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restrain ; upon such must the penalty of the laws of the land (being grounded upon God's laws) be by the civil magistrate inflicted. And for this cause it is that the king is required, “ when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, to write him a copy of the law of God in a book," Deut. xvii. 18. And for this cause it is that the civil magistrate is called “the keeper of both tables ;" for says Luther, (on Gal. p. 151.) “God hath ordained magistrates, and other superiors, and appointed laws, bounds, and all civil ordinances, that, if they can do no more, yet at least they may bind the devil's bands, that he rage not in his bond slaves after his own lusts." And hence it is that the apostle, speaking of the civil magistrate, says, “ If thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain," Rom. xiii. 4. Wherefore, Right Houourable, God having called, you to wield the sword of authority in the most famous city of this kingdom, I, a poor inhabitant thereof, the author of the ensuing Dialogue, have, through the advice and persuasion of some godly ministers, and through the consideration of the suitableness of the subject with our place, been moved to take the boldness to offer this work to your worthy name and patronage ; not that I do conceive your honour is ignorant of your duty, nor yet that I see you to neglect you duty, for your Christian integrity in your place, and your zealous forwardness to reform things amiss, by punishing of evil doers, doth to me witness the contrary; but rather to encourage your Honour to continue your godly course in the ways of well-doing, and to advance forward in paths of piety, being more swift in your motion now towards the end of your race—your year I mean, that so your Master, Christ, may have cause to say concerning you, as he once did concerning the church of Thyatira, “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first,” Rev. ii. 19. Yea, and that it also may be said concerning you,—“Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” Matt. xxv. 21.
And so most humbly begging of your Honour that these my poor
labours may be accepted, and that under your Honour's name, they go forth into the world, and praying the Lord of power, and the God of all grace, to multiply his Spirit upon your Honour, with all the blessed fruits of the same, I take my leave, and rest your Honour's most humble servant to be commanded,
The Author to the Well-affected Reader.
I do confess there are so many godly and learned expositions upon the ten commandments already extant, that it may seem needless to add any more unto that number. Nevertheless, I pray thee, do not think it impossible but that God may by such a weak instrument as I myself am, show his power in doing something more, touching this subject, than hath yet been done. I do confess, I have had good helps from the labours of others, and have made much use thereof, especially for matter, yet have I not confined my discourse within the compass of what I have found in other books, but have from the warrant of the word of God, taken the boldness to enlarge it, both as touching the matter and manner, and especially touching the application, wherein I have endeavoured to give both believers and unbelievers their distinct proportion, by distinguishing betwixt the ten commandments, as they are the law of works, having the promise of eternal life, and the threatening of eternal death annexed to them, and so applying them to the unbeliever; and as they are the law of Christ, having the promise of eternal life, and the threatening of eternal death separated from them, and so applying them to the believer. I have not denied, but acknowledged, yea, and proved, that the law of the ten commandments, truly expounded, is to be a perpetual rule of life to all mankind, yea, to believers themselves; for though the Spirit of Jesus Christ do, according to his promise, write this law in their hearts, as their inward rule, yet, in regard that whilst they live in this world, it is done but in part, they have need of the ten commandments to be unto them as an outward rule: for though the Spirit have begotten in them a love to this law, and wrought in them a willing disposition to yield obedience thereunto, yet have they need of the law to be unto them as a glass, wherein they may
see what the will of God is, and as a rule to direct them how to actuate their love and willingness, so that, as a precious godly minister of Jesus Christ truly says, the Spirit within, and the law without, “is a lamp unto their feet, and a light unto their paths," Psalm cxix. 105.
But yet I do conceive, that expositors on the commandments should not only endeavour to drive on their designs to that end, and there terminate their endeavours, as if there were no further use to be made of the law, neither in believers nor in unbelievers; but they should aim at a further end-an end beyond this, especially in unbelievers, and that is, to discover to them how far short they come of doing that which the law requireth, that so they may not take up their rest in themselves, but hasten out of themselves to Jesus Christ; and that believers, by beholding their own imperfections, should take occasion to humble themselves, and cleave the more close unto him by faith.
For when, by way of exposition, it is only declared what is required, and what is forbidden in every commandment, with exhortations, motives, and means to do thereafter, it has been observed, that divers both profane and mere civil honest people, upon the hearing or reading of the same, have concluded with themselves, that they must either alter their course of life, and strive and endeavour to do more than they have done, and better than they have done, or else they shall never be saved, and hereupon they have taken up a form of godliness, in hearing, reading, and praying, and the like, and so have become formal professors, and therein have rested, coming far short of Jesus Christ, yea, and believers themselves have sometimes taken occasion thereby, to conceive that they must do something towards their own justification and salvation.
Wherefore I, yet not I by any power of my own, but by the grace of God that is with me, have endeavoured not only to show what is required, and what is forbidden in every commandment, but also, that it is impossible for any man, whether he be an unbeliever or a believer, to keep any one commandment perfectly, yea, or to do any one action or duty perfectly, that so by the working of
God's Spirit in the reading of the same, men may be moved; pot only to turn from being profane, or mere civil honest men, to be formal professors, but that they may be driven out of all their own works and performances unto Jesus Christ, and so become Christians indeed, and that those who are Christians indeed, may thereby be moved to prize Jesus Christ thò more: and if the Lord shall but be pleased to enable either myself or any other man or woman to make this use of this ensuing Dialogue, then shall not my labour, be in vain : But my heart's desire and prayer to God shall be, that many may receive as much good by the “Marrow” which is contained in this second bone, as they say they have done by that which is contained in the first; that so God may be glorified and their souls edified, and then have I my reward. Only let me beg of thee, that for what good thou receivest thereby, thou wilt beg at the throne of grace for me, that my faith may be increased, and so my love inflamed towards God, and towards man for God's sake, and then I am sure I shall keep the law more perfectly than I have yet done. The which that we may all do, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all our spirits. Amen. Thine in the Lord Jesus Christ,
E. F. September 21, 1648.