For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
~ Romans 10:4
And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage: And when we cried unto the LORD God of our fathers, the LORD heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:
~ Deuteronomy 26:6-8
Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire. These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me. This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
~ Deuteronomy 4:33, Deuteronomy 4:36, Deuteronomy 5:22, Acts 7:38
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
~ Genesis 17:7-8, Psalm 81:10, Jeremiah 31:33
The Law Unsealed: or, A Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments With a Resolution of Several Momentous Questions and Cases of Conscience, by James Durham. This is an excerpt from the text.
And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
~ Exodus 20:1-2
Being (through God’s strength (resolved to Essay the opening of the Ten Commandments, all that we shall say, by way of Preface, shall be to give you an account of the Motives which have engaged us in this Work.
The first is the Excellency of this Scripture, it being by the Lord himself intended as a comprehensive sum of his peoples duty, and commanded to us from this, that though all the Scripture be his Word, yet this in a singular manner is so; for he spake all these words himself, and by a Voice immediately formed by himself he pronounced them first to his people, and afterward twice by his Finger (that is, immediately by himself, without making use of any Pen-man, as in other Scriptures) he wrote them for his peoples behoof upon two Tables of Stone, which were afterwards commanded in a singular manner to be kept in the Ark, Deut. 10. v. 2. 5. and to be learned, Deut. 5. 1. as also to be written on the Posts of their Doors, and diligently pressed on their Children, Deut. 67. 8. 9. 10. In opening of which Commandments, not only the Prophets and Apostles, but our blessed Lord in that Sermon of his upon the Mount, Matth. 5. 6. 7. doth much insist,
The second is the usefulness of this Scripture, and of the knowledge of it to all that would know what is pleasing to God, that they may be fitted for duty to him and may know what is displeasing to him; that may know sin, and how to eschew it, and may be stirred up to repentance when they have fallen into it, this being the Laws property, that thereby is the knowledge of sin, Rom. 7. 7. and so likewise the knowledge of duty; therefore it is summed in so few words, that it may be the more easily brought into, and retained in the memories and hearts of his people: For which cause also of old and late, has it always been recommended, both in the Word, Deut. 5. 1. and in all Catechisms to be learned as a Rule of mens walking; and yet so comprehensive is it, that without pains and diligence to come to the understanding thereof men cannot but come short of the great scope thereof.
The third is the great ignorance, that is amongst not a few, of the meaning of the useful and excellent Scripture, and especially in this secure time, many not knowing they break the Commandments when they break them, at least in many material things, and this draweth with it these sad effects: 1. That there are few convictions of sin. 2. Little repentance for sin, 3. Much security presumption confidence in self-righteousness, and the like, upon which the ignorance of this Scripture hath great influence, even as amongst the Jews the ignorance of its Spiritually made many neglect the chief part of holiness, and proudly settle on self-righteousness and slight Christ the Mediator; as we may see in Pauls example, Rom. 7. 9. and this was one reason why our Lord expounded it, that by it sinners might see more the necessity of a Mediator, who is the end of the Law for righteousness to all that believe, Rom. 10. 4. And as these effects are palpable at this time, so we conceive it useful to follow the same remedy; this evil being not only amongest the profane, but amongst the most formal and civil, who stumble at this stone; yea, many believers are often so much taken with cases and light in Doctrinal truths, that they heed not sufficiently the meaning of the Law, whereby their convictions of sin tenderness in practise, constant exercise of repentance, and daily fresh applications to the Blood of Sprinkling are much impeded.
And although it may seem not so to suit the nature of this exercise (for it would be noticed, that the Author delivered this Doctrine of the Law in several Lectures on the Sabbath-morning before Sermon, in which time he formerly used to read and expound a Chapter of the Holy Scriptures, or a considerable portion thereof; which Lectures are not now distinguished, because of the close connection of the purposes) yet considering the foresaid reasons, and the nature of this excellent Scripture, which cannot hastily be passed through (it having much in few words, and therefore requiring some convenient time for explication) & considering the weight of it, and its usefulness for all sorts of hearers, we are confident it will agree well with the end of this Exercise, (which is the end of opening all Scripture) to wit, peoples instruction and edification, to insist a little thereon.
Our purpose is not to aim at any great accuracy, nor to multiply questions and digressions, nor to insist in application and use, but plainly and shortly (as we are able) to give you the meaning of the Law of God: 1. By holding forth the Native Duties required every Commandment. 2. The sins which properly oppose and contradict each Commandment, that by these we may have some direction and help in duty, and some spur to repentance, at least a furtherance in the work of Conviction, that so by it we may be led to Christ Jesus, who is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believes, Rom. 104. which is the principal intent of this Law, as it was given to Israel.
To make way for the Exposition, we shall 1. Lay down some Conclusions which arise from the Preface. 2. Give you some ordinary distinctions. 3. Clear and confirm some Rules or Observations useful for understanding of the whole Law.
The first Conclusion that we take for granted is, that this Law (as ’tis Moral) doth tie even Christians and Believers now, as well as of old; which appears from this, that he who is God the Law-giver here, Acts 7. 38. is the Angel Christ, and ’tis his Word, as is clear, vers. 30. 31. as also the matter of it being connatural to Adam, it did bind before the Law was given, and that obligatory force cannot be separated from its nature, (though the exercise of Right Reason in Nature be much obliterate since the Fall) therefore Christ was so far from destroying this Law in its Authority, and Paul so far from making it void by the Doctrine of Faith, that our Lord tells he came to fulfil it, Matt. 5. 17. and Paul shews, that his preaching of Faith was to establish it, Rom. 3. 31. which truth being confirmed by them both in their Practise and Doctrine, sheweth that the breach of the holy Law of God, is no less sinful to us now, then it was to them before us.
The second Conclusion is, that though this Law, and obedience thereto, lye on Christians, and be called for from them, yet it is not laid on them as a Covenant of Works, or that by which they are to seek or expect Justification; no but on the contrary, to overturn self-righteousness, by this Doctrine which manifesteth sin and of it self worketh wrath? which is also clear, in that he is here called, Our God, which he cannot be to sinners but by Grace: And also it appears from the Lords owning of this sinful people as his, and his adjoining to this Law so many Ceremonies and Sacrifices which point out and lead to Christ: and from his adding the Law on Mount Sinai, as a help to the Covenant made with Abraham, Genes. 17. (which was a Covenant of Grace, and was never altered, as to its substance) in which the people of Israel, as his Seed, was comprehended; therefore it appears that this was never the Lord’s intent in covenanting thus with his people, that they should expect righteousness and life by the adjoined Law, but only that it should be useful in the Hand of Grace to make the former Covenant with Abraham effectual: So then, though we be bound to obey the Law, we are not to seek righteousness or life by the duties therein enjoined.
The third Conclusion is, that both Ministers in preaching, and people in practising of this Law, would carry with subordination to Christ and that the duties called for here are to be performed as a part of the Covenant of Grace, and of the obligation that lieth upon us thereby, & so all our obedience to God ought still to run in that Channel.
If we ask how these two differ, to wit, the performing the duties of the Law, as running in the Channel of the Covenant of Grace, and the performing of them as running in the Channel of the Covenant of Works, or how we are to go about the duties of the Law with subordination to Christ and his Grace? I answer, they differ in these four things, which shew, that these duties are not only to be done, but to be done in a way consistent with, and flowing from Grace: which also follows from this, that in the Preface to the Commandments, he stileth and holdeth himself forth as Redeemer to be the object of our duty, and the motive of it.
1. They differ, I say first, in the End or account upon which they are performed; we are not to perform duties that life, pardon, or enjoying of God may be meritoriously obtained by them, but to testify our respect to him who hath provided these freely for us, that we should not rest in duties which are engraven on these Covenant-Blessings.
2. They differ in the principle by which we act them, ’tis not in our own strength as the works of the first Covenant were to be performed, but in the strength of Grace, and by virtue of the promises of Sanctification comprehended in the second Covenant 2 Cor. 7. 1.
3. They differ as to the manner of their acceptation, duties by the first Covenant are to abide their trial upon the account of their own worth, and the inherent perfection that is in them, and accordingly will be accepted, or rejected, as they are conform or disconform to the perfect Rule of God’s Law; but by the second Covenant, the acceptation of our performances, prayers, praises. are founded on Christ’s Righteousness, and God’s mercy in him, in whom only are they sweet-smelling Sacrifices, and accepted as our persons are, for he hath made us to be accepted as to both only in the beloved Ephes. 1. 4.
4. They differ in respect of the motive from which they proceed; or the great motive of our obedience in the Covenant of Grace, is not fear of threatenings and wrath in case of disobedience, which by the Covenant of Works is the main thing sways men to duties, know is it a purchase of Heaven to themselves by their holiness, which also by that Covenant is a predominant motive of mens obedience, but it is love and gratitude, and that not simply to God as Creator, but as Redeemer, as the Text here sheweth. I brought thee out of the House of Bondage, it is that we may set forth the praises of him who called us, and that we may glorify him that has bought us: where Duties have these qualifications, they are consistent with Grace, and subservient to it; but when those are wanting or excluded, Christ is wronged, and men turn legal, and in so far fall from and overturn Grace.
These Conclusions as necessary Caveats being laid down, we shall propose these distinctions for clearing of them,
1. We would distinguish betwixt a Law and a Covenant, or betwixt this Law, considered as a Law, and as a Covenant; a Law doth necessarily imply no more than 1. To direct. 2 To command, enforcing that obedience by Authority; a Covenant doth further necessarily imply promises made upon some condition, or threatenings added if such a condition be not performed: now this Law may be considered without the consideration of a Covenant, for it was free to God to have added, or not to have added promises, and the threatenings (upon supposition the Law had been kept) might never have taken effect; but the first two are essential to the Law, the last two, to Believers, are made void through Christ; in which sense it is said, that by him we are freed from the Law as a Covenant, so that Believers life depends not on the promises annexed to the Law, nor are they in danger by the threatenings adjoined to it: Hence we are to advert when the Covenant of Works is spoken of, that by it is not meaned this Law simply, but the Law propounded as the condition of obtaining life by the obedience of it; in which respect it was only so formally given to Adam: This then is the first distinction betwixt the Law, and the Covenant of Works.
2. Distinguish betwixt these Ten Commandments simply and strictly taken in the matter of them, and more complexly in their full Administration, with Preface, Promises, Sacrifices, &c, in the first sense they are a Law having the matter, but not the form of the Covenant of Works: so Moses by it is said to describe such righteousness as the Covenant of Works doth require, yet he doth not propond it as the righteousness they were to rely on, but his scope is to put them to a Mediators, by revealing sin through the Law, Rom. 10. 3. In the second sense it is a Covenant of Grace, that same in substance with the Covenant made with Abraham, and with the Covenant made with Believers now, but differing in its Administration.
3. Distinguish betwixt God’s intention in giving, and the Believers in Israel their making use of this Law, and the carnal multitude among that people their way of receiving it, and corrupt abusing it contrary to the Lords mind: In the first sense it was a Covenant of Grace, in the second, it turned to be a Covenant of Works to them; and therefore it is that the Lord rejects as we may see Isaiah 1. 13. 66. 2. 3. Jer. 7. 22. their Sacrifices and Services as not commanded, because rested on by them to the prejudice of Grace, and contrary to the strain and scope of this Law complexly considered.
4. Distinguish betwixt the Moral, and Ceremonial, and Judicial Law; the first concerns manners, and the right ordering of a Godly Conversation; and because these things are of perpetual equity and rectitude, the obligation of this Law as to that is perpetual; and therefore in the expounding of it, these two terms, Moral, and of Perpetual Authority, are all one, and to be taken so 2. The Judicial Law is for regulating outward Society, & for Government, and doth generally (excepting what was peculiar to the people of Israel) agree with the Moral Law; this as given to them is not perpetual, their policy being at an end. 3 The Ceremonial Law is in Ceremonies, Types, and Shadows, pointing at a Saviour to come this is also abrogate, the substance being come; but there is this difference, that the Judicial Law is but Mortua, dead; and may, where’t is thought fit, with the fore-going caution, be used under the New Testament; but the Ceremonial Law is Mortifera, deadly, and cannot without falling from grace, Gal. 5. 2 4. be revived.
5. When we speak of things Moral, we are to distinguish between things Naturally Moral, that is such (as love to God and our Neighbour, and such-like) which have an innate rectitude and holiness in them, which cannot be separate from them, and things positively Moral, that have their obligation by a special positive superadded Sanction, so that their rectitude flows not from the nature of the things themselves, as in the former: As for instance, in the fourth Commandment it is naturally Moral that God should be worshipped, Nature teacheth it; but that he is to be worshipped on such a day particularly, that comes to pass by virtue of his positive Command; the first cannot be altered, the second by the Lord may; but till he alter it, the Authority lies still on all, and it is equally sin to sin against any of them, though without the positive Sanction, there is no obligation naturally requiring obedience in some of them.
6. The sixth distinction is of the Moral Law in two Tables, first and second; The first contains our immediate worship, and service and obedience to God himself, and is comprehended in the first four Commandments; the second contains our mediate obedience to God in all the duties we owe to other, in the last six they were at first so divided by the Lord himself, for there are Ten in all, Dent. 4. 13 From this distinction take notice: 1. That all the Commandments of the second Table are of like Authority with the first, God spake all these words; yea, as it appears from Acts 7. 38. it was our Lord Jesus. 2. The sins immediately against the first Table, are greater then those against the second; for this cause, Matth. 22. 38. the first is called the First and Great Commandment: therefore 3. In Morals (if they be things of the same nature) the duties of the second Table cede and give place to the duties of the first Table, when they cannot stand together; as in the case of love to God, and the exercise of love to our Father and Neighbour, Luke 14. 26. Matth.10. 37. when obedience to God and obedience to our superiors cannot consist we are to obey God rather than man, Acts 4. 19. and we are to love the Lord, and hate Father and Mother Luke 14. 6. 4. Yet take notice, that Ceremonials or positives of the first Table, for a time cede and give place to Morals in the second; as for relieving or preserving our Neighbours life in hazard, we may travel on the Sabbath day, according to that Scripture, I will have Mercy and not Sacrifice, and the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath, &c.
7. The seventh distinction (which is ordinary) is of the Commandments into affirmative and negative, as ye see all the Commandments in the first Table are negatively set down, forbidding sin directly: Thou shalt not have an other gods, &c. only the fourth is both negative and affirmative, forbidding sin, and commanding duty directly; as also the fifth only, which is the first of the second Table, is affirmative, all the rest are negative.
This distinction is not so to be understood, as if nothing were commanded or enjoined in negative Precepts, or as if nothing were forbidden in affirmative Precepts (for what ever be expressed as forbidden, the contrary is always implied as commanded, and whatsoever is expressly commanded, the contrary is always implied as forbidden) but the distinction is taken from the manner of setting them down, concerning which take these Rules or general Observations for your better understanding, many whereof are in the larger Catechism.
1. However the Commandments be expressed, affirmatively or negatively, every one of them hath two parts one affirmative, implied in negative Precepts, requiring the duties that are contrary to the sins forbidden; another negative, implied in the affirmative Precepts, forbidding the sins that are contrary to the duties commanded; as for example the third Commandment, Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain; it implies a Command reverently to use his Name: So, to remember to keep Holy the Sabbath day, implies a Prohibition of profaning it; in which sense all the Commandments may in some respect be called negative (and so a part of the fourth Commandment is negatively expressed, Thou shalt d•no work) or affirmative; in which respect Christ comprehendeth all the negatives under these two great affirmative Commandments, of love to God and our Neighbour, for every Commandment doth both enjoin and forbid; the like may be said of promises and threatenings, there being in every promise a threatenings, and in every threatenings a promise conditionally implied: And this may be a reason why some Commandments are negatively expressed, some positively, to show us that both are comprehended.
2. Though the positive Commandment, or (the positive part of the Commandment) be of alike force and Authority with the negative, as to the obligation it layeth on us to duty, yet it doth not tie us to all occasions and times, as negatives do: Hence is that common maxim, that affirmative Commands tie and oblige semper ever, that is, they never want their Authority, and we are never absolved from their obedience but they do not oblige and tie ad semper, that is, in all differences of time we are not tied to the exercise of the duties enjoined; negatives again oblige both semper and ad semper, that is, always, and in all differences of time: For instance, in the third Commandment, the affirmative part is to use the Lords Name and Ordinances holily and reverently in prayer, reading and hearing, &c. So in the fourth Commandment we are required to sanctify the Sabbath, by waiting on Ordinances, &c. This makes these still duties, so as to pray, hear, &c. are still duties, but we are not to be, and should not be always exercised in these duties, for we must abound in other duties also of necessity, and mercy, we must eat, and sleep, &c. and when we sleep, we can neither act love, nor sear. Again, the negative part is, not to profane the Lords Name in his Ordinances; this may not be done at any time: The reason of the difference is this, because in affirmatives we are not always tied to the acts of Duties and Graces but to the Disposition and Habit. Habits are a Spiritual Quality, a (Vis) or Power sitting and enabling for bringing forth these acts; and for the bringing them forth in the due time and season, when they shall be called for; but in sinful things we are prohibited, not only the habits, but the acts also: the one is always and ever a sin, but the other is not always called for as duty. If any desire Rules to know when a duty is called for; as for instance, when we are to pray, hear, &c. it is hardly possible to be particular in this, yet we may try it by these Generals.
1, Any affirmative Precept binds to present practise, when the duty required tends to God’s glory, unto which every thing should be done (as 1 Corinth 10. 31.) and when the omission of the duty may dishonour him.
2. When it tends to others edification, and omitting will some way stumble and offend.
3. When some special Providences meet and concur, to give opportunity for such a duty; as for instance, the giving of Aims when we have it, and some indigent person offers, whose necessity calls for it, Gal. 6. 10. So when secrecy for prayer is offered, (and no other more necessary duty at that time is called for) which we are to watch unto, Col. 4. 2. or when we meet with some special occasion or Dispensation, pointing out to us this or that as a duty called for, such a Providence invites us to the practise of that duty: for though Providences will not make these things to become duties which are not duties, yet they will serve to time and circumstantiate duties that lye on us, by virtue of affirmative Precepts.
4. Some special occasions and times are set down in the Word, as for praying Morning and Evening, for hearing the Word on Sabbath days; and in these, and other the like duties, the examples of the Saints, so recorded for imitation in Scripture, would be observed as a Copy and pattern.
5. When they have not such inconveniences with them, as cross and hinder other Moral duties of Edification, love &c. for if they do that, they must yield and give place to these; but if no other duty be called for, then they ought to be done, for we should be in some duty. And though such duties be in themselves Moral, suppose praying, hearing, and such others, which might be instanced, yet the timing of them, or going about them at such a time, and in such a manner is not Moral simply, but as these are by circumstances called for.
6. When without sin such a duty cannot be omitted; and although there be not any inward exercise of mind, or frame of spirit suitable thereto, yet the Conscience calls for it, or there is some on special occasion or other that puts us to it.
3. Observe, that this Rule of Negatives tying ad semper, or obliging in all circumstances of time, is not to be understood, but where the matter is Moral; therefore we would distinguish again betwixt negative Morals, and negative Positives, for Positives, whether negative or affirmative, give still place to Morals, As for instance, that part of the fourth Commandment is negative In it (that is, one the seventh day) you shalt do no manner of work, yet sometimes, when necessity calls for it, some manner of works is lawful on that day, because it is only a negative Positive, and not a negative Moral: And so David’s eating of Shew-bread, was against a negative Command, though not against a negative Moral, but a negative Positive.
4. Take this Rule, that in all Commands, jointly and severally, we would have special respect unto the scope God aims at by them all in general, or by such a Command in particular: now the general scope is (2 Cor. 7. 1. 1. Pet. 1. 15. 16) perfect and absolute holiness, even as he is holy; and therefore whatever he requires, he requires that it be absolutely perfect in its kind, as that our love to him be with the whole heart, &c. and so our love to others be as to our selves; our Chastity and Purity, all must be absolute. (see 1 Tim. 1. 5.) This Rule will teach us what we are to aim and level at: And whatever Exposition of the Commandments comes not up to this scope, is no doubt defective; and by this Rule only can we be helped to the right meaning of every Commandment, for each of them has its peculiar scope, both as to the duties it requires, and sins it condemns. And by this Rule it is that our Lord Christ (whose Exposition with that of the Prophets is best) draws in the least and smallest branches of filthiness to the seventh Commandment, which dischargeth all things contrary to perfect and complete Purity.
5. The fifth Rule is, that the Law is spiritual, Rom. 7. 14. and that not only outward obedience to such duties, or outward abstinence from such sinful acts is called for, but the Law, having a spiritual meaning, calls for spiritual service, and that in these three: 1. As it requires spiritual duties, such as Faith, Fear, Love to God, and others; right habits, as well as right affections, and outward actions, and therefore Paul, to prove the spirituality of the Law, instanceth in the habit of Lust, Rom. 7. a thing thereby discharged. 2. The Law is spiritual, in that the obligation thereof reaches to the Spirit, and very inwards of the Heart, affections and thoughts, as well as to the outward man; the love it requires, is love with all the Soul, Heart and Mind. Hence there is Heart-Idolatry, Murder, and Adultery, as well as outward, therein condemned. 3. It is spiritual, in respect of the manner; it requires as to all outward duties, that they be done to a spiritual end, from a spiritual principle, and in a spiritual way, opposite to the carnal way, to which the unrenewed heart of man is inclined, in which sense we are commanded to walk in the spirit, Gal. 5. 16. and so praying and praising, which this Law calls for, is praying and praising in the spirit, 1 Corinth. 14, vers. 14, 15, 16.
6. A sixth Rule is, that beside the duty expressed, there is more implied in the affirmative Commands; and beside the sin pitched on, there is more forbidden in the negative Precepts, even all duties and sins of these kinds, in whatsoever degree: As for example, in the affirmative Commands: 1. Where the duty is commanded, all the means that may further it are commanded likewise: Hence under care to preserve our Brother, Levit. 19. 17. 18. it is commanded that we should reprove him, &c. 2. Where any thing is commanded as a duty, all duties of that kind are commanded, as keeping holy the Lords Day, is commanded in the fourth Commandment: there hearing, praying, watchfulness all the Week over, and all things belonging unto the Worship of God that day, such as tithes, that is, maintenance for a Ministry, calling of fit Ministers, building Churches, &c. are required, though they be not all duties of that day. 3. Where a duty is required, the owning and suitable avowing of the duty is required also: and so believing in God, and the profession of Faith are required in the same Commandment, Rom. 10. 10. 4. Where the duty of one Relation is required (as of Children’s subjection) there is required the duty of the other Relation (as of Parents) yea, and also of all under that name.
Again, in negative Precept; observe: 1. Where great sins are forbidden, all the lesser of that sort are forbidden also: as under Adultery, Murder, and Idolatry, all light, obscene Whorish words, wanton looks, unchaste thoughts, revenge, rash anger, worldly affections, &c. are forbidden; and they are comprehended and prohibited under the grossest terms, to make them the more detestable, odious, and dreadful. 2. All means that may prevent these sins are commanded, and all snares, or occasions, or incitements to them are prohibited. 3. Where any sin is forbidden, there the least scandal about it, or the least appearance of the guilt of committing it, is forbidden also; for God will have his people holy, and shining in holiness, unspotted, and without scandal, and abstaining not only from all evil, but from all appearance of it, 1 Thess. 5. 22. 4. We are not only forbidden the committing of such sins our selves, delighting in them, and inclining to them, but accounting light or little of them in others; yea, we are commanded and ought to mourn for them, when committed by them.
7. The seventh Rule is, whatever duty lies upon others, we are commanded in our places to further them in it, as Masters are to further their Servants, Husbands their Wives, one Neighbour another; by advice, direction, encouragement, prayer, and other helps, as in the fourth Commandment is clear, where the Servants duty, & the Strangers, is imposed on the Master; and whatever sin is discharged in our selves, we are discharged any manner of way to partake in the same with others, whether by advice, example, connivance, ministering occasion, or by sporting and laughing at it in them; for so the Rule is, 1 Tim. 5. 22. Keep thy self pure, partake not of other mens •ins: Men may be free themselves as to their own personal breaches, and yet high•y partake of others breaches of the Law.
8. The breach of one Commandment virtually breaks all; there is such a connexion and linking together of the Commandments, that if the Authority of God belighted in one, it is so in all, Jam. 2. 10. 1. John 4. 20.
9. On thing may in divers respects (as an end or means) be commanded or forbidden in many, yea in all the Commandments as ignorance and drunkenness are, because they disable for all duties, and dispose to all sins: Of this kind is idleness also; and so knowledge, sobriety, watchfulness &c. are commanded in all the Commandments; for without these men are unfitted and incapacitated for performing any commanded duty.
10. The tenth and last Rule is, the Law is holy, just, and good: therefore the least motion against it, or discontentment with it, is sin, Rom. 7. 12. In sum: take these few watch-words concerning the obligation of the Law.
1. That it obligeth to all duties, and to all sorts of duties, public, private to God, to others, and to our selves: and that words, actions, gestures, yea thoughts, and the least motions of the heart, come under its obligation: his Commandment is exceeding broad, so that there is nothing so little, but it ought to be ruled by this Word, and that in all persons of all Ranks, whether as to doing or suffering.
2. That it obligeth to the right manner of duties, as well as to the matter, and to every thing that belongeth to duties; and thus in its true extent it reacheth to the forbidding of all the sins that are contrary to duties commanded.
3. That it obligeth the whole man, the outward, in deeds, words, gestures, and appearances or shews; the inward, in the understanding, will, affections, memory; consciences; and so it requires that the mind, will, and whole nature be sanctified, and conform to all these Commands.
5. That it obligeth to obedience in all these always, and in the highest degree, so that the least disconformity in habit or act is a transgression, the obedience it requires is perfect in all these respects, that not only there must be no breach of any of these Commands directly, much less a continuance in a breach; but that also 1. There must be no appearance of breaking them, 1 Thes. 3. 2. 2. There must be no consent to break them, though it come not forth to act, Matth. 5. 28. There must be no casting our selves in the way of any temptation or snare, whereby we may be enticed or occasioned (to speak so) to break them; as Devil was by his looking on a woman, 2 Sam. 11. 2. which Job guards against, Job 31. Vers. 1 4. there must be no corrupt motion, affection, or inclination to evil, even where it gets not assent, there must be no tickling of delight in the thing, though the heart dare not consent to act it, nor any discontentment with the restraint that keepeth from such a thing, or secret wishing that such a thing were lawful; but on the contrary, we must account every commanded thing right, Psalm 119. 128.
5. The involuntary motions of the mind which never get assent to any of these evils, nor are delighted in, yet even these are prohibited by this Law, because they flow from a corrupt Fountain, and are the Evidences of disconformity to God’s Image in our nature, and they ought not so much as to be in us. Hence doth the Apostle complain of lust, Rom. 7. though resisted by him.
6. It teacheth not only to streams of actual corruption, but to the Fountain of original sin, whereby we entertain within us the seed and incentives unto actual evils that contradict this holy Law. By all which we may see what holiness it calls for, and how often (if we were examined in all the Commands by these Rules) we would be found defective and faulty, and what matter of humiliation and repentance we may have for what is past, and what challenges we may have hereafter from this Law, with what need of continual applications to the Blood of Sprinkling, and of Washings in that open Fountain, to the House of David, and Inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness, and what need of endeavours to have our steps ordered more exactly according to it.
Before we close the Preface, I shall first add two distinctions more, then two more Rules: 3. Give you some Scriptures for your memories cause, 4. Give some directions or helps to those who make conscience to study this Law. 5. Answer and clear a special case.
1. Then ye would distinguish betwixt this Law as given to Adam, and as given to Israel: for as given to him it was a Covenant of Works, but as given to them it’s a Covenant of Grace, and so from us now it calls for Gospel-duties, as Faith in Christ, 1 Tim. 1. 5. Repentance, Hope in God, &c. and although it call for legal duties, yet in a Gospel manner; therefore are we are in the first Commandment commanded to have God for our God, which cannot be by sinners obeyed, but in Christ Jesus, the Covenant of Works being broken, and the tie of Friendship thereby between God and Man made void; so that now men, as to that Covenant, are without God in the World, and without Christ and the Promises, Ephes. 2. 12. 13. And so our having God for our God, (which is pointed at in the Preface to the Commandments) and Christ for our Saviour, and closing with his Righteousness, and the Promises of the Covenant (which are all Yea and Amen in him) must go together.
2. Distinguish betwixt the divers Administrations of the Covenant of Grace, and of the Law, in respect of Positives, falling under the second Commandment; for that Commandment tied the Israelites before Christ to Circumcision, Sacrifices, the seventh day of the Week, and other Ceremonies agreeable to the Administration of the Law, and Covenant of Grace then but now it forbiddeth them to us, and requireth other duties, for the Priest-hood being changed, there is of necessity a change also of the Laws belonging thereto; yet that Commandment, as a part of the Moral Law, doth perpetually oblige and tie to worship God, and none other, and that according to the manner which he prescribes.
Next unto the Rules already laid down for the better understanding of the Commandments, we add two more.
The first is, that the commandments are so to be expounded, as that none of them may contradict another, that is, there is nothing commanded in one that is forbidden in another, or contrary; one duty doth not justle with not thrust out another, but they differ only; and then two duties coming together, in that case one of them ceaseth to be a duty for that time as is said in that distinction of affirmative and negative Commands.
The second Rule is, that all these Commandments bind and call for obedience from men, according to their places, and other qualifications and circumstances: The fifth Commandment calleth for one thing from a Magistrate, another from a Subject; a Magistrate is to edify one way, a Minister another, a private Christian another a Servant is one way to reprove his Fellow-servant, a Master another way: The Law requires more from a man of parts, power and riches, then from another, as to exercise and improvement of these gifts: The Law being just, has in it a proportionableness to places, parts, &c. and sets bounds to stations, but alters them not, nor confounds them.
3. For the help of your memories, and that ye may have these Rules more obvious, ye may draw them all under these five Scriptures.
The first Scripture is, Psalm 119. v. 96. Thy Commandment is exceeding broad; which though it be more extensive in its meaning, yet it doth certainly include this Law, which in an especial way is the Commandment, and in the sense and comprehensive meaning thereof is exceeding broad; for it takes in the fulness and extent of the whole Law, in its obligation, as to all things, persons, and duties of all sorts.
The second Scripture is, Rom. 7. 14. which speaks to the Spirituality of the Law in the obedience which it calleth for, the Law is Spiritual,
The third Scripture is, Rom. 7. 12. which speaks the perfection of its nature, the Law is Just; therefore fretting against what it commandeth, or wishing it were otherwise, is a breach thereof; It is holy; therefore to be disconformable unto it, is to be unholy; it’s good, and therefore it ought to be loved and delighted in.
The fourth Scripture is, 1 Tim. 1. 5. and it speaketh the great end of the Law; The end of the Commandment is Charity out of a pure Heart, and a good Conscience and Faith unfeigned; which threefold End speaketh out the absolute purity and holiness called for in our love to God and others, so as to have a good conscience in this before God: all which must flow from unfeigned Faith without presumption, resting on Jesus Christ, who is in this sense the end of the Law.
The fifth Scripture is, 1 Tim. 1. 8. The Law is good, if a man use it lawfully: and this guards against abusing of the Law, and putteth us to the lawful use of it: There are extremes in abusing the Law; as 1. When it is used to see Righteousness by it. Again 2. When the Authority of it is pretended for something it Warrants not, such as the Traditions of the Fathers, Matt. 15. seeking of Salvation by the observation of Circumcision, &c. 3. When its Authority in practise is denied. 4. When it is turned from practise to vain speculations and questions. 5. When it is so used as it deters and scares from Christ. 6. When it is so made use of, as it oppresses and discourages a Believer, for whose sake (1 Tim. 1. 19.) it was never made or appointed, as to its threatenings and condemning Power: And lastly, in a word, when it is not used to the ends, and in the manner expressed, in the former Scriptures.
Fourthly, Because the study of this Law is so singularly useful, we not only press & commend it, but add further some few directions, whereby we may be helped rightly to use it, and to guard against the abuse of it in our hearing and reading of it.
1. The first direction is, ye would look on it as God’s Word, and take it as if ye heard himself from Sinai pronounce it, that so ye may tremble; and be more affected with holy fear when ever ye read, hear it, or meditate upon it; for so was the people affected when it was first promulgate.
2. Be much in prayer for grace to take up its meaning; David (Psal. 119. 18, &c.) prayed often for this, and thought it not unbecoming a King, yea a believing King, and a Prophet, to study this Law, and pray much for opened eyes to understand the meaning thereof.
3. In your reading seek to understand so as to practise it, for that is the end of knowledge, and the end the Law it self aims at, Deut. 5. 1. 2. we knowing no more in God’s account then what we endeavour honestly to practise; and not aiming at practise, indisposeth both for understanding and practise, and makes men exceeding careless.
4. As ye hear and learn any thing to be duty or sin, reflect on your selves, and try whether that be sin in you, and how far short ye are in that duty, for this is the proper use of the Law, to reveal sin and transgression, Rom. 1.8. and therefore it is called a Glass, Jam. 1. 23. 24. and ye would look in it so as ye may know what manner of persons ye are, and may know what sports are upon you.
5. When the Law discovers sin, ye would open your Bosom to let in Convictions; for the Law entered that sin might abound, not in practise, but in sense feeling, and conscience, Rom. 5. 20. and follow these Convictions by repentance, till they necessitate you to fly to Christ, and leave you there.
6. Take help from Christ’s Sermons, and the Prophets, to understand this Scripture, for they are the only Canonical; and therefore the best Commentary upon the Commandments; yet ye would not despise the light holden forth in humane writings, such as the larger Catechism, which is very full as to this, and if conscionably improved, will prove exceeding profitable for your instruction.
Lastly, The Grave Case that we would speak unto, before we enter particularly on the Commandments is whether any of these Commandments may be broken in our sleep, by Dreams, Imaginations, Actions, &c. which otherwise are unlawful, or whether when a man is sleeping and dreaming he be subject to the Rule of the Law, and if its obligation extend to him even then? This question hath its own difficulty, and although it be not good to be curious in it, yet it wants not its own profit, as to the peace and quietness of God’s people, or to their humbling and stirring up unto repentance, if it be rightly decided. I know almost all run on the negative, as if men were not in the least guilty of sin by such Dreams upon this ground, upon this ground, because they are not then in a capacity to use and exercise their reason, but that they are in this case as mad, distracted, o• frantic men. I desire to be sober in speaking to this; yet I shall adventure to speak my mind a little about it, with the reasons of it.
And 1. we say there is a great difference betwixt sleeping dreaming men, and mad-men. 1. Because madness is wholly in it self penal, and is a disease following sinful man as other diseases: but so it cannot be said of such dreaming; for as sleep was natural (there being before Adams Fall a Day and a Night as well as now, and there being an instance then of Adams sleeping) so must dreaming be, being procured by the restlessness of the Fancy; and the roving of the Imaginations, which is some way natural; but that men dream of such subjects, or that their dreams are of such a nature (as filthy or profane) seems clearly to follow sin, which dreaming simply doth not; and therefore man is not so passive in this, as in madness. 2. Because in dreams men have more use of Reason, then in madness, though (as the School-men say) that use be imperfect, yet as they grant (and Experience confirmeth it, and Augustine lib. 10. Confess• acknowledgeth it in himself) their may reason and debate in sleep, yea sometimes reject some motions, and though dreaming yet not give consent unto them; and that upon reasons which at other times possibly they will embrace. Hence is it that there is a sort of suitableness and likeness betwixt mens dreamings and their rational actings when walking; children and mad men, or men in a distemper, having more foolishness and less reason in dreams, then these who have more use of reason; but wise men in a distraction, and natural fools, have no such difference then: Beside, we conceive that dreaming is more proper to reasonable men then Beasts and to men that have exercise of reason then to children, but madness may be in all. 3. Because a mans former carriage in moral things hath much more influence on his dreams when he has clear use of reason, then it can be said to have upon him when in madness, as to the things committed by him in it. 4. Neither is it without some weight, that under the Law, Levit. 15. Deut. 23. 10. Sacrifices and Washing were appointed for some sins committed in sleep and dreaming (whatever they be in themselves) which were not appointed for the sins of such as were frantic: All which put together, and duly considered, we cannot look upon sins, I mean things otherwise unlawful, in dreaming; and sins in distraction, as equal.
Yet secondly, there be some things that we willingly grant in this matter: As 1. That we do not comprehend under these sinful dreams every passing transient thought or motion in sleep, which has merely an idleness and unprofitableness with it, which though it might possibly be sinful in men waking, (when they should aim in the least thought at something edifying) yet we think dreams that are merely (so to say) negative, that is not sinful on the matter, are not to be accounted sins; nay, not yet sins historically, as it were, objected to the fancy, or only objectively proposed I say they are not sinful, because mans fancy at such a time is open to such Representations and cannot hold them out, especially seeing they may possibly be carried in by the Devil, who certainly waits these times; but there are other sinful dreams, such as that spoken of, Levit. 15. through occasion of which there is effusion of seed, rising in passion, delighting in revenge, it may be (as we have heard) to the committing of some act, such have (as it were) a more deliberate consent with them, and sometimes delight, yea, sometimes external motion of the body endeavouring the accomplishments of its desires: in all which it seems hard to say, that a man is passive only; and when the subject of the dreams are such things as a natural Conscience will scare and tremble at, it is of these we speak.
2. We conceive there is a great difference, as to degrees of sinfulness, betwixt such sinful motions, desires, delectations, &c. that are in a waking man, and the same in one a sleep; the guilt is much less by many degrees in the one, then in the other.
3. A difference is to be made betwixt gross sins objectively represented to the fancy in sleep, and the same sins which are not only sore presented, but also have more settled motions following thereon.
4. There is a difference also betwixt distempered men in their dreams of this kind, and men who are sober, and well at themselves; yet we cannot but incline to think, that there is some guilty that may and ought to be repented of in such dreams, and so that men may in their sleep sin against these holy Commandments, seeing that in many dreams, as in many words, there are divers (even sinful) vanities, Eccles. 5. 7.
This Truth is something clear from the grounds already laid down; but we shall for further clearing and confirming of it, and these following Arguments. The first is this.
1. That tickling delight, as an evil against the Law of God, is a fruit of original sin, which sin infects all our imaginations, and make them evil, Genes. 6. 5. yea, they are the flowings out of habitual lust, which is now natural to us; and if they be a Fruit of that Tree, or a Daughter of that Mother, must they not be of the same nature, and so sinful? and that they must flow from Original sin, may thus be made out; That none can imagine such dreams to have been incident to Adam, in the state of Innocency, while all was pure, even though sleep and dreams were natural to him: And this may be confirmed from that one maxim of the School-men, that Adams Innocency was capable of no deception, nor of any thing which might make him sad, either sleeping or waking; but such dreams certainly imply both. If it be said, such dreams may be from an external cause, as the Devils objecting such and such things to men in sleep: I answer, I grant in part it may be so; but 1. Though he object them to us sleeping as well as waking, yet it is, we that entertain these objected Representations, it is we that delight in them, and move by them, though tempted thereto by him: we may say he is Father and as it is, Acts 5. 3, he filleth the heart, and furnisheth fuel; but we are the Mother (I say it is our corruption) that bringeth forth, and can any say, that if there were no corruption within us, that these would be so entertained?
2. Though they come from him as an external cause, yet considering that our nature is inclined to such things, so that Powder or Flax taketh no sooner with Fire cast into them, then our corrupt nature doth with these temptations: Is it possible to imagine that a Dart of temptation should be thrown in, and not at least awake and stir the savour of corruptions? Indeed, pure Nature in our blessed Lord (who was without Original sin) was like water, presently to quench all such Fiery Darts. 3. If they come from the Devil, to what end can he object them to men; it must either be because they are sinful, that being his aim to defile them thereby, and draw them to sin, or because they are troublesome and heavy to men, he having delight also in mens misery, but such dreams are no way weighty and troublesome to the most part of men, that therefore is not his aim, nor would they be so much burdensome to others, were it not from their apprehension of guilt under them; and therefore Satans aim must be thereby to defile men with sin.
2. Argument which confirmeth the former, (and let us consider it with reverence) our blessed Lord Jesus was made in all things like unto us, except sin, none of the fruits of original sin, which are sinful, are to be found in him; and yet, I suppose, none can without horror imagine such dreams to have been incident to him, or that his absolute Holiness was capable of them. He is the only instance of one free from original sin, yet may he be supposed liable to any other penal thing, excepting 1. What implies sin. 2. What implies distempers and infirmities in the contemperature and constitution of his body from inward causes, because he had no inward cause, being free of sin as Adam before his Fall; and therefore not naturally (I mean from inward principles, or necessity, as we are) subject to sickness or death.
3. The third Argument is, That men are often accessary to these sinful dreams themselves, either 1. By excess, disposing themselves to such inclinations, or
2. By a loose mind that delights in following such things throughout the day in their more reasonable meditations, and more determinate purposes; it being ordinary, that dreams follow much the constitution of the body, or the habitual strain of our practise: in which respect mens Callings, or particular employments, will run up and down before the Fancy in their sleep, and so their sinful exercises also: or
3. By not praying to God to guard against them, and neglecting to press more after mortification for that end: or 4. By not being suitably affected with them after they are past and gone: In which cases even the School-men (who are not the most rigid and tender Casuists) will grant (all things being considered) sin to be ex consequenti in dreams; and we suppose few fall in such dreams, who may not in one circumstance or other read their accession to sin therein, and though our frame and constitution be in it self natural, yet that it should incline us sleeping or waking to any thing sinful, that is and must be from corrupt nature, seeing it clearly speaketh the inordinateness of our natural inclination.
4. The fourth Argument is from the Law of Washings and Sacrificings for the sin of uncleanness in mens dreams, when they pass seed in their sleep, which seemeth to say thus much, that both sleeping and waking men should be holy; and although there be sacrifices and cleansings appointed for somethings that are not morally sinful, as the touching of a dead body, having leprosy, &c. yet simply to say so of the case in hand were hard: For 1. If it be said there was no moral sinfulness in that kind of pollutions, what then could these Sacrifices and Washings signify? If any say, as they must say, they looked to secret actings of original sin, it doth confirm what we have said: But 2. Is there in any such things as are not accounted sinful in themselves, such a dependency upon, or likeness to any Commandment, as there is in that which is mentioned Levit. 15. to the seventh Commandment, to which it seemeth to have a direct reference?
5. The fifth Argument may be taken from the extent of the Law, which reacheth to the whole man outward and inward, soul, heart, mind, and if to the whole man, then why not to the fancy, memory, imagination, &c. And we are sure when Spirits are made perfectly conform to the Law of God, there will not be found in them any such fancy imaginable as consistent with it: Besides, doth not this Law oblige and tie always? even sleeping men (as we conceive) are under the negative Precepts of it, that is, although they be not bound to pray and hear in their sleep, yet they are bound not to Murder, nor commit Adultery, &c. in their sleep; and the more renewed and holy Christians are in their ordinary walk, so are they in their dreams; and even in this sanctified persons differ from unrenewed ones.
6. The sixth Argument it this, we suppose these grounds that prove involuntary lust in the first motions thereof, and before they can come to consent to be sin, will infer these motions in sleeping men (of which we speak) to be sinful also: For 1. Though these motions of lust be involuntary, and weaken not the deliberate use of Reason more than the other: And 2. Though they be in the Regenerate wrestled against, and not approved more than the other, yet because these are not according to reason, (though not brought forth by it) and not answerable to that simple purity and angelic holiness which should be in man, and it is hard to imagine the most passing motions of lust running never so swiftly through us, not to leave behind them some dreg of defilement by reason of our corruption, that sideth still in less or more with temptation (which cannot be said of sins objected by the Tempter to our Lord) and such lusts, or motions of lust, have still by the Orthodox, according to Pauls Doctrine, Rom. 7. been thought sinful upon the foresaid reasons, and we see not but these same reasons will hold here.
Lastly, we add, that generally the Consciences of the Godly look on this kind of practises, although committed in sleep, with horror, and no reasoning or disputing will truly quiet them, till they be humbled before God under them, and yet they use not to be so troubled in other things that are merely Ceremonial: How doth Augustine complain of this, yea confess and lament it, Confess. lib. 10. cap. 30. (though elsewhere he accounts it no sin) yet he cries out of it, and that he thought it a mercy, that he had not done what in sleep he consented to act, reperimus nos non fecisse, doleamus tamen quoquo modo in nobis factum suisse, It grieves him that it should be any way done in him, and he aggreadgeth it thus, that he had not always rejected these as sometimes he had done: And do not the Godly sometimes in their sleep make opposition to these motions? and how often do they in prayer wrestle against this evil, and that (as I conceive) from another apprehension of it then simply, because of any punishment or affliction that is in it? for many things more afflicting do not so effect them; and yet even these know the reasons that are made use of against the sinfulness of it, which maketh me think there is something directly against Conscience and Purity in these sinful actions or motions.
To conclude, sure we are this Opinion is not unsuitable to the end of the Law, and that absolute Purity and Angelical Holiness God calleth for in it; namely, that not only when we are awake we are to be still with him, but that our sleep should not break our Communion with him: And certainly it is most safe for man to humble himself under the sense of his sinful nature, and the sad necessity of sinning, both waking and sleeping, he hath brought on himself that thereby he may the better press on himself the necessity of a Mediator for Righteousness, which are the great ends and uses of the Law.