<< Revelation 22: The Blessedness of Keeping the Commandments >>
14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
The commandments of God are the laws of happiness. They are the rules of health both for soul and body. There can be no well-being on earth, and no heaven without them. Oh, for the eloquence of an angel to set forth this truth, for we are persuaded, until men are won to see the blessedness of keeping the commandments, the world will not come into the love of goodness for its own sake, and the abhorrence of evil for its inherent viciousness which form the true spirit of real religion.
We have too long been in the habit of thinking that goodness is only good because God has commanded it, and evil would be good, or at least very pleasant, if it had not been forbidden. We have not regarded goodness as the indispensable means of happiness, just as much as breath is to life, labour to success, or water to steam. But this is really the state of the case. The commandments are the laws of goodness. They are summed up by our Lord in the New Testament into two. He was asked, “Which is the great commandment in the law ?” And it is written, ” Jesus said unto him. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” — Matt. xxii. 36-40. Here are the essential laws of happiness. Society constituted upon them must be happy. Let love to God fill the heart, inspire the intellect, and pervade every thought, and we walk as the friends of the Lord. We exult in our Heavenly Father’s goodness. We look above, and the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handy-work. We look around on the beauteous earth, and while its green carpet, its flowery gems, and its luxuriant fruits so bounteously bestowed, attract our admiration, the delighted Christian exclaims, My Father made them all. When we love the Lord we have no fears. Perfect love casteth out fear. We love His laws, and do them joyously. We view the earth as His outer palace, and walk with Him as His children. We are connected by a golden circle with the Fountain of happiness and light; love, peace, and joy descend into us as a copious stream. ” O, that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments!” said the Lord, ” then would thy peace have been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” — Isa. xlviii. 18.
The Lord is to the soul like the sun to the solar system. From Him comes the warmth, the brightness, and the fertility which beautify and bless the soul. It is as vain to expect a bright or a happy mind where love to God is not, as to expect a bright or a cheerful world without the sun. The love of God in the soul turns it to its proper centre, and enables it to receive from Him the deep groundwork of every blessing. When the Divine Spirit diffuses itself over the heart, it fills it with delight through every fibre. It is as when the sun rises in majestic glory and warms every mountain and hill, plain and valley. The forests wave in His brightness, the stream glitters like silver in His beams; all nature seems glad. To Him every bud owes its life, every flower its beauty, every fruit its substance. Without Him the world sinks into gloom; and could He be altogether abstracted from creation, all life and fertility on this earth would expire, and only a stiff, stark, cold, withered mass would remain. Just so essential is God’s love and wisdom to man. And hence, the divine command is not an arbitrary decree. It is the condition of our well-being. Nothing can dispense with it. Hence, Moses said, ” Ye shall command your children to observe to do all the words of this law, for it is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life.” — Deut. xxxii. 46, 47.
Indeed, without the Divine Love flowing into man he would cease to exist. It descends upon the evil and upon the good, upon the just and the unjust alike. But the inwardly obstinate and corrupt elevate some impure idol of their own into the interiors of their hearts, and then the divine love flowing through this is perverted and polluted. Hence man obtains a defiled life in which all that is beautiful and blessed dies, and a horrid brood of evil passions and evil phantasies take their place. Hence it is that the commandments take the negative form so much, even in relation to God. If idolatry, interior and exterior, be avoided, blessed Spirit of the Lord will flow in, and with it every joy.
Let us consider a little in detail the commandments in relation to God. But first let us notice that they are addressed to those who have come out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. And, in the literal sense, the Jews undoubtedly were intended to be so designated, in reference to their national deliverance. But, as the commandments were by our Lord made the universal law, we must regard the introduction in its spiritual sense. And in this sense Israel in Egypt, groaning in bondage, is the symbols of every man in his unregenerate state. ” The city where our Lord was crucified was spiritually Sodom and Egypt.”— Rev. xi. 8. In the evil man all holy and virtuous principles are enslaved; they are only suffered to murmur as the dictates of an oppressed conscience. Lusts, passions, and conceits are free to licentiousness, but all that has been stored up from angels and from teachers is in captivity. When the soul, wearied with the tyranny of sin, receives the help offered by its Saviour. He proclaims liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison-house to them that were bound. He strikes the fetters from the slave of his sins, and gives to His delivered servant the glorious liberty of the children of light. None but these keep the commandments, or desire to do so. Hence, they are addressed to such. And the Lord says, ”I am the Lord (Jehovah) thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” — Ex. xx. 2. The Lord thy God is expressive of the Divine Love and Wisdom, as we have frequently shown. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me, teaches that only the Divine Love and Wisdom in the person of our adorable Saviour should be worshipped and adored. We say in the Divine Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, for He only sets the spirit free. ” Without Him we can do nothing.” — John xv. 5. He is the inconceivable Jehovah brought to view in the mild, but all-powerful, lustre of a Divine Man. ”No man cometh unto the Father,” He says, “but by Me.” We can find the Lord our God nowhere else but in the manifested God. ” For in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” — Col. ii. 9.
But, an objection will sometimes arise, are we not offending against this commandment in viewing God as a Divine Man ? when it is said, we are not to make unto ourselves any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. We would, however, observe that the commandment forbids us to make a graven image, or any likeness of anything in the heavens, earth, or water, to bow down ourselves to, or to observe them, but it does not forbid us to adore the Divine Person in which God was pleased to manifest Himself. We do not make a likeness of Him. He makes the likeness of Himself in us as we read the Word with faith and reverence. The Son was the very form of God (Heb. i. 2), manifested for the very purpose of leaving us under no doubt as to His Being and character in all respects. That form was the form of Infinite Benevelence, Wisdom, and Mercy. “And thus He is to us the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”— John xiv. 6. He assumed and glorified the Human Nature, and ascended with it high above all heavens, that He might fill all things (Eph. iv. 10). There He is the real Sun of righteousness, with healing in His wings (Mai. iv. 2). He fills all the heavens with light, and love, and joy.
Before this adorable Person angels and men ought to worship. He is the First and the Last. He who comes to Him will find rest unto his soul. He will be healed of whatsoever mental disease he has, and thenceforward feed for ever on the Bread of Life. But if, instead of reverently adoring Him, we frame from self-derived intelligence some other idea of God, and will not think of Him as He has manifested Himself, we then make a graven image of our own. If we set up some idol of our own, so that it occupies the centre of our active minds, we make likenesses of something in the heavens, and place them where the heavenly things themselves ought to be.
Self-love is a baleful mock-sun which shuts out the real one, and substitutes for the benign influence of the Blessed One the scorching glare of passion, the dark obstinacy of self-will, and in some the cold, bitter malignancy of secret hate. The moon we fabricate is a specious web of our own self-conceit, some fancied scheme of mock religion, by which we suppose we escape the grand requirements of religion, and attain heaven without the attainment on earth of a heavenly nature. Such sun and moon are often referred to in the Scriptures. It is said of the seed which fell on stony places, ” When the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.” — Matt. xiii. 6. Of how many young minds has this been the exact career ? They have listened to truth while it fell from the lips of the preacher, but with many obstinate determinations to abide by their own views, which, like stony ground, have hindered the truths of religion from obtaining deep root. Then has come a time when the scorching sun of passionate excitement has risen upon them, and the good seed has withered away. Of the New Jerusalem, we read, ” The city has no need of the sun, nor of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof.” — Rev. xxi. 22. The sun and the moon of which the New Church has no need, are the sun and the moon which we ought not to make; but which too many do make;— self-love instead of God’s love, and our self-derived intelligence instead of God’s wisdom. It is in this way the true sun is darkened, and the moon turned into blood at the end of a Church, — self shuts out the Lord, and violated truth shuts out real heavenly light.
A Nero, making his cruel self-will into his god, and worshipping constantly this fearful idol, demands daily a more complete destruction of the happiness and comfort of others at its fearful shrine, until first Christians are persecuted, robbed, and tortured to please him, — then other classes of the state, — then his own relatives are put to death to gratify his demands ever increasing in cruelty. Still later, Rome, his own capital, is set on fire to please his malignant fancy, and, at last, he wishes the whole Roman people had only one neck that he might destroy them all at one blow. Ambition is a fearful idol. We watch its worshipper giving himself to its absorbing anxieties, to engross all his faculties, to achieve success. He goes through superhuman labours. He sets mind, health, life freely at stake. He values thousands, millions of lives, and the welfare of nations at nothing, if this idol demands such sacrifices. He comes possibly to the pinnacle of self- worship, and sees myriads giving their hollow adulation, but his idol becomes so insanely exacting, that his mind, inflamed by insolence, outrages all that mankind value as most sacred, and violated freedom and down-trodden human nature recoil. Nations gather and hem in the raging worshipper of ambition as they would a furious beast. Now mind and body are agitated beyond measure, the brain is on the rack, the passions blaze with the utmost vehemence; frantic exertions are made like the bounds of a chased lion. The judgment, however, has come, and blow after blow falls, until like the Babylonian Beshazzar he dies in the utmost indignity ; or, like a modern example, lives on a rocky prison with the vulture of disappointment gnawing daily at his heart. In other instances, the self-worshipper will watch for his opportunity for years, quietly absorbing himself in untold anxieties, accumulating means to his ambitious design. At length, the hour of venture comes. He lauches forth his strength, and desolation is the result; but he fails, fails in spite of gigantic exertions, and broken in heart and health, his passions bring on agonies which prostrate mind and body, and he dies the cruel victim of having made a likeness of things in the heavens, and bowing down to and serving them. But, alas, these passions are not done with at death! The same distorted nature goes into the eternal world, since man takes himself with him, and these fearfully increased by being loosed from earthly bonds, their violence and their folly become still more terrible, and madly impel them onwards to insane cravings, with efforts, and the miseries within and around which are their necessary results. By day, wild cravings and demoniac plunges; by night, gloom, misery, and doleful sorrow; weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Such is the miserable result of a breach of the first command.
But a person may make likenesses of things on earth, and of things in the waters under the earth, and bow down to and worship them. Instead of loving earthly things, with a true and proper regard derived from the Lord, he may have exaggerated earthly loves, which are the fabricated likenesses of the true, not the true things themselves. He may love his children blindly and dotingly, and make idols of them. He may love any outward possession too well, and make an idol of it. He may feign and simulate outward virtues, too, for selfish ends, and thus set up some image or likeness of his own making, instead of the real orderly principles which the Lord has made. These, when pursued with the chief devotion of the soul, when made the grand objects of the spirit’s aim, become idols. The false love of money, that is, the love of it not for its use, in promoting goodness, justice, truth, and general happiness, but the love of it for self-aggrandizement, or simply for its own sake, is a terrible idol at the present day. At its shrine, talent, learning, health, and life, are daily sacrificed. Mammon-worship is a widely extended idolatry. To heap up and make this god larger, is the senseless aim of millions of immortal souls, who toil at that which they must soon certainly leave, and oftentimes break in the sacrifice their health long before their time, and neglect all those riches which could help them in the land to which they go. To this absorbing passion almost every moment is devoted. To pile up the means of procuring food which will never be wanted, clothes which never can be worn, houses which they can never inhabit, is the one engrossing thought. Relatives are despised, if they cannot add to the hoard, and viewed with dislike if they have wants will make them troublesome. Friendship becomes a hollow covering, in which the lust of gain masquerades. And what should be the hearty greeting of a friend becomes only the awkward leer of a wolfish desire for prey. This prostitution of the mind to a sordid desire for gain in some induces rashness, loss, and despair; in others, deep devotion to money, untiring calculation, incessant effort, and astounding material success; but with every noble faculty forfeited and prostituted. The man neglected, the animal only cared for, the mind degraded. The merchant has become a millionaire, and is insane. Such is the result of worshipping the likeness of things on the earth.
It is the same when we bow down to and serve an image or likeness of anything in the waters under the earth. Spiritual fish are those appetites for science which delight in the waters of knowledge. The world of thought is a wide sea. The thoughts of the worldly are as a vast troubled sea (Isa. lvii. 20). Only where the glorious river and streams of divine truth flow can the sanctified sciences, the true fish of the soul, really live. The prophet says, “And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and everything shall live whither the river cometh.” — Ezek. xlvii. 9. The scientific dispositions which we have, when animated by a supreme regard for divine things, subserve the higher kingdom of spiritual and eternal worth and beauty: the region of nature becomes a grand panorama, in which heavenly things are reflected, and wisdom and use are alike illustrated. When, however, science separates itself from God, and exists only as an overweening concern for earthly knowledge: when all the powers of the immortal man are engrossed in weighing atoms, analyzing gases, describing insects, and groping through the by-paths of nature to make himself an illustrious fame: when he dreams that his knowledge is his own, and it will place him above all his compeers, and he will shine in the galaxy of scientific names with everlasting renown, he is then designated, in divine revelation, as a great fish that lies in the midst of his rivers, and says, “My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.” — Ezek. xxix. 3. He has made a perverted and monstrous love of science, and worships it. He becomes an Egyptian or a Philistine in spiritual things, and has a Dagon of his own, and the mind of such a person is a very whirlpool of excitement, vanity, and envy. Not a small history would that be which detailed the sorrows of scientific men when their science has not been made sober and sacred by being subordinated to heavenly wisdom. One eminent man, after waiting in vain for a king’s smile, in France, went and died of chagrin. Another committed suicide because the British Association had not awarded him sufficient honour for his chemical discoveries. And what a world of suffering does such a termination disclose! What long anxieties, yearnings, cares, and miseries, are involved in that long career which finishes in utter despair and recklessness of all things; when all the tender relations and enjoyments of this glorious world are so covered with gall, that the wearied heart plunges away from its poisoned existence in a wild vain attempt to find obliteration and forgetfulness. Oh, self-worship is a bitter thing; it is a bitter thing in any form. Blessed are they who humble themselves and exalt the eternal one: who make themselves poor. They will become rich in God. Only the real Sun should occupy the centre of the soul. When anything else shuts Him out, there is a mental eclipse which chills and darkens the soul. To make life a circle of blessing it must begin and end with God. ” Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
To form this first indispensable element for happiness, the Lord, from His infinite love to us, is a jealous God. He requires our worship not for His sake, but ours. He needs nothing of ours, but we need Him. He watches, with unutterable tenderness, to preserve us from the hell of existence in the wild chaos of being in which He is not the supreme centre and the supreme law.
When we view the sad results of suffering ourselves to become self-worshippers in any form, the exclusion that naturally and inevitably follows, of all the felicities of heaven with heavenly purity and peace; the certain introduction of disorder, darkness, and ruin into the soul, with all the misery of being placed in opposition to the laws of God’s beautiful world here; and the still more beautiful one hereafter, and all the powers of good, so that what would have given us blessings inflicts upon us pain, we can readily see why the Lord is said to be a jealous God. He is jealous lest we should thus make for ourselves the sources of misery; He made us to be happy, and infinitely desires that we should become so. He is jealous lest we should turn away from Him, the source of life and felicity, and raise up something as an idol which would darken and pervert our existence. He is jealous more than the fondest mother, more than the kindest father, over their offspring, lest it should be seduced from the sweet and salutary influences of home. He is jealous with an infinite and holy jealousy, to preserve each child from danger and from ruin. But He warns, also, that ruin to one generation involves danger to the next. In His wisdom He has connected the race together like the links of a chain, so that the progress of one generation may transmit better qualities to another, and thus the race be ever advancing to a higher degree of talent, of order, and happiness. The wealth, mental as well as physical, is thus transmitted to the future generations of mankind. This law, however, when perverted, works in the opposite direction. The iniquity of the father is visited upon the son. It must be so. The order of nature is not suspended. It works inversely, because man will have it so, but it exists. He, therefore, who would know the extent of the wrong he does when he sins, should reflect, not only on its consequences to himself, but on the hereditary evil he transmits to his children. They are, it is true, not punished for it, but it gives them a proneness to actual evils for which they will be punished. ” The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” — Ezek. xviii. 20. Divine mercy not only does not punish the children for the sins of their fathers, much less impute to them the sin of Adam, but He provides counteracting dispositions against the hereditary failings they have inseminated. ” Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” — Rom. vi. 1. Unless the Lord had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah (Isa. i. 9). So far does He impart the beginning of an angelic nature to us, that He could say, in the days of His flesh, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” — Matt. xix. 14. The Lord has implanted in every soul the faculty of loving Him and loving His kingdom. His truth and His joy. And to them that love Him and keep His commandments He shows mercy, as He says, to the thousandth generation, that is, to all eternity. He blesses His obedient servant in all his relations of life. The first three commandments are the head and essence of the whole. They fill the rest with spiritual life. Without them the rest are dead and unavailing. The first three relate to spiritual life, the next five to the conduct of man in civil society, and the remaining two to his moral life and motives.
Here permit me to draw your attention to the interesting circumstances recorded in the Gospel, respecting the young who came to inquire of the Lord what he must do to inherit eternal life. The Divine Saviour said, as He teaches ever, “If thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments.” — Matt xix. 17. The young man came zealous to know, but not deeply reflecting. He said, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life ?” The Saviour, to excite him to think first, inquired, “Why callest thou Me good?” adding, “There is none good but one, that is God.” The Lord often asks questions: it is not for His own information, but for ours. He wished the young man to ask himself why he called Him good. He did not object to being called good, for He called Himself the good shepherd (John x. 11); also He said, ”I am He that is holy. He that is true.” — Rev. iii. 7. His question was like that directed to Adam, when the Lord said to him ”Adam, where are thou?” not that Omniscience needed to be told where Adam was, but that he dictated in the garden of Adam’s soul the essential inquiry, ” Adam, where art thou?” to lead him to know into what state he had sunk. So was it when the Lord questioned this young man. He first probed his conscience, and led him to inquire into the ground of his acknowledgment, and then gave him his instruction : “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” The young man answered, ” Which?” And the Lord Jesus further replied, ” Thou shalt do no murder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou halt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt honour thy father and mother.” You will perceive that the Saviour only recited the civil and moral laws, having so far passed over the properly spiritual, or those relating to God. The young man answered : ” All these things have I kept from my youth up. What lack I yet?” Now it was very true that the young man had kept these commandments, but by not having kept them from love to God and faith in Him, he had kept them only from self, and thus all his acts were tainted with evil, for self can masquerade in every dress. It can be pious, it can be moral, it can be talented, it can be patriotic, it can be learned, it can be outwardly humble, or, in other words, it can appear to be all these, and more; but if these appearances have self, and not God as their centre, they are all impure and corrupt, for without Him we can do nothing (John xv. 5), and before we can be united to the divine purity and joy the whole internal must be changed. Hence, the Lord Jesus said, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow Me.” Thus the Lord taught him that he must part with what he before had, that is, his selfish desires, his self-derived intelligence, his selfish motives and possessions, and he would then have treasure in heaven, and as the head and essence of that treasure would be the Lord Jesus Christ, — ” Come and follow me,” — He was the God whom the young man had neglected. ” Come and follow me.” The Saviour thus supplied what the young man was lacking — the essence of the first three commandments, which he had in reality not done.
Here, again, we see the blessedness of keeping the divine laws. The young man, though rich, and in many respects estimable; though in the sight of the world worthy of admiration, and to some an object of envy, was unhappy. He felt there was a void within, which no outward possessions, nor attention to outward law, or even the moral law alone, could fill. God must be enthroned there. He must be the tree of life in the centre of the garden, or there will be no paradise. His Holy Spirit can alone give the love, light, and joy, which can fill the atmosphere of the soul with golden light. He stands at the door and knocks; if any man will open the door he will come in and sup with Him, and man will taste his Maker’s joy. No one can have that confidence, which is essential to happiness, who is not resting on the Rock of ages. No one has a right to have it. No one has a right to enjoy himself in the universe who does not render homage to its Great Proprietor. But when a man devotes himself to the Lord, a peace inexpressible takes possession of his soul, a bright dawn, like that of a morning in spring, breaks in upon him, and all things laugh and sing. It is the kingdom of heaven come nigh unto him. It is heaven begun. Doubt and darkness have fled away; hope, peace, and joy, like a company of angels, have taken up their abode with Him. The Lord’s service is perfect . He hallows the Lord’s name and all His divine qualities. He remembers the Sabbath-day in its literal and in its spiritual sense; He makes use of all the means of grace to fortify himself in his regeneration, ever having in view that peaceful state, that rest in God, which is the true sabbath of the soul.
We will now notice the commandments which relate to civil life, that is in the letter, for in the spiritual sense we must ever bear in mind they all relate to operations in the soul, and to our supreme obedience to the Lord, and the rejection of internal evils as sins against Him; in this sense, the commandments are exceedingly broad (Ps. cxix. 96). The time would fail to take each commandment, and show how impossible it is for heaven to be formed out of souls which would not keep it; and keep it not only in the act, but in the spirit and intention also. We need scarcely remark how miserable are the homes where the parents are not respected. What insolences, what contempt, what slightings of parental counsel, what jealousies of the rest of the family, take away satisfaction from the children, and make a perpetual source of discomfort to the parents. The mourning hearts of father and mother are blighted, and where they fondly hoped for sympathy they meet with scorn and coldness. It is as though both sides were living under the perpetual droppings of gall which embittered every hour, and poisoned every enjoyment
But, on the contrary, how blessed is the home where father and mother are honoured! Confidence in their loving hearts is felt. Mutual kindness weaves continually garlands of spiritual roses. The eye glows with affection, the mind is ready to counsel, and the hand to help at every opportunity; the life is a succession of kind offices. The home hearth is the sweet spot round which the affections ever play, and is to all the domestic heaven, the sweet centre of ten thousand joys and graces: ”Blessed are they that keep the commandments.” They learn from the happiness of loving their earthly father and mother, the supreme bliss of loving in the highest degree their Heavenly Father, and of receiving with devout respect the blessed influences of heaven and the church, which compose their spiritual mother, because they compose the honoured wife of the Lamb.
Let us take another commandment: “Thou shalt not commit murder.” Who could possibly be happy while violating this ? Even in the lighter form, in which the act is not committed, but as the Lord teaches in the Gospel, a person hates another, there is no possibility of happiness. Hate takes away peace from the heart where it dwells. It forms a brood of viperous tempers, which not only strive to injure the person hated, but also prey upon one another. The dark scowl of the hater betrays the dark malignity of the internal gloomy cavern in which his spirit dwells. A congregation of souls of this class, however forgiven without, could never be otherwise than a hell. Themselves are hell. Where’er they go, as Milton’s Satan says, is hell, and there is no conceivable way of making this state a different one except by looking to the Lord, and beseeching Him to change this death into life, by imparting the power to subdue not only the effort to kill, but the thought, the wish to harm or injure any one, and as this desire is extinguished, the opposite desire will descend — the desire to aid, to bless. Then will the heart begin to know the holy luxury of doing good, the joy of being useful, the heaven of serving and advancing others. “Blessed are they that do His commandments.”
The same result will follow the consideration of every other commandment. No happiness can exist except in proportion as it is from the heart obeyed. No one could have a heaven where the inhabitants did not obey the commandment: ” Thou shalt not steal.” The disposition to take from others rather than to give to them, must create suspicion, violence, retaliation, revenge, and a whole host of miseries. The evil must create the hell. So with the polluted state which comes from the breach of the divine law: ” Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The most fearful crimes are those which come from the awful sin of adultery. The hardening of the heart, the pollution of the mind, the degradation of soul and body which flow from adultery, are of the most fearful character. When this sin is committed, the very gates of the lowest hell are opened upon the soul. The lost spirits which defile one another, intensely despise and hate one another. Hence come so frequently misery and murder. While from the opposite virtues of chaste love and holy marriage, come elevation of mind, purity of heart, and advancement in all that is good. Marriage is the central pillar around which cluster the duties and charities of life, and innumerable benefits and blessings. The image of heaven, it is the circle of closest friendship, holiest union, and the most intense bliss. The future inhabitants of heaven issuing from this holy connection, its fireside felicities come the nearest to those blessed scenes which exist where prevails the marriage-supper of the Lamb. They who never sully themselves with a breach of this sacred law, know in the purities they enjoy, in the blessed interchange of thought and affection; in the delightful companionship and intercourse of tenderest cares and endearments; in the mutual self-sacrifice they delight to make, how blessed a thing it is to keep sacredly this commandment. Again and again we say. How could a heaven exist where these perfect laws exist, or how can a breach of them result in anything but sorrow ? It is the same with bearing false witness against the neighbour. An atmosphere of lies must be fraught with curses. Even the last two commandments, though externally not appearing to relate to evils so formidable to society, in reality do so most completely. Where all are covetous must be misery indeed; to feel that you were surrounded by those who envied you every comfort, who greedily watched and waited for every opportunity to despoil you. The hell of the covetous must be a real chamber of horrors, overflowing with envy and gall. On the contrary, as this spirit is shunned or subdued, a delight in imparting takes its place, a rejoicing over another’s joy. A cheerful generous outpouring of blessed influences, an intense satisfaction in the well-being of others; a watchfulness in seizing every opportunity to promote the general joy. These principles and states unlock the very portals of bliss, and give us the reason for the divine words: “O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” — Isa. xlviii. 18.
And in view of these great truths, so clear of themselves, how strange it seems to hear religions teachers declaring that God did not give the commandments to be kept; they were given only that man might learn his inability to keep them, and trust not to obedience, but to imputation for pardon and for heaven. Why, however man were pardoned, if he entered heaven with a spirit that did not obey the commandments, it would be no heaven to him. The commandments not given to be obeyed! Why, there is no happiness possible but in proportion to this obedience. How affectingly does the Lord place this often before us, even at the giving of the law: “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep My commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever.” — Deut. v. 29. ” And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. And it shall be our righteousness if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He hath commanded us.” — Deut vi. 24, 25.
Let it not be said, that in the New Testament these Divine laws are repealed, for the very reverse is the case. The Lord came to give us new power to keep these essential laws of our happiness. “Think not,” said He, ” that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” — Matt v. 17, 19, 20.
How conclusive is this. At the moment when, according to some, the Lord had come to destroy the requirement that the law should be obeyed. He Himself assures us that the opposite is the fact, and He proceeds to say, that without righteousness, more than that outer righteousness which the Jewish priests had, in no case could a man enter into the kingdom of heaven. His entire teaching is in harmony with this: “Not every that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.” — Matt. vii. 21. Again, ” If ye love me, keep my commandments.” — John xiv. 15. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” — Ver. 21. ” If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings.”— Verses 23, 24.
Not only the Lord Jesus in the New Testament, but the apostles also taught the same doctrine, that salvation and happiness were alone to be secured by keeping the commandments. Hence the apostle Paul: ” Love worketh no ill to his neighbour, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” — Rom. xiii. 10. Again, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” — 1 Cor. vii. 19. Once more : “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” — Gal. V. 6. Surely here, neither in the master nor the servant, is there any setting aside of the commandments, and the substitution of a new rule; not that of actual righteousness done from love and faith, but that of the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus being accounted as ours. There is no warrant whatever in the Scriptures, or in reason for any righteousness being imputed to us, that has not first been imparted to us. The Lord is not a God who countenances any deceptions. He is a God of truth. But the doctrine of imputation, as commonly taught, is built upon two unfounded statements. First, it is said Adam’s sin is imputed to us ; and, secondly, the Lord’s righteousness. But both these statements are unjustified by the Sacred Word.
Both these imputations are false. No one is punished because of Adam’s sin; but every man is rewarded according as his work shall be. Jer. xvii. 10; Matt. xxv. 40, 45; Rom. ii. 6; Rev. xxii. 12. It is true that sin entered into the world by man’s turning from God, called Adam’s transgression, and that a tendency to evil is transmitted from parents to children, and so are tendencies to good, but none are punished or rewarded for tendencies, but for actual sins or actual virtues. The imputation to any one of what does not actually belong to him, is a false and spurious proceeding, which should never be attributed to the God of truth. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” is His law. “He who turneth away from his wickedness, and doeth that which is lawful and right, shall save his soul alive.” (Ezek. xviii. 27.) The imputation to man of the merit of the Lord’s righteousness, to be placed down to man’s account as if he had done it, is also groundless and unjust The Lord’s righteousness is divine. Man ought no more to lay claim to that, or to expect that it will be attributed to him, than he ought to lay claim to the merit of creation, the merit of supporting the universe. In fact, no man goes to heaven by merit at all. He goes to heaven because he is prepared for heaven. He is prepared for heaven because he has the Lord’s righteousness imparted to him, in the degree that he shuns evil and supplicates the Lord for power to be good, and to do good. Our righteousness is from the Lord, but is imputed to us only as we do it. “Their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” — Isa. liv. 17. “He that doeth righteousness is righteous.” — 1 John iii. 7.
But it is sometimes said, ” We have no power to keep the commandments, and, therefore, unless we can get to heaven some other way, we shall not get to heaven at all.” But this is calumny against the Creator. Bad enough would it be to say, He created people without mouths, and required them to eat; or without legs, and required them to walk; but infinitely worse is it to say, He gave them no power to obey, and punished them for ever for not obeying. This confirms the evil in sin, and betrays the weak to their ruin. It is totally unwarranted in the Scriptures, dishonouring to the Saviour, and absurd in itself. What, no power to keep the commandments! when the Lord came to give you power, and says He does give it (Luke x. 19), and charged you to be perfect, in imitation of Him (Matt. v. 48). What, talk of being saved, and yet not delivered from sin! Did the Lord’s coming, death, glorification, and resurrection, give no power to follow Him in the regeneration, and to keep His commandments? Is keeping the commandments such a difficult thing that the Holy Spirit cannot enable us to do it? The apostle said, “I can do all things through Christ that strengthened me,” and why cannot you? It is not the power you want, it is the will. Keeping the commandments does not make difficulties; it is not keeping them. Awake to righteousness, and sin not. Rouse yourself to the determination to vanquish evil, and with the Lord and His angels assisting you, the victory will be sure.
Oh, then, let us hasten to enter upon this blessed life. It will save us from a thousand, thousand ills, and introduce us to innumerable blessings. It will be a charm to change all the baser metals of our life into gold. It will exhaust the sources of sorrow, and aid in the great work of turning our desert into a garden of God. All our earthly ties will be sanctified by purer connecting links, and heaven will be brought down to earth.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY –From The Divine Word Opened (1887)