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duties required in the first commandment as stated in this
These duties are three.
I. To know God.
II. To acknowledge him.
III. To worship and glorify him accordingly.
I. This commandment requires us to know God; first that he is, and then what he is. This knowledge lies at the foundation of all true religion. Without knowing and believing that there is a God, there can be no kind of religion. An Atheist, if there be such a being, can have no religion; for he denies the very first principle, on which all religion, whether true or false, is founded. That there is a God, all nature, constantly and loudly, proclaims; and to be convinced of this truth, we need only open our eyes upon the things we may see around us, and listen to the voice of reason. And it is our duty to know this truth that there is a God, not merely because we were educated in the belief of it, or because others believe it; but from an attention to the evidence by which it is supported.
And it is our duty not only to know that God is, but also what he is. This knowledge also is essential to true religion; for all true religion takes its rise from the character of God; and ignorance and error on this point, are the great causes of the false religion, and the irreligion which so much prevail in our world. It is therefore highly important to us and our indispensable duty to know what God is. Further God has revealed himself to be known by us, and therefore it must be our duty to know him. And besides he has frequently in his word taught the duty; as in the following texts among a great many others. "Acquaint now thyself with him." Job xxii. 21. "Know thou the God of thy father." 1. Chron. xxviii. 9. "Let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth." Jer. ix. 24. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God." John xvii. 3. All these and many other texts teach us that it is our duty to have a right knowledge of God.And there are some passages, in which the want of this knowledge is reprehended as highly disgraceful and criminal. Such are the following. My people are foolish,
they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding." Jer. iv. 22. "The Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land." Hos. iv. 2. "They (that is the wicked) say unto God, depart from us: for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." Job xxi. 14. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Hos. 4. 6." Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind." Rom. i. 28. "Some have not the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."1. Cor. xv. 34. Hence we conclude that it is our indispensable duty to know the character of God, as far as he has revealed himself, and we have ability and opportunity to know it; and that those who are destitute of a knowledge of God are highly criminal. It is true God is incomprehensible, and in comparison of what he really is, it is but little that we can know of him; but it becomes us to know what we can.
There are two ways in which God makes himself known unto men; viz. by his works, and by his word. And we are in duty bound by the first commandment to have such a knowledge of God as may be obtained from the means of information which we enjoy. From the works of God may be learned his power, wisdom and goodness, and hence may be deduced the duties of fear, trust, gratitude, and love. In his word we have a far more clear and extensive exhibition of the divine character; and it is our duty, who have his word, to know him, not only as he has revealed himself in his works, but also in his word. A just knowledge of God is highly important. For our duties to him are founded on his character; we are in his hands, on him we are constantly dependent, to him we are accountable, and he will fix our eternal state; and he has offered himself to be known, and has made it our duty to know him.
It becomes us therefore to know that he is the one only living and true God; that he is a spirit, self-existent, the supreme first cause and last end of all things, all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, omniscient, all-wise, almighty, infinitely holy, just, good, true, merciful, and gracious; that he subsists in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and
that he is a covenant God in Christ, in and through whom he is reconciling sinners to himself. In short, it becomes us to know whatever God has been pleased to reveal of himself-his nature, perfections, works, and ways. And however some may despise knowledge, and judge it to be of little importance what a man knows on the subject of religion; yet, knowledge is certainly of great importance; and ignorance, especially in our circumstances, where we have so abundantly the means of knowledge, is a great sin. And it is lamentable, that there are so many among us, so ignorant as they are, of the character of God, and the great truths of religion, which grow out of this character; and that they are bringing up their children in the same ignorance. This ignorance is a fruitful source of carelessness and sin. And even among those whose hearts we hope have been changed by the grace of God, we find some who have but little knowledge of God, in comparison of what they might have. And this is one reason of the frequent darkness of many, and the uncomfortable seasons through which they pass, and the slow progress they make in the divine life.
II. It is our duty not only to know; but also to acknowledge God, even the God of the Scriptures, to be the only true God, and our God. We should acknowledge him with our hearts, by placing them upon him, and giving them to him. We should acknowledge him with our lips by confessing him before men, and professing our attachment to him. And we should acknowledge him in our lives, by the performance of those duties which he requires, of us. But the consideration of these duties, will come under the third branch of our subject. We shall therefore here confine ourselves to a public profession of attachment to God as our God.
This profession if it be good must be made through Jesus Christ as a Saviour; for it is through Christ alone that God will condescend to be our God. They therefore who rightly acknowledge God to be their God, must at the same time acknowledge Christ to be their Saviour, and place all their hopes of acceptance with God on the mediation of Christ.
The acknowledgment of God to be our God, or a public profession of religion, is the duty of all, who have come to years capable of knowing God. That it is the
duty of all to love and serve God, and make him their portion, is clearly evident from his character. He is supremely excellent. He is the first cause and last end of all things. He is possessed of every possible perfection. He is all-sufficient, and the only portion that can satisfy the desires of an immortal mind, and make his rational creatures truly happy. It must therefore be our duty and our happiness to take him for our God. Further, he has laid us under unspeakable obligations to take him for our God, by his creating and preserving goodness, by the bounties of his providence, and by redeeming love.
And if God be what he is, and be related to us as he is; and if it be our duty, therefore to take him for our God, to love and serve him, and make him our portion, it is certainly our duty to acknowledge before the world that he is our God, or in other words to make a public profession of religion. The duty of acknowledging, or publicly avouching the Lord to be our God is also clearly evident from Scripture. It was agreeably to the command of God that the Jews pub licly avouched the Lord to be their God. And in the New Testament our Saviour taught, "whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." Mat. x. 32. 33. "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels-Mark. viii. 38. And in the Epistle to the Romans we read, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead thou shalt be saved," Rom. x. 9. And again, "I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service," Rom. xii. 1. These texts and many others prove the duty of making a public profession of religion. This is the indispensable duty of all, to take the true God for their God, and own him as such before the world. And therefore it is the duty of all who are capable of acting for themselves, to come to 'that ordinance, which God in his word has appointed to
be the badge of a visible profession-viz. the ordinance of the Lord's Supper.
Many are ready to suppose that it is not their duty, because they are not prepared. But want of preparation forms no just excuse. We are criminal for being unprepared. What is it to be prepared publicly to acknowledge the Lord to be our God, but to give him our hearts, and with our hearts take him for our God? This we are under indispensable obligations to do, and cannot for a moment neglect it without criminality. The want of love to God will therefore by no means take away our obligations to make a visible profession of religion It is true we ought not to profess religion with a heart unreconciled to God; but we ought not to have such aheart, or cherish such a temper. It is our indispensable duty immediately to love God, and to have such a temper as would fit us with sincerity and truth publicly to profess that the Lord is our God. And every opportunity we have to make a public profession of religion, and neglect to do it, and to do it too with the sincerity and temper of a real christian, we neglect our duty, break the first commandment, and sin against God.
III. We proceed to the third branch of duty implied in the first commandment, viz. "to worship and glorify him accordingly." Knowing the character of the true God, and acknowledging him to be our God, by making a sincere profession of religion, it becomes us to worship and glorify him, according to this knowledge and this pro fession. This branch of duty implied in the first commandment is very extensive, and embraces the whole of practical religion.
Knowing and acknowledging him to be the only true God, we ought to pay a religious worship to him alone. Since he is a spirit we ought to render him a spiritual worship and obedience; as our Saviour reasoned, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth," John iv. 24. Being infinitely worthy of our attention, we ought to give him the chief place in our thoughts. As he is the most excellent being in the universe, and therefore the most worthy of our supreme esteem and love, we ought to give him our hearts, place our affections supremely upon him, and esteem and love him above all other things. As he is all-sufficient, a sat