"And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God," &c. (Exod 20: 1, 2.)
What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
Answer: The preface to the Ten Commandments is, "I am the Lord thy God."
The preface to the preface is, 'God spake all these words, saying,' &c. This is like the sounding of a trumpet before a solemn proclamation. Other parts of the Bible are said to be uttered by the mouth of the holy prophets (Luke 1: 70), but here God spake in his own person.
How are we to understand that, God spake, since he has no bodily parts or orgasms of speech?
God made some intelligible sound, or fanned a voice in the air, which, to the Jews was as though God himself was speaking to them.Observe:
(1) The lawgiver. 'God spake.' There are two things requisite in a lawgiver.
 Wisdom. Laws are founded upon reason; and he must be wise that makes laws. God, in this respect, is most fit to be a lawgiver: 'he is wise in heart.' Job 9: 4. He has a monopoly of wisdom. 'The only wise God.' 1 Tim 1: 17. Therefore he is the fittest to enact and constitute laws.
 Authority. If a subject makes laws, however wise they may be, they want the stamp of authority. God has the supreme power in his hand: he gives being to all; and he who gives men their lives, has most right to give them their laws.
(2) The law itself. 'All these words.' That is, all the words of the moral law, which is usually styled the decalogue, or ten commandments. It is called the moral law because it is the rule of life and manners. The Scripture, as Chrysostom says, is a garden, and the moral law is the chief flower in it: it is a banquet, and the moral law is the chief dish in it.
The moral law is perfect. 'The law of the Lord is perfect.' Psa 19: 7. It is an exact model and platform of religion; it is the standard of truth, the judge of controversies, the pole-star to direct us to heaven. 'The commandment is a lamp.' Prov 6: 23. Though the moral law be not a Christ to justify us, it is a rule to instruct us.
The moral law is unalterable; it remains still in force. Though the ceremonial and judicial laws are abrogated, the moral law delivered by God's own mouth is of perpetual use in the church. It was written in tables of stone, to show its perpetuity.
The moral law is very illustrious and full of glory. God put glory upon it in the manner of its promulgation.
 The people, before the moral law was delivered, were to wash their clothes, whereby, as by a type, God required the sanctifying of their ears and hearts to receive the law. Exod 19: 10.
 There were bounds set that none might touch the mount, which was to produce in the people reverence to the law. Exod 19:12.
 God wrote the law with his own finger, which was such an honour put upon the moral law, as we read of no other such writing. Exod 31: 18. God by some mighty operation, made the law legible in letters, as if it had been written with his own finger.
 God's putting the law in the ark to be kept was another signal mark of honour put upon it. The ark was the cabinet in which He put the ten commandments, as ten jewels.
 At the delivery of the moral law, many angels were in attendance. Deut 33: 2. A parliament of angels was called, and God himself was the speaker.
Use one. Here we may notice God's goodness, who has not left us without a law. He often sets down the giving his commandments as a demonstration of his love. 'He has not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgements they have not known them.' Psa 147: 20. 'Thou gavest them true laws, good statutes and commandments.' Neh 9: 13. What a strange creature would man be if he had no law to direct him! There would be no living in the world; we should have none born but Ishmaels - every man's hand would be against his neighbour. Man would grow wild if he had not affliction to tame him, and the moral law to guide him. The law of God is a hedge to keep us within the bounds of sobriety and piety.
Use two. If God spake all these words of the moral law, then it condemns:
(1) The Marcionites and Manichees, who speak lightly, yea, blasphemously, of the moral law; who say it is below a Christian, it is carnal; which the apostle confutes, when he says, 'The law is spiritual, but I am carnal.' Rom 7: 14.
(2) The Antinomians, who will not admit the moral law to be a rule to a believer. We say not that he is under the curse of the law, but the commands. We say not the moral law is a Christ, but it is a star to lead to Christ. We say not that it saves, but sanctifies. They who cast God's law behind their backs, God will cast their prayers behind his back. They who will not have the law to rule them, shall have the law to judge them.
(3) The Papists, who, as if God's law were imperfect, and when he spake all these words he did not speak enough, add to it their canons and traditions. This is to tax God's wisdom, as if he knew not how to make his own law. This surely is a high provocation. 'If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.' Rev 22: 18. As it is a great evil to add anything to a man's sealed will, so much more to add anything to the law which God himself spake, and wrote with his own fingers.
Use three. If God spake all the words of the moral law, several duties are enjoined upon us:
(1) If God spake all these words, then we must hear all these words. The words which God speaks are too precious to be lost. As we would have God hear all our words when we pray, so we must hear all his words when he speaks. We must not be as the deaf adder, which stoppeth her ears: he that stops his ears when God cries, shall cry himself, and not be heard.
(2) If God spake all these words, then we must attend to them with reverence. Every word of the moral law is an oracle from heaven. God himself is the preacher, which calls for reverence. If a judge gives a charge upon the bench, all attend with reverence. In the moral law God himself gives a charge, 'God spake all these words;' with what veneration, therefore, should we attend! Moses put off his shoes from his feet, in token of reverence, when God was about to speak to him. Exod 3: 5, 6.
(3) If God spake all these words of the moral law, then we must remember them. Surely all God speaks is worth remembering; those words are weighty which concern salvation. 'It is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life.' Deut 32: 47. Our memory should be like the chest in the ark where the law was kept. God's oracles are ornaments, and shall we forget them? 'Can a maid forget her ornaments?' Jer 2: 32.
(4) If God spake all these words, then believe them. See the name of God written upon every commandment. The heathens, in order to gain credit to their laws, reported that they were inspired by the gods at Rome. The moral law fetches its pedigree from heaven. Ipse dixit. God spake all these words. Shall we not give credit to the God of heaven? How would the angel confirm the women in the resurrection of Christ? 'Lo (said he), I have told you.' Matt 28: 7. I speak in the word of an angel. Much more should the moral law be believed, when it comes to us in the word of God. 'God spake all these words.' Unbelief enervates the virtue of God's word, and makes it prove abortive. 'The word did not profit, not being mixed with faith.' Heb 4: 2. Eve gave more credit to the devil when he spake than she did to God.
(5) If God spake all these words, then love the commandments. 'Oh, how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.' Psa 119: 97. 'Consider how I love thy precepts.' Psa 119: 159. The moral law is the copy of God's will, our spiritual directory; it shows us what sins to avoid, what duties to pursue. The ten commandments are a chain of pearls to adorn us, they are our treasury to enrich us; they are more precious than lands of spices, or rocks of diamonds. 'The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.' Psa 119: 72. The law of God has truth and goodness in it. Neh 9: 13. Truth, for God spake it; and goodness, for there is nothing the commandment enjoins, but it is for our good. O then, let this command our love.
(6) If God spake all these words, then teach your children the law of God. 'These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.' Deut 6: 6, 7. He who is godly, is both a diamond and a loadstone: a diamond for the sparkling of his grace, and a loadstone for his attractive virtue in drawing others to the love of God's precepts. Vir bonus magis aliis prodest quam sibi [A good man benefits others more than himself]. You that are parents, discharge your duty. Though you cannot impart grace to your children, yet you may impart knowledge. Let your children know the commandments of God. 'Ye shall teach them your children.' Deut 11: 19. You are careful to leave your children a portion: leave the oracles of heaven with them; instruct them in the law of God. If God spake all these words, you may well speak them over again to your children.
(7) If God spake all these words, the moral law must be obeyed. If a king speaks, his word commands allegiance; much more, when God speaks, must his words be obeyed. Some will obey partially, obey some commandments, not others; like a slough, which, when it comes to a stiff piece of earth, makes a baulk; but God, who spake all the words of the moral law, will have all obeyed. He will not dispense with the breach of one law. Princes, indeed, for special reasons, sometimes dispense with penal statutes, and will not enforce the severity of the law; but God, who spake all these words, binds men with a subpoena to yield obedience to every law.
This condemns the church of Rome, which, instead of obeying the whole moral law, blots out one commandment, and dispenses with others. They leave the second commandment out of their catechism, because it makes against images; and to fill up the number of ten, they divide the tenth commandment into two. Thus, they incur that dreadful condemnation: 'If any man shall take away from the words of this book, God shall take away his part out of the book of life.' Rev 22: 19. As they blot out one commandment, and cut the knot which they cannot untie, so they dispense with other commandments. They dispense with the sixth commandment, making murder meritorious in case of propagating the Catholic cause. They dispense with the seventh commandment, wherein God forbids adultery; for the Pope dispenses with the sin of uncleanness, yea, incest, by paying fines and sums of money into his coffer. No wonder the Pope takes men off their loyalty to kings and princes, when he teaches them disloyalty to God. Some of the Papists say expressly in their writings, that the Pope has power to dispense with the laws of God, and can give men license to break the commandments of the Old and New Testament. That such a religion should ever again get foot in England, the Lord in mercy prevent! If God spake all the commandments, then we must obey all; he who breaks the hedge of the commandments, a serpent shall bite him.
But what man can obey all God's commandments?
To obey the law in a legal senseto do all the law requiresno man can. Sin has cut the lock of original righteousness, where our strength lay; but, in a true gospel-sense, we may so obey the moral law as to find acceptance. This gospel obedience consists in a real endeavour to observe the whole moral law. 'I have done thy commandments' (Psa 119: 166); not, I have done all I should do, but I have done all I am able to do; and wherein my obedience comes short, I look up to the perfect righteousness and obedience of Christ, and hope for pardon through his blood. This is to obey the moral law evangelically; which, though it be not to satisfaction, yet it is to acceptation.
I. I am the Lord thy God. Here we have a description of God;
(1) By his essential greatness, 'I am the Lord;'
(2) By his relative goodness, 'Thy God.'
(1) By his essential greatness, 'I am the Lord:' or, as it is in the Hebrew, JEHOVAH. By this great name God sets forth his majesty. Sanctius habitum fuit, says Buxtorf. The name of Jehovah was had in more reverence among the Jews than any other name of God. It signifies God's self-sufficiency, eternity, independence, and immutability. Mal. 3: 6.
Use one. If God be Jehovah, the fountain of being, who can do what he will, let us fear him. 'That thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, Jehovah.' Deut 28: 58.
Use two. If God be Jehovah, the supreme Lord, the blasphemous Papists are condemned who speak after this manner: 'Our Lord God the Pope.' Is it a wonder the Pope lifts his triple crown above the heads of kings and emperors, when he usurps God's title, 'showing himself that he is God'? 2 Thess 2: 4. He seeks to make himself Lord of heaven, for he will canonise saints there; Lord of earth, for with his keys he binds and looses whom he pleases; Lord of hell, for he frees men out of purgatory. God will pull down these plumes of pride; he will consume this man of sin 'with the breath of his mouth, and the brightness of his coming.' 2 Thess 2: 8.
(2) God is described by his relative goodness; 'thy God.' Had he called himself Jehovah only, it might have terrified us, and made us flee from him; but when he says, 'thy God,' it allures and draws us to him. This, though a preface to the law, is pure gospel. The word Eloeha, 'thy God,' is so sweet, that we can never suck all the honey out of it. 'I am thy God,' not only by creation, but by election. This word, 'thy God,' though it was spoken to Israel, is a charter which belongs to all the saints. For the further explanation, here are three questions.
How comes God to be our God?
Through Jesus Christ. Christ is a middle person in the Trinity. He is Emmanuel, 'God with us.' He brings two different parties together: makes our nature lovely to God, and God's nature lovely to us; by his death, causes friendship, yea, union; and brings us within the verge of the covenant, and thus God becomes our God.
What is implied by God being our God?
It is comprehensive of all good things. God is our strong tower; our fountain of living water; our salvation. More particularly, being our God implies the sweetest relations.
(1) The relation of a father. 'I will be a Father unto you;' 2 Cor 6: 18. A father is full of tender care for his child. Upon whom
does he settle the inheritance but his child? God being our God, will be a father to us; a 'Father of mercies,' 2 Cor 1: 3; 'The
everlasting Father.' Isa 9: 6. If God be our God, we have a Father in heaven that never dies.
(2) It imports the relation of a husband. 'Thy Maker is thine husband.' Isa 54: 5. If God be our husband, he esteems us precious to him, as the apple of his eye. Zech 2: 8. He imparts his secrets to us. Psa 25: 14. He bestows a kingdom upon us for our dowry. Luke 12: 32.
How may we know that by covenant union, God is our God?
(1) By having his grace planted in us. Kings' children are known by their costly jewels. It is not having common gifts which shows we belong to God; many have the gifts of God without God; but it is grace that gives us a true genuine title to God. In particular, faith is vinculum unionis, the grace of union, by which we may spell out our interest in God. Faith does not, as the mariner, cast its anchor downwards, but upwards; it trusts in the mercy and blood of God, and trusting in God, engages him to be our God. Other graces make us like God, faith makes us one with him.
(2) We may know God is our God by having the earnest of his Spirit in our hearts. 2 Cor 1: 22. God often gives the purse to the wicked, but the Spirit only to such as he intends to make his heirs. Have we had the consecration of the Spirit? If we have not had the sealing work of the Spirit, have we had the healing work? 'Ye have an unction from the Holy One.' 1 John 2: 20. The Spirit, where it is, stamps the impress of its own holiness upon the heart; it embroiders and bespangles the soul, and makes it all glorious within. Have we had the attraction of the Spirit? 'Draw me, we will run after thee.' Cant 1: 4. Has the Spirit, by its magnetic virtue, drawn our hearts to God? Can we say, 'O thou whom my soul loveth?' Cant 1: 7. Is God our paradise of delight? our Segullah, or chief treasure! Are our hearts so chained to God that no other object can enchant us, or draw us away from him? Have we had the elevation of the Spirit? Has it raised our hearts above the world? 'The Spirit lifted me up.' Ezek 3:14. Has the Spirit made us, superna anhelare, seek the things above where Christ is? Though our flesh is on earth, is our heart in heaven? Though we live here, trade we above? Has the Spirit thus lifted us up? By this we may know that God is our God. Where God gives his Spirit for an earnest, there he gives himself for a portion.
(3) We may know God is our God, if he has given us the hearts of children. Have we obediential hearts? Psa 27: 8. Do we subscribe to God's commands when his commands cross our will? A true saint is like the flower of the sun, which opens and shuts with the sun: he opens to God, and shuts to sin. If we have the hearts of children, God is our Father.
(4) We may know God is ours, and we have an interest in him, by standing up for his interest. We shall appear in his cause and vindicate his truth, wherein his glory is so much concerned. Athanasius was the bulwark of truth; he stood up for it, when most of the world were Asians. In former times the nobles of Polonia, when the gospel was read, laid their hands upon their swords, signifying that they were ready to defend the faith, and hazard their lives for the gospel. There is no better sign of having an interest in God than standing up for his interest.
(5) We may know God is ours, and we have an interest in him, by his having an interest in us. 'My beloved is mine, and I am his.' Cant 2: 16. When God says to the soul, 'Thou art mine;' the soul answers, 'Lord, I am thine; all I have is at thy service; my head shall be thine to study for thee; my tongue shall be thine to praise thee.' If God be our God by way of donation, we are his by way of dedication; we live to him, and are more his than we are our own. Thus we may come to know that God is our God.
Use one. Above all things, let us get this great charter confirmed, that God is our God. Deity is not comfortable without propriety. Let us labour to get sound evidences that God is our God. We cannot call health, liberty, estate, ours; but let us be able to call God ours, and say as the church, 'God, even our own God, shall bless us.' Psa 67: 6. Let every soul labour to pronounce this Shibboleth, 'My God.' That we may endeavour to have God for our God, consider the misery of such as have not God for their God, in how sad a condition are they, when the hour of distress comes! This was Saul's case when he said 'I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me.' 1 Sam 28: 15. A wicked man in time of trouble, is like a vessel tossed on the sea without an anchor, which strikes on rocks or sands. A sinner who has not God to be his God, may make a shift while health and estate last, but when these crutches on which he leaned are broken, his heart must sink. It is with him as it was with the old world when the flood came. The waters at first came to the valleys, but then the people would get to the hills and mountains; but when the waters came to the mountains, then there might be some trees on the high hills, and they would climb up to them; ay, but the waters rose above the tops of the trees; and then their hearts failed them, and all hopes of being saved were gone. So it is with a man that has not God to be his God. If one comfort be taken away, he has another; if he lose a child, he has an estate; but when the waters rise higher, death comes and takes away all, and he has nothing to help himself with, no God to go to, he must needs die in despair. How great a privilege it is to have God for our God! 'Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.' Psa 144: 15. Beatitudo hominis est Deus [Man's happiness is God himself]. Augustine. That you may see the privilege of this charter:
(1) If God be our God, then though we may feel the stroke of evil, yet not the sting. He must needs be happy who is in such a condition, that nothing can hurt him. If he lose his name, it is written in the book of life; if he lose his liberty, his conscience is free; if he lose his estate, he is possessed of the pearl of price; if he meets with storms, he knows where to put in for harbour; God is his God, and heaven is his heaven.
(2) If God be our God, our soul is safe. The soul is the jewel, it is a blossom of eternity. 'I was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body;' in the Chaldee, it is 'in the midst of my sheath.' Dan 7: 15. The body is but the sheath; the soul is the princely part of man, which sways the sceptre of reason; it is a celestial spark, as Damascene calls it. If God be our God, the soul is safe, as in a garrison. Death can do no more hurt to a virtuous heaven-born soul, than David did to Saul, when he cut off the skirt of his garment. The soul is safe, being hid in the promises; hid in the wounds of Christ; hid in God's decree. The soul is the pearl, and heaven is the cabinet where God will lock it up safe.
(3) If God be our God, then all that is in God is ours. The Lord says to a saint in covenant, as the king of Israel to the king of Syria, 'I am thine, and all that I have.' I Kings 20: 4. So saith God, 'I am thine:' how happy is he who not only inherits the gift of God, but inherits God himself! All that I have shall be thine; my wisdom shall be thine to teach thee; my power shall be thine to support thee; my mercy shall be thine to save thee. God is an infinite ocean of blessedness, and there is enough in him to fill us: as if a thousand vessels were thrown into the sea, there is enough in the sea to fill them.
(4) If God be our God, he will entirely love us. Property is the ground of love. God may give men kingdoms, and not love them; but he cannot be our God, and not love us. He calls his covenanted saints, Jediduth Naphshi, 'The dearly beloved of my soul.' Jer 12: 7. He rejoiceth over them with joy, and rests in his love. Zeph 3: 17. They are his refined silver (Zech 13: 9); his jewels (Mal 3: 17); his royal diadem (Isa 62: 3). He gives them the cream and flower of his love. He not only opens his hand and fills them, but opens his heart and fills them. Psa 145: 16.
(5) If God be our God, he will do more for us than all the world besides can. What is that?  He will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, he will make music within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble. He will send the Comforter, who, as a dove, brings an olive-branch of peace in his mouth. John 14: 16.  God will give us a crown of immortality. The world can give a crown of gold, but that crown has thorns in it and death in it; but God will give you a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 1 Pet. 5: 4. The garland made of the flowers of paradise never withers.
(6) If God be our God, he will bear with many infirmities. He may respite sinners awhile, but long forbearance is no acquittance; he will throw them to hell for their sins; but if he be our God, he will not for every failing destroy us; he bears with his spouse as with the weaker vessel. He may chastise. Psa 89: 32. He may use the rod and the pruning-knife, but not the bloody axe. 'He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob.' Numb 23: 21. He will not see sin in his people so as to destroy them, but their sins so as to pity them. He sees them as a physician a disease in his patient, to heal him. 'I have seen his ways, and will heal him.' Isa 57: 18. Every failing does not break the marriage-bond asunder. The disciples had great failings, they all forsook Christ and fled; but this did not break off their interest in God; therefore, says Christ, at his ascension, 'Tell my disciples, I go to my God and to their God.'
(7) If God be once our God, he is so for ever. 'This God is our God for ever and ever.' Psa 48: 14. Whatever worldly comforts we have, they are but for a season, and we must part with all. Heb 11: 25. As Paul's friends accompanied him to the ship, and there left him (Acts 20: 38), so all our earthly comforts will but go with us to the grave, and there leave us. You cannot say you have health, and shall have it for ever; you have a child, and shall have it for ever; but if God be your God, you shall have him for ever. 'This God is our God for ever and ever.' If God be our God, he will be a God to us as long as he is a God. 'Ye have taken away my gods,' said Micah. Judges 18: 14. But it cannot be said to a believer, that his God is taken away; He may lose all things else, but cannot lose his God. God is ours from everlasting in election, and to everlasting in glory.
(8) If God be our God, we shall enjoy all our godly relations with him in heaven. The great felicity on earth is to enjoy relations. A father sees his own picture in a child; and a wife sees herself in her husband. We plant the flower of love among our relations, and the loss of them is like the pulling off a limb from the body. But if God be ours, with the enjoyment of God we shall enjoy all our pious relations in glory. The gracious child shall see his godly father, the virtuous wife shall see her religious husband in Christ's arms; and then there will be a dearer love to relations than there ever was before, though in a far different manner; then relations shall meet and never part. 'And so shall we be ever with the Lord.'
Use two. To such as can realise this covenant union we have several exhortations.
(1) If God be our God, let us improve our interest in him, let us cast all our burdens upon him: the burden of our fears, our wants and our sins. 'Cast thy burden upon the Lord.' Psa 55: 22. Wicked men who are a burden to God have no right to cast their burden upon him; but such as have God for their God are called upon to cast their burden on him. Where should the child ease all its cares but in the bosom of its parent? 'Let all thy wants lie upon me.' Judges 19: 20. So God seems to say to his children, 'Let all your wants lie upon me.' Christian, what troubles thee? Thou hast a God to pardon thy sins and to supply thy wants; therefore roll your burden on him. 'Casting all your care upon him.' 1 Pet 5: 7. Why are Christians so disquieted in their minds? They are taking care when they should be casting care.
(2) If God be our God, let us learn to be contented, though we have the less of other things. Contentment is a rare jewel, it is the cure of care. If we have God to be our God, well may we be contented. 'I know whom I have believed.' 2 Tim 1: I2. There was Paul's interest in God. 'As having nothing, and yet possessing all things.' 2 Cor 6: 10. Here was his content. That such who have covenant-union with God may be filled with contentment of spirit, consider what a rich blessing God is to the soul.
He is bonum sufficiens, a sufficient good. He who has God has enough. If a man be thirsty, bring him to a spring, and he is satisfied; in God there is enough to fill the heaven-born soul. He gives 'grace and glory.' Psa 84: 11. There is in God not only a sufficiency, but a redundancy; he is not only full as a vessel, but as a spring. Other things can no more fill the soul than a mariner's breath can fill the sails of a ship; but in God there is a cornucopia, an infinite fulness; he has enough to fill the angels, therefore enough to fill us. The heart is a triangle, which only the Trinity can fill.
God is bonum sanctificans, a sanctifying good. He sanctifies all our comforts and turn them into blessings. Health is blessed, estate is blessed. He gives with the venison a blessing. 'I will abundantly bless her provision.' Psa 132: 15. He gives us the life we have, tanquam arrhabo, as an earnest of more. He gives the little meal in the barrel as an earnest of the royal feast in paradise. He sanctifies all our crosses. They shall not be destructive punishments, but medicines; they shall corrode and eat out the venom of sin; they shall polish and refine our grace. The more the diamond is cut, the more it sparkles. When God stretches the strings of his viol, it is to make the music better.
God is bonum selectum, a choice good. All things, sub sole, are but bona scabelli, as Augustine says, the blessings of the footstool, but to have God himself to be ours, is the blessing of the throne. Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines, but he settled the inheritance upon Isaac. 'Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac.' Gen 25: 5. God may send away the men of the world with gifts, a little gold and silver; but in giving us himself, he gives us the very essence, his grace, his love, his kingdom: here is the crowning blessing.
God is bonum summum, the chief good. In the chief good there must be delectability; it must have something that is delicious and sweet: and where can we suck those pure essential comforts, which ravish us with delight, but in God? In Deo quadam dulcedine delectatur anima, immo rapitur [In God's character there is a certain sweetness which fascinates or rather enraptures the soul]. 'At thy right hand there are pleasures.' Psa 16: 11: In the chief good there must be transcendence, it must have a surpassing excellence. Thus God is infinitely better than all other things. It is below the Deity to compare other things with it. Who would weigh a feather against a mountain of gold? God is fons et origo, the spring of all entities, and the cause is more noble than the effect. It is God that bespangles the creation, that puts light into the sun, that fills the veins of the earth with silver. Creatures do but maintain life, God gives life. He infinitely outshines all sublunary glory. He is better than the soul, than angels, and than heaven. In the chief good, there must be not only fulness, but variety. Where variety is wanting we are apt to nauseate. To feed only on honey would breed loathing; but in God is all variety of fulness. Col 1: 19. He is a universal good, commensurate to all our wants. He is bonum in quo omnia bona [the good in which is every good], a son, a portion, a horn of salvation. He is called the 'God of all comfort.' 2 Cor 1: 3. There is a complication of all beauties and delights in him. Health has not the comfort of beauty, nor beauty of riches, nor riches of wisdom; but God is the God of all comfort. In the chief good there must be eternity. God is a treasure that can neither be drawn low, nor drawn dry. Though the angels are continually spending what is his, he can never be spent; he abides for ever. Eternity is a flower of his crown. Now, if God be our God, there is enough to let full contentment into our souls. What need we of torchlight, if we have the sun? What if God deny the flower, if he has given us the jewel? How should a Christian's heart rest on this rock! If we say God is our God, and we are not content, we have cause to question our interest in him.
(3) If we can clear up this covenant-union, that God is our God, let it cheer and revive us in all conditions. To be content with God is not enough, but to be cheerful. What greater cordial can you have than union with Deity? When Jesus Christ was ready to ascend, he could not leave a richer consolation with his disciples than this, 'I ascend to my God and to your God.' John 20: 17. Who should rejoice, if not they who have an infinite, all-sufficient, eternal God to be their portion, who are as rich as heaven can make them? What though I want health? I have God who is the health of my countenance, and my God. Psa 42: 11. What though I am low in the world? If I have not the earth, I have him that made it. The philosopher comforted himself by saying, 'Though I have no music or vine-trees, yet here are the household gods with me;' so, though we have not the vine or fig-tree, yet we have God with us. I cannot be poor, says Bernard, as long as God is rich; for his riches are mine. O let the saints rejoice in this covenant-union! To say God is ours, is more than to say heaven is ours, for heaven would not be heaven without him. All the stars cannot make day without the sun; all the angels, those morning stars, cannot make heaven without Christ the Sun of Righteousness. And as to have God for our God, is matter of rejoicing in life, so especially it will be at death. Let a Christian think thus, I am going to my God. A child is glad when he is going home to his father. It was Christ's comfort when he was leaving the world, 'I ascend to my God.' John 20: 17. And this is a believer's deathbed cordial, 'I am going to my God; I shall change my place, but not my kindred; I go to my God and my Father.'
(4) If God be our God, let us break forth into praise. 'Thou art my God, and I will praise thee.' Psa 118: 28. Oh, infinite, astonishing mercy, that God should take dust and ashes into so near a bond of love as to be our God! As Micah said, 'What have I more?' Judges 18: 24. So, what has God more? What richer jewel has he to bestow upon us than himself? What has he more? That God should put off most of the world with riches and honour, that he should pass over himself to us by a deed of gift, to be our God, and by virtue of this settle a kingdom upon us! O let us praise him with the best instrument, the heart; and let this instrument be screwed up to the highest pitch. Let us praise him with our whole heart. See how David rises by degrees. 'Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, and shout for joy.' Psa 32: 11. Be glad, there is thankfulness; rejoice, there is cheerfulness; shout, there is triumph. Praise is called incense, because it is a sweet sacrifice. Let the saints be choristers in God's praises. The deepest springs yield the sweetest water; the more deeply sensible we are of God's covenant-love to us, the sweeter praises we should yield. We should begin here to eternise God's name, and do that work on earth which we shall be always doing in heaven. 'While I live will I praise the Lord.' Psa 146: 2.
(5) Let us carry ourselves as those who have God to be our God; that is, walk so that others may see there is something of God in us. Live homily. What have we to do with sin, which if it does not break, will weaken our interest? 'What have I to do any more with idols?' Hos 14: 8. So would a Christian say, 'God is my God; what have I to do any more with sin, with lust, pride, malice! Bid me commit sin! As well bid me drink poison. Shall I forfeit my interest in God? Let me rather die than willingly offend him who is the crown of my joy, the God of my salvation.'
Why does the Lord mention the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt?
(1) Because of the strangeness of the deliverance. God delivered his people Israel by strange signs and wonders, by sending plague after plague upon Pharaoh, blasting the fruits of the earth, and killing all the first-born in Egypt. Exod 12: 29. When Israel marched out of Egypt, God made the waters of the sea to part, and become a wall to his people, while they went on dry ground; and he made the same sea a causeway to Israel, and a grave to Pharaoh and his chariots. Well might the Lord make mention of this strange deliverance. He wrought miracle upon miracle for the deliverance of that people.
(2) God mentions Israel's deliverance out of Egypt because of the greatness of the deliverance. He delivered Israel from the pollutions of Egypt. Egypt was a bad air to live in, it was infected with idolatry; the Egyptians were gross idolaters; they were guilty of that which the apostle speaks of in Rom 1: 23. 'They changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.' The Egyptians, instead of the true God, worshipped corruptible man; they deified their king Apis, forbidding all, under pain of death, to say that he was a man. They worshipped birds, as the hawk. They worshipped beasts, as the ox. They made the image of a beast to be their god. They worshipped creeping things, as the crocodile, and the Indian mouse. God mentions it therefore as a signal favour to Israel, that he brought them out of such an idolatrous country. 'I brought thee out of the land of Egypt.'
The thing I would note is, that it is no small blessing to be delivered from places of idolatry. God speaks of it no less than ten times in the Old Testament, 'I brought you out of the land of Egypt;' an idolatrous place. Had there been no iron furnace in Egypt, yet so many altars being there, and false gods, it was a great privilege to Israel to be delivered out of Egypt. Joshua reckons it among the chief and most memorable mercies of God to Abraham, that he brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees, where Abraham's ancestors served strange gods. Josh 24: 2, 3. It is well for the plant that is set in a bad soil, to be transplanted to a better, where it may grow and flourish; so it is a mercy when any who are planted among idolaters, are removed and transplanted into Zion, where the silver drops of God's word make them grow in holiness.
Wherein does it appear to be so great a blessing to be delivered from places of idolatry?
(1) It is a great mercy, because our nature is prone to idolatry. Israel began to be defiled with the idols of Egypt. Ezek 22: 3. Dry wood is not more prone to take fire than our nature is to idolatry. The Jews made cakes to the queen of heaven, that is, to the moon. Jer 7: 15.
Why is it that we are prone to idolatry?
(1) Because we are led much by visible objects, and love to have our senses pleased. Men naturally fancy a god that they may see;though it be such a god that cannot see them, yet they would see it. The true God is invisible; which makes the idolater worshipsomething that he can see.
(2) It is a mercy to be delivered from idolatrous places, because of the greatness of the sin of idolatry, which is giving that glory to an image which is due to God. All divine worship God appropriates to himself; it is a flower of his crown. The fat of the sacrifice is claimed by him. Lev 3: 3. Divine worship is the fat of the sacrifice, which he reserves for himself. The idolater devotes this worship to an idol, which the Lord will by no means endure. 'My glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.' Isa 42: 8. Idolatry is spiritual adultery. 'With their idols have they committed adultery.' Ezek 23: 37. To worship any other than God, is to break wedlock, and makes the Lord disclaim his interest in a people. 'Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife.' Hos 2: 2. 'Thy people have corrupted themselves;' no more my people, but thy people. Exod 32: 7. God calls idolatry, blasphemy. 'In this your fathers have blasphemed me.' Idolatry is devil worship. Ezek 20: 27, 31. 'They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to new gods.' Deut 32: 17. These new gods were old devils. 'And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils.' Lev 17: 7. The Hebrew word La-sairim, is the hairy ones, because the devils were hairy, and appeared in the forms of satyrs and goats. How dreadful a sin is idolatry; and what a signal mercy is it to be snatched out of an idolatrous place, as Lot was snatched by the angels out of Sodom!
(3) It is a mercy to be delivered out of idolatrous places, because idolatry is such a silly and irrational religion. I may say, as Jer 8: 9: 'What wisdom is in them?' Is it not folly to refuse the best, and choose the worst? The trees in the field of Jotham's parable, despised the vine-tree, which cheers both God and man, and the olive which is full of fatness, and the fig-tree which is full of sweetness, and chose the bramble to reign over themwhich was a foolish choice. Judg 9. So it is for us to refuse the living God, who has power to save us, and to make choice of an idol, that has eyes and sees not, feet but walks not. Psa 115:6, 7. What a prodigy of madness is this? Therefore to be delivered from committing such folly is a mercy.
(4) It is a mercy to be delivered from idolatrous places, because of the sad judgements inflicted upon idolaters. This is a sin which enrages God, and makes the fury come up in his face. Ezek 38: 18. Search through the whole book of God, and you shall find no sin he has followed with more plagues than idolatry. 'Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god.' Psa 16: 4. 'They moved him to jealousy with their graven images.' Psa 78: 58. 'When God heard this he was wrath, and greatly abhorred Israel; so that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh.' Verses 59, 60. Shiloh was a city belonging to the tribe of Ephraim, where God set his name. Jer 7: 12. But, for their idolatry, God forsook the place, gave his people up to the sword, caused his priests to be slain, and his ark to be carried away captive, never more to be returned. How severe was God against Israel for worshipping the golden calf! Exod 32: 27. The Jews say, that in every misery that befalls them, there is uncia aurei vituli, 'an ounce of the golden calf in it.' 'Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.' Rev. 18: 4. Idolatry, lived in, cuts men off from heaven. 1 Cor 6: 9. So then it is no small mercy to be delivered out of idolatrous places.
Use one. See the goodness of God to our nation, in bringing us out of mystic Egypt, delivering us from popery, which is Romish idolatry, and causing the light of his truth to break forth gloriously among us. In former times, and more lately in the Marian days, England was overspread with idolatry. It worshipped God after a false manner; and it is idolatry, not only to worship a false god, but the true God in a false manner. Such was our case formerly; we had purgatory, indulgences, the idolatrous mass, the Scriptures locked up in an unknown tongue, invocation of saints and angels, and image-worship. Images are teachers of lies. Hab 2: 18. Wherein do they teach lies? They represent God, who cannot be seen, in a bodily shape. 'Ye saw no similitude, only ye heard a voice.' Deut 4: 12. Quod invisibile est, pingi non potest. Ambrose. God cannot be pictured by any finger; not the soul even, being a spirit, much less God. 'To whom then will ye liken God?' Isa 40: 18. The Papists say they worship God by the image; which is a great absurdity, for if it be absurd to fall down to the picture of a king when the king himself is present, much more to bow down to the image of God when God himself is present. Jer 23: 24. What is the popish religion but a bundle of ridiculous ceremonies? Their wax, flowers, pyres, agnus Dei, cream and oil, beads, crucifixes; what are these but Satan's policy, to dress up a carnal worship, fitted to carnal minds? Oh! what cause have we to bless God for delivering us from popery! It was a mercy to be delivered from the Spanish invasion, and the powder treason; but it is a far greater to be delivered from the popish religion, which would have made God give us a bill of divorce.
Use two. If it be a great blessing to be delivered from the Egypt of popish idolatry, it shows the sin and folly of those who, being brought out of Egypt, are willing to return to it again. The apostle says, 'Flee from idolatry.' 1 Cor 10: 14. But these rather flee to idolatry; and are herein like the people of Israel, who, notwithstanding all the idolatry and tyranny of Egypt, longed to go back to Egypt. 'Let us make a captain and let us return into Egypt.' Numb 14: 4. But how shall they go back into Egypt? How shall they have food in the wilderness? Will God rain down man any more upon such rebels? How will they get over the Red Sea? Will God divide the water again by miracle, for such as leave his service, and go into idolatrous Egypt? Yet they say, 'Let us make a captain.' And are there not such spirits among us, who say, 'Let us make a captain and go back to the Romish Egypt again'? If we do, what shall we get by it? I am afraid the leeks and onions of Egypt will make us sick. Do we ever suppose that, if we drink in the cup of fornication, we shall drink in the cup of salvation? Oh! that any should so forfeit their reason, as to enslave themselves to the see of Rome; that they should be willing to hold a candle to a mass-priest, and bow down to a strange God! Let us not say we will make a captain, but rather say as Ephraim, 'What have I to do any more with idols?' Hos 14: 8.
Use three. If it be a mercy to be brought out of Egypt, it is not desirable or safe to plant one's self in an idolatrous place, where it may be a capital crime to be seen with a Bible in our hands. Some, for secular gain, thrust themselves among idolaters, and think there is no danger to live where Satan's seat is. They pray God would not lead them into temptation, but led themselves. They are in great danger of being polluted. It is hard to be as the fish, which keeps fresh in salt waters. A man cannot dwell among blackamoors, but he will be discoloured. You will sooner be corrupted by idolaters, than they will be converted by you. Joseph got no good by living in an idolatrous court; he did not teach Pharaoh to pray, but Pharaoh taught him to swear. They 'were mingled among the heathen, and served their idols.' Psalm 106: 35, 36. I fear it has been the undoing of many; that they have seated themselves amongst idolaters, for advancing their trade, and at last have not only traded with them in their commodities, but in their religion.