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THE AUTHOR TO THE WELL-AFFECTED READER.
I do confess there are so many godly and learned expositions upon the ten
commandments already extant, that it may seem needless to add any more unto
that number. Nevertheless, I pray thee, do not think it impossible but that God
may, by such a weak instrument as I myself am, show his power in doing
something more, touching this subject, than hath yet been done. I do confess, I
have had good helps from the labours of others, and have made much use
thereof, especially for matter, yet have I not confined my discourse within the
compass of what I have found in other books, but have, from the warrant of the
word of God, taken the boldness to enlarge it, both as touching the matter and
manner, and especially touching the application, wherein I have endeavoured to
give both believers and unbelievers their distinct proportion, by distinguishing
betwixt the ten commandments, as they are the law of works, having the promise
of eternal life, and the threatening of eternal death annexed to them, and so
applying them to the unbeliever; and as they are the law of Christ, having the
promise of eternal life, and the threatening of eternal death separated from them,
and so applying them to the believer. I have not denied, but acknowledged, yea,
and proved, that the law of the ten commandments, truly expounded, is to be a
perpetual rule of life to all mankind, yea, to believers themselves; for though the
Spirit of Jesus Christ do, according to his promise, write this law in their hearts, as
their inward rule, yet, in regard that whilst they live in this world, it is done but in
part, they have need of the ten commandments to be unto them as an outward
rule: for though the Spirit have begotten in them a love to this law, and wrought in
them a willing disposition to yield obedience thereunto, yet have they need of the
law to be unto them as a glass, wherein they may see what the will of God is, and
as a rule to direct them how to actuate their love and willingness, so that, as a
precious godly minister of Jesus Christ truly says, the Spirit within, and the law
without, "is a lamp unto their feet, and a light unto their path," (Psa 119:105).
But yet I do conceive, that expositors on the commandments should not only
endeavour to drive on their designs to that end, and there terminate their
endeavours, as if there were no further use to be made of the law, neither in
believers nor in unbelievers; but they should aim at a further end—an end beyond
this, especially in unbelievers, and that is to discover to them how far short they
come of doing that which the law requireth, that so they may not take up their
rest in themselves, but hasten out of themselves to Jesus Christ; and that
believers, by beholding their own imperfections, should take occasion to humble
themselves, and cleave the more close unto him by faith.
For when, by way of exposition, it is only declared what is required, and what is
forbidden in every commandment, with exhortations, motives, and means to do
thereafter, it has been observed that divers both profane and mere civil honest
people, upon the hearing or reading of the same, have concluded with themselves,
that they must either alter their course of life, and strive and endeavour to do
more than they have done, and better than they have done, or else they shall
never be saved; and hereupon they have taken up a form of godliness, in hearing,
reading, and praying, and the like, and so have become formal professors, and
therein have rested, coming far short of Jesus Christ, yea, and believers
themselves have sometimes taken occasion thereby, to conceive that they must
do something towards their own justification and salvation.
Wherefore I, yet not I by any power of my own, but by the grace of God that is
with me, have endeavoured not only to show what is required, and what is
forbidden in every commandment, but also that it is impossible for any man,
whether he be an unbeliever or a believer, to keep any one commandment
perfectly, yea, or to do any one action or duty perfectly, that so by the working of
God's Spirit in the reading of the same, men may be moved; not only to turn from
being profane, or mere civil honest men, to be formal professors, but that they
may be driven out of all their own works and performances unto Jesus Christ,
and so become Christians indeed, and that those who are Christians indeed, may
do I now resolve, by the help of God, very speedily to fall about that work; and I
hope I shall then make it appear unto you that the ten commandments are but an
epitome or an abridgment of the law of God, and that the full exposition thereof is
to be found in the books of the prophets and apostles, called the Old and New
Neo. Indeed, sir, I have told him that we must not stick upon the bare words of
any of the ten commandments, nor rest satisfied with the bare literal sense, but
labour to find out the full exposition and true spiritual meaning of every one of
them, according to other places of Scripture.
Evan. If you told him so, you told him that which is most true; for he that would
truly understand and expound the commandments must do it according to these
First, He must consider that every commandment has both a negative and
affirmative part contained in it; that is to say, where any evil is forbidden, the
contrary good is commanded; and where any good is commanded, the contrary
evil is forbidden; for, says Ursinus' Catechism, page 329, "The lawgiver does in
an affirmative commandment comprehend the negative; and contrariwise, in a
negative he comprehends the affirmative."
Secondly, He must consider that under one good action commanded, or one evil
action forbidden, all of the same kind or nature are comprehended, yea, all
occasions and means leading thereunto; according to the saying of judicious Virel,
"The Lord minding to forbid divers evils of the same kind, he comprehendeth
them under the name of the greatest."
Thirdly, He must consider that the law of God is spiritual, reaching to the very
heart or soul, and all the powers thereof, for it charges the understanding to know
the will of God; it charges the memory to retain, and the will to choose the better,
and to leave the worse; it charges the affections to love the things that are to be
loved, and to hate the things that are to be hated, and so binds all the powers of
the soul to obedience, as well as the words, thoughts, and gestures.
Fourthly, He must consider, that the law of God must not only be the rule of our
obedience, but it must also be the reason of it; we must not only do that which is
there commanded, and avoid that which is there forbidden, but we must also do
the good, because the Lord requires it, and avoid the evil, because the Lord
forbids it; yea, and we must do all that is delivered and prescribed in the law, for
the love we bear to God, the love of God must be the fountain, the impulsive, and
efficient cause of all our obedience to the law.
Fifthly, He must consider, that as our obedience to the law must arise from a
right fountain, so must it be directed to a right end, and that is, that God alone
may be glorified by us; for otherwise it is not the worship of God, but hypocrisy,
says Ursinus' Catechism; so that according to the saying of another godly writer,
the final cause or end of all our obedience must be, God's glory, (1 Cor 10:13);
or, which is all one, that we may please him, for in seeking to please God, we
glorify him, and these two things are always co-incident.
Sixthly, He must consider, that the Lord does not only take notice of what we do
in obedience to this law, but also after what manner we do it; and therefore we
must be careful to do all our actions after a right manner, viz: humbly, reverently,
willingly, and zealously.
Neo. I beseech you, sir, if you can spare so much time, let us have some brief
exposition of some, if not all the ten commandments before we go hence,
according to these rules.
Evan. What say you, neighbour Nomologista, do you desire the same?
Nom. Yea, sir, with all my heart, if you please.
Evan. Well, then, although my occasions at this time might justly plead excuse for
me; yet, seeing that you do both of you desire it, I will for the present dispense
with all my other business, and endeavour to accomplish your desires, according
as the Lord shall be pleased to enable me: and therefore, I pray you understand
and consider, That in the first commandment there is a negative part expressed in
these words: "Thou shalt have none other gods before my face." And an
affirmative part included in these words: "But thou shalt have me only for thy
God"; for if we must have none other for our God, it implies strongly, that we
must have the Lord for our God.
Neo. I pray you, sir, begin with the affirmative part, and first tell us what the
Lord requireth of us in this commandment.
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