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Let me beg your attention, brethren, to a few observations upon each of these heads, and may it please the Lord to make them profitable to our souls this day!
I. "These words, which I command thee, shall be in thine heart." That which is the religious principle of a man's heart, will be sure to be the ruling principle of his conduct also, in all the relations of life; therefore Moses says, first of all, these things" shall be in thine heart." It would otherwise have been useless for him to have commanded the Jews to "teach" those words "diligently to their children," and to "talk of them" to others; for, most unquestionably, you may teach and you may talk from year's end to year's end, and yet make no impression either upon the hearts or consciences of those whom you wish to benefit and instruct, if those things which you teach and talk of are not deeply impressed upon your own hearts. This, then, must come first. Thoù that teachest
another, teachest thou not thyself?"
So well did Moses know the importance of fixing the word of God in the heart, that he repeats the same command in nearly the same words in the eleventh chapter. "Ye shall lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul;" and again, at the end of his exhortation in the thirty-second chapter-" Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify shall comamong you this day, which ye mand 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: and through this thing shall ye prolong your days in the land whither ye go over Jordan, to possess it." But there is yet a more remarkable instance of the great stress which is laid in Holy Scripture upon the necessity of having the heart sound and zealously affected towards God, and filled with his laws, in the fortieth Psalm, in which, in the 8th verse, we see the Lord Jesus Christ speaking thus concerning Himself, when He came upon earth in our nature as our great Prophet,-" I
delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart;" and then, after having thus declared Himself devoted to obedience to God's will, and deeply sensible of the holiness and justice of his laws, He proceeds, "I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, and that thou knowest." If, then, Jesus Christ Himself, speaking as man, thus shows, in his own example, how his heart was full of God's laws, as a necessary prelude to his undertaking to preach or to talk of them to others, how much more needful is it for every one of us!
Thy word have I hid within my heart," says David, "that I might not sin against thee."* The intimate and ac curate knowledge of those things which God has forbidden men to do in his holy law, is necessary to keep us from sinning against Him through ignorance: now there
* Psalm cxix. 11.
is no excuse for our ignorance of what God has forbidden; we may not understand great mysteries, or be able to explain the meaning of many dark sayings in the Holy Scriptures; but we may certainly know what God has forbidden from the Ten Commandments, especially as explained by our blessed Lord in his Sermon on the Mount, to meet the circumstances of Christians. Now, my brethren, there are those who call this preaching mere morality, and not preaching the Gospel of Christ look, then, at his own description of his own qualification as our Prophet to preach righteousness in the great congregation : Thy law is within my heart." If the law of God was within the heart of the Lord Jesus; and if He declared that He came "not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it," I pray you to consider that this moral law of God must be binding upon our consciences, and if be not an abiding law in our hearts, we cannot be saved.
I do not speak of a bare knowledge of
what is right, without any corresponding practice that is not having God's laws "in the heart," but only in the head. When He saith, "My son, give me thine heart," He does not mean that we are to content ourselves with knowing that such and such are his commands, and such and such are his prohibitions, but that our hearts shall be so given to Him, that we naturally love what He loveth, and hate what He hateth, and not only obey because it is his will, but because we ourselves know, and are persuaded in our own hearts, that there is justice and reason in all his laws, so that, of our own choice and desire, we "take his yoke upon us," and believe, and are sure from our own experience, that "his ways are the only ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace." Wherefore," says Solomon, "is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?"* O, brethren, think not that all the evil and wickedness of the world are caused by lack of opportunities of knowing better;
Proverbs xvii. 16.