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Having told you what things are previously required to our walking with God, —
2. Our next inquiry is, as to the matter or thing itself; — what it is to walk with God.
The expression itself is very frequent in Scripture, both as to the examples of them that did so, and as to precepts for others so to do.
It is said of Enoch, that he “walked with God,” Gen. v. 24. And “Noah walked with God,” Gen. vi. 9. Hezekiah:” walked before God,” Isa. xxxviii. 3. Abraham is commanded to walk with God, Gen. xvii. 1; yea, and the same thing is almost a hundred times in the Scriptures, with some little variation, so expressed. Sometimes we are said to “walk with God;” sometimes to “walk before him;” sometimes to “follow after him,” to “follow hard after him;” sometimes “to walk in his ways;” — all to the same purpose.
94The expression, you know, is metaphorical; by an allusion taken from things natural, spiritual things are expressed therein.
Not to press the metaphor beyond its principal intention, nor to insist on all particulars wherein any thing of allusion may be found, nor yet insist on the proof of that which is owned and acknowledged, — walking with God, in general, consisteth in the performance of that obedience, for matter and manner, which God, in the covenant of grace, requires at our hands.
I shall only manifest unto you some few of the chief concernments of this obedience, which give life and significancy to the metaphor, and so pass on:—
(1.) That our obedience be walking with God, it is required that we be in covenant with him, and that the obedience be required in the tenor of that covenant.
This, as to the matter of it, was spoken to before, under the head of what was required to this walking with God, — namely, that we have peace and agreement with him. Here it is formally considered — from that expression, “with God “— as the spring and rule of our obedience. Therefore this expression is comprehensive of the whole duty of the covenant on our part. As, Gen. xvii. 1, “I am God Almighty,” or “All-sufficient,” — that is, unto thee I will be so, — as this is comprehensive of the whole of the covenant on the part of God, — that he will be unto us an all-sufficient God; so the words that follow are comprehensive of the whole of our duty, — “Walk before me;” which are exegetically explained in the next words, “and be thou perfect.” The covenant, — the agreement that is between God and us in Christ, wherein he promises to be our God, and we give up ourselves to be his people, — is the bottom and spring of that obedience which is walking with God; that is, at an agreement with him, in covenant with him, — with whom, out of covenant, we have no commerce.
(2.) It is an obedience according to the tenor of that covenant wherein we are agreed with God. Walking with God according to the tenor of the covenant of works was, “Do this, and live.” The state is now changed. The rule now is that of Gen. xvii. 1, “ ‘Be thou perfect,’ or upright, ‘before me,’ in all the obedience I require at thy hands.”
Now, there are sundry things required to our walking with God in obedience, so that it may answer the tenor of the covenant wherein we are agreed.
[1.] That it proceed from faith in God, by Christ the mediator. Faith in God, in general, is, and must be, the principle of all obedience, in what covenant soever, Heb. xi. 6; but faith in God, through Christ the mediator, is the principle of that obedience which, according to the tenor of the new covenant, is accepted. Hence it is called 95“The obedience of faith,” Rom. i. 5; that is, of faith in God by Christ, as the foregoing and following words evince. His blood is the blood of this covenant, Heb. ix. 15, x. 29. The covenant itself is confirmed and ratified, thereby; and by the blood of that covenant do we receive what we receive from God, Zech. ix. 11. Hence, whenever God makes mention of the covenant to Abraham, and stirs him up to the obedience that is required in it, he still mentions the “seed;” “which is Christ,” saith the apostle, Gal. iii. 16. As it is said, in general, that “he that comes to God must believe that he is;” so, in particular, as to the new covenant, Christ says of himself, “I am the way:” there is no going to the Father but by him, John xiv. 6. They who have believed in God, must be careful to maintain good works, Tit. iii. 8.; that is, they who have believed in God through Christ. If, in our obedience, we walk with God according to the tenor of the new covenant, that obedience ariseth from justifying faith; that is, faith in God through Christ.
[2.] That it be perfect; that is, that the person be perfect or upright therein: “Walk before me, and be thou perfect,” Gen. xvii. 1. It was said of Noah, that he was “perfect in his generations,” Gen. vi. 9; as it is also said of many others. David bids us “mark the perfect man,” Ps. xxxvii. 37; that is, the man that walketh with God according to the tenor of the new covenant. And our Saviour, calling for this obedience, commands us to “be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect,” Matt. v. 48.
Now there is a twofold perfection:—
1st. There is a τελείωσις, — a consummation in righteousness. So it is said of the law, that it “made nothing perfect,” Heb. vii. 19, or brought nothing to perfect righteousness. And the sacrifices made not the comers unto God by them perfect, Heb. x. 1. They could not τελειῶσαι, consummate the work of righteousness, which was aimed at. In this sense we are said to be perfect, “complete” in Christ, Col. ii. 10; and, as it is said in another case, Ezek. xvi. 14, our beauty is “perfect” through his comeliness. This is the perfection of justification; whereof we speak not.
2dly. There is a perfection within us. Now this also is twofold:— A complete perfection of enjoyment; and a perfection of tendency towards enjoyment:—
(1st.) In respect of the first, Paul says he was not made perfect, Phil. iii. 12; and tells us where and by whom it is obtained, Heb. xii. 23, “The spirits of just men made perfect.” Just men are not thus made perfect until their spirits be brought into the presence of God. This perfection is the aim of Christ’s redemption, Eph. v. 25, 26; and of all their obedience, Eph. iv. 14. But this is not the perfection which the covenant requires, but which it tends and brings to, 96whilst by the promise of it we are carried on in the work of “perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” 2 Cor. vii. 1. See Job ix. 20.
(2dly.) There is also a perfection of tendency to this end. So Noah is said to be perfect, and Job perfect; and God commands Abraham to be perfect; and David describes the happy condition of the perfect man. Concerning this, observe, —
[1st.] There is no word in the Scripture whereby this perfection, and being perfect, is expressed, that in its use is restrained to such an absolute perfection as should admit of no mixture of failing or defect. The word used concerning Noah, and in the terms of the covenant to Abraham, is תָּמִים, of תָּם, from תָּמַם; which hath various significations. When spoken in the abstract, as תָּם is often used, it signifies “simplicity of manners,” without craft; which, in the New Testament, is ἀκακία ἄκακος, Rom. xvi. 18]. So Jacob is said to be אִישׁ תָּם, Gen. xxv. 27, which we have rendered, “a plain man;” that is, plain-hearted, without guile, — as Christ speaks of Nathanael. Of this sense of the word you have a notable example, 1 Kings xxii. 34, where the man that slew Ahab is said to draw a bow לְתֻמּוֹ, “in his simplicity,” which we have rendered, “at a venture;” that is, without any pernicious design in particular. So, Job ix. 21, תָּם is opposed to רָשָׁע that is, to him that is “unquiet, malicious,” and “perverse.” Such a man in the New Testament is said to be ἀνέγκλητος and ἄμωμος, — that is, “one that cannot be justly blamed,” or reproved, “for dealing perversely.” Many other instances might be given. The word יָשָׁר, which we have commonly rendered “upright,” is used also to this purpose; but it is so known that this word in its use in the Scripture goes no farther than “integrity,” nor reaches to an absolute perfection, that I shall not need to insist on it.
The words used in the New Testament are chiefly τέλειος and ἄρτιος, neither of which in their use is restrained to this perfection. Hence James saith, he is τέλειος, who bridles his tongue, James iii. 2. The word is but once used positively of any man in an indefinite sense; and that is, 1 Cor. ii. 6, where it evidently denotes only men of some growth in the knowledge of the mystery of the gospel. But I shall not farther pursue the words.
[2dly.] Two things are contained in this perfection of obedience that is required in our walking with God in the new covenant. The first whereof regards our obedience; the second, the persons obeying.
1st. The perfection that respects the obedience itself, or our objective perfection, is that of parts, or the whole of the will and counsel of God as to our obedience. The law or will of God concerning our obedience is perfect; it hath an integrity in it; and we must have respect to all the parts of it that are revealed to us. So David, “I have a respect unto all thy commandments,” Ps. cxix. 6. See James ii. 10.
972dly. Subjective perfection, in respect of the person obeying, is his sincerity and freedom from guile, — the uprightness of his heart in his obedience. And this is that which is mainly intended in that expression of being “perfect,” — being upright, without guile, hypocrisy, false or selfish ends, — in singleness and simplicity of heart doing the whole will of God.
This, then, I say, is that perfection of obedience which makes it walking with God. Whatever comes short of this, — if the heart be not upright, without guile, free from hypocrisy and self-ends, — if the obedience be not universal, it is not walking with God. This is a perfection in a tendency to that which is complete; which Paul wished for the Corinthians, 2 Cor. xiii. 9; and which he exhorted the Hebrews to, Heb. vi. 1. If we fail in this, or come short of this perfection, by any guile of our hearts, by voluntary retaining any sweet morsel under our tongue, by keeping a knee for Baal, or a bow for Rimmon, — we walk not with God. It is sad to think how many lose all they do or have wrought by coming short in this perfection. One vile lust or other, — love of the world, pride, ambition, idleness, hardheartedness, — may lose all, spoil all; and men walk contrary to God when they think they walk most with him.
(3.) That our obedience may be walking with God, it is required that it be a constant, progressive motion towards a mark before us. Walking is a constant progress. He that is walking towards a place that he hath in his eye may stumble sometimes, yea, perhaps, and fall also; but yet, whilst his design and endeavour lies towards the place aimed at, — whilst he lies not still when he falls, but gets up again and presses forward, — he is still, from the chief aim of his acting, said to walk that way. But now, let this man sit down, or lie down in the way, you cannot say he is walking; much less can you say that he is walking that way, if he walk quite contrary. So is it in that obedience which is walking with God. “I press forward,” saith the apostle, “to the mark,” Phil. iii. 14; “I follow after it,” chap. iii. 12. And he bids us “so run that we may obtain.” There is a constant pressing forwards required in our obedience. Saith David, “I follow hard after God.” The enjoyment of God in Christ is the mark before us; our walking is a constant pressing towards it. To fall into, yea, perhaps, fall under, a temptation, hinders not but that a man may still be said to be walking, though he makes no great speed, and though he defiles himself by his fall. It is not every omission of a duty, it is not every commission of sin, that utterly cuts off in the performance of the duty; but to sit down and give over, — to engage in a way, a course of sin, — this is that which is called walking contrary to God, not with him.
(4.) Walking with God, is to walk always as under the eye of God. 98Hence it is called “walking before him,” before his face, in his sight. The performance of all duties of obedience as under the eye of God, is required unto this walking with him.
Now, there are two ways whereby a man may do all things as under the eye of God:—
[1.] By a general apprehension of God’s omniscience and presence, as “all things are open and naked before him,” Heb. iv. 12; on this consideration, that he knows all things, — that his understanding is infinite, — that nothing can be hid from him, — that there is no flying out of his presence, Ps. cxxxix. 7, nor hiding from him, the darkness being light to him. Men may have a general persuasion that they are under the eye of God: and this is in the thoughts of all; — I do not say actually, but in respect of the principle of it that lies in them; which, if it may freely act itself, will make them know it and consider it, Ps. xciv. 9; Job xxiv. 23; Prov. xv. 3.
[2.] There is a performance of obedience under the eye of God, as one that is peculiarly concerned in that obedience. God says to David, Ps. xxxii. 8, “ ‘I will guide thee with mine eye.’ The consideration of mine eye being upon thee, shall instruct thee, or teach thee in the way which thou shalt go. Mine eye is on thee, as concerned in thy ways and obedience.” This is to walk before God, — to consider him as looking on us, as one deeply concerned in all our ways, walking, and obedience.
Now, we consider the Lord as thus concerned, as one from whom we receive, — 1st, Direction; 2dly, Protection; 3dly, Examination and trial.
1st. Direction. So before, — “I will guide thee with mine eye.” Consideration of the eye of God on us, sends us to him for counsel and direction in the whole course of our obedience. If a child walk in any way with his father looking on him, if he be at a loss at any time which way he ought to go, will he not inquire of him who knows, who looks on him in all his ways? Are we at any loss in our way? know we not what to do, or how to steer our course? — [Let us] look to Him whose eye is upon us, and we shall have direction, Prov. xxii. 12.
2dly. Protection in our walking in our obedience: Ps. xxxiv. 15, His eyes are so upon them, that his ears are open to them, to give them protection and deliverance: so fully, 2 Chron. xvi. 9. This is one end why the eyes of God are upon his and their ways, — that he may show himself strong in their behalf. “I have seen it,” he lays at the bottom of all their deliverance.
3dly. For trial and examination: Ps. xi. 4, 5, His eyes are upon us, for to search and try if there be, as David speaks, any way of wickedness in us. This use he makes of the consideration of the omnipresence and omniscience of God, Ps. cxxxix. 7–18. Having 99set forth God’s intimate knowledge of and acquaintance with him, and all his ways, verses 23, 24, he makes use of it, by appealing to him about his integrity in his obedience. So saith Job to God, “Hast thou eyes of flesh? or seest thou as man seeth?” chap. x. 4; that is, thou dost not. And what is this spoken in reference unto? Even his trying the paths and obedience of the sons of men, verse 6. When our Saviour comes to try, examine, and search the obedience of his churches, he is said to have “eyes of fire,” Rev. i. 14. And, in pursuit of it, he still tells his churches, “I know thy works;” — or, “I have not found thee perfect; I have something against thee:” — all arguing a trial and examination of their obedience.
This, I say, is to walk before God, or under his eye, — to consider him looking on us peculiarly, as one concerned in our ways, walking, and obedience; that we may constantly take counsel of him, fly to him for protection, and consider that he weighs and tries all our ways and works, whether they are perfect according to the tenor of the covenant of grace.
Now, there are two things that will certainly follow this consideration of our walking with God, being under his eye and control:—
(1st.) Reverential thoughts of him. This God, who is a consuming fire, is nigh to us; his eyes are always on us. “Let us,” saith the apostle, “have grace, whereby we may serve him acceptably,” Heb. xii. 28, 29. If men order their deportment and carriage, at least, unto a reverential appearance before their rulers or governors, who see only their outside, shall we not have a regard of Him who always hath his eye upon us, searches our hearts, and tries our reins, — the most secret reserve of our souls? But of this afterward.
(2dly.) Self-abasement under a sense of our great vileness, and the imperfection of all our services. But both these belong properly to the next consideration, — of what it is to walk humbly with God.
(5.) Our walking with God in our obedience, argues complacency and delight therein, and that we are bound unto God in his ways with the cords of love. He that goes unwillingly, by compulsion, with another, when every step is wearisome and burdensome to him, and his whole heart desires to be discharged of his company, can very improperly be said to walk with him, and no farther than as the mere motion of the body may be so expressed. The Lord walketh with us, and he rejoiceth over us, and in us, Zeph. iii. 17; as also he expresseth his delight in the particular service that we yield unto him, Cant. ii. 14. So also saith the Son and Wisdom of God, Prov. viii. 31; his joy and his delight is in the obedience of the sons of men. Hence are those longing expressions of God after the obedience of his people, “ ‘O that there were such an heart in thee, that thou wouldst fear me! Turn ye, turn ye; when shall it once be!’ What have you 100seen in me, that you are gone away?” And our Saviour, the husband of the church, carries this to the greatest height imaginable, Cant. iv. 9–16. He speaks as one transported by a delight not to be borne, which he receives from the love and obedience of his spouse, — comparing it with things of the highest natural delight, and preferring them far before them.
Now, surely, if God hath this delight in us in our walking before him, is it not expected that our delight should be in him in our obedience? It suits not my present business to go over the testimonies of Scripture, wherein either we are required to delight in the Lord, or have the example of the saints, who did so to the height proposed to us; or to insist on the nature of the delight I speak of. Job makes it a sure mark of a hypocrite, that he “will not,” notwithstanding all his obedience, “delight himself in the Almighty,” Job xxvii. 10. Only take notice that there is a twofold delight in this matter:— [1.] A delight in the obedience itself, and the duties of it; [2.] A delight in God in that obedience.
[1.] There may be a delight in the duties of obedience, upon some foreign respect, when there is no delight in God in them. A man may delight to go along with another in the way, on the account of some pleasantness in the way, or other occasions which he hath to draw him that way, though he hath no delight at all in the company of him with whom he walks. God tells us of a hypocritical people, that sought him daily, and delighted to know his ways, and took delight in approaching to God, Isa. lviii. 2. And it is said of some, that Ezekiel’s ministry was to them as “a cheerful song of one that had a pleasant voice;” wherefore they came and heard and attended on it, when their hearts went after their sins, Ezek. xxxiii. 31, 32. There may be something in the administration of the ordinances of God, in the person administering, in the things administered, which may take the minds of hypocrites, so that they may run after them, and attend to them with great delight and greediness. John “was a burning and a shining light,” saith our Saviour to the wicked Jews; and “they were willing for a season to rejoice” (or delight) “in his light,” John v. 35. How many have we seen running after sermons, pressing with the multitude, finding sweetness and contentment in the word, who yet have nothing but novelty, or the ability of the preacher, or some outward consideration, for the bottom of their delight!
[2.] There is a delight in God in our obedience, — “Delight thyself in the Lord,” saith the psalmist, Ps. xxxvii. 4; — and a delight in obedience and duties, because it is his will, and his ways. When a person aims in every duty to meet with God, to have converse with him, to communicate his soul to him, and to receive refreshment from 101him; when on this account our duties and all our ways of obedience are sweet and pleasant to us; — then do we in them walk with God. Let not men think, who perform duties with a bondage-frame of spirit; to whom they are weariness and burdensome, but that they dare not omit them; who never examine their hearts whether they meet with God in their duties, or have any delight in so doing; — let them not think, I say, whatever they do, that at all they walk with God.
I shall not insist on more particulars.
Use 1. Of direction. Know that it is a great thing to walk with God as we ought. We heard before how many things were required to render it acceptable; now, some of the things that it consists in. Who, almost, hath prepared his heart to walk with God as he ought? who considers whether his walking be such as it ought to be? Believe me, friends, a formal performance of duties, in a course or a round, from one day, one week to another, both in private and public, may possibly come exceeding short of this walking with God. Men content themselves with a very slight and formal course. So they pray morning and evening; so they take part with some of the people of God against open profane persons; so they keep themselves from such sins as would wound a natural conscience, — all is well with them. Be not deceived, walking with God must have, —
(1.) All the strength and vigour of the soul laid out in it. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” The soul and heart of a man is to be in the work; his design and contrivance about it; his contending in it. Form and a course will not do it.
(2.) It is to have the perfection of the new covenant in universality, and sincerity attending it. It is not the doing of this or that thing, but the doing of all things by Christ commanded; not a loving of friends only, but of enemies; not a denial of the ways of ungodly men only, but a denial of self and the world; not a doing hurt to none only, but a doing good to all; not a hatred to evil men’s ways only, but a love to their persons; not praying and hearing only, — but giving alms, communicating, showing mercy, exercising loving-kindness in the earth; not a mortification of pride and vanity only, especially if as to others in any outward appearance, — but of envy, wrath, discontent. In a word, it is “perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord” that is required. If men professing religion, who are almost devoured by world, or flesh, or envy, or faction, or idleness, or uselessness in their generation, would but lay their hearts to the rules we have considered, they would find they had but little cause to hug themselves in their ways and walking.
I might here go over all the particulars that have been insisted on, and try our obedience by them. But, —
102Use 2. For others, I shall only ask over the heads of what have been delivered. Would you be thought to walk with God? —
(1.) What evidence have you that you are in covenant with him? that your covenant with hell and death is broken, and that you are taken into the bond of the covenant of grace? What account can you give to God, others, or your own souls, of this your covenant state and condition? How many are at a loss as to this foundation of all walking with God!
(2.) Is your obedience from faith? What evidence have you thereof? Go over all the causes, effects, and adjuncts of a justifying faith, and try whether you have this principle of all acceptable obedience. How hath it been wrought in you? What work of the Spirit have you had upon you? What have been your conviction, humiliation, and conversion? When, how, by what means wrought? Are your hearts purified by it, and are you by it baptized into one Spirit with the people of God? or are you still enemies to them?
(3.) Is your walking universal and perfect, according to the tenor of the covenant? Have you no sweet morsel under your tongue, no beloved lust that is indulged to, that you cannot as yet thoroughly part with? no allowed reserve for sin?
(4.) Do you delight in God in that obedience you yield? or are his ways a burden unto you, that you are scarce able to bear them, — weary of private prayer, of Sabbaths, of all the worship of God? I leave these things with your consciences.
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