The Ten Commandments
by Thomas Watson
The PREFACE to the
"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:
 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
 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
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.
 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.
 There were bounds set that none might touch the
mount, which was to produce in the people reverence to the law. Exod 19:12.
 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.
 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.
 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
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."
 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.
 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
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
(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?
 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.
 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
(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
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.
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
(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.
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
(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.
(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
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
(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!
(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,  Literally; or  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.
 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
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
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
(2) The second season is, when affliction has done its
work upon them; when it has effected that which God sent it for.
 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.
 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
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
(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
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
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
(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
(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.
(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.
 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
(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
(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
(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
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
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.