If a man vow a vow unto the Lord.
The practice of binding the soul with vows and oaths is of very ancient date, and common to all systems of religion. Now precisely of this nature is the baptismal obligation, a sacrament in which we are most solemnly pledged to the service of God, a covenant which we are bound all the days of our life faithfully to keep and perform. In confirmation we publicly recognise our personal responsibility in that act, and profess our serious purpose to fulfil the solemn engagement; while the bishop officiating, with all the faithful present, implores for us the aid of the Holy Spirit, that we may be enabled effectually to carry out our purpose. In entering into any important transaction, obviously, nothing is more necessary than a correct idea of its nature and its significance. In order to this, in the present case, we should consider with whom it is that we make the solemn engagement. Engagements of great weight are sometimes made with men, but none are so important as those which are made with God. In joining the Freemasons, the Knights Templar, or any other voluntary association, you must assume certain obligations, and give certain pledges for their performance, before you can have any right to the peculiar privileges of the order. But in becoming a member of Christ's flock you not only make an engagement with your Christian brethren, binding yourselves to observe and do certain things which are essential to the welfare of the sacred fraternity, but you make in your baptism and renew in your confirmation a covenant with God Himself — with God, the Father of the spirits of all flesh, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid — with God, who understands your motives better than you understand them yourselves, who cannot look upon iniquity, but hates all dissimulation with perfect hatred, and will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or bad. But let no man undertake thoughtlessly what ought to be done with the greatest deliberation and the utmost seriousness. Remember that the act you contemplate is irrevocable; the obligation you are about to assume is perpetual; the covenant you are going to ratify is an everlasting covenant, never to be forgotten. Its neglect is peril; its rupture is perdition. What you promise to renounce, you must renounce for ever; what you engage to perform, you must do all the days of your life; what you pledge yourselves to believe, is the unchangeable and everlasting faith once for all delivered to the saints. No man putting his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of heaven. Oh, how will his broken promises haunt the delinquent on the bed of death, and stand like threatening spectres before him in the twilight of eternity! Forget not, then, that the vows of God are upon you, and you cannot escape the obligation. But let not the fear of failure frighten any of you from the duty. You owe it to Christ, you owe it to the Church, you owe it to your sponsors, you owe it to your own souls, to redeem the pledge you have given. Lay hold upon the proffered strength of God, and renew your consecration to His service. He will not be wanting on His part. His word is for ever settled in heaven. Your assurance stands in "two immutable things by which it is impossible for God to lie." For He also hath vowed a vow, and sworn an oath to bind His soul with a bond; and He will not break His word, but will do according to all that hath proceeded out of His mouth.
THE CASE SUPPOSED. "If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond."
1. The vow is made unto God. He is the only true and proper object of religious vows.
2. The vow binds the soul. "Swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond." "A promise to man is a bond upon the estate, but a promise to God is a bond upon the soul."
3. The vow is voluntarily made.
4. The thing vowed must be lawful.
II. THE DANGER IMPLIED. "He shall not break his word," &c. There is in human nature a deep-rooted tendency to forget in health the vows which were made in sickness, and to ignore in our security and peace the vows we made in our danger and alarm.
III. THE COMMAND GIVEN.
1. That he shall perform his vow. "He shall not break his word."
2. That he shall fully perform his vow. "He shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth."Conclusion: Appeal to those who have unfulfilled vows resting upon them.
1. Baptismal vows, in the case of some of you, are unfulfilled.
2. Vows made in affliction or danger by some of you have not been paid.
It is not an idle or dangerous thing to form good resolutions, and make promises, and enter into pledges and covenants anew. A promise is often a bud; the attempt to keep it a flower, and success therein the fruit. Some would discourage all promises and pledges lest they be broken. We might as well bid all the trees in the spring-time keep back their buds for fear of late frost, or warn them against opening their hearts to the sun lest they be betrayed and blighted.
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