« AnteriorContinuar »
heirs of glory, as an indispensable prerequisite to heavenly felicity.
The Abrahamie covenant, too, demands sanctification. Its grand term is "Walk before me, and be thou perfect."* This command evidently implies reconciliation with God, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. "For how can two walk together, except they be agreed?" It implies the sincere exercise of repentance for sin, together with a life of holy and persevering obedience to the divine law. In one word, it requires that the subject should be a 66 new creature, created in Christ Jesus unto good works;" having the understanding enlightened, the heart sanctified, and the practice regulated by the grace of God.
This is what the covenant made with Abraham demands, as necessary to a real interest in its benefits; and all who are possessed of these high and holy qualifications shall experience a happy fulfil→ ment of all its promises in their largest extent. God will be their God forever and ever; their guide. unto death; and their portion beyond the grave.
But while real holiness is necessary to secure an interest in the benefits of this covenant; visible holiness is all that can be demanded to give a title to the privileges of this covenant, so far as the administration of them is committed to men. Men cannot search the heart, and God never designed that the officers of his church should sit in judgment on the state of the heart. Acquaintance with the doctrines † Amos iii. 3.
* Ver. 1.
of revelation-a rational account of Christian exp erience-together with a correct and exemplary deportment is all they have a right to demand. All such we are bound to receive; and so long as their conduct comports with their profession, we are bound to esteem them as true Christians, although, by the final decision of Him who will judge righteous judgment, they may be rejected as hypocrites and reprobates. But more of this hereafter. It answers our purpose, at present, to show that the openly wicked and profane can have no real interest in this covenant, and ought not to be suffered to enjoy any of its privileges; and that such as have had the seal of this covenant applied to them in infancy, if they refuse, as they grow up, to walk before God in holy obedience, are to be viewed as having violated the terms of the covenant, and are therefore, by discipline, to be excluded from those privileges to which they would otherwise have remained entitled. "To the wicked, God saith, what hast thou to do, that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?" The term of the covenant is "Walk, before me, and be thou perfect." This evidently makes it the duty of the church to demand visibleholiness in adults, to a formal admission into the covenant. And as it is but reasonable, that the same exhibition of holiness should be made when the parent, in relation to the same rite, proposes to act for his child, that should be made when he acts for himself; it must further be the duty of the * Ps. 1. 16.
church to require visible holiness in' parents, who present their children for the purpose of having them authoritatively sealed as members of the co
3. A third fact asserted, in the account given by Moses of the Abrahamic covenant, is this-In that covenant arrangements were contained for the organization and preservation of the visible church.
In the statement, and elucidation of this fact, it is not designed to insinuate that there were no believers, nor ordinances of religious worship, before the time of Abraham. These certainly did exist. Abel, Enoch, Noah, and many others, who lived, and walked with God, before Abraham was born, will remain distinguished examples of piety to all succeeding believers. Sacrificial rites too, as ordinances of social worship, instituted and owned by God himself, were then solemnly observed. Moreover, there were sons of God," distinct from the daughters of men. Also, men then called upon the name of the Lord;"† and Noah officiated in his day, as a "preacher of righteousness."‡
All this is readily admitted; and not a few, whose judgment we are bound to respect, consider this sufficient evidence, that a visible church has existed since the days of Adam; and that the Abrahamic covenant only improved its organization.-To this sentiment we should cheerfully subscribe, were we able to discover, anterior to the time of Abraham, any arrangement, to characterize the body of proGen. iv. 26.
* Gen. vi. 2.
12 Pet. ii. 5..
fessors of the true religion (some of whom might be hypocrites,) as the church of God. For, in speaking of the visible church, we have reference not to the election of grace, known only to God, but to the body of professors. True, the organization of such a body is designed for the salvation of the elect only. The visible church is the repository of revealed truth, and the nursery for heaven. God there gathers to himself his chosen people. But it is equally true, that the visible church exists as distinguished from the chosen and believing people of God; and as we conceive, her existence commenced with the Abrahamic covenant. Then the visible church, as a distinct society, having its appropriate badge of membership, its laws of government, and its modes of worship-all, important, if not essential, to an ecclesiastical organization-made her appearance. Then an arrangement took place, under which thousands have been, and still are characterized as belonging to God's church, who never have tasted, and never will taste the power and the consolations of his grace. This is God's arrangement for the salvation of his people; and who shall ask him, "What doest thou? or why doest thou thus ?"
By this covenant, Abraham, and his family, were constituted xxλndia sou, the church of Jehovah ; while circumcision was appointed as the token of their membership.
"And God said unto Abraham, thou shalt keep my covenant, therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee, in their generations. This is my covenant
which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee: Every man-child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.'
Here we have the account of the visible organiza-tion of the church of God; embracing as its members the family of Abraham, whether male or female, whether adults or infants. But a question arises,. How was the succession of church members to be kept up? I cannot be supposed, that God organized a church on earth, and then left her to die with her first members. We naturally look for some arrangement or provision for filling up the places of those, who were removed by death; and for perpetuating, and even enlarging his church on earth. This expectation is not disappointed.-In examining the covenant we find, that Abraham, by this interesting transaction, was constituted the father of all who believe in every age of the church; and that, by accessions from among adults, as well as by the birth of children within her pale, the church was to be perpetuated and enlarged. All such, at whatever period of the church they make their appearance, as her members, bear a special relation to Abraham, as the father of the faithful. This is evidently the import of the expression, “ A father of many nations have I made thee." Which cannot be understood of his natural seed; for numerous as was the posterity of Abraham, it never was true that † Ver. 5.
* Vers. 9, 10, 11.