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or of what we are to do. Our duty as it regards practice is very comprehensively summed up in our text, "Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you." Revealed religion is not merely a system of truths to be believed; but it is also a system of duties to be performed. And the belief of the one, and the practice of the other, are inseparably united together in true religion. And in vain do any hope to be saved by an orthodox faith, unless their practice also be good, and according to the revealed will of God.
The duty which God requires of man is in general terms summed up in the answer to the 39th question of our Catechism.
"What is the duty which God requireth of man?
The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will."
The special rule of obedience which God has revealed to man, we have contained in the answer to the next question.
"What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?
The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience was the moral law.”
The answer to the next two questions inform us wherein this law is summarily comprehended.
"Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended?
The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments."
"What is the sum of the ten commandments?
The sum of the ten commandments is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind, and our neighbour as ourselves."
Our text will lead us to take a general view of these answers, as introductory to a particular illustration of the ten commandments.
I. We observe that obedience to the will of God is our duty. This may be proved from the character of God, the relations which we sustain to him, and the declarations of his word.
II. His character. He is a being of infinite wisdom. He perfectly knows what is the tendency of every rule of conduct which may be prescribed for his creatures; and he perfectly knows what is right, and what is best for them.
He is a being of almighty power, who can enforce his laws, and whose will none can effectually resist. He is also a being of perfect justice, whose will cannot be wrong; but must always be perfectly right. And he is à being of infinite benevolence, whose will is not only right; but perfectly good, and calculated for the best happiness of his creatures. Such a being is certainly fitted to reign, and is worthy the obedience of all other beings. His will is perfect; and if it be our duty to shun wrong and do that which is right, it is our duty to render obedience to the will of God.
2. The relations which subsist between God and us,teach us that obedience to his will is our duty. He is our Creator; and he made us for himself. He has therefore
an absolute propriety in us. We are entirely his property; and are therefore certainly bound to obey his will.He is also our Preserver. We not only derived our being from him; but this being is continued by his supporting power. "In him we live and move and have our being. Acts xvii. 28. We could not continue to exist one moment independent of him.
From him also we derive every blessing temporal and spiritual. All we have and are therefore belong to him. And it must therefore be our indispensable duty to render obedience to his will.
3. That obedience to the divine will is our duty, is very frequently and explicitly taught in the Scriptures. Both the Old and New Testaments, abound with injunctions on this head. Our text is positive. "Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you." Numerous texts of the same import are found in the Scriptures. I shall point you to a few, selected from the New Testament which show that obedience is enjoined under the gospel dispensation, as well as it was under the legal. Christ taught "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Mat. vii. 21. "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Luke vi. 46. "If ye love me keep my commandments." John xiv. 15. "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." John xv. 14. and," Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have
right to the tree of life." Rev. xxii. 14. Hence it is evident that obedience to the will of God is our duty. This obedience which we owe to the will of God, should be personal, sincere, perfect, and perpetual. It should be personal; that is we are bound to render obedience ourselves. We cannot be released from our obligations by the obedience of others. The language of the Scriptures is " thou shalt love the Lord thy God, &c. thou shalt love thy neighbour." Mat. xxii. 37. 39. "The man that doth them shall live in them." It ought to be sincere. or with our hearts, as well as our bodies. External obedience, unless it be sincere or from the heart will not be acceptable. God requires the heart. The language of his word is, "My son give me thine heart." Prov. xxiii. 26. "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Mat. xxii. 37.
This obedience ought also to be perfect, or to the full extent of all the powers of the whole man, both soul and body, without swerving in any instance, or coming short in the least degree. For God is worthy the highest obedience of which he has made us capable, according to the natural powers which he has given us. And he requires, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind." Luke x. 27. Again this obedience ought to be perpetual. It is our duty to render a personal, sincere, and perfect obedience to the will of God, not merely for a limited time, but unremittingly, and continually; for the foundations of our obligations to obedience continue the same, and therefore our duty will continue the same.
II. We observe that the will of God to be the rule of our conduct must be revealed. "The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to his revealed will." And "ye shall walk in all the ways, which the Lord your God hath commanded you." If his will were not revealed or made known, his creatures could not be under obligations to render obedience to it. For, "secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed, belong unto us." Deut. xxix. 29. The will of God which he has not made known, or with which we have not the means of becoming acquainted, we are not bound to obey.
But when God has revealed his will, and has given us the means of becoming acquainted with it, we are under obligations to obedience, whether we actually know his will or not. For it is our duty to know the will of God, when he has revealed it, and afforded the means of knowing it. And in these circumstances it is highly criminal to be ignorant of the divine will.
God has made known his will to men, to be the rule of their duty. He has in a degree made it known to all men. For he has in some measure written his law on the consciences of men, as we learn from Rom. ii. 14, 15. "When the Gentiles, which have not the law,do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another." The works of God also in some measure declare to all men his will and their duty. As we learn from Ps. xix. 1-4. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." And from Rom. i. 20. "The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Much of our duty is taught by the light of nature, or the works of God, and the dictates of conscience; and enough to leave those who have no other guide, without excuse for their disobedience. But this light has become greatly obscured by the fall; and though it is owing to the depravity of man that so little is learned from this source, God has in infinite mercy condescended to make a far more clear revelation of his will, to be the rule of man's duty. This clear revelation we have in the Holy Scriptures. The will of God thus made known is his law, by which they, who have the means of becoming acquainted with the Scriptures, are to be governed.
We proceed now.
III. To shew the nature, obligation, and use of the divine law.
I. The nature.
The law of God contained in the Scriptures, has been generally considered as threefold, viz. ceremonial, judicial, and moral. The ceremonial law includes those religious rites which God prescribed to the church of old, as. shadows or types of good things to come. These laws were obligatory on the church, from the time that they were given, until Christ the substance came, and then they ceased to be any longer binding.
The judicial law includes those precepts which God enjoined upon the Israelites as a nation. Of these some were founded in the nature and fitness of things, and are therefore obligatory on all nations: and have been introduced into the code of all well regulated governments, down to the present time. Others arose out of the local circumstances of the Jewish nation, and were binding only upon them.
The moral law is that with which we are more intimately concerned. This branch of the divine laws, is sometimes subdivided into moral natural, and moral positive.
By the first kind of moral precepts. we understand those which are founded in the very nature and fitness of things, and which would have been binding on men, had God never expressly enjoined them. Thus it would have been our duty, to have loved God, and to have loved our neighbour, though God had never expressly commanded us so to do. This division of the moral law is the same with what is called the law of nature. It is the law of nature committed to writing.
By moral positive precepts we understand those which could not have been discovered by the light of nature; but which become duty solely because God has commanded them. Of this nature are the laws respecting baptism and the Lords Supper. The obligations to observe them arises from a positive command of God. It would be our duty to pray unto God, though he had never commanded it; but it would not be our duty, to observe the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper, if God had not enjoined it. Of the same nature is a part of the fourth commandment. That part of it which requires a portion of our time to be particularly devoted to the worship of God is moral natural, and would have been binding without an express command. But that part which requires