The Ten Commandments by Thomas Watson
1.3 The Preface to the Commandments
'And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God,'
&c. Exod xx 1, 2.
What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
The preface to the Ten Commandments is, 'I am the Lord thy
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 i 70), but here God spake in his
How are we to understand that, God spake, since he has no
bodily parts or organs 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.
(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 ix 4. He has a monopoly of
wisdom. 'The only wise God.' 1 Tim i 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
(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
xix 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 vi 23. Though
the moral law be not a Christ to justify us, it is a rule to
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 xiv 10.  There were bounds
set that none might touch the mount, which was to produce in the
people reverence to the law. Exod xiv 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 xxxi 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 xxxiii 2. A parliament of angels was called, and God himself was
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 cxlvii 20. 'Thou
gavest them true laws, good statutes and commandments.' Neh ix 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.
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 vii 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 xxii 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
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 iii 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 xxxii 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 ii 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 xxviii 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 iv 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 cxix
97. 'Consider how I love thy precepts.' Psa cxix 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 cxix 72. The law of God has truth and goodness in it.
Neh ix 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 vi 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 xi 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 xxii 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 sense - to do all the law requires -
no 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 cxix 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.
We come now to the preface itself, which consists of three
parts I. I am the Lord thy God'; II. 'which have brought thee out
of the land of Egypt'; III. 'out of the house of bondage'.
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.'
 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. iii 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 xxviii 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 ii 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 ii 8.
 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 vi 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 i 3; 'The
everlasting Father.' Isa ix 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 liv 5. If God be our husband, he esteems us precious
to him, as the apple of his eye. Zech ii 8. He imparts his secrets
to us. Psa xxv 14. He bestows a kingdom upon us for our dowry. Luke
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 i 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 ii 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 i 4. Has the Spirit, by its magnetic virtue,
drawn our hearts to God? Can we say, 'O thou whom my soul loveth?'
Cant i 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 iii 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 xxvii 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 ii 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 lxvii 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 xxviii 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 cxliv 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 vii 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 xx 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 xii
7. He rejoiceth over them with joy, and rests in his love. Zeph iii
17. They are his refined silver (Zech xiii 9); his jewels (Mal iii
17); his royal diadem (Isa lxii 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 cxlv 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 xiv 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. v 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 lxxxix 32. He may use the
rod and the pruning-knife, but not the bloody axe. 'He has not
beheld iniquity in Jacob.' Numb xxiii 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 lvii 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 xlviii 14. Whatever worldly comforts we
have, they are but for a season, and we must part with all. Heb xi
25. As Paul's friends accompanied him to the ship, and there left
him (Acts xx 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 xviii 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
(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
To such as can realise this covenant union we have
(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 lv 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
xix 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 v 7. Why are Christians so
disquieted in their minds? They are taking care when they should be
(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 i 12. There was
Paul's interest in God. 'As having nothing, and yet possessing all
things.' 2 Cor vi 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 lxxxiv 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 cxxxii 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 xxv 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
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 xvi 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 i
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 i 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 xx 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 xlii 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 xx 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 cxviii 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 xviii 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 xxxii 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 cxlvi 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 xiv 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.'
II. Which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt. Egypt and
the house of bondage are the same; only they are represented to us
under different expressions. The first expression is, 'Which have
brought thee out of the land of Egypt.'
Why does the Lord mention the deliverance of Israel out of
(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 xii 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
(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 i 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 xxiv 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
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
xxii 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 vii 15.
Why is it that we are prone to idolatry?
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 worship
something 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 iii 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 xlii 8. Idolatry is spiritual adultery. 'With their
idols have they committed adultery.' Ezek xxiii 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 ii 2. 'Thy people have corrupted themselves;' no more
my people, but thy people. Exod xxxii 7. God calls idolatry,
blasphemy. 'In this your fathers have blasphemed me.' Idolatry is
devil worship. Ezek xx 27, 31. 'They sacrificed unto devils, not to
God; to new gods.' Deut xxxii 17. These new gods were old devils. 'And
they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils.' Lev xvii 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 viii 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 them - which was a
foolish choice. Judg ix. 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 cxv 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
xxxviii 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 xvi 4. 'They
moved him to jealousy with their graven images.' Psa lxxviii 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 vii
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 xxxii 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. xviii 4. Idolatry, lived in, cuts men off
from heaven. 1 Cor vi 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 ii 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 iv 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 xl 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 xxiii 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
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 x 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 xiv 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 xiv 8.
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 cvi 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
It is a mercy to be brought out of the land of Egypt,
a defiled place, and where sin reigns. It reproaches such parents as
show little love for the souls of their children, whether it be in
putting them out to service, or matching them. In putting them out
to service, their care is chiefly for their bodies, that they may be
provided for, and they care not what becomes of their souls. Their
souls are in Egypt, in houses where there is drinking, swearing,
Sabbath-breaking, and where God's name is every day dishonoured. In
matching their children, they look only at money. 'Be ye not
unequally yoked.' 2 Cor vi 14. If their children be equally yoked
for estate, they care not whether they be unequally yoked for
religion. Let such parents think how precious the soul of their
child is; that it is immortal, and capable of communion with God and
angels. Will you let a soul be lost by placing it in a bad family?
If you had a horse you loved, you would not put him in a stable with
other horses that were sick and diseased; and do you not love your
child better than your horse? God has intrusted you with the souls
of your children; you have a charge of souls. God says, as 1 Kings
xx 39 'Keep this man if he be missing, then shall thy life be for
his life.' So says God, if the soul of thy child miscarry by thy
negligence, his blood will I require at thy hand. Think of this, all
ye parents; take heed of placing your children in Egypt, in a wicked
family; do not put them in the devil's mouth. Seek for them a sober,
religious family, such as Joshua's. 'As for me and my house, we will
serve the Lord.' Josh xiv 15. Such a family as Cranmer's, which was
palaestra pietatis, a nursery of piety, a Bethel, of which it may be
said, 'The church which is in his house.' Col. iv 15.
Let us pray that God would keep our English nation
from the defilements of Egypt, that it may not be again overspread
with superstition and idolatry. Oh, sad religion! not only to have
our estates, our bodies enslaved, but our consciences. Pray that the
true Protestant religion may still nourish among us, that the sun of
the gospel may still shine in our horizon. The gospel lifts a people
up to heaven, it is columna et corona regni, 'the crown and glory of
the kingdom'; if this be removed, Ichabod, the glory is departed.
The top of the beech tree being cut off, the whole body of the tree
withers apace; so the gospel is the top of all our blessings; if
this top be cut, the whole body politic will soon wither. O pray
that the Lord will continue the visible tokens of his presence among
us, his ordinances, that England may be called, Jehovah-shammah,
'The Lord is there.' Ezek xlviii 35. Pray that righteousness and peace
may kiss each other, that so glory may dwell in our land.
III. Out of the house of bondage. Egypt and the house of
bondage are the same, only they are expressed under a different
notion. By Egypt is meant a place of idolatry and superstition; by
the house of bondage is meant a place of affliction. Israel, while
in Egypt, were under great tyranny; they had cruel task-masters set
over them, who put them to hard labour, and set them to make bricks,
yet allowed them no straw; therefore, Egypt is called, in Deut iv
20, the iron furnace, and here the house of bondage. From this
expression, 'I brought thee out of the house of bondage,' two things
are to be noted; God's children may sometimes be under sore
afflictions. 'In the house of bondage.' But God will, in due time,
bring them out of their afflicted state. 'I brought thee out of the
house of bondage.'
God's children may sometimes be under sore afflictions, in domo
servitutis, in the house of bondage. God's people have no writ of
ease granted them, no charter of exemption from trouble in this
life. While the wicked are kept in sugar, the godly are often kept
in brine. And, indeed, how could God's power be seen in bringing
them out of trouble, if he did not sometimes bring them into it? or
how should God wipe away the tears from their eyes in heaven, if on
earth they shed none? Doubtless, God sees there is need that his
children should be sometimes in the house of bondage. 'If need be,
ye are in heaviness.' 1 Peter i 6. The body sometimes needs a
bitter portion more than a sweet one.
Why does God let his people be in the house of bondage or in an
He does it, (1) For probation or trial. 'Who led thee through
that terrible wilderness, that he might humble thee and prove thee.'
Deut viii 15, 16. Affliction is the touch-stone of sincerity. 'Thou O
God, hast proved us; thou hast tried us as silver; thou laidst
affliction upon our loins.' Psa lxvi 10, 11. Hypocrites may embrace
the true religion in prosperity, and court this queen while she has
a jewel hung at her ear; but he is a good Christian who will keep
close to God in a time of suffering. 'All this is come upon us, yet
have we not forgotten thee.' Psa xliv I7. To love God in heaven, is
no wonder; but to love him when he chastises us, discovers
sincerity. (2) For purgation; to purge our corruption. Ardet palea,
purgatur aurum. 'And this is all the fruit, to take away his sin.'
Isa xxviii 9. The eye, though a tender part, yet when sore, we put
sharp powders and waters into it to eat out the pearl; so though the
people of God are dear to him, yet, when corruption begins to grow
in them, he will apply the sharp powder of affliction, to eat out
the pearl in the eye. Affliction is God's flail to thresh off our
husks; it is a means God uses to purge out sloth, luxury, pride, and
love of the world. God's furnace is in Zion. Isa xxxi 5. This is not
to consume, but to refine. What if we have more affliction, if by
this means we have less sin!
(3) For augmentation; to increase the graces of the Spirit.
Grace thrives most in the iron furnace. Sharp frosts nourish the
corn; so sharp afflictions nourish grace. Grace in the saints is
often as fire hid in the embers, affliction is the bellows to blow
it up into a flame. The Lord makes the house of bondage a friend to
grace. Then faith and patience act their part. The darkness of the
night cannot hinder the brightness of a star; so, the more the
diamond is cut the more it sparkles; and the more God afflicts us,
the more our graces cast a sparkling lustre.
(4) For preparation; to fit and prepare the saints for glory. 2
Cor iv I7. The stones which are cut out for a building, are first
hewn and squared. The godly are called 'living stones.' 1 Pet ii 5.
God first hews and polishes them by affliction, that they may be fit
for the heavenly building. The house of bondage prepares for the
house not made with hands. 2 Cor v 1 The vessels of mercy are
seasoned with affliction, and then the wine of glory is poured in.
How do the afflictions of the godly differ from the afflictions
of the wicked?
(1) They are but castigations, but those on the wicked are
punishments. The one come from a father, the other from a judge.
(2) Afflictions on the godly are fruits of covenant-mercy. 2
Sam vii 17. Afflictions on the wicked are effects of God's wrath. 'He
has much wrath with his sickness.' Eccl v I7. Afflictions on the
wicked are the pledge and earnest of hell; they are like the
pinioning of a malefactor, which presages his execution.
(3) Afflictions on the godly make them better, but afflictions
on the wicked make them worse. The godly pray more; Psa 130 1 The
wicked blaspheme more. 'Men were scorched with great heat, and
blasphemed the name of God.' Rev xvi 9. Afflictions on the wicked
make them more impenitent; every plague upon Egypt increased the
plague of hardness in Pharaoh's heart. To what a prodigy of
wickedness do some persons come after great sickness. Affliction on
the godly is like bruising spices, which are most sweet and
fragrant affliction on the wicked is like pounding weeds with a
pestle, which makes them more unsavoury.
(1) We are not to wonder to see Israel in the house of
bondage. 1 Pet iv 12. The holiness of the saints will not excuse
them from sufferings. Christ was the holy one of God, yet he was in
the iron furnace. His spouse is a lily among thorns. Cant i 2.
Though his sheep have the ear-mark of election upon them, yet they
may have their wool fleeced off. The godly have some good in them,
therefore the devil afflicts them; and some evil in them, therefore
God afflicts them. While there are two seeds in the world, expect to
be under the black rod. The gospel tells us of reigning, but first
of suffering. 2 Tim ii 12.
(2) Affliction is not always the sign of God's anger. Israel,
the apple of God's eye, a peculiar treasure to him above all people,
were in the house of bondage. Exod xix 5. We are apt to judge and
censure those who are in an afflicted state. When the barbarians saw
the viper on Paul's hand, they said, 'No doubt this man is a
murderer.' Acts xxviii 4. So, when we see the viper of affliction
fasten upon the godly, we are apt to censure them, and say, these
are greater sinners than others, and God hates them; but this rash
censuring is for want of wisdom. Were not Israel in the house of
bondage? Was not Jeremiah in the dungeon, and Paul a night and day
in the deep? God's afflicting is so far from evidencing hatred, that
his not afflicting does. 'I will not punish your daughters when they
commit whoredom.' Hos iv 14. Deus maxime irascitur cum non
irascitur. Bernard. God punishes most when he does not punish; his
hand is heaviest when it seems to be lightest. The judge will not
burn him in the hand whom he intends to execute.
(3) If God's own Israel may be in the house of bondage, then
afflictions do not of themselves demonstrate a man miserable.
Indeed, sin unrepented of, makes one miserable; but the cross does
not. If God has a design in afflicting his children to make them
happy, they are not miserable; but God's afflicting them is to make
them happy, therefore they are not miserable. 'Happy is the man whom
God correcteth.' Job v 17. The world counts them happy who can keep
out of affliction; but the Scripture calls them happy who are
How are they happy?
Because they are more holy. Heb xii 10. Because they are more
in God's favour. Prov iii 12. The goldsmith loves his gold when in
the furnace. Because they have more of God's sweet presence. Psa xci
15. They cannot be unhappy who have God's powerful presence in
supporting, and his gracious presence in sanctifying, their
affliction. Because the more affliction they have, the more degrees
of glory they shall have; the lower they have been in the iron
furnace, the higher they shall sit upon to throne of glory; the
heavier their crosses, the heavier shall be their crown. So then, if
afflictions make a Christian happy, they cannot call him miserable.
(4) See the merciful providence of God to his children. Though
they may be in the house of bondage, and smart by affliction, yet
they shall not be hurt by affliction. What hurt does the fan to the
corn? it only separates the chaff from it; or the lance to the body?
it only lets out the abscess. The house of bondage does that which
sometimes ordinances will not; it humbles and reforms. 'If they be
holden in cords of affliction, he openeth their ear to discipline,
and commandeth that they return from iniquity.' Job xxxvi 8, 10. Oh!
what a merciful providence is it that, though God bruise his people,
yet, while he is bruising them, he is doing them good! It is as if
one should throw a bag of money at another, which bruises him a
little, but yet it enriches him. Affliction enriches the soul and
yields the sweet fruits of righteousness. Heb. xii 11.
(5) If Israel be in the house of bondage, if the Lord deals so
with his own children, then how severely will he deal with the
wicked! If he be so severe with those he loves, how severe will he
be with those he hates! 'If they do these things in a green tree,
what shall be done in the dry?' Luke xiii 31. If they that pray and
mourn for sin be so severely dealt with, what will become of those
that swear and break the Sabbath, and are unclean! If Israel be in
the iron furnace, the wicked shall lie in the fiery furnace of hell.
It should be the saddest news to wicked men, to hear that the people
of God are afflicted. Let them think how dreadful the case of
sinners will be. 'Judgement must begin at the house of God; and if
it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not
the gospel?' 1 Pet iv I7. If God thresh his wheat, he will burn the
chaff. If the godly suffer castigation, the wicked shall suffer
condemnation. If he mingle his people's cup with wormwood he will
mingle the wicked's cup with fire and brimstone.
Use two. If Israel be in the house of bondage,
(1) Do not entertain too hard thoughts of affliction.
Christians are apt to look upon the cross and the iron furnace as
frightful things, and do what they can to shun them. Nay, sometimes,
to avoid affliction, they run themselves into sin. But do not think
too hardly of affliction; do not look upon it as through the
multiplying-glass of fear. The house of bondage is not hell.
Consider that affliction comes from a wise God, who prescribes
whatever befalls us. Persecutions are like apothecaries they give
us the physic which God the physician prescribes. Affliction has its
light side, as well as its dark one. God can sweeten our
afflictions, and candy our wormwood. As our sufferings abound, so
does also our consolation. 2 Cor i 5. Argerius dated his letters
from the pleasant garden of the Leonine prison. God sometimes so
revives his children in trouble, that they had rather bear their
afflictions than want their comforts. Why then should Christians
entertain such hard thoughts of afflictions? Do not look at its grim
face, but at the message it brings, which is to enrich us with both
grace and comfort.
(2) If Israel be sometimes in the house of bondage, in an
afflicted state, think beforehand of affliction. Say not as Job (xxix
18), 'I shall die in my nest.' In the house of mirth think of the
house of bondage. You that are now Naomi, may be Mara. Ruth i20.
How quickly may the scene turn, and the hyperbole of joy end in a
catastrophe! All outward things are given to change. The
forethoughts of affliction would make us sober and moderate in the
use of lawful delight; it would cure a surfeit. Christ at a feast
mentions his burial; a good antidote against a surfeit. The
forethought of affliction would make us prepare for it; it would
take us off the world; it would put us upon search of our evidences.
We should see what oil we have in our lamps, what grace we can
find, that we may be able to stand in the evil day. That soldier is
imprudent who has his sword to whet when he is just going to fight.
He who forecasts sufferings, will have the shield of faith, and the
sword of the Spirit ready, that he may not be surprised.
(3) If afflictions come, let us labour to conduct ourselves
wisely as Christians, that we may adorn our sufferings that is, let
us endure with patience. 'Take, my brethren, the prophets for an
example of suffering affliction and patience.' James v 10. Satan
labours to take advantage of us in affliction, by making us either
faint or murmur; he blows the coals of passion and discontent, and
then warms himself at the fire. Patience adorns sufferings. A
Christian should say as Jesus Christ did, 'Lord, not my will but thy
will be done.' It is a sign the affliction is sanctified when the
heart is brought to a sweet submissive frame. God will then remove
the affliction he will take us out of the iron furnace.
We may consider these words, 'Which brought thee out of the
house of bondage,' either,  Literally; or  Spiritually and
Mystically. In the letter, 'I brought thee out of the house of
bondage;' that is, I delivered you out of the misery and servitude
you sustained in Egypt, where you were in the iron furnace.
Spiritually and mystically, by which 'I brought thee out of the
house of bondage,' is a type of our deliverance by Christ from sin
 Literally, 'I brought thee out of the house of bondage,'
out of great misery and slavery in the iron furnace. The thing I
note here is that, though God brings his people sometimes into
trouble, yet he will bring them out again. Israel was in the house
of bondage, but at last was brought out.
We shall endeavour to show 1. That God does deliver out of
trouble. 2. In what manner. 3. At what seasons. 4. Why he delivers.
5. How the deliverances of the godly and wicked out of trouble
God does deliver his children out of troubles. 'Our fathers
trusted in thee; they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.' Psa xxii
4. 'And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion,' namely, from
Nero. 2 Tim iv 17. 'Thou laidst affliction upon our loins, but thou
broughtest us out into a wealthy place.' Psa lxvi 11, 12. 'Weeping
may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.' Psa xxx 5.
God brought Daniel out of the lions' den, Zion out of Babylon. In
his due time he gives an issue out of trouble. Psa lxviii 20. The tree
which in the winter seems dead, revives in the spring. Post nubila
Phoebus [The sun emerges after the storms]. Affliction may leap on
us as the viper did on Paul, but at last it shall be shaken off. It
is called a cup of affliction. Isa li 17. The wicked drink a sea of
wrath, the godly drink only a cup of affliction, and God will say
shortly, 'Let this cup pass away.' God will give his people a
In what manner does God deliver his people out of trouble?
He does it like a God, in wisdom. (1) He does it sometimes
suddenly. As the angel was caused to fly swiftly (Dan ix 21), so God
sometimes makes a deliverance fly swiftly, and on a sudden turns the
shadow of death into the light of the morning. As he gives us
mercies above what we can think (Eph iii 20), so sometimes before we
can think of them. 'When the Lord turned again the captivity of
Zion, we were like them that dream;' it came suddenly upon us as a
dream. Psa cxxvi 1. Joseph could not have thought of such a sudden
alteration, to be the same day freed out of prison, and made the
chief ruler in the kingdom. Mercy sometimes does not stick long in
the birth, but comes forth on a sudden. (2) God sometimes delivers
his people strangely. Thus the whale which swallowed up Jonah was
the means of bringing him safe to land. He sometimes delivers his
people in the very way which they think will destroy. In bringing
Israel out of Egypt, he stirred up the heart of the Egyptians to
hate them (Psa cv 25), and that was the means of their
deliverance. He brought Paul to shore by a contrary wind, and upon
the broken pieces of the ship. Acts xxvii 44.
When are the times and seasons that God usually delivers his
people out of the bondage of affliction?
(1) When they are in the greatest extremity. Though Jonah was
in the belly of hell, he says, 'Thou hast brought up my life from
corruption.' Jonah ii 6. When there is but a hair's breadth between
the godly and death, God ushers in deliverance. When the ship was
almost covered with waves Christ awoke and rebuked the wind. When
Isaac was upon the altar, and the knife about to be put to his
throat, the angel comes and says, 'Lay not thy hand upon the child.'
When Peter began to sink, Christ took him by the hand. Cum
duplicantur lateres, venit Moses 'when the tale of brick was
doubled, then Moses the temporal saviour comes. When the people of
God are in the greatest danger the morning star of deliverance
appears. When the patient is ready to faint the cordial is given.
(2) The second season is, when affliction has done its work
upon them; when it has effected that which God sent it for. As, 
When it has humbled them. 'Remembering my affliction, the wormwood
and gall, my soul is humbled in me.' Lam iii 19, 20. Then God's
corrosive has eaten out the proud flesh.  When it has tamed their
impatience. Before, they were proud and impatient, like froward
children that struggle with their parents; but when their cursed
hearts are tamed, they say, 'I will bear the indignation of the
Lord, because I have sinned against him' (Micah vii 9); and as Eli,
'It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good' 'Let him hedge
me with thorns, if he will plant me with grace.' 1 Sam iii 18.
(3) When they are partakers of more holiness, and are more full
of heavenly-mindedness. Heb xii 10. When the sharp frost of
affliction has brought forth the spring-flowers of grace, the cross
is sanctified, and God will bring them out of the house of bondage.
Luctus in laetitiam vertetur, cineres in corollas [Sorrow will turn
to joy, ashes to garlands]. When the metal is refined it is taken
out of the furnace. When affliction has healed us, God takes off the
Why does God bring his people out of the house of bondage?
Hereby he makes way for his own glory. His glory is dearer to
him than anything besides; it is a crown jewel. By raising his
people he raises the trophies of his own honour; he glorifies his
own attributes; his power, truth, and goodness are triumphant.
(1) His power. If God did not sometimes bring his people into
trouble, how could his power be seen in bringing them out? He
brought Israel out of the house of bondage, with miracle upon
miracle; he saved them with an outstretched arm. 'What ailed thee, O
thou sea, that thou fleddest?' &c. Psa cxiv 5. Of Israel's march out
of Egypt it is said, when the sea fled, and the waters were parted
each from other. Here was the power of God set forth. 'Is there any
thing too hard for me?' Jer xxxii 27. God loves to help when things
seem past hope. He creates deliverance. Psa cxxiv 8. He brought Isaac
out of a dead womb, and the Messiah out of a virgin's womb. oh! how
does his power shine forth when he overcomes seeming
impossibilities, and works a cure when things look desperate!
(2) His truth. God has made promises to his people, when they
are under great pressures, to deliver them; and his truth is engaged
in his promise. 'Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver
thee.' Psa i 15. 'He shall deliver thee in six troubles, yea in
seven.' Job v 19. How is the Scripture bespangled with these
promises as the firmament is with stars! Either God will deliver
them from death, or by death; he will make a way of escape. 1 Cor
10 13. When promises are verified, God's truth is magnified.
(3) His goodness. God is full of compassion to such as are in
misery. The Hebrew word, Racham, for mercy, signifies bowels. God
has 'sounding of bowels.' Isa lxiii 15. And this sympathy stirs up God
to deliver. 'In his love and pity he redeemed them.' Isa lxiii 9. This
makes way for the triumph of his goodness. He is tender-hearted, he
will not over afflict; he cuts asunder the bars of iron, he breaks
the yoke of the oppressor. Thus all his attributes ride in triumph
in saving his people out of trouble.
How do the deliverance of the godly and tricked out of trouble
(1) The deliverances of the godly are preservations; of the
wicked reservations. 'The Lord knows how to deliver the godly, and
to reserve the unjust to be punished.' 2 Pet ii 9. A sinner may be
delivered from dangerous sickness, and out of prison; but all this
is but a reservation for some greater evil.
(2) God delivers the wicked, or rather spares them in anger.
Deliverances to the wicked are not given as pledges of his love, but
symptoms of displeasure; as quails were given to Israel in anger.
But deliverances of the godly are in love. 'He delivered me because
he delighted in me'. 2 Sam xxii 20. 'Thou hast in love to my soul
delivered it from the pit of corruption;' or, as in the Hebrew,
Chashiaqta Naphshi. Isa xxxviii 17. Thou hast loved me from the pit of
corruption. A wicked man may say, 'Lord, thou hast delivered me out
of the pit of corruption;' but a godly man may say, 'Lord, thou hast
loved me out of the pit of corruption.' It is one thing to have
God's power deliver us, and another thing to have his love deliver
us. 'O,' said Hezekiah, 'Thou hast in love to my soul, delivered me
from the pit of corruption.'
How may it be known that a deliverance comes in love?
(1) When it makes our heart boil over in love to God. 'I love
the Lord because he has heard my voice.' Psa cxvi 1. It is one thing
to love our mercies, another thing to love the Lord. Deliverance is
in love when it causes love.
(2) Deliverance is in love when we have hearts to improve it
for God's glory. The wicked, instead of improving their deliverance
for God's glory, increase their corruption; they grow worse, as the
metal when taken out of the fire grows harder; but our deliverance
is in love when we improve it for God's glory. God raises us out of
a low condition, and we lift him up in our praises, and honour him
with our substance. Prov iii 9. He recovers us from sickness, and we
spend ourselves in his service. Mercy is not as the sun to the fire,
to dull it and put it out, but as oil to the wheel, to make it move
(3) Deliverance comes in love when it makes us more exemplary
in holiness; and our lives are walking Bibles. A thousand praises
and doxologies do not honour God so much as the mortifying of one
lust. 'Upon mount Zion there shall be deliverance and holiness,'
Obadiah xvii. When these two go together, deliverance and holiness;
when, being made monuments of mercy, we are patterns of piety; then
a deliverance comes in love, and we may say as Hezekiah, 'Thou hast
in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption.'
If God brings his people out of bondage, let none
despond in trouble. Say not 'I shall sink under this burden;' or as
David, 'I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul.' God can make
the text good, personally and nationally, to bring his people out of
the house of bondage. When he sees a fit season, he will put forth
his arm and save them; and he can do it with ease. 'Lord, it is
nothing with thee to help.' 2 Chron xiv 11. He that can turn tides,
can turn the times; he that raised Lazarus when he was dead, can
raise thee when thou art sick. 'I looked, and there was none to
help, therefore mine own arm brought salvation.' Isa cxiii 5. Do not
despond; believe in God's power faith sets God to work to deliver
Labour, if you are in trouble, to be fitted for
deliverance. Many would have deliverance, but are not fitted for it.
When are we fitted for deliverance?
When, by our afflictions, we are conformed to Christ; when we
have learned obedience. 'He learned obedience by the things which he
suffered;' that is, he learned sweet submission to his Father's
will. Heb v 8. 'Not my will, but thine, be done.' Luke xxii 42. When
we have thus learned obedience by our sufferings, we are willing to
do what God would have us do, and be what God would have us be. We
are conformed to Christ, and are fitted for deliverance.
If God has brought you at any time out of the house
of bondage, out of great and eminent troubles, be much in praise.
Deliverance calls for praise. 'Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and
girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to
thee.' Psa xxx 11, 12. My glory, that is, my tongue, which is the
instrument of glorifying thee. The saints are temples of the Holy
Ghost. 1 Cor iii 16. Where should God's praises be sounded but in his
temple? Beneficium postulat officium [Gratitude should follow a
favour]. The deepest springs yield the sweetest water; and hearts
deeply sensible of God's deliverances yield the sweetest praises.
Moses tells Pharaoh, when he was going out of Egypt, 'We will go
with our flocks and our herds.' Exod x 9. Why so? Because he might
have sacrifices of thanksgiving ready to offer to God for their
deliverance. To have a thankful heart for deliverance is a greater
blessing than the deliverance itself. One of the lepers, 'when he
saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified
God.' Luke xvii 15. The leper's thankful heart was a greater blessing
than to be healed of his leprosy. Have any of you been brought out
of the house of bondage - out of prison, sickness, or any
death-threatening danger? Do not forget to be thankful. Be not
graves, but temples. That you may be the more thankful, observe
every emphasis and circumstance in your deliverance; such as to be
brought out of trouble when you were in articulo mortis [at the
brink of death], when there was but a hair's breadth between you and
death; or, to be brought out of affliction, without sin, you did not
purchase your deliverance by the ensnaring of your consciences; or,
to be brought out of trouble upon the wings of prayer; or, that
those who were the occasions of bringing you into trouble, should be
the instruments of bringing you out. These circumstances, being well
weighed, heighten a deliverance, and should heighten our
thankfulness. The cutting of a stone may be of more value than the
stone itself; and the circumstancing of a deliverance may be greater
than the deliverance itself.
But how shall we praise God in a right manner for deliverance?
(1) Be holy persons. In the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
whosoever did eat thereof with his uncleanness upon him, was to be
cut off (Lev vii 20), to typify how unpleasing their praises and
thank-offerings are who live in sin.
(2) Praise God with humble hearts, acknowledge how unworthy you
were of deliverance. God's mercies are not debts, but legacies; and
that you should have them by legacy should make you humble. 'The
elders fell upon their faces (an expression of humility) and
worshipped God. Rev xi I6.
(3) Praise God for deliverances cordially. 'I will praise the
Lord with my whole heart.' Psa cxi 1. In religion there is no music
but in concert, when heart and tongue join.
(4) Praise God for deliverances constantly. 'While I live will
I praise the Lord.' Psa cxlvi 2. Some will be thankful while the
memory of a deliverance is fresh, and then leave off. The
Carthaginians used, at first, to send the tenth of their yearly
revenue to Hercules; but by degrees they grew weary, and left off
sending; but we must be constant in our Eucharistic sacrifice, or
thank-offering. The motion of our praise must be like the motion of
our pulse, which beats as long as life lasts. 'I will sing praises
unto my God while I have any being.' Psa cxlvi 2.
 THESE words are to be understood mystically and
spiritually. By Israel's deliverance from the house of bondage, is
typified their spiritual deliverance from sin, Satan, and hell.
(1) From sin. The house of bondage was a type of Israel's
deliverance from sin. Sin is the true bondage, it enslaves the soul.
Nihil durius servitute. Cicero. 'Of all conditions, servitude is the
worst.' 'I was held before conversion,' says Augustine, 'not with an
iron chain, but with the obstinacy of mine own will.' Sin is the
enslaver; it is called a law, because it has a binding power over a
man (Rom vii 23); it is said to reign, because it exercises a
tyrannical power (Rom vi 12); and men are said to be the servants of
sin, because they are so enslaved by it. Rom vi 17. Thus sin is the
house of bondage. Israel was not so enslaved in the iron furnace as
the sinner is by sin. They are worse slaves and vassals who are
under the power of sin, than they are who are under the power of
Other slaves have tyrants ruling over their bodies only; but
the sinner has his soul tyrannised over. That princely thing, the
soul, which sways the sceptre of reason, and was once crowned with
perfect knowledge and holiness, now goes on foot; it is enslaved,
and made a lackey to every base lust.
Other slaves have some pity shown them the tyrant gives them
meat, and lets them have hours for their rest; but sin is a
merciless tyrant, it will let men have no rest. Judas had no rest
until he had betrayed Christ, and after that he had less rest than
before. How does a man wear himself out in the service of sin, waste
his body, break his sleep, distract his mind! A wicked man is every
day doing sin's drudgery-work.
Other slaves have servile work; but it is lawful. It is lawful
to work in the galley, and tug at the oar; but all the laws and
commands of sin are unlawful. Sin says to one man, defraud; to
another, be unchaste; to another take revenge; to another, take a
false oath. Thus all sin's commands are unlawful; we cannot obey
sin's law, but by breaking God's law.
Other slaves are forced against their will. Israel groaned
under slavery (Exod ii 23); but sinners are content to be under the
command of sin; they are willing to be slaves; they love their
chains; they will not take their freedom; they 'glory in their
shame.' Phil iii 19. They wear their sins, not as their fetters, but
their ornaments; they rejoice in iniquity. Jer xi 15.
Other slaves are brought to correction, but sin's slaves are
without repentance, and are brought to condemnation. Other slaves
lie in the iron furnace sin's slaves lie in the fiery furnace. What
freedom of will has a sinner to his own confusion, when he can do
nothing but what sin will have him? He is enslaved. Thus sinners are
in the house of bondage; but God takes his elect out of the house of
bondage, he beats off the chains and fetters of sin; he rescues them
from their slavery; he makes them free, by bringing them into 'the
glorious liberty of the children of God.' Rom viii 21. The law of love
now rules, not the law of sin. Though the life of sin be prolonged,
yet not the dominion; as those beasts in Daniel had their lives
prolonged for a season, but their dominion was taken away. Dan vii
12. The saints are made spiritual kings, to rule and conquer their
corruptions, to 'bind these kings in chains.' It is matter of the
highest praise and thanksgiving, to be taken out of the house of
bondage, to be freed from enslaving hosts, and made kings to reign
in glory for ever.
(2) The bringing Israel out of the house of bondage, was a type
of the deliverance from Satan. Men naturally are in the house of
bondage, they are enslaved to Satan. Satan is called the prince of
this world (John xiv 30); and the god of this world (2 Cor iv 4);
because he has power to command and enslave them. Though he shall
one day be a close prisoner in chains, yet now he insults and
tyrannises over the souls of men. Sinners are under his rule, he
exercises over them a jurisdiction such as Caesar did over the
senate. He fills men's heads with error, and their hearts with
malice. 'Why has Satan filled thine heart?' Act v 3. A sinner's
heart is the devil's mansion house. 'I will return into mine house.'
Matt. xii 44. And sure that must needs be a house of bondage, which
is the devil's mansion-house. Satan is a complete tyrant. He rules
men's minds, he blinds them with ignorance. 'The god of this world
has blinded the minds of them that believe not.' 2 Cor iv 4. He
rules their memories. They remember that which is evil, and forget
that which is good. Their memories are like a strainer, that lets go
all the pure liquor, and retains only the dregs. He rules their
wills. Though he cannot force the will, he draws it. 'The lusts of
your father you will do.' John viii 44. He has got your hearts, and
him you will obey. His strong temptations draw men to evil more than
all the promises of God can draw them to good. This is the state of
every man by nature; he is in the house of bondage; the devil has
him in his power. A sinner grinds in the devil's mill; he is at the
command of Satan, as the ass is at the command of the driver. No
wonder to see men oppress and persecute; as slaves they must do what
the god of this world will have them. How could those swine but run,
when the devil entered into them? Matt viii 32. When the devil tempted
Ananias to tell a lie, he could not but speak what Satan had put in
his heart. Acts v 3. When the devil entered into Judas, and bade
him betray Christ, he would do it, though he hanged himself. It is a
sad and dismal case, to be in the house of bondage, under the power
and tyranny of Satan. When David would curse the enemies of God, how
did he pray against them? That Satan might be at their right hand.
Psa cix 6. He knew he could then lead them into any snare. If the
sinner has Satan at his right hand, let him take heed that he be not
at God's left hand. Is it not a case to be bewailed, to see men
taken captive by Satan at his will? 2 Tim ii 26. He leads sinners as
slaves before him in triumph; he wholly possesses them. If people
should see their beasts bewitched and possessed of the devil, they
would be much troubled; and yet, though their souls are possessed by
Satan, they are not sensible of it. What can be worse than for men
to be in the house of bondage, and to have the devil hurry them on
in their lusts to perdition? Sinners are willingly enslaved to
Satan; they love their gaoler; are content to sit quietly under
Satan's jurisdiction; they choose this bramble to rule over them,
though after a while, fire will come out of the bramble to devour
them. Judges ix 15. What an infinite mercy is it when God brings
poor souls out of this house of bondage, when he gives them a
gaol-delivery from the prince of darkness! JESUS CHRIST redeems
captives, he ransoms sinners by price, and rescues them by force. As
David took a lamb out of the lion's mouth (1 Sam xvii 3 5), so Christ
rescues souls out of the mouth of the roaring lion. Oh, what a mercy
is it to be brought out of the house of bondage, from captives to
the prince of the power of the air, to be made subjects of the
Prince of Peace! This is done by the preaching of the Word. 'To turn
them from the power of Satan unto God.' Acts xxvi 18.
(3) The bringing of Israel out of the house of bondage was a
type of their being delivered from hell. Hell is domus servitutis, a
house of bondage; a house built on purpose for sinners to lie in.
There is such a house of bondage where the damned lie. 'The
wicked shall be turned into hell.' Psa ix 17. 'How can ye escape the
damnation of hell?' Matt xxiii 33. If any one should ask where this
house of bondage is, where is the place of hell? I wish he may never
know experimentally. 'Let us not so much,' says Chrysostom, 'labour
to know where hell is, as how to escape it.' Yet to satisfy
curiosity, it may be observed that hell is locus subterraneus, some
place beneath. 'Hell beneath.' Prov xv 24. Hesiod says, 'Hell is as
far under the earth, as heaven is above it.' The devils besought
Christ 'that he would not command them to go out into the deep.'
Luke viii 31. Hell is in the deep.
Why must there be this house of bondage? Why a hell? Because
there must be a place for the execution of divine justice. Earthly
monarchs have their prison for malefactors, and shall not God have
his? Sinners are criminals, they have offended God; and it would not
consist with his holiness and justice, to have his laws infringed,
and not inflict penalties.
The dreadfulness of the place. Could you but hear the groans
and shrieks of the damned for one hour, it would confirm you in the
truth, that hell is a house of bondage. Hell is the emphasis of
misery. Besides the poena damni, 'the punishment of loss,' which is
the exclusion of the soul from the gloried sight of God, which
divines think the worst part of hell, there will be poena sensus,'
the punishment of sense.' If, when God's wrath is kindled but a
little, and a spark of it flies into a man's conscience in this
life, it is so terrible (as in the case of Spira), what will hell
In hell there will be a plurality of torments, 'Bonds and
chains.' 2 Pet ii 4. There will be the worm. Mark ix 48; This is the
worm of conscience. There will be the lake of fire. Rev xx 15.
Other fire is but painted to this.
This house of hell is haunted with devils. Matt xxv 41. Anselm
says, 'I had rather endure all torments, than see the devil with
bodily eyes.' Such as go to hell must not only be forced to behold
the devil, but must be shut up with this lion in his den; they must
keep the devil company. He is full of spite against mankind; a red
dragon that will spit fire in men's faces.
The torments of hell abide for ever. 'The smoke of their
torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.' Rev xiv 2 Time cannot
finish it, tears cannot quench it. Mark ix 44. The wicked are
salamanders, who live always in the fire of hell, and are not
consumed. After they have lain millions of years in hell, their
punishment is as far from ending, as it was at the beginning. If all
the earth and sea were sand, and every thousandth year a bird should
come, and take away one grain, it would be a long time before that
vast heap would be removed; yet, if after all that time the damned
might come out of hell, there would be some hope; but this word EVER
breaks the heart.
How does it seem to comport with God's justice to punish a sin
committed in a moment, with eternal torment?
Because there is an eternity of sin in man's nature. Because
sin is crimen laesae majestatis, 'committed against an infinite
majesty,' and therefore the sin itself is infinite, and
proportionally the punishment must be infinite. Because a finite
creature cannot bear infinite wrath, he must be eternally satisfying
what he can never satisfy. If hell be such a house of bondage, what
infinite cause have they to bless God who are delivered from it!
Jesus 'delivered us from the wrath to come.' 1 Thess i 10. Jesus
Christ suffered the torments of hell in his soul, that believers
should not suffer them. If we are thankful, when we are ransomed out
of prison, or delivered from fire, oh, how should we bless God to be
preserved from the wrath to come! It may cause more thankfulness in
us, seeing the most part go into the house of bondage, even to hell.
To be of the number of those few that are delivered from it, is
matter of infinite thankfulness. Most, I say, go to that house of
bondage when they die; most go to hell. 'Broad is the way that
leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.' Matt
vii 13. The greatest part of the world lies in wickedness. 1 John v
19. Divide the world, says Brerewood, into thirty-one parts,
nineteen parts of it are possessed by Jews and Turks, and seven
parts by heathens; so that there are but five parts of Christians,
and among these Christians so many seduced Papists on the one hand,
and so many formal Protestants on the other, that we may conclude
the major part of the world goes to hell. Scripture compares the
wicked to briers. Isa x 17. There are but few lilies in your
fields, but in every hedge thorns and briers. It compares them to
'the mire in the streets.' Isa x 6. Few jewels or precious stones
are in the street, but you cannot go a step without meeting with
mire. The wicked are as common as the dirt in the street. Look at
the generality of people. How many drunkards are there for one that
is sober! How many adulterers for one that is chaste! How many
hypocrites for one that is sincere! The devil has the harvest, and
God a few gleanings only. Oh, then, such as are delivered from the
house of bondage, in hell, have infinite cause to admire and bless
God. How should the vessels of mercy run over with thankfulness!
When most others are carried prisoners to hell, they are delivered
from the wrath to come.
How shall I know I am delivered from hell?
(1) Those whom Christ saves from hell he saves from sin. 'He
shall save his people from their sins.' Matt i 21. Has God
delivered you from the power of corruption, from pride, malice, and
lust? If he has delivered you from the hell of sin, he has delivered
you from the hell of torment.
(2) If you have got an interest in Christ, and are prizing,
trusting, and loving him, you are delivered from hell and damnation.
'No condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.' Rom viii 1. If you
are in Christ, he has put the garment of his righteousness over you,
and hell-fire can never singe it. Pliny observes, nothing will so
soon quench fire as salt and blood the salt tears of repentance and
the blood of Christ will quench the fire of hell, so that it shall
never kindle upon you.