« EdellinenJatka »
no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident. For the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but the man that doth them shall live in them. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us. For it is written: Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.
I shall first endeavour to show what is meant by Christ's being made "a curse for us:"" after which we will observe the end and design of it.
1. The meaning of the expression is, that our Lord had suffered the death of the cross.. Christ," says he, " has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." The word, indeed, is harsh; but I say it truly and I may justly so express myself. "For it is written," in the law: "cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." The text here referred to, is in Deuteronomy. "And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree; but thou shalt in anywise bury him that day. For he that is hanged is accursed of God: that the land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance," Deut. xxi. 22, 23. The usual punishments among the Jews were strangling and stoning and it is generally supposed, that by the hanging in Deuteronomy is intended the doing so after death. This appears from the preceding words, which speak of the man's being put to death before his suspension; which shows that this punishment was not exactly the same as the Roman crucifixion.. for they crucified men alive, whereby they expired before they were taken down. But this was only hanging up their bodies after they were dead, exposing them to open shame for a time.
So say very judicious expositors. And if this be right, then, by our Lord's being on a cross so as to die there, he was made a curse in a very emphatical sense.
This "hanging on a tree," according to the law of Moses, was a suspension of men, after they had been put to death for idolatry or blasphemy, or some other great offence. But Jesus suffered the pain of crucifixion, and died upon a cross.
The words of the law, before cited, are, "If thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree: but thou shalt in anywise bury him that day. For he that is hanged is accursed of God: that thy land be not defiled."
That is, he is an object of execration, which ought to be taken out of the way; or he that is hanged on a tree, is an abomination; that is, the dead body of a man hung up and exposed above ground, is a thing extremely impure, and offensive, and disagreeable, and therefore it must be soon taken down and removed out of sight.
Our Lord therefore was treated as if he had been accursed and abominable in the sight of God and men.
The history of our Lord's death in the gospels is a comment upon this text, and is well known to all. He was apprehended, tried, condemned, and crucified as a criminal. And he suffered death at the common place of execution without the gates of Jerusalem.
Every one did not consider him as an offender, or guilty of any thing worthy of death.. But the voice of the people, concurring with the opinion of their great council, prevailed; and the sentence was executed without abatement.
Nor should we omit to observe the word "made: being made a curse for us." He was innocent, but was treated as an offender: and that, according to the permission, will and appointment of God the Father, in which our Lord acquiesced. "Therefore does my Father love me," says he, says he, "because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh. it from me; but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father," John x. 17, 18.
For this great trial he prepared himself by prayer and meditation. When it drew near, he earnestly requested that the cup might pass from him:" but added: not my will, but thine be done." Prayer being ended, he rose up, and went cheerfully through the scene of sufferings that was allotted to him. So Christ was made a curse for us.. Or, as it is expressed in another text: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. v. 21.
2. In the next place therefore we are to consider the ends and effects of this appointment, which are here expressed in a twofold phrase: "redeeming us from the curse of the law," and obtaining "the blessing of Abraham."
These words may be easily understood by observing the context, which was read at the beginning of this discourse. "For as many as are of the works of the law," ver. 10. that is, who aim to be justified by the works of the law," are under the curse. For it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them;" which is next to impossible: and therefore every one who adheres to the law, comes under a sentence of condemnation. "But Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law :" having set us free from an obligation to it, and taught us how we may be justified by faith, or according to the rule of his gospel.
Which is the same as the other privilege here mentioned, "that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ:" that is, that the Gentiles might be justified in the same way that he was, by faith, without the works of the Mosaic law, which were not then introduced or instituted. "Even as Abraham believed, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith," that is, who believe, as Abraham did, "the same are the children of Abraham," ver. 6, 7. and are accepted of God as his people. "And the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith," ver. 8. that is, that the time would come when all men should be assured of justification and acceptance with God in the same way, "preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith," who believe, and look for justification by faith, according to the gospel, the law and rule of real, sincere holiness and virtue," are blessed with faithful Abraham," ver. 9.
This, I think, is the design and meaning of the apostle in this place. And it is what he often teaches; that by the death and crucifixion of Christ the law has been abrogated, or rendered useless.
It is, I say, a thing which he often speaks of, as the design of Christ's death, to deliver us from an obligation to the law of Moses, and from the penalties and inconveniences hanging over them that disobeyed the ritual ordinances of it. Even so we, when we were children," infants under age, "were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,—that we might receive the adoption of sons." Gal. iv. 3, 4. 5. that we might be henceforth delivered from the numerous and burdensome rites of the law of Moses, which had in them no real excellence, and that we might be treated as sons, or children arrived to maturity; and might be accepted, and have access to God in the sincere performance of a truly holy and spiritual worship and service, which is reasonable in itself, perfective of our nature, and obligatory at all times.
And at the beginning of the third chapter of this same epistle : "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth :" that ye should not continue steady to the truth of the gospel, in its genuine plainness and simplicity, without Jewish rites and ceremonies?" before whom Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you:" to whom Christ's death, and the ends and designs of it, were once so clearly represented.
And in the epistle to the Ephesians, ch. ii. 14.-16. "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments, contained in ordinances, to make in himself of twain, one new man, so making peace. And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross; having slain the enmity thereby.
To the like purpose also in the epistle to the Colossians, ch. ii. 13-15. "And you being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he hath quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
In these places the apostle seems plainly to represent the abolishing of the ritual ordinances of the law, as an effect, or at least a consequence of Christ's death. But it may be asked: what influence had the death of Christ to this purpose? How did Christ redeem us from the curse of the law by suffering himself an accursed death? How did he by his death on the cross, abolish the obligation of those ordinances which are not of a moral nature?
This question has in it some difficulty: nor did all at the time of the first preaching the gospel after our Lord's ascension discern the law to be abrogated.
Let us therefore observe a few particulars for the solution of this difficulty.
1. When St. Paul speaks of this, as having been effected by the cross of Christ, he may thereby intend the whole of his doctrine: as it is common, in many cases, to express the whole by a part.
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness :-But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them that are called both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God," 1 Cor. i. 18, 23, 24. For "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified," 1 Cor. ii. 2. He does not mean Christ's crucifixion only: for he had taught the Corinthians Christ's resurrection, and the whole doctrine of the gospel. His meaning is, that he resolved not to preach among them any philosophical speculations, but the Christian religion only, and particularly Christ's death, with all the articles depending upon it. So likewise: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus, [that is, in the dispensation by him, and according to his doctrine,] neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision: but a new creature," Gal. vi. 14, 15.
We may therefore understand by the cross of Christ, his whole doctrine confirmed by his death; and easily perceive, how Christ may be said thereby to have abolished the law. For he taught only the great principles of religion, and the moral precepts of real holiness, in the greatest extent and perfection, as reaching the heart. And he assured men, that they who received that doctrine, and acted according to it, would build upon a good foundation, and might depend upon acceptance with God, and future happiness.
Yea, he did himself say such things as amounted to a declaration, that the peculiarities of the law were no longer obligatory. For he taught, that no part of divine worship was any longer to be confined to the temple at Jerusalem, or any other place: that God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth: and that those evil things only, which proceed from the heart of man are defiling.
2. The ceasing of the obligation of the Mosaic institution, may be spoken of as an effect or consequence of the death of Christ; inasmuch as his death was the conclusion of his ministry, and the accomplishment of all things foretold concerning the Messiah.
As the law was designed to be a type and adumbration only of good things to come, the obligation of it ceased upon Christ's being fully manifested: who was the end of the law, to whom it pointed, and directed men.
The apostle speaks to this purpose, particularly in the argument before taken notice of in the epistle to the Colossians. "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day:—which are a shadow of things to come: but the body, [the substance,] is of Christ."
Christ may be said, to have been fully come, and the things foretold concerning him, may be said to have been accomplished at his death, and his resurrection. As he said to the disciples: "These are the words which I spake unto you, whilst I was yet with you: that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me," Luke xxiv. 44.
Christ then being come, and all things foretold of him having been fulfilled in his ministry, and death, and subsequent resurrection: the law, and its rituals, which had been brought in, and appointed to be in force only till he came, ceased to have longer any obligation. "Wherefore then serveth the law?-It was added, because of transgression, till the seed should come, to whom the promise was made?-but before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith, which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our school-master, [or child's guide,] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a school-master. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," Gal. iii. 19, 23—26.
3. Which brings me to one thing more, by way of solution of this difficulty. Upon the death of Christ the obligation of the law ceased, because by his excellent doctrine, and miracu
lous works, his self-denying ministry and death, he has rendered all these ordinances of the law useless and unnecessary.
They had been of use formerly: by their number and variety, their shew and splendour, they were serviceable to engage and employ the Jewish people, and those who joined themselves to them, and to hinder them from revolting to idolatry, and taking up the customs of the people around them. But they are now no longer necessary. For by the perfect doctrine, the holy and exemplary life, and the painful and ignominious death of the Lord Jesus, such an argument has been exhibited for true holiness, heavenly-mindedness, the sincere and constant worship and service of God, that these ritual ordinances are no longer requisite or useful. There needs not now any great number of external, discriminating rites and ordinances, to keep the people of God distinct and separate from the rest of the world. For in the death and resurrection of Christ, are afforded such powerful inducements to virtue, as may effectually preserve men from idolatry and apostacy from God, without the guards and fences of ritual ordinances.
This then was one end of Christ's submitting to the fatigues and inconveniences of his laborious ministry, and to the pain and ignominy of the death of the cross: that he might deliver his people, and all who believe in him, from the numerous and burdensome appointments of the law of Moses.
He was "made a curse for us," he was exposed to the opprobrious death of the cross, and all the grievous circumstances of it, that we might be "redeemed from the curse of the law," and no longer fear any penalties for neglecting any of its unnecessary institutions: and that we might enjoy "the blessing of Abraham," that privilege which was promised to be conveyed to the world through him, and which himself once enjoyed in his own person, free from the appointments of the law, afterwards enjoined with assurance of the divine favour and acceptance, solely upon the ground of a reasonable and truly holy service and obedience. III. Nothing now remains, but that I add a few remarks.
1. We may now distinctly perceive, for whom Christ was made a curse.
Christ say's the text has redeemed us from "the curse of the law." Thereby some would understand particularly the Jews, who they say, alone were under the law. But I think it evident, that the apostle means Gentiles as well as Jews. For he here says, that "Christ has redeemed, [or delivered] us from the curse of the law, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles." And our Lord himself, in the time of his own ministry, when the call of the Gentiles was not fully opened, expressly says, he died for all, and not for those of the Jewish nation only. "And I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold them also I must bring in," John x. 15, 16.
Indeed all were in some measure under the law till Christ came: obedience to it being the only way of obtaining a share among the professed people of God, or his visible church.
The Christians in Galatia were not Jews, but were converted from Gentilism. Yet the apostle writes to them in this manner: "But now, after that ye have known God,—how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye again desire to be in bondage?" Gal. iv. 9. They never had been Jews nor proselytes to Judaism. The sense of the apostle's words therefore is this: how can ye despise the freedom of the gospel, and approve of, and choose that state of things which prevailed before? When all were required to receive the law of Moses, as the external badge of relation to God, and his family.
And afterwards he says, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with that yoke of bondage," Gal. v. 1. Which expressions shew, that the apostle supposed Gentiles as well as Jews to have been by Christ set at liberty from the law of Moses: or, as in the text, that he had "delivered us from the curse of the law.'
For before that, according to the constitution of things introduced by the law of Moses, since the Abrahamic covenant, all were to be proselyted to the Jewish religion. There was no other way of admission to religious communion, or civil conversation with the people of God.
The character of Cornelius in the Acts, is, that "he was a devout [or good] man, who feared God with all his house," Acts x. 2. Nevertheless Peter, till farther enlightened, and better instructed in the Christian scheme, and particularly directed, scrupled to go to him. And when he came to his house, he said: "Ye know, how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come to one of another nation. But God, [through Christ,] has shewed me, that I should not call any man common or unclean," Acts x. 28.
2. We here see reason to admire the love of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ; and what a tribute of gratitude, respect and obedience is due to him who was "made a curse for us: who, according to the will of the Father, resigned himself to a most painful, and above all, a most ignominious death: who suffered as a malefactor with men of the worst characters. reproachful this in the eye of the world! How grievous an affliction must this have been to the Lord Jesus, after all the honours of his miraculous ministry! Here is every thing grievous and reproachful that can touch an innocent and generous mind!
Yet our Lord went through it patiently, and meekly, with a view to the great and desirable ends proposed by it: and therefore his death is indeed most glorious; and it has been greatly rewarded. But it was a mixture of very bitter ingredients which he tasted of: and it was for our sake; and in particular, that we might be delivered from the burden of the law, and from all the penalties annexed to neglect and disobedience to it. And it is through him, that we, who once were afar off, have been brought nigh unto God: that we, who before were aliens, are made heirs and fellow-citizens, and of the houshold of God, without any of the burdensome institutions of the law of Moses, which must still have been in force, and we must have submitted to them, in order to our being of the people of God, and members of his church, if Christ had not by his death given such attestations as he has done to the truth of that doctrine of pure religion which he had taught. And if he had not also thereby inspired his immediate disciples and followers with an invincible love and zeal for truth and virtue, enabling them to withstand and surmount the greatest allurements, and the most frightful discouragements of the present life. 3. A serious attention to this text, and argument, may assist us to understand some other texts, where Christ is said to have died for us, for our sins.
It seems that the death of Christ was not, properly speaking, so necessary on God's part as on ours. God never valued nor delighted in the external ordinances of the law of Moses. What he looked for, and required, chiefly, was "truth in the inner parts." He desired "mercy rather than sacrifice, and the knowledge of God the Lord more than burnt-offerings," &c.
He was not at all unwilling that men should be released from the obligation of numerous ritual institutions. Find but out a way to bring men to good understanding in things of religion, and a love of real holiness: so that they shall no longer be in danger of casting off the divine fear, and going after idols that are not able either to hear or save those who serve them: and he would be willing that ordinances of positive appointment shall be laid aside.
This way he has himself graciously discovered and approved of; sending his Son, the Messiah, and appointing the humiliation, as well as other circumstances of his life and death, in which he acquiesced. Whereupon the many peculiarities of the law of Moses were abolished and laid aside with the consent and approbation of him who had appointed them.
In like manner God was not unwilling to pardon sinners, if they could but be brought to repentance. For this purpose the life and death of Christ are admirably suited, by affording more forcible considerations to awaken and reclaim sinners, and confirm the virtue of good men, than all the discoveries of reason, aided by former revelations. God needed not to be appeased. But sinners needed to be amended. When they are so, he readily accepts them. God is in himself gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in goodness and truth. He desires not the death of sinners, but their life and salvation. If sinful men will but be persuaded to forsake their evil ways, which are displeasing to a pure and holy God, the controversy between him and them will be made up. This is the doctrine of the Old and New Testament. Says God, by the prophet Isaiah: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Isaiah lv. 7.
It is the same under the dispensation of the gospel. There also forgiveness is annexed to repentance. This is the important doctrine preached by Christ himself, and his forerunner John the baptist, and his apostles after him.
Of John the baptist, St. Luke says: "And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins," Luke iii. S. The same is the character of our Lord's ministry, in all the Evangelists. "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." So in Matthew, ch. iv. 17. To the like purpose in Mark, ch. i. 14, 15. And our Lord, when risen from the dead, tells his disciples, that now "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name, among