« PreviousContinue »
Miscellany of Extracts and Correspondence; Illustrations of Scripture; papers on subjects relating to Education; Remarkable Days; Tabular Record of Mortality, &c., &c.
We have alluded to Popery. A view of the state of the world will prove that this is a subject which ought to be diligently kept before our people by all the legitimate means which are in our power. “Britain," to adopt the language of a contemporary, “ seems to be rapidly sinking under the baleful ascendancy of Romanism. Ireland trembles on the verge of internal convulsion, in consequence of the mustering strength of the two antagonist powers of Popery and Orangeism. In France, the cause of evangelism is rapidly advancing, though begirt with formidable obstacles. Germany is heaving through all its extent with a reforming movement, of which it is doubtful whether politics or religion form the master-principle. Jesuitism is again putting forward its almost supernatural energies; its partial suppression in one country only stimulating it to increased activity in another. The beautiful South Sea Islands have become the scenes of aggressive oppression, equally unchristian and unmanly. Throughout all the British colonies, events both religious and political, of the greatest moment, are daily taking place. Switzerland has been the scene of a disruption almost identical with that of the Scottish Church, and perhaps of still greater importance, from its position, and the impulse which it may communicate to surrounding countries. In every land literature has felt the influence of these mighty and energetic movements; and works of every kind are pouring forth from the press, increasing both the restlessness and power of that feverish mental excitement at present agitating the world." In these sentiments, we confess, we agree; and our readers will not be surprised if, in our future Numbers, we not only defend our beloved Reformation against the machinations of the Man of Sin, but beard him in his den, and hold him forth to all over whom we have any influence, as the accursed of the Most High, the enemy of true religion, and the moral pestilence which is now overspreading the earth.
We cannot fail to appreciate the extended circulation which our MISCELLANY has received: the high and the low, the rich and the poor, acknowledge its usefulness and importance ; and it is perused alike by the · inhabitants of the mansion, and the inmates of the cottage. But most of all do we feel grateful that the Holy Spirit has condescended to employ this unpretending periodical as an instrument of spiritual good; and if any of our readers by perusing our pages be led to inquire after “ the unsearchable riches,” or to “covet more earnestly the best gifts," we shall be amply rewarded. May the Great Head of the church speed our endeavours !
ation against in forth to allo enemy of true
unpretendin grateful thath, and the inmana
ON THE RENEWAL OF THE COVENANT. The members of the Wesleyan Society throughout the country will in a few days, according to an old-established custom, be called upon by their respective Pastors to renew their covenant with Almighty God: we think, therefore, that we cannot do better than commence our new publication by a devout and earnest appeal to our readers with regard to that service, Few of the usages of the Wesleyan Connexion have been more misunderstood, or misrepresented. Some have imagined that it implied an ignorant and profane contracting or entering into a bargain with the Almighty, that, if he would confer upon us certain blessings, we would in return perform certain acts of duty and obedience, suggested by ourselves, and accomplished in our own strength. It will therefore be proper for us to consider how far such an exercise is scriptural, and how it may be performed in a manner acceptable to God and profitable to ourselves.
“ The Renewal of the Covenant” was not positively enjoined upon the Society in the Rules of our Connexion, as originally drawn up by Messrs. John and Charles Wesley, in 1743. Societies had been formed in various parts of the United Kingdom before the practice commenced, and then the service was confined to the metropolis, and to one chapel. It was afterwards observed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and subsequently in Bristol. In a short time it was introduced into the larger societies, solely from the experience which the Wesleyan Ministers and people have had of its general utility as a means of grace, and of the permanent benefit which has resulted from its adoption.
It is an interesting labour to review the Journal of our venerated founder which records the introduction and progress of this important office in Methodism. “August 6th, 1755,” Mr. Wesley writes in his Journal, “ I mentioned to the congregation another means of increasing serious religion, which had been frequently practised by our forefathers, and attended with eminent blessing ; namely, the joining in a covenant to serve God with all our heart and all our soul. I explained this for several mornings following ; and on Friday many of us kept a fast unto the Lord, beseeching him to give us wisdom and strength, to promise unto the Lord our God and keep it.
Monday, August 11th, I explained once more the nature of such an engagement, and manner of doing it acceptably to God. At six in the evening we met, for that purpose, at the French Church in Spitalfields. After I had recited the tenor of the covenant proposed in the words of that blessed man Richard Alleine, all the people stood up, in testimony of assent, to the number
ON THE RENEWAL OF THE COVENANT.
of about eighteen hundred. Such a sight I scarce ever saw before. Surely the fruit of it shall remain for ever!” In the year 1756, the practice was introduced among our societies in Ireland. Mr. Wesley, being at Dublin, writes, “ April 16th, (being Good-Friday,) near four hundred of the society met to follow the example of their brethren in England, and renew their covenant with God. It was a solemn hour. Many mourned before God, and many were comforted.”
On Good-Friday, the following year, Mr. Wesley, then in London, writes, “I read over, and enlarged upon, Joseph Alleine's ' Directions for a thorough Conversion to God ;' and desired all who were able would meet me on Monday, that we might perform our vows unto the Lord.”
“ Monday, 11th, at five in the evening, about twelve hundred of the society met me at Spitalfields. At half an hour after nine, God broke in mightily upon the congregation. Great' indeed was our glorying' in him: we were filled with consolation."*
The annals of the church of God contain several instances of individuals and public assemblies covenanting with the Most High. David describes the saints “making a covenant with God by sacrifice." The offering which Abel presented not only implied à confession of guilt, and an application to a Redeemer, but also faith in the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, who was, in the fulness of time, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and a surrender of himself to his service. After the flood, God covenanted with Noah, (Gen. ix. 8-11,) then with Abram, (Gen. xvii. 1, 2,) and subsequently with Jacob. The terms of the last are extraordinary and important. The Patriarch was on his journey from his father's house to Padan-aran, and being benighted, he was compelled to lie down to rest in a most defenceless situation; the cold earth was his bed, and a stone his pillow. The ground on which he slept was consecrated by the remarkable occurrence of that night, and afterward obtained the significant name of Bethel. While asleep he was favoured with à singular vision. He witnessed a communication taking place between heaven and earth by means of the angels of God, ascending and descending upon a ladder, and the Lord standing above it. While Jacob gazed upon this wondrous sight, he heard a voice from the excellent glory addressed immediately to himself, which reiterated the benediction which Isaac had recently pronounced, although the provisions thereof were considerably enlarged. On awakening, he confessed the presence of God, and, constrained by a sense of divine goodness, he raised a monument of gratitude, and bound himself by
Dr. Southey, in his “ Life of Wesley,” has treated this subject in a very flippant and unbecoming manner. He informs his readers, that Mr. Wesley never “discovered the extreme danger of exciting an inflammatory state of devotional feeling. His system enjoined a perpetual course of stimulants, and lest the watch-nights and the lovefeasts, with the ordinary means of class-meetings and band-meetings, should be insufficient, he borrowed from the Puritans one of the most perilous practices that ever was devised by enthusiasm; the entering into a covenant, in which the devotee promises and vows to the most dreadful God' to become his covenant servant; and giving up himself, body and soul, to his service, to observe all his laws, and obey him before all others, and this to the death !"" The writer, since this paragraph was written, has been called into the world of spirits. In justification, however, of the principle of this solemn engagement, we need only refer to the Communion Service of the Church, where every time that impressive ordinance is administered, a similar act of dedication is performed :-"And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee;" &c. In the Wesleyan societies this is done in a more elaborate form of dedication once a year, which constitutes all the difference. Dr. Southey further informs us, that "it is said, that some persons, from a fanatical and frightful notion of making the covenant perfect on their part, have signed it with their own blood !” Doubtless many wonderful things have been said by this babbling world. It is sufficient for us that we have never heard of such an instance, and cannot receive it as true on the mere hearsay of Dr. Southey.
ON THE RENEWAL OF THE COVENANT.
the most solemn engagements, to avouch the Lord to be his God. He vowed à vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God.” (Gen. xxviii. 20, 21.)
Instances there are in which large assemblies of people, publicly and unitedly entered into covenant with the Almighty. Among these, we enumerate that which transpired on the eve of the giving of the law from Mount Sinai; (Exod. xix. 5–8;) that in the land of Moab; (Deut. xxix. 1-13;) that previous to the death of Joshua; (Josh. xxiv. 14–25;) that in the days of Josiah; (2 Kings xxiii. 2,3;) and also that which was predicted by Jeremiah, (Jer. 1. 4, 5,) the fulfilment of which is recorded by Ezra and Nehemiah. (Ezra viii. 21; x. 1-3; Nehem. ix. 1-3, 38; x. 28, 29.) It goes for nothing to say, that the cases alluded to took place under the Old Testament dispensation, and therefore had nothing to do with that of the Gospel; for the Almighty, by the Prophet Jeremiah, speaks undoubtedly of the Gospel-days, when he says, " Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the band,” &c. (Jer. xxxi. 31-34: with this passage, it will be well to compare Heb. viii. 8.) In St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, and also to the Hebrews, the Gospel is constantly represented as a covenant and as a testament; for the original word implies both. The Gospel with great propriety may be termed a testament, because it is a signification of the will of our Saviour, ratified by his death, and because it conveys blessings to be enjoyed after his death. These reasons for giving the Gospel the name of a testament, says the Rev. Richard Watson, appeared to our translator's so striking that they have rendered the word commonly read covenant, by the word testament, and therefore, when we delineate the nature of the Gospel, the beautiful idea of its being a testament is not to be lost sight of: we are not to forget that the word testament, which we read in the Gospels and Epistles, is the translation of a word which the sense requires to be rendered covenant.
Let us inquire into the nature of that covenant into which the people of God have entered. A covenant implies two parties, and mutual stipulations. The new covenant to which the Prophet Jeremiah alludes, must derive its name from something in the nature of the stipulations between the parties, different from that which existed before; so that we cannot understand the propriety of the name new, without looking back to what is called the old, or first. On examining the passages in Gal. iii., 2 Cor. iii., and Heb. viii.-—-X., where the old and new covenants are contrasted, it will be found that the old covenant means the dispensation given by Moses to the children of Israel; and the new covenant, the dispensation of the Gospel published by Jesus Christ; and that the object of the Apostle is to illustrate the superior excellence of the latter dispensation. But, in order to preserve the consistency of the Apostle's writings, it is necessary to remember that there are two different lights in which the former dispensation may be viewed. Christians appear to draw the line between the old and new covenant, according to the light in which they view that dispensation. It may be considered merely as a method of publishing the several laws to a particular nation; and then, with whatever solemnity it was delivered, and with whatever cordiality it was accepted, it is not a covenant that could give life. For, being nothing more than what Divines call a covenant of works, a directory of conduct, requiring by its nature personal obedience, promising life to those who yielded that obedience, but making no provision for transgressors, it left under a curse “every one that
ON THE RENEWAL OF THE COVENANT.
continued not in all things that were written in the book of the law to do them.” This is the essential imperfection of what is called the covenant of works, the name given in theology to that transaction in which it is conceived that the Supreme Lord of the Universe promised to his creature, man, that he would reward that obedience of his law, which, without any such promise, was due to him as a Creator.
No sooner had Adam broken the covenant of works, than a promise of a final deliverance from the evils incurred by the breach of it, was given. This promise was the foundation of that transaction which Almighty God, entreating with Abraham, condescends to call “my covenant with thee;" and which, upon this authority, has received in theology the name of the Abrahamic covenant. Upon the one part, Abraham, whose faith was counted to him for righteousness, received this charge from God, “Walk before me, and be thou perfect:" upon the other part, the God in whom he believed, and whose voice he obeyed, besides promising other blessings to him and his seed, uttered these significant words, “ In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” In this transaction, there was the essence of a covenant; for there were mutual stipulations between two parties ; and there was superadded, as a seal of the covenant, the rite of circumcision ; which, being prescribed by God, was a confirmation of his promise to all who complied with it, and being submitted to by Abraham, was, on his part, an acceptance of the covenant.
The Abrahamic covenant appears, from the nature of the stipulations, to be more than a covenant of works; and, as it was not confined to Abraham, but extended to his seed, it couid not be disannulled by any subsequent transactions which fell short of a fulfilment of the blessing promised. The law of Moses, which was given to the seed of Abraham four hundred and thirty years after, did not come up to the terms of the covenant : in its form it was a covenant of works, and to other nations it did not directly convey any blessing. But although the Mosaic dispensation did not fulfil the Abrahamic covenant, it was so far from setting this covenant aside, that it cherished the expectation of its being fulfilled ; for it continued the rite of circumcision, which was the seal of the covenant, and in those ceremonies which it enjoined, there was a shadow, a type, an obscure representation of the promised blessing. (Luke i. 72, 73.)
The views which have been given, furnish the ground upon which we defend that established language which is familiar to our ears, that there are only two covenants essentially different, and opposite to one another, the covenant of works made with the first man, intimated by the constitution of human nature, to every one of his posterity, and having for its terms,“ Do this, and live ;'-and the covenant of grace, which was the substance of the Abrahamic covenant, and which entered into the substance of the Sinaitic covenant, but which is more clearly revealed, and more extensively published, in the Gospel. This last covenant, which the Scriptures call new, in respect of its essence, has received, in the language of theology, the name of the covenant of grace, for the two following obvious reasons : because, after man had broken the covenant of works, it was pure grace or favour in the Almighty to enter into a new covenant with him ; and because by the covenant there is conveyed that grace which enables man to comply with the terms of it. It could not be a covenant unless there were terms,- something required, as well as something promised or given,-duties to be performed, as well as blessings to be received. Accordingly, the tenor of the new covenant, founded upon the promise originally made to Abraham, is expressed by Jeremiah in words which the Apostle to the Hebrews has quoted as a description of it: “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people ;” (Heb. viii. 10;) words which intimate, on one part, not only entire reconciliation with God, but the