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engagement are bound by it; how does it appear that other persons belonging to the nation, are under the same obligation :- it is answered, that these other persons are represented by the majority, or by those who are considered as representing the nation. This was the case with the people of Israel, Deut. xxix. 14, 15, 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 with us this day. No words could have been more proper to shew, that when the Israelites entered into a covenant with the Lord their God, they did so as a nation; so that every Israelite was bound by it, whether he was, or was not, present at the transaction. In short, the nation is sufficiently represented in public covenanting, if there be a majority or some of all ranks, as in Nehemiah's time, when the princes, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, every one having knowledge and having understanding, subscribed the covenant; if there be such a concurrence of high and low, of rich and poor, as would be deemed sufficient in other instances, to constitute a lawful national deed, or something done by the consent of the nation. It may be said, that though such representation might have place in the Jewish Theocracy, it does not follow that it is warrantable in the christian church? But it is answered, such representation is common to all societies. For when we speak of the act of any society, we do not always mean, that all the individuals belonging to the society, or even three fourths of them, had ability, inclination or opportunity for joining in that act. In the church, for example, when a minister is called to be the pastor of any particular congregation, it is only a part of the members that give their votes. The common order of the society requires that part to be the majority. The consequence is, that the candidate is declared to be duly elected; the act of those individuals who gave their voices for him is considered as the act of the whole congregation; and, accordingly, the whole congregation is under the same obligation to regard him as their pastor, with the said individuals. Thus, it is evident, that the representation of the Israelites in their public covenanting, was no peculiarity of their church or nation. If it be asked, How
it appears, that the posterity of the church or nation, that have entered into such a covenant engagement, continue under the obligation of it? It is answered, that it appears from the text just now cited in Deut. xxix. 13, 14, that the covenant which was made with Israel in the plains of Moab, was made not only with the Israelites then present, but also, "With their posterity: for not only the existing members of Ísrael that. were absent, but also, pasterity were meant by him that was not with them on that day. In Jeremiah's time, the Jews were considered as under the engagements which were entered into in the time of Moses. Jerem. ii. 20, Of old time, thou saidst, I will not transgress. Nor is it any Jewish peculiarity, for posterity to be under the obligation of the engagements entered into by their ancestors. This is the case with posterity in every society while it subsists. The individuals, of which a society is composed, are continually changing; so that if it were to be considered as the same society no longer than while these continued the same, it would follow, from the births, the deaths and emigrations wliich daily take place, that the society would be so tran
sient, that no engagement would bind it for a month, for a week, or even for one day. But the truth is, while the succession of members goes on under the same denomination, the society continues under the obligation of its engagements, in the same manner as an individual. Hence, it is never objected to the obligation of any law, or of any treaty with a neighbouring state, that it was made before an individual of the present age was born. If it be asked, How can all the members of a nation or civil state be brought under the obligation of a covenant engagement to the profession of any particular religion ? It is answered, that when persons are under the primary obligation of the Divine law, to the profession of Divine truth, or to the practice of duty, they may be also justly under the secondary obligation of a covenant engagement to the same profession and practice. In this there is nothing unreasonable. But some suppose, that this covenant obligation would lead magistrates to enforce it by civil penalties, and to persecute for errors in religion :- But it is answered, that this does not follow, because the secondary obligation of such engagements is regulated by the primary obligation of the law, which forbids rulers to meddle with what does not belong to their office. If it be insisted, that what persons are bound to by such covenants, may not be truths, but errors :-We still answer, that according to the supposition, we are bound to nothing by the secondary obligation, but what we are bound to by the primary. Hence, even the secondary obligation, while the matter of it is no other than what is found in the holy scriptures, may be called the obligation of the Lord's covenant.
How tremendous are the judgements of God, impending over à nation which is openly trampling upon the covenant engagements that have been entered into by that nation for religion and reformation! The league which the princes of Israel made with the Gibeonites, was binding on the nation of Israel; and on account of Saul's breach of it, four hundred years afterward, the whole land was punished with famine three years, 2 Sam. xxi. 149. And will not a people, that obstinately persist in the avowed violation of covenant engagements which they have come under, not about secular concerns, but about the truths and ordinances of the Lord Jesus Christ, bring desolating judgements upon themselves ? Will not God bring a sword upon them, that shall avenge the quarrel of his covenant? Levit. xxvi. 25. We have reason to believe, that God, in his holy Providence, will order his judgements upon a nation that persists obstinately in covenant violation, in such a manner, as will make that sin appear to be the principal cause of these judgements, to the conviction of the surrounding nations. He declares, that this should be the case with the perfidy of Israel, Deut. xxix. 24, 25—Jerem. xxii. 8, 9. Impressions of the approach of public calamity in Britain and Ireland, on account of covenant violation, were common among Presbyterian ministers and people there, especially among those of the Secession, in the last century; such impressions as the judicious Mr. Boston expresses in the following words: “ The avowed breach of covenants 6 made with God for reformation; the blood of the Lord's people “shed in fields and scaffolds, for adhering to the oath of God; the 6 fining, confining, imprisoning, banishing, and other barbarous usage 66 of them; whereby, for many years, thene nations carried on a war " with Heaven: These are an old debt lying on the head of Scotland, “ England and Ireland; for which God will pursue them; and pursue 6 them so, that it will appear to be both for principal and interest, “ during the time it has lain over. These things are forgotten or 6 laughed at now, as what we have no concern in; a stone is rolled to " the mouth of the sepulchre, where they are supposed to be buried.
But God will readily arise, if the stone were sealed, and they for“ gotten quite and clean, 1 Thessal. v. 3, For when they shall say
peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them as travail
upon a woman with child ; and they shall not escape.” To the same purpose speaks the Solemn Warning
published by the associate synod in the year 1758. Having taken notice of the Lord's threatening against Zedekiah for breaking his oath to the king of Babylon, and of, the punishment of Israel for the breach of their oath to the Gibeonites, the synod proceeds in the following words: “ If the Lord takes such “ account of a vow, even in things indifferent; if he claims such in“ terest in an oath sworn, though not unto him; if he so punished the 66 breach of oaths sworn by his name, even when they were sworn to 66 another party, about secular affairs; and so punished the same in “ remote posterity; shall we suppose, that he will not avenge our hor6 rid violation of those solemn oaths, which we came under in the loins 6 of our fathers; oaths, which were sworn to Him as the great Party, "in matters of highest and most indispensable duty ? No; he has * given assurance of the contrary. He hath denounced concerning “ such a generation of covenant-breakers, I will break the pride of
your power; and I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge “the quarrel of my covenant."
No. 4. Of the Solemn League and Covenant. It has been said, though the Scots were bound by every motive of sound policy and regard to self-preservation to make common cause with the English parliament; yet they erred in requiring religious uniformity as the condition of military assistance. But it may be answered, that it was the duty of the Scots to use all their influence for bringing about the reformation of England. And if the English had treated their admonitions on this subject with open contempt, the Scots might justly have refused to enter into a civil league with them. For nothing would have been more contrary to the duty and the true interest of the Scots, than their entering into such a league with the avowed enemies of the covenanted reformation in which they were then engaged. Besides the declared design of the war which Charles the first was now carrying on against the parliament was, that he might have it in his power to subject his people to the yoke of prelatical government and superstitious ceremonies. Thus, it was in a great measure a religious war. And it could not reasonably be expected that the Scots would assist in such a war those who refused to enter into covenant for the reformation of religion; or in other words, with those who refused to give a proper evidence of their adherence to the true religion.
It is farther said, that the Solemn League was ambiguous. That Henry Vane imposed on the Scots by suggesting the clause “ according
“ to the word of God and the example of the best reformed churches." Some Independents avowed, after they had taken the covenant, that, in taking it, they had an eye to the Independent church of New Eng. land; and some understood the prelacy abjured in the Solemn League, of prelacy as it then stood in England, and as different from a moderate episcopacy.
There are two rules according to which contracts or covenants are to be understood. One is, that the words should be taken in the sense which is natural and unforced. Prelacy is described in the Solemn League to be “ church government by archbishops, bishops, their chan“cellors and commissaries, deans, deans and chapters, archdeacons,
and all other ecclesiastical officers depending on that hierarchy." In these words, the hierarchy of the church of England, as it then stood, was, no doubt, directly and principally intended. But at the same time that the takers of this covenant swore to endeavour the extirpation of prelacy, they also engaged to endeavour the preservation of the reformed religion in the church of Scotland in doctrine, worship, discipline and government; which was then Presbyterian in its greatest purity. So that all sorts of primacy or jurisdiction of one pastor above another was hereby abjured. With regard to the words, according to the example of the best reformed churches, that they were inserted with a view to presbyterial church government, was the judgement of the provincial synod of London, a large body of pious and judicious ministers, who had the best opportunity of being acquainted with the transactions of that period. “Though the Presbyterian government," say they in their excellent vindication of it agreed upon by them, Nov. 2nd, 1649, “ though the Presbyterian government, in the practice of it, 6 be new and strange to the people of England, it is not new to the • churches of Christ in other countries. For most of those places, that 6 did thrust out the popish religion and government, did receive the “ protestant religion and presbyterial government. It is not new in " the protestant reformed churches in France, Scotland, Netherlands, “Geneva, and divers other places, who have had comfortable expe“ rience of this government; and have enjoyed a great deal of liberty,
verity, piety, unity and prosperity under it. And (which we desire 6 all our respective congregations seriously to consider) therefore it is, “ (as we humbly conceive) that the framers of our national covenant * did put in these words, (and the example of the best reforined “ churches) into the first article of the covenant, that thereby they "might hint to us what that government is, which is nearest the Word, * even that which is now practised in the best reformed churches.”'
Another rule for the interpretation of such covenants is, that as it is inconsistent with the sincerity and good faith which are indispensable in those who enter into a covenant, especially when it is a religious ene,
any of the parties entering into it, to take it in a sense different from that in which it was previously declared to be understood, agreeably to the most obvious meaning of the words, by another principal contracting party; so the covenant itself cannot, on that account, be justly construed as bearing such a different sense. It was welí known to the English, previously to their taking of the Solemn League, that by the church government most agreeable to the Lord's word, the Scots understood presbytery; and that they understood the ex
ample of the best reformed churchęs, just as the London ministers did, in the above quotation. We cannot suppose, therefore, that when the English entered into the Solemn League, they understood the clause, "according to the word of God, and the example of the best reformed « churches," as leaving them at liberty to adopt independency, or any other form of church government than presbytery. For, while they did not previously deny that they understood the said clause, as they knew the Scots did, their entering into the Solemn League necessarily implied a public profession of their being satisfied as to the conformity of presbyterial church government to the word of God. The contrary supposition cannot be made, without charging the Eng. lish with an open violation of the principles of honour and conscience, But neither the true sense nor the necessary obligation of that covenant would be affected by such wickedness. For God will not hold them guiltless who take his name in vain.
The schisms, therefore, and other public evils, which followed the taking of the Solemn League, like the calamities which followed the covenanting in the reign of Josiah, are not to be ascribed to that sacred engagement, but to the insincerity and perfidy of the people who entered into it. But the taking of the Solemn League was also attended with many good fruits; such as, the more distinct and accurate exhibition of many particulars of the cause of God and truth, in the Westminster Assembly's confession of faith, larger and shorter catechisms, form of presbyterial church government, and directory for public worship; and in the acts and proceedings of the general assembly of the church of Scotland, till the year 1650. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in this period, rendered the covenanters eminent in their acquaintance with Divine truth, and with the power of godliness. Many of them loved not their lives unto death for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.
It has been said, that those who explain the term extirpate in the Solemn League, as some sectaries did, as only describing the duty of a christian in his private capacity, mistook the meaning of that covenant; because all the Puritans were for bringing the bishops very low, and there were then petitions presented to parliament, that required the removal of episcopacy root and branch. They stated that their war was for the ends of the covenant. Some divines spoke of the civil magistrate compelling with the sword.
In answer to these things, it may be observed, that prelacy, as it was by law established and supported by the nation, was a noxious incumbrance; and, in that view, it was not wrong to petition for its reinoval root and branch: which indeed was done afterwards without any persecution. For when prelacy was abolished by the parliament, provision was made for such ministers as it was found necessary to remove from their charges. Some things in the writings of divines, and in the acts of church courts at that time, spoke too much of the magistrate's using his worldly power for compelling people to profess the true religion. On the part of the Presbyterian divines, this mistake was not owing to ignorance of the distinction between the church and the state : for they explained that distinction very well, in their disputations against the Erastians. But the cause of their error seems to have been, that they considered the political