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thus infinite in worth, and who is the source of all that is estimable, and all that is desirable in the uni. verse, begins with the commencement of intelligent and moral existence, and only ceases with the extinction of this existence.
Nor is the obligation which thus necessarily accompanies such an existence diminished or altered, by our not acknowledging it; or by our refusing to recognise it. Were this the case, the more wicked and wilful in wickedness any one would become, the less would he be bound to obey the will of God: so that the conduct of those angels who kept not their first estate would be less sinful than that of man. The obligations to give to God the supreme love of the heart, and to do his commandments, are unalterable; and though their force may be increased by the continued multiplication of mercies, they cannot be dissolved by our ceasing to recognise them.
Yet, such a solemn recognition of our obligations to love and serve God, as deeply affects the heart, such a recognition as implies that our consent is given, and that our seal and signature are appended, is acceptable to God, and may be profitable to us. The three following may be mentioned as obvious advantages which result from such a transaction.
I. We are thus called to survey our obligations, and to deepen their impression on the heart. As often as Israel were led to renew their engagements to be the Lord's, the character and perfections of God were set forth before them, and they were reminded of the goodness and truth which he had shewn them. Such an exercise is calculated to be profitable to beings
who are so prone to forget the God that made them, and lightly to esteem the rock of their salvation. All have need of frequently recalling to their minds the obligations by which they are bound to glorify God, and of recounting the mercies by which he is calling them to the love of himself and of holiness. Will not such a review bring their failures in duty to light, tend to cherish the feelings of repentance, and be productive of resolutions of new obedience!
II. In solemnly recognising our obligations to love and serve God; that is, in entering, as it were, into covenant with God, our faculties as moral and account. able agents are exercised. We voluntarily bind ourselves to fulfil those obligations which devolve upon us as the creatures and as the servants of God; and we thus declare, that we consider his law to be holy, and just, and good. One of the most prominent parts of a vow or engagement made to God, and that which renders it pleasing to the eye of christian contemplation, is, that it is voluntary,-a voluntary recognition of all that is great and holy in religion; of God, in his being and perfections, of his will as the only law, and of his glory as the ultimate end :-Our saying, not feignedly, but in sincerity and truth, “ We choose
“ thee, O God, as our only Lord and Ruler; as our God to adore, and love, and serve thee; and we voluntarily give ourselves
up, with all that we are and have, to be employed in furthering thy glory."
III. It may be the means of increasing our diligence and holiness. Prone as we are to forget our highest interests, is it not desirable to avail ourselves of every motive, consistent with the will of God, that may stimulate us to a perseverance in well-doing ? How often has the backslider been brought to repentance by reflecting on his own former professions and voluntary engagements? When every other consideration has failed to awaken the conscience, it has been found that the recollection of promises deliberately and solemnly made, has aroused from the stupor of sin, and has been the means of bringing the sinner to himself. If there be not, then, any thing in the nature of covenant engagements, at variance with the Scriptures, we must surely infer their expediency and lawfulness, from the salutary effects which they are so well calculated to produce.
But, it is alleged, by way of objection, that though such engagements were lawful under the Old Testament dispensation, they are not so under the New ;that it is voluntarily placing ourselves in circumstances in which we may contract guilt ;—that the forming of covenant engagements is at variance with the selfdiffidence and the deep humility which ought ever to be cherished;—and that by entering into them, many are chargeable with hypocrisy. Let us briefly consider these objections in their order.
I. It is alleged that covenant engagements, or vows, though they were lawful under the Old Testament dispensation, are not so under the New. That they were practised under the former economy by the most eminent servants of God, cannot be denied; and their lawfulness, therefore, must be assumed ; but it is supposed that they are not so under the more spiritual institution of the Gospel.
In this objection, it is taken for granted, that there
is a greater difference between the two dispensations than there really is. Though different in the external administration, they are, as it regards the substance of religion and morals, essentially the same. The same way of salvation, which was then made known through the medium of types and sacrifices, is now disclosed in clearer language: nor was it less necessary then to be renewed and sanctified by divine influence, and to walk by the faith of unseen realities, than it is under the present economy. Since the fall of man, there has been but one method of recovery revealed; the world has been placed under the same supreme system of redeeming mercy; there has been the same foundation of hopefor the penitent; and the object of the ordinances of religion, in all ages, has been the formation of the same pure and holy character.
If the ceremonial law was abrogated by the coming of Christ, it was because, from its very nature, as shadowy and figurative, its continuance was unnecessary; but there is nothing in vows of dedication to God more peculiar to one age than to another. That they are compatible with very high degrees of spirituality and holiness, we learn from the example of Joshua, and the people of Israel, in his day. He was himself eminently pious, and the generation in which he lived was distinguished by its zeal for the divine glory, and obedience to the divine will; and before they entered into covenant with God, they used suitable means for enlarging their conceptions of his holiness, and rendering this act of worship deeply devotional and spiritual. With this case upon record,
we may conclude that the objections to vows of dedication in the service of God, on the ground of their being opposed to the simplicity and spirituality of the Gospel dispensation, is unfounded.
Is it alleged, that the circumstances of the Jewish people were materially different from those of every other nation; inasmuch as they were the chosen and peculiar people of God, and that they were enjoined to do that which it would be criminal in others to attempt? I grant that they were owned and treated as the peculiar people of God,—that they were under his special guidance, and acted by his commission ;—that they
;were commanded to cut off the Canaanites, and to destroy every Israelite who should aim at establishing idolatry. In these particulars, especially in regard to the destruction of the Canaanites, and the was vested in the magistrate to prevent schism, the rules by which we judge of the conduct of others are not applicable to them.
But do not all, or nearly all, the inhabitants of the lands where christianity prevails, profess to be the people of God; having been dedicated to him in bap. tism? May they not, in full consistency with every scriptural principle, voluntarily enter into covenant engagements to be entirely devoted to the will and the glory of God?
II. It is objected to vows of dedication in the service of God, that by laying ourselves under the obligations implied in them, we voluntarily place ourselves in circumstances in which we may contract guilt. It is alleged, that the fall of our first parents,