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of men, and to make with them 6
an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure;” (2 Sam. xxiii. 5;) in which grace should be displayed triumphant over all the enmity and depravity of man's heart,--that so the purposes of mercy should stand, in spite of earth and hell. This is the Covenant spoken of in the passage before us, and which we must now proceed to consider.
A new Covenant necessary in order to the full display of God's
glory and goodness. Its suitableness to the condition of fallen man.-The promise, 1. of a change of heart, which is supernatural, indispensable, and productive of spiritual obedience.-2. Of divine teaching.–3. Of the free and full forgiveness of all sin.—4. Of restoration to Canaan.-The office of the Holy Spirit.—The superior excellence of this new Covenant.
Had the first Covenant been altogether perfect, it is evident that there would have been no occasion for another: nor can we conceive that a wise and gracious God would have promised a new one, unless He had designed a yet brighter maifestation of his glory and goodness. We may therefore conclude, that, whereinsoever the New Covenant differs from the Old, it also excels it. And truly, if we consider what is written concerning this New Covenant, we shall find it to be, in every respect, the most wonderful display of
mercy that can be conceived ; and suited, with admirable wisdom, to the case and necessities of such lost and helpless sinners, as the whole history of Israel, under the former Covenant, discovers men to be. Let us notice this in three or four particulars.
1. Is it evident, from what has been already said, that man has naturally no disposition to obey the commandments of God; but, on the contrary, is governed by a rooted principle of rebellion and enmity against them? Behold, then, here is a remedy for that evil! The Lord God Almighty promises, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts."
This inward Law is contrasted with the audible Com.
mandments delivered from mount Sinai; which, however plain and solemn, could only give the people a knowledge of their duty, while their own perverseness of heart rendered that knowledge ineffectual. Whereas this promise implies, that the Law should be wrought into their hearts, as an effectual principle, regulating all their thoughts, feelings and affections, words and actions. It had been plainly said, " These words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart.” (Deut. vi. 6.) And so evidently it should be; and the Lord here promises, that so it shall be. The perverse and rebellious disposition shall be destroyed, and a new principle of humble love and true obedience implanted. The command,“ Circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked," (Deut. X. 16,) was given in vain : the people continued the same stubborn race as before. But we are told, « The LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart
ed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.— And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.” (Deut. xxx. 6; 8.) And this promise is further explained by another, which, from the context in the respective chapters, is found to refer to the same period of the prophetic history of Israel, “ I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and I will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them.” (Ez. xi. 19, 20.) From a comparison of these passages, and many others which might be produced, it is plain that an inward principle is promised; and, when man obeys from such a principle, then (and not till then) there will be real obediencespiritual obedience—such as alone can be acceptable in the sight of that God who says, “I SEARCH THE HEART, I TRY THE REINS, even to give every man according to his way, and according to the fruit of his doings." (Jer. xvii. 10.)
Here, then, is a change to be effected, which is evi. dently supernatural; such as nothing short of divine power can effect. Therefore the Lord always assumes the glory of this work to himself : “ I WILL DO IT,”–
-eveu while he gives us the plainest encouragement to seek it and expect
it. Hence we find, that, when penitent Ephraim (in the chapter before us) acknowledges his former obstinacy, his prayer is, “ Turn thou me, and I shall be turned.” (xxxi. 18.) And Jeremiah uses similar language, “ Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved." (Jer. xvii. 14.) The Royal Psalmist had the same view of the necessity of Divine Influence. He had a clear conviction, that nothing short of spiritual, heartfelt obedience could be acceptable in the sight of a holy and heart-searching God: “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts !" But how can this inward sincerity be attained by one, who had just been constrained to acknowledge, “ Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me"? — This stands not within the limits of created power: but God will graciously effect it; therefore David immediately takes encouragement from the assurance ; “ In the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Ps. li. 5, 6.)
This is also an indispensable change. For, without it, all our efforts in religion are but labour in vain. endeavours to observe the Law, till the principle of love and thankful obedience be implanted, will but amount to a vain attempt to cleanse the streams, while the fountain remains impure, and is continually sending forth bitter and poisonous waters. It may be possible to impose upon others, and still more easy to impose upon ourselves : but such obedience will not avail with God, who looks on the heart. It is but going about, in a slavish and mercenary spirit, to put on an outward show, and perform a dull round of external duties, before Him, who says, with such earnestness of expression, “ Hear, O Israel; the LORD our God is one LORD. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with ALL THINE HEART, and with ALL THY SOUL, and with ALL THY Might.” (Deut. vi. 4, 5.) Unless this commandment be obeyed from the heart, it is not obeyed at all. And is not this a just and reasonable requirement of our heavenly Father,----whether we consider his own excellence, or his mercies to us? Suppose that an earthly parent, while his children performed all the acts of external duty, should know in his heart, that they inwardly hated him; would such obedience be grateful to his soul ? Rather, with what loathing anguish would he regard the
lifeless form of love and obedience with which he was mocked! The very suspicion of such a case would poison all the delight he would otherwise experience in his family. And will such a constrained, cold shadow of obedience, be acceptable in the sight of that God, before whom every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts is naked? Who is, besides, so infinitely worthy to be loved and inwardly adored, that not to love Him supremely is alone a sufficient proof of a corrupt and sinful heart?
But, when a divine influence has effected this change of which we speak, then there will be real obedience on the part of man, and gracious acceptance on the part of God, -though much imperfection and defilement may be still mingled with that obedience. In a dear child, even the endeavour to obey is acceptable to the father,—who will and encourage,
and assist, every effort,— however feeble, and though made with a trembling hand. And when the people of God have been made willing in the day of His power, and, according to the terms of a confirmed and accepted Covenant, He can say, “I am their God, and they are my people," then they will have a sincere desire, and make earnest endeavours, to obey,—with whatever remains of sin even their best actions may still be defiled; and He will accept and cherish the principle of love and obedience, which He hath wrought in them : He will regard the work of his own hands, and bless the service He teaches and enables them to render. When David and the people made liberal offerings for the purpose of building the temple, David devoutly and humbly cries out;
“ Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort ?" (1 Chron. xxix. 14.) He gives to God alone the glory and thanksgiving, that he and his people had been willing to give of their substance on such an occasion. ceeds, (v. 17,)“ I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart have I willingly offered all these things : and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee.” He could not doubt that God graciously accepted this willing and upright service, which He had enabled them to offer. And he prays to the same God, to keep the people in the same
mind, and to give a similar disposition to his son : “O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee: And give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep thy commandments, thy testimonies, and thy statutes, and to do all these things and to build the palace for the which I have made provision." (v. 18, 19.)
It is only when this change has been effected that there can be a cordial agreement between God and man. Till then, all that God graciously offers is ungratefully rejected. He offers himself, with all his fulness, to be our God: but this can profit us nothing, so long as we stubbornly refuse to be his people. But when He has given the willing and obedient mind, then we thankfully accept Him and his mercies ; and then is fulfilled that which is written, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
2. Have we seen, that, by nature, the mind of man (even under the most favourable circumstances, and amid all the opportunities of instruction) is full of darkness and blindness, in all that respects the glory of the Divine Perfections, and his own best and truest happiness ? Behold, for this evil also a remedy is provided! The Lord promises to teach his people. He, who knows the very secrets of their hearts, and who is infinite in wisdom and in power, will guide them, one and all, into the knowledge of Himself. “ They shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD.” Under the former Covenant, they were commanded to teach one another, and many provisicns were made, to urge the people to seek the knowledge of God; and doubtless many reproofs, exhortations, and rebukes were needed, and were given: but with little success : in those days, however, it shall no longer be necessary, that every one should thus warn and instruct his neighbour and his brother; nor shall any one be distressed by the ignorance and disobedience of those who are near and dear to him; for all shall know, and fear, and love the Lord with one consent. “ I will give them one HEART, and ONE WAY, that they may fear me for ever, for