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which God hath ordained to judge thee. So thou hast set up thyself in the judgment-seat of Christ, and cast down the rule, whereby he will judge the world! O take knowledge what advantage Satan hath gained over thee! And for the time to come, never think or speak lightly of, much less dress up as a scare-crow, this blessed instrument of the grace of God. Yea, love and value it for the sake of him from whom it came, and of him to whom it leads. Let it be thy glory and joy, next to the cross of Christ. Declare its praise, and make it honourable before all men.
9. And if thou art thoroughly convinced, That it is the offspring of God, that it is the copy of all his amiable perfections, and that it is holy, and just, and good, but especially to them that believe; then instead of casting it away as a polluted thing, see that thou cleave to it more and more. Never let the law of mercy and truth, of love to God and man, of lowliness, meekness, and purity, forsake thee. "Bind it about thy neck; write it on the table of thy heart." Keep close to the law, if thou wilt keep close to Christ: hold it fast: let it not go. Let this continually lead thee to the atoning blood, continually confirm thy hope, till all the "righteousness of the law is fulfilled in thee," and thou art "filled with all the fulness of God."
10 And if thy Lord hath already fulfilled his word, if he bath already "written his law in thy heart," then "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made thee free." Thou art not only made free from the Jewish ceremonies, from the guilt of sin, and the fear of hell (these are so far from being the whole, that they are the least and lowest part of Christian liberty :) but what is infinitely more, from the power of sin, from serving the devil, from offending God. O stand fast in this liberty, in comparison of which, all the rest is not even worthy to be named. Stand fast in loving God with all thy heart, and serving him with all thy strength. This is perfect freedom: thus to keep his law, and to walk in all his commandments blameless. "Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." I do not mean of Jewish bondage: nor yet of bondage to the fear of hell: these, I trust, are far from thee. But beware of
being entangled again with the yoke of sin, of any inward or outward trangression of the law. Abhor sin far more than death or hell; abhor sin itself, far more than the punishment of it. Beware of the bondage of pride, of desire, of anger; of every evil temper, or word, or work. "Look unto Jesus," and in order thereto, look more and more "into the perfect law, the law of liberty:" and "continue therein :" so shalt thou daily "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
ON THE LAW ESTABLISHED THROUGH FAITH.
"Do we then make void the Law through Faith? God forbid: Yea, we establish the Law." ROMANS iii. 31.
1. ST. PAUL having in the beginning of this Epistle laid down his general proposition, namely, That "the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth:" the powerful mean, whereby God makes every believer a partaker of present and eternal salvation, goes on to show, that there is no other way under heaven, whereby men can be saved. He speaks particularly of salvation from the guilt of sin, which he commonly terms justification. And that all men stood in need of this, that none could plead their own innocence, he proves at large by various arguments, addressed to the Jews as well as the heathens. Hence he infers, (in the 19th verse of this chapter) That every mouth, whether of Jew or heathen, must be stopt from excusing or justifying himself, "and all the world become guilty before God." "Therefore," saith he, by his own obedience, "by the works of the law, shall no man be justified in his sight," ver. 20. "But now the righteousness of God without the law," without our previous obedience thereto "is manifested," ver. 21. "Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all that believe," ver. 22. "For there is no difference," as to their need of justification, or the manner wherein they attain it. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," ver. 23, the glorious image of God wherein they were created: and all (who attain) "are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ," ver. 24. "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood," ver. 25. "That he might be just, and yet the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus," ver. 26; that without any impeachment to his justice, he might show him mercy, for the sake of that propitiation. "Therefore, we conclude," (which was the grand position he had undertaken to establish) "that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law," ver. 28.
2. It was easy to foresee an objection which might be made, and which has in fact been made in all ages: namely, That to say "we are justified without the works of the law," is to abolish the law. The
Apostle, without entering into a formal dispute, simply denies the charge. "Do we then," says he, "make void the law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law."
3. The strange imagination of some, that St. Paul, when he says, "A man is justified without the works of the law," means only the ceremonial law, is abundantly confuted by these very words. For did St. Paul establish the ceremonial law? It is evident, he did not. He did make void that law through faith, and openly avowed his doing so. It was the moral law only of which he might truly say, We do not make void but establish this through faith.
4. But all men are not herein of his mind. Many there are who will not agree to this. Many in all ages of the Church, even among those who bore the name of Christians, have contended, that, "the faith once delivered to the saints," was designed to make void the whole law. They would no more spare the moral than the ceremonial law, but were for hewing, as it were, both in pieces before the Lord: vehemently maintaining, "If you establish any law, Christ shall profit you nothing: Christ is become of none effect to you: ye are fallen from grace.
5. But is the zeal of these men according to knowledge? Have they observed the connexion between the law and faith? And that considering that close connexion between them, to destroy one is indeed to destroy both? That, to abolish the moral law, is in truth, to abolish faith and the law together? As leaving no proper mean, either of bringing us to faith, or of stirring up that gift of God in our soul.
6. It, therefore, behooves all who desire either to come to Christ, or to "walk in him, whom they have received," to take heed how they "make void the law through faith;" to secure us effectually against which, let us inquire, first, Which are the most effectual ways of "making void the law through faith;" and, secondly, How we may follow the Apostle, and by faith "establish the law."
I. 1. Letus, first, inquire, What are the most usual ways of "making void the law through faith." Now the way for a preacher to make it all void at a stroke, is not to preach it at all. This is just the same thing as to blot it out of the Oracles of God. More especially when it is done with design: when it is made a rule, "Not to preach the law:" and the very phrase, "A preacher of the law," is used as a term of reproach, as though it meant little less than "an enemy to the gospel.'
2. All this proceeds from the deepest ignorance of the nature, properties, and use of the law: and proves that those who act thus, either know not Christ, are utter strangers to the living faith, or at least, that they are but babes in Christ, and as such "unskilled in the word of righteousness."
3. Their grand plea is this: "That preaching the gospel" that is, according to their judgment, the speaking of nothing but the sufferings and merits of Christ, "answers all the ends of the law." But this we utterly deny. It does not answer the very first end of the law, namely, The convincing men of sin, the awakening those who are
still asleep on the brink of hell. There may have been here and there an exempt case. One in a thousand may have been awakened by the gospel. But this is no general rule. The ordinary method of God, is to convict sinners by the law, and that only. The gospel is not the mean which God hath ordained, or which our Lord himself used for this end. We have no authority in Scripture for applying it thus, nor any ground to think it will prove effectual. Nor have we any more ground to expect this, from the nature of the thing. "They that be whole," as our Lord himself observes, "need not a physician, but they that be sick." It is absurd, therefore, to offer a physician to them that are whole, or that at least imagine themselves so to be. You are first, to convince them, that they are sick. Otherwise they will not thank you for your labour. It is equally absurd to offer Christ to them, whose heart is whole, having never yet been broken. It is, in the proper sense, casting pearls before swine." Doubtless, "they will trample them under foot." And it is no more than you have reason to expect, if they also "turn again and rend you."
4. "But although there is no command in Scripture, to offer Christ to the careless sinner, yet are there not Scriptural precedents for it?" I think not: I know not any. I believe you cannot produce one, either from the four Evangelists, or the Acts of the Apostles. Neither can you prove this to have been the practice of any of the Apostles, from any passage in all their writings.
5. "Nay, does not the Apostle Paul say, in his former Epistle to the Corinthians, "We preach Christ crucified?" chap. i. 23. And in his latter, "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord?" chap. v. ver. 4.
We consent to rest the cause on this issue: to tread in his steps, to follow his example. Only preach you, just as St. Paul preached, and the dispute is at an end.
For although we are certain he preached Christ, in as perfect a manner as the very chief of the Apostles, yet who preached the law more than St. Paul? Therefore, he did not think the gospel answered the same end.
6. The very first sermon of St. Paul's, which is recorded, concludes in these words: "By him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the Prophets, Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish. For I work a work in your days, a work which you will in nowise believe, though a man declare it unto you," Acts xiii. 39, &c. Now it is manifest, all this is preaching the law, in the sense wherein you understand the term: even although great part of, if not all his hearers, were either Jews or religious proselytes, ver. 43, and, therefore, probably many of them, in some degree at least, convinced of sin already. He first reminds them, That they could not be justified by the law of Moses, but only by faith in Christ: and then severely threatens them with the judgments of God, which is, in the strongest sense, preaching the law.
7. In his next discourse, that to the heathens at Lystra, Acts xiv. 15, &c. we do not find so much as the name of Christ. The whole purport of it is, That they should "turn from those vain idols, unte the living God." Now confess the truth. Now confess the truth. Do not you think, if you had been there, you could have preached much better than he? I should not wonder, if you thought too, That his preaching so ill, occasioned his being so ill treated: and that his being stoned, was a just judgment upon him, for not preaching Christ!
8. To the jailer indeed, when "he sprang in and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and said, Sirs, What must I do to be saved?" he immediately said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Acts xvi. 29, &c. And in the case of one so deeply convinced of sin, who would not have said the same? But to the men of Athens you find him speaking in a quite different manner, reproving their superstition, ignorance, and idolatry; and strongly moving them to repent, from the consideration of a future judgment, and of the resurrection from the dead, chap. xvii. 24-31. Likewise, when Felix sent for Paul, on purpose that he might hear him concerning the faith in Christ; instead of preaching Christ in your sense (which would probably have caused the governor, either to contradict and blaspheme) he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come," till Felix, (hardened as he was,) trembled, chap. xxiv. 24, 25. Go thou and tread in his steps. Preach Christ to the careless sinner, by reasoning of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come! 9. If you say, "But he preached Christ in a different manner in his Epistles." I answer, He did not there preach at all: not in that sense wherein we speak: for preaching in our present question, means, speaking before a congregation.
But waving this. I answer, 2, His Epistles are directed, not to unbelievers, such as those we are now speaking of, but to the saints of God in Rome, Corinth, Philippi, and other places. Now, unquestionably, he would speak more of Christ to these, than to those who were without God in the world. And yet, 3, Every one of these is full of the law, even the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians: in both of which he does what you term preaching the law, and that to believers as well as unbelievers.
10. From hence it is plain, you know not what it is, to preach Christ, in the sense of the Apostle. For, doubtless, St. Paul judged himself to be preaching Christ, both to Felix, and at Antioch, Lystra, and Athens. From whose example every thinking man must infer, That not only the declaring the love of Christ to sinners, but also the declaring that he will come from heaven in flaming fire, is, in the Apostle's sense, preaching Christ: yea, in the full Scriptural meaning of the word. To preach Christ, is, To preach what he hath revealed either in the Old or New Testament: so that you are then as really preaching Christ, when you are saying, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God," as when you are saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world?"