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of God, humble us at His footstool? Has it led us to confess from the bottom of our hearts, as Job did, Behold, I am vile; I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes ?6 Unless our hearts are humbled before God in consequence of the declarations of His holy word, we are hearers only, who hear the word of God, without being benefited by it.
But if the description which it gives us of our awful state, as transgressors of His holy law, has humbled us before Him, the revelation of His mercy in Christ Jesus is calculated to bring joy and peace to the heart of the penitent sinner. The love of God in giving His only begotten Son to be the Saviour of the lost, and as the substitute of the guilty, to bear our sins in His own body on the tree, and to magnify the law, and make it honourable8 by His obedience to it in human nature; and the declaration made of His willingness to receive all that come to Him and seek an interest in His redemption, with a desire to obtain all the spiritual blessings that flow from it;-these are subjects which ought to excite our utmost gratitude, and to fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving. What a lamentable thing is it to be hearers only of these important and glorious truths, and not to receive the unspeakable benefits which are conferred upon the humble believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
5 Luke viii. 12. 6 Job xl. 4; xlii. 6. 71 Peter ii. 24. 8 Isa. xlii. 21.
The word of God may be said to reflect as in a mirror the glory of the Lord Jesus; and by exhibiting Him as the model of infinite perfection, and the chiefest among ten thousand, the altogether lovely, it shows us what we ought to be, and what is meant by conformity to the Divine image. But many hear of this also without being interested by it. They behold it, and go their way, and forget what manner of persons they ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness.10 He that is a hearer only, is called, in verse 25, a forgetful hearer. He does not “mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the word of God; he does not treasure it up in his heart; but goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth it.
These persons are described in the text as deceiving their ownselves. The same character is further spoken of in verse 26. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is
Those who are hearers of the word of God seem to be religious, they are found among the worshippers of God, they sit before Him as His people sit, as though they were desirous of receiving the instruction of heavenly wisdom. If such persons, instead of receiving with meekness the ingrafted word which is able to save their souls, bridle not their tongues, but take offence at
9 Cant. v. 10, 16.
10 2 Peter iii. 11.
11 1 Thess. ii. 13; i. 5-7.
the word of God, and cavil and object to it, and speak against it, their hearing is to no purpose, their religious worship is of no avail. If we do not receive the word of the truth of the gospel with humility of mind, it will not profit us. The apostle Paul thanked God on behalf of the Thessalonians, that they received the word which they heard of him, not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in them that believe it; for the gospel came not unto them in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance ; and they became followers of the Lord, and ensamples to all that believed." If any hear the word of God without thus receiving it; if they are swift to speak against it, instead of receiving the truth in the love of it, they are deceiving their ownselves, the profession of religion which they make by coming to the house of God, is vain. Such is the awful declaration of the apostle. May the subject lead us to self-examination, that we may not deceive our ownselves by having a name to live, and imagining ourselves to be the children of God, in consequence of making an outward profession of religion, if we are indeed dead to God, uninfluenced by His word, and living in disobedience to His holy will and commandments. We are to consider,
Secondly, The character given of those wbo are not only hearers, but also doers of the word. Respecting them the apostle goes on to say, Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. We may observe here the name which the apostle gives to the word of God. He calls it the perfect law of liberty. A law is a rule or direction given for the benefit of those who are subject to it. Such is the moral law, commonly called the ten commandments; and such is the whole volume of Divine revelation. It is a perfect law, as having been given by inspiration of God, and as it was given in order that thereby the man of God should be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. It is the law of liberty, inasmuch as by the knowledge of it, the children of men are set free from the dominion of sin and Satan ; and by having respect to it, the children of God stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free ;13 and being made free from sin, and become servants to God, they have their fruit unto or in holiness, and the end everlasting life.14
The true Christian, who is not a hearer only, but a doer of the word, looketh into this perfect law of liberty. The word looketh into denotes a. bending forward to ascertain accurately the state of the thing which is looked into. It is used for the disciples stooping down and looking earnestly
12 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.
13 Gal.v.1. 14 Rom.vi. 22. 15 Isa. lvii. 12.
into the sepulchre for the body of the Lord Jesus, to ascertain for themselves whether it was really there or not, after they had heard the report of His resurrection. When we speak of any matter having been looked into; we mean that proper inquiry has been made respecting it, and correct information obtained on the subject. Thus it is that the Christian looketh into the perfect law of liberty. He searches the scriptures diligently, he reads the Bible with attention, and with prayer that he may have a right understanding of the doctrines which it teaches, and the precepts which it inculcates; for learning, that he may know the things that belong to his everlasting peace; for reproof, or conviction of his sinfulness, that he may be led to look for pardon through the blood - shedding and death of his Redeemer; and to implore the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit to help in time of need; for correction, that being converted from the error of
may walk humbly with his God and uprightly before Him; for instruction in righteousness,12 that receiving Divine admonition, his ways may be so directed, that he may keep the statutes of his God, while he depends upon the righteousness of Christ alone, as the ground of his acceptance with the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy.15 In the same manner the word preached is examined into, it is heard with attention and with prayer,