The Precepts of the Word of God

by J. C. Philpot

The place of the precept in the HEART and LIFE of the child of God.

We have said so much on its place in the heart, as attended with light, life, liberty, and love, that we should only fall into wearisome repetition were we to go over that ground again. If the precept has no place in our heart, it is to us at present but a dead letter, and will either be legalized or neglected.

But if it has a place in our heart it will have a place in our life. The heart is the first seat of all obedience—"But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you;" (Romans 6:17;) "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe." (1 Thess. 2:13.) Now, from this obedience of heart, this effectual working of the word of God in those that believe, spring all the fruits of practical godliness. The word of his grace, coming into the heart with a divine power, has a cleansing, purifying efficacy. "Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." (John 15:3.) But the effect of this is to produce an abiding in Christ.

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abides in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without me you can do nothing. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples." (John 15:4,5,7,8.) We thus see that Christ is the source of all fruitfulness, and that only as we abide in him can we bring forth fruit to his praise. But we abide in him by his words abiding in us, for they are spirit and life." (John 6:63.) He himself is our life, (John 16:6; Col. 3:4,) and he has most graciously promised, "Because I live you shall live also." (John 14:19.) As our life, he is the life of the precept as well as the life of the promise, for only as he lives in us can we live by the faith of him, (Gal. 2:20,) whether it be to believe or to obey, to do or to suffer, to stand or to walk, to fight or to overcome.

Sadly would we miss the mark, grievously would we mistake the way, should we lay on the creature a hair's breadth of will or power. "Without me you can do nothing," finds a responsive echo in every believing heart. And yet he does work in his people both to will and to do of his good pleasure; and, by the gentle constraints of his love, enables them not to live to themselves but to him who died for them and rose again, (Phil. 2:13; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15.) His word has a place in their heart, and where this is the case it has an influence over their life. It separates them from the world and the spirit of it; makes and keeps their consciences alive and tender in the fear of God; produces uprightness and integrity of conduct; extends its influence to the various relationships of life; subdues pride, covetousness, selfishness, and contentiousness; softens and meekens the spirit; gives tender feelings and gracious affections; fosters prayer, meditation, and spirituality of mind; and makes itself manifest in the general life, walk, and conversation, that there is a grace in the precept as well as a grace in the promise, and that there is a glorifying God in our body and in our spirit which are God's. (1 Cor. 6:20.)

Our task is done. We have attempted, however weakly and imperfectly, to unfold the spiritual nature of the precepts of the New Testament as a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord graciously pardon all that he has seen amiss in our interpretation of his mind and will; and, so far as it is agreeable to his sovereign good pleasure, may he commend to the conscience and apply to the heart of our readers his precious truth, that, like his own inspired Scripture of which it is an exposition, it may be "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16.)