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4. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts
The Psalmist here begins to direct his address to his God, and calls to mind those obligations to obedience, in which he felt his own happiness most nearly concerned. For even under that dispensation which “ gendered unto bondage," much encouragement was connected with the “command to keep the Lord's precepts diligently"_“O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them nd with their children for ever.” 1 But surely we, under a dispensation of love, can never want a motive for obedience! Let the daily mercies of Providence stir up the question
" What shall I render unto the Lord ? " 2 Let the far richer mercies of grace produce “a living sacrifice" to be
presented to the Lord.” 3 Let “ the love of Christ constrain us." 4 Let the recollection of the “ price with which we were bought,” remind us of the Lord's property in us, and of our obligations to “glorify him in our body, and in our spirit, which are his.” 5 Let us only “ behold the Lamb of God;”– let us hear his wrestling supplications, his deserted cry, his expiring agonies-the price of our redemption ; and then let us ask ourselves --Can we want a motive?
But what is the Scriptural view of Evangelical obedience? It is the work of the Spirit, enabling us obey the truth."
It is the end of the purpose of God, who “ hath chosen us in Christ before the
1 Deut. v. 29. Comp. Deut. vi. 17, 18; xxviii. 1, 2. Jer. viii. 23. 2 Psalm cxvi. 12.
3 Rom. xii. 1. 4 2 Cor. v. 14. 5 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20.
6 1 Peter i. 22.
foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”i It is the only satisfactory evidence of the sincerity of our profession.Then let me make the inquiry in the morning
– What is the work appointed for the day? “Teach me thy way, O Lord : I will walk in thy truth : unite
heart to fear thy name. Let me maintain an anxious and watchful spirit, that in my daily business I may be employed in the Lord's work. Let a guard be set upon my thoughts, my lips, my tempers, and pursuits, that nothing may hinder me, but rather every thing may assist me, in “ keeping the Lord's precepts diligently." Let there be a trading for him with all the talents entrusted to me. What is the reason that I ever find the precepts to be
grievous” to me? Is it not that some indolence is indulged; or some “iniquity regarded in my heart;” or some principle of unfaithfulness operating to divide my service with two Masters, when I should rather be conflicting with besetting hindrances, and seeking to overcome them all in "
following the Lord fully ?” Oh! for the spirit of “simplicity and godly sincerity” in the precepts of God. Oh! for that love, which is the main-spring of diligence, warm and constant, taking the place of every other motive in leading me on in the service of God. Oh! for a large supply of that “wisdom which is from above," and which is " without partiality and without hypocrisy ! ” 4 Eph. i. 4.
2 Matt. xii. 33. John xiv. 15, 21. 3 Psalm lxxxvi, 11.
4 James iii, 17.
5. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes !
The Lord has indeed “ commanded us to keep his precepts.” But, alas! where is our power ? Satan would make the sense of our weakness an excuse for indolence. The Spirit of God convinces us of it, as an incitement to prayer and an exercise of faith. If, Reader, your heart is perfect with God, you “consent to the law that it is good ;” you “ delight in it after the inner man;”1 you would not have one jot or tittle altered, mitigated, or repealed, that it might be more conformed to your own will, or allow you more liberty and self-indulgence in the ways of sin. But do you sigh over your short comings; when you aim indeed at the perfect standard of holiness, yet at your best moments, and in your highest attainments, fall so far below it; seeing indeed the way before
you, but feeling yourself without ability to walk in it? Then let a sense of your utter insufficiency for the work of the Lord lead you to the throne of grace, to pray and watch, and wait, for the strengthening and refreshing influences of the Spirit of grace.
Hard indeed would it have been for
upon your own hands.
But while you are constrained to confess your insufficiency “of yourself to think,” much less to do “ anything of yourself,” at the same moment of inexpressible need, you are ready to exclaim_“ Our sufficiency is of God." Yes; “grace” will ever be found " sufficient” for the work; and “when you are weak, then are you strong.”
- Without me” saith the Saviour—" ye can do nothing.” 4 But is your case therefore hopeless ? Far from it. You
1 Romans vii. 16, 22, 23. 3 Ibid. xii. 9, 10.
2 2 Cor. iii. 5. 4 John xv. 5.
can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth you.”1 The “ worm Jacob shall thresh the mountains," when the Lord says —" Fear not, I will help thee.” 2
But in tracing the connexion of this verse with the preceding, we cannot forbear to remark how accurately the middle path is preserved, as keeping us at an equal distance from the idea of self-sufficiency to “ keep the Lord's statutes," and self-justification in neglecting them. The first attempt to render spiritual obedience will quickly convince us of our utter helplessness. We might as soon create a world as create in our hearts one pulse of spiritual life. And yet our inability does not cancel our obligation. It is the weakness of a heart, that “ cannot be subject to the law of God," only because it is “ carnal, enmity against God.”3 And therefore our inability is our sin, our guilt, our condemnation ; and, instead of excusing our condition, stops our mouth, and leaves us destitute of any plea of defence before God. Thus our obligation remains in full force. We are bound to obey the commands of God, whether we can or not. What then remains for us, but to return the mandate to heaven, accompanied with an earnest prayer, that the Lord would write upon our hearts those statutes to which he requires obedience in his word ?—“ Thou hast commanded us to keep thy statutes diligently.”. We acknowledge, Lord, our obligation; but we feel our impotency. Lord, help us ; we look unto thee. “O that our ways were directed to keep thy statutes !
· Give what thou commandest; and then command what thou 1 Phil. iv. 13.
2 Isaiah xli. 14, 15. 3 Romans viii. 7. Compare Genesis xxxvii. 4. John viii. 43; V. 40. 2 Peter ii. 14—where the moral inability is clearly traced to the love of sin, or the obstinate unbelief of the heart, and therefore is inexcusable. The case of the heathen is also de. scribed in a strictly parallel view, and the evil traced to the same wilful source. Romans i. 28.
Now, as if to exhibit the fulness and suitableness of the gospel promises, the commands and prayers are returned back again from heaven with promises of quickening and directing grace. The Lord's end with us is now fully answered. He did not issue the commands, expecting that we could turn our own hearts to them; but rather that the conviction of our entire helplessness might cast us upon him, who loves to be sought, and never will be thus sought in vain. And indeed this is a part of “ the mystery of godliness,” that in proportion as we depend upon him, who is alike “the Lord our righteousness” and our strength, our desires after holiness will increase, and our prayers become more fervent. He who commands our duty, perfectly knows our weakness. And he who feels his own weakness is fully encouraged to depend upon the power of his Saviour. Thus are the commands of God connected with the exercise of faith in Christ, and thus do the promises of his grace enable us for duty, at the very time that he commands us to it. ? In this view are brought together the supreme authority of the Lawgiver, the total insufficiency of the creature, the full provisions of the Saviour, and the all-sufficiency of “ the God of all grace.”
We are led to
for what we want, to be thankful for what we have, to trust for what is promised. Thus “ all is of God.” Christ " is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” 3 reigns" triumphant. The foundation is laid in grace, and the head-stone will be brought forth with shoutings, crying, • Grace unto it."4–The Saviour's work is finished, and Jesus is crowned Lord of all for ever.
1 Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis. Augustine.
2 Quod lex imperat, 'fides impetrat. . 3 Rev. xxii. 13.
4 Zech. iv. 7.