seen God at any time. Even of the Redeemer himself as God, it is said, |Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see.| It would appear to have been some such manifestation of God -- altogether incompatible with the capacities of a creature, that was denied to Moses when the Lord said to him, |Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me, and live.| Yet, as Moses, though he did not see the glory of God according to his desire, enjoyed the gracious presence of God, all his people receive the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. By faith, in this manner, both before and after his incarnation, God was to be seen in Christ, and especially on occasions of solemn Covenanting. It is the blessedness of the pure in heart, that they shall see God. Inviting sinners to come unto him, and even formally to take hold upon his covenant, the Lord utters the command, |Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.| And lifting up their hand, and their heart, and their eyes to him, his people obey. From a verb ([Hebrew: chazoh]) that signifies to see, come two nouns, one of which ([Hebrew: chozeh]) signifies, a prophet and a covenant, and the other, ([Hebrew: chazuth]) as we have seen, a vision, or a revelation, and a covenant. Hence, a covenant with God, in a sense far higher than what is applicable to an agreement with mere men, is made in receiving a revelation of his will, or seeing him in such a manner as is competent to his people. The |cherubim| of the Old Testament, and the |four living creatures| of the New, -- the one representing the ministers of religion in both periods, the other symbolizing the ministers of the gospel in the latter, are both represented as full of eyes. Thus described, they resemble the prophets of old, denominated |seers.| The many eyes ascribed to them may point out the enlarged capacities which they should have for apprehending Divine things, as well as for rightly observing the dispensations of Providence, in order that they might teach the people. But from the prophets, and rulers, and seers, who were unfaithful, being represented as having had their eyes closed, and the people to whom a vision or covenant was addressed, being exhibited as unable to read it, and from those who were guilty of idolatry being spoken of as blind, it would appear that both the ministers of God's sanctuary and his other people, under the former dispensation, when they drew near to Him in Covenanting, enjoyed a privilege of which the gift of seeing was an emblem. And from the |four living creatures| and the |elders| -- the one full of eyes, and the other also capable of contemplating the Lamb as slain, around the throne, saying, |Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests| -- , it would appear that the later saints in the house of God on earth were to engage in the exercise of taking hold on his Covenant, and as his saints of old, there to enjoy the vision of God as a privilege. Yea, even to the Gentiles, enabled to apprehend Christ as given for a light to them, it will be vouchsafed as a privilege to attend to this. |I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.|

Fourthly. These Covenanting, know God, and are known of him. The heathen, worshipping idols, are represented as not knowing God. |Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.| And some from among them who had made an insincere profession of religion, are reproved for turning from services which, if rightly engaged in, would have been discharged by them in such a manner as to show that they knew God, but which they had never properly performed. |But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?| To know God is, in reality, by faith to see God. As He promised to make himself known in a vision, so he will give his people to know him in acceding to his Covenant. |The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.| The privilege thus described implies in it a knowledge of the gracious promise of God's covenant, and consequently, of the glory of his character, wrought in them by his Spirit. And those who will enjoy it are those who fear him, and consequently, who will recognise Him as their God. Hence it is that the expressions |to Covenant,| and |to know God,| may often be put, the one for the other. Encouraging his son to cleave to the Lord in covenant, David said, -- |And thou Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind.| The Egyptians, described as to enter into Covenant with God, it is prophesied, will know him. And hence, all brought to acknowledge him in this manner are truly blessed. |This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.|

Fifthly. To these Covenanting, the Lord is favourable. He extends to them the light of his countenance. |Offer the sacrifices of righteousness; and put your trust in the Lord. There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.| And He accepts them. |I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.|

Sixthly. These Covenanting, enjoy communion with God. The wicked do not use the name of God, in swearing by him, with acceptance; but his people do. And then the Lord speaks to them. |I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth among you; fear ye not.| The Lord dwells among his people continually; and hence, He is among them when they engage in vowing and swearing to Him; and in the language of prophecy, new manifestations of his favour to his people are introduced under the representation of the Lord returning to them while performing the duty. |Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee.| Entering into covenant with him, they feast before him. The dispensation of all the ordinances of religion is represented as a feast; and not less than of any other of them is that of Covenanting. A feast is a token of friendship. Special solemnities among the people of Israel were designated feasts. Covenanting with God sometimes entered into the religious exercises performed at these. The blessings of salvation are offered as the rich provision of a sumptuous feast, provided and given, by the Lord himself. And the reception of them in this exercise belongs to the privilege of those accepted, before him. |And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.| |And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord: we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.|

Finally. By his love the Lord constrains his people to take hold on his Covenant. Because of the love of God, his chosen are called at once to duty and privilege. Duty they perform through the influence of his love shed abroad in their hearts; and they enjoy privilege by his love extending to them. The Lord Jesus said to his disciples, |If ye love me, keep my commandments.| The injunction extends to the command regarding the commemoration of his death, -- |This do in remembrance of me.| And his people, under the influence of love to him, obey. |For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.| But in drawing near to God in the ordinance of the Supper, and in other explicit acts of Covenanting, they enjoy the manifestations of his love. |He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.| Even as Jonathan, after David and he had entered into a covenant of the Lord, caused David to swear again because he loved him, the Lord causes his people, whom by his love he had drawn to himself, to swear by his name. |I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.| |I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love.| Hence,

In conclusion. The observing of the other duties of God's Covenant, as well as the taking hold of it, is a privilege. Whatever is enjoyed in communion with God is inseparably associated with good to follow. As in the keeping of his commandments there is a great reward, so the blessedness of high privilege is enduring. The strength afforded for duty is a manifestation that privilege has been enjoyed. And the bringing forth of the fruits of righteousness, no less than the high enjoyment which fitted for causing them to abound, is a special blessing. If it is a privilege to vow to God, it is a privilege to observe the vow. If his mercy is seen in the giving of a heart to make it, certainly it is manifest in the granting of spiritual vigour fully to perform its promise. If it is a blessedness to commune with Him of all that is within the heart, can it be else to realize, throughout the whole period of the performance of engagements solemnly made to him, the promise of his Covenant, -- |I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.|

FOOTNOTES:

John i.11, 12.

Ps. cxlviii.14.

1 Sam. ii.30; see also John xii.26.

Is. xxix.13.

Ps. lxxiii.27, 28.

Eph. ii.12, 13.

Heb. x.22; see also ver.19, 23.

2 Kings xxiv.20.

Is. viii.14.

Exod. xxxiii.14.

Ps. lxviii.8.

Num. vi.24-26.

Ps. xcv.2.

Ps. cxl.13.

1 Tim. vi.16

Exod. xxxiii.20.

2 Cor. iv.6.

Is. xlv.22; see also ver.23, 24.

Page 222.

The former occurs in the original of Is. xxviii.15, and the latter in that of Is. xxxviii.18.

Ezek. x.13; and Rev. iv.8.

Is. xxix.10-12.

Is. xlii.17, 18.

Rev. v.10.

Is. xlii.6.

Gal. iv.8, 9.

Num. xii.6.

Ps. xxv.14.

1 Chron. xxviii.9.

John xvii.3.

Ps. iv.5, 6.

Is. xlv.19; see also Rom. xii.1; xv.16.

Jer. xliv.26.

Jer. iv.2.

Hag. ii.5.

Ps. cxxxii.14.

Zech. ii.10, 11.

Is. xxv.6, 9; see also ver.7, 8.

1 Cor. xi.24, 25.

2 Cor. v.14, 15.

Song ii.4.

1 Sam. xx.17; see also ver.16.

Jer. xxxi.3.

Hos. xi.4. -- Cords and bands here correspond to the bond of the Covenant.

Ps. xxxii.8.

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