QUESTION 82. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
ANSWER: No mere man, since the fall, is able, in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them, in thought, word, and deed.
Q. 1. What is it perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. It is, from a nature perfectly holy, to yield constant and uninterrupted obedience to them, both in heart and life, Matt. 22:37, 39.
Q. 2. Was ever any man, in this world, able to keep the commandments of God in this manner?
A. Yes; Adam, before his fall, was able to give perfect obedience to them all, Eccl. 7:29 -- " God made man upright."
Q. 3. Whether was Adam's ability to keep the commandments of God, concreated with him, or, was it a superadded gift?
A. It was concreated with him, as being made after the image of God, Gen. 1:27.
Q. 4. Has none, since the fall, been able to keep them perfectly?
A. No mere man has ever been able to do it, since that time, Rom. 3:9, 10.
Q. 5. What do you understand by a mere man?
A. One who is no more than a man; and all Adam's family, descending from him by ordinary generation, are only mere men, Acts 17:26.
Q. 6. Why is the limitation of no mere man inserted in the answer?
A. That Christ might be excepted, who is infinitely more than a man, being IMMANUEL, "God with us," Matt. 1:23.
Q. 7. Why should H E be excepted?
A. Because he not only yielded perfect obedience to the law in our nature, but an obedience meritorious of life, for all his spiritual seed, Matt. 3:15; Rom. 5:17, 19.
Q. 8. Do not the saints, in this life, keep the commandments of God perfectly?
A. No; "for there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not," Eccl. 7:20.
Q. 9. Will they ever be capable of doing it?
A. Yes; when they come to heaven, where they are made perfect, Heb. 12:23; and where "the former things are passed away," Rev. 21:4.
Q. 10. Why are they not able perfectly to keep them in this life?
A. Because of the remains of corruption cleaving to every one of them, while in this world, Rom. 7:23; and from which they long to be delivered, verse 24.
Q. 11. But may not grace received in this life enable them to keep the commandments of God perfectly?
A. There is no promise of any such grace, nor would it be consistent with the gradual nature of spiritual growth, as the saints do not arrive at their full stature till they come to glory, 1 Thess. 3:13.
Q. 12. How does it appear from scripture, that the saints cannot attain perfection in this life?
A. The scripture expressly affirms, that "in many things they offend all," James 3:2:and it records the failings and infirmities of the most eminent of them that ever lived, such as Abraham, Gen. 20:2; Moses, Psalm 106:33; David, 2 Sam. 11:4, 15; Peter, Matt. 26:72, 74; and many others.
Q. 13. Do not the saints themselves ingenuously acknowledge, that they cannot attain perfection while here?
A. Yes; Job 9:20 -- "If I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse." Paul, likewise, Phil. 3:12 -- "Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect."
Q. 14. But is it not said that Noah, Gen. 6:9; Hezekiah, Isa. 38:3; and Job, Job 1:8, were each of them perfect?
A. The perfection ascribed to them, is only comparative; that is, they were more holy and circumspect than many others; but it cannot be understood of absolute perfection, as their sins and blemishes stand also upon record: Noah, for drunkenness, Gen. 9:21; Hezekiah, for ingratitude, 2 Chron. 32:25; and Job, for some degree of impatience under the rod, chap. 3.
Q. 15. If the saints cannot attain perfection in this life, why is it said, that they do not commit sin? 1 John 3:9 -- "Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin."
A. The meaning is, they do not take pleasure and delight in sin, nor make a trade of it, as unregenerate persons do, who are therefore called "the workers of iniquity," Psalm 125:5.
Q. 16. Is not the perfection of sincerity attainable by the saints?
A. They may attain to a very high and eminent degree of sincerity in this world, Psalm 18:23; 2 Cor. 1:12; but the absolute perfection of this, or any other grace, is not to be expected by them, till they come to heaven, 1 Cor. 13:12.
Q. 17. Will they not be accepted upon such sincerity as they can attain to, though short of the perfection required in the law?
A. Their acceptance before God is not founded on their sincerity, or any other branch of their sanctification; but solely in their justification, by which the "righteousness of the law" is fulfilled in them, in virtue of the surety righteousness imputed to them, Rom. 8:4; and thus they are "accepted in the Beloved," Eph. 1:6.
Q. 18. Since none of mankind are able, in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, how often does the answer say that they break them?
A. It says that they break them daily or continually, Gen. 6:5.
Q. 19. In what do they daily break them?
A. They do it in thought, word, and deed.
Q. 20. Is there any other possible way of breaking the commandments of God?
A. No; there is no other way of breaking any of them, (as to actual transgression,) than either in our thoughts, words, or deeds; and our doing so, in all these respects, shows the justice of that charge which the Lord has against every one of us, Jer. 3:5 -- "Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldst."
Q. 21. How do we break the commandments of God in our THOUGHTS?
A. When our thoughts are sinfully employed either with reference to God, ourselves, or our neighbours.
Q. 22. When are our thoughts sinfully employed about God?
A. When they are entertaining unworthy and unbecoming notions and conceptions of him, Psalm 50:21, and 94:7, such as reflect dishonour upon his perfections and providence, Zeph. 1:12; or such as are inconsistent with the discovery he has made of himself, as being "in Christ reconciling the world to himself," 2 Cor. 5:19.
Q. 23. When are our thoughts sinfully exercised about ourselves?
A. When they are gratifying our pride, Obadiah ver. 3, ambition, Isa. 14:13, 14, and self-applause, Rom. 12:3.
Q. 24. When are they sinfully employed about our neighbours?
A. When they are meditating and indulging envy, Gen. 4:15; reproach, Jer. 20:10; or revenge against them, Gen. 27:41.
Q. 25. What is the aggravating evil and malignity of sinful thoughts?
A. The evil and malignity of them consists in this, that they are the immediate source and spring from whence all our sinful words and deeds flow; "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," Matt. 12:34.
Q. 26. What is the proper remedy and antidote against sinful thoughts?
A. The Spirit's taking the things of Christ, and showing them unto us, John 16:14, by which they will become the subject matter of our meditation and highest esteem: "for where the treasure is, there will be the heart also," Matt. 6:21.
Q. 27. How do men break the commandments of God by their WORDS?
A. When, besides idle and unprofitable words, Matt. 12:36, they utter such as are more directly dishonouring to God, Psalm 73:9, 11, and hurtful and prejudicial to themselves and others, Psalm 140:3.
Q. 28. How do they break them by their DEEDS?
A. When those sins are committed, which have been conceived in the thought, and uttered by the tongue; being inconceivably more than can be condescended upon, "for, innumerable evils have compassed us about," Psalm 40:12.
Q. 29. What may we learn from man's inability to keep the commandments perfectly in this life?
A. That we must be wholly indebted to the free grace of God, for salvation and eternal life, Tit. 3:5, and not to any thing in ourselves, who are, at best, but unprofitable servants, Luke 17:10.