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It all depends on the good and gracious will of God, and this is its glory, its beauty, its excellency.
Mark how you have this particular brought out in the verses going before the text. St. Paul takes up the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when 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 when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt." No, it was to be of another description altogether. And why so ? For this plain reason, that by that covenant Israel had become a ruined people. The Prophet gives that reason,-"because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.” Then follow the terms of the new covenant. “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord : I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts."
You see no conditions here. Nothing is left suspended on Israel's behaviour. Jehovah makes an absolute, a free, an unconditional promise. The covenant is a simple declaration, on his own part, of grace, and goodwill toward the people. And hence when St. Paul speaks of this new covenant, and calls it a better covenant, better than the first, he explains the reason why it is so much better, because, “it is established on better promises.” Truly they are better, inasmuch as the promises of the old covenant were ditional, but those of the new are unconditional :
they are simple declarations of the gracious designs of God toward his Israel.
And now, my brethren, note how all this bears on ourselves. The Gospel covenant is our covenant. It is the same as Israel's new covenant. Observe then what is its character.
I was saying that it might be some awakened sinner was here who fain would seek to share the mercy of God in the covenant of his love in Jesus Christ, but who would be ready to ask, whether such an one as he is may look to God, and hope for mercy from Him, and this without having any thing of his own to make him worthy of God's regard ? We say to such a man, look at the text. See in what way it is that God sets forth his grace.
Does He make it to depend on merit which He sees in you? Does He tell you, you must bring to Him some good thing of your own, and that when He shall find this in you, then will He look down on you, and let you taste his grace ?
O no, far from it. All he says to you, to all who feel the need in which they stand of the grace He has to impart, is simply this, “ Ask, and it shall be given. Do you need new hearts? “A new heart will I give you.” Do you need to have my law set up within your breasts, and your whole souls brought to love it ? “I will put my laws into your minds, and write them in your hearts.”
See then, how this promise is just the thing that suits your state.
You can do no good thing, so as to gain the grace of God as due to you. Therefore God grants it to you at once. He grants it to you as his free gift. Let this then make you bold to seek it.
bold to seek it. You do not come to make a claim, on the ground that you have so much of good disposition in you already, that He must be favourable to you. No, you come as those who have nought to plead but your own wants, nought to look to but God's free grace.
Then, I say, how welcome to you is this new covenant promise. The Lord just suits that promise to your case. It is unclogged, unfettered, by any requirements of merit on your part. Jehovah speaks as a God of sovereign love, " I will do it.” And, in truth, it is a token of that love already vouchsafed you, that you are seeking the mercy He engages to bestow. Why, why do you long for renewing grace? Why crave a new heart? Why desire to have your own will humbled, and God's will exalted ?
It is because God has thoughts of good toward you, and has already commenced his work of mercy.
It is because the Lord himself, not waiting for any goodness on your part, to give you a claim on his regard, has chosen you, and touched your hearts within you, by his Spirit, therefore you have these warm desires to walk in his ways, and He who hath called out those desires within you, will, in due time, let you feel and know that He is working in your souls,“ to will, and to do, of his good pleasure.”
IV. There is one other remark which I have purposed to make on our text.