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Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments.—Ver. 21.
IN the 18th verse, the prophet had begged divine illumination, that his eyes might be opened to see more into the nature of the word. He backeth that petition with three arguments. The first is taken from his condition in the world, ‘I am a stranger upon earth.’ The second argument is taken from the vehemency of his affection to the word, ‘My soul breaketh,’ &c. A man that is regenerate, as David was, he hath not only some faint and languid motions towards holy things, but a great and strong affection of heart, ‘My heart even breaketh for the longing,’ &c. In this verse here is the third reason, ‘Open mine eyes.’ Why? Because erring from the commandment is dangerous, and bringeth us under God’s curse, which will be executed by the rebukes of his providence. There have been ever some that op posed God, but yet they have ever been blasted by God; he hath always vindicated the contempt of his law by the severe executions of his justice upon the contemners of it, ‘Thou hast rebuked the proud.’ We should not let pass God’s judgments without profit; but the more 194the law is owned from heaven, the more entirely should we apply ourselves to the obedience of it. Therefore this is one reason why David begs for light, direction, and strength, for ‘thou hast rebuked the proud,’ &c.; therefore, Lord, teach me, that I may not come under the rebukes of thine anger.
Some read the words in two distinct sentences, ‘Thou hast rebuked the proud;’ and then, ‘Cursed are they which do err from thy commandments.’ But it comes all to one with our reading; therefore I shall not stand to insist upon examining the ground of this difference.
In the words observe—
1. The term that is given to wicked men, the proud, so commonly called in scripture: Mal. iii. 15, ‘They call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up.’
2. The instance and discovery of their pride, they err from thy commandments.
3. The evil state in which they are, they are cursed. Though the wicked are not presently punished, yet they are all cursed, and in time they shall be punished.
4. The begun execution of this curse, thou hast rebuked them, that is, punished or destroyed: Ps. vi. 1, ‘Rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.’
The points are—
1. That the worst sort of proud creatures are those that do err from God’s commandments; for so is the description here, ‘The proud have erred,’ &c.
2. These proud ones, they are cursed. Those that continue in obstinacy and impenitency in their sins and errors, they are under a curse.
3. They are not only cursed, but are also rebuked; that is, not only threatened, but this curse shall be surely executed. In this world it is begun many times, and in part executed, but in the next fully and sorely.
Doct. 1. That the worst sort of proud creatures are those that err from God’s commandments.
Here we must distinguish of erring, then of pride.
First, Of erring from God’s commandments. There is an erring out of frailty, and an erring out of obstinacy.
1. An erring out of frailty; and so David saith, Ps. cxix. 176, ‘I have gone astray like a lost sheep;’ and again, Ps. xix. 12, ‘Who can understand his errors?’ This is not meant here of every failing and slip, every sin of ignorance and incogitancy; no, nor every act of rebellion and perverseness of affection which may be found in the children of God. Though there be a pride in all sins against knowledge and light, that kind of sinning is interpretatively a confronting of God, a despising of his commandments; as David is said to do, 2 Sam. xii. 9, pro hic et nunc, for the time; the will of the creature is set up against the creator; yet this is not the erring here spoken of.
2. There is an erring out of obstinacy, impenitency, and habitual contempt of the lawgiver. This is spoken of, Ps. xcv. 10, ‘It is a people that do err in their hearts.’ To err in mind is bad, to err out of ignorance; but it is a people that stubbornly refuse to walk in the ways 195God hath enjoined them. Some err out of simple nescience, ignorance, or mistake, or else through the cloud with which some present temptation overcasts the mind. These err in their minds, but others err in their hearts, that care not for, or do not desire to hear of, their duty to God. A man that erreth out of ignorance can say, ‘Lord, I know not;’ but those that err in their heart, they say, ‘We desire not the knowledge of thy ways,’ Job xxi. 14; they do not only fall into sin, but love to continue in it. The apostle speaks of ‘ungodly deeds un godly committed,’ Jude 15. The matter of sin is not so much to be regarded as the manner, with what heart it is done, ungodly committed, with contempt of God. Now, such contemners of God and his law are here described, as all obstinate and impenitent sinners are.
Secondly, We must distinguish of pride, which is either moral or spiritual.
1. Moral pride is an over-high conceit of ourselves, or our own excellencies, discovered by our disdain and contempt of others. So it is said of Nebuchadnezzar, ‘his heart was lifted up.’ This is that pride that is spoken of 1 Peter v. 5, ‘God resisteth the proud.’ There should be a mutual condescension between men; for God resisteth the proud, that is, those that are lifted up above others.
2. Spiritual pride, that is, disobedience and impenitency, which is discovered by a neglect of God and contempt of his law; and that pride is often so taken appeareth by these scriptures: Mal. iv. 1, ‘The day of the Lord shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble.’ Mark, they that do wickedly, and the proud, are made synonymous expressions. So Neh. ix. 16, ‘But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments.’ Their obstinacy in sin, or unsubjection to God, is made to be pride. So Jeremiah, when he gives the people good counsel to prevent ensuing judgments, ‘Hear ye, give ear, be not proud,’ Jer. xiii. 15; that is, do not obstinately refuse to comply with God’s will. And afterward, ver. 17, ‘My soul shall weep sore for your pride.’ So that unhumbled sinners are guilty of this spiritual pride, of contempt of God himself.
Having opened these things, that by erring is meant not out of frailty, but by obstinacy; that by pride is not meant that moral pride by which we contemn others, but that spiritual pride, when our hearts are unhumbled and unsubdued to God, my work is now to prove—
1. That obstinacy and impenitency is pride.
2. That it is the worst sort of pride.
First, That there is pride in impenitency and obstinacy in a course of sin. Why?
1. Because they neglect God. To slight a superior, and not to give him due respect, hath ever been accounted pride. Surely then this is pride with a witness, to neglect ‘God, who is over all, blessed for ever:’ Ps. x. 4, ‘The wicked through the pride of his countenance will not seek after God;’ that is, of his heart, bewrayed by his countenance, he will not seek after God, and ‘God is not in all his thoughts;’ that is, scarce troubled with such a thought of what will please or displease God; he doth not think it necessary or worth the time to look after.
2. They oppose God, and set themselves as parties against him: 196James iv. 6, ‘God resisteth the proud;’ God standeth in a posture of war against the proud. The word implies that every proud man is in battle array or posture of war against God: so every impenitent person sets himself against God. The quarrel between God and him is, who shall stoop, whose will shall stand? whether God shall serve or they? Isa, xliii. 24, ‘You have made me to serve with your sins, and wearied me with your iniquities.’ Indeed, they do not only oppose him, but they would depose him, or put him out of the throne, while they would subject God’s will to their own. He that would be at his own dispose, and do what pleaseth him, is a god to himself.
3. In all this opposition they slight God, and despise—(1.) His authority in making the law; (2.) His power and greatness in making good the sanction of the law.
[1.] They despise the authority of God in the law itself. When men will set up their own will in a contradiction to God, it is a mighty dishonour to God: 2 Sam. xii. 9, ‘Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord?’ Every sin that is committed slights the law that forbids it, as if it were not to be stood upon; it is no matter what God saith to the contrary. There is fearing the commandment, and despising the commandment. Fearing the commandment, that is the effect of a wise heart: Prov. xiii. 13, ‘He that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.’ If God interpose, it is more than if there were an angel in the way with a flaming sword. There is a commandment in the way; he fears it, his way is hedged up, he dares not go on. But now impenitency, that slights the commandment. A sinner dares do that which an angel durst not do. It is said of Michael the archangel, Jude 9, that ‘he durst not bring a railing accusation;’ he had not the boldness. Thus they despise the authority of God in the law.
[2.] They despise the power of God in the sanction of the law, when they will run the hazard of those sad threatenings, as if they were a vain scarecrow, as if they could make good their cause against God: 1 Cor. x. 22, ‘Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?’ Sinning is an entering the lists with God, as if they could carry their cause against him; and therefore one great cure of hardness of heart and impenitency is seriously to meditate upon God’s power: Deut. x. 16, 17, ‘Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.’ Why? ‘For the Lord your God is a God of gods and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty and terrible.’ Do you know what God is? and will you contend with him? Certainly you will fail in the enterprise and undertaking.
Secondly, Let me prove there are none so proud as they that can brave it thus with God. I will take the rise of my argument thus—
1. Of all pride, that against superiors is most heinous.
2. Of all superiors, God is the highest, and deserveth our chiefest respect.
1. Of all pride, that against superiors is most heinous. Pride bewrayeth itself either by a disdain of inferiors, neglect of equals, or contempt of superiors. Now, of all the others, this is the most offensive, because there is more to check it; therefore it is threatened as a great disorder, Isa. iii. 4, 5, that ‘the base should rise against the 197honourable, and the child should behave himself proudly against the ancient.’ When men carry themselves insolently to those that are far their betters, that is counted a great arrogancy in the world: to injure equals or contemn inferiors is not so much. There is the ground of the argument.
2. Of all superiors, God is the highest, and deserves our chiefest respect; therefore to deal proudly against him is worst of all. Consider—
[1.] That God hath an absolute jurisdiction.
[2.] His supremacy is not precarious.
[3.] In the management of his supremacy he useth much condescension. Now, to stand out against him, oh, what egregious pride is this!
[1.] He hath an absolute jurisdiction over us. Those that are our betters, we are to honour and respect them, though they have not power over us; but God is not only honourable, but chief and supreme, and hath a full right in us. In the civil law they distinguish of a twofold dominion; there is dominium jurisdictionis and dominium proprietatis—the dominion of jurisdiction and of propriety. The do minion of jurisdiction is proper to reasonable creatures, who only are capable of government. Propriety, that respects other things, as our goods and lands; and propriety argues a greater right and a greater dominion. A man may have a jurisdiction over others when he hath not an absolute dispose over them, as a prince over his subjects. Nay, a man that hath a jurisdiction and propriety too, his propriety is greater over his lands and estate than over his servants, though they be slaves; yet, because they partake of the same nature with himself, he hath not such a power to dispose of them as he hath to dispose of his goods and lands. Now God hath not only an. absolute jurisdiction over us, which were enough in the case, but he hath a propriety, a more absolute power over every man than the greatest monarch hath—what shall I say—over his subjects, over his slaves? nay, a greater propriety than he hath over his goods and lands. Why? For he made us out of nothing; he is our potter, we his clay: he hath such a power over us, to dispose of us according to his will, as a potter over his clay to form what vessel he pleaseth. Now for a man to strive with his maker, it is as if the clay should lift up itself against the potter. So much the prophet saith, Isa. xlv. 9, ‘Woe unto him that striveth with his maker.’ What! shall the pot lift up itself against the potter? That were monstrous, since it is his. Now the potter did not make the matter, only bestows form and art upon it, but God gives us form, matter, and all, and shall we rise up against him, and contemn him?
[2.] Consider that his supremacy is not precarious; it doth not stand to the courtesy of man, that is, whether man will yield God to be supreme, yea or nay; but it is backed with a mighty power: 1 Peter v. 6, ‘Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.’ God’s hand is a mighty hand, and therefore we should humble ourselves. It is a madness to contend with the Lord of hosts. What are we to the Lord, who can stop our breath in a moment? Job iv. 9, ‘By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils they are consumed.’ 198With a breath God can destroy us all, and resolve us into nothing; therefore, to rise up against God, this is the greater pride. Other superiors cannot always maintain their right; they may be foiled in the contention; but surely God will have the best of it; it is madness to contest with him.
[3.] God hath not only right, and that backed with an almighty power, but in the management of his supremacy over men he useth much condescension. To instance that in two things.
(1.) In making motions of peace to such proud and obstinate creatures as we are, that can be of no use or profit to him; ay! and though he be the wronged party. There is in us that which Austin calls infirmitas animositatis—the weakness of strength of stomach. We are striving who shall yield first. Though it be for our interest and advantage to be reconciled, yet we are looking who shall submit first; but the Lord, though he can back his sovereignty with power, yet he comes down from the throne of sovereignty, and makes offers of grace, and prays you to be reconciled. When he might destroy, then he beseecheth, and speaketh supplications to the creature; he comes and entreats you with a great deal of affectionate earnestness. Oh! that God should stoop thus to a handful of unprofitable dust—creatures that can no way be of use and profit to him! What pride is this, to stand it out against such a God!
(2.) In seeking to reclaim us, and soften us by many mercies, and by his kind dealing with us. God would break the heart rather than the back of the sinner, and therefore he seeks to melt us with acts of kindness. Now for us to continue our pride and rebellion after all this, what a pride is this—of how horrible a nature? Rom. ii. 4, ‘Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance, not considering that the goodness of God should lead us to repentance?’ God withholds his hand, and is loath to strike; nay, not only so, but doth follow us with acts of grace and kindness, and maintain us with his own expenses, and yet the proud heart of man will not relent. Mark that word, they ‘despise his goodness;’ they do in effect say, God shall not have my heart for all this. Oh, how great is this pride! These are considerations that may give us a little light to judge of that pride that is in obstinacy and impenitency in sin. If you consider God’s absolute right, he hath not only a dominion of jurisdiction over us, but a full propriety in us, to use us at his pleasure; and this right of his is backed with almighty power, and doth not stand with the creature’s courtesy; and though it be so, yet it is managed with a great deal of condescension and love; he beseecheth poor creatures, and tendereth offers of peace, and they are fed and maintained at his charge, and taste of his goodness and bounty.
Use 1. It informs us, how humble soever men appear otherwise, yet they are proud if they have never submitted to God with brokenness of heart, seeking his pardon and favour. There are many which are facile to men, and yet full of contumacy and stoutness of stomach against God; they can stoop to the poorest worm, and court their favour, but yet deal insolently with their maker. But if men were persuaded of the truth of God’s being, they would sooner be convinced of the naughtiness of their hearts, by comparing their carriage to God 199and men. Many there are that are tender of wounding the reputation of men, yet dishonour God and are never troubled. Many that look upon it as an uncomely thing to despise their neighbour, to deal hotly with an underling, and vaunt it, yet never made conscience of submitting themselves to God, who is their undoubted superior. Men count it part of humility and good manners to yield to those that are over them, and to pay them all kind of respect and subjection; yet they never care to seek the favour of God, and humble themselves seriously for their offences against him. You take it ill in the world when the people of mean quality insult over you, when such times fall out as the base rise up against the honourable. What are you to God? Poor base worms! will you contend with your maker? Do you count it to be heavy disorder, and a strange inversion of all states and conditions, that men of mean and low fortunes should brave it over you, and sway things in the world? and how ill may God take it that you stout it out against him? There is a greater distance between him and you, than between you and your fellow-creatures; therefore, if it be grievous to you, what a heinous offence is it to stand out against God?
Use 2. It instructs us what is the way to reduce and bring home sinners to God, by breaking their pride, or, as the expression is, Job xxxiii. 17, by ‘hiding pride from man;’ by which is meant taking away pride; for that which is taken away is hidden or cannot be seen. As the hiding of sin is the taking away sin, so the hiding of pride is the cure of it.
1. By humble and broken-hearted addresses to God for his pardon and his grace. There is no way to cure the pride of unregeneracy but by brokenness of heart. Come and put your mouths in the dust, and acknowledge that you have too long stood it out against God. As the nobles of the king of Assyria came with ropes about their necks, and submitted themselves; so, Jer. xxxi. 9, ‘They shall return with weeping and supplications.’ This is the way to come out of your sins, to go and bemoan the stubbornness and pride of your hearts; as Ephraim be moaned himself, and smote upon his thigh, and complained of his obstinacy, Jer. xxxi. 18. Christians, first or last God will bring you to this; if you do not stoop voluntarily, you shall by force; if your hearts be not broken by the power of his grace, they shall be broken in pieces by the power of his providence: Rom. xiv. 11, ‘As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me.’ God hath sworn, ‘As I live;’ now in every oath there is an implicit imprecation, that is, if this be not done, then let this befall me. So there is an implicit imprecation in that oath, Count me not a living God if I do not make the creature stoop. If you stand it out against the power of his word, can you stand it out against the power of Christ when he comes in glory? Ezek. xxii. 14, ‘Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong in the days that I shall deal with thee?’ Oh, how will your faces gather blackness and darkness in that day!
2. Yield up yourselves to be governed by his will and pleasure. It is not enough to come weary and heavy laden, not only to be sensible of the burden of sin, and beg for pardon, but we must take Christ’s yoke, Mat. xi. 29. Nature sticks at this: a proud heart is loath to come under the yoke. We would taste of the sweetness of mercy, but 200cannot endure the bonds and restraint of duty; as Ephraim would tread out the corn, but was loath to break the clods, Hosea x. 11. The prophet alludes to the manner among the Jews; their fashion was to tread or thresh out their corn by the feet of beasts, and the ox his mouth was not to be muzzled; it was easy work, and afforded abundance of food, Deut. xxv. 4. We would have comfort, but not duty.
3. We must constantly cherish a humble frame of spirit, if we would maintain communion with God, Micah vi. 8; not only walk with God, but humble thyself to walk with God. Why? He is a great sovereign, and he will be exactly observed and constantly depended upon; and if you slip, you must bewail your failings, and from first to last all must be ascribed to grace.
Doct. 2. These proud are cursed, or, those that obstinately and impenitently continue in their sins, they are under a curse.
1. I shall open the nature of this curse.
2. Show how impenitent sinners come under this curse.
First, The nature and quality of this curse; or what is that curse which lies upon all wicked men? That will best be understood by considering that scripture wherein the tenor of the law is described: Deut. xxxvii. 26, ‘Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them;’ and Gal. iii. 10, ‘Cursed is every one which continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’ Where there is considerable, the duty which the law exacteth, and then the penalty which the law inflicteth.
1. The duty which the law exacteth; every one must continue in the words of this law to do it. An innocent holy nature, that is presupposed, for it is said the person must continue. It doth not consider man as lapsed or fallen, or as having already broken with God. And then he must continue in all things; there is a universal, a perfect obedience, that is indispensably required, while we are in our natural condition. And then the perpetuity; he must hold out to the last; if he fail in one point he is gone. All this is indispensably exacted of all them that live under the tenor of this covenant: ‘He that doth them shall live in them;’ and ‘the soul that sinneth shall die.’ There is required perpetual, perfect, personal obedience. What will you do if this covenant lie upon you, as it doth upon all men in their natural condition? If God call you to a punctual account of the most inoffensive day that ever you past over, what will become of you? ‘If thou, O Lord, shalt mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand?’ Ps. cxxx. 3. Better never have been born than be liable to that judgment. Oh! therefore, when the law shall take a sinner by the throat, and say, ‘Pay me that which thou owest,’ what shall a poor sinner do? This is the duty exacted.
2. The penalty that shall be inflicted, ‘Cursed is everyone that continueth not in the words of this law to do it.’ The law hath a mouth that speaketh terrible things. Cursed, it is but one word, but it may be spread abroad into very large considerations. In one place it is said. ‘The Lord will not spare him. All the curses that are written in this book of this law shall light upon him,’ Deut. xxix. 20. The book of the law is full of curses, and all together they show you what is the portion of an impenitent sinner. In another place it is said 201 ‘Every curse and every plague which is not written in the book of this law will the Lord bring upon thee,’ Deut. xxviii. 61. Mark, though it be not specified in the law. God hath threatened sundry sorts of punishments, yet he hath many plagues in store which are not committed to record or writing; therefore, whatever is written or unwritten, revealed in the word or dispensed in providence by way of plague and misery, it is but the interpretation of this one word, ‘Cursed is he that continueth not,’ &c. However, because particulars are most affective, I will name some parts of the curse.
[1.] This is one part of the cursed condition of a sinner that is under the law, that the knowledge of his duty doth but the more irritate corruption: Rom. vii. 9, ‘The commandment came, and sin revived.’ The more we understand of the necessity of our subjection to God, the more is the soul opposite to God. Sin takes occasion by the commandment, as oppositions do more exasperate and enrage a waspish, spirit.
[2.] This exaction of duty doth either terrify or stupify the conscience; he that escapeth the one suffereth the other. Either men are terrified: indeed all sinners are liable to it; the conscience of a sinner is a sore place, and the apostle saith they are ‘liable to bondage all their days,’ Heb. ii. 14; as Belshazzar trembled to see the hand writing upon the wall, and Felix trembled to hear of judgment to come; so a carnal man is afraid to think of his condition, and some are actually under horror, and wherever they go, as the devils do, they carry their own hell about them. Or if conscience be not terrified, then it is stupified; they grow senseless of their misery, and are ‘past feeling,’ Eph. iv. 19; and that is a very sad estate, and dangerous temper of soul, when men have outgrown all feelings of conscience, and worn out the prints of conviction. These are the two extremes that all Christless persons are incident unto.
[3.] There is a curse upon all that a man hath, as long as he continues in his rebellion and obstinacy against God; he is ‘cursed in his basket and store, in his going out, and coming in,’ &c., Deut. xxviii. 15-17. A man is cursed in his table; that becomes a snare; his afflictions are but beginnings of sorrows. It is a miserable thing to lie in such an estate. If the curse do not break out so visibly or sensibly, it is because now it is the day of God’s patience, and he waits for our return. But mark, God’s spiritual providence is the more dreadful. When God ‘rains snares’ upon men, all the seeming comforts which they have do but harden them in an evil course, and hold them the faster in the bonds of iniquity.
[4.] There is a curse upon all he doth; his duties are lost, his prayers are ‘turned into sin,’ his hearing is ‘the savour of death unto death,’ whilst he remaineth in his impenitency. It is said: Prov. xxi. 27, ‘The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination; how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?’ Though he should come in the best manner he can with his flocks and herds, yet all will be to no purpose, it is an abomination to God.
[5.] Impenitency binds over a man, body and soul, to everlasting torment. In time it will come to that, ‘Go ye cursed,’ &c., Mat. xxv. 41. They are only continued until they have filled up their measure, 202and are ripened for hell, and then they lie eternally under the wrath of God. Look, as it is sweet to hear, ‘Come ye blessed,’ &c., so dreadful in that day to hear, ‘Go ye cursed,’ &c. Thus are the proud cursed, that is, obstinate, impenitent sinners, while they stand off from God. Secondly, Let me examine upon what score they are cursed.
1. Every man by nature is under the curse; for until they are in Christ they are under Adam’s covenant, and Adam’s covenant will yield no blessing to the fallen creature: Gal. in. 10, ‘As many as are under the works of the law are under the curse,’ &c. Mark, every man that remains under the law, that hath not gotten an interest in Christ, the curse of the first covenant remains upon him, and accordingly at the last day he shall have judgment without mercy; he shall be judged according to the terms of that covenant: for there are but two states, under the law, or under grace; therefore, while they are in a state of nature, they must needs be under wrath. So John iii. 18, ‘He that believeth not is condemned already;’ that is, in the sentence of the law; there is a curse gone out against him; the man is gone, lost, condemned already.
2. This curse abideth upon us until we believe in Christ. The sentence of the law is not repealed: John iii. 36, ‘He that believeth not, the wrath of God abideth on him;’ Gal. iii. 13, ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,’ &c.
3. When Christ is tendered, and finally refused, then the sentence of the law is ratified in the gospel or the court of mercy. A court of chancery God hath set up in the gospel for penitent sinners. But then it follows, ‘This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men choose darkness,’ &c. When God shall tender men better conditions by Christ, and they turn their backs upon it, then is this curse confirmed.
Use 1. Consider how matters stand between God and us; examine how it is with you. Here let me lay down these propositions by way of trial:—
1. Every man by nature is in a cursed condition, Eph. ii. 3; every man is liable to Adam’s forfeiture and breach; the elect children of God as well as others are liable to the curse.
2. There is no way to escape this curse but by flying to Christ for refuge, Heb. vi. 18. As a man would flee from the avenger of blood, so should we flee from the curse of the law that is at our heels. Wrath is abroad seeking out sinners; now, saith the apostle, ‘Oh, that I might be found in him!’
3. A sense of this benefit we have by Christ will necessarily beget an unfeigned love to him; else we can have no evidence, but the curse doth still remain: and therefore it is said, 1 Cor. xvi. 22, ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha,’ accursed till the Lord come, that is, for ever and ever. How can a man think he shall be the better for Christ that doth not love Christ, nor delight in him, and have no value for him? And therefore, if you have not this love to Christ, it is a sign you have no benefit by him, you have not that faith that will give you a title.
4. This love must be expressed by a sincere obedience; for ‘this is love, to keep his commandments,’ 1 John v. 3; and Gal. v. 24, ‘They 203that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the lusts thereof.’ They are not Christ’s, are not to be reckoned to him, that merely make a profession of his name, and with whom his memory seems to be precious; but they are Christ’s that testify love to Christ. Do you perform duties for Christ’s sake?
Use 2. To press you to come out of the curse which cleaves to all impenitent sinners. Oh, what a dreadful condition are they in! And how soon God may take advantage of this curse, and cut us off from a possibility of grace, we cannot tell; and at the last day this curse will be ratified. Therefore be sensible of the burden; come out of it. This is God’s end in shutting up a sinner under such a fatal necessity; either you must perish for ever or run to Christ. This should quicken us the more to fly to his mercy.
Thirdly, They are not only cursed, but rebuked, ‘Thou hast rebuked the proud,’ &c. Observe—
Doct. 3. The rebukes of God’s providence upon impenitent sinners are of great use to the saints.
1. They are arguments of his displeasure against the proud and against the impenitent. God, that is so merciful to the humble and broken-hearted, that looketh to him that is poor and contrite and trembles at the word, Isa. lxvi. 3, he can be severe and just against those that deal proudly, that lift up the heel against him, Ps. lxviii. 21: it is twice repeated, ‘Our God is a God of salvation, but he will wound the head of his enemies,’ &c. Mark, though mercy be God’s delight—verily he is a God of salvation—yet we must not imagine a God all honey and all sweetness. If men be proud, obstinate, and impenitent, they shall be cursed; and not only cursed, but they shall be rebuked.
2. It is a proof and document given to the world how tender God is of his word, how willing to satisfy the world. This is the rule we must stand by, ‘Thou hast rebuked them.’ Why? ‘Because they erred from thy commandment.’ God hath authorised and ratified the law by the rebukes of his providence, and made it authentic and valid in the hearts and consciences of men: Rom. i. 18, ‘The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,’ &c. Mark, it is revealed from heaven. The events which fall out in the world we should not look upon as casual strokes, or a chance that happened to us in the way, but as discoveries from heaven. The word is the rule of life. Mark, against all ungodliness; this is the breach of the first table; and against all unrighteousness, which is the breach of the second table. God hath owned both tables: Heb. ii. 2, ‘The word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward.’ He means the law, which was delivered by the ministry of angels. Now, every transgression, by that he means sins of commission; and every disobedience, by that he means sins of omission; and God hath met with every breach and every violation of the law. How punctually God hath exemplified every commandment in his judgment! And if we would make collections of providence, we might easily find this, how God hath rebuked pride, and that because they err from his commandment.204
Again, it may be improved as a check against envy at the prosperity of the wicked. Do not call the proud happy; they are cursed already, and in time shall be punished: ‘Mark the end of the wicked,’ Ps. xxxvi. 17. First or last, God will manifest from heaven his displeasure against their impenitency. By daily experience we may see that they thrive ill that set themselves against God.
And then it serves to confirm the truth of the threatening. Oh! when God inflicteth judgments, remember the curse of the law is not in vain. After the thundering of the threatening, there will break out the bolt of confusion and destruction upon the wicked, so that you must either do or die for it.
Use. Let this persuade men to break off their sins by repentance, that you may be sensible of the wretchedness of your condition. God’s words are deeds. Men may curse, and yet God may bless for all that; but God’s curse is sure to take place. Let us make that use which David doth of it, to excite our affections to the word of God by the vengeance which God taketh of the pride and scorn of others. The examples of others shipwrecking themselves by their rebellion against God are sanctified when they make us more careful and watchful ‘that we err not from God’s commandments.’
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