Bible Precepts

The Bible precepts differs radically from the teaching of the best of the ancient moralists and philosophers. They far surpass the most celebrated maxims of the sages and religionists, and immeasurably transcend the best statutes of all human legislation. The Divine precepts embrace every relation and duty, and not only prohibit all evil but promote all virtue. They reprehend practices which all other systems approve or tolerate, and inculcate duties they omit. The laws of man reach no farther than human action, but those of God the fountain from which all actions proceed. If the laws of God were universally obeyed this earth would be a scene of universal peace and good will. The world approves of ambition, the eager pursuit of wealth, fondness of pleasure, and in many instances applauds pride, ostentation, contempt of others, and even the spirit of revenge—whereas the precepts of Scripture condemn all of those in every form and degree. They require us to renounce the world as a source of happiness and to set our affection upon things above (Col. 3:2). They repress the spirit of greed: “having food and raiment, let us be therewith content” (1 Tim. 6:8). “Labour not to be rich” (Prov. 23:4); “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth” (Matt. 6:19); and warn that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” They bid us “lean not unto thine own understanding . . . be not wise in thine own eyes” (Prov. 3:5, 7), and prohibit all self-confidence: “he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26). Not only do they reprehend the spirit of revenge (Rom. 12:19; 1 Peter 3:9), but they enjoin upon us, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). Such precepts as those never originated in any human mind, my reader. In these precepts morality and duty are advanced to their highest pitch. “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12). Many of them are entirely against the bent of nature: as “rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth” (Prov. 24:17); “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat” (Prov. 25:21); “In honour preferring one another” (Rom. 12:10); “let each esteem each other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3). None others so “holy, just and good” (Rom. 7:12). Such statements as the following were never devised by man: “When thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret” (Matt. 6:3, 4). “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31); “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another” (Eph. 4:31, 32). “Giving thanks always for all things unto God” (Eph. 5:20); “Rejoice evermore” (1 Thess. 5:16). “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). The only objection which an Infidel could bring against the precepts of Scripture is that such an exalted standard of conduct as they inculcate is manifestly unattainable by imperfect creatures. That is readily admitted, yet so far from making against them, it only serves to exhibit the more clearly the design and wisdom of their Divine Author. In requiring from fallen creatures that which they cannot perform in their own strength, God does but maintain His own rights, for our having lost our original power does not release us from rendering to God that fealty and honour which is His due. Moreover, they are admirably designed to humble us, for our unsuccessful attempts to meet their demands make us the more conscious of our infirmities, and thereby pride is abased. They are intended to awaken within us a personal sense of dependence upon Divine aid. Where there is a genuine desire and endeavour to obey those statutes, they will be turned into earnest prayer for help—nor will assistance be denied the seeking soul. Thus, the seeming foolishness of God is seen to surpass the feigned wisdom of man. One other remarkable feature about the precepts of the Bible calls for a brief notice, namely, the motives by which they are enforced. No appeal is made to vanity, selfishness, or any of the corrupt propensities of our nature. Obedience to them is urged by no consideration of what our fellows will think or say of us, nor how we shalt further our own temporal interests. Rather are the animating motives drawn from respect to God’s will, hope of His approbation, concern for His glory, gratitude for His mercies, the example that Christ has left us, and the claims which His sacrifice has upon us. Christians are bidden to forgive one another because God has for Christ’s sake forgiven them (Eph. 4:32). Wives are called on to submit themselves unto their own husbands as the Church is subject unto Christ, and husbands to love their wives “even as Christ also loved the church” (Eph. 5). Servants are required to be obedient unto their masters in singleness of heart “as unto Christ” (Eph. 6:5), while their employers are to act toward their servants in the knowledge, that they also “have a Master in Heaven” (Col. 4:1). Christ’s commandments are to be kept out of love to Him (John 14:15). How radically different are such inducements as those from urging that which will win the esteem of our fellows! Not that which will promote our own temporal interests, but what “is right” (Eph. 6:1) is that which the Holy Spirit presses upon us. A final word to the preacher: The solemn fact is that every unsaved hearer is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), devoid of any spiritual perception or sensibility, incapable of any spiritual action—such as evangelical repentance and saving belief of the Gospel. Nothing short of a miracle of grace can bring a lost soul from death unto life, and nothing but the almighty and invincible power of God can accomplish the same (Eph. 1:19). It therefore follows that neither your faithfulness nor your earnestness can, of itself, save a single sinner: you will simply be “beating the air” unless the Holy Spirit is pleased to graciously accompany the Word with power and apply it to the heart of your hearer. None but the blessed Spirit can effectually convince of sin, and bring an unsaved person to realize his desperate condition and dire need. Even the Word itself only becomes “the Sword of the Spirit” as He wields it, and we cannot warrantably look unto Him to do so if we grieve Him by using fleshly means and worldly methods. It is unbelief in the imperative necessity of the Spirit’s operations which has caused so many churches to descend to the level of the circus, and evangelists to conduct themselves like showmen. Humbly seek His presence and blessing, and trustfully count upon the same.