« AnteriorContinuar »
mens affections, without possessing their minds with the due reasons of the things treated about, it proves mostly evanid and that justly.
2. That the exhortation itself be grave and weighty. Duty ought to be cloathed with words of wisdon, such as may not by their weakness, unfitness, uncomeliness, betray the matter intended, and expose it to contempt or scorn.
Hence the apostle requires a singular ability unto the duty of admonition, Rom. xv. 14. “ Filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another."
3. That the love, care and compassion of them who manage such exhortations and admonitions be in them made to appear. Prejudices are the bane and ruin of mutual warnings. And these nothing can remove but a demonstration of love, tenderness, and compassion, acting themselves in them. Morose, peevish, wrathful admonitions, as they bring guilt upon the admonisher, so they seldom free the admonished from any. This course therefore, the condition of them that are tempted, who are never in more danger, than when they find not a necessity of frequent warnings and exhortations, and the duty of those who watch for the good of the souls of men, require to be diligently attended un
Secondly, The manner of the introduction of the persuasive example proposed, is to be considered, “ As saith the Holy Ghost.” The words are the words of the psalmist, but are here ascribed unto the Holy Ghost. Our apostle, as other divine writers of the New Testament, useth his liberty in this matter : sometimes they ascribe the words they cite out of the Old Tes. tament unto the penmen of them; as to Moses, David, Isaiahı, Jeremiah, and the like, Luke xxiv. 27. Mat. ii. 17. iv. 14. John xii. 41. Acts ii. 25. Sometimes to the books wherein they are written, “ As it is written in the book of the Psalms,” Acts i. 20. And sometimes they ascribe them unto the principal author, namely the Holy Ghost, as in this place. Now as they used their liberty herein, so it is not to be supposed that they fixed on any particular expression, without some especial reason for it. And the ascribing of the words of the psalmist in this place im. mediately unto the Holy Ghost, by whom he was inspired and · acted, seems to have been to remind the Hebrews directly of his authority. His intention from the words was, to press a practical duty upon them. In reference unto such duties the mind ought to be immediately inflamed by the authority of him that requires it. Consider, saith he, that these are the words of the Holy Ghost; that is, of God himself, so that you may submit yourselves to his authority. Besides, the apostle intends to mani. fest that those words have respect unto the times of the gospel, and in an especial manner unto that season of it which was then
passing over the Hebrews. He therefore minds them that they were given out by the spirit of prophecy, so that the concernments of the church in all ages must lie in them. The Holy Ghost saith, that is, as he spake to them of old in and by David, as it is expressed chap. iv. 7. So he continues to speak them unto us in the Scripture, which is not only his word, but his voice, his speaking, living and powerful voice for so we may comprise both senses before mentioned.
Obs. III. Exhortations unto duty ought to be well-founded, to be built on a stable foundation, and to be resolved into an authority, which may influence the consciences of them to whom they do belong.-Without this, they will be weak and enervous ; especially if the duties exhorted unto be difficult, burdensome, or any way grievous. Authority is the formal reason of duty. When God gave out his law of commandments, he prefaced it with a signification of his sovereign authority over the people : “ I am the Lord thy God.” And this is our duty in giving out exhortations and commands from him. The engagement of his authority in them, is to be manifested. «Teach men,” saith our Saviour, “ to do and observe whatsoever I command,” Matt. xxviii. 20. His commands are to be proposed to them, and his authority in them to be applied unto their souls and consciences. To exhort men in the things of God, and to say this or that man saith so, be he the pope or who he will, is of no use or efficacy. That which you are to attend unto, is what the Holy Ghost saith, whose authority the souls of men are every way bound to obey.
Obs. IV. Whatever was given by inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and is recorded in the Scripture for the use of the church, he continues therein to speak it to us, unto this day. As he lives for ever, so he continues to speak for ever ; that is, whilst his voice or word shall be of use to the church. As the Holy Ghost says, that is, speaks now unto us; and where doth he speak it ? in the ninety-fifth Psalm : there he says it, or speaks it unto us. Many men have invented several ways to lessen the authority of the Scripture; and few are willing to acknowledge an immediate speaking of God unto them therein. Various pretences are used to subduct the consciences of men from a sense of his authority in it. But whatever authority, efficacy or power, the word of God was accompanied withal, whether to evidence itself so to be, or otherwise to affect the minds of men unto obedience when it was first spoken by the Holy Ghost, the same it retains now it is recorded in Scripture, seeing the same Holy Ghost yet continues to speak therein.
Thirdly, There is in the word the matter of the exhortation intended that which it aims at and intends. This in general is obedience unto God, answerable unto the revelation which he makes of himself and his will unto us. And this is,
First, Expressed in a supposition including a positive assertion of it, “ If you will hear his voice.” It is your duty so to do, and this is that which you are exhorted unto.
The voice of God is ordinarily the word of his command, the voice or sigy fication of his will, which is the rule of all our duty or obedience. 2. In this place, as commonly elsewhere, not the word of command in general is intended, but an especial call or voice of God in reference unto some especial duty, at some especial season. Such was the voice of God to the people in the wilderness at the giving of the law, which the people heard and saw the effects of. Hence is the command translated to the voice of God, in giving out the gospel by the ministry of his Son Jesus Christ. From the former is the occasion of the words taken in the psalm, and to the latter is the application of it made by the apostle. 3. The psalmist speaks to the people, as if the voice of God were then sounding in their ears. For that which was once the voice of God unto the church, being recorded in the Scripture, continues still to be so. That is, it is not only materially his revealed will and command, but it is accompanied with that special impression of his authority which it was at first attested withal. And on this ground all the miracles wherewith the word of old was confirmed, are of the same validity and efficacy towards us, as they were towards them that saw them; namely, because of the sacredness of the means whereby they are communicated to us.
This then is the object of the duty exhorted unto, the voice of God, which, as it is used by the apostle, is extended virtually and consequentially to the whole doctrine of the gospel, but with especial respect to the revelation of it by Christ Jesus. As in the psalm it regards the whole doctrine of the law, but with especial regard unto the delivery of it to Moses on Mount Sinai. The act exercised about it is hearing, “ If you will hear his voice." The meaning of this word hath been before explained : it is an act of the whole soul, in understanding, choosing and resolving to do the will of God declared by his voice, that is intended. And this further appears from the ensuing charge, If you will hear, harden not your hearts ;" that is, If you think meet to obey the voice of God, if you will choose so to do, take heed of that which would certainly be an hindrance thereof. Thus dealeth the apostle with the Hebrews. And herein teacheth us, that
Obs. V. The formal reason of all our obedience consists in its relation to the voice or authority of God. So therefore doth the apostle express it, so is it declared in the whole Scripture. If we do the things that are commanded, but not with respect to the authority of God, by whom they are commanded, what we so do is not obedience, properly so called. It hath the matter of obe. dience in it, but the formal reason of it, that which should render it properly so, which is the life and soul of it, it hath not. What is so done is but the carcass of duty, no way acceptable unto God. God is to be regarded as our sovereign Lord and only Lawgiver in all that we have to do with him. Hereby are our souls to be influenced unto duty in general, and unto every especial duty in particular. This reason are we to render to our selves and others, of all the acts of our obedience. If it be asked, why we do such or such a thing: we answer, Because we must obey the voice of God. And many advantages we have by a constant attendance unto the authority of God in all that we do in bis worship and service. For, 1. This will keep us unto the due rule and compass of duty, whilst we are steered in all that we do hereby. We cannot undertake or perform any thing as a duty towards God which is not so, and which therefore is rejected by him, where he saith, “ Who hath required these things at your hands.” This is no small advantage in the course of our obedience. We see many taking a great deal of pains in the performances of such duties, as being not appointed of God, are neither accepted with him, nor will ever turn unto any good account unto their own souls. Had they kept upon their consciences a due sense of the authority of God, so as to do nothing but with respect thereunto, they might have been freed from their labouring in the fire, where all must perisli, Mic. vi. 7-9. Such are most of the works wherein the Papists boast. 2. This also will not suffer us to omit any thing that God requires of us. Men are apt to divide and choose in the commands of God, to take and leave as it seems good unto them, or as serves their present occasion and condition. But this also is inconsistent with the nature of obedience, allowing the formal reason of it to con. sist in a due respect unto the voice of God. For this extends to all that is so, and only to what is so. So James informs us, that all our obedience respects the authority of the Lawgiver, whence an universality of obedience to all his commands doth necessarily ensue. Nor doth the nature of any particular sin consist so much in respect to this or that particular precept of the law, which is transgressed or violated by it, as in a contempt of the Lawgiver himself; whence every sin becomes a transgression of the whole law, James ii. 9-11. 3. This will strengthen and fortify the soul against all dangers, difficulties, and temptations that oppose it in the way of its obedience. The mind that is duly affected with a sense of the authority of God in what it is to do, will not be territa monstris. It will not be frightened or deterred by any thing that lies in its way. It will have a readiness wherewith to answer all objections, and oppose all contradictions. And this
sense of the authority of God, requiring our obedience, is no less a gracious effect of the Spirit, than is that freedom, and cheerfulness, and alacrity of mind, which in these things we receive from him.
Obs. VI. Every thing in the commands of God, relating to the manner of giving them out, and communicating them unto us, is to be retained in our minds, and considered as present unto us. The psalmist, after so long a season as the apostle speaks, calls the people to hear the voice of God, as it sounded on Mount Sinai, at the giving of the law. Not only the law itself, and the authosity of God therein, but the manner also of its delivery by the great and terrible voice of God, is to be regarded, as if God did still continue so to speak unto us.
So also is it in respect of the gospel. In the first revelation of it, God spake immediately in the Son; and a reverence of that speaking of God in Christ, of his voice in and by him, are we continually to maintain in our hearts. So in the dispensation of the gospel, he continues yet to speak from heaven, Heb. xii. 25. It is his voice and word unto us, no less than it was when in his own person he spake on the earth. And God being thus both in his commands, and in the manner of his giving them out, rendered present unto us by faith, we shall receive a great incitation unto obedience thereby.
Obs. VII. Consideration and choice are a stable and permanent foundation of obedience. The command of God is here
proposed unto the people, to their understanding to consider it, to their wills to choose and embrace it : « If you will hear his voice.” Consider all things, all concerns of this matter, whose command it is, in what manner given, what is the matter of it, and what are its ends, and what is our own concern in all this. Men that are engaged into some course of obedience or profession, as it were by chance, or by their minds being merely pre-occupied by education or custom, will leave it by chance, or a powerful diversion at any time. Those who are only compelled unto it by some pungent galling convictions, so that they yield obedience, not because they like it, or choose it, but because they dare not do otherwise, do assuredly lose all respect unto it, as their convictions do by any means wear off or decay.
A deliberate choice of the ways of God upon a due consideration of all their concerns, is that which unchangeably fixeth the soul unto obedience. For the strongest obligations that are unto it, ought to be in our own wills. And it is the most eminent effect of the grace of Christ, to make his people willing in the day of his power, nor is any other obedience acceptable with God, Rom. xii. 1.
Secondly, The apostle carries on, and enforceth his exhortation unto obedience, in the words of the psalmist, by a caution against, or prohibition of the contrary, or that which would ut