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the essence of every acceptable service. We value not the efforts of friends by their intrinsic worth, so much as by the measure of affection displayed in them: and much more is this the standard by which the Almighty will try, and estimate, our services to him. It was this which rendered the widow's mite a more acceptable offering to God, than all the treasures of the opulent: and if only we give our whole souls to God, the very disposition to glorify him shall be equivalent to the act. We may not be able to do great things for him : but, if we have the desire, he will accept it, and say, “Thou didst well, in that it was in thine heart.”] 3. With unreserved fidelity
[There is to be no limit to our obedience; no line beyond which we will not go, if God call us. “ No commandment is to be considered as grievous";” nor is any thing to be regarded as "a hard saying 4" We are to "walk in all God's ways, ” obeying every commandment "without partiality and without hypocrisy."
We are to “do his will on earth, even as it is done in heaven.” Of the angels we are told, that “they do God's will, hearkening to the voice of his word.” They look for the very first intimation of his will, and fly to execute it with all their might. They never for a moment consider what bearing the command may have on their own personal concerns: they find all their happiness in fulfilling the divine will. And this should be the state of our minds also: it should be “ our meat and our drink to do the will of Him that sent us. And, if suffering be the recompence allotted us, we should
rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for His sake.” Even life itself should not be dear to us in comparison of His honour; and we should be ready to lay it down, at any time, and in any way, that the sacrifice may be demanded of us.]
The text will lead me to shew you further, II. The reasonableness and excellency of his require
ments:That they are reasonable, is evident from the appeal which Moses makes respecting them
[Two things are intimated in this appeal to Israel; the one, that these things were required of them; the other, that the requisitions were such as they could not but approve. If they only considered themselves as God's creatures, they could not but acknowledge that these services were due to him: but when they viewed the mercies that had been vouchsafed unto them, and the blessings which God had yet further in reserve
for them, they could not doubt God's right to every return which it was in their power to make. How much stronger his claim is to our obedience, must be obvious to every considerate mind. Think of yourselves, Brethren, as redeemed from death and hell by the blood of God's only dear Son, and then say whether you are not bound to love and serve him with your whole hearts. Think how mercifully God has borne with your transgressions hitherto, (for you have been a stiff-necked people, even as Israel of old were :) think how your every want is still supplied, not only for the body, as theirs was, but for the soul, by the bread of life sent down from heaven, and by water from Christ Jesus, the stricken rock: think how mercifully God has committed you to the guidance of his own Son; and to what a glorious land he is leading you, even “a land flowing with milk and honey." Can you, in the contemplation of these things, doubt whether the entire surrender of your souls to God be “a reasonable service e?" Or rather say, whether the smallest wish to reduce or limit His claims would not be the most unreasonable thing that could enter into your minds ?)
But the excellency of them also is equally apparent
[Every command of God is given us“ for our good.” There is not one which has not a direct tendency to make us happy. If they require us to subdue and mortify our indwelling corruptions, what is this, but to heal the diseases of our souls, and to restore us to the image of our God? If they require us to love and serve our God, what is this, but to bring us, so far as they are obeyed, to a foretaste of our heavenly inheritance? Who ever found an evil issuing out of a conformity to God's holy will ? If it has brought a cross upon us, who has not found that very cross an occasion and a ground of more exalted joy? Were present happiness alone consulted, there is nothing in the universe that can advance it like the service of our God: but, if the future state be considered, and the augmented weight of glory which shall be accorded to us in proportion to our services, we may
say, that every command of God is good, and that “ in keeping his commandments there is great reward."] Let me now ADDRESS you, brethren, in a way, 1. Of faithful reproof
[You all profess yourselves to be the “Israel" of God; and are convinced that your obligations to Jehovah are as much superior to those of the Jews, as your redemption and your destination are superior to theirs. But how have you
e Rom. xii. 1.
requited the Lord ? Oh! compare your lives with what has been before spoken, and with what you cannot but acknowledge to have been your bounden duty. Which of you, in the retrospect, has not reason to blush and be ashamed ?-And as for the generality amongst us, is there not just ground to utter against them that complaint of the Prophet Jeremiah, “ This thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people : and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may
be well unto you.
But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imaginations of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward'?” In truth, this is but too faithful a picture of the generality amongst
And what can be expected, but that God's wrath should break forth to the uttermost against such a sinful and rebellious generation?]
Let me then add a word,
[“ I call heaven and earth to record this day against you all, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that ye may livet." You cannot but acknowledge that every thing which God requires of you is both good in itself, and conducive to your greatest good. “ Observe, then, to do as the Lord your God hath commanded you: you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the lefth." You surely have every inducement to serve God that your hearts can wish. Oh, be not stiff-necked: be not like that faithless generation, respecting whom "God sware, in his wrath, that they should never enter into his rest :” but “today, while it is called to-day,” devote yourselves altogether to His service! And “then shall ye not be ashamed, when ye have respect unto all his commandments'."
f Jer. vii. 23, 24.
8 Deut. xxx. 19, 20.
THE ELECTING LOVE OF GOD AN INCENTIVE TO HOL
Deut. x. 14-16. Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens
is the Lord's thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them ; and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.
66 And now,
THE true tendency of religion is marked in the words preceding our text. Under the Christian, no less than under the Jewish dispensation, it is altogether practical; so that in every age of the Church we may adopt that appeal of Moses, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good ?” But we must not in our zeal for morals overlook those principles which alone have efficacy to produce them.
The principles which call forth our hopes and our fears, have necessarily a powerful effect on our conduct : but a more refined operation is derived from those principles which excite our love and gratitude. The electing love of God, for instance, when brought home with a personal application to the soul, has a constraining influence, which nothing can resist. Hence Moses so often reminds the Israelites of their peculiar obligations to God, such as no other people from the beginning of the world could ever boast of: and takes occasion from those distinguishing favours to urge them the more powerfully to devote themselves to his service. What he considered as their duty we have already noticed: his mode of urging them to perform it comes now to be more particularly considered : “ The Lord had a delight in thy fathers, &c.: circumcise therefore, &c.”
From these words we shall shew, I. That God's people are brought into that relation
to him, not by any merits of their own, but solely in consequence of his electing loveThe whole universe; both “the heavens and the earth," is the Lord's : it owes its existence to his all-creating power; and it is altogether at his disposal. He has the same power over it as the potter has over the clay: and, if it had pleased him to mar, or to annihilate, any part of the creation, as soon as he had formed it, he had a right to do so.
But, whilst he has the same right over all his intelligent creatures, he has seen fit to bring some, and some only, into a nearer connexion with himself.
Into this state he brings them of his own sovereign will and pleasure
[Abraham was an idolater, as all his family were, when God first called him by his grace; nor had he any more claim to the blessings promised him, than any other person whatso
Isaac was appointed to be the channel of these blessings in preference to Ishmael, long before he was born into the world : and Jacob also the younger was chosen before Esau the elder," even whilst they were both yet in the womb, and consequently had done neither good nor evil.” His posterity too was chosen to inherit the promised blessings. And why were they chosen? Was it for their superior goodness either seen or foreseen? It could not be for any thing seen ; for they were yet unborn when the blessings were promised to them: and it could not be for any thing foreseen, for they proved a rebellious and stiff-necked people from the very first . The selection of them can be traced to nothing but to God's sovereign will and pleasure b.
In every age he has done the same. Those who love and serve God have always been a remnant only: but they have been “ a remnant according to the election of grace. All true believers at this day, as well as in the apostolic age, must acknowledge, that “God has called them, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began.” It is “ to the good pleasure of his will,” and not to any thing in themselves, that they must ascribe the gift of their spiritual privileges, and spiritual attainments. No one of them can say, that he “ made himself to differ," or that he possesses any thing which he has not received." All that even the most eminent saints possess is a free unmerited gift from God.)
Moreover, in this exercise of his sovereign will and pleasure, he gives no just occasion of complaint to any
[This exercise of his sovereignty is condemned by many, as being an act of injustice ; since to choose some and to leave others gives to the chosen a preference which they do not deserve. But it must be remembered, that none had
claim upon God: and, if we had all been left, like the fallen angels, to endure the full consequences of our transgression, God would still have been holy and just and good : and, if for his
a Deut. ix. 13, 24.
b Deut. vii. 6-8.
c 2 Tim. i. 9.