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.)