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1.3 The Preface to the Commandments
‘And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God,’ &c. Exod 20: 1, 2.
What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
The preface to the Ten Commandments is, ‘I am the Lord thy God.’
The preface to the preface is, ‘God spake all these words, saying,’ &c. This is like the sounding of a trumpet before a solemn proclamation. Other parts of the Bible are said to be uttered by the mouth of the holy prophets (Luke 1: 70), but here God spake in his own person.
How are we to understand that, God spake, since he has no bodily parts or organs of speech?
God made some intelligible sound, or fanned a voice in the air, which, to the Jews was as though God himself was speaking to them. Observe:
(1) The lawgiver. ‘God spake.’ There are two things requisite in a lawgiver.  Wisdom. Laws are founded upon reason; and he must be wise that makes laws. God, in this respect, is most fit to be a lawgiver: ‘he is wise in heart.’ Job 9: 4. He has a monopoly of wisdom. ‘The only wise God.’ 1 Tim 1: 17. Therefore he is the fittest to enact and constitute laws.  Authority. If a subject makes laws, however wise they may be, they want the stamp of authority. God has the supreme power in his hand: he gives being to all; and he who gives men their lives, has most right to give them their laws.
(2) The law itself. ‘All these words.’ That is, all the words of the moral law, which is usually styled the decalogue, or ten commandments. It is called the moral law because it is the rule of life and manners. The Scripture, as Chrysostom says, is a garden, and the moral law is the chief flower in it: it is a banquet, and the moral law is the chief dish in it.
The moral law is perfect. ‘The law of the Lord is perfect.’ Psa 19: 7. It is an exact model and platform of religion; it is the standard of truth, the judge of controversies, the pole-star to direct us to heaven. ‘The commandment is a lamp.’ Prov 6: 23. Though the moral law be not a Christ to justify us, it is a rule to instruct us.
The moral law is unalterable; it remains still in force. Though the ceremonial and judicial laws are abrogated, the moral law delivered by God’s own mouth is of perpetual use in the church. It was written in tables of stone, to show its perpetuity.
The moral law is very illustrious and full of glory. God put glory upon it in the manner of its promulgation.  The people, before the moral law was delivered, were to wash their clothes, whereby, as by a type, God required the sanctifying of their ears and hearts to receive the law. Exod 19: 10.  There were bounds set that none might touch the mount, which was to produce in the people reverence to the law. Exod 19: 12.  God wrote the law with his own finger, which was such an honour put upon the moral law, as we read of no other such writing. Exod 31: 18. God by some mighty operation, made the law legible in letters, as if it had been written with his own finger.  God’s putting the law in the ark to be kept was another signal mark of honour put upon it. The ark was the cabinet in which He put the ten commandments, as ten jewels.  At the delivery of the moral law, many angels were in attendance. Deut 33: 2. A parliament of angels was called, and God himself was the speaker.
Use one. Here we may notice God’s goodness, who has not left us without a law. He often sets down the giving his commandments as a demonstration of his love. ‘He has not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgements they have not known them.’ Psa 147: 20. ‘Thou gavest them true laws, good statutes and commandments.’ Neh 9: 13. What a strange creature would man be if he had no law to direct him! There would be no living in the world; we should have none born but Ishmaels — every man’s hand would be against his neighbour. Man would grow wild if he had not affliction to tame him, and the moral law to guide him. The law of God is a hedge to keep us within the bounds of sobriety and piety.
Use two. If God spake all these words of the moral law, then it condemns: (1) The Marcionites and Manichees, who speak lightly, yea, blasphemously, of the moral law; who say it is below a Christian, it is carnal; which the apostle confutes, when he says, ‘The law is spiritual, but I am carnal.’ Rom 7: 14. (2) The Antinomians, who will not admit the moral law to be a rule to a believer. We say not that he is under the curse of the law, but the commands. We say not the moral law is a Christ, but it is a star to lead to Christ. We say not that it saves, but sanctifies. They who cast God’s law behind their backs, God will cast their prayers behind his back. They who will not have the law to rule them, shall have the law to judge them. (3) The Papists, who, as if God’s law were imperfect, and when he spake all these words he did not speak enough, add to it their canons and traditions. This is to tax God’s wisdom, as if he knew not how to make his own law. This surely is a high provocation. ‘If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.’ Rev 22: 18. As it is a great evil to add anything to a man’s sealed will, so much more to add anything to the law which God himself spake, and wrote with his own fingers.
Use three. If God spake all the words of the moral law, several duties are enjoined upon us: (1) If God spake all these words, then we must hear all these words. The words which God speaks are too precious to be lost. As we would have God hear all our words when we pray, so we must hear all his words when he speaks. We must not be as the deaf adder, which stoppeth her ears: he that stops his ears when God cries, shall cry himself, and not be heard.
(2) If God spake all these words, then we must attend to them with reverence. Every word of the moral law is an oracle from heaven. God himself is the preacher, which calls for reverence. If a judge gives a charge upon the bench, all attend with reverence. In the moral law God himself gives a charge, ‘God spake all these words;’ with what veneration, therefore, should we attend! Moses put off his shoes from his feet, in token of reverence, when God was about to speak to him. Exod 3: 5, 6.
(3)If God spake all these words of the moral law, then we must remember them. Surely all God speaks is worth remembering; those words are weighty which concern salvation. ‘It is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life.’ Deut 32: 47. Our memory should be like the chest in the ark where the law was kept. God’s oracles are ornaments, and shall we forget them? ‘Can a maid forget her ornaments?’ Jer 2: 32.
(4) If God spake all these words, then believe them. See the name of God written upon every commandment. The heathens, in order to gain credit to their laws, reported that they were inspired by the gods at Rome. The moral law fetches its pedigree from heaven. Ipse dixit. God spake all these words. Shall we not give credit to the God of heaven? How would the angel confirm the women in the resurrection of Christ? ‘Lo (said he), I have told you.’ Matt 28: 7. I speak in the word of an angel. Much more should the moral law be believed, when it comes to us in the word of God. ‘God spake all these words.’ Unbelief enervates the virtue of God’s word, and makes it prove abortive. ‘The word did not profit, not being mixed with faith.’ Heb 4: 2. Eve gave more credit to the devil when he spake than she did to God.
(5) If God spake all these words, then love the commandments. ‘Oh, how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.’ Psa 119: 97. ‘Consider how I love thy precepts.’ Psa 119: 159. The moral law is the copy of God’s will, our spiritual directory; it shows us what sins to avoid, what duties to pursue. The ten commandments are a chain of pearls to adorn us, they are our treasury to enrich us; they are more precious than lands of spices, or rocks of diamonds. ‘The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.’ Psa 119: 72. The law of God has truth and goodness in it. Neh 9: 13. Truth, for God spake it; and goodness, for there is nothing the commandment enjoins, but it is for our good. O then, let this command our love.
(6) If God spake all these words, then teach your children the law of God. ‘These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.’ Deut 6: 6, 7. He who is godly, is both a diamond and a loadstone: a diamond for the sparkling of his grace, and a loadstone for his attractive virtue in drawing others to the love of God’s precepts. Vir bonus magis aliis prodest quam sibi [A good man benefits others more than himself]. You that are parents, discharge your duty. Though you cannot impart grace to your children, yet you may impart knowledge. Let your children know the commandments of God. ‘Ye shall teach them your children.’ Deut 11: 19. You are careful to leave your children a portion: leave the oracles of heaven with them; instruct them in the law of God. If God spake all these words, you may well speak them over again to your children.
(7) If God spake all these words, the moral law must be obeyed. If a king speaks, his word commands allegiance; much more, when God speaks, must his words be obeyed. Some will obey partially, obey some commandments, not others; like a slough, which, when it comes to a stiff piece of earth, makes a baulk; but God, who spake all the words of the moral law, will have all obeyed. He will not dispense with the breach of one law. Princes, indeed, for special reasons, sometimes dispense with penal statutes, and will not enforce the severity of the law; but God, who spake all these words, binds men with a subpoena to yield obedience to every law.
This condemns the church of Rome, which, instead of obeying the whole moral law, blots out one commandment, and dispenses with others. They leave the second commandment out of their catechism, because it makes against images; and to fill up the number of ten, they divide the tenth commandment into two. Thus, they incur that dreadful condemnation: ‘If any man shall take away from the words of this book, God shall take away his part out of the book of life.’ Rev 22: 19. As they blot out one commandment, and cut the knot which they cannot untie, so they dispense with other commandments. They dispense with the sixth commandment, making murder meritorious in case of propagating the Catholic cause. They dispense with the seventh commandment, wherein God forbids adultery; for the Pope dispenses with the sin of uncleanness, yea, incest, by paying fines and sums of money into his coffer. No wonder the Pope takes men off their loyalty to kings and princes, when he teaches them disloyalty to God. Some of the Papists say expressly in their writings, that the Pope has power to dispense with the laws of God, and can give men license to break the commandments of the Old and New Testament. That such a religion should ever again get foot in England, the Lord in mercy prevent! If God spake all the commandments, then we must obey all; he who breaks the hedge of the commandments, a serpent shall bite him.
But what man can obey all God’s commandments?
To obey the law in a legal sense — to do all the law requires — no man can. Sin has cut the lock of original righteousness, where our strength lay; but, in a true gospel-sense, we may so obey the moral law as to find acceptance. This gospel obedience consists in a real endeavour to observe the whole moral law. ‘I have done thy commandments’ (Psa 119: 166); not, I have done all I should do, but I have done all I am able to do; and wherein my obedience comes short, I look up to the perfect righteousness and obedience of Christ, and hope for pardon through his blood. This is to obey the moral law evangelically; which, though it be not to satisfaction, yet it is to acceptation.
We come now to the preface itself, which consists of three parts: I. I am the Lord thy God’; II. ‘which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt’; III. ‘out of the house of bondage’.
I. I am the Lord thy God. Here we have a description of God; (1) By his essential greatness, ‘I am the Lord;’ (2) By his relative goodness, ‘Thy God.’
 By his essential greatness, ‘I am the Lord:’ or, as it is in the Hebrew, JEHOVAH. By this great name God sets forth his majesty. Sanctius habitum fuit, says Buxtorf. The name of Jehovah was had in more reverence among the Jews than any other name of God. It signifies God’s self-sufficiency, eternity, independence, and immutability. Mal. 3: 6.
Use one. If God be Jehovah, the fountain of being, who can do what he will, let us fear him. ‘That thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, Jehovah.’ Deut 28: 58.
Use two. If God be Jehovah, the supreme Lord, the blasphemous Papists are condemned who speak after this manner: ‘Our Lord God the Pope.’ Is it a wonder the Pope lifts his triple crown above the heads of kings and emperors, when he usurps God’s title, ‘showing himself that he is God’? 2 Thess 2: 4. He seeks to make himself Lord of heaven, for he will canonise saints there; Lord of earth, for with his keys he binds and looses whom he pleases; Lord of hell, for he frees men out of purgatory. God will pull down these plumes of pride; he will consume this man of sin ‘with the breath of his mouth, and the brightness of his coming.’ 2 Thess 2: 8.
 God is described by his relative goodness; ‘thy God.’ Had he called himself Jehovah only, it might have terrified us, and made us flee from him; but when he says, ‘thy God,’ it allures and draws us to him. This, though a preface to the law, is pure gospel. The word Eloeha, ‘thy God,’ is so sweet, that we can never suck all the honey out of it. ‘I am thy God,’ not only by creation, but by election. This word, ‘thy God,’ though it was spoken to Israel, is a charter which belongs to all the saints. For the further explanation, here are three questions.
How comes God to be our God?
Through Jesus Christ. Christ is a middle person in the Trinity. He is Emmanuel, ‘God with us.’ He brings two different parties together: makes our nature lovely to God, and God’s nature lovely to us; by his death, causes friendship, yea, union; and brings us within the verge of the covenant, and thus God becomes our God.
What is implied by God being our God?
It is comprehensive of all good things. God is our strong tower; our fountain of living water; our salvation. More particularly, being our God implies the sweetest relations.
(1) The relation of a father. ‘I will be a Father unto you;’ 2 Cor 6: 18. A father is full of tender care for his child. Upon whom does he settle the inheritance but his child? God being our God, will be a father to us; a ‘Father of mercies,’ 2 Cor 1: 3; ‘The everlasting Father.’ Isa 9: 6. If God be our God, we have a Father in heaven that never dies.
(2) It imports the relation of a husband. ‘Thy Maker is thine husband.’ Isa 54: 5. If God be our husband, he esteems us precious to him, as the apple of his eye. Zech 2: 8. He imparts his secrets to us. Psa 25: 14. He bestows a kingdom upon us for our dowry. Luke 12: 32.
How may we know that by covenant union, God is our God?
(1) By having his grace planted in us. Kings’ children are known by their costly jewels. It is not having common gifts which shows we belong to God; many have the gifts of God without God; but it is grace that gives us a true genuine title to God. In particular, faith is vinculum unionis, the grace of union, by which we may spell out our interest in God. Faith does not, as the mariner, cast its anchor downwards, but upwards; it trusts in the mercy and blood of God, and trusting in God, engages him to be our God. Other graces make us like God, faith makes us one with him.
(2) We may know God is our God by having the earnest of his Spirit in our hearts. 2 Cor 1: 22. God often gives the purse to the wicked, but the Spirit only to such as he intends to make his heirs. Have we had the consecration of the Spirit? If we have not had the sealing work of the Spirit, have we had the healing work? ‘Ye have an unction from the Holy One.’ 1 John 2: 20. The Spirit, where it is, stamps the impress of its own holiness upon the heart; it embroiders and bespangles the soul, and makes it all glorious within. Have we had the attraction of the Spirit? ‘Draw me, we will run after thee.’ Cant 1: 4. Has the Spirit, by its magnetic virtue, drawn our hearts to God? Can we say, ‘O thou whom my soul loveth?’ Cant 1: 7. Is God our paradise of delight? our Segullah, or chief treasure! Are our hearts so chained to God that no other object can enchant us, or draw us away from him? Have we had the elevation of the Spirit? Has it raised our hearts above the world? ‘The Spirit lifted me up.’ Ezek 3: 14. Has the Spirit made us, superna anhelare, seek the things above where Christ is? Though our flesh is on earth, is our heart in heaven? Though we live here, trade we above? Has the Spirit thus lifted us up? By this we may know that God is our God. Where God gives his Spirit for an earnest, there he gives himself for a portion.
(3) We may know God is our God, if he has given us the hearts of children. Have we obediential hearts? Psa 27: 8. Do we subscribe to God’s commands when his commands cross our will? A true saint is like the flower of the sun, which opens and shuts with the sun: he opens to God, and shuts to sin. If we have the hearts of children, God is our Father.
(4) We may know God is ours, and we have an interest in him, by standing up for his interest. We shall appear in his cause and vindicate his truth, wherein his glory is so much concerned. Athanasius was the bulwark of truth; he stood up for it, when most of the world were Asians. In former times the nobles of Polonia, when the gospel was read, laid their hands upon their swords, signifying that they were ready to defend the faith, and hazard their lives for the gospel. There is no better sign of having an interest in God than standing up for his interest.
(5) We may know God is ours, and we have an interest in him, by his having an interest in us. ‘My beloved is mine, and I am his.’ Cant 2: 16. When God says to the soul, ‘Thou art mine;’ the soul answers, ‘Lord, I am thine; all I have is at thy service; my head shall be thine to study for thee; my tongue shall be thine to praise thee.’ If God be our God by way of donation, we are his by way of dedication; we live to him, and are more his than we are our own. Thus we may come to know that God is our God.
Use one. Above all things, let us get this great charter confirmed, that God is our God. Deity is not comfortable without propriety. Let us labour to get sound evidences that God is our God. We cannot call health, liberty, estate, ours; but let us be able to call God ours, and say as the church, ‘God, even our own God, shall bless us.’ Psa 67: 6. Let every soul labour to pronounce this Shibboleth, ‘My God.’ That we may endeavour to have God for our God, consider the misery of such as have not God for their God, in how sad a condition are they, when the hour of distress comes! This was Saul’s case when he said ‘I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me.’ 1 Sam 28: 15. A wicked man in time of trouble, is like a vessel tossed on the sea without an anchor, which strikes on rocks or sands. A sinner who has not God to be his God, may make a shift while health and estate last, but when these crutches on which he leaned are broken, his heart must sink. It is with him as it was with the old world when the flood came. The waters at first came to the valleys, but then the people would get to the hills and mountains; but when the waters came to the mountains, then there might be some trees on the high hills, and they would climb up to them; ay, but the waters rose above the tops of the trees; and then their hearts failed them, and all hopes of being saved were gone. So it is with a man that has not God to be his God. If one comfort be taken away, he has another; if he lose a child, he has an estate; but when the waters rise higher, death comes and takes away all, and he has nothing to help himself with, no God to go to, he must needs die in despair. How great a privilege it is to have God for our God! ‘Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.’ Psa 144: 15. Beatitudo hominis est Deus [Man’s happiness is God himself]. Augustine. That you may see the privilege of this charter: —
(1) If God be our God, then though we may feel the stroke of evil, yet not the sting. He must needs be happy who is in such a condition, that nothing can hurt him. If he lose his name, it is written in the book of life; if he lose his liberty, his conscience is free; if he lose his estate, he is possessed of the pearl of price; if he meets with storms, he knows where to put in for harbour; God is his God, and heaven is his heaven.
(2) If God be our God, our soul is safe. The soul is the jewel, it is a blossom of eternity. ‘I was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body;’ in the Chaldee, it is ‘in the midst of my sheath.’ Dan 7: 15. The body is but the sheath; the soul is the princely part of man, which sways the sceptre of reason; it is a celestial spark, as Damascene calls it. If God be our God, the soul is safe, as in a garrison. Death can do no more hurt to a virtuous heaven-born soul, than David did to Saul, when he cut off the skirt of his garment. The soul is safe, being hid in the promises; hid in the wounds of Christ; hid in God’s decree. The soul is the pearl, and heaven is the cabinet where God will lock it up safe.
(3) If God be our God, then all that is in God is ours. The Lord says to a saint in covenant, as the king of Israel to the king of Syria, ‘I am thine, and all that I have.’ 1 Kings 20: 4. So saith God, ‘I am thine:’ how happy is he who not only inherits the gift of God, but inherits God himself! All that I have shall be thine; my wisdom shall be thine to teach thee; my power shall be thine to support thee; my mercy shall be thine to save thee. God is an infinite ocean of blessedness, and there is enough in him to fill us: as if a thousand vessels were thrown into the sea, there is enough in the sea to fill them.
(4) If God be our God, he will entirely love us. Property is the ground of love. God may give men kingdoms, and not love them; but he cannot be our God, and not love us. He calls his covenanted saints, Jediduth Naphshi, ‘The dearly beloved of my soul.’ Jer 12: 7. He rejoiceth over them with joy, and rests in his love. Zeph 3: 17. They are his refined silver (Zech 13: 9); his jewels (Mal 3: 17); his royal diadem (Isa 62: 3). He gives them the cream and flower of his love. He not only opens his hand and fills them, but opens his heart and fills them. Psa 145: 16.
(5) If God be our God, he will do more for us than all the world besides can. What is that?  He will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, he will make music within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble. He will send the Comforter, who, as a dove, brings an olive-branch of peace in his mouth. John 14: 16.  God will give us a crown of immortality. The world can give a crown of gold, but that crown has thorns in it and death in it; but God will give you a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 1 Pet. 5: 4. The garland made of the flowers of paradise never withers.
(6) If God be our God, he will bear with many infirmities. He may respite sinners awhile, but long forbearance is no acquittance; he will throw them to hell for their sins; but if he be our God, he will not for every failing destroy us; he bears with his spouse as with the weaker vessel. He may chastise. Psa 89: 32. He may use the rod and the pruning-knife, but not the bloody axe. ‘He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob.’ Numb 23: 21. He will not see sin in his people so as to destroy them, but their sins so as to pity them. He sees them as a physician a disease in his patient, to heal him. ‘I have seen his ways, and will heal him.’ Isa 57: 18. Every failing does not break the marriage-bond asunder. The disciples had great failings, they all forsook Christ and fled; but this did not break off their interest in God; therefore, says Christ, at his ascension, ‘Tell my disciples, I go to my God and to their God.’
(7) If God be once our God, he is so for ever. ‘This God is our God for ever and ever.’ Psa 48: 14. Whatever worldly comforts we have, they are but for a season, and we must part with all. Heb 11: 25. As Paul’s friends accompanied him to the ship, and there left him (Acts 20: 38), so all our earthly comforts will but go with us to the grave, and there leave us. You cannot say you have health, and shall have it for ever; you have a child, and shall have it for ever; but if God be your God, you shall have him for ever. ‘This God is our God for ever and ever.’ If God be our God, he will be a God to us as long as he is a God. ‘Ye have taken away my gods,’ said Micah. Judges 18: 14. But it cannot be said to a believer, that his God is taken away; He may lose all things else, but cannot lose his God. God is ours from everlasting in election, and to everlasting in glory.
(8) If God be our God, we shall enjoy all our godly relations with him in heaven. The great felicity on earth is to enjoy relations. A father sees his own picture in a child; and a wife sees herself in her husband. We plant the flower of love among our relations, and the loss of them is like the pulling off a limb from the body. But if God be ours, with the enjoyment of God we shall enjoy all our pious relations in glory. The gracious child shall see his godly father, the virtuous wife shall see her religious husband in Christ’s arms; and then there will be a dearer love to relations than there ever was before, though in a far different manner; then relations shall meet and never part. ‘And so shall we be ever with the Lord.’
Use two. To such as can realise this covenant union we have several exhortations.
(1) If God be our God, let us improve our interest in him, let us cast all our burdens upon him: the burden of our fears, our wants and our sins. ‘Cast thy burden upon the Lord.’ Psa 55: 22. Wicked men who are a burden to God have no right to cast their burden upon him; but such as have God for their God are called upon to cast their burden on him. Where should the child ease all its cares but in the bosom of its parent? ‘Let all thy wants lie upon me.’ Judges 19: 20. So God seems to say to his children, ‘Let all your wants lie upon me.’ Christian, what troubles thee? Thou hast a God to pardon thy sins and to supply thy wants; therefore roll your burden on him. ‘Casting all your care upon him.’ 1 Pet 5: 7. Why are Christians so disquieted in their minds? They are taking care when they should be casting care.
(2) If God be our God, let us learn to be contented, though we have the less of other things. Contentment is a rare jewel, it is the cure of care. If we have God to be our God, well may we be contented. ‘I know whom I have believed.’ 2 Tim 1: 12. There was Paul’s interest in God. ‘As having nothing, and yet possessing all things.’ 2 Cor 6: 10. Here was his content. That such who have covenant-union with God may be filled with contentment of spirit, consider what a rich blessing God is to the soul.
He is bonum sufficiens, a sufficient good. He who has God has enough. If a man be thirsty, bring him to a spring, and he is satisfied; in God there is enough to fill the heaven-born soul. He gives ‘grace and glory.’ Psa 84: 11. There is in God not only a sufficiency, but a redundancy; he is not only full as a vessel, but as a spring. Other things can no more fill the soul than a mariner’s breath can fill the sails of a ship; but in God there is a cornucopia, an infinite fulness; he has enough to fill the angels, therefore enough to fill us. The heart is a triangle, which only the Trinity can fill.
God is bonum sanctificans, a sanctifying good. He sanctifies all our comforts and turn them into blessings. Health is blessed, estate is blessed. He gives with the venison a blessing. ‘I will abundantly bless her provision.’ Psa 132: 15. He gives us the life we have, tanquam arrhabo, as an earnest of more. He gives the little meal in the barrel as an earnest of the royal feast in paradise. He sanctifies all our crosses. They shall not be destructive punishments, but medicines; they shall corrode and eat out the venom of sin; they shall polish and refine our grace. The more the diamond is cut, the more it sparkles. When God stretches the strings of his viol, it is to make the music better.
God is bonum selectum, a choice good. All things, sub sole, are but bona scabelli, as Augustine says, the blessings of the footstool, but to have God himself to be ours, is the blessing of the throne. Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines, but he settled the inheritance upon Isaac. ‘Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac.’ Gen 25: 5. God may send away the men of the world with gifts, a little gold and silver; but in giving us himself, he gives us the very essence, his grace, his love, his kingdom: here is the crowning blessing.
God is bonum summum, the chief good. In the chief good there must be delectability; it must have something that is delicious and sweet: and where can we suck those pure essential comforts, which ravish us with delight, but in God? In Deo quadam dulcedine delectatur anima, immo rapitur [In God’s character there is a certain sweetness which fascinates or rather enraptures the soul]. ‘At thy right hand there are pleasures.’ Psa 16: 11: In the chief good there must be transcendence, it must have a surpassing excellence. Thus God is infinitely better than all other things. It is below the Deity to compare other things with it. Who would weigh a feather against a mountain of gold? God is fons et origo, the spring of all entities, and the cause is more noble than the effect. It is God that bespangles the creation, that puts light into the sun, that fills the veins of the earth with silver. Creatures do but maintain life, God gives life. He infinitely outshines all sublunary glory. He is better than the soul, than angels, and than heaven. In the chief good, there must be not only fulness, but variety. Where variety is wanting we are apt to nauseate. To feed only on honey would breed loathing; but in God is all variety of fulness. Col 1: 19. He is a universal good, commensurate to all our wants. He is bonum in quo omnia bona [the good in which is every good], a son, a portion, a horn of salvation. He is called the ‘God of all comfort.’ 2 Cor 1: 3. There is a complication of all beauties and delights in him. Health has not the comfort of beauty, nor beauty of riches, nor riches of wisdom; but God is the God of all comfort. In the chief good there must be eternity. God is a treasure that can neither be drawn low, nor drawn dry. Though the angels are continually spending what is his, he can never be spent; he abides for ever. Eternity is a flower of his crown. Now, if God be our God, there is enough to let full contentment into our souls. What need we of torchlight, if we have the sun? What if God deny the flower, if he has given us the jewel? How should a Christian’s heart rest on this rock! If we say God is our God, and we are not content, we have cause to question our interest in him.
(3) If we can clear up this covenant-union, that God is our God, let it cheer and revive us in all conditions. To be content with God is not enough, but to be cheerful. What greater cordial can you have than union with Deity? When Jesus Christ was ready to ascend, he could not leave a richer consolation with his disciples than this, ‘I ascend to my God and to your God.’ John 20: 17. Who should rejoice, if not they who have an infinite, all-sufficient, eternal God to be their portion, who are as rich as heaven can make them? What though I want health? I have God who is the health of my countenance, and my God. Psa 42: 11. What though I am low in the world? If I have not the earth, I have him that made it. The philosopher comforted himself by saying, ‘Though I have no music or vine-trees, yet here are the household gods with me;’ so, though we have not the vine or fig-tree, yet we have God with us. I cannot be poor, says Bernard, as long as God is rich; for his riches are mine. O let the saints rejoice in this covenant-union! To say God is ours, is more than to say heaven is ours, for heaven would not be heaven without him. All the stars cannot make day without the sun; all the angels, those morning stars, cannot make heaven without Christ the Sun of Righteousness. And as to have God for our God, is matter of rejoicing in life, so especially it will be at death. Let a Christian think thus, I am going to my God. A child is glad when he is going home to his father. It was Christ’s comfort when he was leaving the world, ‘I ascend to my God.’ John 20: 17. And this is a believer’s deathbed cordial, ‘I am going to my God; I shall change my place, but not my kindred; I go to my God and my Father.’
(4) If God be our God, let us break forth into praise. ‘Thou art my God, and I will praise thee.’ Psa 118: 28. Oh, infinite, astonishing mercy, that God should take dust and ashes into so near a bond of love as to be our God! As Micah said, ‘What have I more?’ Judges 18: 24. So, what has God more? What richer jewel has he to bestow upon us than himself? What has he more? That God should put off most of the world with riches and honour, that he should pass over himself to us by a deed of gift, to be our God, and by virtue of this settle a kingdom upon us! O let us praise him with the best instrument, the heart; and let this instrument be screwed up to the highest pitch. Let us praise him with our whole heart. See how David rises by degrees. ‘Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, and shout for joy.’ Psa 32: 11. Be glad, there is thankfulness; rejoice, there is cheerfulness; shout, there is triumph. Praise is called incense, because it is a sweet sacrifice. Let the saints be choristers in God’s praises. The deepest springs yield the sweetest water; the more deeply sensible we are of God’s covenant-love to us, the sweeter praises we should yield. We should begin here to eternise God’s name, and do that work on earth which we shall be always doing in heaven. ‘While I live will I praise the Lord.’ Psa 146: 2.
(5) Let us carry ourselves as those who have God to be our God; that is, walk so that others may see there is something of God in us. Live homily. What have we to do with sin, which if it does not break, will weaken our interest? ‘What have I to do any more with idols?’ Hos 14: 8. So would a Christian say, ‘God is my God; what have I to do any more with sin, with lust, pride, malice! Bid me commit sin! As well bid me drink poison. Shall I forfeit my interest in God? Let me rather die than willingly offend him who is the crown of my joy, the God of my salvation.’
II. Which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt. Egypt and the house of bondage are the same; only they are represented to us under different expressions. The first expression is, ‘Which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt.’
Why does the Lord mention the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt?
(1) Because of the strangeness of the deliverance. God delivered his people Israel by strange signs and wonders, by sending plague after plague upon Pharaoh, blasting the fruits of the earth, and killing all the first-born in Egypt. Exod 12: 29. When Israel marched out of Egypt, God made the waters of the sea to part, and become a wall to his people, while they went on dry ground; and he made the same sea a causeway to Israel, and a grave to Pharaoh and his chariots. Well might the Lord make mention of this strange deliverance. He wrought miracle upon miracle for the deliverance of that people.
(2) God mentions Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt because of the greatness of the deliverance. He delivered Israel from the pollutions of Egypt. Egypt was a bad air to live in, it was infected with idolatry; the Egyptians were gross idolaters; they were guilty of that which the apostle speaks of in Rom 1: 23. ‘They changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.’ The Egyptians, instead of the true God, worshipped corruptible man; they deified their king Apis, forbidding all, under pain of death, to say that he was a man. They worshipped birds, as the hawk. They worshipped beasts, as the ox. They made the image of a beast to be their god. They worshipped creeping things, as the crocodile, and the Indian mouse. God mentions it therefore as a signal favour to Israel, that he brought them out of such an idolatrous country. ‘I brought thee out of the land of Egypt.’
The thing I would note is, that it is no small blessing to be delivered from places of idolatry. God speaks of it no less than ten times in the Old Testament, ‘I brought you out of the land of Egypt;’ an idolatrous place. Had there been no iron furnace in Egypt, yet so many altars being there, and false gods, it was a great privilege to Israel to be delivered out of Egypt. Joshua reckons it among the chief and most memorable mercies of God to Abraham, that he brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees, where Abraham’s ancestors served strange gods. Josh 24: 2, 3. It is well for the plant that is set in a bad soil, to be transplanted to a better, where it may grow and flourish; so it is a mercy when any who are planted among idolaters, are removed and transplanted into Zion, where the silver drops of God’s word make them grow in holiness.
Wherein does it appear to be so great a blessing to be delivered from places of idolatry?
(1) It is a great mercy, because our nature is prone to idolatry. Israel began to be defiled with the idols of Egypt. Ezek 22: 3. Dry wood is not more prone to take fire than our nature is to idolatry. The Jews made cakes to the queen of heaven, that is, to the moon. Jer 7: 15.
Why is it that we are prone to idolatry?
Because we are led much by visible objects, and love to have our senses pleased. Men naturally fancy a god that they may see; though it be such a god that cannot see them, yet they would see it. The true God is invisible; which makes the idolater worship something that he can see.
(2) It is a mercy to be delivered from idolatrous places, because of the greatness of the sin of idolatry, which is giving that glory to an image which is due to God. All divine worship God appropriates to himself; it is a flower of his crown. The fat of the sacrifice is claimed by him. Lev 3: 3. Divine worship is the fat of the sacrifice, which he reserves for himself. The idolater devotes this worship to an idol, which the Lord will by no means endure. ‘My glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.’ Isa 42: 8. Idolatry is spiritual adultery. ‘With their idols have they committed adultery.’ Ezek 23: 37. To worship any other than God, is to break wedlock, and makes the Lord disclaim his interest in a people. ‘Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife.’ Hos 2: 2. ‘Thy people have corrupted themselves;’ no more my people, but thy people. Exod 32: 7. God calls idolatry, blasphemy. ‘In this your fathers have blasphemed me.’ Idolatry is devil worship. Ezek 20: 27, 31. ‘They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to new gods.’ Deut 32: 17. These new gods were old devils. ‘And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils.’ Lev 17: 7. The Hebrew word La-sairim, is the hairy ones, because the devils were hairy, and appeared in the forms of satyrs and goats. How dreadful a sin is idolatry; and what a signal mercy is it to be snatched out of an idolatrous place, as Lot was snatched by the angels out of Sodom!
(3) It is a mercy to be delivered out of idolatrous places, because idolatry is such a silly and irrational religion. I may say, as Jer 8: 9: ‘What wisdom is in them?’ Is it not folly to refuse the best, and choose the worst? The trees in the field of Jotham’s parable, despised the vine-tree, which cheers both God and man, and the olive which is full of fatness, and the fig-tree which is full of sweetness, and chose the bramble to reign over them — which was a foolish choice. Judg 9. So it is for us to refuse the living God, who has power to save us, and to make choice of an idol, that has eyes and sees not, feet but walks not. Psa 115: 6, 7. What a prodigy of madness is this? Therefore to be delivered from committing such folly is a mercy.
(4) It is a mercy to be delivered from idolatrous places, because of the sad judgements inflicted upon idolaters. This is a sin which enrages God, and makes the fury come up in his face. Ezek 38: 18. Search through the whole book of God, and you shall find no sin he has followed with more plagues than idolatry. ‘Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god.’ Psa 16: 4. ‘They moved him to jealousy with their graven images.’ Psa 78: 58. ‘When God heard this he was wrath, and greatly abhorred Israel; so that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh.’ Verses 59, 60. Shiloh was a city belonging to the tribe of Ephraim, where God set his name. Jer 7: 12. But, for their idolatry, God forsook the place, gave his people up to the sword, caused his priests to be slain, and his ark to be carried away captive, never more to be returned. How severe was God against Israel for worshipping the golden calf! Exod 32: 27. The Jews say, that in every misery that befalls them, there is uncia aurei vituli, ‘an ounce of the golden calf in it.’ ‘Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.’ Rev. 18: 4. Idolatry, lived in, cuts men off from heaven. 1 Cor 6: 9. So then it is no small mercy to be delivered out of idolatrous places.
Use one. See the goodness of God to our nation, in bringing us out of mystic Egypt, delivering us from popery, which is Romish idolatry, and causing the light of his truth to break forth gloriously among us. In former times, and more lately in the Marian days, England was overspread with idolatry. It worshipped God after a false manner; and it is idolatry, not only to worship a false god, but the true God in a false manner. Such was our case formerly; we had purgatory, indulgences, the idolatrous mass, the Scriptures locked up in an unknown tongue, invocation of saints and angels, and image-worship. Images are teachers of lies. Hab 2: 18. Wherein do they teach lies? They represent God, who cannot be seen, in a bodily shape. ‘Ye saw no similitude, only ye heard a voice.’ Deut 4: 12. Quod invisibile est, pingi non potest. Ambrose. God cannot be pictured by any finger; not the soul even, being a spirit, much less God. ‘To whom then will ye liken God?’ Isa 40: 18. The Papists say they worship God by the image; which is a great absurdity, for if it be absurd to fall down to the picture of a king when the king himself is present, much more to bow down to the image of God when God himself is present. Jer 23: 24. What is the popish religion but a bundle of ridiculous ceremonies? Their wax, flowers, pyres, agnus Dei, cream and oil, beads, crucifixes; what are these but Satan’s policy, to dress up a carnal worship, fitted to carnal minds? Oh! what cause have we to bless God for delivering us from popery! It was a mercy to be delivered from the Spanish invasion, and the powder treason; but it is a far greater to be delivered from the popish religion, which would have made God give us a bill of divorce.
Use two. If it be a great blessing to be delivered from the Egypt of popish idolatry, it shows the sin and folly of those who, being brought out of Egypt, are willing to return to it again. The apostle says, ‘Flee from idolatry.’ 1 Cor 10: 14. But these rather flee to idolatry; and are herein like the people of Israel, who, notwithstanding all the idolatry and tyranny of Egypt, longed to go back to Egypt. ‘Let us make a captain and let us return into Egypt.’ Numb 14: 4. But how shall they go back into Egypt? How shall they have food in the wilderness? Will God rain down man any more upon such rebels? How will they get over the Red Sea? Will God divide the water again by miracle, for such as leave his service, and go into idolatrous Egypt? Yet they say, ‘Let us make a captain.’ And are there not such spirits among us, who say, ‘Let us make a captain and go back to the Romish Egypt again’? If we do, what shall we get by it? I am afraid the leeks and onions of Egypt will make us sick. Do we ever suppose that, if we drink in the cup of fornication, we shall drink in the cup of salvation? Oh! that any should so forfeit their reason, as to enslave themselves to the see of Rome; that they should be willing to hold a candle to a mass-priest, and bow down to a strange God! Let us not say we will make a captain, but rather say as Ephraim, ‘What have I to do any more with idols?’ Hos 14: 8.
Use three. If it be a mercy to be brought out of Egypt, it is not desirable or safe to plant one’s self in an idolatrous place, where it may be a capital crime to be seen with a Bible in our hands. Some, for secular gain, thrust themselves among idolaters, and think there is no danger to live where Satan’s seat is. They pray God would not lead them into temptation, but led themselves. They are in great danger of being polluted. It is hard to be as the fish, which keeps fresh in salt waters. A man cannot dwell among blackamoors, but he will be discoloured. You will sooner be corrupted by idolaters, than they will be converted by you. Joseph got no good by living in an idolatrous court; he did not teach Pharaoh to pray, but Pharaoh taught him to swear. They ‘were mingled among the heathen, and served their idols.’ Psalm 106: 35, 36. I fear it has been the undoing of many; that they have seated themselves amongst idolaters, for advancing their trade, and at last have not only traded with them in their commodities, but in their religion.
Use four. It is a mercy to be brought out of the land of Egypt, a defiled place, and where sin reigns. It reproaches such parents as show little love for the souls of their children, whether it be in putting them out to service, or matching them. In putting them out to service, their care is chiefly for their bodies, that they may be provided for, and they care not what becomes of their souls. Their souls are in Egypt, in houses where there is drinking, swearing, Sabbath-breaking, and where God’s name is every day dishonoured. In matching their children, they look only at money. ‘Be ye not unequally yoked.’ 2 Cor 6: 14. If their children be equally yoked for estate, they care not whether they be unequally yoked for religion. Let such parents think how precious the soul of their child is; that it is immortal, and capable of communion with God and angels. Will you let a soul be lost by placing it in a bad family? If you had a horse you loved, you would not put him in a stable with other horses that were sick and diseased; and do you not love your child better than your horse? God has intrusted you with the souls of your children; you have a charge of souls. God says, as 1 Kings 20: 39: ‘Keep this man: if he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life.’ So says God, if the soul of thy child miscarry by thy negligence, his blood will I require at thy hand. Think of this, all ye parents; take heed of placing your children in Egypt, in a wicked family; do not put them in the devil’s mouth. Seek for them a sober, religious family, such as Joshua’s. ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ Josh 14: 15. Such a family as Cranmer’s, which was palaestra pietatis, a nursery of piety, a Bethel, of which it may be said, ‘The church which is in his house.’ Col. 4: 15.
Use five. Let us pray that God would keep our English nation from the defilements of Egypt, that it may not be again overspread with superstition and idolatry. Oh, sad religion! not only to have our estates, our bodies enslaved, but our consciences. Pray that the true Protestant religion may still nourish among us, that the sun of the gospel may still shine in our horizon. The gospel lifts a people up to heaven, it is columna et corona regni, ‘the crown and glory of the kingdom’; if this be removed, Ichabod, the glory is departed. The top of the beech tree being cut off, the whole body of the tree withers apace; so the gospel is the top of all our blessings; if this top be cut, the whole body politic will soon wither. O pray that the Lord will continue the visible tokens of his presence among us, his ordinances, that England may be called, Jehovah-shammah, ‘The Lord is there.’ Ezek 48: 35. Pray that righteousness and peace may kiss each other, that so glory may dwell in our land.
III. Out of the house of bondage. Egypt and the house of bondage are the same, only they are expressed under a different notion. By Egypt is meant a place of idolatry and superstition; by the house of bondage is meant a place of affliction. Israel, while in Egypt, were under great tyranny; they had cruel task-masters set over them, who put them to hard labour, and set them to make bricks, yet allowed them no straw; therefore, Egypt is called, in Deut 4: 20, the iron furnace, and here the house of bondage. From this expression, ‘I brought thee out of the house of bondage,’ two things are to be noted; God’s children may sometimes be under sore afflictions. ‘In the house of bondage.’ But God will, in due time, bring them out of their afflicted state. ‘I brought thee out of the house of bondage.’
God’s children may sometimes be under sore afflictions, in domo servitutis, in the house of bondage. God’s people have no writ of ease granted them, no charter of exemption from trouble in this life. While the wicked are kept in sugar, the godly are often kept in brine. And, indeed, how could God’s power be seen in bringing them out of trouble, if he did not sometimes bring them into it? or how should God wipe away the tears from their eyes in heaven, if on earth they shed none? Doubtless, God sees there is need that his children should be sometimes in the house of bondage. ‘If need be, ye are in heaviness.’ 1 Peter 1: 6. The body sometimes needs a bitter portion more than a sweet one.
Why does God let his people be in the house of bondage or in an afflicted state?
He does it, (1) For probation or trial. ‘Who led thee through that terrible wilderness, that he might humble thee and prove thee.’ Deut 8: 15, 16. Affliction is the touch-stone of sincerity. ‘Thou O God, hast proved us; thou hast tried us as silver; thou laidst affliction upon our loins.’ Psa 66: 10, 11. Hypocrites may embrace the true religion in prosperity, and court this queen while she has a jewel hung at her ear; but he is a good Christian who will keep close to God in a time of suffering. ‘All this is come upon us, yet have we not forgotten thee.’ Psa 44: 17. To love God in heaven, is no wonder; but to love him when he chastises us, discovers sincerity. (2) For purgation; to purge our corruption. Ardet palea, purgatur aurum. ‘And this is all the fruit, to take away his sin.’ Isa 28: 9. The eye, though a tender part, yet when sore, we put sharp powders and waters into it to eat out the pearl; so though the people of God are dear to him, yet, when corruption begins to grow in them, he will apply the sharp powder of affliction, to eat out the pearl in the eye. Affliction is God’s flail to thresh off our husks; it is a means God uses to purge out sloth, luxury, pride, and love of the world. God’s furnace is in Zion. Isa 31: 5. This is not to consume, but to refine. What if we have more affliction, if by this means we have less sin!
(3) For augmentation; to increase the graces of the Spirit. Grace thrives most in the iron furnace. Sharp frosts nourish the corn; so sharp afflictions nourish grace. Grace in the saints is often as fire hid in the embers, affliction is the bellows to blow it up into a flame. The Lord makes the house of bondage a friend to grace. Then faith and patience act their part. The darkness of the night cannot hinder the brightness of a star; so, the more the diamond is cut the more it sparkles; and the more God afflicts us, the more our graces cast a sparkling lustre.
(4) For preparation; to fit and prepare the saints for glory. 2 Cor 4: 17. The stones which are cut out for a building, are first hewn and squared. The godly are called ‘living stones.’ 1 Pet 2: 5. God first hews and polishes them by affliction, that they may be fit for the heavenly building. The house of bondage prepares for the house not made with hands. 2 Cor 5: 1: The vessels of mercy are seasoned with affliction, and then the wine of glory is poured in.
How do the afflictions of the godly differ from the afflictions of the wicked?
(1) They are but castigations, but those on the wicked are punishments. The one come from a father, the other from a judge.
(2) Afflictions on the godly are fruits of covenant-mercy. 2 Sam 7: 17. Afflictions on the wicked are effects of God’s wrath. ‘He has much wrath with his sickness.’ Eccl 5: 17. Afflictions on the wicked are the pledge and earnest of hell; they are like the pinioning of a malefactor, which presages his execution.
(3) Afflictions on the godly make them better, but afflictions on the wicked make them worse. The godly pray more; Psa 130: 1: The wicked blaspheme more. ‘Men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God.’ Rev 16: 9. Afflictions on the wicked make them more impenitent; every plague upon Egypt increased the plague of hardness in Pharaoh’s heart. To what a prodigy of wickedness do some persons come after great sickness. Affliction on the godly is like bruising spices, which are most sweet and fragrant: affliction on the wicked is like pounding weeds with a pestle, which makes them more unsavoury.
Use one. (1) We are not to wonder to see Israel in the house of bondage. 1 Pet 4: 12. The holiness of the saints will not excuse them from sufferings. Christ was the holy one of God, yet he was in the iron furnace. His spouse is a lily among thorns. Cant 2: 2. Though his sheep have the ear-mark of election upon them, yet they may have their wool fleeced off. The godly have some good in them, therefore the devil afflicts them; and some evil in them, therefore God afflicts them. While there are two seeds in the world, expect to be under the black rod. The gospel tells us of reigning, but first of suffering. 2 Tim 2: 12.
(2) Affliction is not always the sign of God’s anger. Israel, the apple of God’s eye, a peculiar treasure to him above all people, were in the house of bondage. Exod 19: 5. We are apt to judge and censure those who are in an afflicted state. When the barbarians saw the viper on Paul’s hand, they said, ‘No doubt this man is a murderer.’ Acts 28: 4. So, when we see the viper of affliction fasten upon the godly, we are apt to censure them, and say, these are greater sinners than others, and God hates them; but this rash censuring is for want of wisdom. Were not Israel in the house of bondage? Was not Jeremiah in the dungeon, and Paul a night and day in the deep? God’s afflicting is so far from evidencing hatred, that his not afflicting does. ‘I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom.’ Hos 4: 14. Deus maxime irascitur cum non irascitur. Bernard. God punishes most when he does not punish; his hand is heaviest when it seems to be lightest. The judge will not burn him in the hand whom he intends to execute.
(3) If God’s own Israel may be in the house of bondage, then afflictions do not of themselves demonstrate a man miserable. Indeed, sin unrepented of, makes one miserable; but the cross does not. If God has a design in afflicting his children to make them happy, they are not miserable; but God’s afflicting them is to make them happy, therefore they are not miserable. ‘Happy is the man whom God correcteth.’ Job 5: 17. The world counts them happy who can keep out of affliction; but the Scripture calls them happy who are afflicted.
How are they happy?
Because they are more holy. Heb 12: 10. Because they are more in God’s favour. Prov 3: 12. The goldsmith loves his gold when in the furnace. Because they have more of God’s sweet presence. Psa 91: 15. They cannot be unhappy who have God’s powerful presence in supporting, and his gracious presence in sanctifying, their affliction. Because the more affliction they have, the more degrees of glory they shall have; the lower they have been in the iron furnace, the higher they shall sit upon to throne of glory; the heavier their crosses, the heavier shall be their crown. So then, if afflictions make a Christian happy, they cannot call him miserable.
(4) See the merciful providence of God to his children. Though they may be in the house of bondage, and smart by affliction, yet they shall not be hurt by affliction. What hurt does the fan to the corn? it only separates the chaff from it; or the lance to the body? it only lets out the abscess. The house of bondage does that which sometimes ordinances will not; it humbles and reforms. ‘If they be holden in cords of affliction, he openeth their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.’ Job 36: 8, 10. Oh! what a merciful providence is it that, though God bruise his people, yet, while he is bruising them, he is doing them good! It is as if one should throw a bag of money at another, which bruises him a little, but yet it enriches him. Affliction enriches the soul and yields the sweet fruits of righteousness. Heb. 12: 11.
(5) If Israel be in the house of bondage, if the Lord deals so with his own children, then how severely will he deal with the wicked! If he be so severe with those he loves, how severe will he be with those he hates! ‘If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?’ Luke 13: 31. If they that pray and mourn for sin be so severely dealt with, what will become of those that swear and break the Sabbath, and are unclean! If Israel be in the iron furnace, the wicked shall lie in the fiery furnace of hell. It should be the saddest news to wicked men, to hear that the people of God are afflicted. Let them think how dreadful the case of sinners will be. ‘Judgement must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel?’ 1 Pet 4: 17. If God thresh his wheat, he will burn the chaff. If the godly suffer castigation, the wicked shall suffer condemnation. If he mingle his people’s cup with wormwood he will mingle the wicked’s cup with fire and brimstone.
Use two. If Israel be in the house of bondage,
(1) Do not entertain too hard thoughts of affliction. Christians are apt to look upon the cross and the iron furnace as frightful things, and do what they can to shun them. Nay, sometimes, to avoid affliction, they run themselves into sin. But do not think too hardly of affliction; do not look upon it as through the multiplying-glass of fear. The house of bondage is not hell. Consider that affliction comes from a wise God, who prescribes whatever befalls us. Persecutions are like apothecaries: they give us the physic which God the physician prescribes. Affliction has its light side, as well as its dark one. God can sweeten our afflictions, and candy our wormwood. As our sufferings abound, so does also our consolation. 2 Cor 1: 5. Argerius dated his letters from the pleasant garden of the Leonine prison. God sometimes so revives his children in trouble, that they had rather bear their afflictions than want their comforts. Why then should Christians entertain such hard thoughts of afflictions? Do not look at its grim face, but at the message it brings, which is to enrich us with both grace and comfort.
(2) If Israel be sometimes in the house of bondage, in an afflicted state, think beforehand of affliction. Say not as Job (29: 18), ‘I shall die in my nest.’ In the house of mirth think of the house of bondage. You that are now Naomi, may be Mara. Ruth 1:20. How quickly may the scene turn, and the hyperbole of joy end in a catastrophe! All outward things are given to change. The forethoughts of affliction would make us sober and moderate in the use of lawful delight; it would cure a surfeit. Christ at a feast mentions his burial; a good antidote against a surfeit. The forethought of affliction would make us prepare for it; it would take us off the world; it would put us upon search of our evidences.
We should see what oil we have in our lamps, what grace we can find, that we may be able to stand in the evil day. That soldier is imprudent who has his sword to whet when he is just going to fight. He who forecasts sufferings, will have the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit ready, that he may not be surprised.
(3) If afflictions come, let us labour to conduct ourselves wisely as Christians, that we may adorn our sufferings: that is, let us endure with patience. ‘Take, my brethren, the prophets for an example of suffering affliction and patience.’ James 5: 10. Satan labours to take advantage of us in affliction, by making us either faint or murmur; he blows the coals of passion and discontent, and then warms himself at the fire. Patience adorns sufferings. A Christian should say as Jesus Christ did, ‘Lord, not my will but thy will be done.’ It is a sign the affliction is sanctified when the heart is brought to a sweet submissive frame. God will then remove the affliction: he will take us out of the iron furnace.
We may consider these words, ‘Which brought thee out of the house of bondage,’ either,  Literally; or  Spiritually and Mystically. In the letter, ‘I brought thee out of the house of bondage;’ that is, I delivered you out of the misery and servitude you sustained in Egypt, where you were in the iron furnace. Spiritually and mystically, by which ‘I brought thee out of the house of bondage,’ is a type of our deliverance by Christ from sin and hell.
 Literally, ‘I brought thee out of the house of bondage,’ out of great misery and slavery in the iron furnace. The thing I note here is that, though God brings his people sometimes into trouble, yet he will bring them out again. Israel was in the house of bondage, but at last was brought out.
We shall endeavour to show: 1. That God does deliver out of trouble. 2. In what manner. 3. At what seasons. 4. Why he delivers. 5. How the deliverances of the godly and wicked out of trouble differ.
God does deliver his children out of troubles. ‘Our fathers trusted in thee; they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.’ Psa 22: 4. ‘And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion,’ namely, from Nero. 2 Tim 4: 17. ‘Thou laidst affliction upon our loins, but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.’ Psa 66: 11, 12. ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.’ Psa 30: 5. God brought Daniel out of the lions’ den, Zion out of Babylon. In his due time he gives an issue out of trouble. Psa 68: 20. The tree which in the winter seems dead, revives in the spring. Post nubila Phoebus [The sun emerges after the storms]. Affliction may leap on us as the viper did on Paul, but at last it shall be shaken off. It is called a cup of affliction. Isa 51: 17. The wicked drink a sea of wrath, the godly drink only a cup of affliction, and God will say shortly, ‘Let this cup pass away.’ God will give his people a gaol-delivery.
In what manner does God deliver his people out of trouble?
He does it like a God, in wisdom. (1) He does it sometimes suddenly. As the angel was caused to fly swiftly (Dan 9: 21), so God sometimes makes a deliverance fly swiftly, and on a sudden turns the shadow of death into the light of the morning. As he gives us mercies above what we can think (Eph 3: 20), so sometimes before we can think of them. ‘When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream;’ it came suddenly upon us as a dream. Psa 126: 1. Joseph could not have thought of such a sudden alteration, to be the same day freed out of prison, and made the chief ruler in the kingdom. Mercy sometimes does not stick long in the birth, but comes forth on a sudden. (2) God sometimes delivers his people strangely. Thus the whale which swallowed up Jonah was the means of bringing him safe to land. He sometimes delivers his people in the very way which they think will destroy. In bringing Israel out of Egypt, he stirred up the heart of the Egyptians to hate them (Psa 105: 25), and that was the means of their deliverance. He brought Paul to shore by a contrary wind, and upon the broken pieces of the ship. Acts 27: 44.
When are the times and seasons that God usually delivers his people out of the bondage of affliction?
(1) When they are in the greatest extremity. Though Jonah was in the belly of hell, he says, ‘Thou hast brought up my life from corruption.’ Jonah 2: 6. When there is but a hair’s breadth between the godly and death, God ushers in deliverance. When the ship was almost covered with waves Christ awoke and rebuked the wind. When Isaac was upon the altar, and the knife about to be put to his throat, the angel comes and says, ‘Lay not thy hand upon the child.’ When Peter began to sink, Christ took him by the hand. Cum duplicantur lateres, venit Moses: ‘when the tale of brick was doubled, then Moses the temporal saviour comes. When the people of God are in the greatest danger the morning star of deliverance appears. When the patient is ready to faint the cordial is given.
(2) The second season is, when affliction has done its work upon them; when it has effected that which God sent it for. As,  When it has humbled them. ‘Remembering my affliction, the wormwood and gall, my soul is humbled in me.’ Lam 3: 19, 20. Then God’s corrosive has eaten out the proud flesh.  When it has tamed their impatience. Before, they were proud and impatient, like froward children that struggle with their parents; but when their cursed hearts are tamed, they say, ‘I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him’ (Micah 7: 9); and as Eli, ‘It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good:’ ‘Let him hedge me with thorns, if he will plant me with grace.’ 1 Sam 3: 18.
(3) When they are partakers of more holiness, and are more full of heavenly-mindedness. Heb 12: 10. When the sharp frost of affliction has brought forth the spring-flowers of grace, the cross is sanctified, and God will bring them out of the house of bondage. Luctus in laetitiam vertetur, cineres in corollas [Sorrow will turn to joy, ashes to garlands]. When the metal is refined it is taken out of the furnace. When affliction has healed us, God takes off the smarting plaister.
Why does God bring his people out of the house of bondage?
Hereby he makes way for his own glory. His glory is dearer to him than anything besides; it is a crown jewel. By raising his people he raises the trophies of his own honour; he glorifies his own attributes; his power, truth, and goodness are triumphant.
(1) His power. If God did not sometimes bring his people into trouble, how could his power be seen in bringing them out? He brought Israel out of the house of bondage, with miracle upon miracle; he saved them with an outstretched arm. ‘What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest?’ &c. Psa 114: 5. Of Israel’s march out of Egypt it is said, when the sea fled, and the waters were parted each from other. Here was the power of God set forth. ‘Is there any thing too hard for me?’ Jer 32: 27. God loves to help when things seem past hope. He creates deliverance. Psa 124: 8. He brought Isaac out of a dead womb, and the Messiah out of a virgin’s womb. oh! how does his power shine forth when he overcomes seeming impossibilities, and works a cure when things look desperate!
(2) His truth. God has made promises to his people, when they are under great pressures, to deliver them; and his truth is engaged in his promise. ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee.’ Psa 50: 15. ‘He shall deliver thee in six troubles, yea in seven.’ Job 5: 19. How is the Scripture bespangled with these promises as the firmament is with stars! Either God will deliver them from death, or by death; he will make a way of escape. 1 Cor 10: 13. When promises are verified, God’s truth is magnified.
(3) His goodness. God is full of compassion to such as are in misery. The Hebrew word, Racham, for mercy, signifies bowels. God has ‘sounding of bowels.’ Isa 63: 15. And this sympathy stirs up God to deliver. ‘In his love and pity he redeemed them.’ Isa 63: 9. This makes way for the triumph of his goodness. He is tender-hearted, he will not over afflict; he cuts asunder the bars of iron, he breaks the yoke of the oppressor. Thus all his attributes ride in triumph in saving his people out of trouble.
How do the deliverance of the godly and tricked out of trouble differ?
(1) The deliverances of the godly are preservations; of the wicked reservations. ‘The Lord knows how to deliver the godly, and to reserve the unjust to be punished.’ 2 Pet 2: 9. A sinner may be delivered from dangerous sickness, and out of prison; but all this is but a reservation for some greater evil.
(2) God delivers the wicked, or rather spares them in anger. Deliverances to the wicked are not given as pledges of his love, but symptoms of displeasure; as quails were given to Israel in anger. But deliverances of the godly are in love. ‘He delivered me because he delighted in me’. 2 Sam 22: 20. ‘Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption;’ or, as in the Hebrew, Chashiaqta Naphshi. Isa 38: 17. Thou hast loved me from the pit of corruption. A wicked man may say, ‘Lord, thou hast delivered me out of the pit of corruption;’ but a godly man may say, ‘Lord, thou hast loved me out of the pit of corruption.’ It is one thing to have God’s power deliver us, and another thing to have his love deliver us. ‘O,’ said Hezekiah, ‘Thou hast in love to my soul, delivered me from the pit of corruption.’
How may it be known that a deliverance comes in love?
(1) When it makes our heart boil over in love to God. ‘I love the Lord because he has heard my voice.’ Psa 116: 1. It is one thing to love our mercies, another thing to love the Lord. Deliverance is in love when it causes love.
(2) Deliverance is in love when we have hearts to improve it for God’s glory. The wicked, instead of improving their deliverance for God’s glory, increase their corruption; they grow worse, as the metal when taken out of the fire grows harder; but our deliverance is in love when we improve it for God’s glory. God raises us out of a low condition, and we lift him up in our praises, and honour him with our substance. Prov 3: 9. He recovers us from sickness, and we spend ourselves in his service. Mercy is not as the sun to the fire, to dull it and put it out, but as oil to the wheel, to make it move faster.
(3) Deliverance comes in love when it makes us more exemplary in holiness; and our lives are walking Bibles. A thousand praises and doxologies do not honour God so much as the mortifying of one lust. ‘Upon mount Zion there shall be deliverance and holiness,’ Obadiah 17. When these two go together, deliverance and holiness; when, being made monuments of mercy, we are patterns of piety; then a deliverance comes in love, and we may say as Hezekiah, ‘Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption.’
Use one. If God brings his people out of bondage, let none despond in trouble. Say not ‘I shall sink under this burden;’ or as David, ‘I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul.’ God can make the text good, personally and nationally, to bring his people out of the house of bondage. When he sees a fit season, he will put forth his arm and save them; and he can do it with ease. ‘Lord, it is nothing with thee to help.’ 2 Chron 14: 11. He that can turn tides, can turn the times; he that raised Lazarus when he was dead, can raise thee when thou art sick. ‘I looked, and there was none to help, therefore mine own arm brought salvation.’ Isa 63: 5. Do not despond; believe in God’s power: faith sets God to work to deliver us.
Use two. Labour, if you are in trouble, to be fitted for deliverance. Many would have deliverance, but are not fitted for it.
When are we fitted for deliverance?
When, by our afflictions, we are conformed to Christ; when we have learned obedience. ‘He learned obedience by the things which he suffered;’ that is, he learned sweet submission to his Father’s will. Heb 5: 8. ‘Not my will, but thine, be done.’ Luke 22: 42. When we have thus learned obedience by our sufferings, we are willing to do what God would have us do, and be what God would have us be. We are conformed to Christ, and are fitted for deliverance.
Use three. If God has brought you at any time out of the house of bondage, out of great and eminent troubles, be much in praise. Deliverance calls for praise. ‘Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee.’ Psa 30: 11, 12. My glory, that is, my tongue, which is the instrument of glorifying thee. The saints are temples of the Holy Ghost. 1 Cor 3: 16. Where should God’s praises be sounded but in his temple? Beneficium postulat officium [Gratitude should follow a favour]. The deepest springs yield the sweetest water; and hearts deeply sensible of God’s deliverances yield the sweetest praises. Moses tells Pharaoh, when he was going out of Egypt, ‘We will go with our flocks and our herds.’ Exod 10: 9. Why so? Because he might have sacrifices of thanksgiving ready to offer to God for their deliverance. To have a thankful heart for deliverance is a greater blessing than the deliverance itself. One of the lepers, ‘when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God.’ Luke 17: 15. The leper’s thankful heart was a greater blessing than to be healed of his leprosy. Have any of you been brought out of the house of bondage — out of prison, sickness, or any death-threatening danger? Do not forget to be thankful. Be not graves, but temples. That you may be the more thankful, observe every emphasis and circumstance in your deliverance; such as to be brought out of trouble when you were in articulo mortis [at the brink of death], when there was but a hair’s breadth between you and death; or, to be brought out of affliction, without sin, you did not purchase your deliverance by the ensnaring of your consciences; or, to be brought out of trouble upon the wings of prayer; or, that those who were the occasions of bringing you into trouble, should be the instruments of bringing you out. These circumstances, being well weighed, heighten a deliverance, and should heighten our thankfulness. The cutting of a stone may be of more value than the stone itself; and the circumstancing of a deliverance may be greater than the deliverance itself.
But how shall we praise God in a right manner for deliverance?
(1) Be holy persons. In the sacrifice of thanksgiving, whosoever did eat thereof with his uncleanness upon him, was to be cut off (Lev 7: 20), to typify how unpleasing their praises and thank-offerings are who live in sin.
(2) Praise God with humble hearts, acknowledge how unworthy you were of deliverance. God’s mercies are not debts, but legacies; and that you should have them by legacy should make you humble. ‘The elders fell upon their faces (an expression of humility) and worshipped God. Rev 11: 16.
(3) Praise God for deliverances cordially. ‘I will praise the Lord with my whole heart.’ Psa 111: 1. In religion there is no music but in concert, when heart and tongue join.
(4) Praise God for deliverances constantly. ‘While I live will I praise the Lord.’ Psa 146: 2. Some will be thankful while the memory of a deliverance is fresh, and then leave off. The Carthaginians used, at first, to send the tenth of their yearly revenue to Hercules; but by degrees they grew weary, and left off sending; but we must be constant in our Eucharistic sacrifice, or thank-offering. The motion of our praise must be like the motion of our pulse, which beats as long as life lasts. ‘I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.’ Psa 146: 2.
 THESE words are to be understood mystically and spiritually. By Israel’s deliverance from the house of bondage, is typified their spiritual deliverance from sin, Satan, and hell.
(1) From sin. The house of bondage was a type of Israel’s deliverance from sin. Sin is the true bondage, it enslaves the soul. Nihil durius servitute. Cicero. ‘Of all conditions, servitude is the worst.’ ‘I was held before conversion,’ says Augustine, ‘not with an iron chain, but with the obstinacy of mine own will.’ Sin is the enslaver; it is called a law, because it has a binding power over a man (Rom 7: 23); it is said to reign, because it exercises a tyrannical power (Rom 6: 12); and men are said to be the servants of sin, because they are so enslaved by it. Rom 6: 17. Thus sin is the house of bondage. Israel was not so enslaved in the iron furnace as the sinner is by sin. They are worse slaves and vassals who are under the power of sin, than they are who are under the power of earthly tyrants.
Other slaves have tyrants ruling over their bodies only; but the sinner has his soul tyrannised over. That princely thing, the soul, which sways the sceptre of reason, and was once crowned with perfect knowledge and holiness, now goes on foot; it is enslaved, and made a lackey to every base lust.
Other slaves have some pity shown them: the tyrant gives them meat, and lets them have hours for their rest; but sin is a merciless tyrant, it will let men have no rest. Judas had no rest until he had betrayed Christ, and after that he had less rest than before. How does a man wear himself out in the service of sin, waste his body, break his sleep, distract his mind! A wicked man is every day doing sin’s drudgery-work.
Other slaves have servile work; but it is lawful. It is lawful to work in the galley, and tug at the oar; but all the laws and commands of sin are unlawful. Sin says to one man, defraud; to another, be unchaste; to another take revenge; to another, take a false oath. Thus all sin’s commands are unlawful; we cannot obey sin’s law, but by breaking God’s law.
Other slaves are forced against their will. Israel groaned under slavery (Exod 2: 23); but sinners are content to be under the command of sin; they are willing to be slaves; they love their chains; they will not take their freedom; they ‘glory in their shame.’ Phil 3: 19. They wear their sins, not as their fetters, but their ornaments; they rejoice in iniquity. Jer 11: 15.
Other slaves are brought to correction, but sin’s slaves are without repentance, and are brought to condemnation. Other slaves lie in the iron furnace: sin’s slaves lie in the fiery furnace. What freedom of will has a sinner to his own confusion, when he can do nothing but what sin will have him? He is enslaved. Thus sinners are in the house of bondage; but God takes his elect out of the house of bondage, he beats off the chains and fetters of sin; he rescues them from their slavery; he makes them free, by bringing them into ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God.’ Rom 8: 21. The law of love now rules, not the law of sin. Though the life of sin be prolonged, yet not the dominion; as those beasts in Daniel had their lives prolonged for a season, but their dominion was taken away. Dan 7: 12. The saints are made spiritual kings, to rule and conquer their corruptions, to ‘bind these kings in chains.’ It is matter of the highest praise and thanksgiving, to be taken out of the house of bondage, to be freed from enslaving hosts, and made kings to reign in glory for ever.
(2) The bringing Israel out of the house of bondage, was a type of the deliverance from Satan. Men naturally are in the house of bondage, they are enslaved to Satan. Satan is called the prince of this world (John 14: 30); and the god of this world (2 Cor 4: 4); because he has power to command and enslave them. Though he shall one day be a close prisoner in chains, yet now he insults and tyrannises over the souls of men. Sinners are under his rule, he exercises over them a jurisdiction such as Caesar did over the senate. He fills men’s heads with error, and their hearts with malice. ‘Why has Satan filled thine heart?’ Act 5: 3. A sinner’s heart is the devil’s mansion house. ‘I will return into mine house.’ Matt. 12: 44. And sure that must needs be a house of bondage, which is the devil’s mansion-house. Satan is a complete tyrant. He rules men’s minds, he blinds them with ignorance. ‘The god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not.’ 2 Cor 4: 4. He rules their memories. They remember that which is evil, and forget that which is good. Their memories are like a strainer, that lets go all the pure liquor, and retains only the dregs. He rules their wills. Though he cannot force the will, he draws it. ‘The lusts of your father you will do.’ John 8: 44. He has got your hearts, and him you will obey. His strong temptations draw men to evil more than all the promises of God can draw them to good. This is the state of every man by nature; he is in the house of bondage; the devil has him in his power. A sinner grinds in the devil’s mill; he is at the command of Satan, as the ass is at the command of the driver. No wonder to see men oppress and persecute; as slaves they must do what the god of this world will have them. How could those swine but run, when the devil entered into them? Matt 8: 32. When the devil tempted Ananias to tell a lie, he could not but speak what Satan had put in his heart. Acts 5: 3. When the devil entered into Judas, and bade him betray Christ, he would do it, though he hanged himself. It is a sad and dismal case, to be in the house of bondage, under the power and tyranny of Satan. When David would curse the enemies of God, how did he pray against them? That Satan might be at their right hand. Psa 109: 6. He knew he could then lead them into any snare. If the sinner has Satan at his right hand, let him take heed that he be not at God’s left hand. Is it not a case to be bewailed, to see men taken captive by Satan at his will? 2 Tim 2: 26. He leads sinners as slaves before him in triumph; he wholly possesses them. If people should see their beasts bewitched and possessed of the devil, they would be much troubled; and yet, though their souls are possessed by Satan, they are not sensible of it. What can be worse than for men to be in the house of bondage, and to have the devil hurry them on in their lusts to perdition? Sinners are willingly enslaved to Satan; they love their gaoler; are content to sit quietly under Satan’s jurisdiction; they choose this bramble to rule over them, though after a while, fire will come out of the bramble to devour them. Judges 9: 15. What an infinite mercy is it when God brings poor souls out of this house of bondage, when he gives them a gaol-delivery from the prince of darkness! JESUS CHRIST redeems captives, he ransoms sinners by price, and rescues them by force. As David took a lamb out of the lion’s mouth (1 Sam 17: 35), so Christ rescues souls out of the mouth of the roaring lion. Oh, what a mercy is it to be brought out of the house of bondage, from captives to the prince of the power of the air, to be made subjects of the Prince of Peace! This is done by the preaching of the Word. ‘To turn them from the power of Satan unto God.’ Acts 26: 18.
(3) The bringing of Israel out of the house of bondage was a type of their being delivered from hell. Hell is domus servitutis, a house of bondage; a house built on purpose for sinners to lie in.
There is such a house of bondage where the damned lie. ‘The wicked shall be turned into hell.’ Psa 9: 17. ‘How can ye escape the damnation of hell?’ Matt 23: 33. If any one should ask where this house of bondage is, where is the place of hell? I wish he may never know experimentally. ‘Let us not so much,’ says Chrysostom, ‘labour to know where hell is, as how to escape it.’ Yet to satisfy curiosity, it may be observed that hell is locus subterraneus, some place beneath. ‘Hell beneath.’ Prov 15: 24. Hesiod says, ‘Hell is as far under the earth, as heaven is above it.’ The devils besought Christ ‘that he would not command them to go out into the deep.’ Luke 8: 31. Hell is in the deep.
Why must there be this house of bondage? Why a hell? Because there must be a place for the execution of divine justice. Earthly monarchs have their prison for malefactors, and shall not God have his? Sinners are criminals, they have offended God; and it would not consist with his holiness and justice, to have his laws infringed, and not inflict penalties.
The dreadfulness of the place. Could you but hear the groans and shrieks of the damned for one hour, it would confirm you in the truth, that hell is a house of bondage. Hell is the emphasis of misery. Besides the poena damni, ‘the punishment of loss,’ which is the exclusion of the soul from the gloried sight of God, which divines think the worst part of hell, there will be poena sensus,’ the punishment of sense.’ If, when God’s wrath is kindled but a little, and a spark of it flies into a man’s conscience in this life, it is so terrible (as in the case of Spira), what will hell itself be?
In hell there will be a plurality of torments, ‘Bonds and chains.’ 2 Pet 2: 4. There will be the worm. Mark 9: 48; This is the worm of conscience. There will be the lake of fire. Rev 20: 15. Other fire is but painted to this.
This house of hell is haunted with devils. Matt 25: 41. Anselm says, ‘I had rather endure all torments, than see the devil with bodily eyes.’ Such as go to hell must not only be forced to behold the devil, but must be shut up with this lion in his den; they must keep the devil company. He is full of spite against mankind; a red dragon that will spit fire in men’s faces.
The torments of hell abide for ever. ‘The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.’ Rev 14: 2: Time cannot finish it, tears cannot quench it. Mark 9: 44. The wicked are salamanders, who live always in the fire of hell, and are not consumed. After they have lain millions of years in hell, their punishment is as far from ending, as it was at the beginning. If all the earth and sea were sand, and every thousandth year a bird should come, and take away one grain, it would be a long time before that vast heap would be removed; yet, if after all that time the damned might come out of hell, there would be some hope; but this word EVER breaks the heart.
How does it seem to comport with God’s justice to punish a sin committed in a moment, with eternal torment?
Because there is an eternity of sin in man’s nature. Because sin is crimen laesae majestatis, ‘committed against an infinite majesty,’ and therefore the sin itself is infinite, and proportionally the punishment must be infinite. Because a finite creature cannot bear infinite wrath, he must be eternally satisfying what he can never satisfy. If hell be such a house of bondage, what infinite cause have they to bless God who are delivered from it! Jesus ‘delivered us from the wrath to come.’ 1 Thess 1: 10. Jesus Christ suffered the torments of hell in his soul, that believers should not suffer them. If we are thankful, when we are ransomed out of prison, or delivered from fire, oh, how should we bless God to be preserved from the wrath to come! It may cause more thankfulness in us, seeing the most part go into the house of bondage, even to hell. To be of the number of those few that are delivered from it, is matter of infinite thankfulness. Most, I say, go to that house of bondage when they die; most go to hell. ‘Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.’ Matt 7: 13. The greatest part of the world lies in wickedness. 1 John 5: 19. Divide the world, says Brerewood, into thirty-one parts, nineteen parts of it are possessed by Jews and Turks, and seven parts by heathens; so that there are but five parts of Christians, and among these Christians so many seduced Papists on the one hand, and so many formal Protestants on the other, that we may conclude the major part of the world goes to hell. Scripture compares the wicked to briers. Isa 10: 17. There are but few lilies in your fields, but in every hedge thorns and briers. It compares them to ‘the mire in the streets.’ Isa 10: 6. Few jewels or precious stones are in the street, but you cannot go a step without meeting with mire. The wicked are as common as the dirt in the street. Look at the generality of people. How many drunkards are there for one that is sober! How many adulterers for one that is chaste! How many hypocrites for one that is sincere! The devil has the harvest, and God a few gleanings only. Oh, then, such as are delivered from the house of bondage, in hell, have infinite cause to admire and bless God. How should the vessels of mercy run over with thankfulness! When most others are carried prisoners to hell, they are delivered from the wrath to come.
How shall I know I am delivered from hell?
(1) Those whom Christ saves from hell he saves from sin. ‘He shall save his people from their sins.’ Matt 1: 21. Has God delivered you from the power of corruption, from pride, malice, and lust? If he has delivered you from the hell of sin, he has delivered you from the hell of torment.
(2) If you have got an interest in Christ, and are prizing, trusting, and loving him, you are delivered from hell and damnation. ‘No condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.’ Rom 8:1. If you are in Christ, he has put the garment of his righteousness over you, and hell-fire can never singe it. Pliny observes, nothing will so soon quench fire as salt and blood: the salt tears of repentance and the blood of Christ will quench the fire of hell, so that it shall never kindle upon you.
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