THE AUCHENSAUGH RENOVATION OF THE NATIONAL COVENANT AND SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT; WITH THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF SINS AND ENGAGEMENT TO DUTIES, AS THEY WERE RENEWED AT AUCHENSAUGH, NEAR DOUGLAS, JULY 24, 1712. (COMPARED WITH THE EDITIONS OF PAISLEY, 1820, AND BELFAST, 1835.) ALSO, THE RENOVATION OF THESE PUBLIC FEDERAL DEEDS ORDAINED AT PHILADELPHIA, OCTOBER 8, 1880, BY THE REFORMED PRESBYTERY, WITH ACCOMMODATION OF THE ORIGINAL COVENANTS, IN BOTH TRANSACTIONS, TO THEIR TIMES AND POSITIONS RESPECTIVELY.
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The Reformed Presbytery, at a meeting in Philadelphia, October 6th 1880, "Resolved, That another edition of the Auchensaugh Deed be published," and appointed the undersigned a committee "to attend to this business with all convenient speed."
This Presbytery, after forty years' experience, during which opportunities have been afforded for examining the opinions and practices of all parties, professing any regard for the Covenanted Reformation, is still deeply impressed with the conviction that the transaction at Auchensaugh 1712, is the only faithful renovation of our Covenants, National and Solemn League. The fidelity of our fathers in that hazardous and heroic transaction, it is believed, has ever since been the occasion (not the cause) of all opponents manifesting their hostility to the whole covenanted cause, by first assaults upon that detested Bond. And that this is the real state of the case we proceed to prove by the following historical facts. First.—In connection with remodeling the Testimony; or rather by supplanting it in 1806, the Terms of Communion, without submitting an overture, were also changed to harmonize with Reformation Principles Exhibited, by excluding the Auchensaugh Renovation from the fourth Term, where it had stood for nearly a century. The same party have for years excluded from their abstract of Terms the Covenants themselves. Second.—In Scotland this faithful document was expunged in 1822, obviously to prepare the way for the adoption of a "New Testimony"(!), which appeared 1837-9. The majority of the actors in that work who survive, are now in the Free Church! Third.—At the time when defection was progressing in the R.P. Synod of Scotland, the sister Synod of Ireland strenuously resisted an attempt to remove the foresaid Bond from its place in the Terms. The Rev. Messrs. Dick, Smith and Houston in 1837, were faithful and successful for the time in resisting that attempt. Mr. Houston "would ever resist any alteration in respect of the Auchensaugh Bond, regarding the objection laid against it as in reality aimed at the Covenants themselves." Yet as a sequel to their Renovation of the Covenants at Dervock 1853, the Auchensaugh Bond was subsequently "shown to the porch"—removed from the Terms! Fourth.—At what was called covenant-renovation at Pittsburgh 1871, we believe no one spoke in behalf of their fathers' noble achievement in 1712. Indeed this could not be rationally expected in a body who could tolerate members vilifying the very Covenants which they pretended to renew. Fifth.—Other parties farther removed from the position of their reforming progenitors; but who still claim ecclesiastical affinity with John Knox, and commonly prefix to the symbols of their faith the historical word Westminster, give very strong expression to their feelings of hostility—not to the Auchensaugh Bond, of which probably they never heard, but to the British Covenants expressly; yea, to the very ordinance of public social covenanting itself. But we shall let them speak for themselves. One Doctor of divinity is reported as saying—"I am opposed to the whole matter of covenanting. Covenants do an immense sight more harm than good. Those Scotch Covenanters brought persecution upon themselves by their covenants."
Another Dr. said, "I have always been opposed to covenanting. One generation of God's people have no right to enter into bonds that entail obligations upon future generations." A third Dr. said, "I hold it is a sin for men to go into the august presence of God and enter into covenant with him. It is base presumption." A fourth Dr. said, "I hold that the church as an organization is not a responsible moral agent. Neither is the nation!" These sentiments may well excite astonishment and alarm, when proclaimed by accredited teachers of morality and religion. Sixth.—Seceders have all along their history claimed to be the sole heirs of the Scottish covenanted inheritance. They are not ignorant of the Auchensaugh Renovation. How they view that transaction may be best ascertained from their own language. The Original Secession Magazine for November 1880, p. 861, speaks thus, "The distinction drawn between 'Covenanters' and 'Seceders,' we have shown to be groundless. Are Reformed Presbyterians covenanters at all? There is not an actual Covenanter among them. They renewed the Covenants after a fashion in 1712. In our view the Covenants were not renewed, they were only mangled," &c. These sentiments are sufficiently strong and explicit to be intelligible. The writer's feelings evidently interfered with judicial discrimination, while openly expressing that hostility to the Auchensaugh Bond which is concealed by others. The Rev. John McMillan, whom the Lord honored to take the lead at Auchensaugh, is especially branded by this writer who asserts,—"he did not secede and retire, he was expelled; nor was the position of his early associates in the ministry of the purest water." Moreover, this writer asserts "that they (Seceders) have actually renewed the Covenants, from time to time, during the whole period of their existence." How could this be, since Seceders have all along rejected "the civil part of the Covenants?" But these documents bear on their face a direct aim at personal, domestic, ecclesiastical, and civil reformation. No party can intelligently and honestly renew the National Covenant and Solemn League, while eulogizing the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, while in allegiance to the British throne—that "bloody horn of the beast;" or whose political principles will identify them with any other horn which may have power to scatter "Judah." Zech. i: 21.
We have thus attempted by an induction of particulars, as concisely as we could, to point out existing opposition to our Covenanted Reformation, by various parties who assail the British Covenants directly, or by a first assault upon the Auchensaugh Bond, would reach a fatal stroke at the Covenants themselves. We believe with our predecessors that those who reject the Auchensaugh Renovation, by logical necessity will relinquish the Covenants themselves.
The reader may be assured that neither we nor the Reformed Presbytery, whose committee we are, claim Papal infallibility or Christian perfection; nor do we ask implicit faith in any uninspired documents. But we sincerely believe ourselves that the Auchensaugh Renovation and the Bond, to which the foregoing statements are prefixed, will be found on examination to be sound, faithful, and "in nothing contrary to the word of God."
DAVID STEELE, ROBERT ALEXANDER, JOHN CLYDE. Committee
[Footnote 1: This gentleman does not seem to know that infidels use similar argument against Christianity. Or, did he never read—"I came not to send peace on the earth, but a sword." His logic also is as faulty as his theology—non causa pro causa.]
[Footnote 2: On what principle does this minister dispense the ordinance of baptism to subjects in their minority? Is baptism a mere ceremony, involving no obligation upon the children of believers? Gen. xvii: 14.]
[Footnote 3: No presumption, when graciously invited to do so. Is. lvi: 4, 6, 11. This teaching tends to the subversion of social order—the moral order of the universe. 2 Pet. ii: 10.]
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THE AUCHENSAUGH RENOVATION.
THE NATIONAL COVENANT AND SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT, WITH THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF SINS AND ENGAGEMENT TO DUTIES: AS THEY WERE RENEWED AT AUCHENSAUGH, NEAR DOUGLAS, 24th JULY, 1712, WITH ACCOMMODATION TO THE (THEN) PRESENT TIMES.
PSALM lxxvi: 11. Vow and pay unto the Lord your God.
ISAIAH xxiv: 5. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof: because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
EZEK. xvii: 18. Seeing he despised the oath by breaking the covenant (when, lo, he had given his hand), and hath done all these things, he shall not escape.
2 TIM. iii: 3. Truce-breakers—or Covenant-breakers.
It is the ineffable product of eternal love, and infinite condescension in God toward his rational creatures, that ever he was pleased to make a covenant with them, and not to command and require obedience to his holy and just will, by virtue of his most absolute supremacy and rightful dominion only; but even to superadd sweet and precious promises, as a reward of that obedience, which he might of right have required, without giving any such incitements or pursuasives to it. And as no tongue of men or angels is sufficient to express, no strength of imagination to conceive, no sublimity of intellectual faculties to comprehend the depth of that spring, and breadth of that ocean of unbounded love, which hath exerted itself in God's covenanting with man; yea, with sinful man, by means of a Mediator: so shall it always afford matter of wonder and admiration to all finite and intelligent beings, to the ages of eternity, and shall never be comprehended by any, but by him whose understanding is infinite; wherefore He, who is all-sufficient and self-sufficient, should invite, yea, press and entreat unworthy indigent nothings, the sinful children of men to such an incomparable degree of honor, dignity and advancement, as that is, to enter into a covenant relation, and come into a solemn treaty of peace and conjunction with Him, who is infinitely removed beyond all blessing and all praise. To have this invitation, is indeed the honor and privilege of all within the visible church, to whose ears the joyful sound of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ hath come; but few are so wise as to accept and approve it. Many, too many, account themselves unworthy of this honor, and by despising this privilege, and rejecting this dignity, deprive themselves of the greatest happiness; but as all nations, upon whom the day-star of the gospel hath arisen, have had the invitation to this duty, and all sound and real believers have actually participated of this honor, to have God making a covenant with them, and they striking hands with Him through a Mediator (which covenant is commonly termed the Covenant of Grace,) so these three kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland conjunctly, and Scotland by itself, as an independent nation, had in an eminent way and manner the honor, above most nations in the world, to dedicate and surrender themselves to the Lord, by a most voluntary, free and deliberate choice, and to come under the bond of a most solemn oath, in a most religious manner, devoting their all to Christ, his interest and honor, the flourishing and thriving of his kingdom, the success of his gospel, and reformation of his churches; and openly avouching him for their Lord and Master, to the honor of his name, and confusion of his enemies; which Covenants National and Solemn League, though we look not upon them to be the same with the covenant of grace, yet we conceive of them as a solemn superadded and new obligation, tying us to all the duties, as well of a particular Christian conversation, as these which tend to the public and national advancement of reformation in religion, whereof the covenant of grace is the spring and foundation.
These covenants, as they were the effects and consequents of many remarkable and signal expressions of divine love and goodness, many singular mercies and deliverances vouchsafed to these nations, as the return of many earnest prayers and wrestlings of the Lord's people with him; so they were the occasions of many blessings, and great indications of God's favor and loving-kindness. Then the Lord delighted to dwell in the nations; then did he beautify the place of his sanctuary; then did he fill his people's hearts with joy and gladness, by the familiar intimations of his special love and down pourings of his Spirit's gracious influences, as our land can afford many instances. Then did he enlarge his people's affections, and animate their spirits with zeal and courage, attended with knowledge, prudence and discretion to act for him, and advance his kingdom. Then did he illustrate his churches in these kingdoms, as bright and sparkling stars arising out of the thick clouds of antichristian darkness, and getting out from under Prelatic and Erastian yokes of bondage and slavery, and made them go forth as the meridian sun glorious and excellent; terrible as an army with banners. Hence it came to pass that these nations sent out a savory report to all the neighboring reformed churches, a report which comforted, revived, strengthened, animated and encouraged all the true and loyal subjects of Christ's kingdom; which struck terror and amazement to the hearts of his enemies; which shook and caused to tremble the pillars of Antichrist's kingdom, and disquieted the very foundations of the seat of that beast; which made malignants at home and abroad to be ashamed and confounded, and even forced the haters of the Lord to feign submission to him. Numberless were the advantages and privileges which did redound to these nations by, and were the lovely attendants and sweet consequents of, these covenants; whereby God did set to his seal of approbation, and gave clear evidence and demonstration of his acceptance of his people's cheerful and willing adventures in this duty of covenanting with him: and as these blessings and mercies, which, as the dew of Hermon, were distilled upon his people's heads and hearts, while they abode steadfast with him, and faithful in his covenant were so many irrefragable proofs of his acquiescence in their first and laudable undertakings; so the many sad and fearful plagues, distractions, confusions and miseries, which have attended and followed the many gross breaches and violations of these covenants and departures from God, are no less evident discoveries, undeniable signs and pregnant convictions of the Lord's most just displeasure and indignation with the bypast and present courses of revolting and backsliding from him; which courses of declension and grievous apostatizing from God and his covenant, all the three kingdoms and in special this nation, and every individual therein capable of such a work, are, without all controversy, called to bewail and confess before God, and by speedy amendment to turn from them, in order to avert judgments, and turn away justly impendent wrath and long threatened strokes.
The consideration of these blessings and benefits, on the one hand, which followed the zealous entering into, and sincere performing of these sacred oaths; and upon the other hand the sense we desire to retain of the plagues and curses, threatened by God in his word against covenant-breaking inflicted upon covenant-breakers in former ages, and foreign nations, and visibly impending upon us in these nations, for our perfidious dealing in God's covenant; hath moved us a poor insignificant handful of people, unworthy indeed to be called the posterity of our zealous reforming ancestors, though heartily desirous to be found adhering to the same standard of doctrine, worship, discipline and government to which they adhered, to attempt this solemn and weighty duty of renewing (in our capacities and stations) these covenant obligations, that we might at least give some discovery of our respect to the cause of God, for the advancement and preservation whereof these covenants were first entered into, and afterwards again and again renewed by our religious progenitors, and by the whole representative body of the three kingdoms, who had any zeal for the interest of religion. And that we might, for our parts, be in some measure instrumental to transmit a testimony for the work of God in our land to the succeeding generation. Neither do we want, besides these general motives, some special inducements to this undertaking. As 1. Because these national covenants, having been nationally broken, and their funeral piles erected by wicked and perfidious rulers in the capital cities of the kingdom, with all imaginable ignominy and contempt, have long lien buried and (almost) quite forgotten under these ashes; most people either hating the very name and remembrance of them, or at least being ashamed honorably to avouch their adherence to them, and afraid to endeavor a vigorous and constant prosecution of the duties contained in them: So that it is high time that every one should do his utmost towards a reviving of them. 2. Because many openly declare their sorrow and grief that ever these covenants should have been entered into: malignants calling them a conspiracy, attributing every miscarriage of the persons engaged in them to the covenants themselves as their native effects; and others, who would take it ill to be called malignants, making them the causes of all the tyranny, rapine, bloodshed and persecution of the late reigns, as having raised the spleen of the enemies of religion, and accounting it safer that they should lie still in their graves, than that they should irritate malignants any more by their resurrection. Therefore we judge it our duty to renew them, that we might evidence, that notwithstanding all these malicious calumnies and false consequences cast upon them, we are still of the same judgment with our reformers, that they are the most sovereign means, under the blessing of God, for the reviving and preserving the work of God in the land. 3. Because of the courses that are carried on in direct opposition to these covenants; the nations, formerly cemented in peace and love in conjunction with truth and righteousness, having broken these bonds, and united themselves upon another footing, by the late sinful incorporating union: and imposing new oaths in opposition to the covenant; such as abjuration, &c. granting license, protection and toleration to all the evils abjured in the covenant; as heresies and errors in doctrine, superstition in worship, Prelacy and Erastianism in government, and overthrowing all good discipline. 4. Because of our own sinful miscarriages in, and woful declinings from our covenanted duties, our proneness to break covenant with God, and to be indifferent, lax, negligent and unsteadfast in the cause and work of God, and to be led away with the error of the wicked, and to fall from our steadfastness; wherefore we thought it necessary to bind ourselves by a new tie to the Lord, and one to another in a zealous prosecution of covenanted duties, that the covenant might be as a hedge to keep us from running out into the paths of destroyers. 5. We being sincerely desirous and having an earnest longing to celebrate the sacred ordinance of the Lord's Supper, whereof many had unjustly called us despisers and contemners, and finding it to have been the laudable practice of the church of Scotland formerly, that all such as were admitted to that holy table should swear and subscribe the covenant before their coming thereunto; we judged it a fit preparation for our receiving a sacramental confirmation of God's covenanted love and favor to us, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that we should avouch Him for our God, and testify our adherence to His cause and truth, by our renewing our national covenants with Him.
Upon these and the like weighty considerations we resolved to set about this solemn and tremendous duty; and being assured that we have no sufficiency in ourselves for any such undertaking, after frequently imploring the Lord for light and direction, strength and assistance, and seeking for ourselves a right way in the performance of the duty, upon days of humiliation, both in our private societies and publicly in the fields, we did condescend upon the following acknowledgment of sins, the more to enable us to remember our own and the land's breaches of covenant, in our solemn public confession thereof; and did draw up the following engagement to duties, not to superadd any new oath and obligation to the covenants, but only to adjust the articles of the covenant to the circumstances of the time, and to explain in what sense the covenant binds us against the present evils that are now prevalent in the land, and to the contrary duties. As for the covenants themselves, we made no material alteration in them, as judging it a work more proper for an assembly of divines, or representative body of church and state (had they been upright and faithful in this cause) than for us, who, as we are called by others in contempt, must own ourselves in truth to be, but a handful of weak and most illiterate people, and but as babes in comparison of the first framers of our covenants; only that we might make them in some measure accomodable to the present lamentable circumstances, whereinto we are involved by our iniquities, we have annotated some few necessary alterations upon the margin, wherein the judicious will find that we have in nothing receded from the scope and substance of the covenant, but only in the phrase; for instance, where the covenant binds to the defence and preservation of the king's majesty and government, in regard we have no king nor supreme civil magistrate so qualified, as God's law and the laudable laws of this realm require, to whom we might, for conscience sake, subject ourselves, in a consistency with our defending the true reformed religion in all its parts and privileges: Therefore, we can only bind ourselves to defend and preserve the honor, authority and majesty of lawful sovereigns, or supreme magistrates, having the qualifications aforesaid, when God shall be pleased to grant them to us. Where no judicious person will say that there is any substantial alteration as to the matter of the duty, but only as to the object to whom the duty is to be performed; there being none such in being as can justly claim, or to whom we may with a good conscience pay such an allegiance.
Having mutually agreed concerning these prerequisites to this sacred action, that the same might be orderly gone about, and might not be performed in a clandestine way, so as to preclude any upright-hearted friends to the covenanted reformation from joining with us in that so necessary a duty, there was public intimation made of the design a competent space of time before, upon a day of humiliation, and likewise upon the Lord's day immediately preceding the work.
As for the particular way and manner, method and circumstances of the work, we had not given any narrative of them; but that some, who came with an evil eye, to spy out our liberty, for criticizing, not for joining or profiting, have in part misrepresented the same, and may further do so; therefore, to obviate all such misreports, we have thought fit to make this brief relation thereof.
Upon Wednesday, July 23d, those who had the work in design being met together, the minister began the day's work with prayer for special assistance to attain due preparation, and a suitable frame, throughout the whole solemnity: and thereafter had a prefatory discourse to the people, showing the nature of the work in general, its lawfulness, expediency, and necessity, from scripture precedents and approven examples of the people of God, adducing the 9th chapter of Ezra, Neh. Ezek. Dan. and Neh. x. 28, 29, for proof thereof; and of the day in particular, that it was a day of fasting and supplication, with preaching of the word, in order to preparation for the solemnities intended, both of renewing the covenants and celebrating the sacrament of the Lord's, Supper. After which a part of the lxxviii. Psalm, from the 5th to the 12th verse being sung, Mr. John M'Neil, preacher of the gospel, had a sermon upon Jer. 1. 4, and 5. "In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward, saying, Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord, in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten." From which text he raised and prosecuted largely, and particularly the two following observations, as most pertinent for the work of the day; the first implicitly supposed, the other more explicitly asserted in the words; viz. 1. That, a people in covenant with God may be forgetful of and deal falsely in their covenant; or that covenant-takers may be covenant-breakers. 2. That, it is the duty of a people who have broken covenant with God to engage themselves again to the Lord by the renovation of their covenant. Where in prosecuting the former, he showed by what gradual steps of declension a people usually come to deal falsely in God's covenant, such as, (1.) By forgetfulness, Deut. iv. 23. There being a connexion between forgetting and forsaking, or dealing falsely in God's covenant, so the church intimates, Psal. xliv. 17, 18. "All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant; our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way." And the returning remnant of Israel being sensible of this connexion, resolve to bind themselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that may not be forgotten. (2.) By seeking shifts and arguments to elude and evade the obligation of the covenant and to defend the breaches thereof; which is after vows to make inquiry. (3.) By despising the bond of it; Ezek. xvi. 59. "Which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant." (4.) By defection to the iniquities which are sworn and engaged against in the covenant, Jer. xi. 10. "They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant, which I made with their fathers." (5.) By changing the government, laws, and ordinances sworn to be maintained in the covenant; either the government of the state, without consulting divine direction, and due inspection into the qualification of the persons set up, Hos. viii., compare the 1st and 4th verses. "They have transgressed my covenant, &c. They have set up kings, but not by me, princes and I knew it not;" that is, without consulting me to know my will, and without my approbation and consent; or the government of the church, without regard to the revealed will of God. Thus, Abijah justly chargeth Jeroboam that he had "cast out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites," and that he had "made priests after the manner of the nations of other lands;" but encourages himself that he and Judah had the Lord for their God, because they had not forsaken him; "and the priests which ministered unto the Lord were the sons of Aaron." 2 Chron. xiii. 6, 10. (6.) By an entire forsaking and disowning the obligation of the covenant, Dan. xi. 30. "He———shall have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant." (7.) By a stated opposition to the covenant, and persecuting of these who adhere thereunto. Thus Elijah justly charges Israel, 1 Kings xix. 10, that they had forsaken God's covenant, because they had thrown down his altars, slain his prophets, and sought after Elijah's life. And in a use of lamentation deduced from the foresaid doctrine, he showed, that all ranks in the land had reason to mourn over their breach of covenant, in regard that some of all ranks, from the throne to the dunghill, in church and state, are, or have been guilty of dealing falsely in God's covenant, in all and every one of these diverse ways, and of declining from it: and in regard that there has been so much ignominy and contempt cast upon these sacred covenants, not only by breaking them openly, but also avowedly disowning and disdaining their obligation, and making the adherence to them criminal; and, which is above all, burning them by the hand of the hangman, and burying them so long in forgetfulness. This guiltiness he applied not to great persons only, but also to professors, to ministers, and particularly to ourselves, who are called dissenters from the present establishment; pressing upon us no less than others, the absolute and indispensable necessity of being convinced of, and mourning over these, not as the sins of others only, but also as our own—we having a chief hand in the trespass; pressing upon all present concerned in the work the duty of self-examination, and putting themselves to the trial, concerning their knowledge of the covenant obligations, both as to their nature and extent, as well as their sense of the breaches of these obligations.
In the second head of doctrine, viz., That it is the duty of a people who have broken covenant with God, to engage themselves again to him by renovation of their covenant; after proving the proposition by several heads of arguments deduced—1st, From the lawfulness of entering into covenant with God, whether personal, as Jacob, Gen. xxviii. 20, 21, or economical, as Joshua and his family, Josh. xxiv. 15, or national, as God brought his people Israel under a covenant with himself, Exod. xix 5. The consequence holding undeniably, that if it be lawful and necessary, in any of these respects, to enter into covenant with God, it must needs be also lawful and a duty to renew the same after the breach thereof. 2dly, From Scripture precedents of the people of God, who, after breaking off and declining from God's covenant, renewed the same. As for instance, the covenant made with Israel at Horeb, was renewed at the plains of Moab, Deut. xxxix;—by Joshua, chap, xxiv.;—by Asa, 2 Chron. xv. 13, 14;—by Jehoiada, 2 Kings xi. 17;—by Hezekiah, 2 Chron. xxix. 10;—by Josiah, 2 Kings, xxiii. 2;—by Ezra and Nehemiah, Ezra, x. 3;—Neh. ix ult. and x. 28, 29. 3dly, From Scripture precepts, Deut. xxix. 1—"These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb." Psalm, lxxvi. 11—"Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God." 4thly, From Scripture promises, wherein the Lord promiseth as a blessing and mercy to his church and people, that they should renew their covenant with him, Isaiah xix. 21, 23—25; Zech. ii. 11. For further opening of the proposition, these two questions were proposed and solved—First, Whether all persons who have broken covenant with God may be admitted to renew the same? Answer, All sorts of persons in the three kingdoms are under the obligation of the covenant, and consequently, bound to renew and keep it inviolable; but all are not in present capacity, and therefore have no actual right to enter into covenant: such as are obstinately wicked, living in error, profanity, or malignancy, have not God's call and right from him, as such, to renew a covenant with him; for, Psal. 1. 16, 17—"God says to the wicked, What hast thou to do to take my covenant in thy mouth?" But all such as are reformed, or reforming from all iniquity, and namely from the defections and compliances of the time; who have some suitable sense of the breaches, and competent knowledge and understanding of the duties engaged unto in the covenant, Neh. x. 28, have a right and an immediate call to the duty of renewing the covenant. 2dly, If any number of people may renew a national oath and covenant without the consent and concurrence of royal authority, or at least, without the concurrence of some chief and principal men in church and state? Answer, Without the concurrence of church and state, a covenant cannot be taken or renewed nationally, speaking strictly; yet a few may publicly declare their adherence to their covenant-engagements by renewing them, not only without the consent and concurrence of authority, but against it; and there are several precedents for so doing, both before and since the established reformation. As for instance, that covenant at Edinburgh, Anno 1557; at Perth, 1559; at Stirling, the same year; another at Leith, Anno 1560; another at Ayr, 1562. And at Lanark, a small handful of the Lord's people renewed it in direct opposition to, and at Lesmahago, without the consent or concurrence of authority; which instances may be both an inducement and encouragement to us to renew, and in our mean capacity, to testify to the nation our approbation of, and adherence to these covenants.
In the prosecution of this doctrine, he had occasion also to insist upon the reasons, or motives, and manner of entering into covenant. The scope and argument of the reasons adduced as motives to the duty of covenanting was to this effect:—
1. The turning away of the Lord's wrath and anger from a land, or people, which covenant-breaking hath deserved, may be a motive to renewing covenant with God; this was the motive that prompted the good reforming King Hezekiah to make a covenant with the Lord, 2 Chron. xxix. 10—"Now it is in mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that his fierce wrath may turn away from us." And Nehemiah, with the returned captives, Neh. ix. 38—"And because of all this, we make a sure covenant."
2. Reviving and advancement in reformation, being the ordinary consequent and effect of upright covenanting with the Lord, may be another motive and inducement thereunto; this appears both in personal and national covenanting—In personal, Psal. cxix. 106—"I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments." The Psalmist's having sworn, was a very quickening consideration to excite him to the performance of his duty. In national covenanting, we always find, after the people of Israel and Judah had covenanted with the Lord, they made progress in reformation, and the land was purged of abominations and idols. Thus it was in Asa's covenant, 2 Chron. xv. 12 to 19; for there, the people have entered into a covenant with the Lord, "and sworn with all their soul, and with all their heart," the Lord was found of them; and Asa removed his mother, Maachah, from her royal dignity, and stamped the idol which she had made, and burnt it at the brook Kidron; and he brought into the house of the Lord the things that his father and himself had dedicated. Thus it was also in Jehoiada's covenant, which he made "between the Lord, and the king, and the people, that they should be the Lord's people," 2 Kings xi. 17, 18, 20; for, immediately after the making of his covenant, "all the people of the land went into the house of Baal, and brake it down—his altars, and his images brake they in pieces thoroughly; and the priest appointed officers over the house of the Lord;" and they slew Athaliah with the sword. The like is evident in Hezekiah's covenanting, 2 Chron. xxxiv., xxxv. chapters.
3. This upright renewing of covenant with the Lord is a way and mean to procure many mercies, both spiritual and temporal, from the hand of the Lord; which should be a strong inducement and motive to engage us thereunto. Spiritual mercies are entailed upon it, Deut. xxix. 12, 13. "That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: that he may establish thee to-day for a people to himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." Temporal mercies are also promised to this upright renewing and keeping covenant, Deut. xxix. 9—"Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do." And, it is remarked, 2 Chron. xv. 15, that after Asa's covenant, "the Lord gave them rest round about."
4. The malice and opposition of the Popish, Prelatical, and malignant party against the covenants, and their doing what in them lies, to make their obligation void and null, may be a motive and argument for the people of God so much the more to avouch their respect to them by a public adherence, especially after long continued breaches.
5. Upright entering into, or renewing covenant with God, is a most sovereign medicine for healing a people's breaches, as well as their backslidings, the covenant being a cement, as well to join and unite the people of God one to another, as all of them in their duty to God; and, as it flows from the nature of the covenant to unite the friends of reformation, so it is observable as one of the peculiar fruits of covenant-renewing, that union in the Lord has followed thereupon: thus it was with Israel and Judah in the text, who united together in making a covenant with the Lord. Whence all the people of God, who are called to be united and "perfectly joined together in the same spirit, and in the same mind;" and especially they who have been lamentably divided one from another, by their manifold defections from God, and from their covenant-engagements, ought to be strongly inclined, moved, and engaged to this duty; from this consideration, the upright covenant-renewing is a usual mean of land-uniting and church-uniting dispositions amongst the people of God.
As for the manner of renewing covenant with God, and how the duty ought to be gone about, he propounded and opened it in the following particulars, to this effect:—
1. That it must be done with understanding and judgment, both in relation to the nature of the duties we engage to perform in the covenant: grossly ignorant persons being justly deprived of the privilege of engaging in covenant, though bound to inform themselves of its nature and obligation; and also in relation to the breaches, such as would engage into it being called to have some suitable sense and understanding, both how it has been violated, and by what means persons come to be guilty of the breach thereof. So, Neh. x. 28, 29—"Every one that had knowledge and understanding entered into the covenant."
2. This duty must be gone about with sincerity and uprightness of heart; thus Joshua, when making a covenant with the people, that they should serve the Lord, exhorts them—"Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth," Joshua, xxiv., compare the 25th verse with the 14th. The want of which qualification in covenant-renewing, causes unsteadfastness and perfidy in covenant-performing—Psal. lxxviii. 36, 37.
3. This duty of covenant-renewing requires, as a qualification towards the right performing of it, that there be a due consideration, and some suitable impression of the solemnity and weightiness of the work: which ariseth, partly from the object or party covenanted with, the holy and jealous God, Joshua xxiv. 19—"He is a holy God, he is a jealous God, he will not forgive your transgressions, nor your sins," and partly from the subject matter covenanted, or engaged to. The articles of the covenant of grace, which we have professedly, at last, yielded to in our baptism, are weighty; for therein, as God engages to give us himself, his Son Christ Jesus, and in him all temporal and eternal blessings; so we engaged to be obedient children, and faithful subjects to him all the days of our lives. And the articles of these national covenants are weighty, for therein we engage to great things relating to the glory of God, and the good of our own and other's souls. And, partly, this weightiness ariseth from the great danger and dreadful punishment of breaking the covenant; which is threatened in many places of Scripture. The same is also intimated to us in the customs both of the Jews and Heathens, in entering into covenant; particularly, we find that the Jews used to cut a calf, or some other clean beast, in twain, and pass between the parts of it—using this, or the like form of speech, as the Jewish doctors relate—"So God divide or separate me, if I keep not this covenant." Jer. xxxiv. 18, compared with verse 20—"I will give the men into the hands of their enemies who have transgressed my covenant, which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof." Nehemiah also, chap. v. 12, 13, when he took an oath of the priests, shook his lap and said—"So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise," &c. And all the covenanters said—"Amen."
4. Much tenderness and heart-melting is requisite to the right performing of this duty. So it was with covenant-renewing Israel and Judah, who were "weeping as they went to seek the Lord their God, and to make a covenant never to be forgotten." This brokenness of heart, and tender-melting frame may arise, both from the consideration of the many sins and iniquities whereby persons have provoked the Lord their God to anger, whence they come "to be like doves of the valley, every one mourning for his iniquity:" and likewise from the consideration of the grace and mercy of God, manifested in Christ Jesus, his condescension to enter into a covenant with sinful men, and readiness, upon his people's repentance, to pardon their former breaches; from the consideration of this transcendently free grace, an humble and sincere covenanter will be transported into an ecstacy of wonder and admiration; as the church is, Mic. vii. 18, 19, 20—"Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?" &c.
5. Dependency and recumbency upon the Lord by faith, for strength to perform covenant engagements, is requisite to right covenanting, Isa. xxvii. 5—"Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me." This is to "take hold of" God's covenant, Isa. lvi. 4.
6. Affection to God and the duties whereunto we engage, is requisite to right covenanting, and that in its flower and vigour, height and supremacy. Thus, 2 Chron. xv. 12, 15, Asa and the people "entered into a covenant, to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart, and with all their soul:—And all Judah rejoiced at the oath; for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire." They had an affection to the work, and did it with complacency, not in dissimulation, so as not to design to perform it: nor through compulsion, with an eye to secular profit or preferment, as many in these lands did.
7. It is necessary, in order to right covenanting, that the work be gone about with a firm purpose and resolution (through grace enabling us) to adhere to our covenant engagements, notwithstanding whatever opposition and persecution we may meet with from the world for so doing, and whatever difficulties and discouragements may arise from the multitude of those, who prove unsteadfast in, or foully forsake their covenant. We must stand to our covenant, as it is said of Josiah, 2 Chron. xxxiv. 32, that "he caused all that were present in Judah and Benjamin, to stand to" the covenant, which implies as well a firm resolution to perform, as consent to engage, as in the latter part of the verse, it is remarked, that "the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers;" where doing according to the covenant is exegetical of standing to it. David also joins the resolution of performance with swearing; Psal. cxix. 106. "I have sworn, and I will perform, that I will keep thy righteous judgments."
From the doctrine thus confirmed and explained, he drew this inference, by way of information, that seeing it is a people's duty, who have broken covenant with the Lord, to engage themselves again to him, by renewing their covenant, that it is not arbitrary for us (as many are apt to think) to renew, or not to renew our covenant; but that there is a plain and positive necessity for our repenting and returning again to the Lord, by entering anew into covenant with him, whether personal made in baptism, or at the Lord's table, or under affliction and trouble, or national vows and covenants entered into by ourselves or our fathers. And in a use of lamentation, he bewailed the backwardness of these lands, and particularly of this nation, to this duty; in that, now after sixty years and upwards of great defections from, and grievous breaches of our covenants by people of all ranks; yet there appears so little sense of either the obligations or breaches of them, and of a disposition to reviving them, even amongst those who not only profess some love to the reformation of religion, but even some belief of their perpetual binding obligation; and that notwithstanding, as the Prophet Isaiah saith, concerning Judah, chap. xxiv. 5, "The earth (or the land) is defiled under the inhabitants thereof, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant;" our land having been denied with Popery and Prelacy, and with a flood of abomination and profanity, the natural consequent of perfidy, the ordinances having been changed, perverted and corrupted, and the covenant not only broken, but burnt ignominiously, and the adherence to it made criminal; yet, for all this, there has not been a time found for renewing them these twenty-three years; and that ministers, at whose door it chiefly lay to stir up the land to this work, have many of them been as careless as others, waiving and putting off a stumbled and offended people, expressing some concernedness for this duty, with these and the like pretexts, that it was not a fit time, nor the land in a case for it (too sad a truth), but not laboring to get the land brought to be in a case and disposition for it, by pressing the obligation, and plainly discovering the violations thereof; so that, instead of being brought to a fitter condition for this duty, the covenants are almost forgotten and quite out of mind, so that the succeeding generation is scarce like to know that ever there was a covenant sworn in Scotland. And more particularly, that the godly, who are dissatisfied with, and dissent from the defections and corruptions of the times, have discovered so little concern about the work of reformation, and cause of God, which the covenants oblige us to own, defend, and promote. All which laxness and remissness is for a lamentation, and ought to be lamented and mourned over by the people of God.
In the exhortation, he pressed upon us who are embodied together to renew our covenant-engagements, by giving an open and public testimony of our adherence to the covenants, national and solemn league, that we should labor to attain a suitable frame, and serious consideration of the weightiness, solemnity, and awfulness of the work we were then undertaking: enforcing the same by several cogent motives, as namely, because in renewing these covenants we are called to remember our baptismal and personal vows, whereby we had renounced the devil, the world and the flesh, and devoted ourselves to the Lord to be his people; which if they were slighted and forgotten, there could be no right, acceptable, and comfortable entering into national covenants. And likewise because of the weightiness of the duties engaged to in our national covenant, and in the solemn league and covenant, which he proved to be a covenant that ought to be renewed by us in this nation no less than our national covenant, in regard it was a religious, just, and holy covenant made betwixt God and the three kingdoms, though it cannot now be taken in the same consideration and extent, as at the first framing it was, viz.: As a league betwixt us and the representative body of the kingdoms of England and Ireland: where he took occasion to go over the several articles of the covenant, showing the nature and weightiness of the duties.
Beside these two more general doctrines which were chiefly insisted upon, he observed several others pertinently deducible from the words, as first, That unfaithful dealing in God's covenant will breed distance and estrangement from God. This is implied in the children of Israel and Judah seeking the Lord, asking the way to Zion, &c.; their asking the way to Zion, importing that they had forgotten the right way of worshipping God, and that their sins had made a sad separation between them and their God. Secondly, That it is necessary that persons become sensible of their sin against God, and of his anger against them, and lay these things to heart, that they may be concerned about reconciliation with God, and reform their lives. Thirdly, That the kindly exercise of repentance in a backsliding people lamenting after the Lord, and setting about to renew their covenant with him, hath an effectual influence to unite and cement the divided people of God: thus in the text the children of Israel and Judah, whom their iniquities had long and sadly divided, are uniting together in this desirable frame of weeping and seeking the Lord their God, and making a perpetual covenant with him. This doctrine he proved and applied briefly as the time would permit, both because of its native result from the text, and because of his own, and our sincere desire to see a holy union and communion, in the way of truth and duty effected by returning to the Lord, and renewing the covenant with him, as among all the godly, so especially among those that profess their dissent from, and dislike of the corrupt courses of the times.
Sermon being ended, after prayer, the covenants were first read according to the Directory for renewing the solemn league and covenant, prescribed by the Act of the General Assembly at Edinburgh, 6th October, 1648, post meridiem, entitled, Act for renewing of the Solemn League and Covenant; and, thereafter, the following Acknowledgment of Sins was also read: after which, prayer was made, containing a comprehensive confession of the more general heads of the foresaid Acknowledgement of Sins; and a part of the 78th Psalm, beginning at the 36th verse, was sung; and the minister dismissed the congregation with a short reprehension and advice, reproving them for their unconcerned carriage and behaviour during the reading of the acknowledgment of the breaches of these covenants, which had been first entered into at the expense of so much blood and treasure, and confirmed and sealed with the blood of many honourable martyrs of all ranks in the land; withal, exhorting all present to labour after a heart-melting frame for the right performance of the work in hand.
Upon Thursday, July 24th, after singing a part of the 105th Psalm, from the 6th to the 12th verse, and prayer—Mr. John M'Millan preached upon Isaiah, xliv. 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 sirname himself by the name of Israel." Whereupon, after the unfolding of the context, and explication of the words, showing that they clearly contain an intimation of a covenant relation betwixt God and a people, and their avouching of the same upon their part; the words seeming to have a reference to the state of the New Testament Church, and conversion of the Gentiles, who, being allured by the great gospel blessings and mercies bestowed by God upon the Jews, to join themselves to the church, should avouch their interest in the Messiah and covenant of grace, by taking the Lord for their God, and owning themselves to be his people. So that the words may be taken up as an answer to such a presupposed question as this, Whose are you? and what is your name? To which question, one shall answer, I am the Lord's; another, I am one of old Jacob's family and offspring; another, if you desiderate my name, look the covenant subscriptions and you will find it there; another shall say, whatever my name was before, my sirname now is an Israelite. So sweetly should a shower of gospel grace engage the hearts of the New Testament converts to avow their covenant relation to the Lord, and glory in their union with his church and covenanted people. Having taking up the sense of the words to this effect, he deduced from them these two observations:
1. That the Lord is graciously pleased sometimes to privilege his people with very remarkable tokens of his gracious presence. This doctrine is clear from the context, verses 3d and 4th—"For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses."
Under this head of doctrine, he gave the following marks to evidence whether the present time of renewing our covenant with God was indeed to us a time of the Lord's privileging us with his gracious presence—1st, That a time of God's privileging his people with his gracious presence, and with a shower of gospel grace, is a very inviting and alluring time; wherein, as the Lord invites his people to their duty, by engaging their hearts and souls, through his Spirit's gracious influences, to fall in love with him and his commandments, so they mutually invite one another to covenant with God. 2d, That such a time proves a soul-engaging and taking time, wherein souls are engaged to fall in love with the covenant, and with Christ the Mediator of the covenant, and are taken in the net of the gospel. 3d, That a time of the letting out of God's gracious presence is ordinarily a time of many sweet and excellent resolutions, the people of God resolving to walk more accurately and circumspectly in the ways of new obedience. 4th, That this usually is a time of ridding marches, and clearing of evidences. 5th, That it is a time of many and special confirmations of God's love to the soul. 6th, That this time of God's letting out much of his gracious presence to his people, is a very uniting and healing time to them amongst themselves. Having given these marks, to show whether the Lord were, at the occasion, letting out his gracious presence, he added, by way of caution, that seeing (no doubt) the people of God would be expecting something of all these, upon the undertaking of so great a work; if so be that they found it not, they should not thence be induced to have hard thoughts of the Lord, and to conclude that he keeps not his usual method with his people, or is not so good to them as formerly he hath been: for whatever defects there are upon his people's part, there is none upon the Lord's, for he remains the same to them, providing they do so to him; the change of his dispensations towards his people being from the change of his people's deportment towards him.
The Second Doctrine, resulting more directly from the words, was, That the Lord's Spirit poured out in plenty upon his people will quickly bring them to an embracing of him, and to a public acknowledgment and avouching of the same. Thus it was with the people of God in the text—no sooner does the Lord "pour water upon the thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground," even his Spirit upon the spiritual seed of Israel, but presently they are at covenanting work and subscribing work; "One shall say, I am the Lord's," etc. In prosecuting this doctrine he shewed first negatively that he was not for that occasion largely to treat of the several ways that the Spirit useth to manage this work of engaging the hearts of his people to embrace Christ, and so to make a public avouchment of the same; whether he doth it by representing to their views the sweet and precious promises made in the covenant of grace, thereby sweetly alluring and drawing them with the cords of love to himself, or by holding forth to their consciences the terrors and threatenings of the law, and thereby powerfully constraining them to fly to him as to the city of refuge from the face of Divine Justice pursuing them: for seeing the Spirit is a free agent and blows both how and where he listeth, he may engage a soul to close with Christ by either of these ways, though most usually he doth it by a conjunction and concurrence of both. Only this ought to satisfy us, that what way soever the Spirit taketh in bringing a soul to embrace Christ upon the gospel terms, he so manageth the work as that the end is effectually and infallibly attained.
Nor Secondly, Was he to enquire into the measure of the outpouring of the Spirit's graces and operations, which is effectual for attaining the end, this being one of the deep things of God which the Spirit alone searcheth, and therefore is not necessary for us further to know, save only that we understand so much to be needful as may serve to empty the creature of all confidence in or dependence upon itself, or any other creature-helps whatsoever, and bring it to rely upon Christ alone, for acceptance with God; so much is necessary, and less cannot be sufficient.
Nor Thirdly, Was he to handle the material differences between those who are brought really and sincerely to accept, embrace and acknowledge the Lord for their Lord, and to avouch the same publicly, which presupposeth a mighty power of the Spirit manifested in the sweet impressions which he maketh upon the soul, moving them sweetly and readily to comply with and yield to Christ without any longer resistance, and these who only in semblance and shew profess to avouch Christ to be their Lord, and feign submission to him, not from the Spirit's effectual and saving operations, but either from carnal and external considerations, or at most from the Spirit's common motions and convictions; which differences commonly arise from the different natures, motives, manner or ends of this their acknowledging and avouching Christ for their Lord, and covenanting with Him.
These things, as not so immediately proper for the work in hand, though natively involved in the doctrine, being only cleared in transition; he came in the second place more positively to insist upon and handle the following heads. First, More generally to propose some considerations which make such a great work as renewing covenant with the Lord a weighty, hard and difficult work. And upon the other hand, to lay down some counterbalancing considerations which render such a work more easy and light, and may afford matter of encouragement toward the undertaking of it. Secondly, More particularly in application to ourselves and the work in hand, to lay before those who were resolved to enter into covenant with the Lord, what were the things that seemed to speak against us in the work, and might prove matter of discouragement in the undertaking of it. And what, upon the other side, might speak for us, and be ground of encouragement to us to go forward in humble and sincere endeavors to renew our covenant with the Lord. Thirdly, To give some advices and directions to such as were resolved upon the work. As for the first: The considerations which make covenanting work weighty and difficult. The first consideration was drawn from the greatness of the party to be covenanted with, the great and glorious Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, who is a holy and jealous God, and who will not forgive the iniquity of such as are false hearted and perfidious in his covenant, obstinately persisting in their false dealing; so Joshua premonisheth a people making very fair resolutions and promises to serve the Lord, that it was a harder work than at the first sight they apprehended; "That they could not serve the Lord, in regard he is an holy God, he is a jealous God, and would not forgive their transgressions nor their sins; and that if they should forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he would turn and do them hurt and consume them, after he had done them good," Josh. xxiv. 19, 20. 'Tis a part of his name, Exod. xxxiv. 7. That he will by no means clear the (obstinately and impenitently) guilty.
A second consideration that makes the work of covenanting with God to appear a hard and difficult work, was taken from the nature of the work itself, which is to serve the Lord in a covenant way, and in the capacity of covenanted children, this covenant relation involving in it a walk and conversation in all things like the chosen of the Lord; and 'tis no small matter, so to walk, and so to behave as to be accounted worthy of a covenanted union with the Lord and interest in him, this covenant relation being confirmed with such awful sanctions, as in scripture we find, Neh. x. 29. "They———entered into a curse and into an oath, to walk in God's law," &c. This consideration, that covenanting work is weighty in its own nature, was further illustrated and amplified from the difficulty both of the things to be engaged against, and of the things to be engaged unto. As for the former, the things to be engaged against, which is sin in all its kinds and degrees, and in all the inducements to it, both with reference to ourselves, and also as to participation in the sins of others. This must first be put away, if one would be a right covenanter. Well did old Jacob understand the necessity of this, who being resolved to go up to Bethel, to renew his covenant with God, that answered him in the day of his strait, advises his family first "to put away the strange gods that were amongst them, and to be clean." Gen. xxxv. 2. So David assures us, Psal. xxxiv. 14, that departing from evil must precede doing of good. A man that would lift up his face without spot in renewing covenant with God, must first "put iniquity far away, and not suffer wickedness to dwell in his tabernacles," as Zophar advises Job, chap. xi. 14, 15. They that would take on with a new master must be fairly parted from the old, there is no way of pleasing both Christ and mammon, and therefore no possibility of serving both; whence the nature of covenanting work requires, that there be an upright putting away of all sin; for if the soul have any secret reserves in favor of a beloved sin, it has no ground to think that Christ will accept it, as his covenanted spouse and bride. Nor is this all, but 2dly, it must be mourned over and truly bewailed, especially upon the account of the offence done to a gracious God thereby; which sorrow must not be of an ordinary sort, but an extraordinary and most intense sorrow, for it cannot be an ordinary kind of sorrow, provided it be in any suitable measure proportioned to the offence. And 3dly, which follows upon the former, there must be a "loathing of the person's self because of these its ways and doings that have not been good in his sight," Ezek. vi. 9, even to that degree as to fill the soul with wonder and astonishment, that ever it should have an occasion of renewing covenant with God again. 4thly, There must be a sincere and hearty resolving against all sins, consequent upon this loathing; the soul saying with a steady purpose, "if I have done iniquity I will do so no more," Job xxxiv. 32.
2dly, As to the latter, the things engaged unto render the nature of covenanting work difficult and weighty, which are duties of various kinds, such as, 1st, Holiness towards God, which is one special and chief part of the covenant, and that not for a time only, but for ever; both in regard that God, the party covenanted with, is holy and unchangeably so, and calls his people to imitate him in this attribute especially; and also in regard that the covenant itself is for its nature holy, all the articles being morally good and consonant to the royal law, the scriptures of truth; and for the extent of its duration, of perpetual force and obligation. This duty of holiness towards God, engaged to in the covenant, comprehends in it a zealous endeavor to maintain the purity of the doctrine, worship, discipline and government of his institution, in opposition to all those who would corrupt it, or decline from it. 2d, Righteousness towards our neighbor, and more especially to our covenanted brother; which righteousness should discover itself both in reference to sin and duty, by reproving him for sin; or upon his rejecting reproof, by withdrawing from him, that he may be ashamed, and so come to be reclaimed from his evil course; and by affording him all that help and assistance to covenanted duties, that may be warrantably called for, and generally by uprightness towards him in all our transactions and dealings of any kind. 3d, Faithfulness towards our nation, which comprehends a constant endeavor to advance and promote in our station the common good thereof; and a stedfast opposition to the courses that tend to take away the privilege of the same. 4th, Uprightness towards ourselves, in everything relating to the real good of our own souls and bodies; by walking in all the duties of soberness, temperance, and moderation; for as others are to have their due, so ourselves are not to be neglected.
A third consideration, whereby the duty of renewing covenant with God appears to be difficult and weighty, was deduced from the manner and way of engaging; whereunto several things of great difficulty to be attained were showed to be absolutely necessary, as, 1st, Judgment, to know, and in some measure comprehend, the nature of the duties to be engaged to, and the advantages flowing from the right entering into, and keeping of the covenant, and the losses redounding to the breakers thereof. 2d, Seriousness, which, if ever it be in exercise, will certainly then be most lively, when the soul is entering upon a work of so high import, as making a covenant with God; for then the creature has one of two things to look for, either covenant blessings, or covenant curses, according as it performs or not performs the tenor of the covenant. 3d, Deliberation; rashness in covenanting is of dangerous consequence: 'tis not the example of others only, nor raw flashes of conviction or love, nor external considerations, as gain, honor, men's approbation, &c., that must induce to this duty; but a fixed permanent purpose of heart and soul, rationally and deliberately entered into. 4th, Heart-integrity, That it be done with all the heart, 2 Chron. xv. 15, for the man brings himself under a curse, that "having a male in his flock, sacrificeth to the Lord a corrupt thing." Mal. i. 14.
A fourth consideration, from whence the work of covenanting comes to be a difficult and hard work, was deduced from the way and manner of performing the duties engaged to; which is (as 'tis expressed in the covenant) with sincerity, reality, and constancy; the difficulty of attaining to these qualifications in the performance of covenant-duties, arising partly from the strength of corruption within, the law of sin and death, which opposes the law of God; and partly from the strength of snares and temptations from without; which requires, that (as becomes covenanted children) there be a daily recourse to Jesus Christ, for light to discover, and strength to overcome these corruptions and temptations; and life, that the soul turn not dead and insensible under them.
A fifth consideration, from whence the difficulty of covenanting with God is sometimes heightened, was taken from the meanness of such as attempt the work. When the great ones, the nobles that are called the shields of the earth, do not afford their authority and patrociny, as an encouragement to the undertaking; and when the wise and learned will not employ their learning, parts, and abilities for the facilitating thereof; but the mean and weakest are left to do the work alone. This was no small difficulty and discouragement to the Tekoites, in their building and repairing the wall of Jerusalem, "That their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord." Neh. iii. 5.
A sixth consideration, which may sometimes render such a work hard and difficult, was drawn from the want of the concurrence of civil authority; and the opposition made thereunto by the laws of the land; which, when it happens to be the case of a people designing to renew national engagements cannot but be a very difficult and discouraging ingredient amongst others in their cup.
On the other hand, these counterbalancing considerations were adduced, which are as so many props and pillars to support his people, and to allay the difficulties of the duty of entering into covenant with God, and to make it the more light and easy. 1st, That the work is the Lord's, and he is greatly concerned in it; and, therefore, his people may safely lean to him for help, he having enacted no law against it, as men have. 2d, That he looks not upon his people in such undertakings, as in themselves, for then it were impossible for creatures, having the least sinful imperfection in them, to covenant with their spotless Creator, and come so near a jealous God, who is a consuming fire to the workers of iniquity; but he considers his people in their covenanting with him, as in their head, Christ, his eternal Son; whence we may safely say, That our national covenant wants not a Mediator more than the covenant of grace, in this sense, as it is through him we have access to make this covenant with God. 3d, That the Lord has promised his presence to his own work; thus we find through the whole of the covenants made, and renewed by the people of Israel and Judah, that the Lord discovered his gracious presence with them, by some remarkable effect of his goodness. Thus it is remarked of Hezekiah, that after he had entered into covenant, "That the Lord was with him, and he prospered whithersoever he went forth," 2 Kings xviii. 7, compared with 2 Chron. xxix. 10. 4th, That the Lord puts none of his people to any piece of his work upon their own proper expense and charges, but upon his own; and whatever complaints his people may have of want of necessary charges, he both has wherewith to supply them, and has undertaken to make it actually forthcoming for them, having commanded his people to open their mouths wide, and he has promised to fill them. 5th, That the covenant has a greater entail of blessings, than what will sufficiently compensate whatever expense and pains a people may be at, in undertaking and performing it. In regard, that though a Christian should lose all, yea, even life itself, upon the account of it, yet the covenant will bring in all with advantage to a hundred fold, and glory to the overplus, when it is duly observed. 6th, That the undertakers have God's call and commandment to set about it; this is that which, above all other considerations, inspires a Christian with undaunted courage and alacrity in the undertaking of a duty, when it is made clear that the person has God's call and command for a warrant; otherwise the want of this may make the duty to be heartlessly and doubtingly entered upon, and lamely performed.
Seeing, therefore, that sometimes a work may be the Lord's, and yet the Lord's call to such a particular person, or people to undertake it, may be wanting; he came necessarily (which was the second head proposed) to enquire, what were the several things that might seem to speak against us, as not having this call from the Lord, and what were the things that spake for us, and might give us matter of encouragement in undertaking the work before us.—In solution of which the following considerations were proposed.
1st, As to the things that might seem to speak against us: 1st, Our darkness, not whether covenanting be a duty, but in regard of the want of right apprehensions of the nature and greatness of the duty, which cannot be a sufficient ground to neglect the duty, unless there were some duties from which a Christian is exeemed and that this is one of them, which indeed will not be found in the whole Bible. 2d, Our want of a frame suitable for the greatness and weightiness of the work, which speaks sadly against us, but is not to be a ground to neglect the duty, we being commanded to look to the God of the covenant for it.
Upon the other hand, the things which seemed to speak for us, and yield matter of encouragement, that not only the work was the Lord's, but also that we had his call to the same, were, 1st, The many, palpable, plain, and open breaches of these covenants, are a loud call to renew them. 2d, The undervaluing account that the nations have made of them, is a call to all such as have any respect to the sacred name of the Lord invocated in these covenants, to do their utmost to vindicate them from that disgrace, by showing how high a price and value they put upon them. 3d, The lands enacting the perpetual banishment of these covenants, and imposing oaths contrary and opposite to them; which brings double perjury upon the nation, both by disregarding and omitting the performance of this just, lawful, and commendable covenant, and by making unjust, sinful and hateful covenants, for opposing the growth and success of Christ's kingdom, even the reformation of these many abuses that have corrupted the holy religion of his institution: And perjury drawing wrath after it, as a native and necessary fruit consequent; they that would stand in the gap, to turn away national wrath, cannot otherwise make up the hedge, that the land should not be destroyed, but by renewing and keeping national covenants. 4th, That so many are speaking against them everywhere, accounting them a conspiracy against royal authority, a popular combination for advancing private ends and interests under the cloak of religion, or at least unnecessary and unprofitable for the end intended by them, binding to things of such a heterogeneous nature, as renders the keeping of them, and keeping within the sphere of our own activity and station, inconsistent and impossible, and such things as whereof we now have no occasion, and the like; which is a loud call to us, or any that retain other thoughts of their nature and ends, than the generality do, to speak for them; which cannot be done more fitly, honorably, nor conspicuously any other way, than by renewing and observing them. 5th, The practice of the godly in such a juncture of time, as what ours appears to be, is a call and encouraging consideration to set us upon this work: the godly usually in times of great defection from the purity and power of religion, and corruption of the ordinances of God's worship, set about renewing their covenant, thereby to prevent covenant curses, and procure covenant blessings; as we find both in scripture record, 2 Chron. xv. 12, 13; xxix. 10; xxxiv. 30, 31; Ezra x. 3, and in our own ecclesiastic history. And the practice was justified by the success, for the most part terminating in some reviving and reformation. 6th, The time being come to such a crisis, that such as would keep the word of Christ's patience cannot any longer do it in a distinguishing way from those that are covenant-breakers, but by renewing covenant, and thereby making a test and trial of the well-wishers to the covenanted interest in the land, is a call to set about this work: in former times the godly held fast this their profession, by suffering for their adherence to covenanted duties, resisting unto blood, striving against the sin of covenant-breaking; whereas now our call seems to be more clear to do it, by renewing those covenant-obligations. 7th, The covenants themselves have, as it were, a loud voice to call us, and all who own their obligation, to set about renewing of them; they call by the justness and intrinsic goodness of the matter, which is of binding force by virtue of the law of God, prior to any covenant-tie, and by the holiness and excellency of the end, to wit, the reformation and preservation of religion. Yea, the covenant seems to say to us, and to every true hearted son of the church of Scotland, as Job said in another case, "Have pity upon me, O my friends," &c. So says the covenant: Have pity upon me, all ye that have any respect for me, for church and state have forsaken me.
The third thing proposed was to give some advices and directions for right managing the duty intended. The scope and substance whereof briefly follows:
1st, Such as would make a covenant with God aright, so as the same may never be broken nor yet forgotten, must labor to know if they be in good terms with the God of the covenant, and with the Mediator of the covenant; if they sincerely closed with the terms, and acquiesced to the proposals of the covenant of grace; this personal and particular acceptance of Christ in the new covenant being the only fountain of acceptable entering into national covenants. Hence it concerns all that would be right Covenanters, to search and see how it may be betwixt God and them, because 'tis but a profanation of the covenant to have the hand and tongue at it, and the heart from it: a well informed head without a reformed heart is not sufficient: a good opinion and liking of the covenant without a heart and affection to the covenant avails nothing in God's sight.
2d, Such as would rightly renew covenant with God, must be well resolved concerning the motives leading them to covenant; which motives must neither arise wholly from without, nor yet wholly from within, for if these motives arise wholly from without, it discovers a great deal of treachery in the persons covenanting, as not beginning at the heart, not duly considering the inward case of the soul, but being moved from some external considerations, as a name amongst men, or affectation of zeal for public concerns, or such like; if they arise wholly from within it betrays much weakness and lowness of spirit, as not being able at the same time both to have a concern about the inward frame of the heart, and eternal state and condition of the soul, and likewise a zeal for the public good of the nation, and thriving of the work of God and kingdom of Christ. Both which interests ought to be in their due proportion before the eyes of a sound and real Covenanter; a right engager in covenant must be moved thereto, both from a due sense of the strength and power of corruption within, and also from the consideration of the lowness of God's work through defection without.
3d, A right covenanter must be well resolved concerning the terms of the covenant; that it excludes all coming and going, according to the revolutions of the times, and the ebbing and flowing of worldly interests: One that has given up his name to the Lord in covenant, and called himself by the name of Israel, must not, like the Samaritans, be an Israelite only in the time of Israel's prosperity, but he must be one in adversity too: The things engaged to in the covenant being of an everlasting and permanent duration, in their nature, must be lasting also in their observation.
4th, A right renewer of covenant must be well resolved anent the cost and expense of steadfast keeping of covenant. This should be first counted and deliberately resolved upon before engaging, lest after persons have engaged they want sufficiency to finish and fulfil the undertaking; and the Wise man assures us, it is better not to vow, than to vow and not pay. The covenant may come to require the cost both of doing and suffering to finish it: there must, therefore, be a resolving upon both, before engaging.
5th, A right covenanter must be well resolved concerning the separating nature, and the uniting tie and bond of the covenant, for as it distinguished between friends and foes, so it unites covenanters amongst themselves in duties, interests, and concerns. So that they become one society, having an identity of common duties and privileges, common crosses and rejoicings; and must rejoice together and weep together.
He closed the Sermon with a two-fold advice or exhortation, to two sorts of persons.
1st, To those who had some good opinion of, and some love for the covenant, but yet were not resolved to join in covenant with us, because of many entanglements in a world; some estate, farm, or place of employment would be forfeited thereby; and hence, though the covenant be, in their opinion, a lawful and commendable engagement, yet not for them; they are in a course inconsistent with it, and could not be otherwise without foregoing some worldly accommodation. Those he advised to consider the matter duly; not to engage without a resolution to forsake all interests that might interfere with covenanted duties; for to engage in the covenant, and yet to walk in a course opposite to it, would be exceedingly sinful; but to labour rather after old Jacob's spirit and disposition, who looked to and trusted in the God of the covenant when he had nothing else to look to—no outward encouragement, Gen. xxxii. 10—He had but his staff in his hand when he passed over Jordan, and the Lord made him to return with two bands. For, if a person could attain Jacob's spirit, name and sirname would be lovely in their eyes, covenant and covenanting.
2dly, To those who had put their hands to many sinful covenants in opposition to this covenant, and such as being in a natural and unrenewed state, in league with sin and Satan, and in covenant with hell and death. Those he advised and earnestly obtested to break all their sinful covenants, to loathe and abhor them, and be humbled for them: and to come and fall in with this covenant, to say in sincerity that whereas other lords have had too long dominion over them, henceforth they would make mention only of the name of the Lord as their Lord; and that their name should henceforth be Jacob, and their sirname Israel, and to sign and seal the same with their oath and subscription. This exhortation he enforced by the several calls to the work mentioned before, and by the two following motives: 1st, Because right entering into, and steadfast keeping of this covenant is the way to a holy life, and a holy life tends to make a holy nation; for, if we would observe this covenant sincerely, uniformly, and constantly, we could never be an unholy, and consequently, never an unhappy people; but it should be written as a motto upon our walls and gates, JEHOVAH SHAMMAI, the Lord is there. 2d, Because the entering rightly into and due observance of this covenant would be our strength in the midst of all perplexing thoughts, whether arising from inward corruptions, or from outward temptations or dangers; the covenant yielded more satisfaction to David when dying than a royal diadem, a melodious harp, a puissant army, strong cities, a numerous offspring, or any earthly comforts could do, when, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5, he supports himself with this, That "though his house was not so with God," yet He had made with him "an everlasting covenant, well-ordered in all things, and sure." The keeping of this covenant had been to our nation a Samson's lock, whereby we should have been able to oppose all our enemies; whereas the breach of it hath opened a door to all sorts of enemies to creep in amongst us, and hence is verified that which the Lord has threatened his people with for their breach of covenant, Deut. xxviii. 44, that the enemy shall be the head, and his people the tail.
Sermon being closed by prayer, the Acknowledgment of Sins was again read, as preparative to the engaging part; and the minister, in the first place, admonished all such as were guilty of such public steps of defection as are confessed in the Acknowledgment, to make full and free confession thereof before the congregation, with such a due sense of, and sorrow for these public sins, as might evidence a hearty design of abandoning them and of adhering more closely to covenanted duties, which accordingly many did, both with respect to the perjurious oaths of the late times and defections of the present.
Because many have made a handle of this, above any other part of the action, to reproach and render the whole of the work contemptible, calling it Jesuitic superstition, enthusiasm, advancing our own confessions into the room of Christ's satisfaction, and expecting pardon upon the score of superficial public acknowledgments:—therefore, to vindicate this part of the work from such groundless calumny, we desire it may be adverted. 1st, That this is a commanded duty, that such as have violated the law and commandments of God, and being guilty of false and unfaithful dealing in his covenant, should unfeignedly confess their iniquity, which, if they do, God is faithful and just to forgive. 2d, That according to the nature of the offence, as the same has been acted secretly or publickly, and is of a secret or public nature and concern, so it ought to be confessed. If the offence be in its nature and way of perpetration a secret sin, known only to God and the person's own conscience, secret repentance sufficeth: nor can the church require any thing else, in regard such sins come not within the sphere of her cognizance;—but if the sin be public and national, or only personal, but publickly acted, so as the same has been stumbling, scandalous, and offensive to others; then it is requisite, for the glory of God and good of offended brethren, that the acknowledgment be equally public as the offence. These are first principles that will not need to be proved, but may be taken for granted. But, 3dly, To make it appear that it is consonant to the practice of the godly to make public confession of national backsliding, we will advance two or three Scripture instances. Joshua, chap. vii. 19, compared with verse 11, commands Achan, who had broken God's covenant which he commanded Israel, and so brought upon the whole nation the Lord's anger, that he would give glory to God, by making confession to him. Whence it appears, that such sins as are national in their consequences, and bring national judgments upon a people, ought to be publickly confessed for turning away these judgments, and vindicating the honour of the Supreme Lawgiver, Ezra x. 1,2—"Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping, and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men, women, and children: for the people wept very sore." Verse 2d, And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land. Verse 3d, Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God, to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them. Verse 10, And Ezra the priest stood up and said unto them, Ye have transgressed and taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Verse 11, Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure. Verse 12, Then all the congregation answered, and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do." Neh. ix. 1—"Now, in the twenty and fourth day of this month, the children of Israel were assembled with fasting and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. Verse 2d, And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. Verse 3d, And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God, one fourth part of the day, and another fourth part they confessed and worshipped the Lord their God." Acts xix. 18—"And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds."
These Scripture examples, as we conceive, do sufficiently evince, that such public confession, for the substance of it, is not only expedient, but also necessary for such as would renew their covenant with God. As for some circumstances of the manner thereof, neither are we to vindicate them, nor can they justly be charged upon the whole of those who made those confessions; far less upon the minister, who, though he exhorted such as were guilty of scandalous defection, to glorify God by a public confession, yet obliged none thereunto authoritatively: and such as confessed the sin of their thoughts, or any other sins not scandalous or offensive to others; he exhorted to be serious in mourning over these things secretly before the Lord; but withal told them that these things are not the subject matter of such a public acknowledgment. Such as were unconcerned in their confessions, and seemed rather to do it from the examples of others, than from a real and deep sense of their guiltiness before God (as it must not be dissembled, there were too many,) he exhorted to attain a sense of the things confessed, and posed their consciences, whether they were convinced of what they pretended to confess. If any was so ignorant and weak in their apprehensions of the nature of right repentance and justification, as to put their acknowledgment of sin in the room of Christ's satisfaction, and to rely thereupon for peace and acceptance with God, as it is alleged they did, it must be owned that they wofully erred in a matter of the highest consequence: but to affix this either upon all in general, or upon any particular person by name, is against the law of charity, and a judging of the heart, which is not obvious to man, but only to God, and so an usurping of God's prerogative; wherefore it appears, that the objecting of these and other such like things against this duty, is the effect of an impotent malice, and passion against the whole design of the work, which is too shrewd an evidence of a malignant spirit.
Whereas, some have taken occasion to pass injurious reflections upon the minister, because he made confession and acknowledgment of his own personal miscarriage; as though he did it with design to please the people, and to excite them to make confession of the things whereof they had no due sense, and that he should have proposed himself, as an example to the people; therefore, to discover the falsehood of such reports, we must declare plain matter of fact upon this head. The minister did indeed acknowledge his own iniquities in general, with others, and also particularly at the entry of the work; but without any design to please party or person; but only for the glory of God as himself declared, which if any shall say was but hypocritical self-seeking, we must remit them to the apostle's interrogation, to prepare an answer, Who art thou, O man, that judgest? Neither did he say that he did it to be an example to others, though, even in that case, he had not been to be blamed, seeing the best of God's saints, in public employment in church and state, have done the like in public assemblies, as Josiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, in sacred record, and in our church history, the Rev. John Davidson, who, at the renewing of the covenant, March 30th, 1596, not only exhorted the brethren of the ministry to a serious confession of their sins, but did also make confession of his own, and excited the rest by his example, as is related by Mr. Calderwood in his history of the church of Scotland, page 317. Wherefore, seeing he has the command of God, and the most eminent of his saints for his warrant and precedent, he may be perfectly unconcerned, what are the constructions that such persons as are indifferent either about national sins or judgments do put upon this action,
The Acknowledgment of Sins being read, the minister prayed, confessing therein the sins which had been publicly confessed in the said Acknowledgment, and begging assistance to know and do the duties engaged unto, then the Engagement to Duties was likewise read in the audience of the congregation; where he showed that the design of these engagements was to accommodate the covenants to our case and circumstances. And advised the mixed multitude to beware of entering into the covenant, unless they were duly resolved concerning the performing of the same, according as our fathers understood it, as the same was explained and applied to the present condition of things in these engagements. After which the minister having prayed for the gracious presence and assistance of the divine Spirit, to enable us both to engage and perform; commanding those who were to renew their covenant to stand upright, and hold up their right hands, he proceeded to the administration of the oath, causing the people to elevate their hands at the end of each article. The covenants being renewed, the minister addressed himself to those that had entered into covenant to this purpose. Now, you who have renewed your covenant with God must not imagine that you may sit down upon your performance and rest yourselves as though your work was perfected and finished; nay, but you must consider with yourselves that now it is but beginning; your race is before you, the greatest, part of the work is before your hand: covenanting is relative to performing; you must, therefore, meditate upon, and ponder your engagements more now than before; for now you have put a new bond upon your souls, to walk with God in all the ways of new obedience. In order therefore to your performing, as you have undertaken, I would put you in mind of several particulars, which you must have much and frequently upon your hearts, and before your eyes.