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T H E

A   R   K

OF THE

TESTAMENT OPENED,

O R,

The ſecret of the Lords Covenant unſealed,

I N

A TREATISE

OF THE

COVENANT

O F

G R A C E.

Wherein an Eſſay is made for the promov-

ing and increaſe of Knowledge, in the

myſterie of the Goſpel-covenant, which hath been hid from

Ages and Generations, but now is made manifeſt to the Saints.


Written by a Miniſter of the New Teſtament.


The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will ſhew them his Co­venant, Psal. 25,14.

And the Temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was ſeen in His Temple the Ark of His Teſtament, Rev. 11.19.


LONDON, Printed by R.C. and are to be ſold at moſt

Bookſellers-ſhops.   1661.

CHAPTER VIII.

Of the eighth property of the

COVENANT.

It is Particular and Personall.

X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.

Dear Reader,

Are you a Covenanter? — I do not mean to hassle you about the “distinctives of a church that expired generations ago,” — But whether you are Reformed Presbyterian, or something very different, If you are a Christian you are obliged to be a Covenant-Keeper with the Lord, and that implies that you are obliged to be a Covenanter, whatever the term may properly mean.  Has the Lord looked upon you in his sovereign love, and drawn you to himself as one whom he would entitle with irrevocable promises of grace and everlasting felicity? — And have you not said from the heart that you would be His and none other’s?

Some who have made public professions of their faith have had occasion, likely under particular directions from parents, friends, or elders, to engage themselves this way by outward actions.  While that is very important, and a weighty practical duty, I hope none will deny that what is inward is of yet greater importance.  Whether or not a believer know that first day in which he resigned himself over to the Lord, yet every one ought to have particular thoughts of his own interest in the Covenant of Grace, and his heart-dedication to the Lord.  On this subject, the present chapter from Patrick Gillespie, offers helpful information and advisement in the following categories:

  1. The Covenant of Grace is Particular & Personal.

  2. Wherein Personal Soul-Covenanting Consists.

  3. Twelve Assertions on the Nature of Personal Soul-Covenanting.

  4. Personal Covenanting the Duty of all who have the Offer of the Gospel-Covenant.

  5. Special Occasions for Personal Covenanting and Covenant-Renewing.

  6. The Weight and Importance of Personal Covenanting.

  7. Discouragements to Personal Covenanting, and how to Overcome them.

  8. Helpful Directions for Personal Covenanting.

It is the present editor’s hope and prayer that these things will be a valued blessing to all who happen to read them, especially those who are of the younger sort, or young in the faith.  If the text seems tedious, or leaves any questions unanswered, the reader should examine William Guthrie’s Christian’s Great Interest, to see what may be gathered there.

2014.04.03::JTK.

THe last property of the Covenant of Grace, whereof we shall speak, it is Particular and Personal, it is a Covenant into which individual souls enter, each one personally for himself: This is held forth in many Scriptures, 2 Sam. 23.5, He hath made with me a Covenant.  Isa. 44.5, One shall say, I am the Lord’s, and another shall subscribe with his hand.  Lam. 3.24, The Lord is my portion, saith my soul.  Psalm 16.2, O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my Lord:  So Psalm 119.57, Song 2.16, Psalm 73.25,26, Jer. 3.19, Isa. 45.24, Hos. 2.16, and 3.5, Rev. 22.17,20.

Before we explicate and establish this proposition more particularly, we shall first give the true meaning of it negatively, and positively, shewing in what sense we do not call the Covenant of Grace particular and personal, and in what sense we call it a particular personal Covenant.

And, first, for obviating mistakes, we are to caution, that when we call the Covenant particular and personal, or when we speak of particular, personal, soul covenanting with God,  1. The meaning is not, that the Covenant is personal on God’s part, for it is on God’s part, opus essentiale non personale opus trinitatis ad extra: It is a work of all the three persons of the blessed Trinity, and not peculiar and essential to one more than to another (although God be ours by Covenant, whether considered essentially or personally;) for there is nothing that one Person of the Trinity doth towards the creatures, but they all do it. Therefore the Scriptures hold forth all the three Persons of the Trinity in Covenant with us. [See Bulk. Gosp. Cov. pag. 124. [Ed. 1646.]]  Nor, 2[nd] is the meaning, as though there were so many particular distinct Covenants, as there be persons covenanting with God {150} through Christ, on the terms of Grace, for there is but one Covenant of Grace which is stricken with all the ransomed Company, Jer. 31.33, But this shall be my Covenant that I will make with the house of Israel.  Isa. 59.21. As for me, this is my Covenant with them, saith the Lord. [Chegn of the div. Trinun. pag. 396. & 427.]  Although there be as many particular soul-transactions about that one Covenant, as there be persons that are brought into the bond of the Covenant, Ezek. 20.37, each whereof saith to God for himself, as David said, Psalm 16.2, O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my Lord.  3[rd], Neither is the meaning that the Covenant of Grace hath its rise, and was then first a Covenant when particular souls did engage with God, and close with the offered Gospel; for it was a Covenant with us in Christ antecedently to our explicit, actual, particular, personal consent, and agreement unto the Gospel: for 2 Tim. 1.9, Grace was given us in Christ before the world began. Isa. 59.21.  Nor, 4[th], do we mean, that particular Believers stand in Covenanting with God, as single persons abstracted from Christ; for we are no party in the Covenant, nor can any way transact with God, but being considered in Christ, Heb. 2.13, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.  Nor, 5[th], do we mean, that all Believers have always a particular distinct uptaking of, or reflexion upon the formal notion of a Covenant betwixt them and God, though they be indeed engaged in it; for oftentimes they are more indistinct and confused in the knowledge and observation of soul covenanting with God than becometh, which administers occasion of much doubting and disputing about their estate.  Nor, [6th], do we mean, that the Covenant of Grace in respect of the external administration thereof, is only personal; for it is in that respect made also with Families, Churches, Nations and great Societies, as shall be made to appear when we speak of the parties covenanting, though all internal saving administration of the Covenant be personal.

But we call the Covenant of Grace a particular Covenant, or a Covenant made with particular single individual souls,  1. In opposition to visible Church covenanting, wherewith most of common Professors satisfy themselves, which being the external administration of the Gospel-Covenant by Ordinances, with the Church considered, as a visible political body, is more general, and {151} in this respect is made with whole Societies; in which Societies there may be many persons, whose souls have not particularly and personally each one for himself entered in a Covenant with God.  2. We call the Covenant of Grace, a particular Covenant, in opposition to Arminians’ general notion of the Covenant of Grace; for they dream, that when God set his hand to the Covenant of Grace, he set his hand to a blank, and that there were no particular names insert in it, but all were ranked under the common name of Believers, with a blank left to fill up particular names, as men should afterward please to receive the Gospel.  They say also, that the Covenant of Grace was made with all mankind, as was the Covenant of Works.  3. We call the Covenant particular in opposition to the Antinomians’ general notion of Christ’s covenanting with God for the Elect company, whereby they upon the matter, exclude all particular soul covenanting with God, supposing the Elect to be in Christ, and in the Covenant of Grace from all Eternity, before believing and taking hold of the Covenant, even as they are after their believing.[1]  4. We call the Covenant particular in opposition to the general notion of a Covenant, with which many Hypocrites content themselves, who sit down upon some common works of the Spirit, which at the best doth but amount to some treaty of peace, without any conclusion, and to some general communing with God, without any particular soul-engagement in a Covenant with him: such was the Israelite’s notion of the Covenant, Hos. 8.2, Israel shall cry unto me, my God, we know thee.  Psalm 78.34, 35, 37.  5. We call it particular in opposition to the general, confused, indistinct notion and knowledge of a Covenant with God, wherewith too many good souls satisfy themselves, even without the knowledge of a distinct particular soul transaction, and engagement betwixt God and them.

2. We call the Covenant of Grace a personal Covenant:  1. Because it is a work and business which no man can transact for another, but each man must personally entered the Covenant for himself; I mean, the saving interesting of a soul in Christ, is an act which a man cannot do by a Proxy, nor transmit to his Heirs or Assigneys; nay, nor to his children, of whom he hath power to {152} engage them to the Lord in respect of their visible estate under the external administration of the Covenant of Grace, yet must every one personally enter in Covenant with God for himself, else the former shall not profit him, Amos 9.7, Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel, saith the Lord, Jer. 9.25,26. Matth. 8.11,12.  2. Because it is a Covenant, not of goods or of things, either only, or mainly, but of persons, whereof both parties speak the Apostles words: 2 Cor. 12.14, I seek not yours but you: It is a Covenant which upon the one part consists not so much in God’s promising life and salvation and all good things to us, as in his promising and bequeathing himself to us, even himself personally considered, the Father, Son, and Spirit: and on the other part, it doth not so much consist in our Covenanting service and duty, and obedience to God, as in our giving away our selves to him, Ezek. 36.28, And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God, 2 Cor. 6.last, And I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty; For it is nothing so like the hand-maids Covenant of service to her Master, as like the hand-maid brought into a Covenant of love and marriage with her Master, Ezek. 16.8, I sware unto thee, and entered into a Covenant with thee saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.

3. Because it is a Covenant with the whole man, it is not a Covenant with this or that part of a man, but with the whole man, with the soul and body of a man, 1 Cor. 6.17,20, He that is joined unto the Lord, is one spiritGlorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s; there is no part in him that is not in Covenant with God; yea, the very dust of the Saints, their dead bodies are in Covenant with God, and by virtue thereof, shall be raised up again at the last day, as Christ proveth, Matth. 22.31,32.

4. Because it is a Covenant which requireth and supposeth something to be personally done by us, (beside what Christ did for us, and in our name) before we can actually have any benefit by it, John 6.57, As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me, and John 6.37.

5. We call the Covenant of Grace personal for distinction’s sake. {153}  1. To distinguish the internal and saving Covenanting with God which is personal from external visible Covenanting with God, which may be general and National and as such, is not saving.  2. To distinguish this actual Covenanting with God in our persons, from our Covenanting with God virtually in Christ before the foundation of the world, when we in him as in a publick person spoke with God, and Covenanted as the people, the seed of Jacob spoke with God in him being in his loins, and represented by him, Hos. 12.4, He found him in Bethel and there he spoke with us.  3. To distinguish this personal Covenanting with God, which is formal and explicit, from a more indistinct implicit and tacit way of transacting with God, wherein most men rest without an express distinct heart engagement with God, whereof they can give no such account as David doth: 2 Sam. 23.5, He hath made with me an everlasting Covenant: Psalm 16.2, O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my LordThe Lord is my portion, saith my soul, Lam. 3.24.  Notwithstanding that upon the matter they have taken hold of the Covenant, and the Gospel hath taken hold on them.

These things premised for clearing the meaning of the Proposition, we come now to treat of it more particularly.  And first, we shall establish the truth of the thing, by shewing that this is a property of the Covenant of Grace, and that there is such a thing as particular, personal, formal, explicit soul Covenanting with God.  2. We shall explicate what this is, or wherein it consisteth.  3. That it is the duty of all these to whom the offer of the Gospel cometh; but more especially at some times, and occasions, and what these be.  4. Something of the weight and importance of this duty.  5. What are the things that keep off, or beat off, hinder and discourage souls in the setting about, and throughing of so important a Gospel duty and Command.  6. Some directions concerning the right way of following this duty, and the reasons pressing such performance thereof.

[ The Covenant of Grace is Particular & Personal. ]

First, For establishing the truth of this Proposition (The Covenant of Grace is particular and personal) against Adversaries upon all hands who oppose it, Doctrinally or Practically (whether they be, first Arminians, who deny a particular Covenant, and assert a general Covenant of Grace with all mankind, even {154} as they do a general Election of qualities, not of persons.  2. Antinomians, who upon the matter deny personal Covenanting, properly so called, with any particular single person, and hold no Covenant betwixt God and Believers, but only twixt God and Christ.  3. Profane Atheistical worldlings, who account particular soul Covenanting with God, a fancy and delusion.  4. Hypocrites, and formal Professors, who sit down upon general external visible Church-covenanting with God.  5. Lazy and sluggish Christians, who satisfy themselves with more general confused notions of a Covenant with God:  Let us consider how particularly and personally the number and names of the whole confederate party are agreed upon in the Covenant, under whatsoever Scriptural consideration and notion, or name we take up the thing.  For first, If we go as far back as the eternal Decree of God, where the Covenant of Grace had its rise and beginning, there we find that Election is of particular persons, and not of a company under some common name or qualification, such as Believers, or the like; therefore we read of a Book of life, wherein the number and names of the Elect are written and recorded, Luke 10.20, Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven; Rev. 20.15, And whosoever was not found written in the Book of life, was cast into the lake of fire:  Yea, so particularly are they recorded there, that none of them are concluded under their relations, or other general qualifications, but the very Women are in it by name, Phil. 4.3, And I intreat thee also true yoke-fellow, help these women which laboured with me in the Gospel, with Clement also, and with others my fellow labourers, whose names are in the Book of Life.  Secondly, If we consider the Covenant of Suretiship and Redemption made betwixt God and Christ, whereby the Elect are given to him to be Redeemed and saved by him, he did not receive them by lump or bulk as it were, under some general notion or qualification, but most particularly he did receive a list and roll of the number and names of all the Elect; he receiveth a roll of persons, not of qualifications, a roll of persons whom he undertook to qualify; see John 17.6-20, with 6.37. The men whom thou gavest me, therefore we read of the Lamb’s book of life, and the names written in it, Rev. 13.8, and 21.27, Importing, that the record of Christ the Mediator’s Covenant {155} transactions, is of particular persons by number and name.  Thirdly, If we look forward to the execution of this definite particular decree of Election and Covenant of suretyship made with Christ, as the same is fulfilled and accomplished in the Transaction of the Covenant of Grace, betwixt God and the souls of his people, and there you shall find a particular personal Covenant.  To this effect take notice of these four things.

1. The scope of the preaching and promulgation of the Gospel-covenant, is in the intention of God the drawing in of particular souls, personally to covenant with him; for as the promulgation of the Covenant is not universal to all mankind, even in respect of the external visible dispensation of the Covenant by ordinances, but God maketh choice of some Nations and People, and passeth by others to whom he sendeth the Gospel, Psalm 147.19,20, He sheweth his word to Jacob, his statutes and his Judgments to Israel, He hath not dealt so with any nation, they have not known them.  Deut. 5.1-3, 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:  And 7.6, 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: and 10.15.  So although the offer of the Gospel be general, that all that hear it may be made inexcusable, since no man knoweth, nor can know that his name is not in Christ’s roll, among the number that was given to him to be saved by him; and since no man is excluded from the offer, but such as exclude themselves by their own rejecting of it: Yet I say, in the secret intent of God, the offer of the Covenant is levelled at particular persons, Matth. 22.14, For many are called, but few are chosen.  And he hath by name designed the persons that shall particularly and personally accept it, as is manifest from the designation of the persons unto whom messages were sent for their conversion, Philip, Cornelius, Nathaniel, the widow of Sarepta, &c.  Luke 4.24,25.  Acts 8.26, 27, &c. and 10.5, 19, 20, 29. John 1.48.

2. The great duty which the Gospel calleth for, is particular, personal, soul-covenanting and engaging with God, 2 Cor. 9.13, Whiles by the experiment of this ministration, they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the Gospel of Christ.  Rev. 22.17, And {156} the Spirit and the Bride say, Come, and let him that heareth say, Come, and let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.  Rom. 10.8, 9, The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that is the word of faith which we preach: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

3. The Spirit’s effectual call and work (who hath the managing of the Covenant) it is to particular souls, it is personal, and by name, Acts 9.4, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me:  And 10.3, An Angel of God coming unto him, and saying unto him, Cornelius, that is laid home personally to particular single persons, as it were by name.

4. The soul’s answer to the Spirit’s call, is particular and personal, that is the Deed of a single person, acted by Grace and the Spirit of Christ, and transacting a Covenant with God, Psalm 27.8, When thou saidest seek ye my face, my heart said unto thee, thy face Lord will I seek.  Acts 9.6, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?  Isa. 44.5, 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 shall surname himself by the name of Israel:  Yea, the soul’s reflection and recognition of the whole transaction throughout all the experience of the Saints, findeth it a particular personal Covenant with God, Psalm 16.2, 5, 6, O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my Lord.

[ Wherein Personal Soul-Covenanting Consists. ]

2. In the next place, let us consider wherein this particular personal soul-covenanting with God consisteth, and how it is to be gone about.  And, first, The Covenant of Grace being a mutual transaction when we treat of soul-covenanting with God, and wherein it consisteth: we must speak something briefly of that which is mutual in personal covenanting (although we aim at the soul’s part in this transaction especially) referring the more full explication of that which is mutual in the Covenant, to the explication of that promise, I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.  In personal covenanting with God,  1. There is upon God’s part, first an owning of the soul, and claiming of it as His, in a special manner: He who before Time did make choice of, and design some persons to be vessels of honour, he doth {157} particularly own them in due time for his portion, and claim them for his ransomed ones from among the rest of the lost race of mankind, and this he doth after that he hath more generally owned a people out from among the rest of the world, as a people to whom he will dispense the offer of the Gospel, Psalm 147.19, 20.  Deut. 10.15.  Exod. 4.22.  Eph. 2.12, 13.  Then more particularly by his effectual Grace and Call, he owneth and claimeth the Elect vessels from among these, and entereth particularly in a Covenant with their souls, even personally with each of them, (though I do not deny that God doth often at the same instant of time, claim some people and persons to himself, both these ways,) 1 Pet. 2.7, 9, 10.—But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that you 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:  John 1.48, Nathaniel saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the figtree, I saw thee.  Deut. 32.9, For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.  Isa. 43.1. Zech. 13.9.  2. Upon God’s part, there is a giving or bequeathing of himself unto his people, I say, a bequeathing or giving of himself, not his Gifts and Graces only, not the promises of this and the next life only, not only his Spirit, yea, not only his Christ, but the All-sufficient God Himself, Father, Son, and Spirit, God essentially and personally considered.  And this also he doth first propound in the offer and promise of the Gospel-Covenant, and then bring it to pass particularly and to single persons by the effectual application of the Gospel offer, whereby he marrieth and uniteth unto himself particular virgin souls, and really interesteth them in God, by the highest and nearest relations of union and communion with himself, Hos. 2.19, 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:  Song 2.16, My beloved is mine, and I am his: Ezek. 36.28, And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. {158}

2. Upon the soul’s part, there be two chief acts of the soul, which comprehend the sum and substance of personal covenanting with God.  1. The soul receiveth the offer of God, as the All-sufficient good, and owneth him for its satisfying portion; that is, since he is pleased out of his infinite bounty, and infinite condescension to make offer of himself to sinners, the soul upon the conviction of its need, and complete satisfaction with that offer, doth upon deliberation give an explicit, clear, distinct consent to accept the offer with all its heart, and doth from thence forward, own God as its own God and satisfying portion, Psalm 16.2, O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my LordLam 3.24, The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope in himPsalm 67.6, And God even our own God shall bless us.  Zech. 13.9, They shall say, the Lord is my God.  Psalm 119.57,111, Thou art my portion, O Lord.  2. The soul giveth itself away to God, and maketh an explicit deliberate resignation of itself to God to be his, and only his:  I say, itself, because on God’s part it is not Grace and Salvation only that is given to us, but God himself; So on our part, it is not only duty, and service, and love only, but our selves that we give away to God, to be only, and wholly, and absolutely without reservation and for ever without reversion at his disposing: and here the sound Believer’s faith doth not only take in promises and offers, but give out also whatsoever is called for on our part, Isa. 44.5, 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.  Psalm 119.94, I am thine, save me.  2 Cor. 9.13, They glorify God for your professed subjection unto the Gospel of Christ.  Song 2.16, My beloved is mine, and I am his.

[ Twelve Assertions on the Nature of Personal Soul-Covenanting. ]

More particularly concerning personal soul-covenanting with God, (beside any preparatory work which goeth before this, whereof elsewhere:) I shall lay down these twelve Assertions for clearing the nature of it, all which I shall endeavour to demonstrate from express Scriptures about the thing, and clear necessary consequences from the same.

Assertion 1. Our personal soul-Covenanting with God is part of the fulfilling of Christ’s Covenant with God; our personal Covenanting {159} with God, gave not the rise to the Covenant of Grace, but it is the effect and accomplishment of that which was before of old transacted, it being an Article of the Covenant of Redemption, that Christ should procure the consent of all that were given him unto the Gospel-covenant: John 6.37, All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me,  John 17.6, 8, I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world, thine they were, and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy word.

Assertion 2. It is not from our personal Covenanting with God, and consenting to the Gospel, that the Covenant of Grace hath its force and efficacy toward our Justification and Salvation, though it hath a necessary connexion with that: 2 Thess. 2.13, God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through Sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth; for though we be saved by faith, yet not for faith: Eph. 2.8, For by grace are ye saved through faith; but the causality is from God’s free Grace, and his Covenant with Christ: 2 Tim. 1.9, Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ before the world began;  Ezek. 16.60,61, Nevertheless, I will remember my Covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting Covenant, Then thou shalt remember thy ways and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger, and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy Covenant; That may be said of our Covenanting, though in another sense than it is there used, Not by thy Covenant.

Assertion 3. Personal Covenanting with God, is a most secret internal transaction, that have no witnesses (though there wanteth not abundance of witnesses to prove the thing when it is done) yet there are no witnesses that can be privy to this Covenant beside the Mediator and witness of the Covenant, together with the parties; for ’tis a business done betwixt God speaking to the soul, and the soul speaking to God: Psalm 16.2, O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my Lord, with 35.3, Say unto my soul, thou art my salvation, and 27.8, When thou saidst, seek ye my face, my heart said unto thee, thy face Lord will I seek; Therefore also is the soul drawn to a wilderness at the time of betrothing, {160} and made to be alone with God, in some sort immediately when no eye seeth, and no ear can hear what passeth betwixt them, Hos. 2.14,19. Song 4.8.  Were ye never alone shut up to speak with God, without other company?

Assertion 4. Personal Covenanting with God is a most serious heart exercising business that cannot be done in the by, nor with passing thoughts of the soul’s condition, it is a business that will take up the man, that putteth the soul (which formerly hath lived almost idle in a man) upon the most serious debate and deliberation that is possible, this is a matter that is not done by temporary glances of light and fits of affection, not by passing flashes of liberty in prayer, and wishes of a better state, far less by hypocritical forms and shadows of duties, such as we read of, Psalm 78.34-37, Hos. 8.2.  It is a transaction that must find a man at leisure to be serious about it, before it can be accomplished, that doth take up the whole man, and put him upon debate and dispute about his soul’s estate, upon the arraignment of himself upon a divorcement of his Idols, and maketh these serious thoughts lie on still upon his spirit, till this result of a Covenant with God be made, the soul can have no ease nor hope, Rom. 7.9, For I was alive without the Law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died, &c. verse 24, O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death:  Lam. 3.24,28, The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope in him.  He sitteth alone and keepeth silence:  Therefore you read so often of the soul doing something in personal Covenanting with God, Psalm 16.2, and 27.8.  Consider whether at any time ye have been serious in this business, and if your seriousness hath produced a Covenant with God.

Assertion 5. Personal Covenanting with God, is a business that is knowingly and observably done by as many as enter into it: Hence it is that David and Jeremiah can give such an account of it, Psalm 16.2, O my soul thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my Lord:  Lam. 3.24.  For a soul cannot make a Covenant with God against its will, or without its knowledge and consent; Christ doth neither ravish his Bride, nor force her consent, but he wooeth her, Song 1.3, Because of the savour of thy good ointments, thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee, and {161} 4.8, Come with me from Lebanon (my spouse) with me from Lebanon: It is an agreement wherein whosoever entereth, doth it by their own free consent and choice, Psalm 110.3, Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power;  Rev. 22.17,20, And the Spirit and the Bride say, come, and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freelySong 6.12, Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Aminadib;  2 Cor. 9.13, It is your professed subjection unto the Gospel of Christ: And therefore it is, that although these who have personally Covenanted with God may be indistinct and confused in their knowledge of it, though they may hesitate and be in some doubt about it, under tentation; yea, though they may lose their distinct knowledge of it, and bring it to be almost buried in their backslidings; and thought they should be brought sometimes to say of it, as the Disciples said of Christ, Luke 24.21, 37, We trusted, and thought, and supposed that we had been in Covenant with God, but do find it otherwise, yet notwithstanding of all this, I say it is not possible for a soul to Covenant with God personally, but it must be in some degree observably and knowingly done, especially at the time of love and soul-covenanting with God: I think also, there shall still remain some knowing remembrance of the thing whensoever it is reflected upon:  did you never treat with God observably, so as you can give an account of it.  2 Cor. 13.5, Examine your selves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates.

Assertion 6. Personal Covenanting with God, is a business wherein the Saints are most cordial and affectionate, whatsoever backwardness and aversion they have formerly discovered in themselves towards this transaction; yet when the iron sinew and stone is taken out of their hearts; yet I say, when they are brought to the thing, there is no act all their life over which they do more cordially, I mean the souls of the Saints do personally engage in the Covenant of Grace, with so much of the strength and edge of affection, with such affectionate complacency and throughness of satisfaction, that their heart and soul lieth to the business, and engageth in it, they do not as some persons marry, to please their friends, when their hearts are not towards the match, when they have no satisfaction with the party, but this is a cordial transaction; {162} the hearts of the Saints are to the business:  Hence it is that David telleth of his soul’s transacting this Covenant, Psalm 16.2, O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my Lord, and of his satisfaction in it: verses 5, 6, 9: The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup thou maintainest my lot: The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places, yea, I have a goodly heritage: Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth.  Hence also, the Lord putteth his people in mind of that mutual cordial satisfaction twixt him and them, that was at first Covenanting with him: Jer. 2.2, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I remember the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness.  Isa. 62.45, and 31.2, 3.  That people’s forward affectionate resolutions to engage in Covenant with God, doth not unfitly resemble this cordial engagement to the Lord: Josh. 24.18, 21, 22, 24, 25, Therefore will we also serve the Lord, for he is our God: And the people said unto Joshua, Nay, but we will serve the Lord.  Ye are witnesses against your selves, that you have chosen you the Lord to serve him, and they said, we are witnesses.  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.  Did you never find your souls flighter [flutter] after a Covenant with God, and your hearts warm, and your heads down to be at the business?

Assertion 7. Personal Covenanting with God, is a most deliberate transaction, wherein the soul is put upon the greatest Avisandum [additional consideration], and after mature and ripe advisement, doth with deliberation conclude its choice of God for a portion: I say, it is a deliberate Transaction, ’tis no rash engagement, ’tis not the hasty resolution of temporary Believers, who seem to make choice of God while they are under the fit of fervour and warmness of affection, but not having deliberated they do quickly repent of their choice;  Matth. 13.20,21, But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it, Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended:  Psalm 78.34,37, When he slew them, then they sought him and they returned and enquired early after God, for their heart, &c.  But I say, ’tis deliberate.  1. Because though it be {163} done affectionately, as I have said; yet it is not done upon blind affection, but upon judgment of the value, worth, and excellency of the choice and match: Matth. 13.44,45, The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field, the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant seeking goodly pearls, &c.  Phil. 3.7, 8. Song 5.10,16, My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand, His mouth is most sweet, yea, he is altogether lovely, & 2.3.  [Reason] 2. Because ’tis done, not upon passing thoughts and judgment of the value of the object chosen, but upon ripe judgment of the good and evil of the choice, after laying reckoning of the gain and loss, the good and evil that may follow a Covenant with God, and finding the good and gain to preponder, Phil. 3.7,8, But what things were gain to me, those things I counted loss for Christ: Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ:  Psalm 73.1, 25, 28, Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.  Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee,—But it is good for me to draw near to God:  This was concluded after a survey of the state of these who are not in Covenant with God, considered at their best.  [Reason] 3. Because it is a conclusion drawn forth upon deliberation, after the soul hath been put to the greatest strait of Advisements, and saddest Non plus what to do; whether to follow its old lovers, or to forsake them, and wed with another Husband: Psalm 45.10,11, Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear, Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house.  So shall the King greatly desire thy beauty, for he is thy Lord, and worship thou him.  Josh. 24.23, 25, Now therefore, put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel:  Luke 14.26.  [Reason] 4. Because it is the result of the soul’s choice, after it hath been courted and wooed with many lovers, and Christ cometh in, and out-courts them all, and allureth the soul to leave all its former delights and lovers, and go after him, though it were in a wilderness; so lovely doth he appear upon serious deliberation: Hosea 2.14-19, Behold, I will allure her, and bring her into {164} the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her;  Song 1.3, Thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee, and 5.10, My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.  Phil. 3.7,8.  Were ye never put to an Avisandum, to deliberate what to choose for your portion? Or hath not your souls upon advisement said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord.

Assertion 8. Personal Covenanting with God, is a most compendious short transaction, no business of moment can be drawn up in so few articles and words: See Psalm 16.2, O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my Lord.  Gen. 17.1,7, I am the Almighty God, walk before me and be thou perfect.  Ezek. 36.28, And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.  Song 2.16, My beloved is mine, and I am his:  2 Cor. 6.18, And will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.  I do not mean that it is a short transaction as to the extent thereof, for so it is exceeding large and comprehensive, both of promises and blessings to be performed to us, and duties to be performed by us, 2 Pet. 1.3, 4, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises.  Eph. 1.3, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ;  with Psalm 119.96, Thy commandment is exceeding broad.  Nor that it is a Transaction that is always speedily and shortly dispatched by the souls that enter into it, for we through our folly draw the treaty unnecessarily to length, and stick oftentimes in the place of breaking forth of children, which is the occasion of many and sharp sorrows to the people of God, like the pains of a travailing woman, Hos. 13.13.  But I mean, that God hath drawn the substance of his Covenant in few articles; so that whosoever are through, and at a point with these, may with God’s approbation, very shortly be at a point in personal covenanting with God, Jer. 3.19, And I said, thou shalt call me my father, &c.  Hos. 3.3, And I said unto her, thou shalt not be for another man, so will I also be for thee:  Isa. 56.4,6, Also the sons of the stranger that join themselves unto the Lord to serve him, and to love the Name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbaths from polluting it, and take hold of my Covenant.  Know for a certainty, ’tis not a long tedious pilgrimage, {165} but a very short cut, which God hath appointed as the way to a Covenant with him.

Assertion 9. Personal Covenanting with God, is a most distinct clear Transaction, whereby each person knoweth, or may know, what is engaged to them, and whereunto they do engage themselves, and can give some account of it: I do not hold, that all these who have personally covenanted with God for themselves, that they all have at all times, the same distinct clearness of the notion and way of a Covenant twixt God and them; for the indistinctness and confusions of Believers, and their slowness to conceive what God hath spoken and done to their souls, are sometimes exceeding great, as is manifest in the conditions of Christ’s own Disciples, Luke 24.21, 25, 37, 41, John 14.5,9.  Although some others, and it may be, the same persons at another time, can give a more distinct account of Transactions betwixt God and their souls:  See Psalm 66.16, Come and hear all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul:  Luke 24.32, 45, And they said one to another, did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures.  Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures:  John 6.69, And we believe and are sure, that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

But the true meaning of this Assertion is, That personal covenanting with God, is in the own nature of it, a most plain, clear, distinct Transaction betwixt a particular soul and God.  Hence it is found to be the soul saying to God, thou art mine, and God saying to the soul, thou art mine, Psalm 16.2, O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, &c.  with Ezek. 16.8, I sware unto thee, and entered in a covenant with thee, &c.  Zech. 13.9, I will say it is my people, and they shall say the Lord is my God.  Song 2.16, My beloved is mine, and I am his.  Therefore howsoever this should be undexterously represented to you by us, or misrepresented by Satan, there is no cause to scar at [fear] personal covenanting with God, as at a labyrinth, wherein if once ye enter, you can not expede your selves: Nay, prove it rather, and you shall find it a clear plain pathway, as the Apostle representeth it, Rom. 10.6,8, But the righteousness which is of faith, speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart who shall ascend into heaven,—But what saith {166} it, the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thine heart, that is the word of faith which we preach.  Though it be also a secret, the knowledge whereof is appropriated to the Saints, Psalm 25.14, The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew to them his covenant.

Assertion 10. Personal Covenanting with God is a Transaction, which though gone about with much fear and trembling by the Saints, yet when it is done, It affordeth marvelous boldness and familiar access to God, for all time to come (I mean, as oft as this interest is improved.)  1. I say, ’tis a Transaction that is gone about with as much fear and trembling, as any, while it is a-doing; the hand and heart of a Believer never shaketh more, than at first believing and signing a personal Covenant with God, and no marvel, it being then under the Law’s work standing near the mount that cannot be touched, Heb. 12.21, And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.  Acts 16.29, 30, 31, Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved, And they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, &c.  2. I say, when the souls of Believers are once through in the thing, and when it is done, it affordeth marvelous boldness to God-ward, and familiarity with God: Psalm 67.6, God, even our own God, shall bless us; they can make use of God as freely as of any thing else that is their own, and this by God’s approbation, Jer. 3.19, Thou shalt call me, my father, &c.  Hos. 2.16, And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, thou shalt call me Ishi, and shall call me no more Baali:  Heb. 4.16, Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need:  And 10.22, Let us draw near with a true heart in the full assurance of faith.  Consider if ye have found this trembling and rejoicing.

Assertion 11. Personal Covenanting with God is a Transaction, which is frequently quarrelled and brought upon debate, it is the thing in all the world of all a Believer’s actions that will meet with greatest assaults, and be oftenest brangled: so you find it in the exercises of the Saints, Psalm 51.11,12, Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thine holy Spirit from me:  And 77.8,9, Is his mercy clean gone for ever, doth his promise fail for evermore: {167} Hath God forgotten to be gracious, hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies:  And 88.5,14, Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? — Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grace, whom thou rememberest no more, and they art cut off from thy hand:  And 31.22, I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes.  And herein Satan hath a hand to shake the foundation of the Believer’s settlement with God, and to strike mainly at the root of all their precious interests; and we also ourselves through our folly, do often raise controversies against our own faith and interest in God, and God in Wisdom and Mercy to his people, doth sometimes permit it to be so, that they may the more set themselves to establish that so much quarrelled interest in him; we ought therefore so much the more to lay a sure foundation, because it will be quarrelled and shaken.

Assertion 12. Personal Covenanting with God, is the Transaction, of all others that will oftenest come in a man’s way, after he hath done it, which will be oftenest reflected upon, and cast up to the view of a soul upon all occasions, in every duty, under every trial, in every approach to God, in all things that pertain to God, or wherein a soul hath any occasion to come to God; a man cannot be serious, cannot be bold, cannot be familiar, unless he reflect upon a Covenant with God, and upon that account his heart carry him forth to God-ward.  Hence it is, that the Saints so frequently upon all occasions of duty and trial, have reflected upon their Covenant interest in God, and have interwoven the mentioning of that with their prayers, their repenting, their believing, their rejoicing, their thanksgiving, their sufferings, their desertions, discouragements, &c.  2 Chron. 20.6.  Isa. 63.16. and 64.8, 9.  Jer. 14.21, 22.  Jer. 31.19.  Lam. 3.24.  Psalm 16.6, 9.  Acts 27.23.  Dan. 3.17.  Psalm 22.1. and 42.6.  Phil. 1.3, &c.  Know well what you are doing in that business that will meet you every day, and will either smile upon you, or dash you in every duty and trial.

[ Personal Covenanting the Duty of all who have the Offer of the Gospel-Covenant. ]

The third thing is to shew that personal covenanting with God, is the duty of all these who have had the offer of the Gospel-Covenant:  And here I shall, first, shew that it is a duty.  Secondly, That it is their duty by way of excellency and eminency, it is the {168} chief duty and most preferable among all these which the Gospel commandeth.  Thirdly, That it is the duty of all these to whom the offer of the Gospel hath come.

There is the more reason to clear this, because most of these who do not wholly shake off duties, yet do not heed this among their duties; and many poor souls whose hearts go after personal covenanting with God as a high and desirable privilege, yet do not look upon it as their duty, as the chief duty unto which the Gospel calleth, and are therefore the less bold; yea, and the more faint-hearted in following after that which is both their chief duty, and their highest privilege and happiness on earth.

1. Then I say, personal Covenanting with God, by which I understand a particular soul’s taking hold of the Covenant of Grace, or its explicit Covenanting with God, by choosing and taking God for its portion, and giving itself to him by a Marriage-covenant, on the terms of the Covenant of Grace; this I say, is a duty, a commanded duty, I mean for particular souls, each one personally and formally for themselves to enter in Covenant with God through Christ, upon the terms of Grace; this is not only a thing which we may do, but which we ought to do, and must do, if we obey the call of the Gospel; it is a thing to be looked at, not only as a privilege and happiness unto which we should aspire, but as a duty, which by the command and call of the Gospel we ought to go about, if we would escape the vengeance of them that obey not the Gospel [2 Thess. 1.8]:  These three things shew it to be so.  [1] First, Consider the nature of the Gospel-covenant, as it is held forth in three ordinary similitudes; it is a treaty of peace, and when God hath sent Ambassadors to treat with us, shall it not be our duty to treat with him?  When he hath proposed good conditions to rebels, shall it not be our duty to accept of them?  2 Cor. 5.19, 20, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation: Now then, we are Ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God, and this is the very thing we speak of, this is personal Covenanting with God.  [2] The Gospel-covenant is a Marriage-covenant, Hos 2.19, And I will betroth thee unto me for ever, yea, I will betroth thee unto me, {169} 2 Cor. 11.2, I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ: Matth. 22.2, 8, The Kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain King, which made a marriage for his son.  Now when Christ hath sent Ambassadors to woo us, and hath come and offered himself and his love unto us, who can dispute it, but it is our duty to wed with him? to accept of his love, and to give our selves in marriage to him by this Covenant: Rev. 22.17, 20, And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come, and let him that heareth say, come, and let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely, and this is personal Covenanting with him, Ezek. 16.8. 2 Chron. 30.8, Now be ye not stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his Sanctuary.  [3] It is a proclaimed open free market, wherein all good things are offered without price: Isa. 55.1, Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, Come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price, and is it not beyond dispute, that when all good things are offered freely, it is the duty of those who need them, to come and buy and make them their own: Isa. 55.3, Incline your ear and come unto me, hear and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting Covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David; and this is personal Covenanting with God.

2. The Saints in their practice and experience have found personal Covenanting with God, or closing with God formally in a Covenant, to be their duty, and accordingly they have been very much in the practice of it, see 2 Sam. 23.5. Lam. 3.24. Psalm 16.2. Psalm 119.57, 94, 111. Matth. 19.27, all which Scriptures hold forth the sum and substance of a personal Covenant with God.

3. To put the matter out of question, there be many exhortations and commands, with promises and threatenings annexed, which shew plainly that personal Covenanting with God is a duty, Deut. 30.11, to the end, with Rom. 10.6,8, Where it is to be observed, that the proposition of life and death made there, is to a people that were in Covenant with God, as to their visible Church state, and therefore must be understood of a more particular personal Covenanting with God, each one for his own soul, {170} and more particularly, Isa. 44.5, One shall say, I am the Lord’s, &c. Hos. 2.16, Thou shalt call me Ishi, i.e. my Husband: Hos. 3.3, Thou shalt abide for me.  Jer. 3.4, 19, Thou shalt call me, my father, and the guide of my youth.  Zech. 13.9, They shall say, the Lord is my God: Jer. 31.19, and 3.22, 23, 50.5.  Are not these clear and plain commands concerning personal Covenanting with God, beside what is commanded in the Scriptures of the New Testament, which is upon the matter the same with these: 2 Cor 6.17,18, Come out from among them, and I will receive you: I will be a father to you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, Heb. 8.10, I will be a God to them, and they shall be my people: Rev. 22.17, The Spirit saith come, and the Bride saith come, &c. Rom. 7.4.  2 Cor. 11.2, and 13.5. Luke 9.23, &c.

2. This is not only a duty, but it is the duty, the chief duty which the Gospel calleth for, to wit, that particular souls should make a Covenant with God;  For first, For this end, and to bring about this business of personal Covenanting with God, hath he sent the Ministers of the Gospel as his Ambassadors to treat with the unreconciled world, and to woo a Bride to Christ, even to draw virgin souls to Contract and Covenant with him, 2 Cor. 11.2, For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ, and 5.19, 20, Now then we are Ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God:  John 3.28,29, Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.  He that hath the Bride, is the Bridegroom, but the friend of the Bridegroom which standeth and heareth him rejoiceth greatly, because of the Bridegroom’s voice: Luke 1.17, To make ready a people prepared for the Lord:  Acts 26.18, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, &c.  Secondly, The call of the Gospel is this upon the matter, whether we speak of the external call, or the effectual call, it is that particular souls may Covenant with God, Acts 2.39, 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: 2 Cor. 6.17, Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, John 6.29.  Thirdly, If the command of believing in Christ {171} be the chief Gospel Command, then the duty of particular souls Covenanting personally, each one for themselves, is the chief Gospel-duty, for in the acting of sound lively faith on Christ doth personal Covenanting consist, but the former is manifest, 1 John 3.23, This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ:  Acts 16.31, And they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved: Rom. 10.6,8.  Fourthly, The same may be gathered from the most significant expressions, whereby the obedience of the Gospel call and command, and the effectual work thereof is held forth in Scripture, all which speak a personal Covenant with God, as it is called the receiving of Christ: John 1.12, and what else is that, but personal Covenanting with him, it is called the coming unto him, and being in him, and the bringing in of a soul: John 6.37. 2 Cor. 5.17. Luke 14.21.  And is it not by a personal Covenant with him, that we are brought in, and are in him?  It is called the taking hold of this Covenant: Isa. 56.4.  And how can that be, but by personal Transaction with him?  Again, it is called the subjection of our consent unto the Gospel: 2 Cor. 9.13.  And a marrying of another husband, even Christ, Rom. 7.4, and is not that by a personal Covenant, and a particular Transaction with him.

3. This is the duty of all these to whom the offer of the Gospel hath come.  For, 1. This duty must be as large as the Gospel offer; because it is by taking hold of the Covenant that the Gospel ought to be entertained on our part.  Now if the Gospel be generally offered, Rev. 22.17, And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely: then is this duty of personal Covenanting with God called for from every one that heareth the joyful sound.  2. This Gospel duty must be as large as the command of Believing, for it is the very obedience of that command, and consequently the command of Believing being universal and general: 1 John 3.23, And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. John 3.16, That whosoever believeth in him should not perish: All who are under that whosoever, are called to personal Covenanting with God.  3. The same may be gathered from the frequent expostulations and evidences of God’s displeasure with all those who have had the offer of the Gospel, and have not personally for themselves made a Covenant {172} with God, Luke 19.42, 43, If thou hadst known, even thou at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes: For the days shall come upon thee, &c. Matth. 23.37, How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing, and ye would not: 2 Cor. 6.12, Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels:  Only understand it, with this Caution, that though every one of you who heareth this Gospel be called by it to a personal Covenant with God, yet you are to believe, and Covenant personally with God in his own method and order, and as you are not in common rule, to receive the Gospel, until you have been in the hands of the Law, nor to believe that God is pacified towards you, until you have first believed that he is angry and displeased with you; so neither are you in personal Covenanting with God to transgress his order; you must first see the Covenant under which you were born, Eph. 2.12, That at that time ye were without Christ, being strangers from the Covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: You must break your Covenant with, and divorce from other Husbands and Lovers: Rom. 7.4. Joshua 24.23, Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel:  Psalm 45.10,11, Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear, forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house: So shall the King greatly desire thy beauty, for he is thy Lord, and worship thou him.

Hence, 1. If personal Covenanting with God be the duty of those to whom the offer of the Gospel is come, then the neglect of this must be the sin of these who live under Gospel-ordinances, John 15.22, If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin, and 16.9, Of sin, because they believe not on me.  Then, 2. It is no presumption for you to be about this duty, in that order and way which he hath appointed it to be gone about; nay, ’tis rather presumption to draw back from such a command and any offer of Christ’s favour: this bastard humility Christ did not entertain in Peter, John 13.8,9, Peter saith unto him, thou shalt never wash my feet, Jesus answered him, if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.  Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands {173} and my head.  Then, 3. If personal Covenanting with God be our duty, God hath wrapt up our highest privilege in our duty; And O how should that provoke and encourage in going about it, that God hath turned that which is our happiness, and were desirable in itself, though he had never commanded it, to wit, our being in Covenant with him, Psalm 144.15, Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.  I say, he hath turned that into a command of duty, which would have dazzled our eyes as the Sun to look after it, if he had not commanded it.  4. If it be our duty, then we may make bold with it, how high so ever a privilege it be also, for it cannot be displeasing to God that we should be in our duty; yea, it shall be accounted obedience, 1 John 3.23, And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the Name of his Son Jesus Christ.  5. If it be our duty, then we may expect strength and assistance to get it done, if we would but set about it; for as much as the commands of the Gospel-Covenant convey and bring life and strength for obeying them, Isa. 55.3, Incline your ear and come unto me, hear and your soul shall live:  John 6.29. Mark 3.5, He saith unto the man stretch forth thine hand, and he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other.

[ Special Occasions for Personal Covenanting and Covenant-Renewing. ]

Though this be a duty, to which all that hear the offer of the Gospel are called, yet I said, there be some times and occasions wherein personal Covenanting with God is more especially called for, I mean that upon these occasions particular souls should enter in Covenant with God for themselves, or renew their personal Covenanting with God, if so be they have formerly taken hold of this Covenant.  And [1] first in general, whensoever the spirit stirreth and fluttereth over our hearts, in the powerful dispensation of the Gospel, so that our hearts are warmed thereby, and by listening to the life-giving voice and motions of the holy Ghost, are made to flighter [flutter] after him that speaketh from heaven: that is a special occasion to be observed for personal Covenanting with God; not unlike the stepping in, when the Angel moved the waters, John 5.4.—When the Spirit saith come, then also should the Bride say come, Rev. 22.17.  When he doth observably draw, then especially ought we to run, Song 1.4.  When the Bridegroom cometh to knock, then should we open, when he wooeth, then we should yield ourselves to be wooed by him, yea, and woo him {174} again: Song 5.2, Open to me my sister, my love, my undefiled, and 2.2,3, As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters: As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.  I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste, and 1.3, Thy Name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.  When the King sheweth himself in his beauty, it is time to go and look upon him, until our hearts fall in love with him, Song 3.11, Go forth, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, and behold King Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart; Isa. 33.17, Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty.

2. More particularly, whensoever the people of God are called to the making or renewing of any Covenant betwixt God and them, considered as a visible political body, whether of narrower or larger extent, whether Domestical, Congregational, or National, I say, when they are called to be about any such Covenant relating to their duties to God or among themselves, that is a special occasion of making or renewing a personal Covenant with God, and we ought to take hold of such opportunities of being about this duty, Joshua 24.14-25, Deut. 29.1, Jer. 50.5, They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord by a perpetual Covenant that shall not be forgotten: For National Covenants should be personal engagements with God, to every one that enter therein:  Else first, To enter in Covenant with God as part of a visible Church body, and not to enter personally in Covenant with God for our own souls, were deep dissimulation and hypocrisy (though there be much of this amongst us.)  Secondly, To enter in Covenant with God to perform any duties whatsoever, and not to give away our selves to God in a personal Covenant, were to forget the great end of Covenanting, and to forget a duty without which no other duty can be accepted, because it is by the performance of this, that we are really united with Christ, and interested in him.

3. Whensoever we are called to go about these Ordinances which are commonly called confirming Ordinances, and were instituted by Christ to be seals of the Covenant of Grace, these are {175} special occasions of looking after this duty of personal Covenanting with God, whether by reflecting on the Covenant made betwixt God and our souls, or by renewing the same, or by being confirmed and established in the distinct knowledge and faith of a Covenant betwixt God and our souls; I mean, a person Baptized at age, ought upon that occasion particularly and personally to enter in Covenant with God, and these who have been Baptized in their Infancy, as the seed and children of visible Believers, ought when they are of age, or rather so soon as they come to understand that a Covenant is betwixt God and Believers and their seed, and that they were therein initiated, they ought, I say, personally and particularly to ratify, repeat, and renew that Covenant, as to the voluntary subjection of their consent unto it, and the taking on the bonds thereof: Acts 2.38,39, Repent and be Baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, For the promise is unto you and to your children, and 8.37,38.  The like I say, of partaking the Ordinances of the Lord’s Table, that being a confirming Ordinance, a seal of the Covenant, a confirmation of it by the blood of the New Testament, that being a feast of love, and of the Marriage of the King’s Son, we ought therefore to lay hold on such opportunities as being called then especially to look after personal, particular, soul Covenanting with God, without which ’tis in vain, yea, ’tis high presumption to seek the King’s Seal, and to despise and neglect his Letters, Patents, and Charters to which he hath appointed his Seal to be appended, Luke 22.20, This cup is the New Testament in my blood which is shed for you; 1 Cor. 11.25, This cup is the New Testament in my blood, &c.  1 Cor. 10.16, The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the Communion of the blood of Christ, the bread which we break, is it not the Communion of the body of Christ.

4. In the case of defection, backsliding, Covenant breaking, and departing from the Lord, as we find Churches and Nations in that case to have entered into, or renewed Covenants with God, 2 Chron. 15.3,12.  2 Kings 23.3.  So, I say, when particular souls come to discover their own backslidings, and are convinced of their Covenant breaking and revolting from the Lord, that is a special occasion to be laid hold upon, for the renewing of their personal Covenant with God, as well as for the renewing of their {176} repentance: see 2 Sam. 23.5. Jer. 3.4,19, Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, my father, thou art the guide of my youth, And I said, thou shalt call me father, and shall not turn away from me:  And this renewing of the Covenant twixt God and them, or reviving the rememberance of it, and improving it by Faith, hath been observably blessed of God, to be to them the mean of recovering out of their backslidings, as may be gathered from God’s Command, Jer. 3.13, Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God: teaching this way in such a condition, and their practice following upon it, verses 21,22, A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel, for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the Lord their God.  Return ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings: Behold we come unto thee for thou art the Lord our God: the like, see Jer. 31.19, 20, Surely, after I was turned, I repented, and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh, I was ashamed, yea even confounded because I did bear the reproach of my youth.  Is Ephraim my dear son, is he a pleasant child: for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.

5. In the case of special deadness and deep security discovered to lie upon the spirits of the people of God, insomuch that a judicial stroke from the Lord is upon their hearts, which maketh not only unactiveness, but a numbness and senselessness in duty, so that no Ordinances, no dispensations stirreth them, Isa. 29.10, For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: Matth. 11.17, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced, we have mourned unto you and ye have not lamented: Such a condition I esteem to be a fit occasion to make serious reflections upon, and renewing of a personal Covenant with God, and that in order to the recovering of spiritual life and activeness in duty; therefore you find the claiming interest in God by a Covenant, and the stirring up of Faith to make use of that, joined with a sad complaint of a judicial stroke upon the minds and hearts of the people of God, Isa. 63.17, 19, O Lord why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our hearts from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance. We are thine, &c. {177}

6. In the case of desertion, though there were remaining with us some life and activeness to go after God in duties, yet when he is not found of us, as at other times, when he hideth his face and keepeth up himself, that is a special occasion to renew personal engagements with God by a Covenant, and that not only in order to the recovering of his presence, and the comforts and joy of the holy Ghost, but also for supporting the soul under such a condition by the exercise of Faith, until sense and presence be recovered, and until the shadows flee away: this I take to be imported in that command of staying upon God, as our own God, while we walk in darkness, Isa. 50.10, and to have been practised by the Prophet, Psalm 22.1, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me, and by the Bride, Song 6.3, I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine, compared with Song 5.6, wherein the case of desertion and special withdrawing on Christ’s part, after secure slighting of him upon her part, she (while she did not find him) set about the asserting of that mutual Covenant relation that was between him and her.

7. In the case of special distress or straits and sad afflictions, when the Lord thrusteth sore at a person, when he maketh his chain heavy, and carveth out for any of his people sharp and exercising afflictions, that is a special occasion to reflect upon our personal Covenant with God, to search in to the soundness of our hearts dealing with God, and to renew the same;—it was upon such an occasion that the people of God renewed their Covenant with him, Neh. 9.32,37,38, and upon the like occasion did Jeremiah reflect upon his personal Covenant with God, Lam. 3.24, The Lord is my portion saith my soul, therefore will I hope in him, and David, Psalm 119.94, I am thine, save me,  Psalm 16.1,2, Preserve me, O God.  O my soul thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my Lord.  This duty I take also to be included in the command of vowing to God upon such occasions, Psalm 76.11, Vow and pay to the Lord your God.

8. In the case of special deliveries, when the people of God are prevented and surprized and overcome with merciful dispensations, and found their hearts wrought upon by them, that is a fit occasion to renew personal Covenants and engagements between God and their souls, and that not only as a mean of preventing their turning the favour of God into wantonness, by abusing these {178} special mercies, and sinning against them, but also as a duty of love and gratitude to engage themselves unto him, who had done so great things for them; the like practice of the people of God you find after their delivery from the captivity: Jer. 50.5, They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord by a perpetual Covenant that shall not be forgotten:  Ezra 9.8. to 13, 14.  And thus did the Lord engage his people in the wilderness, immediately after his delivering them out of Egypt, Exod. 19, with Deut. 29.

9. In the case of snares and dangers to the souls of the people of God, through the temptations and entanglements of an evil time, or company under which their lot may be casten through providential necessity, that is a special occasion of personal engaging their souls unto God, that they do not depart from him, and it seemeth to be a mean appointed by God for keeping his people clean, inasmuch as before his people entered into Canaan and were to be among that cursed company; the Lord did so frequently and so particularly warn them of the snare of making Leagues with them, and did by so many special commands and directions engage the people to himself, whereof, see Deut. 7.1-6, and 18.9,13, with Judges 2.1, &c. Ezra 9.11.  It is like also, that David had respect to the evils and snares of that time when Saul reigned and persecuted, when he wrote that Psalm 57, &c. and renewed his personal engagements to God;—if any of these occasions call for personal Covenanting with God, how much more when there is a complication and concurrence of all or most part of these things, should there be a searching and serious reflection upon our personal state, as to a Covenant with God; and studying to be at a point in that great duty commanded in the Gospel.

[ The Weight and Importance of Personal Covenanting. ]

4. Having shewed that personal Covenanting with God, or particular souls’ explicit entering a Covenant with God through Christ, upon the terms of Grace, is a duty incumbent to all these who hear the offers of the Gospel; let us now a little consider of the weight and importance of this duty which may appear from the nature and necessity of it.

1. Consider the wretched condition under which all those lay who have not personally each one for themselves entered in Covenant with God: such must stand or fall by their own righteousness, {179} and by the tenor of the Covenant of Works that was made with Adam, Rom. 10.5, Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the Law, that the man which doth those things shall live by them, Eph. 2.3,12, And were by nature the children of wrath even as others:—At that time ye were without Christ, strangers from the Covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:  Psalm 73.27.

2. Consider the throughly blessed estate of these who personally enter in Covenant with God (whereof elsewhere) if a man’s estate be blessed upon the account of performing this duty of personal Covenanting with God, then this must needs be a very weighty duty and of huge importance, Psalm 144.15, Happy is that people that is in such a case, yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord, and 16.2,5,6.

3. Consider the ineffectualness of all that Christ did and suffered without this personal Covenanting with God upon our part, this is the very application of the cure and remedy, without which we can have no actual benefit by the Covenant of Redemption, nor by that which Christ suffered, and did in order to a fulfilling of the Covenant of Suretiship: this is the very Sprinkling of the blood of the Covenant upon us, Heb. 9.19,20, Ezek. 36.25, Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you: For it is in this case, as when a man contracteth for him and his Heirs, yet his Heirs cannot actually have any benefit by that Covenant, till they have entered Heirs to him who Covenanted for himself and his Heirs: so can we have no actual benefit by, nor right in Law to claim the everlasting Inheritance by Christ’s Covenant and death, until we enter Heirs to him by faith in him, and so we come to inherit the Promises, Gal. 3.14, 22, 26, 29, That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit by faith: But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by Faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe, for ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ:  And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise:  Heb. 9.15, And for this cause he is the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions that {180} were under the first Testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

4. Without the performance of this duty we cannot have an actual being in Christ, for it is by personal Covenanting with him through faith, that we come to have the reality of a spiritual and mystical union with him; and therefore it must needs be a duty of huge importance, upon which depends our being in Christ; for even as we can have no evil by Adam, nor from him, until we have a being in his nature, so neither can we have any good or benefit by Christ, until we have a being in him, and be made partakers of the Divine Nature, 1 Cor. 15.22, For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.  John 6.5,7, As the living father hath sent me, and I live by the father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.

5. Without this we cannot make sure our calling and Election, the greatest business that is committed to us; for how can a soul that hath not personally entered in Covenant with God come to know certainly its everlasting estate?  Nay ’tis impossible for a soul to find out its Election, that hath not found this effect of it, or to make sure its calling to the state of Grace, without personal Covenanting with God, Heb. 6.17,18,  1 John 5.10, 12, 13, He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness within himself. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life: These things have I written unto you that believe on the Name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the Name of the Son of God.  Nay, so far is a man that hath not Covenanted with God from a certainty of his everlasting estate, that he wanteth both the grounds of certainty, and the witness and evidences thereof, 1 John 2.3, And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments, and 3.14, We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren: Rom. 8.16, The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.

6. Without personal Covenanting with God the soul of a man can never be quiet within, as being settled in a solid well grounded peace and satisfaction about its estate, still ’tis tossed, till it settle upon this mountain: Isa. 54.10, Neither shall the Covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy upon thee, though {181} this be not, the harbour and port where the souls of the Saints shall arrive, yet sure ’tis a safe road for hope to anchor in, and for the soul to lie quiet and safe in, with peace at home: Heb. 6.18, 19, Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the vail: Isa. 32.17, And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever: 2 Sam. 23.5, Although mine house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting Covenant ordered in all things, and sure, for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.

7. Without this, there can be no boldness nor familiarity of access to God reached or maintained; therefore we find that the Saints have been bold upon this account, & have maintained their faith in evil times, when their souls have witnessed of a personal Covenant betwixt God and them, Psalm 73.25,26, My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever; Lam. 3.24, The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope; Isa. 63.15,16, Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not; Psalm 42, throughout; and upon this ground are we exhorted to boldness, Heb. 10.22.

8. Without such Covenanting with God there will be no good construction put upon providences and dispensations which carry not a good aspect at first view, when there is any harshness in them, but this is the very spring of satisfaction with all dispensations, that God is in Covenant with me, and these must come from Covenant love: Psalm 25.10, All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, unto such as keep his Covenant, and his testimonies: and 16.5,9,10.  If it be a duty of such importance, how is it that ye dare so slight it?  How cometh it to pass that ye who dare not shake off and sleight other duties, are not more in the study and practice of this?  Will you hear, pray, read, meditate, &c. and will ye not personally enter in Covenant with God?  let it be far from you.

[ Discouragements to Personal Covenanting, and how to Overcome them. ]

5. Personal Covenanting with God, being a duty of so great importance, as we have shewed; let us now enquire a little, what it is that beateth off, or discourageth souls in the setting about and throughing the performance of this duty:  And in following {182} this a little, We shall first speak a word to those with whom the Gospel offers have never yet relished, who are yet going after their lovers and their Idols, and serving divers lusts; but our enquiry shall be chiefly concerning the hinderances and discouragements of those who having been made to listen to the offers of the Gospel Covenant, as a desirable proposition, and their souls having a liking of it, are notwithstanding made to hover about the offer of God, and their souls dare not close in a personal Covenant with him; they are beat off from explicit soul Covenanting with God, and may be cannot give an account what it is that keepeth them off, nor how it is, but one thing they know, that their souls have not formally closed with God, as their own God by Covenant.  1. The multitude, and far greater part that hear this Gospel are kept off from personal Covenanting with God:  First, Through the want of conviction of that dangerous Covenant-state under which they stand by nature; they know not, they consider not, that they are under the lash of the violated Law and curse of the broken Covenant of Works, that hath nothing of a Mediator and Saviour in it, nor of a gifted righteousness, and therefore they must either intercede for themselves, save themselves, work righteousness themselves, or perish eternally; they believe not that God is angry with them every day [Psalm 7.11], and therefore they can believe nothing of propositions of his peace; they have not felt any thing of the Law, and therefore cannot receive the Gospel: John 16.8, And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment:  Rom. 7.9,24, For I was alive without the Law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.  O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death.  Secondly, Most of these who hear of a personal Covenant twixt God and the souls of his people, can never be found at leisure to entertain serious thoughts of this business, but rather too much busied about other things, Luke 10.41, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: Isa. 55.2,3, Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not: Matth. 22.5, But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise; Luke 4.17,18, &c. That which you may do, undoeth you: lawful impediments upon {183} the matter prove to you sinful lets of coming to Christ; your lawful Callings, your business that must be done, though it have no such weight of necessity as you give it, lets not your soul be found at leisure to Covenant with God.  Thirdly, Most of you have wedded already, and therefore you do not, you can not personally enter in a Covenant with God; you have bestowed your heart and love upon something beneath the chief good, and this is become an Idol and false god in thy heart, which thou honourest and lovest, and bowest down to, more nor [than] to God, and therefore you cannot Covenant and wed with him, Psalm 4.6, There be many that say, who will shew us any good: and 45.10, Hearken, O daughter and consider, and incline thine ear, forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house: Josh. 24.23, Now therefore, put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel: Ezek. 14.5, They are all estranged from me through their Idols: Hos. 2.7,19.  Fourthly, The multitude doth either judge the lot of the worldly men better, than the lot of the Godly, or else they question and doubt whether the souls that are in Covenant with God, or these that are not, have the better lot, which of them have the best life and condition every way: Mal. 3.14.18. Ye have said it is in vain to serve God, and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance: Psalm 73.12,13, Behold, these are the ungodly who prosper in the world, they increase in riches,—Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency: This hindereth exceedingly, you pursue not a Covenant with God, because you know not the desirableness of that condition: Psalm 73.27,28, For lo, they that are far from thee shall perish, but thou hast destroyed them all that go a whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near to God; Psalm 16.4,5; Phil. 3.7,8, Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.

2. The entanglements of such poor souls, as have a liking to the offer of the Covenant, but yet they do forsake their own mercies, and neglect one of the greatest and chief Gospel-duties and commands, this may proceed from these or the like causes.

First, the mistaking or abusing [of] convictions, and all the work {184} of the Law unto a quite contrary end, beside that for which God had appointed it; Rom. 10.4, For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believe:  Gal. 3.24, Wherefore the Law was our Schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith: That which should lead us to Christ doth detain and keep back many from him;—that which putteth us in the nearest capacity to treat with him in the terms of the Gospel-covenant, is supposed to put us further off than before: Luke 5.8. Jer. 3.1, 4, 19, 21, 22. Hos. 13.13, The sorrows of a woman travailing shall come upon him: he is an unwise son: for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.

Secondly, There is a bastard humility falsely so called, which keepeth back many from personal Covenanting with God: they think it were presumption in them to hearken to such high offers which they durst not have made their demands to God, not considering, that God is not (in the sovereign way of his Grace) to be measured by our thoughts, and to be limited by our unworthiness, for that may be too great a favour for us to receive (while we reflect upon our unworthiness) which is not too great for him to bestow, and that might be presumption in us to prescribe to him, which is no presumption to obey when he commandeth: Peter faulted twice in this kind: John 13.6,8, And Peter saith unto him, Lord dost thou wash may feet? Peter saith unto him, thou shalt never wash my feet:  Luke 5.8, When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me for I am a sinful man: But the Centurion, and Canaanitish woman argued better, who humbly confessed their unworthiness, but the one did not because of that, put away Christ’s offer, nor the other take his first refusal: Matth. 8.8, The Centurion answered and said, Lord I am unworthy that thou shouldst come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed: and 15.27, And she said, truth Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.

Thirdly, The very transcendent height of the favour offered, doth so dazzle the eyes of poor sinners, that they cannot look upon it more nor [than] upon the Sun in its brightness, and are therefore made to look away from the offer of a personal Covenant with God; yea, they are made to think that it cannot be so indeed, {185} they are so very desirous to have it so:  Many say these words with doubting admiration which were spoken by Solomon with believing admiration concerning the offer of a personal Covenant with God, 1 Kings 8.27, But will God indeed dwell on the earth. But the height, the transcendent height of favour offered in Christ Jesus, though it ought to be cause of admiration, yet no ways of rejecting the offer; David sat down and wondered at that favour, but he did not reject it, since God was content to bestow it: 2 Sam. 7.18-21, Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God: And what can David say more unto thee, for thou Lord God knowest thy servant: For thy word’s sake, and according to thine own heart hast thou done all these great things to make thy servant know them.  Let us take heed that we measure not his thoughts by our thoughts, nor his ways by our ways: Isa. 55.8, My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

Fourthly, Many souls that desire to mind this duty, are beat off from it by their own apprehensions, lest the entering a personal Covenant with God be the engaging of them into a yoke which they cannot bear, and this mis-representation of the duties of the Covenant, and neglect of the observation of the strength and furniture, and life which it bringeth with it, to make the confederates in all things to answer the Gospel Commands, this I say, is one cause and discouragement that beateth off many from entertaining thoughts of a personal Covenant with God:  Many have left Christ upon mistake of his Commands and Service: Matth. 19.22, But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions, and 25.24,25, Then he that had received the one talent, came and said, Lord, I knew that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sowen, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth, lo, there thou hast that is thine: Therefore we ought the rather to consider, the nature of his service, that we be not scared to enter in Covenant with him: Psalm 73.28, But it is good for me to draw near to God; Matth. 11.39, For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light; Psalm 119.97.  Lam. 3.24,25, The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. {186}

Fifthly, The not-laying-to-heart personal Covenanting with God as a duty, as the chief Gospel Command and duty which it requireth of us, may be reckoned among the reasons that keep off some from setting about it: personal Covenanting with God may be considered not only as a Gospel promise and privilege; so it is held forth, Rev. 21.3, Behold the tabernacle of God is with man, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and shall be their God: But also it may, yea, it ought to be considered as the chief Gospel command and duty, so ’tis held forth, 2 Cor. 6.17,18, Wherefore, come out from among them and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.  And because some look upon it only in the first Consideration, as a high and desirable privilege, and not in the second Consideration also, as it is a duty, therefore they stand off from the thing, whereas if it were seen and considered to be our duty, we would for conscience sake go after it, by virtue of the command of Believing: 1 John 3.23, And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the Name of his Son Jesus Christ.

Sixthly, Our going so about personal Covenanting with God, and the entering our souls in the Covenant of Grace, as if our first thoughts of that Covenant gave the life and beginning to it, is no small impediment in the way of our Covenanting with God: It is too great a treaty for us to compass, yea, it is impossible, if we take it not up, as ’tis ended, a business that was done and ended between God and Christ, before it entered in our hearts, and that there remaineth nothing for our actual receiving the good of it, but to give our consent to it, and to believe that Christ hath done it: 2 Tim. 1.9, Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and Grace which was given us in Christ before the foundation of the world: Isa. 59.21, As for me this is my Covenant with them, saith the Lord, My Spirit that is upon thee, &c.

Seventhly, Our seeking after some other way of engagement on God’s part, than his speaking in the written Word of this Gospel,—we will have him to speak otherwise, we will ascend into heaven, or go down into the deep for knowing his will of favour, {187} whereas it is nearer unto us, for he hath spoken in this Word that we preach, and if ye speak, your acquiescing with what it speaketh, ’tis a done business, your soul hath personally and particularly Covenanted with him, Rom. 10.6-8, But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, say not in thine heart who shall ascend into heaven, that is to bring Christ down from above: Or who shall descend into the deep, that is to bring up Christ again from the dead: but what saith it? the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach; 2 Pet. 1.19, We have also a more sure word of prophecy whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day Star arise in your hearts: yea, and ye shall not want witnesses thereafter to prove the thing, he shall speak it in due time by other witnesses than his Word, though by no witnesses that speaketh not according to the Word, 1 John 5.10, He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness within himself; Rom. 8.16, The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; 1 Cor. 2.12, Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God.

Eighthly, Another let [hindrance] of personal Covenanting with God, is our going about to make our conditions, as if they were then to be made by virtue of our treating with God, when we begin to think of our entering in Covenant with him, and not considering that all the conditions of righteousness and life are already set and drawn in form of a Covenant not to be altered, and that you may save yourselves a labour and make it a short business, by consenting or refusing to what the Gospel speaketh: Rom. 10.8, The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach; John 3.36, He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.

[ Helpful Directions for Personal Covenanting. ]

The last thing which I proposed concerning personal Covenanting with God, is to speak of some Directions for the right performing of this great duty, wherewith I shall mix the reasons shewing the necessity and advantage of it, and persuading unto such performance of this duty.  In speaking to this, we may use {188} the more brevity, because of the affinity which these Directions have with the Assertions before mentioned, for opening the nature of personal Covenanting with God.

1. Personal Covenanting with God ought to be gone about deliberately, if you mind the thing, you ought to advise well what you do:  Under this deliberation, I comprehend three things.  First, Knowledge and understanding of that which we do; many do rashly engage themselves to God, when a fit of fervour and warmness is upon their affections, who never understood throughly what bonds they were taking on, or how they might answer their engagements, which seems to have been the condition of many in Israel, whose fit of forward inconsiderate affection Joshua foresloweth till they should consider and understand what they were doing, Josh. 24.14,16,19, 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 the people answered, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods.  And Joshua said unto the people, ye cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God, he is a jealous God, he will not forgive your transgressions, nor your sins.  Labour therefore to know and understand throughly, and that antecedently to your soul’s entertaining the Covenant of Grace by your own explicit consent.  1. What the nature of that Covenant is, and how it standeth upon the terms of Grace.  2. What is God’s part of that Covenant, and whereunto he doth graciously condescend to engage himself.  3. What is our part of the Covenant, and what kind of bonds we take upon us, and whereunto we become obliged.  Secondly, Under deliberation, I comprehend the laying to heart and pondering at leisure the good and evil of soul engaging to God; we ought in Covenanting with God, seriously to weigh the good and evil of that Transaction; I say, the good and evil thereof, not that there is in it any evil properly so called, but because it will put our flesh in bonds, and put us to do violence to our own natural lusts and affections: Gal. 5.24, And they that are in Christ have crucified the flesh, with the affections thereof: and it may be attended with things that are hard and bitter to flesh and blood; therefore the Lord hath not only reserved a liberty to chasten his people, notwithstanding his {189} Covenant kindness to them: Psalm 89.30,32,33, but also hath made it a condition of our engaging with him, that we do at the least lay our account that it may cost us hard things: Luke 9.23, And he said unto them if any man will come after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me.  Such pondering the good and evil both which is in Covenanting with God, and of being without or within the Covenant, you may read of, Psalm 73.27,28; Josh. 24.19, &c. Eph. 2.[11],12,13, 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.  Thirdly, Under deliberation, I comprehend a choice resulting from mature and ripe advisement of the worth of that Covenant as preferable to all Transactions; a choice of God as the chief good, a choice of Christ as preferable to all lovers which court the heart, Psalm 73.25, Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee: Phil. 3.7,8, But what things were gain to me, these I counted loss for Christ: yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ:  Song 5.10, My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand; Psalm 119.57,111, Thou art my portion, O Lord, I have said that I will keep thy word: Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart, Isa. 55.2,3; For it were to no purpose to deliberate, and to make no result of a choice; to treat, and not conclude; to woo, and not to wed with him.

I say, personal Covenanting with God ought to be gone about deliberately and advisedly.  1. Because it is a business of great importance, of everlasting concernment, of soul concernment, it is the very foundation of all the precious Interests of the Saints, the very Charter by which they hold their Inheritance, that which giveth them a title, and carrieth them warrantably to possess and inherit the promise.  Now it is a known uncontroverted principle, that as Transactions are of weight and moment, so they ought to be gone about with deliberation.  2. Without deliberation, there cannot be a choice of God, such as is in personal {190} Covenanting with him, for put case, one who have tasted of the good Word of God, and have found some savour of some good and sweetness in him, should without deliberation, whether he be the chief good and of more worth than all things beside himself; if such a one should forthwith incline to love him, and to engage with him, yet such a person meeting with something in the creature which he did not compare with God, and reckon to be forsaken for him, or if such a soul should meet with some hardship following its engagement with God, with the bearing whereof it did not deliberate, it would forthwith retreat from that unadvised engagement with God for want of ground-work and necessary rooting, Matth. 13.21, Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while, for when tribulation or persecution ariseth for the Word, by and by he is offended;  2 Tim. 4.10, For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world:  Luke 14.26-33.  But when a soul doth deliberately engage with God, having ripely advised what it is a-doing, and having discovered some thing in him that carrieth the soul after him alone, as a more infinitely precious object of affection than all the creatures; then it maketh a deliberate choice, Psalm 16.5,6, and 73.25, Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.  3. Because rash and sudden engagements are seldom sound, and ordinarily soon and easily repented of; for were the choice and engagement never so good, yet if it be not found so upon deliberation, it may as easily be repented of as a choice is made, or an engagement which upon the matter is not good, Psalm 78.34,37, When he slew them then they sought him, and they returned and enquired early after God:—For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his Covenant: But when the soul engageth to God advisedly, and after discoveries of the reason it hath to do so, then it cannot lightly be moved from that choice: when David’s soul said upon deliberation unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord, Psalm 16.2, he could not be shaken in that, but could venture his flesh in the grave, in hope, upon that account, verses 8, 9, I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand I shall not be moved.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth, my flesh also shall rest in hope; Lam. 3.24, The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope in him {191}

2. This duty of personal Covenanting with God unto which we are called by the chief Commands of the Gospel, ought to be seasonably, timeously, and early gone about, Psalm 27.8, When thou saidst, seek ye my face, My heart said unto thee, thy face Lord will I seek; Jer. 3.22. By timeous and seasonable going about it, I understand three things:  First, That the season and day of Grace be observed; that we delay not and put not off the taking hold of God’s Covenant when it is demonstratively held forth to be a Gospel command and duty, while it is in our offer; this day of salvation, and of God’s treating with us is the proper season: Luke 19.42, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes; 2 Cor. 6.2, Behold now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation; Heb. 4.1.  Secondly, That every soul that is convinced that this is a duty which the Gospel calleth for, may entertain that conviction, and forthwith before it cool, set about the business; Acts 2.37, Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do, and 16.31, And they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thirdly, That the breathings and stirrings of the Spirit of the Lord be observed and laid hold on, when he fluttereth over our hearts and warmeth them, when he maketh them flighter to be at God, and a personal particular engaging of our souls unto him, then by all means to stir up ourselves and arise to go after him: Song 6.12, Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib: When Christ speaketh fair and lovingly, be content to be wooed, and suffer your hearts to warm towards him: Song 2.10,11, My beloved spake and said unto me, Rise up my love, my fair one and come away: For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone: and 5.2, I sleep but my heart waketh, it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled, for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.

There are weighty reasons why the souls of the people of God should early and forthwith set about a personal engagement with God.  1. Because Gospel offers are uncertain, yea, and of short continuance where they are slighted, thou knowest not when this {192} treaty of Peace with God shall break up, when the market of free Grace shall close, thou knowest not when the Covenant that is now within thy reach, so as thou mayest catch hold of it, shall be drawn up without thy reach, Luke 19.42, If thou hadest known, even thou at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace, but now they are hid from thy eyes; John 12.35, Then said Jesus unto them, yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth, the twelve hours of your day shall quickly go by, and your Sun shall go down.

2. There is a season of Grace wherein God cometh nearer to the souls of his people nor [than] at other times, wherein he knocketh hard, and cryeth loud, and speaketh in to the heart the offer of a Covenant, which if slighted, the soul shall hardly ever have such an offer again, Heb. 3.7,8,19, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts: So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief; Zech. 7.11,12,13, But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears that they should not hear: Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant-stone, lest they should hear the Law and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts.  Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear, so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts:  This is dreadful, you know not but this golden hour may be already over and gone from many of you.

3. Because of the incapacity of being about this duty, which is drawn on by delays to enter in Covenant with God, especially when he maketh any discovery of it, and setteth upon the heart any conviction that the Gospel calleth for this duty; each day, and hour’s delay, each conviction, warning, call, and summons which we sit, doth wear out all disposition for that duty, doth beget and increase indisposition, till at last the heart be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and made conviction-proof; yea, and God command convictions and warnings to be silent, and to speak no more: Heb. 3.7,13, To day if ye will hear his voice: Exhort one another daily while it is called, to day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin: John 12.39,40, Therefore they could not believe, because Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes and {193} hardened their heart that they should not see with their eyes nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them: Ezek. 3.26, And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover, for they are a rebellious house.

3. This duty of personal Covenanting with God must be cordially gone about; you find it frequently called an act of a man’s soul, this is cordial indeed, when the soul of man entereth in terms of a Covenant with God: Psalm 16.2, O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my Lord. Lam. 3.24, The Lord is my portion saith my soul: And under this Direction of cordial Covenanting with God, I comprehend:  First, The doing of it sincerely and with a single heart; unto this Joshua exhorteth the people in the day of their Covenanting with God, Josh. 24.14, Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth.  Secondly, If it be done cordially, it must be done affectionately, not only with a conviction in the judgment of the good of the thing, but with some special affection and love to that match; the heart of a man must be as much to this as his judgment, Josh. 24.23, Now therefore incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel.  Thirdly, If it be cordially done, it must be done with the edge and strength of the affections, even with such an edge as useth to be upon young love when ’tis in the prime: Jer. 2.2, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals when thou wentest after me: Isa. 62.5, As the Bridegroom rejoiceth over the Bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.  Fourthly, If it be cordially done, it must be done with complacency, with delight, joy, and satisfaction in the thing, so as the soul can find a satisfying sweetness in its Covenant with God, and can say it is enough, Psalm 16.2, and 45.9; 119.111, Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart; 45.9.

That this Direction may have place, consider the reasons persuading to such performance of this duty.  1. Personal Covenanting with God must be cordially gone about, because he that wooeth the soul, will not wed without the heart and affection; I say, if Christ could obtain thy consent to the business, yet he would have none of thee, unless thy heart were toward it, Prov. 23.26, {194} My son, give me thine heart: Luke 14.26, If any man come unto me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and his sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  2. He draweth with love, and therefore he will be followed with love, if at all followed; Jer. 31.3, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee: Song 1.3,4, Therefore do the virgins love thee. Draw me, we will run after thee; the King hath brought me into his chambers, we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine, the upright love thee.  3. It is a Marriage business, and therefore ought to be cordially gone about, Eph. 5.31,32, For this cause shall a man leave his Father and mother and shall be joined unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh, This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church: This Covenant is the flower of the affection of a virgin soul to Christ, when love is young and tender, it must be this, or nothing: Isa. 62.5, For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: Song 5.8, If ye see my beloved, that ye tell him that I am sick of love, and 8.6, Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm.

4. This duty of personal Covenanting with God, when you go about it, you should do it with boldness, so as the soul of a man can say it, avouch it, and abide at it: Deut. 26.17, Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised: Many souls go about it with so much fearfulness, as if they were about something which they might not avouch.  1. There is a boldness that resulteth from and followeth upon the assent of Faith, which is in the understanding, and it standeth in the confidence that it is the will of God, his revealed will, in the command of Believing, that I should Covenant with him, and that in so doing I am about a Gospel duty, and shall find acceptation because of the truth of what he hath said: John 6.37,40, All that the father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast off. Isa. 55.3, Incline your ear and come unto me, hear and your soul shall live, and I will make an everlasting Covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.  2. There is a boldness that resulteth from, and followeth upon the principal acts of Faith which {195} are in the will, for faith is the consent of the soul, but chiefly of the will. Now this boldness standeth chiefly in the soul’s thrusting itself upon God and his promise, having discovered the good of a Covenant-state with him, it hangs upon the promise and will not be put away: Heb. 11.13, These all died in faith and embraced the promises: it knoweth no other language but that, Joshua 24.16,21, Nay, but we will: I will have God for my portion and my own God: I do not here speak of the boldness of a state of assurance which resulteth from the reflex acts of Faith, but this twofold boldness may be where the soul is but in a state of recumbency, and is about personal Covenanting with God before it hath grown up clearly to make out its own estate.

Consider with your selves:  1. There is ground for boldness.  2. There is reason and advantage in using humble boldness in Covenanting with God.  First, I say, there are grounds for it.  First, May we not warrantably with boldness finish the bargain which Christ hath made for us, by saying, Amen, and giving in our suffrage and consent to all these infinitely wise and gracious transactions of his with his father, which he hath so far suspended as to our actual fruition of the good thereof, till we actually give our consent, and until the Bride say come, and he that heareth these things say Amen, even so, Rev. 22.17,20.  Secondly, Are there not grounds to go boldly to that which God hath Commanded, that we should avouch and do, and say with boldness, Jer. 3.19, And I said, thou shall call me my father, and shall not turn away from me: Hos. 2.16, That thou shalt call me Ishi: 1 John 3.23, And this is his Commandment that we should believe on the Name of his Son Jesus Christ.

2. I said, there is reason and advantage to persuade to this boldness in owning God by a personal Covenant.  First, Because want of boldness maketh the soul linger and hover exceedingly about the offer of Christ before it venture on him: this maketh it lie long off, Matth. 9.21, For she said within herself, if I may but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be whole: Hos. 13.13.  Secondly, Want of boldness in personal Covenanting with God prejudgeth the soul of much of the comfort that it might have in that interest when reflected upon, and it must be so since this argueth a great mixture of doubting with the soul’s acting Faith, {196} Mark 9.24, Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.  Thirdly, Want of boldness doth occasion frequent disputings of our Covenant interest when ’tis reflected upon, and jealousies of the soundness of the soul’s acting lively Faith; for when the heart doth not go boldly after God, it is always suspected not to go fully after him.

There be two things that may and should give marvellous boldness to the souls of the people to enter personally in Covenant with God.  First, Desperate necessity; if the soul be eternally undone, if it adventure not to avouch God, for its own God, this may thrust forward to attempt a very hard thing, as we read the Lepers’ reasoning, 2 Kings 7.3-5.  Secondly, When superadded to that necessity, there is encouragements given, even from whence the greatest dash to boldness proceedeth through the awe of God upon the heart, when he holdeth forth a Scepter of encouragement without and beyond, and against what the Law speaketh, Esther 5.2.  O how often hath God held out by this Gospel, things that might encourage your souls to draw near to him with boldness, John 6.37,40, And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast off: And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the son and believeth on him may have everlasting life; Isa. 56.4-7, Also the sons of the stranger that join themselves unto the Lord to serve him, and to love the Name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my Covenant: Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer.

5. This duty of personal Covenanting with God should be gone about explicitly and distinctly, I mean, it is to be done so clearly and expressly, that the soul of a man may not only upon the matter perform that duty, but formally may set about it as such a duty, and under that notion of his entering the Covenant of Grace, so that a new Covenant state may not only be to him a consequence or conclusion drawn from such grounds as do prove and conclude the thing, but may be a clear explicit proposition, having so much light in it as to manifest its truth and reality to the soul, it being an act of soul closing with God: many Scriptures hold forth the explicitness and distinctness which ought to be in this transition, Psalm 16.2, Isa. 44.5, {197} 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; Jer. 3.19, Thou shalt call me, My father, and shall not turn away from me: Zech. 13.9, I will say it is my people, and they shall say, the Lord is my God.

There be three things wherein the soul of a man should be very distinct and explicit concerning his personal Covenanting with God.  1. Distinct in the Proposition, to wit, that he hath been in terms with God, that he hath received and entertained proposals of peace and of a Covenant with God, and that he hath made Propositions to him, that is in short, that his soul hath spoke with God, and God hath spoken with his soul about a Covenant, Psalm 16.2, O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art my Lord, with Psalm 35.3, Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.  2. Distinct in the conclusion, that is, that God and the soul hath not only treated together, but concluded, that they have not only made proposals, but have agreed upon them; the same Scriptures before mentioned hold forth this also, 2 Sam. 23.5, Although mine house be not so with God, yet hath he made with me an everlasting Covenant ordered in all things and sure, for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow: Zech. 13.9, I will say, it is my people, and they shall say, the Lord is my God.  3. Distinct in reflection, that is, when the soul doth not only act distinctly and clearly in the directions of Faith, whereby it goeth forth after Christ, and receiveth him, but also in the reflect [or, reflex] acts of Faith, whereby it turneth an eye backward to its own actings, and giveth a clear distinct judgment of these, and of its own Covenant-state: Isa. 45.24, Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength: Lam. 3.24, The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope in him.

Now to persuade unto this clearness and distinctness concerning personal Covenanting with God: Consider,  First, the reasons pressing this manner of performing this duty.  Secondly, The prejudices redounding to the people of God through indistinctness in this matter.  Thirdly, The great advantage which {198} redoundeth to the souls of Believers through clearness and distinctness about their personal Covenanting with God.

These four reasons call for clearness and distinctness in performing this duty:  1. Because all the precious interests of Believers are comprized in this; the everlasting inheritance and all that appertaineth to it is comprised in this personal soul Transaction: Isa. 55.3, Incline your ear and come unto me, hear and your soul shall live, and I will make with you an everlasting Covenant, even the sure mercies of David.  2. Because without distinctness in this, it is impossible to attain unto the full assurance of Faith, and to that certainty about our everlasting Interests which is attainable; for how can the assurance of Faith be separated from clear and distinct acting in a personal Covenant and knowledge thereof: Heb. 10.22, Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of Faith: Rom. 8.32,38.  3. Because without this, Believers can never be in a capacity to rejoice in God in their portion and privileges, as they might do in the case of distinctness about their personal Covenanting with God: Psalm 16.5,9, The Lord is the portion of my inheritance, and of my cup thou maintainest my lot; Therefore my heart is glad, &c. Luke 1.47, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  4. Because nothing will be more frequently quarrelled and brought upon debate than a man’s personal interest in God by a Covenant, as all the experience of the Saints prove.

2. Consider these disadvantages that redound to Believers through their indistinctness in this.  First, Their condition is always bleeding, and their hearts kept under with fear and doubting; they can never get up their hearts above their fears and sad apprehensions, but still they walk uncomfortably: Heb. 2.15, Who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.  Secondly, Their hands are faint in duty, and their knees bow under them as being in doubt of their interest in the God whom they serve; therefore are these two joined, the distinct knowledge of an interest in God, and a cheerful spirit in serving him: Acts 27.23, For there stood by me this night the Angel of God whose I am, and whom I serve.  Thirdly, This maketh them often dispute their state in the dark, to their very great disadvantage, {199} when they have not so much clear light as to read it and give a true determination upon it.

3. Consider the advantages which redound to Believers through their clear and distinct dealing concerning their personal Covenanting with God.  1. Hereby their walk is made cheerful and confident toward God, Psalm 89.15,16, Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound, they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance, In thy Name shall they rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted; Heb. 10.  2. Their duty is made sweet and easy, Isa. 45.24, Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength: Zech. 10.12, And I will strengthen them in the Lord, and they shall walk up and down in his Name.  3. Hereby they possess and enjoy, and have use of all the promises and all their privileges, unto which others also have a right, but have not such freedom to make use thereof: Heb. 6.12, Who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  4. Hereby they are enabled upon this one ground of their Covenant interest in God, to answer all objections which assault their peace, and to maintain it notwithstanding; 2 Sam. 23.5, Although mine house be not so with God, yet hath he made with me an everlasting Covenant ordered in all things and sure, for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.  5. By this means they do carry more honourably to God-ward than the rest of Believers, who have not with like distinctness and clearness owned God by a personal Covenant: Rom. 4.20, He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith giving glory to God.

FINIS.


Footnotes:

1. Note that our meaning here is not to deny the eternal unchangeable purpose of God concerning particular individuals; but to deny that they are from eternity, and before believing, at terms with God on the basis of this Covenant, as to their own actual state.  We affirm plainly that Christ, from eternity, undertook for particular individuals in the Covenant of Redemption; but we deny that those particular individuals are already every way reconciled to God and justified according to the Covenant of Grace, prior to their regeneration and believing apprehension of Jesus Christ the Mediator of the Covenant. 2 Cor. 5.20; Rom. 10.10.—JTKer.