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It is true, the renewed man, even he that hath this Law. deepest written in his heart, yet, while he lives here, is still molested with that inbred Antinomian, that law of sin that yet dwells in his flesh: though the force and power of it is broken, and its law repealed in his conversion, and this new pure Law placed in its stead, yet, because that part which is flesh in him, still entertains and harbours it there, it creates and breeds a Christian daily vexation. Because sin hath lost dominion, it is still practising rebellion against that spiritual kingdom and law that is established in the regenerate mind: as a man that hath once been in possession of rule, though usurped, yet, being subdued, he is still working in that kingdom to turbulent practices. But though by this, (as the Apostle was, Rom. vii. 4.) every godly man is often driven to sad perplexities and complaints, yet, in this is his comfort; that law of his God written there, hath his heart and affection. Sin is dethroned and thrust out of his heart, and hath only an usurped abode within him against his will. He sides with the Law of God, and fights with all his power for it against the other. That holy Law is his delight, and this law of sin his greatest grief.
3. The Writer: I will write. The Lord promises Himself to do this, and it is indeed His prerogative. He wrote it at first on tables of stone, and this spiritual engraving of it on the heart, is much more peculiarly His. Other men might afterwards engrave it on stone, but no man can at all write it on the heart, not upon his own, much less upon another's. Upon his own he cannot, for it is naturally taken up and possessed with that contrary law of sin, (as we said before,) and is willingly subject to it, loves that law, and therefore, in that posture, it neither can nor will work this change upon itself to dispossess that law which it loves, and bring in that which it hates. No man can write this law on the heart of another, for it is inaccessible: his hand cannot reach it, he cannot come at it; how then shall he write any thing on it? Men, in the ministry of the word, can but stand and call without: they
cannot speak to within, far less, write any thing within. Though they speak never so excellently and spiritually, and express nothing but what is written on their own hearts, (and certainly, that is the most powerful way of speaking, and the likeliest for making an impression on the heart of another,) yet, unless the hand of God's own Spirit carry it into the hearer's heart, and set on the stamp of it there, it will perish as a sound in the air, and effect nothing*. Let this ever be acknowledged to His glory. The voice of men may beat the ear, but only He who made the heart, can work upon it, and change and mould it as it pleaseth Him. This is His own promise, and He alone makes it good. He writes His Law on the hearts of His children, and by this work of His grace prepares them for glory. They who have this Law written in their hearts, their names are certainly written in the Book of Life.
HOSEA V. 15.
I will go and return to my place till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face in their affliction they will seek me early.
THERE is nothing we more hardly learn, and whereof we have more need to be taught, than to judge aright concerning our own dealing with God, and God's dealing with us; to know and acknowledge the perverseness and folly of our own ways, and the wisdom and goodness of His ways. Therefore, the sermons of the prophets insist much on this, to convince the people of God, to whom they were sent, of both these; and
Sonus verborum nostrorum aurcs percutit, magister intuɛ. Nolite putare quenquam hominem aliquid discere ab alio homine: admonere possumus per strepitum vocis nostræ, si non est intus qui doceat, inanis strepitus est noster. [AUGUSTINE.]
by this, to persuade them to repentance. This is evidently here the Prophet's aim. The whole chapter, with the following, contains a pathetic remonstrance of God's just quarrel with His people, aggravated by much long-suffering and lenity, and many warnings, verbal and real, on His part, and much stubbornness, impenitence, and multiplied provocation on theirs; He using all means to reclaim and save them, and they using all means to despise Him and ruin themselves. The plea is against both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
In these words we have the Lord, after much reasoning and trial of milder ways, which prevailed not with them, concluding upon a severe course, as being found necessary, and such as would be more effectual for their conversion. The words contain these three things: I. The procuring cause of God's afflicting His people. II. His way of afflicting them. III The end of it.
I. The procuring cause is made up of these two, sin and impenitence. I will go till they acknowledge their offences. So that, if they had not committed those provoking sins, or, having committed them, had humbly acknowledged or repented of them, this labour of afflicting them had been saved ; but these sins once committed and often repeated, and their being not so much as once acknowledged, and all this by God's own peculiar people, cannot but draw on heavy afflictions.
1st. We may see how unwilling God is to afflict His people. Judgments are termed His strange work, but mercy is His darling attribute. When God exercises punitive acts against His people, the Scripture represents, as it were, a kind of reluctance and struggling in His bowels. Hos. xi. 8. How shall I smite thee, O Ephraim? and how shall I give thee up O Manasseh? My repentings are begun already. He delights in their prosperity, and hath given them a rule, by which if they walk, peace shall be upon them. He hath made them laws, the observance of which will bring heaps of blessings upon them; as we find what a multitude of favours
attended it, Levit. xxvi. 4-12. I will give you rain in due season; and a little after, I will give you peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. I will walk among you, I will be your God, and ye shall be My people. So, also Deut. xxvii. 1-12. But, those laws not being observed, then, it is said, ver. 24., &c., The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust; the Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies, &c. But what is all that when opposed to the affliction here threatened, of God's withdrawing Himself? I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence. He will not leave them, unless they drive Him away; yea, and He is even then loath to leave them, and grieved that they are such enemies to themselves, and will not be persuaded to be better advised.
When they are run
Return, return, O Thou hast destroyed prophet, but in Me is His counsel and ways
2dly. We see where the true blame of the many sufferings and miseries of the Church is to be found. The abounding of sin, and the want of repentance, these make her troubles to abound. If God's own people would take His counsel, it would be well for them; either His first counsel of obedience, or His after counsel of repentance. ning from Him, He calls after them, backsliding Israel, Why will ye die? thyself, says the Lord by the same thy help to be found. Hos. xiii. 9. would be peace, but their afflictions and sharp punishments are the fruit of their own ways; bitter fruit and wormwood, a root of bitterness. Prov. v. 4.; Jer. ii. 19. not the preaching of the word, and particularly the doctrine of repentance, sufficiently witness for God, and against His people, when their rebellion brings calamities upon them? The often repeated warnings and entreaties, even to those who have often slighted and despised them, shew how unwillingly He afflicts us. He does not surprise them, without warnings multiplied one upon another. Before He would proceed to treat them as enemies, to hew and slay them with the sword, He
uses His messengers of peace to deal first with the word, sharply indeed, but graciously;-that sword of the Spirit which kills to make alive, to spare, if it might be, the destroying sword of the enemy. I have hewn them by My prophets, (Hos. vi. 5.) and if that would have served their turn, the other hewing and slaying should not have followed. A wise enemy, who is resolved to be avenged, conceals his rage till it be accomplished, and does not threaten before he strikes, but makes the execution of his purpose the first revealing of it. Therefore, we may know that God, who doth all things most wisely intends favour in threatening; denounces indignation that He may be interrupted. Not to inflict it, that is his desire. He would gladly have us stay His hand. A humble, penitent acknowledgment will do it. "Minatur ne cædat, cædit ne occidat," says Chrysostom. He threatens that He may not strike, and strikes that He may not destroy. If speaking either mildly or sharply, will prevail with His children. He will not stir the rod to them: and when the rod is in His hand, if shewing or shaking it will serve the turn, He will not strike with it. But this is our folly, that usually we abuse all this goodness, and will not part with our sins, till we smart for them, and be beaten from them. We pull punishment out of God's hand; as Solomon says, The fool's mouth calleth for strokes. Prov. xviii. 6. When these indulgent ways that the Lord uses, avail nothing, then, as a physician wearied in striving with lenitives and gentle medicines in a fixed, stubborn disease that yields not to them, it is no wonder that he betake himself to sharper remedies, and cut and burn, if need be, that He may cure. The Lord's complaint, in the beginning of the viith chapter of this prophecy, sounds this way, When I would have healed Ephraim. If it be thus, then, with the Church of God, that it is often found guilty of great sins, and withal, great insensibleness and impenitence, it is no wonder that it is often found under great and many affiictions. There being in the Church, in such societies as profess God's name, peculiar sins, such as are found no where else, by reason of God's