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displays of justice and mercy as to secure the glory of all his attributes, and to leave no one any ground to presume or to despair. And the discoveries made to us of the future judgment, and of the eternal state of happiness or misery, most perfectly coincide with the declarations relative to his harmonious perfections. But of this, and of redemption by the incarnation of Emmanuel and his atoning blood, we must forbear to speak further in this place. We may observe, however, concerning this last, which is doubtless the greatest of all the discoveries that God has given of himself, that it unavoidably leads us to fix our especial attention upon those mysteries of the Deity, which are so peculiar to revelation, that they who “ lean to their own understandings” would represent them as contradictory and impossible. Yet it will be shewn that they are certainly revealed in scripture ;, and thence it will follow, that they are appropriate to the true object of all adoration, and distinguish him from every idol : so that those who reject the mysteries which it reveals, and adore not the one “Name of the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Ghost," into which Christians are baptized, cannot be said to worship that God whose nature and perfections are declared in the sacred scriptures. And, as all the divine attributes are seen in perfect harmony only " in the face of Jesus Christ;" they “whose eyes are blinded, that they “ should not see the light of his glory,"? certainly worship the invention of their own minds, and not the God who hath revealed himself to man in the
1 2 Cor. iv. 3-6.
person of Jesus Christ. Indeed this is manifest from the imperfection of the object of their worship, whom they delineate as so clement that he cannot hate and punish sin according to its desert; and by the blasphemies which they often utter against the justice and holiness of God, and the judgments which he has executed and threatens to execute.—Let us then regard this as a matter of the greatest possible importance, and seek the knowledge of God from his word and the teaching of his Spirit, as the fundamental concern in all our religious inquiries: that so we may be engaged, above all things, to fear, love, trust, worship, and serve him; and to seek all our happiness in enjoying his favour, and glorifying his name.
A BRIEF EXPOSITION OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, AS
COMPRISING THE SUBSTANCE OF THE MORAL LAW..
From the scriptural character of God we proceed to the consideration of his moral government, as made known to us by revelation : and the clear knowledge of his holy law is peculiarly requisite, in forming our judgment on this subject. This was delivered to Israel by Jehovah himself, from mount Sinai, with most tremendous displays of his majesty, power, and holiness : and, though other parts of scripture must be adduced, as a divinely inspired comment, yet the decalogue may properly be taken for our text, in examining the demands of the moral law.
It is evident that there is a distinction between moral precepts and positive institutions. Some things are in themselves so indifferent, that the same authority, which commanded, might have forbidden them; as the use of bread and wine in one ordinance, and that of water in another : but it is absurd to suppose that God could have required his creatures to despise him, or to hate one another ; or have forbidden them to speak truth, and to do justice.
Some traces of the moral law are discoverable by our natural reason, and the whole of it is highly reasonable. It has its foundation in the nature of God and man; in the relations which men bear to him and to each other; and in the obligations that
result from these relations : on which account it is immutable in its requirements, and demands obedience from all mankind, as far as they have opportunity of becoming acquainted with it. Different circumstances may indeed occasion a coincident variation : as the entrance of sin has rendered patience, and forgiveness of injuries, exercises of our love to God and our neighbour ; but, though there is no need of these in heaven, yet the grand principles from which they are deduced will continue the same to eternity.
The law is also “spiritual :" that is, it takes cognizance of our spirits, or of our most secret thoughts, desires, and dispositions; and demands the exact regulation of the judgment, will, and affections, in conformity to the holy excellencies of the Lord our God. It principally requires “LOVE, or the entire affection of the soul, without which the best external obedience is condemned as hypocrisy. This is peculiar to the law of God, who alone can search the heart: but, in common with other laws, it demands entire, uninterrupted, and perpetual obedience; for no law can tolerate the transgression of itself. From the commencement to the close of life, the Lord enjoins upon us exact conformity to every precept; the least deviation from this perfect rule, whether by omission or commission, excess or defect, is sin; and every sin deserves wrath, and needs forgiveness."
The ten commandments are divinely commented upon in all the preceptive part of scripture; and the substance of them is summed up, in the two
i Rom. ïü. 19_23.
great commands of " loving God with all our “ heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and “ with all our strength ;” and “ loving our neigh“ bour as ourselves :” and we are authorised by our Lord's examplel to interpret every one of them in the strictest, most spiritual, and most extensive sense, of which it is capable. Even repentance, faith in Christ, and all other evangelical graces and duties, are exercises of this entire love to God, and are required of a sinner as placed under a dispensation of mercy: though originally the law had nothing to do with redemption, but lay at the foundation of another covenant. We may, therefore, wave the controversy concerning the rule of duty; whether that be the ten commandments, or the whole word of God; for the one properly understood, will be found as broad as the other; seeing we cannot “love God with all our hearts," unless we love every discovery which he is pleased to make of his glory ; believe every testimony, and embrace every promise which he gives; and seek his favour in the use of all the means that he is pleased to appoint. Yet this relates to the law, only as our rule of duty, and as given in subserviency to the gospel : for, in other respects, it contains nothing about repentance, or the acceptance of imperfect obedience; but merely says “Do this “ and live," and, “Cursed be every transgressor.”
Thus the law was given to Israel, not only to shew the people their real condition according to the covenant of works ; but likewise with reference to their national covenant, and as the rule of duty
? Matt. v. 21_48.