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forbidden to do any thing in our persons as sinful, it equally restrains us from being partakers of other men's guilt, who do commit what we know is thereby forbidden. We must not, therefore, be either advising, assisting, encouraging, or in any shape a party with them in it; nay, we must not so much as give any countenance to the evil which they do, by excusing or making light of the crime, or by hiding their wickedness, lest, by so doing, we incur part of the blame and punishment, and thus deserve the character given by the Psalmist, When thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst unto him, and hast been made partaker with the adulterers.
Thus, my brethren, have I endeavoured to afford you a full, plain, and useful introduction to my future Discourses on the several commandments delivered by God as a law to his people of old, and confirmed by Christ, both by his own preaching and practice by his most close, pure interpretation of them-and by his constant exhortations to live up to them according to the utmost measure of the grace he has promised us for that good end.-May the humble advice and instruction now afforded you, take root in all your hearts, through the merits and intercession of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Saviour. To whom, &c,
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT:
"Thou shalt have none other Gods but me."
ISAIAH, XLVI. 9.
I am God, and there is none else: I am God, and there is none like me.
In the first of the two preceding Lectures I treated upon the necessity of our obedience to God's laws in general: in the last, I confined myself more closely to a view of the commandments or written law at large, by showing how they were originally divided by the great Author of them-by enlarging upon what relates to their general history, and by proposing to you such rules for the due understanding of them, as might assist to enforce your observance of these holy precepts. Those two Discourses, therefore, were delivered to you, as an useful introduction to what we come now to consider, in a more distinct and particular point of view. I pray God to enable me so to speak, and you to attend, that, by the fulfilling of our
respective duties to the Almighty, we may effectually promote the happiness of our own souls!
You may remember, my brethren, that I intimated to you, in my former Discourse, that the first table contained those commandments which concern our duty towards GoD; we will now proceed to examine the full import of the first of these; Thou shalt have none other Gods but me: and in order to proceed regularly in this task, and to procure all the light we need, upon so important a subject, let us consider that general preface or introduction to God's laws which goes immediately before this command, and was also delivered by God himself, and therefore judged highly proper by the compilers of our Church Catechism, to be repeated in this part of it, as follows: I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
We can no how obtain so thorough and pure a knowledge of God's commandments, as by considering them at the fountain-head; that is, as they are delivered to us in the Holy Scriptures: and, accordingly, we may here observe, that God himself represents to us the two great motives on which he required the Jews to obey those commandments which he was about to deliver to them, viz. first, that he was the Lord their God, and therefore had an absolute.
right to their obedience upon the first principles of divine authority; and, secondly, that he had brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and on that account derived another claim to their obeisance on a principle, which, when it does not produce humility and subjection in the creature, places him in the worst light in which he can be viewed a just object of wrath, instead of favour. I need scarcely mention to you, that I mean GRATITUDE, which, of all other motives, ought to be the primary and strongest, in binding all mankind to the service of their Maker. Now, the precepts of different kinds that God delivered by the mouth of Moses to the people, we may see in the 18th and 19th chapters of Leviticus, 21st-25th verses, and which concluded with this powerful reason for their obedience-I AM THE LORD: and in a peculiar injunction recorded in the 3d chapter of Numbers, ver. 13, we have the same words of divine sanction to strengthen the recollection of their mighty deliverances, and to engage them to give the praise and glory where alone it was due. And in order to renew their faith when it began to fail, they are reminded (Deut. i. 30) to trust in the Lord their God, who went before them to fight for them, according as he did for them in Egypt before their eyes.
The same remembrances you will find in
the 6th of Deuteronomy, the latter part of the chapter, as also in the 26th chapter, 8th and 10th verses. And when the people failed to keep this first commandment (as we read in Judges, ii. 2), the angel of God was sent to them to rebuke them, and remind them to whom they owed their deliverance, and whom only they should serve.
But, perhaps, it may be asked, that as all these are particular instances out of the Old Testament, and concerning the Jews, can the same reasons be equally binding upon us as Christians? Now, the least consideration even of our dependent situation as creatures, and much more of our advantages under a purer light of revelation, must convince us of this obligation; and, as I observed in a former Lecture, they became rather more than less binding upon us, than they were on God's first people, because, as the Apostle argues (Rom. ii. 28, 29), we are the spiritual Israel, and heirs of the promises; for verily he is not a Jew (in a religious sense) who is only one outwardly; neither is that circumcision (as to the spiritual meaning of it) which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew (one of God's peculiar people) which is one inwardly, who acts up to the spirit signified in the outward sign; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not the letter only, whose praise is not of men but of God: for the former