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what hope can there be of future obedience, but what arises from a thorough concern and sorrow for past offences? And how can the baptismal covenant be embraced by him, whose prospect of fulfilling this important promise is warranted by no aversion to the violation of it; and consequently, by no fixed resolution to guard against it hereafter? We see, God calls us to repentance, and the covenant, at once; and therefore we cannot come to the one, if we bring not the other with us, without the impious absurdity of attempting a peace with God and sin, at the same time.
But, in case we do truly repent, then we are to consider, that as, upon engaging in the Christian covenant, we are concerned with God the ruler of the religious kingdom, and with mankind our fellow-subjects; so the laws or commandments to be observed relate partly to him, and partly to them. If we do not promise to keep those which relate to God, we cannot enter into his kingdom; because, where there is no promise of obedience on the one side, there can be no expectation of it on the other; and consequently, wrath and enmity must remain. Again, if we do not promise to keep those commandments that relate to our fellow-subjects, or fellow-Christians, we thereby declare war with them, and of course with him who represents and protects them..
The observation of God's commandments, whether relating to himself, or our neighbour, is every where pressed on us, with all the force that either promises or menaces can add to that important part of our duty. It is also pressed on us as the means of deliverance from the tyranny of those enemies we renounce in our covenant with God; for Christ joins it to the institution of baptism. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you ;' and Zacharias pleads it as the promise of God to Abraham, that we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.' But it is carefully to be observed, that our obedience cannot procure the approbation of God, if it does not proceed from a principle of love towards him and our neighbour; for he says, ' If ye love me,
keep my commandments. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two hang all the law and the prophets;' for love is the fulfilling of the law.' God, we see, requires our obedience on that amiable, that exalted principle of charity, wherewith he purposes to unite us to himself, and one another, in the glorious community formed by the Christian covenant. This purely moral part of the covenant which was once delivered from Mount Sinai in a voice that 'shook the earth,' and struck terror into those that received it, is now founded by our blessed Saviour on the love of God and man; and not only proposed as a rule, for our outward actions, but as a pure and spiritual law of liberty,' correcting our inward thoughts, and teaching us to consider God as a searcher of hearts, who will judge us by our wills, as well as our deeds.
Carrying this observation with us, let us briefly touch the purport of each commandment; and those first, that prescribe our duty to God himself. In the first place, we must, by love, fear, prayer, and dependance, worship the Lord our God, and serve him alone, by every instance, whether in thought or deed, of duty and obedience to whatsoever he enjoins. Not to worship him, or to worship any thing else, in this manner, is revolt, rebellion, and a removal of enmity with God.
Secondly, To pay any part of our worship to an image, a picture, or any other creature, as the representative of God, is not, 'to worship him in spirit and truth,' as he requires; nor to flee from idolatry,' as he commands; but to thrust in the creatures between God and our affections of love, reverence, and trust; which excites his jealousy, and is therefore regarded by him as a declaration of war and rebellion against him.
Thirdly, To swear falsely by his name, or to profane it by using it in our common or idle discourse, is in both instances to take his awful name in vain; because, in the one case, it is applied to no purpose, and, in the other, to a concealment, not a discovery, of the truth; which, he tells
us, he will look on as a horrible sin, that is, as an insolent affront to his majesty, and an act of enmity and hostility against him.
Fourthly, To seize any thing dedicated to God, particularly by his own commandment, more especially that day which he hath set apart for his worship, and our instruction, and to apply it to common or profane uses, is a violation committed on his peculiar property, and consequently an act of enmity against him.
As to those commandments which contain our duty towards our neighbour, they are the commandments of God, as well as those that relate immediately to himself; and therefore we cannot transgress them, without a grievous injury to God, and our neighbour, who is under his government and protection.
To dishonour, or, in any thing lawful, to disobey our parents, or such as God, by his providence, hath set over us, with either civil or spiritual authority, is to dishonour and resist God in his deputy; for he commands us to hono ur and obey our parents; to be subject to principalities and powers; to obey and submit ourselves to them who have the rule over us in spiritual matters; for they watch for our souls, as they that must give an account;' and to be subject to our masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
To take away the life of any man, without a lawful cause or authority; to maim or injure his person, or even to be angry with him, without a sufficient cause; is to attack God in his image; is to shew hatred, where he prescribes love; who saith, 'A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another. Whosoever hateth his brother, is a murderer;' and God will be the avenger, not only of blood, but of malice, which thirsts for blood.
To commit uncleanness of any kind, in thought, word, or deed, more especially to be guilty of fornication, adultery, or other more unnatural lusts, too abominable to be named, is to render ourselves foul and hateful in the sight of God; and, as it wounds both our own souls, and those of our unhappy partners in sin, it represents us as tempters, seducers, and as enemies of that pure and holy God, who saith, 'I have not called you to uncleanness, but to holiness; flee
fornication, knowing that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, and of God.' Whoremongers and adulterers I will judge; and I will judge them by their desires and wills, for, in my sight, he who looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.'
To possess ourselves of our neighbour's property, by theftt by robbery, by fraud, by extortion, or by oppression, is to provoke God, the guardian of justice, who saith ‘Let him that stole, steal no more; thou shalt not rob thy neighbour; let no man go beyond, or defraud his brother in any matter; the extortioner shall not inherit the kingdom of God; ye shall not oppress one another; woe to him who buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong, who useth his neighbour's service without wages.'
To give false testimony before the magistrate, or in a court of justice, or either lightly or maliciously to take away the character of our neighbour, is one of the most grievous injuries we can do him, and a deliberate insult upon God, who saith, Thou shalt not raise a false report; put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness; I hate a false witness, that speaketh lies; I myself will be a swift witness against the false swearer; judge not, that ye be not judged; charity thinketh no evil; therefore speak evil of no man; speak not evil one of another; he that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law; but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. But there is one lawgiver, who is able to save, and to destroy: Who art thou that judgest another? Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? To his own master he standeth or falleth; yea, he shall be holden up;' for I am able to make him stand in spite of thee, who presumest to place thyself in my tribunal, and sit in judgment on thy fellowservant, perhaps thy fellow-sinner, whose offences are not more provoking than thy own.
In the last place, to covet our neighbour's wife or possessions, or to desire them, without acquiring a just or legal right to them, is as great a sin, as actually to seize them; perhaps in this respect a greater, that the regard we pay to the laws of men, withholds our hand; whereas we shew so
little for those of God, who sees and judges the heart, that there is nothing wanting but opportunity and secrecy, to the full execution of the injurious purpose we are invited to by our dishonest principles and desires. It is no difficult matter to judge in what light he must stand before God, who hath no other sense of duty than what arises from his fear of worldly shame or punishment; while he sets the laws and judgments of God at nought, as if the ruler of the world could neither see nor punish. Hath not God commanded us to be content with such things as we have? To take heed and beware of covetousness,' which he calls idolatry? Is he not in a state of war and enmity with God, who is thus prepared for the violation of his neighbour's property; who is restrained by the laws of men, but despises the commandment of God; and whose heart is alienated from the true object of love and worship, to an idol, or false god, of his own erecting?
Now here it is to be observed, that neither branch of intemperance, gluttony or drunkenness, is expressly forbidden in any of these commandments. And why? But because these laws of God are laid on men, that is, rational creatures, and not on brutes; and therefore imply the absence of both those vices in all his subjects. He who enjoined these duties, enjoined also the necessary means. Now a sensual brute, though in the shape of a man, is in no capacity to perform any one of these laws; and therefore, if these two vices had not been sufficiently condemned in other parts of Scripture, yet as here they are, by necessary consequence, prohibited in every single commandment, the sensualist stands condemned, by the tenor of the whole moral law, as an enemy to God. His over-heated blood, and pampered passions, are surely far enough from renouncing the lusts of the flesh, and from a disposition to conform to the will of God.
All the duties we owe ourselves, such as religious knowledge, temperance, sobriety, humility, meekness, contentedness, &c. come under this way of reasoning; and are comprehended in the commandments of God, though those commandments seem to have only God and our neighbour for their objects. Nay, the principles whereon we seek our own improvement and happiness, is the very principle and spring