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being truth; that unless you believe in Chrift, or, which is all one, except you acknowledge a God in Christ as your God, you make God a liar, who says, I am the Lord thy God; and rebel against his authority interposed in his first commandment, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4. See hence a solid ground for the assurance of faith. Why, it has the noblest ground in the world to go upon, namely, the infallible word of a God of truth, saying, I am the Lord thy God; and the best warrant in the world, namely, the first commandment of the law, requiring us to know and acknowledge him as our God. The first command requires a persuasion of the promise, with application or appropriation of it to the soul in particular : and what is that but the allurance of faith? And no doubt the law requires every duty, and particularly this in its perfection ; the consideration of which may make every one of us, yea, even the best believer upon earth, to cry out with the poor man in the gospel, « Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief;" and, with the disciples, “ Lord, increase our faith.”
5. See hence the proper bottom of true Christian morality, and an excellent test whereby to distinguish betwixt gospel and legal preaching. You see here, upon what foundation God himself inculcates the duties of the moral law: he first discovers himself as a reconciled God, a promising God in Christ, saying, I am the Lord thy God; and, upon this ground, urges the duties of the law. Now, the order of doctrine observed by God himself, ought certainly to be observed by us in our inculcating any duty of the law upon our hearers, and if this method be not observed, it is certainly legal. Neither do I think that it is enough, when we are presling any duty of the law, to come in with a direction or advice at the end, telling that all is to be done in the strength of Christ; we see here that God begins his fermon of morality to Israel, from mount Sinai, with a revelation of himself as the Lord God gracious and merciful through Chrift, I am the Lord thy God; and lays this as.the foundation of obedience to the following precepts. And I do think, that we who are ministers, when we inculcate the duties of the law upon people, we 'ought always to keep the grace of the new covenant in their eye ; for unless obedia ence to the law be influenced with this view, it cannot be the obedience of faith, and consequently cannot be acceptable : es Without faith it is impossible to please God.” It is observable, that God, in the promulgation of the law to Israel, fresca quently intermixes the grace of the new covenant with the precepts of the law, and every now and then casts it up in their view, that he was the Lord their God in Christ. So in the
fecond command, “ Thou shalt not make unto thee any gra; ven image, &c. : for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, &c. shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.” So in the third commandment, “ Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in yain,” &c. So in the fourth, “ The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God,” &c. So likewise in the fifth, « Honour thy father and thy mother : that thy days may be long upon the Jand which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Thus, I say, he makes gospel-grace, like a thread of gold, to run through the duties of the law, whereby the whole law is sweetened and beautified, his yoke made easy, and his burden light. . . .
Upon the other hand, there is an error, I fear too common among fome. Whenever they hear a minister pressing duty, immediately they conclude him to be a legal preacher, without ever considering upon what ground he doth it ; for if he press the duties of the law upon the ground of covenanted grace, he acts according to his commission, and keeps the order and me thod that God has laid ; but if this method be not followed, if the duties of the law be urged as the foundation of our claim to the privileges of the gospel, or without keeping Christ and the grace of the gospel in the eye of the sinner, as the foundation of duty, you may indeed conclude, that it is legal. Although what the man says may be truth, abstractly considered, yet the truth is not delivered in its due order and connection; and therefore has a tendency to mislead the hearer, at least to lead him into perplexing exercises. . . .,
6. See hence the truth of what the apostle afferts concerning God, 1 John iv. 16.“ God is love." Why, the promise here is a promise of love. What more can infinite love fay than what is here said, I am the Lord thy God? What can he give more than himself? And as the promise is a promise of love, so the precept is a precept of love, Thou shalt have no other gods. before me. He first makes a free grant and gift of himself to us in his covenant, and then concludes us under a law of love, whereby he makes it the first and fundamental duty of obedi. ence to him, that we shall know and acknowledge him as our own God; or in other words, that we should be happy for ever in the enjoyment of him. The most consummate happiness of the rational creature lies in what God here commands viz. in having him, and none other, as our God.. Oh how excellent is his loving kindness ! surely “ God is love,” it is the regnant perfection of his nature. And ( how reasonable is it that we (hould love the Lord OUR GOD with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind! And O how unreasonable is the enmity of the
hear heart against God! Do we thus requite a God of love? Well may the Lord say to us, as he did to Ifrael, “ O my people what have I done unto thee, and wherein have I wearied thed? testify against me.”
7. See hence what it is that makes the yoke of obedience easy, and the burden thereof light to a believer. Whence is it that the believer delights in the law after the inward man? why doth he rejoice to work righteoufness? Why, he remembers God in his ways; he remembers that the Lawgiver is none other than “ the Lord his God and Redeemer ;" and therefore he keeps all his commandments with pleasure ; therefore he “ runs, and doth not weary; walks, and doth not faint.” He views God, not as an enemy, not as an avenging Judge, but as his own God in Christ ; he views him in Immanuel, as a God with him, not a God against him; and this is like oil to his chariot wheels, which makes him run without wearying. On the other hand, we may see here, what it is that makes the duties of the law an insupportable yoke and burden to hypocrites and Christless professors, who tire in the duties of obedience before they be well set out ; why, they do not begin their obedience where God begins his law, or they do not set their obedience upon the same foundation of gospel-grace that God has set his law upon; they do not begin with acting faith on the covenant, or with receiving a God in Christ as their God by virtue of the covenant grant and promise: and if folk do not begin here where God begins, their blossoms cannot miss to wither and come to nought. . 8. See hence the errors of those who imagine, that it was a covenant of works which God entered into with Israel at mount Sinai. Indeed, if the promise had followed after the commandments of the law; and if God had said, Keep these commandments, and, upon your so doing, I will be the Lord your God; in this case it had been a pure covenant of works : whether perfect or fincere obedience had been the condition, it is all one; still the reward would have been in a way of pactional debt, as in the first covenant. But, as you heard, the order of the covenant of works, or the connection betwixt the precept and promise, as it was laid in that covenant, is now inverted : for now God first promises, in a way of sovereign grace, to be the Lord our God and Redeemer, which is the substance and sum of the new covenant ; and having made fuch a grant of grace, to be received by faith, without, or before any works of obedience can be performed by us, he immediately subjoins the law of nature in ten words, shewing us “ what is good, and what the Lord our God requires of us," not as a condirion of his own gracious grant, but as a teftimony of our love and gratitude to him, who promises, of his free and fovereign grace, to be the Lord our God. So that, I fay, it was God's covenant of grace that was promulgate at mount Sinai, and the law was added to it because of transgression, and graffed upon it as a rule of obedience. And whatever covenants or engagements to duty we read of, whether national or personal, fill they went upon the foundation of grace laid in God's covenant of grace ; and in so far as Israel, or any else, go off from this foundation in their engagements to duty, in fo far they pervert the design of the promise and law annexed to it, and turn back to a covenant of works. So much for Information.
A second use shall be of Trial. And that which I would hate you to try is, Whether, you have this day obeyed the first commandment of the moral law ? Did you ever take or receive JEHOVAH, a God in Chrift, as your own God, by virtue of the covenant promise, I am the Lord your God ?: Why, may some be ready to say, that is a strange question ; ever fince we had the exercise of reason, or could repeat the first commandment, we have been endeavouring to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God, and to worship and glorify him accordingly. I confess that it is an easy matter to say this with the mouth ; but the question is, If the heart has said it in a way of believing, setting to' the seal to the veracity of the Promiser? “ With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” Rom. X. 10. : fuft the heart believes it, because God has said it; and then the tongue follows the heart. Can thou turn inward, and entertain thyfelf with David's foliloquy, Psal. xvi. 2. “ O my foul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord ?"
In order to a discovery of the hypocrite or presumptuous believer, here I would have it carefully observed, that the first commandment, which is the correlate of the promise, has both a positive and a negative part. The positive part is, To know and acknowledge the Lord as the only true God, and our God; the negative part is, To have no cther gods before him. Now, the hypocrite, or presumptuous person, although he outwardly profefses to obey the positive part; or to acknowledge. JEHOVAH as his God in Chrift; yet as lie; never doth this really with his heart, so he shifts the negative part of the precept, for fecretly he worships and acknowledges fome other god : there is still some idol of jealousy lies hid among the rotten stuff of his de praved heart, which gets God's room and God's throne in his soul; much like the people transplanted by the king of Affyrias into Samaria, concerning whom it is said, 2 Kings xvii. 33. “ They feared the Lord, and served their own gods." And
therefore, I say, still the question remains to be answered, Do you really, and from the heart, obey the first commandment ? Have you any other gods before king, who says, I am the Lord thy God? Is there any idol or lust that gets the Lora's place in thy heart.
í lhall, for your trial, take notice of some idols or false gods, which are worshipped and served by many, while they profess to have no other God but JEHOVAH alone. Only, before I proceed, I would have it considered, that there is a twofold idolatry; one gross and corporeal, when, by the external actions of the body, such as bowing, prostration, or the like, men do homage unto itocks or stones, dead and dumb idols : I hope I have none such to do with at present. But there is a more refined and spiritual idolatry, which I fear is more common in the viGble church than many are aware of; and that is, women the acts of the heart and mind, such as, truit, love, hope, fear, joy, delight, desire, wherein the essence of soul-worship doth consift, are alienated from God, and placed upon any thing befides him. In such a cafe, one neither believes the promise, nor obeys the precept now before us. Why, because whatever he pretends, yet still he hath some other god before him who is the only living and true God.
This premised, I would have you consider, that there are two grand idols worshipped and served by the generality of the world, yea, of the vilble church, viz. felf, and the world.
1. I say, self is the great Diana, which all the world worshippeth, excepting a very few whom God has called out of the world. Every man, while in a natural state, makes a god of himself. Hence it is that the principal batteries of the gospel are mounted against this idol. The very first lesson in the school of Christianity, which is materially the same with the first precept of the moral law, is, “ Let a man deny himself;" let him renounce self as his god, that he may have no other gods before me, who am God manifested in the flesh.
This idol of self is pregnant with a numerous brood of lefser or subordinate idols. Some make a god of their own under. standings; “ for vain man would be wise, though he be born as the wild ass's colt.” What cursed pride is it in some, even in our own bowels, that they will needs exalt their own depraved reason above the wisdom of God, making it the standard of revelation, as if nothing were to be received or believed, tut what corrupted reason, which is nonplufled by the least work Of nature, is able to comprehend? Is not this a giving that glory to our own understanding which is due untoan infinitely wise God? If ever we be believers indeed, reason muit quit the