Charles Simeon Commentary - Deuteronomy 10:14 - 10:16

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Deuteronomy 10:14 - 10:16

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Deu_10:14-16. Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them; and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.

THE true tendency of religion is marked in the words preceding our text. Under the Christian, no less than under the Jewish dispensation, it is altogether practical; so that in every age of the Church we may adopt that appeal of Moses, “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?” But we must not in our zeal for morals overlook those principles which alone have efficacy to produce them. The principles which call forth our hopes and our fears, have necessarily a powerful effect on our conduct: but a more refined operation is derived from those principles which excite our love and gratitude. The electing love of God, for instance, when brought home with a personal application to the soul, has a constraining influence, which nothing can resist. Hence Moses so often reminds the Israelites of their peculiar obligations to God, such as no other people from the beginning of the world could ever boast of: and takes occasion from those distinguishing favours to urge them the more powerfully to devote themselves to his service. What he considered as their duty we have already noticed: his mode of urging them to perform it comes now to be more particularly considered: “The Lord had a delight in thy fathers, &c.: circumcise therefore, &c.”

From these words we shall shew,

I.       That God’s people are brought into that relation to him, not by any merits of their own, but solely in consequence of his electing love—

The whole universe, both “the heavens and the earth,” is the Lord’s: it owes its existence to his all-creating power; and it is altogether at his disposal. He has the same power over it as the potter has over the clay: and, if it had pleased him to mar, or to annihilate, any part of the creation, as soon as he had formed it, he had a right to do so.

But, whilst he has the same right over all his intelligent creatures, he has seen fit to bring some, and some only, into a nearer connexion with himself.

Into this state he brings them of his own sovereign will and pleasure—

[Abraham was an idolater, as all his family were, when God first called him by his grace; nor had he any more claim to the blessings promised him, than any other person whatsoever. Isaac was appointed to be the channel of these blessings in preference to Ishmael, long before he was born into the world: and Jacob also the younger was chosen before Esau the elder, “even whilst they were both yet in the womb, and consequently had done neither good nor evil.” His posterity too was chosen to inherit the promised blessings. And why were they chosen? Was it for their superior goodness either seen or foreseen? It could not be for any thing seen; for they were yet unborn when the blessings were promised to them: and it could not be for any thing foreseen, for they proved a rebellious and stiff-necked people from the very first [Note: Deu_9:13; Deu_9:24.]. The selection of them can be traced to nothing but to God’s sovereign will and pleasure [Note: Deu_7:6-8.].

In every age he has done the same. Those who love and serve God have always been a remnant only: but they have been “a remnant according to the election of grace.” All true believers at this day, as well as in the apostolic age, must acknowledge, that “God has called them, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began [Note: 2Ti_1:9.].” It is “to the good pleasure of his will,” and not to any thing in themselves, that they must ascribe the gift of their spiritual privileges, and spiritual attainments. No one of them can say, that he “made himself to differ,” or that he possesses “any thing which he has not received.” All that even the most eminent saints possess is a free unmerited gift from God.]

Moreover, in this exercise of his sovereign will and pleasure, he gives no just occasion of complaint to any—

[This exercise of his sovereignty is condemned by many, as being an act of injustice; since to choose some and to leave others gives to the chosen a preference which they do not deserve. But it must be remembered, that none had any claim upon God: and, if we had all been left, like the fallen angels, to endure the full consequences of our transgression, God would still have been holy and just and good: and, if for his own glory he has decreed to rescue any from destruction, he does no injury to any, nor is accountable to any for this display of his grace.

I well know that this doctrine is controverted by many. But the very persons who deny the doctrine of election, as applied to individuals, are constrained to acknowledge it in reference to nations. But where is the difference? if it is unjust in the one case, it is unjust in the other: if it is unjust to elect any to salvation, it is unjust to elect them to the means of salvation; those from whom he withholds the means, have the same ground of complaint as those from whom he withholds the end. It is nothing to say, that the injury is lees in the one case than in the other: for if it be injurious at all, God would never have done it: but if it be not injurious at all, then does all opposition to the doctrine fall to the ground. The principle must be conceded or denied altogether. Denied it cannot be, because it is an unquestionable feet that God has exercised his sovereignly, and does still exercise it, in instances without number: and, if it be conceded, then is the objector silenced; and he must admit that God has a right to do what he will with his own.

Perhaps it may be said that election is, and has always been, conditional. But this is not true. As far as related to the possession of Canaan, the election of the Jews might be said to be conditional: but on what conditions was the election of Abraham, or of Isaac, or of Jacob, suspended? On what was the election of their posterity to the means of salvation suspended? On what conditions has God chosen us to enjoy the sound of the Gospel, in preference to millions of heathens, who have never been blessed with the light of revelation? The truth is, we know nothing of the doctrines of grace but as God has revealed them: and his choice of some to salvation now stands on the very same authority as his choice of others to the means of salvation in the days of old. If such an exercise of sovereignty was wrong then, it is wrong now: if it was right then, it is right now: and if it was right in respect to nations, it cannot be wrong in reference to individuals. The same principle which vindicates or condemns it in the one case, must hold good in the other also. The extent of the benefits conferred cannot change the nature of the act that confers them: it may cause the measure of good or evil that is in the act to vary: but the intrinsic quality of the act must in either case remain the same.]

That this doctrine may not appear injurious to morality, I proceed to observe,

II.      That the circumstance of God’s exercising this sovereignty is so far from weakening our obligation to good works, that it binds us the more strongly to the performance of them. Moses says, “God has chosen you;” “circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart.” Here observe,

1.       The duty enjoined—

[We are all by nature a rebellious and stiff-necked people. We wonder at the conduct of the Israelites in the wilderness: but in that we may see a perfect image of our own: we have not been obedient to God’s revealed will. We have been alike rebellious, whether loaded with mercies, or visited with judgments. Light and easy as the yoke of Christ is, we have not taken it upon us, but have lived to the flesh and not to the Spirit, to ourselves, and not unto our God. But we must no longer proceed in this impious career: it is high time that we cast away the weapons of our rebellion, and humble ourselves before God. We must “be no more stiff-necked,” but humble, penitent, obedient. Nor is it an outward obedience only that we must render to our God; we must “circumcise the foreskin of our hearts,” mortifying every corrupt propensity, and “crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts.” It must not be grievous to us to part with sin, however painful may be the act of cutting it off: we must cut off a right hand, and pluck out a right eye, and retain nothing that is displeasing to our God. There is no measure of holiness with which we should be satisfied: we should seek to “be pure even as Christ himself is pure,” and to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”]

2.       The motive to the performance of it—

[To this duty the Jews are urged by the consideration of God’s electing love, and of the distinguishing favours which he of his own sovereign grace and mercy had vouchsafed unto them.

And what more powerful motive could Moses urge than this? It was not to make them happy in a way of sin that God had chosen them, but to make them “a holy nation, a peculiar people, zealous of good works:” and, if they did not follow after universal holiness, they would counteract the designs of his providence and grace. They would deprive themselves also of the blessings provided for them. For it was only in the way of obedience that God could ever finally accept them. And thus it is with us also: we are “chosen unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them:” and it is only “by a patient continuance in well-doing that we can ever attain eternal life.” We are “chosen to salvation,” it is true; but it is “through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:” and it is in that way only that we can ever attain the end.

But there is another view in which the consideration of God’s electing love should operate powerfully on our hearts to the production of universal holiness; namely, by filling our souls with lively gratitude to him, and an ardent desire to requite him in the way that he himself directs. There is nothing under heaven that can constrain a pious soul like a sense of redeeming love. Let any one that has been “brought out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel, and been turned from the power of Satan unto God,” look around him, and see how many, not of heathens only, but of professed Christians also, are yet in the darkness of nature and the bonds of sin; and then let him recollect who it is that has made him to differ both from them and from his former self; and will not that make him cry out, “What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits he has done unto me?” Yes, that view of his obligations to God will so inflame and penetrate his soul, that its utmost energies will from thenceforth be employed in honouring his adorable Benefactor.

This we say is the true and proper tendency of the doctrine in our text. The Jews, if they had justly appreciated the favours vouchsafed to them, would have been the holiest of all people upon earth: and so will Christians be, if once they be sensible of the obligations conferred upon them by God’s electing and redeeming love.]


1.       Let those who are zealous about duties, not be forgetful of their obligations—

[It is frequently found that persons altogether hostile to all the doctrines of grace, profess a great regard for the interests of morality. I stop not at present to inquire how far their professions are realized in practice: all I intend, is, simply to suggest, that high and holy affections are necessary to all acceptable obedience; and that those affections can only be excited in us by a sense of our obligations to God. If we attempt to lessen those obligations, we weaken and paralyse our own exertions. If we have been forgiven much, we shall love much: if we have received much, we shall return the more. If then it be only for the sake of that morality about which you profess so much concern, we would say to the moralist, Search into the mysteries of sovereign grace, and of redeeming love. If without the knowledge of them you may walk to a certain degree uprightly, you can never soar into the regions of love and peace and joy: your obedience will be rather that of a servant, than a son; and you will never acquire that delight in God, which is the duty and privilege of the believing soul.]

2.       Let those who boast of their obligations to God not be inattentive to their duties—

[They who “cry, Lord, Lord, and neglect to do the things which he commands,” miserably deceive their own souls. And it must be confessed that such self-deceivers do exist, and ever have existed in the Church of God. But let those who glory in the deeper doctrines of religion bear in mind, that nothing can supersede an observance of its duties: for “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God [Note: Rom_2:28-29.].” That is a solemn admonition which God has given to us all: “Circumcise yourselves unto the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it [Note: Jer_4:4.].” It is not by our professions, but by our practice, that we shall be judged in the last day. We May say to our Lord in the last day, that we have not only gloried in him, but “in his name done many wonderful works;” yet will he say to us, “Depart from me, I never knew you,” if we shall then be found to have been workers of iniquity. To all then who account themselves the elect of God, I say, Let the truth of your principles be seen in the excellence of your works: and, as you profess to be more indebted to God than others, let the heavenliness of your minds and the holiness of your lives be proportionably sublime and manifest: for it is in this way only that you can approve yourselves to God, or justify your professions in the sight of man.]