Having set forth the intellectual elements of yielding to God, Howe know comes to the affective aspects of coming. Coming to God in both thought and affection. There is a tendency for one sort of Christian to know the right things, but be stiff or lacking in their affections; a cold orthodoxy. There is an opposite tendency to be reverent in emotion, but without any direction. They desire to love God, they just don’t know much about God. These two camps tend to denigrate the other. Howe rightly shows that we must have right thoughts and right affects.
The first element of affection is consent, “It must be done with a fulness of consent; and herein it chiefly consists. When the soul says, “Lord, I am now most entirely willing to be thine,” this is your yielding yourselves. And hereby the covenant is struck between God and you; which consists in the expressed consent of the parties covenanting in the matters about which the covenant is.” In fact, the other aspects of affection largely fill-out what Howe means by “fulness of consent.”
He calls this covenant a “conjugal” covenant, a marriage.
He makes an important observation here: “But then you must take notice that this is to be done with a full consent, which that is said to be which determines you, though it be not absolutely perfect.” Note that: the nature of the consent to yield is an action which “determines you” — it is what you will be: “You may be said to yield yourselves to God, with a full consent, when you live afterwards as one devoted to him.”
Next, the yielding must involve “life” — it is a true, vital act. But it is not done in one’s own power, “Do it as feeling life to spring in your souls towards God in your yielding yourselves to him. What! will you offer God a carcass? not the “living sacrifice,” which you see is required, Rom. 12:1. Beg earnestly for his own Spirit of life and power, that may enable you to offer up a living soul to the living God.” [That is a great line, would you offer God a carcass?]
The yielding must be done in faith. Notice carefully how he defines faith: not as a bare intellectual apprehension, and not as a vague feeling, but as a very definite act of the will in dependence, “There must be faith in your yielding yourselves; for it is a committing, or entrusting yourselves to God, with the expectation of being saved, and made happy by him.”
The full consent to this conjugal covenant, made in life and faith must be made in love, “Another ingredient into this yielding of yourselves must be love. As faith, in your yielding yourselves to God, aims at your own welfare and salvation; so love, in doing it, intends his service, and all the duty to him you are capable of doing him.” He explains that as coming to God as a “devoted servant.”
It is done with humility, “With great reverence and humility. For, consider to whom you are tendering yourself; to the “high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity;” to him that hath heaven for his throne, and earth for his footstool; and in comparison of whom all the inhabitants of the world are but as grasshoppers, and the nations of the earth as the drop of a bucket, and the dust of the balance, &c.”
He then finishes the manner of coming with a pair of emotions which we do not often pair, joy and solemnity; or gladness tends toward frivolity and our solemnity to being glum; but Howe requires both.
First, joy: “And yet it surely ought to be with great joy and gladness of heart, that he hath expressed himself willing to accept such as you, and that he hath made you willing to yield yourselves. The very thought should make your heart leap and spring within you, that he should ever have bespoken such as we are to yield ourselves to him, when he might have neglected us, and let us wander endlessly, without ever looking after us more.” Note that this strain of joy comes after humility. Humility is necessary because we too easily think God should hear us and forgive us. But Howe rightly underscores, God was under no obligation to show goodness to us; therefore, we should come to him in joy.
Finally, solemnity: Note what you are doing, “You should do it with solemnity.* For, have you ever had a business of greater importance to transact in all your days? If you were to dispose of an estate, or a child, would you not have all things be as express, and clear, as may be? And would not they insist to have it so, with whom you deal in any such affair? And is there not a solemnity belonging to all such transactions, especially if you were to dispose of yourself, as in the conjugal covenant? though that is to be but for this short, uncertain time of life: so as that the relation you enter into today, may be by death dissolved and broken off again to-morrow. How much more explicit, clear, and solemn, should this your covenanting with God in Christ be, wherein you are to make over your soul to him, and for eternity? You are to become his, under the bond of an everlasting covenant.”
What would this look like:
Do so then. Fall before his throne; prostrate yourself at his footstool; and having chosen your fit season, when nothing may interrupt you; and having shut up yourself with him, pour out your soul to him; tell him you are now come on purpose to offer yourselves to him as his own. O that you would not let this night pass without doing so! Tell him you have too long neglected him, and forgotten to whom you belonged; humbly beseech him for his pardon, and that he will now accept of you, for your Redeemer’s sake, as being through his grace resolved never to live so great a stranger to him, or be such a wanderer from him more. And when you have done so, remember the time; let it be with you a noted memorable day, as you would be sure to keep the day in memory when you became such a one’s servant or tenant, or your marriage-day. Renew this your agreement with God often, but forget it never. Perhaps some may say, “But what needs all this?” were we not once devoted and given up to God in baptism? and is not that sufficient? To what purpose should we do again a thing that hath once been so solemnly done?