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11. Consider this well; that to preach Christ, is to preach all things that Christ hath spoken; all his promises, all his threatenings and commands; all that is written in his book. And then you will know how to preach Christ, without making void the law.
But does not the greatest blessing attend those discourses, wherein we peculiarly preach the merits and sufferings of Christ?" Probably, when we preach to a congregation of mourners, or of believers, these will be attended with the greatest blessing: because such discourses are peculiarly suited to their state. At least, these will usually convey the most comfort. But this is not always the greatest blessing. I may sometimes receive a far greater, by a discourse that cuts me to the heart, and humbles me to the dust. Neither should I receive that comfort, if I were to preach or hear no discourses but on the sufferings of Christ. These, by the constant repetition, would lose their force, and grow more and more flat and dead, till at length they would become a dull round of words, without any spirit, or life, or virtue. So that thus to preach Christ, must, in process of time, make void the gospel as well as the law.
II. 1. A second way of "making void the law through faith," is, the teaching that faith supersedes the necessity of holiness. This divides itself into a thousand smaller paths, and many there are that walk therein. Indeed there are few that wholly escape it: few who are convinced, we "are saved by faith," but are sooner or later, more or less, drawn aside into this by-way.
2. All those are drawn into this by-way, who, if it be not their settled judgment, that faith in Christ entirely sets aside the necessity of keeping his law, yet suppose either, 1, That holiness is less necessary now than it was before Christ: or, 2, That a less degree of it is necessary; or, 3, That it is less necessary to believers than to others. Yea, and so are all those, who although their judgment be right in the general, yet think they may take more liberty in particular cases, than they could have done before they believed. Indeed, the using the term liberty, in such a manner, for liberty from obedience or holiness, shows at once, that their judgment is perverted, and that they are guilty of what they imagined to be far from them, namely, of "making void the law through faith," by supposing faith to supersede holiness.
3. The first plea of those who teach this expressly, is, that "we are now under the covenant of grace, not works: and, therefore, we are no longer under the necessity of performing the works of the law."
And who ever was under the covenant of works? None but Adam before the fall. He was fully and properly under that covenant, which required perfect, universal obedience, as the one condition of acceptance; and left no place for pardon, upon the very least transgression. But no man else was ever under this, neither Jew nor Gentile, neither before Christ nor since. All his sons were and are under the covenant of grace; the manner of their acceptance is this the free grace of God through the merits of Christ, gives
pardon to them that believe, that believe with such a faith as, working by love, produces all obedience and holiness.
4. The case is not, therefore, as you suppose, that men were once more obliged to obey God, or to work the works of his law, than they are now. This is a supposition you cannot make good. But, we should have been obliged, if we had been under the covenant of works, to have done those works antecedent to our acceptance. Whereas, now all good works, though as necessary as ever, are not antecedent to our acceptance, but consequent upon it. Therefore, the nature of the covenant of grace gives you no ground, no encouragement at all, to set aside any instance or degree of obedience, any part or measure of holiness.
5. But are we not "justified by faith, without the works of the law?" Undoubtedly we are, without the works either of the ceremonial or the moral law. And would to God all men were convinced of this! It would prevent innumerable evils. Antinomianism, in particular; for generally speaking, they are the Pharisees who make the Antinomians. Running into an extreme so palpably contrary to Scripture, they occasion others to run into the opposite one. These, seeking to be justified by works, affright those from allowing any place for them.
6. But the truth lies between both. We are, doubtless, justified by faith. This is the corner-stone of the whole Christian building. We are "justified without the works of the law," as any previous condition of justification. But they are an immediate fruit of that faith, whereby we are justified. So that if good works do not follow our faith, even all inward and outward holiness, it is plain our faith is nothing worth: we are yet in our sins. Therefore, that "we are justified by faith," even by "faith without works," is no ground for "making void the law through faith:" or for imagining that faith is a dispensation from any kind or degree of holiness.
7. "Nay, but does not St. Paul expressly say, 'Unto him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness? And does it not follow from hence, that faith is to a believer in the room, in the place of righteousness? But if faith is in the room of righteousness or holiness, what need is there of this too?"
This it must be acknowledged, comes home to the point, and is indeed, the main pillar of Antinomianism. And yet it needs not a long or laboured answer. We allow, 1, That God justifies the ungodly, him that, till that hour, is totally ungodly, full of all evil, void of all good. 2, That he justifies the ungodly that worketh not, that, till that moment, worketh no good work; neither can he; for an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. 3, That he justifies him by faith alone, without any goodness or righteousness preceding: and, 4, That faith is then counted to him for righteousness, namely, for preceding righteousness: i. e. God, through the merits of Christ, accepts him that believes, as if he had already fulfilled all righteous
ness. But what is all this to your point? The Apostle does not say, either here or elsewhere, that this faith is counted to him for subsequent righteousness. He does teach, that there is no righteousness before faith. But where does he teach, that there is none after it? He does assert, holiness cannot precede justification: But not, that it need not follow it. St. Paul, therefore, gives you no colour for "making void the law," by teaching that faith supersedes the necessity of holiness.
III. 1. There is yet another way of "making void the law through faith," which is more common than either of the former. And that is, the doing it practically: the making it void in fact, though not in principle: the living, as if faith was designed to excuse us from holiness.
How earnestly does the Apostle guard us against this, in those well known words: "What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?-God forbid!" Rom. vi. 15. A caution which it is needful thoroughly to consider, because it is of the last importance.
2. The being under the law, may here mean, 1, The being obliged to keep the ceremonial law. 2, The being obliged to conform to the whole Mosaic institution. 3, The being obliged to keep the whole moral law, as the condition of our acceptance with God: and, 4, The being under the wrath and curse of God, under the sentence of eternal death; under a sense of guilt and condemnation, full of horror and slavish fear.
3. Now, although a believer is "not without law to God, but under the law to Christ," yet from the moment he believes, he is not under the law, in any of the preceding senses. On the contrary, he is under grace, under a more benign, gracious dispensation. As he is no longer under the ceremonial law, nor under the Mosaic institution; as he is not obliged to keep even the moral law, as the condition of his acceptance: so he is delivered from the wrath and curse of God, from all sense of guilt and condemnation, and from all that horror and fear of death and hell, whereby he was all his life before subject to bondage. And he now performs (which while under the law he could not do) a willing and universal obedience. He obeys not from the motive of slavish fear, but on a nobler principle, namely, the grace of God ruling in his heart, and causing all his works to be wrought in love.
4. What then? Shall this evangelical principle of action, be less powerful than the legal? Shall we be less obedient to God from filial love, than we were from servile fear?
It is well, if this is not a common case; if this practical Antinomianism, this unobserved way of "making void the law through faith," has not infected thousands of believers.
Has it not infected you? Examine yourself honestly and closely. Do you not do now, what you durst not have done when you were under the law, or (as we commonly call it) under conviction? For instance. You durst not then indulge yourself in food. You took
just what was needful, and that of the cheapest kind. Do you not allow yourself more latitude now? Do you not indulge yourself a little more than you did? O beware, lest you "sin, because you are not under the law, but under grace!"
5. When you were under conviction, you durst not indulge the lust of the eye in any degree. You would not do any thing, great or small, merely to gratify your curiosity. You regarded only cleanliness and necessity, or at most very moderate convenience, either in furniture or apparel; superfluity and finery of whatever kind, as well as fashionable elegance, were both a terror and an abomina
tion to you.
Are they so still? Is your conscience as tender now in these things, as it was then? Do you still follow the same rule both in furniture and apparel, trampling all finery, all superfluity, every thing useless, every thing merely ornamental, however fashionable, under foot? Rather, have you not resumed what you had once laid aside, and what you could not then use without wounding your conscience? And have you not learned to say, "O, I am not so scrupulous now?" I would to God you were! Then you would not sin thus, "because you are not under the law, but under grace." 6. You were once scrupulous too of commending any to their face, and still more, of suffering any to commend you. It was a stab to your heart: you could not bear it: you sought the honour that cometh of God only. You could not endure such conversation nor any conversation which was not good to the use of edifying. All idle talk, all trifling discourse you abhorred, you hated as well as feared it, being deeply sensible of the value of time, of every precious, fleeting moment. In like manner, you dreaded and abhorred idle expense: valuing your money only less than your time, and trembling lest you should be found an unfaithful steward even of the mammon of unrighteousness.
Do you now look upon praise as deadly poison, which you can neither give nor receive but at the peril of your soul? Do you still dread and abhor all conversation, which does not tend to the use of edifying; and labour to improve every moment, that it may not pass without leaving you better than it found you? Are not you less careful as to the expense both of money and time? Cannot you now lay out either, as you could not have done once? Alas! How has that "which should have been for your health, proved to you an occasion of falling!" How have you "sinned because you were not under the law, but under grace!"
7. God forbid you should any longer continue thus to "turn the grace of God into lasciviousness!" O remember, how clear and strong a conviction you once had, concerning all these things. And, at the same time, you were fully satisfied, from whom that conviction came. The world told you, you were in a delusion: but you knew, it was the voice of God. In these things you were not too scrupulous then; but you are not now scrupulous enough. God kept you longer in that painful school, that you might learn
those great lessons the more perfectly. And have you forgot them already? O recollect them before it be too late. Have you suffered so many things in vain? I trust, it is not yet in vain. Now use the conviction without the pain: practise the lesson without the rod. Let not the mercy of God weigh less with you now, than his fiery indignation did before. Is love a less powerful motive than fear? If not, let it be an invariable rule, "I will do nothing now I am under grace, which I durst not have done when under the law.”
8. I cannot conclude this head, without exhorting you to examine yourself, likewise, touching sins of omission. Are you as clear of these, now you are under grace, as you were when under the law? How diligently were you then in hearing the word of God? Did you neglect any opportunity? Did you not attend thereon day and night? Would a small hinderance have kept you away? A little business? A visitant? A slight indisposition? A soft bed? A dark or cold morning ?-Did not you then fast often? Or use abstinence to the utmost of your power? Were not you much in prayer, (cold and heavy as you were) while you were hanging over the mouth of hell? Did you not speak and not spare even for an unknown God? Did you not boldly plead his cause ?-Reprove sinners?-And avow the truth before an adulterous generation? And are you now a believer in Christ? Have you the "faith that overcometh the world?" What! and are you less zealous for your Master now, than you were when you knew him not? Less diligent in fasting, in prayer, in hearing his word, in calling sinners to God? O repent. See and feel your grievous loss! Remember from whence you are fallen! Bewail your unfaithfulness! Now be zealous and do the first works; lest, if you continue to make void the law through faith, God cut you off, and appoint you your portion with the unbelievers!