1 Samuel 17:36-37
Your servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them…
This question hath two parts in it, and cannot be so well grounded upon a single text; therefore I shall name three or four, namely, 1 Samuel 17:34-37; Psalm 27:14; Proverbs 10:29; 2 Chronicles 15:2. I name these several scriptures as so many proofs of the truth of the point, that it is a case very agreeable to the Scriptures and to the analogy of faith.
I. WHAT IS OUR PRESENT DUTY?
1. What "duty" is, in the general nature and notion of it. It is an act of obedience to the will of our superiors. Duty is that which is due from man to God: it is "justice toward God."
2. Something is our present duty. God hath filled up all our time with duty: not one moment left at our own disposal.
3. Nothing that is sinful and in itself unlawful can be our duty at any time; and therefore, to be sure, not our present duty.
4. Every thing that is in itself lawful is not therefore our duty. "All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient." (1 Corinthians 6:12.)
5. Everything that is commanded, and is in its time and place our duty, may not be our present duty. Affirmatives bind "always;" that is, we can never be discharged from that obligation that lies upon us to worship God: but we are not bound "at all times" to the outward acts of worship; for then we should do nothing else.
6. That which God now requires of you, and in doing of which you may most glorify God and edify your neighbour — that is undoubtedly your present duty. "How shall we know this?" Always look within your calling for your present, duty; for there it lies. General: As we are Christians, so all saints are of the same calling: "Called to be saints." (Romans 1:7.) Particular: So we differ in our callings. Some are called to the magistracy, some to the ministry; some are masters, some servants; some called to this, some to that, trade or occupation. Much of the duties of our Christian calling do follow us into our particular callings. As duties of worship must be performed in our families every day, let our particular calling be what it will; so the same graces must be exercised in our particular callings, which were required in our general callings: the same graces do follow us into our particular callings and into all the works of our hands. You see, your present duty lies in your present work, in the daily business of your particular callings. Herein lies the nature of all practical holiness — to do everything after a godly sort. The directions I give you relate only to the religious manner of doing what you do; though it is God that "instructs you to discretion" in all worldly business. (Isaiah 28:26.) Whatever your skill and insight is in your calling, prayer may make you wiser: you may obtain a more excellent spirit in your way than you now have, if you seek it of God. (Exodus 35:31-33.) Though you are left to the use of your reason as men, yet faith must go along with it as you are Christians. Therefore I shall show you how to put forth an act of reason in faith How may we know when reason and faith go together? 1 When, at our entrance upon any business, we seek wisdom and understanding from God, stirring up our reason by our faith, looking up to Him from whom "cometh every good and perfect gift" (James 1:17) that He would "instruct us unto discretion."
2. When, in answer to faith and prayer, thoughts do come in that clear up our way to us, and do put us into a right method, pointing out such probable means, inclining to such apposite counsel, as in a rational way tend to the expediting of that business which we are about.
3. When, under the greatest assurances of our own reason, we yet live in a humble dependence upon God for success. He puts forth an act of reason in faith, who trusts to God, and not to his own reason. It is our duty to make use of it as men, though as Christians we ought not to trust in it.
(1) Consider present Providences.
(2) Consult thy conscience.
(3) Consider what present temptation thou art under.
(4) Consult with the word of God.
(5) Devote thyself in sincerity to the fear of God, through the whole course of thy life.But what if, after all this, it should so fall out that two duties should press upon my conscience for present performance, and! cannot either by reason or Scripture, determine which to do first, but do hang in suspense, "am in a strait betwixt two?" (Philippians 1:23.) This is hardly to be supposed: but, admit it to be thy case, according to thy present judgment; then
1. Sit down once more, and consider.
2. If of two duties you cannot resolve which is most your duty at present, then resolve upon both, and begin where you will. God will not be extreme in that case. Do one, and leave not the other undone, but be sure to find time for that also.
3. Beg of God to resolve thee. "O that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes!" (Psalm 119:5.) "Shall I go up to Hebron? or shall I not?" (2 Samuel 2:1.) God will "teach" thee what to do. (Psalm 25:12) "He shall direct thy paths," (Proverbs 3:5, 6.)Application.
1. All the sins of your lives break in upon you, through the omission of your present duty.
2. Whatever you do in the room of a present duty is not acceptable to God.
3. If you do not now perform your present duty, you can never perform it.
4. You can have as trial of your spirit, nor of the truth of your state: it is impossible that you should ever prove your sincerity, but by a conscientious discharge of your present duty.
5. You cannot walk evenly with God, if you do not your present duty. Some men walk very unevenly: there are so many gaps in their obedience; they move from duty to duty, quite "leaping" over some, and lightly touching upon others, as if they had no great mind to any: they act grace so abruptly that it gives no continued sense; we know not where to find them. There are so many vacant spaces, so many blanks of omission, so many blots and blurs of commission: they drop a duty here, and another half-mile off; so that you cannot say, "A man of God went this way." (1 Kings 13:12.)
6. You must begin somewhere, at some present duty: why not at this? It will be as difficult, nay, more difficult, to come to Christ tomorrow than it is today: therefore "today hear His voice, and harden not your heart." (Psalm 95:7, 8.) Break the ice now, and by faith venture upon thy present duty, wherever it lies: do what you are now called to.
II. HOW THE WELL-DISCHARGE OF OUR PRESENT DUTY MAY ENCOURAGE US TO HOPE IN GOD FOR HIS HELP AND ASSISTANCE IN ALL FUTURE DUTIES.
1. It is promised. (2 Chronicles 15:2.)
2. Present grace is a pledge of future grace. To him that hath, more shall be given. (Luke 19:17, 26).
3. The experience of the saints confirms this. See Psalm 18:26, 80-82.
4. The saints made this an argument in prayer. (Psalm 38:20-22; Psalm 119:30, 31, 94, 121, 173; Psalm 25:21.)
5. A conscientious discharge of our present duty fits and disposes our minds to the next duty.
6. By the well-discharge of our present duty we may attain assurance of salvation. (Colossians 3:23, 24.)
(Thomas Cole, A. M.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.