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For I have believed thy commandments.—Ver. 66.
THIS latter clause may be considered absolutely or relatively; in itself, or as it containeth a reason of the foregoing petition.
First, Absolutely. These words deserve a little consideration, because believing is here suited with an unusual object. Had it been, For I have believed thy promises, or, obeyed thy commandments, the sense of the clause had been more obvious to every vulgar apprehension. To believe commandments sounds as harsh to a common ear as to see with the ear and hear with the eye. But for all this, the commandments are the object; and of them he saith not, I have obeyed, but I have believed. To take off the seeming asperity of the phrase, some interpreters conceive that commandments is put for the word in general; and so promises are included, yea, they think principally intended, those promises which encouraged him to hope for God’s help in all necessary things, such as good judgment and knowledge are. But this interpretation would divert us from the weight and force of these significant words. Therefore—
1. Certainly there is a faith in the commandments, as well as in the promises, as I shall fully prove by and by.
2. The one is as necessary as the other; for as the promises are not esteemed, embraced, and improved, unless they are believed to be of God, so neither are the precepts; they do not sway the conscience as the other do, nor incline the affections, but as they are believed to be divine.
3. The faith of the one must be as lively as the other. As the promises are not believed with a lively faith unless they draw off 213 the heart from carnal vanities to seek that happiness which they offer to us, so the precepts are not believed rightly unless we be fully resolved to acquiesce in them as the only rule to guide us in the obtaining that happiness, and to adhere to them and obey them. As the king’s laws are not kept as soon as they are believed to be the king’s laws, unless also upon the consideration of his authority and power we subject ourselves to them, so this believing noteth a ready alacrity to hear God’s voice and obey it, and to govern our hearts and actions according to his counsel and direction in the word.
Doct. That the commandments of God must be believed as well as his promises; or, The precepts of sanctity and holiness bind the conscience to obey God, as well as the promises bind us to trust in God.
1. What we must believe concerning the commandments.
2. The necessity of believing them if we would be happy.
3. The utility and profit.
1. What we must believe concerning the commandments.
[1.] That they have God for their author, that we may take our duty immediately out of his hand, that these commands are his commands. The expressions of his commanding and legislative will, whereby our duty is determined and bound upon us, that is a matter of faith, not a matter of sense. We were not present at the giving of the law as being past, but we ought to be affected with it as if we were present, or had heard the thunderings of Mount Sinai, or had them now delivered to us by oracle or immediate voice from heaven. God doth once for all give the world sensible and sufficient satisfaction, and then he requireth faith. See Heb. ii. 2-4, ‘For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience obtained a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?’ The apostle compareth the first promulgation of the law and the first publication of the gospel. After ages did not hear the sounding of the dreadful trumpet, nor see the flaming smoking mountain, were not conscious to all those circumstances of terror and majesty with which the law was given; yet it was λόγος βέβαιος, a steadfast word. God owned it in his providence: the punishment of transgressors is proof of God’s authorising the doctrine. So we were not present when the miracles by which the gospel law was confirmed were wrought; yet there is a constant evidence that these things were once done; and God still owneth it in his providence, therefore we must receive the gospel law as the sovereign will and pleasure of our lawgiver, as if we had seen him in person doing these wonders, heard him with our own ears. It is not only those that were present at Mount Sinai that were bound, but all their posterity. God giveth arguments of sense once for all. This belief is the more required of us as to precepts and commandments, because they are more evident by natural light: Rom. ii. 14, 15, ‘For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which show the work of the law written in their hearts.’ There is 214 veritas naturalis and veritas mystica. Some objects of faith depend upon mere revelation, but the commands of the moral law are clearer than the doctrines of faith; they are of duties and things present, not of privileges to be enjoyed hereafter, such as the promises offer to us. Now, it is easier to be convinced of present duties than to be assured of some future things promised.
[2.] That these commandments be received with that reverence that becometh the sovereign will and pleasure of so great a lord and law giver. It is the work of faith to acquaint us with the nature of God and his attributes, and work the sense of them into our hearts. The great governor of the world is invisible, and we do not see him that is invisible but by faith: Heb. xi. 27, ‘By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.’ It is ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων, ‘the evidence of things not seen,’ Heb. xi. 1. Temporal potentates are before your eyes, their majesty may be seen, and their terrors and rewards are matter of sense. That there is an infinite, eternal, and all-wise Spirit, who made all things, and therefore hath right to command and give laws to all things, reason will in part tell us; but faith doth more assure the soul of it, and impresseth the dread and awe of God upon our souls, as if we did see him with bodily eyes. By faith we believe his being: Heb. xi. 6, ‘He that cometh to God must believe that he is.’ His power, so as to oppose it to things visible and sensible: Rom. iv. 21, ‘Being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform.’ That there is no standing out against him who with one beck of his will can ruin us everlastingly, and throw the transgressor of his laws into eternal fire: a frown of his face is enough to undo us; he is not a God to be neglected, or dallied with, or provoked by the wilful breaking of his laws. He hath truly potestatem vitae et necis—the power of life and death: James iv. 12, ‘There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.’ These considerations are best enforced by faith, without which our notions of these things are weak and languid. You are to charge the heart with God’s authority, as you will answer it to him another day, not to neglect or despise the duty you owe to such a God. No terror comparable to his frowns, no comforts comparable to his promises or the sense of his favour.
[3.] That these laws are holy, just, and good: Rom. vii. 12, ‘Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.’ This is necessary, because, in believing the commandments, not only assent is required, but also consent to them, as the fittest laws we could be governed by: Rom. vii. 16, ‘If, then, I do that which I would not, I consent to the law that it is good.’ Consent is a mixed act of the judgment and will: they are not only to be known as God’s laws, but owned and embraced, not only see a truth, but a worth in them. The mandatory part of the word hath its own loveliness and invitation; as the promises of pardon and eternal life suit with the hunger and thirst of conscience, and the natural desires of happiness; so the holiness and righteousness of God’s laws suit with the natural notions of good and evil that are in man’s heart. These laws were written upon man’s heart at his first creation, and though somewhat blurred, we know the better how to read a defaced writing when we get another copy or 215transcript to compare with it. Especially when the heart is renewed, when the Spirit hath wrought a suitableness, there must needs be a consenting and embracing: Heb. viii. 10, ‘This is the covenant that 1 will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.’ There is a ready willing heart to obey them and conform to them in the regenerate, therefore an assent is not enough, but a consent; this is that they would choose and prefer before liberty; they acquiesce and are satisfied in their rule as the best rule for them to live by. But let us see the three attributes, holy, just, and good. (1.) They are holy laws, fit for God to give and man to receive. When we are convinced of this, it is a great help to bridle contrary inclinations, and to carry us on cheerfully in our work. They are fit for God to give, they become such a being as God is: his laws carry the express print and stamp of his own nature upon them. We may know how agreeable they are to the nature of God by supposing the monstrousness of the contrary. If he had forbidden us all love, and fear, and trust in himself, all respect and thanks to our creator, or bidden us to worship false gods, or change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to a corruptible man, as birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things, or that we should blaspheme his name continually, or despise his glory shining forth in the work of his hands, and that we should be disobedient to our parents, and pollute ourselves as the beasts with promiscuous lusts, and fill the world with adulteries, robberies, and thefts, or slander and revile one another, and leave the boat to the stream, give over ourselves to our passions, discontents, and the unruly lusts of our corrupt hearts; these are conceits so monstrous that, if the beasts were capable of having such thoughts transfused into them, they would abhor them, and would infer such a manifest disproportion in the soul as it would in the body to walk with our hands and do our work with our feet And they are fit for man to receive if he would preserve the rectitude of his nature, live as such an understanding creature, keep reason in dominion, and free from being a slave to the appetites of the body. To be just, holy, temperate, humble, meek, chaste, doth not only concern the glory of God and the safety of the world, but the liberty of the reasonable nature, that man may act as a creature that hath a mind to know things that differ, and to keep him from that filthiness and pollution which would be a stain to him, and infringe the glory of his being. There is no middle thing; either a man must be a saint or a beast, either conform himself to God’s will, and look after the interests of his soul, or lose the excellency of his nature, and become as the beasts that perish; either the beast must govern the man, or the man ride upon the beast, which he doth when he taketh God’s counsel. (2.) Just, because it referreth to all God’s precepts. I take it here not strictly but largely, how just it is for God to command, and how reasonable it is that we should obey the supreme being. His will is the reason of all things; and who should give laws to the world but the universal sovereign who made all things out of nothing? Whatsoever you are, you receive it from the Lord; and therefore, whatsoever a reasonable creature can do, you owe it to him: you are in continual dependence upon him, for ‘in him you live, and move, 216and have your being,’ Acts xvii. 28. And be bath redeemed you, called you to life by Christ: 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20, ‘What, know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.’ You owe all your time, and strength, and service unto him, and therefore you should still be doing his will and abounding in his work. (3.) He enjoineth nothing but what is good: Deut. v. 29, ‘Oh, that there were such a heart in them that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever:’ Deut. vi. 24, ‘And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.’ God hath tempered his sovereignty towards the reasonable creature, and ruleth us not with a rod of iron, but with a sceptre of love: ‘He draweth us with the cords of a man,’ Hosea xi. 4; that is, with reasons and arguments taken from our own happiness. Man being a rational and free agent, he would lead and quicken us to our duty by the consideration of our own benefit; and when he might say only, Thus shall ye do; I am the Lord; yet he is pleased to exhort and persuade us not to forsake our own mercies, or to turn back upon our own happiness, and to propound rewards that we may be encouraged to seek after him in that way of duty which he hath prescribed to us. The reward is ever lasting glory, with the mercies of this life in order to it: Heb. xi. 6, ‘God is, and he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.’
[4.] How indispensably obedience to his commandments is required of us. As long as the heart is left loose and arbitrary, such is the unruliness and self-willedness of man’s nature, Rom. viii. 7, ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ The carnalist will not be held to his duty, but leaves that which is honest for that which is pleasing, and is governed by his appetite rather than his reason; therefore faith hedgeth up his way, showeth him ‘that without holiness it is impossible to see God,’ Heb. xii. 14; that there is no coming to the end unless we take the way; that there is no hope of exemption or excuse for the breaches of his law allowed but the plea of the gospel, which doth not evacuate but establish obedience to God’s commands, requireth a renouncing of our former course, and a hearty resolution, ‘to serve God in holiness and righteousness all our days,’ Luke i. 74, 75. Our duty is the end of our deliverance. In the kingdom of grace we are not our own masters, or at liberty to do what we will. Christ came not only as a saviour, but as a lawgiver; he hath his laws to try our obedience: Heb. v. 9, ‘And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.’ He came not to lessen God’s sovereignty or man’s duty, but to put us into a greater capacity to serve God. He came to deliver us from the curse and indispensable rigours of the law upon every failing; not from our duty, nor that we might not serve God, but serve him without fear, with peace of conscience and joy of heart, and requireth such a degree of grace as is inconsistent with any predominant lust and affection.
[5.] That God loveth those that obey his law, and hateth those 217that despise it, without respect of persons: Acts x. 35, ‘In every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with him;’ Ps. v. 5, ‘Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity:’ Prov. xi. 20, ‘They that are of a froward heart are an abomination to the Lord, but such as are upright in their way are his delight.’ The more obedient, the more God loveth us; the less obedient, the less God loveth us. Therefore, unless we love what God loveth, and hate what God hateth, do his commands carefully, and avoid the contrary, we cannot be acceptable with him, for God would not make a law in vain, but order his providence accordingly.
S6.] That one day we shall be called to an account for our conformity inconformity to God’s law. There are two parts of government—legislation and execution: the one belongeth to God as king, the other as judge. Laws are but a shadow, and the sanction a mockery, unless there shall be a day when those that are subject to them shall be called to an account and reckoning. His threatenings are not a vain scare crow, nor his promises a golden dream; therefore he will appoint a day when the truth of the one and the other shall be fully made good; and therefore faith enliveneth the sense of God’s authority with the remembrance of this day, when he will judge the world in righteousness.
2. The necessity.
[1.] The precepts are a part of the divine revelation: the object of faith is the whole word of God, and every part of divinely inspired truth is worthy of all belief and reverence. The word worketh not unless it be received as the word of God: 1 Thes. ii. 13, ‘For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.’ Now we cannot receive the word as the word of God unless we receive all. There are the same reasons to receive one as the other; therefore, if any part take good rooting, the whole is received. There may be a superficial affection to one part more than another; but if there be a right faith, we receive all. It is the engrafted word that is effectual to the saving of our souls, James i. 21; if we would engraft the word, the precepts must stir up answerable affections as well as the promises. Every part must affect us, and stir up dispositions in us which that part is apt to produce. If the promises stir up joy and trust, the precepts must stir up love, fear, and obedience. The same word which calleth upon us to believe the free pardon of our sins, doth also call upon us to believe the commandments of God for the regulating and guiding of our hearts and ways.
[2.] It is such a part as hath a necessary connection with the promises, as without which they can do us no good; therefore, if we mean to be happy, we must regard both; the one is as necessary and fundamental to our happiness as the other. Our consent to God’s covenant is required, not as if we were to debate and alter the terms at our plea sure, but that we may take it as God hath stated it, and bind our duty upon us by our consent to God’s authority. We cannot prescribe conditions and laws of commerce between God and us, but only God alone. Man did not give the conditions, or treat about the making of them, what they should be, but is only bound to submit to what God 218was pleased to offer and prescribe. We are not left free to model and bring down the terms to our own liking, to take hold of them, not to appoint them: Isa. lvi. 4, ‘For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and do the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant:’ for though he condescendeth to treat with us, yet still he keepeth the place of a sovereign: and therefore, if we believe promises, and do not believe God’s commandments, it is not God’s covenant, but one of our own devising, when we take and leave, and part and mingle, and chop and change at our own pleasures. The covenant requireth a total, universal, unlimited resignation of ourselves to the will of God: ‘I will be your God, you shall be my people.’
[3.] The gratitude that resulteth necessarily from faith, or believing the promises, will put us upon this; it apprehendeth love, and leaveth the stamp of it upon the soul, and worketh by love, Gal. v. 6. Now, how are we to express our love to God? Not in a fellow-like familiarity, but dutiful subjection to his laws: 1 John v. 3, ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous;’ and John xiv. 21, ‘He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me:’ not by glavering respects, or a fond remembrance and esteem of his memory, Mat. vii. 11. If we live to God, not to the world, not to the flesh, if faith be lively, it will put us upon this: 2 Cor. v. 15, ‘And that he died for ‘all, that they that live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.’
[4.] Our trust in the promises is always commensurable to our fidelity in the commandments. Faith in the one is maintained by faithfulness in the other, and assurance of acceptance with God cannot be greater than our care of obedience. When love to the world and the flesh tempt us to omit any part of our duty, then do we weaken our confidence thereby, and sin will breed distrust if we be serious and mind our condition: ‘The fruit of righteousness is peace:’ 1 John iii. 21, ‘Beloved, if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God;’ and Heb. vii. 2, ‘Being by interpretation king of righteousness, and after that also king of Salem, which is king of peace:’ and Christ saith, Mat. xi. 29, ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’ Confidence and comfort follow grace, as heat doth fire; and fears and doubts follow sin, as pain doth the pricking of a needle, or any sharp thing wherewith a man pierceth himself; therefore, when sensual objects oversway us, and take us off from obedience to the command, they will also make us doubt of the mercy of God, as well as transgress our duty. We cannot trust him when we have offended freely and without restraint; sin will breed shame and fear.
At present all sinners feel it not; yet hereafter that sin that now weakeneth the faith we have in the commandments, will in time weaken the faith we have in the promises. Every part of our trust in God’s declared will cometh to be tried one time or another: our confidence in God’s mercy is not fully and directly assaulted till the hour of death, and the time of extraordinary trial. When the evil day cometh, then the consciousness of any one sin whereunto we have been indulgent, and of the delight and pleasure we took in transgressing God’s commandments, 219 will be of force to withdraw our assent from God’s mercies: 1 Cor. xv. 56, ‘The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.’
[5.] Faith in the promises, if it be not a conceit and a vain dream, is not only an act enforced by our necessity, but done in obedience to God’s will; therefore we believe because God hath commanded it: 1 John iii. 23, ‘And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ;’ John vi. 29, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.’ It sensibly appeareth many times, a poor soul hath no other motive or encouragement. It ventureth, notwithstanding all discouragements to the contrary, in the strength and sense of a command; as Peter, Luke v. 5, ‘Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing; nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net’ Now that which is done, if rightly done, merely in obedience to a command, cannot be the ground of disobedience in other things. We must not pick and choose. Certainly if we believe the promises on God’s command, we will make conscience of other things commanded also; for he is truly obedient to no precept that doth not obey all enforced by the same authority.
3. The utility.
[1.] That we may begin with God, to yield up our wills absolutely to his will; it is upon a belief that this is his will concerning us; for his will concerning our duty is revealed in his precepts: ‘He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?’ Micah vi. 8. Certainly an obedient creature desireth to know no more but what God will have him to do; and therefore it is needful we should believe what is God’s will, that we may resolve upon his will: Rom. xii. 1, 2, ‘I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service; 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, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.’ The first thing that we do in grace is to arm ourselves with a resolution to obey God’s will, though it be never so contrary to our own, or to the wills of men, or the course of the world’s fashions: 1 Peter iv. 1, 2, ‘Forasmuch, then, as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.’ Now, that this resolution may be made knowingly and with the greater strength, not only with the strength of inclination or our own resolved, renewed will, but in the sense of God’s authority, a strong belief is necessary that this course of life is pleasing to God.
[2.] That we may hold on with God in an awe-ful, watchful, serious course of godliness, it is necessary that the belief of the commandments be deeply impressed upon us. Alas! otherwise we shall be off and on, forward and backward, according to the impulsion of our own inclinations and affections, and the sense of our interest in the world. Many of the commandments are crossing to our natural inclinations and corrupt humours, or contrary to our interests in the world, our profit, pleasure; and nothing will hold the heart to our duty but the conscience 220of God’s authority: This is the Lord’s will, then the gracious soul submitteth: 1 Thes. iv. 3, ‘For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication;’ and 1 Peter ii. 15, ‘For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.’ That is reason enough, and instead of all reasons, to a believer, to awe and charge his heart, that we may not shift and distinguish ourselves out of our duty, that we may shake off sloth and negligence, much more deceits, and fraudulency, and corrupt affections. Many shifts will be studied by a naughty heart that dispense with our credit, esteem, honour, preferment in the world for our loyalty to God. Nothing but a deep belief of the sovereignty of God and the sight of his will can be of sufficient power to the soul when such temptations arise, and our duties are so contrary to the inclinations of the flesh: Heb. xi. 8, ‘By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out not knowing whither he went;’ and ver. 17, 18, ‘By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only-begotten son; of whom it is was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called;’ Gen. xii. 3, ‘In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.’ Oh! how have believers need to bestir themselves upon such an occasion, and to remember no evil can be compared with God’s wrath, no earthly good with his favour: that transitory delights are dearly bought if they endanger the soul to compass them: ‘That the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us!’ Rom. viii. 18. The ordinary experience of believers in lesser temptations is enough to evince this, &c.
Use. 1. For reproof.
1. That men do so little revive the belief of God’s commandments, hence sins of omission: James iv. 17, ‘Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin;’ of commission: Jer. viii. 6, ‘I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright; no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? Every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.’ Would men venture to break a known law if they did consider that it was the command of God that hath power to save and to destroy? Surely want of faith in the precepts is a great cause of their coldness in duty, boldness in sinning: Prov. xiii. 13, ‘Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed; but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.’ Now any one would fear God’s commandment if he did consider it in all its circumstances.
2. Those that would strongly believe the promises, but weakly believe that part of the word that requireth their duty from them, all for privileges, seldom reflect upon their own qualification: it is a good temper when both go together: Ps. cxix. 166, ‘I have hoped for thy salvation, and have done thy commandments;’ so Ps. cxlvii. 11, ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.’ But when asunder, all is naught. God’s promises cannot comfort us if we be not of the number of them to whom they do belong; not only consider what God is, but what we are, and what is required of us—our qualification as well as his goodness, our duty as well as his mercy.221
Use 2. To believe the commandments with a lively faith. We should be tender of disobeying God’s law. The law may be considered as a covenant of works, or as a rule of life. As a covenant of works, so it is satisfied by Christ for those that have an interest in him, and serveth to quicken us to get this interest in him. As it is a rule of life, so in the new covenant we give up ourselves to God to walk according to the tenor of it; as Israel by a voluntary submission: Exod. xix. 8, ‘All that the Lord hath spoken, we will do.’ So in the church of the New Testament we engage ourselves by a voluntary submission to walk according to the will of God, and confirm it by the sacraments, baptism, and the Lord’s supper. Well, then, we are still to regard it as a binding rule, looking for grace to perform it. It is not only a rule given us for advice and direction, but for a strong obligation to urge and enforce us to our duty. So Ps. xl. 8, ‘Thy law is in my heart; I delight to do thy will, O God.’
Use 3. Do we believe the commandments? Then—
1. We will not please ourselves with a naked trust in the promises, while we neglect our duty to God. That which God hath joined together no man must put asunder. The prophet saith, Hosea x. 11, ‘Ephraim is an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn;’ compared with Deut. xxv. 4, ‘Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.’ We are addicted to our own ease, prize comforts, but loathe duty. Oh, make more conscience of obedience!
2. Their faith will be lively and operative, cause to keep God’s charge and observe his commandments; otherwise it is but an opinion and a dead faith: James ii. 20, ‘Wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?’ Many may discourse of the necessity of duty that have little sense of it; as the children in the furnace, the tire had no power over them, neither was one hair of their heads singed, nor their coats changed; not a lust mortified, no good by their strict notions.
3. They must be obeyed as God’s commands, abstaining from evil because God forbiddeth it, practising that which is good because God commandeth it Notitia voluntatis: 1 Thes. iv. 3, ‘This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication;’ 1 Thes. v. 8, 9, ‘But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for an helmet, the hope of salvation: for God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ;’ 1 Peter ii. 15, ‘For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.’ Certainly no private respect, desire of our own plea sure and profit, should hinder us; but we must respect one command as well as another, otherwise our obedience is partial. A quatenus ad omne valet consequentia; if we believe the commandments, we must believe all. Where a disposition is allowed to break any one of God’s laws, the heart is not right. God’s sovereignty, once acknowledged, is alike potent to restrain every inclination to acts displeasing to God and contrary to our duty, one as well as another.
Secondly, The text may be considered relatively, with respect to the matter in hand; and so it may be conceived as a reason of asking, or as a reason of granting.222
1. As a reason of asking.
[1.] It giveth a character of them that believe; they that believe God’s commandments will desire to know them more, to be more accurate in knowing their duty, and the weight and consequence of it;—they are willing to practise all that it requireth, and so are willing to ‘prove what is the acceptable will of the Lord:’ Eph. v. 17, ‘Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is;’ they would not do anything doubtingly: Rom. iv. 23, ‘He that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin;’ nor according to the wills of men: Gal. i. 10, ‘For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.’ They would avoid all appearance of evil: 1 Thes. v. 22, Occasions to evil; Rom. xiii. 14, ‘Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.’ They know the weight and consequence of these things.
[2.] It giveth us an intimation of the necessity of growth: none believe so much but they may believe more: 1 John v. 13, ‘These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God:’ and they may obey more, embrace the word more. David beggeth he may do so: always there is some new thing to be learned in the scripture.
[3.] That faith planted in the heart is nourished and increased by more knowledge and understanding: 2 Peter i. 5, ‘Add to your faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge.’ There is an implicit and an explicit faith; oportet discentem credere, swallowing pills, not chewing them.
2. As a reason of granting. Believing God’s commandments is a disposition that hath a promise of more knowledge to be communicated.
[1.] God by one act of grace maketh way for another. First, he giveth this first favour of receiving the word by faith as divine, worthy to be believed and obeyed; then, to understand it and apprehend it more perfectly, discretion and judgment to go about duties wisely.
[2.] God giveth according to the creatures’ receptions; they that are dutiful and docile and willing to comply with their duty already known, shall know more.
Use. The use is, if we expect more illumination, let us believe as much as is manifested already to us, with a mind to practise.
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