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20," Peace be on thee; howsoever, let all thy wants lie upon me." Psalm lv. 22," Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee." The Lord allows his people to lay all their burdens upon him; the burden of their debt, the guilt of sin, he will answer for it; the burden of the strength of sin: Micah vii. 19, "He will subdue our iniquities."-The burden of our duties, and throughbearing in the way of God: 2 Cor. xii. 9, "My grace is sufficient for thee for my strength is made perfect in weakness."-The burden of afflictions, crosses, trials; Isa. xliii. 2, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee," &c.-The burden of their families; Jer. xlix. 11, "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me."-The burden of their souls for time and for eternity: Isa. xlvi. 4, " And even to your old age, I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear: even I will carry and will deliver you."
We now come,
III. And last place, to make some practical improvement.-And as a suitable improvement, we may observe, that this doctrine, like the cloudy pillar, has a dark and a bright side.-Dark to those that are not in the covenant.-Bright to all God's covenanted people.
1. It has a dark side to all natural men, strangers to the covenant, who are none of God's covenant-people.-Such are these,
(1.) Who are grossly ignorant of the doctrine of the covenant. It is a promise of the covenant: John vi. 45, "It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that has heard and has learned of the Father, cometh to me." And therefore, such as are not thus taught, are not in it. No person stumbles in the dark into this covenant.
(2.) Those who never found the intolerable weight of the first covenant, the law. Ye cannot be in both covenants at once, Rom. vii. 4. And if ye be brought into the second, ye have found the yoke of the first intolerable; Gal. ii. 19, " For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." Ye have been awakened to see your natural misery, and your utter inability to help yourselves by your doing or suffering; to despair of salvation in any other way, but through the obedience and death of a Redeemer.
(3.) Those who were never yet pleased with the frame of the covenant as God made it, who in all their pretended closing with Christ, have still had some secret reserves as to some beloved lust, or as to the cross.
(4.) Those who are still in league with their lusts, their hearts never divorced from them: "If ye take me," says Christ, "let these go away." If Christ get the throne, the most beloved lusts will be
crucified. It has a dark side to you as long as you continue in this state. It accordingly says to you,
If you see God at all, it will be a dreadful sight you will get of him. It will be the sight of an absolute God out of Christ, breathing out fury and vengeance against you. And he that is a refreshing sun to others, will be a consuming fire to you. And how will you be able to abide this sight? Isa. xxxiii. 14.-It says again, Though you come to his table, you cannot come in safety. You run a dreadful risk while you go thither, breaking up into the mount, without a warrant from the Lord. And it is a dangerous business for an unholy soul to be found in holy ground, 1 Cor. xi. 29.-It says also, Though ye sit down at the feast, ye cannot taste the sweetness of it, the sap and juice of it, namely, a sight of God in Christ as your own God; and a holy familiarity with him as such will be denied you. For what have ye to do with the covenanted-feast, who are strangers to the covenant itself?-It says, lastly, If ye snatch at the saints' familiarity with God, you put forth your hand to that to which you have no right, and go beyond God's allowance. Remember, Matth. xv. 26, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs." And therefore you can expect no other than this entertainment: Matth. xxii. 12, "Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding-garment? and he was speechless."But as this text and doctrine has a dark side to those who are not in the covenant,
2. It has a bright side to all God's covenant-people. Here is your privilege, O covenanters! you who are savingly in covenant. Ye are come into covenant, ye are divorced from the law; Rom. vii. 4, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is risen from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." If divorced from the law, ye have given it fair count and reckoning at parting, and fallen on a way of payment to it; for the covenant to which you now belong was not made but by sacrifice. Some are like an obstinate woman, who will not stir out of her husband's house, though he should slay her; these are desperate ones. Some like a foolish woman, who runs away from her husband, without suing out a divorce, or reckoning with him for the wrongs done to him; these are the presumptuous, whom the law will bring back from the horns of the altar. But Christ's spouse, at parting with the law, acknowledged all its demands just; but being sensible of utter inability to pay, goes to Christ as the great cautioner, and turns it over upon him for all.-If divorced from the law, the law also will be dead to you. Where one is divorced from
the first husband, he is as dead to her. The stream of your comfort by the law will be dried up, and it will flow from Christ alone. You will rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. You will not draw your comfort from your repentance, resolutions, vows, or reformation; but from the application of the blood of the covenant.
2. If ye be come into the covenant, your league with your lusts is broken. Though sin cleaves close to you, your hearts are loosed from it, and turned against it, Rom. vii. 17. You will hate it for itself, for its contrariety to the holy nature and law of your covenanted God, and not for the grievous consequences of it on yourself only. It will be to you as the fetters on the captive, he cannot get loose of them; but well he knows they are not his choice, though they were of gold. Your hearts will be loosed from all sin, your hearts will hate it universally; Psalm cxix. 128, "I hate every false way." You will have a special eye for evil on your iniquity, so that you will gladly yield the offending right eye to be plucked out, and give your consent to the cutting off of the right-hand idol.-In a word, you have taken Christ, not for a shelter to your sins, but for a destroyer to them, 1 Cor. i. 30. Your business with the Mediator of the covenant will be as much for sanctification as justification, to partake of his holiness as well as his righteousness, his Spirit as well as his blood, Matth. i. 21.
Lastly, Ye have come into the covenant, if ye have the covenant's mark. The beast has his mark, and many are fond of it this day. Christ has also his mark, which he sets on his covenant-people.There is the ear-mark; John x. 27, "My sheep," says he, "hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." See also Exod. xxiv. 7. Christ bores the ears of all that are his. They are taught of God, and have taken Christ for their teacher; they have a certain sense suited to discern Christ's voice from that of others, agreeable to their new nature: "A stranger they will not follow." They know the voice of their beloved, Song ii. 8. They look to him to be taught the way in which they should go; their ears are open, and their hearts willing to know his will, that they may do it. They wish to have shown them his truths, his ways, and ordinances, that they may cleave to them, Acts ix. 6.-Again, There is a fire-mark: Luke xiv. 26, 27, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." He reconciles all his to the cross; and they are content to follow him at all hazards, and are fully resolved to follow the Lamb,
whithersoever he goeth, Rev. xiv. 4; to side with him whoever side against him, being determined neither to be bribed nor boasted from him. Now, this doctrine has a bright side to all such, and bespeaks them as from the holy mount in this manner.
1. Come up hither to the Lord. Rise, the master calleth you to the feast at his table. Come in, ye blessed of the Lord, to Christ's banqueting-house, why stand ye without? Trample on all your doubts, whether they arise from the heaven above you, or from hell within you, and come forward to that God whose covenant you have laid hold on.
2. If you open your eyes, ye shall get a glorious sight of God in Christ. A sight which will be satisfying, and will darken all created glory. Though but bread and wine appear at his table, a greater than Solomon is there. Only believe; faith is the eye of the soul. Let us not have occasion to challenge your hearts after this communion with that which Christ said, John xi. 39, "Take ye away the stone."
3. Use a holy freedom in Christ's house, for he allows you. And do not reckon yourself a stranger at his table, seeing the feast is to confirm the covenant, Song v. 1. Make a believing application of all the benefits of his purchase. Say first of all, Song v. 16, "This is my beloved, and this is my friend ;" and then conclude, that with him all is yours.
Lastly, Fear not, O trembling soul! Entertain indeed a profound reverence of God, but away with your faithless fears, which confuse and discompose the soul on the mount with God. Remember, upon the nobles he laid not his hand. Being in the covenant, you are under a covert of blood, and, by virtue of it, may assuredly expect, safety. Here some may propose this question, How shall we manage that we get this sight? To which I answer,
Be exercised to take up the covenant in a suitable manner, ver. 4-1. Take some time this night by yourselves, and consider the covenant, your undone state without it,-the suitableness of it to your case, the absolute necessity of being in it. Labour to understand it, and examine yourselves, as to your willingness to come into it. Solemnly enter this night into the covenant, ver. 3. Though ye have done it before, do it again, and do it with more heartiness, ver. 7. Let this solemn transaction with God go before your solemn approach, and do not venture to set God's seal to a blank, to sit down at his table, while ye have not honestly accepted of his covenant.-Again, sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on your souls, before ye venture to go forward, ver. 8. Apply Christ's blood by faith to your own souls, laying the weight of all your guilt over upon it;
believing firmly, that it is sufficient to purge you from all sin; and in this way come forward to the Lord with holy boldness, under the covert of this blood.-Once more, shake off all worldly thoughts and affections labour to be in a heavenly frame; the nobles left the crowd at the foot of the hill, and went up into the mount. Put off your shoes, when you come on this holy ground.-Still farther, come forward under a due sense of the command of God; they went up because they were called, and so must you from conscience of Christ's command: "Do this in remembrance of me." Labour to have the sense of this command increased upon your spirits, as necessary to produce suitable obedience.-Lastly, open the eyes of faith, and look; the mouth of faith and eat what is set before your soul there, a slain Saviour, with all his benefits. Amen.
EXOD. XXIV. 11,
And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
HAVING, in the preceding discourse, considered the first doctrine taken from these words, we go on to a short illustration of
DOCTRINE II. That it is a wonder of grace, that sinful creatures, in their solemn approaches to God, are favoured with special sights of, and an holy familiarity with him, and yet come off safe.
In speaking to this point, we shall,
I. Shew that it is a wonder of grace, that sinful creatures are admitted to see God, and to be familiar with him.
II. Shew that it is a wonder that in their solemn approaches, and when they are thus favoured, yet they come off safe.
III. Explain how it comes to pass, that their safety, when thus favoured, is secured.-And then,
IV. Make some short improvement.
I. To shew that it is a wonder of grace that sinful creatures are admitted to see God, and be familiar with him. We think we need say little for proof of this. Only consider,
1. The infinite distance that there is between God and the creature in respect of perfection. The distance betwixt an angel and a