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Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.—Ver. 6.
THE Psalmist had prayed for direction to keep God’s commandments: here he showeth the fruit and benefit of that direction.
In the words two things are observable—
1. The description of sincere obedience: respect to all the commandments.54
2. The fruit of it: then shall I not be ashamed.
First, Observe; a sincere heart aimeth at universal obedience to God’s law. Here are to be illustrated—
1. ‘All thy commandments.’
2. ‘Having respect’ to them. The object; and the act of the soul.
[1.] All the commandments must be taken notice of, small and great. (1.) Small, we cannot dispense with ourselves in the least: Mat. v. 19, ‘Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.’ We are apt to say, ‘It is but a little one, and my soul shall live.’ No sin can be little that is committed against the great God. It argueth the more wickedness and corruption to break with God upon every trifling occasion. A little force will make a heavy body move downward. (2.) As small, so great. The ceremonialist is apt to stand much upon lesser things: John xviii. 28, the Jews would not enter into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled, yet they sought the life of the Lord of glory. Hypocrites make a great business about small matters, and in the meantime reject weighty duties, τὰ βαρύτερα τοῦ νόμου: Mat. xxiii. 23, ‘Ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done, and riot to leave the other undone;’ like one that cometh into a shop to buy a pennyworth and steals a pound’s worth, or is punctual in paying a small debt that he may get deeper into our books, and cheat us of a greater sum, comply in circumstances and terms, which yet have their place, but make no conscience of greater.
[2.] Commandments that require public, and commandments that require private duties: 2 Cor. vii. 1, ‘Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.’ In times of trouble men content themselves that their hearts are right, as the libertines in Corinth, and think it is no matter whether they own God publicly, yea or nay. Then for private duties, some make a fair show to the world, but in their family converse are loose and careless: David saith, Ps. ci. 2, ‘I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.’ If a man be truly holy he will show it at home as well as abroad; in his family, where his constant converse is, yea, in his closet and secret retirements. A Christian is alike everywhere, because God is alike everywhere. We strain ourselves to put forth our gifts in public; God will be served with our uttermost in secret also.
[3.] There are commandments that concern the inward as well as the outward man; we must make conscience of both: Isa. lv. 7, ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy,’ &c. We must not only make conscience of our way, or outward actions, but also of our thoughts; as we must not do evil before man, so not think evil before God. Thoughts fall under a law as well as our actions: James iv. 8, ‘Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.’
[4.] There are commands that concern God, and commands that concern man. There is a first table and a second; some are very 55punctual in dealing with men, but neglectful of God: Rom. i. 18, ‘The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.’ Both the tables are owned from heaven. Some there are that will not wrong their neighbour of a farthing, yet stick not to rob God of that fear, faith, and love that is due to him. Many will not defile their bodies with promiscuous copulation, but are adulterers and adulteresses, James iv. 4, running a-whoring from their spiritual husband, and doting on the creature. Many there are who condemned the rebellion of Absalom, but rise up against their heavenly Father; are not murderers, but strike at the being of God. Some there are who are very tender of wronging the reputation of men, yet dishonour God, and are never troubled for it. Others there are who are much in worship, but in their dealings with men are very unconscionable: they will not swear an oath, yet are very uncharitable, censuring their brethren without any pity or remorse. This is the fashion of the world, to be in with one duty, and out with another. The commandments are ushered in with this preface, ‘God spake all these words;’ he that hath enjoined one hath enjoined another. But now, as the echo rendereth but part of the speech, so do we in our return of obedience. God spake all, and we return but part.
2. Having respect unto the commandments; that needeth illustration also. Though we cannot keep all, or any one of them as we should, yet we must have regard to all, and that equally without any distinction.
When have we an equal respect to all? I answer, Three ways—(1.) Proposito; (2.) Affectu; (3.) Conatu.
[1.] Proposito, in vow and purpose. We must approve of all, and choose all for our rule, without reservation and indulgence. Some commands are more contrary than others to our lusts and interests, and are less in our power to perform. Now, a sanctified judgment must approve all, and a sanctified will accept and choose all as equally good, necessary, and profitable for us: Rom. vii. 12, ‘The law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good’—the law in general, nay, that commandment which had wrought such tragical effects in his heart. It is holy, as being the copy of God’s purity; just, as doing us no wrong, being no infringement of our just freedom; good, as being very profitable to direct and perfect our operations, and to make us happy here and hereafter. But this approbation is not enough, there must be consent: ver. 16, ‘I consent to the law that it is good,’ though it is contrary to my natural inclinations. It is a good law, the heart must be engaged, ‘I will write my laws upon their hearts, and put them into their minds.’ God doth not only give us a knowledge, or a single approbation of his will, but a will to choose it as our rule to live by. The heart is suited and inclined to it, and a man giveth up himself faithfully and entirely to serve God according to the direction of his word.
[2.] Affectu. There must be a sincere affection to all, or a care to keep them. We must not entertain affection to any known sin: Ps. lxvi. 18, ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, God will not hear me.’ A man may have a great deal of sin in his heart, but if he cherish and 56dandle it, and have a regard to it, he is one whom God will not accept His desire is not to offend God, and it is his trouble when corruption gets the start of grace. If a king warneth a city of traitors, and calleth upon them to search them out, and send them away, and they never regard the message, but willingly give them harbour and entertainment, then it is a sign they are disaffected to him: to cherish a sin after warning is an open rebellion against God.
[3.] Conatu, in endeavour. We must keep all, conatu, licet non eventu; it is our labour, though not our success. Those that dispense with any commandment voluntarily and willingly, have never yet learned the way of true obedience to God: 2 Kings v. 18, ‘In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing.’ This is to set up a toleration in our hearts, and to make Satan some allowance, to part stakes between God and the devil. There is something wherein we would be excused, and expect favour in fashions, customs, ways of profit and advantage. The endeavour must be to keep all, though the success be not answerable. A mariner that is beaten back by the winds, yet proveth44 Qu. ‘striveth’?—ED. to hold on his course to make his port. A man that would sit warm shutteth the door and windows, yet the wind will creep in, though he doth not leave any open passage for it.
Now, the reasons why we are to have respect to all the commandments are these following:—
1. Because they are all ratified by the same authority. There is a connection between them, as there is between links in a chain; take away one, and all falleth to pieces: James ii. 10, ‘For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.’ The authority of the law is lost if men may pick and choose as they please. He that said, ‘Thou shalt do no murder,’ hath also said, ‘Thou shalt keep my Sabbaths.’ A quatenus ad omne, the argument holds. Do one thing as a duty, and that will enforce the practice of all duties that we are convinced of: Col. i. 10, ‘Walk worthy of God in all well-pleasing.’ He that seeketh not to please God in all things, seeketh not to please God in anything.
2. Because in conversion grace is given to observe all. There is a universal principle to incline the heart impartially to all. God infuseth all grace together; not one particular only in the hearts of his children, but the whole law. There is a form of grace introduced into the soul that suits with every point of the law. The heart is framed to resist every sin, to observe all that God hath commanded. A new-born infant hath all the parts of a man, though not the strength and bulk; so every Christian in regeneration. Men may be born without hands or feet, but the new creature never cometh out maimed and imperfect. It is small and weak at first, but it groweth and gathereth strength. There is no commandment to which it is not suited. Well, then, not to have respect to all were to hide our talent in a napkin, and to receive one of God’s best gifts in vain. The apostle inferreth it out of 57their calling: 1 Peter i. 15, ‘But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy, ἐν πάσῃ ἀναστροφῇ, in all manner of conversation,’ at home and abroad, among infidels and with their fellow Christians, in prosperity and in adversity, walk worthy of your calling. As the sun is placed in heaven, and spreadeth his beams everywhere, nothing is hidden from his light; or as the lines run from the centre to every part of the circumference, so doth grace distil itself in a uniform obedience.
3. A Christian can never be perfect in degrees if he be not perfect in parts. What is defective in the parts cannot be made up by any growth. If a man should be born without an arm or a leg, this cannot be supplied by future growth, he is a maimed man still; so if a man be not perfect in parts, hath not respect to all the commandments, he can never be perfect in heaven. You cannot be ‘presented as perfect in Christ Jesus,’ Col. i. 28.
4. They that do not obey all, will not long obey any; but where profit or lust requireth it, they will break all, as Mark vi. 20, ‘Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man, and an holy, and observed him; and when he heared him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.’ But one command stuck with him; being pleased with Herodias and the dancing damsel, that bringeth him to murder, &c. Keep but your passion a-foot, or your lust a-foot, or your worldliness a-foot, and it will carry you farther. One sin keepeth possession for Satan; allow but one lust and corruption in the heart, and that will under mine all, and become thine eternal ruin; as one leak may sink a ship. A bird tied by the leg, may make some show of escape. You never totally renounced Satan’s government, and wholly gave up yourselves to God. By keeping a part, the whole falleth to his share.
Use 1. It reproveth those that make one duty excuse another. Two sorts there are,—some that go from sins to duties, and others from duties to sins, that antedate or postdate indulgences. (1.) Those that antedate, that hope to make amends for their evil course by their duties, as when men allow themselves in a present carnal practice^ upon the purpose of an after-repentance. It is as if men should distemper the body by excess, and then hope to amend all by giving themselves a vomit; or contract a sickness voluntarily, because they will take physic. Certainly men would not sin so freely, if they were not borne up by promises of future reformation. (2.) That post date. They go from duties to sins: Ezek. xxxiii. 13, ‘When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.’ If he shall commit a sin upon that confidence of his own righteousness. Josiah’s breach with God, was after the preparing of the temple, 2 Chron. xxxv. 20; even God’s children take the more carnal liberty because of their duties.
Use 2. Is trial. Have we this sincere respect to all the commandments? This may be known—
1. By a constant desire, resolution, and endeavour to be informed of God’s will: Rom. xii. 2, ‘And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, that acceptable and perfect will of God.’ And 58Eph. v. 17, ‘Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.’ A man that desireth to follow God fully, would fain know the whole latitude and breadth of his duty. A child of God is inquisitive. He that desireth to keep all, doth also desire to know all. It is his business to study the mind of God in all things; gross negligence showeth we are afraid of understanding our duty.
2. By often searching and trying his own heart, that he may find where the matter sticketh: Lam. iii. 40, ‘Let us search and try our ways, that we may turn unto the Lord.’ Complete reformation is grounded on a serious search. A chief cause of our going wrong is because we do not bring our hearts and ways together.
3. Desire God to show it if there be anything in the heart allowed contrary to the word: Job xxxiv. 32, ‘That which I see not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.’ And Ps. cxxxix. 23, 24, ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked thing in me; and lead me in the way everlasting.’ He would not hold on in any evil course. There is no sin so dear and near to him which he is not willing to see and judge in himself.
4. When they fail through human infirmity or imprudence, they seek to renew their peace with God: 1 John ii. 1, ‘My little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not; and if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ They sue out their discharge in Christ’s name. If a man were unclean under the law, he was to wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water before evening, and not rest in his uncleanness. Now if we still abide in our filthiness, and do not fly to our advocate, and sue out our pardon in Christ’s name, it argueth that we have not a respect to the commandment.
5. They diligently use all holy means which are appointed by God for growth in faith and obedience: 2 Cor. vii. 1, ‘Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,’ and coming up to a greater conformity.
6. A care of their bosom-sin, to get that weakened: Ps. xviii. 23, ‘I was also upright before him; and I kept myself from mine iniquity.’ Such as are most incident to us by temper of nature, course of life, or posture of interests; the right hand must be cut off, the right eye plucked out, Mat. v. 29, 30. If thou seekest to cross that sin that is most pleasing to thine own heart, seekest to dry up that unclean issue that runneth upon thee; by that and the other signs may we determine whether we have a sincere respect to all God’s commandments.
Secondly, The next circumstance in the text is the fruit and benefit. They that have an entire respect to God’s laws shall not be ashamed.
There is a twofold shame: the shame of a guilty conscience, and the shame of a tender conscience.
The one is the merit and fruit of sin; the other is an act of grace. This here spoken of is to be understood not of a holy self-loathing, but a confounding shame.
This shame may be considered either with respect to their own hearts, or the world, or before God at the day of judgment.59
1. With respect to their own hearts; and thus the upright and sincere shall not be ashamed. There is a generous confidence bewrayed in duties, in troubles, and in death. (1.) In duties. They can look God in the face; uprightness giveth boldness; and the more respect we have unto the commandments, the greater liberty have we in prayer: 1 John iii. 21, ‘If our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.’ But when men walk crookedly and loosely, they sin away the liberty of their hearts, and cannot come to God with such a free spirit. A man that hath wronged another, and knoweth not how to pay, cannot endure to see him; so doth sin work a shyness of God. (2.) In troubles and afflictions. Nothing sooner abashed than a corrupt conscience; they cannot hold up their heads when crossed in the world; a burden sits very uneasy upon a galled back; their crosses revive their guilt, are parts of the curse; therefore they are soon blank. But now a godly man is bold and courageous. Two things make one bold, innocency and independency; and both are found in him that hath a sincere respect to God’s commandments. Innocency, when the soul doth not look pale under any secret guilt, and when we can live above the creatures, it puts an heroical spirit or lion-like boldness into the children of God. (3.) In death. To be able to look death in the face, it is a comfort in your greatest distresses. When Hezekiah was arrested with the sentence of death in the mouth of the prophet, here was his comfort and support, ‘O Lord, thou knowest that I have walked before thee with a perfect heart.’ And Job xiii. 15, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.’
2. Before the world, a man will be able to hold up his head that is sincere. It is true, he may be reproached and scoffed at, and suffer disgrace for his strictness; yet he is not ashamed. Though we displease men, yet if we please God, it is enough, if we have his approbation: 1 Cor. iv. 3, ‘With me it is ἐλάχιστον, a very small thing, that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment.’ To depend on the words of man is a foolish thing. There is more ground of rejoicing than of shame. You have the approbation of their consciences, when not of their tongues. In the issue God will vindicate the righteousness of his faithful servants: Ps. xxxvii. 6, ‘He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.’ There will be no cause in the issue for a Christian to repent of his strict observance of God’s commands.
3. Before God at the day of judgment: 1 John ii. 28, ‘And now, little children, abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.’ He is the brave man that can hold up his head in that day. Wicked men will then be ashamed—(1.) Because their secret sins are then divulged and made public: 1 Cor. iv. 5, ‘Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, will who both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart, and then shall every man have praise of God.’ (2.) Because of the frustration of their hopes. Disappointment bringeth shame. Some do many things, and make full account of their acceptance with God and reception to glory; but when all is disappointed, how much are they confounded! Rom. v. 5, ‘Hope maketh not ashamed,’ because it is not frustrated. (3.) By the contempt 60and dishonour God puts upon them, banishing them out of his presence. They become the scorn of saints and angels: Dan. xii. 2, ‘And many of them that sleep in the dust shall arise, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.’ But now the godly are bold and confident: Ps. i. 5, ‘The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;’ but the godly shall lift up their head with joy and rejoicing.
Now the reasons of this.
Where sin is not allowed, there is a threefold comfort. (1.) Justification: 1 John i. 7, ‘But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ It is an evidence that giveth us the comfort. He hath failings, but they are blotted out for Christ’s sake. (2.) It is an evidence of sanctification, that a work of grace hath passed upon us: 2 Cor. i. 12, ‘For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward;’ Heb. xiii. 18, ‘We trust that we have a good conscience, willing in all things to live honestly.’ A universal purpose and an unfeigned respect hath the full room of an evidence. (3.) A pledge of glory to ensue: Rom. v. 5, ‘And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Use. It informeth us, by the rule of contraries, that we deceive ourselves if we look for anything from sin but shame: Rom. vi. 21, ‘For the wages of sin is death.’ Sin and shame entered into the world together. How were Adam and Eve confounded after the fall! Sin is odious to God, it grieveth the Spirit; but the person that committeth it shall be filled with shame. In the greatest privacy, sin bringeth shame. Men are not solitary when they are by themselves; there is an eye and ear which seeth and observeth them. There is a law in our hearts which upbraids our sins to us as soon as we have committed them—a secret bosom-witness.
2. It informeth us what hard hearts they have that have respect to no commandments, yet are not ashamed. They have outgrown all feelings of conscience, and so ‘glory in their shame:’ Phil. iii. 19, ‘Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.’ Erubuit, salva res est. By how much less they are ashamed now, the more they shall be; their shamelessness will increase their shame: Jer. iii. 3, ‘Thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.’ The conscience of a sinner is like a clock, dull, calm, and at rest, when the weights are down; but wound up, it is full of motion.
3. Here is caution to God’s children. The less respect you have to the commandments, the more shame will you have in yourselves. Partiality in obedience breaketh your confidence, and over-clouds your peace. Therefore, that we may not blemish our profession, let us walk more exactly. ‘So shall we not be ashamed when we have respect to all God’s commandments.’61
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