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"16 But his charge, or his law and covenant, as a trust, he explicitly gives his people commandment to keep. 66 Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway."17 “But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.”18 In such injunctions, it is implied that two things, or the same thing under two aspects, should be kept. The statutes of God are at once the commands of his law and the dictates of his covenant. These are kept as his law, when obeyed, because of his authority as righteous moral Governor of all. They are kept as the requirements of his covenant when recognised as not merely issued according to his sovereign will, but as having received the acquiescence of the heart, and been acceded to by solemn oath and vow.
That the acceptance of them in Covenanting brings under obligation is therefore most manifest. They are permanently the Lord's charge. His law remains so, whether or not it be obeyed by men. It remains so when presented, and acceded to in its covenant form. But when it is accepted in vowing to God, it is so conveyed over to the believer, that at once he is called to keep it sacred to the Lord's service, and to stand chargeable in his sight for the use he makes of the precious trust. If he fail to draw upon the blessings promised therein, he is liable to rebuke ; if he obey not the duties enjoined in it, he is exposed to chastisement. Both evils he is commanded and encouraged to avoid. That he may not dishonour the God of his salvation, by making little progress in the use of precious means of spiritual improvement, and that he may not be found unfaithful, he endeavours to manifest the deep-felt sense cherished 16 Ps. cxxxii, 12, 17 Deut. xi. I. 18 Rev. ii. 25, 26.
by him of the reality of his obligation acknowledged, when he says, “ Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever : for they are the rejoicing of my heart.” 19
Thirdly, The Lord commands that the vow be paid. A lawful promise to men binds to performance; and why not a vow to God ? If the vow made, whether in the use of the oath implicitly or explicitly, be not paid, the truth will not have been spoken; and accordingly, not merely the ninth, but the third precept of the moral law will have been transgressed. The command enjoining that truth be spoken, and that forbidding that God's name be taken in vain, both inculcate, therefore, the fulfilment of the vow. But various explicit statutes enjoin the same. Such are these—“ Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God.”20 “ When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath mio pleasure in fools : pay that which thou hast vowed.”21
66 When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee.” 22 From such dictates there can be no appeal. Even were we altogether ignorant of the reason why they were uttered, we should, because of the authority of God, willingly acquiesce in them. But the ground of them he has been pleased to make known. Were it not in order that the service promised in vowing might be performed, the vow had not been enjoined. Without the paying of the vow, the vowing of the vow were unnecessary, nay, sinful. A disruption of ends from means, grosser than the separation of the fulfilment of the vow from the making of it, could not be perpetrated. The vow is nothing ; yea, worse than nothing ; injurious to those who make it, and dishonouring to God, if it be not performed. 19 Ps. cxix. 111. 20 Ps. lxxvi. Jl.
21 Eccl. v. 4. 22 Deut. xxiii. 2).
Nor, because under the law, a commutation for some vows was accepted, are we to conceive that the passages in which the payment of the vow is commanded are not to be interpreted according to the utmost force of their obvious import. It is true that some things vowed might have been withheld, but not without the offering of a definite sum of money. These might have been redeemed by the payment of a price exceeding by one-fifth part of it, their value estimated by the priest, or when the parties were poor, by the giving of the amount at which the priest might value them.23 By whichever of the two methods that might be adopted, the vow was virtually paid. The payment actually of the vow, or that of the compensation, was commanded; and either the one or the other behoved to be made. Nor when either of them was resorted to, seeing that any one of them was warranted, was the vow left unpaid. This variety of manner in the payment of vows, was suited to the circumstances of the Church under the Levitical institutes. By using any one of the methods, the vow was substantially fulfilled, not merely according to the will of man, but agreeably to the express appointment of God. As, had there been only one way then of fulfilling the obligation of the vow, it had been incumbent to proceed by that alone; so, under the present dispensation, the single method of implementing Covenant engagements that has been inculcated, because that no other is of Divine appointment, must be adopted. Even as under the law there were some things which, having been devoted to God under a curse, could not, because of the manner of their dedication, be redeemed, 24 so under the gospel, what is vowed to the Lord cannot without sacrilege be kept back. Fourthly. The Lord threatens those who keep not his Covenant. Temporal and spiritual deprivations enter into his denunciations on such.25 “ Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant, which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God.” Nay, even eternal ruin awaits the impenitent violator of Covenant engagements. “ Covenant-breakers, ......who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”26 Were not the acceptance of the law of God in its covenant form to entail obligation, the breach of it would not be denounced as a breach of covenant; nor would his wrath descend on men as unsteadfast in his covenant, or as having broken it, but as having violated his holy law. Substantially then, by their own act, must they be brought under solemn obligation to God, who, having vowed to him, by failing to perform their promise, would become exposed to the stroke of his just vengeance. Where there is guilt there is sin, and where there is sin there was obligation, and where there is punishment, there were all.
23 Lev. xxvii. 1-25. 24 Lev. xxvii. 28, 29.
Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” The people of God acknowledge themselves as bound by their oaths and vows. What was uttered by Jephthah regarding a vow which was unlawful, must have been employed by the fearers of God in reference to vows of which He approved," I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back." The Psalmist said, “ So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my
25 Jer. xi. 3, 4; see also v. 10_12; Deut. xxix. 18-21 ; Jer. xxxiv. 18-20; Ezek. xvii. 18, 19.
26 Rom. i. 31, 32.
“ I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.” 28 “ I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.” 29 The language was dictated by the Spirit
of inspiration. It was therefore lawful to use it
. It ought to be used by all. The principle that vows and oaths require that they be fulfilled, is implied in it. That was therefore held by the saints in former times. Because of the words of God from which they drew it, it ought to be universally maintained.
Social CovenanTING entails obligation on the Covenanting society, even throughout its continued existence, till the end of the Covenant be attained.
First. Because such covenants are made, not merely in the name of the individuals who enter into them, but also in the name of posterity. On recorded occasions of warranted Covenanting, such was the manner of entering into the engagements made. In addition to what has been said before in proof of this, merely the language employed at one of these seasons will here be quoted. “ Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath ; but with him that standeth here with us this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day." However, it may be necessary to add the explanation, that, by those who are represented as not present, we are to understand the descendants of the congregation of Israel ; inasmuch as in reference to the duties then performed by the assembled people, it was said, “ Therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live." Hence, whatever, in consequence of entering into such federal engagements, is incumbent on those who make them, is binding on
27 Ps. Ixi. 8. 28 Ps. cxvi. 14. 29 Ps. cxix. 106.