Covenanting According to the Purposes of God.
Since every revealed purpose of God, implying that obedience to his law will be given, is a demand of that obedience, the announcement of his Covenant, as in his sovereignty decreed, claims, not less effectively than an explicit law, the fulfilment of its duties. A representation of a system of things pre-determined in order that the obligations of the Covenant might be discharged; various exhibitions of the Covenant as ordained; and a description of the children of the Covenant as predestinated to peculiar privileges and services, make that announcement; and consequently, preferring the claim of submission to covenant requirements, urge, not less than to the others of these requisitions, a dutiful regard to the exercise of solemn Covenanting.

Many things in creation and providence were appointed for this, as well as for other ends, that men might make and fulfil solemn vows to God. The work of creation itself is cited to lead men to acts of religious homage. "The Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth; the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it; and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand."[479] The work of creation was performed, that on earth a people might be sustained to serve the Lord. "They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols. But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens, God himself that formed the earth, and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited; I am the Lord, and there is none else."[480] In anticipation of bestowing good on his people, even during their continuance on earth, the Surety of sinners, when the creation of all things was decreed, rejoiced. "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." "When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men."[481] Hence of them as the heirs of a comprehensive Covenant blessing, it is said in language in substance not unfrequently occurring, "The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace."[482] God's covenant with every living creature, revealed to Noah, was an appointment to confer the means of life on men in order to the attainment of the end of their creation. Other arrangements, conducive to the same object, are thus described, -- "He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee. In famine he shall redeem thee from death; and in war from the power of the sword. Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue; neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh. At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth. For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field; and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee. And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace."[483] That the land of Canaan was granted to the Israelites, not merely by promise, but by a sovereign decree, is implied in the words, "Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them."[484] Israel, fallen from the service of the Lord, is thus addressed, -- "And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi (my husband), and shalt call me no more Baali. For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name." Protection, as ordained in connection with their being taken into covenant with God, is thus promised, -- "And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow, and the sword, and the battle, out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies: I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord." Support, too, as in like manner provided for them -- crying unto the Lord for the supply of their wants, is promised, -- "And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel." And not merely reclaimed Israel, but the Gentiles, as by sovereign ordination interested in all their outward and spiritual blessings, are objects of the promise, -- "And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God."[485]

Secondly. The covenant of God, as ordained by him, manifests that the exercise of vowing unto him was also ordained. That was appointed. In statements regarding the sovereign arrangements of providence is this taught. These were brought into view, and their continuance promised, in the covenant made with Noah. In that covenant it was secured that the waters of another flood should not overflow the earth. In that too it was promised, that summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, should not cease. The covenant, therefore, as well as these ordinances, its results, was ordained. And accordingly was ordained, all connected with its dispensations. From the use of a term employed in prophecy in reference to the waters of the sea, this, moreover, appears. "Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it."[486] The term here rendered placed, in this passage means appointed; and in the two following passages is applied to the covenant. The statement, "He appointed a law in Israel,"[487] hence declares the institution of his law as a decree. And the demands of the covenant being those of the law, even as his law, the covenant it intimates as ordained, not merely by his high authority, but according to his sovereign will. And thus too are expounded David's last words, -- "He hath made with me," or rather appointed for me, "an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure,"[488] as intimating not merely his cleaving to God's covenant, but his recognition of that covenant as according to his good pleasure, in all things decreed.

That covenant was established. "God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth."[489] In such terms -- literally applicable to intelligent and moral beings -- but in figure transferable to the lower creation too, God spake of good intended for living creatures of every kind. That all the latter could apprehend his benevolent purposes, the words cannot intimate, but they do declare that by a beneficent ordination he had made provision for all. The beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, in common with man, enjoy the benefits of an animal life. With him they are subjected to the operation of causes acting according to the sovereign purposes of God, and with him, they are employed by the Lord of all in their varied spheres to fulfil his will. But he, by his great Creator, favoured highly above them, is called to obedience in a way to them unknown. Yet not less determinate than the laws and dispositions of the material world are all His arrangements, especially his covenant provisions made with regard to man. The lower creatures of God, though they know him not, obey his word. Moral agents on earth are subject wholly to his control. The decrees of his providence affect his intelligent and moral creatures not less than those that know not to resolve. All things continue according to his ordinances -- the material creation and his immortal offspring. His statutes bind the heavens and the earth; and by his appointment, the relations unto him into which men are brought, are constituted and sustained. Whatever may be the character of a solemn covenant with him, to his appointment it is due, and by his will continues.

If to them that fear God will be verified the declaration, "Thou shalt decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee,"[490] will not all his own holy purposes stand? And was not all that he established -- was not the covenant which he established, decreed? His purposes and their fulfilment are alike sure. "There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."[491] To some who had disregarded his covenant were directed his words, -- "Because ye have said, we have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement: when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves. Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, ... The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand." But revealing the Mediator of his covenant, and, consequently, making known that covenant, as to obtain, instead of the covenant with death, which was to be swept away, at the same time he says, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet." Regarding both the threatening and the promise, are his words, -- "This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working."[492] And may there not also be applied to both his own averment, -- "The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand."[493]

The covenant was commanded. When God said, "I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded," He spake of that omnipotent word by which he commanded all their hosts, at least into existence. And, accordingly, we are to understand the testimony, "He hath commanded his covenant for ever,"[494] as implying not merely that it should endure for ever, but that to his almighty mandate are its origin and continuance due. This the Psalmist celebrates when he sings of Zion, "There the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore."[495] And this, too, in addressing the children of Zion, and the God of Zion, he records. "Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us."[496] In like manner, are the blessings of that covenant thus announced: -- "The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." And is thus declared, that obedience to its requirements was ordained, "He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations: which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac; and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant." By the Lord of all, obedience to his law is enjoined. But what is requisite that duty be performed, is from him. And all needful aid he ordained. His law exhibits what he demands. The allotments of his providence illustrate the necessity of submission to him; and the pre-determinations of his will secure the services which he accepts. His laws are perfect. With the arrangements of his providence they harmonize. On the absolute perfection of his nature they are founded. All who obey them declare their approval of his purpose. To encourage such, his purposes are revealed. Because his covenant was commanded, it was made known. Its revelation, with its other provisions, leads to the attainment of its end. And it shall continue. Its benefits will be confessed, and its obligations respected and fulfilled. Contemplating its demands as promulgated by the authority of God, these they will endeavour to satisfy in accordance with his sovereign decrees. The wicked disobey his commandments, but cannot alter the determination of his will. The others make not the purposes of God the rule of duty, but endeavouring to fulfil his revealed will, they are employed with honour to execute his counsel. "Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." "The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance."[497]

And the covenant of God stands according to a sovereign decree. In virtue of his high authority the Lord imposed the regulations of his material and intelligent kingdoms, and the laws by which his moral creatures are governed. Hence, terms strictly applicable only to the government of the one, are metaphorically applied to the control of the other. And his dispensations to some are employed as symbols of his operations towards the rest. Thus, in language primarily used in reference to the firmness or security of a building, his word, and, consequently, his covenant, the arrangements of which it embodies, are represented as decreed. "Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them forever."[498] As ordained or decreed, to the appointments of the material universe it is compared. "Thus saith the Lord, If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers." -- "Thus saith the Lord, If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant."[499] And especially is that true religion through which covenant engagements are made and kept, according to God's decree. "Where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?" -- "God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof." "When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder; then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out. And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding."[500] Were the rain, and the lightning, and the thunder decreed? Then no less was decreed "the fear of the Lord." To vow unto the Lord was to manifest that fear. "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name."[501] And hence, also, not less than every other effect of that true wisdom which consists in the fear of the Lord, and of that understanding which is to depart from evil, was ordained the service of vowing and swearing to him.

Thirdly. A people were foreordained to make solemn vows unto God. Representations are given of his people as formed for his service. According to some of these, the expression, to form, means to fashion, or to bring into existence. "I will say to the north, give up; and to the south, keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him." "This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise."[502] "Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant."[503] And hence, because whatever is formed, is formed according to God's purpose, his servants, to his service in all its parts, were foreordained by him. But besides, the meaning of the said expression, cannot, even in the foregoing passages, nor in others, be limited to its literal import. It is employed to intimate that God pre-determined what his enemies should accomplish. "Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps."[504] In reference to a Covenant people to be continued to discharge their peculiar duties, and to provisions of grace, described in terms most beauteous, it is applied.[505] "Thus saith the Lord, the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name."[506] And since the purposes of God secure their fulfilment, and so his arrangements concerning his people secure their creation, regeneration, and continued support, does not the expression, kindred to others, "Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; fear not, O Jacob, my servant," explicitly advert to them as predestinated to obedience, and especially the obedience thus described, "One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel"?[507] Reasonings on the sovereignty of God exercised in setting apart a limited number to the benefits of salvation, illustrate and assert the truth. "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles."[508] In such terms is God described as not merely having created all things, but as having predestinated some to eternal life, and decreed that others should be left to perish. The mode of expression embodying the image of the potter agrees with the words of the Old Testament Scriptures, -- "Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? or shall the thing framed (formed) say of him that framed (formed) it, he had no understanding?"[509] What is taught by the use of such language must therefore be implied in those declarations of the prophets, where corresponding terms are employed. In the language of the Old Testament, the potter is literally, he who forms. According to the Apostle, the potter symbolizes him who predestinates. Hence, since, as in the words, -- "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth (formeth) it, what makest thou? or thy work, he hath no hands,"[510] he is compared to the potter, He is to be recognised as the sovereign Disposer of the final conditions of all. And forasmuch as, at a given period, concerning the existing house of Jacob, framed by him, he says in regard to their descendants, also formed by him, "But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel,"[511] depicting all of them in the character of those who avouch him to be their God, the true Israel he acknowledges as formed for, or set apart to, that high distinction by himself; and that the Apostle had this in view, his quotations from the prophets here given declare. It was of a people who should be objects of this promise, "And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi, and shalt call me no more Baali,"[512] and on whom the privileges thereafter described should be conferred, that was predicted the blessedness, "I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God."[513] It is of those, to whom Covenanting[514] with God, refers the promise, "The remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God,"[515] that Esaias also crieth, "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved."[516] And it was of those who, heirs of Abraham's faith, which was counted to him for righteousness, were, as he was, taken into covenant with God, and like whom none remained in the cities of the plain when these were overthrown, that "Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha."[517]

The Covenant people of God are an appointed people. Even as a law was appointed in Israel; even as an everlasting Covenant, ordered in all things and sure, was appointed; so were they. "And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them."[518] The same term, denoting to appoint, in each of the three cases is used. It is used in original of the passage, "He gave (appointed) to the sea his decree;" and in this acceptation of it signifies, in sovereignty to ordain. The ancient people included first the people of Israel;[519] and they are the Covenant people of all nations, and of every age, members of that church whose date is of ancient days. By the prophet who speaks of their appointment, their practice as Covenanters vowing to the Lord, in a familiar passage is explicitly described.[520] From others it may be concluded. Many evils overtook apostate Israel. "The earth mourneth, and fadeth away; the world languisheth, and fadeth away; the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the Everlasting Covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate." But to many, good was to follow. And if, for the neglect of making and keeping Covenant engagements, such calamities were poured out, will not a strict regard to these duties be paid when desolations shall cease, and there shall have arrived the time, "when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously."[521] Many were appointed or left to disobedience and condemnation. And were not others appointed to obedience and life? Of the former, the Apostle Peter writes, -- "But unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed." But to the others, in terms certainly implying, that to every privilege and duty of the Covenant they were no less -- yea, assuredly appointed, He says, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious." The chief corner stone laid in Sion is presented as aground of trust, instead of the Covenant with death and hell which should not stand. All founded on him are therefore a Covenant people, and hence, in that character, they were appointed. And hence, in terms from the Old Testament, bearing on Covenant relations and duties, he continues his address, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy."[522]

The people of God, as a Covenant people, were written in the book of life. Of the holy Jerusalem the Spirit testifies, "There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."[523] Whosoever enters therein, therefore, will not rank among those who, refusing to act as the children of the Covenant, are denominated the uncircumcised and the unclean. Concerning the beast, it is said, "All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."[524] The sin of those is idolatry. Hence, neither are written in the book of life any others, who impenitently refraining from the obedience of a covenant people, virtually persevere in the service of any idols, till death arrests them. It was to Israel as a people who had voluntarily in covenant dedicated themselves to his service, that was addressed the message, "Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto the Lord."[525] And applicable to all who, such as they were, being in covenant are sanctified, is the promise, "And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem."[526] The saints of God are come "to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven;" but they are also come to "Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." And according to their distinguished destination they endeavour to reduce to practice the exhortation, "Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear."[527]

The Covenant people of God are an elect people. They were chosen to be separated from the wicked and from their works. Thus Israel were separated from the heathen. Thus all who believe are separated from those that know not nor obey the Lord. "Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth."[528] "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you."[529] The answer of God to the lamentation of Elijah concerning the defection of Israel, is applied to believers of New Testament times, as a people in covenant chosen from the wicked. "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars: and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace."[530] The apostle does not quote the words of the prophet, -- "The children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant;"[531] but he states the evidence for the fact which these words announce, "They have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars." The seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal, were steadfast in God's Covenant. All believers are so. As thus steadfast, all of them in every time are a remnant, according to the election of grace.

The people of God were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Hence a visible church was erected therein. Hence Israel, as a people, were endowed with peculiar privileges. Hence the ordinances of Divine grace are dispensed in every age. But all are not elect who wait on the institutions of religion. Israel was chosen from among the heathen; but all of them were not chosen in Christ. The members of the visible church, by profession, are separated from the world; but all of them do not enjoy the privileges, and do not discharge the duties of God's elect. All are not Israel who are of Israel. When the Lord entered into covenant with his people Israel, he chose them from among idolaters. He did so because of his choice of them from everlasting. Why the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, is, that he chose them from eternity. And the Lord will have mercy on the Gentiles as a covenant people, set apart from the wicked, according to his eternal sovereign good will. "The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all the people; but because the Lord loved you. -- "[532] "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded."[533] When Paul and Barnabas preached at Antioch in Pisidia, the Jews spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. These apostles thereupon expressed their resolution to turn to the Gentiles. And their warrant they declare, "For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth." Nor was he, who, that he might be a light of the Gentiles, was given for a covenant of the people,[534] then preached in vain. "When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."[535]

The people of God were elected to covenant obedience. Israel were frequently represented both as his elect and as his servants. "For Jacob, my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name."[536] The elect are spoken of as formed and ordained to good works. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." And those good works include the keeping of the covenant, by Covenanting and fulfilling the engagements made. "Wherefore, remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time 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."[537] The saints are described as "elect -- unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ."[538] As the sprinkling of blood, signifying the application of the efficacy of Christ's death by the Spirit of God, was wont to accompany the exercise of Covenanting by sacrifice, so, under the last dispensation, the obedience of the people of God, according to election, is to spring from their acceptance of Christ and his benefits, and dedication to God in the various acts of personal and social Covenanting. Finally, they are introduced at once as his witnesses, his servant, and his chosen. "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen."[539] They were therefore chosen to serve him, by vowing and swearing to him in secret, by testifying to his truths by oath before the world, and by adhering faithfully to his testimony.

The people of God were elected to privileges that can be enjoyed only by those in covenant with him. Theirs is the heavenly calling; and this they enjoy, "that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth."[540] All the saints being called, and chosen, and faithful, Abraham had been a partaker of this calling when God delivered to him the command to leave his native land, which the patriarch obeyed. That effectual call led him to obey the special mandate to go forth to Canaan, and to believe the precious promise that had been made to him. When the Covenant of God was established with him by that call, he laid hold upon it, testifying to his acquiescence in it, by believing in the Lord, by sacrificing unto him, and by receiving circumcision as a covenant sign. And that, as the promise of that covenant was to the Jews who were called, so its seasonable duties, and consequently the exercise of engaging to it, were incumbent upon them, appears from the record of the specially momentous day of Pentecost. Manifestly keeping in view the Covenant, by inculcating on the people a regard to baptism -- its sign, "Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."[541] Not merely to the Jews was its precious promise of the "seed," Christ, but to the Gentiles also. And faith in him, and the duty of keeping and of entering into covenant with him, under the latter dispensation, are obligatory on all. "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham."[542] And the gospel is preached, that men receiving the external call may be called effectually, and thus brought to receive the promise, and fulfil the duties required. Like the Israelites, who, after His manifestation in the flesh, believed in Jesus, all the people of God feel and acknowledge their covenant obligations, that they should show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light. To the condition of a people keeping covenant, the seed of Jacob yet to be reclaimed, as chosen of God will be called. "Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."[543] And all whom he had before prepared unto glory, even those whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles, as a people in covenant acting faith on Christ will lay hold on the covenant promise. "For this cause he is the mediator of the new testament (covenant), that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament (covenant), they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance."[544]

To the elect people of God belongs the blessing of justification. "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified."[545] Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. It was when, in the exercise of Covenanting, he accepted of the promise of God, that he was thus blessed. All who believe are the children of Abraham, and, being in covenant, are, by being justified, blessed with him. "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory." They are those concerning whom the Lord hath sworn, saying, "Unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength."[546] The Lord Jesus, exalted a Prince and a Saviour, is made of God unto his people, righteousness. Being justified by faith, they have the covenant blessing of peace with God, through Christ. And to the glory of the Redeemer, and to the manifestation of the solemn covenant relations to God in which they stand, making mention of his righteousness, they will vow and swear to him. Under the auspicious reign of Messiah, seated at God's right hand, the people of Israel, restored to their own land, will do so. "In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The Lord liveth, which brought up, and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them."[547] And this duty the Gentile nations also shall perform. "Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory."[548]

The Lord hath chosen his people to the adoption of sons. "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will."[549] In that character they individually, and also in a social capacity, vow to the Lord, and keep his covenant. To manifest that that relation recognises the necessity of self-dedication unto him, he says to each one called to his service, "My son, give me thine heart."[550] That Israel might be led into the wilderness, and thence to Canaan, not merely to give continual obedience to his law, but at certain seasons, as a people, to enter into solemn covenant with God, Pharaoh had addressed to him the message, "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my first-born: and I say unto thee, let my son go, that he may serve me."[551] In terms which describe the everlasting covenant between the Father and the Surety of sinners, the covenant of royalty which God made with David is also commemorated.[552] In that covenant Solomon was interested, and, standing in such a relation, was the object of the promise, "I will be his father, and he shall be my son."[553] Jacob, described as the Lord's servant, and Israel as his elect, and who are represented as vowing and swearing to the Lord, are acknowledged as his sons. "Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me."[554] Israel, by falling into idolatry, manifestly disregarding the solemn covenant obligations that had descended upon them, were reminded of their sin, by a representation of that filial relation to God in which their fathers stood, but to which many, notwithstanding their professions, through unbelief, never attained. "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images."[555] In the character of his sons, will Israel be reclaimed from their apostacy, and voluntarily enter into solemn engagements with God as his covenant people. "They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born."[556] In the character of children, too, they shall enjoy the benefits of God's covenant;[557] and, like them, all the chosen of God will hear his gracious invitation, "Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding;" and with them cheerfully coming under obligation to serve him, they will say, "Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God."[558] Both Jews and Gentiles are interested in the apostle's declaration, "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.... And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."[559]

The elect people of God are a sanctified people. "We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth."[560] And as a holy people they draw near to vow to him. As separated from the heathen, and called to the service of God, Israel appeared a holy people. Abstaining from certain practices in which idolaters engaged, they were ceremonially holy. Under both aspects, they appeared a symbol of the true Israel among them, and of all else who are sanctified by the Spirit, and dedicated to the Lord. The people entered into a covenant with the Lord at Sinai. But that they might be prepared for acceding to it, and for the accompanying solemnities, they, as a holy people, required to make progress in sanctification, were previously to be sanctified. "The Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to-day and to-morrow."[561] In order to wait upon God, whether making miraculous displays of his omniscience or power, or manifesting himself in the dispensation of the ordinances of his grace, the people of Israel were commanded to sanctify themselves. The place of his gracious presence, where his people, besides engaging in other exercises, sware in Covenanting with him, was his sanctuary. His covenant with his people, as that with Abraham, is a holy covenant. That his people may enter into covenant renewedly, the Lord himself will sanctify them. His Sabbath, the sign of his covenant, he gave them, that they might know this.[562] This they will continue to experience. Many sware by those that were no gods, but to his own people as swearing by his name he promises, "Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God; for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid (sanctified) his guests."[563] In this, ruin may be threatened to his enemies; but in it, certainly, is implied his gracious procedures to his saints. By the Holy Ghost they are sanctified, that they may dedicate themselves to God, and thereafter serve him. "Putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost."[564] This offering up or oblation of the Gentiles, was that urged in these terms, -- "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."[565] And by the blood of the Everlasting Covenant are such set apart to this. "Wherefore, Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate." "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to (or confessing) his name. But to do good, and to communicate, forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."[566]

To them belong the benefits of redemption that accompany and flow from acceptance with God. These are,

Assurance of God's love. All believers may not enjoy this blessing; few may attain to it in any comforting or satisfactory measure; yet it is attainable. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself."[567] "Ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit."[568] "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest myself to him." "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."[569] It is provided. It is vouchsafed as a provision of the Everlasting Covenant. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant."[570] Those who enjoy it know that to it they were elected. "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God."[571] And from the invitation to enter upon eternal life, that will be given to the righteous by the glorious Judge of all on his high throne, it is manifest that from the days of eternity, that blessing, preparatory for the final glory, was secured to them. He will say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."[572] Among the benefits introductory to the final glory, which, not less than that glory, were laid up for them, appears the earnest of the Spirit. "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance."[573]

Peace of conscience. It is according to the purpose of God that faith is exercised. "Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, -- to believe on him."[574] And by that faith, through which justification, a fruit itself of the Divine counsels, is bestowed, and which is in exercise in Covenanting, peace with God is enjoyed. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."[575] Righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost are all vouchsafed to the believer; all of them are covenant blessings. The arrangements of Divine mercy secure righteousness, and therefore all of these. The new creature, born from above, ranks among the Israel of God, who are by covenant engaged to his service; and on such the peace of God is invoked. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God."[576] God, in covenant, is the God of peace. Believers say concerning Christ, "He is our peace."[577] The Covenant of God is a covenant of peace; -- peace of conscience: peace with Himself: peace in all its manifestations. And that peace, which Christ came to secure, which he preached, and which he commanded, as his best blessing, to descend upon his people, proceeded from that counsel whence came all the displays of God's love -- the Counsel of Peace.

Joy in the Holy Ghost. "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."[578] Every one that sweareth truly by Him shall rejoice in God, and shall glory.[579] Joy in God is essential to the exercise properly conducted. Let the saints testify from their own experience to the perfect correspondence to their feelings of these words, dictated by his own Spirit, -- "I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt-offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.... I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God: for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels."[580] Supplication may be made for joy in vowing and swearing by his name. "Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul."[581] The Church of God, yea, many nations, are commanded to rejoice, performing this service. "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: and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee."[582] On a solemn occasion, all Judah rejoiced at the oath which they had sworn.[583] Promises are made, that, engaging in this exercise, many will rejoice. Those who shall take bold on the Covenant of God will be joyful in his house of prayer.[584] As he did on a former occasion,[585] when the Lord turns the captivity of Israel, and takes them into covenant with himself, he will cause them to rejoice. And the Gentile nations, in like manner, engaged as they were, shall be filled with joy. "Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers; and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.... Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."[586] And the rejoicing thus variously represented is according to Divine ordination. It is said, "Behold, my servant shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit. And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord God shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name. That he who blesseth himself in the earth, shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth, shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes." But concerning these words, as well as others that precede them, it is said by Him whose Spirit dictated them, "Behold it is written before me."[587] How elevated is the rejoicing of God's Covenant people! Theirs is a joy which the world cannot give nor take away. With it a stranger cannot intermeddle; it is unspeakable and full of glory! It is the joy of the Lord!

Increase of grace. The Covenant people are a remnant according to the election of grace.[588] To that grace, therefore, which comes from the free favour of God they were chosen by him. They are heirs of the grace of life;[589] and, consequently, in God's purposes, according to his Covenant, they were set apart to the enjoyment of grace that should be progressive. They are planted in the house of God, and grow up and flourish in his courts; and there they still bring forth fruit in old age. They are the planting of the Lord; and according to his purpose, as well as to his actual disposal of them and their own engagements to be for Him, they stand there. Passing towards the heavenly temple, they go on from strength to strength. In taking hold on him, in vowing and swearing to him, they do so, and find that the Lord indeed is their strength. And as they find thus that the Lord ordains strength for them, they know that he had so ordained at first. To them that fear the name of the Lord, and accordingly avouch him to be their God, is made the promise, "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall."[590] That promise, as well as every other, is due to his immutable counsel.[591] Finally, the command is given, "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."[592] To grow in grace is, therefore, co-ordinate with increase in the knowledge of Christ -- even of that knowledge which is attained to in cleaving to his Covenant. And he himself teaches, that fitness to do so was provided according to his purpose. "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."[593]

Perseverance in grace. God's Covenant with his people shall not be broken. "I will never break my covenant with you."[594] "The Lord will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance."[595] He will give grace to cleave to it continually. "I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me."[596] Believers were given to Christ, and therefore they cannot be lost. "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."[597] Trusting in him, therefore, his people rejoice to say, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his."[598]

And eternal life. This consummation unspeakable is indissolubly connected with the purpose of God, and the believer's exercises of adhering to the Covenant. On the promise of eternal life the heirs of it lay hold in Covenanting; and to this they were chosen. They cleave to the covenant as an Everlasting Covenant, well ordered in all things and sure: that is all their salvation, and all their desire. And to that final salvation they were chosen. "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."[599] Who can describe that life? and who can sufficiently tell of the grace of Him who hath secured it to men? And who should not feel amazed at the backwardness of sinners to prepare for it -- so free and beneficently offered? Truly the glory of God is great in his salvation! The redeemed through eternity will find the glad work of declaring that glory undone. Would that sinners now, by accepting of the great salvation, would begin here, and finally be prepared to celebrate with all others of their race redeemed to God, that glory!

In conclusion. As in every case the purposes of God harmonize with his precepts, so the manifestation of those in reference to the keeping his Covenant, unites with express injunctions of his law in urging to discharge that duty. The law of God conspires with his revealed purposes to lead the sinner to obedience; and his purposes revealed illustrate the import of his law. Both consist with his nature. What in his providence accords with both, at once acknowledges the high claim which he has upon the willing exertions of men to serve him, and his right to appoint, independently of a specified statute, what shall be carried into effect. The law of God is the rule according to which men act; and that is illustrated by his purposes revealed. His purpose is the rule according to which he acts, and that is consistent with his law. Accompanied by the sanction of both, Covenanting is revealed; and not less than as dictated in his law, it appears, as according to his purpose, an Ordinance of God.


[479] Ps. xcv.3-7.

[480] Is. xlv.16-18.

[481] Prov. viii.22, 23.27-31.

[482] Ps. xxxvii.11.

[483] Job v.19-24.

[484] 2 Chron. xxxiii.8.

[485] Hos. ii.16-23.

[486] Jer. v.22.

[487] Ps. lxxviii.5.

[488] 2 Sam. xxiii.5.

[489] Gen. ix.17.

[490] Job xxii.28.

[491] Prov. xix.21.

[492] Is. xxviii.15, 16, 17, 18, 29.

[493] Is. xiv.24.

[494] Ps. cxi.9.

[495] Ps. cxxxiii.3.

[496] Ps. lxviii.28.

[497] Ps. xxxiii.8, 9, 11, 12.

[498] Ps. cxix.152.

[499] Jer. xxxiii.20, 21, 25.26.

[500] Job xxviii.12, 23, 26-28.

[501] Deut. vi.13.

[502] Is. xliii.6, 7.21.

[503] Is. xliv.21.

[504] Is. xxxvii.26.

[505] Jer. xxxiii.

[506] Jer. xxxiii.2.

[507] Is. xliv.2, 5.

[508] Rom. ix.20-24.

[509] Is. xxix.16.

[510] Is. xlv.9.

[511] Is. xxix.23.

[512] Hos. ii.16.

[513] Rom. ix.25, 26.

[514] Jer. l.4, 5.

[515] Is. x.20, 21.

[516] Rom. ix.27.

[517] Is. i.9; Rom. ix.29.

[518] Is. xliv.7.

[519] Is. xlvii.6.

[520] Is. xliv.5.

[521] Is. xxiv.4, 6, 23.

[522] 1 Pet. ii.7, 8, 5, 6, 9, 10.

[523] Rev. xxi.27.

[524] Rev. xiii.8.

[525] Jer. ii.2, 3.

[526] Is. iv.3.

[527] Heb. xii.23, 24, 28.

[528] Deut. vii.6.

[529] Deut. vi.13, 14; see also Ezek. xx.5-7.

[530] Rom. xi.2-5.

[531] 1 Kings xix.10.

[532] Deut. vii.7, 8.

[533] Rom. xi.7.

[534] Is. xlii.6.

[535] Acts xiii.45-48.

[536] Is. xlv.4; see also Is. xli.8, 9; and Ps. cv.6.

[537] Eph. ii.10, 11-13.

[538] 1 Pet. i.2.

[539] Is. xliii.10.

[540] Rom. ix.11.

[541] Acts ii.38, 39.

[542] Gal. iii.8, 9.

[543] Rom. xi.25-29.

[544] Heb. ix.15.

[545] Rom. viii.30.

[546] Is. xlv.25, 23, 24.

[547] Jer. xxiii.6-8.

[548] Jer. iv.2.

[549] Eph. i.5.

[550] Prov. xxiii.26.

[551] Exod. iv.22, 23.

[552] Ps. lxxxix.3-28.

[553] 2 Sam. vii.14.

[554] Is. xlv.4, 23-25, 11.

[555] Hos. xi.1, 2.

[556] Jer. xxxi.9; see also ver.31-37.

[557] Jer. iii.18, 19.

[558] Jer. iii.22.

[559] Gal. iii.26, 29.

[560] 2 Thess. ii.13.

[561] Exod. xix.10.

[562] Exod. xxxi.13.

[563] Zeph. i.7.

[564] Rom. xv.15, 16.

[565] Rom. xii.1.

[566] Heb. xiii.12, 15, 16.

[567] 1 John v.10.

[568] Rom. viii.23.

[569] John xiv.21, 23.

[570] Ps. xxv.14.

[571] 1 Thess. i.4.

[572] Matt. xxv.34.

[573] Eph. i.13, 14; see also 2 Cor. i.22; v.5.

[574] Phil. i.29.

[575] Rom. v.1.

[576] Gal. vi.15, 16.

[577] Eph. ii.14.

[578] Rom. xiv.17.

[579] Ps. lxiii.11.

[580] Is. lxi.8-10.

[581] Ps. lxxxvi.4.

[582] Zech. ii.10, 11.

[583] 2 Chron. xv.15.

[584] Is. lvi.6, 7.

[585] Neh. xii.43.

[586] Rom. xv.8, 9, 13.

[587] Is. lxv.14, 16, 6.

[588] Rom. xi.5.

[589] 1 Pet. iii.7.

[590] Mal. iv.2.

[591] Heb. vi.17.

[592] 2 Pet. iii.18.

[593] John xv.16.

[594] Judg. ii.1.

[595] Ps. xciv.14; see also Is. liv.9, 10.

[596] Jer. xxxii.40.

[597] John x.28, 29.

[598] 2 Tim. ii.19.

[599] Rom. viii.30.

chapter vii covenanting adapted to
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