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promise to discharge specific demands of God's law; And every vow should be made, and every oath sworn, in order to perform some service required.
Seventhly. This act is a solemn federal transaction among the members of the Covenanting community. The fact of the public social character of the act shows that the engagements of a Covenant with God, have a reference to the relations to one another of those who Covenant. The reception of good from the hand of God, through the means of Covenanting, necessarily supposes that that good, at least in part, will come to each in some manner by those associated in the exercise. The promise of obedience to God by vow or oath, includes a promise of certain services to each member of the confederation. When a vow or an oath to God, to accept of good from one another, or to perform mutual services among themselves is made, a corresponding engagement to each other is thereby made among them. The two engagements are distinct in themselves; but the latter flows from, or is constituted by, the former; nay, in so far as the former has a regard to mutual relations among the parties themselves, it was made that the latter might obtain. The vow or oath to God is not an engagement to men; but what is by vow or oath promised to God to be performed to men, constitutes the reality or substance of an engagement thereby made to them. Covenanting with God is the laudable means employed to bring parties together, to promise in the most solemn manner to accept of specified good from each other, and to render certain services in correspondence therewith to each.
It is by engaging to God, that they engage to one another. And therefore conversely, it may be added, that their own engagement to one another, as well as their engagement to God, by which that engagement was made, is, according to the general
definition of Covenanting that has been given, a taking hold upon the Covenant of Grace.
The engagement to God is always substantial, whether by vow or oath, or by both; as is the engagement among the Covenanting parties. But one or other of the engagements may be either expressed or understood. The recognition of their engagement to one another may be implied, but not expressed, whilst the Covenant of the Lord to whom they vow or swear to give obedience, is explicitly adhered to. This was the case with the people of Israel when they engaged in the act, along with Josiah their king." And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book. And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it.
And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.”103 Again, these mutual engagements, in some cases, may be expressed, while the Covenant of God is implicitly renewed. Zedekiah, and the people of Israel, at once, in express terms, entered into an engagement to set free their servants who were of their brethren, and before the Lord thus in covenant with him implicitly engaged to a duty which, on the occasion of the Covenanting at Sinai had been enjoined. 104 In other cases, both the engagement to God, and the engagement of those who Covenant to one another, may be explicit. “Jehoiada made a Covenant between the Lord and the king and the people, that they should be the Lord's people; between the king also and the people.”105
Eighthly. This act is a public acceptance of the 103 2 Chron. xxxiv, 31, 32. 104 Jer. xxxiv, 8-18; see also Exod. xxi. 2. 2 Kings xi. 17.
truth of God, and a renunciation of error. It is a public confession to God of a heartfelt approbation of his holy oracles, and of the doctrines and precepts revealed in them—a testimony to the perfection of his word and ordinances, and an abandonment of all that is inconsistent with them. It is the act of a witnessing body, appointed to bear testimony in that exercise for him. In reference to their Covenant engagements, the Lord says to his people, “ Ye are even my witnesses."106 In this act, they confess him before men. In vowing, or swearing to give obedience to his law, is implied an approbation of his holy oracles; and that approval in the act is also declared. They who keep his Covenant, keep his testimonies; and they who cleave to the one, adhere to the other. “ I have chosen the way of truth; thy judgments have I laid before me.
Thy testimonies have I taken for an heritage for ever : for they are the rejoicing, of my heart."108 They who take the Covenant of God into their mouth, declare his statutes ;109 and if worthy, their resolution in sincerity is thus expressed, " I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.”110
Lastly. This act is performed in the name of those who engage in it, and in the name of posterity. The Lord made a Covenant at once with Noah, and with his descendants. The Lord made a Covenant with Abraham as the father of many nations. In the land of Moab, the Israelites and their seed after them, at once entered into such a relation, “ 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.”
And when the former did so, they 106 Isa. xliv. 8. 107 Ps. cxix. 30.
108 Ps cxix. 10. 109 Ps. 1. 16. 110 Ps. cxix. 15, 16. all Deut. xxix. 14, 15.
were encouraged to choose life, that they and their seed might live. 112 The Covenant of the priesthood made with Phinehas, was not entered into merely with himself, but also with his posterity who should exist to far distant times; and at Sinai, when Israel engaged to be for the Lord, in the second commandment they had addressed to them a reason of obedience, implying that their engagement was not merely on their own, but also on their children's behalf. “ I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
PERMANENT MEANS OF COVENANT RATIFICATION.
It has been shown that whenever a vow is made, or an oath is sworn, a covenant with God is made. It now remains to be proved that every covenant with God is ratified by oath.
Though the oath is frequently exhibited without explicit reference to the Covenant, and the Covenant in like manner is spoken of without mention being made of the oath, yet since in no passage either explicitly or implicitly is evidence afforded that the one is ever dissociated from the other, and, since the two occur so frequently together, it may be warrantably concluded, that when the one alone is adverted to, the other is implied.
In many passages are the ideas of oath and covenant so associated together, that the strongest presumption is afforded that the one is essential to the other; and, accordingly, that when a covenant with God is made, it is in the use of the oath. What on this point could be more conclusive than the language, -" Thus saith the Lord God, I 112 Deut. xxx. 19.
113 Exod. xx. 5, 6.
will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant?”]14
A verb (vav), signifying to swear, and two corresponding nouns are derived from a word for the number seven.
That was a sacred number, number of perfection, not merely among the Israelites, but among other nations, and was used for the purpose of signifying an oath. A present of seven vouchers sometimes accompanied the act of swearing. “ Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave. them unto Abimelech : and both of them made a covenant. And Abraham set seven ewe-lambs of the flock by themselves.- And he said, For these seven ewe-lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me that I have digged this well. Wherefore he called that place Beer-sheba ; because there they sware both of them.”115 The design of thus using the number being to give confirmation, such also must have been the end of using the oath. It is not improbable that the number seven may have been employed because that in seven days, according to the pattern set in the period of creation, and consequent sabbath, there are included the six days appointed for labour and the sabbath of rest. But, however that may be, we have the testimony of an inspired writer, that what was suggested in symbol by the number is the design of the oath. “An oath for confirmation is—an end of all strife.'
Finally, a covenant with God, whether made in secret or in public, from its very nature cannot be entered into without an oath. Sometimes the vow and oath were used together. David “sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob.” Mutual promises among men, though they confer obligation, do not always stand connected with a covenant with God, for they are made sometimes without a vow or an oath. But 114 Ezek. xvi. 59. 115 Gen. xxi, 27, 28, 30, 31. See Gesen. Lex.