« PreviousContinue »
back their wages from them in whole or in part, and so oppressing the hireling; rigorously keeping them at work, not allowing them convenient time for rest, nor worshipping of God in secret, or attending on public ordinances. And so they sin against them by continual chiding, and uneasiness to them, and carelessness with respect to their soul's good, Eph. vi. 9. Fourthly, As to ministers and people:
1. People sin against their ministers by their slighting and despising them, and nowise treating them as the messengers of Christ; going on in their evil ways over the belly of all warnings and reproofs, being stubborn, and refusing subjection to discipline; slandering of them, creating them trouble, by forsaking of ordinances, &c. or any wise making their work burdensome, or them to drive heavily in it; and restraining prayer for them. · Ministers sin against people by an unconcernedness about their souls case, laziness, and unfaithfulness in discharge of their duty, proving stumbling-blocks to their people by a loose walk, and not being earnest in prayer for them, for the blessing of God on them and their message.
As to ruling elders and people, I have nothing to add to what I said before.
Fifthly, As to magistrates and subjects:
1. Subjects sin against magistrates by carrying disre. spectfully to them, rebelling against them, and disobeying their just laws, reviling and speaking despitefully of them, denying them subjection and their just dues, and not praying for them.
2. Magistrates sin against subjects by using their power to satisfy their lusts, and giving bad example to others, by tyranny and oppression, unjust laws, and discountenancing piety and virtue, and opposing themselves to the kingdom of Christ.
Sixthly, As to the aged and younger: How little respect do the younger shew to the aged ! Instead of that honour due to age, people are ready to befool them, if not to account them witches or wizards, forgetting that either they must come to their age themselves, or die by the way. On the other hand, few old people carry so to the younger, as to command respect by their exemplary piety and holiness; but, on the contrary, grey hairs are often found in the way of wickedness,
Şeventhty, As to the weaker and stronger in gifts : It is often the sin of the weaker to envy the stronger, and if they can to misrepresent them. The weak judge the strong, and the strong despise and stumble the weak.
Lastly, Equals sin against one another, undervaluing the worth, envying and grieving at the good of one another, and usurping pre-eminence over one another.
The spring and source of all this is, (1.) Want of love to and fear of God; for while people are not in their duty to God, how should they be in their duty to man? (2.) Pride and selfishness, while every one seeks himself, and not the good of others
These things may be very humbling to all of us. Who can say his life is clean in any of these relations ? But even those who are very dutiful in their several relations as to the matter, may be guilty of the breach of this command, in sa far as what they do in these things does not proceed from gracious principles; for indeed the first command must be carried along in all the rest.
III. We come now to the reason annexed to this command; which is, ' A promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God's glory and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment.?
This is a promise to encourage the conscientious perform. ance of the duties here required. The apostle tells us, that it is the first command with promise,' Eph. v. 2.
Quest, 1. How is this command the first with promise, seeing the second has a promise also ?
Ans. It is the first command of the second table : for it is the most weighty of them all, as comprehending all the rest in it; so that we cannot sin against the rest, but we must first break over the hedge of this, which encompasseth all the rest. For one cannot violate another's life, chastity, &c. but he first violates the honour due to him by this command. And it is the only command that has a special promise of a particular mercy annexed to it. The promise annexed to the second command is but a promise of mercy in the general, and that not particularly to those that keep that com. mand, but all the commandments.
Quest. 2. But does the law promise any thing but to perfect keeping of its commands ? and if so, what are we the better?
Ans. We must distinguish betwixt the law as a covenant of works, and the law as in the hand of Christ for a rule of life to believers. As it is a covenant of works, nothing less than perfect obedience can interest men in the promise; for the least failure knocks off the man's fingers from the promise, by virtue of the curse, Gal. iii. 10. Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.' So that we can be nothing the better of this promise. But Christ being the Surety of the better covenant, having made a new covenant of grace in his blood, he takes the same law in his hands, and gives out the commands of it as a rule of life to his covenanted people, and renews the promises of it to their sincere obedience of them, 1 Tim. iv, 8. Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.' As for the curse of it they hear of it no more, he having borne it away himself. And 50 he crowns the fruits of his own grace in them with blessed rewards. And as all these promises are yea and amen in
so for his sake, through faith in his blood, they are obtained.
In the words we may consider these three things; the blessing promised, the place where it is to be enjoyed, and the regard the Lord allows his people to have to that blessing to further them in obedience.
FIRST, The blessing promised; that is, long life, that thy days may be long. It is a temporal mercy, a mercy much desired ordinarily by all men, and promised to them that keep this commandment. There are four things here to be considered.
First, What is meant by men's days being long. It denotes two things.
1. Long life, Prov. iv. 10. The years of thy life shall be many. Death in its best colours has something frightful about it. It is a dissolution of soul and body, which nature shivers at. But there is no eviting of it; all must die; they must go through that dark valley to their eternal state. But the best that can be made of it is promised here, viz. that
such shall be full of days, and not be taken away till they be ripe for the sickle.
2. Prosperity to accompany that life; for none vivere, sed va lere, vita est, Long lite in miseries is a continued death, rather than life. So that the nature of the thing teaches us, that a prosperous long life is here promised. It is a good old age, Gen. xv, 15. And thus the apostle explains it, Eph. vi. 3. ? That it may be well with thee, and thou mayst live long on the earth.'
Secondly. That long life is in itself a mercy, and therefore is promised. There are many things that may mortify men's desires of long life. Old age is ordinarily accompanied with a train of miseries; and the longer the godly live, they are the longer kept out of heaven, Yet there are four things that make this long and prosperous life here promised to the godly's keeping of this command, a great mercy,
1. A good old age is an honourable thing, Proy. xvi. 31. $ The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.' God commands a particular reve. rence to be given to old men, Lev. xix. 32, Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old
It is true, sin and wickedness spoils the greatest glory, and no man is more like the devil than a wicked old man, Isa. Ixv. 20.
• The sinner being an hundred years old, shall be accursed' But it is an honourable character which the Spirit of God puts on Mnason, Acts xxi. 16. • An old disciple.' And old godly men are most like God, Dan. vii, 9. Rev. i. 14.
2. It is profitable for the exercise of godliness, in so far as it makes them proof against many temptations which youth often carries men headlong unto, 2 Tim. ii. 22. The frothiness and fire of youth dying out through time, their grace is the better it wants them. Young people's grace may be more bulky, but old people's grace, though of less bulk, is more worth, because it is more solid. Though new liquor may work and swell up more, the old is better. John was the longest lived of the apostles, and wrote last of them. In his younger years he could have burnt whole towns for Christ, Luke ix. 54. but if ye will look to his epistles written in his older days, they breathe nothing but love, meek, ness, and solid godliness.
3. Long life makes way for the more proofs and experi.
ences of the goodness of God on the earth, 1 John ii. 13. The young soldier may be more mettled and venturous; but the old soldier is more to be trusted, because of his experience and skill. It is no small advantage to have been an eye-witness of the several appearances God has made for his church, and of several storms that have gone over her head.
4. Lastly, They have the larger opportunity of glorifying God here, and being serviceable in their generation, the longer they live on the earth; and therefore shall have a larger measure of glory hereafter, as they have been more serviceable for God than others, 2 Cor. ix. 6; How many are cut off in their early days, while they were just budding for the honour of God and the service of the church! It is better for themselves that they are soon taken away; but the church is less the better of them, Phil. i. 23, 24; The Spirit of God takes notice of this in the old men that outlived Joshua, how useful their age was for God and his church, Josh. xxiv. 31. And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that over-lived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord that he had done for Israel.' And though glory is not the merit of good works, yet according to the sowing, so shall the harvest be.
Thirdly, A holy walk, particularly in the conscientious performance of relative duties, is the way to a long and prosperous life. Holiness, and particularly relative holiness, is the way to a long and happy life in the world.
1. As to holiness in general, it is clear from two things. (1.) From the promise of God in his life-giving word. Man lives by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' The unbelieving world may think a scripture. promise but a poor fence for a man's life. Give them good entertainment, ease, medicine, they will lay more weight on these than on a cluster of promises; but yet a promise from the Lord is better than all these, Dan. i. 15; for man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, Matth. iv. 4. Now, it has the promise, 1 Tim. iv. 8. It has the promise of health, wealth, and long life, Prov. iii. 7.-10, & 16.
(2.) From the nature of the thing. A holy walk keeps us back from those things that hurt and ruin the body. And no man's body is so little abused to its hurt, as his whose