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whether or not he will conform to the duties connected with it, and therefore I will sacrifice it or leave it to another? And would a child to whom some peculiarly valuable privilege has been bequeathed, and of the fruits of which he may have largely partaken, be warranted in reckoning as unlawful an entailed obligation to corresponding duty ? Do not the laws of a nation find an individual bound so soon as he opens
his light of the sun ? And ought not moral obligations, entered into willingly by Covenanting parents and ancestors, also, to hold the rising race completely bound? The privileges of civil society are available to youth long before they are able of themselves to take an active part in its affairs ; and thus these are brought under an obligation to support its good laws so soon as they voluntarily and effectively can. The privileges of a christian community are, to a certain extent, enjoyed by its youth long before they can exert themselves actively for its interests ; they are, therefore, under obligation, and so soon as they can perceive the importance of its voluntary Covenant engagements, they ought explicitly, to accede to them.
Would it be cruel to cut off children from the privileges of civil society because of their feebleness ? and would it not be cruel to deprive them of the advantages of covenants made for a defence to ourselves, which they equally need ? Would it be hideously wicked to expose them to the knife of the murderer ? and would it not be unspeakably criminal, by disregarding their education and failing to make engagements to instruct them, to abandon them to be poisoned by infidelity, superstition, error, or immorality ? And if, by Covenanting and the fulfilment of the solemn engagements made on their behalf, the best privileges that could be bequeathed to youth, are conveyed to them, are they warranted to cast off the
pleasing yoke of obligation, so gently laid upon them, and by resolving to neglect duty, to manifest themselves as unworthy of all the care that had been employed on their behalf? But it cannot be : all who have enjoyed the positive spiritual blessings that are conferred, in the mercy of God, on those who have entered into public solemn Covenants with him, will acknowledge themselves as his servants, and, far from reckoning themselves as under no descending obligation to duty, will rejoice, give thanks to him for laying a claim upon them by these, and gladly take hold on his Covenant again in their social capacity, that others to succeed them, even as they did, may gladly confess themselves to be devoted to him.
Fourthly. Because Social Covenanting, approved in Scripture, conferred descending obligation. Abimelech required Abraham to enter into a covenant with him, which the patriarch would keep, by not dealing falsely with himself, nor with his son, nor with his son's son.33 And accordingly that engagement, which was ratified by oath, was viewed by both parties, and unquestionably properly, as binding on all the individuals specified. By oath, the children of Israel made with Joseph a covenant, by which their descendants in fulfilling it, acknowledged themselves as engaged to carry up his bones from Egypt.34 The covenant made by Joseph and the princes of the congregation of Israel with the Gibeonites, was kept by the descendants of both parties : and the breach of it on one occasion by Saul, was followed by tokens of Divine displea
.35 The covenant of the Rechabites, and that of David with Hiram_which obtained also between that individual and Solomon, are other illustrations. Such covenants were lawful. The sentiments entertained concerning the descending 33 Gen. xxi. 23.
34 Exod. xiii. 19. 35 Jos. ix, 15, and 2 Sam, xxi. 1, 2.
nature of their obligations, being uncondemned, were correct. A disregard for these obligations in
case having been followed by punishment, they must have been complete. There was nothing about
any of these covenants that gave to their engagements a claim to continuance beyond those of other covenants, in which the welfare of posterity is contemplated. The obligation of such, therefore, even as those of the covenants specified, behove to continue.
Fifthly. Because the ends of such covenants may not be attained during the existence on earth of those who entered into them. Nothing is more common in the providence of God, than for one to begin, and another to finish. Indeed the grand end of the Church's continuance in the world, is aspired at by the efforts of all her true members. Guided by Divine teaching, the fearers of God adopt means for declaring His glory. In His providence, however, their lawful purposes are in general carried only partially into effect. The work which he gives countenance to some to undertake, according to his own good pleasure, he commits to others. Hence his people are employed in filling up what others had designed, and also in arranging what their own successors may complete. A glorious Lord rules over every occurrence in the Church's history. Schemes of reformation set on foot by his servants he acknowledges. When he will, they are enabled to complete them; otherwise they are wound up by others. To resolve to use means to bring the Church to a state of excellence, to which, according to the promise of God, she will yet come on earth, is obligatory on them who fear him. To vow to use those means, they are under obligation. Though they may not live to fulfil all that they intended, yet they will be preserved till the work assigned to them be accomplished. Their removal does not manifest their Lord's displeasure at them, but his intention to bestow upon them a gracious reward. Nor does the blank left in the Church by their decease, manifest that the works which they had undertaken, behoved not to be fulfilled. Others, the Lord of all, will call to the service, and accept of the obedience rendered by them as the fulfilment of obligations to obey him, which had been made by others, not merely on their own behalf, but on behalf of such as he might employ to serve him. What his people lawfully vow to him, he will afford means to perform. And in carrying his purposes into effect, he will make them at once to serve him, and to accomplish what others in dependence on Divine grace had pledged themselves to use every means in their power to perform.
Sixthly. Because the people of God even themselves are bound by anterior engagements of his Church. In the land of Moab Moses said, “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day."36 Many of those whom he addressed in these words were not then born. The obligations of their fathers must, therefore, have descended to them.
In many passages of Scripture do the saints acknowledge themselves as included in the covenant made with Abraham, and, consequently, as brought under its obligations.37 By a prophet of the Lord Israel are exhibited as recognising themselves to have been represented in the covenant transaction of Bethel. 6. He found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us.” 38 The words of Peter to the people of Israel on this point are explicit,-“ Ye are the children of the prophets,
, and of the coyenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed
36 Deut. v. 2, 3. 37 Some of these are, Ps. xlvii. 9; Is. xüü. 16; Luke i. 72-74; Gal. iii. 7. 38 Hos. xii. 4.
shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”:39 Expressing the sentiment, that their fathers had entered into Covenant engagements with God, in which they were recognised, Moses, and all Israel, on the shores of the Red Sea, thus sang,“ The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation : he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him." And in language acknowledging explicitly obligation to obedience that had been transmitted by the deeds of parents or ancestors engaged to God's service, the Psalmist offers praise _"O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant and the son of thy handmaid : thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.
Finally. Because the Lord himself always views his Church as bound by the Covenant engagements thereof, competent to its circumstances, made in all earlier periods. By the covenant which he made with his servant Abraham, and once and again renewed to him, he held his people bound. At the ratification of that covenant the scene was impressive. It is thus described," I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another : but the birds divided he not. And when the fowls came down upon
carcases, Abram drove them away. And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and,
39 Acts iii. 25. 40 Exod. xv. 2. 41 Ps. cxvi, 16-18.