"But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD. I will put My law in their minds and inscribe it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be My people.
I. THIS TABLETS upon which God writes His law. "I will put My law in their inward parts."
I. WHAT INSTRUMENT WILL BE EMPLOYED TO BRING ABOUT THE BLESSED CONDITION OF THE HUMAN FAMILY PREDICTED IN THE TEXT. This instrument is Divine truth, most expressively called in the text, knowledge of the Lord: that is, the exhibition of the Divine character, more than any other truth, before all consciences, is to be the mighty engine by which heaven will work out the moral revolution of the world. What is the moral law itself, but God's character — a catalogue of His perfection, written out in the form of precepts? The soul that knows what God is, sees intuitively what itself ought to be. To know Him, is to know His character, His government, His rights, His claims on us, and our duties to Him. It is to know His plan of mercy, — His Son, and His Spirit — His pardoning and sanctifying grace.
I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.
; the covenant, one and alone, without a second, like the one bow in the cloud," in the day of ram, spanning the world in its embrace. It is new in form, though not in substance. It was new to Adam, the first covenant-transgressor, when, instead of doom, he found in it deliverance. It was new to Abraham, when his faith in it was counted to him for (or unto) righteousness, when he received the seal of his acceptance with God, not after, but "before he was circumcised." It was new to as many of Abraham's posterity, under the law, as had faith enough to discern its newness through the haze, and amid the shadows of that comparatively dark economy, — devout men like Simeon, and devout women like Anna, who waited for the "consolation of Israel." It was new — a new revelation to the world — when that new thing was created in the earth of which the prophet speaks (ver. 22), the sinless humanity of Christ, when "God sent forth His Son," &c. It is new still to every newly awakened sinner, when he first gets a sight of it, reads it with his own eyes, and finds out that there is a place in it for him. It is new in this respect, that it shall never be "old," or become obsolete, or go out of date, or lose its charm, or disclose all that is wonderful in it, never, even in eternity! There are four clauses, or articles, in it, setting forth the fourfold provision which He has made for carrying it into effect, i.e., for carrying out what has been His invariable purpose, in all His transactions with men as His creatures, from the beginning, even to "bless them," by making and keeping them obedient to Himself — to make them happy, in their being obedient and holy.
1. Clear understanding. "I will put My law into their mind." God does this when He lets us see ourselves as the breakers of it, and Christ as the keeper, the fulfiller of it, — when He reveals to us the length, the breadth, the spirituality, the beauty of the law, — in Christ's living and dying, obedience to it, — how it. was "magnified" by Him!
2. Permanent Impression. "I will put My law into their mind," — to dwell there. I will "write it in their hearts," so as to be indelible, and so as to be ever at hand, available, as a rule of duty, a standard of appeal.
3. There is, however, something more engaged for on our behalf than mere acquiescence or approval. There is pleasure and delight. What is "written in the heart" is the object of thy heart's esteem, love, complacency. And this is true of God's law; when He writes it, then He makes its very strictness look beautiful, its severity seem "sweetly reasonable." Its perfection becomes its charm.
4. Where there is clear intelligence, and constant remembrance, and cordial choice of the law, there will also be — there cannot but be — an abiding, practical influence, — -a loyal subjection to it, such as the legal, carnal mind, that is so fond of making a bargain with God, will not, cannot yield.
(J. G. Burns.)
II. BY WHAT METHODS AND AGENCY IS THIS GRAND INSTRUMENT TO BE APPLIED TO THE RENOVATION OF THE WORLD? How is this knowledge of the Lord to be spread all over the earth, and to be brought in contact with every human heart? In this stage of the Church's history at least, it is evidently the Divine arrangement that men shall be themselves the instruments of saving their own race. That this is the way to do a great work, we learn from the analogies of the natural world. How are the coral isles of the ocean made? Not by being upheaved, by some great convulsion, from the bosom of the deep; but by the ceaseless labours of little insects, each of which works in its own place, and adds its mite to the accumulated mass. It stops not to form combinations and lay plans, but labours in its sphere. How is the huge globe watered, and made productive? Not by great seas, but by little streams, or, rather, by single drops of rain and dew, each refreshing a single leaf, or blade of grass. How is bread produced for the millions of mankind? Each stalk of corn becomes responsible for a limited number of grains. And, in the moral world, we see the same results produced in the same way. How is it that vice is propagated? How are drunkards, gamblers, and infidels made? Not by wholesale, but by individual contact. One corrupt heart infects some other heart: one polluted soul taints some other soul with the infection of its own depravity; and thus recruits are ever multiplied for the host of Satan. Let it be so in the work of salvation. Let each Christian labour to rescue his neighbour and his brother, and how soon will the world "be filled with the knowledge of the Lord"! Nor will such benevolence be restricted to its own immediate circle. A genuine concern for the salvation of one soul is of the nature of the most enlarged philanthropy. From this subject we learn —
1. The true remedy for all our social and political evils. It is by spreading the knowledge of the Lord.
2. The excellence of those methods of doing good, which exercise the conscience on questions of personal duty. Hence the excellence of all those forms of effort in which teaching is employed: the mother amid her children — the teacher of a Sabbath School, or Bible class — the faithful distributor of tracts — and, pre-eminently, the pastor and the missionary.
3. The mode in which revivals of religion may be promoted. A revival that shall penetrate the mass of the community, must be carried into it by the living agents, who are accustomed to mingle with the mass; and who will go hither and thither, attaching themselves to individuals.
1. Thus, you see, the Lord has selected for His tablets that which is the seat of life. It is in the heart that life is to be found, a wound there is fatal: where the seat of life is, there the seat of obedience shall be.
2. Observe next, that not only is the heart the seat of life, but it is the governing power. It is from the heart, as from a royal metropolis, that the imperial commands of the man are issued by which hand and foot, and eye and tongue, and all the members are ordered. Ii the heart be right, then the other powers must yield submission to its sway, and become right too.
3. But before God can write upon man's heart it must be prepared. It is most unfit to be a writing-table for the Lord until it is renewed. The heart must first of all undergo erasures. It must also experience a thorough cleansing, not of the surface only, but of its entire fabric. Truly, it was far easier for Hercules to purge the Augean stables than for our hearts to be purged; for the sin that lies within us is not an accumulation of external defilement, but an inward, all-pervading corruption. In addition to this, the heart needs to be softened, for the heart is naturally hard, and in some men it has become harder than an adamant stone. Nor would the softening be enough, for there are some who have a tenderness of the most deceiving kind. They receive the Word with joy: they feel every expression of it, but they speedily go their way and forget what manner of men they are. They are as impressible as the water, hut the impression is as soon removed; so that another change is needed, namely, to make them retentive of that which is good: else might you engrave and re-engrave, but, like an inscription upon wax, it would be gone in a moment if exposed to heat. In a word, the heart of man needs to be totally changed, even as Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again."
II. THE WRITING. "I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." What is this writing?
1. First, the matter of it is the law of God. God writes upon the hearts of His people that which is already revealed; He inscribes there nothing novel and unrevealed, but His own will which He has already given us in the book of the law. Observe, however, that God says He will write His whole law on the heart, — this is included in the words, "My law." God's work is complete in all its parts, and beautifully harmonious. He will not write one command and leave out the rest as so many do in their reforms. Mark, again, that on the heart there is written not the law toned down and altered, but "My law," — that very same law which was at first written on the heart of man unfallen.
2. But to come a tittle closer to the matter: what does the Scripture mean by writing the law of God in the heart? The writing itself includes a great many things. A man who has the law of God written on his heart, first of all, knows it. God's Spirit has taught him what is right and what is wrong: he knows this by heart, and therefore can no longer put darkness for light, and light for darkness. This law, next, abides upon his memory. God has given him a touchstone by which he tries things. It is a grand thing to possess a universal detector, so that, go where you may, you are not dependent upon the judgment of others, and therefore are not deceived as multitudes are. This, however, is only a part of the matter, and a very small part comparatively. The law is written on a man's heart further than this: when he consents unto the law that it is good; when his conscience, being restored, cries, "Yes, that is so, and ought to be so. That command by which God has forbidden a certain course is a proper and prudent command: it ought to be enjoined." But, furthermore, there is wrought in the heart by God a love to the law as well as a consent to it, such a love that the man thanks God that He has given him such a fair and lovely representation of what perfect holiness would be; that He has given such measuring lines, by which he knows how a house is to be builded in which God can dwell Thus thanking the Lord, his prayer, desire, longing, hungering, and thirsting, are after righteousness, that he may in all things be according to the mind of God.
3. If anybody should inquire how the Lord keeps the writing upon the heart legible, I should like to spend a minute or two in showing the process. He enlightens by knowledge, convinces by argument, leads by persuasion, strengthens by instruction, and so forth. So far also we know that one way by which the law is kept written upon a Christian's heart is this, — a sense of God's presence. The believer feels that he could not sin with God looking on. Next, the Christian has a lively sense within him of the degradation which sin once brought upon him. But a sense of love is a yet more powerful factor. Let a man know that God loves him, let him feel sure that God always did love him from before the foundations of the world, and he must try to please God. Another very powerful pen with which the Lord writes is to be found in the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Besides that, God actually establishes His holy law in the throne of the heart by giving to us a new and heavenly life. Once more, the Holy Ghost Himself dwells in believers.
III. THE WRITER. Who is it that writes the law upon the heart? It is God Himself. "I will do it," saith He.
1. Note, first, that He has a right to indite His law on the heart. He made the heart; it is His tablet: let Him write there whatever He wills.
2. Note, next, that He alone can write the law on the heart. This is noble work, angels themselves cannot attain to it. "This is the finger of God." As God alone can write there and must write there, so He alone shall have the glory of that writing when once it is perfected.
3. When God writes He writes perfectly. No holiness can excel the holiness produced by the Holy Spirit when His inward work is fully completed.
4. Moreover, He writes indelibly. I defy the devil to get a single letter of the law of God out of a man's heart when God has written it there. Written rocks bear their inscriptions long, but written hearts bear them for ever and ever.
IV. THE RESULTS of the law being thus written in the heart.
1. Frequently the first result is great sorrow. If I have God's law written on my heart, then I say to myself, "Ah me, that I should have lived a law-breaker so long! This blessed law, this lovely law, why I have not even thought of it, or if I have thought of it, it has provoked me to disobedience. Sin revived, and I died when the commandment came."
2. The next effect of it is, there comes upon the man a strong and stern resolve that he will not break that law again, hut will keep it with all his might.
3. That strong resolve soon leads to a fierce conflict; for another law lifts up its head, a law in our members; and that other law cries, "Not so quick there: your new law which has come into your soul to rule you shall not be obeyed: I will be master."
4. But does not something better than this come of the Divine heart-writing? Oh yes. There comes actual obedience. The man not only consents to the law that it is good, hut he obeys it; and if there be anything which Christ commands, no matter what it is, the man seeks to do it, — not only wishes to do it, but actually does it; and if there be aught that is wrong, he not only wishes to abstain from it, but he does abstain from it.
5. As this proceeds, the man becomes more and more prepared to dwell in heaven. He is changed into God's image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. First, then, God is the God of all His creatures, seeing that He has the right to decree to do with them as He pleases. He is the Creator of us all; He is the potter, and hath power over the clay, to make of the same lump, one vessel to honour and another to dishonour. He is the God of all creatures, absolutely so in the matter of predestination, seeing that He is their Creator, and has an absolute right to do with them as He wills. But here again He has a special regard to His children, and He is their God even in that sense; for to them, while He exercises the same sovereignty, He exercises it in the way of grace and grace only. Again, He is the God of all His creatures, in the sense that He has a right to command obedience of all But even here there is something special in regard to the child of God. Though God is the ruler of all men, yet His rule is special towards His children; for He lays aside the sword of His rulership, and in His hand He grasps the rod for His child, not the sword of punitive vengeance. Again, God has an universal power over all His creatures in the character of a Judge. He will "judge the world in righteousness and His people with equity." Our loving God is the Judge who shall acquit our souls, and in that respect we can say He is our God. So then, whether as Sovereign, or as Governor enforcing law, or as Judge punishing sin; although God is in some sense the God of all men, yet in this matter there is something special towards His people, so that they can say, "He is our God, even in those relationships."
2. But now there are points to which the rest of God's creatures cannot come; and here the great pith of the matter lies; here the very soul of this glorious promise dwells. God is our God in a sense, with which the unregenerate, the unconverted, the unholy, can have no acquaintance, in which they have no share whatever. First, then, God is my God, seeing that He is the God of my election. If I be His child, then has He loved me from before all worlds, and His infinite mind has been exercised with plans for my salvation. If He be my God, He has seen me when I have wandered far from Him; and when I have rebelled, His mind has determined when I shall be arrested — when I shall be turned from the errors of my ways. He has been providing for me the means of grace, He has applied those means of grace in due time, but His everlasting purpose has been the basis and the foundation of it all; and thus He is my God as He is the God of none else beside His own children. Furthermore, the Christian can call God his God, from the fact of his justification. A sinner can call God — God, but he must always put in an adjective, and speak of God as an angry God, an incensed God, or an offended God. But the Christian can say "my God" without putting in any adjective except it be a sweet one wherewithal to extol Him. Again, He is the believer's God by adoption, and in that the sinner hath no part.
II. THE EXCEEDING PRECIOUSNESS OF THIS GREAT MERCY. "I will be their God." I conceive that God, Himself, could say no more than that.
1. Compare this portion with the lot of thy fellow-men! Some of them have their portion in the field, they are rich and increased in goods, and their yellow harvests are even now ripening in the sun; but what are harvests compared with thy God, the God of harvests? Or, what are granaries compared with Him who is thy husbandman, and feeds thee with the bread of heaven? Some have their portion in the city; their wealth is superabundant, and in constant streams it flows to them, until they become a very reservoir of gold; but what is gold compared with thy God? Some have their portion in this world, in that which most men love — applause and fame; but ask thyself, is not thy God more to thee than that? What, if a thousand trumps should blow thy praise, and if a myriad clarions should be loud with thine applause; what would it all be to thee if thou hadst lost thy God?
2. Compare this with what thou requirest, Christian. To make thee happy thou wantest something that shall satisfy thee; and come, I ask thee, is not this enough? Will not this fill thy pitcher to its very brim, ay, till it runs over? But thou wantest more than quiet satisfaction; thou desirest, sometimes, rapturous delight. Come, soul, is there not enough here to delight thee? Put this promise to thy lips; didst ever drink wine one-half so sweet u this, "I will be their God"? Didst ever hear harp or viol sound half me sweetly as this, "I will be their God"? But then thou wantest something more than present delights, something concerning which thou mayest exercise hope; and what more dost thou ever hope to get than the fulfilment of this great promise, "I will be their God"? O hope! thou art a great-handed thing; thou layest hold of mighty things, which even faith hath not power to grasp; hut though large thine hand may be, this fills it, so that thou canst carry nothing else. I protest, before God, I have not a hope beyond this promise. "Oh," say you, "you have a hope of heaven." Ay, I have a hope of heaven, but this is heaven — "I will be their God."
III. THE CERTAINTY OF THIS PROMISE; it does not say, "I may be their God"; but "I will be their God." Nor does the text say, Perhaps I shall be their God; no, it says, I will be their God. Oh! cries the sinner, "I will not have Thee for a God." "Wilt thou not?" says He, and He gives him over to the hand of Moses; Moses takes him a little and applies the club of the law, drags him to Sinai, where the mountain totters over his head, the lightnings flash, and thunders bellow, and then the sinner cries, "O God, save me!" "Ah! I thought thou wouldst not have Me for a God?" "O Lord, Thou shalt be my God," says the poor trembling sinner, "I have put away my ornaments from me; O Lord, what wilt Thou do unto me? Save me! I will give myself to Thee. Oh! take me!" "Ay," says the Lord, "I knew it; I said that I will be their God; and I have made thee willing in the day of My power." "I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
IV. MAKE USE OF GOD, if He be yours. It is strange that spiritual blessings are our only possessions that we do not employ. There is the mercy-seat, for instance. Ah, my friends, if you had the cash-box as full of riches as that mercy-seat is, you would go often to it; as often as your necessities require. But, you do not go to the mercy-seat half so often as you need to go. Most precious things God has given to us, but we never over-use them. The truth is, they cannot be over-used; we cannot wear a promise threadbare; we can never burn out the incense of grace; we can never use up the infinite treasures of God's loving-kindness. But if the blessings God gives us are not used, perhaps God is the least used of all. Though He is our God, we apply ourselves less to Him, than to any of His creatures, or any of His mercies which He bestows upon us. Have thou not a God lying by thee to no purpose; let not thy God be as other gods, serving only for a show: have not a name only that thou hast a God. Since He allows thee, having such a friend use Him daily.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. To make thee happy thou wantest something that. shall satisfy thee; and is not this enough? Desire is insatiable as death, but He who filleth all in all can fill it. The capacity of our wishes who can measure? but the immeasurable wealth of God can more than overflow it.
2. But thou wantest more than quiet satisfaction; thou desirest rapturous delight. Come, soul, here is music fit for heaven in this thy portion, for God is the Maker of heaven. Not all the music blown from sweet instruments, or drawn from living strings, can yield such melody as this sweet promise, "I will be their God." Here is a deep sea of bliss, a shoreless ocean of delight; come, bathe thy spirit in it; swim an age, and thou shalt find no shore; dive throughout eternity, and thou shalt find no bottom.
3. But thou wantest more than present delights, thou cravest something concerning which thou mayest exercise hope; and what more canst thou hope for than the fulfilment of this great promise, "I will be their God"? This is the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above. Live up to thy privileges, and rejoice with unspeakable joy.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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