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Therefore, I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.—Ver. 128.
IN this verse a child of God is set forth by two marks:—
1. His approbation and esteem of the law of God in all the parts and points thereof, I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right.
2. His hatred of all sin as contrary thereunto, and I hate every false way: the one as the effect of the other.
First, In the first branch, take notice of—(1.) The illative particle, therefore. (2.) His respect to the word, I esteem thy precepts to be right. In the Septuagint it is πρὸς πάσας τὰς ἐντολάς σου κατωρθούμην, I was directed or set right unto all thy laws. But it maketh no difference in effect from our translation; for they that esteem the law will embrace and practise it. (3.) The extent and universality of this respect: there is a double universal particle, all thy precepts concerning all things; the general drift of them, and every particular matter and circumstance that falleth under this law, it is all right; I approve of whatsoever thou commandest, without any reservation and exception; all, even all, have I approved.
1. Something might be observed from the illative particle: it is inferred from their making void of God’s law.
Doct. In times of defection, when others slight, contemn, and for sake the ways of God, we should approve and esteem them the more.
The reasons are—
1. To make amends for the contempt of others: 2 Peter iv. 14, ‘On their parts he is evil spoken of; on your part glorified.’ Let not God want his glory; if he be dishonoured by their sins, he should be the more honoured by your obedience. It concerneth us to look that God be no loser. As the sea, what it loseth in one place, it gaineth in another; or as a river, what it loseth in breadth, and is pent within narrow channels, it gets in depth; so you should give him the more respect the more it is denied him by others; the sincere professors of the name of God should be the more earnest.
2. To show that we do not choose the ways of God upon foreign reasons, as public countenance and consent. Many men owe their religion not to grace, but to the favour of the times; it is in fashion; they may profess it at a cheap rate, because none contradict it. Indeed it showeth they are extremely bad, that are bad when they may be good without any loss to themselves; but it doth not show they are good, that are only good in good times. Dead fish swim with the stream. They do not build upon the rock, but set up a shed leaning to another man’s house, which costs them nothing; carried with a multitude, are not able to go alone in a good way; if they be religious, it is for others’ sakes. Then is integrity discovered when persons dare be good in bad times, as Noah was said to be an upright man, because he was perfect in his generation: Gen. vi. 9, ‘When all flesh had corrupted their way.’ And so it is said, Job vii. 9, ‘The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger;’ that is, when there are discouragements and oppressions, as a resolved traveller holdeth on his journey, whether he meeteth with fair way or foul, good weather or bad.
3. There is an antiperistasis in grace as well as nature. Every quality, when it is pent up, is the stronger. Stars shine brightest in the darkest night. Fountain-water is hottest in winter, when the heat is pent up. In bad times good men are best; wicked men’s badness exerciseth and increaseth good men’s graces. The more odious sin appeareth in them, the more grace is strengthened in the saints; their looseness maketh you strict; their vanity and carelessness maketh you serious; their intemperance maketh you sober; their worldliness and sensuality maketh you spiritual; as they are instances of the cursed vigour of nature, you are instances of the sacred power of grace, Phil. ii. 15, shining as lights in the world ‘in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation;’ to be eminently holy among a company of profane, godless, atheistical spirits, showing forth the lovely beauty of holiness.
4. To show the difference between the people of God and others; and this is a fruit of God’s eternal choice. God hath made a difference in the purposes of his grace, and they discover the difference in the course of their conversations: John xvii. 25, ‘The world hath not known thee, but these have known thee, that thou hast sent me, and hast chosen them out of the world.’ The opposite ignorance and obstinacy of the world showeth their acknowledgment of Christ was of more value and acceptation. When the world neither knew nor believed on him, but rather opposed and persecuted him, they owned Christ, and so walked in a countermotion to the times.
5. To defeat the enemies’ purpose, which is to hinder the success of the gospel, and destroy all affection and respect to the word and ways of God, and that the service of God should fall to the ground; as we hold a staff the faster, when one would wrest it out of our hands: Titus i. 9, ‘Holding fast the faithful word.’ The pastor of the church should be good at holding and drawing, as the word signifieth; so people’s zeal should be the more kindled in the worst times. God hath a number that do fear him; Christ is never a king without subjects, nor a head without a church; he ruleth in the midst of his enemies, Ps. cx. 1; therefore he hath some to rule over. Where Satan’s throne is, there he hath some to confess his name. Elijah thought himself left alone, yet then God had reserved to himself seven thousand that had not bowed the knee to Baal.
Use. It is very seasonable for us in these times to mind this; therefore—
1. That we may increase in practical godliness. Now wickedness is broken loose and the law is made void, this should not damp our zeal, but quicken it. You should walk with God, as Noah and David did, in the worst of times: yea, the badness of the age you live in should make you the more wise, more circumspect, more humble, more heavenly; as fire burneth hottest in the coldest weather. Study to serve God in thy generation. A man that is not good in the age he liveth in, would never be good. A lily will thrive in a wilderness, and a brier is but a brier though it grow in paradise. Their fury in sin should warn you of your duty to God. Shall a lust prevail more with them to damn themselves, than the love of God and the hope of salvation with you? shall they act more regularly to their ends? What zeal and earnestness have they in their course, and how open and bold-faced in sin! We read that Pambo wept when he saw a woman dressing herself curiously to please her wanton lover, to see her take so much pains to undo her soul, and that he had not been so careful to please God, and provide things honest in the sight of God, as she to please herself.
2. They are set up as warnings to us, as a beacon on fire warneth all the country to be in arms. You see what it is to give way to the beginnings of sin, not to be under the blessed conduct of God’s Spirit. Some are notoriously wicked, judicially given up to be more visibly under the dominion of sin, that others may take warning how they come into that woful slavery: Phil. iii. 19, 20, ‘For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies to the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, who glory in their shame, who mind earthly things; but our conversation is in heaven.’
3. It should make us fly to God for grace when the whole world lieth in wickedness: Isa. vi. 5, ‘I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.’ It is hard to converse with defiled ones and not be defiled, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world: Ps. cvi. 35, ‘They were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.’ The contagion of sin overspreads presently, as a man by touching that which was unclean became unclean. We easily catch a sickness from others, but we cannot convey our health to them.
Use 2. Teacheth us to keep up our profession even in lesser truths: ‘I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things.’ When men would wrangle us out of our duty, we are to be πιστοὶ ἐν ὀλίγῳ, faithful in a little. Great matters depend on little things. We are tried, ἐν τῇ παρουσῃ ἀληθείᾳ, 2 Peter i. 12, by the ‘present truths,’ whether we will own the ways of God: Rev. xiv. 13, ‘Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord,’ or for the Lord, ‘from henceforth, yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labour.’ Why ‘from henceforth?’ Why! before the sufferings of Christians were from heathens and professed enemies, and they were acknowledged blessed as dying for the Lord. But now, when antichrist and false Christians came up, they did pretend to be for Christ, and friends to him, and this might be a discouragement to them in their suffering; but saith the Holy Ghost, ‘From henceforth blessed are they which die for the Lord,’ when pseudo-Christians begin to come up, and persecute the heavenly Christians. It is as blessed a thing to suffer under pseudo-Christians and antichristianism as it was to suffer under heathens and pagans, professed enemies to Christianity. I speak of this, because the orthodoxy of the world is usually an age too short. In things publicly received, it is easy to be right Christ is forced to gain upon the world by inches. A man may acknowledge the Trinity, the satisfaction of Christ, among Papists; but it is exceeding praiseworthy to own Christ when others scorn and reject him. The world will allow us to esteem the ways of God in some lesser things, that are out of controversy and are not maligned; but this esteem must have that extent as becometh the people of God, to have a hearty esteem of all the precepts of God, and all things contained therein.
Secondly, Let me come to his respect to the ways of God; and from his respect, with the extent, I shall observe this doctrine:—
Doct. That it becometh the people of God to have a practical heart-engaging esteem of all the precepts of God, and all things contained therein.
Let me show you what is this esteem the children of God have for his precepts.
1. There is something implied and presupposed.
2. Wherein it doth formally consist.
3. The qualifications of a right and saving esteem of the ways of God.
1. There is something implied and presupposed before we can come to esteem the precepts of God. As—
[1.] Knowledge and a right discerning. This is necessary, partly that a man may be able to make a distinction between good and evil, otherwise he cannot esteem the good and eschew the evil, for ‘without knowledge the heart is not good,’ Prov. xix. 2. If we should stumble blindfold upon a good way, we are not the more accepted with God, nor advantaged in our spiritual course. The clearer our light, the warmer our love. The more clear and; certain apprehension we have of spiritual things, our faith is more steadfast, love more vehement, joy more sound, hope more constant, patience more sublime, our pursuit of true happiness more earnest. And partly because a man cannot esteem that which he knoweth not. The will being caeca potentia, blind in itself, followeth the direction and guidance of the understanding. The ignorance of the nature and necessity of holiness is the cause of the neglect of it: John iv. 10, ‘If thou knewest the gift,’ &c. Many condemn good for evil, take evil for good, boldly rush into sin, reject the ways of God for want of knowledge. But then it is spiritual illumination that begets estimation, 1 Cor. ii. 14. The truth and worth of spiritual things must be seen by a spiritual eye. When the Spirit enlighteneth a man, he beginneth to see that which he knew not before, to see things in another manner.
[2.] Advertency, or application of the mind to the object or things esteemed; that he seriously consider the matter, and what it is best to do; it is not a sudden, rash undertaking. The scripture speaketh of ‘applying our hearts to wisdom,’ Ps. xc. 12; and Prov. ii. 2, ‘Apply thy heart to understanding;’ Prov. xxiii. 12, ‘Apply thine heart to instruction, and thine ears to the ways of knowledge.’ Make it your business seriously to consider things that differ. But then—
2. Wherein lies this esteem, or wherein doth it formally consist? Esteem is an approbation of the will, or a hearty love. There is the approbation of the understanding, and the approbation of the will. The approbation of the understanding is a naked sense, or an acknowledgment of what is good: Rom. ii. 18, ‘Thou knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent.’ There is an excellency in holiness that winneth esteem, even there where it is not embraced. All convinced men see the evil of sin, and are half of the mind to quit it; they approve the law which they violate by a bare naked approbation. But then there is the approbation of the heart or will; there is love and liking in it, and this is called esteem. This is seen in two things—consent and choice: consent, to take this law for our rule; and choice, whatever temptation we have to the contrary. Men choose what they highly esteem. In short, it is such an approbation as doth engage affection, such an affection as doth engage practice. Esteem is the fruit of love.
[1.] There is a consenting to the law that it is good, Rom. vii. 16. There is a difference between assent and consent. A man may assent to the truth and goodness of the law that doth not consent to the goodness of it; as the devils assent to the truth of God’s being, that do not consent to take him for their portion, James ii. 19. Therefore, besides the advertency of the understanding, there is the consent or approbation of the will. Paul speaketh good words of the law: Rom. vii. 12, ‘The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, just, and good,’ νόμος and ἐντολὴ—the law in general, and that commandment which wrought such tragical effects in his heart, that rifled all his confidence and hopes, and left him wounded with the sense of sin; it is holy in teaching duty to God, just in prescribing duties to our neighbour, good in respect to ourselves; a law becoming God to give and us to receive, suitable and profitable. Thus should we approve and like the law of God.
[2.] Choice, whatever temptation we have to the contrary; a preferring or prevailing love, a heart-engaging approbation, that doth prevailingly determine the soul to the ways of God. Non differunt re consensus et electio, saith Aquinas, sed ratione tantum, ut consensus dicatur, secundum quod placet ad agendum; electio autem secundum quod praefertur his quae non placent—consent to the law and choice of the law are all one and the same act, distinguished by divers respects and considerations. It is called consent to the law, as it approveth of what the law adviseth; and it is called choice or esteem, as it preferreth the law and our obedience to it above other things. It is actualis praelatio unius rei prae altera, a preferring one thing above another.
Thirdly, I come to the properties or qualifications of this esteem.
1. It is not a simple, but comparative approbation. There is a twofold act of judgment—the first act and the second. The first act is that whereby I distinguish good from evil, and pronounce the one to be embraced, the other eschewed; approve the one, disapprove the other. But there is a comparative approbation; that is, that which the understanding judgeth best, all circumstances considered, better than all other things that can be represented. This is the proper notion of esteem: Heb. xi. 26, ‘Esteeming the reproach of Christ,’ &c. We approve of many things simply, and in the first act, which we disallow in the second, when we consider them as invested with some difficulty and unpleasantness, or overpoised with contrary desires, when we compare them with the pleasure and profit which we must forsake; it consents to walk in the ways of God, as Orpah will follow Naomi into the land of Israel, if she may do it without inconveniency, Ruth i. 14. The young man esteemed salvation worthy to be inquired after, Mark x. 20, but is loath to forego his earthly possessions to purchase that inheritance. When the judgment that we make of the thing simply considered in itself, and of the thing as considered with all circumstances, as it cometh in comparison with other things that must be endured or foregone.
2. There is a judgment of general estimation, and a judgment of particular application. By the one I bind duty upon others; by the other I engage my own heart, as the expression is, Jer. xxx. 21, ‘Who is he that engageth his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord;’ to engage his heart to take God for his portion. An instance we have in David: Ps. lxxiii. 28, ‘But it is good for me to draw near to God.’ I may approve many things as good, for which I have no appetite my self. Many will yield that it is good to serve God that cannot work, or do not engage their heart to it. Many approve piety in the general; it is good to be religious, to live a holy life; but when it cometh to our own case, when we are to abstain from this or that sin, we draw back. Many know what things are more excellent, but do not practise or embrace them; commend those that are religious, but do not imitate them. Acts v. 13, the people highly esteemed the Christians, but yet would not become Christians themselves: Ps. xlviii. 14, ‘This God is our God for ever and ever.’ Many a wicked man judgeth it best for him to continue his evil courses, and thinketh religion is good for other men, but it is not good for him; but God’s children are of another mind.
3. It is not a slight and superficial esteem, but such as is deep and solid: Mat. xiii. 20, ‘He heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it.’ It is a blessed thing to hear of the pardon of sin, Heb. vi. 5, to taste of the good word of God, and of the powers of the world to come; as they that cheapen wines taste, though they do not go through with the bargain; some inclination of heart, half a mind to be thoroughly godly and religious: John v. 35, ‘They rejoiced in his light for a season.’ They were much taken with John for a while, and the novelty and excellency of his doctrine. But when is this esteem deep and solid? It may be known—(1.) By the root of it; (2.) The ground and formal object of it; (3.) The manner or way how we come by it.
[1.] The root of it When the root of this esteem is a vital principle of grace: Mat. xiii. 21, ‘He hath not root in himself.’ The word is not ingrafted, James i. 21. The people had a good inclination: ‘All that the Lord hath spoken, we will do,’ Deut. v. 29. But, ‘Oh! that there were such an heart in them, that ‘they would fear me and keep all my commandments always,’ &c. They had a mind to do well; but where faith, fear, and love are not planted, there may be some stirrings of conscience, but not a full purpose of heart. There is the approbation of an awakened and enlightened conscience, and the approbation of a renewed heart. A convinced man approveth, and a converted man approveth, but in a different manner. The one is but a flash, like fire in straw, the other hath a durable affection.
[2.] When the ground and formal object of it is not a temporal, natural, or carnal motive, but the moral goodness of the law; because it is the pure and holy word and will of God, who is the lawgiver, whose authority is absolute. There may be carnal motives to incline us to esteem the word, as the novelty of John’s doctrine: John v. 35, ‘They rejoiced in his light for a season;’ delight to hear a plausible and rational discourse, as Ezekiel’s hearers, Ezek. xxxiii. 32, ‘And lo thou art to them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, that can play well upon an instrument; for they hear thy words, but do them not.’ Or carnal motives, as they Gen. xxxiv. 22, 23, ‘Herein will the men consent to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised. Shall not their cattle and their substance be ours? Only let us consent unto them,’ &c. And so temporal interests. Religion hath a portion for which it is courted. The consent of many to the law is the same which Mahometans have to the Alkoran; education in it, ancestors embracing of it, the countenance of the law, the custom of the country, &c.
[3.] The manner or way how we come by it, by much prayer and serious deliberation. Some by chance are surprised and affected with a good motion, suddenly good, but habitually bad; they will in all haste become religious, but, alas! this estimation or approbation of God’s ways is entertained but for a time, but afterwards vanisheth and cometh to nothing. There must be a clear distinct knowledge of the excellency of God’s ways: otherwise in a fit, or in a good mood, we choose that which is good; but the interest in evil not being renounced in heart, it causeth an easy retreat into the former sinful course.
4. It must be such an esteem as hath a lively and effectual influence upon our hearts and ways. There is a liking that only produceth a velleity and wish, and doth not engage the soul to prosecute the things willed, or forsake the things nilled; but there is such an effectual liking and esteem as will produce a constant, habitual willingness, that will have the authority of a principle, and hath a powerful command over the whole soul, to set it a-working to do the will of God, and will admit of no contradiction by contrary desires, but maketh us act with life, power, and earnestness. Cold and inconstant wishes produce no fruit in the heart. The general course of most men’s lives is as if they had no liking to the law of God. It may be they may dislike and sacrifice some of their weaker lusts and smaller interests, which they can well spare, but corruption doth ordinarily bear sway in their hearts and lives. In the text it is, ‘I esteem all thy precepts, -and hate every false way.’ It is true, a man that approveth the law is not wholly freed from sin. There are sins of ordinary infirmity, that cleave to us while we are in the world, yea, taint our best actions: Isa. lxiv. 6, ‘But we are all as an unclean thing, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.’ And sometimes, though there be a principle of grace, a child of God may be overborne by the violence of a temptation, carried into presumptuous sins, which may make strange havoc in the soul. David prayeth, Ps. xix. 14, that God would keep him from presumptuous sins; but for the most part the children of God are influenced by their consent and esteem of the law of God. And the renewed part for the generality hath the upper hand, and prevaileth, and the flesh is weakened; as the house of David grew stronger and stronger, 2 Sam. iii. 1, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker.
5. It must be a universal, not partial esteem: ‘I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right;’ Ps. cxix. 6, ‘When I have respect to all thy commandments;’ Luke i. 6, ‘Zachary and Elizabeth walked in all the commandments and ordinances of God blameless;’ Acts iii. 22, ‘Him shall you hear in all things, whatsoever he shall say unto you;’ and he shall fulfil all my will. It is not enough to be right in commands in general, or the lump, but in this and that particular; not in some, but in all. We pretend to give up ourselves to the will of God in the general, but particulars we stick at. Men are convinced that holiness is necessary, that they must have some religion; therefore when they take up duty in the lump, and abstract notion or naked consent, it doth not exasperate opposite propensions: ‘Ye cannot serve the Lord,’ &c., saith Joshua, Josh. xxiv. 18, 19; but when they come to particulars, and see what it is to wait upon a holy and jealous God, they tire and grow weary: so that there must be a consent and purpose to obey, not some, but all and every one, without exception; not partial, like that of Herod to John: Mark vi. 20, ‘He did many things.’ The worst man in the world loveth some good and hateth some evil, but he doth not esteem all God’s commandments in every point. Nay, the great enemy of our salvation, Satan, can be content to let us yield to God in many things, if he would be contented with half our duty: one sin reserved keepeth afoot his interest in our hearts, as a bird tied by the leg is fast enough. The devil will suffer men to do many things, but if he hath them fast by one lust, be it an inclination to sensuality, or love to the world, he is contented. The world likes many things in religion; they are good and profitable for men; but sticketh at others. To live godly in Christ Jesus will draw on persecution, 2 Tim. iii. 12. The flesh will dispense with us to do many things, for the more cleanly conveyance of others, if it can but get us to spare the bosom lust which the soul delighteth in. Every man, as he is enslaved by his own customs, opposeth one this law, another that; the proud man doth not approve of that law that doth forbid his pride, nor the sensual man that which toucheth his intemperance and unbridled appetite, nor the worldly man his covetousness, cannot endure that part of the law that would abridge him of his gain. Nothing more common than to cast off what liketh us not in the law of God, and to wish there were no precept given in that kind. But our consent must be to all in general, and to this and that in particular. Many could be content with God’s law, so far as it doth not cross their carnal interest, or hinder their corrupt desires; but we must esteem all the laws of God; they are all holy, just, and good, not one excepted; all conduce to perfect our nature, and make us happy creatures; they all conduce to the benefit of human nature; they are all enjoined by the authority of the same God: ‘God spake all these words.’ They are linked as rings in a chain; one preserveth another; they are all necessary for our eternal happiness; not one given in vain. So much thou continuest thine own misery, and art defective in the way that leadeth to true happiness, as thou art willing to indulge in any one sin. They are all written in the hearts of God’s children, Heb. viii. 10, all suited to the new nature; and he hath given grace to keep all, 1 Peter i. 15, perfection of parts, not of degrees. The new creature is not maimed in the birth. A child hath not the bulk and strength of a man. Want of perfection of parts cannot be supplied by any after growth. Nay, all are necessary to our communion with God: Ps. lxvi. 18, ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me;’ Mat. v. 19, ‘Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments,’ &c. If we dispense with ourselves in the least things, we are not fit for communion with God, 2 Cor. vii. 1; having such promises of God’s being in us, and dwelling in us, and maintaining communion with us, then ‘let us cleanse our ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit;’ Col. i. 10, ‘that ye might walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing,’ εἰς πασὰν ἀρέσκειαν. If you do not consent to keep all, you can keep none; for the same reasons that move us to break one, will move us to break all. Herod, that heard John gladly, when his lust moved him to it, put him to death. To be sure it must be total.
Reasons of this esteem.
1. From the excellency of God’s law. The law of God deserves it: Deut. iv. 6, ‘Keep, therefore, and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ We should esteem the law, because it doth not infringe our natures, but makes them perfect, puts an excellency upon us. But of this in other verses.
2. This esteem and approbation is the ground of practice. When we are convinced of the ways of God, and the excellency that is in them, the heart consenteth and embraceth them, and then followeth a ready practice; we will observe what we do approve. Whereas, on the contrary, if we have no esteem for the ways of God, we shall take no care to walk in them, but could wish such laws expunged; for still these two go together—hearty embracing and diligent practice. The will is the great master-wheel. Now esteem implieth the bent of the will or heart; it implieth consent and election; it is the act of the will, is the act of the man: Prov. xxiii. 26, ‘My son, give me thy heart.’ The man is never overcome till then. You may kill him, but you cannot conquer him till he give his consent. There may be a kind of force and violence offered to the other faculties; the understanding may be overcome with light, which though it would, it cannot keep out. The conscience may be awakened, though men endeavour to lull it asleep; but the will is free, and is not conquered, but by its own consent and choice. The Lord will not force himself upon any; he dealeth with the reasonable creatures in a covenant way, to which our consent is required. It only bindeth as a law, till we consent to yield to it as a covenant: 2 Chron. xxx. 8, ‘Yield yourselves to the Lord.’ Now bring your hearts once to consent, and heartily approve of the ways of God, and the rest will succeed without difficulty. It will not be hard to give a law to the tongue, to restrain the hand, govern the body; our affections will more easily come to hand if we have a will to the things of God. The smallest matters against our wills are grievous to us. It was no great matter for Haman to lead Mordecai’s horse, but it was an unwelcome and unpleasant service; he had no mind to it. It is no great matter for men to do the things that God requireth; but they have no mind to it, and therefore are off and on: James i. 8, ‘The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.’
3. This is some comfort to a child of God, that though he faileth in some part of his duty, yet he esteemeth all; for where this approbation is, you may use the apostle’s plea,; Not I, but sin that dwelleth in me;’ Rom. vii. 15, ‘For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I.’ The allowance or approbation of the will is there spoken of; he speaketh of willing and nilling, loving, delighting, and hating. Though you cannot do that good you would, in that purity and perfection which love requireth, and the renewed heart intendeth, yet your hearts are upon your work: ‘The evil which I hate, I do.’ The new nature hates and dislikes what the carnal part prompts to.
Use. Learn to approve the law of God in all things, as right and good for you.
1. Do not dispense with yourselves in anything. In two cases we are apt to do so:—(1.) In small things; it is nothing, we think; it is but a little one. Nothing that cometh from God should be light and contemptible; though the matter be never so small, if God hath inter posed, it should be regarded by us. There may be great obstinacy in small sins, as a slender line may be very crooked, or as in some cases the dye is more than the cloth. Will you break with God in a small matter? If some great matter were required, would you not have done it? as 2 Kings v. 13; dare you offend this holy God for trifles? (2.) Do not dispense with yourselves, though never so contrary to your humour and interest. This is to set up a toleration in your own hearts, or a court of faculties without God’s leave: ‘God be merciful to me, if I bow in the house of Rimmon.’
2. Do not so much as wish there were no such law. It is a contra diction of the law when you could wish there were no law to put a restraint upon your beloved lusts and darling corruptions. Carnal men wish there were no God, not as a creator and preserver, but as a lawgiver. There may be much enmity in such a thought. Every thought must be brought into subjection to Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. x. 5. Not a disallowing thought of God’s government but doth much prejudice your hearts. God hath given such laws, that if all things were left to our own option and choice, nothing better could be devised to preserve the liberty and perfection of the human nature. It is an ill note to count the command grievous. Holiness is so amiable in itself, that men are not frightened unto God’s laws, but choose them.
3. Bring thy heart to approve the law by mortifying that distemper that ariseth against it, be it pride, self-conceit, sensuality, covetousness. Appetite that is lost to wholesome food is restored by purging the stomach; there is a preparation of mind required to receiving of moral things. So in divine things: 1 Cor. ii. 14, ‘But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit.’ We are prepossessed, intus existens prohibet exitum. Therefore bring your heart to approve God’s law removendo prohibens, by mortifying those corruptions that rise against it.
4. When you see no other reason to yield to God’s law, let his will and sovereign authority be reason enough to you. This is reason enough for God to use to his creatures: ‘I am the Lord,’ Lev. xviii. 4, 5, ‘Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments; which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord.’ This is the will of God. We owe God blind obedience. This should silence all perverse reasonings against God, both as to his laws and providence. His will is supreme, and our will must be yielded up to his.
Secondly, We come to the other branch, and I hate every false way. Where we have—the act, hate; the object, false way; the extent, every, whatsoever is contrary to the purity of God’s word.
Doct. That it is a good note of a renewed and obedient heart to hate every false way.
This will appear from—
1. The sorts and kinds of hatred.
2. The causes.
3. The effects, or the comparison of hatred with anger.
1. From the sorts and kinds of hatred, which are reckoned up to be two—(1.) Odium abominationis; (2.) Odium inimicitiae.
[1.] Odium abominationis, a hatred of flight and aversation, called by some odium offensionis, the hatred of offence. It is defined by Aquinas to be dissonantia quaedam appetitus, ad id quod apprehenditur ut repugnans, &c. It is a repugnancy of the appetite to what is apprehended, as contrary and prejudicial to it. Such there is in the will of the regenerate, for they apprehend sin as repugnant and contrary to their renewed will; to the unregenerate it is agreeable and suitable, as draff to the appetite of a swine, or grass and hay to a bullock or horse. Now this hatred is a good sign, that cannot be found in another that is not born of God. The mortification of sin standeth principally in the hatred of it. Sin dieth when it dieth in the affections; when we look upon it as an offence to us, destructive to our happiness, and as it is truly grieved for and hated by us. The unregenerate may hate sin, materially considered; that is, the thing which is a sin; but they cannot hate it formally considered, as sin under the notion of a sin; for then they would hate all sin, a quatenus ad omne valet consequentia. As, for instance, thus: A covetous man hateth prodigal and riotous courses, not as they are sinful and contrary to God’s law, but as contrary to his humour and covetous will.
[2.] Odium inimicitiae, or the hatred of enmity. This enmity is nothing else but a willing of evil or mischief to the thing or person hated, and that out of mere displacency, dislike, or distaste of the person hated. This is a sure note; the regenerate hate their sins, in that they would have them arraigned, crucified, mortified; they would fain see the heart-blood of sin let out; therefore they oppose, watch against, and resist it as their mortal, deadly enemy. When a man pursues sin, would have the life of it, this enmity cannot be quiet; it is an active enmity, diligent in praying, mourning, watching, striving, using all holy means to get it out of our hearts, wishing, groaning, waiting, complaining, that we may get rid of it: Rom. vii. 24, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ They follow their work hard.
2. The causes of this hatred. There are three causes of it:—
[1.] Spiritual knowledge and illumination, that is one cause of hatred: Ps. cxix. 104, ‘Through thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.’ When the heart is thick-set, and well fraughted with divine knowledge, a man cannot sin freely. Those that are exercised in the word of God find some consideration or other to quicken to the hatred of sin. The word is a proper instrument to destroy sin: Ps. cxix. 11, ‘Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee;’ Eph. vi. 13. Our affections follow our apprehensions. We come to the heart by the mind: Jer. xxxi. 19, ‘After I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh.’ In the word of God are the most proper reasons and arguments to kill sin.
[2.] The love of God: Ps. xcvii. 10, ‘Ye that love the Lord hate evil.’ He doth not say forbear it, but hate it. The cause of hatred is the love of that good unto which the thing or person hated is contrary and repugnant. Love to the chiefest good is accompanied with hatred of sin, which is the chiefest evil. The one is as natural to grace as the other. The new nature hath its flight and aversation, as well as its choice and prosecution, to things that are hurtful to it, as well as good and profitable.
[3.] A filial fear of God: Prov. viii. 13, ‘The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride and arrogancy and the evil way and the froward mouth do I hate.’ Certainly this is to fear God, to hate what God hateth, and as God hateth, and because God hateth. Now God hateth all sin, pride, and arrogancy; that is, sins of thought, which put us upon vain and foolish musings. And then the sins of the tongue are expressed by ‘froward mouth.’ Nothing so natural to us as filthy and evil speaking. And then the sins of practice, ‘the evil way.’ They that fear God will hate all these sins. These graces are strangers to unrenewed hearts. It argueth a divine nature when we hate when, what, and as, and because God hates it. Eadem velle et nolle est summa amicitia.
3. A third argument is from the comparison of hatred with anger. Unregenerate men may be angry with sin, because anger is consistent with love. One may be angry with his wife, children, friends, whom yet he tenderly affects.
[1.] Anger is a sudden and short, hatred a lasting and durable passion. Anger is furor brevis, curable by time; hatred incurable by the greatest tract of time. The unregenerate are displeased with their sins for a spurt, but the regenerate constantly disaffected towards them. There is, 1 John iii. 9, σπέρμα, there is a constant principle of resistance in the renewed heart. Passion is a casual dislike, but the new nature a rooted enmity, a habitual aversation to what is evil.
[2.] Anger is only against singulars, but hatred is εἰς τὰ γένη, to the whole kind. Thus we hate every wolf and every serpent, every thief and every calumniator. So is this universal; it respects sin as sin, and hateth all sin, though never so profitable and pleasant. Not upon foreign and accidental reasons; as, Esther iii. 16, Hainan thought scorn to lay hands upon Mordecai alone, but sought the destruction of all the Jews. The same reasons that incline us to hate one sin, incline us to hate all sin. The violation of God’s law is a contempt of God’s authority, a breach of spiritual friendship; one grieveth the Spirit of God as well as the other. Every sin is hateful to God, so it is to those that are made partakers of the divine nature.
[3.] Anger may be pacified or appeased with the sufferings of the thing or person with which we are angry, but hatred is implacable; nothing can content and satisfy it but the ruin or not being of the thing and party hated. David was angry with Absalom, but loath to have him destroyed, only corrected and reduced: when he sent out forces against him, ‘Deal gently with the young man.’ So many deal with their sins; we reason, pray, strive, complain; but it is but an angry fit; we are displeased with them at present, but could easily be reconciled. They seek not after the death, but the restraint and imprisonment of their corruptions and lusts, that they may not disgrace or otherwise prejudice them. Nothing contents the regenerate but the killing and mortification of them; they would have them dealt with as Samuel by Agag, hewn in pieces; therefore they study revenge upon their sins: Gal. v. 24, ‘Crucifying the flesh, with the affections and lusts.’
[4.] From the state of the regenerate. They have sin in them, but yet they hate it. Their will and consent to sin is always abated, and made remiss by a contrary principle, the grace that is in their wills: Gal. v. 17, ‘The spirit lusteth against the flesh.’ Sin cannot reign in them with a full and uncontrolled dominion: Rom. vi. 14, ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you.’
Use 1. How few are there that are God’s children, for how few are there that hate sin! Some love it, Job xx. 12, 13, and the love of sin is the life of it; and what is it they hate? They hate the word that discovers sin, John iii. 20; they hate God’s messengers that do cry aloud against sin, and do rub their sores; as Ahab said of Micaiah, ‘He doth never prophesy good of me.’ They hate the magistrate that would reform them, they hate God’s image in his saints; they cannot endure the lustre of holiness that shineth forth in them.
Use 2. Do we indeed hate sin? We had need look after this.
1. Because this is the true principle of resistance against sin. Till a man hateth it, the soul is not thoroughly resolved against it, as a man is never thoroughly gained to God till he love holiness for holiness’ sake: his affections may be bribed with other considerations, but then he is rooted in godliness. So a man is not resolved against sin till he hate it for its own sake. He may be frightened out of sin for a fit, put out of humour with it, but his heart is in again with his old lusts, till there be a detestation of sin; but when once he cometh to hate it, per suasions cannot easily move him, nor example draw him, nor difficulties compel him, to that which is evil; nor allurements, that have a great force upon us: ‘Straightway he followed her.’ But they cast away sin with indignation: Hosea xiv. 8, ‘What have I any more to do with idols?’
2. This is a true distinctive note between good and bad. Men may forbear sin that do not hate it: they forbear it by constraint, for fear of punishment, shame, worldly ends; but regard it in their hearts, Ps. lxvi. 18. The dog hath a mind to the pail, but feareth the cudgel. But God judgeth not as man judgeth.
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