Especially, 1. In the time of great backsliding, people were wont to renew the covenant with God, and we should do so also. Our heart should go out after Christ in the promises of reconciliation with God: for He is our peace upon all occasions, and our Advocate; and we are bound to apprehend Him so, when we transgress - 'If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous' (1 John 2: 1); and to express so much by word, as the saints did in their formal renewing of the covenant.
2. When people are in hazard, and difficulties are present or foreseen, then it were good that they should send out their hearts after Him, and express their adherence unto Him for securing their own hearts. We find Joshua doing so, when He was to settle in the land of Canaan, in the midst of snares: - 'Now therefore, fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served, that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for the Lord our God, He it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed; and the Lord drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the Lord; for He is our God. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for He is an holy God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sin. If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then He will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that He has done you good. And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves, that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve Him. And they said, We are witnesses. Now, therefore put away (said he) the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel. And the people said unto Joshua, the Lord our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.' (Josh. 24.)
So did David in his straits - 'In the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.' (Psa. 57: 1.)
3. When men apprehend God to be at a distance from them, and their soul to be under withering and decay, then it is safest heartily to close with Christ, and embrace Him by faith for the securing of the soul; and it were good to put it out of question by the expression of the thing. This is the ready way to draw sap from Christ the root, for recovering of the soul, and for establishing the heart before Him. The spouse, in the Song of Solomon, does so; thus asserting her interest in Him when in such a condition, professing and avowing Him to be her beloved. (Cant. 5.)
4. At the celebration of the Lord's Supper, men should thus cordially close with God in Christ, and speak and express so much; for that is a feast of love; and then and there we come under a solemn professing of closing with God in Christ personally and openly, and to receive the seal of it. It is, therefore, especially proper, at that time, to bring up both heart and tongue to second and answer our profession, apprehending God to be his, and at his disposal. We shall not confine the Lord's people to times and seasons for this duty; the Lord may bind it upon them at His pleasure; only there is hazard, that by too frequent express covenanting with God, men turn too formal in it. Therefore, it is not so fit that people should ordinarily at full length renew that explicit transaction with God, but rather to declare unto God that they adhere unto the covenant made with Him, and that they do maintain and will never revoke nor recall the same; and withal, they may hint the sum of it, in laying claim unto God in Christ as their own God; and this they may do often, even in all their addresses to God. And probably this is the thing designed by the saints in their so ordinary practice in Scripture, whilst they assert their interest in God as their God and portion; and it is fit that men, in all their walk, hold their heart to the business, by heart-cleaving to God in Christ - 'The life we live in the flesh should be by faith in the Son of God.' (Gal. 2: 20.)
II. - The preparation needed
As to the second thing, namely, what preparation is required of him who is expressly to transact with God here. Besides what we mentioned before, as previous to a man's closing with Christ Jesus, we only add,
1. That he who would explicitly bargain with God, must know, that to do so is warranted, and allowed by God, as we showed before. If this be wanting, a man cannot do it in faith, and so it will be sin unto him - 'Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.' (Rom. 14: 23.)
2. Then man must labour to bring up his heart to the thing, that it do not belie the tongue; it will be a great mocking of God, so to 'draw near to Him with the lips, whilst the heart is far from Him.' (Isa. 29: 13.)
III. - How the duty of covenanting is to be performed
The third thing to be considered in this express verbal covenanting with God is, the way how it is to be performed and managed. And besides what was said before in heartclosing with Christ, I add here, -
1. The man should do it confidently; not only believing that he is about his duty when he does it; but also, that God in Christ Jesus will accept his poor imperfect way of doing his duty: He does 'accept a man according to what he has, if there be a willing mind.' (2 Cor. 8: 12.) A mite is accepted, since it is 'all the poor woman's substance.' (Mark 12: 44.) Yea, if it can be attained, the man should believe that the issue and consequence of this transacting shall prove comfortable, and all shall be well; and that God, who engageth for all in the covenant (since He has determined the man to this happy choice), will in some measure make him forthcoming, and will perfect what concerns him - 'Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.' (1 Thess. 5: 24.) If this confidence be wanting, the matter will be done with much fear and jealousy, if not worse: and will still prove a disquieting business to the man.
2. It should be done holily. It is called 'the holy covenant' (Luke 1: 72); 'the sure mercies (or holy things) of David.' (Acts 13: 34.) Here it were fitting that what is done in this express transacting with God should not be done cursorily and by the bye, but in some special address unto God; the thing should be spoken unto the Lord - 'I cried unto Thee, O Lord; I said; thou art my refuge and my portion.' (Psa. 142: 5.) It is proper, in so great a business, that a portion of time were set apart for confession and supplication before God; yea, also, the person so transacting with God should labour to have high apprehensions of God's greatness and sovereignty - 'Thou art great, O Lord God; for there is none like unto Thee, neither is there any God beside Thee.' (2 Sam. 7: 22.) Although He thus humble himself to behold things in heaven and earth; and these high and holy thoughts of Him will and should be attended with debasing and humbling thoughts of self, although admitted to this high dignity - 'Then went King David in, and sat before the Lord: and he said, Who am I, O Lord God; and what is my house that Thou hast brought me hitherto?' (2 Sam. 7: 18.) It is no small thing to be allied unto, and with, the great God of heaven and His Son Christ; as David speaketh, when King Saul did offer his daughter to him. (2 Sam. 18: 22.)
Yea, further, there should be special guarding and watching that the heart keep spiritual in transacting with God. There is great reason for this holy way of performing the duty, for men are ready to mistake themselves, and to think of the Lord according to their own fancy, and to turn carnal in the business, since it is a marriage transaction held out in all the ordinal expressions of love, as in the Song of Solomon. (Isa. 62: 5; Zeph. 3: 17.)
IV. - What should follow this solemn act
The fourth thing we shall speak a word unto is, What should follow upon this express verbal covenanting with God. I say, besides that union and communion with God in Christ, following upon believing, if a man explicitly by word transact with God -
1. He should thenceforth be singularly careful to abide close with God, in all manner of conversation; for, if a man thenceforth do anything unsuitable, he does falsify his word before God, which will stick much in his conscience, and prove a snare. If a man henceforth forsake God, and take on him to dispose of himself, since he is not his own, and has opened his mouth unto the Lord, he makes inquiry after vows, and devoureth that which is holy. (Prov. 20: 25.)
2. He who so transacteth with God should hold steadfast that determination and conclusion. It is a shame for a man whose heart has closed with God, and whose mouth has ratified and confirmed it solemnly before Him, to contradict himself again, and to admit anything to the contrary; he ought boldly to maintain the thing against every enemy. Then, let me entreat you, who desire to be established in the matter of your interest in God, that, with all convenience, you set apart a portion of time for prayer before God, and labouring to work up your heart to seriousness, affection, and the faith of the duty to make a covenant, and to transact with God by express word, after this manner: - 'O Lord, I am a lost and fallen creature by nature, and by innumerable actual transgressions, which I do confess particularly before Thee this day: and although, being born within the visible church, I was from the womb in covenant with Thee, and had the same sealed to me in baptism; yet, for a long time, I have lived without God in the world, senseless and ignorant of my obligation by virtue of that covenant. Thou hast at length discovered to me, and impressed upon my heart, my miserable state in myself, and hast made manifest unto my heart the satisfying remedy. Thou hast provided by Christ Jesus, offering the same freely unto me, upon condition that I would accept of the same, and would close with Thee as my God in Christ, warranting and commanding me, upon my utmost peril, to accept of this offer, and to flee unto Christ Jesus; yea, to my apprehension, now Thou hast sovereignly determined my heart, and formed it for Christ Jesus, leading it out after Him in the offers of the gospel, causing me to approach unto the living God, to close so with Him and to acquiesce in His offer, without any known guile. And that I may come up to that establishment of spirit in this matter, which should be to my comfort, and the praise of Thy glorious grace; therefore, I am here this day to put that matter out of question by express words before Thee, according to Thy will.
And now I, unworthy as I am, do declare, that I believe that Christ Jesus, who was slain at Jerusalem, was the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world. I do believe that record, that there is life eternal for men in Him, and in Him only. I do this day in my heart approve and acquiesce in that device of saving sinners by Him, and do intrust my soul unto Him. I do accept of reconciliation with God through Him, and do close with Thee as my God in Him. I choose Him in all that He is, and all that may follow Him, and do resign up myself, and what I am, or have, unto Thee; desiring to be divorced from everything hateful unto Thee, and that without exception, or reservation, or anything inconsistent within my knowledge, or any intended reversion. Here I give the hand to Thee, and do take all things about me witnesses, that I, whatever I be, or have hitherto been, do accept of God's offer of peace through Christ; and do make a sure covenant with Thee this day, never to be reversed, hoping that Thou wilt make all things forthcoming, both on Thy part and mine, seriously begging, as I desire to be saved, that my corruptions may be subdued, and my neck brought under Thy sweet yoke in all things, and my heart made cheerfully to acquiesce in whatsoever Thou dost unto me, or with me, in order to these ends.
Now, glory be unto Thee, O Father, who devised such a salvation, and gave the Son to accomplish it: Glory be to Christ Jesus, who, at so dear a rate, did purchase the outletting of that love from the Father's bosom, and through whom alone this access is granted, and in whom I am reconciled unto God, and honorably united unto Him, and am no more an enemy or stranger: Glory to the Holy Ghost, who did alarm me when I was destroying myself, and who did not only convince me of my danger, but did also open my eyes to behold the remedy provided in Christ; yea, and did persuade and determine my wicked heart to fall in love with Christ, as the enriching treasure; and this day does teach me how to covenant with God, and how to appropriate to myself all the sure mercies of David, and blessings of Abraham, and to secure to myself the favour and friendship of God for ever. Now, with my soul, heart, head, and whole man, as I can, I do acquiesce in my choice this day, henceforth resolving not to be my own, but Thine; and that the care of whatsoever concerns me shall be on Thee, as my Head and Lord, protesting humbly, that failings on my part (against which I resolve, Thou knowest) shall not make void this covenant; for so hast Thou said, which I intend not to abuse, but so much the more to cleave close unto Thee, and I must have liberty to renew, ratify, and draw extracts of this transaction, as often as shall be needful. Now, I know Thy consent to this bargain stands recorded in Scripture, so that I need no new signification of it; and I, having accepted of Thy offer upon Thine own terms, will henceforth wait for what is good, and for Thy salvation in the end. As Thou art faithful, pardon what is amiss in my way of doing the thing, and accept me in my Lord Jesus Christ, in whom only I desire pardon. And in testimony hereof, I set to my seal that God is true, in declaring Him a competent Savior.' Let people covenant with God in fewer or more words, as the Lord shall dispose them - for we intend no exact form of words for any person - only it were fitting that men should before the Lord acknowledge their lost state in themselves, and the relief that is by Christ; and that they do declare that they accept of the same as it is offered in the gospel, and do thankfully rest satisfied with it, intrusting themselves henceforth wholly unto God, to be saved in His way, for which they wait according to His faithfulness. If men would heartily and sincerely do this, it might, through the Lord's blessing, help to establish them against many fears and jealousies; and they might date some good thing from this day and hour, which might prove comfortable unto them when they fall in the dark afterwards, and even when many failings do stare them in the face, perhaps at the hour of death - 'These be the last words of David: although my house be not so with God, yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; for this is all my salvation, and all my desire.' (2 Sam. 23: 5.) It is much if a man can appeal unto God, and say, Thou knowest there was a day and an hour when in such a place I did accept of peace through Christ, and did deliver up my heart to Thee, to write on it Thy whole law without exception; heaven and earth are witnesses of it - 'Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.' (Psa. 119: 49.)
X. - A want of proper feeling considered as an obstacle in the way of covenanting
Object. I dare not venture to speak such words unto God, because I find not my heart coming up full length in affection and seriousness; so I should but lie unto God in transacting so with Him.
Ans. It is to be regretted that men's hearts do not, with intensity of desire and affection, embrace and welcome that blessed offer and portion. Yet, for answer to this objection, remember,
1. That in those to whom the Lord gives the new heart, forming Christ in them, the whole heart is not renewed; there is 'flesh and spirit lusting against each other, the one contrary unto the other, so that a man can neither do the good or evil he would do,' with full strength. (Gal. 5: 17.) It is well if there be a good part of the heart going out after Christ, desiring to close with Him on His own terms.
2. That there is often a rational love in the heart unto Christ Jesus, expressing itself by a respect to His commandments - 'This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not grievous' (1 John 5: 3); when there is not a sensible prevailing love which maketh the soul sick - 'I am sick of love.' (Cant. 2: 5.) Men must not always expect to find this. I say, then, although somewhat in your heart drawn back, yet if you can say that you are convinced of your lost state without Him, that you want a righteousness to cover your guilt, and that you want strength to stand out against sin, or to do what is pleasing before God, and that you also see fulness in Him; in both these respects, if you dare say that somewhat within your heart would fain embrace Him upon His own terms, and would have both righteousness for justification, and strength in order to sanctification; and that what is within you contradicting this, is in some measure your burden and your bondage - if it be so, your heart is brought up a tolerable length; go on to the business, and determine the matter by covenanting with God, and say with your mouth, 'That you have both righteousness and strength in the Lord,' as He has sworn you shall do - 'I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return. That unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to Him shall men come; and all that are incensed against Him shall be ashamed.' (Isa. 45: 23, 24.) It is according to Scripture to say unto God, I believe, when much unbelief is in me and the heart is divided in the case 'Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief.' (Mark 9: 24.) Withal show unto God how matters are in your heart, so that you may be without guile before Him, concealing nothing from Him; and put your heart as it is in His hand, to write His law on it, according to the covenant: for that is the thing He seeks of men, that they deliver up their heart to Him, that He may stamp it with His whole will, without exception; and if you can heartily consent unto that, judging Christ's blood a sufficient ransom and satisfaction for man's transgression, you may go and expressly strike a covenant with God, for your heart and affection is already engaged.
XI. - The fear of backsliding a hindrance
Object. I dare not so covenant with God lest I break with Him; yea, I persuade myself, that if such a temptation did offer, so and so circumstantiated, I should fall before it: therefore, to transact so with God whilst I foresee such a thing, were but to aggravate my condemnation.
Ans. 1. You have already entered into covenant with God, as you are a member of His visible Church; and what is now pressed upon you is, that you more heartily, sincerely, particularly, and expressly covenant and transact with Him: you are already obliged heartily to close with God in Christ: and if you do it in heart, I hope the hazard is no greater by saying that you do so, or have done so.
2. What will you do if you decline sincerely closing with God in Christ, and do not accept of His peace as it is offered? You have no other way of salvation; either you must do this or perish for ever: and if you do it with your heart, you may also say it with your tongue.
3. If people may be afraid of covenanting with God lest they should afterwards transgress, then not one man should covenant with God; for surely every one will transgress afterwards, if they live any length of time after the transaction; and we know no way like this to secure men from falling; for if you covenant honestly with Him, He engageth, beside the new heart, to put His fear and law therein, to give His Spirit to cause you to walk in His way. And when you covenant with God, you deliver up yourself unto Him to be sanctified and made conformable to His will. It is rather a giving up of yourself to be led in His way, in all things, and kept from every evil way, than any formal engagement on your part to keep His way, and to hold off from evil: so that you need not be afraid of the covenant, the language whereof is, 'Wilt thou not be made clean?' (Jer. 13: 27.) And all that shun to join in covenant with God, do thereby declare that they desire not to be made clean.
4. As it is hard for any to say confidently they shall transgress, if such a temptation did offer, so and so circumstantiated, because that men may think that either God will keep a temptation out of their way, or will not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able to bear, or give to them a way of escape - 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.' (Psa. 46: 1.) 'There has no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able to bear; but will with the temptation also make a wsy to escape, that ye may be able to bear it' (1 Cor. 10: 13); so the question is not, what I may do afterwards, but what I now resolve to do. If my heart charge me presently with any deceit or resolution to transgress, I must lay aside that deceit before I covenant with God; but if my heart charge me with no such purpose, yea, I dare say I resolve against every transgression; and although I think I shall fall before such and such temptation, yet that thought floweth not from any allowed and approved resolution to do so, but from a knowledge of my own corruption, and of what I have done to provoke God to desert me: but the Lord knows I resolve not to transgress, nor do I approve any secret inclination of my heart to such a sin, but would reckon it my singular mercy to be kept from sin in such a case; and I judge myself a wretched man, because of such a body of death within me, which threatens to make me transgress; in that case I say, My heart does not condemn me, therefore, I may and ought to have confidence before God. (1 John 3: 21.) If this then be the case, I say to thee, although thou shouldst afterwards fail many ways, and so perhaps hereby draw upon thyself sad temporal strokes, and lose for a season many expressions of His love, yet there is an 'Advocate with the Father' to plead thy pardon (1 John 2: 1); who has satisfied for our breaches - 'He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all' (Isa. 53: 5, 6.) And for His sake God resolves to hold fast the covenant with men after their transgression - 'If his children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments; if they break My statutes, and keep not My commandments: nevertheless My loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail: my covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips. Once have I sworn by My holiness.' (Psa. 89: 30-37.) Else how could He be said 'to betroth us to Himself for ever?' (Hos. 2: 19, 20.) And how could the covenant be called 'everlasting, ordered in all things and sure,' if there were not ground of comfort in it, 'even when our house is not so with God?' (2 Sam. 23: 5.) Yea, it were no better than the covenant of works, if those who enter into it with God could so depart from Him again, as to make it void unto themselves, and to put themselves into a worse condition than they were in before they made it - 'And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good' (Jer. 32: 40) - compared with Heb. 8: 6, 'But now has He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.' 'The Lord hateth putting away.' (Mal. 2: 16.) No honest heart will stumble at this, but will rather be strengthened thereby in duty - 'I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him. Who is wise, and he shall understand these things: prudent, and he shall know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them.' (Hos. 14: 9.) For other ties and bonds, besides the fear of divorce, and punishment by death, do oblige the ingenuous wife unto duty; so here men will 'fear the Lord and His goodness.' (Hos. 3: 5.)
XII. - Objection arising from past fruitlessness considered
Object. I have at the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and on some other occasions, covenanted expressly and verbally with God; but my fruitlessness in His ways, and the renewed jealousies of my gracious state, make me question, if ever I transacted with God in sincerity, and I think I can do it no otherwise than I have done it.
Ans. 1. Men are not to expect fruitfulness according to their desire, nor full assurance of God's favour immediately after they have fled unto Christ, and expressly transacted with God in Him; these things will keep a man at work all his days. The saints had their failings and shortcomings, yea, and backsliding, with many fits of dangerous unbelief, after they had very seriously and sincerely, and expressly closed with God, as their God in Christ.
2. Many do look for fruitfulness in their walk, and establishment of faith, from their own sincerity in transacting with God, rather than from the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. They fix their hearts on their own honesty and resolutions, and not in the blessed root, Christ Jesus, without whom we can do nothing, and are vanity altogether in our best estate. Men should remember, that one piece of grace cannot produce any degree of grace: Further, nothing can work grace but the arm of JEHOVAH; and if men would lean upon Christ, and covenant with Him as their duty absolutely, whatsoever may be the consequence, at least looking only to Him for the suitable fruit, it would fare better with them. God pleaseth not that men should retake themselves unto Christ, and covenant with Him for a season until they see if such fruit and establishment shall follow, purposing to disclaim their interest in him and the covenant, if such and such fruit does not appear within such a length of time. This is to put the ways of God to trial, and is very displeasing unto Him. Men must absolutely close with Christ, and covenant with Him, resolving to maintain these things as their duty, and a ready way to reach fruit, whatever shall follow thereupon; they having a testimony within them, that they seriously design conformity to His revealed will in all things; and that they have closed covenant with Him for the same end, as well as to be saved thereby.
3. Men should be sparing to bring in question their sincerity in transacting with God unless they can prove the same, or have great presumptions for it. If you can discover any deceit or guile in your transacting with Him, you are obliged to disclaim and rectify it, and to transact with God honestly, and. without guile: but if you know nothing of your deceit or guile in the day you did transact with Him; yea, if you can say that you did appeal unto God in that day and that you dealt honestly with Him, and intended not to deceive; and did entreat Him, according to his faithfulness, to search and try if there was any crookedness in your way, and to discover it unto you, and heal it - 'Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting' (Psa. 139: 23, 24); and that afterwards you 'came to the light, that your deeds might be manifest' (John 3: 20, 21); and if you can say, that God's answers from His words to you, in so far as you could understand, were answers of peace, and confirmations of your sincerity; yea, further, if you dare say, that if, upon life and death, you were again to transact with Him, you can do it no other way, nor intend more sincerity and seriousness than before; then I dare say unto thee in the Lord's name, thou ought not to question thy sincerity in transacting with God, but to 'have confidence before God, since thy heart does not condemn thee' (1 John 3: 21); and thou art bound to believe that 'God dealeth uprightly with the upright man, and with the pure does show himself pure.' (Psa 28: 25, 26.) If a man intend honestly, God will not suffer him to beguile himself; yea, the Lord suffereth no man to deceive Himself, unless the man intend to deceive both God and man.
4. Therefore impute your unfruitfulness to your unwatchfulness and your unbelief, and impute your want of full assurance unto an evil heart of unbelief, helped by Satan to act against the glorious free grace of God: and charge not these things to the want of sincerity in your closing with Christ. And resolve henceforth to abide close by the root, and you shall bring forth much fruit; and by much fruit you lay yourselves open to the witness of God's Spirit, which will testify with your spirit that you have sincerely and honestly closed with God, and that the rest of your works are wrought in God, and approved of Him; and so the witness of the Spirit and the water, joining with the blood, whereupon you are to lay the weight of your soul and conscience, and where alone you are to sink the curses of the law due unto you for all your sins and failings in your best things. These three do agree in one, namely, that this is the way of life and peace, and that you have interest therein, and so you come to quietness and full assurance - 'Abide in me, and I in you; as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.' (John 15: 4, 5.) 'He that has my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will 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.' (John 14: 21, 23.) 'The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.' (Rom. 8: 10.) 'There are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.' (1 John 5: 8.)
O blessed bargain of the new covenant, and thrice blessed Mediator of the same! Let him ride prosperously and subdue nations and languages, and gather in all His jewels, that honourable company of the firstborn, that stately troop of kings and priests, whose glory it shall be to have washed their garments in the blood of that spotless Lamb, and whose happiness shall continually flourish in following Him whithersoever He goes, and in being in the immediate company of the Ancient of days, one sight of whose face shall make them in a manner forget that ever they were on the earth. Oh, if I could persuade men to believe that these things are not yea and nay, and to make haste towards Him, who hasteth to judge the world, and to call men to an account, especially concerning their improvement of this gospel. 'Even so, come Lord Jesus.'
The whole Treatise resumed in a Few Questions and Answers
Quest. 1. What is the great business a man has to do in this world?
Ans. To make sure a saving interest in Christ Jesus, and to walk suitably thereto.
Q. 2. Have not all the members of the visible church a saving interest in Christ?
A. No, verily; yea, but a very few of them have it.
Q. 3. How shall I know if I have a saving interest in Him?
A. Ordinarily the Lord prepareth His own way in the soul by a work of humiliation, and discovereth a man's sin and misery to him, and exerciseth Him so therewith, that He longs for the physician Christ Jesus.
Q. 4. How shall I know if I have got a competent discovery of my sin and misery?
A. A competent sight of it makes a man take salvation to heart above anything in this world: it maketh him disclaim all relief in himself, seen in his best things: it maketh Christ who is the Redeemer, very precious to the soul: it makes a man stand in awe to sin afterwards, and makes him content to be saved upon any terms God pleases.
Q. 5. By what other ways may I discern a saving interest in him?
A. By the going out of the heart seriously and affectionately towards Him, as He is held out in the gospel; and this is faith or believing.
Q. 6. How shall I know if my heart goes out after Him aright, and that my faith is true saving faith?
A. Where the heart goes out aright after Him in true and saving faith, the soul is pleased with Christ alone above all things, and is pleased with Him in all Him three offices, to rule and instruct as well as to save; and is content to cleave unto Him, whatsoever inconveniences may follow.
Q. 7. What other mark of a saving interest in Christ can you give me?
A. He that is in Christ savingly, is a new creature; He is graciously changed and renewed in some measure, in the whole man, and in all his ways pointing towards all the known commands of God.
Q. 8. What if I find sin now and then prevailing over me?
A. Although every sin deserves everlasting vengeance, yet, if you be afflicted for your failings, confess them with shame of face unto God, resolving to strive against them honestly henceforth, and see unto Christ for pardon, you shall obtain mercy, and your interest stands sure.
Q. 9. What shall the man do who cannot lay claim to Christ Jesus nor any of those marks spoken of it?
A. Let him not take rest until he make sure unto himself a saving interest in Christ.
Q. 10. What way can a man make sure an interest in Christ, who never had a saving interest in Him hitherto?
A. He must take his sins to heart, and his great hazard thereby, and he must take to heart God's offer of pardon and peace through Christ Jesus, and heartily close with God's offer by retaking himself unto Christ, the blessed refuge.
Q. 11. What if my sins be singularly heinous, and great beyond ordinary?
A. Whatsoever thy sins be, if thou wilt close with Christ Jesus by faith, thou shalt never enter into condemnation.
Q. 12. Is faith in Christ only required of men?
A. Faith is the only condition upon which God does offer peace and pardon unto men; but be assured, faith, if it be true and saving, will not be alone in the soul, but will be attended with true repentance, and a thankful study of conformity to God's image.
Q. 13 How shall I be sure that my heart does accept of God's offer, and does close with Christ Jesus?
A. Go make a covenant expressly, and by word speak the thing unto God.
Q. 14 What way shall I do that?
A. Set apart some portion of time, and, having considered your own lost estate, and the remedy offered by Christ Jesus, work up your heart to be pleased and close with that offer, and say unto God expressly that you do accept of that offer, and of Him to be your God in Christ; and do give up yourself to Him to be saved in His way, without reservation or exception in any case; and that you henceforth will wait for salvation in the way He has appointed.
Q. 15 What if I break with God afterwards?
A. You must resolve in His strength not to break, and watch over your own ways, and put your heart in His hand to keep it and if you break, you must confess it unto God, and judge yourself for it, and flee to the Advocate for pardon, and resolve to do so no more: and this you must do as often as you fail.
Q. 16 How shall I come to full assurance of my interest in Christ, so that it may be beyond controversy?
A. Learn to lay your weight upon the blood of Christ, and study purity and holiness in all manner of conversation: and pray for the witness of God's Spirit to join with the blood and the water; and His testimony added unto these will establish you in the faith of an interest in Christ.
Q. 17. What is the consequence of such closing with God in Christ by heart and mouth?
A. Union and communion with God, all good here and His blessed fellowship in heaven forever afterwards.
Q. 18. What if I slight all these things, and do not lay them to heart to put them in practice?
A. The Lord comes with His angels, in flaming fire, to render vengeance to them who obey not His gospel; and thy judgment shall be greater than that of Sodom and Gomorrah; and so much the greater that thou hast read this Treatise, for it shall be a witness against thee in that day.
The End .
Guthrie, The Christian's Great Interest
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