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HEBREWS viii. 10.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.
THE two great evils that perplex sensible minds, are, the guiltiness of sin, and the power of it. Therefore, this new covenant hath in it two promises opposite to these two evils; free pardon to remove the guilt of sin, and the subduing of its power by the law of God written in the heart. Of this latter only, for the present. Having spoken somewhat of the sense of the Law in the Ten Commandments, and of the sum of it in Two, this remains to be considered as altogether necessary for obedience, and without which, all hearing and speaking, and all the knowledge of it, will be fruitless. Though it be made very clear and legible without, we shall only read it, and not at all keep it, unless it be likewise written within.
Observe, in the first place, the agreement of the Law with the Gospel. The Gospel bears the complete fulfilling of the Law, and the satisfying of its highest exactness, in our surety Jesus Christ, so that, in that way, nothing is abated; but besides, in reference to ourselves, though it take off the rigour of it from us, because answered by another for us, yet, it doth not abolish the rule of the Law, but establisheth it, Rom. iii. 31. It is so far from tearing or blotting out the outward copies of it, that it writes it anew, where it was not before, even within, sets it upon the heart in sure and deep characters. We see this kind of writing of the Law, is a promise for the days of the Gospel, cited out of the prophet Jeremiah, Ch. xxxi, ver. 33.
There is indeed no such writing of the Law in us, or keeping of it by us, as will hold good for our justification in the sight of God; therefore, that other promise runs combined with it, the free forgiveness of iniquity. But again, there is no such forgiveness as sets a man free to licentiousness and contempt of God's Law, but, on the contrary, binds him more strongly to obedience; therefore, to that sweet promise of the pardon of sin, is inseparably joined this other of the inward writing of the Law. The heart is not washed from the guiltiness of sin in the blood of Christ, that it may wallow and defile itself again in the same puddle, but it is therefore washed, that the tables or leaves of it may be clean, for receiving the pure characters of that Law of God which is to be written on it.
Concerning this writing, there are three things you may mark. 1. What it is. 2. What is its necessity. 3. Who is its writer.
1. What it is. The writing of the Law in the heart, is briefly no other than the renewing and sanctifying of the heart by the infusion of grace, which is a heavenly light that gives the soul to know God aright. And that is added here, as the same with the writing of the law in the heart, and an illustration of it, They shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. And this light bringeth heat with it*. That right knowledge of God being in the soul, begets in it love to Him, and love is the same with the fulfilling of the whole Law. It takes up the whole soul: I will put it in their mind, and write it in their hearts. If we will distinguish these, then, it is, that they shall both know it and love it. It shall not be written anew in their heads, and go no deeper, but be written in their hearts. But we may well take both expressions for the whole soul; for this kind of knowledge and love are inseparable, and where the one is, the other cannot be wanting.
*Lux est vehiculum caloris.
So, then, a supernatural, sanctified knowledge of God, is
the Law of God written in the heart.
tertains Him as holy within it, then it of the Law written in it, but vóμov Himself: His name
When it comes and en
hath not a dead letter uxor, the Lawgiver and will are engraven on it throughout, on every part of it. All that they know of God, shall not be by mere report, and by the voice of others, but they shall inwardly read and know Him within themselves. Which (by the by) makes not the public teaching and work of the ministry superfluous to any, even to those who know most of God, but signifies only this; that all they that do indeed receive and believe the Gospel, are inwardly enlightened by the Spirit of God to understand the things of God, and have not their knowledge on bare trust of others who instruct them, without any particular persuasion and light within, but what they hear of spiritual things, they shall understand and know after a spiritual manner. And the universality of the promise signifies, that this kind of knowledge should be more frequently and more largely bestowed in the days of the Gospel, than it was before.
2. The necessity of writing the Law on the heart. Although there be in the natural conscience of man, some dim characters of the Law, convincing him of grosser wickednesses, and leaving him inexcusable, of which the Apostle speaks, Rom. ii. 15; yet, he is so far, naturally, from the right knowledge of God and the love of His whole Law, that, instead of that knowledge, his mind is full of darkness, and, contrary to that love, his heart is possessed with a natural enmity and antipathy against the Law of God. Eph. iv. 18; Rom. viii. 7. There is a law within him directly opposite, which the Apostle calls the law of sin. Rom. vii. 23; sin ruling and commanding the heart and whole man, making laws at its pleasure, and obtaining full obedience. Therefore, of necessity, before a man can be brought to obey the holy Law of God, the inward frame of his heart must be changed, the
Tolerabis iniquas interiùs leges.
corrupt law of sin must be abrogated, and the sou must renounce obedience to it, and give itself up wholly, [is túnov,] to receive the stamp and impression of the law of God; and then, having it written within upon his heart, his actions will bear the resemblance, and be conformable unto it.
In this promise which God makes to His people, He hath regard to the nature of that obedience which He requires. Because He will have it sincere and cordial, therefore He puts a living principle of it within, writes His law in the heart, and then it is, in the words and actions, derived from thence, and is more in the heart than in them. The first copy is in the heart, and all the other powers and parts of a man follow that, and so, by that means, as it is sincere, so it is universal. The heart is that which commands all the rest; and, as the vital spirits flow from it to the whole body, thus, the Law of God, being written in it, is diffused through the whole man. It might be in the memory, or in the tongue, and not in the rest; but put it in the heart, and then it is undoubtedly in all.
Its being written in the heart, makes the obedience likewise universal in the object, as they speak, in respect to the whole law of God. When it is written only without a man, he may read one part and pass over another, may possibly choose to conform to some part of the Law, and leave the rest; but when the full copy of it is written in his heart, then it is all one Law. And as in itself it is inseparable, as St. James teacheth us, Jam. ii. 10, so, it is likewise in his esteem and affection and endeavour of obedience: he hath regard unto all the commandments as one. Because of his love to the Law of God, he hates, not only some, but every false way, as David speaks, Psal. cxix. 104. He that looks on the Law without him, will possibly forbear to break it while others look upon him; his obedience lies much in the beholder's eye; but he that hath the Law written within, cannot choose but regard it as much in secret as in public. Although his sin might be hid from the knowledge and censure of men, yet still, it were violence done to that pure Law that is within his breast, and
This is the Psal. cxix. 11.
therefore he hates it alike as if it were public. constant enemy of all sin, this law within him. I have hid Thy law in my heart, says David, that I might not sin against Thee. It makes a man abate nothing of his course of obedience and holiness because unseen, but like the sun that keeps on its motion when it is clouded from our eyes, as well as when we see it.
In a word, this writing of the Law in the heart, makes obedience a natural motion, I mean, by a new nature: it springs not from outward constraints and respects, but from an inward principle, and therefore, not only is it universal and constant, but cheerful and easy. The Law, only written in tables of stone, is hard and grievous; but make once the heart the table of it, and then there is nothing more pleasing. This Law of God makes service delightful, even the painfullest of it. Psal. xl. 8. I delight to do Thy will, O my God; yea, Thy law is within my heart. The sun, which moves with such wonderful swiftness, that to the ignorant it would seem incredible to hear how many thousands of miles it goes each hour, yet, because it is naturally fitted for that course, it comes, as the Psalmist speaks, like a bridegroom forth of his chamber, and rejoices, as a strong man, to run a race. Psal. xix. 5. If the natural man be convinced of the goodness and equity of the Law of God, yet, because it is not written within, but only commands without, it is a violent motion to him to obey it, and therefore he finds it a painful yoke. But hear David, in whose heart it was, speak of it: how often doth he call it his delight and his joy!
If any profane persons object to a godly man his exact life, that it is too precise, as if he wrote each action before he did it, he may answer, as Demosthenes did to him that objected he wrote his orations before he spake them, That he was not at all ashamed of that, although they were not only written, but engraven before-hand. Certainly, the godly man lives by this Law which is written and engraven on his heart, and he needs not be ashamed of it.