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.
~ Deuteronomy 5:2-3
And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book.
~ 2 Chronicles 34:31
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
~ Isaiah 12:2
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
~ Romans 6:13
And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself: That the LORD may continue his word which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said he) a man on the throne of Israel.
~ 1 Kings 2:3-4
He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.
~ Psalm 147:19-20
Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.
~ Deuteronomy 15:5
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
~ Jeremiah 31:32-34
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
~ Titus 2:14
Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.
~ Psalm 119:6
But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:
~ Romans 16:26
Covenanted Grace For Covenanting Work, by Ralph Erskine. December 28th, 1742.
Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments;
~ Deut. xxvi. 17, 18.
The solemnity of this very day hath, been great and remarkable, and somewhat exactly parallel to it you have in these words. From the preceding verse, God, by his servant Moses, binds all duties of obedience to his divine commands, upon this people of Israel, by a threefold argument. The first is drawn from the authority of God, verse 19. They were not the commands of Moses, but of God: infinite Wisdom framed them, and the power of the King of kings made them binding to them. This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes, &c. The second argument is drawn from his being their covenanted God, ver. 17; “Thou hast avouched the Lord this day, to be thy God,” &c. A third argument is drawn from their being his covenanted people, ver. 18; ” And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people,” &c. Here he covenants to make them his peculiar people, his obedient people, that they should keep all his commandments; and farther, verse 19, to make them a high people, and to make them “high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour;” and make them a holy people; ” That thou mayest be a holy people unto the Lord thy God, as he hath spoken.” But I confine myself especially to the verses first read.
I know tne way wherein some go to work, in commenting upon this, and such like texts, is, as if there were but one mutual covenant between God and them here spoken of; whereof their part was a promise and oath of obedience; and God’s part, a promise, that upon that condition he would do so and so for them; and thus turning it to a covenant of works, with stipulation and restipulation. But, we have not so learned Christ, nor the truth as it is in him, as to conceive it in this manner: it was a gross view of it, this way, that made the most part of that Israel of God, so soon to break all their engagements; they made a covenant of duty with God, without taking hold on God’s covenant of grace, exhibit to them; and hence they so perfidiously break their covenant: and therefore, when God returned to them, he put them in mind of his covenant which they had forgotten, and put a difference between that covenant of theirs, and his covenant; “Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth,” — and ” thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed;” and I will do so and so for thee, “but not by thy covenant,” Ezek. xvi. 60, 61. Whatever peculiar privileges, and temporal blessings, were promised to Israel of old, yet they being all typical of spiritual blessings, and the heavenly Canaan; and however dark this legal Old Testament dispensation was, yet it was a covenant of grace they were under: and hence they were under a special obligation to serve and obey him in a covenant of duty.
In the words, then, you have, more generally, these three things.
1st, Their covenant of duty and service to God, wherein they avouch him to be their God, and engage to walk in his ways, &c.
2dly, The foundation and ground of this their covenant of duty, and the grand encouragement they had to enter into it, namely, God’s covenant of grace and promise, wherein he avouches them to be his; and promises to make them a holy and happy people: and happy would they all have been for ever, if they all had taken hold of this covenant of promise. But though a promise was left to them, yet many of them entered not into the earthly Canaan, nor to the heavenly either, “because of their unbelief,” Heb. iii. 19. They were not all Israel that were of Israel. They were all avouched to be God’s people in an external federal way, as they were a visible church in general; but there was only a small remnant that were his people, in a special, internal, spiritual, and distinguished sense, as being true believers, who laid hold on his covenant of grace, in order to their being capable to stand to their covenant of duty, and so show themselves to be his dutiful and peculiar people: however, the outward dispensation of the covenant of promise respected them all equally, that they might build their engagement to duty, upon this foundation of God’s covenant of grace, wherein alone their furniture for all duty was provided.
3dly, You have in the words the solemnity of this twofold transaction, relating to their covenant of duty, and God’s covenant of grace, as the ground and encouragement of it: and the solemnity appears.
1. In the manner wherein they assert their covenant of duty, and God asserts his covenant of grace; it is by a solemn avouching: they openly own, acknowledge, and confess him to be their God; and he openly owns, acknowledges, and confesses them to be his people.
2. There is a solemnity in the particularity of this twofold transaction; they are led to deal with God by their covenant, and God with them by his covenant, in such a particular way, that they act in a body as one man, acting and transacting with that one only, the living and true God; but with him as a promising God in Christ, covenanting with Christ, leading them to take hold of that covenant, every one in particular for himself, that they may be capable to devote themselves to him and serve him. Hence the words are, ” Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God,” and ” the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people.”
3. There is a solemnity in the universality of the matter engaged unto in this twofold engagement; they engage ” to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice:” and, in order here-
unto, God in his covenant engages, by his promise, to make them his, to make them holy, to make them happy, to do all their work in them and for them.
4. There is a solemnity in the date of this double engagement, this day; intimating that a remark is to be put upon the time wherein such a solemn thing is transacted; therefore, in the preceding verse, together with this text, this day is three times mentioned: This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; this day thou hast avouched the Lord to be thy God; and this day the Lord hath avouched thee to be his people. Moses took instruments upon it; and dates his instruments, that this day it was done.
The date of the time, this day, applied here, both to his engagement, in the covenant of grace, and our engagement in the covenant of duty, points out the necessary connection between these two; or the absolute necessity of his engaging for us, in order to our engaging to him; and though his engagement is last mentioned in the text, yet it is the first intended: for, though it is ordinary in scripture, that the duty is sometimes first named, and then the means and motives afterwards; yet surely, in the order of nature, the means and motives to the duty are first considered, and then the duty practised accordingly. Hence, Isa. Iv. 7; ” Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and be will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Here the motive is last mentioned, but yet it is the first thing intended and viewed by the returning sinner, in order to excite him to a compliance with the exhortation, and induce him to return. Thus, Isaiah xliv. 22. “Return unto me; for I have redeemed thee:” the motive and argument comes last, ” I have re ments, as they are the voice of God from heaven, to us upon earth; which is called. The “more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place;” 2 Peter i. 19. A more sure word than any other voice from heaven; yea, more sure than that voice that came from the excellent glory, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased,” Matt. iii. 17. To hearken to his voice may also import, a due regard to the voice of God, as is his word, so in his providence, explained by, and in an agreeableness to his word, the “only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.”
Hence we are to hear and regard the voice of God in all his dispensations: in his mercies, with thankfulness; and in his judgments, with reverence. We are called to hearken to him both in his word and rod; ” The Lord’s voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name; hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it,” Micah vi. 9.
In a word, these expressions import a resolution to cleave to all the ordinances he hath established among them; for, worketh in you both to will and to do: I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes: and hereupon, I hope, we are taking instruments in his own hand, which is the best hand, that this day he hath done it, by avouching us to be his.
By avouching us to be his, as he hath promised to us in his covenant of grace, he hath confessed and acknowledged, that he will make all his promises good, according to all our necessities. If, in his providence, he says. Behold I send you forth as sheep among wolves; in his promise he says. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. If his call to us is. Go and teach all nations, his promise is also, Lo I am with you always to the end of the world: and hereupon we take instruments, that this day he hath done it.
In a word, God hath come under a bond and engagement to us this day, and his bond is, in another sort, more firm than ours; his is the bond of an everlasting covenant but ours is a mutable covenant, lasting no farther than as it hath a relation to his covenant of promise, and is maintained by it. We may break our covenant with him, but he cannot break his covenant with us. He hath infinitely more to lose than we, if he should break his word; for his honour is engaged, his name and glory is at stake; and what will he not do for his great name? Therefore, if we have taken instruments upon his covenanted engagement and avouchment this day, he will never allow us to withdraw our instruments but allow us to plead it at his heavenly court, his throne of grace, from this
day and forward. Therefore I would, in a word, show,
8. What is incumbent upon us from this day and forward. I sum up all in one advice. If we would be faithful to our solemn engagement this day, let us live by the faith of God’s solemn engagement this day, for his engagement to us in a covenant of grace, is the ground of our engagement to him in a covenant of gratitude: therefore, let us never depend upon our own solemn engagement this day, but upon God’s solemn engagement to us this day, in his covenant of promise.
From this day let us depend upon his covenanted Spirit, his promised Spirit; for, by the power of his Spirit, the work is begun and must be carried on; ” This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts,” Zech. iv. 6. Let us rest on his word, that said of the Comforter,” I will send him unto you.” John xvi. 7.
From this day let us depend upon his covenanted counsel and conduct; for he hath said, ” I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not, I will lead them in paths that they have not known.” Isa. xlii. 16. Let us trust in him, that he will guide us by his counsel, and afterwards receive us to glory. We. have many proofs of his making darkness light before us, and crooked things straight; let us therefore still hope in his word.
From this day let us depend upon his covenanting presence; that when we go through fire or water he will be with us, Isa. xliii. 2, and bring us through fire and water to a wealthy land. Let us bless him, that hath said, ” I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Heb. xiii. 5. Many will be against us, but if God be with us, and for us, no matter who can be against us, Rom. viii. 31.
From this day let us depend upon his covenanted blessing; for he hath said, “From this day will I bless you.” Hag. ii. 19. From what day was it? Why, in the first chapter, God complained of that generation, that they still put off temple-building work, saying, The time is not come to build the Lord’s house; just like this generation, that have been saying more than fifty years. It is not time to renew our solemn Covenants, or revive a Reformation-work; but God stirred up a remnant in the days of Haggai, who laid the
foundation of the house of the Lord. And now, says the prophet, Consider, from this day; and again. Consider, from this day, verses 15, 18, 19, and a third time, Consider, from this day, even from this day will I bless you: from this day I may curse you; but from this day will I bless you. Let this encourage us to faithfulness against all discouragements from without. We may depend upon his promised blessing in life and death: his blessing maketh rich; and hath more unsearchable riches comprehended in it, than men or angels can tell. It may encourage us to follow him, whithersoever he goeth; and to be faithful to our engagement; for in this way his blessing will follow us, though death and the grave, to the glorious appearance of our Master in the clouds of heaven: For, “when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away,” 1 Pet. v. 4. In this faith let us stand fast, depending upon him that hath said, ” From this day will I bless you.”
So far, I hope, my dear brethren will allow this address to them.
2dly, I would address myself in a short word to all that have been witnesses to the solemnity of this day: some of you are friends to this work, and some of you are enemies.
( 1. ) To you that are friends, I have two words to offer, if you be indeed the friends of Christ and his cause; friends to a covenanted work of Reformation.
1. From what you have seen and heard this day, you may take witnesses and take instruments, that God is yet the covenanted God of Scotland; though a covenanted people have departed from him, yet our covenanted God hath not quite departed from
us. We forgot our covenant of duty, but God hath not forgot his covenant of mercy; and therefore hath mercifully revived his work in the midst of the years. Before the year 1643, was at an end, God brought these lands under a solemn League and Covenant, besides our National Covenants at other times; but these have been broken, burnt, and buried, and trampled upon; yet now before the year 1743, is at an end, God hath begun to set up a memorial of that reformation-work that was carried on by a solemn covenanting, from time to time: and therefore take instruments, from this day and date, that he hath not left himself without a witness, and that he will yet return and leave a blessing behind him, and repair all the breaches that have been made upon the carved work of his house, the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof; and that he will yet be as the dew unto Israel; and make us revive as the corn, and grow as the lily, and cast forth our root as Lebanon.
2. From what you have seen and heard this day, and at this time, you may learn, that, when God’s call to this covenanting work shall come to your door, you need not be afraid to avouch him solenmly to be your God; for, he will not be behind you, but will avouch you as solemnly to be his people. If you take hold of his covenant of grace, you need not fear to enter into a covenant of gratitude and duty; for the grace of his covenant will carry you through all the duties of your covenant: he will not be a day behind you; for the day that you avouch him, that day will he avouch you; yea, his avouching of you goes foremost, for he hath prefaced his commands with it, “I am the Lord thy God.” But when he calls us to such solemn work, he delays his open avouching of us, till once we have openly avouched him. Think it not enough, that your hearts have joined in this work with us this day; for though it is well, if your hearts have closed with God’s covenant of grace, and you have devoted yourselves to him in a covenant of gratitude, if it be only between God and you, this may be your safety: but is there not something farther incumbent on you, for reaching the end of God’s declarative glory, when that hath been so much darkened in this day? It must come to an open avouching of God, if we would glorify him before the world, or confess him before men, in the hope of being confessed by him in the great day. When God appears in his glory, and builds up Zion, and hears the prayer of the destitute, and looses his prisoners: what end does God propose by all this? See it Psal. cii. 21. It is, ” To declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem.” Therefore, let us pray for the accomplishment of that word, Zeph. iii. 9; ” Then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, and serve him with one consent.” But,
( 2, ) I would next address myself to you who are enemies, and have no good will to such work as this, of avouching the Lord to be your God. I have a word to say to you; and it is in short a very awful one. You hate to come under engagements to serve the Lord, and sure I am you are not serving such a good master as he is. You are serving the God of this world, and rejecting our God and Master. Our Master is a Saviour, but your master is a destroyer; ours is a Redeemer, but yours is a murderer: your carnal mind is enmity against God, and against the work of God, and the city of God; but know, that God will “make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it,” Zech. xii. 3. You that hate to be engaged for God and his cause, what if I must tell you, that God is engaged against you? He is engaged by promise to Christ, that he *’ will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him,” Psal. Ixxxix. 23. Yea, I must tell you, that since this is a solemn instrumenting day, we must take instruments against you, if you remain slighters and rejecters of our Lord Jesus Christ, and refuse to pay allegiance to Zion’s King. We hereupon take instruments against you, that this day we have been avouching him to be our God, and promising through his grace to serve him; and this day you have been rejecting him, and are resolving to continue in the service of the devil, the world, and your lusts. Alas! how dreadful is your case, if xod be taking instruments against you, saying. This day you have rejected me, and this day I have rejected you; your souls abhor Me, and my soul abhors you! If this be his farewell word to you, then I will tell you what will be the last word that ever you will hear him say, even, ” Depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” In that great day, you must answer for what you have seen and heard this day, by the recognition of conscience. Then this day will be a witness against you on that day: and we who are professing to be witnesses for God, must be witnesses against you, that we avouched him, and you avoided, and turned your back upon him.
But since it is not yet come to the last day with you; nor is God come yet to his last word, so long as the day of grace lasts; therefore hearken you this day to his word of grace: for, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. We make, in our Maker’s name, an offer of him to you; yea, he makes an offer of himself, saying, Whosoever will let him come. O Sirs, will you go with this man, who is Emmanuel, God with us, and God for us? We have avouched him this day to be our God; and you have as good right and warrant to avouch him to be yours, as ever we had: and though you should not do it with the outward solemnity of your hands lifted up to him, at this time, yet we call you in his great name, to do it with the inward solemnity of your hearts lifted up to him; for he hath come down to you in a declaration of his new-covenant name, as well as to us, saying, ” I am the Lord thy God.” He speaks to you not only authoritatively, saying, I am the Lord; but most affectionately, as a Saviour, I am thy God.
Well, Sirs, will you not this day avouch him, and avow and acknowledge him to be the Lord your God and Eedeemer? Does he claim relation to you, and will you claim none to him? This is the day that the Lord hath made, for giving you this offer; and every day is not an avouching day, every day is not a covenanting day. Sirs, you never saw such a day, and perhaps never will! Let not this day be lost; let not the evening of this day be lost; but, when God is yet saying. Come, come to me, I am the Lord thy God; take him at his word, saying. Behold we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God.
May the Spirit of power accompany the call, and make it effectual, that instruments may be taken upon it in your behalf, as ours, that this day we have avouched the LORD to be our God, and this day He hath avouched us to be his peculiar people, form for Himself, to shew for his praise.