Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,…
I. EVERY CHRISTIAN MUST MAKE ACCOUNT WITH HIMSELF THAT EVERY CHRISTIAN DUTY BELONGS TO HIM.
1. This doctrine first teacheth us to learn the rule of every good work, legal or evangelical. Content not thyself that thou canst say the commandments, nor if thou canst say that thou hast kept the whole letter of the law from thy youth; but study the whole Scripture, which is an exposition and large commentary of those ten words; hear it, read it diligently, meditate upon it, apply it to thy heart and life, else knowest thou not how to begin any good work.
2. If every good work belong to every Christian then may not men post over the matter to the minister. The common conceit is, that the clergy should be holy, hospitable, and so qualified as we have heard in the first chapter; but for common men and unlearned it will be acceptable enough if they be almost Christians, that is, as good as never a whir; whereas the Lord bindeth upon every Christian, of what condition soever, the practice of every good work which is offered him within the compass of his calling.
3. If a Christian must employ himself in every good work, then must men so cast and contrive their courses, and neither duties of piety hinder the duties of their calling, nor these stand in the way of the other. And he that hath the heart of the wise to know time and judgment, forecasteth both wisely, and knoweth one of these to be subordinate, but not opposite unto the other. Hence must Christians forecast, and remember the Sabbath beforehand, and so order and husband their times and seasons, that there may be place and time and opportunity for every good work in the weekday, and especially for the best works, whether public exercises of religion or private prayers and exercises in the family.
II. THAT EVERY CHRISTIAN OUGHT TO KEEP IN HIMSELF A FITNESS AND READINESS TO EVERY GOOD WORK IS PLAIN IN THE SCRIPTURES. For —
1. In duties of piety, we are enjoined not only to come to the house of God, but to take heed to our feet, and to wash our hands in innocency before we compass the altar, and first to sanctify ourselves before God and reconcile ourselves to men, and then bring our gift. If we preach, we must do it readily, and of a ready mind, and then we have reward. If you hear, you must be wise to hear, and ready to hear, rather than to offer a sacrifice of fools.
2. In performance of duties of love and mercy unto men, we are called to readiness in distributing (1 Timothy 6:18), and mindfulness to distribute (Hebrews 13:16).
3. In private duties, when God giveth us peace and opportunity, we must serve Him with cheerfulness and good hearts (Deuteronomy 28:47).
4. In private injuries, we must be ready to receive, yea, to offer reconciliation, and to forgive, which is another good work, and so in the rest. Reasons —
1. We herein become like unto God, whose nature is to accommodate Himself to our good; whose readiness to give bountifully and forgive freely is hereby shadowed.
2. Hereby we also beautify, and as it were gild our duties, when they come off without delays, without grudging, murmuring, or heaviness, but am from men inured to well-doing.
3. Hereby we may lay hold of Christian consolation, in that this ready and willing mind is accepted, where often power of doing good is wanting, and indeed the regenerate often want power and ability unto good, but to want will and desire is dangerous.
III. SOME RULES OF PRACTICE FOR THE BETTER SETTING US FORWARD IN THIS DUTY.
1. Get into thy soul the conscience of this commandment, accounting it worthy of all thine obedience, being so often urged in the Scriptures, and made in the end of the former chapter, the end of Christ's purchasing of us. This reason drawn from the fear of God prevailed so far with Job, that thence he was moved to use mercifulness to all sorts of men; for God's "punishment was fearful unto me, and I could not escape His highness."
2. Take every opportunity of well-doing while it is offered, for else the opportunity may be cut off from thee, or thou from it. This is the apostle's rule, "While we have time do good unto all" (Galatians 6:10), that is, take the present occasion of doing all the good thou canst.
(1) In regard of thyself, perform the principal and main duty, know the day of thy visitation; slack not this thy term time, but get the oil of faith, knowledge of God, and obedience to His Word, that thy lamp may ever be shining to the glorifying of the Father which is in heaven; in one word, forget not while thou hast time to give all diligence to make thine election sure.
(2) In regard of others, if now thou canst do them good in soul or body, delay it not. "Say not unto thy neighbour, go, and come again tomorrow, and I will give thee, if now thou hast it" (Proverbs 3:28); and what knoweth any man, whether this may be the last day wherein he can do good to himself or others?
3. Go yet one step further, to seek and watch occasions of doing good, and be glad when thou hast obtained them, that so thou mayest ever be furthering thy reckoning. We read of the patriarchs, Abraham and Lot, how they sat at their doors watching to entertain strangers, that they espied them afar off, ran out to meet them, and most earnestly entreated them to abide and refresh themselves; show thyself herein the son of Abraham.
(T. Taylor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,