For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind…
I. THE THINGS TO BE WRITTEN ARE THE LAWS OF GOD. But what laws these are may be doubted. For some will have them to be the Decalogue. Yet these are said to be written in the heart of the very heathens (Romans 2:5). Yet suppose they be already in their hearts, yet the writing of them there is very imperfect; for both the knowledge of them and the power to keep them are very imperfect, so that the love of God and our neighbour may be imprinted there more perfectly. Yet the word termed Laws signifies in the Hebrew, Doctrines. And these are the doctrines of the gospel concerning Christ's person, nature, offices, and the work of redemption; the doctrines of repentance, faith, justification, and eternal life; and these either presuppose or include the moral law. Further, they are doctrines concerning Christ, glorified, reigning, and officiating in heaven.
II. THE BOOK OR TABLES WHEREIN THEY MUST RE WRITTEN ARE THE MIND AND HEART OF MAN. There is the spring and original of all rational and moral operations, of all thoughts, affections, and inward motions. There is the directive counsel and imperial commanding power. There is the prime mover of all humane actions as such. This is the subject fit to receive not only natural but supernatural truths, and doctrines, and all laws. There divine characters may be imprinted, and made legible to the soul itself. This is the most noble and excellent book that any can write in.
III. THE SCRIBE OR PEN-MAN IS GOD; FOR IT IS SAID, I WILL GIVE OR PUT, I WILL WRITE. He that said so was the Lord. And it must be He, because the work is so curious and excellent that it is far above the sphere of created activity. He alone can immediately work upon the immortal soul to inform it, move it, alter it, and mould it anew.
IV. THE ACT AND WORK OF THIS PENMAN IS TO WRITE, AND WRITE THESE LAWS AND WRITE THEM IN THE HEART. HOW He cloth it we know not. That He doth it is clear enough. His preparations, illuminations, impulsions, inspirations, are strange and wonderful, of great and mighty force. For in this work He doth not only represent divine objects in a clearer light, and propose high motives to incline and turn the heart, but also gives a divine perceptive and appetitive power, whereby the soul more easily and clearly apprehends, and more effectually affects heavenly things. The effect of this writing is a divine knowledge of God's laws, and a ready and willing heart to obey them, and conform unto them, a power to know and do the word of God. This is that work of the Spirit which is called vocation, renovation, regeneration, conversion actively taken, without which man cannot repent, believe, obey, and turn to God.
1. The laws. The laws of God are written in the heart, not the inventions, fancies of men, nor natural, nor mathematical, nor moral philosophy; much less the errors and blasphemies of seducers and false prophets.
2. The heart of man is by nature a very untoward and indisposed subject, and not capable of these heavenly doctrines. It is blind and perverse, and there is an antipathy between it and these laws. As it hath no true notions of the greatest good, so it hath no mind to use the means, which conduce to the attaining thereof. This defacement of so noble a substance is the work of the devil and sin.
3. Concerning God's writing His laws in the heart of man, you must know —
(1) That they are not written there by nature. If they were, what need God write that which is already written?
(2) He writes nothing in this heart but His laws and His saving truths. Therefore that which is not written without in the Scripture He doth not promise to write within the heart, and whosoever shall fancy any doctrine received in his heart to be written by the hand of Heaven, and yet cannot find it in the gospel, is deceived and deluded.
(3) Before these divine doctrines can be written in the heart, all errors, lusts, false opinions, must be raised and rooted out of the soul, and it must be made like blank paper.
(4) God doth not write His laws in our hearts by enthusiasm, rapture, and inspiration, as He wrote His word in the hearts of the prophets and apostles; but He makes use of the word, and the ministers of the gospel, and the instructions of man, as also of the outward senses, as of the eye and ear, and also of the inward, and of reason, and of all the powers He bath given man to do anything in this work. And whosoever will not use these means and exercise this power by reading, hearing, meditation, conference, prayer, let him never expect or think that God will write these things in his heart.
(5) The effect of this writing of God is not only knowledge, but also a love of the truth, light, and integrity, power and dominion over sin, and the powerful sanctifications and consolations of the Spirit. And whosoever doth not find these in his heart, let him not think that God hath written His laws in his heart. For He writes with power, and leaves a permanent tincture of holiness, and a constant habitual inclination to that which is good, just, and right.
(6) God doth not write these laws perfectly and fully in man's heart whilst he is in the flesh; for He proceeds in this work by degrees. Therefore seeing God hath ordained means, and commanded them to be used, no man must neglect them whilst this mortal life continues, for these truths are not written in any of our hearts further than we use these means, which were given not only for the first inscription of these laws, but for the increase and perfection of our Divine knowledge.
Parallel VersesKJV: For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
WEB: "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days," says the Lord; "I will put my laws into their mind, I will also write them on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be my people.