|« Prev||SECTION III. Profession should be of real piety.||Next »|
That none ought to be admitted to the privileges of adult persons in the church of Christ, but such as make a profession of real piety.
The covenant to be owned or professed, is God’s covenant, which he has revealed as the method of our spiritual union with him, and our acceptance as the objects of his eternal favour; which is no other than the covenant of grace; at least it is so, without dispute, in these days of the gospel. To own this covenant, is to profess the consent of our hearts to it; and that is the sum and substance of true piety. It is not only professing the assent of our understandings that we understand there is such a covenant, or that we understand we are obliged to comply with it; but it is to profess the consent of our wills, it is to manifest that we do comply with it. There is mutual profession in this affair, a profession on Christ’s part, and a profession on our part; as it is in marriage. And it is the same sort of profession that is made on both sides, in this respect, that each professes a consent of heart. Christ in his word declares an entire consent of heart as to what he offers; and the visible Christian, in the answer that he makes to it in his christian profession, declares a consent and compliance of heart to his proposal. Owning the covenant is professing to make the transaction of that covenant our own. The transaction of that covenant is that of espousals to Christ; on our part, it is giving our souls to Christ as his spouse. There is no one thing that the covenant of grace is so often compared to in Scripture, as the marriage-covenant; and the visible transaction, or mutual profession, there is between Christ and the visible church, is abundantly compared to the mutual profession there is in marriage. In marriage the bride professes to yield to the bridegroom’s suit, and to take him for her husband, renouncing all others, and to give up herself to him to be entirely and for ever possessed by him as his wife. But he that professes this towards Christ, professes saving faith. They that openly covenanted with God according to the tenor of the institution, Deut. x. 20.. visibly united themselves to God in the union of that covenant. They professed on their parts the union of the covenant of God, which was the covenant of grace. It is said in the institution, “Thou shalt cleave to the Lord, and swear by his name;” or as the words more literally are, “Thou shalt unite unto the Lord, and swear into his name.” So in Isaiah lvi.. it is called a “joining themselves to the Lord.” But the union, cleaving, or joining of that covenant, is saving faith, the grand condition or the covenant of Christ, by which we are in Christ. This is what [on our part] brings us into the Lord. For a person explicitly or professedly to enter into the union or relation of the covenant of grace with Christ, is the same as professedly to do that which on our part is the uniting act, and that is the act of faith. To profess the covenant of grace, is to profess it, not as a spectator, but as one immediately concerned in the affair, as a party in the covenant professed; and this is to profess that in the covenant which belongs to us as a party, or to profess our part in the covenant; and that is the soul’s believing acceptance of the Saviour. Christ’s part is salvation, our part is a saving faith in him; not a feigned, but unfeigned faith; not a common, but special and saving faith; no other faith is the condition of the covenant of grace.
I know the distinction made by some, between the internal and external covenant; but, I hope, the divines that make this distinction, would not be understood, that there are really and properly two covenants of grace; but only that those who profess the one only covenant of grace, are of two sorts. There are those who comply with it internally and really, and others who do so only externally, that is, in profession and visibility. But he that externally and visibly complies with the covenant of grace, appears and professes to do so really.—There is also this distinction concerning the covenant of grace; it is exhibited two ways, the one externally, by the preaching of the word, the other internally and spiritually, by enlightening the mind rightly to understand the word. But it is with the covenant, as it is with the call of the gospel: he that really complies with the external call, has the internal call; so he that truly complies with the external proposal of God’s covenant, as visible Christians profess to do, does indeed perform the inward condition of it. But the New Testament affords no more foundation for supposing two real and properly distinct covenants of grace, than it does to suppose two sorts of real Christians.
When those persons who were baptized in infancy properly own their baptismal covenant, the meaning is, that they now, being capable to act for themselves, do professedly 444 and explicitly make their parents’ act, in giving them up to God, their own, by expressly giving themselves up to God. But this no person can do, without either being deceived, or dissembling and professing what he himself supposes to be a falsehood, unless he supposes that in his heart he consents to be God’s. A child of christian parents never does that for himself which his parents did for him in infancy, till he gives himself wholly to God. But surely he does not do it, who not only keeps back a part, but the chief part, his heart and soul. He that keeps back his heart, does in effect keep back all; and therefore, if he be sensible of it, is guilty of solemn wilful mockery, if at the same time he solemnly and publicly professes that he gives himself up to God. If there are any words used by such, which in their proper signification imply that they give themselves up to God; and if these words, as they intend them to be understood, and as they are understood by those that hear them, according to their established use and custom among that people, do not imply, that they do it really, but do truly reserve or keep back the chief part; it ceases to be a profession of giving themselves up to God, and so ceases to be a professed covenanting with God. The thing which they profess belongs to no existing covenant of God; for God has revealed no such covenant, in which our transacting of it is a giving up ourselves to him with reserve, or holding back our souls, our chief part, and in effect our all. And therefore, although such public and solemn professing may be a very unwarrantable and great abuse of words, and taking God’s name in vain, it is no professed covenanting with God.
One thing, as observed, that belonged to Israel’s swearing into the name of the Lord, was saying, The Lord liveth; whereby they professed their faith in God’s all-sufficiency, immutability, and faithfulness. But if they really had such a faith, it was a saving grace. To them who indeed trust in the all-sufficiency of God, he will surely be an all-sufficient portion; and them who trust in God’s immutability and faithfulness, he surely will never leave nor forsake. There were two ways of swearing Jehovah liveth, that we read of in Scripture; one we read of, Jer. ii. 2. “Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness:” and the other way is swearing falsely, which we read of in the next chapter, verse 2, 3. “And though they say, The Lord liveth, yet surely they swear falsely.” And certainly none ought to do this. It follows, “O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth?” i.e. God desires sincerity of heart in those that profess religion. Here a gracious sincerity is opposed to a false profession; for when it is said, “O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth?” the expression is parallel with Ps. li. 6. “Behold thou desirest truth in the inward parts.” 1 Sam. xvi. 7. “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” Ps. xi. 7. “His countenance doth behold the upright.” But these texts speak of a gracious sincerity. Those spoken of, Jer. iv. 2. that “sware, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and righteousness,” were gracious persons, who had a thorough conversion to God, as appears by the preceding verse, “If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me;” i.e. Do not do as Judah was charged with doing in Jer. iii. 10. “Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly.” Do not do thus, “but if thou wilt return, return unto me.” And then it is added in the second verse, “And thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth,” &c.; that is, then your profession of religion will be worth regarding, you will be indeed what you pretend to be, you will be Israelites indeed, in whose profession is no guile. They who said, “The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness;” said, The Lord liveth, as David did, Ps. xviii. 46. “The Lord liveth, and blessed be my Rock.” And as the apostle says he did, 1 Tim. iv. 10. “We trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe.” And as he would have Timothy exhort rich men to do, 1 Tim. vi. 17. “That they trust not in uncertain riches, but in the living God.” When the apostle speaks of a profession of our faith in Christ, as one duty which all Christians ought to perform as they seek salvation, it is the profession of a saving faith. His words plainly imply it: “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.” The faith which was to be professed with the mouth, was the same which the apostle speaks of as in the heart, but that is saving faith. The latter is yet plainer in the following words; “for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Believing unto righteousness, is saving faith; but it is evidently the same faith which is spoken of, as professed with the mouth, in the next words in the same sentence. And that the Gentiles, in professing the christian religion, or swearing to Christ, should profess saving faith, is implied, Isa. xlv. 23, 24.—“Every tongue shall swear; surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength;” i.e. should profess entirely to depend on Christ’s righteousness and strength.
For persons merely to promise, that they will believe in Christ, or that they will hereafter comply with the conditions and duties of the covenant of grace, is not to own that covenant. Such persons do not profess now to enter into the covenant of grace with Christ, or into the relation of that covenant to Christ. All they do at present, is to say, they will do it hereafter; they profess, that they will hereafter obey that command of God, to believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. But what is such a profession good for, and what credit is to be given to such promises of future obedience; when at the same time they pretend no other at present, than to live and continue in rebellion against those great commands which give no allowance or licence for delay? They who do thus, instead of properly owning the covenant, do rather for the present visibly reject it. It is not unusual, in some churches, where the doctrine I oppose has been established, for persons at the same time that they come into the church, and pretend to own the covenant, freely to declare to their neighbours, they have no imagination that they have any true faith in Christ, or love to him. Such persons, instead of being professedly united to Christ, in the union of the covenant of grace, are rather visibly destitute of the love of Christ; and so, instead of being qualified for admission to the Lord’s supper, are rather exposed to that denunciation of the apostle, 1 Cor. xvi. 22. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran-atha.”
That outward covenanting, which is agreeable to scripture-institution, is not only a promising what is future, (though that is not excluded,) but a professing what is present, as it is in the marriage-covenant. For a woman to promise, that she will hereafter renounce all other men for the sake of him who makes suit to her, and will in some future time accept of him for her husband, is not for her now to enter into the marriage-covenant with him. She that does this with a man, professes now to accept of him, renouncing all others; though promises of hereafter behaving towards him as a wife, are also included in the transaction. It seems the primitive converts to Christianity, in the profession they made of religion, in order to their admission into the christian church, and in their visibly entering into covenant, in order to the initiating seal of the covenant in baptism, did not explicitly make any promises of any thing future. They only professed the present sentiments and habit of their minds, they professed that they believed in Christ, and so were admitted into the church by baptism; and yet undoubtedly they were, according to forementioned prophecies, admitted in the way of public covenanting. As the covenant-people of God, they owned the covenant, before the seal of the covenant was applied. Their professing faith in Christ was visibly owing the covenant of grace, because faith in Christ was the grand condition of that covenant. Indeed, if the faith which they professed in order to baptism, was only an historical or doctrinal faith, (as some suppose,) or any common faith, it would not have been any visible entering into the covenant of grace; for a common faith is not the condition of that covenant; nor would there properly have been any covenanting in the case. If we suppose, the faith they professed was the grace by which the soul is united to Christ, their profession was a covenanting in this respect also, that it implied an engagement of future obedience; for true faith in Christ includes in 445 its nature an acceptance of him as our Lord and King, and devoting ourselves to his service. But a profession of historical faith implies no profession of accepting Christ as our King, nor engagement to submit to him as such.
When the Israelites publicly covenanted with God, according to the institution in Deuteronomy, they did not only promise something future, but professed something present; they avouched Jehovah to be their God, and also promised to keep his commands. Thus it was in that solemn covenant-transaction between God and the people on the plains of Moab; which is summarily described, Deut. xxvi. 17, 18. “Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice; and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldst keep all his commandments.” The people in avouching God for their God, professed a compliance with the terms of the covenant of grace; as summarily expressed in those words, “I will be thy God, and thou shalt be my people.” They that avouch the Lord to be their God, profess to accept of Jehovah as their God; and that is to accept him as the object of their supreme respect and trust. For that which we choose as the object of our highest regard, that, and that only, do we take as our God. None therefore that value and love the world more than Jehovah, can, without lying, or being deceived, avouch Jehovah to be their God. And none that do not trust in Christ, but trust more in their own strength or righteousness, can avouch Christ to be their Saviour. To avouch God to be our God, is to profess that he is our God by our own act; i.e. That we choose him to be our chief good and last end, the supreme object of our esteem and regard, to whom we devote ourselves. And if we are sensible that we do not do this sincerely, we cannot profess that we actually do it; for he that does not do it sincerely, does not do it at all. There is no room for the distinction of a moral sincerity and gracious sincerity in this case. A supreme respect of heart to God, or a supreme love to him, which is real, is but of one sort. Whoever does with any reality at all make God the object of the supreme regard of his heart, is certainly a gracious person. And whoever does not make God the supreme object of his respect with a gracious sincerity, certainly does not do it with any sincerity. I fear, while leading people in many of our congregations, who have no thought of their having the least spark of true love to God in their hearts, to say, publicly and solemnly, that they avouch God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be their God, and that they give themselves up to him, we have led them to say they know not what. To be sure, they are very obscure expressions, if they mean any thing that a carnal man does, under the reigning power of sin and enmity against God.
Here possibly it may be objected, that it is unreasonable to suppose any such thing should be intended, in the profession of the congregation in the wilderness, as a gracious respect to God, that which is the condition of God’s covenant, when we have reason to think that so few of them were truly gracious. But I suppose, upon mature consideration, this will not appear at all unreasonable. It is no more unreasonable to suppose this people to make a profession of that respect to God, which they had not in their hearts now, than at other times when we are informed they did so, as in Ezek. xxxiii. 31. “They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people:” [i. e. as though they were my saints, as they profess to be;] “For with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.” So in the apostle’s time, people professed that to be in their hearts towards God, which was not there. The apostle is speaking of them, when he says, Tit. i. 16. “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him.” This was common among that people; God declares them to be an hypocritical nation, Isa. x. 6.. And it is certain, this was the case with them in the wilderness; they there professed that respect to God which they had not; as is evident by Psal. lxxviii. 36, 37. “They did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues; for their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.” In owning the covenant with God, they professed their heart was right with him, because it is mentioned as an evidence of their having lied or dealt falsely in their profession, that their heart was not right with him, and so proved not stedfast in God’s covenant, which they had owned. If their heart had been right with God, they would have been truly pious persons; which is a demonstration, that what they professed was true piety. It also appears that if they had had such a heart in them, as they pretended to have, they would have been truly pious persons, Deut. v.. where we have a rehearsal of their covenanting at mount Sinai: Concerning this it is said, verse 28, 29. “And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the Lord said unto me, They have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children for ever.” The people were mistaken about their disposition and preparation of heart to go through the business of God’s service, as the man in the parable, who undertook to build a tower without counting the cost. Nor need it seem at all incredible, that the generation who covenanted at mount Sinai, should, the greater part of them, be deceived, and think their hearts thoroughly disposed to give up themselves for ever to God, if we consider how much they had strongly to move their affections. They saw the wonders wrought in Egypt and at the Red sea, where they were led through on dry ground, and the Egyptians miraculously destroyed; whereby their affections were greatly raised, and they sang God’s praises. And particularly they now saw at mount Sinai, the astonishing manifestations of God’s majesty. Probably the greater part of the sinners among them were deceived with false affections; and if there were others less affected and not deceived, it is not incredible that they, in those circumstances, should wilfully dissemble in their profession, and so in a more gross sense flatter God with their lips, and lie to him with their tongues. And these things are more credible concerning a generation peculiarly left to hardness and blindness of mind in divine matters, and peculiarly noted in the book of Psalms for hypocrisy. And the generation of their children, who owned the covenant on the plains of Moab, had much to move their affections; they saw the awful judgments of God on their fathers. God had brought them through the wilderness, and subdued Sihon king of the Amorites and Og the king of Bashan before them.—They had heard Moses’s affecting rehearsal of the whole series of God’s wonderful dealings with them, together with his most pathetic exhortations. But is was also a time of great revival of religion and powerful influence of the Spirit of God, and that generation was probably the most excellent that ever was in Israel. There is more good and less hurt spoken of them, than of any other generation that we have any account of in Scripture. 558558 See Num. xiv. 31.. Deut. i. 39; viii. 15, 16.. Josh. xxii. 2, 11-34; xxiii. 8.. Deut. iv. 4.. Josh. xxiv. 31.. Judg. ii. 17, 22.. Psal. lxviii. 14.. Jer. ii. 2, 3, 21; xxxi. 2, 3.. Hos. ix. 10.. A very great part of them swore in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness. And no wonder that others at such a time fell in, either deceiving, or being deceived, with common affections; as is usual in times of great works of God for his church, and of the flourishing of religion. In succeeding generations, as the people grew more corrupt, I suppose, their covenanting or swearing into the name of the Lord degenerated into a matter of mere form and ceremony; even as subscribing religious articles seems to have done with the church of England; and as, it is to be feared, owning the covenant, as it is called, has too much done in New England; it being visibly a prevailing custom for persons to neglect this, till they come to be married, and then to do it for their credit’s sake, and that their children may be baptized. And I suppose, there was commonly a great laxness in Israel among the priests who had the conduct of this affair. There were many things in the nature of that comparatively carnal dispensation, which negatively gave occasion for such things: that is, whereby it had by no means so great a tendency to prevent such irregularities, as the more excellent dispensation introduced by Christ and his 446 apostles. And though these things were testified against by the prophets, before the Babylonish captivity; yet God, who is only wise, did designedly in a great measure wink at these and many other great irregularities in the church, till the time of reformation should come, which the Messiah was to have the honour of introducing. But of these things I may perhaps have occasion to say something more, when I come to answer the objection concerning the passover.
Now to return to the argument from the nature of covenanting with God, or owning God’s covenant. As to the promises, which are herein either explicitly or implicitly made; these imply a profession of true piety. For, in the covenant of grace universal obedience is engaged, obedience to all the commands of God; and the performance of inward spiritual duties is as much engaged, as external duties; and in some respects much more. Therefore he that visibly makes the covenant of grace his own, promises to perform those internal duties, and to perform all duties with a gracious sincerity. We have no warrant, in our profession of God’s covenant, to divide the duties of it, to take some, and leave out others: especially to leave out those great commands, of believing with the heart, of loving the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul, and our neighbour as ourselves. He that leaves out these, in effect leaves out all; for these are the sum of our whole duty, and of all God’s commands. If we leave these out of our profession, surely it is not the covenant of grace which we profess. The Israelites, when they covenanted with God at mount Sinai, and said, when God had declared to them the ten commandments, “All that the Lord hath spoken will we do, and be obedient;” promised, that as they professed to know God, they would in works not deny, but own and honour him, and would conform to those two great commandments, which are the sum of all the ten, and concerning which God said, “These words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart,” Deut. vi. 6..—And when they covenanted on the plains of Moab, they promised to keep and do God’s commands, “with all their heart, and with all their soul,” as is very evident by Deut. xxvi. 16, 17.. So it was also when the people owned their covenant in Asa’s time. 2 Chron. xv. 12. “They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers, with all their heart, and with all their soul.” We have also another remarkable instance, 2 Kings xxiii. 3.. and 2 Chron. xxxiv. 31..
Now he who is wholly under the power of a carnal mind, which is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be, cannot promise these things without either great deceit, or the most manifest and palpable absurdity. Promising supposes the person to be conscious to himself, or persuaded of himself, that he has such a heart in him; for his lips pretend to declare his heart. The nature of a promise implies intention or design. And proper real intention implies will, disposition, and compliance of heart. But no natural man is properly willing to do these duties, nor does his heart comply with them: and to make natural men believe otherwise, tends greatly to their hurt. A natural man may be willing, from self-love, and from sinister views, to use means and take pains that he may obtain a willingness or disposition to these duties: but that is a very different thing from actually being willing, or truly having a disposition to them. So he may promise, that he will, from some considerations or other, take great pains to obtain such a heart; but this is not the promise of the covenant of grace. Men may make many religious promises to God some way relating to the covenant of grace, which yet are not themselves the promises of that covenant; nor is there any thing of the nature of covenanting in the case, because although they should actually fulfil their promises, God is not obliged by promise to them. If a natural man promises to do all that it is possible for a natural man to do in religion, and fulfils his promises, God is not obliged, by any covenant that he has entered into with man, to perform any thing at all for him, respecting his saving benefits. And therefore he that promises these things only, enters into no covenant with God; because the very notion of entering into covenant with any being, is entering into a mutual agreement, doing or engaging that which, if done, the other party becomes engaged on his part. The New Testament informs us but of one covenant God enters into with mankind through Christ, and that is the covenant of grace; in which God obliges himself to nothing in us that is exclusive of unfeigned faith, and the spiritual duties that attend it. Therefore if a natural man makes never so many vows, that he will perform all external duties, and will pray for help to do spiritual duties, and for an ability and will to comply with the covenant of grace, from such principles as he has, he does not lay hold of God’s covenant, nor properly enter into any covenant with God. For we have no opportunity to covenant with God in any other way, than that which he has revealed; he becomes a covenant-party in no other covenant. It is true, every natural man that lives under the gospel, is obliged to comply with the terms of the covenant of grace; and if he promised to do it, his promise may increase his obligation, though he flattered God with his mouth, and lied to him with his tongue, as the children of Israel did in promising. But it will not thence follow, that they ought knowingly to make a lying promise, or that ministers and churches should countenance them in so doing.
Indeed there is no natural man but what deceives himself, if he thinks he is truly willing to perform external obedience to God, universally and perseveringly through the various trials of life. And therefore in promising it, he is either very deceitful, or is like the foolish deceived man that undertook to build when he had not wherewith to finish. And if it be known by the church, before whom he promises to build and finish, that at the same time he does not pretend to have a heart to finish, his promise is worthy of no credit or regard from them, and can make nothing visible to them but his presumption.
A great confirmation of what has been said under this head of covenanting, is Psal. 1. 16. “But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do, to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?” This term, the wicked, in the more general use of it in Scripture, is applied in that extent as to include all ungodly or graceless persons, all that are under the reigning power of sin, and are the objects of God’s anger, or exposed to his eternal vengeance; as might easily be made to appear by a particular enumeration of texts all over the Bible. All such are in Scripture called, workers of iniquity, the children of the wicked one, Matt. xiii. 38.. All such are said to be of the devil, 1 John iii. 8.. And to be the children of the devil, 1 John iii. 10.. The righteous and the wicked are, in a multitude of places in Scripture, evidently opposed one to the other, and distinguished as saints and sinners, holy and unholy, those that fear God and those that fear him not, those that love him and those that hate him. All mankind are in Scripture divided by these distinctions, and the Bible knows of no neuters or third sort.
Indeed those who are really wicked, may be visibly righteous, righteous in profession and outward appearance. But a sort of men who have no saving grace, and yet are not really wicked, the Scripture is entirely ignorant of. It is reasonable to suppose, that by wicked men, in this psalm, is meant all that hate instruction, and reject God’s word, (Psal. l. 17..) and not merely such as are guilty of particular crimes mentioned, verse 17-20.. stealing, adultery, fraud, and backbiting. Though only some particular ways of wickedness are mentioned, yet we are not to understand that all others are excluded; yea the words, in the conclusion of the paragraph, are expressly applied to all that forget God in such a manner as to expose themselves to be torn in pieces by God’s wrath in hell, verse 22. “Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.” We can no more justly argue, that because some gross sins are here specified, that no sinners are meant but such as live in those or other gross sins, than we can argue from Rev. xxii. 14, 15.. that none shall be shut out of heaven but those who have lived in the gross sins there mentioned; “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city: for without are dogs, and sorcerers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” Nothing is more common in Scripture, than—in the descriptions it gives both of the godly and ungodly, together 447 with their general character—to insert some particular excellent practices of the one to which grace tends, and some certain gross sins of the other for which there is a foundation in the reigning corruption of their hearts. So, lying is mentioned as part of the character of all natural men, Psal. lviii. 3, 4. (there called wicked men, as in Psal. 1.) “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies: their poison is like the poison of a serpent,” &c. So it is said of the wicked, Psal. x. 2, 3, 4, 7. “His mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” This the apostle, Rom. iii.. cites as a description of all natural men. So it is said of the wicked, Psal. cxl. 3. “They have sharpened their tongues as a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips;” which the same apostle, in the same place, also cites as what is said of all natural men. The very same gross sins which are here mentioned in the fiftieth psalm, are from time to time inserted in Solomon’s descriptions of the wicked man, as opposed to the righteous, in the book of Proverbs. Particularly, the sins mentioned in the 19th verse of that psalm, “Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit;” are thus mentioned, as belonging to the character of the wicked man, Prov. xii. 5, 6. “The thoughts of the righteous are right; but the counsels of the wicked are deceit. The words of the wicked are to lie in wait for blood; but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them.” Nevertheless it is plain, that the wise man in this book, in his distinction of the righteous and the wicked, means the same as godly and ungodly. Only reading the two foregoing chapters will be enough to satisfy any of this. Observe Prov. x. 3, 7, 16, 20, 21, 24, 28-32; xi. 3, 5, 9, 11, 18-23, 30, 31.. besides innumerable other like texts all over the book. In . it is said of sinners, “Their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.” This the apostle, in Rom. iii. 15.. cites as belonging to the description of all natural men. So in the description of the wicked, Prov. iv. 14-19. it is said that “they sleep not unless they have done mischief; that they drink the wine of violence,” &c. and yet by the wicked there is meant the same with the graceless man; as appears by the antithesis there made between him and the just, or righteous, “whose path is as the shining light, that shineth more and more to the perfect day.”
As a further evidence that by the wicked in Psal. 1. 16.. is meant the same as the ungodly or graceless, it is to be observed, here is a pretty manifest antithesis, or opposition between the wicked, and the saints, that shall be gathered to Christ at the day of judgment, verse 5.. There God speaking of his coming to judgment, says, “Gather my saints together, those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice:” and then, after showing the insufficiency of the sacrifices of beasts, implying that it is a greater sacrifice by which these saints make a covenant with him, it is added, “But to the wicked” [that are not in the number of my saints] “God doth say, What hast thou to do, to take my covenant into thy mouth?” Approving of the covenanting of the former, but disapproving the covenanting of the latter. As to the gathering of God’s saints, there mentioned, if we consider the foregoing and the following verses, it is evidently the same with the gathering of his elect, when Christ comes in the clouds of heaven, Matt. xxiv. 30, 31.. and with the gathering of the righteous, as his wheat into his barn, at the day of judgment, Matt. xiii.. And therefore there is as much reason to suppose, that by the wicked, which are opposed to them, is meant all graceless persons, as there is to understand the doers of iniquity, Matt. xiii. as opposed to the righteous, which shall then “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” verse 43..—And there is one thing more which still further confirms me in my construction of Psal. l. 16.. which is, That the plain reason here given against wicked men taking God’s covenant into their mouths, holds good with respect to all graceless men, viz. Because they do not comply with, but reject, the very covenant, which they with their mouths profess to own and consent to. Verse 17. “Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee:” as much as to say, “Thou rejectest and hast a reigning enmity against my statutes, with which thou declarest and professest a compliance.” And this is the spirit and practice of all who live in the sin of unbelief and rejection of Christ; they live in a way that is altogether inconsistent with the covenant of grace; for against the sum and substance of the condition and engagement of that covenant every natural man is under the reigning power of enmity, and lives in contradiction to it. Therefore, I think, it follows, that they who know it is thus with them, have nothing to do to take God’s covenant into their mouths.
|« Prev||SECTION III. Profession should be of real piety.||Next »|