The Ten Commandments

by Thomas Watson

The PREFACE to the Commandments

"God spoke all these words—I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." Exodus 20:1-2

"God spoke all these words." This is like the sounding of a trumpet before a solemn proclamation. Other parts of the Bible are said to be uttered by the mouth of the holy prophets (Luke 1:70)—but here God spoke in his own person. Observe:

(1) The lawgiver. "God spoke." There are two things requisite in a lawgiver:

[1] Wisdom. Laws are founded upon reason; and he must be wise, who makes laws. God, in this respect, is most fit to be a lawgiver: "he is wise in heart." Job 9:4. He has a monopoly of wisdom. "The only wise God." 1 Tim 1:17. Therefore he is the fittest to enact and constitute laws.

[2] Authority. If a subject makes laws, however wise they may be, they lack the stamp of authority. God has the supreme power in his hand: he gives being to all; and he who gives men their lives, has most right to give them their laws.

(2) The law itself. "All these words." That is, all the words of the moral law, which is usually styled the decalogue, or ten commandments. It is called the moral law because it is the rule of life and morality. "The Scripture, as Chrysostom says, "is a garden, and the moral law is the chief flower in it." It is a banquet, and the moral law is the chief dish in it.

The moral law is perfect. "The law of the Lord is perfect." Psalm 19:7. It is an exact model and platform of true religion; it is the standard of truth, the judge of controversies, the pole-star to direct us to heaven. "The commandment is a lamp." Prov 6:23. Though the moral law is not a Christ to justify us; it is a rule to instruct us.

The moral law is unalterable; it remains still in force. Though the ceremonial and judicial laws are abrogated, the moral law delivered by God's own mouth is of perpetual use in the church. It was written in tables of stone, to show its perpetuity.

The moral law is very illustrious and full of glory. God put glory upon it in the manner of its promulgation.

[1] The people, before the moral law was delivered, were to wash their clothes, whereby, as by a type, God required the sanctifying of their ears and hearts to receive the law. Exod 19:10.

[2] There were bounds set that none might touch the mount, which was to produce in the people reverence to the law. Exod 19:12.

[3] God wrote the law with his own finger, which was such an honor put upon the moral law, as we read of no other such writing. Exod 31:18. God by some mighty operation, made the law legible in letters, as if it had been written with his own finger.

[4] God's putting the law in the ark to be preserved, was another signal mark of honor put upon it. The ark was the cabinet in which He put the ten commandments, as ten jewels.

[5] At the delivery of the moral law, many angels were in attendance. Deut 33:2. A parliament of angels was called, and God himself was the speaker.

Use one. Here we may notice God's goodness, who has not left us without a law. He often sets down the giving his commandments as a demonstration of his love. "He has not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgements they have not known them." Psalm 147:20. "You gave them true laws, good statutes and commandments." Neh 9:13. What a strange creature would man be—if he had no law to direct him! There would be no living in the world; we would have none born but Ishmaels—every man's hand would be against his neighbor. Man would grow wild if he had not affliction to tame him, and the moral law to guide him. The law of God is a hedge to keep us within the bounds of sobriety and piety.

Use two. If God spoke all these words of the moral law, then it condemns:

(1) If God spoke all these words of the moral law, then it condemns the Marcionites and Manichees, who speak lightly, yes, blasphemously, of the moral law; who say it is below a Christian, it is carnal; which the apostle confutes, when he says, "The law is spiritual—but I am carnal." Rom 7:14.

(2) If God spoke all these words of the moral law, then it condemns the Antinomians, who will not admit the moral law to be a rule to a believer. We do not say that he is under the curse of the law—but the commands of the law. We do not say that the moral law is a Christ—but it is a star to lead to Christ. We do not say that it saves—but sanctifies. Those who cast God's law behind their backs—God will cast their prayers behind his back. Those who will not have the law to rule them—shall have the law to judge them.

(3) If God spoke all these words of the moral law, then it condemns the Papists, who, as if God's law were imperfect, and when he spoke all these words he did not speak enough—add to it their canons and traditions. This is to usurp God's wisdom—as if he knew not how to make his own law. This surely is a high provocation. "If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book." Rev 22:18. As it is a great evil to add anything to a man's sealed will, so much more to add anything to the law which God himself spoke, and wrote with his own fingers!

Use three. If God spoke all the words of the moral law, several duties are enjoined upon us:

(1) If God spoke all these words, then we must HEAR all these words. The words which God speaks are too precious to be lost. As we would have God hear all our words when we pray—so we must hear all his words when he speaks. We must not be as the deaf adder, which stops her ears. He who stops his ears when God cries, shall cry himself—and not be heard.

(2) If God spoke all these words, then we must attend to them with REVERENCE. Every word of the moral law is an oracle from heaven. God himself is the preacher—which calls for reverence. If a judge gives a charge upon the bench, all attend with reverence. In the moral law God himself gives a charge, "God spoke all these words!" With what veneration, therefore, should we attend! Moses took off his shoes from his feet, in token of reverence, when God was about to speak to him. Exod 3:5, 6.

(3) If God spoke all these words of the moral law, then we must REMEMBER them. Surely all which God speaks—is worth remembering. Those words are weighty, which concern salvation. "It is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life." Deut 32:47. Our memory should be like the chest in the ark, where the law was kept. God's oracles are ornaments, and shall we forget them? "Does a young woman forget her jewelry? Does a bride hide her wedding dress? No! Yet for years on end my people have forgotten me." Jer 2:32.

(4) If God spoke all these words, then BELIEVE them. See the name of God written upon every commandment. The heathens, in order to gain credit to their laws, reported that they were inspired by the gods at Rome. The moral law fetches its pedigree from heaven. God spoke all these words. Shall we not give credit to the God of heaven? How would the angel confirm the women in the resurrection of Christ? "Lo—I have told you." Matt 28:7. I speak in the word of an angel. Much more should the moral law be believed, when it comes to us in the Word of God. "God spoke all these words." Unbelief enervates the virtue of God's Word, and makes it prove abortive. "The Word did not profit them—not being mixed with faith." Heb 4:2. Eve gave more credit to the devil when he spoke—than she did to God!

(5) If God spoke all these words, then LOVE the commandments. "Oh, how love I your law! it is my meditation all the day." Psalm 119:97. "Consider how I love your precepts." Psalm 119:159. The moral law is the copy of God's will, our spiritual directory; it shows us what sins to avoid, what duties to pursue. The ten commandments are a chain of pearls to adorn us, they are our treasury to enrich us; they are more precious than lands of spices, or rocks of diamonds. "The law of your mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver." Psalm 119:72. The law of God has truth and goodness in it. Neh 9:13. Truth, for God spoke it; and goodness, for there is nothing the commandment enjoins—but it is for our good. O then, let this command our love.

(6) If God spoke all these words, then TEACH your children the law of God. "These words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart, and you shall teach them diligently unto your children." Deut 6:6, 7. He who is godly, is both a diamond and a loadstone: a diamond for the sparkling of his grace, and a loadstone for his attractive virtue in drawing others to the love of God's precepts. "A godly man benefits others more than himself." You who are parents, discharge your duty. Though you cannot impart grace to your children—yet you may impart knowledge. Let your children know the commandments of God. "You shall teach them your children." Deut 11:19. You are careful to leave your children a portion: leave the oracles of heaven with them; instruct them in the law of God. If God spoke all these words, you may well speak them over again to your children.

(7) If God spoke all these words, the moral law must be OBEYED. If a king speaks, his word commands allegiance; much more, when God speaks, must his words be obeyed. Some will obey partially, obey some commandments, not others; like a plough, which, when it comes to a stiff piece of earth, makes a baulk. But God, who spoke all the words of the moral law, will have all obeyed. He will not dispense with the breach of one law. Princes, indeed, for special reasons, sometimes dispense with penal statutes, and will not enforce the severity of the law; but God, who spoke all these words, binds men with a subpoena to yield obedience to every law.

This condemns the church of Rome, which, instead of obeying the whole moral law, blots out one commandment, and dispenses with others. They leave the second commandment out of their catechism, because it condemns the making of images. And to fill up the number of ten, they divide the tenth commandment into two separate commandments. Thus, they incur that dreadful condemnation: "If any man shall take away from the words of this book, God shall take away his part out of the book of life!" Rev 22:19. As they blot out one commandment, and cut the knot which they cannot untie, so they dispense with other commandments. They dispense with the sixth commandment, making murder meritorious in case of propagating the Catholic cause. They dispense with the seventh commandment, wherein God forbids adultery; for the Pope dispenses with the sin of uncleanness, yes, incest, by paying fines and sums of money into his coffer. So the Pope takes men off their loyalty to God. Some of the Papists say expressly in their writings, that the Pope has power to dispense with the laws of God, and can give men license to break the commandments of the Old and New Testament. That such a religion should ever again get foot in England, may the Lord in mercy prevent! If God spoke all the commandments, then we must obey all; he who breaks the hedge of the commandments, a serpent shall bite him!

But what man can obey all God's commandments?

To obey the law in a legal sense—to do all the law requires—no man can. Sin has cut the lock of original righteousness, where our strength lay. But, in a true gospel-sense, we may so obey the moral law as to find acceptance with God. This gospel obedience consists in a sincere and real endeavor to observe the whole moral law. "I have done your commandments" (Psalm 119:166); not, I have done all I should do—but I have done all I am able to do; and wherein my obedience comes short, I look up to the perfect righteousness and obedience of Christ, and hope for pardon through his blood. This is to obey the moral law evangelically; which, though it be not to our satisfaction—yet it is to God's acceptance.

We come now to the preface itself, which consists of three parts:

I. "I am the Lord your God";

II. "who have brought you out of the land of Egypt";

III. "out of the house of bondage".

I. "I am the Lord your God." Here we have a description of God:

(1) By his essential greatness, "I am the Lord;"

(2) By his relative goodness, "Your God."

[1] God is described by his essential greatness. "I am the Lord," or, as it is in the Hebrew, JEHOVAH. By this great name God sets forth his majesty. The name of Jehovah was had in more reverence among the Jews, than any other name of God. It signifies God's self-sufficiency, eternity, independence, and immutability. Mal. 3:6.

Use one. If God is Jehovah, the fountain of being, who can do what he will—let us fear him. "That you may fear this glorious and fearful name, Jehovah." Deut 28:58.

Use two. If God is Jehovah, the supreme Lord, the blasphemous Papists are condemned who speak after this manner: "Our Lord God the Pope." Is it a wonder the Pope lifts his triple crown above the heads of kings and emperors, when he usurps God's title, "showing himself that he is God"? 2 Thess 2:4. He seeks to make himself Lord of heaven, for he will canonize saints there. He seeks to make himself Lord of earth, for with his keys he binds and looses whom he pleases. He seeks to make himself Lord of hell, for he frees men out of purgatory. God will pull down these plumes of pride! He will consume this man of sin "with the breath of his mouth, and the brightness of his coming." 2 Thess 2:8.

[2] God is described by his relative goodness. "Your God." Had he called himself Jehovah only, it might have terrified us, and made us flee from him; but when he says, "your God," it allures and draws us to him. This, though a preface to the law, is pure gospel. The word "your God," is so sweet, that we can never suck all the honey out of it! "I am your God," not only by creation—but by election. This word, "your God," though it was spoken to Israel, is a charter which belongs to all the saints. For the further explanation, here are three questions. How does God come to be our God?

Through Jesus Christ. Christ is a middle person in the Trinity. He is Emmanuel, "God with us." He brings two different parties together. He makes our nature lovely to God, and God's nature lovely to us. By his death, he causes friendship, yes, union; and brings us within the the covenant, and thus God becomes our God.

What is implied by God being our God?

It is comprehensive of all good things. God is our strong tower; our fountain of living water; our salvation. More particularly, God being our God, implies the sweetest relations.

(1) The relation of a FATHER. "I will be a Father unto you;" 2 Cor 6:18. A father is full of tender care for his child. Upon whom does he settle the inheritance, but his child? God being our God, will be a father to us; a "Father of mercies," 2 Cor 1:3; "The everlasting Father." Isa 9:6. If God is our God, we have a Father in heaven who never dies!

(2) It imports the relation of a HUSBAND. "Your Maker is your husband." Isa 54:5. If God is our husband, He esteems us as precious to Him, as the apple of His eye! Zech 2:8. He imparts His secrets to us! Psalm 25:14. He bestows a kingdom upon us for our dowry! Luke 12:32.

How may we know that God is our God, by covenant union?

(1) By having his grace planted in us. Kings' children are known by their costly jewels. It is not having common gifts which shows we belong to God; many have the gifts of God without God. But it is grace which gives us a true genuine title to God. In particular, faith is the grace of union, by which we may spell out our interest in God. Faith does not, as the mariner, cast its anchor downwards—but it casts its anchor upwards. Faith trusts in the mercy and blood of God, and trusting in God, engages him to be our God. Other graces make us like God; faith makes us one with him.

(2) We may know God is our God by having the down-payment of his Spirit in our hearts. "He set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Cor 1:22. God often gives the purse to the wicked—but the Spirit only to such as he intends to make his heirs. Have we had the consecration of the Spirit? If we have not had the sealing work of the Spirit, have we had the healing work? "You have an annointing from the Holy One." 1 John 2:20. Where the Spirit is, he stamps the impress of its own holiness upon the heart; he embroiders and bespangles the soul, and makes it all glorious within.

Have we had the attraction of the Spirit? "Draw me, we will run after you." Canticles 1:4. Has the Spirit, by his magnetic virtue, drawn our hearts to God? Can we say, "O you whom my soul loves?" Canticles 1:7. Is God our paradise of delight? Is he our chief treasure! Are our hearts so chained to God—that no other object can enchant us, or draw us away from him?

Have we had the elevation of the Spirit? Has he raised our hearts above the world? "The Spirit lifted me up." Ezek 3:14. Has the Spirit made us seek the things above where Christ is? Though our flesh is on earth—is our heart in heaven? Though we live here, do we trade above? Has the Spirit thus lifted us up? By this we may know that God is our God. Where God gives his Spirit as a pledge, there he gives himself for a portion.

(3) We may know God is our God, if he has given us the hearts of children. Have we obediential hearts? "When you said—Seek my face; my heart said unto you—Your face, Lord, will I seek." Psalm 27:8. Do we subscribe to God's commands when his commands cross our will? A true Christian is like a flower—which opens to the sun and shuts to the darkness. He opens to God, and shuts to sin. If we have the hearts of children, God is our Father.

(4) We may know God is ours, and we have an interest in him, by standing up for his interest. We shall appear in his cause and vindicate his truth, wherein his glory is so much concerned. Athanasius was the bulwark of truth; he stood up for it, when most of the world were heretics. There is no better sign of having an interest in God, than standing up for his interest.

(5) We may know God is ours, and we have an interest in him, by his having an interest in us. "My beloved is mine—and I am his." Canticles 2:16. When God says to the soul, "You are mine!" The soul answers, "Lord, I am yours! All I have is at your service; my head shall be your to study for you; my tongue shall be your to praise you." If God is our God by way of donation, we are his by way of dedication; we live to him, and are more his than we are our own. Thus we may come to know that God is our God.

Use one. Above all things, let us get this great charter confirmed, that God is our God. God is not comfortable—unless he is ours. Let us labor to get sound evidences that God is our God. We cannot call health, liberty, estate, ours; but let us be able to call God ours, and say as the church, "God, even our own God, shall bless us!" Psalm 67:6. Let every soul labor to pronounce this Shibboleth, "My God!" That we may endeavor to have God for our God, consider the misery of such as have not God for their God—in how sad a condition are they, when the hour of distress comes! This was Saul's case when he said "I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me." 1 Sam 28:15. A wicked man in time of trouble, is like a vessel tossed on the sea without an anchor, which strikes on rocks or sands.

A sinner who has not God to be his God, may make a shift while health and estate last—but when these crutches on which he leaned are broken—his heart must sink. It is with him as it was with the old world when the flood came. The waters at first came to the valleys—but then the people would get to the hills and mountains; but when the waters came to the mountains, then there might be some trees on the high hills, and they would climb up to them; ay—but the waters rose above the tops of the trees; and then their hearts failed them, and all hopes of being saved were gone. So it is with a man who has not God to be his God. If one comfort is taken away, he has another; if he loses a child, he has an estate; but when the waters rise higher, death comes and takes away all, and he has nothing to help himself with—no God to go to, he must needs die in despair. How great a privilege it is to have God for our God! "Happy is that people whose God is the Lord." Psalm 144:15. "Man's happiness is God himself." Augustine. That you may see the privilege of this charter:

(1) If God is our God, then though we may feel the stroke of evil—yet not the sting. He must needs be happy who is in such a condition, that nothing can hurt him. If he lose his name, it is written in the book of life; if he lose his liberty, his conscience is free; if he lose his estate, he is possessed of the pearl of price; if he meets with storms, he knows where to put in for harbor; God is his God, and heaven is his heaven.

(2) If God is our God, our soul is safe. The soul is the jewel, it is a blossom of eternity. "I was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body;" in the Chaldee, it is "in the midst of my sheath." Dan 7:15. The body is but the sheath; the soul is the princely part of man, which sways the scepter of reason. It is "a celestial spark," as Damascene calls it. If God is our God, the soul is safe, as in a garrison. Death can do no more hurt to a virtuous heaven-born soul, than David did to Saul, when he cut off the skirt of his garment. The soul is safe, being hidden in the promises; hidden in the wounds of Christ; hidden in God's decree. The soul is the pearl, and heaven is the cabinet where God will lock it up safely forever

(3) If God is our God, then all that is in God is ours. The Lord says to a saint in covenant, as the king of Israel to the king of Syria, "I am yours—and all that I have." 1 Kings 20:4. So says God, "I am yours!" How happy is he who not only inherits the gift of God—but inherits God himself! All that I have, shall be yours! My wisdom shall be your to teach you! My power shall be yours to support you! My mercy shall be yours to save you. God is an infinite ocean of blessedness, and there is enough in him to fill us: as if a thousand buckets were thrown into the sea, there is enough in the sea to fill them.

(4) If God is our God, he will entirely love us. Property is the ground of love. God may give men kingdoms, and not love them; but he cannot be our God, and not love us. He calls his covenanted saints, Jediduth Naphshi, "The dearly beloved of my soul." Jer 12:7. He rejoices over them with joy, and rests in his love. Zeph 3:17. They are his refined silver (Zech 13:9); his jewels (Mal 3:17); his royal diadem (Isa 62:3). He gives them the cream and flower of his love. He not only opens his hand and fills them—but opens his heart and fills them. Psalm 145:16.

(5) If God is our God, he will do more for us than all the world besides can. What is that?

[1] He will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, he will make music within. The world can create trouble in peace—but God can create peace in trouble. He will send the Comforter, who, as a dove, brings an olive-branch of peace in his mouth. John 14:16.

[2] God will give us a crown of immortality. The world can give a crown of gold—but that crown has thorns in it and death in it! But God will give you a crown of glory—which never fades away. 1 Pet. 5:4. The garland made of the flowers of paradise never withers!

(6) If God is our God, he will bear with many infirmities. He may respite sinners a while—but long forbearance is no acquittance; he will throw them to hell for their sins! But if he is our God, he will not destroy us for every failing; he bears with his spouse as with the weaker vessel. He may chastise. Psalm 89:32. He may use the rod and the pruning-knife—but not the bloody axe. "He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob." Numb 23:21. He will not see sin in his people so as to destroy them—but their sins so as to pity them. He sees them as a physician sees a disease in his patient—to heal him. "I have seen his ways—and will heal him." Isa 57:18. Every failing does not break the marriage-bond asunder. The disciples had great failings, they all forsook Christ and fled; but this did not break off their saving interest in God; therefore, says Christ, at his ascension, "Tell my disciples, I go to my God and to their God."

(7) If God is once our God, he is so forever. "This God is our God forever and ever!" Psalm 48:14. Whatever worldly comforts we have—they are but for a season, and we must part with all. Heb 11:25. As Paul's friends accompanied him to the ship, and there left him (Acts 20:38), so all our earthly comforts will but go with us to the grave, and there leave us. You cannot say that you have health, and shall have it forever. You cannot say that you have a child, and shall have it forever. But if God is your God—you shall have him forever! "This God is our God forever and ever." If God is our God, he will be a God to us as long as he is a God. "You have taken away my gods," said Micah. Judges 18:14. But it cannot be said to a believer, that his God is taken away. He may lose everything else—but cannot lose his God. God is ours from everlasting in election—and to everlasting in glory.

(8) If God is our God, we shall enjoy all our godly relations with him in heaven. The great felicity on earth is to enjoy relations. A father sees his own picture in a child; and a wife sees herself in her husband. We plant the flower of love among our relations, and the loss of them is like the pulling off a limb from the body. But if God is ours, with the enjoyment of God we shall enjoy all our pious relations in glory. The gracious child shall see his godly father, the virtuous wife shall see her pious husband in Christ's arms; and then there will be a dearer love to relations than there ever was before, though in a far different manner; then relations shall meet and never part. "And so shall we ever be with the Lord."

Use two. To such as can realize this covenant union, we have several EXHORTATIONS.

(1) If God is our God, let us improve our interest in him, let us cast all our burdens upon him: the burden of our fears, our needs and our sins. "Cast your burden upon the Lord." Psalm 55:22. Wicked men who are a burden to God—have no right to cast their burden upon him. But such as have God for their God are called upon to cast their burden on him. Where should the child ease all its cares, but in the bosom of its parent? "Let all your needs lie upon me." Judges 19:20. So God seems to say to his children, "Let all your needs lie upon me." Christian, what troubles you? You have a God to pardon your sins and to supply your needs; therefore roll your burden on him. "Casting all your care upon him, because he cares for you." 1 Pet 5:7. Why are Christians so disquieted in their minds? They are taking care—when they should be casting care.

(2) If God is our God, let us learn to be contented, though we have the less of other things. Contentment is a rare jewel, it is the cure of care. If we have God to be our God—well may we be contented. "I know whom I have believed." 2 Tim 1:12. There was Paul's interest in God. "As having nothing, and yet possessing all things." 2 Cor 6:10. Here was his contentment. That such who have covenant-union with God may be filled with contentment of spirit, consider what a rich blessing, God is to the soul.

He is bonum sufficiens—a sufficient good. He who has God has enough. If a man be thirsty, bring him to a spring, and he is satisfied; in God there is enough to fill the heaven-born soul. He gives "grace and glory." Psalm 84:11. There is in God not only a sufficiency—but a redundancy; he is not only full as a vessel—but as a spring. Other things can no more fill the soul than a mariner's breath can fill the sails of a ship; but in God there is a cornucopia, an infinite fullness! He has enough to fill the angels, therefore enough to fill us. The heart is a triangle—which only the Trinity can fill.

God is bonum sanctificans—a sanctifying good. He sanctifies all our COMFORTS and turn them into blessings. Health is blessed, estate is blessed. "I will abundantly bless her provision." Psalm 132:15. He gives the little meal in the barrel—as a pledge of the royal feast in paradise. He sanctifies all our CROSSES. They shall not be destructive punishments—but medicines; they shall corrode and eat out the venom of sin; they shall polish and refine our grace. The more the diamond is cut, the more it sparkles. When God stretches the strings of his violin, it is to make the music better.

God is bonum selectum—a choice good. All earthly things are but the blessings of the footstool—but to have God himself to be ours, is the blessing of the throne. Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines—but he settled the inheritance upon Isaac. "Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac." Gen 25:5. God may send away the men of the world with gifts, a little gold and silver; but in giving us himself, he gives us the very essence, his grace, his love, his kingdom! ere is the crowning blessing!

God is bonum summum—the highest good. In the chief good there must be delectability; it must have something that is delicious and sweet: and where can we suck those pure essential comforts, which ravish us with delight! In God's character there is a certain sweetness which fascinates or rather enraptures the soul. "You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11.

In the chief good there must be transcendence, it must have a surpassing excellence. Thus God is infinitely better than all other things. It is below the Deity to compare other things with it. Who would weigh a feather against a mountain of gold? God is the spring of all entities, and the cause is more noble than the effect. It is God who bespangles the creation, that puts light into the sun, who fills the veins of the earth with silver. Creatures do but maintain life, God gives life. He infinitely outshines all sublunary glory. He is better than the soul, than angels, and than heaven.

In the chief good, there must be not only fullness—but variety. Where variety is lacking, we are apt to nauseate. To feed only on honey would breed loathing; but in God is all variety of fullness. Col 1:19.

God is a universal good, commensurate to all our needs. He is the good in which is every. He is called the "God of all comfort." 2 Cor 1:3. There is a compilation of all beauties and delights in him. Health has not the comfort of beauty, nor beauty of riches, nor riches of wisdom; but God is the God of all comfort.

In the chief good there must be eternity. God is a treasure that can neither be drawn low, nor drawn dry. Though the angels are continually spending what is his, he can never be spent; he abides forever. Eternity is a flower of his crown. Now, if God is our God, there is enough to let full contentment into our souls. What need have we of candlelight, if we have the sun? What if God denies the flower, if he has given us the jewel? How should a Christian's heart rest on this rock! If we say God is our God, and we are not content, we have cause to question our interest in him.

(3) If we can clear up this covenant-union, that God is our God, let it cheer and revive us in all conditions. To be content with God is not enough—but we must be cheerful. What greater cordial can you have than union with Deity? When Jesus Christ was ready to ascend, he could not leave a richer consolation with his disciples than this, "I ascend to my God and to your God." John 20:17. Who should rejoice, if not those who have an infinite, all-sufficient, eternal God to be their portion, who are as rich as heaven can make them? What though I lack health? I have God who is the health of my countenance, and my God. Psalm 42:11. What though I am low in the world? If I have not the earth, I have him who made it. The philosopher comforted himself by saying, "Though I have no music or vine-trees—yet here are the household gods with me;" so, though we have not the vine or fig-tree—yet we have God with us.

"I cannot be poor," says Bernard, "as long as God is rich; for his riches are mine." O let the saints rejoice in this covenant-union! To say God is ours, is more than to say heaven is ours, for heaven would not be heaven without him. All the stars cannot make day without the sun; all the angels, those morning stars, cannot make heaven without Christ the Sun of Righteousness. And as to have God for our God, is matter of rejoicing in life, so especially it will be at death. Let a Christian think thus, "I am going to my God!" A child is glad when he is going home to his father. It was Christ's comfort when he was leaving the world, "I ascend to my God!" John 20:17. And this is a believer's deathbed cordial, "I am going to my God; I shall change my place—but not my kindred; I go to my God and my Father."

(4) If God is our God, let us break forth into praise. "You are my God, and I will praise you." Psalm 118:28. Oh, infinite, astonishing mercy, that God should take dust and ashes into so near a bond of love, as to be our God! As Micah said, "What else do I have?" Judges 18:24. So, what else does God have? What richer jewel has he to bestow upon us than himself? That God should put off most of the world with riches and honor, that he should pass over himself to us by a deed of gift, to be our God, and by virtue of this settle a kingdom upon us! O let us praise him with the best instrument, the heart; and let this instrument be pitched up to the highest pitch. Let us praise him with our whole heart. See how David rises by degrees. "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, and shout for joy." Psalm 32:11. Be glad, there is thankfulness; rejoice, there is cheerfulness; shout, there is triumph. Praise is called incense, because it is a sweet sacrifice. Let the saints be choristers in God's praises. The deepest springs yield the sweetest water; the more deeply sensible we are of God's covenant-love to us, the sweeter praises we should yield. We should begin here to praise God's name, and do that work on earth which we shall be always doing in heaven. "While I live will I praise the Lord." Psalm 146:2.

(5) Let us live as those who have God to be our God; that is, walk so that others may see there is something of God in us. Live holily. What have we to do with sin, which if it does not ruin us, will weaken us? "What have I to do any more with idols?" Hos 14:8. So would a Christian say, "God is my God; what have I to do any more with sin, with lust, pride, malice! Bid me commit sin! As well bid me drink poison. Shall I forfeit my interest in God? Let me rather die than willingly offend him who is the crown of my joy, the God of my salvation."

II. "Who has brought you out of the land of Egypt." Egypt and the house of bondage are the same; only they are represented to us under different expressions. The first expression is, "Who has brought you out of the land of Egypt."

Why does the Lord mention the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt?

(1) Because of the strangeness of the deliverance. God delivered his people Israel by strange signs and wonders, by sending plague after plague upon Pharaoh, blasting the fruits of the earth, and killing all the first-born in Egypt. Exod 12:29. When Israel marched out of Egypt, God made the waters of the sea to part, and become a wall to his people, while they went on dry ground. And he made the same sea a causeway to Israel, and a grave to Pharaoh and his chariots. Well might the Lord make mention of this strange deliverance. He wrought miracle upon miracle for the deliverance of that people.

(2) God mentions Israel's deliverance out of Egypt because of the greatness of the deliverance. He delivered Israel from the pollutions of Egypt. Egypt was a bad air to live in, it was infected with idolatry; the Egyptians were gross idolaters; they were guilty of that which the apostle speaks of in Rom 1:23. "They changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." The Egyptians, instead of the true God, worshiped corruptible man; they deified their king, forbidding all, under pain of death, to say that he was a man. They worshiped birds, as the hawk. They worshiped beasts, as the ox. They made the image of a beast, to be their God. They worshiped creeping things, as the crocodile, and the mouse. God mentions it therefore as a signal favor to Israel, that he brought them out of such an idolatrous country. "I brought you out of the land of Egypt."

The thing I would note is, that it is no small blessing to be delivered from places of idolatry. God speaks of it no less than ten times in the Old Testament, "I brought you out of the land of Egypt;" an idolatrous place. Had there been no iron furnace in Egypt—yet so many altars being there, and false gods, it was a great privilege to Israel to be delivered out of Egypt. Joshua reckons it among the chief and most memorable mercies of God to Abraham, that he brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees, where Abraham's ancestors served strange gods. Josh 24:2, 3. It is well for the plant that is set in a bad soil, to be transplanted to a better, where it may grow and flourish; so it is a mercy when any who are planted among idolaters, are removed and transplanted into Zion, where the silver drops of God's Word make them grow in holiness.

Wherein does it appear to be so great a blessing to be delivered from places of idolatry?

(1) It is a great mercy, because our nature is prone to idolatry. Israel began to be defiled with the idols of Egypt. Ezek 22:3. Dry wood is not more prone to take fire—than our nature is to idolatry. The Jews offered cakes to the queen of heaven, that is, to the moon. Jer 7:15.

Why is it that we are prone to idolatry?

Because we are led much by visible objects, and love to have our senses pleased. Men naturally imagine a God that they may see; though it be such a God that cannot see them—yet they would see it; which makes the idolater worship something that he can see.

(2) It is a mercy to be delivered from idolatrous places, because of the greatness of the sin of idolatry, which is giving that glory to an image—which is due to God. All divine worship God appropriates to himself; it is a flower of his crown. The fat of the sacrifice is claimed by him. Lev 3:3. Divine worship is the fat of the sacrifice, which he reserves for himself. The idolater devotes this worship to an idol, which the Lord will by no means endure. "My glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to engraved images." Isa 42:8. Idolatry is spiritual adultery. "With their idols have they committed adultery." Ezek 23:37. To worship any other than God, is to break wedlock, and makes the Lord disclaim his interest in a people. "She is not my wife." Hos 2:2. "Your people have corrupted themselves;" no more my people—but your people. Exod 32:7. God calls idolatry, blasphemy. "In this your fathers have blasphemed me." Idolatry is devil worship. Ezek 20:27, 31. "They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to new gods." Deut 32:17. These new gods were old devils. "And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils." Lev 17:7. The Hebrew word is hairy ones, because the devils were hairy, and appeared in the forms of satyrs and goats. How dreadful a sin is idolatry; and what a signal mercy is it to be snatched out of an idolatrous place, as Lot was snatched by the angels out of Sodom!

(3) It is a mercy to be delivered out of idolatrous places, because idolatry is such a foolish and irrational religion. I may say, as Jer 8:9: "What wisdom is in them?" Is it not folly to refuse the best, and choose the worst? The trees in the field of Jotham's parable, despised the vine-tree, which cheers both God and man, and the olive which is full of fatness, and the fig-tree which is full of sweetness, and chose the bramble to reign over them—which was a foolish choice. Judg 9. So it is for us to refuse the living God, who has power to save us—and to make choice of an idol, which has eyes and sees not, feet but walks not. Psalm 115:6, 7. What madness is this? Therefore to be delivered from committing such folly, is a mercy.

(4) It is a mercy to be delivered from idolatrous places, because of the sad judgements inflicted upon idolaters. This is a sin which enrages God, and makes the fury come up in his face. Ezek 38:18. Search through the whole book of God, and you shall find no sin he has followed with more plagues, than idolatry. "Their sorrows shall be multiplied, who hasten after another god." Psalm 16:4. "They moved him to jealousy with their engraved images." Psalm 78:58. "When God heard this, he was wrath, and greatly abhorred Israel; so that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh." Verses 59, 60. Shiloh was a city belonging to the tribe of Ephraim, where God set his name. Jer 7:12. But, for their idolatry, God forsook the place, gave his people up to the sword, caused his priests to be slain, and his ark to be carried away captive, never more to be returned. How severe was God against Israel for worshiping the golden calf! Exod 32:27. The Jews say, that in every misery that befalls them, there is "an ounce of the golden calf in it." "Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues." Rev. 18:4. Idolatry, lived in, cuts men off from heaven. 1 Cor 6:9. So then it is no small mercy to be delivered out of idolatrous places.

Use one. See the goodness of God to our nation, in bringing us out of mystic Egypt, delivering us from popery, which is Romish idolatry, and causing the light of his truth to break forth gloriously among us. In former times, and more lately in the Marian days, England was overspread with idolatry. It worshiped God after a false manner; and it is idolatry, not only to worship a false god—but the true God in a false manner. Such was our case formerly; we had purgatory, indulgences, the idolatrous mass, the Scriptures locked up in an unknown tongue, prayers to saints and angels, and image-worship. Images are teachers of lies. Hab 2:18. Wherein do they teach lies? They represent God, who cannot be seen, in a bodily shape. "You saw no similitude, only you heard a voice." Deut 4:12. The soul cannot be painted, being a spirit; much less can God be pictured. "To whom then will you liken God?" Isa 40:18. The Papists say they worship God by the image; which is a great absurdity, for if it be absurd to fall down to the picture of a king when the king himself is present, much more to bow down to the image of God when God himself is present. Jer 23:24. What is the popish religion, but a bundle of ridiculous ceremonies? Their wax, flowers, candles, beads, crucifixes; what are these but Satan's policy, to dress up a carnal worship, fitted to carnal minds! Oh! what cause have we to bless God for delivering us from popery! It was a mercy to be delivered from the Spanish invasion; but it is a far greater to be delivered from the popish religion, which would have made God give us a bill of divorce.

Use two. If it be a great blessing to be delivered from the Egypt of popish idolatry, it shows the sin and folly of those who, being brought out of Egypt, are willing to return to it again. The apostle says, "Flee from idolatry." 1 Cor 10:14. But these rather flee to idolatry; and are herein like the people of Israel, who, notwithstanding all the idolatry and tyranny of Egypt, longed to go back to Egypt. "Let us return into Egypt." Numb 14:4. But how shall they go back into Egypt? How shall they have food in the wilderness? Will God rain down manna any more upon such rebels? How will they get over the Red Sea? Will God divide the water again by miracle, for such as leave his service, and go into idolatrous Egypt?

And are there not such among us, who say, "Let us go back to the Romish Egypt again"? If we do, what shall we get by it? I am afraid the leeks and onions of Egypt, will make us sick. Do we ever suppose that, if we drink in the cup of fornication, we shall drink in the cup of salvation? Oh! that any should so forfeit their reason, as to enslave themselves to the pope of Rome; that they should be willing to hold a candle to a mass-priest, and bow down to a strange god! Let us rather say as Ephraim, "What have I to do any more with idols?" Hos 14:8.

Use three. If it be a mercy to be brought out of Egypt, it is not desirable or safe to plant one's self in an idolatrous place, where it may be a capital crime to be seen with a Bible in our hands. Some, for secular gain, thrust themselves among idolaters, and think there is no danger to live where Satan's seat is. They pray God would not lead them into temptation—but they lead themselves into temptation! They are in great danger of being polluted. It is hard to be as the fish, which keeps fresh in salt waters. A man who dwells among coal pits—will soon be blackened. You will sooner be corrupted by idolaters, than they will be converted by you. Joseph got no good by living in an idolatrous court; he did not teach Pharaoh to pray—but Pharaoh taught him to swear. They "were mingled among the heathen, and served their idols." Psalm 106:35, 36. I fear it has been the undoing of many; that they have seated themselves among idolaters, for advancing their trade, and at last have not only traded with them in their commodities—but in their religion.

Use four. It is a mercy to be brought out of the land of Egypt, a defiled place, and where sin reigns. It reproaches such parents as show little love for the souls of their children, whether it be in putting them out to service, or matching them. In putting them out to service, their care is chiefly for their bodies, that they may be provided for, and they care not what becomes of their souls. Their souls are in Egypt—in houses where there is drinking, swearing, Sabbath-breaking, and where God's name is every day dishonored. In matching their children, they look only at money. "Be not unequally yoked." 2 Cor 6:14. If their children are equally yoked for estate, they care not whether they be unequally yoked for religion. Let such parents think how precious the soul of their child is; that it is immortal, and capable of communion with God and angels. Will you let a soul be lost—by placing it in a bad family? If you had a horse you loved, you would not put him in a stable with other horses that were sick and diseased; and do you not love your child better than your horse? God has entrusted you with the souls of your children; you have a charge of souls. God says, as 1 Kings 20:39: "Keep this man: if he is missing, then shall your life be for his life." So says God, if the soul of your child miscarry by your negligence, his blood will I require at your hand. Think of this, all you parents; take heed of placing your children in Egypt—in a wicked family! Do not put them in the devil's mouth! Seek for them a sober, pious family, such as Joshua's. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Josh 14:15. Such a family as Cranmer's, which was a nursery of piety, a Bethel, of which it may be said, "The church which is in his house." Col. 4:15.

Use five. Let us pray that God would keep our English nation from the defilements of Egypt, that it may not be again overspread with superstition and idolatry. Oh, sad religion! not only to have our estates, our bodies enslaved—but our consciences. Pray that the true Protestant religion may still nourish among us, that the sun of the gospel may still shine in our horizon. The gospel lifts a people up to heaven, it is "the crown and glory of the kingdom"; if this be removed, Ichabod, the glory is departed! If the top of the beech tree is cut off—the whole body of the tree withers rapidly. Just so, the gospel is the top of all our blessings; if this top be cut, the whole body politic will soon wither. O pray that the Lord will continue the visible tokens of his presence among us, his ordinances, that England may be called, Jehovah-shammah, "The Lord is there." Ezek 48:35. Pray that righteousness and peace may kiss each other, that so glory may dwell in our land.

III. "Out of the house of bondage." Egypt and the house of bondage are the same, only they are expressed under a different notion. By Egypt is meant a place of idolatry and superstition; by the house of bondage is meant a place of affliction. Israel, while in Egypt, were under great tyranny; they had cruel task-masters set over them, who put them to hard labor, and set them to make bricks—yet allowed them no straw. Therefore, Egypt is called, in Deut 4:20, the iron furnace, and here the house of bondage. From this expression, "I brought you out of the house of bondage," two things are to be noted; God's children may sometimes be under sore afflictions. "In the house of bondage." But God will, in due time, bring them out of their afflicted state. "I brought you out of the house of bondage."

God's children may sometimes be under sore afflictions, in the house of bondage. God's people have no writ of ease granted them, no charter of exemption from trouble in this life. While the wicked are kept in sugar, the godly are often kept in brine. And, indeed, how could God's power be seen in bringing them out of trouble—if he did not sometimes bring them into it? How could God wipe away the tears from their eyes in heaven—if on earth they shed none? Doubtless, God sees there is need that his children should be sometimes in the house of bondage. "If need be, you are in heaviness." 1 Peter 1:6. The body sometimes needs a bitter portion—more than a sweet one.

Why does God let his people be in the house of bondage or in an afflicted state?

(1) He does it for probation or TRIAL. "Who led you through that terrible wilderness—that he might humble you and prove you." Deut 8:15, 16. Affliction is the touch-stone of sincerity. "For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs." Psalm 66:10, 11. Hypocrites may embrace religion in prosperity, and court this queen while she has a jewel hung at her ear; but he is a sincere Christian, who will keep close to God in a time of suffering. "All this has come upon us—yet have we not forgotten you." Psalm 44:17. To love God in heaven, is no wonder; but to love him when he chastises us, reveals a sincere heart.

(2) He does it for PURGATION; to purge our corruption. "And this is all the fruit, to take away his sin." Isa 28:9. The eye, though a tender part—yet when infected, we put sharp medicines into it, to purge out the disease. Just so, though the people of God are dear to him as the apple of his eye—yet, when corruption begins to grow in them, he will apply the sharp medicine of affliction, to purge out the disease. Affliction is God's flail to thresh off our husks. Affliction is a means God uses to purge out sloth, luxury, pride, and love of the world. God's furnace is in Zion. Isa 31:5. This is not to consume—but to refine. God gives us more affliction—that we may have less sin!

(3) He does it for AUGMENTATION; to increase the graces of the Spirit. Grace thrives most in the iron furnace. Sharp frosts nourish the corn; so sharp afflictions nourish grace. Grace in the saints is often as fire hidden in the embers, affliction is the bellows to blow it up into a flame. The Lord makes the house of bondage, a friend to grace. Then faith and patience act their part. The darkness of the night cannot hinder the brightness of a star; so, the more the diamond is cut the more it sparkles; and the more God afflicts us, the more our graces cast a sparkling luster.

(4) He does it for PREPARATION; to fit and prepare the saints for glory. 2 Cor 4:17. The stones which are cut out for a building, are first hewn and squared. The godly are called "living stones." 1 Pet 2:5. God first hews and polishes them by affliction, that they may be fit for the heavenly building. The house of bondage prepares for the house not made with hands. 2 Cor 5:1: The vessels of mercy are seasoned with affliction, and then the wine of glory is poured in.

How do the afflictions of the godly, differ from the afflictions of the wicked?

(1) They are but corrections—but those on the wicked are punishments. The one come from a father, the other from a judge.

(2) Afflictions on the godly are fruits of covenant-mercy. 2 Sam 7:17. Afflictions on the wicked are effects of God's wrath. "He has much wrath with his sickness." Eccl 5:17. Afflictions on the wicked are the pledge of hell; they are like the shackling of a malefactor, which presages his execution.

(3) Afflictions on the godly make them better—but afflictions on the wicked make them worse. The godly pray more; Psalm 130:1: The wicked blaspheme more. "Men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God." Rev 16:9. Afflictions on the wicked make them more impenitent; every plague upon Egypt increased the plague of hardness in Pharaoh's heart. To what a height of wickedness, do some people come, after great sickness. Affliction on the godly is like bruising spices—which makes them give off a most sweet and fragrant aroma. Affliction on the wicked is like pounding weeds with a pestle—which makes them give off a more foul stench.

Use one.

(1) We are not to wonder to see Israel in the house of bondage. 1 Pet 4:12. The holiness of the saints will not excuse them from sufferings. Christ was the holy one of God—yet he was in the iron furnace. His spouse is a lily among thorns. Canticles 2:2. Though his sheep have the ear-mark of election upon them—yet they may have their wool fleeced off. The godly have some good in them, therefore the devil afflicts them; and some evil in them, therefore God afflicts them. While there are two seeds in the world, expect to be under the black rod. The gospel tells us of reigning—but first of suffering. 2 Tim 2:12.

(2) Affliction is not always the sign of God's anger. Israel, the apple of God's eye, a peculiar treasure to him above all people, were in the house of bondage. Exod 19:5. We are apt to judge and censure those who are in an afflicted state. When the barbarians saw the viper on Paul's hand, they said, "No doubt this man is a murderer!" Acts 28:4. So, when we see the viper of affliction fasten upon the godly, we are apt to censure them, and say, these are greater sinners than others, and God hates them. But this rash censuring is for lack of wisdom. Was not Israel in the house of bondage? Was not Jeremiah in the dungeon, and Paul a night and day in the deep? God's afflicting is so far from evidencing hatred, that his not afflicting is an evidence of his hatred. "I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom." Hos 4:14. God punishes most—when he does not punish; his hand is heaviest—when it seems to be lightest. The judge will not burn him in the hand—whom he intends to execute at the stake. "Ephraim is attached to idols; leave him alone!" Hosea 4:17

(3) If God's own Israel may be in the house of bondage, then afflictions do not of themselves demonstrate a man miserable. Indeed, sin unrepented of, makes one miserable; but afflictions do not. If God has a design in afflicting his children—to make them happy—then they are not miserable. "Happy is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty." Job 5:17. The world counts them happy who can keep out of affliction; but the Scripture calls them happy who are afflicted.

How are the godly happy—when they are afflicted? Because they are more holy. Heb 12:10. Because they are more in God's favor. Prov 3:12. The goldsmith loves his gold, when in the furnace. Because they have more of God's sweet presence. Psalm 91:15. They cannot be unhappy who have God's powerful presence in supporting, and his gracious presence in sanctifying, their affliction. Because the more affliction they have, the more degrees of glory they shall have; the lower they have been in the iron furnace, the higher they shall sit upon to throne of glory; the heavier their crosses, the heavier shall be their crown. So then, if afflictions make a Christian happy, they cannot call him miserable.

(4) See the merciful providence of God to his children. Though they may be in the house of bondage, and smart by affliction—yet they shall not be hurt by affliction. What hurt does the winnowing fan do to the corn? It only separates the chaff from it. What hurt does the lance do to the body? It only lets out the abscess. The house of bondage does that which sometimes ordinances will not; it humbles and reforms. "If they be held in cords of affliction, he opens their ear to discipline, and commands that they return from iniquity." Job 36:8, 10. Oh! what a merciful providence is it that, though God bruises his people—yet, while he is bruising them, he is doing them good! It is as if one should throw a bag of money at another, which bruises him a little—but yet it enriches him! Affliction enriches the soul and yields the sweet fruits of righteousness. Heb. 12:11.

(5) If Israel is in the house of bondage—if the Lord deals so with his own children—then how severely will he deal with the wicked! If he is so severe with those he loves—how severe will he be with those he hates! If those who pray and mourn for sin are so severely dealt with—what will become of those who swear and break the Sabbath, and are unclean! If Israel is in the iron furnace, the wicked shall lie in the fiery furnace of hell. It should be the saddest news to wicked men—to hear that the people of God are afflicted. Let them think how dreadful the case of unrepentant sinners will be! "Judgement must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of those who obey not the gospel?" 1 Pet 4:17. If God threshes his wheat, he will burn the chaff. If the godly suffer castigation, the wicked shall suffer condemnation. If God mingles his people's cup with wormwood—he will mingle the wicked's cup with fire and brimstone!

Use two.

(1) If Israel is in the house of bondage—do not entertain too hard thoughts of affliction. Christians are apt to look upon the cross and the iron furnace as frightful things, and do what they can to shun them. Nay, sometimes, to avoid affliction—they run themselves into sin. But do not think too hardly of affliction; do not look upon it as through the multiplying-glass of fear. The house of bondage is not hell. Consider that affliction comes from a wise God—who prescribes whatever befalls us. Persecutions are like pharmacists—they give us the medicine which God the physician prescribes. Affliction has its light side, as well as its dark one. God can sweeten our afflictions, and candy our wormwood. As our sufferings abound, so does also our consolation. 2 Cor 1:5. Argerius dated his letters from the pleasant garden of the Leonine prison. God sometimes so revives his children in trouble, that they had rather bear their afflictions—than lack their comforts. Why then should Christians entertain such hard thoughts of afflictions? Do not look at its grim face—but at the message it brings, which is to enrich us with both grace and comfort.

(2) If Israel is sometimes in the house of bondage, in an afflicted state, think beforehand of affliction. Say not as Job (29:18), "I shall die in my nest." In the house of mirth—think of the house of bondage. You who are now Naomi, may be Mara. Ruth 1:20. How quickly may the scene turn, and the life of joy end in a catastrophe! All outward things are given to change. The forethoughts of affliction would make us sober and moderate in the use of lawful delights; it would cure aall excess. Christ at a feast mentions his burial—this is a good antidote against excess. The forethought of affliction, would make us prepare for it; it would take us off the world; it would put us upon search of our evidences for heaven.

We should see what oil we have in our lamps, what grace we can find, that we may be able to stand in the evil day. That soldier is imprudent who has his sword to sharpen, when he is just going to fight. He who forecasts sufferings, will have the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit ready, that he may not be surprised.

(3) If afflictions come, let us labor to conduct ourselves wisely as Christians, that we may adorn our sufferings; that is, let us endure with patience. "Take, my brethren, the prophets for an example of suffering affliction and patience." James 5:10. Satan labors to take advantage of us in affliction, by making us either faint or murmur; he blows the coals of passion and discontent, and then warms himself at the fire. Patience adorns sufferings. A Christian should say as Jesus Christ did, "Lord, not my will but your will be done." It is a sign the affliction is sanctified, when the heart is brought to a sweet submissive frame. God will then remove the affliction—he will take us out of the iron furnace.

We may consider these words, "Who brought you out of the house of bondage," either, [1] Literally; or [2] Spiritually and Mystically. In the letter, "I brought you out of the house of bondage;" that is, I delivered you out of the misery and servitude you sustained in Egypt, where you were in the iron furnace. Spiritually and mystically, by which "I brought you out of the house of bondage," is a type of our deliverance by Christ from sin and hell.

[1] Literally, "I brought you out of the house of bondage," out of great misery and slavery in the iron furnace. The thing I note here is that, though God brings his people sometimes into trouble—yet he will bring them out again. Israel was in the house of bondage—but at last was brought out.

We shall endeavor to show:

1. That God does deliver out of trouble.

2. In what manner.

3. At what seasons.

4. Why he delivers.

5. How the deliverances of the godly and wicked out of trouble differ.

1. God DOES deliver his children out of troubles. "Our fathers trusted in you; they trusted, and you did deliver them." Psalm 22:4. "And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion," namely, from Nero. 2 Tim 4:17. "We went through fire and flood. But you brought us to a place of great abundance." Psalm 66:11, 12. "Weeping may endure for a night—but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5. God brought Daniel out of the lions' den, and Zion out of Babylon. In his due time, he rescues out of trouble. Psalm 68:20. The tree which in the winter seems dead, revives in the spring. The sun emerges after the storms. Affliction may leap on us as the viper did on Paul—but at last it shall be shaken off. It is called a cup of affliction. Isa 51:17. The wicked drink a sea of wrath, the godly drink only a cup of affliction, and God will say shortly, "Let this cup pass away." God will give his people a sure delivery.

2. In what MANNER does God deliver his people out of trouble?

He does it like a God—in wisdom.

(1) He does it sometimes SUDDENLY. As the angel was caused to fly swiftly (Dan 9:21), so God sometimes makes a deliverance fly swiftly, and suddenly turns the shadow of death into the light of the morning. As he gives us mercies above what we can think (Eph 3:20), so sometimes before we can think of them. "When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream;" it came suddenly upon us as a dream. Psalm 126:1. Joseph could not have thought of such a sudden alteration, to be the same day freed out of prison, and made the chief ruler in the kingdom. Mercy sometimes does not stay long in the birth—but comes forth suddenly.

(2) God sometimes delivers his people STRANGELY. Thus the whale which swallowed up Jonah was the means of bringing him safe to land. He sometimes delivers his people in the very way which they think will destroy. In bringing Israel out of Egypt, he stirred up the heart of the Egyptians to hate them (Psalm 105:25), and that was the means of their deliverance. He brought Paul to shore by a contrary wind, and upon the broken pieces of the ship. Acts 27:44.

3. When are the TIMES and seasons that God usually delivers his people out of the bondage of affliction?

(1) When they are in the greatest extremity. Though Jonah was in the belly of hell, he says, "You have brought up my life from corruption." Jonah 2:6. When there is but a hair's breadth between the godly and death—God ushers in deliverance. When the ship was almost covered with waves—Christ awoke and rebuked the wind. When Isaac was upon the altar, and the knife about to be put to his throat—the angel comes and says, "Lay not your hand upon the child!" When Peter began to sink—Christ took him by the hand. When the amount of bricks was doubled—then Moses the temporal Savior comes. When the people of God are in the greatest danger—the morning star of deliverance appears. When the patient is ready to faint—the cordial is given.

(2) The second season is, when affliction has done its work upon them; when it has effected that which God sent it for. As,

[1] When it has humbled them. "Remembering my affliction, the wormwood and gall, my soul is humbled in me." Lam 3:19, 20. Then God's corrosive has eaten out the proud flesh.

[2] When it has tamed their impatience. Before, they were proud and impatient, like froward children who struggle with their parents; but when their cursed hearts are tamed, they say, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him" (Micah 7:9); and as Eli, "It is the Lord; let him do what seems him good." 1 Sam 3:18. "Let him hedge me with thorns—if he will plant me with grace.

(3) When they are partakers of more holiness, and are more full of heavenly-mindedness. Heb 12:10. When the sharp frost of affliction has brought forth the spring-flowers of grace, the cross is sanctified, and God will bring them out of the house of bondage. Sorrow will turn to joy, ashes to garlands. When the metal is refined—it is taken out of the furnace. When affliction has healed us—God takes off the smarting plaster.

4. WHY does God bring his people out of the house of bondage?

Hereby he makes way for his own glory. His glory is dearer to him than anything besides; it is a crown jewel. By raising his people he raises the trophies of his own honor; he glorifies his own attributes; his power, truth, and goodness are triumphant.

(1) His power. If God did not sometimes bring his people into trouble, how could his power be seen in bringing them out? He brought Israel out of the house of bondage, with miracle upon miracle; he saved them with an outstretched arm. "What's wrong, Red Sea, that made you hurry out of their way? What happened, Jordan River, that you turned away?" Psalm 114:5. Of Israel's march out of Egypt it is said, when the sea fled, and the waters were parted each from other. Here was the power of God set forth. "Is there anything too hard for me?" Jer 32:27. God loves to help when things seem past hope! He creates deliverance. Psalm 124:8. He brought Isaac out of a dead womb, and the Messiah out of a virgin's womb. Oh! how does his power shine forth when he overcomes seeming impossibilities, and works a cure when things look desperate!

(2) His truth. God has made promises to his people, when they are under great pressures, to deliver them; and his truth is engaged in his promise. "Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you." Psalm 50:15. "He shall deliver you in six troubles, yes in seven." Job 5:19. How is the Scripture bespangled with these promises as the sky is with stars! Either God will deliver them from death, or by death; he will make a way of escape. 1 Cor 10:13. When promises are verified, God's truth is magnified.

(3) His goodness. God is full of compassion, to such as are in misery. And this sympathy stirs up God to deliver. "In his love and pity he redeemed them." Isa 63:9. This makes way for the triumph of his goodness. He is tender-hearted, he will not over afflict; he cuts asunder the bars of iron, he breaks the yoke of the oppressor. Thus all his attributes ride in triumph, in saving his people out of trouble.

5. HOW do the deliverance of the godly and the wicked differ?

(1) The deliverances of the godly are preservations; of the wicked reservations. "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly, and to reserve the unjust to be punished." 2 Pet 2:9. A sinner may be delivered from dangerous sickness, and out of prison; but all this is but a reservation for some greater evil.

(2) God delivers the wicked, or rather spares them in anger. Deliverances to the wicked are not given as pledges of his love—but signs of displeasure; as quails were given to Israel in anger. But deliverances of the godly are in love. "He delivered me because he delighted in me". 2 Sam 22:20. "You have in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption." Isa 38:17. Or, as in the Hebrew, "You have loved me from the pit of corruption." A wicked man may say, "Lord, you have delivered me out of the pit of corruption;" but a godly man may say, "Lord, you have loved me out of the pit of corruption." It is one thing to have God's power deliver us, and another thing to have his love deliver us. "O," said Hezekiah, "You have in love to my soul, delivered me from the pit of corruption."

How may it be known, that a deliverance comes in love?

(1) When it makes our heart boil over in love to God. "I love the Lord—because he has heard my voice." Psalm 116:1. It is one thing to love our mercies, another thing to love the Lord. Deliverance is in love—when it causes love.

(2) Deliverance is in love when we have hearts to improve it for God's glory. The wicked, instead of improving their deliverance for God's glory, increase their corruption; they grow worse, as the metal when taken out of the fire grows harder. But our deliverance is in love when we improve it for God's glory. God raises us out of a low condition—and we lift him up in our praises, and honor him with our substance. Prov 3:9. He recovers us from sickness—and we spend ourselves in his service. Mercy is as oil to the wheel—to make it move faster.

(3) Deliverance comes in love when it makes us more exemplary in holiness; and our lives are walking Bibles. A thousand prayers and praises and do not honor God so much—as the mortifying of one lust! "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." 1 Samuel 15:22. "Upon mount Zion there shall be deliverance and holiness," Obadiah 17. When these two go together, deliverance and holiness; when, being made monuments of mercy, we are patterns of piety; then a deliverance comes in love, and we may say as Hezekiah, "You have in love to my soul, delivered it from the pit of corruption."

Use one. If God brings his people out of bondage, let none despond in trouble. Say not "I shall sink under this burden!" Or as David, "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul!" God can make the text good—to bring his people out of the house of bondage. When he sees a fit season, he will put forth his arm and save them; and he can do it with ease. "Lord, it is nothing with you to help." 2 Chron 14:11. He who can turn tides, can turn the times; he who raised Lazarus when he was dead, can raise you when you are sick. "I looked, and there was none to help, therefore my own arm brought salvation." Isa 63:5. Do not despond; believe in God's power. Faith sets God to work to deliver us.

Use two. Labor, if you are in trouble, to be fitted for deliverance. Many would have deliverance—but are not fitted for it.

When are we fitted for deliverance?

When, by our afflictions, we are conformed to Christ; when we have learned obedience. "He learned obedience by the things which he suffered;" that is, he learned sweet submission to his Father's will. Heb 5:8. "Not my will—but your will be done." Luke 22:42. When we have thus learned obedience by our sufferings, we are willing to do what God would have us do, and be what God would have us be. We are conformed to Christ, and are fitted for deliverance.

Use three. If God has brought you at any time out of the house of bondage, out of great and eminent troubles, be much in praise. Deliverance calls for praise. "You have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to you." Psalm 30:11, 12. My glory, that is, my tongue, which is the instrument of glorifying you. The saints are temples of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor 3:16. Where should God's praises be sounded but in his temple? Gratitude should follow a favor. The deepest springs yield the sweetest water; and hearts deeply sensible of God's deliverances yield the sweetest praises. Moses tells Pharaoh, when he was going out of Egypt, "We will go with our flocks and our herds." Exod 10:9. Why so? Because he might have sacrifices of thanksgiving ready to offer to God for their deliverance. To have a thankful heart for deliverance, is a greater blessing than the deliverance itself! One of the lepers, "when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God." Luke 17:15. The leper's thankful heart was a greater blessing than to be healed of his leprosy! Have any of you been brought out of the house of bondage—out of prison, sickness, or any death-threatening danger? Do not forget to be thankful. Be not graves—but temples.

That you may be the more thankful, observe every emphasis and circumstance in your deliverance; such as to be brought out of trouble when you were "at the brink of death"—when there was but a hair's breadth between you and death; or, to be brought out of affliction, without sin, you did not purchase your deliverance by the ensnaring of your consciences; or, to be brought out of trouble upon the wings of prayer; or, that those who were the occasions of bringing you into trouble, should be the instruments of bringing you out. These circumstances, being well weighed, heighten a deliverance, and should heighten our thankfulness. The cutting of a stone may be of more value than the stone itself; and the circumstancing of a deliverance may be greater than the deliverance itself.

But how shall we praise God in a right manner for deliverance?

(1) Be holy people. In the sacrifice of thanksgiving, whoever ate with uncleanness upon him, was to be cut off (Lev 7:20), to typify how unpleasing their praises and thank-offerings are, who live in sin.

(2) Praise God with humble hearts, acknowledge how unworthy you were of deliverance. God's mercies are not debts—but gifts! And that you should have them by gift, should make you humble. "The elders fell upon their faces (an expression of humility) and worshiped God. Rev 11:16.

(3) Praise God for deliverances cordially. "I will praise the Lord with my whole heart." Psalm 111:1. In religion there is no music but in concert—when heart and tongue join together.

(4) Praise God for deliverances constantly. "While I live—I will praise the Lord." Psalm 146:2. Some will be thankful while the memory of a deliverance is fresh, and then stop. The Carthaginians used, at first, to send the tenth of their yearly revenue to Hercules; but by degrees they grew weary, and stopped sending; but we must be constant in our thank-offering. The motion of our praise must be like the motion of our pulse, which beats as long as life lasts. "I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live!" Psalm 146:2.

[2] These words are to be understood MYSTICALLY and SPIRITUALLY. "I brought you out of the house of bondage," out of great misery and slavery in the iron furnace. By Israel's deliverance from the house of bondage, is typified their spiritual deliverance from sin, Satan, and hell.

(1) The bringing of Israel out of the house of bondage, is a type of our being delivered from SIN. Sin is the true bondage, it enslaves the soul. Cicero. "Of all conditions, servitude is the worst." "I was held captive, before conversion," says Augustine, "not with an iron chain—but with the obstinacy of my own will." Sin is the enslaver; it is called a law—because it has a binding power over a man (Rom 7:23). It is said to reign—because it exercises a tyrannical power (Rom 6:12). And men are said to be the servants of sin, because they are so enslaved by it. Rom 6:17. Thus sin is the house of bondage. Israel was not so enslaved in the iron furnace—as the sinner is by sin. They are worse slaves and vassals who are under the power of sin, than they are who are under the power of earthly tyrants.

Other slaves have only tyrants ruling over their bodies; but the sinner has his soul tyrannized over. That princely part, the soul, which sways the scepter of reason, and was once crowned with perfect knowledge and holiness, now is enslaved, and made a lackey to every base lust.

Other slaves have some pity shown them: the tyrant gives them food, and lets them have hours for their rest. But sin is a merciless tyrant, it will let men have no rest. Judas had no rest until he had betrayed Christ, and after that, he had less rest than before. How does a man wear himself out in the service of sin—waste his body, break his sleep, distract his mind! A wicked man is every day doing sin's drudgery-work.

Other slaves have servile work; but it is lawful. It is lawful to work in the galley, and tug at the oar; but all the laws and commands of sin are unlawful. Sin says to one man, "defraud;" to another, "be unchaste"; to another "take revenge;" to another, "take a false oath." Thus all sin's commands are unlawful; we cannot obey sin's law—but by breaking God's law.

Other slaves are forced against their will. Israel groaned under slavery (Exod 2:23); but sinners are content to be under the command of sin; they are willing to be slaves; they love their chains! They will not take their freedom; they "glory in their shame." Phil 3:19. They wear their sins, not as their fetters—but their ornaments! They rejoice in iniquity. Jer 11:15.

Other slaves are brought to correction—but sin's slaves are without repentance, and are brought to damnation. Other slaves lie in the iron furnace: sin's slaves lie in the fiery furnace. What freedom of will has a sinner—when he can do nothing but what sin commands him? He is enslaved. Thus sinners are in the house of bondage; but God takes his elect out of the house of bondage, he beats off the chains and fetters of sin; he rescues them from their slavery; he makes them free, by bringing them into "the glorious liberty of the children of God." Rom 8:21. The law of love now rules, not the law of sin. Though the life of sin is prolonged—yet not the dominion of sin; as those beasts in Daniel had their lives prolonged for a season—but their dominion was taken away. Dan 7:12. The saints are made spiritual kings, to rule and conquer their corruptions, to "bind these kings in chains." It is matter of the highest praise and thanksgiving, to be taken out of the house of bondage, to be freed from enslaving lusts, and made kings to reign in glory forever!

(2) The bringing of Israel out of the house of bondage, is a type of our being delivered from SATAN. Men naturally are in the house of bondage, they are enslaved to Satan. Satan is called the prince of this world (John 14:30); and the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4); because he has power to command and enslave his dupes. Though he shall one day be a fellow prisoner in chains—yet now he insults and tyrannizes over the souls of men. Sinners are under his rule, he exercises a jurisdiction over them. He fills men's heads with error, and their hearts with malice. "Why has Satan filled your heart?" Act 5:3. A sinner's heart is the devil's mansion house. "I will return into my house." Matt. 12:44. And surely, that must needs be a house of bondage, which is the devil's mansion-house.

Satan is a comprehensive tyrant. He rules men's minds, he blinds them with ignorance. "The God of this world has blinded the minds of those who believe not." 2 Cor 4:4. He rules their memories. They remember that which is evil, and forget that which is good. Their memories are like a strainer, that lets go all the pure—and retains only the dregs. He rules their wills. Though he cannot force the will, he draws it. "The lusts of your father—you will do." John 8:44. He has control over their hearts, and they willingly obey him. His strong temptations draw men to evil—more than all the promises of God can draw them to good. This is the state of every man by nature; he is in the house of bondage; the devil has him in his power. A sinner grinds in the devil's mill; he is at the command of Satan, as the donkey is at the command of the driver.

No wonder to see men oppress and persecute the godly. As slaves, they must do what the god of this world will have them. How did those swine run—when the devil entered into them! "They entered the swine. And suddenly the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water!" Matthew 8:32. When the devil tempted Ananias to tell a lie, he could not but speak what Satan had put in his heart. Acts 5:3. When the devil entered into Judas, and bade him betray Christ, he would do it, though he hanged himself. It is a dreadful and dismal case, to be in the house of bondage, under the power and tyranny of Satan.

Is it not a case to be bewailed, to see men taken captive by Satan at his will? "Then they may come to their senses and escape the Devil's trap, having been captured by him to do his will." 2 Timothy 2:26. He leads sinners as slaves before him in triumph; he wholly possesses them. If people should see their pets bewitched and possessed by the devil, they would be much troubled; and yet, though their souls are possessed by Satan, they are not sensible of it! What can be worse than for men to be in the house of bondage, and to have the devil hurry them on in their lusts to perdition! Sinners are willingly enslaved to Satan; they love their gawler; are content to sit quietly under Satan's jurisdiction; they choose this bramble to rule over them, though after a while, fire will come out of the bramble to devour them. Judges 9:15.

What an infinite mercy is it when God brings poor souls out of this house of bondage, when he gives them a deliverance from the prince of darkness! Jesus Christ redeems captives, he ransoms sinners by price, and rescues them by force. As David rescued a lamb out of the lion's mouth--so Christ rescues souls out of the mouth of the roaring lion! Oh, what a mercy it is--to be brought out of the house of bondage, from being Satan's captives--to be made subjects of the Prince of Peace! This is done by the preaching of the Word. "To turn them from the power of Satan unto God." Acts 26:18.

(3) The bringing of Israel out of the house of bondage, is a type of our being delivered from HELL. Hell is a house of bondage; a house built on purpose, for sinners to lie in.

There is such a house of bondage where the damned lie. "The wicked shall be turned into hell." Psalm 9:17. "How can you escape the damnation of hell?" Matt 23:33. If any one should ask where this house of bondage is, where is the place of hell? I wish he may never know experimentally. "Let us not so much," says Chrysostom, "labor to know where hell is, as how to escape it." Yet to satisfy curiosity, it may be observed that hell is some place beneath. "Hell beneath." Prov 15:24. Hesiod says, "Hell is as far under the earth, as heaven is above it." The devils besought Christ "that he would not command them to go out into the deep." Luke 8:31. Hell is in the deep.

Why must there be this house of bondage? Why a hell? Because there must be a place for the execution of divine justice. Earthly monarchs have their prison for criminals—and shall not God have his? Sinners are criminals, they have offended God; and it would not be consistent with his holiness and justice—to have his laws infringed, and not inflict penalties.

See the dreadfulness of that place! Could you but hear the groans and shrieks of the damned for one hour—it would confirm you in the truth, that hell is a house of bondage. Hell is the epitome of misery! Besides "the punishment of loss," which is the exclusion of the soul from the gloried sight of God, which some think is the worst part of hell—there will be "the punishment of sense." If, when God's wrath is kindled but a little, and a spark of it flies into a man's conscience in this life, it is so terrible (as in the case of Spira), what will hell itself be?

In hell there will be a plurality of torments:

"Chains of darkness." 2 Pet 2:4.

There will be the "never-dying worm." Mark 9:48; This is the worm of conscience.

There will be the "lake of fire." Rev 20:15. Other fire is but painted fire—compared to this.

This house of hell is haunted with devils! Matt 25:41. Anselm says, "I had rather endure all torments, than see the devil with bodily eyes." Such as go to hell must not only be forced to behold the devil—but must be shut up with this lion in his den! They must keep the devil company! This red dragon is full of spite—and will spit fire in men's faces!

The torments of hell abide forever! "The smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever." Rev 14:2. Time cannot finish hell. Tears cannot quench hell. Mark 9:44. The wicked will always live in the fire of hell—but never be consumed. After they have lain millions of years in hell, their punishment is as far from ending, as it was at the beginning! If all the earth and sea were sand, and every thousandth year a bird should come, and take away one grain—it would be a long time before that vast heap would be removed! Yet, if after all that time the damned might come out of hell—there would be some hope; but this word FOREVER breaks the heart!

How does it seem to comport with God's justice—to punish a sin committed in a moment, with eternal torment?

1. Because there is an eternity of sin in man's nature. They will continue to sin in hell. "Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done." Revelation 16:10-11

2. Because sin is "committed against an infinite majesty," and therefore the sin itself is infinite, and proportionally the punishment must be infinite.

3. Because a finite creature cannot satisfy infinite wrath, he must be eternally paying what he can never pay.

If hell be such a house of bondage, what infinite cause have they to bless God—who are delivered from it! "Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath!" 1 Thess 1:10. Jesus Christ suffered the torments of hell in his soul—that believers should not suffer them. If we are thankful, when we are ransomed out of prison, or delivered from fire, oh, how should we bless God to be preserved from the wrath to come! It may cause more thankfulness in us, seeing that most people go into the house of bondage, even to hell. To be of the number of those few who are delivered from it—is matter of infinite thankfulness. Most, I say, go to that house of bondage when they die; most go to hell. "Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14. The greatest part of the world lies in wickedness. 1 John 5:19.

Divide the world, says one, into thirty-one parts: nineteen parts of it are possessed by Jews and Turks, and seven parts by heathen; so that there are but five parts of professing Christians, and among these—so many deceived Papists on the one hand, and so many formal Protestants on the other--that we may conclude that the major part of the world goes to hell.

Scripture compares the wicked to briers. Isa 10:17. There are but few lilies in your fields—but many thorns and briers. Scripture compares them to "the mire in the streets." Isa 10:6. Few jewels or precious stones are in the street—but you cannot go a step without meeting with mire. The wicked are as common as the dirt in the street! Look at the generality of people. How many drunkards are there, for one who is sober! How many adulterers are there, for one who is chaste! How many hypocrites are there, for one who is sincere! The devil has most of the harvest, and God has only a few gleanings. Oh, then, such as are delivered from the house of bondage, in hell, have infinite cause to admire and bless God. How should the vessels of mercy run over with thankfulness! When most others are carried as prisoners to hell, they are delivered from the wrath to come!

How shall I know if I am delivered from hell?

(1) Those whom Christ saves from hell he saves from sin. "He shall save his people from their sins." Matt 1:21. Has God delivered you from the power of corruption, from pride, malice, and lust? If he has delivered you from the hell of sin, he has delivered you from the hell of torment.

(2) If you prize, trust and love Christ--you are delivered from hell and damnation. "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1. If you are in Christ, He has put the garment of His righteousness over you—and hell-fire can never singe it! Pliny observes, that nothing will so soon quench fire as salt and blood: the salt tears of repentance and the blood of Christ will quench the fire of hell, so that it shall never kindle upon you.


The Right Understanding of the Law

Before I come to the commandments, I shall answer questions, and lay down rules respecting the moral law.

What is the difference between the moral law—and the gospel?

(1) The law requires that we worship God as our Creator; the gospel, that we worship him in and through Christ. God in Christ is propitious; out of him we may see God's power, justice, and holiness: in him we see his mercy displayed.

(2) The moral law requires obedience—but gives no strength (as Pharaoh required bricks—but gave no straw)—but the gospel gives strength; it bestows faith on the elect; it sweetens the law; it makes us serve God with delight.

Of what use is the moral law to us?

It is a looking-glass to show us our sins, that, seeing our pollution and misery, we may be forced to flee to Christ—to satisfy for former guilt, and to save from future wrath. "The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ." Gal 3:24.

But is the moral law still in force to believers; is it not abolished to them?

In some sense it is abolished to believers.

(1) In respect of justification. They are not justified by their obedience to the moral law. Believers are to make great use of the moral law—but they must trust only to Christ's righteousness for justification; as Noah's dove made use of her wings to fly—but trusted to the ark for safety. If the moral law could justify—what need was there of Christ's dying?

(2) The moral law is abolished to believers, in respect of its curse. They are freed from its curse and condemnatory power. "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." Gal 3:13.

How was Christ made a curse for us?

Considered as the Son of God, he was not made a curse—but as our pledge and surety, he was made a curse for us. Heb 7:22. This curse was not upon his Godhead—but upon his manhood. It was the wrath of God lying upon him; and thus he took away from believers the curse of the law, by being made a curse for them.

But though the moral law be thus far abolished, it remains as a perpetual rule to believers. Though it be not their Savior, it is their guide. Though it is not a covenant of life; yet it is a rule of life. Every Christian is bound to conform to it; and to write, as exactly as he can, after this copy. "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid." Rom 3:31. Though a Christian is not under the condemning power of the law—yet he is under its commanding power. To love God, to reverence and obey him, is a law which always binds—and will bind in heaven. This I urge against the Antinomians, who say the moral law is abrogated to believers; which, as it contradicts Scripture, so it is a key to open the door to all licentiousness. Those who will not have the law to rule them—shall never have the gospel to save them!

Having answered these questions, I shall in the next place, lay down some general rules for the right understanding of the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments. These may serve to give us some light into the sense and meaning of the commandments.

Rule 1. The commands and prohibitions of the moral law reach the heart.

(1) The COMMANDS of the moral law reach the heart. The commandments require not only outward actions—but inward affections. They require not only the outward act of obedience—but the inward affection of love. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart." Deut 6:5.

(2) The THREATS and PROHIBITIONS of the moral law reach the heart. The law of God forbids not only the act of sin—but the desire and inclination. Not only does it forbid adultery—but lusting (Matt 5:28): not only stealing—but coveting (Rom 7:7). "Man's law binds only the hands, God's law binds the heart!"

Rule 2. In the commandments there is a synecdoche—more is intended than is spoken.

(1) Where any DUTY is commanded—the contrary sin is forbidden. When we are commanded to keep the Sabbath-day holy, we are forbidden to break the Sabbath. When we are commanded to live by our labors, "Six days shall you labor," we are forbidden to live idly, and without laboring for our needs.

(2) Where any SIN is forbidden—the contrary duty is commanded. When we are forbidden to take God's name in vain, the contrary duty, that we should reverence his name, is commanded. "That you may fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord Your God." Deut 28:58. Where we are forbidden to wrong our neighbor, there the contrary duty, that we should do him all the good we can. Vindicating his name and supplying his needs, is included.

Rule 3. Where any sin is forbidden in the commandment, the occasion of it is also forbidden. Where murder is forbidden, envy and rash anger are forbidden, which may occasion it. Where adultery is forbidden, all that may lead to it is forbidden, as wanton glances of the eye, or coming into the company of a harlot. "Come not near the door of her house." Prov 5:8. He who would be free from the plague, must not come near the infected house! Under the law the Nazarite was forbidden to drink wine; nor might he eat grapes of which the wine was made.

Rule 4. Where one relation is named in the commandment, there another relation is included. Where the child is named, the father is included. Where the duty of children to parents is mentioned, the duty of parents to children is also included. Where the child is commanded to honor the parent, it is implied that the parent is also commanded to instruct, to love, and to provide for the child.

Rule 5. Where greater sins are forbidden, lesser sins are also forbidden. Though no sin in its own nature is little—yet one may be comparatively less than another. Where idolatry is forbidden, superstition is forbidden, or bringing any innovation into God's worship, which he has not appointed. As the sons of Aaron were forbidden to worship an idol—they were also forbidden to sacrifice to God with strange fire. Lev 10:1. Mixture in sacred things, is like a poison in wine, which does but debase and adulterate it. It is highly provoking to God to bring any superstitious ceremony into his worship which he has not prescribed; it is to tax God's wisdom, as if he were not wise enough to appoint the manner how he will be worshiped and served.

Rule 6. The law of God is entire. "The law is all connected." The first and second tables are knit together; piety to God, and equity to our neighbor. These two tables which God has joined together, must not be put asunder. Test a moral man by the duties of the first table, piety to God—and there you will find him negligent. Test a hypocrite by the duties of the second table, equity to his neighbor—and there you will find him tardy. If he who is strict only in the second table neglects the first; and he who is zealous only in the first, neglects the second, his heart is not right with God. The Pharisees were the highest pretenders to keeping the first table with zeal and holiness; but Christ detects their hypocrisy: "You have omitted justice, mercy and faith." Matt 23:23. They were bad in the second table; they omitted justice in their dealings; mercy in relieving the poor; and faith, or faithfulness in their promises and contracts with men. God wrote both the tables, and our obedience must set a seal to both.

Rule 7. God's law forbids not only the acting of sin in our own people—but being accessory to, or having any hand in, the sins of others.

How and in what sense may we be said to partake of, and have a hand in the sins of others?

(1) By decreeing unrighteous decrees, and imposing on others that which is unlawful. Jeroboam made the people of Israel to sin; he was accessory to their idolatry by setting up golden calves. Though David did not in his own person kill Uriah—yet because he had Uriah set in the forefront of the battle—he was accessory to Uriah's death, and his murder was laid by the prophet to David's charge. "You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword!" 2 Sam 12:9.

(2) We become accessory to the sins of others by not hindering them from sin—when it is in our power. "The failure to prevent something, when it lies within your power—amounts to ordering it." If a master of a family sees his servant break the Sabbath, or hears him swear—and does not use the power he has to suppress him—he becomes accessory to his sin. Eli, for not punishing his sons when they made the offering of the Lord to be abhorred, made himself guilty. 1 Sam 3:13, 14. He who allows an offender to pass unpunished, makes himself an offender.

(3) By counseling, abetting, or provoking others to sin. Ahithophel made himself guilty of the deed—by giving counsel to Absalom to go in and defile his father's concubines. 2 Sam 16:21. He who shall tempt or solicit another to be drunk—though he himself is sober—he is accessory to it. "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors!" Hab 2:15.

(4) By consenting to another's sin. Saul did not cast one stone at Stephen—yet the Scripture says, "Saul was consenting unto his death." Acts 8:1. Thus he had a hand in it. If several combined to murder a man, and should tell another of their intent, and he should give his consent to it, he would be guilty; for though his hand was not in the murder, his heart was in it; though he did not act it—yet he approved it, and so it became his sin.

(5) By example. "We live by example." Examples are powerful and effective. Setting a bad example occasions another to sin, and so a person becomes accessory. If the father swears, and the child by his example, learns to swear—the father is accessory to the child's sin; he taught him by his example. As there are hereditary diseases, so there are hereditary sins.

Rule 8. The last rule about the commandments is, that though we cannot, by our own strength, fulfill all these commandments, yet doing what we are able, the Lord has provided encouragement for us. There is a threefold encouragement.

(1) That though we have not ability to obey any one command—yet God has in the new covenant, promised to work that in us which he requires. "I will cause you to walk in my statutes." Ezek 36:27. God commands us to love him. Ah, how weak is our love! But God has promised to circumcise our hearts, that we may love him. Deut 30:6. He who commands us, will enable us. God commands us to turn from sin—but alas! we have not power to turn; therefore he has promised to turn us, to put his Spirit within us, and to turn the heart of stone into flesh. Ezek 36:26. There is nothing in the command—but the same is in the promise. Therefore, Christian, be not discouraged, though you have no strength of your own—God will give you strength! The iron has no power to move—but when drawn by the loadstone it can move. "You have wrought all our works in us." Isa 26:12.

(2) Though we cannot exactly fulfill the moral law—yet God for Christ's sake will mitigate the rigor of the law, and accept of something less than he requires. God in the law requires exact obedience—yet will accept of sincere obedience; he will abate something of the degree, if there is truth in the inward parts. He will see the faith, and pass by the failing. The gospel remits the severity of the moral law.

(3) Wherein our personal obedience comes short, God will be pleased to accept us in our Surety. "He has made us accepted in the Beloved." Eph 1:6. Though our obedience be imperfect—yet, through Christ our Surety—God looks upon it as perfect. That very service which God's law might condemn, his mercy is pleased to crown—by virtue of the blood of our Mediator! Having given you these rules about the commandments, I shall come next to the commandments themselves.