DEUTERONOMY

Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries

 

DISCOURSE 185

THE PROSPERITY OF ZION DESIRED

Deuteronomy 1:11. The Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as you are, and bless you, as he has promised you!

TO decline any measure of exertion in behalf of persons committed to our care, may appear to argue a want of love to them. But there are certain bounds beyond which a man cannot go: his physical strength will fail; and his attempts to persevere beyond his capacity of performance will defeat the very object he has in view, and prove an injury to the persons whose welfare he is laboring to consult. The care of all the people of Israel, two millions in number, had devolved on Moses: and he endeavored, as their chief magistrate, to dispense justice to them all, by hearing and determining every subject of litigation that was brought before him. This occupied him from morning to night, and was obviously impairing his bodily health: the labor was too great for him; and he would soon have sunk under it. By the advice of Jethro, his father-in-law, he appointed persons, chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to hear all the causes which were of inferior moment, and reserved to himself the determination of those only which were of a more difficult nature, and which required a more especial reference to God himself. He was now arrived at the borders of Jordan, and at the last month of his life: and was directed of God to record, and leave behind him in writing, a brief memorial of the principal events which had taken place, and the principal laws which had been promulgated, during their sojourning in the wilderness: that so the generation which had arisen in the wilderness might, by a special recapitulation of those events, have them the more deeply impressed on their minds, and be stirred up by the remembrance of them to serve their God with more fidelity than their fathers had done. The appointment of these inferior judges was one of the first acts which took place in the wilderness: and, as it originated from Jethro, his father-in-law, and not from God, Moses was fearful that it might be open to an unfavorable construction, and that he might appear, if not to have neglected his duty towards the people, at least to have been defective in love towards them: and therefore, in relating the fact, he tells them how anxiously he had at the very time manifested his zeal in their service; since, while issuing his order for the appointment of these men, instead of grudging that they were so numerous as to render the minute attention which he had hitherto paid to their concerns impracticable, he had expressed the most ardent desire for their further increase, saying, "The Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as you are, and bless you, as he has promised you!"

This benevolent wish of his will lead me to consider the prosperity of God's Israel,

I. As a matter of promise—

To the promises of God relating to this subject Moses refers: "The Lord bless you, as he has promised you!"

Now God has promised innumerable blessings to those who are of Israel according to the flesh—

He had assured Abraham that his seed should be numerous "as the stars of Heaven, and countless as the sands upon the sea-shore Genesis 15:5." They had already multiplied greatly; (they were about thirty thousand times as many as they had been two hundred and fifty years before:) and they should yet multiply to a far greater extent, as they did in succeeding ages; and as they shall do in ages yet to come: for though at present they are brought low and are very few in number, God has expressly declared, by his prophet, that "he will multiply them above their fathers Jeremiah 33:22; Deuteronomy 30:5." His blessings, too, shall be richly poured out upon them, not only as they were in Canaan, in the days of David and Solomon, but in a measure that can scarcely be conceived. Even in a temporal view, I apprehend, the magnificent descriptions of the prophets will be realized Amos. 9:11-15; Zechariah 8:3-8; but in a spiritual view I am perfectly sure of it: for they shall be restored to their God, and be as great monuments of God's love and mercy in the world, as ever they have been of his wrath and indignation Zechariah 8:13; Zechariah 8:18-23; yes, the time is now fast approaching, when "he will multiply them, that they shall not be few; and glorify them, that they shall not be small Jeremiah 30:19;" and when "they shall sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations, saying one to another, Publish you, praise you, and say, Save your people, the remnant of Israel Jeremiah 31:7."

Innumerable blessings, too, has God promised to his spiritual Israel—

That these are included in the wish of Moses, there can be no doubt: for, in the promise which be more immediately refers to, where it is said, "In blessing I will bless you, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore;" it is added, "And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed Genesis 22:17-18." Here, beyond all doubt, is reference to the whole Gentile world, who shall in due season be converted to the Lord, and together with Israel become "one fold under one Shepherd." That these were included in the promise made to Abraham, Paul expressly declares: "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In you shall all nations be blessed. So, then, they which be of faith" (whether Jews or Gentiles, the same (are the children of Abraham, and) "are blessed with faithful Abraham Galatians 3:7-9." He further declares, that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith Galatians 3:13-14." Here, then, we have a fuller insight into the wish of Moses, as expressed in the text; a wish in which every pious person under Heaven must concur.

Let us then consider the prosperity of Israel,

II. As an object of desire—

"O that the Lord God of our fathers would multiply his people a thousand-fold, and bless them, as he has promised them!" If any of you need a stimulus to concur in this wish, reflect on,

1. The benefit that will accrue to every converted soul—

Were we to contemplate a soul actually taken out of Hell, and translated to a throne of glory in Heaven, we should say, indeed, that such an one had reason to rejoice. Yet, what is it less than this that is done for every child of God? Are we not doomed to perdition? Is there any child of man that is not "by nature a child of wrath Ephesians 2:3." Consequently, if delivered from condemnation, "is he not a brand plucked out of the fire Zechariah 3:2." Is he not, at the very time that he is "turned from darkness to light, turned also from the power of Satan unto God Acts 26:18." Does he not actually "pass from death unto life 1 John 3:14." and is he not "delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son Colossians 1:13." Reflect then on this, as done for only one soul; and there is reason, abundant reason, for every benevolent person in the universe to pant for it. But consider it as extended to thousands, and millions, yes, millions of millions, even the whole human race, and who should not pant and pray for that? See what a commotion is produced in Heaven even by the conversion of one soul: for "there is joy among the angels, in the very presence of God, over one sinner that repents:" and what must we be, who feel so indifferent about the conversion and salvation of the whole world? Truly, we have need to blush and be confounded before God, for the coldness with which we contemplate his promised blessings.

2. The honor that will redound to God—

Behold our fallen race! Who is there among them that bears any measure of resemblance to the image in which man was first created? Who regards God? Who does not practically "say to God, Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of your ways Job 21:14." But let a soul be apprehended by divine grace, and converted to the faith of Christ, and what a different aspect does he then bear! Truly, the whole works of creation do not so brightly exhibit the glory of God, as does this new-created being. Brilliant as are the rays of the noonday sun, they do not display even the natural perfections, and still less the moral perfections, of the Deity, as he; who, from the image of "his father, the devil," is "transformed into the image of God himself, in righteousness and true holiness."

Now, too, he begins to live unto his God, and by every possible means to exalt his glory in the world, acknowledging him in all things, serving him in all things, glorifying him in all things. Is there a man that is in any respect sensible of his obligations to God, and not desirous that such converts should be multiplied? Did David "shed rivers of tears for those who kept not God's law;" and shall not we weep and pray that such persons may be converted to God, and made monuments of his saving grace? But conceive of this whole world, that is in rebellion against God, converted thus, and God's will done on earth as it is done in Heaven: and shall this be to us no object of desire? Truly, we should take no rest to ourselves, nor give any rest to God, until he accomplish this blessed work Isaiah 62:6-7, and until "all the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of his Christ Revelation 2:15."

3. The happiness that will arise to the whole world—

Every soul that is converted to God becomes "a light" to those around him; and as "salt," to keep, as it were, from utter putrefaction the neighborhood in which he dwells. In proportion, then, as these are multiplied, the very world itself assumes a different aspect; instead of the brier there grows up the fir-tree, and "instead of the thorn there grows up the myrtle-tree;" until, at last, "the whole wilderness shall blossom as the rose," and this "desert become as the garden of the Lord." I need not say more. The wish of Moses is, methinks, the wish of every one among you; and you are all saying with David, "Blessed be God's glorious name forever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory: Amen and Amen Psalm 72:19."

You will ask, then, What shall we do to accelerate this glorious event?

God works by means. He did so in the apostolic age: and he will do so still: and if we have any love either for God or man, we should use all the means within our power for the increase of the Church and the salvation of the world. Yet may we learn a very important lesson from the conduct of Moses, in the appointment of persons to labor with him. He had sustained the burden, himself alone, and doubtless thought that he was rendering an acceptable service both to God and man. But his father-in-law said to him, and said with truth, "The thing that you do is not good. You will surely wear away, both you, and the people that is with you: for this thing is too heavy for you: you are not able to perform it yourself alone. Hearken now unto my voice: I will give you counsel, and God shall be with you." And then he proceeds to advise, that he should provide, out of all the people, a number of pious and able men to co-operate with him in the work wherein he was engaged Exodus 18:17-23. And Moses did well in following the advice: for if he had not, his indiscreet zeal would have soon worn him out, and deprived the whole nation of the benefit of his labors for forty years. It were well if pious ministers would attend to this hint. There is scarcely a man who has any zeal for God or love for souls, who does not so multiply his labors, as to reduce his strength in a few months or years; when true wisdom would teach him so to regulate his exertions, that he may hope to continue them unimpaired to nearly the end of life. I mean not by this to damp the zeal of ministers, but only to direct it. It is impossible to be too zealous for the Lord: but it is possible enough, and too common also, to exercise zeal in so indiscreet a way, as greatly to injure the Church which we profess to serve. Let the zeal of our people be called forth: let them be invited to labor with us, to visit the sick, to instruct the rising generation, and to engage in everything which may benefit our fellow-creatures and exalt the honor of our God. With all the aid that can be afforded us, there will be work enough for us to do: and we should endeavor to perform our duties with spirituality and effect, rather than to abound in mere bodily exercise, which, after all, will profit but little for the salvation of souls. Are there then, among you, any that know the value of your own souls? I call on you to help your minister in all those parts of his office which you can with propriety perform. And I trust, that if we will all exert ourselves according to our several abilities, the work of God will rapidly advance among us, and our "Jerusalem soon become a praise in the earth." When all, both male and female, concurred in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, every one working before his own door, the whole was completed in the incredibly short space of two-and-fifty days Nehemiah 2:12; Nehemiah 2:20; Nehemiah 3:6; Nehemiah 6:15-16. And what effects should not we see, if all were unanimous and earnest in advancing, each according to his ability, the work of God among us? Methinks, our numbers would be greatly multiplied, and "showers of blessings" would be poured out among us.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 1:21

 

DISCOURSE 186

VICTORY ASSURED TO THE TRUE ISRAEL

Deuteronomy 1:21. Behold, the Lord your God has set the land before you: go up, and possess it, as the Lord your God has said unto you: fear not, neither be discouraged.

THE journeyings of the Israelites in the wilderness afford an inexhaustible fund of instruction to us. The history of their deliverance from Egypt, their trials and supports, and their final entrance into the land of Canaan, so exactly corresponds with the experience of believers in their journey heaven-ward, that we are never at a loss for an illustration of that which is invisible, from that which actually took place among God's ancient people.

The Israelites, after one year spent in the wilderness, were now arrived on the very confines of Canaan: and the exhortation which I have now read to you, was part of the address of Moses to them, encouraging them to go up and take possession of the land. And, assuming (what I need not now stand to prove) the justness of the parallel between their state and ours, the words before us contain,

I. The command given us in reference to the promised land—

There is for us, as there was for Israel, "a rest" prepared Hebrews 4:8-9. This passage sufficiently proves the parallel that is here assumed. And we are here bidden to take possession of it,

1. By right, as the gift of God—

Canaan was given to Abraham and his seed by God himself: and the grant was confirmed with an oath, that the possession of it should infallibly be secured to them verse 8. God had a right to bestow it upon whoever he would: and they to whom he should assign it had a perfect right to occupy it. The former possessors were no more than tenants at will: and, if God saw fit to dispossess them, and to let it out to other gardeners, no injury was done to them, either on the part of the Great Proprietor, or on the part of those whom he appointed to succeed to the inheritance. This I say, in order to satisfy the minds of those who, through ignorance of the tenure on which the land was held, feel a repugnance to the transfer, and to the mode in which the transfer of the land was effected.

In relation, however, to the land which we are called to possess, no such feeling can exist. Heaven is the free gift of God to Abraham's spiritual seed, as Canaan was to his natural descendants. It is given to them in Christ Jesus: yes, it was given to them even before the worlds were made Titus 1:2 and 2 Timothy 1:9. And, as a person receiving a grant of land from an earthly monarch would go up without hesitation to take possession of it, so should every person who believes in Christ regard the heavenly land, and go up, not to make it his own, but to take possession of it as his own. No thought of purchasing it must for one moment enter into his mind. If he is united unto Christ by faith, that is a sufficient title; and from that moment he may claim it as his own.

This command then do we give, in the name of Almighty God, to every one of you who believes in Christ; "Go up and possess the land," which the Sovereign of the universe, of his own love and mercy, has given to you.

2. By conflict, as the fruit of victory—

Though the land was given them, yet were they to gain it by the sword. And we also have enemies without number to encounter. The world, the flesh, and the devil, all obstruct our way; and must be vanquished, before we can sit down in the full enjoyment of the promised inheritance: Nor let it be thought that Heaven is the less a gift on this account: for though we fight, it is not our own sword that gets us the victory. It was "God himself who drove out the inhabitants" of the earthly Canaan: and it is through God alone that our weapons produce any effect in subduing our enemies before us 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. How compatible the two are, will appear from what our blessed Lord has said: "Labor not for the meat that perishes, but for that which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give unto you John 6:27." You must fight; and you must conquer: but, after all, you must say, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto your name be the praise Psalm 115:1."

Together with this command, we are taught,

II. The way in which we should address ourselves to the performance of it—

The command of God to us is positive, as that to them also was: and,

1. Our obedience to him should be prompt—

I am persuaded they would have done well, if they had never thought of sending spies to search out the land, and to tell them against what cities they should direct their first efforts. It was a carnal expedient, as the event proved. True it is, that "Moses was well pleased" with the proposal verse 23; but he would not have been well pleased, if he had clearly seen from whence it issued, and what would be the result of it. He conceived it to be expressive only of a determination to go up, the very instant they should be directed where to go. And, supposing that there was no mixture of unbelief in it, it might be laudable enough. But what need had they of men to "search out the land," and to direct their efforts? Had not Almighty God himself, for the space of a whole year, "gone before them to search out places from day to day where they should fix their tents verse 33." Had he done this "by a pillar of fire by night, and by a cloud by day," and was he not both able and willing to show them "by which way to go up" to the land, and what cities to attack? I say again, it was a carnal expedient, as the event proved: and it was the source of all the calamities that they endured for the space of forty years. Had they said to Moses, 'Pray to God for us, to direct us; and we are ready to go;' they would have done well: but, by trusting to an arm of flesh, they fell.

In like manner, we should obey the divine mandate without delay. We should "not confer with flesh and blood Galatians 1:16;" we should not be consulting how we may avoid the trials which God has taught us to expect; but should look simply to the Captain of our salvation, and follow implicitly his commands; regarding no word in comparison of his, nor ever dreaming of a more convenient season than the present. What He calls us to do, we should "do" instantly, and "with all our might."

2. Our confidence in him should be entire—

They were bidden "not to fear, or be discouraged." So neither should we "fear" any dangers that may threaten us, or "be discouraged" under any trials we maybe called to sustain. As for "Anakim," or cities "walled up to Heaven," what are they to us? Is not "He greater, that is in us, than any that can be in them?" If Jehovah be on our side, what have we to fear? We may say of all our enemies, as Joshua did of those he was called to encounter, "They are bread for us Numbers 14:8-9;" and shall not only be devoured as easily as a morsel of bread, but they, and all that they have, shall be our very support, invigorating our souls by the energies they call forth, and augmenting the happiness which they labor to destroy. Whatever may occur, we should never stagger at the promise through unbelief; but "be strong in faith, giving glory to God Romans 4:20." We should go forward in the spirit of the holy Apostle, "If God be for us, who can be against us Romans 8:31."

Hear then, believers, and follow my advice—

1. Survey the land—

See whether it be not the glory of all lands, "a land lowing with milk and honey." Come up to Pisgah, and look down upon it: or rather, I would say, Come up to Zion, and behold its length and breadth. See already, and taste, the fruits of it. Take into your hands "the grapes of Eshcol," and tell me whether the whole world besides affords such fruit. Methinks, some of you at least have already partaken of them: yes, I doubt not, but that, in "the light of God's countenance lifted up upon you," and in "his love shed abroad in your hearts," you have already found a pledge and a foretaste of your heavenly inheritance. But still, I say, Survey the land. "Not one of its inhabitants ever says, I am sick Isaiah 33:24." "No sorrow is there, no sighing, no pain, no death Revelation 21:4." "Nor is there any night there: it needs neither the sun nor moon to lighten it; for the glory of God does lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof Revelation 21:23."

Tell me, then, is it not worth the conflict? Is anything too much to do, or too severe to suffer, in order to obtain it Romans 8:18. Only keep that glorious object in view, and you will never sheathe your sword, until you have gained the victory.

2. Perform your duty—

Gird on your swords. Go forward against the enemy. Make no account of any obstacles. Think neither of the strength or number of your enemies. Say not, "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? for thus says the Lord; The prey of the mighty shall be taken away; and the lawful captive shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contends with you; and I will save your children Isaiah 49:24-25." Neither be discouraged from a sense of your own weakness: for "God will perfect his own strength in your weakness 2 Corinthians 12:9-10." Go on simply depending on your God. Rest on that word of his, "Fear you not, for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you: yes, I will help you: yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness Isaiah 41:10." With confidence do I address you thus: for the Lord Jesus Christ himself has said, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom Luke 12:32." Only "fight the good fight of faith:" and you shall be "more than conquerors, through Him that loved you."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 2:7

 

DISCOURSE 187

GOD'S CONTINUED MERCIES TO US

Deuteronomy 2:7. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you: you have lacked nothing.

WHOEVER would enter fully into the doctrine of a divine providence, should study the history of the Israelites in the wilderness. We at this day are ready to imagine, that, however God may superintend the affairs of the universe sufficiently to keep them in order, and to subserve his own purposes, he yet leaves minuter matters to a kind of chance; and that to expect his interposition in our own behalf, especially in things of daily occurrence, would be the height of presumption. In a word, we draw lines of distinction between a general and a particular providence; and feel ourselves at liberty to acknowledge the one, while we deny the other. But in the Scriptures there will not, I apprehend, be found any ground for such a distinction. We cannot conceive any thing of less moment than a sparrow falling to the ground, or an hair of our head perishing; yet these things are expressly declared to be within the bounds of God's peculiar care. The truth is, that God is the same as ever he was; and that his attention to the affairs of men is still the same: the only difference is, that for special ends he made his interpositions visible in former days; whereas, now he would have us to "walk by faith, and not by sight." Of his people in the wilderness, he was the visible Leader, Protector, Nourisher: and so constant had been his attention to their every want, that, at the close of their pilgrimage, Moses could appeal to the whole nation, "These forty years the Lord your God has been with you: you have lacked nothing."

That we may see that his care has not been exclusively confined to them, I will show,

I. What mercies have been given to us during the whole period of our sojourning in this wilderness—

Surprising, indeed, was his attention to his ancient people. They were in a wilderness where there was literally nothing for their sustenance. Neither bread nor water could be found there: but of both did God afford them a daily and miraculous supply; causing bread to descend from Heaven for them, and the waters of the rock to follow them. But from whence should they obtain clothing? None could be fabricated; none be found. But God superseded the need of any fresh supply, by causing that "their clothes, for the whole space of forty years, should never decay;" and that, notwithstanding all their traveling, "their shoe should never wax old upon their foot Deuteronomy 29:5." Nor would he suffer their strength to fail: for, "as their clothing waxed not old upon them, so neither did their foot swell for forty years Deuteronomy 8:4." With these corporeal blessings, God imparted to them no less richly for their souls. He gave them his word; he continued to them his ministers; "he sent to them, also, his Holy Spirit to instruct them Nehemiah 9:20."

Now in all this we may see what God, in his mercy, has done for us also, during the whole of our sojourning in this wilderness:

1. In relation to temporal concerns—

Us, also, has God supplied with all the necessities of life: but because, in providing these things, the agency of man is required, we overlook His hand; whereas, in fact, he is as much the author and giver of these blessings to us, as he was of the mercies given to Israel. What can we do to secure fruitful seasons ? Who among us could make so much as a blade of grass to grow ? Who could prevent the fruits of the earth from being devoured by locusts and caterpillars, or from being destroyed by blasting and mildew? Who has kept from our borders the desolating scourge of war ? Who has preserved us from the more terrific calamities of civil war? To whom are we indebted, that we have not been reduced to the lowest ebb of misery by some destructive conflagration? Men, it is true, are actively employed in providing for themselves: but what are men? they are nothing but agents, (unconscious agents, I had almost said,) accomplishing the will of another: for, while they are universally seeking their own personal advantage, they are, in reality, God's instruments, employed by him for the benefit of the world. We see this exemplified in the labors of bees; from which we may form a just idea of all that is passing in the world. Thousands of persons are employed, daily and hourly, to supply our wants. Little do we think of this. Were we placed for any length of time in a country uninhabited except by ourselves and our own domestic circle, we should soon feel how deeply we are indebted to God for innumerable comforts, which, through his good providence, we enjoy; and which, through a stimulus imparted by him, other persons are engaged in procuring for us. What their motives may be, is no concern of ours: it is sufficient for us to know, that, as God directed and overruled the ambition of Sennacherib to correct and chasten his people Israel Isaiah 10:5-7, so he directs and overrules the selfish, dispositions of mankind to administer to the wants of each other, and to provide for the comfort of the whole world. And the poorest person among us has thousands of persons at this very time engaged for him, to provide him with the comforts and conveniences of life.

2. In relation to the concerns of our souls—

Has not God preserved to us, also, his word and ordinances; dispensed, too, by the same ministry for forty years In the year 1822, the Author had ministered at Trinity Church the precise time that Moses and Aaron had to Israel. and may we not say, too, that God has, during the whole of that period, "sent his good Spirit to instruct you?" Yes; God has borne testimony to the word of his grace, and caused it to "come to you not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance 1 These. 1:5." I would not willingly speak of anything relating to myself: that is the last subject that should ever be brought before you: but, having fulfilled the term that Moses and Aaron did before me; and being able to call to witness, that, during the whole of that time, I have lived for you, and labored for you, and "declared unto you faithfully the whole counsel of God;" I cannot but remind you of God's dealings with you in that particular, and make my appeal to you in the words of my text, "These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing The example of Paul, in his address to the Elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:17-27; Acts 20:31.) must be the Author's apology for the foregoing observations; which, after forty years of labor in the same church, may well be allowed."

Whatever be the value of these mercies, it will be greatly heightened by considering,

II. Under what circumstances they have been continued to us—

If we look at Israel, they will serve as a mirror, to reflect our image to the very life. In them we may see,

1. How great our provocations have been—

Grievously neglectful of their duties were the Israelites, during the whole of their sojourning in the wilderness. Though commanded to circumcise their children, they never administered that rite in all that time Jos. 5:5-7. Never but once had they held a Passover; and that was in the very first year after they had come out of Egypt Numbers 9:5. And during the whole forty years they offered no sacrifice to God; but, on the contrary, paid their devotions to senseless gods, and graven images Acts 7:41-43. Such was their conduct in the wilderness. And what has been ours? Have not our most solemn duties been neglected, or performed only in such a way as to show that our heart was not in them? Have we attained the true circumcision, even "the circumcision of the heart, which is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; whose praise is not of men, but of God Romans 2:29." Have we fed upon the Paschal Lamb, even on "Christ our Passover, who has been sacrificed for us 1 Corinthians 5:7." Have "we presented ourselves as living sacrifices to God, which has been our reasonable service Romans 12:1." Have we not rather "set up idols in our hearts Ezekiel 14:3," even every heathenish abomination, and in ten thousand instances "loved and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for evermore Romans 1:25." And do we "find these things by secret search Jeremiah 2:34." No: your whole lives proclaim it. Must we go back to the Apostles' days to find that "covetousness which is idolatry," or the people "whose God is their belly," and who have no delight in anything but the gratification of their sensual appetites? Let us look back through the whole time of our sojourning in this wilderness, and we shall find our whole lives to have been one continued series of provocations; as if we had determined to "weary out our God Isaiah 43:24," and "break down his very Spirit with our whorish heart Ezekiel 6:9." Yes; "this has been our manner from our youth Jeremiah 22:21." God "has known this to be our walking through this great wilderness:" and our consciences also attest that these accusations are true.

2. How entirely we have been under the influence of unbelief—

Notwithstanding all that God did for Israel, yet would they "never believe his word Psalm 78:22; Psalm 78:32; Psalm 106:24." And it was this very thing which most of all provoked him to "swear, that they should never enter into his rest Hebrews 3:18." And what has been our state in this respect? We have had God's promises and threatenings set before us with all fidelity: but neither the one nor the other have been regarded: they have all appeared to us but as idle tales; and have had no more influence upon us, than if they had been unworthy of the smallest credit Every earthly vanity has been able to excite a hope or fear: but God's word has been altogether despised. Say, Brethren, whether this be not true? Say whether the terrors of Hell have been sufficient to keep you from sin, or the glories of Heaven sufficient to stimulate you to a surrender of yourselves to God? With the exception of a few instances, wherein divine grace has wrought successfully upon this or that particular individual, the whole mass of us have lived as "without God in the world," preferring our own will before his, and the gratification of ourselves before the honor of our God.

Such have been the circumstances under which our God has continued to load us with his benefits. "We have lacked nothing" that was conducive to our comfort: but he has lacked everything that should promote his glory.

See then, here—

1. What reason we have to admire the patience of our God—

He complains that he has been "pressed under us, even as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves Amos. 2:13;" yet has he borne with us even to the present hour; "many a time turning his anger away, and not stirring up all his wrath," to punish us, as we deserved Psalm 78:38. Can you look back upon no season, Brethren, when God might well have cut you off; and have "got honor to himself" in executing upon you the most signal vengeance Exodus 14:17. I call upon you, then, to 'glorify his name; and to acknowledge from your inmost souls, that "it is of his mercies that you have not been long since consumed, even because his compassions fail not Lamentations 3:22."

2. What need we have to humble ourselves before him—

God's patience will come to an end. "His Spirit will not always strive with man Genesis 6:3." He waits to be gracious unto us; but it is to the penitent only that he will impart the full blessings of salvation. His determination is, "Whoever covers his sins, shall not prosper; but whoever confesses, and forsakes them, shall have mercy." Contend, then, with him no longer; but let "his goodness and long-suffering and forbearance lead you to repentance Romans 2:4."

3. What need professors of religion, in particular, have to fear and tremble—

The whole people of Israel had been brought out of Egypt, and been both blessed and honored by God as his peculiar people: and yet they perished in the wilderness. And this is recorded as an admonition to us 1 Corinthians 10:1-12. Jude, also, particularly labors to impress this warning on our minds Jude, verse 5. Let it sink, then, into all our hearts Hebrews 3:12; Hebrews 4:1; for the very bounty of our God, in the bestowment of temporal and spiritual blessings upon us, will only aggravate our condemnation, if we do not make a suitable improvement of them. We may have "lacked nothing for forty years," and yet "lack a drop of water" to all eternity. I pray you, Brethren, see to it, that your "hearts be right with God;" and that the blessings bestowed on you in this life, be the means of preparing you for richer blessings in the world to come.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 3:23-28

 

DISCOURSE 188

MOSES VIEWS CANAAN FROM PISGAH

Deuteronomy 3:23-28. And I besought the Lord at that time, saying, O Lord God, you have begun to show your servant your greatness, and your mighty hand: for what God is there in Heaven or in earth that can do according to your works, and according to your might? I pray you, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain and Lebanon! But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice you; speak no more unto me of this matter. Get you up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up your eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with your eyes: for you shall not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you shall see.

THE character of Moses, in whatever point of view it be considered, is worthy of admiration: his zeal and industry, his patience and meekness, his fidelity and love, were never surpassed by any child of man. As an intercessor for the Lord's people, he stands unrivaled. Many were the occasions whereon he prevailed on God to spare that rebellious nation that had been committed to his charge. But behold, this eminent saint, who had so often succeeded in his applications for others, was now refused when praying for himself. And, though it might appear humiliating, and might lower him in the estimation of all future generations, he gives a faithful account of the whole matter, recording both the prayer that he offered, and the answer he received.

The points to which we would call your attention, are,

I. God's rejection of the prayer of Moses—

Nothing could be more proper than this prayer of Moses—

He requested that he might be permitted to "go over Jordan, and see the promised land." It was with a view to the enjoyment of this land that he had labored incessantly for forty years. He had held up the possession of it as the great inducement to the whole nation to come forth from Egypt, and to endure all the hardships of journeying in the wilderness, and the perils of protracted warfare against the inhabitants of the land. He knew that Canaan was "the glory of all lands." And now that the period for the full possession of it was arrived, yes, and God had given them a pledge of it in the subjugation of the kingdoms on the east of Jordan, who can wonder that Moses should be anxious to participate the promised, happiness? The manner in which he sought it was most becoming. He did not complain of the sentence of exclusion that had been passed upon him; but only prayed that it might be reversed. Often had he urged similar petitions for others with success: and therefore he had reason to hope, that he might not plead in vain for himself. He did not certainly know that God's decree with respect to him differed from the threatenings that had been denounced against others: there might be a secret reserve of mercy in the one case as well as in the other: and therefore he was emboldened to offer his requests, but with a meekness and modesty peculiarly suited to the occasion.

But God saw fit to reject his petition—

The refusal which God gave him on this occasion was most peremptory. When he had rejected his prayer for the offending nation, be said, "Let me alone;" and in that very expression intimated the irresistible efficacy of prayer. But on this occasion he forbade him to "speak to him any more of that matter:" yes, he "swore to Moses, that he should not go over Jordan Deuteronomy 4:21." In this refusal there was an awful manifestation of the divine displeasure. It was intended as a punishment both for his sin, and for the people's sin; for God was "wroth with him for their sakes," as well as for his own. To him the punishment was great, as being a painful privation, a heavy disappointment: to them also it was a severe rebuke, inasmuch as they were deprived of a loving father, a powerful intercessor, an experienced governor, and under whom they had succeeded hitherto beyond their most sanguine expectations.

We forbear to notice the typical intent of this dispensation, because we have mentioned it in a former part of this history See Discourse on Numbers 20:12; it is in a practical aspect only that we now consider it; and therefore we confine ourselves to such observations as arise from it in that view.

This refusal however, though absolute, was not unmixed with kindness: as will appear from considering,

II. The mercy with which this judgment was tempered—

As God in later ages withheld from Paul, and even from his only dear Son, the blessings which they asked, but gave them what was more expedient under their circumstances 2 Corinthians 12:8-9; Luke 22:42-43 with Hebrews 5:7, so now, while he denied to Moses an entrance into Canaan, he granted to him,

1. A sight of the whole land—

He commanded Moses to go up on Mount Pisgah to view the land; and from that eminence he showed him the whole extent of the country from east to west, and from north to south. The sight, we apprehend, was miraculous: because, however great the elevation of the mountain might be, we do not conceive that the places which he saw could be within the visible horizon Deuteronomy 34:1-4. However this might be, we have no doubt but that the sight must have been most gratifying to his mind, because it would be regarded as a pledge of God's fidelity, and a taste at least of those blessings, which Israel was about to enjoy in all their fullness.

But we are persuaded that Moses, notwithstanding he spoke so little about the heavenly world, knew the typical nature of the promised land, and beheld in Canaan a figurative representation of that better kingdom, to which he was about to be translated.

2. An assurance that his place should be successfully filled by Joshua—

To him was committed the office of instructing, encouraging, and strengthening Joshua for the arduous work which lay before him. And what could be a richer comfort to an aged minister, than to see that God had already raised up one to occupy his post, and to carry on the work which he had begun ? Methinks, the preparing of Joshua's mind for his high office was a task in which Moses would take peculiar delight: and the certainty of Israel's ultimate success would cheer him under the pains of his own personal disappointment.

The practical observations arising out of this history, will bring the subject home to our own business and bosoms. We learn from it,

1. To guard against sin—

We might profitably dwell on this thought, if we considered only the exclusion of Moses from the promised land for one single transgression. But as other occasions must arise whereon such an observation may be grounded, we would call your attention rather to the injury which both ministers and people may sustain by means of each other's transgressions. Repeatedly does Moses say, "God was wroth with me for your sakes:" from whence we are assured, that their sins were punished in him. And we know also that his sin was punished in them: they suffered no less by the loss of him, than he did by the loss of Canaan. Such a participation in each other's crimes and punishments is common in the world: children are affected by their parents' faults; and parents by the faults of their children. In the ministerial relation, this happens as frequently as in any. If a minister seek his own glory instead of God's, or be remiss in the duties of the closet, his people will suffer as well as he: the ordinances from whence they should derive nutriment will be to them "as dry breasts or a miscarrying womb." If the people slight the ministry of a faithful man, what wonder is it if God remove the candlestick from those who will not avail themselves of the light? If, on the other hand, they idolize their minister, and put him, as it were, in the place of God, what wonder is it if God, who is a jealous God, leave him to fall, that they may see the folly of their idolatry; or take him from them, that they may learn where alone their dependence should be? Let the death of Moses, and the bereavement of the Israelites, be a warning to us all; that we provoke not God by our rebellions to withhold from us the blessings we desire, or to inflict upon us the punishments we deserve.

2. To submit with humility to afflictive dispensations—

When once Moses was informed of the decided purpose of God, he forbore to ask for any alteration of it; nor did he utter one murmuring or discontented word concerning it. God had bidden him to be satisfied with the mercies which he was about to receive; and he was satisfied with them. Now it may be that God has denied us many things which we could have wished to possess, or taken from us things which we have possessed. But if he have given us grace, and mercy, and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ, what reason can we have to complain? We have prayed to him perhaps under our trials, and they have not been removed; or we have deprecated them, and they have still been inflicted. But God has said to us, "Let it suffice you" that I have made you a partaker of my grace: "let it suffice you" that I have given you prospects of the promised land: "let it suffice you" that you have a portion in a better world. And shall not these things be sufficient for us, though we be destitute of every thing else ? Shall any of the concerns of time or sense be of much importance in our eyes, when we are so highly privileged, so greatly enriched? Ah! check the first risings of a murmuring thought, all you who are ready to complain of your afflictions. Think whether you would exchange one Pisgah view of Heaven for all that this earth can give: and, if you would not, then think, how richly Heaven itself will compensate for all your light and momentary afflictions: and, instead of indulging any anxiety about the things of this world, let the prayer of David be the continual language both of your hearts and lips Psalm 106:4-5.

3. To serve God with increasing activity to the end of life—

The last month of Moses' continuance on earth was as fully occupied with the work of God as any month of his life. Though he knew that he must die within a few days, he did not intermit his labors in the least, but rather addressed himself to them with increasing energy and fidelity. This was the effect of very abundant grace: and it was an example but rarely copied. How many towards the close of life, when they know, not from revelation indeed, but from their own feelings, that they must shortly die, become cold in their affections, slothful in their habits, querulous in their tempers, and remiss in their duties! Instead of taking occasion from the shortness of their time, to labor with increased diligence, how many yield to their infirmities, and make their weakness an excuse for willful indolence! The Lord grant, that no such declensions may take place in any of us; but that rather "our last days may he our best days;" and that our Lord, finding us both watchful and active, may applaud us as good and faithful servants, prepared and fitted for his heavenly kingdom!

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 3:27-28

 

DISCOURSE 189

JOSHUA A TYPE OF CHRIST

Deuteronomy 3:27-28. You shall not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you shall see.

IN reading the records of God's dealings with the Jews, we are sometimes tempted to bring him to the bar of human reason, and to arraign his character as severe. Such hasty judgment, however, would be impious in the extreme; since we are wholly incompetent to decide upon matters, which are so far beyond our reach. There may be, and doubtless are, ten thousand reasons to justify his conduct, where our slender capacities cannot find any: and such light has been cast upon his procedure, in many instances, by the Gospel, as may fully evince the necessity of shutting our mouths, and of giving him credit for perfect equity, even where his dispensations most oppose our natural feelings. We may instance this in the exclusion of Moses from the promised land. He had brought the people out of Egypt, and, with most unparalleled meekness, had endured their perverseness forty years in the wilderness: yet, when he had led them to the very borders of Canaan, he was not suffered to go in with them; but, on account of one single offence, was obliged to devolve on Joshua his office, his authority, his honors; yes, he was forbidden even to pray for an admission into that good land verse 23–27. Dark as this dispensation must have appeared at the time, we are enabled to discern a propriety and excellency in it. It was altogether of a typical nature: for while he represented the law, Joshua, his successor, was a very eminent type of Christ. The text naturally leads us to show this: and we shall,

I. Trace the resemblance which exists between Joshua and the Lord Jesus Christ—

Joshua resembles Christ—

1. In his name—

The name of Joshua was intended to designate his work and office. His name originally was Osea, but was altered by Moses to Joshua Numbers 13:16. This, doubtless, was of God's appointment, that he might be thereby rendered a more remarkable type of Jesus. This name imported, that he should be a divine Savior Jah, which was prefixed to his name, is the name of God; and though, in the strictest and fullest sense, it could not properly belong to him; yet, as he was to be such a distinguished representative of Jesus, it was very properly given to him.

The name of Jesus still more fitly characterized the work that was to be performed by him. This name is precisely the same with Joshua in the Greek language; and repeatedly do we, in the New Testament, translate it, "Jesus," when it ought rather to have been translated, "Joshua Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8." It was given to our Lord by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb Matthew 1:21; and the express reason of it was assigned, namely, that "he should save his people from their sins." To him it is applicable in the fullest extent, because he is "God manifest in the flesh," "Emmanuel, God with us;" and because he is the author, not of a typical and temporary, but of a real and eternal, salvation to all his followers Hebrews 5:9.

This striking coincidence, with respect to the name, may prepare us for fuller discoveries of a resemblance,

2. In his office—

Joshua was appointed to lead the Israelites into the promised land. Moses was not permitted to do this. He was destined to represent the law, which was admirably calculated to lead men through the wilderness, but could never bring them into the land of Canaan: one offence against it destroyed all hope of salvation by it Galatians 3:10; it made no provision for mercy: its terms were simply, Do this and live Romans 10:5; and, for an example of its inexorable rigor, Moses himself was, for one unadvised word, excluded from the land of promise. The office of saving men must belong to another; and, for this reason, it was transferred to Joshua, who had been both appointed to it, and thoroughly qualified by God for the discharge of it Deuteronomy 34:9.

Jesus also was commissioned to bring his followers into the Canaan that is above. He, probably in reference to Joshua, is styled the Captain of our salvation Hebrews 2:10; and he appeared to Joshua himself in this very character, proclaiming himself to be the Captain of the Lord's host Jos. 5:13-15. "What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh," the Lord Jesus Christ came to effect Romans 8:3. He has been divinely qualified for the work; and, like Joshua, was "encouraged to it, and strengthened in it," by an assurance of God's continual presence, and support Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 42:4; Isaiah 42:6. He leads his people on from grace to grace, from strength to strength, from victory to victory Psalm 84:7; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Revelation 6:2. Nor will he ever desist from his work, until he shall have subdued his enemies, and established his people in their promised inheritance.

Happily for us the resemblance may be likewise traced,

3. In his success—

Nothing could oppose any effectual bar to Joshua's progress. Though Jordan had overflowed its banks, its waters were divided, to open him a path on dry land Jos. 3:17. The impregnable walls of Jericho, merely at the sound of rams' horns, were made to fall Jos. 6:20. Confederate kings fled before him Jos. 10:16. City after city, kingdom after kingdom, were subjected to his all-conquering arms: and almost the whole accursed race of Canaanites were extirpated, and destroyed Jos. 12:7. The promised land was divided by him among his followers Jos. 11:23; Jos. 18:10; and he appealed to them with his dying breath, that not so much as one, of all the promises that God had given them, had ever failed Jos. 23:14.

And shall less be said respecting our adorable Emmanuel? He "triumphed over all the principalities and powers" of Hell; and causes his followers to trample on the necks of their mightiest foes Romans 16:20 with Jos. 10:24. He leads them safely through the swellings of Jordan, when they come to the border of the promised land Isaiah 43:2; and, having given them the victory, he divides among them the heavenly inheritance Matthew 25:34. Thus will all of them be put into possession of "that rest, which remained for them Hebrews 4:1; Hebrews 4:9; Hebrews 4:11," in the hope and expectation of which they endured the labors of travel, and the fatigues of war.

Having traced the resemblance between Joshua and Christ, I will,

II. Take occasion to suggest from it some beneficial advice—

1. To those who desire to possess the promised land—

Grieved I am to say, that many desire that good land, yet never attain unto it; first, because they do not seek it with sufficient earnestness; and next, because they do not seek it in God's appointed way. Respecting the former of these our blessed Lord says, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many shall seek to enter in, and not be able Luke 13:24;" and of the latter, the Apostle Paul, speaking of the great mass of the Jewish people, says, that, though they "followed after the law of righteousness, they did not attain to the law of righteousness; because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law Romans 9:30-33." He bare them record that they had a zeal of God: but it was not according to knowledge: for, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they would not submit themselves to the righteousness of God. Christ was the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believed. "But they, instead of believing in him for salvation, stumbled at him as a stumbling-stone and a rock of offence;" and thus they perished, while the Gentiles by believing in him were saved Romans 10:2-4. Now, my brethren, I cannot too earnestly impress upon your minds the necessity of abandoning altogether the law of Moses as a ground of hope before God, and of trusting entirely in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. If Moses himself was not suffered to lead his followers into the earthly Canaan, or even to go in thither himself, much less can he lead you into the heavenly Canaan. As a guide through the wilderness, Moses is excellent: but as a Savior, he will be of no use. Joshua alone can give you the possession of the promised land; that is, Jesus alone can effect your complete salvation. If you read the epistles of Paul to the Romans and Galatians, you will find the main scope of both is to establish and enforce this truth. Bear in remembrance then that you must "die to the law," and seek salvation by Christ alone: for "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified."

2. To those who are fighting for the possession of it—

Though Canaan was promised to the Israelites, yet they must fight for it. And you must also fight for the promised inheritance of Heaven. Remember however, that you are not to fight in your own strength. You must "be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might," if you would gain the victory over your spiritual, enemies. And this is your great encouragement: for through Him the weakest shall be strong, yes, shall prove "more than conqueror" over all his enemies." What took place in the contest of Israel with the Midianites shall be accomplished in God's Israel throughout all the world. Against the numerous hosts of Midian only twelve thousand armed Israelites (a thousand from each tribe) were sent to fight: and when the whole Midianitish army was destroyed, it was found, on investigation, that not a single Israelite was slain Numbers 31:49. So shall it prove with you, my brethren, in your spiritual warfare. Only fight manfully in the Savior's strength; and what he said to his heavenly Father in reference to his disciples while he was yet upon earth, he will repeat before the whole assembled universe in the day of judgment, "Of those whom you have given me, not one is lost John 17:12." True, there are Anakim of gigantic stature to contend with, and cities walled up to Heaven to besiege: but "greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world:" and all your enemies, with Satan at their head, "shall be bruised under your feet shortly Romans 16:20." "They all are but, as it were, bread for you Numbers 14:9," and not one shall ever be able to stand before you.

3. To those who yet retain their hostility to the Lord Jesus—

You have seen what was the issue of the contest between Joshua, and all the kingdoms of Canaan. No less than thirty-one kings fell before him Jos. 12:24. And Le sure that you also must perish, if you continue to fight against our adorable Lord and Savior. I would earnestly recommend to you the example of the Gibeonites. They felt assured, that they could not withstand Joshua; and therefore, feigning themselves to belong to a nation remote from Canaan, they came, and entreated him to make a league with them. There needs no such collusion on your part. You may come to Jesus, and he will enter into covenant with you to spare you Jos. 9:15. And, if your submission to him provoke the hostility of the world against you, he will come to your support, and will save you by a great deliverance Jos. 10:4; and will make you eternal monuments of his power and grace. Let me also recommend to you the example of Rahab. She cast herself and all her family on the mercy of Joshua; and bound the cord with which she had let down the spies from the walls of Jericho, about her window, as the sign of her affiance in the pledge that had been given her. For this faith of hers, and for her works consequent upon it, was she commended both by Paul, and James Jos. 6:22; Jos. 6:25 with Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25. And, if you also with like faith cast yourselves upon the Lord Jesus, and, like her, evince also by your conduct the sincerity of your faith, you "shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation," and have a portion accorded to you among the Israel of God forever and ever.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 4:7-9

 

DISCOURSE 190

MOSES' SOLEMN CHARGE TO ISRAEL

Deuteronomy 4:7-9. What nation is there so great, who has God so near unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous, as all this law, which I set before you this day? Only take heed to yourself, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; but teach them your sons, and your sons' sons.

PRACTICAL religion, however approved in theory, is not always admired when exhibited to our view. Not but that it has a beauty in it which commends itself to those who have a spiritual discernment; but it forms too strong a contrast with the ways of the world to gain its favor: the men of this world "love darkness rather than light;" and therefore agree to reprobate as visionary and gloomy, whatever opposes their evil habits. Nevertheless "the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil, that is understanding:" and, wherever any people are enabled to maintain an uniform and consistent conduct, there their very enemies must honor them in their hearts, and confess them to be "a wise and understanding people." This at least was the opinion of Moses, who from that very consideration urged the Jews to contemplate their high privileges, and to walk worthy of them verse 5, 6 with the text. To advance the same blessed end in you, we shall state,

I. The peculiar privileges of the Jewish nation—

They were certainly advanced above all the nations upon earth; as in other respects, so particularly,

1. In their nearness to God—

Moses had enjoyed such access to God as no man had ever done before: and "conversed with him face to face, even as a man converses with his friend Exodus 33:11." That generation to whom he ministered, had seen on many occasions the efficacy of his intercessions, and therefore could appreciate the force of that observation in the text, "What nation is there that has God so near unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?" Nor was this privilege to be confined to Moses: the high-priest was furnished with an ephod and a breast-plate, by means of which he was to inquire of God in every difficulty, and to obtain answers from him. This was used from time to time, even until the Jews were carried captive to Babylon: and the great privilege of having such means of communion with God may be sufficiently seen in the advantage which David repeatedly derived from it, to learn the intentions of his enemies, and to gain direction respecting his own conduct See 1 Samuel 23:9-12; 1 Samuel 30:7-8. The heathen indeed had their oracles, which they consulted; but from which they could derive no certain information. The ambiguity of the answers given by them, left room for opposite constructions, and proved that no dependence whatever could be placed upon them. Those oracles were a compound of lying priestcraft, and diabolic influence: and were no more to be compared with the oracle of God, than the light of a deceitful vapor with that of the meridian sun.

2. In the excellence of the dispensation under which they lived—

"The statutes and judgments" which Moses had delivered to them were altogether "righteous" and good. The judicial law, which was given for the regulation of their civil polity, was founded in perfect equity, and conducive in every point to the happiness of the community. The moral law was a transcript of the mind and will of God: it was in every respect "holy, and just, and good," and, if followed in every part, would assimilate the people to God himself. The ceremonial law also, notwithstanding it was burdensome in many respects, afforded peace and comfort to all who were bowed down with a sense of sin, and desirous of finding acceptance with an offended God. As for the heathen world, they had none of these advantages: they had no such light for the government of their states, no such instruction for the regulation of their conduct, no such consolations under the convictions of guilt or the dread of punishment. They had no better guide than their own weak unassisted reason: and though by means of that they were able to frame laws for the public good, they never could devise a system whereby the soul should be restored to holiness or peace. In these respects the Jews were elevated above all the world. The excellence and authority of their laws were undisputed; and every one was made happy by his observance of them.

But still the Jews themselves had little to boast of in comparison of,

II. The superior privileges which we enjoy—

Our access to God is much nearer than theirs—

They had, it is true, in some respects the advantage. No person now can hope for such special directions as were imparted by the Urim and Thummim. But it must be remembered that this mode of ascertaining the mind of God was of necessity confined to few: it was not possible for every person to go to the high-priest, and to obtain his mediation with the Deity on every subject that might require light: this liberty could be used by few, and only on occasions of great public importance. But our access to the Deity is unlimited: every person, at all times, in every place, on every occasion, may come to God, without the intervention of a fellow-creature: in this respect every child of God is on a par with the high-priest himself, or rather, is elevated to a state far above him, in proportion as a spiritual approach is nearer than that which is bodily, and an immediate access is nearer than that which is through the medium of an ephod and a breast-plate. Indeed the liberty given to us is unbounded: "In everything we may make our requests known unto God;" and we may "ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us." Though therefore the Jews were privileged beyond the Gentiles, whose gods of wood and stone could not attend to their supplications, yet we are no less privileged above them, and can adopt a language unknown to them, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."

Our dispensation too is more excellent than theirs—

We need not to disparage theirs in any respect, in order to raise in our estimation that under which we live. We may give to that all the honor it deserves, and yet not be afraid that ours will suffer anything in the comparison. Theirs, excellent as it was, was only a shadow, of which ours is the substance. Whatever good theirs had, is retained and perfected in ours; whatever it had that was weak and burdensome, is done away. The peace which that afforded to the guilty conscience was alight and temporary: the very means of forgiveness were only so many fresh remembrances of unforgiven sin: but the peace obtained by us "passes all understanding:" the joy we taste is "unspeakable and full of glory." The blood of bulls and of goats afforded a very weak ground for hope, in comparison of the blood of God's only-begotten Son: that "cleanses from all sin," and "perfects forever them that are sanctified." Again, the law of the ten commandments denounced a curse for one single violation of them, however small; and afforded no assistance to those who desired to fulfill it: but the precepts of the Gospel, though as holy and as perfect as the Law itself, are accompanied with promises of grace and offers of mercy to all who endeavor to obey them: God undertakes to write them on our hearts, so as to make a compliance with them both easy and delightful. In a word, their law was a yoke of bondage, productive only of slavish fears, and ineffectual efforts: whereas our law, the law of faith, begets a filial spirit, and transforms us "into the image of our God in righteousness and true holiness." Compare the two dispensations, and we shall see in a moment our superior advantages: for while they were only slaves under the lash, we have the happiness of being "sons and heirs."

If such be our distinguished privileges, it becomes us to consider,

III. Our duty in reference to them—

This was a point which Moses was extremely anxious to impress on the mind of every individual; "Only take heed to yourself, and keep your soul diligently." In like manner would we urge you in relation to the privileges you enjoy,

1. To keep up the remembrance of them in your own hearts—

It is scarcely necessary to observe, how apt we are to forget the mercies which God has given unto us. The mere facts indeed may easily be retained in our heads; but a due sense of the kindness expressed in them, and of the obligations conferred by them, is not easily preserved upon the soul. The smallest trifle is sufficient to draw us from heavenly contemplations, and to engage those affections, which should be exclusively fixed on God. Hence Moses bade the people "take heed, lest the things which they had seen should depart from their heart See also Hebrews 2:1." What then must we do? We must avoid the things which would weaken our sense of God's mercies to us; and abound in those exercises which will keep alive the sense of them upon our hearts. Worldly cares, worldly pleasures? worldly company, should all be regarded by us with a godly fear and jealousy, lest they "choke the seed" which is springing up in our hearts, and prevent us from "bringing forth fruit unto perfection." On the other hand, our meditation on the Christian's privileges should be frequent: we should muse on them, until the fire kindle in our hearts, and we are constrained to speak of them with our tongues. It is thus that we must trim the lamps of our sanctuary; it is thus that we must be keeping up the fire on the altar of our hearts. In a word, if we will improve our privileges, we shall have them augmented and confirmed: if, on the other hand, we slumber over them, we shall give advantage to our enemy to despoil us of them Matthew 13:12.

2. To transmit the memory of them to posterity—

The Jews were made depositories of divine knowledge for the good of the Christian Church: and it is in the same light that we are to consider the Scriptures which are committed to us; they are not for our personal benefit merely, but for the use of the Church in all future ages. Hence then we are bound to "teach them to our sons, and our sons' sons." It is greatly to be lamented indeed that so little attention is paid to the sacred oracles in the public seminaries of learning. Something of a form indeed may be observed; a form, from which the very persons who enforce it neither expect nor desire any practical effect: but if one half the pains were taken to make us understand and feel the exalted privileges of Christianity, as are bestowed on elucidating the beauties of classic writers, or exploring the depths of science and philosophy, we should see religion and morals in a very different state among us. It was for the instructing of their children in righteousness that the awful transactions that took place at Mount Horeb were required to be more particularly impressed on all succeeding generations verse 10; and if the law from Mount Sinai was to be so carefully communicated to the children of Jews, ought not "the law that came forth from Mount Zion Isaiah 2:3," even "the law of faith," to be proclaimed to our children? If they were to remember Horeb, shall not we remember Bethlehem, where the Son of God was born into the world; and Calvary, where he shed his blood; and Olivet, from whence he ascended up to Heaven, and led captive all the powers of darkness? Yes surely, these great transactions should be dwelt upon, not as mere historical facts, but as truths whereon are founded all the hopes and expectations of sinful man: and we cannot but regard it as a blessing to the Christian world, that days are set apart for the special remembrance of those great events; that so not one of them may be overlooked, but that all in succession may be presented to the view of every Christian in the land. Let us then habituate ourselves to dwell upon them as the most delightful of all subjects Deuteronomy 11:18-20, and "account both our time and money well spent in promoting the knowledge of them in the world."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 5:28-29

 

DISCOURSE 191

EXCELLENCY OF THE LITURGY This and the following Sermons on the same subject were preached before the University of Cambridge.

Deuteronomy 5:28-29. They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such an heart in them!

THE historical parts of the Old Testament are more worthy of our attention than men generally imagine. A multitude of facts recorded in them are replete with spiritual instruction, being intended by God to serve as emblems of those deep mysteries which were afterwards to be revealed. For instance: What is related of our first parent, his creation, his marriage, his sabbatic rest, was emblematic of that new creation which God will produce in us, and of that union with Christ whereby it shall be effected, and of the glorious rest to which it shall introduce us, as well in this world as in the world to come. In like manner the promises made to Adam, to Abraham, and to David, whatever reference they might have to the particular circumstances of those illustrious individuals, had a further and more important accomplishment in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the second Adam, the Promised Seed, the King of Israel.

The whole of the Mosaic dispensation was altogether figurative, as we see from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which the figures themselves are illustrated and explained. But there are some facts which appear too trifling to afford any instruction of this kind. We might expect indeed that so remarkable a fact as the promulgation of the Law from Mount Sinai should have in it something mysterious; but that the fears of the people on that occasion, and the request dictated by those fears, should be intended by God to convey any particular instruction, we should not have readily supposed: yet by these did God intend to shadow forth the whole mystery of Redemption. We are sure that there was somewhat remarkable in the people's speech, by the commendation which God himself bestowed upon it: still however, unless we have turned our minds particularly to the subject, we shall scarcely conceive how much is contained in it.

The point for our consideration is, The request which the Israelites made in consequence of the terror with which the display of the Divine Majesty had inspired them. The explication and improvement of that point is all that properly belongs to the passage before us. But we have a further view in taking this text: we propose, after considering it in its true and proper sense, to take it in an improper and accommodated sense; and, after making some observations upon it in reference to the request which the Israelites then offered, to notice it in reference to the requests which we from time to time make unto God in the Liturgy of our Established Church.

The former view of the text is that which we propose for our present consideration: the latter will be reserved for future discussion.

The Israelites made a pledge request to God: and God expressed his approbation of it in the words which we have just recited; "They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such an heart in them!" From hence we are naturally led to set before you The sentiments and dispositions which God approves;—the sentiments; "They have well said all that they have spoken;"—the dispositions; "O that there were in them such an heart!"

I. The sentiments which he approves.

Here it will be necessary to analyze, as it were, or at least to get a clear and distinct apprehension of, the speech which God commends. It is recorded in the preceding context from the 23d verse. "And it came to pass, when you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that you came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders; and you said, Behold, the Lord our God has showed us his glory, and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day, that God does talk with man, and he lives. Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh that has heard the voice of the living God, speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go you near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say; and speak you unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto you, and we will hear it, and do it." Then it is added, "And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when you spoke unto me; and the Lord said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto you: they have well said all that they have spoken."

Now in this speech are contained the following things; An acknowledgment that they could not stand before the Divine Majesty;—A desire that God would appoint someone to mediate between him and them;—and lastly, An engagement to regard every word that should be delivered to them through a Mediator, with the same obediential reverence, as they would if it were spoken to them by God himself. And these are the sentiments, on which the commendation in our text was unreservedly bestowed.

The first thing then to be noticed is, Their acknowledgment that they could not stand before the Divine Majesty.

Many things had now occurred to produce an extraordinary degree of terror upon their minds. There was a blackness and darkness in the sky, such as they never before beheld. This darkness was rendered more visible by the whole adjacent mountain blazing with fire, and by vivid lightnings flashing all around in quick succession. The roaring peals of thunder added an awful solemnity to the scene. The trumpet sounding with a long and increasingly tremendous blast, accompanied as it was by the mountain shaking to its center, appalled the trembling multitude: and Jehovah's voice, uttering with inconceivable majesty his authoritative commands, caused even Moses himself to say, "I exceedingly fear and quake Compare Exodus 19:16-19 with Hebrews 12:18-21." In consequence of this terrific scene, we are told that the people "removed and stood afar off Exodus 20:18-19," lest the fire should consume them, or the voice of God strike them dead upon the spot Exodus 20:21. Now though this was in them a mere slavish fear, and the request founded upon it had respect only to their temporal safety, yet the sentiment itself was good, and worthy of universal adoption. God being hidden from our senses, so that we neither see nor hear him, we are ready to think lightly of him, and even to rush into his more immediate presence without any holy awe upon our minds: but when he speaks to us in thunder or by an earthquake, the most hardened rebel is made to feel that "with God is terrible majesty," and that "he is to be had in reverence by all that are round about him." This is a lesson which God has abundantly taught us by his dealings with the Jews. Among the men of Bethshemesh, a great multitude were slain for their irreverent curiosity in looking into the ark as Uzzah also afterwards was for his well-meant but erroneous zeal in presuming to touch it. The reason of such acts of severity is told us in the history of Nadab and Abihu, who were struck dead for offering strange fire on the altar of their God: they are designed to teach us, "that God will be sanctified in all that come near unto him, and before all the people he will be glorified Leviticus 10:1-3."

The next thing to be noticed is, Their desire to have some person appointed who should act as a Mediator between God and them. They probably had respect only to the present occasion: but God interpreted their words as general, and as importing a request that he would send them a permanent Mediator, who should transact all their business, as it were, with God, making known to him their wants, and communicating from him the knowledge of his will. That God did construe their words in this extended sense, we are informed by Moses in a subsequent chapter of this book. In Deuteronomy 18:15 th and following verses, this explanation of the matter is given: "The Lord your God will raise up unto you a Prophet from the midst of you, of your brethren, like unto me; unto him shall you hearken, according to all that you desirer of the Lord your God in Horeb, in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto you, and will put my words in HIS mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I command him: and it shall come to pass, that whoever will not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." Who this Prophet was, we are at no loss to declare: for the Apostle Peter, endeavoring to convince the Jews from their own Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, and that Moses himself had required them to believe in him, cites these very words as referring to Christ, and calls upon them to regard him as that very Mediator, whom God had sent in answer to the petitions which had been offered by their forefathers at Mount Horeb Acts 3:22-23.

Here it should be remembered that we are speaking, not from conjecture, but from infallible authority; and that the construction we are putting on the text is, not a fanciful interpretation of our own, but God's own exposition of his own words.

Behold then the sentiment expressed in our text, and the commendation given to it by God himself: it is a sentiment, which is the very sum and substance of the whole Gospel: it is a sentiment, which whoever embraces truly, and acts upon it faithfully, can never perish, but shall have eternal life. The preceding sentiment, that we are incapable of standing before a holy God, is good, as introductory to this; but this is the crown of all; this consciousness that we cannot come to God, and that God will not come to us, but through Christ. This acquiescence in him as the divinely appointed Mediator; this acceptance of him as "the Way, the Truth, and the Life;" this sentiment, I say, God did, and will, approve, wherever it may be found. The Lord grant that we may all embrace this sentiment as we ought; and that, having tasted its sweetness and felt its efficacy, we may attain by means of it all the blessings which a due reception of it will ensure!

The third thing to be noticed is, Their engagement to yield unqualified obedience to everything that should be spoken to them by the Mediator. This, if viewed only as a general promise of obedience, was good, and highly acceptable to God; since the obedience of his creatures is the very end of all his dispensations towards them. It is, to bring them to obedience, that he alarms them by the denunciations of his wrath, and encourages them by the promises of his Gospel: when once they are brought to love his law, and obey his commandments, all the designs of his love and mercy are accomplished; and nothing remains but that they attain that measure of sanctification, that shall fit them for the glory which he has prepared for them.

But there is far more in this part of our subject than appears at first sight. We will endeavor to enter into it somewhat more minutely, in order to explain what we conceive to be contained in it.

The moral law was never given with a view to men's obtaining salvation by their obedience to it; for it was not possible that they who had transgressed it in any one particular, should afterwards be justified by it. Paul says, "If there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness should have been by the law Galatians 3:21." But the law could not give life to fallen man: and therefore that way of obtaining righteousness is forever closed. With what view then was the law given? I answer, to show the existence of sin, and the lost state of man by reason of sin, and to shut him up to that way of obtaining mercy, which God has revealed in his Gospel. I need not multiply passages in proof of this; two will suffice to establish it beyond a doubt: "As many as are under the law, are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Again, "The law is our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:24." But when the law has answered this end, then it has a further use, namely, to make known to us the way in which we should walk. In the first instance we are to flee from it as a covenant, and to seek for mercy through the Mediator: but when we have obtained mercy through the Mediator, then we are to receive the law at his hands as a rule of life, and to render a willing obedience to it.

Now all this was shadowed forth in the history before us. God gave Israel his law immediately from his own mouth: and, so given, it terrified them beyond measure, and caused them to desire a Mediator. At the same time they did not express any wish to be liberated from obedience to it: on the contrary, they engaged, that, whatever God should speak to them by the Mediator, they would listen to it readily, and obey it unreservedly. This was right; and God both approved of it in them, and will approve of it in every child of man.

We are afraid of perplexing the subject, if we dwell any longer on this branch of it; because it would divert your attention from the main body of the DISCOURSE we will therefore content ourselves with citing one passage, wherein the whole is set forth in the precise point of view in which we have endeavored to place it. We have shown that the transactions at Mount Sinai were intended to shadow forth the nature of the two dispensations (that of the Law and that of the Gospel) in a contrasted view; that the terrific nature of the one made the Israelites desirous to obtain an interest in the other; and that the appointment of Moses to be their Mediator, and to communicate to them the further knowledge of his will with a view to their future obedience, was altogether illustrative of the Gospel; which, while it teaches us to flee to Christ from the curses of the broken law, requires us afterwards to obey that law: in a word, we have shown, that though, as Paul expresses it, we are "without law," (considered as a covenant,) we are nevertheless "not without law to God, but under the law to Christ 1 Corinthians 9:21;" and all this is set forth in the twelfth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the following words: "You are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard, entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (for they could not endure that which was commanded: and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) but you are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general Assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in Heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel Hebrews 12:18-24."

I would only observe, in order to prevent any misconception of my meaning, that I do not suppose the Israelites to have had a distinct view of these things, such as we have at present; but that they spoke like Caiaphas the high-priest, when he said, "It was expedient for one man to die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish John 11:49-52;" they did not understand the full import of their own words; but God overruled their present feelings so that they spoke what was proper to shadow forth the mysteries of his Gospel; and he then interpreted their words according to the full and comprehensive sense in which he intended they should be understood.

We could gladly have added somewhat more in confirmation of the sentiments which have been set before you, and particularly as founded on the passage we are considering; but your time forbids it; and therefore we pass on to notice,

II. The dispositions which God approves.

These must be noticed with a direct reference to the sentiments already considered: for God, having said, "They have well said all that they have spoken," adds, "O that there were such an heart in them!"

It is but too common for those desires which arise in the mind under some peculiarly alarming circumstances, to prove only transient, and to yield in a very little time to the rooted inclination of the heart. This, it is to be feared, was the case with Israel at that time: and God himself intimated, that the seed which thus hastily sprang up, would soon perish for want of a sufficient root. But the information which we derive from hence is wholly independent of them: whether they cultivated these dispositions or not, we see what dispositions God approves. It is his wish to find in all of us, A reverential fear of God—A love to Jesus as our Mediator—and An sincere delight in his commands.

First, he desires to find in us A reverential fear of God. That ease, that indifference, that security, which men in general indulge, is most displeasing to him. Behold, how he addresses men of this description by the Prophet Jeremiah: "Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not: Fear you not me? says the Lord: will you not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it; and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it? But this people has a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone: neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God Jeremiah 5:21-24." Hear too what he says by the Prophet Zephaniah: "I will search Jerusalem with candles, and will punish the men that are settled on their lees Zephaniah 1:12." It is thought by many, that, if they commit no flagrant enormity, they have no cause to fear: but even a heathen, when brought to a right mind, saw the folly and impiety of such a conceit, and issued a decree to all the subjects of his realm, that they should all "tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, who is the living God, and steadfast forever Daniel 6:26." Such a state of mind is dreaded, from an idea that it must of necessity be destructive of all happiness. This however is not true: on the contrary, the more of holy fear we have in our hearts, the happier we shall be. If indeed our fear be only of a slavish kind, it will make us unhappy; but, in proportion as it partakes of filial regard, and has respect to God as a Father, it will become a source of unspeakable peace and joy. The testimony of Solomon is, "Happy is the man that fears always Proverbs 28:14." Nor should we shun even the slavish fear, since it is generally the prelude to that which is truly filial; the spirit of bondage is intended to lead us to a spirit of adoption, whereby we may cry, Abba, Father Romans 8:15. Another ground on which men endeavor to put away the fear of God is, that it argues weakness of understanding and baseness of spirit; but we are told on infallible authority, that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endures forever Psalm 111:10." Permit me then to recommend to you this holy disposition. Learn to "fear that glorious and fearful name, The Lord your God Deuteronomy 28:58." Stand in awe of his Divine Majesty: and dread his displeasure more than death itself. Bethink yourselves, How you shall appear before him in the day of judgment. Settle it in your minds, whether you will think as lightly of him when you are standing at his tribunal, with all his terrible majesty displayed before your eyes, as you are accustomed to do now that he is hid from your sight. Examine carefully whether you are prepared to meet him, and to receive your final doom at his hands. I well know, that such thoughts are not welcome to the carnal mind: but I know also that they are beneficial, yes, and indispensably necessary too for every child of man. I would therefore adopt the language of the angel, who flew in the midst of Heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, even to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people; and like him I would say with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come Revelation 14:6-7;" it is come already in the divine purpose; and it will speedily come to every individual among us, and will fix us in an eternity of bliss or woe.

The next disposition which God would have us cultivate, is, A love to Jesus as our Mediator. In proportion as we fear God, we shall love the Lord Jesus Christ, who has condescended to mediate between God and us. Were it only that he, like Moses, had revealed to us the will of God in a less terrific way, we ought to love him: but he has done infinitely more for us than Moses could possibly do; he has not only stood between God and us, but has placed himself in our stead, and borne the wrath of God for us. He has not only silenced the thunders of Mount Sinai, but "has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being himself made a curse for us Galatians 3:13." In a word, "He has made reconciliation for us by the blood of his cross;" so that we may now come to God as our Father and our Friend; and may expect at his hands all the blessings of grace and glory. "Through him we have access to God," even to his throne; and by faith in him we may even now receive the remission of our sins, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Shall we not then love him? Shall we not honor him? Shall we not employ him in his high office as our Advocate and Mediator? Shall we not glory in him, and "cleave unto him with full purpose of heart?" It was said by the Prophet Isaiah, "Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory Isaiah 45:24-25." O that this prophecy may be fulfilled in us; and that there may henceforth "be in every individual among us such an heart!"

Lastly, God would behold in us An sincere delight in his commandments. This will be the fruit, and must be the evidence, of our love to Christ: "If you love me," says our Lord, "keep my commandments John 14:15;" and again, "He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me John 14:21." Indeed without this, ALL our sentiments or professions are of no avail: "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God 1 Corinthians 7:19."

When persons hear of our being "delivered from the law," and "dead to the law," they feel a jealousy upon the subject of morality, and begin to fear that we open to men the flood-gates of licentiousness: but their fears are both unnecessary and unscriptural; for the very circumstance of our being delivered from the law as a covenant of works, is that which most forcibly constrains us to take it as a rule of life. Hear how Paul speaks on this subject: "I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God Galatians 2:19;" and again, "My brethren, you are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that you should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God Romans 7:4." You perceive then that the liberty to which we are brought by Jesus Christ, has the most friendly aspect imaginable upon the practice of good works, yes, rather, that it absolutely secures the performance of them. While therefore we would urge with all possible earnestness a simple affiance in Christ as your Mediator, we would also entreat you to receive the commandments at his hands, and to observe them with your whole hearts. Take our Lord's Sermon on the Mount, for instance: study with care and diligence the full import of every precept in it. Do not endeavor to bring down those precepts to your practice, or to the practice of the world around you; but rather strive to elevate your practice to the standard which he has given you. In like manner, take all the precepts contained in the epistles, and all the holy dispositions which were exercised by the Apostles; and endeavor to emulate the examples of the most distinguished saints. You are cautioned not to be righteous over-much; but remember, that you have at least equal need of caution to be righteous enough. If only you walk in the steps of our Lord and his Apostles, you need not be afraid of excess: it is an erroneous kind of righteousness, against which Solomon would guard you, and not against an excessive degree of true holiness; for in true holiness there can be no excess. In this we may vie with each other, and strive with all our might. Paul says, "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that you affirm constantly, that they who have believed in God might be careful to maintain (or, as the word imports, to excel in) good works." By these we shall evince the sincerity of our love to Christ; and by these we shall be judged in the last day. I would therefore recommend to every one to ask himself, What is there which I have left undone? What is there which I have done defectively? What is there which I have done amiss? What is there that I may do more earnestly for the honor of God, for the good of mankind, and for the benefit of my own soul? O that such a pious zeal pervaded this whole assembly; and "that there were in all of us such an heart!" To those among us in whom any good measure of this grace is found, we would say in the language of Paul, "We beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as you have received of us how you ought to walk and to please God, so you would abound more and more 1 Thessalonians. 4:1."

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 5:28-29

 

DISCOURSE 192

EXCELLENCY OF THE LITURGY

Deuteronomy 5:28-29. They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such an heart in them!

WHEREVER the word of God admits of a literal interpretation, its primary sense ought to be clearly stated, before any spiritual or mystical application be made of it: but when its literal meaning is ascertained, we must proceed to investigate its hidden import, which is frequently the more important. This has been done in relation to the passage before us; which primarily expresses an approbation of the request made by the Jews, that God would speak to them by the mediation of Moses, and not any longer by the terrific thunders of Mount Sinai; but covertly it conveyed an intimation, that we should all seek deliverance from the curse of the Law through the mediation of that great Prophet, whom God raised up like unto Moses, even his Son Jesus Christ.

The further use which we propose to make of this passage, is only in a way of accommodation; which however is abundantly sanctioned by the example of the Apostles; who not unfrequently adopt the language of the Old Testament to convey their own ideas, even when it has no necessary connection with their subject. Of course, the Liturgy of our Church was never in the contemplation of the sacred historian: yet, as in that we constantly address ourselves to God, and as it is a composition of unrivaled excellence, and needs only the exercise of our devout affections to render it a most acceptable service before God, we may well apply to it the commendation in our text; "They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such an heart in them!"

As in the course of the month two other occasions of prosecuting our subject will occur, we shall arrange our observations on the Liturgy, so as to vindicate its use—display its excellence—and commend to your attention one particular part, which we conceive to be eminently deserving notice in this place.

In the present Discourse we shall confine ourselves to the vindication of the Liturgy; first, Generally, as a service proper to be used; and then, Particularly, in reference to some objections which are urged against it.

Perhaps there never was any human composition more caviled at, or less deserving such treatment, than our Liturgy. Nothing has been deemed too harsh to say of it. In order therefore to a general vindication of it, we propose to show, that the use of it is lawful in itself—expedient for us—and acceptable to God.

It is lawful in itself.

The use of a form of prayer cannot be in itself wrong; for, if it had been, God would not have prescribed the use of forms to the Jewish nation. But God did prescribe them on several occasions. The words which the priest was to utter in blessing the people of Israel, are thus specified: "Speak unto Aaron, and unto his sons, saying, On this wise you shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless you, and keep you: the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace Numbers 6:23-26." In like manner, when a man that had been slain was found, inquisition was to be made for his blood; and the elders of the city that was nearest to the body, were to make a solemn affirmation before God, that they knew not who the murderer was, and at the same time in a set form of prayer to deprecate the divine displeasure Deuteronomy 21:7-8. At the offering of the first-fruits, both at the beginning and end of the service, there were forms of very considerable length, which every offerer was to utter before the Lord Deuteronomy 26:3; Deuteronomy 26:5-10; Deuteronomy 26:13-15.

When David brought up the ark from the house of Obed-edom to the tent which he had pitched for it in Jerusalem, he composed a form of prayer and thanksgiving for the occasion, selected out of four different Psalms Compare 1 Chronicles 16:7-36 with Psalm 105:1-15; Psalm 96:1-13; Psalm 136:1; Psalm 106:47-48, and put it into the hand of Asaph and his brethren for the use of the whole congregation. In all following ages, the Psalms were used as forms of devotion: Hezekiah appointed them for that purpose when he restored the worship of God, which had been suspended and superseded in the days of Ahaz 2 Chronicles 29:30; as did Ezra also at the laying of the foundation of the second temple Ezra. 3:10-11. Nay, the hymn which our blessed Lord sang with his disciples immediately after he had instituted his supper as the memorial of his death Matthew 26:30, was either taken from the Psalms, from 113th to 118th inclusive, or else was a particular form composed for that occasion. All this sufficiently shows that forms of devotion are not evil in themselves.

But some think, that though they were not evil under the Jewish dispensation, which consisted altogether of rites and carnal ordinances, they are evil under the more spiritual dispensation of the Gospel. This however cannot be; because our blessed Lord taught his disciples a form of prayer, and not only told them to pray after that manner, as one Evangelist mentions, but to use the very words, as another Evangelist declares. Indeed the word ï ôùò, by which Matthew expresses it, is not of necessity to be confined to manner Matthew 6:9; it might be taken as referring to the very words: but, granting that he speaks of the manner only, and prescribes it as a model; yet Luke certainly requires us to use it as a form: "Jesus said unto them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in Heaven Luke 11:2." Accordingly we find, from the testimonies of some of the earliest and most eminent Fathers of the Church Tertullian—Cyprian—Cyril—Jerome—Augustine—Chrysostom—Gregory. See Bennet's London Cases, p. 52, that it was constantly regarded and used in the Church as a form from the very times of the Apostles. As for the objection, that we do not read in the New Testament that it was so used, it is of no weight at all; for we are not told that the Apostles ever baptized persons in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; but can we therefore doubt whether they did use this form of baptism? Assuredly not; and therefore the circumstance of such an use of the Lord's Prayer not being recorded, especially in so short a history as that of the Apostles, is no argument at all that it was not so used.

Nor was this the only form used in the apostolic age. Lucian, speaking of the first Christians, says, "They spend whole nights in singing of Psalms:" and Pliny, in his famous Letter to Trajan, which was written not much above ten years after the death of John the Evangelist, says of them, "It is their manner to sing by turns a hymn to Christ as God." This latter, it should seem, was not a Psalm of David, but a hymn composed for the purpose: and it proves indisputably, that even in the apostolic age, forms of devotion were in use. If we come down to the times subsequent to the Apostles, we shall find Liturgies composed for the service of the different Churches. The Liturgies of Peter, Mark, and James, though they were corrupted in later ages, are certainly of high antiquity: that of James was of great authority in the Church, in the days of Cyril, who, in his younger years, at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth century, wrote a Comment upon it. And it were easy to trace the use of them from that time even to the present day. Shall it be said, then, that the use of a pre-composed form of prayer is not lawful? Would God have given so many forms under the Jewish dispensation, and would our blessed Lord have given a form for the use of his Church and people, if it had not been lawful to use a form? But it is worthy of observation, that those who most loudly decry the use of forms, do themselves use forms, whenever they unite in public worship. What are hymns, but forms of prayer and praise? and if it be lawful to worship God in forms of verse, is it not equally so in forms of prose? We may say therefore, our adversaries themselves being judges, that the use of a form of prayer is lawful.

As for those passages of Scripture which are supposed to hold forth an expectation that under the Gospel we should have ability to pray without a form; for instance, that "God would give us a spirit of grace and of supplication," and that "the Spirit should help our infirmities, and teach us what to pray for as we ought;" they do not warrant us to expect, that we shall be enabled to speak by inspiration, as the Apostles did, but that our hearts should be disposed for prayer, and be enabled to enjoy near and intimate communion with God in that holy exercise: but they may be fulfilled to us as much in the use of a pre-composed form, as in any extemporaneous effusions of our own: and it is certain, that persons may be very fluent in the expressions of prayer without the smallest spiritual influence upon their minds; and that they may, on the other hand, be very fervent in prayer, though the expressions be already provided to their hand: and consequently, the promised assistance of the Spirit is perfectly consistent with the use of prayers that have been pre-composed.

But the lawfulness of forms of prayer is in this day pretty generally conceded. Many however still question their expediency. We proceed therefore to show next, that the use of the Liturgy is expedient for us.

Here let it not be supposed that I am about to condemn those who differ from us in judgment or in practice. The legislature has liberally conceded to all the subjects of the realm a right of choice; and God forbid that any one should wish to abridge them of it, in a matter of such high concern as the worship of Almighty God. If any think themselves more edified by extempore prayer, we rejoice that their souls are benefitted, though it be not precisely in our way: but still we cannot be insensible to the advantages which we enjoy; and much less can we concede, to any, that the use of a prescribed form of prayer is the smallest disadvantage.

We say, then, that the Liturgy was of great use at the time it was made. At the commencement of the Reformation, the most lamentable ignorance prevailed throughout the land: and even those who from their office ought to have been well instructed in the Holy Scriptures, themselves needed to be taught what were the first principles of the oracles of God. If then the pious and venerable Reformers of our Church had not provided a suitable form of prayer, the people would still in many thousands of parishes have remained in utter darkness; but by the diffusion of this sacred light throughout the land, every part of the kingdom became in a good measure irradiated with scriptural knowledge, and with saving truth. The few who were enlightened, might indeed have scattered some partial rays around them; but their light would have been only as a meteor, that passes away and leaves no permanent effect. Moreover, if their zeal and knowledge and piety had been suffered to die with them, we should have in vain sought for compositions of equal excellence from any set of governors, from that day to the present hour: but by conveying to posterity the impress of their own piety in stated forms of prayer, they have in them transmitted a measure of their own spirit, which, like Elijah's mantle, has descended on multitudes who have succeeded them in their high office. It is not possible to form a correct estimate of the benefit which we at this day derive from having such a standard of piety in our hands: but we do not speak too strongly if we say, that the most enlightened among us, of whatever denomination they may be, owe much to the existence of our Liturgy; which has been, as it were, the pillar and ground of the truth in this kingdom, and has served as fuel to perpetuate the flame, which the Lord himself, at the time of the Reformation, kindled upon our altars.

But we must go further, and say, that the use of the Liturgy is equally expedient still. Of course, we must not be understood as speaking of private prayer in the closet; where, though a young and inexperienced person may get help from written forms, it is desirable that every one should learn to express his own wants in his own language; because no written prayer can enter so minutely into his wants and feelings as he himself may do: but, in public, we maintain, that the use of such a form as ours is still as expedient as ever. To lead the devotions of a congregation in extempore prayer is a work for which but few are qualified. An extensive knowledge of the Scriptures must be combined with fervent piety, in order to fit a person for such an undertaking: and I greatly mistake, if there be found a humble person in the world, who, after engaging often in that arduous work, does not wish at times that he had a suitable form prepared for him. That the constant repetition of the same form does not so forcibly arrest the attention as new sentiments and expressions would do, must be confessed: but, on the other hand, the use of a well-composed form secures us against the dry, dull, tedious repetitions which are but too frequently the fruits of extemporaneous devotions. Only let any person be in a devout frame, and he will be far more likely to have his soul elevated to Heaven by the Liturgy of the Established Church, than he will by the generality of prayers which he would hear in other places of worship: and, if any one complain that he cannot enter into the spirit of them, let him only examine his frame of mind when engaged in extemporaneous prayers, whether in public, or in his own family; and he will find, that his formality is not confined to the service of the Church, but is the sad fruit and consequence of his own weakness and corruption.

Here it may not be amiss to rectify the notions which are frequently entertained of spiritual edification. Many, if their imaginations are pleased, and their spirits elevated, are ready to think, that they have been greatly edified: and this error is at the root of that preference which they give to extempore prayer, and the indifference which they manifest towards the prayers of the Established Church. But real edification consists in humility of mind, and in being led to a more holy and consistent walk with God: and one atom of such a spirit is more valuable than all the animal fervor that ever was excited. It is with solid truths, and not with fluent words, that we are to be impressed: and if we can desire from our hearts the things which we pray for in our public forms, we need never regret, that our fancy was not gratified, or our animal spirits raised, by the delusive charms of novelty.

In what we have spoken on this subject, it must be remembered that we have spoken only in a way of vindication: the true, the exalted, and the proper ground for a member and minister of the Established Church, we have left for the present untouched, lest we should encroach upon that which we hope to occupy on a future occasion. But it remains for us yet further to remark, that the use of our Liturgy is acceptable to God.

The words of our text are sufficient to show us, that God does not look at fine words and fluent expressions, but at the heart. The Israelites had "well said all that they had spoken:" but while God acknowledged that, he added, "O that there were such an heart in them!" If there be humility and contrition in our supplications, it will make no difference with God, whether they be extemporaneous or pre-composed. Can any one doubt whether, it we were to address our heavenly Father in the words which Christ himself has taught us, we should be accepted of him, provided we uttered the different petitions from our hearts? As little doubt then is there that in the use of the Liturgy also we shall be accepted, if only we draw near to God with our hearts as well as with our lips. The prayer of faith, whether with or without a form, shall never go forth in vain. And there are thousands at this day who can attest from their own experience, that they have often found God as present with them in the use of the public services of our Church, as ever they have in their secret chambers.

Thus we have endeavored to vindicate the use of our Liturgy generally. We now come to vindicate it in reference to some particular objections that have been urged against it.

The objections may be comprised under two heads; namely, That there are exceptionable expressions in the Liturgy; and, That the use of it necessarily generates formality.

To notice all the expressions which captious men have caviled at, would be a waste of time. But there are one or two, which, with tender minds, have considerable weight, and have not only prevented many worthy men from entering into the Church, but do at this hour press upon the consciences of many, who in all other things approve and admire the public formularies of our Church. A great portion of this present assembly are educating with a view to the ministry in the Establishment; and, if I may be able in any little measure to satisfy their minds, or to remove a stumbling-block out of their way, I shall think that I have made a good use of the opportunity which is thus afforded me. A more essential service I can scarcely render unto any of my younger brethren, or indeed to the Establishment itself, than by meeting fairly the difficulties which occur to their minds, and which are too often successfully urged by the enemies of our Church, to the embarrassing of conscientious minds, and to the drawing away of many, who might have labored comfortably and successfully in this part of our Lord's vineyard.

There is one circumstance in the formation of our Liturgy, which is not sufficiently adverted to. The persons who composed it were men of a truly apostolic spirit: unfettered by party prejudices, they endeavored to speak in all things precisely as the Scriptures speak: they did not indulge in speculations and metaphysical reasonings; nor did they presume to be wise above what is written: they labored to speak the truth, the whole truth, in love: and they cultivated in the highest degree that candor, that simplicity, and that charity, which so eminently characterize all the apostolic writings. Permit me to call your attention particularly to this point, because it will satisfactorily account for those expressions which seem most objectionable; and will show precisely in what view we may most conscientiously repeat the language they have used.

In our Burial Service, we thank God for delivering our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world, and express a sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, together with a hope also that our departed brother rests in Christ. Of course, it often happens, that we are called to use these expressions over persons who, there is reason to fear, have died in their sins; and then the question is, How we can with propriety use them? I answer, that, even according to the letter of the words, the use of them may be justified; because we speak not of his, but of the, resurrection to eternal life; and because, where we do not absolutely know that God has not pardoned a person, we may entertain some measure of hope that he has. But, taking the expressions more according to the spirit of them, they precisely accord with what we continually read in the epistles of Paul. In the First Epistle to the Corinthian Church, he says of them, "I thank my God always on your behalf, that in everything you are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you; so that you come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet, does he instantly begin to condemn the same persons, for their divisions and contentions; and afterwards tells them, "that they were carnal, and walked, not as saints, but as men," that is, as unconverted and ungodly men 1 Corinthians 1:4-7; 1 Corinthians 3:3. In like manner, in his Epistle to the Philippians, after saying, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ," he adds, "Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all Philippians 1:3-7." Yet does he afterwards caution these very persons against strife, and vain-glory, and self-love; and tell them, that he will send Timothy to them shortly, in order to make inquiries into their state, and to give him information respecting them: and he even mentions two by name, Euodias and Syntyche, whose notorious disagreements he was desirous to heal.

A multitude of other passages might be cited to the same effect; to show that the Apostles, in a spirit of candor and of love, spoke in terms of commendation respecting all, when in strictness of speech they should have made some particular exceptions. And, if we at this day were called to use the same language under the very same circumstances, it is probable that many would feel scruples respecting it, and especially, in thanking God for things, which, if pressed to the utmost meaning of the words, might not be strictly true. But surely, if the Apostles in a spirit of love and charity used such language, we may safely and properly do the same: and knowing in what manner, and with what views, they spoke, we need not hesitate to deliver ourselves with the same spirit, and in the same latitude, as they To guard against a misapprehension of his meaning, the author wishes these words to be distinctly noticed; because they contain the whole drift of his argument.—He does not mean to say, that the Apostles ascribed salvation to the opus operatum, the outward act of baptism; or, that they intended to assert distinctly the salvation of every individual who had been baptized; but only that, in reference to these subjects, they did use a language very similar to that in our Liturgy, and that therefore our Reformers were justified, as we also are, in using the same.

In the Baptismal Service, we thank God for having regenerated the baptized infant by his Holy Spirit. Now from hence it appears that, in the opinion of our Reformers, regeneration and remission of sins did accompany baptism. But in what sense did they hold this sentiment? Did they maintain that there was no need for the seed then sown in the heart of the baptized person to grow up, and to bring forth fruit; or that he could be saved in any other way than by a progressive renovation of his soul after the divine image? Had they asserted or countenanced any such doctrine as that, it would have been impossible for any enlightened person to concur with them. But nothing can be conceived more repugnant to their sentiments than such an idea as this: so far from harboring such a thought, they have, and that too in this very prayer, taught us to look unto God for that total change both of heart and life, which, long since their days, has begun to be expressed by the term Regeneration. After thanking God for regenerating the infant by his Holy Spirit, we are taught to pray, "that he, being dead unto sin, and living unto righteousness, may crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin:" and then declaring that total change to be the necessary mean of his obtaining salvation, we add, "So that finally, with the residue of your holy Church, he may be an inheritor of your everlasting kingdom." Is there, I would ask, any person that can require more than this? or does God in his word require more? There are two things to be noticed in reference to this subject; the term, Regeneration, and the thing. The term occurs but twice in the Scriptures; in one place it refers to baptism, and is distinguished from the renewing of the Holy Spirit; which however is represented as attendant on it: and in the other place it has a totally distinct meaning unconnected with the subject. Now the term they use, as the Scripture uses it; and the thing they require, as strongly as any person can require it. They do not give us any reason to imagine that an adult person can be saved without experiencing all that modern divines have included in the term Regeneration; on the contrary, they do, both there and throughout the whole Liturgy, insist upon the necessity of a radical change both of heart and life. Here, then, the only question is, not, whether a baptized person can be saved by that ordinance without sanctification; but, whether God does always accompany the sign with the thing signified? Here is certainly room for difference of opinion: but it cannot be positively decided in the negative; because we cannot know, or even judge, respecting it, in any instance whatever, except by the fruits that follow: and therefore in all fairness it may be considered only as a doubtful point: and, if we appeal, as we ought to do, to the Holy Scriptures, they certainly do in a very remarkable way accord with the expressions in our Liturgy. Paul says, "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit:" and this he says of all the visible members of Christ's body 1 Corinthians 12:13-27. Again, speaking of the whole nation of Israel, infants as well as adults, he says, "They were all baptized unto Moses, in the cloud, and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that Spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ 1 Corinthians 10:1-4." Yet behold, in the very next verse he tells us, that "with many of them God was displeased, and overthrew them in the wilderness." In another place he speaks yet more strongly still: "As many of you," says he, "as are baptized into Christ, have put on Christ Galatians 3:27." Here we see what is meant by the expression "baptized into Christ:" it is precisely the same expression as that before mentioned, of the Israelites being "baptized unto Moses;" (the preposition å ò is used in both places;) it includes all that had been initiated into his religion by the rite of baptism: and of them universally does the Apostle say, "They have put on Christ." Now I ask, Have not the persons who scruple the use of that prayer in the Baptismal Service, equal reason to scruple the use of these different expressions?

Again—St. Peter says, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins Acts 2:38-39;" and in another place, "Baptism does now save us 1 Peter 3:21." And speaking elsewhere of baptized persons who were unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, he says, "He has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins 2 Peter 1:9." Does not this very strongly countenance the idea which our Reformers entertained, That the remission of our sins, as well as the regeneration of our souls, is an attendant on the baptismal rite? Perhaps it will be said, that the inspired writers spoke of persons who had been baptized at an adult age. But, if they did so in some places, they certainly did not in others; and, where they did not, they must be understood as comprehending all, whether infants or adults: and therefore the language of our Liturgy, which is not a whit stronger than theirs, may be both subscribed and used without any just occasion of offence.

Let me then speak the truth before God: Though I am no Arminian, I do think that the refinements of Calvin have done great harm in the Church: they have driven multitudes from the plain and popular way of speaking used by the inspired writers, and have made them unreasonably and unscripturally squeamish in their modes of expression; and I conceive that, the less addicted any person is to systematic accuracy, the more he will accord with the inspired writers, and the more he will approve of the views of our Reformers. I do not mean however to say, that a slight alteration in two or three instances would not be an improvement; since it would take off a burden from many minds, and supersede the necessity of labored explanations: but I do mean to say, that there is no such objection to these expressions as to deter any conscientious person from giving his sincere assent and consent to the Liturgy altogether, or from using the particular expressions which we have been endeavoring to explain.

The other objection is, That the use of a Liturgy necessarily generates formality.

We have before acknowledged that the repetition of a form is less likely to arrest the attention, than that which is novel: but we by no means concede that it necessarily generates formality: on the contrary, we affirm, that if any person come to the service of the Church with a truly spiritual mind, he will find in our Liturgy what is calculated to call forth the devoutest exercises of his mind, far more than in any of the extemporaneous prayers which he would hear in other places.

We forbear to enter into a fuller elucidation of this point at present, because we should detain you too long; and we shall have a better opportunity of doing it in our next Discourse. But we would here entreat you all so far to bear this objection in your minds, as to cut off all occasion for it as much as possible, and, by the devout manner of your attendance on the services of the Church, to show, that though you worship God with a form, you also worship him in spirit and in truth. Dissenters themselves know that the repetition of favorite hymns does not generate formality; and they may from thence learn, that the repetition of our excellent Liturgy is not really open to that objection. But they will judge from what they see among us: if they see that the prayers are read among us without any devotion, and that those who hear them are inattentive and irreverent during the service, they will not impute these evils to the true and proper cause, but to the Liturgy itself: and it is a fact, that they do from this very circumstance derive great advantage for the weakening of men's attachment to the Established Church, and for the augmenting of their own societies. Surely then it becomes us, who are annually sending forth so many ministers into every quarter of the land, to pay particular attention to this point. I am well aware, that where such multitudes of young men are, it is not possible so to control the inconsiderateness of youth, as to suppress all levity, or to maintain that complete order that might be wished; but I know also, that the ingenuousness of youth is open to conviction upon a subject like this, and that even the strictest discipline upon a point so interwoven with the honor of the Establishment and the eternal interests of their own souls, would, in a little time, meet with a more cordial concurrence than is generally imagined: it would commend itself to their consciences, and call forth, not only their present approbation, but their lasting gratitude: and if those who are in authority among us would lay this matter to heart, and devise means for the carrying it into full effect, more would be done for the upholding of the Establishment, than by ten thousand Discourses in vindication of it; and truly, if but the smallest progress should be made in it, I should think that I had "not labored in vain, or run in vain."

But let us not so think of the Establishment as to forget our own souls: for, after all, the great question for the consideration of us all is, Whether we ourselves are accepted in the use of these prayers? And here, it is not outward reverence and decorum that will suffice; the heart must be engaged, as well as the lips. It will be to little purpose that God should say, respecting us, "They have well said all that they have spoken," unless he see his own wish also accomplished, "O that there were in them such an heart!" Indeed our prayers will be no more than a solemn mockery, if there be not a correspondence between the words of our lips and the feeling of our own souls: and his answer to us will be, like that to the Jews of old, "You hypocrites, in vain do you worship me." Let all of us then bring our devotions to this test, and look well to it, that, with "the form, we have also the power of godliness." We are too apt to rush into the divine presence without any consciousness of the importance of the work in which we are going to be engaged, or any fear of His majesty, whom we are going to address. If we would prevent formality in the house of God, we should endeavor to carry thither a devout spirit along with us, and guard against the very first incursion of vain thoughts and foolish imaginations. Let us then labor to attain such a sense of our own necessities, and of God's unbounded goodness, as shall produce a fixedness of mind, whenever we draw near to God in prayer; and for this end, let us ask of God the gift of his Holy Spirit to help our infirmities: and let us never think that we have used the Liturgy to any good purpose, unless it bring into our bosoms an inward witness of its utility, and a reasonable evidence of our acceptance with God in the use of it.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 5:28-29

 

DISCOURSE 193

EXCELLENCY OF THE LITURGY

Deuteronomy 5:28-29. They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such an heart in them!

IN our preceding Discourses on this text, we first entered distinctly and fully into its true import, and then applied it, in an accommodated sense, to the Liturgy of our Established Church. The utility of a Liturgy being doubted by many, we endeavored to vindicate the use of it, as lawful in itself, expedient for us, and acceptable to God. But it is not a mere vindication only which such a composition merits at our hands: the labor bestowed upon it has been exceeding great: our first Reformers omitted nothing that could conduce to the improvement of it: they consulted the most pious and learned of foreign divines, and submitted it to them for their correction: and, since their time, there have been frequent revisions of it, in order that every expression which could be made a subject of cavil, might be amended: by which means, it has been brought to such a state of perfection, as no human composition of equal size and variety can pretend to.

To display its excellence, is the task, which, agreeably to the plan before proposed, is now assigned us; and we enter upon it with pleasure; in the hope, that those who have never yet studied the Liturgy, will learn to appreciate its value; and that all of us may be led to a more thankful and profitable use of it in future.

To judge of the Liturgy aright, we should contemplate, Its spirituality and purity—Its fullness and suitableness—Its moderation and candor.

I. Its spirituality and purity

It is well known that the services of the Church of Rome, from whose communion we separated, were full of superstition and error: they taught the people to rest in carnal ordinances, without either stimulating them to real piety, or establishing them on the foundation which God has laid. They contained, it is true, much that was good; but they were at the same time so filled with ceremonies of man's invention, and with doctrines repugnant to the Gospel, that they tended only to deceive and ruin all who adhered to them. In direct opposition to those services, we affirm, that the whole scope and tendency of our Liturgy is to raise our minds to a holy and heavenly state, and to build us up upon the Lord Jesus Christ as the only foundation of a sinner's hope.

Let us look at the stated services of our Church; let us call to mind all that we have heard or uttered, from the Introductory Sentences which were to prepare our minds, to the Dismissal Prayer which closes the whole: there is nothing for show, but all for edification and spiritual improvement. Is humility the foundation of true piety? what deep humiliation is expressed in the General Confession, and throughout the Litany; as also in supplicating forgiveness, after every one of the Commandments, for our innumerable violations of them all! Is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the way appointed for our reconciliation with God? we ask for every blessing solely in his name and for his sake; and with the holy vehemence of importunity, we urge with him the consideration of all that he has done and suffered for us, as our plea for mercy; and, at the Lord's supper, we mark so fully our affiance in his atoning blood, that it is impossible for any one to use those prayers aright, without seeing and feeling that "there is no other name under Heaven but his, whereby we can be saved."

The same we may observe respecting the Occasional Services of our Church. From our very birth even to the grave, our Church omits nothing that can tend to the edification of its members. At our first introduction into the Church, with what solemnity are we dedicated to God in our Baptismal Service! What pledges does our Church require of our Sponsors, that we shall be brought up in the true faith and fear of God; and how earnestly does she lead us to pray for a progressive, total, and permanent renovation of our souls! No sooner are we capable of receiving instruction, than she provides for us, and expressly requires that we be well instructed in, a Catechism, so short that it burdens the memory of none, and so comprehensive that it contains all that is necessary for our information at that early period of our life. When once we are taught, by that, to know the nature and extent of our baptismal vows, the Church calls upon us to renew in our own person the vows that were formerly made for us in our name; and, in a service specially prepared for that purpose, leads us to consecrate ourselves to God; thus endeavoring to confirm us in our holy resolutions, and to establish us in the faith of Christ. Not content with having thus initiated, instructed, and confirmed her members in the religion of Christ, the Church embraces every occasion of instilling into our minds the knowledge and love of his ways. If we change our condition in life, we are required to come to the altar of our God, and there devote ourselves afresh to him, and implore his blessing, from which alone all true happiness proceeds. Are mercies and deliverances given to any, especially that great mercy of preservation from the pangs and perils of childbirth? the Church appoints a public acknowledgment to be made to Almighty God in the presence of the whole congregation, and provides a suitable service for that end. In like manner, for every public mercy, or in time of any public calamity, particular prayers and thanksgivings are provided for our use. In a time of sickness there is also very particular provision made for our instruction and consolation: and even after death, when she can no more benefit the deceased, the Church labors to promote the benefit of her surviving members, by a service the most solemn and impressive that ever was formed. Thus attentive is she to supply in every thing, as far as human endeavors can avail, our spiritual wants; being decent in her forms, but not superstitious; and strong in her expressions, but not erroneous. In short, it is not possible to read the Liturgy with candor, and not to see that the welfare of our souls is the one object of the whole; and that the compilers of it had nothing in view, but that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in God, we should glorify his holy name.

II. The excellencies of our Liturgy will yet further appear, while we notice, next, its fullness and suitableness.

Astonishing is the wisdom with which the Liturgy is adapted to the edification of every member of the Church. There is no case that is overlooked, no sin that is not deplored, no want that is not specified, no blessing that is not asked: yet, while every particular is entered into so far that every individual person may find his own case adverted to, and his own wishes expressed, the whole is so carefully worded, that no person is led to express more than he ought to feel, or to deliver sentiments in which he may not join with his whole heart. Indeed there is a minuteness in the petitions that is rarely found even in men's private devotions; and those very particularities are founded in the deepest knowledge of the human heart, and the completest view of men's spiritual necessities: for instance, We pray to God to deliver us, not only in all time of our tribulation, but in all time of our wealth also; because we are quite as much in danger of being drawn from God by prosperity, as by adversity; and need his aid as much in the one as in the other.

In the intercessory part of our devotions also, our sympathy is called forth in behalf of all orders and degrees of men, under every name and every character that can be conceived. We pray to him, to strengthen such as do stand, to comfort and help the weak-hearted, and to raise up them that fall, and finally, to beat down Satan under our feet. We entreat him also to support, help, and comfort all that are in danger, necessity, and tribulation. We further supplicate him in behalf of all that travel, whether by land or by water, all women laboring of child, all sick persons, and young children, and particularly entreat him to have pity upon all prisoners and captives. Still further, we plead with him to defend and provide for the fatherless children, and widows, and all that are desolate and oppressed: and, lest any should have been omitted, we beg him "to have mercy upon all men," generally, and more particularly, "to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts." In what other prayers, whether extemporaneous or written, shall we ever find such diffusive benevolence as this?

In a word, there is no possible situation in which we can be placed, but the prayers are precisely suited to us; nor can we be in any frame of mind, wherein they will not express our feelings as strongly and forcibly, as any person could express them even in his secret chamber. Take a broken-hearted penitent; where can he ever find words, wherein to supplicate the mercy of his God, more congenial with his feelings than in the Litany, where he renews his application to each Person of the Sacred Trinity for mercy, under the character of a miserable sinner? Hear him when kneeling before the altar of his God: "Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against your Divine Majesty, provoking most justly your wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father! For your Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, forgive us all that is past, and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please you in newness of life, to the honor and glory of your Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord!" I may venture to say that no finite wisdom could suggest words more suited to the feelings or necessities of a penitent, than these.

Take, next, a person full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; and if he were the devoutest of all the human race, he could never find words, wherein to give scope to all the exercises of his mind, more suitable than in the Te Deum: "We praise you, O God: we acknowledge you to be the Lord. All the earth does worship you, the Father everlasting. To you all Angels cry aloud, the Heavens, and all the Powers therein: To you Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of your Glory."—Hear him also at the table of the Lord: "It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto you, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God: Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of Heaven, we laud and magnify your glorious Name; evermore praising you, and saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, Heaven and earth are full of your glory: Glory be to you, O Lord most High."

Even where there are no particular exercises of the mind, the Liturgy is calculated to produce the greatest possible good: for the gravity and sobriety of the whole service are fitted to impress the most careless sinner; while the various portions of Scripture that are read out of the Old and New Testament, not only for the Lessons of the day, but from the Psalms also, and from the Epistles and Gospels, are well adapted to arrest the attention of the thoughtless, and to convey instruction to the most ignorant. Indeed I consider it as one of the highest excellencies of our Liturgy, that it is calculated to make us wise, intelligent, and sober Christians: it marks a golden mean; it affects and inspires a meek, humble, modest, sober piety, equally remote from the unmeaning coldness of a formalist, the self-importance of a systematic dogmatist, and the unhallowed fervor of a wild enthusiast. A tender seriousness, a meek devotion, and a humble joy, are the qualities which it was intended, and is calculated, to produce in all her members.

III. It remains that we yet further trace the excellence of our Liturgy, in its moderation and candor.

The whole Christian world has from time to time been agitated with controversies of different kinds; and human passions have grievously debased the characters and actions even of good men in every age. But it should seem that the compilers of our Liturgy were inspired with a wisdom and moderation peculiar to themselves. They kept back no truth whatever, through fear of giving offence; yet were careful so to state every truth, as to leave those inexcusable who should recede from the Church on account of any sentiments which she maintained. In this, they imitated the inspired penmen; who do not dwell on doctrines after the manner of human systems, but introduce them incidentally, as it were, as occasion suggests, and bring them forward always in connection with practical duties. The various perfections of God are all stated in different parts; but all in such a way, as, without affording any occasion for dispute, tends effectually to encourage us in our addresses to him. The Godhead of Christ is constantly asserted, and different prayers are expressly addressed to him; but nothing is said in a way of contentious disputation. The influences of the Holy Spirit, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed, are stated; and "the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is sought, in order that we may perfectly love God, and worthily magnify his holy Name:" but all is conveyed in a way of humble devotion, without reflections upon others, or even a word that can lead the thoughts to controversy of any kind. Even the deepest doctrines of our holy religion are occasionally brought forth in a practical view (in which view alone they ought to be regarded;) that, while we contemplate them as truths, we may experience their sanctifying efficacy on our hearts. The truth, the whole truth, is brought forward, without fear; but it is brought forward also without offence: all is temperate; all is candid; all is practical; all is peaceful; and every word is spoken in love. This is an excellency that deserves particular notice, because it is so contrary to what is found in the worship of those whose addresses to the Most High God depend on the immediate views and feelings of an individual person, which may be, and not unfrequently are, tinctured in a lamentable degree by party views and unhallowed passions. And we shall do well to bear in mind this excellency, in order that we may imitate it; and that we may show to all, that the moderation which so eminently characterizes the Offices of our Church. is no less visible in all her members.

Sorry should I be, when speaking on this amiable virtue, to transgress it even in the smallest degree: but I appeal to all who hear me, whether there be not a want of this virtue in the temper of the present times; and whether if our Reformers themselves were to rise again and live among us, their pious sentiments and holy lives would not be, with many, an occasion of offence? I need not repeat the terms which are used to stigmatize those who labor to walk in their paths; nor will I speak of the jealousies which are entertained against those, who live only to inculcate what our Reformers taught. You need not be told that even the moderate sentiments of our Reformers are at this day condemned by many as dangerous errors; and the very exertions, whereby alone the knowledge of them can be communicated unto men, are imputed to vanity, and loaded with blame. But, though I thus speak, I must acknowledge, to the glory of God, that in no place have moderation and candor shone more conspicuous, than in this distinguished seat of literature and science: and I pray God, that the exercise of these virtues may be richly recompensed from the Lord into every bosom, and be followed with all the other graces that accompany salvation.

From this view of our subject it will be naturally asked, Do I then consider the Liturgy as altogether perfect? I answer, No: it is a human composition; and there is nothing human that can claim so high a title as that of absolute perfection. There are certainly some few expressions which might be altered for the better, and which in all probability would have been altered at the Conference which was appointed for the last revision of it, if the unreasonable scrupulosity of some, and the unbending pertinacity of others, had not defeated the object of that assembly. I have before mentioned two, which, though capable of being vindicated, might admit of some improvement. And, as I have been speaking strongly of the moderation and candor of the Liturgy, I will here bring forward the only exception to it that I am aware of; and that is found in the Athanasian Creed. The damnatory clauses contained in that Creed, do certainly breathe a very different spirit from that which pervades every other part of our Liturgy. As to the doctrine of the Creed, it is perfectly sound, and such as ought to be universally received. But it is matter of regret that any should be led to pronounce a sentence of damnation against their fellow-creatures, in any case where God himself has not clearly and certainly pronounced it. Yet while I say this, permit me to add, that I think this Creed does not express, nor ever was intended to express, so much as is generally supposed. The part principally objected to, is that whole statement, which is contained between the first assertion of the doctrine of the Trinity, and the other articles of our faith: and the objection is, that the damnatory clauses which would be justifiable, if confined to the general assertion respecting the doctrine of the Trinity, become unjustifiable, when extended to the whole of that which is annexed to it. But, if we suppose that this intermediate part was intended as an explanation of the doctrine in question, we still, I think, ought not to be understood as affirming respecting that explanation all that we affirm respecting the doctrine itself. If any one will read the Athanasian Creed with attention, he will find three damnatory clauses; one at the beginning, which is confined to the general doctrine of the Trinity; another at the close of what, for argument sake, we call the explanation of that doctrine; and another at the end, relating to the other articles of the Creed, such as the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ, and his coming at the last day to judge the world. Now, whoever will compare the three clauses, will find a marked difference between them: those which relate to the general doctrine of the Trinity, and to the other articles of the Creed, are strong; asserting positively that the points must be believed, and that too on pain of everlasting damnation: but that which is annexed to the explanation of the doctrine, asserts only, that a man who is in earnest about his salvation ought to think thus of the Trinity. The words in the original are, Qui vult ergo salvus esse, ita de Trinitate sentiat: and this shows in what sense we are to understand the more ambiguous language of our translation: "He therefore that will be saved, (I. e. is willing or desirous to be saved,) must thus think (let him thus think) of the Trinity." Thus it appears that the things contained in the beginning and end of the Creed are spoken of as matters of faith; but this, which is inserted in the midst, as a matter of opinion only: in reference to the first and last parts the certainty of damnation is asserted; but in reference to the intermediate part, nothing is asserted, except that such are the views which we ought to entertain of the point in question. Now I would ask, was this difference the effect of chance? or rather, was it not actually intended, in order to guard against the very objection that is here adduced?

This, then, is the answer which we give, on the supposition that the part which appears so objectionable, is to be considered as an explanation of the doctrine in question. But what, if it was never intended as an explanation? What, if it contains only a proof of that doctrine, and an appeal to our reason, that that doctrine is true? Yet, if we examine the Creed, we shall find this to he the real fact. Let us in few words point out the steps of the argument.

The Creed says, "The Catholic faith is this, That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance:" and then it proceeds, "For there is one person of the Father," and so on; and then, after proving the distinct personality of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and their unity in the Godhead, it adds, "SO that in all things as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshiped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity." Here are all the distinct parts of an argument. The position affirmed—the proofs adduced—the deduction made—and the conclusion drawn in reference to the importance of receiving and acknowledging that doctrine.

From hence, then, I infer, that the damnatory clauses should be understood only in reference to the doctrine affirmed, and not be extended to the parts which are adduced only in confirmation of it: and, if we believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is a fundamental article of the Christian faith, we may without any breach of charity apply to that doctrine what our Lord spoke of the Gospel at large, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who believes not shall be damned."

Thus, in either view, the use of the Creed may be vindicated: for, if we consider the obnoxious part as an explanation, the terms requiring it to be received are intentionally softened; and if we consider it as a proof, it is to the doctrines proved, and not to the proof annexed, that the damnatory clauses are fairly applicable.

Still, after all, I confess, that if the same candor and moderation that are observable in all other parts of the Liturgy had been preserved here, it would have been better. For though I do truly believe, that those who deny the doctrine of the Trinity are in a fatal error, and will find themselves so at the day of judgment, I would rather deplore the curse that awaits them, than denounce it; and rather weep over them in my secret chamber, than utter anathemas against them in the house of God.

I hope I have now met the question of our Liturgy fairly. I have not confined myself to general assertions, but have set forth the difficulties which are supposed to exist against it, and have given such a solution of them as I think is sufficient to satisfy any conscientious mind: though it is still matter of regret that any labored explanation of them should be necessary.

Now then, acknowledging that our Liturgy is not absolutely perfect, and that those who most admire it would be glad if these few blemishes were removed; have we not still abundant reason to be thankful for it? Let its excellencies be fairly weighed, and its blemishes will sink into nothing; let its excellencies be duly appreciated, and every person in the kingdom will acknowledge himself deeply indebted to those, who with so much care and piety compiled it.

But these blemishes alone are seen by multitudes; and its excellencies are altogether forgotten: yes, moreover, frequent occasion is taken from these blemishes to persuade men to renounce their communion with the Established Church, in the hopes of finding a purer worship elsewhere. With what justice such arguments are urged, will best appear by a comparison between the prayers that are offered elsewhere, and those that are offered in the Established Church. There are about eleven thousand places of worship in the Established Church, and about as many out of it. Now take the prayers that are offered on any Sabbath in all places out of the Establishment; have them all written down, and every expression sifted and scrutinized as our Liturgy has been: then compare them with the prayers that have been offered in all the churches of the kingdom; and see what comparison the extemporaneous effusions will bear with our pre-composed forms. Having done this for one Sabbath, proceed to do it for a year; and then, after a similar examination, compare them again: were this done, (and done it ought to be in order to form a correct judgment on the case,) methinks there is scarcely a man in the kingdom that would not fall down on his knees, and bless God for the Liturgy of the Established Church.

All that is wanting is, an heart suited to the Liturgy, and cast as it were into that mold. It may with truth be said of us, "They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were in them such an heart!" Let us only suppose that on any particular occasion there were in all of us such a state of mind as the Liturgy is suited to express; what glorious worship would ours be! and how certainly would God delight to hear and bless us! We will not say that he would come down and fill the house with his visible glory, as he did in the days of Moses and of Solomon; but we will say, that he would come down and fill our souls with such a sense of his presence and love, as would transform us into his blessed image, and constitute a very Heaven upon earth. Let each of us, then, adopt the wish in our text, and say, "O that there may be in me such an heart!" Let us cultivate the moderation and candor which are there exhibited; divesting ourselves of all prejudice against religion, and receiving with impartial readiness the whole counsel of our God. More particularly, whenever we come up to the house of God, let us seek those very dispositions in the use of the Liturgy, which our Reformers exercised in the framing of it. Let us bring with us into the presence of our God that spirituality of mind that shall fit us for communion with him, and that purity of heart which is the commencement of the divine image on the soul. Let us study, whenever we join in the different parts of this Liturgy, to get our hearts suitably impressed with the work in which we are engaged; that our confessions may be humble, our petitions fervent, our thanksgivings devout, and our whole souls obedient to the word we hear. In a word, let us not be satisfied with any attainments, but labor to be holy as God himself is holy, and perfect even as our Father which is in Heaven is perfect. If now a doubt remain on the mind of any individual respecting the transcendent excellence of the Liturgy, let him only take the Litany, and go through every petition of it attentively, and at the close of every petition ask himself, What sort of a person should I be, if this petition were so answered to me, that I lived henceforth according to it? and what kind of a world would this be, if all the people that were in it experienced the same answer, and walked according to the same model? If, for instance, we were all from this hour delivered "from all blindness of heart; from pride, vain-glory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness;" if we were delivered also "from all other deadly sin, and from all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil;" what happiness should we not possess? How happy would the Church be, if it should "please God to illuminate all bishops, priests, and deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of his word, so that both by their preaching and living they set it forth and show it accordingly!" How blessed also would the whole nation be, if it pleased God to "endue the lords of the council, and all the nobility, with grace, wisdom and understanding: and to bless and keep the magistrates, giving them grace to execute justice and to maintain truth; and further to bless all his people throughout the land!" Yes, what a world would this be, if from this moment God should "give to all nations, unity, peace, and concord!" Were these prayers once answered, we should hear no more complaints of our Liturgy, nor ever wish for anything in public, better than that which is provided for us. May God hasten forward that happy day, when all the assemblies of his people throughout the land shall enter fully into the spirit of these prayers, and be answered in the desire of their hearts; receiving from him an "increase of grace, to hear meekly his word, to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit!" And to us in particular may he give, even to every individual among us, "true repentance; and forgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and endue us with the grace of his Holy Spirit, that we may amend our lives according to his holy word." Amen and Amen.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 5:28-33

 

DISCOURSE 194

EXCELLENCY OF THE LITURGY

Deuteronomy 5:28-33. They have well said all that they have spoken: O that there were such an heart in them!

THE further we proceed in the investigation of our Liturgy, the more we feel the difficulty of doing justice to it. Such is the spirit which it breathes throughout, that if only a small measure of its piety existed in all the different congregations in which it is used, we should be as holy and as happy a people as ever the Jews were in the most distinguished periods of their history. If this object has not been yet attained, it is not the fault of our Reformers: they have done all that men could do, to transmit to the latest posterity the blessings which they themselves had received: and there is not a member of our Church, who has not reason to bless God, every day of his life, for their labors. But they knew that it would be to little purpose to provide suitable forms of prayer for every different occasion, if they did not also secure, as far as human wisdom could secure, a succession of men, who, actuated by the same ardent piety as themselves, should perform the different offices to the greatest advantage, and carry on by their personal ministrations the blessed work which they had begun. Here therefore they bestowed the utmost care; marking with precision what were the qualifications requisite for the ministerial office, and binding, in the most solemn manner, all who should be consecrated to it, to a diligent and faithful discharge of their respective duties.

When we first spoke of the Liturgy, we proposed, after vindicating its use, and displaying its excellency, to direct your attention to one particular part, which on that account we should reserve for a distinct and fuller consideration. The part we had in view was, The Ordination Service. We are aware, indeed, that in calling your attention so particularly to that, we stand on delicate ground: but, being aware of it, we shall take the greater care that no one shall have reason to complain of want of delicacy. It is the candor that has invariably manifested itself in this congregation, that emboldens me to bring this subject before you. Any attempt to discuss the merits of the Liturgy would indeed be incomplete, if we omitted to notice that part, which so pre-eminently displays its highest excellencies, and is peculiarly appropriate to the audience which I have the honor to address. I trust therefore I shall not be thought assuming, as though I had any pretensions to exalt myself above the least and lowest of my brethren. I well know, that, if my own deficiencies were far less than they are, it would ill become me to take any other than the lowest place; and much more, when I am conscious that they are so great and manifold. For my own humiliation, no less than that of others, I enter on the task; and I pray God, that, while I am showing what our Reformers inculcated as pertaining to the pastoral office, we may all apply the subject to ourselves, and entreat help from God, that, as "we have well said all that we have spoken, so there may be in us such an heart."

There are three things to be noticed in the Ordination Service; our professions, our promises, and our prayers: after considering which, we shall endeavor to excite, in all, that desire, which God has so tenderly, and so affectionately, expressed in our behalf.

Let me begin, then, with calling your attention to the professions which we make, when first we become candidates for the ministerial office.

So sacred was the priesthood under the Law, that no man presumed to take it upon himself, but he who was called to it by God, as Aaron was. And though the priesthood of our blessed Lord was of a totally distinct kind from that which shadows it forth, "yet did he not glorify himself to be made an High-Priest," but was so constituted by his heavenly Father, who committed to him that office "after the order of Melchizedek." Some call therefore, as from God himself, is to be experienced by all who devote themselves to the service of the sanctuary. Of this our Reformers were convinced: and hence they required the ordaining bishop to put to every candidate that should come before him, this solemn interrogation; "Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Spirit to take upon you this office?" to which he answers, "I trust so."

Now I am far from intimating that this call, which every candidate for Holy Orders professes to have received, resembles that which was given to the Apostles: it is certainly not to be understood as though it were a voice or suggestion coming directly from the Holy Spirit; for though God may reveal his will in this manner, just as he did in the days of old, yet we have no reason to think that he does. The motion here spoken of is less perceptible: it does not carry its own evidence along with it; (as did that which in an instant prevailed on the Apostles to forsake their worldly business, and to follow Christ;) but it disposes the mind in a gradual and silent way to enter into the service of God; partly from a sense of obligation to him for his redeeming love, partly from a compassion for the ignorant and perishing multitudes around us, and partly from a desire to be an honored instrument in the Redeemer's hands to establish and enlarge his kingdom in the world. Less than this cannot reasonably be supposed to be comprehended in that question: and the way to answer it with a good conscience is, to examine ourselves whether we have an eye to our own ease, honor, or preferment; or, whether we have really a love to the souls of men, and a desire to promote the honor of our God? The question, in this view of it, gives no scope for enthusiasm, nor does it leave any room for doubt upon the mind of him that is to answer it: every man may tell, whether he feels so deeply the value of his own soul, as to be anxious also for the souls of others; and whether, independent of worldly considerations, he has such love to the Lord Jesus Christ, as to desire above all things to advance his glory. These feelings are not liable to be mistaken, because they are always accompanied with corresponding actions, and always productive of appropriate fruits.

Now in all cases where this profession has been made, it may be said, "They have well said all that they have spoken." For this profession is a public acknowledgment that such a call is necessary: and it serves as a barrier to exclude from the sacred office many, who would otherwise have undertaken it from worldly motives. And though it is true, that too many break through this barrier, yet it stands as a witness against them, and in very many instances an effectual witness; testifying to their consciences, that they have come to God with a lie in their right hand, and making them to tremble, lest they should be condemned at the tribunal of their God, for having, like Ananias and Sapphira, lied unto the Holy Spirit. Yes, very many, who have lightly uttered these words when they first entered into the ministry, have been led by them afterwards to examine their motives more attentively, and to humble themselves for the iniquity they have committed, and to surrender up themselves with redoubled energy to the service of their God. Though therefore we regret that any should make this profession on insufficient grounds, we rejoice that it is required of all: and we pray God, that all who have made it, may reconsider it with the attention it deserves; and that all who propose to make it, may pause, until they have maturely weighed the import of their assertion, and can call God himself to attest the truth of it.

Let us next turn our attention to the promises, by which we bind ourselves on that occasion.

In the service for the Ordination of Priests, there is an exhortation from the bishop, which every minister would do well to read at least once every year. To give a just view of this part of our Liturgy, we must briefly open to you the contents of that exhortation; the different parts of which are afterwards brought before us in the shape of questions, to every one of which a distinct and solemn answer is demanded, as in the presence of the heart-searching God. The exhortation consists of two parts; in the first of which we are enjoined to consider the importance of that high office to which we are called; and in the second, we are urged to exert ourselves to the uttermost in the discharge of it.

In reference to the former of these, it speaks thus: "Now we exhort you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you have in remembrance, into how high a dignity, and to how weighty an office and charge, you are called: that is to say, to be messengers, watchmen, and stewards of the Lord; to teach and to premonish, to feed and provide for the Lord's family; to seek for Christ's sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for his children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they may be saved through Christ forever."

Where in such few words can we find so striking a representation of the dignity of our office, as in this address? We are "messengers" from the Most High God, to instruct men in the knowledge of his will, and to communicate to them the glad tidings of salvation through the mediation of his Son: we are "watchmen," to warn them of their danger, while they continue without an interest in Christ: and we are "stewards," to superintend his household, and to deal out to every one of his servants, from day to day, whatever their respective necessities require. Now, if we occupied such an office in the house of an earthly monarch only, our dignity were great; but to be thus engaged in the service of the King of kings, is an honor far greater than the temporal government of the whole universe. Should we not, then, bear in mind what an office is devolved upon us?

From speaking thus respecting the dignity of the ministry, it proceeds to speak of the importance of the trust committed to us: "Have always therefore printed in your remembrance, how great a treasure is committed to your charge: for they are the sheep of Christ, which he bought with his death, and for whom he shed his blood." The congregation whom you must serve, is "his spouse, and his body." What a tender and affecting representation is here! The souls committed to our care are represented as "the sheep of Christ, which he bought with his death, and for which he shed his blood." What bounds would there be to our exertions, if we considered as we ought, that we are engaged in that very work, for which our Lord Jesus Christ came down from the bosom of his Father, and shed his blood upon the cross; and that to us he looks for the completion of his efforts in the salvation of a ruined world? Further still, they are represented as "the spouse and body of Christ," whose welfare ought to be infinitely dearer to us than life itself. We know what concern men would feel if the life of their own spouse, or of their own body, were in danger, though they could only hope to protract for a few years a frail and perishable existence: what, then, ought we not to feel for "the spouse and body of Christ," whose everlasting welfare is dependent on our exertions!

After thus impressing on our minds the importance of our office, the exhortation proceeds in the next place to urge us to a diligent performance of it. It reminds us, that we are answerable to God for every soul committed to our charge; that there must be no limit to our exertions, except what the capacity of our minds and the strength of our bodies have assigned. It calls upon us to use all the means in our power to qualify ourselves for the discharge of it, by withdrawing ourselves from worldly cares, worldly pleasures, worldly studies, worldly habits and pursuits of every kind, in order to fix the whole bent of our minds on the study of the Holy Scriptures, and of those things which will assist us in the understanding of them. It directs us to be instant in prayer to God for the assistance of his Holy Spirit, by whose gracious influences alone we shall be enabled to fulfill our duties aright. And, finally, it enjoins us so to regulate our own lives, and so to govern our respective families, that we may be patterns to all around us; and that we may be able to address our congregations in the language of Paul, "Whatever you have heard and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." But it will be satisfactory to you to hear the very words of the exhortation itself: "If it shall happen the same Church, or any member thereof, to take any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence, you know the greatness of the fault, and also the horrible punishment that will ensue. Why consider with yourselves the end of your ministry towards the children of God, towards the spouse and body of Christ; and see that you never cease your labor, your care and diligence, until you have done all that lies in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such as are or shall be committed to your charge unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among you, either for error in religion, or for viciousness of life."

"Forasmuch then as your office is both of so great excellency, and of so great difficulty, you see with how great care and study you ought to apply yourselves, as well that you may show yourselves dutiful and thankful unto that Lord who has placed you in so high a dignity; as also to beware that neither you yourselves offend, nor be the occasion that others offend. Howbeit you cannot have a mind and will thereto of yourselves; for that will and ability is given of God alone: therefore you ought, and have need to pray earnestly for his Holy Spirit. And seeing that you cannot by any other means compass the doing of so weighty a work, pertaining to the salvation of man, but with doctrine and exhortation taken out of the Holy Scriptures, and with a life agreeable to the same; consider how studious you ought to be in reading and learning the Scriptures, and in framing the manners both of yourselves and of them that specially pertain unto you, according to the rule of the same Scriptures: and for this selfsame cause, how you ought to forsake and set aside (as much as you may) all worldly cares and studies."

Here let us pause a moment, to reflect, what stress our Reformers laid on the Holy Scriptures, as the only sure directory for our faith and practice, and the only certain rule of all our ministrations. They have clearly given it as their sentiment, that to study the word of God ourselves, and to open it to others, is the proper labor of a minister; a labor, that calls for all his time, and all his attention: and, by this zeal of theirs in behalf of the Inspired Volume, they were happily successful in bringing it into general use. But, if they could look down upon us at this time, and see what an unprecedented zeal has pervaded all ranks and orders of men among us for the dissemination of that truth, which they, at the expense of their own lives, transmitted to us; how would they rejoice and leap for joy! Yet, methinks, if they cast an eye upon this favored spot, and saw, that, while the Lord Jesus Christ is thus exalted in almost every other place, we are lukewarm in his cause; and while thousands all around us are emulating each other in exertions to extend his kingdom through the world, we, who are so liberal on other occasions, have not yet appeared in his favor; they would be ready to rebuke our tardiness, as David did the indifference of Judah, from whom he had reason to expect the most active support; "Why are you the last to bring the king back to his house? seeing the speech of all Israel is come to the king, even to his house 2 Samuel 19:11." But I am persuaded, that there is nothing wanting but that a suitable proposal be made by some person of influence among us; and we shall soon approve ourselves worthy sons of those pious ancestors. I would hope there is not an individual among us, who would not gladly lend his aid, that "the word of the Lord may run and be glorified," not in this kingdom only, but, if possible, throughout all the earth.

But to return to the bishop's exhortation. "We have good hope that you have well weighed and pondered these things with yourselves long before this time; and that you have clearly determined, by God's grace, to give yourselves wholly to this office, whereunto it has pleased God to call you, so that, as much as lies in you, you will apply yourselves wholly to this one thing, and draw all your cares and studies this way: and that you will continually pray to God the Father, by the mediation of our only Savior Jesus Christ, for the heavenly assistance of the Holy Spirit; that by daily reading and weighing of the Scriptures, you may wax riper and stronger in your ministry, and that you may so endeavor yourselves from time to time to sanctify the lives of you and yours, and to fashion them after the rule and doctrine of Christ, that you may be wholesome and godly examples and patterns for the people to follow."

After this, the bishop, calling upon the candidates, in the name of God and of his Church, to give a plain and solemn answer to the questions which he shall propose to them, puts the substance of the exhortation into several distinct questions; two of which only, for brevity sake, we will repeat: "Will you be diligent in prayers, and in reading of the Holy Scriptures, and in such studies as help to the knowledge of the same, laying aside the study of the world and the flesh?" To which we answer; "I will endeavor myself so to do, the Lord being my helper." Then he asks again; "Will you be diligent to frame and fashion your own selves and your families according to the doctrine of Christ, and to make both yourselves and them, as much as in you lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ?" To which we answer, "I will apply myself thereto, the Lord being my helper."

These are the promises which we make before God in the most solemn manner at the time of our ordination. Now I would ask, Can any human being entertain a doubt, whether, in making these promises, we have not "well said all that we have spoken?" Can any of us say, that too much has been required of us? Do we not see and feel, that, as the honor of the office is great, so is the difficulty of performing it aright, and the danger of performing it in a negligent and heartless manner? If a man undertake any office that requires indefatigable exertion, and that involves the temporal interests of men to a great extent, we expect of that man the utmost diligence and care. If, then, such be expected of the servants of men, where temporal interests only are affected, what must be expected of the servants of God, where the eternal interests of men and the everlasting honor of God, are so deeply concerned? I say again, We cannot but approve the promises we have made; and, methinks, God himself, when he heard our vows, expressed his approbation of them, saying, "They have well said all that they have spoken."

We come, lastly, to mention our prayers, which were offered to God on that occasion.

And here we have one of the most pious and affecting institutions that ever was established upon earth. The bishop, who during the preceding exhortation and questions has been seated in his chair, now rises up, and in a standing posture makes his earnest supplication to God in behalf of all the candidates, in these words: "Almighty God, who has given you this will to do all these things, grant also unto you strength and power to perform the same; that he may accomplish his work which he has begun in you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." After this a request is made to the whole congregation then present, to offer up their prayers in secret to God, and to make their supplications to God for all these things. And, that they may have time to do so, it is appointed, that silence shall be kept for a space; the public services being for a while suspended, in order to give the congregation an opportunity of pouring out their souls before God in behalf of the persons who are to be ordained.

What an idea does this give us of the sanctity of our office, and of the need we have of divine assistance for the performance of it! and how beautifully does it intimate to the people, the interest they have in an efficient ministry! Surely, if they felt, as they ought, their need of spiritual instruction, they would never discontinue their prayers for those who are placed over them in the Lord, but would plead in their behalf night and day.

After a sufficient time has been allowed for these private devotions, a hymn to the Holy Spirit is introduced; (the candidates all continuing in a kneeling posture;) a hymn which, in beauty of composition and spirituality of import, cannot easily be surpassed. Time will not allow me to make any observations upon it; but it would be a great injustice to our Liturgy, if I should omit to recite it: and it will be a profitable employment, if, while we recite it, we all adopt it as expressing our own desires, and add our Amen to every petition contained in it.

"Come, Holy Spirit, our souls inspire,

And lighten with celestial fire!

You the anointing Spirit are,

Who do your seven-fold gifts impart;

Your blessed unction from above

Is comfort, life, and fire of love.

Enable with perpetual light

The dullness of our blinded sight;

Anoint and cheer our soiled face

With the abundance of your grace;

Keep far our foes, give peace at home!

Where you are Guide, no ill can come.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,

And You, of both, to be but One;

That through the ages all along,

This may be our endless song,—

Praise to Your eternal merit,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!"

In this devout hymn the agency of the Holy Spirit, as the one source of light, and peace, and holiness, is fully acknowledged, and earnestly sought as the necessary means of forming pastors after God's heart: and it is well entitled to the encomium which has been already so often mentioned, "They have well said all that they have spoken."

Passing over the remaining prayers, we conclude this part of our subject with observing, that no sooner is the imposition of hands finished, and the commission given to the candidates to preach the Gospel, than the newly ordained consecrate themselves to God at his table; and seal, as it were, their vows, by partaking of the body and blood of Christ; into whose service they have been just admitted, and whom they have sworn to serve with their whole hearts.

Thus far then "all is well said;" and if our hearts be in unison with our words, truly we shall have reason to bless God to all eternity. "O that there were in us such an heart!"

Glad should I be, if your time would admit of it, to set forth at considerable length the benefits that would accrue from a conformity of heart in us to all that has been before stated: but the indulgence with which I have hitherto been favored must not be abused. I shall therefore close the subject with only two reflections, illustrative of the wish contained in the text.

First, if such an heart were in us, how happy should we be in our souls! Men may be so thoughtless, as to cast off all concern about futurity, and to say, "I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my heart." But, if once we begin to indulge any serious reflections, we cannot avoid thinking of our responsibility on account of the souls committed to our charge. Then, if we bring to mind that solemn declaration of God, that "the souls of our people shall be required at our hands," we must of necessity tremble for our state. The concerns of our own souls are of more weight than all other things in the world; and the thought of perishing under the weight of our own personal transgressions is inexpressibly awful: but the thought of perishing under the guilt of destroying hundreds and thousands of immortal souls, is so shocking, that it cannot be endured: if once admitted into the mind, it will fill us with consternation and terror; and the excuses which now appear so satisfactory to us, will vanish like smoke. We shall not then think it sufficient to have fulfilled our duties by proxy; since others can but perform their own duties; nor can any diligence of theirs ever justify our neglect: having sworn for ourselves, we must execute for ourselves; nor ever be satisfied with committing that trust to others, which at the bar of judgment we must give account of for ourselves. Nor shall we then think it sufficient to plead, that we have other engagements, which interfere with the discharge of our ministerial duties; unless we can be assured, that God will wave his claims upon us, and acknowledge the labors which we have undertaken for our temporal advantage, more important than those which respect his honor, and man's salvation. On the other hand, if we have the testimony of our own consciences, that we have endeavored faithfully to perform our ordination vows, and to execute, though with much imperfection, the work assigned us, we shall lift up our heads with joy. Matter for deep humiliation, indeed, even the most laborious ministers will find; but at the same time they will have an inward consciousness, that they have exerted themselves sincerely for God, though not so earnestly as they might: and, in the hope that the Savior, whose love they have proclaimed to others, will have mercy upon them, they cast themselves on him for the acceptance of their services, and expect, through him, the salvation of their souls. Moreover, if we have been diligent in the discharge of our high office, we shall have a good hope that we have been instrumental to the salvation or others, whom we shall have as our joy and crown of rejoicing in the last day. With these prospects before us, we shall labor patiently, waiting, like the gardener, for a distant harvest. Trials we shall have, of many kinds; and many, arising solely from our fidelity to God: but we shall bear up under them, going "through evil report and good report," until we have fought our fight, and finished our course: and then at last we shall be welcomed as faithful servants into the joyous presence of our Lord. Who would not wish for such happiness as this? Only then let our hearts experience what our lips have uttered, and that happiness is ours: only let our professions be verified, our promises fulfilled, and our prayers realized, and all will be well: God will see in us the heart which he approves, and will honor us with testimonies of his approbation to all eternity.

My second observation is, If there were in us such an heart, what blessings would result to all around us! The careless minister may spend many years in a populous parish, and yet never see one sinner converted from the error of his ways, or turned unto God in newness of life. But the faithful servant of Jehovah will have some fruit of his ministry. God will answer to him that prayer at the close of the ordination service, "Grant that Your word, spoken by their mouths, may have such success, that it may never be spoken in vain!" God indeed does not make all equally useful; but he will leave none without witness, that the word which they preach is His Word, and that it is "the power of God unto the salvation of men." Behold, wherever such a minister is fixed, what a change takes place in reference to religion! The obstinately wicked, who either hear him with prejudice or turn their backs on his ministry, may possibly be only more hardened by the means he uses for their conversion; and circumstances may arise, where those who would once have plucked out their own eyes for him, may become for a while his enemies: but still there are many that will arise and call him blessed; many will acknowledge him as their spiritual father; many will bless God for him, and show in their respective circles the happy effects of his ministry. They will love his person; they will enjoy his preaching; they will tread in his steps; and they will shine as lights in a dark world. What, then, might not he hoped for, if all who have undertaken the sacred office of the ministry, fulfilled their engagements in the way We have before described? What if all prayed the prayers, instead of reading them; and labored out of the pulpit, as well as in it; striving to bring all their people, "not only to the knowledge and love of Christ, but to such ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, as to leave no room among them, either for error in religion, or for viciousness of life?" If there were such exertions made in every parish, we should hear no more complaints about the increase of Dissenters. The people's prejudices in general are in favor of the Establishment: and the more any persons have considered the excellence of the Liturgy, the more are they attached to the Established Church. Some indeed would entertain prejudices against it, even if all the twelve Apostles were members of it, and ministered in it: but, in general, it is a want of zeal in its ministers, and not any want of purity in its institutions, that gives such an advantage to Dissenters. Let me not be misunderstood, as though by these observations I meant to suggest anything disrespectful of the Dissenters; (for I honor all that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, of whatever church they be; and I wish them, from my heart, every blessing that their souls can desire:) but, while I see such abundant means of edification in the Church of England, I cannot but regret that any occasion should be given to men to seek for that in other places, which is so richly provided for them in their own church. Only let us be faithful to our engagements, and our churches will be crowded, our sacraments thronged, our hearers edified: good institutions will be set on foot; liberality will be exercised, the poor benefitted, the ignorant enlightened, the distressed comforted; yes, and our "wilderness world will rejoice and blossom as the rose." O that we might see this happy day; which I would fondly hope, has begun to dawn! O that God would arise and "take to him his great power, and reign among us!" O that he might no longer have to express a wish, "that there were in us such an heart;" but rather have to rejoice over us as possessed of such an heart; and that he would magnify himself in us as instruments of good to a ruined world! The Apostle to the Hebrews represents all the saints of former ages as witnesses of the conduct of those who were then alive; and he urges it as an argument with them to exert themselves to the uttermost: "Having then," says he, "so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Thus let us consider the Reformers of our church as now looking down upon us, and filled with anxiety for the success of their labors: let us hear them saying, ' We did all that human foresight could do; we showed to ministers what they ought to be; we bound them by the most solemn ties to walk in the steps of Christ and his Apostles: if any shall be lukewarm in their office, we shall have to appear in judgment against them, and shall be the means of aggravating their eternal condemnation.' Let us, I say, consider them as spectators of our conduct; and endeavor to emulate their pious examples. Let us consider, likewise, that the Liturgy itself will appear against us in judgment, if we labor not to the utmost of our power to fulfill the engagements which we have voluntarily entered into; yes, God himself will say to us, "Out of your own mouth will I judge you, you wicked servant." May God enable us all to lay these things to heart; that, whether we have already contracted, or are intending at a future period to contract, this fearful responsibility, we may duly consider what account we shall have to give of it in the day of judgment!

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 6:10-12

 

DISCOURSE 195

THE DANGER OF PROSPERITY

Deuteronomy 6:10-12. It shall be, when the Lord your God shall have brought you into the land which he swore unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you goodly cities which you build not, and houses full of good things which you filled not, and wells dug which you dug not, vineyards and olive-trees which you planted not; when you shall have eaten and be full; then beware lest you forget the Lord, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

WE cannot but notice in this passage the confidence with which Moses assured the Israelites respecting their ultimate success in reference to their occupation of the land of Canaan. They had not yet passed over Jordan; yet does he speak to them as if they were in full possession of the land: so certain was it that God would fulfill to them all the promises which he had made unto their fathers. At the same time, we cannot but be struck with the intimation which is here given of man's proneness to ingratitude, and of the tendency of prosperity to deaden all the finer feelings of the soul. The caution which he gives them will lead me to set before you,

I. The natural ingratitude of man—

This will be found uniformly operating,

1. In relation to all his temporal concerns—

We are struck with the peculiar goodness of God to Israel, in putting them into possession of so many blessings, for which they had never labored. But, in truth, this was only an example of what he has done for man from the beginning of the world. Adam, when formed in Paradise, found every comfort prepared to his hand: And thus it is with every child that is born into the world. Everything, according to his situation in life, is provided for his accommodation; and he has the full benefit of the labors of others, to which, of course, he has never contributed in the smallest particular. And through the whole of our lives we enjoy the same advantages; God having so ordained, that every man, in seeking his own welfare, shall contribute to the welfare of those around him. One man "builds houses;" another "fills them with good things;" another "digs wells;" another plants trees of different descriptions; and all, in following their respective occupations, provide accommodations for others, which it would have been impossible for them ever to have enjoyed, but for this ordination of God, who has made private interest the means of advancing the public welfare. The only difference between the Israelites and us, in this respect, is, that what they gained by a bloody extermination of the inhabitants, we enjoy in a sweet and peaceful participation with the lawful owners.

Now, of course, it may well be expected that we should trace all these blessings to their proper source, and be filled with thankfulness to God, as the author and giver of them all. But the evil against which the Israelites were cautioned, is realized among us, to a great extent: we rest in the gift, and forget the Giver. In as far as we have anything to do in providing these things for ourselves, we run into the very same error against which they were cautioned; ascribing the attainment of them to our own skill or prowess, instead of regarding them altogether as the gift of God Deuteronomy 8:17-18. In this we do not merely resemble the beasts, but actually degrade ourselves below them: for "the ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master's crib; while we neither know, nor consider," nor regard, our adorable Benefactor Isaiah 1:2-3 with Jeremiah 2:32.

2. In relation even to the concerns of his soul—

The deliverance of Israel from Egypt was typical of our deliverance from a far sorer bondage. But is it possible that we should ever be unmindful of that? Suppose it possible for man's ingratitude to extend to all that Israel experienced in Egypt, in the wilderness, and in Canaan; is it possible that his depravity should be so great as to render him forgetful of all the blessings of redemption? Can it be, that man should forget what his incarnate God has done for him, in relinquishing all the glory of Heaven, and assuming our fallen nature, and bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, that he might deliver us from the bondage of corruption, and bring us to the everlasting possession of an heavenly inheritance? Yes: it is not only possible, but certain, that men are as unmindful of this as they are of their obligations for temporal blessings: yes, it is a fact, that many are far more thankful for their temporal mercies, than for this, which infinitely exceeds them all. And to what shall we compare their guilt in this respect? It has been seen that their ingratitude for temporal blessings reduces them below the beasts: and I am not sure that their ingratitude for spiritual benefits does not reduce them below the fallen angels themselves: for, whatever the guilt of those unhappy spirits may be, this we know at least, that they have never poured contempt on One who had assumed their nature, and borne their iniquities, to deliver them. This is a depravity peculiar to man: and this is a depravity that has pervaded every child of man. And to what an awful extent it has prevailed in all of us, let the conscience of every one among us bear witness. The character of us all is but too justly depicted in these words; "When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful Romans 1:21."

This increases, rather than diminishes, through the abundance of his mercies; as will be seen, while we point out,

II. The general effect of prosperity upon him—

The proper intent of God's mercies is, to fill us with humility and thankfulness before him: but, through the corruption of our nature, success,

1. Inflates those with pride whom it should humble—

This was its sad effect on Israel: who, as the prophet complains, "sacrificed to their own net, and burned incense to their own drag Habakkuk 1:16." And if we examine the general effect of prosperity among ourselves, we shall find, that success in business, and acquisition of honor, and elevation in society, are for the most part the fruitful parents of pride and arrogance and self-conceit. See how the purse-proud tradesman swells by reason of his wealth, as though he had been the author of his own success Compare Deuteronomy 8:17-18 before cited, with 1 Timothy 6:17; and how all his former servility is turned into a conceit of his own dignity, and a magisterial oppression of those below him Perhaps there exists not on earth, a stricter parallel between the Jews and us, than in the case of those who are elected Fellows in any of the Colleges of our Universities. Let the text be read in that view, and there will be found in it much profitable instruction to persons so circumstanced; Yes, in truth, that saying is too often realized in every rank of the community, "Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 32:18."

But can this ever be the effect of spiritual advancement? Of real piety it cannot: but of what assumes the shape of real piety, it may. Professors of religion, when they have acquired somewhat of a clearer knowledge of divine truth, are very apt to be puffed up with it, and to "become, in their own conceit, wiser than their teachers." Hence it is, that so many set up for "teachers, while yet they understand not what they say, nor whereof they affirm:" and many, because they have some faint conception of what is spiritual, pour contempt on others as altogether carnal. To all such conceited professors I would say, "Be not high-minded, but fear:" "let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall."

2. Lulls into security those whom it should quicken—

The effect of affluence, especially of that which has been acquired by labor, is, to diminish the industry that has obtained it, and to reduce its possessor to the state of the rich fool in the Gospel: "Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, and be merry Luke 12:16-21." Indeed, ease is looked upon as the reward of industry; and the prospect of it is man's greatest incentive to diligence. But success, instead of weakening, should rather operate to augment our efforts for further success: not from a covetous desire of advancement, but from a desire to enlarge our means of doing good. Wealth, with all its attendant influence, should be regarded as a talent, not to be hidden in a napkin, but to be improved for God.

And what should be the effect of increased views of divine truth, and of augmented confidence in God? Should not these things quicken us, and every communication of grace to our souls, stimulate us to activity in the service of the Lord? I say, then, let none of you, because of your prosperity, be "settled on your lees;" but let every blessing, whether temporal or spiritual, be employed as a motive for exertion, and as a means of honoring your heavenly Benefactor.

Let me now address,

1. Those who have risen in the world—

The example of David is that which you should follow. He, when assured by God that his kingdom should be established in his house to his latest posterity, "went in, and sat before the Lord, and said, Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me hitherto 2 Samuel 7:18." Thus let your success operate on you. See the hand of God in it all; and acknowledge your own unworthiness; and adore that grace that has made you to differ from so many whose prospects were once equal to your own. And never forget, that prosperity is a snare which ruins thousands Proverbs 1:22; and that, if it makes your situation easier in this world, it obstructs your progress, even like clods of "clay upon your feet," to the world above Compare Habakkuk 2:6 with Hebrews 12:1 and Matthew 19:23-24.

2. Those who, by reason of adverse circumstances, have been reduced—

How often has that which never could be effected by prosperity been produced by adversity. In prosperity, for the most part, we forget God; but "in the time of adversity we consider." "In their affliction," said God of his people of old, "they will seek me early:" "they will pour out a prayer, when my chastening is upon them." And have you found it thus with you? Then, however painful your afflictions may have been, they call rather for congratulation than condolence. The prosperity of the soul is that which alone is of any real value. Look to it then, that, in whatever you decay, you grow in grace: and know, that if only you keep your eyes fixed, not on things visible and temporal, but on those which are invisible and eternal, "your light afflictions, which are but for a moment, shall work for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory 2 Corinthians 4:17-18."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 7:6-10

 

DISCOURSE 196

A RIGHT IMPROVEMENT OF ELECTING LOVE

Deuteronomy 7:6-10. You are a holy people unto the Lord your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be a special people unto himself above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people (for you were the fewest of all people) but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, has the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God he is God, the faithful God, which keeps covenant and mercy with them that love him, and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations; and repays them that hate him, to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hates him, he will repay him to his face.

THERE is in man a strange reluctance to contemplate the sovereignty of God: but, if duly improved, there is no subject more comforting to the soul, or more calculated to promote practical religion. It is this on which Moses insists, in order to deter the Israelites from connections with the heathen, and to induce them to maintain inviolable the commandments of their God.

With similar views we would draw your attention to,

I. The privilege of God's people—

The Jews were "a special people unto the Lord their God"—

They had been redeemed from a most oppressive bondage, instructed by the voice of revelation, supported by bread from Heaven, brought into the nearest relation to the Deity, and honored with access to him in ordinances of divine appointment. In these, and many other respects, they were distinguished above all other people upon earth Deuteronomy 4:7-8; Deuteronomy 33:29.

Such is also the privilege of all true believers—

They have been rescued from the tyranny of sin and Satan 2 Timothy 2:25-26, taught by the word and Spirit of God John 6:45, furnished with daily supplies of grace John 1:16, made sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty 2 Corinthians 6:18, and admitted into the most intimate communion with their God 1 John 1:3. Nor were the Jews so much exalted above the heathen world, as true believers are above all others, even the professed followers of Christ Mark 3:34-35; Matthew 19:28.

It will be no unprofitable subject of meditation, if we inquire into,

II. The source of that privilege—

The Jews owed all their blessings to the distinguishing grace of God—

They were not chosen for their numbers, or for their goodness; for "they were the fewest" and most stiff-necked "of all people." God's love to them had its origin within his own bosom; "he loved them because he would love them:" and in due season he testified that love to them, because he had voluntarily engaged to do so.

Nor can our blessings be traced to any other source—

God, in choosing us to salvation, has not respect to any goodness in us, whether past, present, or future: not to past; for all of us, not excepting even the Apostles themselves, have been inconceivably vile Titus 3:3; Ephesians 2:3; not to present; for many of us, like Paul and the three thousand, were in the very midst of our sinful career, when God plucked us as brands from the burning Acts 2:13; Acts 9:1; not future; for we never should have had anything good in us, if it had not been given us of God 1 Corinthians 4:7; and it is evident that the grace he has given us, can never be the ground and reason of his bestowing that grace upon us. He has "chosen us that we might be holy;" but not because we were so, or because he foresaw we should become so Ephesians 1:4; John 15:16. No reason can be assigned for his choosing us rather than others, except that assigned by our Lord himself, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in your sight Matthew 11:26." Nor has he kept us on account of our own stability (for we are all bent to backslide from him Hosea 11:7.), but on account of the covenant he has made with us in Christ Psalm 89:29-35, wherein he has engaged to preserve us unto his heavenly kingdom. In the whole of his conduct towards us he has acted according to "his eternal purpose and grace Romans 11:5; 2 Timothy 1:9."

That we may not abuse so great a privilege, let us consider,

III. The improvement to be made of it—

We should attentively consider the character of God, who is,

1. Sovereign in the exercise of his mercy—

His grace is his own, and he may dispose of it as he will Matthew 20:15. If he had consigned us all over to perdition as he did the fallen angels, he had been just. We therefore can have no claim upon him for any share in his mercy. Whether he make us vessels of honor or of dishonor, we have no more ground of pride or murmuring, than the clay has, which is fashioned according to the potter's will Romans 9:18-21. Whether we will receive it or not, he is a Sovereign, that dispenses mercy according to his own will Ephesians 1:11; and, if there be any difference between one and another, that difference results, not from any power or goodness in us, but from God's free and sovereign grace Romans 9:16; Romans 9:18.

2. Faithful in the observance of his promises—

They who have really an interest in the promises, are universally distinguished by this mark, "They love God, and keep his commandments." To these God will most assuredly approve himself "faithful." His "covenant" is ordered in all things, and he will inviolably "keep" it. What Joshua said to the whole Jewish nation, may be yet more extensively applied to all true believers, "No promise ever has failed them, or ever shall Jos. 23:14."

3. Terrible in the execution of his threatenings—

Those who do not love him, and keep his commandments, he considers as "hating him;" and he will surely "repay them to their face." Their proud rebellious conduct shall be recompensed on their own heads Deuteronomy 32:35; Deuteronomy 29:20 and Ezekiel 24:14. And, though now they seem as if they defied his majesty, they shall find to their cost that his patience has an end, and that, however merciful he is, he will by no means clear the guilty Exodus 34:7.

Having fully considered this character of God, we should have a deep and an abiding persuasion of it wrought in our hearts.

We should know it,

1. For the quickening of our diligence—

Nothing will ever more strongly operate on our minds than the consideration of our obligations to God as the sovereign author of all our good desires, and the faithful preserver of them in our souls. This is the very improvement which Moses himself makes of the truths contained in the text verse 11; and an inspired Apostle declares, that the dedication of ourselves to God is the very end, for which God himself has distinguished us by his sovereign grace 1 Peter 2:9. Let us then be ever saying, "What shall I render unto the Lord?" and let us devote ourselves to him in body, soul, and spirit.

2. For the quieting of our fears—

The two principal sources of disquietude to the soul are, a sense of our unworthiness to receive God's mercies, and of our insufficiency to do his will. Now both of these are entirely removed by a view of God's character as exhibited in the text. As he is a sovereign, he may bestow his grace, as he often has done, on the most unworthy; he is most glorified by bestowing it on these very persons. And, as he is faithful, he may be safely trusted to accomplish his own promises, in his own time and way. Our weakness is no obstacle to him; it shall rather be an occasion of manifesting the perfection of his strength. Let us then commit ourselves into his hands; and every perfection he possesses shall be glorified in our salvation.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

 

DISCOURSE 197

THE REASONS OF GOD'S DIVERSIFIED DEALINGS WITH HIS PEOPLE

Deuteronomy 8:2-3. And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or no. And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, (which you knew not, neither did your fathers know,) that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord does man live.

AMONG the various things which distinguish man from the brute creation, is that faculty which he possesses of grasping within his mind things past and future; and of deriving both from the one and the other the most powerful incentives to action. The consideration of things future is that which operates most upon the bulk of mankind: but men of thoughtful and comprehensive minds derive the most important lessons of wisdom from reflecting on the past: and it is this retrospective view of things which distinguishes one man from another, almost as much as a prospective view of them does an adult person from a child. Hence Moses was peculiarly solicitous to draw the attention of the Israelites to all those wonderful events which had taken place, from the period when he was first commissioned to effect their deliverance from Egypt, to that hour when they were about to enter into the promised land: and truly there never was such an eventful period from the foundation of the world, nor one so replete with instruction as that.

Two things in particular we notice in the words before us;

I. The diversified dealings of God with his people—

In the dealings of God with the Jews we see a mixture of mercy and of judgment. His mercies to them were such as never were given to any other people. His interpositions by ten successive plagues in order to effect their deliverance from Egypt, their passage through the sea, their preservation from "serpents and scorpions in that great and terrible wilderness verse 15;" their miraculous supplies of manna from the clouds, and of "water from the rock of flint;" the preservation of "their garments and of their shoes verse 4 with Deuteronomy 29:5. from waxing old during the space of forty years," and of "their feet also from swelling," notwithstanding the long journeys which at different times they were obliged to travel Numbers 9:21 with 10:33; these, with innumerable other mercies not specified in the text, distinguished that people above every nation under Heaven.

But at the same time God saw fit occasionally to let them feel the difficulties with which they were encompassed. He suffered them on some occasions to be tried both with hunger and thirst; and inflicted heavy chastisements upon them for their multiplied transgressions.

Now in this we have a glass wherein to see the dealings of God with his people in all ages:

1. His mercies to every one of us have been innumerable—

At our very first formation in the womb, the power and goodness of God towards us were exercised in imparting to us all our faculties both of body and mind. We have been preserved by him from innumerable dangers, both seen and unseen. In our national, domestic, and individual capacity, we have been highly privileged: And though the interference of God on our behalf has not been so visible as that which was given to the Jews, it has not been at all less real. Our supplies of food, of clothing, and of health, have been as much owing to the care of his providence, as if they had been given to us by miraculous interpositions.

The benefits of revelation too which we have enjoyed, have marked his special favor to our souls. In this respect we have been as much elevated above the heathen world as the Jews themselves were; or rather, still more elevated, in proportion to the clearer light which shines on us in the New Testament; which, in comparison of theirs, is as the meridian light to the early dawn.

But what shall we say of those who have tasted of redeeming love, and experienced the transforming efficacy of the Gospel of Christ? What tongue can declare the mercies given to them?: Yet,

2. We have also been partakers of his judgments—

All of us have found this to be a chequered scene: some have been tried in one way, and others in another; some for a longer, and others for a shorter period; some in mind: some in body: some in estate: Even those who have been most favored in this respect, have found abundant reason to acknowledge, that "this is not our rest." To the young and inexperienced, the world appears a garden abounding with delights: but on a fuller acquaintance with it we find, that its roses have their thorns; and even its choicest delicacies often prove occasions of the sorest pain. "Man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward."

As, from our general notions of God's goodness, we might have expected that his dealings with his people would have been different from what we find them to be, let us inquire into,

II. His end and design in them—

The reasons here assigned for his dispensations towards the Jews, will afford us a clue for discovering his intentions towards ourselves. He diversifies his dispensations towards us,

1. To humble us—

Were our mercies altogether unmixed, we should know nothing of the effect of judgments on the rebellious will of man: and if there were no intermission of adversity, we should be strangers to the effect of prosperity upon the carnal heart: but by the variety of states which we pass through, we are led to see the total depravity of our nature; since we can be in no state whatever, wherein the mind does not show itself alienated from God, and averse to bear his yoke. We are apt to think that a change of circumstances would produce in us a change of conduct: but, as a person in a fever finds no posture easy, nor any food pleasant to his taste, so we, through the corruption of our hearts, find all situations alike unproductive of a permanent change in our dispositions towards God. "We are bent to backslide from him, even as a broken bow;" and every change of situation only serves to establish that melancholy truth, that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." To convince us of this is the first work of God upon the soul John 16:8, and the first object of all his dispensations."

2. To prove us—

It is easy to obey God at some times and in some respects, in comparison of what it is at other times and in other respects. God therefore puts us into a variety of situations, to try whether we will make him the supreme object of our regard in all. At some times he gives health, and affluence, and honor, to see whether we will suffer these things to draw away our hearts from him, or whether we will improve them all for him. At other times he lays affliction upon our loins, to see whether we will retain our love to him, and bless him as well when he takes away as when he gives. At some times he permits us to be sorely tempted by Satan, and by the corrupt propensities of our own hearts, to prove whether we will prefer the maintenance of a good conscience to any of the gratifications of sense. At other times he permits persecution to rage against us, that it may appear whether we will sacrifice our interests, and life itself, for him. In feet, every change of circumstance is sent by him, precisely as the command respecting the sacrificing of Isaac was sent to Abraham: by that command "God tempted him;" and by every circumstance of life he tempts us, to "prove whether we will obey his commandments or no."

3. To instruct us—

We are apt to imagine that the happiness of man is greatly dependent upon earthly prosperity; and that the loss of temporal comforts is an irreparable evil. But God would teach us, that this is altogether a mistake. By loading us with all that this world can give, he shows us how insufficient earthly things are to make us happy: and, by reducing us to a state of want, or pain, or trouble of any kind, he leads us to himself, and then shows us how happy he can make us, though under circumstances the most painful to flesh and blood. This is a great and valuable lesson; most honorable to him, most beneficial to us: it elevates us completely above this lower world; and, in proportion as it is learned, enables us to live on God alone. When Satan tempted our Lord to distrust his heavenly Father's care, and to "command the stones to be made bread," our Lord reminded him of the lesson which was here recorded for the good of the Church; namely, that it was the blessing of God upon bread, and not the bread itself, that could do us good; and that that blessing would as easily produce the effect without means as with them. Thus he teaches us that, in having God, we have all; and that, without him, we have nothing.

4. To do us good at our latter end verse 16.—

If our state were never diversified, we should have but one set of graces called forth into action: but, by experiencing alterations and reverses, we are led to exercise every kind of grace: and by this means we grow in every part, just as the members of the body grow, when all are duly exercised Colossians 2:19; 1 Peter 2:2. Moreover, according to the measure which we attain of the stature of Christ, will be the recompense of our reward: every grace we exercise, whether active or passive, will be noted in the book of God's remembrance, and "be found to our praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ 1 Peter 1:7;" the one as well as the other, though but weak and defective in itself, is "working out for us an exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

APPLICATION—

1. Let us trace, every one of us, the dealings of God with us—

A more instructive history we could not read, than that of the Lord's dealings with us from our earliest infancy to the present moment. If it were recorded with the minuteness and fidelity that the history of the Jews has been, we should see, that as face answers to face in a glass, so does our experience to theirs. We are apt to wonder at their wickedness; but we should cease to wonder at them, if we were thoroughly acquainted with ourselves. Our wonder would rather be at the patience and forbearance, the mercy and the kindness, of our God. Earnestly then would we recommend to every one to apply to himself the injunction in our text, "You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness:" and we may rest assured that such habits of reflection will bring their own reward along with them Psalm 107:43.

2. Let our experience of his past kindness lead us to confide in him in future—

The way in which the Israelites were led was circuitous and dreary: yet we are told that God "led them by the right way." It may be that our way also has been such as has excited many murmurs, and great discouragement: but, if we have considered it to any good purpose, we shall acknowledge it to have been on the whole more profitable for us, than any that we should have chosen for ourselves. Perhaps we shall see cause to bless our God for some of our heaviest trials, more than for any of those things which administered to our pleasure. Convinced then by our past experience, we should be willing to leave matters to the disposal of our God; and to submit to any trials, which he sends for the promotion of our eternal welfare. Our only solicitude should be to make a due improvement of his dispensations: and if only we may be humbled, instructed, sanctified, and exalted by them, we should cordially and continually say, "Let him do what seems him good."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 9:4-6

 

DISCOURSE 198

AGAINST SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS AND SELF-CONCEIT

Deuteronomy 9:4-6. Speak not you in your heart, after that the Lord your God has cast them out from before you, saying, For my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord does drive them out from before you. Not for your righteousness, or for the uprightness of your heart, do you go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God does drive them out from before you, and that he may perform the word which the Lord swore unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God gives you not this good land to possess it for your righteousness; for you are a stiff-necked people.

MAN is a dependent creature: he has nothing of his own: he can do nothing: he can control no event whatever; he is altogether in the hands of God, who supports him in life, and accomplishes both in him and by him his own sovereign will and pleasure. Yet he affects wisdom, though "he is born like a wild ass's colt;" and strength, though he is "crushed before the moth:" nay, so extraordinary is his blindness, that he arrogates righteousness to himself, though he is so corrupt, that he has "not so much as one imagination of the thoughts of his heart which is not evil continually." If there ever were a people that might be expected to be free from self-complacent thoughts, it must be the Israelites who were brought out of Egypt; for no people ever had such opportunities of discovering the evil of their hearts as they had. No persons ever received such signal mercies, as they; nor ever betrayed such perverseness of mind, as they. Yet did Moses judge it necessary to caution even them, not to ascribe to any merits of their own the interpositions of God in their behalf, but to trace them to their proper source—the determination of God to display in and by them his own glorious perfections.

The words which I have read to you, will furnish me with a fit occasion to show,

I. How prone we are to self-complacent thoughts—

There are many things which men would not utter with their lips, which yet they will "speak in their hearts." "The fool has said in his heart, There is no God." But no rational man would be such a fool as to say it with his lips. So, one can scarcely conceive any man absurd enough to impute in express terms to himself, his successes, either in temporal or spiritual matters: yet, "in the spirit of our minds," we are prone to do it in reference to both.

1. In reference to temporal matters—

In the event of our succeeding in trade, in husbandry, in war, how apt are we to ascribe to ourselves what really has proceeded from God alone. We may have shown wisdom in our use of means: but who has rendered those means effectual? Can the merchant command the seas, or the gardener the clouds, or the warrior the events of war? Yet we take the glory to ourselves, as if we had reaped nothing but the fruits, the necessary fruits, of our own superior skill. Now what should we have thought of the disciples, if, when they had "toiled all the night in fishing, and had taken nothing," and afterwards, in obedience to their Lord's directions, had "launched out into the deep again, and taken at one draught so many fishes that both their ships began to sink"—what, I say, should we have thought of them, if they had ascribed this success to their own wisdom and skill Luke 5:4-7 and again John 21:3-6. Yet this is the very thing which we do, in reference to our successes in any matter; "we sacrifice to our own net, and burn incense unto our own drag Habakkuk 1:16."

2. In reference to spiritual matters—

In relation to things of a spiritual nature, we should suppose that no man would think of indulging this propensity; because in the natural man there is not so much as one good desire. But, strange as it may seem, we are more tenacious of our supposed self-sufficiency in reference to these things than to any others. There is not any one who does not hope to conciliate the divine favor by something that he shall do; and that does not imagine himself capable of doing it by his own inherent strength, whensoever he shall be pleased to undertake the work. To self-righteousness, in particular, men cleave with an obstinacy that nothing but Omnipotence can overcome. This was the real cause of the rejection of the Jews, that they would persist in laboring to establish a righteousness of their own by the works of the Law, when they should have embraced the righteousness which is of God by faith Romans 9:31-32. And this is the principle which we have to combat in all our ministrations, and which is the very last that yields to the Gospel of Christ. Men think to get to Heaven by their own righteousness; and hope, like the Israelites in Canaan, to make the very mercy of God himself a pedestal for their own fame. "Stiff-necked" as Israel were, they would arrogate to themselves this glory: and vile as we are, we fondly cherish this vain conceit. To renounce wholly our own righteousness, and to submit cordially to the righteousness of Christ, is the last sacrifice we can be brought to make, and the crown and glory of converting grace.

That I may, as God shall enable me, beat down all self-complacent conceits, I will proceed to show,

II. How erroneous they are—

To the self-righteous Israelites, Moses said, "Not for your righteousness, or for the uprightness of your heart, do you go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God does drive them out from before you, and that he may perform the word which the Lord swore unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Now here Moses has informed us what it is that God consults in all his dispensations, even the glory of his own perfections:

1. Of his justice and holiness—

God determined to show his indignation against sin: and therefore, when the iniquity of the Canaanites was full, and they were ripe for vengeance, he drove them forth from their land, and utterly destroyed them. The Israelites he used merely as his instruments, whom he had raised up to fulfill his will: and in them he made known his power to execute what his justice had decreed.

Look now at the redemption which he has given to us, and you shall find it altogether ordained to display the very same perfections of the Deity. Look at the atonement made for sin: go to Calvary, and behold the Lamb of God expiating, by his own blood, the guilt of a ruined world! There read the holiness of God, in his hatred of sin, and his justice in punishing it. Or go to the Gospel, which proclaims this deliverance; and declares, that none shall ever be saved who do not plead this atonement as their only hope; and none shall ever perish who truly and sincerely rely upon it. Go, follow the self-complacent Pharisee to the regions of misery, or the believing penitent to the realms of bliss, and you shall see in both an equal display of these very perfections: in the one, the punishment of sin in his own person; in the other, the reward of righteousness, wrought out for him by our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Of his faithfulness and truth—

To Abraham, God had promised the possession of the land of Canaan; yet not to Abraham personally, but in his descendants. The fulfillment of this promise was delayed four hundred and thirty years: but it was not forgotten. When the time for its accomplishment was fully come, it was fulfilled; and in fulfilling it, God showed himself faithful to his promises. And if any one of us should ever arrive at the heavenly Canaan, it will be in consequence of the covenant made with Christ; wherein the Father stipulated, that "if his Son would make his soul an offering for sin, he should see a seed who should prolong their days, and the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hands Isaiah 53:10." Whence is it that any one of us is led to Christ? Whence is it that we are carried in safety through this dreary wilderness, and brought at last to the possession of the heavenly land? Was it for our righteousness that we were chosen? No: "God loved us simply because he would love us Deuteronomy 7:7-8." Was it for our righteousness that we were preserved? No: we were "a stiff-necked people" from first to last. Was it for our righteousness that we were crowned with ultimate success? No: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he will have saved us Titus 3:4," "according to the good pleasure of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his own grace Ephesians 1:4-6."

It is worthy of observation, that no less than three times in the short space of our text does God declare that his people were not thus favored on account of their own righteousness: and among all the hosts of Heaven there will not be found so much as one, who does not ascribe his salvation altogether to God and to the Lamb; that is, to the electing love of the Father, and to the redeeming love of Christ.

In order still more forcibly to counteract self-righteous thoughts, I proceed yet further to show,

III. The importance of utterly discarding them from our own minds—

Observe the energy with which this hateful propensity is assailed: "Understand, therefore," says Moses, "that the Lord gives you not this good land to possess it for your righteousness; for you are a stiff-necked people." How much more, then, may I say this to you, in reference to the heavenly land! "Understand it," then, and consider it well: for to dream of any righteousness of your own, is to be guilty,

1. Of the grossest injustice—

Did the self-applauding Israelites rob God of his glory? How much more do you! What becomes of all his stupendous love, in giving his only Son to die for you? What becomes of his sovereign grace, in choosing you at first, and in giving you to his Son? What becomes of all his mercy in pardoning, his power in sanctifying, his faithfulness in keeping you to the end? By this one act of self-righteousness you rob God of it all; and take the crown from the Savior's head, to put it on your own. What construction would you put on similar conduct shown towards yourselves? If you had taken the most helpless and worthless of the human race from a dunghill, and had with vast cost and trouble educated him for your heir, and had actually made over to him all that you possess; would you think he offered you no indignity, if he denied his obligations to your unmerited love, and ascribed all the glory of his exaltation to his own superior merit, which left you no option, but claimed it all at your hands? How base, then, must you be, if you so requite the love of Almighty God! Know, that" His is the kingdom," to which you have been called: and "His is the power," by which you have been kept: and "His must be the glory" forever and ever.

2. Of the extreme folly—

What can provoke God, if this does not? Or, what can you expect, but that, as the recompense of your conceit and arrogance, he should say to you, 'Go on without my help. You have done thus much for yourselves: carry on now the good work within you. You have overcome Satan: overcome him still. You have merited my favor: continue still to merit it. You have paid a price for Heaven: complete your purchase. Bring with you your works to my judgment-seat; and I will deal with you according to them.' Ah, Beloved! what would become of us, if God were thus to give us up to our proud delusions, and our vain conceits? It would soon appear what we are, and what measure of sufficiency we possess for anything that is good. If, then, you would not provoke God to give you up altogether to yourselves, discard from your minds these "lofty imaginations, and let every thought of your hearts be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

Having thus directed my attention, throughout the whole subject, to the self-sufficient, I will conclude with an address to,

1. The desponding sinner—

You are ready to say, God will not have mercy upon me, because I have no righteousness whereby to recommend myself to him. But you need none for this end. It was not the righteous, but sinners, whom he came to save. You are to go to Christ guilty, that you may be forgiven; vile, that you may be made holy; and weak, that his strength may be perfected in your weakness. "Understand" this; and your conscious unworthiness, so far from appearing any longer a bar to your acceptance with him, will be a motive for coming to him, and an encouragement to trust in him: for "where sin has abounded, there, you have reason to hope, shall his grace much more abound."

2. The joyful saint—

Let not the freedom of God's grace ever prove a snare to you. Though God will never save you for your righteousness, he will never save you in an unrighteous state. Though he requires no righteousness of yours as the ground of your acceptance with him, he requires the utmost attainments in righteousness as your fitness for Heaven; yes, and as the means whereby he may be glorified. Take heed, therefore, that you "understand" this: for "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." At the same time, you must cultivate a spirit directly opposite to that of the self-applauding Pharisee—a spirit of humiliation and self-abasement before God. This was the state of mind which he required of those whom he conducted into Canaan; and this is the spirit which he expects to find in us. Hear his own words to them, and to us in them: "You shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers. And there shall you remember your ways, and all your doings wherein you have been defiled; and you shall loath yourselves in your own eight for all the evils that you have committed. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have wrought with you for my name's sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt dealings, O house of Israel, says the Lord God Ezekiel 20:42-44; Ezekiel 36:22; Ezekiel 36:32." Here, I say, you see the spirit that becomes you. To your latest hour, and in your highest attainments, be abased, and let God be glorified as "all in all!"

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 9:7

 

DISCOURSE 199

A PENITENTIAL RETROSPECT ENJOINED

Deuteronomy 9:7. Remember, and forget not, how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness.

THERE is no sin more deeply rooted in the heart of man than pride: nor is there anything which will not serve as a foundation for it to prefer its claims. Even an excess of impiety will afford to some an occasion of glorying; and a precedence in rebellion against God, give them a title to praise among those whom they have out-stripped in the career of wickedness. It may well be expected, then, that success in any lawful enterprise should very generally be thought to give a man a legitimate ground for self-applause. Yet, doubtless, if ever there were a people less entitled to self-admiration than others, it was the people of Israel, who were a stiff-necked people from the very first moment that God took them under his peculiar care. And, if ever there were a matter that entirely precluded all ground of glorying, surely it was the establishing of that people in the land of Canaan. Their fathers had all provoked God to destroy them in the wilderness: and they themselves were also a rebellious generation: so that they at least might be expected to acknowledge themselves indebted to the sovereign grace of God for all the blessings of the promised land. But behold, God, who knew what was in man, was constrained to caution them against the enormous evil of ascribing to their own superior goodness all the interpositions of God in their behalf: "Speak not you in your heart, after that the Lord your God has cast them out from before you, saying, For my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations, the Lord does drive them out from before you. Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God gives you not this good land to possess it for your righteousness; for you are a stiff-necked people. Remember, and forget not how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness." This was the state of mind which became them; and this is the habit that becomes us also.

To fix this admonition the more deeply on your minds, I will endeavor to show,

I. What impression sin makes upon the mind of God—

It is not so light an evil as we are ready to imagine. It is most offensive to God: it is "that abominable thing which his soul hates Jeremiah 44:4." In what abhorrence he holds it, we may see,

1. By his own positive declarations—

" In the day that you eat of the forbidden tree, you shall die Genesis 2:17," was the declaration of God in Paradise: and "The soul that sins, it shall die Ezekiel 18:4," has been his solemn warning to all mankind, even to the present hour. Yes; "the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men Romans 1:18." "The wicked," says David, "shall be turned into Hell, and all the people that forget God Psalm 9:17." And again: "Upon the ungodly shall God rain snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest: this shall be their portion to drink Psalm 11:6;" "they shall go into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels Matthew 25:41;" "they shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and the smoke of their torment shall ascend up forever and ever: and they shall have no rest, day nor night Revelation 14:10-11;" they shall be "where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched Mark 9:44; Mark 9:46; Mark 9:48;" and shall spend eternity itself in "weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth Matthew 25:30."

Now I would ask, What can such declarations mean? or rather, What can they mean who set them all at nothing, and say, "I shall have peace, though I walk after the imaginations of my own evil heart Deuteronomy 29:19."

2. By the actual exhibitions of his wrath—

It is easy to say, "The Lord does not see, neither will the Almighty regard it." But how do his dispensations accord with these conceits? Was the sin of Adam visited with no expression of his wrath? Was there no manifestation of his anger at the deluge? None on the cities of the plain, the punishment of which was a figure of Hell itself? Look at his dealings with Israel in the wilderness: Was sin unpunished there? Do we see there no marks of his displeasure, no proofs of the connection which he has established between sin and misery? Does the destruction of that whole people in the wilderness give us no insight into this matter? When we see what was inflicted on a man for gathering sticks upon the Sabbath Numbers 15:33-35, on Uzzah for a mistake 2 Samuel 6:6-7, on the men of Bethshemesh for unhallowed curiosity 1 Samuel 6:19, on Herod for pride Acts 12:23, on Ananias for a lie Acts 5:3-10, shall we listen to the voice that tells us, that "the Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil Zephaniah 1:12." Know you of a truth, beloved Brethren, that "God is angry with the wicked every day Psalm 7:11;" and that "though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished Proverbs 11:21."

From hence, then, we may see,

II. The impression which it should make on our minds—

Truly, as it makes a deep impression upon God's mind, so should it also upon ours. We should remember it; and never forget so much as one sin, if it were possible; but should have the iniquity of our whole lives ever treasured up in our minds, and standing in one accumulated mass before our eyes.

This is necessary for the unpardoned sinner—

We are not to imagine, that it is sufficient for us to acknowledge in a general way that we are sinners, or to have our minds fixed on one or two enormous transgressions, and to confess them to God. We ought to trace sin to the fountain-head, and see how totally we are by nature alienated from God, and "enemies to him in our minds by wicked works:" and at the same time we should have such views of particular transgressions, as to be constrained to come to God, saying, "Thus and thus have I done:" and without such a view of our sins we can have no repentance, no forgiveness, nor even so much as any preparation of heart for the Gospel of Christ.

Without calling our ways to remembrance, we can have no repentance. For, what is repentance, but a confession of our sins, and mourning over them before God?: We can have no forgiveness; for "he who covers his sins shall not prosper: it is he only who confesses and forsakes them that shall find mercy Proverbs 28:13.": Nor can a person be prepared to receive the Gospel: for the Gospel is a remedy; for which they who are unconscious of any malady can have no desire; as our Lord has said, "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance Matthew 9:12-13." What then shall an unpardoned sinner do? If he look not back on his transgressions, to mourn over them before God, he rivets them all upon his own soul, and ensures to himself the judgments of an offended God Luke 13:3.

Nor is it a whit less necessary for a pardoned saint—

In a great variety of views it is desirable for him: first, for the deepening of his humility. Superficial views of sin, though they may suffice to bring us to the Savior, will never produce that self-loathing and self-abhorrence which are the foundation of all that is good and great in the Christian character Ezekiel 16:63; Ezekiel 36:31.Next, for the inflaming of his gratitude. Our gratitude will always bear proportion to our sense of sin. "The man that has been forgiven little, will love little Luke 7:47;" but the man who is sensible, fully sensible, what his deserts have been, will be filled with such wonder and admiration at the goodness of God towards him, as no words can adequately express 1 Timothy 1:13-15. "Grace exceeding abundant."Further, these views of sin are desirable for the confirming of his principles. Let him feel the extent of his guilt, and he will not need to be told that salvation must be altogether of grace, or through faith, in Christ. He will see that a soul taken out of Hell itself would not be a greater monument of grace than he: he knows himself to be "a brand plucked out of the burning Zechariah 3:2;" and that if there were not an atonement provided for him, and a free salvation offered to him, Satan himself would have as good a hope of mercy as he: These views are yet further desirable for the augmenting of his care and watchfulness. Let a man see how he has fallen, and how, even though he may not actually have fallen, he has been tempted by sinful inclinations: he will then see what must have been his state to all eternity, if God had left him to himself; and what must yet be his state, if God should not continually uphold him: Lastly, they are necessary for the fitting of his soul for glory. Go up to Heaven, and see the state of the saints there: see how they fall on their faces before the throne: hear with what incessant praises they ascribe salvation to God and to the Lamb Revelation 5:14. If you were to go from one end of Heaven to the other, you would not hear one self-applauding word, or witness one self-admiring thought. There is but one song throughout all the realms of bliss: and the deeper our sense of obligation to God is for the wonders of redeeming love, the better we shall be prepared to make it the one subject of our thanksgivings to all eternity.

Before I conclude, let me Add a few words to those who are either looking to God for acceptance through their own righteousness, or imagining that they have already found mercy on such ground as that—

Take a retrospect of your past lives, and call to remembrance the whole of your conduct in this wilderness world. Compare your lives with the requirements of God's law; and see whether even so much as a day or an hour has ever passed, that has not given you ground for the deepest humiliation. But if you will not remember your sins, know assuredly, that God will. He says, by the Prophet Amos; "The Lord has sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works Amos. 8:7." In the day of judgment, too, will he remember them; yes, and bring them to your remembrance also: for they are all recorded in his book; and when set before you with all their aggravations, they will then appear to you, not light and venial, as they now do, but worthy of the deepest and heaviest condemnation. Stay not, then, until that day, but call them to remembrance now, and beg of God to set them all in order before your eyes. As for the pain which a sight of them will occasion, would you not wish to be pained with that which has so grieved your God? And is it not better to feel a penitential sorrow now, than to die in impenitence, and lie down under the wrath of God forever? In recommending penitence, I am your best friend; and those who would encourage you to forget your sins are, in truth, your greatest enemies. Begin, then, to "sorrow after a godly sort 2 Corinthians 7:11," and go to the Lord with all your sins upon you: so shall you have them all "blotted out as a morning cloud," and "cast by God himself into the depths of the sea." Here is a great mystery: if you forget your sins, God will remember them: but if you remember them, God will forget them utterly, and "remember them against you no more forever Hebrews 8:12."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 10:1-2

DISCOURSE 200

THE REPLACING OF THE TWO TABLES OF THE COVENANT

Deuteronomy 10:1-2. At that time the Lord said unto me, Hew you two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make you an ark of wood: and I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which you broke, and you shall put them in the ark.

THOSE to whom the modes of communication which are common in eastern countries are but little known, feel a jealousy respecting everything that is figurative and emblematical. But even in the New Testament there is much that is hidden under figures. The whole life of our blessed Savior is justly considered as an example: but it is rarely considered that in all its principal events it was also emblematical of what is spiritually experienced in the heart of the believer: the circumcision of Christ representing the circumcision of our hearts; the baptism, also, and the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Christ, marking our death unto sin, and our new birth unto righteousness. If then in the New Testament, where truth is exhibited so plainly, there are many things revealed in shadows, we may well expect to find much that is figurative in the Old Testament, where the whole system of religion was veiled under types and figures. The circumstances before us, we do not hesitate to say, have a hidden meaning, which, when brought forth, will be highly instructive. But in exploring the mysteries that are hid under these shadows, there is need of the utmost sobriety, that we impose not on Scripture any other sense than that which God himself designed it to convey. However some may gratify themselves with exercising their ingenuity on the sacred writings, and please themselves with their own fanciful interpretations of God's blessed word, I dare not proceed in that unhallowed course: I would "put off my shoes, when I come upon this holy ground;" and be content to leave untouched what I do not understand, and what God has not enabled me to explain, with a good hope at least that I express only "the mind of his Spirit." With this reverential awe upon my mind, I will endeavor, as God shall help me, to set before you what I conceive to be contained in the passage which we have just read. In it we notice,

I. The breaking of the two tables of the law—

God, after he had published by an audible voice the law of the Ten Commandments, wrote them upon two tables of stone, and gave them to Moses upon Mount Horeb, that they might serve as a memorial of what all who entered into covenant with him were bound to perform. But when Moses, on descending from the mount, found that the whole people of Israel were worshiping the golden calf, he was filled with righteous indignation, and "brake the two tables in pieces before their eyes Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 9:15-17." Now this action of his imported,

1. That the covenant which God had made with them was utterly dissolved—

Repeatedly are the two tables called "the tables of the covenant Deuteronomy 9:9; Deuteronomy 9:11; Deuteronomy 9:15;" because they contained the terms on which the Israelites were ultimately to find acceptance before God. But their idolatry was a direct violation of the very first precept of the decalogue, or rather an utter subversion of the whole: and as they had thus broken the covenant on their part, Moses by breaking the two tables declared it to be annulled on God's part. God now disclaimed all connection with them; and by calling them "your people," that is, Moses' people, he disowned them for his; and threatened to "blot out their name from under Heaven." All this was intimated, I say, by Moses, in this significant action. A similar mode of expressing the same idea was adopted by Jehovah in the days of the Prophet Zechariah He took two staves, one to represent the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; and the other, the ten tribes. These he brake, the one after the other, in order to show that as they were disjoined from each other, so they should henceforth be separated from him also, and that "his covenant with them" both was dissolved Zechariah 11:7; Zechariah 11:10; Zechariah 11:14. Thus far then, we apprehend, the import of this expressive action is clear.

The further light which I shall endeavor to throw upon it, though not so clear to a superficial observer, will to a well-instructed mind approve itself to be both just and important.

It further imports then,

2. That that mode of covenanting with God was from that time forever closed—

This, I grant, does not at first sight appear; though it may be inferred from the very circumstance of the same law being afterwards given in a different way. This mode of conveying such instruction repeatedly occurs in the Holy Scriptures. The Prophet Jeremiah tells the Jews that God would "make a new covenant with them;" from whence Paul infers that the covenant under which they lived, was old, and "ready to vanish away Jeremiah 31:31 with Hebrews 8:13." The Prophet Haggai speaks of God "shaking once more the heavens and the earth:" and this Paul interprets as an utter removal of the Jewish dispensation, that "the things which could not be shaken," the Christian dispensation, "might remain Hag. 2:6 with Hebrews 12:26-27." Now if these apparently incidental words conveyed so much, what must have been intended by that action, an action which, in point of singularity, yields not to any within the whole compass of the sacred records?

But is this view of the subject confirmed by any further evidence? I answer, Yes; it is agreeable to the whole scope of the inspired volume. Throughout the New Testament we have this truth continually and most forcibly inculcated, that the law, having been once broken, can never justify: that, while under it, we are, and ever must be, under a curse: and therefore we must be dead to it, and renounce all hope of acceptance by it. And the breaking of the tables before their eyes was in effect like the driving of our first parents out of Paradise, and the preventing of their return to it by the menaces of a flaming sword. The tree of life which was to them in their state of innocence a pledge of eternal life, was no longer such when they had fallen: and therefore God in mercy prohibited their access to it, in order that they might be shut up to that way of reconciliation which God had provided for them in the promised seed. And thus did Moses by this significant action cut off from the Jews all hope of return to God by that covenant which they had broken, and shut them up to that other, and better, covenant, which God was about to shadow forth to them.

But the chief mystery lies in,

II. The manner in which they were replaced—

Moses, having by his intercession obtained forgiveness for the people, was ordered to prepare tables of stone similar to those which he had broken, and to carry them up to the mount, that God might write upon them with his own finger a fresh copy of the law. He was ordered also to make an ark, in which to deposit the tables when so inscribed. Now what was the scope and intent of these directions? Truly they were of pre-eminent importance, and were intended to convey the most valuable instruction. Mark,

1. The renewing of the tables which had been broken—

This intimated that God was reconciled towards them, and was still willing to take them as his people, and to give himself to them as their God. The very first words of the Law thus given said to them, "I am the Lord your God." So that on this part of the subject it is unnecessary to dwell.

2. The putting of them, when so renewed, into an ark—

Christ is that ark into which the law was put. To him it was committed, in order that he might fulfill it for us. He was made under the law for this express end Galatians 4:4-5; and he has fulfilled it in all its parts; enduring all its penalties, and obeying all its precepts Galatians 3:13-14; Philippians 2:8. This he was appointed of God to do: the law was put into his heart on purpose that he might do it Psalm 40:8; and having done it, he is "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes Romans 10:4." Hence we are enabled to view the law without fear, and to hear it without trembling. Now we can contemplate its utmost requirements, and see that it has been satisfied in its highest demands. We can now even found our hopes upon it; not as obeyed by us; but as obeyed by our surety and substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ; by whose obedience it has been more magnified than it has ever been dishonored by our disobedience. It is no longer now a "ministration of death and condemnation 2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:9," but a source of life to those who plead the sacrifice and obedience of Jesus Christ. In this view the law itself, no less than the prophets, bears, testimony to Christ Romans 3:21-22, and declares that, through his righteousness, God can be "a just God, and yet a Savior Isaiah 45:21," "just, and yet the justifier of all them that believe Romans 3:26." This is the great mystery which the angels so much admire, and which they are ever endeavoring to look into Carefully compare Exodus 25:17-20 with 1 Peter 1:12.

If it appear strange that so much should be intimated in so small a matter, let us only consider what we know assuredly to have been intimated in an occurrence equally insignificant, which took place at the very same time. When Moses came down with these tables in his hand, his face shined so bright that the people were unable to approach him; and he was constrained to put a veil upon his face in order that they might have access to him to hear his instructions Exodus 34:29-35. This denoted their incapacity to comprehend the law, until Christ should come to remove the veil from their hearts 2 Corinthians 3:13-16. And precisely in the same manner the putting of the law into the ark denoted the incapacity of man to receive it at it is in itself, and the necessity of viewing it only as fulfilled in Christ. "Through the law" itself which denounces such curses Galatians 2:19, and "through the body of Christ" which sustained those curses Romans 7:4, we must be "dead to the law," and have no hope whatever towards God but in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ Galatians 2:15-16; Philippians 3:9, who, in consequence of obeying its precepts and enduring its penalties, is to be called by every child of man, "The Lord our Righteousness."

3. The preparing the tables on which the law was written—

The first tables were prepared by God himself: but, when they were broken, and to be renewed, Moses was ordered to prepare the tables, and carry them up to the mount, that they might there have the law inscribed upon them by God himself. Commentators have suggested that this was intended to intimate, that though God alone could write the law on the heart, means were to be used for that end by people for themselves, and by ministers in their behalf. But I rather gather from it a deeper and more important lesson, namely, that notwithstanding the law was fulfilled for us by Christ, we must seek to have it inscribed on our stony hearts; and that, if we go up with them to the mount of God from time to time for that end, God will write his law there. I the rather believe this to be the true meaning, because our deadness to the law as a covenant of works is continually associated with a delight in it as a rule of life See Galatians 2:19 and Romans 7:4 before cited; and because the writing of the law upon our hearts is the great distinguishing promise of the New Covenant Jeremiah 31:31-33 with Hebrews 8:8-10. In this view the direction respecting the tables is very instructive, seeing that it unites what can never be separated, a "hope in Christ" as the only Savior of the world, and a "purifying of the heart as he is pure 1 John 3:3."

Improvement—

1. Let us be thankful that the law is given to us in this mitigated form—

The law is the same as ever: not a jot or tittle of it was altered, or ever can be: it is as immutable as God himself Matthew 5:17-18. But as given on Mount Sinai, it was "a fiery law;" and so terrible, that the people could not endure it; and "even Moses himself said, I exceedingly fear and quake Hebrews 12:19-21." But in the ark, Christ Jesus, its terrors are abated: yes, to those who believe in him, it has no terror at all: its demands are satisfied in their behalf, and its penalties sustained: and, on it, as fulfilled in him, they found their claims of everlasting life Isaiah 45:24. It must never be forgotten, that the mercy-seat was of the same dimensions with the ark; and to all who are in Christ Jesus does the mercy of God extend Exodus 25:10; Exodus 25:21-22. Mark the promise in verse 22. If we look to the law as fulfilled in and by the Lord Jesus Christ, we have nothing to fear: "we are no longer under the law, but under grace Romans 6:14;" and "there is no condemnation to us Romans 8:1." "Only let us rely on him as having effected everything for us Romans 8:34, and all that he possesses shall be ours 1 Corinthians 3:21-23."

2. Let us seek to have it visibly written upon our hearts—

None but God can write it there: our stony hearts are harder than adamant. Nevertheless, if we go up to God in the holy mount, "he will take away from us the heart of stone, and give us a heart of flesh Ezekiel 36:26;" and then "on the fleshly tables of our heart" will he write his perfect law 2 Corinthians 3:2-3. O blessed privilege! Beloved Brethren, let us covet it, and seek it night and day. Only think, what a change will take place in you when this is wrought! What a luster will be diffused over your very countenance Exodus 34:29-30. Yes truly, all who then behold you shall "take knowledge of you that you have been with Jesus," and "confess, that God is with you of a truth." Despair not, any of you: though you have turned from God to the basest idolatry, yet has your great Advocate and Intercessor prevailed for you to remove the curses of the broken law, and to restore you to the favor of your offended God. Bring me up, says God, your hearts of stone, and I will so inscribe my law upon them, that "you shall never more depart from me, nor will I ever more depart from you Jeremiah 32:38-41." Brethren, obey the call without delay: lose not a single hour. Hasten into the presence of your God; and there abide with him, until he has granted your request. So shall "you be God's people, and he shall be your God, forever and ever Jeremiah 32:38-41."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 10:12-13

 

DISCOURSE 201

REASONABLENESS AND EXCELLENCY OF GOD'S COMMANDS

Deuteronomy 10:12-13. And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command you this day for your good?

PECULIAR seasons call for the exercise of peculiar duties. A new era was just opening upon the Hebrews, at the time when this address to them was delivered. They had, by the worshiping of the golden calf, entirely annulled the covenant which God had made with them, and had subjected themselves to his heavy displeasure. But, at the intercession of Moses, God had graciously renewed his covenant with them, by giving them again a copy of that Law which they had broken, and by committing them again to the care of Moses, whom he had appointed to conduct them to the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, Moses called on them to renew their solemn dedication of themselves to God, according to the tenor of those commandments which he had given them.

Somewhat of a similar era has commenced to us this day This supposes that the subject is used on New-Year's Day. Many have been our offences in the past year: and God might have justly cast us off, and abandoned us to utter ruin. But he is now renewing to us his tender mercies: and may, therefore, justly call upon us to renew our surrender of ourselves to his service.

The words which I have just read to you will lead me to point out,

I. What God requires from us—

Israel had been redeemed from Egypt, and were regarded as a peculiar people unto the Lord. And such is our state. We have been redeemed from a far sorer bondage, by the blood of God's only dear Son; and by the very name we bear, we profess ourselves the followers of Christ, and the servants of the living God. Our duty, then, is "to serve our God," and to serve him in the very way prescribed in our text. We must serve him,

1. With reverential fear—

Never for a moment must we forget that we are sinners, deserving of God's wrath and indignation. The circumstance of our having been forgiven by him, so far from removing all occasion for reverential fear, is rather a reason for the augmentation of it. We should "loath ourselves the more because our God is pacified towards us Ezekiel 16:63;" for his very mercy shows how basely we have acted, in sinning against so good a God. If the glorified saints in Heaven fall upon their faces before the throne, while yet they are singing praises to God and to the Lamb, much more should we on earth, who have yet so much corruption to mourn over, and so many evils to deplore. As for that kind of experience which some think to be warranted by their views of God's faithfulness to his promises, and which others derive from a conceit of their own sinless perfection, (I mean, that confidence, on the one hand, which is divested of fear; and that familiarity, on the other hand, which is not tempered with contrition,) I cannot but regard it as most delusive and dangerous. It would be well, too, if some, who are not carried to these extremes of doctrinal error be not equally defective, through a captious abhorrence of all forms in external discipline and deportment. Many, from a zeal against what they are pleased to designate as Popish superstition, conduct themselves with sad irreverence in the worship of the Most High: and, if they feel not already a contempt for the Majesty of Heaven, sure I am that they take the most effectual means to generate it in their hearts. Men, as sinners, should lie low in the dust before God: and though, as redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ, they are to put away slavish fear, they are never for a moment to divest themselves of that fear which is filial, but to "walk in the fear of the Lord all the day long."

2. With ardent love—

A filial fear will not in the least degree impede the exercise of love; but will temper it with a becoming modesty and care. Blended with fear, it cannot possibly be too ardent. We should so "love our God, as to serve him with all our heart and with all our soul." In truth, without love, our obedience, however exact, would be nothing worth. Love is the crown of all. Even among men, it is love which constitutes the essence of every acceptable service. We value not the efforts of friends by their intrinsic worth, so much as by the measure of affection displayed in them: and much more is this the standard by which the Almighty will try, and estimate, our services to him. It was this which rendered the widow's mite a more acceptable offering to God, than all the treasures of the opulent: and if only we give our whole souls to God, the very disposition to glorify him shall be equivalent to the act. We may not be able to do great things for him: but, if we have the desire, he will accept it, and say, "You did well, in that it was in your heart."

3. With unreserved fidelity—

There is to be no limit to our obedience; no line beyond which we will not go, if God call us. "No commandment is to be considered as grievous 1 John 5:3;" nor is anything to be regarded as "a hard saying John 6:60." We are to "walk in all God's ways," obeying every commandment "without partiality and without hypocrisy." We are to "do his will on earth, even as it is done in Heaven." Of the angels we are told, that "they do God's will, hearkening to the voice of his word." They look for the very first intimation of his will, and fly to execute it with all their might. They never for a moment consider what bearing the command may have on their own personal concerns: they find all their happiness in fulfilling the divine will. And this should be the state of our minds also: it should be "our meat and our drink to do the will of Him that sent us." And, if suffering be the recompense allotted us, we should "rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for His sake." Even life itself should not be dear to us in comparison of His honor; and we should be ready to lay it down, at any time, and in any way, that the sacrifice may be demanded of us.

The text will lead me to show you further,

II. The reasonableness and excellency of his requirements:—

That they are reasonable, is evident from the appeal which Moses makes respecting them—

Two things are intimated in this appeal to Israel; the one, that these things were required of them; the other, that the requisitions were such as they could not but approve. If they only considered themselves as God's creatures, they could not but acknowledge that these services were due to him: but when they viewed the mercies that had been given unto them, and the blessings which God had yet further in reserve for them, they could not doubt God's right to every return which it was in their power to make. How much stronger his claim is to our obedience, must be obvious to every considerate mind. Think of yourselves, Brethren, as redeemed from death and Hell by the blood of God's only dear Son, and then say whether you are not bound to love and serve him with your whole hearts. Think how mercifully God has borne with your transgressions hitherto, (for you have been a stiff-necked people, even as Israel of old were:) think how your every want is still supplied, not only for the body, as theirs was, but for the soul, by the bread of life sent down from Heaven, and by water from Christ Jesus, the stricken rock: think how mercifully God has committed you to the guidance of his own Son; and to what a glorious land he is leading you, even "a land flowing with milk and honey." Can you, in the contemplation of these things, doubt whether the entire surrender of your souls to God be "a reasonable service Romans 12:1." Or rather say, whether the smallest wish to reduce or limit His claims would not be the most unreasonable thing that could enter into your minds?

But the excellency of them also is equally apparent—

Every command of God is given us "for our good." There is not one which has not a direct tendency to make us happy. If they require us to subdue and mortify our indwelling corruptions, what is this, but to heal the diseases of our souls, and to restore us to the image of our God? If they require us to love and serve our God, what is this, but to bring us, so far as they are obeyed, to a foretaste of our heavenly inheritance? Who ever found an evil issuing out of a conformity to God's holy will? If it has brought a cross upon us, who has not found that very cross an occasion and a ground of more exalted joy? Were present happiness alone consulted, there is nothing in the universe that can advance it like the service of our God: but, if the future state be considered, and the augmented weight of glory which shall be accorded to us in proportion to our services, we may well say, that every command of God is good, and that "in keeping his commandments there is great reward."

Let me now address you, brethren, in a way,

1. Of faithful reproof—

You all profess yourselves to be the "Israel" of God; and are convinced that your obligations to Jehovah are as much superior to those of the Jews, as your redemption and your destination are superior to theirs. But how have you requited the Lord? Oh! compare your lives with what has been, before spoken, and with what you cannot but acknowledge to have been your bounden duty. Which of you, in the retrospect, has not reason to blush and be ashamed? And as for the generality among us, is there not just ground to utter against them that complaint of the Prophet Jeremiah, "This thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people: and walk you in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imaginations of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward Jeremiah 7:23-24." In truth, this is but too faithful a picture of the generality among us. And what can be expected, but that God's wrath should break forth to the uttermost against such a sinful and rebellious generation?

Let me then add a word,

2. Of affectionate admonition—

"I call Heaven and earth to record this day against you all, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that you may live Deuteronomy 30:19-20." You cannot but acknowledge that everything which God requires of you is both good in itself, and conducive to your greatest good. "Observe, then, to do as the Lord your God has commanded you: you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left Deuteronomy 5:32." You surely have every inducement to serve God that your hearts can wish. Oh, be not stiff-necked: be not like that faithless generation, respecting whom "God swore, in his wrath, that they should never enter into his rest:" but "today, while it is called today," devote yourselves altogether to His service! And "then shall you not be ashamed, when you have respect unto all his commandments Psalm 119:6."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 10:14-16

 

DISCOURSE 202

THE ELECTING LOVE OF GOD AN INCENTIVE TO HOLINESS

Deuteronomy 10:14-16. Behold, the Heaven and the Heaven of heavens is the Lord's your God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight in your fathers to love them; and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.

THE true tendency of religion is marked in the words preceding our text. Under the Christian, no less than under the Jewish dispensation, it is altogether practical; so that in every age of the Church we may adopt that appeal of Moses, "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command you this day for your good?" But we must not in our zeal for morals overlook those principles which alone have efficacy to produce them. The principles which call forth our hopes and our fears, have necessarily a powerful effect on our conduct: but a more refined operation is derived from those principles which excite our love and gratitude. The electing love of God, for instance, when brought home with a personal application to the soul, has a constraining influence, which nothing can resist. Hence Moses so often reminds the Israelites of their peculiar obligations to God, such as no other people from the beginning of the world could ever boast of: and takes occasion from those distinguishing favors to urge them the more powerfully to devote themselves to his service. What he considered as their duty we have already noticed: his mode of urging them to perform it comes now to be more particularly considered: "The Lord had a delight in your fathers, etc; circumcise therefore, etc."

From these words we shall show,

I. That God's people are brought into that relation to him, not by any merits of their own, but solely in consequence of his electing love—

The whole universe, both "the heavens and the earth," is the Lord's: it owes its existence to his all-creating power; and it is altogether at his disposal. He has the same power over it as the potter has over the clay: and, if it had pleased him to mar, or to annihilate, any part of the creation, as soon as he had formed it, he had a right to do so.

But, while he has the same right over all his intelligent creatures, he has seen fit to bring some, and some only, into a nearer connection with himself.

Into this state he brings them of his own sovereign will and pleasure—

Abraham was an idolater, as all his family were, when God first called him by his grace; nor had he any more claim to the blessings promised him, than any other person whatever. Isaac was appointed to be the channel of these blessings in preference to Ishmael, long before he was born into the world: and Jacob also the younger was chosen before Esau the elder, "even while they were both yet in the womb, and consequently had done neither good nor evil." His posterity too was chosen to inherit the promised blessings. And why were they chosen? Was it for their superior goodness either seen or foreseen? It could not be for anything seen; for they were yet unborn when the blessings were promised to them: and it could not be for anything foreseen, for they proved a rebellious and stiff-necked people from the very first Deuteronomy 9:13; Deuteronomy 9:24. The selection of them can be traced to nothing but to God's sovereign will and pleasure Deuteronomy 7:6-8.

In every age he has done the same. Those who love and serve God have always been a remnant only: but they have been "a remnant according to the election of grace." All true believers at this day, as well as in the apostolic age, must acknowledge, that "God has called them, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began 2 Timothy 1:9." It is "to the good pleasure of his will," and not to anything in themselves, that they must ascribe the gift of their spiritual privileges, and spiritual attainments. No one of them can say, that he "made himself to differ," or that he possesses "anything which he has not received." All that even the most eminent saints possess is a free unmerited gift from God.

Moreover, in this exercise of his sovereign will and pleasure, he gives no just occasion of complaint to any—

This exercise of his sovereignty is condemned by many, as being an act of injustice; since to choose some and to leave others gives to the chosen a preference which they do not deserve. But it must be remembered, that none had any claim upon God: and, if we had all been left, like the fallen angels, to endure the full consequences of our transgression, God would still have been holy and just and good: and, if for his own glory he has decreed to rescue any from destruction, he does no injury to any, nor is accountable to any for this display of his grace.

I well know that this doctrine is controverted by many. But the very persons who deny the doctrine of election, as applied to individuals, are constrained to acknowledge it in reference to nations. But where is the difference? if it is unjust in the one case, it is unjust in the other: if it is unjust to elect any to salvation, it is unjust to elect them to the means of salvation; those from whom he withholds the means, have the same ground of complaint as those from whom he withholds the end. It is nothing to say, that the injury is lees in the one case than in the other: for if it be injurious at all, God would never have done it: but if it be not injurious at all, then does all opposition to the doctrine fall to the ground. The principle must be conceded or denied altogether. Denied it cannot be, because it is an unquestionable feet that God has exercised his sovereignly, and does still exercise it, in instances without number: and, if it be conceded, then is the objector silenced; and he must admit that God has a right to do what he will with his own.

Perhaps it may be said that election is, and has always been, conditional. But this is not true. As far as related to the possession of Canaan, the election of the Jews might be said to be conditional: but on what conditions was the election of Abraham, or of Isaac, or of Jacob, suspended? On what was the election of their posterity to the means of salvation suspended? On what conditions has God chosen us to enjoy the sound of the Gospel, in preference to millions of heathens, who have never been blessed with the light of revelation? The truth is, we know nothing of the doctrines of grace but as God has revealed them: and his choice of some to salvation now stands on the very same authority as his choice of others to the means of salvation in the days of old. If such an exercise of sovereignty was wrong then, it is wrong now: if it was right then, it is right now: and if it was right in respect to nations, it cannot be wrong in reference to individuals. The same principle which vindicates or condemns it in the one case, must hold good in the other also. The extent of the benefits conferred cannot change the nature of the act that confers them: it may cause the measure of good or evil that is in the act to vary: but the intrinsic quality of the act must in either case remain the same.

That this doctrine may not appear injurious to morality, I proceed to observe,

II. That the circumstance of God's exercising this sovereignty is so far from weakening our obligation to good works, that it binds us the more strongly to the performance of them. Moses says, "God has chosen you;" "circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart." Here observe,

1. The duty enjoined—

We are all by nature a rebellious and stiff-necked people. We wonder at the conduct of the Israelites in the wilderness: but in that we may see a perfect image of our own: we have not been obedient to God's revealed will. We have been alike rebellious, whether loaded with mercies, or visited with judgments. Light and easy as the yoke of Christ is, we have not taken it upon us, but have lived to the flesh and not to the Spirit, to ourselves, and not unto our God. But we must no longer proceed in this impious career: it is high time that we cast away the weapons of our rebellion, and humble ourselves before God. We must "be no more stiff-necked," but humble, penitent, obedient. Nor is it an outward obedience only that we must render to our God; we must "circumcise the foreskin of our hearts," mortifying every corrupt propensity, and "crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts." It must not be grievous to us to part with sin, however painful may be the act of cutting it off: we must cut off a right hand, and pluck out a right eye, and retain nothing that is displeasing to our God. There is no measure of holiness with which we should be satisfied: we should seek to "be pure even as Christ himself is pure," and to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."

2. The motive to the performance of it—

To this duty the Jews are urged by the consideration of God's electing love, and of the distinguishing favors which he of his own sovereign grace and mercy had given unto them.

And what more powerful motive could Moses urge than this? It was not to make them happy in a way of sin that God had chosen them, but to make them "a holy nation, a peculiar people, zealous of good works:" and, if they did not follow after universal holiness, they would counteract the designs of his providence and grace. They would deprive themselves also of the blessings provided for them. For it was only in the way of obedience that God could ever finally accept them. And thus it is with us also: we are "chosen unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them:" and it is only "by a patient continuance in well-doing that we can ever attain eternal life." We are "chosen to salvation," it is true; but it is "through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:" and it is in that way only that we can ever attain the end.

But there is another view in which the consideration of God's electing love should operate powerfully on our hearts to the production of universal holiness; namely, by filling our souls with lively gratitude to him, and an ardent desire to requite him in the way that he himself directs. There is nothing under Heaven that can constrain a pious soul like a sense of redeeming love. Let any one that has been "brought out of darkness into the marvelous light of the Gospel, and been turned from the power of Satan unto God," look around him, and see how many, not of heathens only, but of professed Christians also, are yet in the darkness of nature and the bonds of sin; and then let him recollect who it is that has made him to differ both from them and from his former self; and will not that make him cry out, "What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits he has done unto me?" Yes, that view of his obligations to God will so inflame and penetrate his soul, that its utmost energies will from thenceforth be employed in honoring his adorable Benefactor.

This we say is the true and proper tendency of the doctrine in our text. The Jews, if they had justly appreciated the favors given to them, would have been the holiest of all people upon earth: and so will Christians be, if once they be sensible of the obligations conferred upon them by God's electing and redeeming love.

Improvement—

1. Let those who are zealous about duties, not be forgetful of their obligations—

It is frequently found that persons altogether hostile to all the doctrines of grace, profess a great regard for the interests of morality. I stop not at present to inquire how far their professions are realized in practice: all I intend, is, simply to suggest, that high and holy affections are necessary to all acceptable obedience; and that those affections can only be excited in us by a sense of our obligations to God. If we attempt to lessen those obligations, we weaken and paralyze our own exertions. If we have been forgiven much, we shall love much: if we have received much, we shall return the more. If then it be only for the sake of that morality about which you profess so much concern, we would say to the moralist, Search into the mysteries of sovereign grace, and of redeeming love. If without the knowledge of them you may walk to a certain degree uprightly, you can never soar into the regions of love and peace and joy: your obedience will be rather that of a servant, than a son; and you will never acquire that delight in God, which is the duty and privilege of the believing soul.

2. Let those who boast of their obligations to God not be inattentive to their duties—

They who "cry, Lord, Lord, and neglect to do the things which he commands," miserably deceive their own souls. And it must be confessed that such self-deceivers do exist, and ever have existed in the Church of God. But let those who glory in the deeper doctrines of religion bear in mind, that nothing can supersede an observance of its duties: for "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God Romans 2:28-29." That is a solemn admonition which God has given to us all: "Circumcise yourselves unto the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, you men of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it Jeremiah 4:4." It is not by our professions, but by our practice, that we shall be judged in the last day. We May say to our Lord in the last day, that we have not only gloried in him, but "in his name done many wonderful works;" yet will he say to us, "Depart from me, I never knew you," if we shall then be found to have been workers of iniquity. To all then who account themselves the elect of God, I say, Let the truth of your principles be seen in the excellence of your works: and, as you profess to be more indebted to God than others, let the heavenliness of your minds and the holiness of your lives be proportionably sublime and manifest: for it is in this way only that you can approve yourselves to God, or justify your professions in the sight of man.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 11:18-21

 

DISCOURSE 203

THE SCRIPTURES RECOMMENDED TO US

Deuteronomy 11:18-21. Therefore shall you lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall teach them your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them upon the door-posts of your house, and upon your gates: that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord swore unto your fathers to give them, as the days of Heaven upon the earth.

TO have the holy oracles in our hands is one of the greatest advantages that we enjoy above the heathen Romans 3:2; a due improvement of them therefore will be expected of us. The Jews, who were in like manner distinguished above all other nations upon earth, were required to show the most affectionate, obediential regard to the writings of Moses. But the injunctions given to them with respect to the revelation they possessed, are still more obligatory on us, who have the sacred canon completed, and, by the superior light of the New Testament, are enabled to enter more fully into its mysterious import.

The words which we have just read, point out to us,

I. Our duty with respect to the word of God—

A revelation from Heaven cannot but demand our most serious attention—

1. We should treasure it up in our hearts—

It is not sufficient to study the Scriptures merely as we read other books; we must search into them for hid treasures Proverbs 2:1-4, and lay up "in our hearts," yes, in our inmost "souls," the glorious truths which they unfold to our view; and be careful never to let them slip Hebrews 2:1. They should be our delight, and our meditation all the day Psalm 119:92; Psalm 119:97.

2. We should make it a frequent subject of our conversation—

It is to be regretted that there is no other subject so universally proscribed and banished, as that of religion. But, if we loved God as we ought, we could not but love to speak of his word, that word which is our light in this dark world, and the one foundation of all our hopes. When Moses and Elijah came from Heaven to converse with our Lord, the prophecies relating to the sufferings and glory of Christ were their one topic of discourse Luke 9:30-31. Thus at all times and places should our conversation be seasoned with salt Colossians 4:6, and tend to the use of edifying Ephesians 4:29. If it were thus with us, God would listen to us with approbation Malachi 3:16-17, and Jesus would often come and unite himself to our company Luke 24:14-15.

3. We should bring it on all occasions to our remembrance—

The Jews, putting a literal construction on the passage before us, wrote portions of God's word on scraps of parchment, and wore them as bracelets on their wrists, and as frontlets on their heads. But we shall more truly answer the end of this commandment by consulting the Scriptures on all occasions as our sure and only guide, and making them (N.B.) the one rule of our faith and practice. There are many general precepts and promises which we should have continually in view, as much as if they were fixed on our doors and gates; which also, as if fastened on our foreheads and our hands, should both direct our way, and regulate our actions.

4. We should instruct the rising generation in the knowledge of it—

All are solicitous to teach their children some business, whereby they may provide a maintenance for their bodies: and should we not endeavor to instruct them in the things relating to their souls? Abraham was particularly commended for his care with respect to this Genesis 18:19; and the injunction in the text, confirmed by many other passages Exodus 13:8; Exodus 13:14-16; Psalm 78:5-8, requires that we should "diligently" perform this duty. Nor should we imagine that the mere teaching of children to repeat a catechism will suffice: we should open to them all the wonders of redemption, and endeavor to cast their minds, as it were, into the very mold of the Gospel.

In the close of the text we are directed to bear in mind,

II. Our encouragement to fulfill this duty—

This sincere love to the Scriptures will be productive of the greatest good:

1. It will tend greatly to our present happiness—

A peaceful enjoyment of the promised land, and of all the good things of this life, was held forth to the Jews as the reward of their obedience: but we are taught rather to look forward to the possession of a better country, that is, an heavenly. Nevertheless, "godliness has at this time also the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come 1 Timothy 4:8;" and therefore we may properly consider the present benefits arising from a due attention to the Scriptures. Suppose then that the blessed word of God were regarded by us as it ought to be, that it engaged our affections, entered into our conversation, regulated our conduct, and were instilled into the minds of the rising generation, would not much light, obscene, and impious discourse be suppressed? Would not sin of every kind receive a beneficial check? Would not many of the diseases, the troubles, the feuds, and the miseries that result from sin, be prevented? Would not many of the judgments of God which now desolate the earth, the wars, the famines, the pestilences, be removed verse 13–17. Would not, in numberless instances, knowledge be diffused, consolation administered, and virtue called forth into act and exercise? Would not our children, as they grow up, reap the benefit of such examples Proverbs 22:6. Let any one judge impartially, and say, whether a due regard to the Scriptures would not greatly meliorate the state of society, and of every individual, in proportion as his life was conformed to them Psalm 19:11.

2. It will secure an inheritance beyond the grave—

The earthly Canaan was typical of Heaven; when therefore we see the possession of that good land promised to the Jews, we must, in applying the promises to ourselves, raise our views to the Canaan that is above. Now what are the means which God has prescribed for the securing of that glorious inheritance? Certainly an attention to the Scriptures is that one mean, without which we never can attain to happiness, and in the use of which we cannot but attain it. It is by the Scriptures that God quickens us Psalm 19:7-8; Psalm 119:50, and brings us first into his family James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23. See also Acts 8:28-39. It is by them that he directs our way Psalm 119:105, and keeps our feet Psalm 119:9; Psalm 119:11; Psalm 37:31, and sanctifies our hearts Ephesians 5:26, and makes us wise unto salvation 2 Timothy 3:15, and gives us a very "Heaven upon earth."

And shall not the hope of such benefits allure us? When we have eternal life in the Scriptures, shall we not search them John 5:39, yes, and meditate upon them day and night Psalm 1:2. Let then the word be sweeter to us than honey or the honey-comb Psalm 19:10, and be esteemed by us more than our necessary food Job 23:12. If this were the subject of a Sermon for Sunday Schools, or Charity Schools, or the distribution of Bibles and religious tracts, an Application, suited to the occasion, should be added.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 11:26-28

 

DISCOURSE 204

THE GREAT ALTERNATIVE

Deuteronomy 11:26-28. Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day; and a curse, if you will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God.

ON whatever occasion these words had been spoken, they must have appeared most weighty, and most important: but, as the parting address of Moses to the whole nation of Israel, when he was about to be withdrawn from them, they have a force and emphasis that can scarcely be exceeded. Imagine the aged servant of Jehovah, who, forty years before, had delivered to their fathers the law written with the finger of God, and who had lived to see the utter extinction of that rebellious generation for their transgressions against it; imagine him, I say, now affectionately warning this new generation, with all the solicitude of a father, and all the fidelity of one who was about to give up an immediate account of his stewardship. In this view, the words inspire us with solemn awe, and impress us with a fearful sense of our responsibility to God. May God accompany them with a divine energy to our souls, while we consider,

I. The awful alternative proposed to us—

As addressed to the Jews, these words may be understood as containing the terms of their national covenant, in which the blessings promised them depended on their obedience to the divine commands. But if we enter fully into the subject, we shall find it replete with instruction to us also, especially as exhibiting to our view the Christian covenant. Let us consider,

1. The fuller explanation which Moses himself gave of this alternative—

The blessing and the curse are more fully stated in the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth chapters of this book. But to what is the blessing annexed? to an unreserved obedience to all God's commandments Deuteronomy 28:1. And against what is the curse denounced? not only against some particular and more flagrant transgressions Deuteronomy 27:15-25, but against any single deviation from the law of God, however small, however inadvertent Deuteronomy 27:26; and all the people were required to give their consent to these terms, acknowledging the justice of them, and professing their willingness to be dealt with according to them Deuteronomy 27:26. Now, I ask, who could obtain salvation on such terms as these? who could even venture to indulge a hope of ultimate acceptance with his God? It is obvious, that according to these terms the whole human race must perish. But was this the design of God in publishing such a covenant? Did he intend to mock his creatures with offers of mercy on terms which it was impossible to perform, and then to require of them a public acknowledgment of their approbation of them? No: he intended at this very time to show them their need of a better covenant, and, in reality, to point out that very covenant for their acceptance. He intended to show them, that, however in their national capacity they might secure a continuance of his favor by an observance of his commands, they could never attain eternal blessedness in such a way: they must look to their Messiah for the removal of the curses, which, according to their own acknowledgment, they merited; and obtain through him those blessings, which they would in vain attempt to earn by any merits of their own.

That this is the true scope of those chapters, will appear from the light thrown upon them by Paul; who quotes the very words of Moses which we have been considering, and declares, that, according to them, every human being is under a curse, and is therefore necessitated to look to Christ who became a "curse" for us, and to expect a "blessing" through him alone Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:13-14.

But this will receive additional light by considering,

2. The peculiar circumstances attending the publication of it—

It was particularly commanded by Moses, that as soon as that portion of the promised land on which Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim stood should be subdued, an altar of whole stones should be erected to the Lord; that it should be plastered over; that the law should be written in very large and legible characters upon it; that burnt-offerings and peace-offerings should be offered upon it; that the terms of the covenant should be recited in the hearing of all the people; that the blessings should be pronounced on Mount Gerizim, and the curses on Mount Ebal; and that all the people should give their public assent to the whole and every part of that covenant Deuteronomy 27:2-8.

Now, while this command was a pledge to the people of their future success, it was an intimation to them, that the work of covenanting with God should take precedence of every other; and that, whatever were their occupations, whatever their difficulties, they must on no account forget to serve and honor God. Accordingly, as soon as Joshua had conquered Jericho and Ai, and had obtained possession of that spot of ground, notwithstanding he was surrounded by enemies on every side, he convoked the people, and complied with the divine command in every respect: "there was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel Jos. 8:30-35."

But why were these burnt-offerings to be offered on the occasion? and how could the people "eat their peace-offerings there, and rejoice before the Lord Deuteronomy 27:7." Methinks, if they were ratifying a covenant by which they could never obtain a blessing, and by which they must perish under a curse, there was little reason to "rejoice." But these burnt-offerings were to direct their attention to the great sacrifice, by which all their curses should be removed, and all the blessings of salvation be secured to them. In the view of that great sacrifice, they might hear all the curses published, and feel no cause of dread or apprehension: in the view of that sacrifice, they might contemplate the imperfections of their obedience without despondency; yes, they might "eat their peace-offerings" in token of their acceptance with God, and might "rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and glorified." By this sacrifice they were taught, not to confine their views to the Law, but to extend them to the Gospel: and, in the terms to which they assented, they were taught to include obedience to the Gospel 2 Thessalonians. 1:8, even to that great "commandment of God, which enjoins us to believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ John 6:29 and 1 John 3:23." To this we also may assent; yes, to this we must assent: and we now set before you the blessing and the curse; we now propose to you the great alternative: If you will obey the commandments of the Lord, believing in his only dear Son as the only ground of your hopes, and, from a sense of love to him, endeavoring unreservedly to fulfill his will, we promise you, in the name of Almighty God, a fullness of all spiritual and eternal blessings: but, if you will not thus obey his commandments, we declare to you, that the curse of God shall rest upon your souls in time and in eternity.

Such being the alternative proposed to us, we would set before you,

II. Some reflections arising from it—

We cannot but notice from hence,

1. That ministers must faithfully execute their high office—

It was not from a want of tenderness that Moses thus faithfully declared the whole counsel of God, but because his duly to God, and to the people also, constrained him to declare it: and there is something peculiarly instructive in the directions he gave respecting the delivery of the blessing and the curse from the two contiguous mounts. Six of the tribes were to be stationed on the one mount, and six on the other: those who were born of the free-women, were to be on Mount Gerizim; and those who were of the bond-women, together with Reuben, who had been degraded, and Zebulun, the youngest of Lean's children, (to make the numbers equal,) were to be on Mount Ebal, from whence the curses were to proceed. The tribe of Levi then were, where we should expect to find them, on the side from whence the blessings were pronounced Deuteronomy 27:11-13. This showed, that, while the liberty of the Gospel led to true blessedness, it was the true end and scope of the ministry to make men blessed Deuteronomy 10:8; that is the delightful employment of the sons of Levi: the highest character of a pious minister is, to be "a helper of your joy." But it was ordered that some of the Levites should also be stationed on Mount Ebal to pronounce the curses Deuteronomy 27:14-15; because, however painful it may be to ministers to exhibit the terrors of the law, the necessities of men require it, and the duties of their office demand it. Let us not then be thought harsh, if on proper occasions we make known to you the dangers of disobedience: "a necessity is imposed upon us; and woe be to us if we decline" executing the commission we have received. We must "warn every man, as well as teach every man, if we would present every man perfect in Christ Jesus Colossians 1:28." It would be a more pleasing task to dwell only on the brighter side, and to speak to you only from Mount Gerizim; but we must occasionally stand also on Mount Ebal, and make you to hear the more awful part of the alternative which we are commissioned to propose. The message which we must deliver to every creature that is under Heaven, consists of these two parts, "He who believes and is baptized, shall be saved; and he who believes not, shall be damned."

2. That faith and works are equally necessary to our salvation, though on different grounds—

God forbid that for one moment we should attempt to lessen the importance and necessity of good works: they are indispensably necessary to our Salvation: they are as necessary under the Gospel, as under the law: the only difference is, that, according to the strict tenor of the law, they were the ground of our hope; whereas, under the Gospel, they are the fruits and evidences of our faith. To found our hopes of salvation on our obedience to the holy law of God, would, as we have before seen, cut off all possibility of salvation; because our obedience must be perfect, in order to secure the promised "blessing;" and every act of disobedience has entailed on us an everlasting "curse:" but, if we comprehend, in our views of obedience, an obedience to the Gospel; if we comprehend in it the trusting in Christ for salvation, and the free endeavors of the soul to serve and honor him; then we may adopt the words of our text, and address them confidently to every living man. But then we must not forget, that it is the atoning sacrifice of Christ that alone enables us to hear even such a proposal with any degree of comfort. We can no more yield a perfect obedience to the Gospel, than we could to the Law: our faith is imperfect, as well as our works: but, if we seek reconciliation with God through the death of his Son, we shall have peace with him, and may eat our peace-offering with confidence and joy. In our views of this subject, we need only set before our eyes that solemn transaction, to which we have referred: we shall there see, on what all the hopes of Israel were founded, namely, the sacrifice of Christ: we shall see at the same time, to what all Israel were bound, namely, a life of holy and unreserved obedience. It is precisely thus with ourselves; our obedience does not supersede the necessity of faith; nor does our faith set aside the necessity of obedience: one is the root, and the other is the fruit; one is the foundation, the other is the superstructure; one is the means of acceptance with God, the other is the means of honoring him and of adorning our holy profession.

3. That happiness or misery is the fruit of our own choice—

The very proposal of an alternative implies a choice: but this choice is yet intimated in a subsequent passage to the same effect Deuteronomy 30:15; Deuteronomy 30:19; nor can there be any doubt but that every man is called to make his election; and that his eternal state is fixed agreeably to the choice he makes. Not that we mean to set aside the election of God; for we know full well, that God's people are "a remnant according to the election of grace Romans 11:5;" and that "it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy Romans 9:15-16." Nevertheless, no man is brought to Heaven against his own will. He has felt the attractive influences of divine grace, and has been "made willing in the day of God's power Psalm 110:3." He is drawn indeed, but it is "with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love." On the other hand, no man is sentenced to misery, who has not first chosen the ways of sin. He perishes, not because God has "ordained him to wrath 1 Thessalonians. 5:9," but because "he will not come to Christ that he may have life John 5:40." Christ would gladly have "gathered him, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but he would not."

It may be said perhaps, that, while we thus attempt to vindicate the justice of God, we countenance the workings of pride in man. But we have no fear that any one who has been drawn by the Spirit of God, will ever ascribe his conversion to the operations of his own natural will: he will readily own, that "it is God, who of his own good pleasure has given him both to will and to do Philippians 2:13;" and that it is "by the grace of God he is what he is." On the other hand, all excuse is cut off from the ungodly: they must ever take the whole blame of their condemnation to themselves, and never presume to cast the least atom of it upon God.

Make you then your choice, beloved Brethren: we this day set before you life and death, a blessing and a curse: choose you therefore life, that your souls may live. God has declared that "he wills not the death of any sinner: therefore turn yourselves, and live you Ezekiel 18:32; Ezekiel 33:11." In his sacred name I promise to the righteous, that "it shall be well with him; but I denounce a woe unto the wicked, for it shall be ill with him, and the reward of his hands shall be given to him Isaiah 3:10-11."

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 12:23-25

 

DISCOURSE 205

THE PROHIBITION OF EATING BLOOD

Deuteronomy 12:23-25. Only be sure that you eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and you may not eat the life with the flesh: you shall not eat it; you shall pour it upon the earth as water: you shall not eat it, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you, when you shall do that which is right in the sight of the Lord.

THERE are many injunctions in the Mosaic law, which appear to have been given with more solemnity than their comparative importance demands: nor can we account for the stress laid upon them, but by supposing them to have had a typical reference. What is here said, for instance, respecting the eating of blood, if we consider it as intended only to give an oblique hint of the duties of humanity and self-denial, is delivered in a far more emphatical manner than we should expect such an intimation to be given: for though a plain precept relating to them might fitly be enjoined in the strongest terms, and enforced by the strongest sanctions, it is not to be conceived that the image by which they would be shadowed forth, should be made to assume such an important aspect. If we mark the force and energy with which the prohibition of eating blood is here repeated, we shall be well persuaded that it contains some deeper mystery, which demands our most attentive consideration. But as, from the strength of the expressions, we may be ready to imagine that it is still binding upon us, we feel it necessary to guard against that mistake; and shall therefore consider,

I. The prohibition given—

The manner in which it was given, must by no means be overlooked—

There is not in all the sacred volume any prohibition or command delivered more peremptorily than this. Four times it is repeated even in the short space of our text, "You may not eat of it; You shall not eat of it; Be sure you eat not of it." The frequency too with which it is received in the Scriptures is truly astonishing. When first the use of animals for food was permitted to Noah, the grant was accompanied with this restriction, "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall you not eat Genesis 9:3-4." By Moses the restriction is repeated again, and again Leviticus 3:16-17; Leviticus 7:26-27; Deuteronomy 15:23 and several other places. The sanctions with which it is enforced are also peculiarly awful. Not only was the prosperity of the people suspended on their obedience to this command See the text, but they were threatened with the most tremendous vengeance, if they should presume to violate it: "I will set my face against that soul that eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people Read attentively Leviticus 17:10-14." Even if they took in hunting or caught by any means a beast or bird, they must "pour its blood upon the earth as water, and cover it with dust Ibid;" and all these injunctions must be observed by all, by strangers and sojourners as well as natives. Now I ask, Would this prohibition have been so peremptorily Read attentively Leviticus 17:10-14. given, so frequently repeated, so solemnly enforced; would such particular directions have been added; and would they have been made so universally binding, if there had been nothing mysterious in this appointment?

We may be sure that the grounds of it are deserving of the deepest investigation—

We speak not of such grounds as might probably exist, such as those before referred to, namely, the promotion of humanity and self-denial, (though in both these views the prohibition may be considered as highly instructive;) but of those grounds which we know assuredly to have been the principal, if not the only, object of the institution.

We must remember, that offerings were by the divine appointment presented from time to time as an atonement for sin; that the blood of those offerings being, as it were, the life of the animals, was considered as exclusively prevailing for the remission of sins; and that on that very account it was poured out upon the altar, in token, that it was presented to God as an expiation for iniquity, and was accepted by him instead of the life of the offender.

We must remember also, that all these offerings had respect to the sacrifice of Christ, which was in due time to be offered for the sins of the whole world.

Now it was of infinite importance that the highest possible veneration should be instilled into the minds of men for the offerings which they presented to God; and that they should be deeply impressed with a consciousness of their mysterious reference to the sacrifice of Christ. But, if they had been permitted to eat of blood, this reverence would have quickly abated: whereas by the strictness of the prohibition, it was kept alive in their minds: and even their common meals were rendered an occasion of bringing to their recollection the use of blood in their offerings, and the efficacy of that blood which was at a future period to be poured out upon the cross.

Here then was a reason for the prohibition; a reason, which accounts at once for the strictness, the frequency, the vehemence, with which it was given, and for the tremendous sanctions with which it was enforced. Nothing could be unimportant that had such a reference: and the more insignificant the prohibited thing was in itself, the more need there was that all possible weight should be given to it by the manner of its prohibition.

But we shall not have a complete view of the subject, unless we consider,

II. The prohibition reversed—

It is reversed, as it relates to the use of blood—

To the first converts indeed it was enjoined, that they should abstain from the use of blood Acts 15:20; Acts 15:29, no less than from fornication itself: and hence it has been supposed that there was a moral evil in the one, as well as in the other; and that, consequently, the prohibition still equally exists against both. But this is by no means the case. There was a necessity at that time to prohibit fornication, because the Gentile converts, who had been habituated from their youth to regard it as allowable, and in some instances even to practice it in their idolatrous worship, were still in a great measure insensible of its moral turpitude. They therefore needed to be more clearly informed respecting that sin, and to be cautioned against it: while we, having been educated with clearer views and better habits, are well aware of the sinfulness of such a practice. There was also a need to prohibit the eating of blood, because the Jews, who had been accustomed to regard the use of it with such abhorrence, would have been greatly offended when they saw Christians taking so great a liberty in direct opposition to what they considered as the law of God. On this account it was thought right to continue the prohibition for a time, that they might not shock the prejudices of the Jewish nation. But Paul assures us repeatedly that another part of this same prohibition was revoked: and declares that the circumstance of meat having been offered unto idols does not render it unfit for a Christian's use, provided he see the liberty into which the Gospel has brought him 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 8:8. In like manner he declares, that "there is nothing unclean of itself," but that "to the pure all things are pure Romans 14:14; Romans 14:20; 1 Timothy 4:4-5." Hence we are sure, that the prohibition in our text is reversed.

It is reversed also in a far higher sense—

The real intent of the offerings under the Old Testament is abundantly declared in the New: and the blood of Christ which was once shed on Calvary for the remission of sins, is uniformly represented as the great Antitype to which all the types referred. Now it is true, that that material blood cannot be drunk by us: but in a spiritual sense it may. Do I say, It may? I must add, It must: we are required to drink it: and the command is enforced with sanctions still more solemn than those by which the prohibition in our text was enforced. Let us attend to the words of Christ himself: "Except you eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood, you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, has eternal life: for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed John 6:53-55." Here the command is as universal, as, before, the prohibition was. Need we to explain this to any of you? We would hope, there are few so ignorant as not to know what was designed by our blessed Lord: he meant, that, as he was about to give himself as an offering and a sacrifice for sin, we must all believe in him as the only Savior of the world, and apply to ourselves all the benefits of his atonement.

But lest this injunction of his should be forgotten, he actually instituted an ordinance, wherein he appointed wine to be drunk in remembrance of his blood, and expressly said of the cup, when he put it into the hands of his disciples, "This is my blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins; drink you all of this Matthew 26:27-28." And Paul explaining the reason of this ordinance, observes, that it was instituted in order that we might "show forth the Lord's death, until he come 1 Corinthians 11:25-26." Here then we see that the prohibition under the Old Testament, and the command under the New, have one and the same object: the prohibition was to call the attention of men to the death of the Messiah at his first advent; and the command is, to keep up the remembrance of his death until his second advent. The ends of the prohibition are the same, whether we consider it as given, or as reversed: and the duty of every living creature is pointed out, that we must look unto the blood of our great Sacrifice as the only means of reconciliation with our offended God Colossians 1:14; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:22; Romans 3:25. In reference to that therefore we must say, "Be sure you eat the blood: you may eat; and you shall eat it, that it may go well with you."

As an improvement of this subject, we beg leave to add a few words of advice:

1. Think not light of any sin—

The Jews might readily have said, "What need is there of being so particular about getting out all the blood? the meat will be improved by retaining some of it; and no injury will be done to any one." We read indeed on one occasion, that they acted upon this presumption: they had taken great spoils from the Philistines, and were so eager to get some refreshment, that they overlooked in their haste the divine command. But was this deemed a just excuse for their conduct? No: they were severely reproved for it; and all the people were commanded to take their cattle to be slaughtered at a particular place, where the observance of this law might be scrutinized and secured 1 Samuel 14:31-34. Let not us then presume to set aside any of God's commands, however small they may appear, or whatever reasons we may have to extenuate the violation of them. In fact, the commission of every sin very much resembles this of which we are speaking. God has allowed us every species of gratification, if we will take it in the way and manner prescribed by him: but we say, 'No; I will have it in my own way; I will not be content with the flesh, but I will have the blood. I will not indeed drink it in bowls; but I will reserve a little of it to improve the flavor of my food.' What should we think of a Jew that would deliberately provoke God to anger, and bring ruin on his own soul, for such a gratification as this? Yet such is the conduct of every sinner; and such are the gratifications for which he sells his soul. O remember, that, if we could gain the whole world at the expense of our own souls, we should make a sad exchange. Be careful therefore not only not to violate any command of God, but not to lower in any one particular the standard of his law: for, "if in one thing only you deliberately and allowedly offend, you are guilty of all James 2:10," and infallibly subject yourselves to his everlasting displeasure.

2. Above all things, think not light of the blood of Christ—

The means used to beget a reverence for the blood which only shadows it forth, may clearly show us what reverential thoughts we ought to entertain of the atoning blood of Christ. In that is all our hope: "by that alone we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins: through that the vilest sinner in the universe may obtain mercy; for it is able to "cleanse us from all sin." It is of that the hosts of Heaven are making mention continually before the throne of God: their anthems are addressed "to Him who loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood." Of that then should we also sing; and in that should we glory. But if we be disposed to disregard it, let us contemplate the fate of him who disregarded the typical injunction; "God declared, that he would set his face against him and cut him off." The proper reflection to be made on that, is suggested to us by God himself: "If he who despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses, of how much sorer punishment suppose you shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing Hebrews 10:29." It was terrible to "die without mercy;" but there is a "much sorer punishment" than that: there is a "second death," which they shall suffer, who trample on the blood of Christ. The Lord grant that we may never turn the means of happiness into an occasion of so great a calamity! Let us rather take the cup of salvation into our hands, and drink it with the liveliest emotions of gratitude and joy.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 13:1-3

 

DISCOURSE 206

THE JEWS' LEADING OBJECTION TO CHRISTIANITY CONSIDERED

Deuteronomy 13:1-3. If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass whereof he spoke unto you, saying, Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them; you shall not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proves you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

IT has commonly, and with justice, been thought, that the two great pillars on which a revelation from God must stand, are, miracles, and prophecies. Without these, we cannot be assured, that any discovery which may have been made to man, is really divine. The points that are traced to a divine origin may be highly reasonable and excellent in themselves; yet, before they are clothed with a divine authority, we very properly ask, What proof is there that they are from God? what evidence do you give that they are not the offspring of your own mind? If they are from God, I take for granted that God does not leave you without witness: tell me then, what works do you perform, which no created power can perform; or what other credentials have you, whereby your heavenly mission may be known? If you can foretell things to come, I shall then know that you are from God; because none but God can certainly foreknow them: or if you can work things above, and contrary to the course of nature, then I shall know that you have that power from on high; because no created being can impart it.

This, I say, is the established mode of judging concerning a revelation from God: and, according as anything professing to be from God is thus confirmed, or not, we give to it, or withhold from it, our assent. It is from grounds like these that we judge of the revelation given to Moses; and from similar grounds must we judge of the truth of Christianity also.

We must indeed inspect the matter of the thing revealed, to see whether it be worthy of him from whom it is said to come; and from its internal evidence our faith will derive great strength: but still in the first instance we look rather to external proofs, such as we have before spoken of.

But the Jews imagine that they are precluded from judging of Christianity on such grounds as these, since Moses, in the passage we have just read, guards them against any such inferences as we are led to draw from the prophecies and miracles on which our religion is founded. He concedes that some prophecies may be uttered, and some miracles be wrought, in favor of a false religion; and that, even if that should be the case, the Jews are not to regard any evidences arising from those sources, but to hold fast their religion in opposition to them.

This is an objection commonly urged among the Jews, when we invite them to embrace the Christian religion. That we may meet it fairly, we will, first, state the objection in all its force, and then give what we apprehend to be the proper answer to it.

I. We begin then with stating the objection; and we will do it in such a way as to give the Jew all possible advantage.

The scope of the passage is to guard the Jews against idolatry. They were, and would continue to be, surrounded by idolatrous nations, who would strive to the utmost to draw them from Jehovah to the worship of false gods. And the Jews themselves having from the earliest period of their existence as a people been accustomed to see the idolatrous worship of Egypt, were of themselves strongly attached to idolatry; so that it was necessary to guard them against it by the most awful menaces, and the most impressive cautions.

The caution here given is certainly most solemn. That we may give it all the force of which it is capable, we will notice distinctly these three things; The supposition here made; The injunction given notwithstanding that supposition; and The argument founded on that injunction.

First, mark the supposition here made, namely, that God may permit miraculous and prophetic powers to be exercised even in support of a false religion. We are not indeed to imagine that God himself will work miracles in order to deceive his people, and lead them astray; nor are we to imagine that he will suffer Satan to work them in such an unlimited way as to be a counterbalance to the miracles by which God has confirmed his own religion: but he will, for reasons which we shall presently consider, permit some to be wrought, and some prophecies to come to pass, notwithstanding they are designed to uphold an imposture. The magicians of Pharaoh, we must confess, wrought real miracles. When they changed their rods into serpents, it was not a deception, but a reality: and when they inflicted plagues upon Egypt after the example of Moses, it was not a deception, but a reality: but at the same time that they thus, in appearance, vied with Moses himself, and with Jehovah, in whose name he came, there was abundant evidence of their inferiority to Moses, and of their being under the control of a superior power: for the magicians could not remove one of the plagues which they themselves had produced; nor could they continue to imitate Moses in all the exercises of his power (from whence they themselves were led to confess their own inferiority to him): nor could they avert from themselves the plagues which Moses inflicted on them in common with the rest of the Egyptians. They were permitted to do so much as should give Pharaoh an occasion for hardening his own heart, but not sufficient to show that they could at all come in competition with Moses.

In every age there were also false prophets, who endeavored to draw the people from their allegiance to God; and in the multitude of prophecies that they would utter, it must be naturally supposed that some would be verified in the event. Our blessed Lord has taught us to expect, even under the Christian dispensation, that some efforts of this kind will be made by "Antichrist, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish 2 Thessalonians. 2:9-10." He has moreover told us that these false prophets should "show such signs and wonders as to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect Matthew 24:24;" nay more, that in the last day some will appeal to him respecting the prophecies they have uttered, and the miracles they have wrought in his name, and will plead them in arrest of judgment Matthew 7:22. We may therefore safely concede what is here supposed, namely, that God may suffer miraculous and prophetic powers to be exercised to a certain degree even in support of idolatry itself.

Now then, in the next place, let us notice the injunction given to the Jews notwithstanding this supposition. God commands them "not to give heed to that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, even though his predictions should be verified, if his object be to turn them from him; for that he himself suffers these illusions to be practiced upon them, in order that their fidelity to him may be tried, and their love to him approved."

It may seem strange that God should suffer such stumbling-blocks to be cast in the way of his people: but it is not for us to say what Jehovah may, or may not, do: we are sure that "he tempts no man," so as to lead him into sin James 1:13, and that the "Judge of all the earth will do nothing but what is right." But it is a fact, that he thus permitted Job to be tried, in order that he might approve himself a perfect man: and in like manner he tried Abraham, in order that it might appear, whether his regard for God's authority, and his confidence in God's word, were sufficient to induce him to sacrifice his Isaac, the child of promise Genesis 22:1-2; Genesis 22:12. It was for similar ends that God permitted his people to be tried for forty years in the wilderness Deuteronomy 8:2; and in the same way he has tried his Church in every period of the world. This is the true reason of so many stumbling-blocks being laid in the way of those who embrace the Christian faith. Christianity is not revealed in a way to meet with the approbation of proud and carnal men: it is foolishness to the natural man: yes, even Christ himself is a stumbling-block to some, as well as a sanctuary to others; and such a stumbling-block, as to be "a gin and a snare to both the houses of Israel," among whom it was foretold, "many should stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken Isaiah 8:14-15." It is God's express design in the whole constitution of our religion, to discover the secret bent of men's minds: and while to the humble he has given abundant evidence for their conviction, he has left to the proud sufficient difficulties to call forth their latent animosity, and to justify in their own apprehensions, their obstinate unbelief Luke 2:34-35. He gave originally to the Jews, as he has also given to us, sufficient evidence to satisfy any candid mind: and this is all that we have any right to expect. It was not necessary that our Lord should give to every man in the Jewish nation the same evidence of his resurrection, as he gave to Thomas: it was reasonable that there should be scope left for every man to exercise his own judgment on the evidences that were placed within his reach; as our Lord said to Thomas, "Because you have seen, you have believed; but blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed."

Hence then God enjoined his people not to regard any person who should attempt to draw them to idolatry, even though he should work a miracle before their eyes, or foretell an event that should afterwards come to pass. They had had abundant evidence, that the religion they had embraced was from God: they possessed also in the very nature of that religion an internal evidence of its excellency: and they had received from God such demonstrations of his power and goodness, as ought to unite them to him in the most indissoluble bonds of faith and love. If therefore they should be induced to renounce their allegiance to him, and to transfer it to dumb idols that had never done anything for them, nor ever could do anything, they would betray a manifest want of love to him, and must blame themselves only, if they should ultimately be "given up to a delusion to believe a lie, and be left to perish" in their iniquity 2 Thessalonians. 2:11-12. He would have them therefore upon their guard in relation to this matter, and resolutely to resist every attempt to draw them from him, however specious that attempt might be.

The argument founded on this injunction comes now before us with all the force that can be given to it. A Jew will say, 'You Christians found your faith on prophecies and on miracles: and admitting that Jesus did work some miracles, and did foretell some events which afterwards came to pass, God permitted it only to try us, and to prove our fidelity to him. He has cautioned us beforehand not to be led astray from him by any such things as these: he has expressly forbidden us to regard anything that such a prophet might either say or do: nay more, he commanded that we should take such a prophet before the civil magistrate, and have him put to death: and therefore, however specious your reasonings appear, we dare not listen to them or regard them.

II. Having thus given to the objection all the force that the most hostile Jew can wish, I now come in the second place to offer, what we hope will prove a satisfactory answer to it.

It cannot but have struck the attentive reader, that in this objection there are two things taken for granted; namely, that in calling Jews to Christianity we are calling them from Jehovah; and that our authority for calling them to Christianity is founded on such miracles as an impostor might work, and such prophecies as an impostor might expect to see verified.

But in answer to these two points we declare, first, that we do not call them from Jehovah, but to him;—next, that our authority is not founded on such miracles and prophecies as might have issued from an impostor, but such as it was impossible for an impostor to produce;—and lastly, that, in calling them to Christ, we have the express command of God himself.

First, we do not call our Jewish brethren from Jehovah, but to him.

We worship the very same God whom the Jews worship: and we maintain his unity as strongly as any Jew in the universe can maintain it. As for idols of every kind, we abhor them as much as Moses himself abhorred them. Moreover, we consider the law which was written on the two tables of stone as binding upon us, precisely as much as if it were again promulgated by an audible voice from Heaven. Instead of calling them from the law, we call them to it: we declare that every man who has transgressed it in any one particular, is deservedly condemned to everlasting misery Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10; and it is from a consciousness that this sentence must fall on every human being who has not fled for refuge to the hope set before him in the Gospel, that we are so anxious to call both Jews and Gentiles to a belief of the Gospel. We go further, and say, that no human being can be saved, who has not a perfect obedience to that law as his justifying righteousness. But where shall we find a perfect obedience to that law? where shall we find a man who can say, he has fulfilled it in every jot and tittle? Alas! we all have transgressed it times without number: we are all therefore condemned by it: and being condemned for our disobedience, we can never be justified by our obedience to it. Would to God, that this matter were understood by the Jews! we should find no difficulty then in leading them to Christ. Did they but know what wrath they have merited, they would be glad to hear of one who has borne it for them: and did they but know how impossible it is for an imperfect obedience to that law to justify them, they would be glad to hear of one who has fulfilled it in all its extent, and brought in an everlasting righteousness for all who believe in him. Yes, my Jewish brethren, know assuredly that the Christian "does not make void the law, but establishes the law Romans 3:31;" and has no hope of salvation in anyway, but such as "magnifies the law and makes it honorable Isaiah 42:21;" and it is his earnest desire that you should agree with him in this matter; because he is sure, that, when once you come to understand your own law, and see how "Christ was the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes," your difficulties will all vanish as the morning dew before the rising sun.

With respect to the ceremonial law, we do indeed call you from the observance of that; and we have good reason so to do; for you yourselves know, that all the essential part of your religion existed before the ceremonial law was given; and that Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, who lived hundreds of years before the ceremonial law was given, were saved simply and entirely by faith in that promised "Seed, in whom all the nations of the earth are blessed." By faith then in this promised Seed must you be saved: every child of Abraham must seek for acceptance in the way that Abraham did. If you ask, Why then was the ceremonial law given? I answer, To shadow forth your Messiah, and to lead you to him: and when he should come and fulfill it in all its parts, it was then to cease; and you yourselves know that it was intended by God himself to cease at that appointed time. Do you not know that your Messiah was to come out of the loins of David; and that he was also to be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek? But if there was to be a new priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, the priesthood of Aaron must cease: and if the new priest was to spring from David, who was of the tribe of Judah, and not from Levi to whose descendants the priesthood was confined, then it is clear from this also that the Aaronic priesthood must cease: and if that be changed, then must there of necessity be a change of the law also Hebrews 7:11-12; so that you yourselves know that the ceremonial law was never intended to continue any longer than the time fixed for its completion in the predicted Messiah. If then we call you from the outward observances of that law, it is not from disrespect to that law, but from a conviction that it has been fulfilled and abrogated by the Lord Jesus. We call you only from shadows to the substance. We call you to Christ as uniting in himself all that the ceremonial law was intended to shadow forth. He is the true tabernacle, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. He is the true "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," even that "Lamb of God which, as John the Baptist testified, takes away the sins of the world." He is the great High-Priest, who, having "through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God," is now "entered into the holy place with his own blood," and there "ever lives to make intercession for us;" and is to come forth from thence once more to bless in his Father's name his waiting people. I wish then, my Jewish brethren, that you would particularly bear this in mind. We honor the ceremonial law as admirably calculated to prepare your minds for the Gospel: not only because it exhibited so fully and so minutely every part of the mediatorial office which our Lord was to sustain, but because by the burdensomeness of its rites it tended to break your spirit, and to make you sigh for deliverance. And methinks, it should be no grievance to you to be called from those observances, because you neither do, nor can, continue them: the destruction of your city and temple, and your whole ecclesiastical and civil polity, have rendered impossible for you to comply with them, and have thus shut you up to the faith of Abraham, which is the faith of the Gospel.

I am aware that in calling you to worship the Lord Jesus Christ we appear to you to be transferring to him the honor due to God alone. But if you will look into your own Scriptures, you will find than the person who was foretold as your Messiah is no other than God himself. Examine the Psalm before referred to Psalms 110, and see how David speaks of your Messiah: "The Lord said unto my LORD, Sit you on my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool." David here calls him Jehovah: and how could he do that, if that title did not properly belong to him? This question Jesus put to the Pharisees in his day; and they could not answer him a word: nor can all the Rabbis upon the face of the earth suggest any satisfactory answer to it now. The only answer that can be given is, that the same person, who as man, was David's son, as Jehovah, was David's Lord, or, as Isaiah calls him, "Emmanuel, God with us." Receive him in the character in which the Prophet Isaiah foretold his advent, as "the Child born, the Son given, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace." Call him, as another prophet instructs you, "Jehovah our righteousness:" and know, that, in thus "honoring Christ, you will honor the Father who sent him."

This then is my first answer; that in no respect whatever do we call you from God, but wholly and altogether to him; to Him, as the One true God, in opposition to all idols; to his law, as fulfilled in Christ, and directing you to him; and to his Gospel, as the completion and consummation of all the wonders of his love. In as far as we call you from your present course, it is only from types and shadows to the substance and reality. You remember that at the moment of our Lord's death the veil of the temple was rent in twain, and the most holy place was laid open to the view of all who were worshiping before it. The way into the holiest being thus opened to you all by God himself, we invite all to enter in with boldness, and assure you in God's name that you shall find acceptance with him.

The next thing which we proposed to show was, that our authority for calling you thus to Christ is not founded on such prophecies or miracles as might have issued from an impostor, but on such as it was impossible for an impostor to produce.

Consider the prophecies: they were not some few dark predictions of mysterious import and of doubtful issue, uttered by our Lord himself; but a continued series of prophecies from the very fall of Adam to the time of Christ; of prophecies comprehending an almost infinite variety of subjects, and those so minute, as to defy all concert either in those who uttered, or those who fulfilled, them. A great multitude of them were of such a kind that they could not possibly be fulfilled by any but the most inveterate enemies. Who but an enemy would have nailed him to the cross, or pierced him to the heart with a spear, or offered him gall and vinegar to drink, or mocked and insulted him in the midst of all his agonies? Do not these put his Messiahship beyond a doubt? I will mention only one prophecy of Christ himself: but it is such an one as no impostor would utter, and no impostor could fulfill. What impostor would rest all the credit of his mission on his being put to a cruel, ignominious, and accursed death, and rising from the dead the third day? Or if an impostor were foolish enough to utter such a prophecy, how, when he was actually dead, could he fulfill it? But the whole Scriptures predicted these things of Jesus, as Jesus also did of himself: and the exact fulfillment of them proves beyond all reasonable doubt his true Messiahship.

Consider the miracles also: these were beyond all comparison greater and more numerous than Moses ever wrought. The healing all manner of diseases was the daily and hourly employment of the Lord Jesus for the three or four last years of his life. The whole creation, men, devils, fishes, elements, all obeyed his voice; and at his command the dead arose to life again. But there is one miracle also which in particular we will mention. Jesus said, "I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again:" and the former of these he proved by speaking with a loud voice the very instant he gave up the Spirit, showing thereby, that he did not die in consequence of his nature being exhausted, but by a voluntary surrender of his life into his Father's hands. And at the appointed time he proved the latter also, notwithstanding all the preparations made to defeat his purpose, all of which proved in the issue the strongest testimonies to the truth of his word. But would an impostor have pretended to such a power; or when actually dead, could he have exercised it? And, when the interval between his death and resurrection was to be so short, would not the stone, the seal, the watch, have been sufficient to secure the detection of the imposture? Further, would an impostor have undertaken to send down the Holy Spirit after his death for the purpose of enabling his followers to speak all manner of languages, and of working all kinds of miracles; or if he had predicted such things, could he have fulfilled them? Judge then whether here be not ground enough for that faith which we call you to exercise towards him? If there be not, how do you prove the divine authority of your own lawgiver? In point of testimony, great as was that which proved the divine mission of Moses, it was nothing when compared with that which substantiated the Messiahship of Jesus. We therefore confidently call you to believe in him, and to embrace the salvation which he offers you in the Gospel.

But there is one great argument which we have reserved until now, in order that it may bear upon you with the greater weight. We declare to you then, in the last place, that, in calling you to Christ, we have the express command of God himself.

Moses, in chapter 13 of Deuteronomy, bids you, as we have seen, not to listen to any false prophet: but in chapter 18:18, 19, he most explicitly declares, that a Prophet should arise, to whom you should attend. Hear his own words: "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto you, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I command him. And it shall come to pass, that whoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him."

Now I ask you, Who is the Prophet here spoken of? Where was there ever, besides Moses, a prophet that was a Mediator, a Lawgiver, a Ruler, a Deliverer? Was there ever such an one, except Jesus? And was not Jesus such an one in all respects? Yes; he has wrought for you not a mere temporal deliverance like Moses, but a spiritual and eternal deliverance from sin and Satan, death and Hell: He has redeemed you, not by power only, but by price also, even the inestimable price of his own blood. Having thus bought you with his blood, he ever lives in Heaven itself to make continual intercession for you. A new law also has he given you, "the law of faith," in conformity to which he enjoins you to walk, and by which he will judge you in the last day. Of this blessed person all your own prophets have spoken; and this very Moses, in whom you trust, declares to you, that, "if you will not hear and obey this Prophet, God will require it of you." When therefore you plead the authority of Moses, we join issue with you, and say, Be consistent. Renounce false prophets, because he bids you: but believe in the true Prophet, whom God according to his word has raised up to you, because he bids you. Let his authority weigh equally with you in both cases: and then we shall not fear, but that you will embrace the salvation offered you in the Gospel, and be the spiritual children, as you already are the natural descendants, of believing Abraham. "Abraham looked forward with eager expectation to see the day of Christ, and saw it, and was glad." May you also now see it, and rejoice in him as your Savior for evermore!

It is for your partiality in this respect that God has punished you now these eighteen hundred years, and is punishing you at this day. He told you, "he would require of you" your rejection of this Prophet; and he has required it more severely, than he has all your other sins ever since you became a nation. O repent of this evil, and turn to God in his appointed way! so shall his wrath be turned away from you, and "you shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation."

We cannot conclude our subject without suggesting a suitable improvement of it to our Christian brethren—

As the Jews were constantly assailed by idolaters who sought to draw them from the worship of the true God, so are you by infidels, or worldlings, to draw you from the belief or practice of the Gospel. But do infidels assault you? Ask them whether their objections, all of which arise from ignorance alone, are sufficient to invalidate all the evidences which may be adduced in support of our religion? If not, then "hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering." Do worldlings tell you that God does not require you to renounce the world, and to give yourselves up entirely to him? Ask them, what proof they can give, that God has authorized them to set aside the plainest declarations of his word. You may expect at least that they shall be possessed of miraculous and prophetic powers, or else they have not so much as the semblance of true prophets. But even if they had these powers and displayed them evidently before your eyes, yet ought you not to regard their counsels, because they seek to turn you from God to a poor perishing and worthless idol; from God, who has redeemed you by the blood of his only dear Son, and given you all things in and with him, to an idol, that never has done anything for you, nor ever can. Be firm therefore, even though your father or your mother, your brother or your sister, or even the wife of your own bosom, should seek to turn you from the Lord. Your plain answer to them all is, "Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge you." Whatever temptations they offer, or menaces they employ, let nothing induce you to draw back from following the Lord fully. "Be faithful unto death; and he will give you a crown of life."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 13:6-11

 

DISCOURSE 207

GUILT AND DANGER OF DEPARTING FROM GOD

Deuteronomy 13:6-11. If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your friend, which is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which you have not known, you, nor your fathers; namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, near unto you, or far off from you, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; you shall not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall your eye pity him, neither shall you spare, neither shall you conceal him; but you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people, And you shall stone him with stones, that he die; because he has sought to thrust you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.

THERE is a striking difference between the laws of man and the laws of God: those which are framed by human legislators, proportion always the sanctions to the influence which crimes have upon the public welfare: whereas those enacted by our heavenly Lawgiver, mark with greater severity the evils which more immediately affect his own honor and glory. If one man robbed or maimed another, his law required only a four-fold restitution, or the infliction of a punishment precisely similar to the injury sustained: but if a man, even the dearest relative they had, should only propose to any of his people to worship another God in preference to Jehovah, he must instantly be brought before the magistrates, and, on conviction of the offence, be stoned to death.

It will be proper to consider this ordinance in a two-fold view;

I. As a temporary enactment—

This enactment, or law, appears at first sight to be severe: but we undertake to show that it was,

1. Just, as it respected the individual—

The greatest crimes against any human government are treason, and murder; and, by the general consent of mankind, the principals who are found guilty of those crimes are put to death. Now, in the tempting of men to idolatry, both these crimes were contained: there was treason against the King of kings; and there was murder, not indeed of the bodies, but of the souls, of men. The person who made the proposal, did by that very act endeavor to draw men from their allegiance to God, and to engage them on the side of God's enemy and rival. And, as far as his endeavors were attended with success, he eternally destroyed all who complied with his solicitations. Now compare the crimes, and see whether those committed against God and the souls of men be not infinitely more heinous than those which reach no further than to human governments, and the bodily life: and, if they be, the justice of the punishment annexed to them will admit of no doubt: it will be just, that He whose throne we would subvert, should inflict upon us the penalty of death; and that they whom we would ruin forever, should be made the executioners of that sentence.

2. Merciful, as it respected the public—

The Jews had been nurtured in the midst of an idolatrous nation; and, after their settlement in Canaan, they were surrounded with idolaters on every side. Moreover they were of themselves exceedingly addicted to idolatry. But the consequence of their departure from God would be, that they would bring his heaviest judgments upon them, and be reduced to a more calamitous condition than any people under Heaven. But God was graciously pleased to put a barrier in their way, which, it might be hoped, they should never be able to pass. He not only annexed the penalty of death to an act of idolatry, but even to a proposal to commit that sin: yes, to prevent such a proposal from being ever made, he not only authorized, but commanded, the person to whom it was made, to give immediate information of it to the magistrates, and to be the first in inflicting the punishment of death. If the person making the proposal should be ever so dear to him, though it should be his own brother, or son or daughter, or even the wife of his bosom, or his friend that is as his own soul, he must make no difference; he must show no respect of persons whatever: "You shall not consent unto him, says God, nor hearken unto him; neither shall your eye pity him, neither shall you spare, neither shall you conceal him; but you shall surely kill him:" all natural affection must be laid aside, and be swallowed up in a concern for God's honor; and the man himself must become the informer, the witness, and the executioner, even where the delinquent is dearer to him than his own soul. What child, what wife, what friend, if he had conceived an idolatrous inclination in his heart, would dare to mention it, when the person to whom he should mention it was precluded from all exercise of mercy, and was constrained to proceed against him according to this law? Thus then provision was made to prevent the possibility, as it should seem, of the nation ever yielding to idolatry, or provoking God to abandon them according to the threatenings which he had denounced against them. We are informed in the text that the very execution of this law was designed to produce this beneficial effect verse 11; and therefore much more must the enactment of it be an expression of love and mercy to the whole nation.

This law indeed was only temporary: it was to continue in force only during the continuance of the Jewish polity: but it is nevertheless most instructive to us,

II. As a lasting admonition—

To the very end of time it will speak loudly to us; it declares to us, in the strongest terms,

1. The evil of departing from God—

The annexing of the penalty of death, and of so cruel a death as that of stoning, is of itself no slight intimation of the evil of idolatry: but the requiring a man to execute this sentence against the wife of his bosom, or the friend that is as his own soul: the requiring him to do it even on account of a mere proposal, though the proposal was never carried into effect; the not suffering him to overlook or conceal the matter, but constraining him instantly to enforce the law without pity; how was it possible for God himself to mark the evil of this sin in blacker colors, or to show his abhorrence of it in a stronger manner, than by such an enactment as this? The command to destroy a whole city for idolatry was scarcely a more awful demonstration of his anger than this verse 12–18.

But it may be said, "This was idolatry, a sin to which we have no temptation." It was idolatry: but permit me to ask, wherein the great evil of idolatry consists? Is it not in alienating our affections from God, and placing them on some creature? Is it not justly described by the Apostle as "loving and serving the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for evermore?" Is it not in this very view of the subject that covetousness is called idolatry, and that men are said to make "a God of their belly?" Is it not in this view that John says to all the Christian Church, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols?" What then does it signify, that we are not bowing down to stocks and stones, if there be idols enthroned in our hearts? God is equally provoked to jealousy, whether our idolatry be open and carnal, or secret and spiritual: and though he does not authorize man to proceed against us, he will take the matter into his own hand, and inflict upon us the punishment we deserve. It is in reference to this that Paul utters that severe denunciation against all who decline from their love to Christ; "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha;" that is, His departure from Christ deserves the heaviest judgments; and though we are not now at liberty to inflict them, God surely and quickly will.

O that all who have waxed cold in their affections towards God, would lay this to heart! If God be not seated on the throne of our hearts and sweetly ruling and reigning there, the creature is: and whether the idol be pleasure, or riches, or honor, or anything else, however excellent or however base, we are idolaters; and shall be made to feel, that "it is an evil and bitter thing to forsake the Lord;" yes, that "it were better never to have known him, than, after knowing him, to depart from him."

2. The danger of being accessory to any one's departure from him—

There are a variety of ways in which we may be instrumental in turning others from God. What if we scoff at religion, and deride the practice of it as folly or enthusiasm; do we not, in fact, say to those around us, "Come, let us serve other gods?" What if we exert our influence and authority to deter people from attending where the word is preached with fidelity and power, or from associating with the despised followers of Jesus; are we not yet more decidedly guilty of hostility to God? for when we only scoff at religion, we leave people an alternative; but when we set ourselves to intimidate men from following after God, we are no longer seducers, but persecutors. But, supposing we do not take so decided a part against God, yet, if all our fears are against excess in religion, and none against a defect in it, if all the advice we give is to shun the cross and avoid the shame of a religious profession, and none at all to "endure the cross and despise the shame," whom is it that we serve? Can we with propriety be called the friends and servants of our God? No: Find us in all the sacred records one single servant of his that ever showed such dispositions as these. I forget: we can find one: we remember Peter's kind solicitude for his Master, and his affectionate expression of it too; "Master, spare yourself:" but we remember also the answer of Jesus to him; "Get you behind me, Satan; you are an offence unto me; for you savor not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men." Let me then warn friends and relatives of every description how they use their influence; lest, while they think that they are showing kindness to man, they be found in reality fighting against God. Let me remind them, that, whether they succeed or not, their guilt is the same; they have made the proposal, and for that proposal they shall die: and would to God that the being stoned to death were the worst punishment they shall endure! but, alas! it were infinitely "better that a millstone were put about their neck, and that they were cast into the midst of the sea, than that they should offend one of God's little ones:" it were better, I say; because they would lose only the bodily life: but in turning any one from God, they forfeit their own souls, and expose themselves to everlasting misery in Hell. If friends would see what use they should make of their influence, the prophet will tell them; they should endeavor to draw one another nearer unto God; and should themselves endeavor to lead the way Zechariah 8:21.

3. The need we have of firmness and steadfastness in religion—

No one can tell what temptations he may have to encounter, or from what quarter they shall spring, or how specious and powerful they may be. Perhaps the children whom we have fondled with delight, or the wife of our bosom, or the friend that is as our own soul, may be our tempters to decline from God, or the occasions of our yielding to temptation. Perhaps the suggestion may be so specious, that it shall appear to have come from a prophet of the Lord, and to have been confirmed by a sign from Heaven verse 1–5; 2 Corinthians 11:13-13. But our principles of religion should be so fixed, as to be incapable of being moved even by an angel from Heaven Galatians 1:8-9; and our practice of it should be so determined, that no considerations whatever should be able to make us swerve for one moment from the path of duty. The fate of the man of God who listened to the lying prophet, should teach us this 1 Kings 13:18-24. Our rule is clear, and we should follow it without turning either to the right hand or the left verse 4.

But it will be asked, How shall I obtain this steadfastness? I answer, Compare the God whom you serve, with all the gods that are his rivals and competitors. This is the consideration by which God himself enforces that which might otherwise have appeared a sanguinary edict: he grounds the severity of his displeasure on the greatness of the mercies he had bestowed upon them verse 10. But what were those mercies in comparison of the blessings he has conferred on you? Think from what a bondage you are redeemed; think by what means that redemption has been accomplished for you; think what an inheritance is purchased for you; and then say whether anything in this world can have such a claim to your regards as the Lord Jesus Christ has. Only get your hearts impressed with a sense of his love, and the vanities of time and sense will be to you no more than the dirt under your feet. Only commit yourselves to Christ, "and be strong in the grace that is in him," and you will find, that "neither angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus:" for "he is able to keep you from falling," and "will preserve you blameless unto his heavenly kingdom." Whatever then your temptations be, or from whatever quarter they may spring, I say to every one of you, "Hold fast that you have, and let no man take your crown Revelation 3:11."

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

 

DISCOURSE 208

THE DUTY OF CHARITY ENFORCED

Deuteronomy 15:7-11. If there be among you a poor man of one of your brethren, within any of your gates in your land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother: but you shall open your hand wide unto him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he lacks. Beware that there be not a thought in your wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand: and your eye be evil against your poor brother, and you give him nothing; and he cry unto the Lord against you, and it be sin unto you. You shall surely give him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give unto him: because that for this thing the Lord your God shall bless you in all your works, and in all that you put your hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command you, saying, You shall open your hand wide unto your brother, to your poor, and to your needy, in your land.

THE existence of various ranks and orders among men is the necessary consequence of civilization. A perfect equality among them is impossible in the nature of things: nor, if it were made to exist, could it continue for any time. An inequality of condition is even far more conducive to the general good, not only in that it tends to keep up a due subordination of the lower to the higher classes, but that it binds all the classes of men together by the ties of mutual usefulness and dependence. Even in the state that was formed by God himself, it was ordained that such a diversity of ranks should exist "The poor shall never cease out of the land," verse 11. Still, however, it never was the divine intention that some should be left destitute of all the comforts of life, while others rioted in opulence and prodigality. To prevent this he commanded his people to forgive the poor their debts at the year of release He assigns as his reason for this ordinance. "to the end that there may be no poor among you." verse 3; 4. See the translation in the margin of the Bible, and required all who should enjoy a comparative state of affluence, to relieve the poor and indigent.

In discoursing on the words before us, we shall consider,

I. The duty enjoined—

God commanded his people to exercise liberality to the poor—

He had appointed every seventh year to be a year of release verse 1, 2. By this means the poor could not be oppressed for any length of time. But this very law might also tend to the disadvantage of the poor. To prevent any such evil consequence, God ordered that his people should be equally favorable to the poor notwithstanding the year of release. He enjoined the rich to lend to the poor, even under a moral certainty of losing their debt. Yes, they were to perform this duty in a bountiful and willing manner.

His injunctions to them are, as far as it respects the spirit of them, equally binding upon us—

God requires us to "do good and lend, hoping for nothing again Luke 6:35." And certainly this is our duty. The relation which the poor bear to us necessarily involves in it this obligation They are four times in the text called "our brethren." The force of this idea is admirably expressed. Job 31:15-19 and it is further confirmed by the words of our Lord. Matthew 25:40. The Scriptures at large, as well as the immediate expressions in the text, inculcate this duty in the strongest terms "You shall not harden your heart your hand — You shall surely lend—surely give—I command you saying. You shall open your hand wide," etc. See this enjoined on all generally, Luke 11:41; on all individually, 1 Corinthians 16:2; and in the most solemn manner, 1 Timothy 6:17. "Charge," etc.

The manner also of performing this duty is as strongly enjoined as the duty itself. We must act bountifully towards the poor, proportioning our alms to our own ability, and, as far as possible, to their necessities "You shall open your hand wide — lend him sufficient for his need." See true bountifulness defined, 2 Corinthians 8:12; exemplified, 2 Corinthians 8:2; encouraged, 2 Corinthians 9:6. We must also administer relief cheerfully. Grudging and niggardly thoughts are apt to arise in our minds: but they proceed from a "wicked heart;" and must be guarded against with all possible circumspection "Beware, &c.—and your eye be evil against your poor brother—your heart shall not be grieved when than give," etc. See similar directions, Romans 12:8; 1 Timothy 6:18. "Ready to distribute; willing to communicate." Our alms are then only acceptable to God, when they are offered with a willing mind 2 Corinthians 9:7.

To call forth a just sense of our duty, let us consider,

II. The arguments with which it is enforced—

Waving all other arguments that might be adduced, we shall confine our attention to those specified in the text. There are two considerations urged as inducements to the performance of this duty:

1. The danger of neglecting it—

Men are apt to think themselves sole proprietors of what they have; but, in fact, they are only God's stewards. The poor have, from God's command, a claim upon us; and when their distresses are not relieved, he will hear their complaints. He expressly warns us that, "when they cry to him, it shall be sin to us." Our guilt contracted by want of liberality, shall surely be visited upon our own heads; it shall bring upon us the execration of our fellow-creatures Proverbs 28:27, a dereliction from our God Proverbs 21:13, yes, an everlasting dismissal from his presence and glory Matthew 25:41-43. "For."Who that reflects a moment on these consequences, will not "beware" of indulging a disposition that must infallibly entail them upon him?

2. The reward of practicing it—

Heaven cannot be purchased by almsgiving: and to think it could, would be a most fatal delusion. Nevertheless God has annexed a blessing to the performance of this duty; "For this thing the Lord your God shall bless you in all that you do." Supposing our motives and principles be such as the Gospel requires, and our alms be really the fruits of faith and love, the Scriptures assure us that they shall be followed with blessings temporal Luke 6:35, last part. and Proverbs 3:9-10.—spiritual Isaiah 58:7; Isaiah 58:10-11.—eternal Luke 16:9; Luke 14:14 and 1 Timothy 6:19 and Matthew 25:34-35. "For." Yes, God, speaking after the manner of men, condescends to say, that we make him our debtor; and to promise, that He will repay us the full amount of whatever we give to others for his sake Proverbs 19:17 and 2 Corinthians 9:6. What greater encouragement can we have than such assurances as these?

APPLICATION—

The occasion on which we now solicit your alms, is urgent; the objects of distress are many—the season inclement—work scarce—wants numerous—provisions high—and few to administer relief.

Consider then the urgency of the call—the danger of non-compliance—the blessings promised—and especially, the great account. Guard against a grudging spirit: and act towards the poor at this time, as you, in a change of circumstances, would think it right for them to act towards you.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 15:12-15

 

DISCOURSE 209

THE RELEASE OF BOND-SERVANTS

Deuteronomy 15:12-15. If your brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto you, and serve you six years; then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him out free from you, you shall not let him go away empty: you shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, and out of your floor, and out of your wine-press: of that with which the Lord your God has blessed you you shall give unto him. And you shall remember that you were a bond-man in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you: therefore I command you this thing today.

BENEVOLENCE characterized the whole of the Jewish law; as well of that law which regulated the state, as of that which was to govern the souls of individuals. Some things indeed were tolerated under that dispensation which do not accord with the more sublime morality of the Gospel. Polygamy and divorce were suffered, on account of the hardness of the people's hearts, and in order to prevent the still greater evils which would have resulted from the entire prohibition of them. Slavery also was permitted for the same reasons: but still there were restraints put upon men in relation to these things, and many regulations were framed, to counteract the abuses which were likely to flow from the licence afforded them. It was permitted to men to purchase slaves, and that even from among their brethren. But an express command was given, that no man should "rule over them with rigor;" that every slave should be liberated after six years of service; and that ample provision should be made for him on his dismissal, in order that he might be able in future to support himself. It is of this ordinance that we are now to speak: and in it we may see,

I. An encouraging emblem—

As the whole of the ceremonial law, so parts also of the judicial law, were of a typical nature. This appointment in particular emblematically represented two things;

1. The redemption which God vouchsafes to his people—

Both Scripture and experience attest, that all mankind are in a state of bondage. They are "tied and bound with the chain of their sins:" they are "led captive by the devil at his will" But the time is come when we are permitted to assert our liberty. The Lord Jesus Christ has "proclaimed liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound:" and it must be by our own voluntary consent alone that we can be retained any longer in our former bondage. Whatever had been the occasion of the Hebrew servant's bondage, whether he had sold himself through poverty, or been sold by a relentless creditor to pay his debts, or been sentenced to such a punishment by the civil magistrate for his crimes, he was equally free the very moment that the six years of his servitude were expired. Thus it is with us: there is no room to ask in desponding strains, "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered Isaiah 49:24-25." for the truth now sounds in our ears, and "the truth shall make us free John 8:32." As surely as ever Moses was sent to the oppressed Israelites to deliver them, so surely are the tidings of salvation now sent to us: and though our tyrannical master may use his utmost efforts to keep us in subjection, he shall not prevail. The Lord Jesus Christ is come to deliver us; and "if the Son make us free, we shall be free indeed John 8:36."

2. The mercy which he exercises towards his redeemed—

There was a direction given to Moses, that the people at their departure from Egypt should "borrow of their neighbors jewels of silver and jewels of gold, and that they should spoil the Egyptians;" "When you go," said God to them, "you shall not go empty Exodus 3:21-22." In like manner this injunction was given to the Hebrew master, at the time when he should be required to liberate his slave; "You shall not let him go away empty: you shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, and out of your floor, and out of your wine-press: of that with which the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give unto him." And is it not thus that God deals with his redeemed people? "Does he require any man to go a warfare at his own charges?" True it is, he does not set up his people with a stock of grace, that they may afterwards live independent of him; but "he will supply all their need" out of the fullness which he has treasured up for them in Christ Jesus: and "out of that fullness they shall all receive, even grace for grace Colossians 1:19 with John 1:16." Yes assuredly, this picture shall be realized in all who assert their liberty: for "they that fear the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good."

But besides this emblematical representation, there is in the test,

II. An instructive lesson—

The Hebrew masters were bidden to "remember, that they themselves were once bond-men in the land of Egypt," and that on that very account God had given them this command in relation to their bond-slaves. From hence it appears, that we are to regard God's mercies,

1. As a pattern for our imitation—

When Israel were groaning under their burdens in Egypt, God said, "I have surely seen the affliction of my people; I know their sorrows:" and on another occasion we are told, "His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel Judges. 10:16." And when once they were liberated from their bondage, what incessant kindness did he show them, administering to all their wants, and fulfilling all their desires! This was the conduct which the Hebrew masters were to imitate: and this tenderness, this compassion, this sympathy, this love, is to characterize his people to the end of time. Remarkable is that direction given us by the Apostle Paul; "Be you followers (imitators ìéìçôáé, Ephesians 5:1-2.) of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ has loved us." Here the same principle is established: we are to imitate God in all his imitable perfections, and especially in that which is the crown and summit of them all, unbounded love. We are, as far as it is possible for finite creatures to do it, to tread in the very steps of Christ himself, and to follow him even in that stupendous effort of love, his dying on the cross; for John, having spoken of his "love in laying down his life for us," adds, "And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren 1 John 3:16." What an object for our ambition is here! O that we might be satisfied with nothing short of this! that instead of admiring ourselves on account of more common exercises of love, we might rather see how defective we are even in our best duties; and might learn to overlook all past attainments as nothing, and to be pressing forward for higher degrees of conformity to our God and Savior Philippians 3:13-15.

2. As a motive for our exertion—

The mercy given to the Jewish nation was to operate on all of them as an incentive to obedience; and, as God has required acts of love to our brethren as the best evidence of our love to him, it is in that more especially that we must endeavor to requite the loving-kindness of our God. The man that grudges a few pence to a fellow-servant after having been forgiven by his Lord a debt of ten thousand talents, can expect nothing but indignation from the hands of God Matthew 18:32-34. The true spirit of God's redeemed people was well exemplified in the Apostle Paul, when he declared, "The love of Christ constrains us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and rose again." If then we have any hope that we ourselves have been partakers of mercy, let us feel our obligations, and say with David, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all the benefits that he has done unto me?" and, if we have in ourselves an evidence that God has "bought us with a price," let us strive to the uttermost to "glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his 1 Corinthians 6:20."

Address,

1. Those who are yet in bondage to sin and Satan—

Why should you continue in bondage another day? May not the past rime suffice to have served such hard masters? and is not liberty at this moment proclaimed to you? "Behold, this is the accepted time, this is the day of salvation." Think not of the difficulties that are in your way, but of the power that will enable you to surmount them. He who rescued Israel from Egypt, yet lives: and "will show himself strong in behalf of all who call upon him." If you continue in your bondage. O think of the wages that you will receive! "the wages of sin is death:"—but if you assert your liberty, you shall be numbered among "the freemen of the Lord," and have him for your portion in time and in eternity.

2. Those who profess to have been freed from their bondage—

You have seen wherein you are to glorify your God. Remember, that it is in relative life especially you are to show forth the power of divine grace. Let it be seen in your households, that you are enabled to walk worthy of your high calling. It is in your families that the truth and excellence of your principles is to be displayed. It is easy enough to be kind and liberal abroad: but look to it that these graces are exercised at home: let your wife, your children, your servants, reap the benefit of your conversion. Let liberality be in your hearts, and the law of kindness in your lips. Show that religion is an operative principle: and that it is uniform in its operation: and know that a profession of religion without such an exhibition of its power, will be accounted no better than hypocrisy either by God or man. If you would be approved of God at last, you must "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 15:16-17

 

DISCOURSE 210

THE SERVANT DEVOTING HIMSELF TO HIS MASTER'S SERVICE

Deuteronomy 15:16-17. And it shall be, if he say unto you, I will not go away from you, (because he loves you and your house, because he is well with you,) then you shall take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be your servant for ever.

THE work of redemption was typified, not only by stated proclamations of liberty every fiftieth year, which was called the year of jubilee, but also by provision that all Hebrew servants, for whatever cause they had become bond-men, should be liberated from their bondage after the expiration of six years. But it would sometimes happen that a person might be so well pleased with his situation as not to wish to leave it, but to prefer it before that to which he was entitled. For such cases particular provision was made by God himself; and a very singular rite was appointed for the ratification of his purpose: on declaring before a magistrate that he chose to continue his master's bond-servant, his master was to bore his ear through with an awl to the door or door-post; and the servant could never afterwards claim his liberty until the year of jubilee.

We should not have ventured to annex any great importance to this ordinance, if the inspired writers themselves had not led the way. But we apprehend that they refer to it as a type; and in that view we conceive it deserves peculiar attention. We shall endeavor therefore to point out to you,

I. Its typical reference—

It is well known that our Savior, as Mediator between God and man, was the Father's servant Isaiah 42:1; John 12:49; in this capacity he set himself wholly to do the Father's will John 4:34; and never for one moment admitted so much as a thought of relinquishing his service, until he could say, "I have finished the work which you have given me to do."

Let us briefly notice this at the different periods of his humiliation—

At his incarnation.—When the fullness of time was come, and the season had arrived when he must assume our fallen nature in order to execute the work assigned him, though he must empty himself of all his glory, and leave his Father's bosom, and "make himself of no reputation, and take upon him the form of a servant," and be "made in the likeness of sinful flesh," and bear all the infirmities (the sinless infirmities) of our nature, he would not go back from the engagements which he had entered into with his Father, but condescended to he born of a virgin, and to become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He loved the work he had undertaken; he delighted in the prospect of glorifying his Father, and saving our ruined race; and accounted no condescension too great for the accomplishing of this stupendous purpose.

At the time of his sufferings and death, he still persisted in his resolution to do and suffer all that was necessary for our redemption. He often forewarned his disciples of the precise sufferings which he was to endure: and when one of the most highly favored among them endeavored to dissuade him from his purpose, he reproved him with great severity Matthew 16:21-23, determining never to recede until he had completed the work which he had engaged to perform. When, under the pressure of inconceivable agonies, his human nature began, as it were, to fail, he still maintained his steadfastness; "Not my will, but your be done." Had it pleased him, even when apprehended by his enemies, or hanging on the cross, to terminate his sufferings before the time, he might have had legions of angels sent for his deliverance Matthew 26:53-54; but he would not suffer the cup to pass from him until he had drunk it to the lowest dregs.

All this, it may be said, is very true; but what relation has it to the point before us? We answer, that this steadfastness of his in performing engagements, which without any necessity on his part he had undertaken, was the very thing typified in the ordinance we are now considering—

The Psalmist expressly speaking of Christ's appointment to make that atonement for sin which the Mosaic sacrifices only prefigured, says, (in allusion to the ordinance before us,) that God the Father had "opened, or bored, the ears" of his servant Psalm 40:6-8. And Paul, citing that very passage, quotes it, not in the same precise words, but according to their true meaning: "Sacrifice and burnt-offering you would not; but a body have you prepared me Hebrews 10:5-7." Moreover both the inspired writers go on to mark in the strongest terms the determination of heart with which the Messiah should fulfill, and actually did fulfill, the inconceivably arduous task which he had undertaken Note the varied expressions; "Lo, I come: I delight to do your will, O my God: yes, your law is within my heart." These, applied as they are to the whole of the Messiah's humiliation, (Hebrews 10:8-10.) mark strongly his determination as grounded upon love. The circumstance of the Septuagint translation of the 40th Psalm containing the same words as the Apostle quotes, proves nothing either for or against the point in hand. We apprehend that some early transcriber of the Septuagint, from a deference to Paul's authority, altered that translation to make it agree with his words: for we have no reason to think that the Seventy would have presumed to paraphrase that part of the Psalm, instead of translating it; and we are certain that they could not have paraphrased it in that manner (unless by express revelation for that purpose), because they neither had, nor could have, sufficiently clear views of the Gospel, to mark its deepest mystery in so precise a way.

Trusting that we have not been guided by fancy in our interpretation of this type, let us inquire into,

II. The practical instruction to be deduced from it—

As a civil ordinance, it seems to have been well calculated to instill into the minds both of masters and servants a strict attention to each other's happiness and welfare, so that neither of them might ever wish for a dissolution of their mutual bonds. (And O! that our present consideration of it might be so improved by all who sustain either of those relations!) But, as a typical ordinance, it must, in its practical improvement, have a wider range.

Our blessed Lord has not only redeemed us to God by his blood, but has also "set us an example, that we should follow his steps." Hence it is evident that we should,

1. Love the service of our God—

We should not account any of "his commandments grievous," or say concerning any precept of his, "This is an hard saying." He himself has told us that "his yoke is easy, and his burden is light:" and in our Liturgy we acknowledge "his service to be perfect freedom." Such was the language of David: "O how I love your law!" and again, "I esteem your commandments concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way." Let it "not then be of constraint that you serve him, but willingly and of a ready mind." And if you foresee difficulties and trials in your way, be not ashamed; but give up yourself unreservedly to God, and adopt the language of the Messiah himself, "Lo, I come; I delight to do your will, O my God: yes, your law is within my heart "

2. Adhere to it steadfastly to the latest hour of your life—

Many reasons might have operated on the mind of a

servant to prevent him from perpetuating his bondage. He might fear an alteration in the behavior of his master, and comfort himself with the idea of liberty. In like manner we may paint to ourselves many trials that may be avoided, and many gratifications that maybe enjoyed, by declining the service of our God. But let no considerations operate upon your minds: you shall lose no gratification that shall not be far overbalanced by the comfort of a good conscience; nor suffer any trial, which shall not be recompensed with a proportionable weight of glory in a better world. You are not likely to lose more than Paul; yet he says, "What was gain to me, that I counted loss for Christ; yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of him." You are not likely to suffer more than he: yet he says, "But none of these things move me; neither count I my life dear unto myself." Thus let it be with you: "Be not weary in well-doing;" but "cleave unto the Lord with full purpose of heart:" "Be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in his work:" "Be faithful unto death, and he shall give you a crown of life"

Address,

1. Those who have already declined from the Lord's ways—

I ask not what sufferings you have avoided, or what pleasures you have gained. This only will I ask; Are you as happy as you were? I am content to put the whole to the issue; and to abide by the decision of your own conscience. I know that though a conscience may be seared, a soul cannot be happy that departs from God. O think what a Master you have slighted; and say, "I will return unto my first husband, for then it was better with me than now."

2. Those who are doubting whether to devote themselves to God or not—

Many there are who, seeing the necessity of serving God, are contriving how they may do it with the least risk or trouble to themselves. They are thinking to "serve both God and Mammon." But this is impossible, because the two services are opposite and inconsistent. Let us not however be misunderstood. We may, and must, fulfill our duties in the world, yes, and fulfill them diligently too: but God alone must be our Lord and Governor. He will not accept such a measure of our affection and service as the world will deign to allow him; but says, "My son, give me your heart," your whole heart. Every interest of ours, and every wish, must be subordinated to his will. Determine this then with yourselves, that you will be his, wholly and forever. Let your ears be bored to his door-post: and let, not your actions merely, but your very thoughts, be henceforth kept in a willing captivity to him. "If Baal be God, serve him: but if the Lord be God, then serve him."

3. Those who profess themselves his willing and devoted servants—

Show to the world that his service is a reasonable and a delightful service. Let not the difference between you and others be found merely in some foolish peculiarities, but in a holy, heavenly conversation. And be not mournful and dejected, as if God were an hard master; but "serve him with gladness and joyfulness of heart," that all around you may see the comforts of religion, and know, from what they behold in you, that the Church militant and Church triumphant are one; one in occupation, and one in joy.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 16:3

 

DISCOURSE 211

REDEMPTION TO BE EVER BORNE IN MIND

Deuteronomy 16:3. Remember the day when you came forth out of the land of Egypt, all the days of your life.

OF all the facts recorded in the Old Testament, the Resurrection of our blessed Lord created the most general and intense interest; because, by that, the hopes of his enemies were blasted, and the fears of his followers were dispelled. We may judge of the emotions that were excited by it from this circumstance, that, when two of the disciples, in their way to Emmaus, had seen their Lord, and had returned to Jerusalem to inform their brethren, they, on entering the room where they were assembled together, found them all saying one to another with most joyous exultation, "The Lord is risen indeed! the Lord is risen indeed Luke 24:1-3; Luke 24:30-34." Between that and the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, there is a strict analogy. In fact, the deliverance from Egypt was typical of our redemption by Christ: and, as God required that the people of Israel should remember the one to their latest hour, so does he expect that we should remember the other "all the days of our life."

The words which I have read to you are assigned by Moses as the end for which the paschal feast, and the feast of unleavened bread, were instituted; namely, to keep up in the minds of that people, to their latest posterity, the remembrance of the typical deliverance: and with the same object in view, I would now call your attention to the Resurrection of our blessed Lord. Beloved Brethren, it is a subject of supreme importance: and to every one of you I would say,

I. Treasure it up in your minds—

Good reason was there why the Jews should remember their deliverance from Egypt—

Most grievous was their bondage there Exodus 3:7; and most wonderful were God's interpositions for them The ten plagues, and the passage of the Red Sea, etc: Never, from the beginning of the world, had God exerted himself in behalf of any people as he did for them Dent. 4:32–34. There was good reason, therefore, why so singular a mercy should be had in everlasting remembrance.

But far greater reason is there why we should bear in mind the resurrection of our blessed Lord—

Far more grievous was our bondage to sin and Satan, death and Hell: And infinitely more wonderful were the means used for our deliverance The incarnation and death of God's only-begotten Son; Yes, and infinitely more blessed the issue of it Not mere temporal benefits in Canaan, but everlasting happiness in Heaven; Shall we, then, ever forget this? Would not the "very stones cry out against us?".

Yet, dwell not on it as a mere fact; but,

II. Improve it in your lives—

The Jews, in remembrance of their redemption, were to kill the Passover, and to keep the feast of unleavened bread verse 1–3; And, if we would answer God's end in our deliverance, we must improve it,

1. By a renewed application to that sacrifice by which the deliverance was obtained—

It was by sprinkling the blood of the paschal lamb on the door-posts and lintels of their houses that the Jews obtained deliverance from the sword of the destroying angel Deuteronomy 12:21-24; And to the blood of Christ, who is "the true paschal sacrifice,". must we apply, "sprinkling it on our hearts and consciences Hebrews 10:22," and expecting from it the most perfect deliverance Psalm 51:7; To those who use these means, there is no danger 1 John 1:7; to those who neglect to use them, there is no escape Hebrews 2:3.

2. By more diligent endeavors after universal holiness—

What the meaning of the unleavened feast was, we are told by the Apostle Paul, who urges us to carry into effect what that typified: "Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth 1 Corinthians 5:7-8." In vain we keep the Passover, if we do not also keep the feast of unleavened bread: they are absolutely inseparable. The very end for which Christ redeemed us, was, "that he might purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works Titus 2:14;" and, if we would reap the full benefit of his resurrection, "we must seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God Colossians 3:1.": This was designed by God in the appointment of the feast we have been speaking of Exodus 13:8-10; and the same is designed in the mercy given to us Romans 14:9.

In conclusion, then, I say,

Be thankful to God for the special call which is now given you to observe this day. If to the Jews it was said, "This is a night to be much observed to the Lord, for bringing them out of the land of Egypt; this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations Exodus 12:42;" how much more may it be said to us! Methinks, any man who kept the Passion-week, as it is appointed to be observed among us, could scarcely fail of attaining the salvation of his soul; so plain are the instructions given us throughout the whole course of our services, and so exclusively is Christ held forth to us as "the way, the truth, and the life." My dear Brethren, we really are great losers by our neglect of these seasons. Doubtless they may be observed with superstitious formality: but they may be kept with infinite profit to the soul. And I beg of you not to let the present opportunity pass away without a suitable improvement: but, as David said, with a direct reference to the Savior's resurrection, "This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it Psalm 118:22-24;" so do you engage with your whole souls in securing the blessings which the Redeemer's triumphs, as on this day, have obtained for us.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 18:13

 

DISCOURSE 212

CHRISTIAN PERFECTION

Deuteronomy 18:13. You shall be perfect with the Lord your God.

IT seems strange that any who have ever heard of Jehovah, should need to be put on their guard against alienating their hearts from him, and placing their affections on any created object in preference to him: but the Israelites, who had seen all his wonders in Egypt and in the wilderness, were ever prone to depart from him, even as we also are, notwithstanding all that we have heard respecting that infinitely greater redemption which he has given to us through the incarnation and death of his only dear Son. Permit me, therefore, to remind you, as Moses reminded the people committed to his charge, that you must on no account, and in no degree, transfer to the creature the regards which are due to your Maker alone; since his injunction to you, and to every child of man, is, "You shall be perfect with the Lord your God."

In order to bring home to your hearts and consciences this solemn injunction, I will,

I. Unfold its import—

As for absolute perfection, there is no hope of attaining it in this world. Job himself, whom God pronounced a "perfect man Job 1:1; Job 1:8," declared, that if he should arrogate to himself a claim of absolute perfection, his own mouth would condemn him, and prove him perverse Job 9:20-21. But uprightness there is, and must be, in all who shall be approved of their God. In this sense, we must be perfect with the Lord our God:

1. In love to his name—

We are commanded to "love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength." And every one of us should be able to say with David, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides you Psalm 73:25."

2. In affiance on his care—

Whatever our trials be, there should be no leaning either upon our own strength or on any created power: for "cursed is the man that makes flesh his arm, whose heart departs from the Lord his God Jeremiah 17:5." Our trust should be in God alone: and on him should we rely without the smallest measure of diffidence or fear. Our continual boast should be, "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear what either men or devils can do against me."

3. In zeal for his glory—

As we have received our all from him, so we should improve everything for him. We should live entirely for our God: and, if only he may be glorified in us, it should be a matter of indifference to us, whether it be by life or by death. Are we called to act? We must resemble Asa, who, with impartial energy, dethroned his own mother for her idolatry, and ground her idols to dust 1 Kings 15:13. Are we called to suffer? We should yield our bodies to be burned, rather than swerve an hair's breadth from the path of duty Daniel 3:17-18. In the whole of our Christian course we should be "pressing forward continually towards the goal, if by any means we may obtain from God the prize of our high calling." This is the true nature of Christian perfection Philippians 3:15.

Such being the injunction, I will proceed to,

II. Enforce its authority—

Without real integrity before God, we can have,

1. No comfort in our souls—

A man may, by an overweening conceit of his own attainments, buoy himself up with somewhat of a pleasing satisfaction respecting his state: but there will be secret misgivings in hours of reflection, and especially in that hour when he is about to enter into the immediate presence of his God. Even at present, an insincere man feels no real delight in God: and a consciousness of that will occasionally disturb his ill-acquired peace. But the man whose heart is right with God will have a holy confidence before him; according as the Psalmist has said: "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace Psalm 37:37." Hezekiah's blissful retrospect, if not in its full extent, yet in good measure, will be his: "I beseech you, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before you in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in your sight 2 Kings 20:3."

2. No stability in our ways—

"A double-minded man will be unstable in all his ways James 1:8." Let but a sufficient temptation arise, and he will turn aside, even as Demas did, to the indulgence of his besetting sin. The stony-ground hearers, for want of a root of integrity within themselves, will fall away; and the thorny-ground hearers, not being purged from secret lusts, will never bring forth fruit unto perfection. It is "the honest and good heart" alone that will approve itself steadfast unto the end. But the upright man God will uphold under every temptation; as an inspired prophet has assured us: "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him 2 Chronicles 16:9."

3. No acceptance with our God—

We may deceive ourselves, but we cannot deceive our God: "to him all things are naked and open:" and, however we be admired by our fellow-creatures, he will discern our true state; as he did that of the Church at Sardis; of whom he says, "I know that you have a name to live, but are dead: for I have not found your ways perfect before God Revelation 3:1-2." It is to no purpose to dissemble with him: for "he searches the heart and tries the reins, and will give to every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings Jeremiah 17:10."

Address,

1. Those who are unable to ascertain with confidence their real state—

Surely you should not suffer this to remain in doubt. Look into the Scriptures; and you will find in the saints of old a well-grounded persuasion that they had passed from death unto life. Real uprightness is like light, which carries its own evidence along with it. I would not encourage an ill-founded confidence: nor would I, on the other hand, encourage that kind of diffidence which puts away the consolations provided for us in the Gospel. Examine yourselves as before God; and never rest until you have the testimony of God's Spirit, that you are Israelites indeed, in whom is no deceit.

2. Those who have an inward evidence that their hearts are right with God—

What is there under Heaven that can equal such a blessing as this? Paul himself had no greater jay 2 Corinthians 1:12. For you, Brethren, death has no sting, and the day of judgment itself no terror. You may look and long for the coming of your Lord. Be thankful then; and let the brightness of your prospects increase your vigilance in the path of duty, that "you may never fall, but have an entrance ministered unto you abundantly into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 2 Peter 1:10-11."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 21:6-8

DISCOURSE 213

THE METHOD OF EXPIATING AN UNKNOWN MURDER

Deuteronomy 21:6-8. And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley; and they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. Be merciful, O Lord, unto your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto your people of Israel's charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them.

THE ceremonial law of the Jews was confessedly figurative and typical in every part: nor was even their judicial law altogether destitute of a spiritual import. The injunction, "not to muzzle the ox that trod out the corn," appears as void of any, except a literal, meaning, as any law whatever; yet was there in that law a particular reference to the preachers o. the Gospel, who were to be supported by the people to whom they ministered. In the law that we are now to consider, there is indeed a manifest appearance of mystery: and we shall find it by no means unprofitable to consider the mystery contained in it. We shall endeavor then,

I. To explain the ordinance—

In doing this we must notice,

1. Its general design—

God, no doubt, intended by this law, to prevent the commission of murder. The shedding of human blood was, in his eyes, so great a crime, that it must never be pardoned by the civil magistrate. If a willful murderer had fled to a city of refuge, or even to the altar itself, neither the one nor the other was to prove a sanctuary to him; he must be taken thence, and be carried forth for execution See Numbers 35:31; Numbers 35:33; Deuteronomy 19:11-13 and Exodus 21:14. In the event of a slain man being found, and the murderer being unknown, this law was to be carried into effect: the elders of the city that was nearest to the slain man, (which, if doubtful, was to be ascertained by measurement,) were, together with the priests, to go to a rough valley, and there slay a heifer, and wash their hands over him, protesting their own innocence, and their inability to discover the offender; and in that manner to implore forgiveness for the guilty land verse 1–9. Now this had a tendency to strike a terror into the minds of all the people, to fill them with an abhorrence of murder, to show them what pains would be taken to discover the person who should be guilty of it, and what terrible vengeance he must expect at the hands of God, though he should escape the punishment that he deserved from man. Somewhat of a similar process obtains among us: a coroner's inquest is taken whenever a suspicion of murder or of suicide appears to have any just foundation. But there is no comparison between our law and that which existed among the Jews; so far superior was the solemnity of their proceedings; and so much more calculated to beget in the minds of men an abhorrence of the dreadful sin of murder.

But besides this more obvious end of the law, God designed also to provide means for removing guilt from his land. No sooner had the whole world sinned in Adam, than He devised means for their restoration to his favor through the incarnation and death of his only dear Son. And when "all flesh had corrupted their way before him," and determined him to execute vengeance upon them, he still waited to be gracious unto them, and sent them messages of mercy by the hands of Noah for the space of an hundred and twenty years. When the destruction of Nineveh was so imminent, that there remained but forty days before its completion, he sent them a prophet to warn them of their danger, and to bring them to repentance. Thus at all times has God been slow to anger, while the exercise of mercy was his delight. Now considering the wickedness of the human heart, it could not be but that sometimes murder should have been committed: and he had declared that, in that case, "the land could not be cleansed from blood but by the blood of him that shed it." Yet, as it must sometimes happen that the criminal could not be discovered, here was a method provided for expiating the guilt, so that his judgments might not fall upon any in this world, but only on the criminal himself in the world to come. How amiable does God appear in this view! and how plainly may we see in this very ordinance that "judgment is a strange act," to which he is extremely averse; and that he is rich in mercy unto all them that call upon him!

2. Its particular provisions—

These deserve a minute attention. Some have thought that the heifer which had not drawn in the yoke represented the murderer, the son of Belial, who refused to bear the yoke of God's law; and that "the rough valley in which he was to be slain, denoted the worthlessness of the criminal's character, or the disagreeableness of the business See Scott, on the place." But we apprehend that much more was designed by these particular appointments. The heifer that had not drawn in the yoke represented Christ, who, though he died under the curse of the law, had no previous obligation to do so, but did it voluntarily, giving himself freely for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor Compare Numbers 19:2 and Ephesians 5:2. His death marked the utter excision which the murderer deserved; and the rough valley in which he was beheaded, marked the desolation, which the land itself merited for the transgression that had been committed See Psalm 107:34 and Hebrews 6:8. Thus, the victim, the death, the place, all conspired to impress the minds of the beholders with the malignity of the offence, which required such a sacrifice; while the presence of the priests, which was especially required, (not to officiate themselves, but to overlook and direct the offices of others,) intimated the indispensable necessity of seeking pardon precisely in God's appointed way, and not in any method of their own devising Deuteronomy 17:8-12. To this sacrifice was to be added a public profession of their personal innocence, and, at the same time, a public acknowledgment of their national guilt: they must profess their innocence both by an appropriate sign, (washing their hands over the slain heifer,) and an express declaration; and they must acknowledge their guilt, with earnest supplications for mercy and forgiveness. Thus, namely, by their protestations and petitions, did they show to all, that, as God would "not hear those who regarded iniquity in their hearts," so neither would he punish any, who should humble themselves before him in his appointed way. Truly, in this view, the ordinance, though merely judicial, was most interesting and most instructive.

The mystical import of the ordinance being explained, we proceed,

II. To point out some lessons which may be learned from it—

We of course pass over those things which are less appropriate, and fix our attention upon those which seem to arise most naturally out of the subject before us.

We may learn then,

1. The importance of preventing or punishing sin—

The concurrence of the elders and the priests in this ordinance shows, that magistrates and ministers should unite their efforts for the preservation of the public morals, and the averting of guilt from the land in which they dwell. To discourage, detect, and punish it, should be their constant endeavor; that the interests of society may not suffer, and that the honor of God may be maintained. The magistrate ought "not to bear the sword in vain:" he should be "a terror to evil-doers, and a revenger to execute wrath upon them:" and though it does not comport so well with the ministerial office to be exercising civil authority, the minister should be forward on every occasion to aid and stimulate to the utmost of his power those whom God has ordained to be his viceregents upon earth: Were such a cooperation more common, the flagrant violations of the Sabbath, and a thousand other enormities which are daily committed in our streets, would vanish at least from public view, and in a great measure be prevented.

But it is not only public sin which should be thus discountenanced: the crimes perpetrated in secret, and especially the hidden abominations of our own hearts, should be carefully investigated by us, and unreservedly suppressed. Every one should consider sin, of whatever kind it be, as that "abominable thing which God hates:" and should remember, that, though it should never be detected and punished in this world. God will expose it in the world to come, and manifest his righteous indignation against all who commit it. Then at least, if not now, "our sin will find us out:" and therefore it becomes us now with all diligence to search and try ourselves, and to beg of God also to "search and try us, to see if there be any wicked way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting."

2. The comfort of a good conscience—

The persons who were thus solemnly to assert their innocence in the presence of God, would doubtless feel happy that they were able to make their appeal to him in truth. To do so with respect to all sin, would be impossible, because "there is no man that lives and sins not:" but with respect to allowed and indulged sin, we all ought to be able to call God to witness that we are free from it. We must be Israelites indeed, and without any allowed deceit. And O! what a comfort is it when we can say with Job, "O God, you know I am not wicked Job 10:7." Such was the comfort enjoyed by Paul; "Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world 2 Corinthians 1:12;" When indeed we can make that appeal to God, we should do it with holy fear and jealousy, lest there should, after all, be some sin undiscovered by us. We should say with Paul, "Though I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified; but he who judges me is the Lord 1 Corinthians 4:4." We may see in the instance of Pilate how awfully a man may deceive his own soul: he washed his hands before the multitude, and said, "I am free from the blood of this just person:" but his reluctance to commit sin could not excuse the actual commission of it; any more than the washing of his hands could cleanse his soul. Nevertheless we should labor to "keep a conscience void of offence," and so to have every evil disposition mortified, as to be able constantly to say with David, "I will wash my hands in innocency, O Lord, and so will I compass your altar Psalm 26:6."

3. The efficacy of united faith and prayer—

Great as the guilt of murder was, the Lord declared that it should not be imputed to the land, if this ordinance were duly complied with. And what sin is there that shall be imputed to us, if we look by faith to that great Sacrifice which was once offered for sin, and implore mercy from God "as his redeemed people?" Not even murder itself should be excepted, if the forgiveness of it were diligently sought in this manner. Hear how David prayed, after the murder of Uriah: "Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, you God of my salvation; and my tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness! Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow Psalm 51:2; Psalm 51:7; Psalm 51:14." O glorious truth! "Though our sins be as crimson, they may be made white as snow." Beloved Brethren, see your guilt as already irrevocably contracted: see the judgments of God hanging over you: see death ready to execute its commission, and the jaws of Hell opening to swallow you up. And now turn your eyes to the "heifer slain in the rough valley," and averting from you the wrath of an offended God: in that heifer, see the Lord Jesus Christ, who has "redeemed you from the curse of the law, being made a curse for you." To you, even to you, that blessed Redeemer says, "Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!" O look to Him, plead with him, trust in him! and "he will in no wise cast you out." This is "the violence by which the kingdom of Heaven is taken," even the violence of faith and prayer; and this force shall never be exerted in vain Matthew 11:12.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 23:3-4

 

DISCOURSE 214

BENEVOLENCE TOWARDS GOD'S ANCIENT PEOPLE

Deuteronomy 23:3-4. An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord forever; because they met you not with bread and with water, when you came forth out of Egypt.

IN reading the history of God's ancient people, we shall do well to notice even the most minute occurrences; since there will scarcely be found one which is not capable of spiritual improvement, or one from which the most important lessons may not be derived. The record before us would be passed over by the generality of readers, as pertaining only to that particular dispensation, and as affording but little instruction for us at this time: yet does it in reality contain as great practical information as can be found in any of the more signal events with which the inspired history abounds. A thousand years after this record was written, it was referred to, not by accident, as we call it, but by the special direction of Divine Providence: and was made the ground of the most self-denying command that could be given to men; and the ground, also, of the most prompt obedience to that command, that it was possible for fallen man to render. The Jews after their return from Babylon had formed connections with the heathen that had occupied Judea in their absence: but Nehemiah, determining to rectify this great evil, read to all the people the very words which I have now read to you; and, by his clear and unquestionable inferences from them, prevailed on all the people of the land to "separate themselves from the mixed multitude," and to act up to the spirit of the injunction there given Nehemiah 13:1-3. Now it is to the practical improvement of them that I wish to direct your attention: and for that end I shall set before you,

I. The duty of benevolence in general—

It is a duty—

Love is the very essence of all practical religion. It is in a most peculiar manner inculcated under the Christian dispensation; and it is to be exercised towards every child of man. God, who is love itself, "makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain both on the just and unjust:" and our duty is to resemble him, and to be "perfect, even as our Father which is in Heaven is perfect Matthew 5:44-48." If we be doubtful how far this precept is to be obeyed, the parable of the good Samaritan gives us a clear and unerring direction Luke 10:37. No man under Heaven can be so distant from us, but he is entitled to the offices of our love, so far as our opportunities and ability give scope for its exercise.

It is absolutely indispensable to our acceptance with God—

Whatever else we may possess, yes, whatever we may either do or suffer for the Lord's sake, if we have not an active principle of love in our hearts, "we are only as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal 1 Corinthians 13:1-3." John even appeals to us on this subject, and makes us judges in our own cause: "Whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his affections of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him 1 John 3:17." In truth, the want of this principle, whatever else we may possess, will be adduced by our Judge, in the last day, as the ground of our eternal condemnation: "Depart, accursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels! for I was an hungry, and you gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you took me not in; naked, and you clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not unto me Matthew 25:41-45."

Thus, then, as the Moabites and Ammonites are condemned for not administering to the necessities of Israel in the wilderness, so shall we, if we do not exercise benevolence towards our indigent fellow-creatures, to whatever sect or nation they belong, so far as it shall be in our power to afford them the relief which they stand in need of.

Conceiving the general point established, that we should show benevolence to all, I proceed to mark,

II. Our special obligation to exercise it towards God's ancient people—

The Jews have, at all events, the same claim to our benevolence as any other people whatever. There is no exception made in Scripture with respect to them: and, consequently, if we should fail in establishing their peculiar claims, our main argument would remain in all its force. But they have claims superior to any other people upon earth—

1. We are more indebted to them than to any other people under Heaven—

To whom are we indebted for all the instruction which we have received respecting the way of peace and salvation? We owe it all to Jews. We know nothing of God and of his Christ, but as it has been revealed to us by Jewish prophets and Apostles: yes, the very Savior himself was of Jewish extraction: and, therefore, in that very fact we may well find a motive to exercise benevolence towards all who are related to him according to the flesh. Such infinite obligations as we owe to that people should surely be requited in acts of love towards their descendants; even as God himself often showed mercy to rebellious Israel for Abraham's and for David's sake; and as David for Jonathan's sake spared Mephibosheth, who must otherwise, as a descendant of Saul, have been involved in the ruin of all his house 2 Samuel 21:7.

2. The very blessings which we enjoy were taken from them, on purpose that they might be transferred to us—

The Jews were once the only people upon earth who possessed the blessings of salvation. But God, in righteous indignation, cast off them; and, in a way of sovereign grace and mercy, took us from a wild olive-tree, and grafted us in upon the stock from which they had been broken, and "from which they had been broken on purpose that we might be grafted in Romans 11:19-20." The fact is, that every soul among us, that now derives sap and nourishment from God's olive-tree, actually occupies, as it were, the place of a Jew, who has been dispossessed of his privileges, in order that we might enjoy them. Now, I would submit it to your own judgment: Suppose a person to have been disinherited by his father, on purpose that I, who had no relation to him, nor any more worthiness in myself than the disinherited offender, might he made his heir: suppose that disinherited son, in a state of extreme distress, should ask alms of you, while I was living in affluence close at hand; would you not refer him to me, as the person who might well be expected to attend to his case, and to relieve his necessities? And, if I dismissed him from my door as a worthless vagabond, in whose welfare I had no concern, would you not feel surprise and grief, yes, and a measure of indignation too? And if I professed to be a man of piety and benevolence, would you not spurn at my profession, as downright hypocrisy? Now, then, if under such circumstances you would condemn me, know that "you yourself are the man." For, all that you have of spiritual good was once the exclusive heritage of the Jew: and you are possessing what has been taken from him; yes, you are reveling in abundance, while he is perishing in utter want: and all the obligation which, by your own confession, would attach to me in the case I have stated, is entailed on you: and you, in refusing to fulfill it, are sinning against God, and against your own soul.

3. This very transfer of their blessings to us has been made for the express purpose that we might dispense them to that bereaved people in the hour of their necessity—

True, we are permitted to enjoy them ourselves, yes, and to enjoy them in the richest abundance: but we are particularly entrusted with them for the benefit of the Jews. Hear what God himself has declared on this subject: "As you in times past (you Gentiles) have not believed God, but have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; even so have these also (these Jews) now not believed, that through your mercy they" should be left to perish? No: but that through your mercy they "also may obtain mercy Romans 11:30-31." Now, take again the case before stated: and suppose the man who had disinherited his son, and left me his estate, to have declared in his will, that he left me the estate on purpose that in the hour of his son's extremity I might show kindness to him, and relieve his necessities; what would you say of me then, if I spurned him from my door, and left him to perish with hunger, when I was myself reveling in all manner of luxurious abundance? Well, "You are the man:" and what you would say of me, you must say of yourself, as long as you neglect to promote the welfare of God's ancient people: yes, "out of your own mouth shall you be judged, you wicked servant." God has made you a trustee for the Jew; and you have not only betrayed your trust, but left him to perish, when you had in possession all that his soul needs; and which you could impart to him, to the full extent of his necessities, without feeling any sensible diminution of your wealth; yes, when, strange to say! you might increase your wealth by relieving him. Tell me, then, in this view of the matter, whether you have not special obligations to show benevolence to the Jew?

But I must go further, and mark,

III. The more particular obligations which we have to exercise benevolence towards them at this time—

God, by his providence, called the Ammonites and Moabites to show kindness to Israel; and their guilt was greatly aggravated by their manifesting such unwillingness to co-operate with him in his designs of love towards them: and on this account was so heavy a judgment denounced against them, "even to their tenth generation." And is not God now calling us to concur with him in what he is doing for his ancient people? Yes; I think his call to us is clear and loud. Observe,

1. The interest which is now felt in the Christian world for their restoration to God—

This interest is really unprecedented. There have been times when a few persons have labored for their welfare: but now there is, throughout Europe and America, a very great and general increase of kindness towards them. They are no longer made the universal objects of hatred and persecution, as in former ages: even where there is no love towards them, there is a great diminution of hostility: and in many instances they have been treated with much liberality and candor by Christian governments, being raised by them to a measure of respect and honor that has not been accorded to them in former times. And for their conversion to Christianity, and their restoration to the divine favor, exertions are making to a considerable extent: And is not this of the Lord? Methinks, such a victory over the prejudices of Christians is scarcely less a work of divine power, than was the deliverance of Israel from the hand of the Egyptians: and, as such, it is a call from God to concur with him in his labors of love towards them. See what is at this moment doing among the more religious part of the Christian community, in the circulation of the Scriptures, and especially of the New Testament; and what efforts are making by Christian missionaries for the conversion of the Jews! and I must say, that this is a call from God to us, and that it is no less our privilege, than it is our duty, to obey it.

2. The stir which prevails among the Jews themselves—

This also obtains to a degree unprecedented since the early ages of Christianity. "Truly, there is a stir among the dry bones throughout the whole valley of vision Ezekiel 37:7-8." Great numbers of Jews, upon the continent especially, and to a certain extent at home also, begin to think that Christianity may be true; and that that Jesus, whom their fathers crucified, may be the Messiah: and, if they did but know how, in the event of their embracing Christianity, they might support themselves and their families, great multitudes, I doubt not, would prosecute their inquiries, until they had attained the true knowledge of their Messiah and of his salvation. Let me then ask, Whence is this? Is not this the work of God? And is it not an encouragement to us to exert ourselves for their entire conversion? Methinks "they are saying to us, Come over to Macedonia, and help us;" and we ought, one and all of us, according to our ability, to obey the call.

3. The earnests which God has given us in the actual conversion of some to the faith of Christ—

If we cannot speak of Pentecostal days, we can declare, that God has accompanied his word with power to the hearts of some; and that "one of a city and two of a tribe" have already, as God has given us reason to expect Isaiah 17:6, been brought to the saving knowledge of their Messiah. Of those who have embraced "the truth as it is in Jesus," some have attained to a real eminence in the divine life, and are at this moment not inferior to the most exalted characters in the Christian world. This shows that God is about to rebuild his temple: and surely it does not become us "to dwell in our ceiled houses" at ease Hag. 1:4, when he is so plainly calling upon us to co-operate with him: we should rather "strengthen the hands of those who are laboring in this good work," and, like Cyrus, afford every possible facility for the accomplishment of this vast and glorious undertaking Ezra. 1:5-7. We should endeavor to improve "this acceptable time Isaiah 49:8;" removing to the utmost of our power all obstacles to their conversion Isaiah 62:10; and laboring, if by any means we may be God's honored instruments, to bring them home to him, and to present them as "an offering in a clean vessel to the Lord Isaiah 66:19-20."

4. The general voice of prophecy—

Prophecy begins to be better understood among us: and it is the united conviction of all who have studied the prophecies, that the time for the restoration and conversion of the Jews is near at hand. The twelve hundred and sixty years spoken of by Daniel, as the period fixed in the divine counsels for the establishment of the Redeemer's kingdom among them, are, on any computation, nearly expired. Ought we not then, like Daniel, to put forth our prayers to God for the consummation of this great event, and by all possible means to help it forward?

I think, that, putting all these circumstances together—the concern of Christians, the stir among the Jews, the real converts from among them, and the unquestionable ground which is given us in prophecy to expect their speedy conversion—we may regard it all as a call from God, scarcely less powerful than that given to the Moabites and Ammonites of old, to "come to the help of the Lord," and to labor with all our might for their salvation. In truth, if we do not act thus, we can expect nothing but "the curse of God Judges. 5:23," and the most lasting tokens of his displeasure.

1. You will say, perhaps, that You have no connection with the Jews, and therefore may well be excused from all concern about them—

But what had the Ammonites and Moabites to do with the Jews? They were descended, not from Abraham, but from Lot, and had never had any fellowship with them. But this was no excuse for their neglect: nor can any similar excuse avail for us.

2. You will reply, that it is God's work, and that it should be left to him to accomplish it in his own time and way—

And might not the Ammonites and Moabites say the same? God not only could, but did, supply their wants by miracle: but this was no justification of those who refused to them the proper offices of love. Nor will this be any justification of our neglect.

Permit me, in conclusion, to bring two things to your remembrance:

1. That the Ammonites and Moabites had an excuse which you have not—

They might have said, These Israelites are going to extirpate the seven nations of Canaan: and we will not concur in such a work as this. But, in converting the Jews to Christ, we adopt the readiest and most certain way for the salvation of the whole world. If they, then, were excluded from the congregation of the Lord, even to the tenth generation, for their inhumanity, judge what tokens of God's displeasure await you for yours.

2. That they were condemned for not coming forth, as volunteers, to "meet Israel with bread and water"—

What shall you then be, who are thus entreated and solicited to concur with Jehovah in this good work, if you still refuse your aid, or give it with such indifference, as to show that your heart does not go forth with your hands in the service of the Lord? You remember, that when Nabal said, "Shall I take my bread and my water, and give them to those whom I know not whence they be?" it well near cost him his life; yes, it actually did cost him his life 1 Samuel 25:11; 1 Samuel 25:21-22; 1 Samuel 25:37-38. And I tremble to think what judgments await you, if you resist our importunity, and refuse to co-operate with God in the work proposed. But "I hope better things of you, my Brethren, though I thus speak;" and I hope and trust that you will henceforth, each according to his ability, be workers together with God for the salvation of God's ancient people, and through them for the salvation of the whole world. And let me not be misunderstood: I am far from intending to say that all who have neglected this sacred cause are equally obnoxious to God's displeasure; for it is but lately that the attention of the Christian world has been called to it: but I think you will agree with me, that it is now high time to exert ourselves for God, and to redeem, as far as possible, the time we have lost. The cause well deserves our most assiduous efforts: and we may be sure, that God, who so indignantly resented the supineness of the Ammonites, will richly repay all that we can do for the furtherance of his gracious designs: for he has said, "Blessed is he who blesses you; and cursed is he who curses you."

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 23:5

 

DISCOURSE 215

GOD'S CARE FOR HIS PEOPLE

Deuteronomy 23:5. The Lord your God would not hearken unto Salaam: for the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing unto you, because the Lord your God loved you.

TO those who are ignorant of the way of salvation, we preach Christ crucified: for "there is no other name under Heaven but his, whereby any man can be saved." But to those who are well instructed in the fundamental truths of our holy religion, we bring forward rather what relates to the life of godliness: having laid the foundation, we endeavor to build upon it a suitable superstructure. Now, a realizing sense of God's care and love, such a sense of his goodness as leads us to live altogether by faith upon him, is one of the sublimest attainments that can be made in this world. And to assist you in this, will be my endeavor at this time.

Let us notice, then, from the words before us,

I. God's love to his ancient people—

This appeared in bringing them forth out of Egypt, and in preserving them throughout their wanderings in the wilderness: and especially, also, in the instance that is here specified, the counteracting of the designs of Balaam, and "the turning of his curse into a blessing unto them."

See the account given us by Moses—

To enter fully into this, the whole history of the transaction, the 22d, 23d, and 24th chapters of tin: Book of Numbers should be attentively perused. Instigated by a desire to obtain "the wages of unrighteousness." yet conscious that he was under a restraint from the Most High God, Balaam madly pursued his object, even after he was rebuked for his iniquity by the beast on which he rode, and which, was enabled to utter the reproof in language used by man 2 Peter 2:15-16. He constantly confesses his inability to go beyond what Jehovah should see fit to permit; yet as constantly sought to evade or change the divine counsels, and to execute the project for which he was hired. Every distinct prophecy which he utters, rises in force and grandeur: and when complained of by Balak for pouring forth blessings upon them, instead of denouncing curses against them, he confesses, "I have received commandment to bless: and God has blessed; and I cannot reverse it Numbers 23:20." At last, finding how vain it was to seek by enchantments to alter the divine purpose, he forbore to offer any more of his sacrifices. and yielded to the impulse within him to foretell the certain successes of those whom he had sought to destroy Numbers 24:1-9. And, having thus provoked the king of Moab to dismiss him without the promised rewards Numbers 24:10-14, he resumed his prophetic strains, and declared, not only that this people should triumph over Moab, but that from them should One arise, who should establish an universal empire, and have dominion over the whole world Numbers 24:15-19.

All this, Joshua brought to the remembrance of Israel, long after they had been established in the land of Canaan; saying, "Balak the son of Zippor arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: but I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand Jos. 24:9-10."

Now all this was the fruit of God's unchanging love—

God had chosen them to himself in Abraham, and had ordained that they should be to him a peculiar people above all others upon the face of the whole earth. In this choice of them he had been influenced, not by any foreseen worthiness in them; for he knew, from the beginning, what a stiff-necked people they would prove; but solely by his own sovereign will and pleasure: "He loved them because he would love them Deuteronomy 7:6-9." To them, also, had he promised the land of Canaan: and therefore, when the time was come for their possession of it, no enemy could stand before them, nor could any conspiracies which could be formed prevail against them. Hence, in despite of all the efforts which Balaam made to curse them, he was constrained to "bless them still."

From the whole of God's kindness to them, we may be led to contemplate,

II. His love to his Israel at this day—

His people are now redeemed, even as they were of old, only from infinitely sorer bondage, a bondage to sin and Satan, to death and Hell. They are brought also through a dreary wilderness, towards the heavenly Canaan. They have enemies also to contend with. True it is, they have not to dispossess any of their land; nor do they, by invading the property of others, provoke hostility: but they have enemies notwithstanding, yes, and enemies who are bent upon their destruction: but from all of them God will surely deliver his redeemed people.

He will deliver them both from men and devils—

From the beginning of the world have God's chosen people been opposed and persecuted, even from the time of Abel to the present hour. It was the superior piety of Abel that called forth the resentment of the envious Cain, and stimulated him to imbrue his hands in his brother's blood 1 John 3:12. And our Lord puts the question to his malignant enemies, "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?" It might be thought, indeed, that it would be impossible for any one to hate and persecute the holy Jesus, in whose whole life not a single flaw could be found, and who, by his benevolent and unnumbered miracles, must have endeared himself to every one. But the brighter his light was, the more were the children of darkness incensed against him; so that they never ceased, until they had prevailed against him, and "crucified the Lord of Glory." All his Apostles, too, were objects of the world's hatred: and our Lord has told us, that all his followers will have their cross to bear, after the example which he has set us. And do we not find it so? Is there a faithful servant of the Lord, especially if he fill any important station, and be active in honoring his Divine Master—is there one. I say, that is not reviled and persecuted for righteousness sake? True, fires are not now kindled, as once they were, to consume them, because the laws of the land forbid it: but it is as true at this day as ever it was in the apostolic age, that "all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."

And has the hostility of Satan at all abated? Does not "that roaring lion go about at this day as much as ever, seeking whom he may devour?" What can the Apostle mean, when he says, "We wrestle not with flesh and blood, (not with flesh and blood only,) but with principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places Ephesians 6:12." Or for what end are we still enjoined to "put on the whole armor of God Ephesians 6:13," if we have not still many enemies to contend with?

But God will preserve us from them all, and "turn their curses into blessings." "Whatever will ultimately advance our welfare, he will permit: but whatever would have an injurious effect, he will avert; as it is said, "The wrath of man shall praise you; and the remainder of it shall you restrain Psalm 76:10." We may not see the precise way in which good shall be brought out of evil: Joseph could form no idea of the benefit which was ultimately to accrue from all his trials: nor could Job from his: but they were constrained to acknowledge, that, however designed for evil, the events, every one of them, issued in good: and thus has God engaged, that "all things shall work together for his people's good Romans 8:28;" and that their "light and momentary afflictions shall work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory 2 Corinthians 4:17."

To this Almighty God is pledged, by the love that he bears towards us—

God has loved his people with an everlasting love; and therefore with loving-kindness he both draws us to him Jeremiah 31:3, and secures our welfare. Now, the record in my text is especially intended by God himself to illustrate and confirm this truth. Hear what God says by the Prophet Micah: "O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal, that you may know the righteousness of the Lord Mic. 6:5." God is a righteous and faithful God; and he has engaged, that "no weapon that is formed against his people shall prosper," and that "none shall prevail against them to pluck them out of his hands:" we may be perfectly assured, therefore, that he will keep them to the end; and that "not one jot or tittle of his word will ever fail." "Having loved his own, he will love them to the end John 13:1."

I close with a word or two of advice—

1. Be not hasty in your anticipations of evil as the result of your trials—

Jacob, on the loss of his favorite son Joseph, exclaimed, "All these things are against me!" But that was the very event which God had ordained for the preservation of himself and his whole family; yes, and for the completion of all his promises respecting the Messiah, and the salvation of the whole world by him. And perhaps that very trial, of which we are ready to complain, is, according to his eternal purpose, to be the destined means of preserving us from destruction, and of preparing us for glory. Wait, and "see the end of the Lord James 5:11;" and you will find as much reason to bless God for your severest troubles, as for the most acceptable of all his blessings.

2. Learn in every dispensation to acknowledge a Father's love—

There is not, in fact, any single trial that does not proceed from God. "Not a hair of your head can fall" but by his gracious permission. Men, devils, yes the very elements, are only instruments in his hands to fulfill his will Isaiah 10:5; Psalm 148:8. The Jews, in crucifying the Messiah, executed only "what God's will and counsel had determined before to be done Acts 4:28;" and, though "they neither meant nor thought so," they were his agents, to accomplish what was necessary for the redemption of the world. Men and devils may have prepared a furnace for you: but it is God who puts you into it, to purify you from your dross, and to "bring you forth as vessels meet for the Master's use." True, he will punish those agents; as he did Balaam, who was slain among the enemies of God: but you "he will make perfect through sufferings," and recompense in proportion to all that you have endured for him.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 24:19-22

 

DISCOURSE 216

GLEANING, A DIVINE ORDINANCE

Deuteronomy 24:19-22. When you cut down your harvest in your field, and have forgot a sheaf in the field, you shall not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive-tree, you shall not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. And you shall remember, that you were a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command you to do this thing If this be a Charity Sermon, the triple repetition of "the Stranger, the Fatherless, and the Widow," must, of course, be more largely insisted on.

IT is surprising to see to what minute things Jehovah condescends in his legislation to the Jews. In no other community under Heaven were such things accounted worthy of distinct and authoritative enactments. People must not yoke together in a plough an ox and an donkey. They must not seethe a kid in its mother's milk. In taking a bird's nest, they must not take the dam with her young. But "God, their great Lawgiver, is love:" and all his laws breathed love, not to men only, but to the whole creation: and by them he has shown, that he desired all his people to live under the influence of this divine principle; and, in the smallest matters no less than in the greatest, to bring it into exercise. Hence he appointed, that, when they gathered in the fruits of the earth, they should guard against selfishness, and manifest a spirit of love towards their more indigent and afflicted brethren. In the very words which I have just read, the threefold repetition of them shows what tenderness there is in the bosom of Almighty God towards the poor and afflicted, and how desirous he is that all his people should resemble him: and for this end he commands, that, in the season of their own prosperity, they should be especially mindful of "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow." The manner in which he enforces this command respecting gleaning, will lead me to consider,

I. The privilege of gleaning, as accorded to the Jews—

The Jews had been brought out from Egypt from the sorest bondage—

By mighty signs and wonders had God brought them out: and had throughout all their generations caused them to enjoy blessings for which they had not labored, and to reap an harvest which they had never sown. For the space of forty years in the wilderness they had no occasion for agricultural labors; but from day to day did they glean around their tents the food which the Great Proprietor of all caused to be scattered for their use. And when they came into the promised land, "they found there great and goodly cities which they had never built, and houses filled with all manner of good things which they had never filled, and wells which they had never dug Deuteronomy 6:10-11." Like gleaners, they had only to enter on the field, and to appropriate everything which they found to their own use.

From this consideration they were enjoined to give somewhat of a like advantage to their poorer brethren—

"Freely they had received; and freely they were to give." They were to bear in mind the misery from which their forefathers had been delivered; and from a sense of gratitude to their Heavenly Benefactor, they were to show love to their brethren, and liberality to the poor. They were not to be exact even in the reaping of their crops, but to leave the corners of their fields standing Leviticus 19:9. for the benefit of "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow:" and, after having gathered in their corn, or their grapes, or olives, they were not to be going over their ground or their trees again, but to leave the remaining produce for those whose necessities called for such aid: yes, and to rejoice in seeing the wants of others supplied, though at their expense. And surely this was reasonable in the highest degree, since the whole land itself had been originally the gift of God, as was also the produce of it in every successive year. What could their own labors effect without the fruitful showers and the genial warmth of the sun? On God they depended, notwithstanding their own efforts: and God gave them an assurance, that on a cheerful and liberal discharge of their duty towards their brethren, they should receive his blessing on their own labors.

But let me proceed to mark,

II. The far higher grounds of this privilege as existing among us—

True, the Jewish law does not extend to us: nor does the law of this land accord in this respect with the Jewish law. The matter has been tried, and authoritatively decided. But, so general is the sense of propriety which exists in this kingdom, that the privilege of gleaning is conceded to the poor, as much as if it were a right established by law: and I suppose that for every thousand pounds that are paid in rent to the proprietor of the soil, not less than one hundred pounds, and perhaps too hundred, are gratuitously left to be gathered by the poor in the way of gleaning. And this is as it should be. For—

Let it be recollected from what misery we have been redeemed—

Not an Egyptian bondage merely was ours, but a bondage to sin and Satan, death and Hell. And what has the Great Proprietor of Heaven and earth done for us? He has, by the blood of his only dear Son, brought us out from this bondage: and in the field of his Gospel has strewed a rich profusion of food, of which all of us may eat, and live forever. Take the inspired volume: there is the field, into which all may enter. and gather for themselves. The promises there scattered, and standing, as it were, in every corner Leviticus 19:9. of the Bible, are sufficient for the whole world. All that is required is, that we go in, and glean for ourselves. The manna in the wilderness nourished those only who gathered it for their daily use: and, if the poor will avail themselves of the bounty scattered in our fields, they must go out and gather it. Were all the harvest left upon the field, it would benefit none, unless it were reaped and appropriated to our use: so all the promises of salvation will have been given to us in vain, if we do not exert ourselves, from day to day, to appropriate them to ourselves, for our own personal benefit. But, if we will "labor thus for the meat that endures unto eternal life, the Son of Man will give it us" according to the utmost extent of our necessities. Then shall we gather all the blessings, both of grace and glory; for no one of which have we any other claim, than as gratuitous largesses, bestowed by the Lord of the harvest on his necessitous and dependent vassals.

And can we have any stronger argument than this for liberality to the poor?

Methinks, "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow," should be made to share our temporal blessings, when we are so richly and gratuitously nourished with those which are spiritual and eternal. We are taught to "love one another, as Christ has loved us Ephesians 5:2." And when Paul was urging the Corinthian Church to liberality, he could find no stronger argument than this; "You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich 2 Corinthians 8:9." Say, Brethren, whether this consideration be not amply sufficient to animate us to the most enlarged liberality for his sake? Yes, truly; instead of grudging to others the remnants of our harvest, we should be ready to say with Zaccheus, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor Luke 19:8." Indeed, even for our own sakes we might practice this divine lesson: for "if we give to the poor, we lend to the Lord; and whatever we lay out, he will pay us again." In truth, to "honor the Lord with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase, is the way, the surest way, to fill our barns with plenty, and to make our presses burst out with new wine Proverbs 3:9-10." But I rather dwell on the other motive only; because the "love of Christ," if duly felt in our hearts, "will constrain us" to every possible exercise of love to him, and to the poor for his sake Matthew 25:45.

Let me now, then, address you all—

1. As Gleaners, avail yourselves of your privilege—

I say again, the whole field is open before you: and, as God's servant, I have been commissioned to "scatter handfuls for you," that you may not labor in vain: yes, I have invited you to "come, even among the sheaves," and, so far from "reproaching you" for your boldness, have encouraged you Ruth 2:16. by the strongest assurances of the unbounded liberality of my Divine Master. Bear in mind, that you are gleaners. You must indeed labor with diligence: but the whole that you gather is a gift: you never raised by your own personal labor one single grain of what you gather: all your labor consists in gathering up what the Great Proprietor, your Lord and Savior, has strewed for you. While you, then, have all the benefit, let him have all the glory.

2. As Proprietors, perform the duty that is here enjoined you—

Cultivate, every one of you, a spirit of liberality. Let "the stranger" share your bounty; and let "the fatherless and widows" be the special objects of your care and tender compassion. If you comply not readily with this injunction, what pretensions can you have to call yourselves followers of Christ? "If any man see his brother have need, and shuts up his affections of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him 1 John 3:17." "He who loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" On the other hand, "abound in the riches of liberality;" and "so shall your light break forth as the morning Isaiah 58:7-8," and "a recompense be given you at the resurrection of the just Luke 14:14."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 26:3-6

 

DISCOURSE 217

GRATITUDE TO GOD ENFORCED

Deuteronomy 26:3-6. And you shall go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the Lord your God, that I am come unto the country which the Lord swore unto your fathers for to give us. And the priest shall take the basket out of your hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God. And you shall speak and say before the Lord your God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father.

The ceremonial law is considered in general as a system of burdensome rites, that had in themselves no intrinsic value, and were useful only as prefiguring the mysteries of the Gospel. But though this view of it is in a measure just, yet we may disparage that law too much; because there was in many of its ordinances a proper tendency to generate divine affections. In the law before us, certain professions were required to be made at the same time that the first-fruits were presented: and the words that were put into the mouths of the offerers, reminded them of the obligations which they owed to God, and, consequently, were suited to excite, as well as to express, their gratitude to God. As far as respected the deliverance of that people from Egypt, there is no further occasion for the law; and therefore it is superseded with the rest of the Jewish ritual: but as an intimation of the high value which God sets on grateful recollections, it is worthy of our highest regard.

We shall take occasion from it,

I. To point out our duty in reference to the mercies we have received—

We surely ought not to receive them like the brute beasts, which have no understanding: it is our duty to act as intelligent creatures; and to make the mercies of our God an occasion of augmented benefit to our souls. For this purpose we ought,

1. To review them frequently—

Even national mercies ought not to be overlooked by us. It was to them in a peculiar manner that the ordinance before us had respect. The Jews were required not only to look back to the deliverance of their nation from Egypt, but to trace back their origin to Jacob their father, whose mother was a Syrian, who himself married two Syrian women, and himself lived in Syria for twenty years; whose children also, with the exception of Benjamin, were all born in Syria, and were the heads and progenitors of all the Jewish tribes. He on many occasions was near perishing: when he fled from the face of Esau, when he was followed by Laban his father-in-law, and when he was met again by Esau at the head of four hundred men, he was in danger of being destroyed: in which case his children would either never have existed, or would all have been destroyed with him. But God had preserved him from every danger, and brought his posterity to Canaan agreeably to his promise: and they in grateful remembrance of this were to profess it openly from year to year; "A Syrian ready to perish was our father."

Perhaps it rarely occurs to our minds that we have quite as much reason for gratitude on a national account as even the Jews themselves: but, if we call to mind the state of our forefathers, who were as ignorant of God as the most savage Indians, and remember, that we ourselves should have been bowing down to stocks and stones just like them, if the light of the Gospel had not been sent to dispel our darkness, we shall see that we may well adopt the language of our text and say, "A Syrian ready to perish was our father."

But we should be careful also to review our personal mercies. Let us look back to the weakness of infancy, the thoughtlessness of childhood, the folly of youth, and see now marvelously God has preserved us to the present hour, while millions have been cut off by a premature death, or left to protract a miserable existence in pain, or infamy, or want. The means by which we have been rescued from danger, and even the minutest occurrences that have contributed to our deliverance, are worthy of our most attentive survey, and must be distinctly viewed, if ever we would "understand aright the loving-kindness of the Lord." We must not however dwell solely, or even chiefly, on temporal mercies, but must raise our thoughts to those which are spiritual. What matter for reflection will these afford! If we consider the former blindness and ignorance of our minds, the hardness and depravity of our hearts, the indifference which we manifested towards the concerns of eternity, and the awful danger in which we stood, what reason have we to bless our God that he did not take us away in such a state! And, if we can say, as in our text, that "we are come unto the country which the Lord swore unto our fathers for to give us," and are "partakers of his promise in Christ Jesus," then have we indeed cause for thankfulness, even such cause, as we may well reflect upon to the latest hour of our lives: On these then we should "muse until the fire burn, and we be constrained to speak of them with our tongues." In the ordinance before us a particular season was appointed for this exercise: and it is well to have seasons fixed upon in our own minds for a more solemn commemoration of the mercies received by us. If the commencement of the new year, for instance, or our birth-day, were regularly dedicated to this service, it could not be better spent. But, if our minds be duly impressed with a sense of God's goodness to us, we shall not be satisfied with allotting one particular period to the contemplation of it, but shall be glad to think and speak of it every day we live.

2. To requite them gratefully—

The Israelites were appointed to offer the first-fruits of the earth to God, in token that they acknowledged him as the Proprietor and Giver of all that they possessed. Now it is not necessary that we should present the same specific offerings as they; but we must dedicate to God the first-fruits of our time, and the first-fruits of our property. We should fear the Lord in our youth, and not think it sufficient to give him the gleanings and the dregs of life: and we should "honor him with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase;" "giving liberally, if we have much, and, if we have but little, doing our diligence gladly to give of that little." But chiefly should we consecrate ourselves to God: for we ourselves are, as the Apostle calls us, "a kind of first-fruits of God's creatures James 1:18." Our bodies and our souls, together with all their faculties and powers, are his: "We are not our own; we are bought with a price; and to honor him is our bounden duty." This is the very intent of God's mercies to us; nor do we ever requite them as we ought, until we "present ourselves to God as living sacrifices," and "glorify him with our bodies and our spirits which are his." This surrender of ourselves to him should be most solemn and devout. The image in our text admirably illustrates it: The priest took the basket that contained the first-fruits, and "set it down before the altar of the Lord his God." Thus should we go into the very presence of our God, and dedicate ourselves to him, as his peculiar people. Rather, if we may so speak, we should put ourselves into the hands of our great High-Priest, that he may "present us holy and unblamable, and unreprovable in his sight."

Such is obviously our duty. We proceed now,

II. To recommend it to your attention—

Persons in general are ready to defer the performance of this duty under an idea that it pertains not to them, at least not at present, and that an attention to it would deprive them of much happiness: but we must press upon your consciences the observance of it; for it is,

1. An universal duty—

Who is there that has not received innumerable mercies for which he has reason to be thankful? Truly, marvelous as are the displays of God's goodness recorded in the Scriptures, there is no man who might not find as wonderful records of it in his own life, if he could trace all the dispensations of Providence towards him, as clearly and minutely as they are marked in the inspired volume towards God's people of old.

But there is one point wherein all mankind are upon a level: we may all look back to the state of Adam after he had fallen, and had reduced himself and all his posterity to ruin. How awful our condition then! Truly we should have been forever like the fallen angels, destitute of all help or hope, if God had not marvelously interposed to rescue us from death and Hell by the sacrifice of his only dear Son. With what emphasis then may every one of us say, "A Syrian ready to perish was our father!" Here all the wonders of redeeming love unfold themselves to our view: and he who has no heart to adore God for them, has no evidence, no hope, of any interest in them.

2. A reasonable duty—

If we have conferred favors on any person for years together, do we not expect our kindness to be acknowledged and requited as opportunities shall occur? Do we not look with abhorrence upon a man that is insensible to all the obligations that can be heaped upon him? But what are the kindnesses which we can show to a fellow-creature in comparison of those which we have received from God?: Shall we then expect a tribute of gratitude from him, and think ourselves at liberty to withhold it from our Heavenly Benefactor?: Let the world ridicule devotion, if they will, and call the love of God enthusiasm: but we will maintain it, that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and that an entire surrender of ourselves to him is "a reasonable service": Do we inquire, whence it is that ungodly men regard the sublimer exercises of religion as unnecessary and absurd? We answer, They have never considered what obligations they owe to God. Only let them once become acquainted with "the height and depth and length and breadth of the love of Christ," and they will see, that reason, no less than revelation, demands of us this tribute; and that every enlightened mind must of necessity accord with that of the Psalmist, "What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits he has done unto me?" "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name!"

3. A delightful duty—

In the passage before us it is associated with joy verse 11; and indeed, what is such a service but a foretaste of Heaven itself? Did any one ever engage in it, and not find his soul elevated by it to a joy which nothing else could afford? Let any one ruminate on earthly things, and his meditations will only augment his cares, or at best inspire him with a very transient joy. Let him dwell upon his own corruptions, and, though they are a proper subject of occasional meditation, they will only weigh down his spirits, and perhaps lead him to desponding fears. But let the goodness of God, and the wonders of redeeming love, be contemplated by him, and he will soon have his mind raised above earthly things, and fired with a holy ambition to honor and to resemble God. See how the Psalmist expresses his thoughts on such occasions Psalm 145:1-7; what glorious language! how sublime must have been the feelings of his soul, when uttering it before God! Know you then that this is the state to which we would invite you, and that the daily experience of it is the best preparative for the joys above.

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 26:17-19

 

DISCOURSE 218

COVENANTING WITH GOD EXPLAINED

Deuteronomy 26:17-19. You have avouched the Lord this day to be your God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: and the Lord has avouched you this day to be his peculiar people, as he has promised you, and that you should keep all his commandments; and to make you high above all nations which he has made, in praise, and in name, and in honor; and that you may be a holy people unto the Lord your God, as he has spoken.

The covenant which was made with the Jews at Mount Horeb, though materially different from that which exists under the Christian dispensation, was yet intended to shadow forth that which all of us are called upon to enter into with our God. The Jewish covenant had respect in a great measure to temporal blessings, the bestowment of which was suspended entirely on their performance of certain conditions: whereas ours relates altogether to spiritual blessings; and though it has conditions as well as theirs, it provides strength for the performance of them, and thereby secures from failure all those who cordially embrace it. We may take occasion therefore from the words before us to consider,

I. Our covenant engagements—

The Jews were required to "avouch," or profess openly, their acceptance of God as their God, and their determination to obey his will in all things; and such are the engagements which we also are called to take upon ourselves under the Christian dispensation:

1. To accept God as our God—

The Jews had most satisfactory evidence that Jehovah was the only true God, and that he alone was worthy to be worshiped and adored. But, great as were the evidences of his kindness towards them, they are nothing in comparison of the demonstrations of his love to us. The gift of his only dear Son to die for us must forever eclipse every other expression of his love Romans 5:8; and this peculiarly distinguishes the view in which we are to accept him: we must regard him as our incarnate God, as "God In Christ Jesus, reconciling the world unto himself, and not imputing their trespasses unto them." Think a moment what is implied in such an acceptance of God: it supposes, that we feel our guilty, helpless, and hopeless state by nature; that we see the suitableness and sufficiency of the provision which God has made for us in the Son of his love; and that we are determined to have no dependence on anything but on the meritorious death and the all-sufficient grace of the Lord Jesus.

But it is not merely a secret determination which God requires: that determination must be avowed; we must "avouch" him to be the Lord our God. We must not be ashamed of Christ, but must "confess him before men," and be as bold in acknowledging him, as the ungodly are in their allegiance to the God of this world.

2. To act towards him as becomes us in that relation—

Universal obedience to his commands was promised by the Jews of old; and the same must be promised by us also. We need not attempt to discriminate between the various terms here used: this we are sure is intended by them, that we are to yield obedience to the whole of his will as far as we know it, neither regarding anything as unworthy of our notice, nor anything as too difficult for us to perform: we must "hearken to his voice," as the angels in Heaven do Psalm 103:20, with an unwearied solicitude to know more of his will, and an incessant readiness to comply with the first intimations of it. We must be searching and meditating continually to find out what he speaks to us in his written word; and be listening also attentively to the still small voice of his Spirit, speaking to us in our consciences: and, whatever we ascertain to be his mind and will, that we are to do without hesitation, and without reserve.

Now this we must determine through grace to do. We must not come to God only as a Savior to deliver us, but also as a Lord to govern us: and we must resolve that henceforth "no other Lord shall have dominion over us." Nor must this determination be kept secret: this also must be avowed: we must let it be seen "whose we are, and whom we serve;" and must evince a firmness in his service which neither the terrors nor allurements of the world can ever shake.

Precisely corresponding with our engagements are,

II. Our covenant advantages—

God affords us ample encouragement to "lay hold on his covenant;" for he avows his determination,

1. To own us as his people—

The very moment that we look to Christ as "all our salvation and all our desire," God will set his seal upon us as "his peculiar treasure." Just as a person who has bought anything of great value, regards it from that moment as his own property, and uses all proper methods for the securing the full possession of it, so does God: "he sets apart him that is godly for himself:" he gives "his angels charge over him," and "owns" him from that day to be "his purchased possession." He "owns" it, I say, and makes it manifest both to the man himself and to the world around him. To the man himself he gives "a Spirit of adoption, enabling him to cry, Abba, Father," and to ascertain, by "the witness of that Spirit, that he is a child of God Romans 8:15-16." To the world around him also he makes it manifest, by enabling him to "walk as Christ walked," and "to shine as a light in the midst of a dark benighted world." Instantly does the change in him become apparent, so that his friends and neighbors cannot but confess that he is a new creature: and, though some will ascribe the change to one thing, and some to another, they are constrained to acknowledge, that his new mode of life is such as they cannot attain to, and such as approves itself to be the very work of God himself.

2. To bestow on us blessings worthy of that relation—

The first thing which the child of God desires, is holiness: and behold, as soon as ever he embraces the Christian covenant, God engages to make him holy, and to enable him "to keep all his commandments." This is a peculiar point of difference between the Jewish covenant and ours, as we have already observed; and it is that which is our greatest encouragement under the consciousness we feel of our own weakness. God "will put his Sprit within us, and cause us to walk in his statutes, Ezekiel 36:25-27." This is actually a part of his covenant engagements; and must be esteemed by us as our security for the enjoyment of all our other advantages.

Together with this does God undertake to give us the most exalted honor and happiness: "he will make us high above all people in praise, and in name, and in honor." "Behold," says the Apostle, "what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" Yes, he "calls us not servants, but friends," yes, "sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty." For us has he prepared crowns and kingdoms, that we may "sit with him on his throne," and be partakers of his glory forever and ever. This, and infinitely more than language can express, has "God prepared for them that love him," and that embrace "his covenant of life and peace:" and he pledges his truth and faithfulness for the performance of his word.

O Christian, what advantages are these! what tongue can ever utter them; what imagination can ever conceive of them aright! Know however, that, unspeakable as they are, they are all your rightful portion, your everlasting inheritance.

APPLICATION—

Twice is the expression used, "this day;" "this day you have avouched;" and "this day God has avouched, etc." Permit me then to ask, Have you ever known such a day as this, a day wherein you have solemnly surrendered yourselves to God as his redeemed people, with a full determination to serve him with your whole hearts; and a day wherein he has "manifested himself to you as he does not unto the world," and "sealed you with the Holy Spirit of promise, as the earnest of your inheritance?"

To those who have known such a day:

Perhaps you were brought to it through many and severe afflictions Zechariah 13:9; Ezekiel 20:37; but have you ever regretted for a moment the means by which such a blessed end has been accomplished? We say then, Let not the remembrance of that day escape from your minds. You cannot but recollect what a solemn transaction it was between God and your own souls: what shame you felt that ever you had alienated yourselves from him, what gratitude to him for his gracious acceptance of you, what a determination to live entirely to his glory, and what a persuasion that you could never be base enough to forget the engagements of that day. But do you not find that the good impressions have been greatly weakened, and that, while the ardor of your will and affections has cooled, little remains except the convictions of your judgment? Ah! beware of "leaving your first love," or of resting satisfied with past experiences. Know that it is not on any one day that these transactions must be realized, but every day of your lives. You should be again and again renewing your vows unto the Lord, and be daily occupied in fulfilling them. Look to it then, that neither the cares of the world, nor the deceitfulness of riches, nor the lusts of the flesh, nor the fear of man, nor any other thing, "choke the good seed within you, or prevent your bringing forth fruit unto perfection."

To those who wish for such a day,

(For we trust that such there are among us, who yet cannot speak of such a day as past,) we would earnestly suggest some necessary cautions.

Delay not thus to give yourselves up to God: but be particularly on your guard not to do it in a legal, self-righteous, self-dependent spirit. There are two mistakes which are very generally made, which yet are of most fatal consequence: the first is, that our covenant-engagements relate only to the performance of our duties; whereas they relate primarily to our acceptance of God as our reconciled God in Christ Jesus: and the second is, that we are to found all our hopes of covenant advantages on our own obedience; whereas we should regard them, not as purchased by us, but as bestowed on us in the covenant, and as secured to us in Christ Jesus. Happy would it be, if this matter were more clearly understood: it lies at the very root of all our comfort, and of all our stability: until we see all our holiness secured to us as well as required of us, we shall never rely as we ought on the promises of God, or give to him the glory due unto his name. See how the covenant is expressed by an inspired prophet: not only does it say, "They shall be my people, and I will be their God," but, to secure their part of the covenant as well as God's, God promises "not to turn away from them, or to suffer them to turn away from him Jeremiah 32:38-41." Thus is "the covenant ordered in all things, and therefore sure:" but it is sure to those only who lay hold on it with a just apprehension of its nature, and a simple dependence on its provisions.

Those, who have no idea of any such day,

May probably be found among us. There are some who seem to take credit to themselves for never having made any profession of religion at all. But can they suppose that this is any excuse for their irreligion, or that it invalidates their obligation to serve the Lord? See the solemn injunction that precedes the text verse 16; can they make that void? See what is the prophet's description of things under the gospel dispensation Jeremiah 1:4-5; there not only are the Lord's people represented as encouraging one another to covenant thus with God, but the state of their minds is accurately delineated, and the whole mode of their proceeding described. Be it known then that this is the duty of every one among us. If we would have God for our portion in a better world, we must accept him now: and, if we would be his people in a better world, we must give ourselves up to him now. To make excuses is vain. This duty is paramount to every other: and therefore we call upon all of you this day to "avouch God for your God," that he, in the day of judgment, may acknowledge you as his redeemed people.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 27:26

 

DISCOURSE 219

THE EXTENT AND EXCELLENCY OF THE MORAL LAW

Deuteronomy 27:26. Cursed be he who confirms not all the words of this law to do them: And all the people shall say, Amen.

THE law here spoken of is the moral law Several particulars of the moral law are enumerated from verse 15 to the end; and here it is mentioned summarily, as comprehending the whole. This every person is bound to keep in its utmost extent. The curse of God is denounced against every violation of it. This sanction, tremendous as it is, should be universally approved. Hence God commanded his people to express their approbation of it. "Amen" in Scripture signifies an affirmation John 3:3, or a wish Matthew 6:13. The adding of "Amen" to the doctrine of the text implies,

I. An assent to its truth—

The doctrine is, that the law of God curses us for one offence. This is often, through ignorance of the Scriptures, denied; but it may be established by a cloud of witnesses.

Death is declared to be the necessary fruit of sin James 1:15. Every deviation from the line of duty subjects us to God's wrath Romans 1:18. An idle word is sufficient to condemn us Matthew 12:36. The most secret thought is punishable by our Judge Ecclesiastes 12:14. Omissions of duty will entail on us the same judgments Matthew 25:30. A violation of the law in one point ensures condemnation as truly, though not as severely, as a rejection of the whole James 2:10. One single transgression brought misery on the whole world Romans 5:12; Romans 5:18-19; and this was agreeable to the terms of the Adamic covenant Genesis 2:17. Paul speaks of this penalty as still in force Romans 6:23. It is not said that death is the wages of much or heinous sin, but of sin, that is of any and every sin. He even cites the very words of the text in proof of the doctrine which we deduce from them Galatians 3:10. Hence the law is called "a ministration of death."

None, however, will cordially assent to the truth of this doctrine until they see ground for,

II. A confession of its reasonableness—

The law, both in its extent and sanctions, is highly reasonable We would not be understood to make the doctrine depend on its reasonableness, and much less on our statement of its reasonableness: we only wish to vindicate it from the objections which unhumbled reason would bring against it. If we were not able to urge one reason in its defense, it were quite sufficient to say, 'God has revealed it, and therefore it must be reasonable;' for nothing can be unreasonable which proceeds from him. That one sin may reasonably subject us to condemnation appears,

From analogy—

Offences in civil society are rated according to the dignity of the person against whom they are committed Should we strike an inferior, an equal, a superior, a benefactor, a parent, a sovereign, the offence would proportionally rise; so that, what in one case might be expiated by a small fine, in another would be counted worthy of death. Now sin is committed against an infinitely great and good God. Hence it contracts an inexpressible malignity. Moreover one act of treason is punished with death. Nor is this judged unreasonable in human governments. Why then may not the death of the soul be annexed to every instance of rebellion against God Is not God's majesty to be regarded as well as man's? and his government to be supported as well as man's??

From the nature of sin—

Sin dishonors God, takes part with Satan, and unfits for Heaven. Are these such light evils, that they not only may, but must be overlooked? Is God forced to honor those who dishonor him? Has not He as much right to be our enemy, as we have to be his? When he sees us destitute of any love to him, is he bound to renew our hearts that we may be capable of enjoying him? Is he unjust if he leave us to eat the fruit of our own way Is it unreasonable that God should vindicate his own honor? Are we at liberty to insult him, and he not to punish us? May we be his enemies, and must he treat us as friends? When our first parents sinned, was God obliged to remedy the evil they bad brought upon themselves? Might he not have left them, as he had already left the fallen angels? Was there any necessity that God should assume the human nature, and offer himself a sacrifice for his creatures' sin? If so, they, even after their fall, might have disdained to ask for Heaven as a gift; they might still have demanded it as a debt. Then God is under a law, and we are free from a law; we are free to live as we please: and he is under a necessity to save us at all events. The absurdity of such positions is obvious.

But an extorted confession of its reasonableness is not sufficient—

God requires of us further,

III. An acknowledgment of its excellency—

The law thus sanctioned is truly excellent: any other would have been less worthy of the great Lawgiver—

Had it required less than perfect obedience, or had the penalty of transgressing it been no more than a temporary punishment, neither his holiness nor his justice had been so conspicuous.

Any other would have been more ruinous to man—

A permission to violate that law in ever so small a degree would have been a licence to make ourselves miserable. Had death been annexed to many transgressions, and not to one, we should have been at a loss to know our state. We should have been with more difficulty drawn from seeking righteousness by our obedience to the law. We should have seen less evil in transgressing it. We should have been less anxious to obtain an interest in Christ. Thus, though mercy is provided, we should have been less likely to obtain it, or to secure its continuance.

Any other would have been less honorable to Christ—

He would have endured less suffering for us. His inter-position for us had been less needed; it would have discovered far less love. The obligations conferred by it would have been comparatively small. He would have been less honored by all. Some would have been saved without his aid. Many would, to eternity, have ascribed the honor of their salvation to themselves.

In this view "the ministration of death was glorious 2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:9-11."—

Such a discovery of its excellency will immediately produce,

IV. An approbation of it with respect to our own particular case—

A person taught of God will cordially approve of this law: he will love it as the means of humbling him in the dust—

It discovers to him, as in a glass, his manifold transgressions. It convinces him of his desert of punishment. It shows him the impossibility of making reparation to God. It constrains him to cry, "Save, Lord, or I perish!" And thus it brings him to the state he most desires Luke 18:13.

He will delight in it as endearing Christ to his soul—

The depth of his disorder makes him value the Physician. He sees his need of one to "bear the iniquity of his holy things Exodus 28:38." He finds that Christ is set forth for this very purpose Romans 10:4. Hence he rejoices in Christ as his Almighty Savior.

Such an approbation of it was expressed by Jeremiah Jeremiah 11:3; Jeremiah 11:5. Paul also highly commends it in this view Romans 7:12; and every true Christian can adopt his words Romans 7:22.

APPLICATION—

Let us study this law as a covenant. Let us acknowledge our condemnation by it. Let it serve as a "schoolmaster to bring us to Christ Galatians 3:24." Let that declaration be the ground of our hope Galatians 3:13.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 28:58-59

 

DISCOURSE 220

THE DUTY OF FEARING GOD

Deuteronomy 28:58-59. If you will not observe to do all the words of this Law that are written in this boot, that you may fear that glorious and fearful name, The Lord your God; then the Lord will make your plagues wonderful.

WE admire the fidelity of Moses, who "declared to Israel the whole counsel of God," "not withholding from them anything whereby they might be profited." To deliver such warnings as are contained in this chapter, must have been inexpressibly painful to him. But he had no alternative, unless indeed he would subject himself to all the curses here denounced; and involve himself, as well as them, in all the consequences of his unfaithfulness and concealment. Brethren, the same necessity lies on us also: we must, at the peril of our souls, deliver all that God has commissioned us to declare: and, if we fail to do so, not only will "you perish in your iniquities, but your blood will be required at our hands Ezekiel 33:8." Bear with me, then, I pray you, while with becoming fidelity I set before you,

I. What God requires of us—

God is indeed a great and glorious Being, "a God of terrible majesty Job 37:22," "before whom the pillars of Heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof Job 26:11." And he requires that "we fear his glorious and fearful name." He requires that we regard him,

1. With reverential awe—

Truly "he is greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him." When he came down upon Mount Sinai in the presence of all Israel, not a soul except Moses was suffered to approach him: and, if even a beast had touched the mountain, it must immediately be slain. So great was the terror which his presence inspired, that even "Moses himself said, I exceedingly fear and quake Hebrews 12:20-21." And he is still the same God, though he do not manifest himself in the same way. Yes, under the New Testament, as well as the Old, we are taught to bear this in mind, that "our God is a consuming fire, and never to be approached but with reverence and godly fear Hebrews 12:28-29."

2. With obediential love—

This is the point more especially noticed in the passage before us: and wherever the fear of God is, it must of necessity manifest itself in this way. There will be a real desire to please God; and a full conviction, that every command of his is "holy, and just, and good." Nothing will be deemed "an hard saying;" nothing be accounted "grievous." We shall not wish for any limit to our obedience; but shall regard the entire surrender of our souls to him as a reasonable service. This is the conclusion to which Solomon came, after carefully weighing the whole matter: "Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty (and end, and happiness) of man Ecclesiastes 12:13."

3. With undivided attachment—

God will not endure a rival in our affections. He must have the whole heart: and the person who shall dare to offer him "a divided heart, shall surely be found guilty before him Hosea 10:2." It is true, we do not give way to gross idolatry, like those to whom our text was addressed: but if we look into "the chambers of imagery" within us, we shall find as many idols as ever were worshiped in the time of Israel's most determined apostasy Ezekiel 8:9-12. And "God is still, as he ever was, a jealous God," that "will not have his glory given to another:" yes, "his very name is, Jealous Exodus 34:14." Know, then, that you must not "set your affections on anything here below," but have them all concentrated on him, fearing nothing, desiring nothing, confiding in nothing, in comparison of him. Father, mother, wife and children, houses and lands, yes, and our own life also, must all be subordinated to him, and sacrificed for him, whensoever our duty to him shall call for it. We must love and serve him, him supremely, him only, him exclusively.

Hear, then, I entreat you,

II. What we must expect at his hands, if we comply not with his requisition—

The Lord made the plagues of his people truly wonderful. Never since the world began was any nation visited with such heavy judgments as they Lamentations 1:12, nor will there ever be the like again, even to the end of time Mark 13:19. They are, and were designed to be, "a sign unto us verse 46." Truly, then, if we fear not God, "our plagues also shall be wonderful." They shall be wonderful,

1. Here—

Look at the different nations of the world, and see what tormentors they are to each other. Behold also the famines, pestilences, earthquakes, which God sends at different times, as "avengers of his quarrel" with those who rebel against him. See. too, the whole frame of society, whether in larger bodies or in private families; and behold what feuds obtain among them, insomuch that there is scarcely a body to be found, the members of which are not arrayed more or less in mutual hostility, and contributing to each other's disquiet. Take all the different individuals of mankind; there is scarcely one who has attained the age of manhood, or, at all events, been long settled in the world, without having, in some respect or other, his very life embittered to him, so that at times, if there had been no future state of existence, he would have almost wished for death as a release from his troubles. Mark the tempers which agitate men's minds, and the curse which there is even upon their blessings, insomuch that those who most abound in this world's goods are not unfrequently the most miserable of mankind. Thus, even in this world, does God fulfill his threatening in our text, and "make our plagues wonderful."

2. Hereafter—

Who can conceive a soul, at its first entrance into the invisible world, beholding all at once the face of an angry and avenging God? How does it start back from him, and cry to rocks and mountains to hide it from his presence! Who can conceive that soul hearing from its Judge those terrific words, "Depart, accursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels?" Who can conceive Hell opening for its reception, and the man cast, body and soul, "into the lake of fire and brimstone," "where the worm of an accusing conscience never dies, and the fire is never quenched?" Who can conceive the soul's retrospect of the mercies it has despised, and the opportunities it has forever lost? and, above all, who can conceive its prospects of eternity, as the duration of all the misery to which it is consigned? Say, Beloved, whether then the plagues will not be wonderful? Now they may be laughed at and despised: but when this cup of God's indignation shall be put into the sinner's hands, and he is left to drink it to the very dregs, there will be an end of all his laughter, and to all eternity will he be occupied in "weeping and wailing and gnashing his teeth."

Behold, then—

"I now set life and death before you." Say, which of the two you will choose. If you doubt the fulfillment of God's threatenings, read the sad catalogue of woes that were denounced against the Jews, and tell me if so much as one of them has failed of its accomplishment Indeed, my Brethren, every Jew you see is a witness for God, that His word shall be fulfilled in all its fearful extent: But, on the other hand, let me say, that the converse of our text is also true. Yes, if you fear and obey the Lord, your blessings also shall be wonderful. Even in this world "the peace of God's obedient people passes all understanding," and their joy is often unspeakable and glorified. And if you could follow a believing soul into the eternal world; if you could behold it when first it is introduced into the presence of its God and Savior; if you could see it, while the Judge of quick and dead is pronouncing that laudatory sentence, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter you into the joy of your Lord;" if, further, you could behold it in the very bosom of its God, invested with a happiness which can never be interrupted, and a glory that shall never end; then you would say that its blessedness is truly wonderful. Why, then, brethren, should you not seek this bliss? Why will you cast it all away, and treasure up for yourselves the sad alternative, even the misery that shall endure for evermore? I pray you, be wise in time; and consider your latter end, before it be too late! And I pray God, that what has been spoken may now be so impressed upon your minds, that that which took place in Jerusalem may never be realized in you: "She remembered not her latter end; therefore she came down wonderfully Lamentations 1:9."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 29:4

 

DISCOURSE 221

MEN'S BLINDNESS IN SPIRITUAL THINGS

Deuteronomy 29:4. The Lord has not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.

THERE is nothing more comforting to a minister, than to see "the word of the Lord running and glorified" among the people of his charge. On the other hand, it is extremely painful to him to find that his labors have been in a great measure in vain. Yet such are the reflections which many a faithful minister is led to make, after an attentive survey of his ministrations. The Prophet Isaiah felt occasion to lament this, in his day; saying, "Who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed Isaiah 53:1." Our blessed Lord had but too much reason to make a similar complaint respecting the issue of his labors also John 12:37-38. Thus we find Moses, after the most indefatigable exertions for the space of forty years, constrained to adopt towards the Jewish people the language of my text; "The Lord has not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day." Would to God that there were not grounds, also, for similar complaint among you, my Brethren! But Christian fidelity compels me to declare, that to a most lamentable extent these words are verified in this place: and, of course, I must open to you the complaint,

I. As uttered by Moses against the people of his charge—

They had "seen" with their bodily eyes all the wonders that had been wrought for them in Egypt and the wilderness: But they had no spiritual perception of them. They understood not,

1. The true character of that dispensation—

They viewed the various occurrences as so many separate and detached events; and had no idea of their figurative import, no conception of them as shadows of good things to come. They saw not that more wonderful redemption which was typically exhibited to their view. The paschal lamb led them not to the contemplation of their Messiah, and of the deliverance which he should effect through the shedding, and the sprinkling, of his most precious blood. Their subsistence by manna, and by water from the rock, served not to show them what it was to live by faith on the Son of God, or to experience in their souls the refreshing communications of the Spirit of God. And though they had already seen a portion given to three of their tribes, yet did they not contemplate the issue of a believer's warfare in the possession of the heavenly Canaan. As for the Law that had been given them, whether the moral or ceremonial law, they knew not the true intent of either: they had no idea of the one as shutting them up to the only possible way of salvation through faith in their Messiah, or of the other as shadowing forth that Messiah in all his offices. In fact, they had no spiritual discernment of any of these things, but were uninstructed and unedified by all that they had seen and heard All these hints admit of profitable enlargement.

2. The obligations which it entailed upon them—

The very first and most obvious effect of all these wonders should have been, to bring them to the knowledge of Jehovah as the only true God, and to make them his faithful worshipers and adherents to the latest hour of their lives. Yet, behold! they had not been delivered from Egypt three months, before they made and worshiped the golden calf: yes, and all the way through the wilderness they "took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of their God Remphan, figures which they made as objects of their worship Acts 7:41-43," in preference to Jehovah, whom thus they provoked to jealousy, until he was constrained to pour forth his wrath upon them to their destruction. It might well be expected, too, that they would yield up themselves to God in a willing obedience to his Law, and live altogether devoted to his service. But they were "a rebellious and stiff-necked people," from first to last. The mercies of God could not win them to obedience, nor his judgments deter them from disobedience. The present and future gratification of their senses was all that they desired: and, if only they had their enjoyments, they cared not whether God were glorified or not.

We say not that this was the character of all that people: but when we recollect, that of that whole nation two only, of all the men that came out of Egypt, were suffered to enter into Canaan, we cannot but fear that the exceptions were very few, and the great mass of the people were of the very description represented in our text.

Humiliating as this complaint is, we must also consider it,

II. As applicable to ourselves at this day—

Infinitely greater have our advantages been than those enjoyed by the Jewish people. They had the shadow only, but we the substance. The whole of redemption has been set before us: yet we, for the most part, have but a very faint and inadequate conception of it. By the great mass of nominal Christians,

1. The nature of the Gospel is very indistinctly seen—

A mere general notion of salvation by Christ may be entertained: but of the grace of the Gospel, its freeness, its fullness, its suitableness, how little is seen! and how far are we from "comprehending the length and breadth, and depth and height of the love of Christ" contained in it! How few among us have any just views of "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," and of all the divine perfections, as united, and harmonizing, and glorified, in this stupendous mystery! The various offices of the sacred Three, all sustained and executed for us, how little of them is known! Indeed, indeed, the generality of those who call themselves Christians are as dark with respect to the excellency and glory of the Gospel, as the Jews themselves were of the scope and character of their Law.

2. The effects of it are very partially experienced—

What might we expect from those who have been redeemed by the blood of God's only dear Son, and renewed in their souls by the operation of his blessed Spirit? Should we not be full of admiring and adoring thoughts of God? Should we not be enrapt, even to the third Heaven, in love to Christ? Should we not be "yielding up both our bodies and our souls to God, as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to him as our reasonable service?" And to what an extent should we not be sanctified, in all our tempers, dispositions, and actions, if we were duly influenced by the principles of the Gospel! In a word, if we felt as we ought, methinks our every feeling would be love, and our every word be praise.

But look at the great majority of those to whom the Gospel has been ministered, and say whether any measure of these effects be visible upon them? Alas! it is as true of us as of the Jews, that "God has not given us an heart to perceive, or eyes to see, or ears to hear, unto this day."

Let me then address myself,

1. To those who are altogether blind—

Perhaps you will be disposed to say, "If God has not given me this discernment, the fault is not mine." But this is a fetal error: for the fault is altogether yours. Had you sought of God the illuminating influences of his Spirit, he would have opened your blind eyes, and unstopped your deaf ears, and renewed you in the spirit of your mind: no earthly parent would so readily bestow bread on his famished child, as God would have given to you his Holy Spirit in answer to your prayers. If, then, you "perish for lack of knowledge," it must be ascribed to your own obstinate neglect of those means which God has appointed for the attainment of spiritual instruction.

2. To those who think they see—

Multitudes, like the Pharisees of old, are ready to ask with confidence, "Are we blind also?" To these we reply, Let your lives declare: let the fruit determine the quality of the tree. Yes, brethren, "if you were indeed blind, you would comparatively have no sin: but now you say, We see; therefore your sin remains John 9:40-41." Your conceit and self-sufficiency render your blindness tenfold more odious, more incurable, and more fetal.

3. To those whose eyes God has opened—

Truly, the mercy given to you is beyond measure or conception great. You doubtless feel what a blessing the gift of reason is, which so elevates you above the beasts: but fax richer is the gift of spiritual discernment, which enables you to see "the things of the Spirit," and elevates you above your fellow-men, even above the wisest and greatest of the human race. Compare the Apostles with the philosophers of Greece and Rome; mark, not merely their intellectual powers, but their moral habits and their spiritual attainments ; then will you have some conception of the mercies given to you, and will appreciate, in some poor measure, the obligations conferred upon you.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 29:19-20

 

DISCOURSE 222

DANGER OF CARNAL SECURITY

Deuteronomy 29:19-20. And it come to pass, when he hears the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under Heaven.

GOD has declared that he "desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live:" and this is abundantly evident from the forbearance which he exercises towards sinners, and from the means he has used for their restoration to his favor. When he brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he entered into covenant with them on Mount Horeb: and when that whole generation had perished in consequence of their violations of his covenant, he was graciously pleased to renew the covenant with their children in the land of Moab: and the reason he gives for that condescending kindness is, lest they should presumptuously sin, and miserably perish, after the example of their fathers See verse 1, 15, 18–20.

In the words which we have just read, he intimates,

I. The astonishing delusion of sinners—

That the greatest part of mankind are walking after the imaginations of their own hearts, is evident ; and that God denounces his vengeance against them, is equally evident: yet on every side we behold,

1. Their fearlessness—

God speaks to them in the plainest terms, that "the soul that sins shall die," and that "the wicked shall be turned into Hell, even all the people that forget God." They themselves too cannot but acknowledge, that "the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Yet they hear the denunciations of God's wrath with perfect indifference: they account them not worth the smallest consideration: yes, to use the expressive language of the Psalmist, "they puff at them Psalm 10:5," 'What though they do "set at nothing God's law, and walk rather after the imagination of their own hearts ?" What though they do "add drunkenness to thirst," and "draw out sin as a cart-rope Isaiah 5:18," adding fresh materials continually, and drawing it out without any intermission to an indefinite length, will God regard such trifling matters ? No: He does not see them, or deem them worthy of his notice Psalm 10:11 and Job 22:13-14. He does indeed threaten to punish these things ; but he will never execute his threatenings.' If any menace their temporal welfare, they are open enough to the impressions of fear, and anxious enough to escape the danger: but if God threaten them with his everlasting displeasure, they regard it as an empty sound. Thus do they cast off all fear of God, and treat both him and his word with the utmost contempt Psalm 10:13.

2. Their self-delight—

They can see no evil in sin: they are sensible that they do not conform to God's law; (nor indeed have they any wish to do so ;) but yet, though their actions are not correct, their hearts are good: they mean no harm: they do as they would be done by; and that, in their estimation, comprehends all that is required of them. It is truly astonishing to see how, in the midst of all their iniquities, men will "bless themselves in their hearts," as much as if there were nothing amiss in their conduct. They quite resent the idea of being sinners, and of deserving God's wrath and indignation: they conceive that they are very good sort of people (as the expression is), and deserving of God's favor. Thus it was with the Jews of old; "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these Jeremiah 7:4;" they thought that no expressions were too strong to characterize their goodness. And thus do sinners in this day boast of their goodness: yes, not only the moral and sober do so, but even the drunken, the sensual, the profane: all are ready to think themselves as good as they need to be, and to answer, like the Youth in the Gospel, "What lack I yet?" So blinded are they by Satan, and hardened through the deceitfulness of their own hearts!

3. Their confidence—

They entertain no doubts or fears: they think that all go to Heaven, and that they must of necessity be happy when they die. "I shall have peace," is the bold assertion of every one among them ; nor will they suffer the safety of their state to be once questioned. On some occasions perhaps a suspicion arises in their minds that it is not quite so well with them as they imagine; but in general they go on as assured of happiness as if all the promises of the Gospel were on their side. Nor is this only in the thoughtlessness of youth: their confidence increases with their age: and even in death they frequently retain it to such a degree as to feel no fear of death: and this delusion of theirs is considered by the survivors as an evidence of their final acceptance. Well does the prophet say of them, "A deceived heart has turned them aside, so that they cannot deliver their souls, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?"

But God views them with other eyes, and denounces,

II. Their awful doom—

The terms in which this is declared are sufficient to alarm the most careless sinner. The wrath of God is here denounced against him. This must be his portion: and this doom is,

1. Infallibly certain—

Sinners imagine that God cannot inflict punishment: they suppose that if not inconsistent with his justice, it would at least be contrary to his acknowledged goodness and benignity. They think that, when the time comes, he will relent, and spare them. But, in our text, he meets that error, and declares, "The Lord will not spare him." "I have spared him long enough," the Lord will say: "I bore with all his wickedness for many years:" "I waited long to be gracious to him:" "I called to him, but he would not hear ; I entreated him, but he refused to hearken: and therefore he now may call, and I will not hear: I will even laugh at his calamity, and mock when his fear is come." Now God would "repent him of the evil which he has thought to bring" on any sinner: but how inflexible he will be in that day, the prophet has abundantly declared Ezekiel 8:18; Ezekiel 24:14. The sinner may "knock at the door which is shut against him, saying, Lord, Lord, open to me: but I will say, Depart from me, I never knew you, you worker of iniquity."

2. Inexpressibly severe—

What must it be to have "the anger and the jealousy of Almighty God" incensed, and so incensed, as to be, as it were, "smoking against us?" But, to form a just idea of the sinner's doom, we must take all the most terrific passages of the word of God, and contemplate all the images contained in them, and then conceive of all of them combined to fill up the measure of his misery. Oh, if we think of "that lake that burns with fire and brimstone," "where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched," where there is nothing but "weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth," and "the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever," what an idea does it all give us of the judgments that await the impenitent transgressor! Yet these, yes and "all the curses that are written in the sacred volume " from one end of it even to the other, shall come upon him, and shall "lie and abide upon him forever and ever." Once, if he had sought for mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ, his name might have been "written in the book of life;" but now "God will blot out his name from under Heaven," and it shall be found registered only with those of the devil and his angels.

We are well aware that these truths are unwelcome to the generality of men: but it is infinitely better to contemplate them in time, than to be left to experience them in eternity.

Let us learn then from this subject,

1. To compassionate the ungodly world—

Were we to see men in danger of perishing in the sea, the most hardened among us would be moved to compassion: why then do we not pity those who are ready every moment to sink into the flames of Hell? That they themselves are not alarmed is rather the reason why we should feel the more alarmed; because their foot will infallibly "slide in due time," and "the wrath of God will come upon them to the uttermost." Let "our eyes then run down with tears for them," and "our head be a fountain of tears to weep for them day and night." Let our efforts too be exerted to awaken them to a timely care of their own souls.

2. To be on our guard against being influenced by their advice—

Those who see not their own danger will be equally secure respecting us Ezekiel 13:22, and will endeavor to lull us asleep by their confident assertions. But, if their presumption will not benefit themselves, it will assuredly not benefit us. The antediluvian world, and the inhabitants of Sodom, despised the warnings given them, and accounted them as idle tales: but the threatened judgments came at last, and the deceivers and deceived perished in one indiscriminate mass. So will it be at the end of the world 2 Peter 2:4-9. Every title of God's word shall be fulfilled; and therefore let those who would draw you back to the world be disregarded by you Ephesians 5:6. "Let God be true, but every man a liar."

3. To be thankful if God has made us to differ from them—

What reason had Noah and Lot to be thankful that they were enabled to believe the divine testimony! And truly, if we are enabled to come forth from an ungodly world, and to enter into the true Ark, the Lord Jesus Christ, we have no less reason to be thankful than they. It is no less the fruit of God's sovereign grace, than was the mercy given to them. Let us then be increasingly watchful against presumptuous confidence, and all the delusions of our own hearts; and, in an unreserved attention to all God's commands, let us "keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 29:29

 

DISCOURSE 223

SECRET THINGS BELONG TO GOD

Deuteronomy 29:29. The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this Law.

NEVER were mercies granted to any people, so rich as those which were given to Israel: nor were there ever judgments so signally, through successive ages, inflicted on any other nation, as on them. And all this was in accordance with prophecy, even with the prophecies which Moses himself delivered to them previous to their entrance into Canaan. All was foreseen by God ; and was foretold also, with sufficient clearness, if they would but learn to act in obedience to the divine warnings. To inquire into the reasons of God's dealings with them, and especially to sit in judgment upon God as though he dealt hardly with them, would be to no purpose. The reasons of his determinations were hid in his own bosom: and his determinations themselves were made known to them for their benefit: and God expected that they should make a suitable improvement of all the information which he had given them. This seems to be the general import of our text ; from whence I shall take occasion to show,

I. The proper limit for our inquiries into the things of God—

God has been pleased to reveal much to us respecting his nature, his dispensations, his purposes: but there is infinitely more which he has not seen fit to communicate; and which, if communicated, we should be no more able to comprehend, than a child could comprehend the deepest discoveries of philosophy. Even what we do know, we know only in part: in fact, our knowledge of everything is so superficial, that it scarcely deserves to be called knowledge: and, therefore, in relation to everything the utmost possible diffidence becomes us. For, after all, what know we,

1. Of God's nature?

We are informed that "He is a Spirit;" that he is, from all eternity, a self-existent Being: that "the Heaven of heavens cannot contain him." But what idea have we of a Spirit? What notion can we form of eternity and omnipresence? The greatest philosopher in the universe has not a whit more adequate conceptions of these thing, than a little infant. Nor do we, in reality, know anything more of the moral perfections of the Deity, than we do of those which we call natural. We speak of his holiness, and justice, and mercy, and truth: but out knowledge of these things is altogether negative: we merely know that he is not unholy, or unjust, or unmerciful, or untrue ; and that is all.

And what shall I say to his subsistence in Three Persons, each possessing all the attributes of Deity, while yet there is but One God ? We know that the Father is spoken of as the Fountain from whence all proceeds; that the Son also is spoken of as executing all which the Father had ordained for the redemption of the world ; and that the Holy Spirit also is spoken of as applying to the sons of men all that the Son has purchased, or the Father ordained. But of these things we know nothing beyond what God has told us in his word: and if we attempt to descant upon them, "we only darken counsel by words without knowledge." In the contemplation of such mysteries, it becomes us to bear in mind the pointed interrogations of Zophar; "Can you by searching find out God? can you find out the Almighty to perfection ? it is high as Heaven; what can you do ? deeper than Hell ; what can you know Job 11:7-8."

2. Of his dispensations?

We know that God orders everything both in Heaven and earth; and that without him "not a sparrow falls to the ground," nor "an hair from the head of one of his servants." But will any one inform us how God overrules the minds of voluntary agents, so as infallibly to accomplish his own will and yet not participate in the evils which they commit ? Our blessed Lord was put to death "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God:" and yet, throughout the whole of that scene, the agents followed altogether the dictates of their own hearts, and "with wicked hands crucified and slew him." And will any one inform us how this was done ? And if we know so little of God's Providence, who shall declare to us the wonders of his Grace ? Will any one tell us why the world was left four thousand years before the Savior was sent to redeem it? or why Abraham was chosen in preference to all other persons upon earth, that the Savior should descend from him, and that it should be in the line of Isaac and Jacob, rather than through the line of Ishmael and Esau? Will any one tell us how the Spirit of God acts upon the souls of some, to quicken, sanctify, and save them; while others never experience these operations; or experience his influence only in such a degree as ultimately to aggravate their eternal condemnation ? Let any one only tell us how mind operates upon matter in any one motion of his own body: and if he cannot tell this, how shall he presume to judge of God, "whose ways are in the great deep, and his paths past finding out?"

3. Of his purposes?

We are assured that "God does everything according to the counsel of his own will; and that none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What do you?" But who has searched the records of Heaven, so as to tell us what shall come to pass, either in reference to nations, or to any solitary individual? Our blessed Lord repeatedly checked all presumptuous inquiries into these things. When his disciples asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel ? he answered, It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power Acts 1:6-7." And when Peter inquired of him respecting John, "Lord, what shall this man do ? our Lord replied, If I will that he tarry until I come, what is that to you?"

In truth, we know nothing of God; nothing of what he is, or does, or will do, any further than he has been pleased to reveal himself to us: and all our inquiries respecting him should issue in that profound adoring exclamation, "O the depth Romans 11:33." Instead of complaining that our knowledge is so circumscribed, we should be thankful that it extends so far: for if there be little communicated to gratify a foolish curiosity, there is everything made known to us that can conduce to our present and eternal welfare.

This idea points out to us,

II. The proper use to be made of all the knowledge we obtain—

Everything that God has revealed is intended to have a practical effect: and everything contained in Holy Writ has a direct tendency to convey some spiritual benefit to our souls. Let us briefly trace this in what is revealed concerning,

1. God and his perfections—

All that is spoken in Scripture upon this sublime subject, tends to fill us with holy fear, and love, and confidence; and to bring us to God, as his obedient subjects and servants.

2. Christ and his offices—

There is no way to the Father but through the Son. When, therefore, we read of him as the Prophet, Priest, and King of his Church, we are of necessity taught to look to him for the illumination of our minds, the pardon of our sins, the subjugation of all our spiritual enemies. We are taught to "live altogether by faith in him, who has loved us, and given himself for us".

3. The Holy Spirit, and his operations—

If we can come to God only through the Son, so neither have we any access to him but by the Spirit Ephesians 2:18. Hence, in desiring his gracious influences, we should seek to have the whole work of grace wrought within us, and to be "transformed into the divine image," and be "made meet for our eternal inheritance".

4. The Gospel, with all its promises and precepts—

Nothing of this is to he contemplated as a mere matter of speculation ; but the whole Gospel is to be embraced as a remedy, as a remedy suited to our wants and sufficient for our necessities. Every promise of it is to be embraced as a ground of hope ; and every precept in it is to be obeyed as an evidence of our faith and love.

5. The realities of the eternal world—

No one ever came from Heaven or from Hell to inform us what those states were, or what was the full import of those terms under which those states are displayed. Nor is it of importance to us to know more of them in this world. We already know enough to call forth into activity our hopes and our fears: and our wisdom, is so to improve our knowledge of them, as to "flee from the wrath to come," and to "lay hold on eternal life".

In a word, "whatever is revealed belongs to us and to our children forever, that in all succeeding ages we should do all the words of God's Law," and approve ourselves to him as a faithful and obedient people.

Hence, then, we may see—

1. What answer we should make to the proud objector—

Persons will sit in judgment upon God and his revealed will, as if they were capable of determining, by their own wisdom, what was fitting for him to reveal or do ; and they will decide with confidence on all which they either see or hear, precisely as if they were competent to weigh in a balance all the mysteries of divine wisdom. With what impious boldness will many revile the mystery of a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead; the incarnation of Christ, and his atoning sacrifice ; and the influences of the Holy Spirit. But to all such proud objectors I will say, with Paul, "Nay but, O man! who are you that replies against God Romans 9:20." You mistake utterly the province of reason, if you think that she is to sit in judgment upon such mysteries as these. She is to judge whether the book which we call the Bible, be of divine inspiration: but when that is once admitted, then she must give way to faith, whose office it is to embrace all that God has revealed, and to make use of it for the ends and purposes for which he has revealed it. And if you will presume to "reprove God, you shah surely answer for it Job 40:2;" for "he gives not account to man of any of his matters Job 33:13."

2. What direction we should give to the humble inquirer—

There may be many things brought to your ears which are above your comprehension, and which you may find it difficult to receive. But there is a standard to which every sentiment may be referred, and a touchstone by which every doctrine may be tried. Our blessed Lord said to those who doubted the propriety of his instructions, "Search the Scriptures: for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me John 5:39." And the Prophet Isaiah told his hearers to bring every thing to this test: "To the Law, and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no truth in them Isaiah 8:20." All that is needful for you to know, is contained in God's word. Whatever agrees with that, is true: whatever is contrary to it, is false: and whatever cannot be determined by it, may well be left among those "secret things which belong to God alone."

3. What encouragement we are to afford to the true believer—

"The secret of the Lord," we are told, "is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant Psalm 25:14." Yes, this is indeed a most encouraging truth. Not that we are to suppose that God will give any new revelation to his people: we have no reason whatever to expect that: but he will shine upon his revealed truth, so that they shall have a perception of it which others have not. I need not tell you how much clearer anything is discerned when the sun shines upon it: or how much more accurately it is seen when the eye is fixed more intently on it: or how things most minute or distant are rendered distinctly visible by glasses suited to our organs of sight. Now, in all these ways will God discover his secrets to the believing soul. He will, by his Spirit, cast a flood of light upon the word; and make the soul most eager to apprehend his truth; and by the medium of faith bring that truth directly upon the tablet of the mind; and thus fulfill that promise, "All your people shall be taught of God John 6:45." Yes, "the meek he will guide in judgment; the meek he will teach his way Psalm 25:9."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 30:4-6

 

DISCOURSE 224

THE RESTORATION AND CONVERSION OF THE JEWS

Deuteronomy 30:4-6. If any of your be driven out unto the out-most parts of Heaven, from thence will the Lord your God gather you, and from thence will he fetch you: and the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and he will do you good, and multiply you above your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.

IN interpreting the Holy Scriptures, it is common with many to dwell almost exclusively upon the literal or historical sense of them, and to confine their meaning to the persons to whom the different parts were immediately addressed, or of whom they spoke. But this limits the use of the sacred volume in such a manner, as to render it of little service to us. By supposing that it related only to other persons and other times, we get rid of its authority, destroy its power over our conscience, and learn to set aside every doctrine which we are not willing to receive, and every precept which we do not choose to practice. But there is an opposite error, against which also we ought to be on our guard. Some are so intent on the spiritual sense of Scripture, as almost entirely to overlook the literal. But the primary meaning is often as replete with instruction as any that can be affixed to the words, and incomparably more satisfactory to a well-informed mind. For instance, if we should take occasion from our text to speak of the nature and effects of true conversion, in bringing us to God and renovating our souls, we might speak what was good and useful; but the primary sense of the passage leads us to another subject, which ought to be of equal importance in our eyes, namely, The Restoration and Conversion of the Jews.

In discoursing then on the words before us, we shall notice,

I. The events to which they relate:—

That which first demands our attention, is, The restoration of the Jews—

Very much is spoken, in the prophets on. this subject: and though a great part of their declarations respecting it may be considered as having received their accomplishment in the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, there are some which evidently refer to a period yet future. The Prophet Ezekiel associates it with their acknowledgment of one Prince, whom he calls David Ezekiel 37:21-25. But there was not any prince after the captivity to whom that name can with any propriety be applied in such a view; whereas the Lord Jesus Christ is often spoken of under that name: and therefore it is reasonable to conclude, that the restoration spoken of must take place after the establishment of Christianity in the world. Indeed so strong are the declarations of Scripture upon this subject, that an expectation of the event universally obtains throughout the Christian world. What the precise time will be, we cannot absolutely fix: but we believe that they will be gathered from all quarters of the earth, and possess again their own land, agreeably to the literal expressions of our text: and it is highly probable, that the time is not far distant. As for the objections arising from the difficulty of carrying such a measure into execution, or from the barrenness of the land of Canaan, they vanish the very moment we open the Scriptures, and see what God did for them in former times. If God has ordained it, every mountain will become a plain.

Nearly connected with this is their conversion to Christianity—

If we suppose a doubt to arise respecting the former, there exists not even a shadow of a doubt respecting this. The Apostle Paul represents it as assuredly determined in the divine counsels, and infallibly to be accomplished in due season. The people of God in every age may be regarded as one tree, of which Abraham may be considered as the root. The Jews after a time were broken off, as fruitless branches; and the Gentiles were grafted on their stock: and, when the appointed season shall arrive, God will again engraft the Jews upon their own stock, and make both Jews and Gentiles one tree, that shall fill the whole earth. It is by this latter measure that God's designs of love and mercy to the Gentiles also shall be perfected: for the conversion of the Jews will awaken the attention of the unconverted Gentiles, and be the means of bringing in the fullness of the Gentiles Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15; Romans 11:23-29.

The change that will be wrought upon them will not be merely outward, or consisting in speculative opinions; it will reach to their inmost souls; it will produce in them a circumcision of the heart, an utter abhorrence of all sin, and a fervent love to God, as their reconciled God in Christ Jesus: they will "love him," I say, "with all their heart, and with all their soul." True indeed it is that they are very far from this state of mind at present: but so were the murderers of the Lord Jesus on the day of Pentecost; and yet in one hour were converted unto God. So shall it be in the day of God's power; "a nation shall be born in a day;" "a little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: the Lord will hasten it in his time."

Such being the prophetic import of the words, let us proceed to notice,

II. The reflections which they naturally suggest—

The present dispersed state of the Jews from which they are in due time to be recovered, is a most instructive subject. We cannot but see,

1. What witnesses they are for God—

The very person who brought them out of Egypt was inspired to foretell both their present dispersion, and their future restoration. The event has come to pass; and now for nearly eighteen hundred years have this people been scattered over the face of the whole earth, and are preserved a distinct people in every place. The treatment they should meet with was most circumstantially foretold: the hardships they should undergo Deuteronomy 28:53-57, the oppression they should endure Deuteronomy 28:29, the contempt in which they should be held Deuteronomy 28:37, the conviction which they themselves, in common with all mankind, should feel, that their sufferings were inflicted by God himself on account of their iniquities Deuteronomy 29:21-28; all, I say, was foretold; and all is come to pass: and they are living witnesses of the truth of God, and of the divine authority of that book which they profess to have been inspired by him. They may be even said to be witnesses also of the truth of Christianity, which is founded on the Jewish Scriptures, and is altogether the completion of them. What therefore God said to them in the days of old, may with yet augmented force be applied to them at this time, "You are my witnesses, that I am God Isaiah 43:12."

2. What warnings they are to us—

Who that sees the present state of the Jews, and compares it with the predictions concerning them, must not acknowledge that God abhors iniquity, and will surely punish it even in his most highly favored people? Methinks the sight of a Jew should produce this reflection in every mind. The Jews, because they were descended from the loins of Abraham, and had been distinguished by God above all the nations upon earth, imagined themselves to be safe: but when they had filled up the measure of their iniquities in the murder of their Messiah, the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost. Let not Christians therefore imagine that the name and profession of Christianity will screen them from the wrath of God. The sentence of exclusion from the heavenly Canaan is gone forth against all who reject the Lord Jesus Christ: and it will assuredly be executed upon them in due time: for "how shall they escape, if they neglect so great salvation?" Our inquiry must be, not, Am I instructed in some particular tenets, or observant of some particular forms? but, Am I "circumcised in heart, so as to love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart, and with all my soul?" This is the point to be ascertained; for "if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, he will be anathema maranatha:" he will be accursed; and God himself will forever inflict the curse upon him.

3. What encouragement we have to seek their welfare—

Notwithstanding God has given so many promises respecting them, the Christian world for many hundreds of years have scarcely thought them worthy of the smallest attention. Christians have been anxious for the welfare of heathens, and have sent missionaries into every quarter of the world to instruct them: but for the Jews they have felt no interest whatever: they have left them to perish without so much as an attempt for their conversion. But what base ingratitude is this! To whom are we ourselves indebted for all our privileges, but to Jews? Who wrote, and preserved with such wonderful care, the Scriptures of the Old Testament? or who wrote the New Testament, but Jews? Who died to redeem our souls from death and Hell? a Jew. Who at this moment makes intercession for us at the right hand of God? a Jew. Who manages everything in Heaven and earth for our good, and is a fountain of all spiritual good to our souls? a Jew. Of whom were the whole primitive Church composed for the first six or seven years? Jews. Who went forth with their lives in their hands, to convert the Gentiles; and to whom are we indebted for all the light that we enjoy? they were Jews. Have we then no debt of gratitude to them? And have we not reason to blush when we reflect on the manner in which we have requited them? Blessed be God! there are at last some stirred up to seek their welfare Preached in 1810. Let us unite with heart and hand, to help forward the blessed work. From what we see of their blindness and obduracy, we are apt to despond: but "the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save:" he can as easily engraft them in again upon their own stock, as he could engraft us upon it: and he has therefore engrafted us upon it, that we might exert ourselves in their favor, and be instrumental in restoring them to the blessings they have lost Romans 11:30-31. Let us at least do what we can, and leave the issue of our labors unto God.

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 30:11-14

 

DISCOURSE 225

THE WAY OF SALVATION PLAIN AND EASY

Deuteronomy 30:11-14. This commandment which I command you this day, it is not hidden from you, neither is it far off. It is not in Heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to Heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very near unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.

IT is a very prevalent idea in the world, that all people shall be saved by the law under which they live; so that Jews, Turks, and heathens of every description, have as good a prospect of salvation, as those who enjoy the light of the Gospel. But there has been only one way of salvation from the fall of Adam to the present moment. How far God may be pleased to extend mercy for Christ's sake to some who have not had an opportunity of hearing the Gospel, we cannot presume to say: but to those who have the Scriptures in their hands we are sure that there is no hope of acceptance, but through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the way of salvation revealed to Adam, confirmed to Abraham, and more fully opened in the Mosaic law. It was of this that Moses spoke in the words before us: to elucidate which, we shall inquire,

I. What is the commandment here spoken of—

What it was may be seen by consulting,

1. The testimony of Moses himself—

It was not the moral law that was given on Mount Sinai, but "the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb Deuteronomy 29:1." The law given on Mount Sinai, of which Horeb was a part, was strictly a covenant of works: but that which was given in the land of Moab, was a covenant of grace. That on Mount Sinai made no provision for the smallest transgression: it simply said, Do this, and live: but that in the land of Moab was accompanied with the sprinkling of the blood of sacrifices both on the altar and on the people Exodus 24:3-8; and intimated, that through the blood of the great Sacrifice their iniquities, if truly repented of, might be forgiven. And this distinction is very carefully noticed in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where Paul, mentioning some particulars not related by Moses, declares, that, by the covenant thus ratified, remission of sins was provided for, and might be obtained by all who sought it in the appointed way.

2. An inspired exposition of the passage Romans 10:5-10.—

St. Paul is expressly contrasting the nature of the two covenants: the Law, he tells us, required perfect obedience, and said, "He that does these things shall live in them Leviticus 18:5 and Deuteronomy 27:26." But the Gospel, that is, "the righteousness which is of faith, speaks on this wise;" and then he quotes the words before us, and explains them as referring to the Gospel. Some have thought that he quoted these words only in a way of accommodation; but it is plain that he understood them as strictly applicable to his point. Speaking of the righteousness which is of faith, he says, "But what says it Some would rather substitute the word he. But our translation is right. See Beza in loc." He then, quoting the very words of Moses, answers, "The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart;" and then he adds, "This is the word of faith which we preach." If then the Apostle was inspired by the Holy Spirit, the matter is clear; and the Gospel was the commandment of which Moses spoke. And it is worthy of observation, that Christ and his Apostles speak of it under very similar terms. Our Lord says, "This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent:" by which he means, that it is the work which God requires of us John 6:28-29. Paul calls the Gospel, "the law of faith Romans 3:27." John says, "This is his commandment, that you believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ 1 John 3:23." And "obeying the Gospel" is the common term used for believing in Christ Romans 10:15; Romans 16:26; 2 Thessalonians. 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17.

3. The particular characters by which it is distinguished—

Moses speaks of it as plainly revealed, and as easily understood. Now this representation accords with that dispensation of the Gospel which was given to the Jews: they had no necessity for any one to ascend up to Heaven, or to go over the sea, to bring them information about the way of life; for God had already revealed it to them from Heaven: he had shown them by the moral law that they were all in a state of guilt and condemnation; and he had shown them by the ceremonial law that they were to be saved by means of a sacrifice, which should in due time be offered. And though that revelation was comparatively obscure, yet any Jew with pious dispositions might understand it sufficiently to obtain salvation by it.

But these characters in the fullest sense agree with the Gospel as it is made known to us. We are not left to inquire whether there is a Savior or not? whether Christ has come down from above? or whether he has been raised up again from the dead? We know that he has come into the world; that he has "died for our sins, and has risen again for our justification:" we know that he has done everything that is necessary for our reconciliation with God, and will do everything that can be necessary for the carrying on and perfecting the salvation of our souls. There is no uncertainty about any point that is of importance to us to know. Nor indeed is there any difficulty in understanding what he has revealed. All that is required, is, a simple, humble, teachable spirit; and to such an one, however ignorant he be in other respects, every part of the Gospel is dear. The humble Christian "has within himself the witness" of all the fundamental truths of the Gospel. What doubt can he have that he is a guilty and condemned creature; or that he needs an atonement for his sins, and a better righteousness than his own for his justification before God? What doubt can he have that he needs the influences of the Holy Spirit to renew him after the divine image, and to render him meet for Heaven? "If the Gospel be hid from any, it is because the God of this world has blinded their eyes:" it is not the intricacy or obscurity of the Gospel that makes it unintelligible to them, but the simplicity and brightness of it: "they love darkness rather than light;" and complain of the Gospel, when the fault is only in themselves. As revealed to us, the Gospel is not obscure; but, as revealed in us, it is bright as the meridian sun.

Such then "is the commandment which God commands us this day." We proceed to consider,

II. What is the obedience which it requires—

It demands from us,

1. An inward approbation of the heart—

Without this all the knowledge of men or angels would be of little use. On this our salvation altogether depends. Moses says, "The word is in your heart;" and Paul's exposition of it is, "If you shall believe in your heart that God bath raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved." Thus a mere rational assent to divine truth is particularly excluded from the office of saving; and salvation is annexed to that faith only which calls forth all the affections of the soul, "a faith which works by love." As "a commandment," it is to have all the force of a law within us, "casting down imaginations with every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God," and "bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." It is not sufficient that we acknowledge the death and resurrection of Christ as parts of our creed: we must see and feel the necessity of them in order to the deliverance of our souls from death and Hell; and we must also glory in them, as the infinitely wise, gracious, and all-sufficient means of our redemption. We must have such a view of these truths, as makes us to "account all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of them Philippians 3:8." This was insisted on as necessary to the admission of converts into the Christian Church. And it is the experience of all who truly belong to Christ Romans 6:17. See the Greek.

2. An outward confession of them with the mouth—

It is curious to observe what minute attention the Apostle paid to the words of Moses, and what emphasis he has laid upon them. Moses had transiently observed, "The word is in your mouth and in your heart;" but the Apostle amplifies the idea, and shows repeatedly that the confessing of Christ with the mouth is quite as necessary as the believing on him with the heart: by the latter indeed we obtain "righteousness;" but by the former we obtain complete "salvation Romans 10:9-10." In that age, to confess Christ before men was to subject oneself to persecutions and death in their most cruel forms: but our Lord would not acknowledge any one as his disciple, who should neglect to do it: he warned his disciples that such cowardice would infallibly exclude them from the kingdom of Heaven. How necessary then and indispensable must a confession of Christ in this age be, when we have nothing to fear but the loss of some temporal interest, and the being stigmatized with some ignominious name! Truly, if we are ashamed to confess him, we may well be banished from his presence as the weakest and most contemptible of the human race Mark viii. 38. Let this then be considered by all who would secure the salvation of their souls; they must openly confess their attachment to Christ, and must "follow him without the camp, bearing his reproach." A public acknowledging of him indeed will not supersede the necessity of internal piety; nor will the piety of the heart supersede the necessity of honoring Christ by an open profession of our faith: both are necessary in their place; and both must be combined by those who would derive any benefit from either.

Learn then from hence,

1. To value aright the privileges you enjoy—

The Jews were far exalted above the heathen; but we are no less exalted above them: for we have the substance, of which they had only the shadow. But even among Christians also there is a great difference; some having the Gospel more fully and clearly opened to them than others. We pray God that the light which you enjoy may be improved by you; else it will leave you in a more deplorable state than Sodom and Gomorrah.

2. To guard against entertaining discouraging thoughts about the salvation of your souls—

Moses tells you that you have no occasion for such thoughts; and Paul guards you against the admission of them into your minds: "Say not in your heart," who shall do such and such things for me? It is very common for persons to think their salvation on one account or other unattainable. But "what could God have done for us that he has not done?" or what provision do we need which he has not laid up in store for us? To say, 'This salvation is not for me,' is to contradict the Scriptures, and to "make God a liar." Repeatedly is it said, that "whoever believes in Christ, and whoever shall call on his name, shall be saved." It matters not whether he be a Jew or a Gentile, a greater sinner or a less; for "God is rich unto all that call upon him," whatever guilt they may have contracted, or whatever discouragements they may labor under Romans 10:11-13. Put away then all unbelieving fears, and know, that, as the Gospel is revealed for the benefit of all, so it shall be effectual for all who believe and obey it.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 30:11-14

 

DISCOURSE 226

THE GOSPEL CLEARLY CONTAINED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT The author's First Address to the Jews, at Catharine Cree, London. The preceding Discourse on the same text was written many years before, for Gentiles; this in 1818, for Jews.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14. This commandment which I command you this day, it is not hidden from you, neither is it far off. It is not in Heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to Heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very near unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.

THE Old Testament is a rich mine of spiritual knowledge, and reflects as much light upon the New Testament as itself receives from this fuller revelation of God's will. Each is necessary to the understanding of the other: in that is the model of the edifice, which, under the Christian dispensation, has been erected: and, if it were duly attended to, it would prove sufficient to convince the whole world, that Christianity is Judaism perfected and completed; perfected in all its types, and completed in all its prophecies. To this effect spoke Moses in the words before us. "The commandment" which he mentions, is not to be understood, as many Jews imagine, of the law given upon Mount Sinai, but of another covenant which God entered into with his people in the land of Moab; and which was, in fact, the covenant of grace. It is by Moses himself distinguished from the covenant of works Deuteronomy 29:1; and that distinction is confirmed by the account which he gives of it elsewhere. The law, as published on Horeb or Mount Sinai, made no provision for the pardon of any sin whatever: it simply said, "Do this and you shall live:" but the covenant made afterwards in the land of Moab, was ratified with the blood of sacrifices; which blood was sprinkled upon the altar, the book, and all the people Exodus 24:3-8; and therefore sprinkled, that they might know how to seek the remission of their sins, as often as occasion for it should arise The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who was so deeply conversant with the whole of the Mosaic law, refers to this very covenant in this precise point of view. Hebrews 9:19-20. In this act the gospel way of salvation was set before them; so that they needed not henceforth to be looking for any one to come down from Heaven, like Moses, or from the depths of the sea, like Jonah, to proclaim it, seeing that it was "very near unto them" already, even "in their mouth," which approved of the law, and "in their heart," which loved it.

The things which the Gospel more particularly inculcates, are, Repentance, Faith, and Obedience; and these are almost as clearly revealed in the Old Testament as in the New.

To show this to the Jewish people is, I conceive, the very first step towards bringing them to Christianity. The Apostles, when preaching to the Jews, always appealed to the Old Testament in confirmation of all that they delivered: and I also, after their example, will endeavor to show you, my Jewish Brethren, that your own Scriptures declare in the plainest terms,

I. That you are guilty and condemned by the moral law.

The law is a perfect transcript of the mind and will of God; and it requires of every human being an obedience to all its commands. For one single transgression it utterly and eternally condemns us: nay more, it requires every individual to express his assent to this as true, and his approbation of it as right and good: "Cursed is he who confirms not all the words of this law to do them: and all the people shall say, Amen Deuteronomy 27:26." But of the impossibility of coming to God by the law, we have a most striking illustration in the conduct of your forefathers at the very time that the law was given: they were so terrified by all that they saw and heard, that they repeatedly declared, that, if the same scenes should pass again, "they should die:" they entreated that God would no more speak to them himself, but give them a Mediator, through whom they might receive his law in a mitigated form, and divested of those terrors which they were not able to endure. And of this request God expressed the highest approbation, saying, "They have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such an heart in them Deuteronomy 5:22-29." In this matter, dearly beloved, my heart responds to the wish of your Almighty Lawgiver, 'O that there were in you such an heart!' Could we but once see you thoroughly convinced of your guilt and condemnation by the law, we should have no fear of your speedily and thankfully embracing the salvation offered you in the Gospel. The great obstacle to your reception of the Gospel is, that instead of regarding the law as a ministration of death and of condemnation, you are looking for life from obedience to it. True it is that temporal blessings were promised to obedience: and that eternal blessings also were promised to those who should "lay hold on God's covenant," and keep his commandments. But the covenant on which they were to lay hold, was that which had been made with their father Abraham; and which never was, nor could be, disannulled by the law. The law, as published on Mount Sinai, was intended to shut them up to this covenant, by making known to them the impossibility of being saved in any other way than by the promised Seed. And, when once you understand and feel this, you will not be far from the kingdom of God.

This conviction would also prepare you for another lesson taught you by Moses; namely,

II. That you must be saved altogether by an atoning sacrifice.

This was taught you throughout the whole ceremonial law: the daily and annual sacrifices proclaimed it to your whole nation. Nor was this merely taught in theory; it was required of every offender, whatever his sin might be, to bring his sacrifice, in order that it might be put to death in his stead, and deliver him from the condemnation which his sin had merited. Even for sins of ignorance this was required; and the offender, whether he were a priest, or an elder, or a ruler, or one of the common people, was required to put his hands on the head of his sacrifice, and thus, by the most significant of all actions, to transfer to it his sins Leviticus 4:4; Leviticus 4:15; Leviticus 4:24; Leviticus 4:29. What an instructive ordinance was this! Yet was the ordinance of the scape-goat, if possible, still more instructive. On the great day of annual expiation, the high-priest, after killing the goat on which the Lord's lot had fallen, was to put his hands on the head of the scape-goat, and to confess over him all the sins of all the children of Israel; and then the goat was led into the wilderness from before them all, never more to be seen; that so the removal of their sins might be made visible, as it were, to their bodily eyes Leviticus 16:20-22.

Yet, while this glorious truth was thus plainly declared, the insufficiency of the legal sacrifices, and the necessity of a better sacrifice, was proclaimed also. For these very sacrifices were to be repeated from year to year; which showed, that the guilt expiated by them was not fully removed. Hence the very sacrifices were, in fact, no other than an annual remembrance of sins, not finally forgiven. In this light they were viewed by those of your forefathers whom you cannot but venerate, and whom I believe to have been inspired of God, the Apostles of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ See Hebrews 10:1-4.

The same thing was intimated by the very partial appointment of sacrifices. There were many sins, as adultery and murder, for which no sacrifice was appointed. Indeed, presumptuous sins, of whatever land they were, if remission was to be obtained by sacrifices, could never be forgiven; because no sacrifice was appointed for them. Nor, in truth, was any man made perfect as pertaining to the conscience by any of the sacrifices; because every man had a secret suspicion at least, if not conviction, that the blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sin See Hebrews 10:1-4. Still, however, the great end was answered of directing the eyes of all to the appointed sacrifices, and through them to the Lord Jesus Christ, the great sacrifice, whose blood alone can cleanse from sin, and who is "a atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world."

Dear Brethren, it was to this better sacrifice that David looked, when, after the commission of adultery and murder, he prayed, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow Psalm 51:7." Let your eyes be directed to the same sacrifice, even to your Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the Prophet Isaiah says, "He was wounded for our transgressions:" and again, "The Lord has laid on him the iniquities of us all." This is He whom your forefathers pierced, and nailed to the cross; and through whom thousands of those who crucified him, found peace with God: and, if you also could now be persuaded to look unto him for salvation, you would immediately experience the effect produced by the brazen serpent in the wilderness, and be healed every one of you. O that you would obey the direction given you in the writings of your own prophets, "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth." You would no longer continue strangers to peace and joy; (for strangers you must be to these divine sensations, while you are condemned by the law, and ignorant of the way in which your guilt is to be removed:) on the contrary, your "peace should flow as a river," and, as "children of Zion, you . should be joyful in your King."

But further, it is declared in your law,

III. That all who are thus saved, must be holy in heart and life.

God, as you know, requires you to be "holy as he is holy;" and to be "a peculiar people unto him above all the people upon earth." And I the rather bring this to your minds, because you are ready to think that we wish to proselyte you to Christianity, that we may have to glory in such an accession to our cause. But I beg leave to assure you, that I would not move a finger to proselyte your whole nation to our religion, if I did not at the same time raise them to be better men, fitter to serve their God on earth, and fitter to enjoy him forever in Heaven. And this I entreat you to bear in mind. It is to the divine image that we wish to bring you, and to the full possession of that blessing promised to you by Jehovah himself; "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. And I will take away the heart of stone out of your flesh, and will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and to keep my judgments and do them Ezekiel 36:25-27." This is necessary for you, as it is also for us: nor have we ourselves any other rule of conduct than that which was prescribed to you in the Ten Commandments. The advantage we have in the New Testament is not that new things are revealed to us, but that the things originally revealed to you are made more clear and intelligible. Not that in your Scriptures there is any obscurity in relation to this matter: we may truly say, "It is not far off, nor is it hidden from you; but it is very near unto you, even in your hands and in your mouth:" I pray God we may be able to add, as Moses did in my text, that it is "in your heart" also!

And now permit me to address a few words to you, my Jewish Brethren—

It is to your own Scriptures that I wish in the first instance to direct your attention: for you yourselves know that they testify of your Messiah, and are intended to direct you to him. It is greatly to be lamented, that they are not studied among you as they ought to be; and that your Rabbis for the most part pay more deference to the voluminous commentaries with which your Scriptures are obscured, than to the Scriptures themselves. But let it not be so with you. Begin to search the Scriptures for yourselves: search them as for hid treasures; and pray to God to give you his Holy Spirit, to instruct you, and to guide you into all truth. When you take the blessed book of God into your hands, lift up your heart to God, and say with David, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law!" Then compare your Scriptures with ours, the Old Testament with the New; and mark how exactly they correspond with each other, even as the vessel with the mold, or the wax with the seal. Then I fear not but that you will soon acknowledge Him of whom the Law and the Prophets do speak, even Jesus of Nazareth, to be the true Messiah, the Savior of the world. Yes; he whom you have hitherto rejected will become precious to your souls: and you will, in a far higher sense than you have ever yet been, become the children of Abraham, and the sons of God.

To the Christian part of this auditory I will also beg leave to address a few words—

You have seen that with care and labor I have endeavored to establish the true import of my text from the writings of Moses himself. But, if I had been speaking to you only, I might have spared that trouble, having the text already explained to my hand by God himself. Paul tells us, that the commandment which was near to the Jews, was the Gospel itself, even that word of faith which declares, that whoever with the heart believes in Christ, and with the mouth confesses him, shall assuredly be saved Romans 10:5-13. How thankful should we be for such a light! and having been favored with it, shall we conceal it from our Jewish brethren, from whom, under God, we have received it? What would you think of a man, who, being stationed in a light-house for the purpose of warning ships in its vicinity to avoid some rocks, and of directing them into a safe harbor, should, when he saw a whole fleet approaching, conceal the lights, and leave the whole fleet to perish on the rocks; and, when called to an account for his conduct, should say, 'I did not think it right to create any alarm among the crews and their passengers?' Would you think his excuse valid? Would you approve of his pretended benevolence? Would you not rather be filled with indignation against him, and say, that the blood of all who perished should be required at his hands? Do not you then act in a way, which, under other circumstances, you would so severely condemn: but, as God has given you a light, improve it carefully for your Jewish brethren. This is what their fathers did for you, when you were bowing down to stocks and stones. Do you it then for them, if perhaps you may be the means of enlightening some among them, and of saving their souls alive.

At the same time remember, that Paul applies the passage unto you; and tells you from it, that you must believe in Christ with your hearts, and confess him openly with your mouths. The word is, in the strictest sense, "very near unto you:" read it then, and ponder it in your hearts, and treasure it up in your minds, and live upon it, and glory in it: so shall it be a light to your paths, and make you wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 30:19

 

DISCOURSE 227

A FAITHFUL MINISTER'S APPEAL

Deuteronomy 30:19. I call Heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing! therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may lire.

HOWEVER long a minister may continue with his people, he must part from them at last, and be summoned to give up his account of all his ministrations to them. Moses had now presided over Israel for the space of forty years: and the time was come that he must die Deuteronomy 31:2. But, before his death, he warned them with all fidelity, setting life and death before them: and, in the words which I have just read, he appealed to them, that he had discharged his duty towards them fully in these respects; and urged them to improve the privileges which they had so long enjoyed.

Let me call your attention to,

I. His appeal—

It is justly said of him, both in the Old Testament and in the New, that "he was faithful in all his house Numbers 12:7; Hebrews 3:2." And, indeed, not even Paul himself labored under greater disadvantages, or persevered with more unwearied diligence than he. The whole of God's laws, moral, ceremonial, judicial, did he make known to the people, enforcing the strict observance of them all (whether "commandments, statutes, or judgments") on the penalty of death. The violating of any one of them willfully and presumptuously, was declared to be such an act of rebellion against God, that nothing less than utter excision was the punishment annexed to it Numbers 15:30. On the other hand, he promised to them, that, if they were observant of God's blessed will, they should live, and long enjoy their promised inheritance verse 16–18. And so uniformly had he devoted all his time and strength to their service, that he could call both Heaven and earth to testify of his fidelity in executing the office that had been assigned him.

Let it not be thought that we would presume to institute a comparison between that holy man and ourselves. We well know how infinitely short of him we have come, in the whole of our personal and official character. Yet we do hope that we can so far adopt his words, as to appeal both to God and man, that, during the years that we have ministered among you, we have faithfully, according to our ability, "set life and death before you."

1. We have ministered the same truths unto you In quite a young minister this kind of address would be inexpedient: but in an aged minister, who had spent his whole official life in superintending one congregation, it would be thought quite in character.—

In the preceding verses, Moses speaks particularly respecting the Gospel, which he had made known unto the people. "This commandment, which I command you this day, it is not hidden from you, neither is it far off. It is not in Heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to Heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very near unto you; in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it. See, I have set before you this day, life and good, and death and evil verse 11–15." The exposition of these words is given us by Paul, who tells us, that in them Moses spoke, not of the righteousness of the Law, but of the righteousness which is of faith, even of that very faith which Paul himself preached Romans 10:5-9."

And what has been the subject of our ministrations? You yourselves will bear me witness, that, from the very first hour that I came among you, "I determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified 1 Corinthians 2:2." What Moses preached in types and shadows, I have declared in the plainest terms; showing, at all times, that "the moral law was a schoolmaster to bring you to Christ Galatians 3:24;" and that the ceremonial law, in all its ordinances, held forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the great sacrifice, that takes away the sins of the world Hebrews 10:1-10. Never, at any period, have we attempted to lay any other foundation than this 1 Corinthians 3:11; nor have we ever hesitated to affirm the sufficiency of this to bear the weight of the whole world Acts 13:39."

2. We have too, according to our ability, ministered with the same fidelity—

We hope we may, without presumption, appeal to you, as the Apostle Paul did to the elders of Ephesus, not only that "we have kept back nothing that was profitable unto you," but that "we have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God; and are therefore, as far as relates to that, pure, not from your blood only, but from the blood of all men Acts 20:20; Acts 20:26-27." You yourselves will bear me witness, that, notwithstanding "the offence of the cross, which neither is ceased, nor can cease Galatians 5:11," I have at all times gloried in it, and exalted it as the only means of our reconciliation with God Galatians 6:14. Nor have I ever amused you with speculative theories: no: I have preached the Gospel practically; and not in a cold and formal manner, but as a matter of life and death. I have never ceased to exhibit it with all its awful sanctions; assuring you of life, if you would believe in Christ; and denouncing the wrath of God against all who would not obey the Gospel; executing in this respect the commission given me, to preach the Gospel to every creature, saying, "He who believes, and is baptized, shall be saved; and he who believes not shall be damned Mark 16:15-16." Never, at any time, have I dissembled these truths; "never daubed the wall of God's sanctuary with untempered mortar," nor "sewed pillows to the armholes of my people," to let them find ease in sin: never have I "spoken peace to you, when there was no peace," or "promised life" in any other way than a total surrender of yourselves to God Ezekiel 13:10; Ezekiel 13:18; Ezekiel 13:22. And here I will mention one point, which, from the beginning, I have kept in mind without turning to the right hand or to the left—I have never perverted one passage of Scripture to make it speak the language of human systems. I have been anxious to set before you the "unadulterated word" of God 1 Peter 2:2 and 2 Corinthians 2:17; and to let it speak for itself, without ever concerning myself what human system it either countenanced or opposed: having been "allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, we have spoken, not as pleasing men, but God, who truth our hearts 1 Thessalonians. 2:4-5;" and with the "utmost plainness" too 2 Corinthians 3:12, "not with enticing words of man's wisdom," "lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5."

While, however, "we call Heaven and earth to record this day" respecting these things, let it not be supposed that we are not conscious of innumerable short-comings and defects in our ministrations: for we are filled with, nothing but shame and confusion of face in the review of them, God knows: but as far as respects the fidelity of them, we can, and do, appeal both to God and man, that, like Moses, we have faithfully and invariably "set before you life and death, blessing and cursing," according as they are revealed in the Gospel, and as they shall be awarded to those who receive or reject the Gospel.

And now let me call your attention to,

II. The advice he founds upon it—

"Choose life;"

A free choice is given to every one among you—

The Gospel is freely preached to you all: and you are all at liberty to embrace or to reject it. Almighty God is sincere when he says, that "he would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9." Never did he reprobate any man, until that man had brought that sentence upon himself by his own willful obduracy. The whole Scripture bears testimony to this truth. If this be not true, how can we ever explain that solemn oath of Jehovah; "As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live. Turn you, turn you from your evil ways: for why will you die, O house of Israel Ezekiel 33:11." There is not a human being that is excepted from the invitations of the Gospel, or from its blessings, if he accept them. "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth! for I am God: and there is none else Isaiah 45:22." And "him that comes unto me, (whoever he be, or whatever he may have done,) I will in no wise cast out John 6:37." Moreover, the fault of rejecting these overtures is always imputed to the sinner himself: "You will not come unto me, that you might have life John 5:40." If any could have been supposed to have been reprobated from all eternity, it was the persons who were given up to reject their Messiah, and to crucify the Lord of glory: yet over them did our blessed Lord mourn, saying, "How often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you would not Matthew 23:37." That we have a bias towards corruption, is certain: but there is no compulsion. That Satan also is permitted to tempt us, is certain: but he cannot compel any man. We are perfectly free agents in all that we do, whether it be good or evil. If it be said, that God "draws men," it is true: but he "draws them with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love Hosea 11:4." And, if he prevail over the reluctance of their hearts, it is not by the exercise of an overpowering force, but by "making them wining in the day of his power Psalm 110:3." If he "work in them to do," it is by "working in them to will Philippians 2:13." And I will appeal to every living man, whether he ever did good or evil by compulsion against his will? That he has acted against his judgment and his conscience, is true enough, and that in ten thousand instances: but against his will he never did. God sets good before us; and Satan evil: and, whichever we prefer, that we choose, and that we do.

Exercise, then, your choice with true wisdom—

The generality, in spite of all that we can say, will choose evil. It is in vain that we endeavor to allure them by the offer of "life," or to alarm them with the threatening of "death:" they prefer evil with all its consequences: and therefore they do it: as God has said; "He who sins against me wrongs his own soul: all they that hate me love death Proverbs 8:36." But do not you act thus. "Choose good:" "choose life; that both you and your seed may live." Of the beneficial consequences to yourselves you cannot doubt: for, who ever sought the Lord, and was rejected? "Who ever truly believed in Christ, and was confounded 1 Peter 2:6." Who ever "chose the good part, and had it violently taken away from him Luke 10:42." Choose God for your Father; and he will acknowledge you as his children. Choose Christ as your Savior; and "he will present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." Choose the Holy Spirit as your Sanctifier: and "he will perfect that which concerns you," and "complete in you the work he has begun." Choose Heaven for your inheritance: and sooner shall Heaven and earth pass away, than you be permitted to come short of it. The very choice you make will evince, that you yourselves have been chosen of your God John 15:16 and 1 John 4:19; and "his gifts and calling are without repentance Romans 11:29."

And shall not this tend to the benefit of "your seed" also? Is it not a part of God's covenant, that "he will put his fear in our hearts, for the good of us, and of our children after us Jeremiah 32:39." What is there so likely to benefit the rising generation as the piety of their parents? The force of good instruction is great: but when enforced by good example, it is almost irresistible. Children of pious parents, who have diligently instructed them, and "labored earnestly and constantly in prayer to God for them," cannot sin so easily as others: or if, through the power of temptation, they be drawn aside after wickedness, they will, it is hoped, feel the remonstrances of conscience in seasons of sickness and reflection, and be brought home at last with penitential sorrow to their God. At all events, we have encouragement to hope, that "our labor for them shall not be in vain in the Lord;" and that, though in some instances we should fail, it shall be found generally true, that, if we "bring up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it."

That I may enforce the counsel in my text, I would beg you to consider,

1. The alternative that is here offered you—

It is not "life" or annihilation, but "life or death;" not "a blessing, or a mere privation of good," but, "a blessing, or a curse." And have you ever thought what that "death" is, and what that "curse?" Uh! who shall declare what that "second death" is, in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; or what that "curse," which shall be there endured? Were annihilation, or eternal sleep, the alternative, you would at least have the consolation of knowing, that you would be unconscious of your loss: but, as you must live forever, either in Heaven or in Hell, I entreat you to "choose that life," which shall be "at God's right hand, in pleasures for evermore Psalm 16:11."

2. The responsibility attaching to you for the privileges you enjoy—

Our blessed Lord said respecting his hearers, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin John 15:22." And may I not say the same to you? Doubtless, if you had the Gospel ministered unto you with less clearness and fidelity, you would have less to answer for, even as Sodom and Gomorrah had on this very account a lighter condemnation than Bethsaida and Capernaum Matthew 11:20-24. It is certainly a great comfort to a minister to know that "he has delivered his own soul Ezekiel 33:8-9." But it is a painful reflection to think, that the very means he has used for the salvation of his people, will in many cases only increase their guilt; and the word he has spoken to them, instead of being to them a savor of life, will only be a savor of death to their more aggravated condemnation. Beloved, let me not have to appear in that day as "a swift witness against you," but rather have to present you to God as my children Isaiah 8:18, and possess you as "my joy and crown of rejoicing for evermore 1 These. 2:19, 20."

3. The nearness of the final issue—

Moses had ministered to his people for forty years: and it is now just about that time that I have ministered to you. How much longer God may be pleased to continue my labors among you, he alone knows: but, according to the course of nature, it cannot be long. Be in earnest, then, to improve the light while you have it John 12:36. Many who are gone to judgment would be glad enough if they could come back again to hear the invitations and warnings which they once slighted. And it is possible, that, when the present ordinances shall have come to an end, and the tongue that has so often warned you lies silent in the grave, you may wish that you had "known the day of your visitation," and improved the privileges you once enjoyed. Let us all "work while it is day: for the night comes, when neither your minister can work for you, nor you for yourselves." And the Lord grant, that, while we are continued together, I may so preach the word, and you receive it, that we may stand with boldness before God, and obtain his plaudit in the day of judgment!

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 31:6

 

DISCOURSE 228

MOSES' ENCOURAGING ADDRESS TO ISRAEL

Deuteronomy 31:6. Be strong and of a good courage; fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord your God, he it is that does go with you; he will not fail you, nor forsake you.

THE application of passages in the Old Testament to the Church at this time is thought by many to be an unwarrantable liberty, especially if those passages referred to any particular occasion, and still more if they primarily related to any particular individual. We are far from saying that great caution is not requisite on this head; but we feel no hesitation in affirming, that passages in the Old Testament, whether general or particular in their primary import, are applicable to the Church of God in all ages, as far as the situations and circumstances of the Church resemble that in former times: nay, we go further still, and affirm, that passages, which in their primary sense related only to temporal concerns, may fitly be applied at this time in a spiritual sense, as far as there exists a just analogy between the cases. We cannot have a stronger proof of this than in the words before us. They were first addressed by Moses generally to all Israel, when they were about to invade the land of Canaan. They were then addressed particularly to Joshua in the sight of all Israel verse 8, 23; and they were afterwards again addressed to Joshua by God himself Jos. 1:5; Jos. 1:9. Now it might be asked, Have we any right to apply these words to the Church at this time? and may any individual in the Church consider them as addressed personally and particularly to himself? We answer, Yes; he may; and moreover may found upon them precisely the same conclusions as Israel of old did. For this we have the authority of an inspired Apostle; who, having quoted the words in reference to the whole Christian Church, adds, "So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper; and I will not fear what man shall do unto me Hebrews 13:5-6." Thus then are we warranted to address the words to you in relation to that warfare which you are to maintain against all the enemies of your salvation: and this we will proceed to do.

Brethren, we suppose you now in the state of Israel when addressed by Moses. And if, like Moses, we knew that the superintendence of your spiritual concerns was speedily to be devolved to another, and that this was the last time that we should ever address you, we could not do better than amplify and expand his ideas, contained in the words before us.

You, Brethren, are about to engage in a most arduous warfare—

The enemies of Israel were numerous and very powerful: they were men of gigantic stature, and they "dwelt in cities walled up to Heaven." There were no less than "seven nations greater and mightier than Israel," and all these were confederate together for the defense of Canaan. But these were weak, in comparison of the Christian's enemies. You, Brethren, have to conflict with the world and all its vanities, the flesh and all its corruptions, the devil and all his wiles. There is not anything you see around you, which is not armed for your destruction: nor is there anything within you which does not watch for an opportunity to betray your soul, and to inflict on it the most deadly wounds. Yet these enemies, notwithstanding their number and power, are quite overlooked by Paul, and counted as nothing, in comparison of those mighty adversaries, the principalities and powers of Hell Ephesians 6:12. Their inconceivable subtlety, their invisible combination, their pre-eminent strength, their inveterate malignity, together with the easiness of their access to us at all times, render them formidable beyond measure; insomuch that if you had not an Almighty Friend to espouse your cause, you might well sit down in despair.

In the prospect of this contest you are apt to indulge desponding thoughts—

Forty years before, the Israelites had refused to encounter their enemies, from an apprehension that they were invincible: and it is probable that they were not without their fears at this time. And what is it that at the present day deters multitudes from engaging in the spiritual warfare? is it not a fear that they shall not succeed? When we tell them that they must overcome the world, and mortify the flesh, and resist the devil, they reply, that these things are impossible; and that it is in vain to make such an impracticable attempt Jeremiah 18:12. Even those who have fought well on particular occasions, are apt to faint, when their trials press upon them with more than usual weight: David himself yielded to unbelieving fears Psalm 77:7-10, and exclaimed in his haste, "All men are liars Psalm 116:11 with 73:13." Perhaps there is not one among us whose "hands have not sometimes hanged down, and his knees been weary, and his heart faint;" not one who has not needed, like Paul himself, some peculiar manifestations of God for his support Acts 23:11.

But there is no real cause for discouragement to any of you—

It is alleged perhaps, that your enemies are mighty; but "your Redeemer also is mighty;" and "if he be for you, who can be against you?" If it be your own weakness that depresses you, only view it in a right light, and the most consolatory considerations will spring from it: for "when you are weak, then are you strong;" and the more sensible you are of your own insufficiency for any good thing, the more will God magnify his own power towards you, and "perfect his own strength in your weakness." The peculiar appositeness of our text to all such cases is evident from the repeated application of it to persons under discouragement, and the blessed effects produced by it. We have already supposed the discouragement to arise from a view of duties impracticable, or of difficulties insurmountable: but, in the former case, David consoled Solomon 1 Chronicles 28:20, and, in the latter case, Hezekiah comforted the Jews 2 Chronicles 32:6-8, with the very address which we are now considering: a sure proof, that it contains a sufficient antidote against all disquieting fears, of whatever kind they be, and to whatever extent they may prevail.

God promises to his people his presence and aid—

If he refused to go forth with you, you might well say with Moses, "If your presence go not with us, carry us not up hence Exodus 33:15." Even if he offered to send an angel with you, it would not be sufficient Exodus 33:2. But he has promised to be with you himself, and to exercise all his glorious perfections in your behalf. As in the days of Joshua he sent his Son to be "the Captain of the Lord's host Jos. 5:13-14," so has he given him to be "a Leader and Commander unto" you Isaiah 55:4; by whom he says to you at this hour, "Lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world." Having then his wisdom to guide you, his arm to strengthen you, his power to protect you, what ground can you have for discouragement? "If he be for you, who can be against you Romans 8:31."

Nor will he ever fail you or forsake you—

There may be times and seasons when he may suffer you to be assaulted with more than usual violence; but he will never give you up into the hands of your enemy, or "suffer you to be tempted above your strength:" or if for gracious purposes he see fit to withdraw himself, it shall only be "for a little moment," that he may afterwards the more visibly show himself in your deliverance. Respecting this he engages in the strongest manner; and refers us to the rainbow in the heavens as an infallible pledge of his faithfulness and truth Isaiah 54:7-10. Created helps may fail us; but our God never will 2 Timothy 4:16-17; and you may "be confident that, having begun a good work in you, he will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ Philippians 1:6." The manner in which the Apostle quotes the words of our text, abundantly shows how assured he was that it should be fulfilled; for he uses no less than five negatives to express the idea with the utmost possible force, and then "boldly" draws the inference for us, that we have nothing to fear from our most inveterate enemies Hebrews 13:5-6.

Let these considerations then inspire you with confidence and joy—

Hear the animated exhortation which God himself gives you by the Prophet Isaiah; "Fear you not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness Isaiah 41:10." If you reply, that there are mountains of difficulty before you, and you but as a worm to contend with them; then says God, "Fear not, you worm Jacob; behold, I will make you a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shall make the hills as chaff; you shall fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and you shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall glory in the Holy One of Israel Isaiah 41:14-16." "Who then are you, that you should be afraid of a man that shall die, and the son of man that shall be as grass, and forget the Lord your Maker Isaiah 51:12; Isaiah 13." All that you have to do is, to wait upon your God; and then, in spite of all your apprehensions of failure, or even of occasional defeats, you shall rise superior to your enemies, and be triumphant over them at last Isaiah 40:27-31. I say then to you in the words of our great Captain, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom Luke 12:32."

Let the captives of Satan arise and assert their liberty—

Behold the kingdom of Heaven is before you, "that good land flowing with milk and honey:" and will you be content that your great adversary shall rob you of it without a struggle? Know that there is armor provided for you: and that if you go forth against him clad with it, you cannot but conquer. O enlist under the banners of the Lord Jesus, and go forth in his strength! fight a good fight; quit yourselves like men; be strong; and be assured, "your labor shall not be in vain in the Lord."

Let the timid take courage, and return to the charge—

Think not of your own weakness, but of the Lord's strength. Remember what he has done for his people in old time. Did not the walls of Jericho fall at the sound of rams' horns? Was not Midian vanquished by a few lamps and broken pitchers? Did not Goliath fall by a sling and a stone? Ah! know that your enemies shall be like them, if only you will take courage. "Resist the devil, and he shall flee from you." See what Joshua did to the five confederate kings Jos. 10:24-25; thus shall you also do in due season; for the true Joshua has promised that "he will bruise Satan under your feet shortly Romans 16:20."

Let the strong remember in whom their strength is—

Let not any think themselves so strong, but that they still need, even as Joshua himself did, a word of exhortation and encouragement. Be not self-confident even for a moment, lest God leave you to yourselves, and you "be crushed before a moth." Peter will remind you how weak you are, if not upheld by God; and what Satan can accomplish, if permitted to sift you as wheat. "Be not high-minded then, but fear:" yet fear not others, but yourselves only. Be weak in yourselves, and strong in the Lord; and then you may dismiss every other fear, and already begin the shout of victory.

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 31:14

 

DISCOURSE 229

THE APPROACH OF DEATH

Deuteronomy 31:14. And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, your days approach that you must die.

"TO man there is an appointed time upon earth." But the precise measure of our days is in mercy hid from us. On some occasions, however, God has been pleased to make it known, and to declare with precision the near approach of death, that so the persons whose fate was made known might employ their remaining hours in perfecting the work which he had given them to do.

The intimation here given to Moses, we shall consider,

I. As addressed to Moses in particular—

In this view, it comes with peculiar weight to those churches which have been long under the superintendence of an aged minister.

Moses had long watched over Israel—

For the sake of Israel he had renounced all that the world could give him, and subjected himself to many trials, and exposed himself to many dangers: "He had refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter," and abandoned all the pleasures and honors of a court; "choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; and esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt." From a regard for them, he had braved all the wrath of Pharaoh in his most infuriated state; and had led them forth, unarmed and unprovided, in the hope of bringing them to a land flowing with milk and honey. As God's appointed instrument, he had made known to them the Trill of God; and had shown them, by a great variety of ordinances, the means which God had provided for their acceptance with him. He had for the space of forty years together fed them with bread from Heaven and with water out of the stony rock. Times without number had he interceded for them, when if his hands had hanged down, and his heart had fainted, their ruin would inevitably have ensued. In a word, he had lived but for them. In all that space of time, not a day had occurred which he had not occupied in their service: and could he but see them happy, nothing that he could forego, nothing that he could do, nothing that he could suffer, was regarded by him as worthy of a thought; so entirely were his interests and happiness bound up in theirs.

But now his care over them must cease—

God had determined that he should not go over Jordan verse 2. This was in part the punishment of his sin at Meribah, when, instead of sanctifying the Lord in the eyes of all Israel by a believing expectation of water from the rock in answer to his word, he struck the rock, yes, struck it twice, with an unhallowed irritation of mind See Numbers 20:7-12. But, in part, this exclusion was intended to shadow forth the nature of that dispensation; and to show, that one violation of the law was sufficient to exclude a soul from Canaan; and that all who would obtain an entrance into the promised land, must turn from Moses to Joshua (the Lord Jesus Christ), who alone can save any child of man.

Moses was now a hundred and twenty years of age: but he was still, as far as natural strength was required, as competent as ever to watch over the people, and to discharge his duty to them. But his time was come; and he must transfer his office to another. Happily for him, and for all Israel, there was a Joshua ready to fill his place; and God had ordained him to occupy the vacant post, and to take on him the oversight of this bereaved people. And could we but see that the charge we vacate would be so supplied, truly, a summons into the eternal world would be a source of unqualified joy. The most painful thought in the separation of aged ministers from their people is, that they know not on whom the care of them shall devolve, whether on one who will watch for their souls, or on one, who, content with a mere routine of duties, will leave them to be scattered by every one that shall choose to invade the fold.

However this be, a time of separation must come: the pastor who has fed you more than forty years must be taken from you: and how soon, who can tell? It may be, yes, it is highly probable, that this year will be his last. Certain it is, that " his days approach," and very rapidly too, "when he must die;" and when the connection that has subsisted between you and him must for ever cease. To God he must give account of his ministry among you; as must all of you, also, in due season, of the improvement made of it. And it is an awful thought, that your blood will be required at his hand, as will all his labors for your good be required at yours. The Lord grant, that when we shall meet around the judgment-seat of Christ, we may all "give up our account with joy, and not with grief!"

But let us turn from the particular instance, and consider the intimation,

II. As applicable to every child of man

It is true respecting every child of man: for we no sooner begin to breathe than we begin to die: and the life, even of the longest liver, is "but as a span long." "Our time passes away like a shadow:" and death, to whoever it may come, involves in it,

1. A dissolution of all earthly ties—

The husband and wife, how long soever they may have been bound together in love, and how averse soever they may be to separate, must be rent asunder; and, while one is taken to his long home, the other must be left to bewail his sad bereavement with unavailing sorrow. Perhaps there was a growing family, that needed their united care, and that must be deprived of innumerable blessings, which, according to the course of nature, they were entitled to expect. But the hand of death cannot be arrested by the cries of parental anxiety or of filial love: it seizes with irresistible force its destined objects; and transmits them to Him whose commission it has executed, and whose will it has fulfilled. Methinks it were well for those who stand in any one of these relations, to bear in mind how soon they may be bereaved, and how speedily what has been only committed to them as a loan, may be demanded at their hands.

2. A termination of all earthly labors—

We may have many plans, either in hand or in prospect; but death, the instant it arrives, puts an end to all: We may have even formed purposes in relation to our souls! we may have determined that we will, before long, abandon some evil habits in which we have lived, or fulfill some duties which we have hitherto neglected. We may have thought, that to repent us of our sins, and to seek for mercy through Christ, and to give all diligence to the concerns of our souls, was the path which true wisdom dictated; and that we would speedily commence that beneficial course. But death, having once received its commission to transmit us to the presence of our God, can take no cognizance of any good intentions: it executes its office without favor to any; and, in the instant that he inflicts the stroke, his victim, whoever he may be, falls; "his breath goes forth, and he returns to his earth; and in that very day all his thoughts perish Psalm 146:4."

3. A fixing of our eternal doom—

Whatever be the state of our souls in the instant of death, that it will continue to all eternity: "As the tree falls, so it must lie." If we have lived a life of penitence and faith, and devoted ourselves truly unto God, it is well: death will be to us only like "felling asleep" in the bosom of our Lord. But, if we have neglected these great concerns, or not so far prosecuted them as to have found favor with God, death will be to us only like the opening of our prison-doors, in order to the execution of eternal vengeance on our souls. Prepared or unprepared, we must go into the presence of our God, and receive at his hands our eternal doom. Oh, fearful thought! But so it must be; and, the instant that the soul is separated from the body, it will be transmitted either to the paradise of God, or to the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The day of judgment will make no difference, except that the body will then be made to participate the portion of the soul: and the righteousness of God, in the sentence awarded, will be displayed to the admiration of the whole assembled universe.

Let this subject be improved by us

1. For the humbling of our souls in reference to the past—

We have known the uncertainty of life; and have seen, in the mortality of those around us, the approach of death: but how marvelous is it, that these sights should have produced such little effect upon our souls! Truly, if we did not know the insensibility of man under circumstances of such infinite moment, we should scarcely be able to credit what both our observation and experience so fully attest.

2. For the quickening of our souls in reference to the future—

That "the day of death approaches" we are sure: at what precise distance it is, we know not. But should not this thought stimulate us to improve our every remaining hour? Yes, truly: we should turn unto God without delay; and "apply our hearts to wisdom" with all diligence: and so " watch for the coming of our Lord, that, at whatever hour it may be, we may be found ready." "What I say therefore to one, I say unto all, Watch."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 31:19

 

DISCOURSE 230

THE SONG OF MOSES A WITNESS AGAINST THE JEWS

Deuteronomy 31:19. Now therefore write you this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.

IN order that Moses in his own person should exemplify the nature of that law which he had given, it was appointed of God that he should die for one offence, and not have the honor of leading the people of Israel into Canaan. The time of his departure was now near at hand; and God said to him, "Behold, your days approach that you must die." Little remained for him to do. He had written the whole of his law, and had "delivered it unto the priests," that they might "put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord their God." But God would have a song composed, which should contain a brief summary of his dealings with his people, and which should be committed by them to memory, as "a witness for him against themselves." This song we now propose to consider: and we shall open to you,

I. Its subject-matter—

As being an epitome of all their past history, and of God's dispensations towards them to the end of time, its contents are various: they are,

1. Commemorative—

It records God's sovereign mercy to that people in the original designation of the land of Canaan to them, even from the first distribution of mankind over the face of the earth. When the sons of Adam and of Noah multiplied in the earth, he so ordered and overruled their motions, that the descendants of wicked Canaan should occupy that land, and prepare it, as it were, for Israel; and that the Israelites should be just ready to possess it when the inhabitants should have filled up the measure of their iniquities, and become ripe for the execution of the curse of God upon them. It was in reference to the children of Israel that "the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance," and set the bounds of each peculiar people Deuteronomy 32:8.

The manner also in which he had brought them to it is particularly specified. He had brought them through a waste howling wilderness, where he had preserved them by an uninterrupted series of miracles, and had instructed them in the knowledge of his will, and had kept them as the apple of his eye, and had made them the objects of his tenderest solicitude, like the eagle fostering, instructing, and protecting her helpless offspring Deuteronomy 32:10-12.

The richness of the provision which he had made for them is also described in animated and appropriate terms. The fertility of the land, the stores administered even by its barren rocks, the countless multitudes of its flocks and herds, together with the abundance of its produce in corn and wine, all are set forth, in order that the nation even to their latest posterity might know how to appreciate the goodness of God to them, and be suitably impressed with a sense of their unbounded obligations Deuteronomy 32:13-14.

2. Prophetic—

God had before declared what the ultimate fate of that nation would be: but here he states it in a compendious way. He foretells both their sins, and their punishment. Notwithstanding all that he had done for them, they would soon forget him, and would stupidly worship the idols of the heathen, which had not been able to protect their own votaries. Thus would they entirely cast off their allegiance to him, and provoke him to execute upon them his heaviest judgments Deuteronomy 32:15-20; Deuteronomy 32:22-25. Even for their past abominations he would have cast them off, if he had not been apprehensive that their enemies would have exulted, and taken occasion from it to harden themselves in their atheistical impiety. But by effecting his purposes in the first instance, and delaying his judgments to a future and distant period, he should cut off all occasion for such vain triumphs, and should display at once his mercy and forbearance, his power and justice, his holiness and truth Deuteronomy 32:26-27.

The terms in which his judgments are predicted necessarily carry our minds forward to the times of the present dispersion.

Awful as was their punishment in Babylon, it fell short of these menaces, which were only to receive their full accomplishment, when they should have filled up the measure of their iniquities in the murder of their Messiah. This is evident from that part of the song which is,

3. Promissory—

Fixed as was God's determination to inflict "vengeance" upon them "in due time," he revealed also his determination not to cast them off forever, but in their lowest extremity to remember and restore them Deuteronomy 32:36.He would indeed banish them from that good land, and admit the Gentiles into fellowship with him as his peculiar people in their stead: but, while he calls on "the Gentiles to rejoice" on this account, he calls on the Jews also to participate their joy: for though they should be long oppressed by cruel enemies, God would appear again for them, "avenging the blood of his servants, and rendering vengeance to his adversaries," and would again "be merciful unto his land, and to his once most highly-favored people" Deuteronomy 32:43 with Romans 15:10.

These promises shall in due time be fulfilled: and we trust that the time for their accomplishment is not now far distant. "The root of Jesse now stands for an ensign to the nations;" and while "the Gentiles are seeking to it," we hope that God will speedily set it up also as an ensign to the Jews, and "assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" Isaiah 11:10-12; Isaiah 11:15-16.

These things were comprehended in "a song, which was to be taught the children of Israel." We proceed to consider,

II. Its peculiar use—

It was "to be a witness for God against the children of Israel," and was for this end to be transmitted to their latest posterity. It was intended in this view,

1. To justify God—

When God should have inflicted all these judgments upon his people, they might be ready to reflect on him as variable in his purposes, and cruel in his dispensations. But he here tells them beforehand what he would do, and for what reason he would do it The change that was to take place, would not be in him, but in them. The very change of his dispensations would prove to them the unchangeableness of his nature. It was for the wickedness of the Canaanites that he was about to cast them out: and for the same reason he would cast out the Israelites also, when they should have provoked him to anger, by sinning in a far more grievous manner, against clearer light and knowledge, and against infinitely greater obligations than they. Of this he forewarned them; and the fault, as well as misery, would be all their own. " His work is perfect: all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity; just and right is he Deuteronomy 32:4."

2. To humble them—

The Jews were at all times a stiff-necked people, "a perverse and crooked generation." The best period of their history was from the death of Moses to the death of Joshua: yet God testified respecting them even then, that they manifested all those evil dispositions, which in process of time would be matured, and grow up into an abundant harvest: "I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I swore verse 21." Hence every Jew must see, that as his forefathers were not put into possession of that land for their righteousness, so he, and all his whole nation, are banished from it for their iniquities. And oh, how humiliating the comparison between their present, and their former, state! once the glory of the whole world, and now "an astonishment, and a proverb, and a by-word in every nation where they dwell." They need only repeat this song, and they have enough to show them how low they are fallen, and enough to humble them in dust and ashes.

3. To prepare them for his promised blessings—

The promise of a future restoration would of itself be sufficient to stimulate their desires after it. But it is worthy of observation, that the very judgments which God here denounces against them are as strongly expressive of his gracious intentions towards them, and as encouraging to their minds, as the promise itself: "They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with them which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation Deuteronomy 32:21 with Romans 10:19." Thus while he transferred the blessings of salvation to the Gentiles, he did it no less for the good of his own rebellious and apostate people the Jews, than for the Gentiles themselves; hoping thereby to stir them up to seek a participation of those privileges, which, when exclusively enjoyed by them, they had despised Romans 11:11-14. This idea, the moment it shall enter into their minds, will afford them rich encouragement: and we are persuaded, that, if the Christian world evinced a just sense of the mercies they enjoy, and walked worthy of them, the Jews would soon be stirred up to seek those blessings, in the contempt of which they are hardened by Christians themselves.

Let us learn then from hence,

1. To cultivate a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures ourselves—

To us also are they a witness, as they were to the Jews of old, and are at this day: only they testify for God and against us in a thousand-fold greater degree. Hear what our blessed Lord himself affirms: "Search the Scriptures; for they are they which testify of me" O what mysteries of love and mercy do the New-Testament Scriptures attest! the incarnation, the life, the death, the resurrection, the ascension of Jesus Christ; his supremacy over all things in Heaven and earth; together with all the wonders of redeeming love; how loudly do they testify for Christ; and how awfully will they testify against us, if we neglect them! If God commanded that the Jews, "men, women and children, and the strangers within their gates, should at stated times be gathered together, to hear the law, and learn to fear the Lord and to do his commandments," and that every individual among them in all successive ages should learn this song; much more ought we to assemble ourselves together for public instruction, and to commit to memory select portions of Scripture, and to teach them diligently to our children, in order to obtain for ourselves, and to transmit to others, the knowledge of God's will as it is revealed to us in the Gospel verse 12, 13. We call upon all of you then to study the Holy Scriptures in private; to teach them to your children and servants; to be useful, where you can, in reading them to your poorer neighbors, who through ignorance are unable to read them for themselves, or through sickness are incapacitated from attending the public ordinances. To be active also in the conducting of Sunday schools is a service most beneficial to man, and most acceptable to God.

2. To impart the knowledge of them to the Jewish nation—

They, alas! have almost universally forgotten this song: but we have it in our hands, and profess to reverence it as the word of God. Ought we not then to concur with God in that which was his special design in transmitting it to us? Ought we not to use it as the means of conviction to the Jews; and as the means of consolation to them also? Ought we not to seek that they may be partakers of our joy, and be again engrafted on their own olive-tree? Yet, strange as it may appear, not only have mere nominal Christians neglected them, but even the godly themselves have for the most part overlooked them, as much as if they were in no danger, or as if their conversion were an hopeless attempt. But we need not occupy your time in proving the danger of their state: for if they were not perishing, why did Christ and his Apostles make such efforts to save them? Nor need we labor to prove their conversion practical, when God has declared it to be certain. Let then our affections of compassion yearn over them: let us grieve to see them perishing in the midst of mercy: let us unite our endeavors to draw their attention to the Holy Scriptures, and to the Messiah, whom they have so long continued to reject. Let us constrain them to see what blessings they despise; what holiness and happiness we ourselves have derived from the Lord Jesus, and what they lose by not believing in him. In this way let us endeavor to provoke them to jealousy. Then may we hope to see the veil taken from their hearts, and to have them associated with us in adoring the once crucified Jesus, and in singing to all eternity "the song of Moses and the Lamb."

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 32:1-4

 

DISCOURSE 231

THE CHARACTER OF JEHOVAH

Deuteronomy 32:1-4. Give ear, O heavens, and I trill speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop at the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe you greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

IN this chapter is contained the song which Moses wrote for the conviction of the Jews in all future ages, especially in that period when they should have provoked God to scatter them over the face of the whole earth. Its general contents have been before considered See Discourse on Deuteronomy 31:19. At present we shall confine ourselves only to its exordium, in which Moses addresses the whole creation, and then describes the character of the Creator. An invocation of "the heavens and the earth" is not uncommon in the Scriptures: it is used in order to impress men with a deeper sense of the importance of the subject, and to convey an idea, that even the inanimate creation will rise up in judgment against the children of men, if they should disregard the voice of their Creator. After requesting their attention, he declares, that the whole tendency of his discourse, and especially of that part which exhibits the character of the Deity, is to comfort and enrich the souls of men. As the dew and rain descend gently and silently upon the earth, softening the parched ground, refreshing and invigorating the drooping plants, and administering nourishment to the whole vegetable creation, so was his word intended to administer blessings to mankind, quickening the most dead, softening the most obdurate, comforting the most disconsolate, and fertilizing the most barren, among them all.

We are aware that a directly opposite effect is in general ascribed to a faithful ministration of the word: it is in general supposed, that a scriptural representation of the divine character must of necessity alarm and terrify mankind: but, whatever effect it may produce on them that are determined to hold fast their sins, it cannot fail to comfort all whose minds are duly prepared to receive it, and to operate on their souls as rain upon the new-mown grass. This will appear, while we,

I. Illustrate the representation here given of the Deity—

The description which Moses gives of Jehovah is short, but comprehensive: it sets forth,

1. His personal majesty—

The term "Rock" is often used in reference to the Deity; and intimates to us both what he is in himself, and what he is to us. In himself he is the great unchangeable Jehovah; and to his people a safe and everlasting Refuge. Whether it be from the storms of temptation or the heat of persecution, he affords protection to all who flee unto him Isaiah 32:2; and, to those who build upon him, he is an immovable foundation: nothing shall ever shake them; nothing shall ever disappoint them of their hopes Isaiah 45:17.

2. His providential government—

Deep and mysterious are his ways, yet are they all ordered in perfect wisdom and goodness. In the world, in the Church, and in our own individual cases, there are many things which we cannot account for; yet if we imagine that any one of them could have been more wisely appointed, we only betray our own ignorance and presumption. We cannot tell why God confined the revelation of his will to one single family for so many ages, or why it is still known to so small a part of the world: but in due time God will make it evident that such a mode of dispensing mercy was most conducive to his own glory. When a persecution arose in the Church about Stephen, and the saints, driven from Jerusalem, were scattered over the face of the earth, it probably appeared to them an inexplicable dispensation: but the benefit of it soon appeared, because the banished Christians propagated the Gospel wherever they came Acts 8:1; Acts 8:4. And when Paul was confined in prison two years, it might be thought a most calamitous event: yet does he himself tell us, that it tended "rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel Philippians 1:12-14." Thus, in innumerable instances, we are ready to say, like Jacob, "All these things are against us," when in fact they are "all working together for our good; "and we are constrained after a season to acknowledge, that our greatest crosses were only blessings in disguise Psalm 97:2.

3. His moral perfections—

Justice, holiness, and truth, are inseparable from the Deity; "He is a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." The present state of things indeed does not afford us a just criterion whereby to judge of these perfections; because eternity is not open to our view: but the brightest display of them that can be exhibited to mortal eyes, is seen in the great work of redemption: for God has determined not to pardon any of the human race (at least, not any to whom the light of revelation comes,) except in a way that shall magnify these perfections; nor will he condemn any, without making them witnesses for him, that he is holy, and just, and true. It is for this very end that he sent his only-begotten Son into the world: for, by bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, Jesus has made a complete satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, and opened a way for the exercise of mercy in perfect consistency with all the other attributes of the Deity. The true believer makes an open confession of this, and acknowledges, that all his hopes are founded on the sacrifice of Christ: the unbeliever experiences in his own person the weight of that justice, which he would not honor in the person of his surety: so that all in Heaven, and all in Hell too, are constrained to say, "Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are your ways, you King of Saints Revelation 15:3."

That we may make a practical use of the Divine character we shall,

II. Show how to make it a source of comfort to the soul—

If the Deity is an object of terror to any, it must arise either from an erroneous idea of his character, or from an opposition of mind to it. In order then to derive comfort from it, we must,

1. Get a just and comprehensive view of the Divine perfections—

If, as is too often the case, we paint to ourselves a God all mercy, who will never vindicate the honor of his law, nor ever fulfill his threatenings against sin or sinners, we may allay our fears for the present, but we can never bring peace or comfort into the soul: for, as we have no foundation for such an idea of the Deity, we never can divest ourselves of the apprehension that we may be mistaken, and that we may find him at last such a Being as the Scriptures represent him. On the other hand, if we view nothing but his justice, he must of necessity appear terrible in our eyes, because we cannot but know that we are transgressors of his law. But if we regard him as he is set forth in his word, and particularly as he appears in the person of Christ, then do we find in him all that is great and good, yes all that our souls can wish for, or our necessities require.

2. Get our own hearts suitably affected with them—

While the majesty of God should fill us with holy awe, and his power make us fearful of incurring his displeasure, these exalted perfections should encourage an affiance in him, as an almighty Helper, and an all-sufficient Protector. His very sovereignty should lead us to apply to him for mercy, because he will be most glorified in showing mercy to the chief of sinners. Of course, a view of his love, his mercy, and his truth, must inspire us with holy confidence, and dispel all the fears which conscious unworthiness must create: we should therefore contemplate them with unceasing care, as the grounds of our hope, and the sources of our eternal welfare. Nor is it of small moment to have our minds impressed with a sense of his wisdom and goodness in all his providential dealings. It is by that that we shall have our minds composed under all the most afflictive dispensations, and encouraged to expect a happy issue out of the most calamitous events: In a word, the representations which God has given of himself will then be most delightful to us, when our hearts are most filled with humility and love.

APPLICATION—

"Hear now, O heavens! and give ear, O earth!" say whether these views of the Deity do not tend to the happiness of man O that God would "shine into all our hearts, to give us the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ!" then should our "meditation of him be sweet," and our fruits abound to the praise and glory of his grace.

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 32:9-12

 

DISCOURSE 232

GOD'S REGARD FOR HIS PEOPLE

Deuteronomy 32:9-12. The Lord's portion is his people; Jacob it the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange God with him.

THE declarations of God in his word are the principal source from whence we derive our knowledge of the Deity. But much may be learned also from the dispensations of his providence, both from those which are recorded in the inspired volume, and those which pass daily before our eyes: nor can we more profitably employ our thoughts than in meditating on his dealings towards the Church in general, and ourselves in particular. This Moses recommended to the Israelites just before his final departure from them. He assured them that God, as far back as the Deluge, had appointed the boundaries of the different kingdoms, with an express reference to the children of Israel; and that he had assigned to Canaan, that accursed son of Noah, and to his posterity, the land which he had marked out for his chosen people, and which they, in pursuance of his will, were now about to possess verse 7, 8. And, with respect to themselves in particular, he had conducted them with astonishing kindness and condescension from their first entrance into the wilderness to that present moment.

His words on that occasion will naturally lead us to consider,

I. God's interest in his people—

God regarded his ancient people as his portion and inheritance—

When he brought his people into Canaan, he divided the land among the twelve tribes, assigning to each by lot their destined inheritance. Thus among all the people upon the face of the earth he chose, as it were by lot, ("the whole disposal whereof is of the Lord,") the descendants of Abraham as his portion. Even among these he selected only a part, adopting Isaac, and not Ishmael, and still further limiting his choice to Jacob and his posterity, while he withheld this privilege from Esau. These he chose, not because they were either more numerous or more holy than other people; for "they were the fewest of all people," and "a stiff-necked generation from first to last." "He loved them purely because he would love them Deuteronomy 7:6-8," and, having "set them apart for himself," he ordained them to be his own portion and his own inheritance.

In precisely the same view he regards his chosen people at this day—

He has a people still, whom "he chose from before the foundation of the world Jeremiah 31:3; Ephesians 1:4," and "predestined to the adoption of children to himself Romans 8:29," and accounts as "his peculiar treasure above all people upon the face of the earth Exodus 19:5." Respecting all who truly believe in Christ it is said, "You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people 1 Peter 2:9;" and from these, as from an inheritance, does God expect "a revenue of praise" and glory, such as he receives not from the whole world besides 1 Peter 2:9. It is "of his own purpose and grace alone that he has called them to this honor," without being influenced by any goodness in them 2 Timothy 1:9; his choice of them was wholly irrespective of their works, past, present, or future Titus 3:5; "he loved them, and not they him 1 John 4:10;" "he chose them, and not they him John 15:16;" for his own sake, and not theirs, he has given to them his grace, that to all eternity they may be monuments of his sovereign love and mercy Isaiah 43:21.

But that which our text chiefly leads us to consider, is,

II. His tender care over them—

This towards his ancient people is illustrated both by an appeal to fact, and by an apt and beautiful similitude—

It was in the wilderness that he first formed them into a peculiar people for himself. There he took the entire charge of them, leading them in all their way, and supplying their every want. There he instructed them both by his providence and grace; showing them by all his diversified dispensations the extreme depravity of their own hearts, and the marvelous patience and long-suffering of their God Deuteronomy 8:15-16; Nehemiah 9:19-21. Had he even for a few days intermitted his care over them, they must all have perished; being in the midst of perils on every side, and incapable of protecting themselves against any of the dangers to which they were exposed. But "he kept them even as the apple of his eye," so that no evil whatever, except what he himself sent for their correction, could assail them. An eagle is very careful of its young: and when the dam judges that her young are prepared to fly, will "flutter over them, and spread abroad her wings, and stir up her nest," that one or other of her offspring may try their powers: and with such tenderness does she watch the attempt, that, if the scarcely fledged young one prove incapable of stretching its flight so as to return to its nest, she will, with incredible swiftness and skill, fly to its support, and on her own wings bear it back in safety to its usual home. Thus did God encourage his ancient people to soar towards Heaven, and support them effectually in every hour of need. And in all this he acted "alone, there being no strange God with him," nor any that could claim the smallest measure of honor from their success. The passage of the Red Sea, the bread from Heaven, and the water from the rock, the passage of Jordan, and the fall of Jericho, with a thousand other events, clearly showed, that all that was effected for them was done by him alone.

And is he not alike attentive to his people now?—

Where did he "find any of us," my Brethren, but "in a waste howling wilderness," where we must have inevitably perished) if he of his own sovereign grace and mercy had not come to our relief? And how has he "led us about" even to the present hour, not in the way that would have been most pleasing to flesh and blood, but in the way which he knew would be most conducive to our good, and to the glory of his own name! In this way he has conveyed to our minds such instruction as we could not by any means have so well received in any other way. By his word and by his Spirit he has imparted to us much knowledge of himself: but by his various dispensations, and especially those of a more afflictive nature, he has led us into discoveries of his perfections, which we could never otherwise have obtained. Oh! what views has he given us of our own deserts and of his own tender mercy towards us! In fact, we may, in his dealings with his people in the wilderness, see as in a glass all that is passing in the Church at this day, and all that is passing in our own hearts: and our heavenly rest will be infinitely the more endeared to us from our recollection of all our troubles by the way, and of the infinite wisdom and power and love by which we have been led in safety through them.

Think then I pray you, Brethren, what should be our regard towards this Almighty Savior—

Who was it that led his people through the wilderness in the days of old? It was the Lord Jesus Christ, the Angel of the covenant: for he it was whom they tempted Exodus 23:20; 1 Corinthians 10:9, and he it was "whose reproach Moses counted to be of more value than all the treasures of Egypt Hebrews 11:26." That same Jesus is still "Head over all things to his Church Ephesians 1:22-23," and "guides all his chosen people by his counsel, until he brings them safely to his glory."

I ask then with confidence should we not love him with most intense affection? and trust in him with unshaken affiance? and serve him with all the powers of our souls? Methinks, there should be no bounds to our love and gratitude, no limit to our zeal in his service Deuteronomy 10:14-15; l Samuel 12:24. We all see and acknowledge this in reference to the Jews, who were favored with his viable interposition: and how much more is it all due from us, who enjoy the substance, of which they had but the shadow! I call you then, everyone of you, to show forth your sense of the obligations conferred upon you, and, if possible, to be as zealous in his service as he is in yours.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 32:21

 

DISCOURSE 233

THE JEWS MOVED TO JEALOUSY BY THE GENTILES

Deuteronomy 32:21. They have moved me to jealousy with that which it not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

"KNOWN unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." Moses informs us, that, in the very first distribution of men over the face of the earth, God had an especial respect to those, who, at a remote period, should spring from the loins of Abraham; and that he assigned to the descendants of cursed Ham that portion of the globe which, in due time, should be delivered into the hands of Israel, cultivated in every respect, and fit for the accommodation and support of the Jewish nation: "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to (or, in reference to) the number of the children of Israel verse 8. Yet at the very time when God carried this decree into execution, at the time when the nation of Israel were, by the discipline of forty years in the wilderness, brought to a state of faith and piety that was never equaled at any subsequent period of their history, even then, I say, did God foresee their declension from his ways, and inspire Moses to predict the wickedness which they would commit, and the chastisements which should be inflicted upon them on account of it: he even instructed Moses to record the whole beforehand in a song, which was, in all succeeding ages, to be committed to memory by the children of Israel, and to be a witness for God against them. It was probable that, when he should change his conduct towards them, they would reflect on him either as mutable in his purposes, or as unable to execute his promises towards them: but this song would completely vindicate him from all such aspersions, and be a standing proof to them, that their miseries were the result of their own incorrigible perverseness. "Now," says God, "write you this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. For when I shall have brought them into the land which I swore unto their fathers, that flows with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant. And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I swore Deuteronomy 31:19-21."

In this song are foretold the awful apostasies of the Jewish nation, together with all the judgments that would be inflicted on them, from that time even to the period of their future restoration.

The words which I have chosen for my text, contain the sum and substance of the whole: they specify the ground of God's displeasure against his people, and the way in which he would manifest that displeasure: and they particularly mark the correspondence which there should be between their sin and their punishment: "They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation."

In discoursing on these words, there are two things to be considered;

I. The import of this prophecy respecting the Jews

II. The use to be made of it by us Gentiles.

I. The import of this prophecy—

The general facts relating to it are so well known, that it will not be necessary to enter very minutely into them. Every one knows how highly favored a people the Jewish nation have been; how exalted and privileged above all other people upon earth. The manner also in which they requited the kindness of their God, is well known. We are not disposed to think that human nature is worse in them than in others: the reason that it appears so is, that God's conduct towards them, and theirs towards him, is all exhibited to view, and forms a contrast the most humiliating that can be imagined. On some particular occasions they seem to have been penetrated with a becoming sense of the mercies given unto them; but these impressions were of very short duration: within the space of a few days only, they forgot that wonderful deliverance which had been wrought for them at the Red Sea; as it is said, "They remembered not the multitude of his mercies, but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red Sea." Every fresh difficulty, instead of leading them to God in earnest supplication and humble affiance, only irritated their rebellious spirits, and excited their murmurs against God and his servant Moses. Scarcely had three months elapsed, when, while God was graciously revealing to Moses that law by which the people were to be governed, they actually cast off God; and, because Moses had protracted his stay in the holy mount beyond what they thought a reasonable time, they would wait for him no longer; but determined to have other gods in the place of Jehovah, and another guide in the place of Moses: "Up," said they to Aaron, "make us gods which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him." Immediately "they made a golden calf (in imitation of the Egyptian Apis), and worshiped it, and sacrificed thereto, and said, These by your gods, O Israel, which have brought you up out of the land of Egypt." Thus early did they show that propensity which was so fatal to them in after ages. In process of time they degenerated so far as to adopt all the gods of the heathen for their gods; even those gods who could not protect their own votaries, did this rebellious people worship, in preference to Jehovah, who had done so great things for them: "they worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians, and Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites, and Chemosh, the abomination of the Moabites;" yes, "they made their children to pass through the fire unto Moloch," and "sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood." Even in the very house of God itself did they place their idols; as though they were determined to provoke the Lord to jealousy beyond a possibility of endurance; nor were there any rites too base, too impure, or too sanguinary for them to practice in the worship of them. Many times did God punish them for these great iniquities, by delivering them into the hands of their enemies; and as often, in answer to their prayers, did he rescue them again from their oppressors. But at last, as he tells us by the prophet, he was even "broken with their whorish heart:" and, as they would persist in their idolatries notwithstanding all the warnings which from time to time he had sent them by his prophets, he was constrained to execute upon them the judgment threatened in our text.

This is the account given us by the inspired historian: "All the chief priests and the people transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen, and polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up early and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place. But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, until there was no remedy. Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age; he gave them all into his hand 2 Chronicles 36:14-17."

In confirmation of this exposition of our text, the Jewish writers refer to a passage in the Prophet Isaiah Isaiah 23:13. The Chaldeans were but very recently risen into power; for, many hundred years after the Jews were established in the land of Canaan, the very name of Babylon was not at all formidable to Israel, or perhaps scarcely known. It was originally owing to the Assyrians that Babylon was exalted into so great and powerful a state: as, says the prophet, in the passage referred to, "Behold, the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not until the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness: they set up the towers thereof, they raised up the palaces thereof." Now to be vanquished by such a people, and to be carried captive to such a place, appeared a peculiar degradation; which may be supposed to be in part an accomplishment of those words, "I will move them to jealousy with them which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation."

But that there was to be a further accomplishment of those words, we cannot doubt. Indeed, the Jews themselves acknowledge, that their present dispersion through the world is a continuation of those very judgments which were denounced against them by Moses. Not only the learned among them acknowledge this, but, as Moses himself foretold, even the most ignorant of the Jews are well aware of it. Moses says, in Deuteronomy 31:17-18, "My anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods." Now "the Jews themselves (as Bishop Patrick observes) take notice that these words have been fulfilled by the many calamities which have befallen them since the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. This appears from Schebet Jehuda, where Solomon Virgœ quotes this very verse, to prove that their present sufferings proceed not from nature, but from an angry God, more powerful than nature Sect. 13."

The truth is, that this prophecy received but a very partial accomplishment at that time: for there were but two tribes sent to Babylon; the other ten were carried captive to Assyria. Now the idea of "provoking them to jealousy by those who were not a people," could have no place in reference to the ten tribes, because Assyria was an empire almost thirteen hundred years before Israel was conquered by them See Prideaux's Connection; and to the other two tribes, provided they were to be carried captive at all, it could make but little difference whether the nation that subdued them was of greater or less antiquity. For the full accomplishment of the prophecy, therefore, we must undoubtedly look to the times subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

And here is a matter for the consideration of every Jew, that wishes to form a correct judgment of the main point that is at issue between the Jews and Christians.

The miseries inflicted on the Jewish nation by the Romans, both in the siege of Jerusalem and in their subsequent dispersion throughout the world, have been incomparably more grievous than any that ever were inflicted on them by the Chaldeans. I would ask then of the Jew, What has been the cause of this severe chastisement? What has your nation done to provoke God in so extraordinary a degree? There must be some particular crime that they have committed: what is it? God is too righteous, and too merciful, to afflict them without a cause. I ask, Are any of your Rabbis able to assign an adequate reason for these severe judgments? Your former idolatries were punished in the Babylonish captivity: and you repented of those sins; insomuch that from the time of your return to your own land, to the destruction of your nation by the Romans, you not only never relapsed into idolatry, but you withstood every attempt to ensnare or to compel you to it. Yet, as your sufferings since that period have been so heavy and protracted, it must be supposed that your fathers committed some crime of deeper die, or at least some that was of equal enormity with your former idolatries. I ask then again, What crime is it? for there is not one of you that will venture to say, that God punishes you without a cause. If you cannot tell me, I will tell you what that crime is: it is the crucifying of your Messiah. You know, and your Rabbis all know, that there was a very general expectation of your Messiah at the precise time that Jesus came into the world. You know that Jesus professed himself to be the Messiah: you know also that he wrought innumerable miracles in confirmation of his claim: you know that he appealed to Moses and the prophets as bearing witness of him: you know that he foretold all that he should suffer; and showed, that in all those sufferings the prophecies concerning him would be fulfilled: you know also, that the crucifying of him was a national act, in which all ranks and orders of your countrymen concurred; and that when Pilate wished to free himself from the guilt of shedding innocent blood, they all cried, "His blood be on us, and on our children!" You know, moreover, that Jesus foretold the destruction of your city and nation by the Romans, together with your present desolate condition, as the punishment that should be inflicted on you for your murder of him: nay more, that these things should befall your nation before that generation should pass away. You know also, that, agreeably to his predictions, they did come to pass about forty years after his death, and that these judgments have been upon you from that time to the present hour. If you say, that only two of the tribes were thus guilty of putting him to death; I answer, that every Jew in the universe approves and applauds that act; and that therefore the judgments are inflicted on them all, and will continue to be inflicted, until they repent of it. All preceding judgments were removed, when your fathers repented of the crimes on account of which they had been inflicted: and the reason that your present judgments are not removed, is, that your enmity against the Lord Jesus is at this hour as strong as ever; and, if he were to put himself in your power again, you would conspire against him as before, and crucify him again. Yet, if He was not the Messiah, your Messiah is not come; and, consequently, those prophecies in your inspired volume which foretold his advent at that time, are falsified. Your Messiah was to come before the scepter should finally depart from Judah, and while the second temple was yet standing, and about the time that the seventy weeks of Daniel should expire: but the scepter is departed, and the temple is destroyed; and Daniel's weeks are expired; and nearly eighteen hundred years have elapsed, since the period fixed by these prophecies for his appearance. It is evident therefore that all these prophecies have failed of their accomplishment, if your Messiah is not yet come. As for saying, that the coming of the Messiah was deferred by God for the wickedness of your nation, what proof have you of it? Where has God threatened that, as a consequence of your wickedness? No: your Messiah is come; and has been treated in the manner which your own prophecies foretold, and as Jesus himself foretold: and though you, like your forefathers, in order to set aside the testimony of his resurrection, have recourse to that self-destructive falsehood of his being taken away by his own disciples, while a whole guard of Roman soldiers were asleep, you know that his disciples did at the very next festival, on the day of Pentecost, attest that he was risen, and attest it too in the very presence of the people who had put him to death, no less than three thousand of whom were converted to him on that very day: you know too, that in a short time myriads of Jews believed in Jesus; and that his Gospel continued to prevail throughout the known world, until the judgments threatened against your nation for destroying their Messiah came upon them.

Now by this act, the crucifying of your Messiah, you did provoke God to jealousy to a greater degree than by any of your former crimes; for God sent you his co-equal, co-eternal Son: he sent you that Divine Person, who was "David's Lord," as well as "David's Son." The learned men of his own day acknowledged that the names, Son of man, and Son of God, were of the same import; and that, as assumed by Jesus, both the one and the other amounted to an assertion, that he was equal with God. You know also that his claiming these titles was the ground on which they accused him of blasphemy, and demanded sentence against him as a blasphemer. Thus according to your own acknowledgment, supposing him to have been the person foretold by the prophets as the Messiah, you have "crucified the Lord of Glory." Moreover, about the time that your fathers crucified him, they were ready to follow every impostor that assumed to himself the title of Messiah. "Gamaliel, a member of the Sanhedrin, a doctor of law, a man who was in high repute among all the Jews," acknowledged this readiness of the people to run after impostors: he mentions a person by the name of Theudas, who, with four hundred adherents, was slain: and after him one Judas of Galilee, who drew away much people after him, and perished Acts 5:34-37. We are informed also that Simon Magus, by his enchantments, seduced all the people of Samaria, from the least to the greatest, and persuaded them that "He was the great power of God Acts 8:9-11." Your own historian Josephus, lib. vi. cap. 5. bears ample testimony to these facts. Here then you can see how you have provoked God to jealousy, in that you have destroyed his own Son, who came down from Heaven to instruct and save you: yes, though he brought with him the most unquestionable credentials, and supported his claim by the most satisfactory evidences, you rejected him with all imaginable contempt, while you readily adhered to any vile impostor that chose to arrogate to himself the title of Messiah. Your former idolatries, though sinful in the extreme, were less heinous than this, inasmuch as the manifestations of God's love were far brighter in the gift of his Son, than in all the other dispensations of his grace from the foundation of the world; and the opposition of your fathers to him was attended with aggravations, such as never did, or could, exist in any other crime that ever was committed.

Here then we are arrived at the true reason of the judgments which are at this time inflicted on you.

Now let us investigate the judgments themselves; and you will see that they also are such as were evidently predicted in our text.

You are cut off from being the people of the Lord, and are absolutely incapacitated for serving him in the way of his appointments. On the other hand, God has chosen to himself a people from among the Gentiles, from "those who were not a people," and were justly considered by you as "a foolish nation," because they were altogether without light and understanding as it respected God and his ways. This you know to have been predicted by all your prophets, insomuch that your fathers, who looked for a temporal Messiah, expected that he would bring the Gentiles into subjection to himself, and extend his empire over the face of the whole earth. This the Lord Jesus has done: he has taken a people from among the Gentiles, who are become his willing subjects. Now this rejection of the Jews from the Church of God, and this gathering of a Church from among the Gentiles, is the very thing which in all ages has most angered you, and provoked you to jealousy. When Jesus himself merely brought to the remembrance of your fathers, that God had, in the days of Elijah and Elisha, shown distinguished mercy to a Sidonian widow, and Naaman the Syrian; they were filled with such indignation, that, notwithstanding they greatly admired all the former part of his discourse, they would have instantly cast him down a precipice, if he had not escaped from their hands Luke 4:22-30. When, on another occasion, he spoke a parable to the chief priests and elders, and asked them "what they conceived the lord of the vineyard would do to those gardeners who beat all his servants, and then murdered his Son in order to retain for themselves the possession of his inheritance, they were constrained to acknowledge, that he would destroy those murderers, and let his vineyard to others who should render him the fruits in their season:" and on his confirming this melancholy truth with respect to them, they exclaimed, "God forbid Matthew 21:33-41 and Luke 20:14-16." When the Apostles of Jesus afterwards preached to the Gentiles, the Jews could not contain themselves; the very mention of the name Gentiles, irritated them to madness Acts 13:44-45; l Thessalonians 2:15, 16.": so indignant were they at the thought of having their privileges transferred to others, whom they so despised. And thus it has been ever since. Nothing is so offensive to a Jew at this day, as the idea of Christians arrogating to themselves the title of God's peculiar people. The present attempts to bring the Jews into the Church of Christ are most displeasing to them: they regard us as modern Balaam's, rising up to bring a curse upon their nation: and when any are converted from among them to the faith of Christ, the old enmity still rises in the hearts of their unbelieving brethren; who are kept only by the powerful arm of our law from manifesting their displeasure, as they were accustomed to do in the days of old Acts 23:21-22.

Here then you see the text fulfilled in its utmost extent: here also you see that perfect correspondence between the guilt and the punishment of the Jewish nation, which was predicted: they have provoked God to jealousy by following vile impostors and rejecting his Son; and he has provoked them to jealousy by rejecting them, and receiving into his Church the ignorant and despised Gentiles.

And now let me ask, Is this exposition of the text novel? No: it is that which is sanctioned by your own prophets, supported by our Apostles, and confirmed by actual experience.

Look at the prophets: do they not declare the call of the Gentiles into the Church, saying, "In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an Ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and His rest shall be glorious Isaiah 11:10." The Prophet Hosea's language, though primarily applicable to the ten tribes, is certainly to be understood in reference to the Gentiles also: "I will have mercy upon her that has not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, You are my people: and they shall say, You are my God Hosea 2:23." And again, "It shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, You are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, You are the sons of the living God Hosea 1:10 with Romans 9:24-26." But the Prophet Isaiah points directly to the Gentiles, when he says, "I am sought of them that asked not for me, I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that wets not called by my name:" I say he points to the Gentiles there; for he immediately contrasts with them the state of his own people, saying, "I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walks in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts Isaiah 65:1-2 with Romans 10:20-21." If you turn to the New Testament, you will find there the very words of our text quoted, not merely to prove that the Gentiles were to be brought into the Church of God, but that Israel was apprised of God's intentions, and that, however averse they were to that measure, they could not but know that Moses himself had taught them to expect it: I say, Did not Israel know? says the Apostle:—did they not know that "there was to be no difference between the Jew and the Greek; and that the same Lord is rich unto all that call upon him?" Yes; for Moses says, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you Romans 10:19. If we look to matter of fact, we find that there are, in every quarter of the globe, thousands and millions of Gentiles who are serving and honoring Jehovah, precisely as Abraham himself did: they are believing in the same God, and walking in the same steps: and the only difference between him and them is, that he looked to that blessed seed of his who should come; and they look to that blessed seed of his who has come, even Jesus, in whom all the nations of the earth are blessed.

It is time that we now inquire,

II. What use is to be made of this prophecy by us Gentiles?

If ever there was a dispensation calculated to instruct mankind, it is that which is predicted in the words before us. I will mention three lessons in particular which it ought to teach us: and the Lord grant, that they may be engraved in all our hearts!

First, it should lead us to adore the mysterious providence of God. Let us take a view of God's dealings with that peculiar people, the Jews. When, the whole earth was lying in gross darkness, he was pleased to choose Abraham out of an idolatrous nation and family, and to reveal himself to him. To him he promised a seed, whom he would take as a peculiar people above all the people upon earth. These descendants he promised to multiply as the stars of Heaven, and as the sands upon the sea-shore; and in due time to give them the land of Canaan for their inheritance. After he had in a most wonderful manner fulfilled all his promises to them, they rebelled against him, and served other gods, and provoked him to bring upon them many successive troubles, and at last to send them into captivity in Babylon. But during this whole time he still consulted their best interests; and even in the last and heaviest of these judgments, "he sent them into Babylon for their good Jeremiah 24:5." Afflictive as that dispensation was, it was the most profitable to them of all the mercies and judgments that they ever experienced; for by means of it they were cured of their idolatrous propensities; and never have yielded to them any more, even to the present hour.

After seventy years God delivered them from thence also, as he had before delivered them from Egypt; and re-established them, to a certain degree, in their former prosperity. In the fullness of time, he, according to his promise, sent them his only-begotten Son, to establish among them that kingdom of righteousness and peace, which had been shadowed forth among them from the time that they became a nation. But on their destroying him, he determined to cast them off; and accordingly he gave them into the hands of the Romans, who executed upon them such judgments as never had been inflicted on any nation under Heaven. But neither was this dispensation unmixed with mercy: for, blinded as they were by prejudice, they never would have renounced their errors, or embraced the Gospel, if they had been able still to satisfy their minds with the rites and ceremonies of their own Church. But as God drove our first parents from Paradise, and precluded them from all access to the tree of life, which was no more to be a sacramental pledge of life to them now in their fallen state; and as he thereby prevented them from deluding their souls with false hopes, and shut them up unto that mercy, which he had revealed to them through the seed of the woman; so now has he cut off the Jews from all possibility of observing the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law, in order that they may be constrained to seek for mercy through the Messiah whom they have crucified.

At the same time that God has ordered this dispensation with an ultimate view to the good of his once-favored people, he has consulted in it the good of the whole world; for, when he cut them off from the stock on which they grew, he took a people from among the Gentiles, and engrafted them as scions upon the Jewish stock, and made them "partakers of the root and fatness of the olive-tree" which his own right hand had planted. What he might have done for the Gentiles, if the Jews had not provoked him to cut them off, we cannot say: but the Apostle, speaking on this subject, says, that "they became enemies for our sakes," and "were broken off that we might be engrafted in." Doubtless, the stock was sufficient to bear both them and us; for the time is coming when the whole world, Jews and Gentiles, shall grow together upon it, seeing that it is God's intention to engraft on it again the natural branches, which for the present he has broken off: but so has he ordained, that they should be cast out of his Church, and we be introduced into it, and that the one event should be preparatory to the other; that so the fall and ruin of the Jews should be the riches and salvation of the Gentile world Romans 11:11-12; Romans 11:15. And it is plain, that this appointment of his is carried into effect; for they are broken off, and are no longer his Church, since there is not one among them that either does, or can, serve God according to their law: and we, on the contrary, are his Church; and millions of us, through the world, are rendering to him the service he requires; and, if we are not his Church, then God has not at this hour, nor has he had for above seventeen hundred years, a Church upon earth. God, however, has not cast off his people fully or finally: not fully, for he brought multitudes of them into his Church in the apostolic age: nor finally; for though, through the shameful remissness of the Christian world, he has done but little for the Jews in these latter ages, yet is he, we trust, showing mercy to them now, and sowing seeds among them, which shall one day bring forth a glorious harvest. Moreover as, by breaking off the Jews, God made room for the Gentiles, so has he ordained, that the bringing in the fullness of the Gentiles shall contribute to the restoration of the Jews themselves; and that, at last, the whole collective body of mankind shall be "one fold under one Shepherd." What a stupendous mystery is this! Well might Paul, in the contemplation of it, exclaim, "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Truly, this mystery is by no means sufficiently considered among us; though it is so great, that not even the Apostles themselves, for six years after the day of Pentecost, could see into it; and even then it was only by a miraculous interference that God prevailed upon them to receive it: it was by repeated visions to Peter and Cornelius, that he induced Peter to preach the Gospel to Cornelius; and it was by the effusion of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his family, that he induced the other Apostles to acquiesce in what Peter had done: and, even to the last, it was with reluctance they confessed, "Then has God to the Gentiles also granted repentance unto life Acts 10; Acts 11:1; Acts 11:18." Let me recommend you then, my Brethren, to turn your attention to this mystery more than you have ever yet done; and never imagine that you have attained just views of it, until you are transported with wonder at the wisdom displayed in it Ephesians 3:6; Ephesians 3:9-10, and filled with gratitude for the mercies it conveys.

A second improvement we should make of this subject is, to be afraid of provoking God to jealousy against us also. We have seen that it was the idolatry of the Jews that chiefly provoked God to jealousy against them. But is there not a spiritual idolatry, as well as that which consisted in the worship of graven images? and is it not equally offensive to a jealous God? When his people of old placed idols in their secret chambers, his chief complaint was, that "they set them up in their hearts Ezekiel 14:3-4; Ezekiel 14:7. And has he not told us, that "covetousness is idolatry;" and that we may "make a God of our belly?" What then is this but to say, that 'the loving and serving the creature more than the Creator,' whatever that creature be, is idolatry? We know full well, that gods of wood and of stone were "vanities;" but are not pleasure, and riches, and honor, "vanities" when put in competition with our God? and does not the inordinate pursuit of them provoke him to jealousy, as much as the bowing down to stocks and stones ever did? And if the rejection of Jesus by the Jews was that crime which filled up the measure of their iniquities, and brought the wrath of God upon them to the uttermost; shall not "the crucifying of the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame," as Christians do by their iniquities, be also considered as provoking the Most High God? Let us not think then that the Jews alone can provoke God to anger, or that they alone can ever be cast off for their wickedness; for he has expressly warned us by his Apostle, that he will cast us off, even as he did them, if we provoke him to jealousy by placing on the creature the affections that are due to him. Hear what Paul says; "Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed, lest he also spare not you Romans 11:21." My Brethren, you cannot but see how grievously God is dishonored by the Christian world: truly, "he is provoked by us every day;" and we, no less than the Jews, are "a rebellious and stiff-necked people." Look at all ranks and orders of men among us, and see whether there be not a lamentable departure from primitive Christianity? Compare the lives of the generality with the examples of Christ and his Apostles, and see, not merely how short they come of the pattern set before them, (for that the best among us do,) but how opposite they are in their conduct; insomuch that, if they did not call themselves Christians, no one would ever think of calling them so, from their lives. Those who are in earnest about the salvation of their souls, are still "as men wondered at" among us; so that instead of pointing at an unhappy few as exceptions to the Christian character, no one can tread in the steps of Christ and his Apostles, without becoming "a sign and a wonder" among his neighbors. This you cannot but know; what then must we expect, but that God will punish us precisely as he has done the Jews, and provoke us to jealousy, by others whom we despise? The fact is, that God is already dealing with us in this manner. The rich, the great, the noble are, for the most part, so occupied with "vanities," as to forget the services which they owe to God; and the consequence is, that God overlooks them, and transfers the blessings of his Gospel to the poor. At this day it is true, no less than in the days of the Apostles, that "not many rich, not many mighty, not many noble are called," but "God has chosen the weak, and base, and foolish things of the world; yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things which are; that no flesh should glory in his presence:" and this very circumstance does move the rich to anger, precisely as it did in the days of old; "Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on him? As for these poor contemptible people that make such a noise about religion, they are cursed." But I must go further, and say, that God is dealing in this very way even with those who do profess themselves his peculiar people. Who are the happy Christians? Who have the richest enjoyment of the Gospel, or most adorn it in their life and conversation? Are they the richer professors, whose hearts are set on "vanities," or who are laboring night and day to procure them? Are they not rather the poor and the destitute, who, haying but little of this world, are more anxious to enjoy their God? We say not indeed that this is universally the case; but it is a general truth: nay more, among Indians and Hottentots there is often found a more lively and realizing sense of the divine presence, than among the worldly-minded professors of our own day. I must entreat you therefore, Brethren, to reflect, that if we do not, as a people, turn more heartily unto the Lord, we have reason to fear, lest "the candlestick should be removed from us," and be transferred to a people who shall walk more worthy of it. Lastly, we should be stirred up by this subject to concur with God in his gracious intentions towards the Jews. In the song before us, there are repeated intimations that God will once more restore to his favor his now degenerate and afflicted people. In verse 36, it is said, "The Lord will judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he sees that their power is gone, and that there is none shut up or left." And the song concludes with these remarkable words, "Rejoice, O nations! with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and unto his people." Here then, you see, that there is mercy in reserve for the Jewish people, and that the Gentiles also shall be partakers of their joy. But in our text there is a hint of a very peculiar nature, namely, not merely that God will grant mercy to them, in the midst of their present chastisement, but that he will render those very chastisements subservient to his gracious designs. He intimates that he is even now provoking them to jealousy, by the mercies he bestows on us; that is, that he is even now endeavoring to inflame them with a holy desire to regain his favor. It is precisely in this sense that Paul uses the same expression: indeed, Paul tells us, that he himself used the very same means for the same end: "Through the fall of the Jews (says he) is salvation come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. Now I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office; if by any means I may provoke to jealousy (it is the same word as before Ðáñáæçëþáù, Romans 11:11; Romans 11:14.) them which are my flesh, and might save some of them." This then is the work in which we are to co-operate with God: and, truly, if we were all in earnest about it, we might, with God's help, do great things. They behold us professing ourselves to be the peculiar people of God: and, if they saw so great a difference between themselves and us as they ought to see, truly they would begin to envy us, and to wish to be partakers of our blessings. But, if they see that we are as covetous and worldly-minded, as lewd and sensual, as proud and vindictive, and, in short, as corrupt in all respects as the very heathen, shall we not prove a stumbling-block, rather than an help, to them? And what if, while we ought all to be uniting with one heart and one soul in the blessed work of leading them to Christ, they should find among us an utter indifference to their salvation? Yes, what if they behold among us some (some too of whom we might hope better things) to whom the exertions of their brethren are rather a matter of offence than of joy; some whose endeavor is rather to frustrate, than advance, our benevolent labors? What if they behold some who, instead of laboring with us to provoke them to jealousy, are themselves provoked to an ungodly jealousy against us, on account of our exertions; and who, like Tobiah and Sanballat of old, "are grieved that we have undertaken to seek the welfare of Israel Nehemiah 2:10." Will not our Jewish brethren take advantage of this? Will they not impute this to our religion? If they see us thus worldly, or thus malignant, will they not judge of our principles by our practice; and, instead of envying us our privileges and attainments, will they not be ready to glory over us, and to thank God they are not Christians? Oh, Brethren! we little think what guilt we contract, while practicing such abominations. It is said of many, that they are no person's enemy but their own: but this is not true; they are enemies to all around them, whom they vitiate by their example; they are enemies to the Jews, whom they harden in their infidelity; and they are enemies to the heathen, whom they teach to abhor the Christian name. But let it not be so among us; let us remember that to us is committed the blessed task of bringing back to God's fold his wandering, yet beloved, people. Nor let us despair of success; "for, if we were cut out of the olive-tree which is wild by nature, and were engrafted contrary to nature into a good olive-tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be engrafted into their own olive-tree? If they abide not in unbelief, they shall be grafted in; for, though we are unable, God is able to engraft them in again Romans 11:23-24." But then, how is this to be accomplished? it is to be by our means; ("as for the times and the seasons, we say nothing; God has reserved them in his own power:") God has appointed us to seek the salvation of his people; and has communicated his blessings to us on purpose that we may be his depository to keep them, and his channel to convey them, for their benefit. Hear his own words: "As you in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy Romans 11:30-31." Let us then address ourselves to the blessed work that God has assigned us. Let us, as God's chosen instruments, endeavor to interest ourselves with him to reinstate them in his favor, and interest ourselves with them to return unto him. Let us make a conscience of praying for them in secret; let us devise plans for furthering the communication of divine knowledge among them; let us not shrink from labor, or trouble, or expense; let us not be deterred by any difficulties, or discouraged by any disappointments: but let us labor for them, as their forefathers did for us; let us tread in the steps of the holy Apostles, and be ready to sacrifice time, and interest, and liberty, and life itself, in their service; and account the saving of their souls the richest recompense that God himself can give us. And, that we may the more effectually provoke them to jealousy, let us show them that God has done for us as much as he ever did for the patriarchs of old, giving us as intimate an access to him, as firm a confidence in him, and as assured prospects of an everlasting acceptance with him, as ever Abraham himself enjoyed. They are apt to think that, in exalting Jesus, we dishonor Jehovah: but let us show them by our lives, that we render to Jehovah all the love, and honor, and service, that were ever rendered to him by his most eminent saints; and that there is no principle whatever so operative and powerful as the love of our adorable Redeemer. Let us show them, that communion with the Son has the same effect on us, that communion with the Father had on Moses; that it assimilates us unto God, and constrains all who behold us to acknowledge, that we have been with God. Their eyes are now upon us; upon us especially, who are endeavoring to convert them to the faith of Christ: let them therefore see in us the influence of Christian principles: let them see that, while we speak of enjoying peace through the blood of our great Sacrifice, and of having the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Sanctifier, we live as none others can live, exhibiting in our conduct the faith of Abraham, the meekness of Moses, the patience of Job, the piety of David, and the fidelity of Daniel: in a word, let them see in us an assemblage of all the brightest virtues of their most renowned progenitors. O! would to God that there were in all of us such a heart! Would to God that the Holy Spirit might be poured out upon us for this end, and work in us so effectually, that the very sight of us should be sufficient to carry conviction to their minds; that so our Jewish brethren, beholding "the exceeding grace of God in us," might be constrained to take hold of our skirt, and say, "We will go with you, for we perceive that God is with you of a truth Zechariah 8:23."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 32:31

 

DISCOURSE 234

THE EXCELLENCY OF JEHOVAH

Deuteronomy 32:31. Their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.

IT is not a little to the honor of those who serve God, that the more fully their principles are investigated, the more just will they appear, and worthy to be adopted by all the world. Those embraced by ungodly men are often such as scarcely to be vindicated by their most partial friends: but those, which the children of God profess, will stand the test of examination from their bitterest enemies. To this effect Moses speaks in the words before us; from which we shall,

I. Point out the superiority of Jehovah above all other objects of confidence—

Neither the idols of heathens, nor any other objects of confidence, can in any point of view be put in competition with Jehovah. Consider

His power—

There is not anything which he is not able to effect: "He does according to his will in the armies of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth." But what created being can claim this prerogative?

His love—

Incomprehensible are the heights and depths of the Father's love, discovered in sending his own Son to die for us: nor less the love of Christ in giving himself a sacrifice for our sins. Is there any other Being that ever has expressed, or ever can, such love as this?

His faithfulness—

God has given to us exceeding great and precious promises, suited to every want we can possibly experience. And has one jot or tittle of his word ever failed? But where shall we find a creature that has not, in some respect or other, disappointed the expectations of those who trusted in him?

So indisputable is the point before us, that we may even,

II. Appeal to the very enemies of Jehovah in confirmation of our assertions—

We might with propriety appeal to his friends, since they, by their knowledge of him, and their experience of the vanity of earthly confidences, are best qualified to judge. But, waving this just advantage, we will appeal,

1. To his enemies of former times—

In the contest with the worshipers of Baal, this matter was brought to a trial: and what was the result? the very idolaters themselves exclaimed, "The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God 1 Kings 18:39." Nebuchadnezzar was in like manner forced to acknowledge the vanity of the idol he had set up, and to confess that no other God could effect such a deliverance for his votaries, as Jehovah had wrought for the Hebrew Youths Daniel 3:29.

2. To his enemies at this day—

There are many who are ready to think that too much honor is ascribed to God, when the weakness of all created confidences is exposed. But we will appeal to their judgment, whether they do not think that an omniscient, and omnipotent Being, whose providence and grace have been so marvelously displayed, be not more worthy of our trust than an arm of flesh? We appeal also to their experience; for though, through their ignorance of Jehovah, they cannot declare what he is, they do know, and must confess, that the creature, when confided in as a source of true happiness, invariably shows itself to be "vanity and vexation of spirit."

ADDRESS—

1. Let those who have undervalued our Rock, repent of their folly—

Not idolaters alone, but all, who do not supremely love and adore the Savior, must be considered as undervaluing this our Rock: and, if they do not repent of their conduct now, they will bewail it before long with endless and unavailing sorrow. Let them then consider, that, with respect to temporal things, there is none other that can deliver them from trouble, or support them under it: and that, with respect to spiritual things, there is no wisdom, strength, or righteousness, but in Him alone. Let them consider, that "in him all fullness dwells;" and that, if they trust in him, he will give them all that is needful for body and soul, for time and eternity. O that they were wise and would turn unto him, and cleave to him with full purpose of heart!

2. Let those, who trust in Jesus, glory in him as an all-sufficient portion—

They who build on this Rock need never fear: however high their expectations are raised, they shall never be disappointed of their hope. They may enlarge their desires, even as Hell itself that is never satisfied; they may ask all that God himself can bestow; and, provided it be good for them, they shall possess it all: however "wide they open their mouth, God will fill it." In vain shall either men or devils seek to injure them; for "one of them should chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight verse 30." Let them then consider what an almighty Friend they have; and endeavor to walk worthy of Him who has called them to his kingdom and glory."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 32:34-35

 

DISCOURSE 235

JUDGMENT NEAR AT HAND

Deuteronomy 32:34-35. Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures? To me belongs vengeance and recompense: their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.

TENDERNESS and fidelity are by no means incompatible. Nothing could exceed the tenderness of our blessed Lord, who wept over those who were just about to imbrue their hands in his blood. Yet, when occasion called for it, he spoke with great severity: "You serpents, you generation of vipers, how shall you escape the damnation of Hell Matthew 23:33." In like manner, Jehovah, in the chapter before us, while he declares that "a fire was kindled in his anger against his people, and that it should burn to the lowest Hell verse 22," takes up this lamentation over them: "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up? For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges verse 29–31." But as, notwithstanding all his remonstrances, they still continued to bring forth nothing but "grapes of gall and clusters of Gomorrah," he warns them, that their iniquities were remembered by him in order to a future judgment, and that their merited calamities were near at hand.

But to us, also, are the words no less applicable than to them: for we, also, are a disobedient people, and have but too much reason to expect the judgments of God upon us. I observe, then,

I. That our sins are treasured up before God in order to a future judgment—

This is stated to us in way of appeal: "Is not your iniquity laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?" We cannot doubt but that God notes all our wickedness, and "records it in the book of his remembrance Malachi 3:16." Of this Job was well convinced, when he said, "My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and you sew up mine iniquity Job 14:17." And oh! what a mass of iniquity is there contained! Call to mind the sins of early infancy: for not one of them is overlooked by God. Then view the evils of childhood and of youth: alas, how numerous! even as the sands upon the sea-shore for multitude. Then go on to the period of maturer age, when, instead of improving our enlarged faculties in the service of our God, we have debased them the more in the service of sin and Satan. Go on to the present hour. Take all the actions, words, and thoughts of every successive day, and try them by the standard of God's holy Law; and then see what loads of guilt we have contracted, and what volumes of indictment are ready at any hour to be brought forth against us: especially if we bear in remembrance our impenitence, which so greatly provokes God to anger; and our contempt of his Gospel, that stupendous effort of his love and mercy for the saving of our souls from death: if we reflect on these, I say, we cannot but see what a fearful account we have to give to our offended God. How soon we shall have "filled up the measure of our iniquities," God alone knows: but this accumulation of our guilt none of us can deny; and this certainty of retribution none of us can doubt.

In addition to this, I must say,

II. That the appointed time for giving up our account is hastening on apace—

"Our foot," we are told, "shall slide in due time, and the day of our calamity is at hand." Truly "we are set in slippery places; and are liable to be cast down into destruction in a moment Psalm 73:18-19." Persons walking upon the ice, or on the glaciers of mountainous countries, feel the force of this observation, and endeavor to guard with all possible care against their danger. But we see not our danger, notwithstanding it is in fact not less imminent than theirs. Millions of dangers encompass us around; and numerous instances occur of persons summoned into eternity without a moment's warning. The time for every man's departure is fixed by God: and how near it may be at hand, no one can divine. But the instant it is arrived, whether we be prepared or unprepared, away we are hurried to the judgment-seat of Christ; and, if unprepared, we are cast into the very depths of Hell. I know that persons are ready to say, "But God is merciful." True; but I answer, that "To him belongs vengeance also;" yes, and this is as essential to his character as mercy. Hence, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, my text is cited with peculiar emphasis: "We know him that has said, Vengeance belongs unto me: I will recompense, says the Lord." And to this it is added, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God Hebrews 10:30-31." Now, I ask, Shall this perfection of the Deity be dispensed with, in order to give us safety in our sins? It cannot be. An hatred of sin, and a determination to punish it, are essential to the nature of Jehovah; and he can as soon cease to exist, as he can cease to act worthy of his proper character. You cannot but know. Brethren, that multitudes are hurried daily into the presence of their God, without any regard to their state of preparation to meet him: and there is no reason why you should not be taken just as they were. "They were saying, Peace and safety; and then came sudden destruction upon them, as travail upon a woman with child 1 Thessalonians. 5:3." And the more secure you are in your own apprehension, the more reason there is to fear that you shall be called away in like manner, and that "that awful day shall overtake you "as a thief 1 Thessalonians. 5:4." This consideration is very particularly urged upon you by the Prophet Hosea: "The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him Hosea 13:12-13." It matters not whether you be young or old, or whether in health or sickness, "the Judge stands at the door;" and at the instant ordained by him, into his presence must you go, to "give an account of all that you have ever done, whether it be good or evil."

And truth compels me to declare,

III. That it is owing to the forbearance of God alone that every one of us has not long since fallen into Hell—

Who among us has not deserved the wrath of God? Who among us may not call to mind some moment, when God, so to speak, might have cut us off to advantage, to display in us his righteous indignation? And if he had summoned us hence, who could have withstood his mandate, or prolonged his life one single hour? We have been in the hands of God, hanging, as it were, over the bottomless pit, and suspended only by a single thread, which, if let loose or cut, would have transmitted us at once to everlasting misery. And many times has God been tempted, so to speak, to let go his hold: but our blessed Savior has interceded for us, and prevailed to obtain for us a respite from our destined misery, if by any means we might be led to avert it by penitence and faith in him. All has been ready for our ruin long ago. "Tophet has been prepared: it has been made deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; and the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, has kindled it Isaiah 30:33;" yes, the unquenchable fire has long since been kindled, and those cruel spirits, who have been our tempters, have long been waiting to become our tormentors. Nothing has prevented our ruin but the forbearance of our God, who, in the midst of all our provocations, has yet waited to be gracious unto us. It is to his sovereign grace alone we owe it, that we are not at this instant in the condition of millions, who never lived so long as we, or sinned so much against God as we, and were altogether as likely to live as we. But "others have been taken, and we are left," if perhaps we may yet repent us of our sins, and flee for refuge to the hope that is set before us.

I cannot conclude this awful subject without addressing a few words,

1. To those who are yet indulging in security—

What have you been doing all your days, but "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath Romans 2:5." You do not design to go to Hell, I know: neither did they who are already there. They designed, each in his own way, to do something that might bring them to Heaven. One intended to repent, another to amend, another perhaps to embrace the Gospel. But death seized them, before they had found leisure to carry their designs into effect And you also design to get into the way that leads to Heaven. But tell me, When did you form this design? You know not the time when it did not in a careless way float upon your mind: and here have you been, years and years, without ever carrying it into effect. Tell me, then, I pray you, when do you intend to carry it into effect? As to any serious purpose and endeavor, it is still as far off as at any period of your lives: and therefore there is reason to fear that your good designs will terminate, as those of millions do, in utter abortion: and that in you will be verified what the Psalmist has said, "Upon the wicked, God will rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup Psalm 11:6." You may be assured, that God will not always bear with you: that, on the contrary, "your judgment lingers not, and your damnation slumbers not 2 Peter 2:3." "The axe at this very moment lies at the root of the tree," ready to cut you down Luke 3:9; and God alone knows whether another offer of mercy shall be ever made you. "O that you may know, every one of you, in this your day, the things that belong unto your peace Luke 19:42." "Today, Brethren, while it is called today, harden not your hearts:" but "seek you the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near Isaiah 55:6." "This day, for every one of you, may be the day of salvation 2 Corinthians 6:2;" what tomorrow may be none can tell. I pray God, it may not prove to you, as no doubt it will to many, "the day of wrath," the day of everlasting damnation.

2. To those who are desirous of preparing for death and judgment—

Happy am I to declare unto you, that, however numerous or heinous your sins may have been, they may all this very day be "blotted out of the book of God's remembrance;" yes, be "blotted out as a morning cloud Isaiah 43:25," never more to be seen, never to be remembered against you in judgment Hebrews 8:12. "The blood of Jesus Christ, we are told, will cleanse from all sin 1 John 1:7;" so that "though your sins have been as scarlet or as crimson, they shall in one instant become white as snow Isaiah 1:18." Yes, Brethren, if "vengeance belongs unto God," so does mercy also: "with him is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption, so that he will redeem Israel from all his sins Psalm 130:7-8." Take courage, then; and from the very forbearance you have experienced, assure yourselves that "God is full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great kindness;" and that if only you come to him in his Son's name, you shall never perish, but shall have eternal life.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 32:36

 

DISCOURSE 236

OUR EXTREMITY IS GOD'S OPPORTUNITY

Deuteronomy 32:36. The Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he sees that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.

IT is a certain truth that God is immutable in his purposes, whether of judgment or of mercy. In the execution of either there may be long delays: but neither the one nor the other shall fail. The sins of the impenitent "are laid up in store with him, and sealed up among his treasures:" and how secure soever the ungodly may imagine themselves, they shall give up their account to him, "to whom belongs vengeance and recompense:" yes, they may stand fast in their own apprehension; but "their feet shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand; and the things that shall come upon them make haste verse 34, 35;" or, to use the energetic language of Peter, "their judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not 2 Peter 2:3." In like manner are mercies reserved for his chosen people: and though he may, for wise and gracious purposes, suffer them to be reduced to the greatest extremities, as he did his people in Babylon See Mic. 4:10, yet will he interpose effectually for them in due season, "repenting himself for them, when he sees that their power is gone, and that there is none shut up or left."

In confirmation of this truth I propose to show,

I. To what a state God's people may be reduced—

God's ways and thoughts are far different from ours. We should be ready to suppose that he would preserve his people from any great calamities, and interpose for their deliverance at the very commencement of their trials. But this is not the way in which he proceeds. He permits his people to be severely tried,

1. By temporal afflictions—

To these is the primary reference in the text Compare Judges. 2:14-15; Judges. 2:18 with 2 Kings 14:26; And the whole of God's dispensations towards his people, in Egypt and the wilderness, evince the truth of it. Nor is it the wicked only whom he permits to be visited with severe afflictions: the righteous in every age have drunk deep of the cup of sorrow which has been put into their hands Hebrews 11:37-38; Acts 8:3-4; God has seen it "needful that they should be in heaviness through manifold temptations 1 Peter 1:6;" and has taught them to regard their lot, not as a mark of his displeasure, but rather as a token of his love Hebrews 12:6.

2. By spiritual trouble—

Many, previous to their finding peace with God, are brought into the deepest distress on account of their iniquities, and from an apprehension of God's heavy displeasure Psalm 6:1-7; Psalm 38:1-8; And many too after that they have obtained mercy, may yet be greatly tried by reason of the hidings of God's face Psalm 22:1-2; Psalm 42:6; Psalms 7, and the delays of his promised blessings Psalm 77:1-9; Psalm 88:14-16; Psalm 102:1-11; Greater distress than this cannot be imagined; yet was it the lot of him who was "the man after God's own heart."

But let us contemplate,

II. The seasonable interpositions which they may hope for—

"God will judge his people, and repent himself for his servants," when he sees them reduced to such a state as this.

He has done this in instances without number—

The whole history of the Bible is replete with instances: yes, on numberless occasions have his interpositions been so signal, that his most inveterate enemies have been constrained to acknowledge his hand, and his most unbelieving people to sing his praise. The hundred and seventh Psalm is in fact an epitome of God's dealings with his people from the beginning of the world to this present moment: And there is not any one among ourselves, who, if he have been at all observant of the ways of Providence, must not acknowledge, that he has both seen in others, and experienced in himself, many merciful interpositions in the hour of need.

He will do it to the end of time—

The words before us are in the form of a promise: and we may rely upon them as sure and faithful. They shall be fulfilled to us under temporal distresses Psalm 33:18-19; and under spiritual trouble also will God surely remember them for our good. Where can we find a more disconsolate state than that depicted by the Prophet Isaiah? Yet sooner will God work for us the most stupendous miracles than leave us destitute of the desired aid Isaiah 41:17-18.

The frequency of such interpositions leads me to point out,

III. The reason why God permits such crises previous to the bestowment of his promised blessings—

Among many other reasons, he does it,

1. For the making of us more sensible of our dependence upon him—

While, in theory, we acknowledge God as "the Author and Giver of all good," there is no sentiment further from our minds than this in practice. It is only in straits and difficulties that we think of looking unto God. But such atheism is most displeasing to the Governor of the universe: and on this account he suffers us to fall into divers temptations, that we may know from whence all our blessings have flowed, and on whose providence we depend. Paul assigns this as one very important reason why God permitted such trials to come upon him in Asia, that he was driven to utter despair: "We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver; in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us 2 Corinthians 1:8-10." And every affliction that brings us to a more simple life of faith on God, we may justly welcome as a blessing in disguise.

2. For the magnifying the more his own glorious perfections—

We scarcely notice God at all in his common mercies: it is only when we are delivered by some signal interposition of his providence or grace, that we become sensible of our obligations to him. Then we say, The Lord has done this: and we feel disposed, for a time at least, to give him the glory due unto his name. It was for this reason that Jesus came not to restore Lazarus, until he had been dead four days John 11:4; John 11:6; John 11:15; John 11:40. Under such circumstances we admire his goodness, and adore his love; and confess him to be a faithful God, who has never failed in the execution of any promise to his believing people. The song of Moses is sung by us again: "Who is like unto you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders Exodus 15:11." Conviction flashes on our minds with tenfold energy; and we exclaim with the convinced worshipers of Baal, "The Lord, he is the God! the Lord, he is the God!"

3. For the rendering of his mercies more influential on our minds—

When God's mercies have been heaped upon us in an unusual degree, then we feel disposed to ask, "What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits that he has done unto me?" Behold David after some great deliverance, whereby "his soul was brought out of a horrible pit, and set, as it were, upon a rock;" "what songs were put into his mouth;" and with what ardor does he exclaim, "Blessed is the man that makes the Lord his trust Psalm 40:1-4." Paul had been brought to similar distress by reason of the thorn in his flesh: yet, when once assured that "the grace of Christ should be sufficient for him," how does he immediately take pleasure and glory in all that he either did or could endure 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. And thus will it be with all, in proportion as they are sensible of the mercies conferred upon them: they will present their whole selves a living sacrifice unto their God, as a reasonable and delightful service Romans 12:1.

ADDRESS—

1. To those who are under any temporal affliction—

Say not, that "the Lord has forsaken and forgotten you Isaiah 49:14;" but wait his leisure, and assure yourselves that "all is working for your good." It was by a circuitous path that he led Israel to the promised land: but "he led them by the right way:" and you also shall see, in due season, that though "clouds and darkness have been round about him, righteousness and judgment have been the basis of his throne."

2. To those whose trials are of a spiritual nature—

These are the heavier of the two: for "a wounded spirit who can bear?" But "light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Only wait the appointed time, and "the vision shall come, and not tarry Habakkuk 3:2." "In the evening time it shall be light Zechariah 14:7." In the mean while follow the direction which the Lord himself gives you; and, while "walking in darkness and without light, trust in the Lord, and stay yourselves upon your God Isaiah 50:10."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 32:39

 

DISCOURSE 237

GOD THE ONLY AUTHOR OF GOOD AND EVIL

Deuteronomy 32:39. See now, that I, even I, am he, and there it no strange God with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither it there any that can deliver out of my hand.

THE Jews, from the time that they became a nation, turned aside from the living God to the worship of idols: on which account, God, in righteous indignation, refused them, on some occasions, the aid which he alone could bestow; and referred them to their idols, in whom they trusted, that they might obtain from them those things of which they stood in need: "Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink-offerings? Let them rise up and help you, and be your protection." But to us is the same reproach most justly due: for though we do not, like them, bow down to shocks and stones, we are far from realizing in our minds the exclusive agency of Jehovah. To us, therefore, no less than to them, may be addressed the solemn admonition before us; "See now, that I, even I, am he, and there is no strange God with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand."

Let me now entreat your attention to,

I. God's own description of his own character—

Agreeably to what is here spoken, we see, that,

1. His agency is universal—

There is not anything done, whether it be good or evil, but he is the doer of it. "I am the Lord," says he; "and there is none else; there is no God besides me. I am the Lord; and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things Isaiah 45:5-7 with Amos. 3:6." There is nothing so great, or so small, but it must be traced to him as its proper source and author, even to the falling of a sparrow, or the falling of a hair from our heads Matthew 10:29-30. And God is desirous that this should be known and duly considered by us. To discover this to his ancient people, was one great reason for his marvelous interpositions for them Deuteronomy 4:34-35, and of the no less marvelous forbearance which he exercised towards them verse 27. And we, also, must bear in mind, that "whether he kill or make alive, whether he wound or heal, it is He alone that does it, and there is no strange God with him."

2. His appointments are sovereign—

The whole Scripture bears testimony that "God works all things after the counsel of his own will." He does so in relation to all temporal matters: "He kills, and makes alive; he brings down to the grave, and brings up: he makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and lifts up: he raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit a throne of glory 1 Samuel 2:6-8." In relation to spiritual matters, also, he exercises no less a sovereign control, "having mercy on whom he will have mercy, and hardening whom he sees good to harden Romans 9:18." This was viewed by Paul in so important a light, that when he had once touched upon it, he did not know how to relinquish the subject, but insisted on it with every diversity of expression that language could furnish, and yet with such repetitions as appeared almost to be endless. Having said that God had blessed us with all spiritual blessings, he traces the gift to this as its true source: "He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, having predestined us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the Beloved; in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he has abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he had purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven, and which are on earth, even in him; in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory Ephesians 1:3-12 and again in verse 14." We have often read this passage, but with so little care, as scarcely to get a glimpse of its true import: but, the more minutely and attentively we consider it, the more, shall we see the amazing importance of the subject contained in it, and of the character of God as a mighty Sovereign, that does what he will, and "gives not account to us of any of his matters Job 33:13."

3. His power is uncontrollable—

Forcible is that appeal of Elihu, "When he gives quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hides his face, who then can behold him? whether it be done against a nation or a man only Job 34:29." He is a mighty "Lawgiver, alike able to save or to destroy James 4:12." Hear Jehovah's own declaration respecting this: "I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no Savior. Before the day was, I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work; and who shall let it Isaiah 43:11; Isaiah 43:13." Does he meditate vengeance? this is his own awful asseveration, in the words immediately following my text: "I lift up my hand to Heaven, and say, I live forever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to my enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh verse 40–42." On the other hand, does he contemplate the exercise of mercy? this is the assurance that he gives his people: "I the Lord your God will hold your right hand, saying unto you, Fear not, I will help you. Fear not, you worm Jacob, and you men of Israel: I will help you, says the Lord, and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make you a new sharp threshing-instrument, having teeth: you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shall make the hills as chaff. You shall fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and you shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall glory in the Holy One of Israel Isaiah 41:13-16." In a word, He is a Potter, and we are the clay; and whether he is pleased to make, or mar, the vessel, none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What do you Jeremiah 18:3-6 with Romans 9:20-21.

Let us now proceed to notice,

II. His solemn call to the consideration of it—

"See now," says he, "that this is my unquestionable, and unchangeable character:" and you are called to contemplate it,

1. That you may give him the glory of all that you have received—

My Brethren, God is a holy and a jealous God: "his very name is, Jealous Exodus 34:14;" and "his glory he will not give to another Isaiah 42:8." How fearfully he will resent any interference with him in this respect, may be seen in the case of Herod, who, when he was applauded for his eloquence, gave not God the glory; and God, in righteous displeasure, caused him to be "eaten up of worms, until he gave up the Spirit Acts 12:21-23." But more especially is God jealous in relation to spiritual blessings, which must be ascribed to him alone. Indeed, he has so constituted the whole work of man's salvation, that no particle of honor should be assumed by man, but all glory should be given to him, as "the author and the finisher of our faith." "He has treasured up for us everything in Christ Jesus Colossians 1:19;" and ordained, that we should "receive everything out of his fullness John 1:16," looking to him as our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our complete redemption, "that no flesh should glory in his presence, but that all should glory in him alone 1 Corinthians 1:29-31." Let this lesson, then, be learned by us, that God may receive from us all the glory of all that we possess; since "if we differ from others in any respect, it is he who has made us to differ; and we possess nothing which we have not gratuitously received from him 1 Corinthians 4:7."

2. That you may depend on him for all that you ever hope to receive—

Here, also, God asserts his claim to our entire dependence: "Cursed be the man that trusts in man, and that makes flesh his arm; and whose heart departs from the Lord his God Jeremiah 17:5-8." Especially in reference to everything that concerns our salvation, does God require our undivided affiance: "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth! for I am God; and there is none else Isaiah 45:22." Every child of man, whatever he may possess, must rely on Christ alone, saying, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength." "In the Lord alone shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory Isaiah 45:24-25." To this has God a very especial respect in the words of my text. If we look to the creature, or place any dependence on an arm of flesh, we must take the consequences verse 37, 38, 39. The creature "cannot do good, or do evil." As to the idols on which the Jews were disposed to place their confidence, God says to them, "You are of nothing, and your work of nothing: an abomination is he who chooses you Isaiah 41:23-24." So must it be said of everything on which we are accustomed to rely; "It is a broken reed, which will only pierce the hand that rests on it 2 Kings 18:21." Trust you, then, in the Lord, and in him alone: yes, "trust in him forever: for with the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength Isaiah 26:4."

This subject, methinks, speaks,

1. Comfort to the true Christian—

Respecting this glorious Being who is here described, it is your privilege to say, that "he is your God." In truth, whatever you want, he describes himself as a God of that very thing, of "love," of "mercy," of "peace," of "strength," of "comfort," of "all grace;" and in relation to that very thing will he "be a God unto you Hebrews 8:10." Seek him, then, in Christ Jesus; and glory in him as "your God and portion forever."

2. Terror to those who have any other God—

Who is that God that shall save you in the hour of your extremity? or, Where will you flee for support in the day of judgment? Indeed, indeed, there is no refuge for you, but in Christ; nor "any other name given under Heaven but his, whereby you can be saved Acts 4:12."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 32:46-47

 

DISCOURSE 238

A MINISTER'S DYING CHARGE TO HIS PEOPLE

Deuteronomy 32:46-47. Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which you shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this Law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life.

THIS song was composed in order "to be a witness for God against the children of Israel" to the remotest ages Deuteronomy 31:19. It contains a summary of God's dealings with them, and of the provocations whereby they constrained him at last to visit them with his heavy displeasure. At the same time, it gives an intimation of his mercies, which he has yet in reserve for them, when they and the Gentiles shall be incorporated into one Church, and become one fold under one Shepherd verse 43. Having recited this song in the ears of all the Elders of Israel, he entreats them to treasure it up in their hearts, and to impress it on the minds of the rising generation, that so it may answer the end for which it was composed.

From the counsel here given to all Israel, I will take occasion to show,

I. The regard which we should manifest towards the Gospel of Christ—

The testimony of Moses, though comprised in this song, did, in fact, comprehend "all the words of God's Law." In like manner, that which I have testified among you, while, in fact, it comprehends the entire Gospel, may be comprised in these few words: "This is the record, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son: he who has the Son, has life; and he who has not the Son of God, has not life 1 John 5:11-12." Paul, in still fewer words, sums it up in this significant expression, "Christ crucified 1 Corinthians 2:2."

Now the regard which this demands, is,

1. That you receive it cordially yourselves—

It is not sufficient that you hear it, or approve of it, or form your sentiments in accordance with it: you must "set your hearts unto it:" you must feel towards it as you would towards a boat that was pressing towards you, while clinging to a plank in the midst of the ocean. You may form some conception of the eagerness with which you would welcome its arrival, and embrace the salvation which it offered you: and those very emotions should you realize, when a Savior is set before you to deliver you from the guilt you have contracted, and the condemnation you have merited at the hands of your offended God: in this way must you set your hearts "unto ALL the words" which God has testified by my mouth: you must embrace the doctrines, as declaring what you are to believe; and with equal avidity are you to lay hold upon the precepts which God requires you to obey. Neither the one, nor the other, are to be viewed as hard sayings, which you would gladly modify to your own corrupt taste: but both of them are to be viewed as molds, into which your whole soul is to be poured: so that in everything you may be conformed to the mind and will of God.

2. That you commend it earnestly to others—

You are not to be content to go to Heaven alone: you must endeavor to draw all you can along with you. Has God imparted to you knowledge? you must labor to communicate it. Has he given you influence? you must exert it to the utmost of your power. Has he invested you with authority? you must employ it for God. Are you as magistrates? you are "not to bear the sword in vain," but to use it for him, whose representatives and viceregents you are Romans 13:1-4. Are you parents? you must, like Abraham, "command your children, and your household to keep the way of the Lord Genesis 18:19 with the text." Advice is not sufficient. If that prevail, it is well: you have gained your end by gentle means; which should always be resorted to in the first instance: but, if advice will not effect your purpose, you must exert authority, yes, even though your children have arrived at man's estate. Eli did reprove his sons, saying, "Nay, my sons, this is no good report that I hear of you; you make the Lord's people to transgress." But when he saw that they persevered in their iniquities, he should have turned them out of their priestly office: and because he neglected thus to exercise his authority, God visited him and his posterity with the heaviest judgments, even to many generations 1 Samuel 2:33-36. To every parent, then, I say, The blood of your children will be required at your hands: and, though you cannot impart unto them any saving grace, you must keep a firm hand in restraining them from every thing that will be injurious to their souls; and must labor in every possible way to bring them to Christ, that they may be saved from wrath through him.

And let me mark,

II. The reasonableness of our duty in relation to this matter—

The service of God altogether is "a reasonable service Romans 12:1;" and more especially that duty commended to us in our text.

1. The testimony itself is highly worthy of our regard—

What is it that we testify? It is, that God has redeemed us by the blood of his dear Son, and will cast out none who come to him in his Son's name: And "is this a vain thing?" is it doubtful, so that we may question it? or unimportant, that we may trifle with it? Let the Apostle Paul determine this: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners 1 Timothy 1:15." Yes, indeed; it is "no cunningly-devised feeble,' but the very truth of God, to which the whole Scriptures bear witness: and it is "the very wisdom of God, yes, and the power of God 1 Corinthians 1:24," so that, in comparison of it, there is nothing, either in Heaven or earth, that gives any just conception of the Deity. In this mystery all the perfections of the Godhead unite, and harmonize, and are glorified.

2. On our regard to it our eternal happiness depends—

"It is our life, whether theoretically considered, or practically applied. Our blessed Lord says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father but by me John 14:6." There is no way of reconciliation with God but through the sacrifice of Christ. No man can make atonement for his own sins: and every soul that would be saved, must "submit to the righteousness of God," even to that mode of justification which God has proposed in his Gospel Romans 10:3. It was this that distinguished Abel from Cain: Cain brought an offering of the ground; but Abel, looking forward to the Savior, brought a living sacrifice from his flock Genesis 4:3-5. And this is what we also must do. We must look to Christ, and believe in Christ, and lay our sins on him, as the Jewish offerer did on his sacrifice. If we do this, we shall be saved: for "all who believe in Christ shall be justified from all things Acts 13:39;" but, if we do it not, "there remains for us no other sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation Hebrews 10:26-27."

I will now conclude, with drawing your attention to,

1. The circumstances under which this counsel was given—

"On the self-same day" that his counsel was given, "was Moses to go up to Mount Abarim and die verse 40–50." This, then, was the dying testimony of Moses. And I, if I were now on my dying-bed, would give to you precisely the same counsel, and entreat you all to "set your hearts to what I have this day testified among you." "Lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, my beloved Brethren, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes." And to every individual I would say, "Teach them unto your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up: and you shall write them upon the door-posts of your house, and upon your gates Deuteronomy 11:18-20." Use all possible means of bringing these things to your remembrance Hebrews 2:1; but rest not satisfied, until they have wrought a thorough work upon your souls, and you are "cast into them as info a mold" that shall assimilate you altogether unto God's perfect image Romans 6:17 the Greek.

2. The circumstances which must infallibly before long result from them—

Of this counsel both you and your adviser must shortly give account at the judgment-seat of Christ. In God's book of remembrance, every word is already recorded, together with the manner in which it has been both delivered and received. Gladly would I, my Brethren, be "free from your blood," in that awful day. I would, too, that "you also might, every one of you, deliver your own souls Ezekiel 33:2-9." But it is indeed most painful to your minister to reflect, that perhaps at this very moment, while laboring to save your souls, he is sinking many of them into yet deeper perdition: for we may be sure, that, "if he who despised Moses' Law died without mercy, there is a yet sorer punishment" awaiting those who despise the Gospel Hebrews 10:28-29. I appeal to yourselves, "How shall you escape, if you neglect so great salvation Hebrews 2:3." Now, then, let me prevail upon you to go unto your God, and to entreat of Him to write these things upon your hearts by his Holy Spirit: for I declare unto you, that "they are your life:" yes, "I call Heaven and earth to record against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live Deuteronomy 30:19."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 33:8-9

 

DISCOURSE 239

THE BLESSING BESTOWED ON THE TRIBE OF LEVI

Deuteronomy 33:8-9. And of Levi he said, Let your Thummim and your Urim be with your holy one, whom you did prove at Massah, and with whom you did strive at the waters of Meribah; who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed your word, and kept your covenant.

AS the father of his people, Moses desired to bless them before his death; and the pronouncing of this blessing, in which he was endued with a spirit of prophecy, was the last act of his life. The grounds on which the blessing was bestowed on the tribe of Levi, are so peculiar, that they deserve a distinct consideration. There is manifestly a testimony given them of decided approbation: and from this circumstance commentators have been led to regard the whole of what is spoken in the text as of the same import; and to supply from conjecture what is nowhere noticed in the Mosaic history, or rather to contradict altogether what is plainly noticed. The conduct of Levi both at Massah (which was also called Meribah), and, above thirty-eight years afterwards, at another place called Meribah, was exceeding sinful Compare Exodus 17:7 with Numbers 20:10-13. At the latter place in particular, both Moses and Aaron, as well as the people, offended God; and were for that offence doomed to die in the wilderness, and never to enter into the promised land. Hence it might have been supposed that God would punish the tribe of Levi and the house of Aaron by withdrawing from them the peculiar honors he had conferred upon them; but as on one occasion they had signalized themselves by a very exalted act of obedience, he was pleased to record what they had done, and to make it an occasion of continuing in their line the most distinguished testimonies of his regard. This sense accords with the history; to the very terms of which the text seems specifically to refer Compare the language in Numbers 20:13 with the text.

In the words before us there are two things particularly to be noticed;

1. The commendation of Levi—

The act for which they were commended was truly laudable—

When the people throughout the camp of Israel were worshiping the golden calf, Moses, filled with indignation, called the Levites to him, and bade them gird on swords and slay the ringleaders in idolatry throughout the whole camp: and this order they executed immediately, without any respect of persons whatever: they spared not either their nearest relatives or their dearest friends; but slew of the people three thousand men Exodus 32:25-29.

This would be thought by many to be a savage act, and to deserve censure rather than praise: but it must be remembered, that God was, if I may so speak, their earthly Governor (they lived under a theocracy); and; that they acted in obedience to their supreme Magistrate: nor could cruelty be imputed to them any more than to any person who executes the laws among ourselves. They were justified in what they did, precisely as Phinehas was justified in destroying Zimri and Cozbi. The law itself required, that, if their nearest relative only enticed them to idolatry, even where there was no overt act committed, they should instantly give information against him, and with their own hands put him to death Deuteronomy 13:6-10. But here was the overt act visible to all; and the civil magistrate was present to sanction their conduct: and therefore they were bound to obey the order given them, and to execute the laws with impartial severity. Hence their conduct is marked in our text as an act of obedience to God, and a "vindication of the quarrel of his covenant Leviticus 26:25 with the text."

Nor is it by any means unconnected with our duty as Christians—

Certainly we have nothing to do with the judgment of zeal, nor any right to take the execution of the laws into our own hands. But we should be zealous for the honor of God; and we ought, in subserviency to the laws, to exert ourselves for the suppression of open impiety and profaneness. More particularly are we bound to serve God ourselves, and to account all personal sacrifices as unworthy of a thought in comparison of our duty to him. Our Lord tells us, not only that "if we love father or mother more than him, we are not worthy of him;" but that we must "hate father and mother, yes, and our own lives also, if we would be his disciples Matthew 10:37 and Luke 14:26." Of course this must not be understood positively; (for the Gospel inspires nothing but love, and that even to our bitterest enemies:) but it must be taken comparatively; and be explained as intimating, that we should be so firm and decided in our obedience to him as to be altogether unmoved by the affection or menaces of our dearest friends, or even by the apprehensions of the most cruel death. Our Lord himself has set us an example in this respect: for, when some persons told him that his "mother and his brethren were standing without, and desirous to speak with him, he replied, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? Whoever shall do the will of my Father, the same is my brother and sister and mother Matthew 12:47-50." Thus must love to the Creator be the predominant affection in our hearts; and all inferior considerations must be subordinated to his glory.

From the commendation given them we proceed to notice,

II. Their reward—

This may be considered as of two kinds;

1. Official honor—

The Urim and Thummim were in some way united to the breast-plate of the high-priest; and by means of them he was enabled to discover the mind and will of God when he went in before the Lord to consult him on any particular occasion. What they were, and how they answered the purpose for which they were made, we are not informed: and therefore it is in vain to waste time in conjectures. Suffice it to say, that the high-priest who wore them was authorized to consult God in all public matters, and enabled to discover his mind and will Exodus 28:29-30. Now Moses prays, and indeed prophetically declares, that this high honor should descend to the posterity of Aaron: and that the service of the tabernacle should continue to be administered by the tribe of Levi Deuteronomy 33:11-12. This was a most exalted privilege; and, above a thousand years afterwards, it was expressly declared to have been given as a reward of the obedience before referred to Malachi 2:5. What a glorious testimony was this, that God will suffer nothing that we do for him to pass unnoticed even here: much less shall it go unrewarded in a future world. Truly "them that honor God, God will honor;" and every one that will serve him shall receive an abundant "recompense of reward".

2. Personal benefit—

The official honor was conferred on the posterity of those whose conduct was approved. But do we suppose that the immediate agents were overlooked, and that no blessing was bestowed on them? We can have no doubt but that they also had a recompense in their own bosoms. The import of the words Urim and Thummim is, Illuminations and Perfections: and these are the special benefits which God will confer on all his faithful servants. There is indeed a manifest connection between the work and the reward. The work in this present instance was a vigorous maintenance of God's honor, with an utter disregard of every consideration in comparison of it: and where that is, there will be a clear insight into the divine will, and a growing conformity to the divine image. Where internal rectitude is wanting, the mind will be obscured, and the feet will stumble: but "where the single eye is, there will the whole body be full of light," and the conversation be regulated agreeably to the commands of God. Light in the mind, and holiness in the life, are mutually influential on each other: each will languish or be advanced, according as the other flourishes or decays: illumination and perfection will be the portion of the decided Christian: but darkness and inconsistency will be the fruit of a temporizing and timid conduct.

To prevent misapprehension or misconduct, we shall subjoin a word,

1. Of caution—

Let not any one imagine that religion countenances a fiery zeal on any occasion whatever. The conduct of the Levites has not been proposed for imitation under the gospel dispensation, any further than is necessary for the maintaining of steadfastness in our allegiance to God. We are not to wage war, except against our spiritual enemies: and even then the weapons of our warfare must not be carnal, but spiritual. In all the opposition which it may be necessary to make to our earthly friends or relatives, we must maintain a holy meekness and patience, not attempting to oppose evil by evil, but to "overcome evil with good." The civil magistrate indeed may use the sword, and ought to be "a terror to evil-doers;" and all Christians should be ready to aid him in the suppression of iniquity: but in all private and personal concerns our only armor must be that which God himself has provided for us Ephesians 6:11-17, and we must "overcome our enemies by the blood of the Lamb Revelation 12:11."

2. Of direction—

Let a concern for God's honor and your own spiritual advancement be paramount to all other considerations whatever. You must "not account even life itself dear to you, so that you may but finish your course with joy." It must never be a question with you, whether you will perform any particular duty, however difficult it may be, or whatever self-denial it may require: your mind must be made up to "follow the Lord fully," and to observe the commandments of God "without preferring one before another, and doing nothing by partiality." This is the way to entail the blessing of God upon your souls, and to "grow both in knowledge and in grace." But you must not attempt these things in your own strength: in order that you may be enabled to act thus, you must pray to "the God of peace to sanctify you wholly," and to "make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ: to whom be glory forever and ever: Amen 1 Thessalonians. 5:23; Hebrews 13:20-21."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 33:12

 

DISCOURSE 240

THE PRIVILEGE OF THOSE WHO LIVE NEAR TO GOD

Deuteronomy 33:12. Of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long.

AS God was pleased to communicate to some in former ages the knowledge of future events, so he frequently imparted to them the spirit of prophecy in a more abundant measure, about the time of their death. Thus Isaac and Jacob were peculiarly inspired at that season to foretell the things which should befall their children. Thus Moses also, when about to be gathered to his fathers, was commissioned to declare the states and circumstances of all the different tribes after their entrance into Canaan. Of Benjamin he foretold, that his tribe should be situated close to the place which God had chosen for himself This was remarkably fulfilled: for Mount Zion, whereon the temple was built, belonged to Judah: but the remainder of Jerusalem. and almost the whole of Mount Moriah (of which Mount Zion was a part) belonged to Benjamin: so literally true was it, that God. the head of all the tribes, "dwelt between the shoulders of Benjamin." And this very circumstance occasioned the tribe of Benjamin to adhere to Judah, when the other ten tribes, under Jeroboam, apostatized from the worship of Jehovah; and that his proximity to the Lord's immediate residence should be to him a source and occasion of the richest benefits.

If it be considered how comprehensive many of the prophecies are, and how the Apostles themselves continually apply them to the general circumstances of the Church of Christ, we shall not be thought to put a force upon the text, while we take occasion from it to set forth,

I. The state of God's people—

The situation of the tribe of Benjamin may serve at least as an emblem to represent the state of "God's beloved." They are "a people near unto God Psalm 148:14," "dwelling by him, and covered by him, all the day long."

1. They maintain a sense of the divine presence—

They not only cannot, like the generality, live "without God in the world," or rest, as many professors of religion do. in a round of formal duties; they are sensible that "God searches the heart and tries the reins." They long to have a conviction of this fastened upon their minds, and to see, as it were, on every place this inscription written, "You, God, see me." They do not harbor secret sin because it is invisible to man; but, assured that "the darkness is no darkness with God," and that he beholds the very counsels of the heart, they strive to "set him ever before them;" and to "walk in his fear all the day long."

2. They walk in dependence on the divine aid—

They are scarcely more conscious of their own existence, than they are of their utter insufficiency for anything that is good. They have so often failed through their reliance on their own strength, and they feel such a proneness to every species of iniquity, if left one moment to themselves, that they are compelled to cry to their God for help. And, if they were not sure that "the grace of Christ is sufficient" for all who trust in it, they would utterly despair of holding out unto the end. Hence their continual prayer is, "Hold you me up, and I shall be safe:" and God imparts to them his promised assistance Zechariah 10:12; Isaiah 26:3.

3. They delight in doing the divine will—

The "commandments of God are not grievous" to them. Their only grief is, that they do not obey them with greater readiness and joy. Not but that they often find the workings of an evil principle, that would bring them back again into captivity to sin and Satan: but, through the operation of the blessed Spirit, they are enabled to get the victory over their corrupt nature, and both to obey the law outwardly, and to "delight in it after their inward man Romans 7:14-25." They would gladly do the will of God on earth, as it is done in Heaven, without reluctance, without weariness, and without reserve.

There doubtless is a great difference between the attainments of different saints: yet this is, on the whole, the state of all; and that they are blessed in it will appear by considering,

II. The privileges they enjoy by means of it—

While the saints thus live near to God, God "keeps them in safety," and covers them,

1. From the curse of the law—

We might speak of their deliverance even from temporal evils: since they have none which are not sanctified to their souls, and made blessings in disguise Job 5:19-24. But respecting spiritual evils we are warranted to speak with the fullest confidence. The saints may, it is true, be left to dread the wrath of God Psalm 77:7-9; but it shall never come upon them Romans 8:1. While they are endeavoring to walk in communion with God, in dependence on him, and obedience to him, they have nothing to fear. God has pledged himself, that they shall never perish Isaiah 55:7; John 10:27-28.

2. From the assaults of Satan—

Satan will indeed exert all his power to destroy them; but he shall not finally prevail against them. He may "buffet them," and cast "his fiery darts" at them; but he is a vanquished enemy; and shall, before long, be bruised under the feet of even the weakest saints Psalm 91:1-3; James 4:7; Romans 16:20. Like the kings whom Joshua subdued, all the powers of Hell shall one day be brought out of their dungeons, to receive, from the very lips of those whom now they persecute, the sentence they so justly merit 1 Corinthians 6:3.

3. From the power and prevalence of sin—

Notwithstanding "the law of sin in their members," God's promise to all his people is, that "sin shall not have dominion over them Romans 6:14." As by the operation of fire on the hearth we may see what it would effect, if suffered to extend itself over the whole house, so by the working of sin in our hearts we may clearly see, to what a state we should quickly De reduced, if God should suffer it to rage with all its force. But he fulfills his word: and though thousands of times we have been, as it were, on the very brink of falling, God has interposed by his providence or grace to preserve our souls: and we remain to this day living monuments of his almighty power, and unchanging faithfulness.

Exhortation—

1. Let us seek to become "the beloved of the Lord"—

We account it no small happiness to be beloved of our fellow-creatures; but how much more to be beloved of the Lord! Whose favor is comparable to his? whose so honorable, so permanent, so beneficial Psalm 63:3. Let us then go to him in the name of Jesus; for whose sake we shall be admitted to his favor John 14:21, and be "blessed by him with all spiritual blessings."

2. Let us endeavor to live more and more near to God—

It is our privilege to dwell in God, and to have God dwelling in us. We might "walk with God," as Enoch did, and though not visibly, yet really, converse with him as our friend 1 John 1:3. And what greater encouragement can we desire, than that which the text affords? Others may fall; but we shall be "covered, and kept in safety Isaiah 54:17;" others may apostatize to their perdition; but we shall be preserved through faith unto everlasting salvation 1 Peter 1:5.

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 33:25

 

DISCOURSE 241

STRENGTH ACCORDING TO OUR DAYS

Deuteronomy 33:25. As your days, so shall your strength be.

PREVIOUS to his departure from them, Moses pronounced a blessing on all the tribes of Israel. The blessing to each was appropriate and prophetic. That assigned to Asher was, that his posterity should be numerous and happy; that his provision should be abundant, and his strength, under every emergency, fully adequate to the occasion. It is thought indeed by some, that the promise, "your shoes shall be iron and brass," referred to mines in that part of Canaan which should be allotted to them: but it appears to me to import rather, that they should be possessed of great power; and to agree exactly with that address of the Prophet Micah to Zion, "Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion! for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hoofs brass; and you shall beat in pieces many people Mic. 4:13." Then the meaning of our text will be clear; namely, that whatever difficulties they might have to contend with, they should find their strength sufficient for them.

Now, though many parts of the blessings here pronounced were doubtless so peculiar as to have no reference except to the particular tribe to which they were addressed, yet such parts as were of a more general nature may, without impropriety, be more largely applied to the Israel of God in all ages. Such parts will be found in almost all the addresses to the different tribes; and the promise in our text most assuredly admits of such an interpretation. The promise made to Joshua, "I will not fail you, nor forsake you," might appear to belong to him only, as the individual to whom it was personally addressed. Yet Paul applied it generally to the whole Church of God in all ages; and authorized all saints, in every period of the world, to regard it as spoken equally to themselves, and to expect most assuredly its accomplishment in their own persons: "God has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man shall do unto me Hebrews 13:5-6." In like manner, we may interpret this blessing, which was primarily addressed to the tribe of Asher, as properly belonging to all the people of God; so far, at least, as they may be in circumstances which call for similar support.

That we may enter the more fully into the meaning of this promise, I will point out distinctly,

I. What it supposes and implies—

It is here evidently supposed that the Lord's people will have seasons of trial, which will call for more than ordinary support.

And such seasons do sooner or later occur to all; seasons,

1. Of temptation—

Who is there that does not experience more or less the temptations of Satan? He is not an inactive adversary. At no time is he unobservant of our frame, or unprepared to gain an advantage over us: but there are some times which he selects for his attacks, when he promises himself a more easy victory, and when he puts forth all his devices to draw us into sin. His wiles are unsearchable: innumerable also are the modes in which he makes his assaults upon us. Sometimes he assumes the appearance of an angel of light: at other times his own proper character is clearly marked in the blasphemies which he suggests to our minds: and, on all such occasions, if we were not succored from on high, we should fall before him, as lambs before a devouring lion.

The world, too, presents its temptations on every side: it proposes to us its pleasures, its riches, its honors, as objects that may well stand in competition with Jehovah himself, and rival him in our affections.

And our own corrupt hearts, too, are ready enough to indulge all manner of irregular desires, and to draw us into the commission of actual sin.

What would become of us, if, at such seasons as these, we had none to support us, no arm but our own to help us?

2. Of trouble—

"We are born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward:" it is the inheritance of every child of man. No one is exempt: a king upon his throne is open to its incursions, no less than the meanest of his subjects. In his own person, he is exposed to pains and disorders: in his family, to feuds and bitter bereavements: in his circumstances, to all the varieties of change, embarrassment, and loss. To all of these the saints are exposed, as well as others; while they are oppressed with many troubles peculiar to themselves. What they often endure from the workings of corruption, the hidings of God's face, the assaults of Satan, the fear of death and judgment, can little be conceived by those who fear not God. Most generally, too, they are exposed to hatred and persecution for righteousness' sake; and find among their "greatest foes the people of their own household." True it is, that we are not in the present day called to "resist unto blood:" but let it not, therefore, be accounted a small matter to be treated with contempt by friends and enemies, and to be reduced to the alternative of sacrificing all that we hold dear in this life, or the hopes and prospects of a better. These are great and heavy trials: and every child of God must expect to be conformed to his Lord and Savior in the endurance of them.

3. Of difficulty—

Truly spiritual obedience is at all times difficult: and how much more so under such circumstances as those in which Daniel and the Hebrew Youths were placed! To resist an ordinance of a powerful monarch, when the whole empire were joining in the observance of it, and when that disobedience was menaced with a fiery furnace; and to maintain steadfastly the public worship of Jehovah, when, by a temporary neglect or concealment of it, an exposure in a den of lions might be avoided—were no easy matters. It surely needed much grace to maintain a good conscience under such circumstances. And there will be, in the experience of every saint, some special occasions where a strict adherence to duty is inconceivably difficult and painful. Such "days" the promise in our text teaches us to expect, and against such days it makes for us a merciful provision.

But let us distinctly state,

II. What it engages and assures—

Whatever our trials be, strength shall be given us in proportion to them: and our communications from God shall be,

1. Seasonable—in respect of tune—

Often, if support were delayed, we should fall a prey to our great adversary. But "God's eves run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in behalf of them that fear him 2 Chronicles 16:9;" and the very instant he sees us ready to sink, he interposes for our help. He has promised that he would do so: "He will judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he sees that their power is gone, and that there is none shut up or left Deuteronomy 32:36." "In the very mount" of difficulty "he will be seen." The Apostle Paul experienced this on a very trying occasion. When summoned before that bloody tyrant, Nero, "all his friends forsook him; but the Lord stood by him, and strengthened him, that through him the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear 2 Timothy 4:16-17." Had he not been thus strengthened in the very hour of need, his courage might have failed: but by this seasonable interposition of the Deity, he was enabled to maintain his ground, and execute the trust committed to him. And David also attests that this was his frequent experience: "In the day when I cried, you answerered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul Psalm 138:3."

2. Suitable—to the particular occasion—

Different are the communications that are wanted under different circumstances. Sometimes wisdom is necessary: and that shall be imparted as our necessities may require. This was promised, in a more especial manner, by our Lord to his disciples: "When they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates and powers, take you no thought how or what thing you shall answer, or what you shall say; for the Holy Spirit shall teach you in that tame hour what you ought to say Luke 12:11-12." If patience be wanted, that in like manner shall be supplied: for "he will strengthen us with all might by his Spirit in the inner man, unto all patience, and long-suffering with joyfulness Colossians 1:11." If faith be that which is more especially necessary for the soul, he will impart that in richer abundance. We have a very striking instance of this in Peter Our Lord had forewarned him that he would deny his Master: and if Peter, after the perpetration of this evil, had given way to despondency, he would have perished in his iniquity, just as Judas did. But our Lord "prayed for him, that his faith might not fail:" and through the operation of this grace upon his soul, he was kept from destruction, and restored to the favor of his God. In a word, the grace which he will bestow in the time of need shall be a tree of life in the soul, "bringing forth its fruit in its season Psalm 1:3," yes, "twelve manner of fruits Revelation 22:2," according to the occasion that may call for them, and the season to which they may be suited.

3. Sufficient for our utmost necessities—

"Our strength shall be fully equal to our day." Let our weakness be ever so great, or our trial ever so heavy, our Lord "will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but will, with the temptation, make for us a way to escape, that we maybe able to bear it 1 Corinthians 10:13." Certainly, the trials of Paul were as numerous and heavy as ever were sustained by mortal man: and under them, especially under that which he calls a thorn in his flesh, and the buffetings of Satan, he cried mightily to the Lord for deliverance. The answer given to him by our Lord was, "My grace is sufficient for you; and my strength shall be made perfect in weakness." Now, behold, how all his troubles were in an instant turned into occasions of joy! "Most gladly, therefore," says he, "will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong 2 Corinthians 12:9-10." And from that time we find him hurling defiance at all his enemies, how numerous and powerful soever they might be: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation? or distress? or persecution? or famine? or nakedness? or peril? or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. And I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord Romans 8:35-39."

As the promise made to the tribe of Asher may fitly be applied to believers generally, let us consider,

III. What it speaks more especially to God's peculiar people—

Truly, it is a most instructive passage of Holy Writ: for it shows, to all God's believing people,

1. The grounds of their security—

Believers, or unbelievers, we have no strength in ourselves: our strength is in God alone: and, if ever we be strong at all, it must "be in the Lord, and in the power of his might Ephesians 6:10." His power, as engaged for us, and his fidelity, as pledged to us, are the true, and proper, and only grounds of a sinner's hope. Let the promise which we are now considering be apprehended, and relied upon, and pleaded in faith and prayer, and we can have nothing to fear. "A very worm." so supported, shall "thresh the mountains Isaiah 41:14-15." "If God be for us, none can be against us Romans 8:31."

2. The reason of their falls—

Notwithstanding what is spoken in the text, it is certain that many saints do fall, and that most grievously. But whence is this? Is not God "able to make them stand Romans 14:4." or is He not "faithful who has promised Hebrews 10:23." Know you, Brethren, that the fault is not in God; but in his people themselves, who either become unwatchful, and are therefore left to reap the fruits of their heedlessness; or indulge self-confidence, and are therefore given up for a season to betray their weakness and folly. To these causes must be traced the falls of David and of Peter If God have engaged to "keep the feet of his saints 1 Samuel 2:9." he has not given them therefore a licence to rush into temptation, or to relax their vigilance, or to confide in themselves. His word is true: and he will fulfill it to all who plead it with him. But if we grow remiss and careless, he will leave us to "eat the fruit of our own ways, and to be filled with our own devices Proverbs 1:31." I will ask of any one that has been left to dishonor God, and to wound his own soul; "Have you not procured this unto yourself, in that you have forsaken the Lord, when he led you by the way Jeremiah 2:17." He has warned you that it should be thus: "The Lord is with you, while you be with him: if you seek him, he will be found of you: but if you forsake him, he will forsake you 2 Chronicles 15:2."

3. The extent of their privileges—

Weak as we are, and in the midst of enemies, still he would have us "without carefulness." He has bidden us to "cast all our care on Him who cares for us 1 Peter 5:7." He considers himself as dishonored when we indulge any doubts or fears: "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith Matthew 8:26." "Why say you, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Have you not known? have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary: there is no searching of his understanding? He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and he weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings as eagles; they shall "run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint Isaiah 40:28-31." "Know, then, in whom you have believed; that He is both able and willing to keep that which you have committed to him 2 Timothy 1:12." And let not any dangers, however imminent, appal you. "Say not you, A confederacy, to all them to whom others shall say, A confederacy; neither fear you their fear, nor be afraid: but sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself: and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread: and he will be to you for a sanctuary Isaiah 8:12-14." O blessed tidings! Rejoice in them, Beloved, and realize them in your souls. Then shall you enjoy both stability and peace: for "God will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on him. Trust you, therefore, in the Lord forever: for with the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength Isaiah 26:3-4."

 

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 33:29

 

DISCOURSE 242

THE HAPPINESS OF GOD'S PEOPLE

Deuteronomy 33:29. Happy are you, O Israel: who is like unto you, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and who is the sword of your excellency!

THE God of Israel is infinitely exalted above all the gods of the heathen: and though there cannot be any such disparity between one creature and another, as between the Creator and the creature, yet is there a wonderful difference between the people of God and all other people upon the face of the whole earth. This indeed is a necessary consequence of the former: for, if there be no God like the God of Israel, there can be no people like the Israel of God, since they, and they only, have Jehovah for their God. These truths are united in the passage before us: the former had been mentioned in a preceding verse verse 26; and, in the text, the latter is declared, together with its dependence on the former.

From these words we shall consider,

I. The happiness of God's people—

The manner in which Moses speaks on this subject is worthy of notice: we may observe in his address to Israel a strong persuasion of the truth he was uttering, an sincere delight in declaring it, and an affectionate solicitude, that they might both be persuaded of it themselves, and live in the comfortable enjoyment of it. He affirms that they were,

1. Truly happy—

It is God's own declaration, "Happy are you, O Israel!" and, if appearances were ever so unfavorable, we might be sure that his judgment was according to truth. But this testimony agrees with the experience of God's people in every age. They are represented as possessing a "peace that passes understanding," and a "joy that is unspeakable and glorified." Is it objected that they are also represented as mourning Matthew 5:3-4, as tempted James 1:2; James 1:12, as persecuted Luke 6:22-23; 1 Peter 4:14. True; yet none of these things interfere with their real happiness; yes, instead of destroying, they advance it See the passages just referred to. If then they can be happy in such situations as these Acts 16:23-25, and even derive happiness from these situations Acts 5:41; 2 Corinthians 12:10, they must be truly happy.

2. Incomparably happy—

It is God himself who challenges all mankind to vie with his people; and this too, not in respect of privileges merely, or of prospects, but in respect of present enjoyments. Who are they that will presume to rival the Lord's people? You great, you rich, you mirthful, what is your happiness, when compared with that which God's Israel possess? Is not all your happiness mixed with gall? Is it not altogether dependent on the creature? Is it not cloying, even in the very possession? Do you not find it transient, and, on the whole, delusive, promising far more in the anticipation than it ever affords in the enjoyment? In all these things it is the very reverse of the Christian's happiness. His, as far as it is derived from spiritual things, is unmixed: none can rob him of it, because none can intercept the visits of his God: no man was ever surfeited with spiritual delights: if we lived to the age of Methuselah, we might, by a retrospect, revive a sense of them in our souls: and, if our expectations be raised to ever so high a pitch, the reality will far exceed them. We will therefore confidently repeat the challenge, and say, as in the text, "Who is like unto you, O people, saved by the Lord?"

To show that this is no enthusiastic conceit, we proceed to notice,

II. The grounds of their happiness—

It will soon appear that their blessedness is not a baseless fabric, if we consider,

1. What God has done for them—

They are "a people saved by the Lord." Salvation is not a blessing which they merely hope for, but which they already possess. They are saved from the guilt and punishment of sin: all "their iniquities are blotted out;" and there remains "no condemnation to them:" they are "complete in Christ;" they stand "before God without spot or blemish." But great as this mercy is, they would not be truly happy, if they were not also saved from the power and dominion of sin. It is true, they yet carry about with them a "body of sin and death;" but they never commit iniquity as they were accustomed to do in their unregenerate state: they "cannot sin thus, because they are born of God, and his seed remains in them." God has promised that "sin shall not have dominion over them;" and they experience the accomplishment of this promise to their souls, being "redeemed from all iniquity, and purified unto God a peculiar people zealous of good works Titus 2:14."

And is not this salvation a ground of happiness, more especially if we consider by whom it was procured, and by whom conferred? It was "the Lord," even Jesus, who purchased our freedom from guilt; and it is "the Lord," even the Holy Spirit, who vouchsafes us a deliverance from sin. Surely such a salvation, bought at such a price, and imparted by such an agent, cannot but be a source of unspeakable felicity to the soul.

2. What God will be unto them—

In vain would all past mercies be, if they were not secured to them by the continued agency of Jehovah. A vessel fitted out and freighted, would not more certainly be overwhelmed by storms, if destitute of a pilot, than man, however gifted, would become a prey to Satan, if he were not constantly aided and protected by his God. But Israel is happy in this respect also, since, notwithstanding he is yet upon the field of battle, he is placed, if we may so speak, beyond the reach of harm. He is not only furnished with defensive and offensive armor, but has God himself for his "shield," and God himself for his "sword;" so that his enemies must elude Omniscience, before they can destroy him; and must withstand Omnipotence if they do not fall before him. Hence it is that he attains such "excellency," and proves victorious in all his conflicts.

View the believer thus environed, and thus armed, and you may well say to him, "Happy are you, O Israel! who is like unto you?" for the salvation he already possesses, is a pledge and earnest of his everlasting triumphs.

APPLICATION—

To whom, besides the true Israel, can we venture to say, "Happy are you?" Are you happy, who, instead of having experienced salvation, are yet under the guilt and power of all your sins; and, instead of having Jehovah for your shield and your sword, have the almighty God for your enemy? Deceive not yourself: you may dream of happiness; but you are in a pitiable condition. So far are you from rivaling the happiness of Israel, you are even inferior to the beasts that perish; and, if you were sensible of your state, you would envy them their prospect of annihilation. Oh, if ever you would be happy, seek to be "saved by the Lord," even by the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus, and by the sanctifying influences of his Spirit. What Moses said to his father-in-law, that would God's people say to you, "Come you with us, and we will do you good; for God has spoken good concerning Israel Numbers 10:29."

As for you who are of the true Israel, seek to be as distinguished for your holiness, as you are for your happiness. When we speak of your felicity, the world cannot understand us, because they are strangers to your feelings. But they can judge of holiness with some considerable degree of accuracy; and your superiority in this respect will be more effectual for their conviction, than all that can be said respecting the happiness of your state. Endeavor then so to live, that we may challenge the world to produce any persons comparable to you in holiness. Enable us to say with confidence, Who is like unto you, O Israel? Who is dead to the world, as you are? Who abounds in all holy duties, in all devout affections, in all amiable dispositions, like you? This will silence those who call your happiness enthusiasm, and will convince them, that you are superior to others, "not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth."