The Law Established by the Faith of Christ.
To THE CONGREGATION AT PROVIDENCE CHAPEL, MONKWELL COURT, AND AT RICHMOND IN SURREY.
Dear Brethren and Sisters in Christ,
GRACE and peace be multiplied. I here send you what you desired, after a long and impatient waiting for it; it was a multiplicity of engagements that made the wheels of it drag so heavily, or else I should have been with you before now; besides, a part of the subject being a matter of much debate, it took me the more time in laying all to the rule; that as there was nothing crooked or perverse intended, so nothing crooked and perverse may appear. Putting the discourse since delivered from Rom. viii. 3, 4, as a supplement to this, would look too much like a garment of linen and woollen together; yet to oblige you, I have scattered here and there a little, some in the worp, and some in the woof, that it might come out all of a piece. May the Lord give you eyes to see for yourselves; and as it contains what I believe to be real gospel, and what some call dangerous errors, I hope you will try it by the same rule that I did; and if it lies straight with that, may the promised blessings attend it, and the readers of it. "As many as walk according to this rule, mercy on them, and peace, and upon the Israel of God."
Amen, says thy willing servant to command,
The apostle having been slanderously reported for preaching up free-grace, and unconditional salvation through faith in Christ, endeavours to vindicate his evangelical doctrine against their false charge, and to stop the mouths of his legal accusers. He insisted upon it, that the truth of God had abounded to the glory of God by his ministry?whether he was a true preacher, or a false one; "and as the truth of God had abounded to God's glory" by him, he ought not to have been judged as a sinner.
His accusers called him a liar, and his doctrine of free grace a lie; and others had avouched, that he was such an enemy to good works, that he even preached up wickedness ? and these were the words that they affirmed he dropped ? "Let us do evil that good may come." Paul on the other hand insisted on it, that if he was a liar; and his doctrine of free-grace a lie, that he had lied to the glory of God;" and that the "truth of God had abounded by his lie" ? which is not very likely, that the truth of God should be abundantly manifested and its power displayed in the destruction of false doctrine, and subjecting sinners to gospel obedience, so as for God to get a tribute of glory from the recipients of his doctrine, while Paul the minister of it preached nothing but lies. As though, Paul would say, Let my doctrine be lies or truth, God owns it, blesses it, sets his seal to it, and gets glory by it?and as God is glorified, and truth to sinners abundantly manifested, you ought to be silent, and do nothing rashly: for certainly God can get no glory by your slander, noise, and tumult. Paul finding these advocates for the law, carried on all their storm of raillery, lying, and rage in the behalf of good works, brings forth the sentence of the law, and its execution against them, and declares it just: for "if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory why am I also judged as a sinner? and not rather (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say, 'let us do evil, that good may come?' whose damnation is just," verse 8.
If this be the case, says Paul, then we are all on a level: for we have before proved, that both Jews, and Gentiles are all under sin; and if we are all in one state, why am I called, instructed, sanctified, and sent to preach? I am sent to preach, it is plain, because the truth of God hath abounded to his glory by my doctrine; and if I, and my fellow-labourers preach up evil works that good may come out of them, what are we better than they? If there is no difference (made by grace) between us?why doth God get glory by us, and we get reproach by you?
The apostle refers to the Psalms, and brings the declaration from heaven, to confirm his own doctrine, and to stop their mouth, from 10th verse to the 18th, and then applies it to them as the voice of the law, which they contended for. "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God," verse 19. Paul still sticks to his text, and declares that the "knowledge of sin is by the law;" but that justification comes from another quarter, verse 20, "namely, the righteousness of God, which without the law is manifested;" and this is no new doctrine: for "it is witnessed both by the law and the prophets"? even the righteousness which God the Saviour wrought out, and which God the Father accepted, and imputes to the believer in Jesus Christ, ver. 22. This method of justifying a sinner by the righteousness of Christ, is to the glory of free grace, and without any injury done to either law or justice, because it comes through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to magnify the law, satisfy justice, appease the wrath of God, and make reconciliation between God and sinners. And as the law is made honourable by Christ's life, and justice satisfied by his death, and the curse of the law fully executed on him, as the sinners surety, God appears still just to his law, and faithful to his threatening, as well as to his promise?free grace is exalted and the sinner is brought in debtor to that, and saved freely by it. So God appears strictly just, "and yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus," ver. 25,26. Now if all have sinned, and by the law is the knowledge of it, and all by that law are brought in guilty before God; for all have sinned, and so come short of the glory of God?and if the sinner is justified by free grace, through the redemption and mediation of another; "where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works?" Nay, for the work-monger is always the proudest man, I Tim. vi. 4; the most judicially blind, John, ix. 40; the greatest boaster, Ps. xciv. 4; the most like the devil, 1 Tim. iii. 6; and the farthest from the kingdom of God, Mat, xxi. 31 Nay, boasting is excluded by the spiritual law of wonder-working faith, that works a sinner out of himself into God, his Saviour, and leads him to make his boast of him all the day long. Whatever maketh a man rich, healthy, happy, glorious, and affords him long life, he is sure to boast of. Grace makes him spiritually rich, Rev. ii. 9; healthy, Ps. lxvii. 2; happy, Prov. iii. 13, glorious, Isa. lx. 1; and affords him everlasting life, without any regard to his deeds as a procuring, or meritorious cause thereof: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law," ver. 28. But perhaps you set yourselves up on the account of your being Jews, and having been circumcised?this is but a refuge of lies. " Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also," ver. 29. Your circumcision will not justify you before God, without Faith, nor shall the uncircumcision of the Gentiles condemn them, if they believe in Jesus; "seeing it is one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith," ver. 30.
Now I suppose you will run on; and declare, that we give a loose rein to all sin, corrupt the morals of the people, make void the whole law of God, and destroy all good works, by preaching free grace, and free justification by faith in Christ Jesus.
But stop, do not conclude too hastily?we do not injure, nor make void the law through faith?God forbid: it is established this way and no other. "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law," ver. 31.
Having introduced my text, I wish you to be attentive, while I offer my thoughts under the following heads:
And lastly, whether setting the law perpetually before all ranks of Christians as a rule of life; can with propriety be called speaking the language, or doing the work of an evangelist.
First, what are we to understand by the law of God? I understand (the decalogue, or) the ten commandments by it, that which the Lord gave in the twentieth chapter of Exodus, and which are repeated again by Moses in the fifth of Deuteronomy, "These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount, out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice, and he added no more," Deut. V. 22. This decalogue is the main root from which all other trunks and branches were drawn by Moses and the prophets. These words were written on two tables of stone, and put in the Ark, as God's everlasting testimony against all sin and sinners; hence, the Ark is called the Ark of the testimony; and to this testimony the tribes went up.
2dly. The law shadows forth many of the perfections of God; and it is a revelation of a great part of his mind and will, shewing what he willeth, and what he willeth not.
Though it cannot in the strictest sense be called a revelation of all the mind and will of God; for the mystery of his will to be made known touching the way of life in Christ, is brought to light through the gospel. A revelation of God, the law certainly is, as many of his glorious perfections shine therein; hence the ministration of death is said to be glorious.
The holiness of God appears in the law, "the law is holy;" and that perfection shining as a comet in the law, discovers our filthiness, and hence our enmity rises against both the law, and the law-giver: the carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to his law neither indeed can be."
The goodness of God appears in it?"the law is good;" because it commends nothing but what we know to be really good; and forbids nothing but what we know to be evil; therefore "it works death in us by that which is good," insomuch that our evil consciences will commend it "If our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God; is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? Rom. iii. 5. The justice of God appears in the law?" the commandment is just," Rom. vii. 12. We see his displeasure revealed against all sin, and his everlasting wrath against all sinners, and not a single ground of hope to be found in the law of commandments, that he will ever hold any guiltless, who transgresses the same?nor is there the least round of hope in all the book of God, that any one part thereof will ever be altered, or repealed; and consequently no mercy for them that die under its curse?"go ye cursed into everlasting punishment."
The immutability of God appears in the law; "God is of one mind, and none can turn him." This appears, if we consider the law as a revelation of wrath; the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, Rom. 1.18; which wrath is said to be the cup of unmixed wine, poured out into the cup of his indignation, which will be the portion of the wicked for ever, Mal. 1.4.
When Justice put that cup into the hands of our blessed Surety, the human nature shuddered at it, and the Saviour, with a three-fold petition, cried, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me;" but the removal of it could not be complied with. God spared not his own Son, and if he spared not his own Son, will he spare the sinner that dies under the law? Here Justice appeared in all her inflexibility; The law-giver and the law in their immutability, and the weight of wrath in all its dreadful appearance; sin in its just demerit; the malice of sinners in all its insensibility and cruelty, and the dear Redeemer in the highest act of unparalleled obedience.
The eternity of God appears in the law: the transgressors of it "shall go away into everlasting punishment," Matt. xxv. 46.
I know some of our troublers of Israel, who pretend to be famous Hebreians and Grecians, to support the new doctrines of a goal-delivery for the damned in hell tell us, that eternal and everlasting in the original languages have a limited sense; but I have found none so daring as to affirm that it admits of a limited sense when applied to the eternity of Jehovah, or to the eternal happiness of the saints. Let this be granted, and the eternity of God will appear in the law. It is proved that the law is expressive of many of the glorious perfections of God, which shine conspicuously in it. Hence it is said to be glorious. And let such gentlemen hope for a goal delivery for the damned, and try when they come there, if the abuse of goodness, the contempt of glory, the displeasure of a slighted God, scorned justice, derided immutability by a false hope in a mutable law and law-giver, do not to all eternity flash in the faces, and recoil on the consciences of all who die under the curse of that dreadful law. In the above sense, God, as an injured and offended Being, will ever visit unpardonable transgressors with the dreadful stripes of his iron rod. "If I go down into hell, thou art there also;" and the damned shall surely come out, when the immutable Jehovah admits of a change; but not till then.
If God can fail in his law, be must fail in himself; and if one perfection can be changed, so may all. But let God be true, says the Holy Ghost, and then we shall be able to agree with the same spirit, with respect to the law, "Thy law is the truth." Having given a brief description of the law, I now pass on to treat of the second branch of this head, namely, of the lawful use of it.
"The Law is good, if a man use it lawfully," I Tim. I. 8. It is lawful to sound God's dreadful alarm from it, in order to batter down the daubed wall of self-righteousness, and the false peace that attends it, Ezek. xii. 10. This was prefigured, by throwing down the wall of Jericho by the sound of rams' horns.
The spirituality of the law is to be insisted on; the law is of the same divine nature as the law-giver. "The law is spiritual, but the sinner is carnal, sold under sin." When the law is enforced in its spiritual meaning, and its spiritual demands discovered, the conscience or the sinner is laid open, his sin is exposed, and he appears under an awful arrest. When the commandment came, sin revived, and all manner of concupisence appeared. By the law is the knowledge of sin; "for I had not known lust, except the law had said, thou shalt not covet," Rom. vii.
The goodness of the law, the immutability, the eternity of it, and its unlimited demands, ought to be insisted on, in order to execute all legal hopes in a killing covenant and to drive the sinner out of all his false hopes and refuges of lies, by proving, that as "many as are of the works of it, are under the curse of it, Gal iii. 10; and dying under it, they must rise under it, and be condemned by it; for "heaven and earth shall pass away before one jot or tittle of the law shall fail," Matt. v. 18. The law will deliver every transgressor that is found under it up to the judge, and bring him to an account for every idle word; and the judge is bound by the immutable ties of truth and righteousness to deliver the criminal up to vindictive justice, and eternal justice will see the eternal sentence of the law eternally executed. The law, therefore, is lawfully used, when it is faithfully preached in its spiritual meaning to them that are under it; that the mouth of boasting may be stopped; and the sinner brought in guilty before God; for the language of the law is directed to all self-righteous souls that seek to be justified by it; "for we know what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law," Rom. iii. 19. A gospel minister may gospelize any part of the law, and set it, disarmed of its curse and condemning power, in a beautiful light before the eyes of a real Christian, and yet do the work of an evangelist: for instance, the law says, "And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us," Deut. vi. 25. I may warrantably declare that the law of God allows of a surety, and that Christ, as a surety, has magnified that law, and made it honourable, Isa. xlii. 21; which law has been broken by all the human race, (infants not excepted) as appears by comparing these scriptures together: 'the law is perfect, converting the soul," Psalm xix. 7. ''In sin was I shapen, and in iniquity did my mother conceive me," Psalm ii. 5. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one," Job, xiv. 4. Hence death reigned from Adam to Moses over them, [infants included] who had never sinned after the similitude, or in the [practical] manner of Adam's transgression. Wherever death reigns, sin enthrones him, either by imputation, original guilt, or actual transgression. "Sin entered, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned,' Rom. v. 12.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even righteousness of God [the Father's providing] [of God the Son's preparing] [and of God, the Holy Ghost's revealing and applying] which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe, Rom. iii. 21, 22.
I may further add, that the promised Spirit, as a covenant blessing, which is promised to all the elect, is Christ Jesus, Isa. lix. 21, is called the spirit of love, and of a sound mind, 2 Tim. i. 7. And God's love shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, is of the same spiritual nature of the law; for the law is fulfilled by real love, Rom. Xiii. 8. Thus a Christian, who has got an imputed righteousness on him, and a divine love in him, may say to the honour of free grace, "that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in me, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," Rom. viii. 4. For the Spirit testifies of righteousness to the believer; and he sheds abroad the love of God in the heart of him, which attracts the affections both to God, and to the child of God; he who loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him: love to God and the neighbour, are the two grand hinges on which hangs the ministry of all the law and the prophets.
A gospel minister may further evangelize the law; for instance, the law saith, "Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee," Exod. xx. 14. Now if I prove to a real Christian, that God is his father, John xx. 17, and that the church is his mother, Gal. iv. 26, in a gospel sense, I may likewise warrantably prove, by virtue of a covenant of promise, "that God is his life and the length of his days, Deut. xxx. 20; and, that he will, to all eternity be enjoyed by him in that land which is very far off; Isa. xxxiii. 17, which the "Lord God giveth us:" thus a gospel minister may gospelize the whole law, and do the work of an evangelist, without being charged with binding grievous burdens on men's shoulders, instead of teaching them to cast their burdens on the Lord.
The reply of some cavillers at God, and enemies to truth is; If Christ hath magnified the law, and by his magnifying obedience imputed, God justifies sinners; and if Christ, by his death satisfied justice, vanquished death, appeased the wrath of God, and reconciled the elect world to him; what becomes of the doctrine of forgiveness of sins, the gift of life, the gift of heaven, and all the doctrines of free grace? If a surety pays a debtor's full debt to a creditor, the debtor comes out of prison by law, and can in no sense whatever be said to be forgiven. This is a corner that the children of this world (who are wiser in their generation than the children of light,) have drove me into ere now; to which I answer, if a debtor gets a surety himself to pay the whole debt he has contracted, he is not beholden to his creditor, unless it was for trusting of him; but this is not the case between God and us.?When God the great creditor looked down from heaven on Adam's insolvent family, he found no surety among us; there was "none righteous, no not one; there was no eye to pity, or hand to help;" there was none to stand in the gap, that when God demanded, could answer a word; as it is written, when any of the bankrupt company came, "and took hold of his brother of the house of his father [Adam] saying, thou hast cloathing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand;" he being conscious of his own inability, refused the undertaking with an oath; as every sensible sinner will do, and "swear, saying, I will not be an healer: for in my house is neither bread nor cloathing; make me not a ruler of the people," Isa. iii. 6, 7. This being the outcry of every child of the flesh, to which we are all prone to fly, God was pleased to send us a ruler of his own providing, "whose goings forth have been from everlasting," Mic. v. 2.
Now, as the creditor provided the surety, which no law ever obliged a creditor to do, I still insist upon it, that law and justice are fully satisfied; and yet the doctrines of the forgiveness of sins, and of salvation by grace are fully established. Thus God got full satisfaction, and yet is a donor, and we are delivered consistent with law and justice, and yet shall remain to all eternity debtors to free grace. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning God the creditor, and his dear Son the surety; both being equally wronged and injured by the whole race of debtors.
It is true, Moses at times; and Phineas too, have stood in the gap; but the first representing Christ as the mediator, and the second representing him as a priest, they could close up no breach; but as a divine appointment, substituted them in proxy for Christ. And when all these types failed, the creditor soon made an awful seizure, crying out, "There is none to stand before me to make up the breach; and it grew so wide at last that Noah, Daniel, and Job could not have interceded with justice for one transgressor of the law, "nor could he have delivered either son or daughter;" but only his own soul by his righteousness, which must be perfect as the law itself is perfect.
I come now to show what the law can do. The law can discover sin; the knowledge of sin is by the law; for I had not known sin but by the law; the law can magnify sin, and make it look as it really is in the sight of God, that sin by the law may become exceeding sinful, Rom. vii. 13. It can give sin an advantage over the sinner, but when the commandment came, sin revived; "sin taking occasion by the law, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence, deceived me, and by it slew me." The law can furnish sin with strength, sufficient to deliver the sinner up as a condemned criminal, holden in the cords of his sin, to avenging justice, and fix sin on his conscience, as a never-dying worm; the strength of sin is the law, I Cor. xv. 56.
The law cannot subdue sin, nor give the sinner any dominion over it; by the first transgression guilt is contracted;?and the sting of death is fixed by the law, which is the ministration of death to every transgressor.
Thus the law is weak through the flesh; not weak in itself, not weak in its accusing, terrifying, binding, and condemning nature. Nor would it be weak in justifying, if a man could obey its commands; but fallen man can give it no obedience; and consequently the law can give no man quarters. "What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh [God hath done] by sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh; and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh," Rom. viii. 3.
Satan keeps his hold under the binding and condemning power of the law; the man that disobeys the precepts is bound in the chains of his transgression by the law, Isa. xlv. 14, and the devil holds dominion over him, as a condemned criminal, the prince of the power of the air [the devil] the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, Eph. ii. 2.
The law can furnish the unjustified sinner with an accuser, even in the presence of God: he who was once the mediator of that covenant, is now the accuser of all that seek righteouness by the works of it; "Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust, John v.45. The law can keep an infinite distance between God and the sinner, sin separates between God and the soul, Isa. lix. 2, and the law keeps the breach open, and will maintain an infinite distance; and, as a gulph fixed, keep an eternal separation between God and them who die under the sentence of it; hence the law is said to be against us, and contrary to us, Col. ii. 14. It is in vain that we look for Moses to stand in the gap; he stands there as a mediator no more; Moses, my servant, is dead as a mediator; but still stands in the gap that sin has made, as an accuser of the self-righteous.
The law is the husband of every soul that is alive to it, and expects life from it, and the law binds such a SOUl to itself, as a wife is bound to an husband; and such a mystical wife has a just right by law to all the dreadful inheritance that such a husband possesses, which is the whole magazine of eternal wrath. And if such a sinner in time offers to catch at Christ, it is deemed an act of adultery, because the first husband is alive; but when the sinner sees the law to be a killing letter, and betakes himself to Christ, he is become dead to it by the body of Christ, and is no adulterer, though it be married to Jesus, Rom. vii. 2, 3, 4.
The greatest advocates for the letter of the law, are the greatest enemies to the spirit of the gospel. The Saviour's persecutors and murderers, called themselves Moses' disciples, John ix. 28, and they were farther from the kingdom of God than publicans of harlots. And the worst persecutors of the Apostles were those who were zealous of the law of Moses, Acts, xxi. 20. As the Lord has often led me of late to make distinctions between the law and the gospel, as they are two distinct covenants, some have of late thought proper to discharge a few arrows from their pulpits at me for it; such ought to take heed and do nothing rashly, lest they bring poor souls just entering the land of promise, back again to Egypt, the way that God has said they shall go no more. God has given me to feel the force and power of both of them, and I hope he will ever keep me from blending them together. I have narrowly observed several professors, who shewed great regard, and a deal of zeal for the law, who afterwards sunk into the very bowels of arminianism, and from thence into open profanity. I have been personally acquainted with several of this miserable stamp, and I am much mistaken if they are not gone too far ever to come back. If the power of God is not sufficient to keep a man through faith in Christ, no legal tie will ever do.
2dly. What the law cannot do.
It cannot pardon a sinner; the language of the law is I will never hold him guiltless that taketh God's name in vain: nor can it ever clear the guilty by any means whatsoever: all the sacrifices that were offered under it, never made any person clean touching his conscience, Heb. ix. 9.
The law cannot make any allowance either for giddy youth, or doating age; either for habitual infirmities, or violent temptations. "He that offends in one point, is guilty of all, and heaven and earth shall pass away before one jot or tittle of the law shall fail."
"The law cannot quicken, or give any life; it is the ministration of death and condemnation, 2 Cor. iii. 7, 8, 9; and every soul that is under it, is twice dead; he is under the sentence denounced against Adam, and is born dead, and under the curse of the law denounced against every transgressor. And such an one is exposed to its eternal sentence, unless free grace should reach him. Had there been a law given that could have given life, verily righteousness would have been by that law, Gal. iii, 21. I know the law saith, "He that doth these things shall live in them." But I much question, whether "eternal life in glory," be meant in this conditional promise, as a blessing to be earned by works: Adam had no promise but an earthly paradise; and a derived dominion for his obedience; he had no promise of eternal life and glory in heaven for his obedience. It is true, Jesus Christ lived in his merit; and no wonder, when he was the Lord of life and glory, the quickening Spirit, the resurrection, and eternal life itself.
But let that be as it may, his human nature was not left without a promise of life; whether this promise was the conditional promise of the law, or an absolute promise of the better covenant, I shall not stand to enquire; but I think it was the latter. The promise is this: "For he shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation," Psalm xci. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16.
As I can find no such promises as the above in the law; I take it for granted that they are promises of the better covenant, and applicable enough to Christ, to whom the promises was made, and in whom they are all, yea and amen; and in him (as one blessed head) they are sure to all the seed, Rom. ix. 16. The Saviour, speaking as the son of man intimates as much,. To the honour and glory of the Father. "As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me," John, vi. 57. I do not perceive anything in the above assertions dishonourable to the Saviour; or his merit; but contrariwise. If we consider that Christ's human nature was spotless, "sanctified and sent into the world," inhabited by the second person in the ever-blessed Trinity, who is God over all, in union with God the Father, and in essence one with him, John x. 30, furnished with all the seven-fold graces, gifts, and blessings of the Holy Ghost, Isa. xii. 2, all grace poured into his lips, Psalm xlv. 2, all judgment and power comitted to him, all the riches of wisdom and knowledge treasured up in him, Co. ii. 3, a promise of life and glory set before him, Psalm xci. 11, and God the Father, helping, Psalm xxii. 11, and justifying him; his righteousness, must be an everlasting righteousness indeed, sufficient to justify all the world, if God were pleased to impute it to them: and surely those can never escape the damnation of hell, that call it imputed nonsense, if they die under the perilous guilt of such daring contempt of the Son of God.
The law cannot justify any man that is of the works of it, let him try his utmost; he is a debtor to do the whole commands of the law who works for life; and nothing less than a perfect, spiritual, and perpetual obedience will do to justify him who cleaves to it, but to him that worketh not, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt; but to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Rom. Iv. 4, 5.
Can the law bring a sinner to Christ for life and salvation? No, it can never deliver a sinner up to Christ, as the judge of quick and dead; "Agree, says the Lord, with thine adversary quickly, lest he haul thee to the judge."
You will reply and say, Yes; the law can bring us to Christ for salvation; as it is written, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith," Gal. iii. 24. The words [to bring us] are in italics, as a supplement; and I think they were neither expressed nor used in the original copy; and it is plain, that those who put these words in, have made that text contradict the Savior; who hath twice declared, "that no man can come to him, except the Father which hath sent him, draw him," John. vi. 44,65. "No man can come unto me, except it were given him or my Father." This drawing, and this giving, belongs to another covenant Thus, the comer to Christ is drawn of the Father, drawn by the cord of everlasting love, Jer. xxxi. 3, as with the hands of a man, Hosea xi. 4. But there is nothing drawing in the law of commandments, God knows; it hardly tells us to run for help, much less bring us to Christ. It is the voice of grace that tells us to flee from the wrath to come.
When the law was delivered on Mount Sinai, there was bounds set round the mount, to keep the people from approaching the law-giver, and to this day, they that stick the closest to the law, are the farthest from God. If any law can bring a sinner to Christ, it is the ceremonial law, for that represents Christ Jesus in almost every part; and, as Milton observes, Israel was trained up under it, "unto a better covenant, disciplined from shadowy types to truth, agreeably to John i. 17; from flesh to spirit, from impositions of strict laws, to large acceptance of free grace, from servile fear to filial;" and so they were taught says the learned author, to know that the law was given on purpose, to "envince their natural depravity by stirring up sin against law to fight, that when they saw that the law could discover sin, but not remove, save by those shadowy expiations weak, the blood of bulls and goats?they might conclude, some blood more precious must be paid for man, just for unjust, that in such righteousness to them by faith imputed, they might find justification towards God and peace of conscience, which the law cannot give, nor man the moral part perform, and not performing, cannot live, so law appears imperfect." The learned author intimates, that it was shadowy types that led to truth, "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ;" and I think, that sacrifices, which he calls "shadowy expiations weak," were the most likely to bring Israel to conclude that some blood more precious, must be paid for man, &c.
However, if it can be proved that the moral law is sufficient to bring a sinner to Christ, I have no objection to it. But this I know, it was a powerful voice from heaven (and the words of that voice are not to be found in the law of commandments) that brought me to Christ. And I believe I felt as much of the law's condemning power, as any mortal living, excepting none; and instead of bringing me to Christ, it brought me to wish, that there was no God, no judgment to come, no future reckoning, no eternal existence for my soul hereafter, and finally, to wish I had been a beast.
I know some now, who are in black despair under the law, and can describe the law in all its dreadful demands, and fiery indignation, with as much sensation, as any gospel minister in England, and yet it has not brought them to Christ, nor do I believe that it ever will; the spirit of faith must work a confidence in the mind, before the sinner comes to God by Christ. It is faith that is the moving foot; "He that comes to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of all them that diligently seek him," Heb. xi. 6, And this faith is always accompanied with the Lord's revealed arm, "Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" Isaiah, liii. 1. No coming after the saviour till this is the case; "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed," Acts, xiii. 48. And all will agree, that unbelief is a departing from God, Heb. iii. 12, and that faith is coming to him; "And the law is not of faith, but the man that doth them, shall live in them," Gal. iii. 12. It is easy to prove, that all the drawing, bringing, and coming to Christ, lies in unconditional promises, which promises must belong to the better covenant, called the covenant of promise, Eph. ii. 12.
Thus it appears, that the law cannot give life, nor justify the sinner, nor lead him, or bring him to Christ; but if any are contentious, and will have it, that the law's conditional promise of life be meant of eternal life in glory, it is plain, that the law promised what it cannot perform; for if there had been a law that could have given life, verily righteousness would have come by that law; but as it does not, I choose not to "frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain," Gal. ii. 21. But, if only temporal life be intended in the law's promise, agreeably to the "first commandment with promise, which is, Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee," then according to David's account, it is but a poor life at best that the law promises; "the days of man are threescore years and ten, and if by reason of strength he come to fourscore years, then is his strength but labour and sorrow:" and labour and sorrow are of so little value to a soul that desires to be with Christ, that it is hardly worth his while to contend for it.
It appears plain to me, that that man who has felt the most of the laws severity, will handle it the most lawfully; and he that is a stranger to the terrors of the law, knows the least of the sweetness of the gospel; he that it muddy in the gospel, is the same in the law. The brightest evangelist is the best law preacher, as appears by the doctrine of our dear Redeemer; who preached the gospel with such clearness, as none can" and the law in such a light, as none ever did. Therefore, he that legally sticks to the law, is sure to obscure the gospel; and the greatest advocates in pretension for the law, are the greatest enemies to the liberty of the gospel; and the vilest blasphemers of God, witness our British Pope, I mean the Arminian Leader, who in show and pretence, is the greatest advocate for the law in all the island of Great Britain. And I think I can defy all the annals of earth and hell, to produce such dreadful blasphemy as he has taught and published. Produce one monster of a professor, not excluding Cain, that has called the everlasting righteousness of the Son of God, "imputed nonsense;" and the decree Of God, "a horrible decree;" and the doctrines of election and predestination, "the devils law." I defy you all to produce me such blasphemy from any creature, either men or devils, till our present legal advocate appeared. We all know that God's decree of predestination was settled from all eternity, before there was any devil at all; therefore it could not be any law of his. Had he laid by his doctrine of fleshly perfection, and called the corruptions of the Christian's heart (that wars against the law of his mind), "the devils law," he would have been in the right; for the devil's law it certainly is, or else it would never war against the law of God, which is written in the Christian's mind; and it is plain, that the devil put it there at first, Gen. iii. 4, and labours to maintain its authority now, even in the best of saints, and in the rays of the brightest light that ever shone in a saint, Rom. vii. 22,23.
It appears plain, that the law cannot give spiritual, temporal, nor eternal life; nor can the law keep any sort of life sure to the Christian; "for the life that now is, and that which is to come," lays in a promise. Nor is a Christian to live under the law, as a covenant of works, nor shall sin have dominion over them that refuse thus to live; for such are "not under the law, but under grace;" nor are they to serve God in that legal yoke, which none can bear, but to take Christ's yoke upon them, and "serve God in the newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter."
Nor is the real saint commanded to keep the law perpetually before his eyes; but have respect to all his commandments, and set God always before his face, that he may be at his hand in every time of danger, so that he may not be greatly moved. Thus Paul sets us a race to run, and tells us to "run it, looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." And, as God has promised "to keep that man in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on him, and has commanded every believer to walk in Christ Jesus the Lord as they received him," I believe those Christians who take him as he has revealed himself to them, as the way, the truth, and the life," will be found to be the best observers of the law in the end; unless we suppose that union with Christ, and a sense of pardoning love, destroys good works. However, as the Lord is the root and stock of every real Christian, union and communion with him is the only way "for the tree to be made good;" and Truth has said, that "if the tree be good, the fruit will be good also."
I now pass on to shew what we may understand by faith.
By faith we may understand four things.
Firstly, The object of faith. Secondly, The doctrines or faith. Thirdly, The grace of faith. And, Fourthly, The life of faith.
First, The object of faith
The unity of the divine essence is the grand object of faith, there is one God.?"Hear, O Israel! the Lord thy God is one Lord." A plurality of persons in the unity of the godhead, is an object of faith also.?"There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one," 1 John, v. 7. The nearest person to our faith is the Saviour;?for it is "by him that we believe in God," 1 Peter, i. 21. And again?"Ye believe in God, believe also in me," as the way to him. As we are baptized in the name of the Holy Ghost, as well as in the name of the Father and the Son, Mark xvi. 16; so are we blessed in the name of the Holy Ghost, as well as in the name of the Father and the Son; "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you all." The distinct personality, and essential divinity of the Holy Ghost, is clearly asserted in the Book of God, and therefore the plurality of persons in the Godhead must be credited and acknowledged by every real believer, as the object of faith; there is no "coming to the full assurance of understanding, until we acknowledge the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ," Col. ii. 2.
2dly. By faith we may understand the doctrines of faith, which the Apostle calls faith?"only they had heard that he who persecuted us in times past, now preached the faith which once he destroyed, Gal. i. 23; which I take to be meant of the doctrines which he preached; the doctrines of faith are too numerous for all to be inserted here. The main and most essential points are the doctrines of the Trinity before mentioned; the doctrines of election and predestination to life, which are always revealed to real faith; hence faith is called by way of distinction, "the faith of God's Elect," Tit. i. 1, because it is never found but in the Elect of God; and because real faith lays hold on the doctrines of Election, which false faith calls a horrible decree.
The doctrine of particular redemption, is a doctrine of faith. Faith overcomes the frowns, the smiles, the rage, the vanities, the false religion of the world, and the god of this world also: "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith;" and faith does this by the blood of the Lamb. The doctrine of free justification, by an imputed righteousness, is a doctrine of faith: hence imputed righteousness is called, by way of distinction, "the righteousness of faith," Rom. iv. 11; Rom. x. 6.
The doctrine of effectual grace changing and renewing the soul, is a doctrine of faith, for every real believer is thus renewed in his measure; the final perseverance of the saints, is a doctrine of faith, hence the Christian is said to be "kept by the power of God through faith to salvation," 1 Pet. i. 5. The grace of faith may be implied in my text.
As a most valuable blessing given of God," Eph. ii. 8, and a choice fruit of the Holy Ghost, Gal. v. 22, and is secured to every chosen sheep of Christ, and none else; "ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you," John, x. 26; but those who are ordained to eternal life were also ordained to "live by faith, for as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
The life and feats of faith may be implied in my text, as it is a grace that God highly honours, "all things are possible to him that believeth;" and it is a grace that highly honours God, by giving all the glory to him; Abraham "was strong in faith, giving glory to God." It is a grace that attends every prevalent petition, and without it all prayer is vain; it is a grace that God is well pleased with, "without faith it is impossible to please God." It is a grace that receives all supplies from the Saviour's fullness, hence we are said to "live by the faith of the Son of God;" it is a grace that gives the Saviour a comfortable residence, a dwelling in the heart, because it works by love to him, "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;" faith is said to be "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen," Heb. xi. 1. Our present and eternal portion is said to lie in it; "hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith?" In short, it is a grace that "purifies the heart," that "works by love,"' that overcomes the world; it has subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, stopped the mouths of lion,, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight all the armies of the aliens." It is a grace that empties the creature, a grace that as a strong hand, lays hold of Christ, as an eye it looks to Christ, as a mouth it feeds on Christ, and brings every supply from Christ; and the business of it is to honour God, and feed the soul; righteousness and strength, light and life, peace and joy; the blessings necessary for this life, and the glory of the next are promised to saving faith. And it is a grace that will always show itself by its fruits, without a person's "sounding his own trumpet before him, as the hypocrites do."
I go on prove, that "by preaching of faith," we establish the law, and how.
First, By preaching the grand satisfaction of Christ, we prove that the law is "obeyed, magnified, and made honourable by one who is equal to the law-giver, and consequently equal to the law, [Christ] "thought it no robbery to be equal with God, yet took on him the form of a servant, and became obedient [from his birth unto his death] even the death of the cross," Phil. ii. ver. 6, 7, 8. By Christ's life, the law was made honourable, and by his death, Justice got her utmost demands; and truth with respect to all the promises and shadows which went before concerning Christ and salvation by him, was fully cleared; and God's honour, which was much obscured by every transgressor, was restored to its lustre and glory, by the perfect obedience of his Son; and a glorious way was opened for mercy to reign triumphant to the honour of justice.
Is the law glorious, holy, just, good, spiritual, true, and eternal? Let it be so. Christ is the"express image of the Father's person, and the brightness of his glory." Is the law holy? Christ is the holy one. Is the law just? Christ is the just one. Is the law good? Christ is the good shepherd. Is the law spiritual? Christ is the Lord from heaven, the quickening spirit; yea, the resurrection, and the life. Is the law true? Christ is the true God and eternal life. Is the law eternal? Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. Does the law say thou shalt fear thy God? here is a servant on whom the spirit of the fear of the Lord rested. Does it say thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart? Here is a person that is really God, and God is love; does the law say, thou shalt be holy, for I the Lord thy God am holy? here is one that is holy as God, holy as man, and holy as Godman, who was born a holy thing, never conceived an unholy thought, never spoke an unholy word, nor made an unholy slip with his feet; "which of you convinceth me of sin; and if I speak the truth, why do ye not believe me?" The devil himself justified him, when he said, "I know thee who thou art, the holy One of God;" Judas justified him also, when he said, "I have sinned against innocent blood;" Pilate justifed him, when he "washed his hands and said, I am innocent of the blood of this just person, see ye to it." His wife justified him when she said, "have thou nothing to do with that just person, for I have suffered many this night in a dream because of him;" the company of murderers justified him, when "they smote on their breasts, and said, Truly this was the Son of God." The soldiers justified him, when they declared the "angels from heaven had rolled away the stone and sat upon it;" and the rulers justified him, when they said, "Take this money and say that his disciples came by night and stole him away; and if this comes to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you;" God the Father justified him by raising him from the dead, and us with him; God the Holy Ghost justifies him by testifying of his resurrection, and of his righteousness to every believer; and the Saviour justified himself by confounding every false witness at his trial, and striking his adversaries to the ground when they came to take him; (to fulfil the words of the Psalmist "when they came to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.")
When the divine Lawgiver saw such a wonderful person, and such a wonderful obedience, every perfection of Deity harmonized and proclaimed a combined satisfaction. Justice says, "by the blood of thy covenant I will send forth the prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water," and "that I am faithful and just to forgive sins and to cleanse them from all unrighteousness," 1 John, i. 9. While the law says, Get a perfect righteousness, and I will never condemn thee; my business is, "to condemn the wicked, to bring his wickedness upon his own head, but to justify the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness," 2 Chron. vi. 23. Holiness says, I am the "Lord that sanctify you," Lev. xx. 8. Verity says, "receive the truth, and the truth shall make you free," John, viii. 32. Light says, I will "shine on those that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death," Luke, i.79. Wisdom says, "I lay up sound wisdom for the righteous," Prov. ii. 7.; and "make them wise unto salvation," 2 Tim. iii. 15. Peace says, I proclaim "peace to him that is afar off, and to him that is near," Isa. lvii. 19. Loving-kindness says, "I will never leave him, nor forsake him," Psalm lxxxix. 33. faithfulness says, "I will never alter the word that is gone out of my lips; my covenant will I not break, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail." Mercy says, "I will be merciful to whom I will be merciful, and I will be built up for ever," Psal. lxxxix. 9. Omnipresence says, "and lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world," Matt. xxviii. 20. And Omnipotence says, "my grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in thy weakness," 2 Cor. ii. 9. Life says, "because I live, you shall live also," John, xiv. 19. Eternity says, "Israel shall be saved in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation," Isa. xlv. 17. Glory says, "he raiseth up the beggars from the dunghill, and maketh them to inherit the throne of glory," 1 Sam. ii. 8. And the triune Jehovah says, "they shall be made perfect in one," John, xvii. 2,3, and "filled with all the fullness of God," Eph. iii. 19.
Thus we establish the law in the hand of the Lawgiver, to the honour of, and agreeable to, the joint declaration of all the perfections of deity; while God justifies the ungodly. God having his law magnified by the Saviour's life, and justice fully satisfied by his death, the Saviour's obedience becomes the honourable basis of a throne of grace; "justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne; mercy and truth shall go before thy face," Psal.. lxxxix. 14. Thus God appears just, both to the precept, and to the penalty of the law, even when he justifies a sinner; as it is written, "whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare at this time his righteousness [or justice] that God might appear just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus," Rom. iii. 25. Thus the law is established in the hand of the Law-giver.
2dly. We establish the law; as [disarmed of its curse and condemning power] in the heart or the Meditorial King Christ Jesus. When he came to fulfil it he said, "thy law is within my heart," Psalm xl. 8. As the law used to be shut up in the ark, which was a true type of Christ; Christ having taken the sentence which was against us, and "contrary to us, out of the way, nailing it to his cross," Col. ii.14. Hence the Lord Jesus keeps the magnified and disarmed law in his own heart, and appears both a "just God and a Saviour," inasmuch as he did not save any, but at the expense of his blood; "ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price," I Cor. vi. 20. Thus the Christian is not in without law to God, but "under the law to Christ," 1 Cor. ix. 21.
3rdly. We establish the law in the heart of every real child of God, as it is written, "but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people," Jer xxxi.33; and by preaching up an imputed righteousness commensurable to the law; and the love of God that fulfils the law; we establish the law as fulfilled in the heart of a Christian. The law says nothing against a surety, nothing against an imputed righteousness, nor does it say anything against the love of God. Hence we conclude with the apostle, "that the believer has got the righteousness of Christ on him, and the love of God shed abroad in him;" the first being adequate to the law, and the latter the fulfilment of it; we may say in the language of the scripture,"that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit," Rom. viii. 4. Thus the law is established in the heart of every child of God.
4thly. We establish the law in the hand of justice as a covenant of works demanding perfect and perpetual obedience on penalty of damnation of all the unconverted offspring of Adam; And that the law stands, in all its divine sanction against every soul that is out of Christ; "as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse of it," Gal. iii. 10. And the just Judge of all the earth stands bound by divine verity to pass the sentence of the law on all that die under it; "depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels," Matt. xxv. 41. Thus the law is established in the hands of justice, and is the immutable basis of a throne of judgment; take away the law, and down comes the throne of judgment; for "where there is no law, there is no transgression," and consequently no call for a judge, nor a judgment seat. But God has prepared his throne for judgment. And we affirm, that though Christ has magnified the law, and made it honourable; yet he never abolished it; he fulfilled it, but never repealed it, or made it void in any sense whatever.
5thly. As so many of the glorious attributes of God appear in the law; and that the law is divine and spiritual, so is it eternal also, and established for ever. Therefore they who die under it, as a covenant of works, shall find to their everlasting confusion, that the law shall never pass away, that not a jot or tittle of it shall ever fail; be repealed, altered, mitigated, or abolished; but the wicked shall go away into eternal punishment. I am credibly informed that the same word [eternal] which fixes the state of the just, fixes also the doom of the damned; and what every hypocrite may say, Christ declares to every unbeliever, "Whither I go, ye cannot come," John, viii. 21, ye cannot pass over the gulph fixed to come from the regions of the dead; "verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall by no means come out thence till ye have paid the very last mite." But lying in a prison, never pays debts, much less can the damnation of a sinner, who will curse his Maker to all eternity be meritorious. As some blasphemously assert, who have of late invented a second purgatory, declaring, that after sinners have lain in hell for a certain time, all shall be restored to the divine favour, devils and all; which is hard to account for, because there are some who never were in the divine favour at all; and that the damned shall suffer for a time, the judgment day, is altogether as strange, when Christ has sworn that time shall be no more; the judgment of the wicked, and time will both end together; and according to Christ's oath, time shall be no more. All beyond time is vast eternity, and if eternity can find a period, then may such a jail-delivery be. Thus we establish the sentence of the law, the wrath of it, the execution of it, together with all its thundering contents, in every spirit angelic or human, even in hell. "If I go down into hell, thou art there also. Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid; Yea, we establish the law."
6thly. We establish the law before the eyes of every real believer, as a bounds that God has fixed, prohibiting all iniquity at the expense of the rod of His fatherly displeasure. "But if his children forsake my law, and walk not in my statutes, then will I visit their sins with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes; nevertheless my loving-kindness, I will not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail," Psalm lxxxix. 30, 32, 33.
We establish the law in the affections of a real believer, by telling him, that the law is now a friend to him, he being in Christ Jesus; the law is kind in allowing the poor debtor a surety, the creditor was kind in sending one, the surety was kind in paying the debt. The law finds no fault, with an imputed righteousness; a man being found in this, the law cannot condemn him, "Knowing that the law is not made for [to condemn] a righteous man, but for [to condemn] the lawless and disobedient," 1 Tim. i. 9.
The law is no foe to a debtor who is cleared by a surety; for instance?suppose I owe fifty pounds, and am imprisoned for it, a surety stands forth and pays the debt, and gets a receipt from the creditor: no just creditor will attempt to keep me in prison after payment; so the Christian, when he has got the witness of God in his heart, comes out by law. Thus such a change in affairs makes a terrible law a friend to a prisoner. Again, suppose an innocent person and a murderer are both sworn against as guilty of one and the same crime, when upon fair trial the innocent person is cleared, and the murderer cast; the same law which is an enemy to the murderer, is the friend to the innocent; so here the accusing devil torments both the righteous and the wicked; but in the eyes of law and justice one is found complete in Christ Jesus:?Justice says, "I see no sin in Jacob, nor perverseness in Israel," Numb. xxiii. 21. But the unjustified person is found in old Adam, under Adam's law, a hater of God and of the godly, Justice says to such, "No murderer hath eternal life abiding in him," 1 John, iii. 14. Here the law, which is the adversary to the infidel, is a friend to the believer; and no wonder, when retributive Justice says, "I am faithful and just to forgive you your sins, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness," 1 John, i. 9. To be brief; it is a just God, consistent with law and justice, who justifies the ungodly by the imputation of the surety's righteousness. Hence the justified soul sees law and justice, as they are found in the Mediator, both friends to him; and as he has got a righteousness on him that is commensurate with the law, the language of his faith is, "with my mind I serve the law of God." Such a soul knows that love is the fulfilling of the law; and as love is the very soul of the new creature, he can say in an holy triumph, "I delight in the law of God after the inner man," Rom. vii. 22. And he that walks in faith and love, walks in the commandments of the Lord blameless; nor has such a soul any just cause to be ashamed, having a respect to all the commandments. Thus we establish the law as disarmed of its curse and condemning power [by Christ] before the eyes, and in the affections of every real believer. "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law."
If the legalist that works for life can get the inheritance, then faith is made void, and the promise of God of none effect, Rom. iv. 14. "But is the law against the promises of God? God forbid," Gal. iii. 21. And if preaching of faith overthrows the law, then the law is made void. "But do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid," says my text. Thus the law is established without any prejudice to the promise; and faith in the promise is established without any prejudice to the law. I go on to shew who they are who make void the law.
The deist acknowledges no Saviour, no gospel, no judgment to come, consequently no judge, and consequently no law. Thus he makes void both law and gospel, and calls it a system of empty priestcraft. Thus he makes all void.
The universal lover, who declares that God never made any man to damn him, but that all will be saved, whether elect or not, by the doctrine of universal redemption; he dethrones justice, removes by his damnable heresy the judgment-seat, and consequently he leaves the law void of its just possessor, because "justice and judgment are the habitation of God's throne," Psalm lxxxix. 14. If justice and judgment be taken away, the just God and the judge must of necessity go also. Thus their doctrine makes void the law, and leaves it without its just inhabitant.
3dly. The blind guide, who tell us that Christ came to give a remedial law, to mitigate the severity of the decalogue, and to set us an example by his holy life, that we might imitate him in his walk, and be able to keep this mild law; the decalogue being too severe, the Saviour came to soften the matter. Thus he makes void the law, by setting up one of his own contriving.
And those that tell us that good works are meritorious in the sight of God, and that God is merciful and knows our failings, and will not be so extremely severe as his law represents him, but in his mercy will accept the will for the deed, and that we are to entertain the best opinion of his mercy (while truth and justice are kept out of sight), such explain away the sentence of the law, and all the wrath of God revealed in it; and so leave it empty, void, and waste, by taking way or obscuring all the dreadful contents of it.
4thly. The arian who takes, away (by his damnable heresy) the Godhead of Christ, takes away also the divinity, the spirituality, the immutability, and the eternity of the law, by declaring that the surety is no more than a mere man. The surety must be equal to the law?and if a mere man was sufficient to fulfil it, and redeem us from under it, then there can be no divine sanction belonging to it. Thus he makes void the glory of the law, by telling poor proud mortals that the active and passive obedience of a creature; is sufficient to ransom from death, and to justify thousands of souls before God. Thus he eclipses the honour and glory of all the intrinsic perfections of God that appear in the law, and leaves it empty and void, of all the glory of God that appeared on the face of Moses. Thus he strips the law of all its divine glory, by stripping the Saviour of his Godhead; and consequently, he strips the Saviour's merits of their infinite and eternal worth and dignity. This he does when he tells us, "that God might have made a Saviour of him, if he had chose."
Those who labour to stuff the weaklings in faith (who are galled with the yoke of the law) with forms and modes of human composition, in order to heal the dreadful wound, telling them that keeping the sabbath, keeping their church, and coming to the Lord's table, is the only way, instead of leading them to the liberty of the spirit in Christ Jesus. These make void the thundering power of the law; and by leading them to works of the flesh they lead them to the law of works for establishment.
And those who tell us that assuming the gown, and reading the form of prayer, is the only way to entangle sinners, "by fighting them with their own weapons," do in effect make void the law, as if that when lawfully handled under God, is not sufficient to convince the sinner, bring him in guilty, and stop the mouth of boasting, without the crafty inventions of men. Such wise gentlemen had better lay their weapons by, "and take them that are not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down every imagination that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and to bring in every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ," 2 Cor. x 4. The man that entangles a people in the yoke of priestcraft, and sets human inventions, and human learning perpetually before their eyes, establishes the faith of his followers in the "wisdom of men, instead of the power of God," 1 Cor. ii.5; and as far as he goes in this work, so far "he makes the commandments of God of none effect by his traditions."
And preaching neither law nor gospel purely, but a jumble of both; beginning a discourse with old wives' fables, and country tales, coming almost to the purity of the gospel in the middle of the discourse, and ending with hell and damnation, is very little better; for it looks as if there was no evangelical fruits of obedience to be produced by the grace of God; but that all must be forced, as asparagus, or cucumbers are, with a violent and disagreeable heat. If we do not rightly divide the word of truth, we make a false jumble both of law and gospel; and as far as we confound, or blend the two covenants together, so far we obscure the flames of justice, and the rays of the gospel, and in a sense make neither effectual. I have heard many such confused jumbles of law and gospel, linen and woollen together, Deut. xxii. 11. Oxen and asses in one yoke, Deut, xxii.10, and divers seeds scattered in one soil, Lev. xix.19, all which God strictly forbids: such jumbles serve to convince the godly, that such preachers' hearts are wholly void of the power of either law or gospel.
And they do very little better than make void the lawful use of the law, who are continually using of it, as the only way to reclaim, reform, and moralize poor sinners, without aiming at their conversion to God; there can be no fruits brought forth to the glory God, without transplanting and engrafting. The sinner must be translated from darkness to light, 1 Peter ii. 9, and be engrafted into Christ by faith, and united to him in the bond of divine love, before he can bring forth fruit unto God. "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing," John xv. 2,4,5. Preaching the law perpetually, or even gospel doctrines in a law spirit, may put Satan in fear of losing his habitation, and in his infernal policy, the unclean spirit may go out of the man; but if he returns as an angel of light to illuminate, 2 Cor. xi. 14; as a spirit of self-righteousness, Luke xviii. 14; a spirit of pride in a reformation, Prov. xxx. 12; a spirit of insensibility, Rev. iii. 18; a spirit of vain confidence, Job xviii. 14; a spirit of blind zeal, Gal. iv. 17, and as a spirit of carnal security, attended with false joy, Matt. xiii. 6. These seven devils entering into the heart of the reformed, "make the last state of that man worse than the first," Matt. xii. 45. And when such preachers or professors thus reformed, turn arians, antinomians, or what is still worse, arminians; then all are astonished at their departure from their confession; when alas, the instrumental cause of the pupil's apostasy, was the tutors mongrel ministry! Let some in our days look to this, who have often suffered loss in the fiery trial, and the fault lies in the mixed materials, "of wood, hay, and stubble, jumbled with the gold, silver, and precious stones of the gospel," I Cor. iii. 12, 13.
And those who catch a few gospel truths in their head (while destitute of, and sneerers at an heart-felt experience of the force and power of truth on the soul) make void both law and gospel in their life and conduct, while they herd with the wicked, boast of vain confidence, and prate in sinful company about the word of God. Such proclaim to the world that they are under no yoke; they are neither awed by the law, nor constrained by the gospel; they are vain in their imaginations (and though their head be enlightened), yet their foolish heart is darkened, Rom. i. 21; but this will be the case, where the heart never was united to, nor any pleasure taken in the happy enjoyment of Christ Jesus.
"I come now to make a modest inquiry, whether the decalogue of itself, exclusive of the promises and other parts of scripture, be a sufficient, and a scriptural rule for the real Christian's life, walk, and conversation."
The word "rule" in scripture chiefly means two things; first, dominion, government, or authority, either given of God, or usurped; "by me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth," Prov. viii. 16; and again, "as for my people, women rule over them," Isa. iii. 12. But the law as a covenant of works is not to reign and rule over a believer, no; "Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace," Rom. vi. 14, we are under the law in no other sense than to Christ, 1 Cor. ix. 21. Christ is the believer's supreme head and ruler?"Out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is to be the Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting," Mich. v. 2.
2dly. The word "rule" in scripture sometimes means an instrument, by which lines are drawn; "the carpenter stretcheth out his rule, he marketh it out with a line, he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass," Isa. xliv. 13.
Now, as a rule is an instrument to work by, the law, if it be a sufficient rule of life, must be an instrument of government, given by the Supreme Ruler for a Christian to work by, to live by, to walk by, and to converse by.
I once had a little dispute with a good minister of Jesus Christ, who, I believe, disputed with me out of love; and he did insist upon it, that the decalogue, or ten commandments, was the believer's only rule of life; and this he tried to prove by quoting some passages out of Paul's Epistle to the Romans; and if I am not mistaken, the words are in the 13th chapter, 9th and 10th verses; he said, "The Romans to whom Paul wrote, were believers in Jesus Christ, and that Paul sent those commandments to them, as a rule of life." We did not altogether agree in these things; but we parted very good friends, and I hope we shall always continue so.
A rule of divine life, the decalogue can never be; for life comes not by working, or walking; life is the gift of God, a blessing of the covenant of grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began, and so before there was any law at all;. nor is spiritual life kept up, either by working, or walking, but by believing; nor is it treasured up in the law; for Christ is our life, and we "live by the faith of the Son of God; he that believeth, hath everlasting life; he that liveth and believeth, shall never die." The decalogue is neither the fountain nor the rule of divine life to a Christian; for the law quickens none; divine life came from another fountain, and is kept up by another rule.
As it is not a rule of divine life, let us try it as a rule of direction for a believer to lay all that he does, and all that befals him in this life too. We will, in the first place, bring some of the actions of former saints, and some of our own also, and lay them to the decalogue, as the only rule, and see how they will fit.
We read that when Abraham heard that his brother Lot was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. And he divided himself against them, he, and his servants, by night, and smote them; and Melchisedec, the priest of the Most High God, went out and met him, and in the name of God he blessed him, as soon as he returned from the slaughter of the kings, Gen. xiv. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18,19; Heb, vii. 1. These kings had not declared war with Abraham, nor had they invaded his property, that he should kill them; nor had they killed his brother, that he should avenge the blood of him; for Abraham brought Lot back alive; lay these things to the decalogue, as the only rule, and see how they fit. "Thou shalt not kill," Exod. xx. 13. They do not join at all, by that rule.
But you may object, and say, that that commandment was not extant in the days of Abraham; to which I answer, it was, and Cain had felt the heavy curse due to a murderer, above two thousand years before Abraham was born; and the commandment was given in plain words to Noah, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man," Gen. ix. 6. Abraham attempted and intended to have offered up his own son, and drew the knife to do it, and in heart did do it; and God received him as a burnt-offering in a figure, accepting his servant's obedient will, for the real deed; lay this to the same rule, and it will lie crooked also, "Thou shalt not kill." Phineas, the son of Aaron, the high-priest, "kills Zimri and Cozbi in the act of adultery," Num. xxv., and is commended of God for his zeal; this lies as crooked as the other by that rule.
Jacob covets his brothers birth-right, and takes an advantage of his brother's hunger, and of his pious father's blindness to get it; lies into the bargain; and is blessed of God after he has got it; lay this to the same rule, "Thou shalt not covet;" it lies as crooked as the other. But you will say, that command was not in the world in Jacob's days; yes it was; "Adam and Eve lost paradise for coveting forbidden fruit; and Abimelech was threatened with immediate death by God himself, for coveting his neighbours wife," Gen. xx. 3.
God commanded Moses "to speak in the ears of the people, that every man should borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, Jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and God gave them favour in the sight of the Egyptians," and Moses greatness was used to help this borrowing on, Exod. xi. 2, 3. And the borrowed jewels helped to adorn the very tabernacle of God himself; in which the resided among them; lay these things to the decalogue as the only rule, "Thou shalt not steal ,thou shalt not covet," Exod. xx. And again, "he that putteth his hand to his neighbours goods, shall pay double, Exod; xxii. 3, 9, and again, "If a man borrow ought of his neighbour, and it be hurt or die, the owner thereof not being with it, he shall surely make it good," Exod. xxii. 14 *.
Moses is commanded to make two cherubims of beaten gold, and set them in the holy place, even in the very residence of God, Exod. xxv. 18; though the law says, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, Exod. xx. 4.
If we lay our daily trials and cross providences to the decalogue as the only rule, we shall find ourselves as much at a loss to make them compact with that, as Asaph was, when he envied the prosperity of the wicked; was pricked in his reins, and said he had cleansed himself in vain; and he owned that his feet had well nigh slipped, for he was envious at the foolish when he saw that they were not in trouble, Psalm lxxiii. 1,2, 3,4. Nor could he find it out till he "went into the sanctuary of God, and then he understood their end. And he certainly had some other rule to go by?a good man buried in afflictions, and a wicked man swimming in prosperity, are such knotty and intricate providences as have puzzled five very eminent prophets, Hab. i 2, 3, 4, 5; Exod. v. 21, 22, 23, 24; Mal. Iii. 15; Lamen. iii.; Psal. lxxiii; therefore I take it for granted that they found out some other rule to lay these things to. For as Asaph had well high slipped with his feet, so I think that we shall be puzzled to make straight paths for our feet, Heb. xii. 13, if we can find no other rule than the decalogue to lay all our trials to.
As many things in a Christian's life and walk seem to come short of, or lay crooked to that rule, we must look out for another; and there is one rule, that all these things will lay straight with, and there is no other. And that rule is, the sovereign, absolute, and uncontrollable will of God in Christ Jesus. "God worketh all things after the counsel of his own will," Eph. i. 11; consequently, all things will lay straight with that rule; and that we shall find if we bring them there.
Some may object, and say, the whole will of God is revealed in the decalogue; to which I answer, that cannot be proved. The mystery of God's will, with respect to election in Christ, redemption, justification, and sanctification by Christ, which is the sweetest part of the will of God that ever a sensible sinner heard of, is not so much as mentioned in all the decalogue; nor is there an absolute unconditional promise in it.
And the will of God, in an absolute and unconditional promise, is a rule often wanted by poor distressed believers to lay their troubles to; and when they bring their knotty providences and sore distresses under the word, and they find that the minister lays all to that rule, and make it comport, they often go away satisfied. For instance, we will say, a man that really fears and loves God, and desires to live and act to his honour, but he cannot pay his way, nor let religion shew its beauty on him, because of dejecting circumstances; nor can he keep his rebellious heart from rising, though it be the desire of his soul to be holy, and to please God above every thing else; and yet this man has nothing but mountains of difficulties before him; crooked providences daily entangle him; and the more fervent and sincere he seems to be, the rougher his path is. This has often been my case, and a puzzling one it is; lay this to the will of God, in the decalogue, and it will tell you to make use of no unlawful means to extricate yourself; but it gives no encouragement nor information of the matter. Now if we bring these things to God's will, as revealed in a promise, we shall find both information and encouragement also; for instance?"I will bring the blind by a way that they know not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight; these things will I do unto them and not forsake them, Isaiah xlii. 16. Thus these difficulties, mountains, and crooked paths will lay straight by this rule, and by no other.
The Lord's saying unto Peter, who really loved the Lord in his heart, and I believe really spake as he meant when he said, "Though all men be offended because of thee, yet will not I be offended," and for the Lord to say, "Before the cock crow twice thou shalt deny me thrice." And again, "some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end," Dan. xi. 35, as poor Peter here did, and we believe that he stood better afterwards than before; and that it was the will of God to push him from his fleshly confidence. If all these things are laid to the ten commandments as the believer's only rule, they will he found crooked and perplexing enough.
As this rule or the decalogue is not sufficient, exclusive of the promises, and other parts of God's word, for a Christian's mysterious life and perplexing walk, so I take it for granted that it is not sufficient for his conversation neither. For instance, I may say, "All thy works praise thee, O Lord, and thy saints they bless thee; they speak of the glory of thy kingdom and talk of thy power. To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom," Psalm cxlv. 10, 11. The decalogue says nothing about this; it is true that there is a passage in another part of the law, which says, "And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up," Deut. vi. 6, 7, 8. But we may talk of eternal election and predestination, of everlasting love, and blessed redemption; of all-conquering grace; of mysterious providence; of the blessed Spirit's work on our souls; and of the comfort we feel of mercy to us, and of judgment to the wicked; and though the decalogue says nothing about these things, yet lay them to God's will as revealed in the promise, and it appears the pure language that God has given us; and it is called good conversation with Christ. Hence I conclude that the ten commandments is not of itself, exclusive of other parts of scripture, a sufficient rule for the real believer's life, walk, and conversation. And that the will of God, which is the only rule, is not wholly revealed in the decalogue is plain: for if it had, there would have been no more of it revealed in another dispensation. "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second," Heb. viii. 7.
I go on to enquire, 7thly and lastly, whether setting the law perpetually before all ranks of Christians as the only rule of life, can, with propriety be called speaking the language, or doing the work of an evangelist.
I believe there are any ministers who labour often at the law, for fear that the pure liberty of the Spirit of God (which David calls a free spirit) should lead to licentiousness. But if the Spirit of love is not sufficient to constrain, the terrors of hell will not be sufficient to deter; and if the spirit of love will not produce good fruits, the pains of hell will never extort them; he that feels the most law terrors; feels also the most enmity to God.
And that minister that is always setting the law of Moses as a rule of life before all ranks of Christians, young and old, goes the ready way to bring them, whom God has justified, a second time to judgment, by setting the terrors of the judge before the child, instead of the bowels of the Father.
I have often observed, when I have been hearing a sermon, and the power of God has attended the pure truth that has been delivered, so that the dew of heaven seemed to drop upon every branch, Job, xxix. 19, when the conclusion has drawn near, a word of caution to the just, a word of warning to the wicked, has been sufficient to dry up all the dew that fell on the floor, Judges, vi. 39, and to wither all the budding hopes that moved in the weakling's heart; we cannot call this keeping the best wine till the last. This is more like the profuse cow that gives a pailful of milk and then kicks it over the milkmaid.
This is a method of preaching, rarely to be found in the ministry of Christ, the apostles, and the prophets: where you have one instance of this, you have five of another method: they generally described the saint and the sinner, gave the promise to the one, and the judgment as a warning to the other, and applied as they went on; and either concluded with exhortation, or finished abruptly, and left the dew where it fell. Hence it is, that we often find through many of the prophets, here an unconditional promise, and there is a dreadful judgment denounced: thus they are intermixed, and scattered up and down throughout the Bible; and the new-born heir of promise will be sure as soon as he feels the use of the hand of faith, to go after the good old reapers, and glean them up.
A Christian is an heir of promise, and the promises are his by donation; and they are mingled with reproof, caution, admonition, encouragement, counsel, instruction, advice, and exhortation; and are his food, his rods, his land-marks, his bank-notes, and his purging draughts. And while we are "feeding the strong with judgment," we ought to have a care of the poor of the flock, Zech. xi. 7. I have often observed, that while God has enabled me to describe real faith, the new birth, sound conversion, &c. and shew what a real believer, or a child of God is, and his privileges?an attentive unbeliever has received light sufficient to see that he had neither part, nor lot in that matter; he has been cut with grief, provoked to jealousy, envied the happiness of the just, viewed them as angels, when compared to himself, and has gone crying, "Oh! that I were but one of them;" and the work has been carried on from that hour; thus God gives testimony to the word of his grace. I believe there are many living witnesses now in London, who have been awakened under me in this manner.
Therefore God does not always awaken sinners by the application of a law sentence; so far from it, that it is visibly seen to a demonstration that those who deal most in law terrors, have the least success and the foulest church; for the broken hearted fly from the storm, and embrace the rock for the want of a shelter, Job, xxiv. 8, while the eye-servant, the refined pharisee, the hardened hypocrite, and the sleepy formalist stand it out; having no more sensation than a woolpack. We may compare these to a troop of horse, or a blacksmith's dog, they are not afraid of fire. There is no domestic animal more in the way than a fire spaniel, and no greater plague to a preacher than an hardened hypocrite.
I know preaching perpetually law terrors, is called faithful preaching; and 1 have often heard people say, "I wonder that such a minister is attended with such a dressy, sleepy, inattentive, and unreformed congregation; he has no success, and yet he does trim them in a most faithful manner." When I have heard these things, I have secretly thought, that the faithful trimming was the only impediment that lay in the way of success. We may say of such hearers as Luther did, when some of his zealous followers wanted to pull down a popish idol, "let it alone," said Luther; "if we can preach Christ into their hearts, they will pull it down themselves."
Nor can I call it faithful preaching in any sense; for if the law be preached to incline, reform, amend, convert, and bring to Christ, it is set about a work that it never was intended to do. God turns the sinner, makes him willing, puts his fear in his heart, and draws him to Christ, and by love unites him with him. This power is promised in the gospel, hence the gospel is called the power of God to salvation. And if such a preacher takes a gospel text, and delivers it in his accustomed law spirit, it is still the same; for though the text be a part of the word of the Lord that went forth from Jerusalem, yet the earthquake, the wind, and the fire is still from Horeb. Whereas, if the Spirit, as well as the text, had been from Jerusalem, we might hope that the same wind and fire (that once shook the apostles house, and inflamed their hearts) would have attended it more or less.
Nor is such preaching dealing faithfuly with poor sinners, for such "are but ministers of the letter, and the letter killeth," 2 Cor. iii. 6. The man that sounds an alarm from Sinai, should plainly point out the door of hope, Hos. ii. 15, and he that thunders from the storm, should never forget to clear the road to the refuge.
Legal preaching supports the fear of a criminal, and has a tendency to stir up an unbearable malice against God himself. This may be seen with a witness among the arminians, who have obscured the light of the gospel, and confounded and blinded their hearers with the smoke of the law, till the effects of their ministry is seen conspicuous on the faces of the hearers; poor souls have been rallied with the tempest, till the thunder is fixed on their visages. Not long ago this excellent paragraph was delivered from one of their pulpits, "Up and be doing; now is the time to get your names written in the Lamb's Book of Life; no decree, no eternal decree! no Lord, that be far from thee; that be far from thee, Lord."
No encouragement here; poor comfort, and worse, establishment: such are like the wool culver [or wild pigeon] whose perpetual note is doo, doo; and any country boy that is noted for rifling birds' nest, will tell you, that they are the worst builders in all the wood; or, as the Saviour says, they say, and do not. I hope God will serve them as he did Job, who wrapped himself up so secure in his own merit, that he hoped to die in it. "I was a father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not, I searched out; and I broke the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth, [these were good fruits, but no Saviour]; then I said I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand," Job, xxix. 16, 17, 18. But God sent a storm that tore all his nest to pieces; and when he was illuminated more clearly, he forsook the tree, and built in the rock, and made a better nest at the end than at the beginning.
Setting the law perpetually before all ranks of Christians, as the only rule of life, is neither speaking the language, nor doing the work of an Evangelist.
An Evangelist is one who is a happy partaker of the love of God, and rejoices in it, and has, received the blessings of a free salvation into his heart. And to speak the language of an Evangelist, is to proclaim under God, in God's message, and in God's name, what God has done for his own soul, as a true witness of what a person has seen, heard, and felt, 1 John, i. 1. And to do the work of an Evangelist, is to declare as God commanded Paul, what God had done for him, and shewed to him, and to prove it by the word of God; and if God owns and blesses it, so as to lead another into the same happy enjoyment of life, love, and peace that the preacher feels, so far he does the work of an Evangelist, and such a disciple is evangelized.
But setting the law perpetually before all ranks of Christians, as the only rule of life, is the only way to legalize them.
For when a young convert begins to find his weaning time draw on, and his corruptions stir afresh, he will cry out in the bitterness of his soul, "Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" Let him bring this old man to the legal rule, and he will try in vain to make him lie straight with that.
But we know it is the will of God, that the old man should remain in the regenerate; then let the old man be laid to another rule, namely, the whole will of God; and he may say in his trouble as Paul did, I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord, Rom. vii. 24, 25.
When persecutions and oppositions come on the young believer, he will never make them lie straight by the legal rule, yet no Christian ought to be moved by these afflictions; but be taught the will of God herein, and be led to know that they are [by God's will] appointed thereunto, 1 Thess. iii. 3. Hence, I conclude, that the whole will of God in Christ, as it is revealed in the scriptures of truth, is the Christian's only, and all-sufficient rule.
The holy law of God is an immutable boundary fixed, prefigured by the bounds that were set round the mount, when God appeared on it, to let sinners know the awful distance and disproportion there is between a holy God, and apostate rebels: And this boundary set around is a chain of positive commands and prohibitions. Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not, thou shalt not, is fixed like Aaron's bells quite round about. And the man that breaks through these bounds, if he dies in the breach, God will break through upon him; and the believer that breaks through these bounds, God has promised to visit his sin with the rod, and his iniquity with stripes.
And I think that setting the law of God as a covenant of works, perpetually before the eyes of a believer, is the only way to lead him to break it; for the strength of sin is the law; but victory over it is the gift of God; therefore we ought to enforce communion and fellowship with the Father, and the Son, by the Spirit; and sin shall not have dominion over them, who are thus under grace.
We have many who are so fond of arminianism, (though they do not like to, be thought so of), that if you get a little of the electing love of God in a discourse, yet the poor weakling is sure to get a knock over the head with Moses' rod, before he can get out of the place. And some are so sparing of grace, and so profuse with the works of the law, that grace is almost hid; such are turned aside to vain jangling; desiring to be teachers of the law, knowing neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. Such preaching furnishes reformed pharisees, and hardened hypocrites with weapons against the children of God, and is offering violence to the Spirit in his work; as Milton says, "It binds his consort liberty," and puts the saints of God to shame before the legal professor.
When a man begins to give up truth, a lie will soon fall in his way; he that gives up his principles, will soon give up his practice also; they both abide or go together. "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation," Rev. iii. 10. Let a man give up the truth as it is Christ, and the father of lies shall soon find him out, and shew the world both his nakedness and his shame, Rev. iii. 18. All the legal bounds that have been set by God or man, will be broken through by, a child of Satan, if grace prevents not.
But the child of God is of another spirit; his Father's frowns, rods, and rebukes, together with the loss of joy, peace, and comfort is a hell to him; and will have more weight with him than all the laws in the world.
The mysterious path, cross providences, the inward struggles between grace and corruption, it being our strength to stand still in the midst of dangers, Isa xxx. 7, to rejoice in our infirmities, that the power of Christ might rest upon us, 2 Cor. xii 9, counting it all joy when we fall into divers temptations, telling the weak to call themselves strong, Joel, iii. 10, and that the lame shall take the prey, Isa. xxxiii. 23, believing in Christ for justification, is the only way to obtain and abide in the divine favour; while working under the law is contracting an infinite and eternal debt, Rom. iv. 4: and they are things that want the will of God as a rule to lay them to, or else they will lie as crooked as Rachab's selling and betraying her country by faith in Christ, would do, and being justified in the very act, while she received the spies with peace.
When the Lord called Paul, he revealed to him the mystery of his will. "The God of our Fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldst know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldst hear the voice of his mouth; for thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard, Acts, xxii. 14, 15. There was Paul's rule, namely, the will of God; and all Paul's doctrines, experiences, difficulties, successes, and the whole course or extent of his ministry, was chalked out by that rule, "to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line," 2 Cor. x. 16. David prophesying of these things, says, "their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world; in them has he set a tabernacle for the sun," Ps xix. 4. which Paul applies to the apostolic days, "But I say, have they not heard? Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world," Rom. x. 17, 18. Paul brings the whole circle of his ministry that fell to his lot as marked out by the will of God; "But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you," 2 Cor. x. 13. Paul gathered that the rule which had marked out the work of his ministry, would discover itself in its longitude far beyond Corinth; "Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly," 2 Cor. x. 15.
The apostle having declared the Galatians bewitched for adhering to legal preachers, and that those who adhered to them were fallen from [the system of] grace delivered to them, goes on to shew, by Moses and Abraham, by Sarah and Hagar, by Isaac and Ishmael," by the heavenly Jerusalem, and the earthly Jerusalem, the difference between the two covenants; the awful state of the fleshly family under the first, and the blessed state of the spiritual family under the second; comes with many appeals to their consciences, and enquires if they received the Spirit by the works of the law??if Christ, who wrought miracles among them, did them by the works of the law? and then insists upon it, that circumcision and uncircumcision aveil nothing; but a new creature [is essential to salvation], and faith that worketh by love; and then concludes, "and as many as walk according to this rule, mercy on them, and peace, and upon the Israel of God," Gal. vi. 16.
The apostle having declared without hypocrisy the whole counsel of God, or the mystery of his will in Christ, revealed to him, unto the Philippians; goes on to tell them what he was by nature, and what by grace; what he had in view, and what he pressed after; the end he aimed at, and what progress he had made, says, "nevertheless whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing," Phil. iii. 15, 16. And it is clear to me that the decalogue is not meant by any of these accounts as the apostle's only rule.
But, alas! we have too many, who pass for leaders, that are strangers both to the pains of hell, and to the joys of heaven; and when these have spent the trifles which were gathered at the schools, they are at a loss for an inward guide; and as the way to Horeb lies plain to the views of flesh and blood, they naturally act as Moses did, they lead the flock of their father (in-law, not their real father] to the back side of the mount, and then stand and wonder to see the bush all on fire; when it is the shepherd's bad leading that occasions the bush to burn.
I bless God, who in the multitude of his mercies did not send me out until he had made me sensible both of the terrors of the law, and of the blessings of the gospel; and never has left me to myself as yet, to turn like a weather-cock, a swift, or a weeping-willow, with every wind. And I can truly say, that my soul hates to see a minister muzzle truth?bite it in two?keep it back?cover the force of it, by a sudden jumble of law and gospel, while conscience alters the visage, and God confounds and fetters the tongue.
God knows I am no scholar, nor am I endued with any shining parts or abilities; but I find, by happy experience, that the best rule to walk by, and try others and their doctrines by, is the revealed will of God, by the Spirit, in the heart, and in his word. And I believe to enforce the Spirit's work?to insist on a union in the bond of love to Christ; to declare the whole will of God as revealed in his word; to cry down forms; and set up spiritual prayer; to cry down priestcraft, and set up the gospel model; to preach down human inventions, and set up the will of God; to cry down the works of the flesh, and exalt the merits of Christ, is doing the works of an evangelist.
And I believe, if God should use me as an instrument in bringing souls to the Lord, and keep me alive in my ministry; to insist on the enjoyment of a union with him; that I shall be able to bring forth as much fruit to God's honour, as those that produce them by fire; for all hot-house fruits have the worst flavour, though they always fetch the best price among the rich and the great.
Christian, hast thou put on Jesus Christ? then walk ye in him. Art thou in the race? run it, looking to Jesus. Art thou in the love or God? meditate thereon; "he will keep that man in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on him."
It appears plain to me, that the sacrifices, which properly belong to the ceremonial law, were a schoolmaster to bring souls to Jesus Christ, for above two thousand years. Before the law of Adam was republished on Sinai, the sacrifices served as a schoolmaster from the days of Abel to the days of Moses, and by "faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them," Heb. xi. 28.This command of sacrificing the lamb was a schoolmaster sufficient to lead them to see that there was no covert from avenging justice, but under the atoning blood; and by faith Moses kept that passover, lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them.
I doubt I shall tire my reader, but I must desire his company, a little further.
When God gave the law to Israel in the wilderness, he found them wrapped up in a three-fold cord of vain security.
1st. As Abraham was blessed of God, and called God's friend, they being his offspring, judge this blessing and friendship to be hereditary; and they were more confirmed in this their opinion by the wonders that God wrought against the Egyptians in their favour. This prevailed among them down to the days of Christ; and this is in the mouth of every Jew to this day?"We are Abraham's seed." The Lord shews us in a parable that some in hell have not done with this notion altogether?"being in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and cried, saying, Father Abraham, send Lazarus, that he may cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame."
2dly. God had told them that they should be his people?"I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians," Exod. vi. 7. This they vainly stuck to, that they were all God's peculiar people, whether they were in the Spirit or in the flesh; hence in their rebellion they tell Moses, "that the people are all holy;" hence also, when God destroyed Korah and his company, they bred a mutiny, telling Moses and Aaron that they had destroyed the people of the Lord, Num. xvi. 41.
3dly. They entertained a vain conceit of their own ability to perform whatever God required?"All that the Lord hath said we will do, and be obedient," Exod. xxiv. 7.
When God gave the law on Sinai, he ordered bounds to be put round the mount, to teach them, that, instead of friendship, there was an awful distance; and it was to be at the peril of their souls, if they but attempted to gaze. The law being given with fire, led them to see that there was terrible majesty in God, and wrath revealed; this might stagger their conceit of their being all God's favoured and peculiar people. The law being given with such a thundering voice, and so dreadfully strict, they felt that it gendered to bondage; it begot a dreadful fear, quaking, and trembling among them; when they felt this, some began to stagger in their confidence of ability to perform what God required, therefore they could not endure that which was spoken.
Being thus convinced of the awful distance between God and them; and of the terrible majesty and revealed wrath of God, and of the strictness required by the law; they began to call about them for a mediator, and God promises his dear Son as a mediator and a prophet like unto Moses. This appears to me to be all the schooling that the children of Israel got here.
Now Moses sets up a tabernacle in their sight; puts the two tables of stone, with their dreadful contents, in the ark, and keeps them out of their sight; places a mercy-seat on the ark; and. there God promises to commune with them. Then Moses consecrates the Levites to be priests; orders the guilty sinner to bring his victim to the priest; the guilty was to confess, and so transfer his guilt on the head of the brute, and then it was to be killed in his sight; that blood was to be sprinkled toward the mercy-seat; and the pardon, blessing, and answer of peace was to come from thence, and no where else.
Now I will leave any wise man to judge, which of these two laws was the schoolmaster to bring the sinner to Christ. The moral law convinced them that there was no access to God without a mediator, and there it left them. But what is to become of the smoke and fire? there must be blood to quench that. God appeared a consuming fire, and dwelt in thick darkness; the sacrifices led to the blood of Christ, which alone could quench that flame; and from the sacrifice their faith was led to a communing place, a mercy-seat, where God appeared in a calm, and communed like a friend, and blessed them like a reconciled God indeed.
The ceremonial law is called by Paul, their gospel; and it is the business of the gospel to bring souls to Christ: but there is no bringing hand nor drawing cord promised, nor revealed in all the decalogue. Paul says, "It is blood that brings a sinner nigh to God," Eph. ii. 13, not the revelation of damnation. And it is plain that those who stick closest to the works of the law, are the farthest from God.
A real believer is redeemed from under the law, and delivered from it, in every sense, as a covenant of works; "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons," Gal. iv. 5. And we are delivered from the law as a covenant of works; " But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held, that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter, Rom. vii. 6.
2dly. We are delivered from the commanding power of the law [as a covenant of works]; which command is, "This do, and thou shalt live." Christ did this; and the just man lives by his faith in him, Hab. ii. 4. If we are not delivered from the commanding power of the law, as a covenant of works, then Christ's righteousness aveils nothing. If believers are under the commanding power of the law, they must be under the condemning power also; and then redemption and imputed righteousness are both frustrated. But "there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof," Heb. vii. 18. "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments, contained in ordinances, for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace," Eph. vi. 15. I know this passage rather refers to the ceremonial law; yet the children of God are delivered from the commanding and condemning power of the law as a covenant of works. This will appear, if we consider what God says of circumcision, that it binds a man to keep the whole law; "I Paul say, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing, for I testify to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law," Gal. v. 2, 3. But God has delivered us from the galling yoke, and it is tempting God to gall a believer's neck with it, seeing he has provided him another yoke.
The Gentiles, in several cities, having received the gospel by Peter, Paul, and Barnabas, were shortly after plagued by some that came down from Jerusalem, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved," Acts, xv. 1. After many obstinate disputes with them, "Paul, Barnabas, and others, were sent to the elders at Jerusalem about this point." "there rose up certain of the sect of the pharisees which believed, saying, that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command then to keep the law of Moses," Acts, xv. 5. [There is the yoke, Do and live.] "And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles, by my mouth, should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost as he did unto us and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples; which neither our fathers, nor we are able to bear?" Acts, xv. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. And it was all settled, that by faith in Jesus Christ we are delivered from the unbearable yoke of doing for life; and that it was tempting God to yoke them with it again.
We are delivered also from the condemning power of the law; "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us," Gal. iii. 13.
Thus the real believer is delivered from the commanding and condemning power of the law [as a covenant of works], the tenor of which is, do and live transgress and die.
As the second two tables of stone were put into the ark, under the mercy seat, so that the law did not destroy any priest that came with blood, though he approached even God himself; so all believers, being a royal priesthood, 1 Peter, ii. 9, approach God without any legal arrest, when they carry the blood of sprinkling. in the hand of faith; and this hand of faith is put out by a heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, Heb. x. 22.
The law being thus disarmed of its commanding and condemning power by Christ, and magnified and made everlastingly honourable; so also is offended Justice both pleased and satisfied by the Saviour's death. Thus the law is disarmed of its thundering command and sentence; and mercy reigns triumphant by Christ Jesus. Hence it appears that we have got both our law and gospel, command and promise, in the blessed object of our faith, and of our most cordial affections, agreeably to what is written, "Thy law [says the blessed Saviour] is within my heart," Psal. xl. 8; here Paul fled, when he said, "Not without law to God, but under the law to Christ," 1 Cor. ix. 21.
Now, though I have followed the saint's law up to its proper centre, I see no reason why the decalogue, or ten commandments, should be insisted on as the only rule of life, though it be thus disarmed, and placed in the heart of a dear redeemer; seeing God has commanded us to obey all that Christ shall say. "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken [whether he commands or promises], according to all that thou desirest of the Lord thy God in Horeb." And the Lord said, "They have well spoken that which they have spoken; I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my word in his mouth," [promises and all, Isa. lix. 21;] "And he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him [whether it be the decalogue or no]. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him," Deut xviii. 15, 16, 17, 18, 19.
It is a comfortable thought that we have all in the Saviour; the ceremonial law ended in Christ, and was abolished by him; the moral law was honoured, disarmed of its wrath by him, and is hid in him; every other commandment was given to him also; and all the promises were made to him, and are yea and Amen in him, 2 Cor. i. 20; so that I am led to conclude, that the whole will of God in Christ Jesus, is the only and all-sufficient rule of every real child of God. For I take it for granted, the power of the whole word "is the rod of his strength that was sent forth out of Zion;" and by that, he rules in the midst of Jerusalem. And every command ought to be brought to the promises [by the believer]; and when the command is resolved into the promise, it ought, with humble prayer, to be taken for its fulfilment to the reconciled lawgiver, who in Christ Jesus is the promise-maker; and we shall find the immutable will of God promising and bestowing, through Christ, all that his commanding will requires of us; "As many as walk according to this rule, mercy on them [indeed], and upon the Israel of God." God has willed in the New Testament a power to subdue and incline my will to his; and while my will is under that power, it will lay straight with God's commanding will; "Whoso thus looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in, [though not for] his deed," James i. 25. And I am fully persuaded that the soul that walks in the righteousness of Christ, and in the enjoyment of God's love, may say, that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in him, though not by him. But why every believing soul is to be sent to Horeb for such a contracted rule, I know not; God has not called the decalogue the saints; only rule in any part of the scripture that I know of; and therefore what he has promised we may expect; and what Christ has commanded we may do, whether it be in the decalogue or not. For instance; I think it is my duty to go constantly to the sacrament, though the decalogue says nothing about it; and I am to go two miles with the man that compels me to go one; and to turn my right cheek to him that has without cause smitten the left; to give my cloak to him that has unjustly taken my coat by a suit of law; to give, if I have it; and to lend, hoping for nothing again; though the law only tells me, "To do as I would be done by; for that is the law and the prophets." The saint is not to knock out a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, nor to cut off hand for hand, nor foot for foot, though the law says he may, and shall be so. My reader may object and say, "You set the gospel to contradict the law, which ought to harmonize together." To which I answer?I do not. The saint is not under the law, as hath been proved; therefore he is to leave his injuries on the head of the injurer, who is under the law; and as God takes all that is done to the saints, as done to himself, this vengeance belongs in an especial manner to him. Hence Abel was killed for righteousness-sake, and the judgment of Cain was kept in God's hand. As Abel was murdered for God's sake, therefore God was the only avenger; and he threatens a seven-fold vengeance to any man who should even dare to take the sword out of God's hand to kill Cain, Gen. iv. 13.
2dly. A great part of the old laws belong to civil justice; and the Lord foretells us, that rulers and magistrates would be the saints' greatest adversaries; therefore the persecuting sinner, and the encouraging ruler are both to agree, and we are to be brought before them, for a witness against them. And as we are the Lord's, so our injuries are his also; and the persecutor and the base ruler are his enemies, and ours for his sake. No wonder then, he says, "Ye have heard it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, that ye resist not evil," Matt. v. 38, 39. As the Lord in us is the person hated, and the devil in the persecutor and false magistrate; that being that offends, Christ would have us (after we have used the means) leave, and the law in his own hand, as in the hand of the Judge both of the quick and of the dead; and He will have an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, with a witness. Thus the patient submission of the oppressed, and the partiality of the magistrate, binds the sinner over to a seven-fold judgment. Thus the law is not made void, but rather established by what has been said; nor is sin encouraged by what I have said; but contrariwise for grace is exalted, which alone can subdue sin; and until it can be proved that the grace of God leads men in to wickedness, my brethren had better leave off shooting arrows at it; lest while they are contracting all into a little rule, they break through all the lines of a bigger. We have some who are zealous for Moses; they are like the believing rulers, who were so zealous for the law, that they thought it no crime to murder Paul; so we have some who preach up the law as the only rule, and then shoot at me for keeping of it. Such lay Christ for a foundation, and call in Moses to carry up the superstructure: Christ is to bear the weight, and Moses to bear the glory. Such begin in the Spirit, and end in the flesh; they first lead the sinner to cast his burden on Christ, and then load him with burdens that none can bear. Such exalt the servant, and dethrone the master, and make the law the polisher of the gospel, instead of making the law subservient to it. I have in my young days sat under some who enforced the law to all ranks; that I was led to think Christ had begun the work in my soul; but that I must finish it myself by keeping the law; and as the preacher made no distinctions, he led me fairly back to the law; and I found as much enmity against God as ever, and thought I was in a more miserable state than before he meddled with me at all. And what fruits to the glory of God can spring from souls thus inflamed with rage and malice against him? If we are brought to love God, it is because we discover a love in him to us; we love him because he first loved us. If we bring forth fruit to the glory of God, it is by virtue of an heart-felt union with the living vine; "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me; he that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing," John, xv. 4, 5. But he that leads my soul to Moses, is sure to destroy all my fruitfullness: from the Lord (not from the law) is my fruit found, Hos. xiv. 8. All the fruits that the law produces, are sour grapes, untimely fruits, wild figs, and eye service;?and are produced from the fear of a criminal, and therefore are justly called dead works which must all be purged away by the blood of Christ before the soul can be saved.
It is a straight path that lies between a loose profession, and a legal working. But the soul that is blessed with a divine unction from above, has a sufficient leader to lead him into all truth. This I found in my own experience, when my judgment was much confused, and my understanding very much beclouded; yet I felt an inward teacher; for if the legalist got hold of me, and I drank into his spirit, then I fell to work at mortifying my corruptions in my own strength; temptations then began to operate, sin preveiled; and I got into bondage, and found enmity to God himself spring up in my heart. And if on the other hand I listened to some loose professors, who cried out against my preaching up convictions by the law, and the feeling sense of pardon, peace, and love by faith in Christ, then I lost all my peace and comfort;. thus the blessed inward teacher led me, when I could not see my way; and surely this fulfils the promise; "The way faring men, though fools, shall not err therein," Isaiah, xxxv. 8.
Now, that my reader may be encouraged to stick close in union with Christ Jesus; take the following considerations: The sword of Justice, that was drawn at Eden's gate, when God declared war with the world, was sheathed in Christ, when peace was proclaimed. "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man that is mine equal, saith the Lord of Hosts.; smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered [from the stroke], and I will turn my hand upon the little ones," Zach. xiii. 11. Thus the sword of justice was sheathed in the body and soul of Christ Jesus; and the flame of wrath that blazed on the edge of the sword, melted the very heart of the Saviour; when he said "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax, it is melted in the midst of my bowels," Psalm xxii. 14. Thus the flame of wrath melted the heart of Christ, until his precious blood quenched the flame; hence this sword is said to be bathed [that is with the blood of Christ] in heaven, and shall never come down any more upon the real believer; but only upon [legal work-mongers] who are under the curse of the law, and therefore "the sword must come down upon them, as the people of his curse, to judgment, Isa. xxxiv. 5.
Thou seest, reader, the sword of justice was sheathed in the Saviour; the flame of wrath was quenched in his heart; and that the curse of the law, which was the sentence due to us all for sin, was executed on Christ; he was made a curse for us, Gal. iii.13. Thus justice being satisfied, and judgment fully executed, both justice and judgment dwell in the body and soul of Christ, as in an habitation; and they are both agreed in him, that mercy and truth should go hand in hand to us, "Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne [of Grace], mercy and truth stall go before thy face; blessed is the people that know the joyful sound," Psalm lxxxix. 15.
The law that told us to do and live, transgress, and die, is now disarmed of its commanding and condemning power [as a covenant or works] and is in the heart of Christ. "Thy law is within my heart, shut up in that ark," Psalm xl. 8. While his righteousness is answerable to the command of the law, and his death answerable to the sentence of it. So by faith in him, as our justification and redemption, we are delivered from the commanding and condemning power of the law [as a covenant of works] so that the voice in now changed, from Do and live?to Believe and live? from Transgress and die?to him that believeth shall never die. Thus Christian, justice, judgment, and the disarmed law, are in Christ Jesus: All judgment is committed to him; all power given him; every promise is yea, and amen in him; all the treasures of grace, wisdom, and knowledge; all the fullness of the Spirit, and all the fullness of the Godhead dwell in him bodily. And all this is, that God may honour his dear Son, and magnify the riches of his grace in glory by him. The devil himself is wounded by his sword, bound by his chain, and trampled under his feet. As you read, "The Lord with his great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan, the crooked serpent, even Leviathan that piercing serpent, and shall slay the dragon that is in the sea," Isa. xxvii. 1; he bound him with his chain," Rev. xx. 1; he trod upon the lion and adder, and the young lion he trampled under feet," Psalm xci. 13. Therefore cleave thou to Christ, and let his whole revealed mind and will be thy rule. Moses and his legal works; Elijah and his fiery zeal, willingly withdrew [as good servants ought] from the mount, while the disciples were with Jesus, Matt. xvii. 1. And when you hear men pointing the hardened and impenitent sinner to the blood of Christ, and sending happy souls to Moses' law for a rule, and a yoke, regard not every "lo here, and ho there," Matt. xxiv. 23, but go to Christ for both your rule and your yoke. If thou art a believer, go not to Sinai, but cleave to another mount, as Isaiah tells you in his vision; "And it shall come to pass in the last days [mark that], that the mountain of the Lord's house [that is Christ, compare with Dan. ii. 35,] shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem," Isa. ii. 1, 2, 3. There is your rule Christian [the law and the word]; see thou that ye go not to Moses for a yoke; stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has "made you free, and be not again entangled with the yoke of bondage," Gal. v. 1, but take your yoke and rule from your only master and ruler, as he commands thee. "Come unto me all ye that labour [under the legal yoke] and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy , and my burden is light," Matt. xi. 29, 30.
When you hear men telling you, that they know of no other, rule than the decalogue, nor of any other assured hope of salvation, than that "those who endure to the end shall he saved," tell them to take their bibles and look again. A heart-felt union kept up by faith, prayer, and watchfullness, is the only way to be fruitful. If thou sufferest thyself to be beguiled out of this, and art led to Moses, thou wilt soon get the yoke of bondage on thy neck; and when that is fixed by legal preaching, thy heart will get hard; thy spirit will get narrow and contracted, 2 Cor. vi. 12; thou wilt be racked with cruel jealousy, inwardly galled at the happiness, prosperity, or success of another; you will then be a prating about good works being meritorious, while thy own soul is secretly led captive by the devil at his will, and thy own conscience will accuse thee for it; but being hardened, thou wilt not regard conscience. Thou wilt then hold the closest communion with those who are bound in the spirit of bondage with thee; and all thy conversation will be railing at those who are more happy in the Lord than thyself Yea, thou wilt at times obscure plain truth; or even dare to pervert the word of God, in order to entangle others in thy own bondage; because their heavenly frames will gall your bitter spirits; thus a company of Moses' advocates pull one another into the bush together I have been through all these blind straits, and know them as well as any one that shoots in secret at me. And I know that "this is the foolishness of him that perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord," Prov. xix. 3.
The Lord favour us with access to himself, and with true fructifying showers of special grace, that we may enjoy, and not abuse our liberty, and be made fruitful in Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Bring thou all thy internal and external trials to the will of God in the promises, as the only rule to lay them to, and the only rule to explain them by; and keep thyself in the enjoyment of God's love in Christ Jesus. It is love that fulfills the commandments, and that will influence thy life and walk: all fruits without this root will surely wither; " Let thy heart keep my commandments," Prov. iii. 1. And it is the love of God in the heart that will keep the soul from falling: " The law of his God is in his heart, none of his steps shall slide," Psalm xxxviii. 31.
Thus, reader, if thou art one of the legal stamp, who seeketh rest, and findeth none, I have gone as far as I can, with truth on my side, after thee; and shall have many a secret arrow shot at me for going so far. Howbeit, I have not dethroned the Saviour, nor exalted the servant in the master's place; nor have I made void the law; but have set it on a level with the rest of God's word, as a rule; nor have I offered any encouragement to hardened sinners; but have established the law in all its force against them. God help you to preach up good works your life, as the Saviour did: every miracle that he wrought proclaimed who he was; and to shew that he sought not the glory of men, he said, "See thou tell no man of it." But good works will always preach themselves; for the " more he charged them, the more they spread it abroad." Let free-grace dwell on their hearts and tongues, and let your lives proclaim the fruits of the Spirit; and do not act like the workmongers; for Christ declares, "They say and do not," Matt. xxiii. 3. And this appears plain enoughin our present arminian leader; who in public print has called every sound gospel minister "a child of the devil;" as the pharisees, in the Lord's days, called the master of the house Beelzebub, Matt x. 25. So, agreeably to Christ's prediction, our present pope has conferred the same name on those of his household. Thus they apply to the family of Christ, what their pharisaical fathers of old applied to the master.
May the Father of all mercies, and God of all comfort keep us by his mighty power, through faith, to salvation; and enable us to give the world an account of the root in us, by the fruits produced by us! Thus God shall get the glory, and we the blessing. Amen
There are some in the world who are hardened and daring enough to open their blasphemous mouths, even against God himself, and arraign him at their bar, for ordering the Israelites to borrow of the Egyptians, gold, silver, and jewels: but this may be resolved into God's sovereignty. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof, the gold and the silver is his," Hag. ii. 8. And though God gave Egypt to the children of Ham, with every other thing they possessed, yet they were no more than land-holders under him, or tenants at will; man has forfeited all claim on God by sin, and though God promised all things, even to the green herb to Noah, Gen. ix. 3, yet the witchcraft of Ham did by no means secure it to him or his posterity.
2dly. It may be resolved into Pharaoh's invitation and promise, "And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, this do ye: lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan: and take your father, and your household, and come unto me, and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land. Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take your waggons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Also regard not your stuff, for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours," Gen. xiv. 17, 18, 19, 20. There is the invitation, and the promise, and though Pharaoh's successor did not fulfil it, yet God will have covenants kept, Psalm xv. 4, and if men forget to perform, God will not forget to require their performance. "That which hath been [promised] is now [required]: and that which is to be [fulfilled], hath already been [promised], and God requireth that which is past," Eccles. iii. 15.
3dly. Their being ordered to borrow, instead of begging, or taking them by stealth or force, may be resolved into God's rules of equity; God has promised, that men shall deal with others, as others have dealt with them, Matt. vii. 2. This line may be seen throughout all the bible; and as the Egyptians had dealt subtilely with them. Acts, vii. 19, lest they should apostatize from them, Exod. 1 chap., and so turned them from being visitors, into bond slaves; Exod. i. 14, so God made Israel deal subtilely with them. The Egyptians withheld the good things they promised them, and yoked their guests with bitter bondage. So God gave Israel favour in the eyes of the Egyptians, that they should borrow of them, and not pay again. Thus Israel spoiled the Egyptians, Exod. iii. 22, as the Egyptians had spoiled them; and this is agreeably to God's rule of retaliation, "When thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled," Isa. xxxiii 1.
4thly. As Pharaoh set them to work without straw, and ordered them a double task to perform, and beat them that could not perform it; no doubt but he was sparing in paying them for their labour, as he was of straw to do the work with, money being a thing that generally sticks more closely to an oppressor than straw; if this was the case, God kept Israel's day-book; and if Pharaoh kept back their due, by subtlety, God made Israel get his just wages by subtlety. Which ever way it was, it is clear, that all which the Israelites got from Egypt, was either promised to them, or earned by them.
5thly. The rules of liberality entitled Israel to more than they got. Man is to do as he would be done by, Matt. vii. 12, and is awfully threatened for rendering evil for good, Prov. xvii. 13. Joseph had saved alive all the land of Egypt according to Pharoah's own words, therefore he called him Zaphnath Psancah, a revealer of secrets, and a saviour of the land; and as he had bought all the land of Egypt for the crown; it was a most wretched inhospitable act, for to send acts of slavery, and death-warrants against them, from the very crown that had been enriched by them. But the sweetest thought seems to be this, as the tabernacle was built, and adorned with the spoils and jewels of Egypt, it was to show that some of the Egyptians should he found in Christ (the great antetype of the tabernacle) in that day when the Lord maketh up his jewels, Mal. iii. 17, agreeably to the promise, "In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt, and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land; whom the Lord of Hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of hands, and Israel mine inheritance," Isa. xix. 24, 25.