GALATIANS

Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries

 

MMCXLIX

The Great Object of Christ's Coming

Galatians 1:4. Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.

THESE words are a part of an introductory prayer, with which Paul begins almost all his epistles. The portion of it which I have selected for the subject of our present contemplation, expresses a truth, which, if stated in a didactic form, might have somewhat of a forbidding aspect; but, as incidentally mentioned, in the midst of a prayer which conveyed to the Galatian Church the strongest evidence of his regard for their welfare, it comes recommended to us by all the endearments of Christian love. One thing, in particular, we cannot fail to notice; namely, that the sentiment contained in it was well known among them, and universally approved. It needed nothing to confirm it, nothing to enforce it. They were in the habit of looking to the Savior, as well as to God the Father, for all the blessings of "grace and peace," and to the one, as well as to the other, of these divine Persons, did they ascribe all "glory forever and ever." The nature of their obligations, too, both to the one and to the other, they clearly understood. They knew, that to "deliver them from this present evil world," was the Father's object in sending to them his Son, and the Son's object in dying for them. The introduction therefore of this sentiment would not offend them: on the contrary, it would meet with their most cordial concurrence; and would increasingly occupy their minds, whenever they were engaged in the blessed work of supplication and thanksgiving. Well therefore may the truths which it will of necessity lead me to inculcate be received by you, not as hard sayings, but as expressions of love.

Consider, then, with me,

I. What is the great object aimed at in our redemption by Christ.

Persons at all conversant with the Gospel would, without hesitation, say, that Christ gave himself for us, to deliver us from the guilt of our sins, and from the condemnation due to them. But the complete connection which that subject has with our deliverance from the world would not so immediately occur to the minds of all. That, therefore, it shall now be my endeavor to point out.

Through the fall of our first parents, the world has usurped, in the heart of man, the place which was originally assigned to God.

The world, as first constituted, and as subordinated to God, was good: but, as rivaling God in the affections of men, it. and everything in it, is evil. To fallen man it is become his one object of desire, his one source of pleasure, his one ground of confidence. It occupies all his thoughts: it is his pursuit, his portion, and his God. As for his Creator, he flees from him, as Adam did in Paradise. He delights not to contemplate him, to seek him, to serve him, to enjoy him. Nay, if the inspired testimony be true, "God is not in all his thoughts." The things of time and sense engross him utterly. When he rises in the morning, when he passes through the day, when he lies down to rest at night, the world, with its cares, its pleasures, its vanities, binds him as with adamantine chains, and keeps him from ever soaring to his God. He loves his bonds indeed, and feels them not: but he is bound notwithstanding; and, while "walking according to the course of this world, he is walking according to the dictates of the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in all the children of disobedience."

To deliver him from this state was the great end for which our Lord and Savior came into the world.

He came to cast out every idol from our hearts, and to bring us back to God. Not that he grudges us the enjoyment of earthly things; for "he has given us all things richly to enjoy;" but he cannot endure that God should have a rival in our hearts. By contemplating man in Paradise, we may form an idea what that state is to which the Lord Jesus Christ seeks to restore us. Before sin had defiled the soul of Adam, he had as rich an enjoyment of earthly things as a creature could possess. But he enjoyed God in them: and it was this which rendered them so sweet to his taste. God was the first and last in all his thoughts. He "dressed, indeed, and kept" the garden in which he was placed; but it caused him no anxious care; nor excited any idolatrous attachment in his mind; nor alienated his soul from God, even for a moment. It never unfitted him for communion with God, or deadened the ardor of his affections towards God: no; he walked as before God, every day and all the day long: he walked with God, as a man walks with his friend. Now, to bring us back to this, is the true end of redemption, and the proper scope of all that God has ever done for our souls.

Let us now proceed to consider,

II. How great an object this is.

It is the one object aimed at both by the Father and the Son.

For this the Lord Jesus "Christ gave up himself." For this he left the bosom of his Father: for this he vacated his throne of glory: for this he assumed our nature: for this he lived; for this he died: for this he rose again, and ascended into Heaven, and took upon him the government of the world. This is the end he ever keeps in view, in the chastisements he inflicts, and in the blessings he bestows. In all this, the Father also concurred with him. The very proposal, so to speak, originated with the Father; as the Son himself testifies: "Sacrifice and offering you would not: but a body have you prepared me. In burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin you have had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come, (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do your will, O God." The Father, as is here said, "prepared him a body," and sent him into the world; and "gave him a commandment, what he should say, and what he should do." The Father upheld him also in the whole of his work; and "raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory;" and committed all things into his hands, that he might accomplish in man all the purposes of his love.

What an object, then, must this be!

We are accustomed to judge of objects, in general, by the efforts made to obtain them. And, if we take that criterion, what is there that can equal the great object before us? That it should ever occupy for a moment the mind of the Deity, is amazing: but that it should ever be so desirable in Jehovah's mind, that he should give his only dear Son to effect it; and that his Son, also, should willingly endure all the curses of the broken law to attain it; yes, that the Holy Spirit, too, should undertake, by his own almighty power, to accomplish in us this good work; that the Sacred Trinity, I say, should all combine thus to effect it, exhibits such a view of its importance as nothing can exceed, Yet, how little is it viewed in this light! How little do men, at that season of the year when we commemorate the Savior's Advent, recollect for what end he came! If we were to judge by the conduct of the generality among us, we should rather suppose that the Savior gave himself to deliver us to, and not to deliver us from, this present evil world: precisely as the Jews of old committed all manner of iniquity, and then said, "We are delivered to do all these abominations." You well know, that, as by general consent, this is made a season of more than usual conviviality; insomuch that dissipation is, if I may so speak, the order of the day: and the man who has no greater portion than usual of mirth and gaiety seems to himself to have failed in the peculiar exercises of his mind, which the season calls for. If one were to say, that such commemorations were an insult to the Deity; that they obstructed the very ends for which the Savior came; and were a direct act of rebellion against God the Father, whose avowed will was opposed; one should be thought a gloomy enthusiast, and an enemy to all social happiness. But so it is, whatever ungodly men may think concerning it; and so it will be found at the last day. God says, "Give me your heart;" and that command must be obeyed. We must withdraw it from all things that stand in competition with him. The most lawful and honorable attachments must be subordinated to him: we must "set our affections altogether on things above, and not on things on the earth," we must "have our conversation in Heaven." Our blessed Lord has shown us, in this respect, how to walk; and we "must follow his steps." In the world we are, and must be: but of the world we must not be, either in our spirit or our conduct. If we will be his followers indeed, we must "not be of the world, even as he was not of the world."

In this subject we may clearly see,

1. How few experience the full benefits of Christ's redemption!

The light of Christianity has certainly raised the tone of morals, where its precepts are heard: but a complete conformity to the Christian code is rarely seen. Where do we find persons living according to the pattern of Christ and his Apostles? Where does the cross of Christ so operate, that they who look to it regard the world as a crucified object, or as a person that was himself crucified would regard it? This is a feeling utterly unknown, except among a few; who, on that very account, are despised and hated by the whole world. The truth is, that Christians in general differ very little from either Jews or Heathens. Christianity occupies their heads; but heathenism their hearts. They pretend to have faith: but, as for "the faith that overcomes the world," they know nothing about it. Their whole life, instead of being occupied in a progressive transformation of the soul after the Divine image, is one continued state of conformity to the world: and, instead of regarding "the friendship of the world" as a decisive proof of their "enmity against God," they affect it, they seek it, they glory in it. I appeal to all, whether these observations be not true; and whether those who are "dead to the world" be not "as signs and wonders" in our day? Know, however, that they, and they only, are right; and that all the knowledge, or all the experience, that leaves us short of this, is but learned ignorance, and specious delusion. "The whole world lies in wickedness," and "they who are of God" come out of it, even as Lot did out of Sodom. "If we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us."

2. How blessed is the effect of real Christianity upon the soul.

It emancipates us from the sorest bondage; and brings us into a state of liberty and peace. The votaries of this world, see with what cares they are harassed, with what disappointments they are vexed! See them in the full enjoyment of their portion; What have they? what, but "vanity and vexation of spirit?" But, on the other hand, behold the Christian that is enabled to live above the world: his acquisitions cause no idolatrous feelings, like those which the rich man expressed, when he said "Soul, take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry," nor do his losses cast him down, or cause him to cry out, "You have taken away my gods; and what have I more?" "He knows how to be full or to be hungry," as God shall see fit: and "in whatever state he be, to be therewith content." His happiness is independent of earthly things. "God himself is his portion, and his inheritance," and death, which is so formidable to a worldly man, is to him an object of desire, because it brings him to the full fruition of all that he holds dear. In a word, in him is fulfilled "the will of God the Father;" and in him is accomplished the purpose of Christ his Savior. Behold this man! I ask not whether he be rich or poor, learned or unlearned, infirm or strong; but this I ask, Is there a person who does not in his heart envy him? I know, full well, that in words the generality will reproach him, as a weak enthusiast: but who would not wish, in a dying hour, to be found in his place? A superiority to the cares and pleasures of life, if accompanied with a suitable deportment in other respects, carries such evidence along with it, as men know not how to reject. They may be ignorant of the principle from whence such conduct flows; but the conduct itself commends itself to their consciences, with a force which they cannot resist. All in their hearts congratulate the consistent saint; and though they will not say, "Let me live his life," they will say, "Let me die his death, and let my latter end be like his."

 

MMCL

The Importance of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone

Galatians 1:8, 9. Though we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other Gospel unto you, than that you have received, let him be accursed.

TO exercise candor and forbearance towards those who differ from us, is the duty of all: yet there are bounds beyond which candor becomes indifference, and forbearance treason. In things which are nonessential, and only of secondary importance, we should on no account be rigid: we should form our own opinions, and leave others to follow their own judgment: yes, rather than grieve them by an unnecessary adherence to our own ways, we should conform to theirs, or at least forbear to prosecute our own. This was the conduct of the Apostle Paul. He "bore with the infirmities of his weak brethren," he circumcised Timothy, in order that he might gain an easier access to them for their good. "He became all things to all men," that he might win their souls: and rather than prove a stumbling-block to any, by using that liberty to which he was introduced by the Gospel, he would decline the use of meat to the latest hour of his life. But was this his practice when he came to things essential? Did he express no concern when he saw the whole city of Athens given to idolatry? Yes; "his spirit was stirred within him," and he testified boldly against their ignorant superstitions. When he perceived that some of the Corinthians were lax in their sentiments and conduct, he told them plainly, that "if any man defiled the temple of God, him would God destroy." Thus, in the passage before us, he, who on other occasions "was gentle among them, even like a nursing mother cherishing her children," was filled with indignation against those who perverted the "Gospel of Christ," and denounced against every one of them, even though he were an angel from Heaven, the most awful anathemas: yes, that they might know the fixedness of his mind respecting it, he renewed his declarations, and repeated his anathemas.

Let us then inquire,

I. What was the Gospel which Paul preached.

On this point the utmost caution is necessary. The Apostle pronounces every one accursed that preaches any other Gospel different from that which he had preached to the Galatians. A mistake therefore in this matter will be absolutely fatal to us.

Observe then, that the great doctrine which he insisted on, was justification by faith alone without the works of the law. This, I say, was the point which he maintained, in contradistinction to justification by works, or by faith and works together: and this, namely, justification by faith without works, was the Gospel which he preached.

Respecting this we can have no doubt, if we consider,

1. The statements which he makes.

Here let us notice his train of argument, especially in that part of the epistle which accords with a similar statement in the Epistle to the Romans. He observes, that Abraham was justified by faith; and that we become partakers of his benefits by faith also: that the law, instead of justifying, curses and condemns us: that the prophets asserted justification by faith, in direct opposition to justification by the works of the law: and that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, not that we might afterwards be justified by the law, but that we might enjoy his blessings through faith. The Apostle then goes on to illustrate and confirm this by the covenant which was made with Abraham. In this covenant God gave to Abraham, and to his believing posterity, the inheritance of eternal life. Four hundred and thirty years after, he gave the law to Moses, and made another covenant with the Jews respecting their possession of the earthly Canaan. This latter covenant therefore, you perceive, was made between different parties; the former being between God and Abraham, (including all the believing seed of Abraham, whether they were circumcised or not,) and the other, between God and the Jewish nation only: consequently, as a man's covenant cannot be annulled unless both parties consent, so the covenant which God made with the Jews cannot supersede that which he had so long before made with Abraham and his believing seed; because the latter party were not present at the making of it, nor had they ever consented to annul the covenant which had been made with them. If it be asked, Why then was the law given? We answer, Not to supersede the covenant which had been "before confirmed of God in Christ," but to show men their need of that better covenant, and to serve "as a school-master to bring them unto Christ, that they might be justified by faith."

Now compare this with the whole train of argument in the five first chapters to the Romans, and the coincidence will establish the point at once. The Apostle there shows our condemnation by the law, and the consequent impossibility of ever being justified by it: from thence he shows the necessity of seeking justification by faith in Christ; more especially because that way of justification, and that alone, would exclude boasting. He then proceeds to establish his point by the examples of Abraham and David, both of whom sought justification by faith only: and he argues from thence, that if works compose any part of our justifying righteousness, "our reward will not be of grace, but of debt;" and Heaven will be, not a gift bestowed, but a compensation that we have earned: and consequently, that we must "not work" in order to obtain righteousness, but "believe on him who justifies the ungodly," (Mark well, not the godly, but the ungodly.) If it be said, that another Apostle represents Abraham as justified by his works, Paul proves to demonstration, that James cannot speak of Abraham's justification before God, but only of the justification, or manifestation, of his faith, as true, and genuine; for that Abraham "was justified while yet he was in uncircumcision;" which was not only before he offered Isaac upon the altar, but long before Isaac was born.

It is needless to prosecute any further the Apostle's statement: it will be sufficient just to mention his conclusion from it, which is; "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God."

2. The objections he anticipates.

In all his writings Paul is careful to obviate the objections which he foresees will be urged against the truths that he inculcates. The objections which he supposes an ignorant person will make, are two: first, That if, where sin has abounded, grace much more abounds, we may "continue in sin that grace may abound," for the greater sinners we are before we are justified, the more will the grace of God be magnified in justifying such ungodly creatures: and, if a person be justified without any respect to his works, then, secondly, we may live in sin after we are justified; because we are not under the law which requires good works, but under a dispensation of grace, wherein life is given freely without any regard to our works, past, present, or future.

Time will not admit of our considering how he answers these objections: (suffice it to say, that he shows they have no solid foundation; and that good works are effectually secured, though they be not taken into the account in our justification:) we mention the objections only, to show what the doctrine must be that gave rise to them. Suppose the Apostle had said, that we were to be justified by our works alone, or by faith and works united, what room could there have been for such objections as these? If works were taken into consideration in the matter of our justification before God, we could have no temptation whatever on that account, to neglect them, either before or after we were justified. But if we are justified by faith without any respect to our works, then we can see at once, how a person, not understanding the whole of the Christian scheme, might conceive that the doctrine tended to licentiousness. Indeed these are the very objections that are yet daily urged by ignorant people against the Apostle's doctrine: they cry, 'You need only believe, and you may live as you will: and the more wicked you are, the more will the free grace of God be glorified in saving you.' Persons never think of urging these objections against those who preach salvation by works, whether in the whole or in part; which is a sure proof, that the Apostle did not preach that doctrine; but that the doctrine which he delivered was that of salvation by faith without the works of the law. In this view of his doctrine there is some apparent ground for the objection: in any other view of it, there is none at all.

3. The perversions he complains of.

What was it he complained of in the conduct of the Galatians? It was this: that they added the observance of the Mosaic ritual to the duties enjoined by the Gospel, hoping thereby to render themselves more acceptable to God. And in what manner does he complain of this? He calls it an introducing of "another Gospel, which yet was not another" (for it was a mongrel religion, neither law nor Gospel); or, in other words, a "perversion or rejection of the true Gospel." Now what ground had he for such heavy accusations, if he himself preached salvation (whether in whole or in part) by the works of the law? On this supposition, the more works they did, the more certain they would be to obtain justification: supposing the Mosaic ritual to be abrogated, there still was no harm in "observing days, and months, and years;" and all that he could properly say to them on the occasion, was, "That they were giving themselves needless trouble," he must have commended them for their zeal in doing these works; and only told them, that now there was no occasion for these observances. But if he preached justification by faith without the works of the law, and saw that they were performing these works in order to secure their justification, then he might well say, "I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain."

Again—We read of heavy complaints against Peter. What had Peter done? He had conversed familiarly with the Gentile converts, and lived for a season, as they did, without any regard to the Mosaic ritual. But when some Judaizing converts came from Jerusalem, he was afraid of offending their prejudices; and therefore he forsook the Gentile converts, and lived with the others in the observance of all the Jewish rites and ceremonies. By this conduct, he not only sanctioned the erroneous idea that the Mosaic rites were still obligatory on the Jewish Christians, but that it was necessary even for the Gentile Christians to conform to them. Now this, in any view of Paul's doctrine, was highly blameworthy; because it was imposing a needless yoke upon the neck of the Gentiles. But this was all: and supposing that Paul had preached justification by works, this was all that he could properly lay to the charge of Peter. But supposing, as we have shown, that the Gospel which Paul preached held forth justification by faith alone, then there was abundant reason for rebuking Peter in the presence of the whole Church, and accusing him of subverting the foundations of the Gospel, and declaring that, so far as he prevailed, he "frustrated the grace of God," and made "the death of Christ to be in vain."

We are convinced that, if this accumulated evidence be duly weighed, no doubt can remain upon our minds respecting the doctrine which Paul preached, and which he calls in our text "The Gospel." Let us then inquire,

II. Why he manifested such zeal in maintaining it.

No man had less of bigotry than the Apostle Paul: for, though a Jew, he spent his life in vindicating the liberty of the Gentiles, and, in fact, died a martyr to. their cause. Nor was he actuated by resentment; for, when most blaming the Galatians, he says, "You have not injured me at all." Nor was he impelled by ambition, as though he would preserve an unrivaled ascendency over the Galatian Church; for he considered himself as "not having dominion over their faith, but merely as a helper of their joy." His view was to maintain,

1. The purity of the Gospel.

The Gospel is a fountain of life to a ruined world: nor is there a cistern in the universe that can afford waters so salubrious. It is there alone that Christ is revealed: and "there is no other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we can be saved." Now a perverting of this fundamental doctrine of justification by faith alone, is a poisoning of that fountain; and consequently a destroying of the whole human race, as well those to whom its waters flow, as those who dwell in the parched desert. Suppose any man were found so in-human, as without any cause to poison the spring whereby a populous city were sustained, and from whence alone they could draw what was necessary for their sustenance; would not every living creature execrate him? Yet that man would be innocent in comparison of him who diffuses the deadly doctrines of a mutilated Gospel: for the former destroys only the bodies of men; whereas the latter consigns over their souls to everlasting destruction. No wonder then that the Apostle expressed himself with such vehemence! no wonder that he pronounced every person, whether it were himself, or an angel from Heaven, "accursed," who should dare to "adulterate the sincere milk of the Word!" It was on this ground that he resisted with invincible firmness the attempts that were made to get Titus circumcised; and it was with the same view that he opposed so strenuously all the efforts of Judaizing teachers, even though they were sanctioned by the examples of Barnabas or Peter himself.

2. The importance of the Gospel.

Many who would shudder at the idea of infidelity, are ready to consider the doctrine of justification by faith alone, either as erroneous, or at best as speculative, doubtful, and indifferent. They will not unfrequently say, 'Take care to do good works, and you need not trouble yourself about these nice questions.' Now I readily grant that there are nice questions relative to predestination and election, and some other points, which may, or may not, be received consistently with our "holding the Head," the Lord Jesus Christ: but this is not the case with the doctrine before us. Justification by faith alone, is the hinge upon which the whole of Christianity turns. If that be practically received into the heart, it will save a man, though he be mistaken in many other points: but a mistake relative to that will be fatal to him, though he should hold every other truth in the Bible. Hear how Paul speaks in a passage before referred to; "If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain;" that is, It was in vain that Christ came down from Heaven: all that he did or suffered was in vain, "if righteousness (whether in whole or in part) come by the law;" for "all that are under the law are under the curser." Again, with peculiar firmness and solemnity he says, "Behold, I, Paul, say unto you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing." What! was there any sin in circumcision? Why then did Paul circumcise Timothy? No, the act was as innocent as any act could be: but the sin lay, in complying with that ordinance with a view to further their justification before God: and then, it not only did not improve the prospects of the person that submitted to it, but made "Christ himself of no profit to him whatever." Once more he says, "Christ is become of no effect unto you; whoever of you is justified by the law, you are fallen from grace;" that is, You have utterly renounced the grace of the Gospel, and you can no more be saved, than the devils themselves; for Christ is become of no effect unto you. In the Epistle to the Romans he confirms these things, not merely, as in the fore-cited passages, by strong assertions, but by matter of fact: for he declares that the Jews were left to perish, notwithstanding all their endeavors to obtain righteousness by the law; and that the Gentiles, who had paid no attention whatever to righteousness of any kind, were saved: and that the reason of the one being saved, while the others perished, was, that the one embraced the doctrine of justification by faith only, while the others were too proud to submit to it. Let these matters be considered; and then let any one say, whether there was not good reason for the Apostle's anathemas, which under any other circumstances might have been justly counted harsh and severe. He felt the importance of the doctrine; and he wished all others to feel it: and therefore he did not hesitate to imprecate curses even on an angel from Heaven, if any one could be found blind and impious enough to set it aside.

3. The sufficiency of the Gospel.

We are far from imputing any evil intention to those who object to the doctrine we are maintaining. "They have a zeal for God; but not according to knowledge." They have fears and apprehensions that the Gospel which has been set forth, is insufficient either to justify, or to sanctify, the soul: and on this account they add good works to faith in order to their justification; conceiving, that the righteousness of Christ cannot be the less effectual for the addition of ours to it; and that the idea of being justified in part by our good works must be an irresistible inducement to the performance of them: whereas the exalting of faith as the only mean of salvation, must, they suppose, relax men's diligence in good works. But let us not presume to prop up the ark, or to change the plans which Infinite Wisdom has devised for the salvation of man. "The robe of Christ's righteousness" is quite sufficient "to cover our nakedness," without adding to it "the filthy rags of our righteousness." And there are grounds enough for abounding in good works without putting them into the place of Christ, and making a Savior of them. The Scripture is plain; "All that believe are justified from all things," and it is equally plain, that "faith will work by love," and "overcome the world," and "purify the heart." Had the Gospel needed any addition in either of these respects, Paul would not have been so adverse to the attempts to improve it: but, as it needed nothing of this kind, he could not endure that we should presume to be wiser than God: "Shall he who contends with the Almighty, instruct him? He who reproves God, let him answer it."

Our improvement of this subject must be short: but we cannot conclude it without briefly noticing its importance,

1. To those who minister.

It is not within the compass of language to suggest words that could more deserve the attention of ministers, than those of our text. Many things doubtless are requisite for a due discharge of the ministry: but there is one that as far surpasses all others, as the sun exceeds a taper. It is this; an acquaintance with this fundamental doctrine of Scripture, the doctrine of justification by faith alone. If a man be not instructed in it, how can he instruct others? and if he be not instructing them in this, what is he doing, but bringing down curses upon his own soul, and leading his people also to destruction? Would to God, that those who look forward to the ministry as a source of worldly honor or emolument, would seriously reflect upon this tremendous passage, and consider, whether it be worth their while to involve themselves in such accumulated misery! Would to God that those also who are in the ministry, would consider what they have undertaken to preach, and what is uniformly inculcated in the articles, the homilies, and the liturgy of our Church! But whether men will consider for themselves or not, we must say, "a necessity is laid upon them, and woe be unto them if they preach not the Gospel."

2. To those who are ministered unto.

If there be such a necessity laid on ministers to preach "the truth as it is in Jesus," there must be the same necessity for you to hear and embrace it. Inquire then, what is the Gospel that you have received? Is it this, or is it "another Gospel?" Are your views of the Gospel such as would furnish occasion for an ignorant person to raise objections against it as tending to licentiousness? Yet do you, at the same time, manifest by your life and conversation, that it is "a doctrine according to godliness?" Inquire into these things; for "they are your life." If your views of Divine truth do not answer to this description, they are not such as the Apostle Paul had, nor will they lead you where he is. If, instead of looking for salvation by faith alone, you are mixing your own merits with those of Christ, you must inevitably perish: Christ shall profit you nothing. You may build hay, and wood, and stubble, upon the true foundation, and yet be saved at last: you will suffer loss indeed; yet you will be saved, though it be as persons snatched out of the fire. But if you build on anything besides Christ, you have a foundation of sand, which will fail you in the hour of trial, to the destruction of your whole fabric, and the ruin of your own souls. The mixtures of your righteousness with Christ's, like the feet of iron and clay in Nebuchadnezzar's image, will never bear the super-incumbent weight: they cannot unite; they cannot adhere; if you attempt to stand upon them, you will fall and be broken in pieces. There is but "one faith," but one foundation: "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Take heed therefore that you build upon it; and let your superstructure be such as shall be approved in the day when it shall be tried by fire.

 

MMCLI

Men-Pleasers Reproved

Galatians 1:10. Do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

IN the Churches of Galatia, great efforts were made, by Judaizing teachers, to "pervert the Gospel of Christ," and to establish in its place a doctrine more congenial with Jewish prejudices and Jewish habits. Paul set himself vigorously to withstand their influence, and to maintain the Gospel in all its purity. For this end, he declared, in this epistle, his full authority from God to require from all of them a submission to the doctrines which he preached; and he denounced a curse on any creature, whether man or angel, who should attempt to introduce any other Gospel. In prosecution of his argument, he appeals to the Galatians themselves, whether he was, or could be, actuated by any unworthy desire of pleasing men: "Do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men?" In explanation of these words, some would supply an ellipsis here, as though he had said, "Do I persuade (preach) the things of men, or of God?" Others would translate it, "Do I solicit the favor of men or of God?" But neither of these interpretations can I altogether approve. The former is that which our translators seem to have acquiesced in; though, father than express it, they have left the passage altogether unintelligible. But if the word which we render "persuade" were translated "obey" (as it is translated in other parts of this very epistle), I conceive that the sense would be more clear. Let it be remembered, that the Apostle, previously to his conversion, had sought to please men, and, under their authority, had opposed to the uttermost the cause of Christ. Now he labored, with no less zeal, to maintain that cause; and denounced a curse, even against an angel from Heaven, if one should be found presumptuous enough to oppose it. But was he now actuated by the same motives as he was before? Did he now act under the authority of men, or seek to please men? Was he not rather acting in obedience to God? It was clear that he was not pleasing men, nor could possibly have any such object in view; because men's wishes were in direct opposition to God's commands, and to the ministrations which he felt it his duty to maintain: and if he would please and obey man, he could not be the servant of Christ.

That this is the real meaning of the passage appears, both from the terms which are used, and from the relation which the different parts of this verse bear to each other. The Apostle says, "Do I now obey man?" I did formerly; but I do not now: "for if I yet pleased man, I could not be the servant of Christ." Here, you will perceive, the two services are opposed to each other, and declared to be inconsistent with each other. And this not only makes the sense clear, but cuts off all occasion for supplying an ellipsis, in a way which one would not wish, and which, in my opinion, can scarcely be justified. As to the text itself, that, in its import at least, is perfectly intelligible: and, in opening it, I shall,

I. Confirm the Apostle's assertion.

We shall have no doubt of its truth, if we consider the grounds on which it stands:

1. The things which men, and the Lord Jesus Christ, require, are directly contrary to each other.

Men have their maxims and habits, to which they wish all others to be conformed. Our blessed Lord, on the contrary, says, "Be not conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, that you may know what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." But this is not all: he commands us, not only to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but also rather to reprove them." Now, the separation alone is, of itself, sufficiently displeasing to the world, because it forms a tacit reprehension of their ways: but, when to this is added a testimony borne against their ways as evil, they are irritated and incensed; and, in self-defense, they brand their opponents with every term of ignominy and reproach. Our blessed Lord found it so with respect to himself: "The world cannot hate you," said he to his unbelieving brethren; "but me it hates, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil." And he has taught us to expect the same treatment on precisely the same ground: "If you were of the world, the world would love his own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."

2. There is no possibility of reconciling them.

Our blessed Lord has placed this beyond a doubt: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon." This is the very foundation of that separation from the world, which is the bounden duty of every one that calls himself "a servant of Christ." "What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness? and what concord has Christ with Belial? or what part has he who believes with an infidel?" "Wherefore come out from among them, and he you separate, says the Lord." In truth, this is nothing but what must commend itself to every considerate mind. Paul appealed respecting it to the whole Church of Rome, and, in fact, to the whole world: "Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey?" It may be said, perhaps, that the services of God and Mammon are not so irreconcilable as we represent them; since our Lord himself has shown us that they may be reconciled. In one place he says, "He who is not with me, is against me; and he who gathers not with me, scatters abroad," and in another place he says, "He who is not against us, is for us," and therefore he may, in this latter passage, be said to have modified and tempered the severer language of the former. But there is no real opposition between the two passages: for if the occasions on which they were spoken be duly marked, it will be found that the former passage forbids neutrality in our own conduct; the latter forbids uncharitableness in judging of the conduct of others. Strong as are the declarations of our Lord and of Paul, which have been before cited, they fall far short of that which is spoken by James. From them we see that neutrality is treason, in reference to God, just as it would be in an earthly kingdom, where a subject would not move to repel an invading enemy. But James declares, that even a wish to preserve friendship with the world is nothing less than a direct act of rebellion against God. "You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, will be (wishes to be) the friend of the world, is (is thereby constituted) the enemy of God,"

On these grounds I conceive that the Apostle's assertion admits not of the smallest doubt; but is plain, direct, and incontrovertible.

Let me now, then,

II. Show the bearing it should have on our life and conversation.

It is of great importance for us to remember, that broad and unqualified assertions may easily be perverted, to the establishment of principles which, in reality, are false; and to the encouragement of conduct which is essentially unfitting. It is the part of sound wisdom to make those discriminations, which will serve to guide an humble and conscientious Christian to an adjustment of contending claims, and to a discernment of the path of duty in difficult and conflicting circumstances. With a view to this, I will point out,

1. Negatively, what effect this assertion should not produce.

It should not render us indifferent to the opinions or feelings of those around us. Indifference to the feelings of others is highly criminal: it argues a want of love; without which divine principle, whatever a man may have, he is no better than "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." Those around us have immortal souls, for which we ought to be tenderly concerned: and, as they must of necessity be more or less affected by our conduct, and have their estimate of our principles influenced by the fruits which they produce, it becomes us, for their sakes, to avoid casting any stumbling-block before them, or giving them any unnecessary offence. We should, as far as possible, "prevent even our good from being evil spoken of." Nay further; we should endeavor to "please men," yes, to "please all men." "Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification: for even Christ pleased not himself." Nay, I go further still, and say, that we ought to be ready to make considerable sacrifices for this very end: for Paul, speaking on this very subject, says, "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved." Now, this is a point on which religious people, and young people especially, need to be put upon their guard. There is a self-will, and self-pleasing, in religious matters, as well as in things unconnected with religion: and there is a disposition to magnify the importance of matters that are indifferent, and to urge the claims of conscience for things which are really dictated only by inclination, and an undue pertinacity in these things frequently proves a greater stumbling-block to our friends and relatives, than a firm adherence to any positive duty would do. Still, however, I must guard this on the other hand; and say, that, in any concessions which we may make, we must look well to our motives, which, none but God can see. We must not comply with the wishes or solicitations of men, merely to please them, or to avoid exciting their displeasure: we must do it simply "for their good to edification." This was the Apostle's motive, in all his compliances: "Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more: unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law: to the weak, became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do (not for my own sake, but) for the Gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you." Let this distinction be kept in view, and this principle be in operation, and we shall not materially err, either by pertinacity on the one hand, or by compliance on the other.

It may be said, that this mode of proceeding will make a Christian's conduct extremely difficult and unnecessarily dangerous; and that it will be better to adhere to the broad line altogether, and to wave all consideration except for the good of our own souls. But to this I can by no means accede. I agree that this would be far easier, and in some respects safer: but I cannot therefore say that it is better. It may be right to incur both difficulty and danger for the good of others; though it would not be right to incur them merely for their gratification. It would be right to expose our own lives to a tempest in a small boat for the sake of saving a shipwrecked crew, when it would be highly criminal to do so for the amusement of those on shore: and, if we do subject ourselves both to difficulty and a measure of danger for the everlasting salvation of others, we may expect the Divine protection and blessing in our endeavors. Let us but serve our God according to his directions, and we need not fear but that "he will give his angels charge over us, to keep us in all our ways."

2. Positively, what effect this assertion should produce.

It must lead us to adopt a decided part, and never to swerve from the path of duty, even if the whole world should be against us. The conduct of the Apostles should be ours, whenever such an alternative is presented to us: "Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge you;" for we cannot but do the things which our God requires. We must be very careful to examine what the path of duty is; but, having ascertained it, we must not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, on any account whatever. We must not deviate from the path of duty, in a way either of commission or of omission. Suppose it said to us, as to the Hebrew Youths, 'Bow down to this idol, or you shall go into the fiery furnace;' we should not hesitate to choose the fire in preference to the sin. Or if it were said, as to Daniel, 'Forbear to pray to your God, or you shall be cast into the den of lions;' we should not hesitate to prefer the den of lions, to an abandonment of an acknowledged duty: nay, we should not even appear to concede the point; but should serve God openly, and at all events. As far as our Lord and the world go together, we should follow the world: but where they separate, we should let all men see "whose we are, and whom we serve."

Now, in this subject we may see,

1. Matter for serious inquiry.

"Do I yet please men?" This has been the habit of us all in former times: for the unconverted man has no higher principle of action than this. But, if we have been truly converted unto God, we have given ourselves up to another Master, even Christ; and to serve and please him is our chief, our only, aim. We must have no will, no way, but his. For him must we both live and die.

Well do I know, that our change, in this respect, is often imputed to us for evil; and that we are deemed weak, conceited, and fanatical, because we presume to judge for ourselves in this particular. But where eternity is at stake, how can we do otherwise? We must approve ourselves to God, and to our own conscience. In no other way can we have peace: in no other way can we ever attain to glory.

And I cannot but say, that in what the world demand at our hands, they are very unreasonable. For they will not mete to us what they expect us to measure to them. They will not be persuaded by us to do the smallest thing for God, and for their own souls. If, to please us, they read a book which we put into their hands, or attend upon a ministry which we have recommended, they think they make mighty concessions; though, in the daily habit of their minds, they are as much addicted to the world as others: but there are no bounds to the concessions which they require of us: nor are they ever satisfied, until they have drawn us into the same vortex with themselves. I must therefore recommend extreme caution in carrying into effect the very advice which I myself have given. For though to please all men is a legitimate and becoming object of pursuit, if you have attained it you will have great reason to suspect yourselves: for you will have attained what neither our Lord nor his Apostles ever did, or ever could. If "all men speak well of you," you may be perfectly assured that you have been unfaithful to your God, and that nothing but a woe attends you.

2. Matter for unceasing consolation.

It is extremely painful to have our friends and relations displeased with us, as they assuredly will be, if we give up ourselves unreservedly to the Lord. Our blessed Lord has told us, that, though this was not the end of his coming, it is, and will be, the effect: "I am come," says he, "to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against the mother, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law: and a man's foes shall be those of his own household." But then we should ask ourselves, "Have I, like Enoch, this testimony, that I have pleased God?" If I have, I am satisfied. I would most gladly, if it were in my power, please all who are connected with me: but if they reduce me to the dilemma of either displeasing them or God, they must excuse me: for "I must obey God rather than man." The persons who are offended with me, would expect their servant to obey them rather than a stranger: and is not God entitled to that deference from me? I am "a servant of Jesus Christ;" and I must, at the peril of my soul, obey him. And as our blessed Lord said respecting his own conduct to his heavenly Father, "I do always those things which please him;" so, God helping me, will I say: and if I stand condemned for it at man's tribunal, I have this comfort, that, when standing at the tribunal of my God, he will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter you into the joy of your Lord."

 

MMCLII

Conversion, and Its Effects

Galatians 1:15, 16. When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.

GREAT were the trials which the Apostle Paul met with in the Churches of Galatia through the subtlety of some Judaizing teachers, who labored, and with too much success, to turn the newly converted Christians from the faith which Paul had preached to them, and to bring them over to a faith compounded of Judaism and Christianity. To give the greater weight to their doctrines, they represented Paul as preaching a Gospel which he had received only from human authority, and not from the Lord Jesus Christ, as all the other Apostles had; and consequently, as unworthy of the confidence which his followers reposed in him. To counteract the sad effects of their representations, Paul, in the very introduction to his Epistle to the Galatians, declared, that he had received his Gospel, "not of men (as the authors), nor by man (as an instrument), but directly from the Lord Jesus Christ, and from God the Father, who had raised him from the dead," and then, after expressing his "wonder that they had been so soon turned away from him who had called them into the grace of Christ," he proceeds to vindicate more fully his apostolic authority: "I certify you, brethren," says he, "that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man: for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." Then, after specifying the time when it was revealed to him, namely, in his way to Damascus, he asserts, that he studiously avoided everything which might be construed into a reception of it from men; for he had not gone at all at that time to Jerusalem, where the other Apostles were, but into Arabia, where there was none but God to teach him.

In the account which he thus gives of himself, he gives us an insight into the work of conversion, and into that line of conduct which all converted persons should pursue. It is for the elucidating of these two things that we have selected the passage which we have just read: from which we shall take occasion to show,

I. Wherein our conversion, must resemble Paul's.

Certainly it is not at all necessary that our conversion should resemble his in the external circumstances; for in respect of them he stands alone, not so much as one of his attendants being, as far as we know, converted with him. Nor even in respect of the suddenness of it, is it at all necessary that we should resemble him: our conversion may be so gradual that we cannot trace it to any particular time; and yet it may be as certain and as evident as his. But in its essential parts conversion is the same in all. Ours therefore must resemble his,

1. In its origin, the electing love of God.

God "separated him from his mother's womb" to the apostolic office, just as he had done the prophet Jeremiah to the prophetic office. It was evidently not for his righteousness that he was thus chosen to know Christ for himself, and to preach him to others: for, to the very instant of his conversion, he was a blasphemer, and injurious, and a persecutor. His election can be traced to nothing but the sovereign will of God. And to this must our conversion also be traced, if ever we have been converted at all. "We have not chosen Christ, but Christ us," yes, "we were chosen of God in Christ before the foundation of the world," and "predestined to the adoption of children" into his family. In this very epistle Paul most studiously marks this. He speaks of the Galatians as having known God: but, fearing, as it were, lest they should suppose that the work had begun on their part, he recalls his word, and says, "after that you have known God, or rather are known of God." Let us bear in mind therefore, that, if we are converted, it is "not because we loved God, but because he loved use," "he loved us with an everlasting love; and therefore with loving-kindness has he drawn us."

2. In its means, the effectual grace of God.

God "called him by his grace;" and without the effectual working of his grace the Apostle would never have been called at all. Nor shall we ever attain to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus in any other way. Of ourselves "we can do nothing," no, "not so much as think a good thought," it is "God alone who can give us either to will or to do" anything that is good. "If we are brought into a state of grace," it is "he who has made us willing in the day of his power." "We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works," the new creation is his work as much as the old: whatever be the means, or whoever be the instrument "to plant or water, it is he alone that gives the increase." Every child of man must say with the Apostle, "By the grace of God I am what I am," "whoever he be that is born again, he is born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

3. In its manner, by a revelation of Christ to the soul.

As far as relates to the external circumstances, we have before said that no analogy exists: but as it respects the revelation of Christ to the soul, conversion is the same in all. There may be a preparatory work of conviction without this; but no conversion: for in this consists the essence of conversion, if we may so speak. The revelation given in the Scriptures may inform the mind; but it is the revelation made to the soul, that can alone convert and save the soul. The means which converted Saul, produced no such effect on his companions. Many others heard the word preached to them, as well as Lydia: but she received benefit from it which others did not, because "the Lord opened her heart to attend to the things that were spoken." So, if we are savingly enlightened, it is because God has "opened the eyes of our understanding," and "given us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of his Son," and "shined into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." It is then only that we truly "receive Christ" as our Savior: then only do we "feed truly on his flesh and blood;" then only do we "believe in him to the saving of the soul."

4. In its end, to make him known in the world.

We are not all called, like Paul, "to preach Christ among the heathen;" but we are called, like Paul himself, to confess him openly, and to become his avowed followers, and to show forth in our life and conversation the power of his grace. We are all to "shine as lights in a dark world, holding forth the word of life." We are to be his witnesses, even "epistles of Christ known and read of all men." We are so to make our "light shine before men, that all who see us may approve of his ways, and glorify his name."

From the effect produced on him by his conversion, we are led to consider,

II. Wherein our conduct must resemble his.

It is probable that his words relate rather to his not seeking any fellowship with those who were at that time the pillars of the Christian Church, than to any workings of his own mind, which he studiously suppressed. Yet the decision of his character on the occasion shows us what we should be and do, when once we have received the converting grace of God. We must enter on the duties assigned us,

1. Without hesitation.

Many doubts will be suggested by our own corrupt hearts, how far it is necessary or expedient to devote ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ; and our carnal friends will not fail to remonstrate with us on our new views and pursuits. They will tell us of the injury which we shall sustain in our reputation and interests, if we make ourselves singular, and join ourselves to "a sect that is everywhere evil spoken of." They will beseech us with much affectionate importunity to put away these enthusiastic notions: and, if they have power over us, they will blend menaces with their entreaties. But, from whatever quarter the temptation may come, we must examine its tendency, and, as soon as we see that its effect will be to draw us back to the world, we must say to it, as our blessed Lord under similar circumstances said to Peter, "Get you behind me, Satan: for you savor not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men." We must listen to nothing, however specious it may be, that would cause us to dissemble with God, or divert us from the path prescribed to us in his word. Our one question must be, What does my Lord and Savior require of me? and by that must we be determined, though the whole world should endeavor to obstruct our way. We must neither be allured by interest, nor deterred by fear; but must "hate father and mother, and even our own lives also, in comparison of Christ."

2. Without delay.

Thus did Paul: "immediately" he betook himself to the work assigned him. Thus should we also: we should not say, Let me go home first and take leave of my friends, or bury my father: No, let the dead bury their dead: our duty is to fulfill the will of Him who has called us to his kingdom and glory. We shall occasionally feel strong temptations on this subject. When difficulties and dangers present themselves, we shall be ready to think we shall find some more convenient season, when our way will be more plain and easy. But we must, like Matthew at the receipt of custom, or like others of the Apostles at their nets, forsake all and follow Christ.

Application.

1. Let those of you who have experienced converting grace, give God the glory.

There is a strange backwardness in man to do this. If all be traced to the sovereign grace of God, we bring forward a thousand objections, that so we may divide the glory with him. But this is not so in Heaven: nor should it be on earth. In Heaven there is no song but that of "Salvation to God and to the Lamb." Let it be so on earth. It is our indispensable duty, our truest interest, our highest happiness, to give glory to the God of Heaven. Let us do it cheerfully, and without reserve.

2. Let those in whose hearts Christ has been revealed, seek to know more and more of him.

It is but little that any man knows of him. Paul himself, after preaching Christ for twenty years, desired to know more of him, in the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings. Let us also seek to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of him." The more we behold his glory, the more we shall be changed into his image: and the more we comprehend of his unsearchable love, the more shall we be filled with all the fullness of God.

3. Let all learn how to avoid the snares which Satan lays for their feet.

We must not parley with temptation, but act with promptitude and decision. There must be in us a firmness that is immoveable: yet should that firmness be tempered with suavity. We must not think, that, because our superiors are wrong in their endeavors to keep us back from Christ, we are at liberty to slight their admonitions on other subjects, or even on religion itself, as far as we can without violating the commands of Christ. While we guard against an undue conformity to the world, we must guard also against two common evils, superstition, and unnecessary scrupulosity: scrupulosity makes that to be sin which is no sin; and superstition makes that to be duty which is no duty. Let us get our minds rightly instructed: in matters of indifference, let us be willing to yield; but in matters of vital interest and importance, let us be firm and faithful even unto death.

 

MMCLIII

God Glorified in His People

Galatians 1:23, 24. They had heard only, that he which persecuted us in times past now preaches the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.

THE account of men's conversion to God is a very profitable subject of contemplation. It tends to illustrate the infinite diversity of ways in which God deals with men, and draws them to himself. Paul, on various occasions, mentioned the peculiar manner in which he was turned to God, and brought to the obedience of faith. He adverts to it in the chapter before us, in order to establish beyond contradiction his divine mission. It is not my intention to enter into the circumstances of his conversion, any further than they are referred to in my text: from whence I shall take occasion to show,

I. What may be expected of every true convert.

It is here taken for granted that he has embraced the faith of Christ.

This is to be taken for granted in all cases: for no man can be a Christian until he has truly come to Christ, seeking mercy at God's hands through him, even through his obedience unto death. This is the distinctive difference between the Christian and others. Others may possess all that Paul himself possessed in his unconverted state: all his privileges of birth, all his attainments in knowledge, all his zeal in religion, and all his blameless morality; and yet, after all, be "in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." It is his deep contrition as a sinner, his utter renunciation of all self-dependence, either in respect to righteousness or strength, and his simple affiance in the Lord Jesus Christ, that must characterize him as a true believer.

This faith he will endeavor, to the utmost of his power, to advance.

If, like Paul, he have been "put into the ministry," he will "preach Christ" to his people; yes, and will "determine to know nothing among them, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified"—If he be a private Christian, he will exert himself in every possible way to promote the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom. Has he wealth? he will gladly assist in educating pious persons for the service of the sanctuary. Has he influence? he will endeavor to establish faithful ministers in places which seem to afford them scope for more extensive usefulness—Many of the primitive Christians gave up all that they possessed, that, in so doing, they might help forward the cause of Christ: and though the same sacrifices be not required now, the same disposition is; and every Christian in the universe should be able to say, "I count not even my life dear unto me, so that I may but finish my course with joy," and fulfill my duty to my Lord and Savior.

The tidings of the Apostle's conversion were soon spread far and wide; and the conduct of those who heard of it will show us, in reference to every other convert,

II. What reason there is to glorify God on his behalf.

In many views is the conversion of a sinner a ground of joy and thankfulness:

1. For the benefit accruing to himself.

He was but lately lying dead in trespasses and sins: now he is quickened to a new and heavenly life. He was "an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger to the covenants of promise: he is now a fellow-citizen with the saints and of the household of God." He was a child of Satan, and an heir of wrath: he is now a child of God, and an heir of Heaven. Over such an one the angels in Heaven rejoice: yes, over such an one God himself rejoices; "killing for him the fatted calf, and making merry with him." To this change of state must be added his change of nature also: and who can contemplate that, and not adopt the language of Paul, "We give thanks to God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which you have to all the saints, and for the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven?" It matters not who he be, or in what quarter of the globe he live; the tidings of this change should draw forth from us the grateful sentiment which was expressed at the conversion of Cornelius; we should "glorify God, saying, Then has God to the Gentiles also granted repentance unto life."

2. For the honor arising to God.

By none except real converts is God honored in the world: but by them he is admired, and loved, and served, and glorified. In them, too, do all his glorious perfections shine forth. Who can see a true convert, and not admire the forbearance, the mercy, the love, the power, that have been exercised towards him. In the works of creation the wisdom and goodness of God are visible: but in the new creation, there is a combination of all those perfections, which had no scope for exercise until man had fallen, and was redeemed by the blood of God's only-begotten Son. Can we wonder that the angels, on the first discovery of this work of mercy, burst forth into songs which they had never known before: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men!" In truth, this is the one great theme of praise and adoration in Heaven: and all who see the subject realized on earth, must, if they have any love to God, rejoice that persons are raised up, to give him the glory due unto his name.

3. For the advantages that may be expected from it to the Church of God.

The conversion of Paul, what a benefit was it to the whole world! What a benefit will it be to millions through all eternity! And, though none of us can bear any comparison with him, will any one pretend to estimate the good which the very least among us may be the means of effecting in the world? The work of a minister does not cease with his personal ministrations; but is ramified through a whole country, and augmented through all succeeding ages. And the poorest person, by a word spoken, or by his life and conversation, may, like Naaman's maid, be the means of converting one, whose influence may extend through a whole kingdom. Every addition therefore to the Church of God, is a ground of joy, and should call forth the devoutest thanksgivings from all to whom the tidings of it are made known.

Address.

1. Those who have never yet embraced the Gospel.

Never has any one yet had occasion to glorify God for you. On the contrary, there has been reason to weep over you incessantly, even to the present hour—You may not have been a persecutor of the Church; but you have been an enemy of God and his Christ from your youth up: for "the carnal mind is enmity with God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." You, therefore, must be converted as much as he. It is not needful that you should be converted in the same way as he, or in the same sudden manner; but converted you must be, or perish. You must believe as he did; and embrace that very Gospel which he preached. O, beg of "God to count you worthy of this calling, and to fulfill in you all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power; that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and of the Lord Jesus Christ."

2. Those who profess themselves to have received the Gospel.

See that you "adorn the Gospel; that you adorn it in all things." Let the change be as visible in you, as it was in Paul. I mean not that you are to affect the same ostensible character as he sustained; for you are not called to that: but to live unto God you are called; and to exert yourselves, according to your opportunities and ability, to promote his glory in the world, you are called: and therefore to all of you, without exception, I say, "Let your light so shine before men, that they, beholding your good works, may glorify your Father which is in Heaven."

MMCLIV

Christian and Unchristian Pertinacity

Galatians 2:5. To whom we. gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you.

NEVER, from the foundation of the world, was there, as far as we know, a richer combination of graces in any child of man, than in the Apostle Paul. As in light there is an assemblage of very different rays, which, when in due proportion and in simultaneous motion, cause that bright and pure effulgence which we call light, so in him were found dispositions most opposed to each other, yet so combined as to form in him the most perfect character. Certainly, that which first of all strikes us as constituting the chief trait in his character, is a freedom from all selfish feelings, and a willingness to do or suffer anything whereby man may be benefitted, and God be glorified. Yet, in the passage which we have just read, we see, not only an inflexibility of mind, but such an expression of it as we should scarcely have expected from so mild and kind a man.

When he was at Jerusalem, attended by a young disciple, named Titus, he was urged to have him circumcised; not for the purpose of removing prejudice, and gaining an easier access to the minds of men, but from an idea, that the observance of that rite was necessary to the completion of Christianity, and to the attainment of the Gospel salvation. To such advisers he would not listen for a moment. Whatever might be their rank or influence in the Church, he regarded them not as deserving the slightest deference from him on such a subject; since a compliance with their wishes would vitiate, and altogether invalidate, the Gospel of Christ.

Now, that this inflexibility of his may be duly appreciated, I will show,

I. When pertinacity may be considered as unamiable and sinful.

"To be zealously affected always in a good thing is commendable," but zeal may be misplaced, and especially when it operates so far as to make a man inflexible. A bold, confident, dogmatic spirit, is at all times unamiable; and especially,

1. When the object in dispute is questionable or indifferent.

Some there are, who, on every subject, speak as if they were infallible; and not only claim, what must be conceded to them, a right to think and act for themselves, but a right to impose on others also a necessity to comply with their mind and will. At all events, they themselves are immoveable on almost any subject upon which they have formed even the most hasty opinion: and, if they tolerate, they will never adopt, the sentiments opposed to them. Such were the dispositions manifested by many in the Apostle's days, especially in reference to some ordinances of the Jewish law; such as the observance of certain days, and the eating of meats offered to idols. So confident were the opposite parties, that, not content with following their own judgment, they each condemned the practice of the other; "the strong despising the weak, and the weak sitting in judgment on the strong." But how did the Apostle Paul act? He knew that neither the observance nor the neglect of such forms could "commend a man to God, or ameliorate his state before God;" consequently, that he was at liberty to act in relation to them as circumstances might require; but, "rather than use his liberty in a way that should give offence to a weak brother, he would not cat flesh so long as the world should stand."

View him on another occasion, towards the close of his life. Being at Jerusalem, where there were "many thousands of Jews zealous of the law, he was advised by James, and all the elders of the Church, to join with four other persons in performing the vows of Nazariteship, according to the law of Moses; in order to show, that, notwithstanding he had maintained the liberty of the Gentiles to disregard the Mosaic ritual, he was no enemy to it, so far as respected the Jews, who could not yet see that it was abolished. Had he been of a self-willed and a pertinacious mind, he might have urged reasons in plenty, which, in appearance at least, might justify his opposition to this advice. But he had no wish, no will, no way of his own, if, by renouncing it, he might do good, and benefit his fellow-creatures; and therefore "the very next day he commenced the work of purification in the temple, according to the law of Moses." (There are, indeed, those who condemn him for this act of conformity. But, as they set up their own judgment against James, and all the saints and elders of Jerusalem, I leave them without further remark.)

Now we see, in these instances, how condescending he was to the views and wishes of others; and what that spirit was which he exercised, as contrasted with the unamiable and unchristian spirit of his opponents.

2. When the object in dispute is purely temporal and carnal.

Some will contend about the truest trifles, wherein their own interest is concerned: and will even glory in their firmness and pertinacity. But this spirit is in direct opposition to the mind of Christ, who says, "If any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also; and whoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him twain." Let us see how Paul acted in reference to such matters. He had a right to be supported by the Church to which he ministered. God's law had actually so appointed, that "they should not muzzle the ox that trod out the corn." But there were, in the Church, some teachers whose main object was to advance their own interests, and who would not fail to cite him as sanctioning, by his example, their selfish habits. He therefore determined to wave altogether his own rights; and to work night and day for his own support, rather than to afford them such a sanction as they desired. We have a lovely instance of unselfishness in Mephibosheth, the son of Saul. When David fled from the face of Absalom, Ziba, Mephibosheth's servant, took his master's donkeys laden with provisions, and went with them to David; reporting that his master was now gratified with the hope of David's death, and of his own restoration to his father's throne. David, in consequence of this, gave to Ziba all his master's property. But on David's return to Jerusalem, Mephibosheth went to meet him; and told him how deeply he had sympathized with the banished monarch, and how scandalously he had been traduced by his servant Ziba. Upon this, David so far recalled his former grant to Ziba, as to order that Mephibosheth and Ziba should divide the property between them. Upon which, Mephibosheth, forgetting all the injuries he had sustained from Ziba, replied, "Let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace unto his own house." Here we see how all his own personal interests were swallowed up in a sense of love to David, and in a joyful participation of David's happiness.

Such is the duty of every true Christian. For Paul, speaking to those Corinthians who contended for their own rights, and carried their contests into a court of law, tells them that "there was utterly a fault among them;" and then says, "Why do you not rather take wrong, and suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" As for carrying this yielding spirit to excess, we are in no danger of that: our danger is, the not carrying it far enough: for it is impossible not to see, that, in the whole of our Savior's life, he never shined more bright than "when, being led as a lamb to the slaughter, he opened not his mouth;" and when he was treated with every species of cruelty upon the cross, he prayed and apologized for his murderers, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they dom."

But, notwithstanding the hatefulness of pertinacity in general, there are seasons,

II. When it becomes a virtue of prime necessity.

A firmness of character is indispensable in the true Christian: and he must be absolutely "immoveable,"

1. When otherwise the obedience of Christ would be violated.

Not our actions only, but "our very thoughts also, are to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." A command from him supersedes all human authority, and must be obeyed under all circumstances. The Hebrew Youths were required to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar's golden image: they were the only persons in the whole Chaldean empire who refused to comply with the royal edict: and they were threatened to be cast into a furnace of fire, it they persisted in their disobedience: yet did they maintain their steadfastness, in despite of all these menaces: and in this they acted as became the servants of the living God. Daniel manifested the same holy boldness, when he was commanded not to offer prayers to Jehovah for the space of thirty days. He had been accustomed to pray with his window open towards the holy city of Jerusalem: and he might have avoided observation, if he would only have shut his window. But he felt himself bound to honor God at all events, and not to dissemble before him. He therefore yielded not to intimidation; but submitted rather to be cast into the den of lions, than to violate his duty to his God. Who does not admire the fortitude of these men, and commend their pertinacity in such a cause? The Apostles of our Lord all maintained the same firmness, when forbidden to preach in the name of Christ. Their governors would probably have connived at their secret adherence to Christ, if only they would forbear to preach his name, and to diffuse their heresy around them. But these holy men had received a commission to preach the Gospel; and execute it they would, whatever perils they might incur in the discharge of their duty. And they appealed to their governors themselves, whether it was right or possible for them to act otherwise: "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge you: for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." Thus we, in our respective situations, may be called upon, by those who are in authority over us, to neglect or violate a positive duty: but we must not give place by subjection, no, not for an hour; but "must obey God rather than mans;" and must "resist unto blood, striving against sin;" and glory in death itself, when sustained in such a cause.

2. When otherwise the faith of Christ would be compromised.

This was the particular point at issue between Paul and the Judaizing teachers whom he opposed. He had formerly circumcised Timothy, because he judged that that measure would facilitate his access to his Jewish brethren, and his acceptance with them. But the circumcision of Titus was demanded, as necessary to complete and perfect the Gospel-salvation. To accede to it in that view would have been to betray his trust, as the minister of the Gentiles. He knew that the Mosaic law was abrogated: and, so far would the observance of it be from perfecting the work of Christ, that it would invalidate it altogether, and cause Christ himself to have died in vain. Could he then yield to such a demand as this? No, not for an hour; not for a moment. On the contrary, if Peter himself were led to dissemble, and to compromise in any respect the faith of Christ, Paul would "rebuke him to his face," and that too before the whole Church: so determined was he to preserve from every base mixture the faith which he had been commissioned to propagate and uphold. Now, this jealousy must we also cherish, in reference to the faith of Christ. We must suffer nothing for a moment to blend itself with the work of Christ, as a ground of our hope before God. The doctrine of human merit must be an utter abomination in our eyes; as robbing Christ of his glory, and as substituting a foundation of sand in the place of the Rock of Ages, There is but one foundation: there can be no other: and if any power on earth could require us to build on any other, or to put so much as a single stone to it of our own forming, we must not listen to him for a moment. The altar was to be built of whole stones, not hewn or wrought by man; and Christ alone must sanctify our offerings, and procure us acceptance with our God. And so firm must we be in our adherence to him, and so simple in our affiance, that if an angel from Heaven were to instill into our minds any doctrine that would interfere with this, we must not hesitate to denounce him as accursed: so "earnestly must we contend for the faith," and so resolutely must we keep it pure and undefiled.

See, then,

1. What need we have to get our minds duly enlightened.

Suppose, for a moment, Paul had proved as ignorant or unstable as Peter, what evils would have accrued, both to the Church and to the world at large! In fact, the whole faith of Christ would have been subverted; and, if God had not in some other way interposed to prevent it, the whole world would have been ruined. Yet how little is this point considered, by many who nevertheless call themselves Christians! The whole Church of Rome has set aside the faith of Christ, by uniting with Christ other objects of faith and other grounds of hope. It is right, therefore, that every enlightened man should protest against it, and depart from it. But shall we, therefore, justify those who depart from our Church? No; for the faith of Christ, as maintained by our Church, is pure and unadulterated: and we have shown, that, in matters of minor and subordinate importance, to indulge an unreasonable stiffness and pertinacity is not well: and we ought to have our judgment well informed, so as to discriminate clearly between the foundation and the superstructure. In the superstructure there may be somewhat undesirable, and yet no material injury accrue: but an error in the foundation will be fatal to the whole building: and this is the consideration which alone justifies a determined and uncompromising resistance to the established order of our Church. Paul has drawn this line of distinction, and adopted it as the rule of his own conduct; as indeed did James also, and all the other Apostles: and the more we get our views and habits assimilated to theirs, the better members we shall be of the Church of Christ.

2. What need we have to get our spirit and conduct duly regulated.

That same pertinacity which, under some circumstances, is necessary, under others is unfitting the true Christian. A yielding spirit is lovely: and perhaps we may say, that a yielding temper should be the rule, and a pertinacious spirit the exception. Perhaps too we may say, that men will do well to mark the natural bias of their minds, and in their conduct to lean rather to that side which is opposed to it. A person of a very gentle and yielding spirit should rather lean to the side of firmness in doubtful matters; and a person of a naturally bold and determined spirit should rather cultivate a spirit of compliance: because we are not in danger of erring much in opposition to our natural inclination; and if we do go too far, we have always something within our own bosoms to bring us back: whereas, if we err on the side of our natural bias, we may be precipitated we know not where, and have nothing to bring us back again to a due equipoise. But, under any circumstances, we must take care not to plead conscience, where, in fact, it is our own will that guides us; and, on the other hand, not to plead Christian liberty, where the path of duty is that of self-denying firmness. But "who is sufficient for these things?" If such men as Peter and Barnabas erred, we had need to cry mightily to God to "direct our feet in the right way," and to "uphold us in our goings, that our footsteps slip not."

 

MMCLV

Remembering the Poor

Galatians 2:10. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

THE circumstances to which my text refers, were very peculiar. Paul, in conformity with the commission given him by the Lord, had preached his Gospel to the Gentiles, while the other Apostles confined chiefly their ministrations to the Jews: and, knowing that the ceremonial law had never been given to the Gentiles, he neither required of them the observance of it, nor observed it himself. But now, after fourteen years, he went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas his fellow-laborer; and, being aware that his having neglected and dispensed with the ceremonial law was likely to excite prejudice against him among the Jews, he sought a private interview with the chief Apostles first, in order that he might explain to them the reasons of his conduct, and through them remove all objections from the minds of others. Having succeeded in this, he desired to know whether they, with all their superior advantages, could give him any additional instruction: but they frankly acknowledged, that they could add nothing to him; and all that they had to request of him was, that "he would remember the poor; which he of himself was most forward to do."

Now, from hence I will take occasion to show you,

I. In what respects diversity is admissible.

The difference between Paul's ministrations, and those of the other Apostles, was exceeding great.

Paul, as we have said, dispensed with the Jewish laws altogether; while the other Apostles observed them. Now this difference, if Paul had not acted with consummate prudence, would have made an irreconcilable breach between them. Nor do we blame the other Apostles for the jealousy they exercised on this occasion. They had received the law from God; and were told, in that very law, that "every one who should presumptuously neglect it in any respect, should be cut off from the people of the Lord." They did not, as yet, clearly see that the law had been abrogated by the Lord: much less was this known to the Jews in general at Jerusalem. Still, however, it was so far understood, that all acknowledged, that the difference between Paul and them was, under existing circumstances, admissible. They saw, as Paul himself also did, that an uniform practice at Jerusalem was expedient: and therefore Paul himself, while at Jerusalem, observed the law, as well as others: yes, many years after this, he even joined himself to others who had made a vow to purify themselves as Nazarites, and purified himself together with them. But, among the Gentiles, such observances were regarded as altogether indifferent; and therefore were neither required by him from others, nor retained in his own practice.

Now this is the precise path adopted by the Church of England.

The Church of England has its rites, its forms, its ceremonies; but they are as few, and as simple, as can be imagined. Nor does she require them to be observed by any but her own members. Others, who judge them inexpedient, are left to adopt any other rites which in their minds and consciences they prefer. And in this the Church of England differs altogether from the Church of Rome, which insists on an universal observance of all her forms; and denounces, as heretics, and consigns over to perdition, all who differ from her. Every society under Heaven has rules established for its own government, and expects its members to conform to them; else there would be nothing, in any society, but disorder and confusion. And the Church of England fitly requires this: and I hesitate not to say, that her members generally, and her ministers in particular, are bound in conscience to adhere to them. But, where a diversity of circumstances calls for a diversity of habits, there the rules, by which we were previously bound, are relaxed; and a difference of conduct may readily be admitted.

The true medium for our adoption is this; to think for ourselves; but neither to be intolerant nor rigid. The whole college of Apostles at Jerusalem observed the law themselves, but tolerated the non-observance of it in others. Paul, on the other hand, knowing that the law was no longer obligatory on him, observed it, because he would not give needless offence by refusing to conform to the established usages. This was a becoming spirit in both: and if this spirit prevailed among us, as it ought, we should see very little of separation from the Established Church, and no want of cordiality towards those who judged themselves constrained to differ from her.

Thus we see how far they were agreed to differ. Now let us see,

II. In what respects uniformity is indispensable.

In doctrine they were all agreed. All preached repentance, and remission of sins in the name of Jesus Christ. And in this can no difference be admitted; seeing there is no "other foundation whereon any man can build, but Jesus Christ;" "nor any other name given, whereby any man can be saved." Hence, when Peter countenanced an idea that an observance of the law was necessary, and thereby obscured and endangered the purity of the Gospel, Paul reproved him to his face before the whole Church. So far from tolerating anything that should supersede the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, Paul denounced a curse even against an angel from Heaven, if one should be found to publish any doctrine that would interfere with this. Uniformity in this respect, therefore, was taken for granted. But we have in our text one point insisted on by those at Jerusalem, and cordially acceded to on the part of Paul; namely, the universal necessity of exercising love, and especially to the destitute and distressed. This was the only point which they specified, as indispensably necessary to the Christian character: on which, therefore, they required that no difference whatever should exist. Of this, then, I must say,

1. It is, by the unanimous judgment of all the Apostles, recommended to you.

It is absolutely essential to piety, that it exert itself in a way of tender sympathy and self-denying energy towards all the members of Christ's mystical body. If we exercise not ourselves in this way, we in vain profess to have love either towards God or man. We have none towards God: for John says, "Whoever has this world's good, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his affections of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him?" Nor can we have any real love towards our fellow-creature: for James says, "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled; notwithstanding, you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit?" Nor, in fact, can we have any true religion at all: for James again says: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction." Indeed, I must add yet further, that we can have no hope before God in the day of judgment: for our Lord will say to those who have neglected these offices of love, "Inasmuch as you did it not to the least of these my brethren, you did it not to me: and therefore depart accursed into everlasting fire." I do then most solemnly recommend to you, my brethren, that you very especially attend to this duty at all times, and under all circumstances. And, when I strike this chord, saying, "Remember the poor," I do hope that in your hearts there will be found a corresponding string, that shall vibrate at the touch; and that every one of you will reply, 'This is the very thing which I myself am forward to do.'

2. It is that which the present occasion more particularly calls for.

To conclude—Unite in your own hearts the blessed dispositions which are here exhibited. Cultivate,

1. A spirit of candor towards those who differ from you.

There is in many a narrowness of mind, like that of the Apostles, when "they forbad a man to cast out devils, because he followed not with them." It cannot be expected that all should think alike on matters of minor importance: nor should you be grieved with any because they move not exactly in your way. There is no need that you should adopt the forms of those who differ from you: you must all judge and act for yourselves: but you should concede to others the liberty which you claim; and "bid God speed to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity."

2. A spirit of benevolence towards those who need your aid.

If you are richer than others, consider yourselves as the Lord's stewards; and do not stay until you are called upon, and then "give your alms grudgingly and of necessity;" but "be glad to distribute, and willing to communicate;" remembering that blessed saying of our Lord, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

 

MMCLVI

Peter Reproved by Paul

Galatians 2:14–16. When I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If you, being a Jew, live after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compel you the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

THE Apostles, in all that they declared, were infallible, being under the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit, by whom they were inspired; but, in what they did, they were frail and fallible, like other men. Of this we have a painful evidence in the passage before us; wherein we see Peter, from whom the Roman pontiff, unfortunately for his own claims, derives his infallibility, fallen into the grossest error, and acting in a way which brought upon him the severest reprehension. The circumstances relating to that event are faithfully recorded for the instruction of the Church in all ages: and, as they comprehend things of fundamental importance to our welfare, we will enter into them somewhat minutely; and state,

I. The conduct reproved.

Peter, during his stay at Antioch, where the Church consisted almost exclusively of converts from among the Gentiles, had disregarded the distinctions of the Jewish law, which he knew to be no longer binding; and had acted according to the customs of the Gentiles among whom he dwelt: but upon the arrival of certain persons from Jerusalem, where the ordinances of the Mosaic law were still continued in the Church, he returned to the observation of the Jewish ritual, and constrained the Gentiles also to follow his example. Now this was highly reprehensible, being,

1. Most sinful in itself.

Had he from a tender regard to the prejudices of his less enlightened brethren conformed to their customs, he would have done well; even as Paul himself did, when, "to the Jews, he became a Jew, and to those who were under the law, as under the law." But, while he did this, he should have taken care to maintain the liberty of the Gentile converts, and to explain to them his reasons for reverting to Jewish ceremonies, that they might not be ensnared by his example. But instead of acting with this caution and tenderness towards the Gentile converts, he withdrew from them, and compelled them to conform to Jewish rites: and this he did too, not from love to the Jews, but from fear of their displeasure. Now this was gross "dissimulation," He knew, that the Jewish law was abrogated: he knew, that he himself was liberated from the observance of it: he knew, that the Gentiles could have no concern with it; and that to enjoin the observance of it on them, was to impose a yoke on them, which neither he himself nor any of his ancestors had been able to sustain. In this therefore he walked not uprightly; but betrayed the trust which had been committed to him, the apostolic trust, of enlightening and saving a ruined world.

2. Most pernicious in its tendency.

This conduct of his tended to sanction the most fatal error, and, in fact, to subvert the whole Gospel. The Jewish converts had an idea, that the Gospel itself could not save them, unless they added to it the observance of the law: and it was found impossible at once to eradicate this prejudice from the Jewish mind, because they could not see how that, which God had so strictly enjoined under one dispensation, could be wholly set aside under another. Indeed this was the great stumbling-block to the Jews: and if they could have been allowed to blend their law with the Gospel, they would almost universally, and with great readiness, have embraced the Gospel. But of such a mixture the Gospel does not admit. Christ has in his own person fulfilled the law; and, by his obedience unto death, salvation is provided for a ruined world. No other obedience must be blended with it as a joint ground of hope: his righteousness is that which alone can justify us before God; and his must be all the glory. But Peter by this conduct confirmed the Jews in their error, and established the same error among the Gentiles also: and, if God had not raised up Paul to reprove it in the outset, the whole Gospel might have been superseded, almost as soon as it had been promulgated: and all the effects of Christ's mediation might have been utterly destroyed. We see on that occasion how far the influence of Peter extended: for it drew away all the Jewish converts at Antioch, yes, and even Barnabas himself, from the truth of God: and if the evil had not been stopped in its commencement, who can tell how soon, and how fatally, it might have inundated the whole Church? Truly such conduct as this deserved reproof; and we have reason to bless our God, who endued Paul with wisdom and courage to reprove it.

Suitable to the occasion was,

II. The reproof administered.

Paul, when he saw the misconduct of Peter, did not secretly endeavor to destroy the character of his offending brother, but boldly and openly reproved him before the whole Church. Had the offence been of a private and personal nature only, it would have been right to admonish his brother privately, and not to bring it before the Church, until private admonitions had been used in vain: but, when the welfare of the whole Church was at stake, it was necessary that the reproof should be as public as the offence. Hence, when all the Church was assembled, Paul took occasion to reprove,

1. His inconsistency.

Peter had in that very place neglected the Jewish law, as he was fully authorized to do: but, when some Jews came thither from Jerusalem, he both altered his own conduct, and compelled all others, even Gentiles themselves, to follow his example. What a grievous inconsistency was this! And how must he have been struck dumb, when Paul so pointedly expostulated with him, "If you, being a Jew, live after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, WHY compel you the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" What excuse could he offer? Alas! none all.

But grievous as such inconsistency would have been in any one, it was peculiarly sinful in Peter: for it was at this very place, Antioch, that the point had been some time before discussed with great vehemence; and so pertinaciously had the Jewish teachers maintained the universal and perpetual obligation of their own law, that not even the united wisdom and authority of Paul and Barnabas could settle the dispute; so that it became necessary to refer the matter to the decision of the whole college of Apostles at Jerusalem. Accordingly the question was stated; and Paul and Barnabas on the one side, and some of the Judaizing teachers on the other, were deputed to go up to Jerusalem, and there to get it finally settled by such authority as they were all agreed to submit to. Accordingly the deputation went; and laid before the Apostles the matter in dispute. And who, of all the Apostles, was the man that undertook to determine it? It was this very Peter, who now was undoing all that he had before done. He called the attention of the assembly to the commission which he had received to open the kingdom of Heaven both to Jews and Gentiles; and reminded them, that, on his preaching first to the Gentiles, God had sent down the Holy Spirit on them, precisely as he had before done upon the Jews at the day of Pentecost; thus visibly and unquestionably declaring, that the Gentiles were to have the Gospel freely administered to them without any observance of the Jewish law. And on this testimony, supported by that of the prophetic writings, James, who presided on that occasion, determined the point; and, to the great joy of the Gentile converts, confirmed to them the liberty which they were so desirous to retain. Yet behold, this very Peter, at this very place, before these very Gentiles, and in the presence of these very messengers, Paul and Barnabas, took upon himself to rescind the decree of the whole college of Apostles, and to insist on the Gentiles observing Jewish rites, which he, as a Jew, had neglected and despised. Alas! Peter, who would have expected this at your hands? Who would have thought that, after having been distinguished above all the children of men, in that the keys of the kingdom of Heaven were committed unto you from your Savior's hands; and after having seen myriads (lock into it in consequence of your opening of the doors, you should use those very keys to shut the doors again, and thereby, as far as in you lay, exclude from the kingdom all who had already entered, and all others of the human race? Truly, the reproof given you, though so public and severe, was nothing more than what you justly deserve for your grievous inconsistency.

2. His impiety.

It was not the decree of man, but of the Most High God, that he presumed to abrogate. God had graciously sent his only-begotten Son to be the Savior of the world: and had declared that in him should all nations be blessed. By faith in that Savior had Abraham, the father of the faithful, been saved, hundreds of years before the Mosaic law was given: and when that law was given, it was not intended to alter the nature of the salvation, before promised, but only to keep the Jews a separate people, and to prepare them for the Savior whom they were taught to expect. Thus not even to the Jews was the observance of the Mosaic ritual enjoined for the purpose of establishing a righteousness by means of it, but only to direct their attention to that Savior, from whom alone a saving righteousness could be obtained. Yet behold, Peter undertook to change the very way of salvation itself, and to thrust from his office that adorable Savior, who had already come down from Heaven, and "purchased the Church with his own blood." Had an angel from Heaven been guilty of such presumption, he had, as Paul tells us, deserved to be accursed: What then did not you deserve for your impiety, unhappy Peter, when, in committing it, you knew that you were sinning against God, and subverting the very foundations of a Christian's hope! Methinks, if Satan exulted when he had prevailed on you to deny your Lord and Savior, how much more did he shout for joy when he had seduced you so to betray the trust reposed in you, as to give him a hope, that through you the Savior's kingdom should be utterly and eternally destroyed! Holy Paul, we thank you for your fidelity to your fallen brother: we thank you for your zeal in your Master's cause, and for your love to the whole Gentile world. But above all, we adore you, O most blessed God, who did endue your servant with such wisdom and grace, and enable him by his timely and courageous interposition to break the snare which Satan had laid for the whole race of mankind.

The fact thus recorded is of infinite importance on account of,

III. The instruction to be gathered from it.

Every part of this record teems with instruction. But we must content ourselves with submitting to your attention two points only; namely,

1. That salvation is solely by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, without the works of the law.

This forms the very ground of the reproof which Paul gave to Peter. It was indeed the observance of the ceremonial law that gave occasion for the reproof: but the works of the moral law must of necessity be comprehended in the reproof itself, because it is as a subversion of the faith of Christ that Paul chiefly complains of Peter's conduct. The observance of the ceremonial law, as an act of obedience to God, might have been unnecessary, and inexpedient: but it could not have been of so fatal a nature as Paul represents it, if obedience in other respects had been meritorious before God: if it did not add to the merit of moral obedience, it could not so detract from it, as to make both that and the death of Christ also of no value: yet Paul speaks of it as "removing the people from the grace of Christ to another Gospel," yes, "as frustrating the grace of God," and causing "the death of Christ to be in vain." It was in this view, 1 say, as tending to establish a salvation by works instead of a salvation by faith in Christ, that Paul so strenuously opposed the conduct of Peter. The Apostles "knew that a man could not be justified by the works of the law;" and therefore they renounced all dependence on the works of the law, and looked for justification solely by faith in Christ. This, I say, they did themselves, and this they inculcated on others, as indispensably necessary to their salvation. Paul elsewhere tells us, that in this way Abraham was saved; and David was saved; and all the world must be saved. But in no part of Scripture is this truth more forcibly declared than in the passage before us. We may contrive to pervert words, however plain they be: but here are facts, which we cannot get over; and which speak volumes. Let us learn then not to subject ourselves to similar reproof, by blending any human works with the merits of Christ, or using our influence towards the establishment of so fatal an error. Let us be thankful to God that we have had reformers, who have ventured to withstand the impositions of popery, and have, at the expense of their own lives, emancipated us from the thraldom in which he who calls himself the successor of Peter, and boasts of deriving infallibility from him, had so long held the whole Christian world. And, if there arise among ourselves any who would yet stand forth as advocates of human merit, let us refer them to the Articles and Homilies of our own Church; that, if they believe not the language of inspiration, they may at least be put to shame before that Church, which has received those documents as the acknowledged symbols of her faith.

2. That no consideration under Heaven should lead us to compromise the truth of God.

Peter doubtless excused himself in his own mind from an idea that his dissimulation was, in existing circumstances, expedient. But expediency, though worthy to be attended to by every true Christian, and in man)r instances a proper rule for his conduct, has no place, except in things that are otherwise indifferent. It can never warrant us to neglect a known duty, or to commit the smallest sin: for, if it could, Daniel and the Hebrew Youths might have avoided the snares that were laid for their feet. Nothing can warrant dissimulation. What we believe to be true, we must uphold and vindicate: and what we believe to be right we must do. Neither a desire to please, nor a fear of displeasing, must cause us to swerve an hair's breadth from the path of duty. We must obey the dictates of our own conscience, and "be faithful unto death, if ever we would receive a crown of life." We cannot indeed expect that we shall never err, seeing that infallibility pertains not to our fallen nature, nor is the lot of any of the sons of men: but if we err, it must not be through fear or through favor, but simply through the weakness incident to man in his present fallen state; and we must be especially careful that the error be not in anything of fundamental importance. We may in our superstructure "build hay, or wood, or stubble," and yet ourselves be ultimately "saved, though it be so as by fire," but, if we err in the foundation, we involve ourselves in inevitable and everlasting ruin. Let us look to it therefore that we "hold fast the faith once delivered to the saints." Let nothing be suffered for one moment to move us from it. Let us bear in mind, that "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." On that let us build, even on that alone, not uniting anything with it, or attempting to strengthen it by any addition of our own. Let us guard against any approximation to this fatal error. Many there are, who, while they would abhor the thought of uniting their own merits with the merits of Christ, will yet, through a false notion of humility, not venture to trust in Christ, unless they can see some measure of worthiness in themselves. But this is in reality, whatever it may be thought, a repetition of Peter's sin; and will sooner or later meet with a severe reprehension from our God. We must go to Christ guilty, that we may be forgiven; naked, that we may be clothed; polluted, that we may be sanctified: and, when we are most empty in ourselves, then shall we receive most out of his fullness. We must "know nothing but Christ and him crucified," and be contented to be nothing, that he may be "all in all."

 

MMCLVII

True Use of the Law

Galatians 2:19. I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

THE knowledge of the law is indispensably necessary to the knowledge of the Gospel. Even persons who have some views of Christ as a Savior, have, in general, a very inadequate idea of the extent to which we need a Savior. This can be known only by considering the requirements of the law, and the measure of guilt which we have contracted by our violation of them. In unfolding to us this subject, the Epistle to the Galatians stands, perhaps, preeminent above all others, not excepting even that to the Romans; and the words which I have just read will furnish me with an occasion to submit it somewhat fully to your view.

In these words is declared the use of the law,

I. In relation to our hopes from it.

The law, in the first instance, was ordained unto life; and it would have given life to those who perfectly obeyed it. But to fallen man it is no longer a covenant of life: it rather destroys all our hopes of acceptance by our obedience to it; so that every one who understands it aright must say with the Apostle, "I through the law am dead to the law." It produces this effect,

1. By the extent of its precepts.

If these comprehended nothing beyond the letter, the generality, of Christians at least, might account themselves, "as touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." But it extends to every thought and disposition of the soul. It forbids us to entertain even so much as an inordinate desire. It does not say merely, "You shall not steal," but, "You shall not covet." And our blessed Lord, in his sermon on the mount, declares, that an angry feeling is, in God's estimation, as murder, and an impure look as adultery. Now then, when "the commandment is so exceeding broad," who will pretend to have kept it? or who will build his hopes of salvation on his obedience to it? It is manifest, that there is not a man upon earth who has not, in numberless instances, violated it; and who therefore must not shut his mouth with conscious shame, and acknowledge himself "guilty before God."

2. By the inexorableness of its threatenings.

For every violation of its commands it denounces a curse, saying, "Cursed is every one that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them." We must not merely wish to do them, but actually do them; and not only some, but all; and that not for a season only, but continually, without interruption from first to last: and in default of this, every one, even every child of Adam, is cursed, even with an everlasting curse. As for any lighter penalty than this, it knows of none: it admits of no relaxation of it, no mitigation whatever: so that, of all that are under the law, there is not so much as one that is not under the curse and wrath of God. To hope for salvation, therefore, from such a law as this, is quite out of the question. A man in the contemplation of these threatenings can do nothing but lie down in despair, even as Paul himself did: for though, previously to his understanding the true tenor of the law, he supposed himself to be alive, he no sooner saw the extent of its commands, and the awfulness of its sanctions, than "he died," and became sensible that he was nothing but a dead, condemned sinner before God.

3. By its incapacity to afford us any remedy whatever.

When it requires obedience, it does not offer us any strength for the performance of it: nor, when we have violated it in any respect, does it speak one word about repentance: nor does it make known to us any way whereby pardon may be obtained. The only thing which it says to any man is, "Do this, and live: offend, and die." What hope, then, can any man entertain of salvation by such a law as this? It precludes a possibility of hope to any child of man: so that we must be dead to the law, not merely because the Gospel requires it, but because it is the very intent of the law itself to make us so: "Through the law itself we must become dead to the law."

We must not, however, imagine that all observance of the law is unnecessary: for the very reverse will appear, while we consider the law,

II. In relation to our obedience to it.

As a covenant of works, the law doubtless is set aside: but as a rule of life, it is as much in force as ever: and, though delivered from its curse, we are bound as much as ever to obey it:

1. From a sense of gratitude.

Will a man delivered from the law say, "I will continue in sin, that grace may abound?" No, if upright, we shall shudder at the thought. "We have not so learned Christ, if we have been taught of him." On the contrary, the first dictate of our minds will be, "What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?" The love of Christ, in redeeming us from the law, will have a constraining influence upon us, and stimulate us to live to him who died for us. No other end than this did the Apostle Paul contemplate. He was not dead to the law, that he might live to the world, but "that he might live unto God," and to God will every one live, who has a just sense of his mercy in giving us a better covenant, wherein we are called, not to earn life by our works, but to receive it as a gift in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. From a sense of duty.

The law is still, and ever must be, the one standard of holiness to which we are to be conformed: and our obligation to obey it can never be reversed. God himself, if I may so speak, cannot dispense with our observance of it. It is of necessity our duty to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. Our having a better covenant to found our hopes upon, can never abrogate the essential laws of our nature. If we be in Heaven, earth, or Hell, love must be our duty: and every man feels it to be his duty to walk according to that unerring and unchanging rule. Our freedom from the law, so far from being a reason for disregarding this rule, is the strongest reason for our most diligent adherence to it. Paul, by means of an easy illustration, places this matter in a clear light. He supposes us, in the first instance, married to the law; and afterwards, on the death of our husband, married to a second husband, the Lord Jesus Christ. But are we then content to be barren, as to the fruits of righteousness? No; quite the contrary: "Being dead to the law, we are married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. 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." Our obligation to obedience, so far from being relaxed by that change, is strongly and unalterably confirmed.

3. From a sense of interest.

Though we can never hope to be justified by our obedience to the law, our reward in Heaven will be proportioned to our obedience. The day of judgment is appointed for the express purpose of manifesting the righteousness of God in all his dispensations. And, in reference to our obedience, we may safely say, "He who sows plenteously shall reap plenteously; and he who sows sparingly shall reap sparingly." Now, the expectation of this issue remains with every man, whatever be his hopes in reference to his first acceptance with God. But with him who has trembled for his lost estate, and has fled for refuge to Christ as to the hone set before him in the Gospel, there will be an ardor of desire to secure a testimony in his favor. He will not be content to leave anything in doubt. He is well assured, that "not the person who merely says to his Savior, Lord, Lord, shall inherit the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of his Father that is in Heaven." Having therefore this prospect, he will of necessity say, "What manner of person ought I to be, in all holy conversation and godliness!"

The subject, as you see, lies deep: yet is it very important. To all then I would say, respecting the law, endeavor,

1. To understand its nature.

The generality regard it solely as a system of restraints and precepts. But, in truth, it is a covenant of life and death: of life to man in innocence; and of death, if I may so speak, to fallen man. It is now given, not to justify, but to condemn: not to save, but to kill; not to be a ground of hope to any, but "to shut men up to the Gospel," and to Christ as revealed in it, even to him who is "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes." I would to God that this matter were better understood. In fact, it is but rarely stated, even by those who, in the main, preach the Gospel: and it is owing to this that men's views of the Gospel are so very inadequate and superficial. But let me entreat of you to improve the instruction given you in relation to this matter. See that the law does nothing but curse you, yes, deservedly, and eternally curse you. See that the new covenant, that has been made with us in Christ Jesus, is our proper refuge, that we may flee to it, and lay hold upon it, and find acceptance by it: and let this covenant be all your salvation and all your desire.

2. To fulfill its purposes.

It was intended, as we have said, to drive you to Christ. Let it operate in this manner. Look not to it, for a single moment, as affording you any hope towards God. Be content to renounce, in point of dependence, your best actions, as much as your vilest sins: and look to Christ precisely as the wounded Israelites did to the brazen serpent in the wilderness. They did not attempt to combine with God's appointment any prescriptions of their own; but simply turned their eyes to that object, in faith. I pray you to bear this in mind, and to imitate their conduct in this respect. Fear not respecting the interests of holiness: they are well provided for in this blessed ordinance: and the more dead you are to the law, the more, I pledge myself, you will live unto your God.

3. To honor its requirements.

The world will have a jealousy on this head: they will always suppose, that if you do not seek for justification by the law, you have no motive for obeying it. Show them how greatly they err in this respect. Indeed, they stand in this respect self-condemned: for at the moment that they complain of your sentiments as licentious, they find fault with your lives as too strict and holy. You are regarded by them as "righteous over-much;" and as making the way to Heaven so strait, that none but yourselves can walk in it. This is as it should be; I mean, as far as it respects you; for it is in this way that you are to "make your light shine before men," and to "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men by well-doing."

MMCLVIII

The Christian Crucified with Christ

Galatians 2:20. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

THE Gospel is, for the most part, plain and simple: yet are there some things in it which seem dark and contradictory. In one place Paul brings forward a long list of paradoxes, which to a superficial reader would appear absurd in the extreme: but in all the sacred records there is not one so difficult of solution as that in our text. The Apostle is speaking on the subject of justification by faith alone, without the works of the law: and he mentions, that he had publicly reproved Peter for sanctioning by his example the idea that the observation of the law was still necessary. He says, that the law itself sufficiently showed us the necessity of abandoning all hopes from that, and of seeking justification by faith in Christ alone: and then adds, that, in consequence of what Christ had done and suffered to deliver us from the law as a covenant of works, he considered himself as one dead to the law, and as having all his life and all his hopes in Christ alone. This is the plain import of the passage as divested of its paradoxical appearance. But as the paradox, when explained, will be very instructive, we shall enter into it fuller consideration of it; and show,

I. In what respect the Christian is dead.

To understand in what sense the Apostle was "crucified with Christ," we must particularly attend to the great ends for which Christ was crucified. Now Christ was crucified, in the first place, in order to satisfy all the demands of the law. The law required perfect obedience, and denounced a curse against every transgression of its precepts. Man, therefore, having transgressed the law, was utterly, and eternally, ruined. But Christ having undertaken to restore him to the Divine favor, endured the curse which we had merited, and obeyed the precepts which we had violated: and thus rendered our salvation perfectly compatible with the honor of the Divine law; inasmuch as what we have failed to do or suffer in our own persons, we have done and suffered in our Surety. But Christ had a further end in submitting to crucifixion, namely, to destroy sin, and, by expiating its guilt, forever to annul its power. This is frequently declared in Scripture, not only as the immediate end of his death, but as the end of the whole dispensation which he has introduced.

Now when Paul says, "I am crucified with Christ," we must understand, that there was something in his experience analogous to the crucifixion of Christ; or, in other words, that as Christ died a violent death, to cancel the obligations of the law as a covenant, and to destroy sin, so the Apostle, by a holy violence upon himself, died to the law as a covenant, and to sin as the most hateful of all evils.

The believer then, according to this view of the subject, is dead,

1. To the law.

Once all his hopes were founded on his obedience to the moral law; and he felt in his conscience a dread of God's wrath on account of his transgressions of its precepts. But now he abandons all his self-righteous hopes, and dismisses all his slavish fears, because he finds a better, yes, an assured, ground of hope in Christ's obedience unto death. He argues thus: 'Does the law curse me for my manifold transgressions? Christ has endured its curse for me, and therefore I have no reason to fear it: "there is no condemnation to me, if only I am in Christ Jesus." On the other hand, does the law require perfect unsinning obedience in order to my justification before God? Christ has paid it that obedience, and "brought in thereby an everlasting righteousness," "which is unto all, and upon all them that believe." I renounce therefore all hope in my own obedience, and found all my hopes of salvation on the obedience of my blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.'

To this state he is brought, partly by the law itself, which cuts him off from all possible hope from his own obedience to it, and partly by the death of Christ, which has totally cancelled the law, as a covenant, for all those who believe in him: so that, as a woman is released from all obligation to her husband when he is dead, and may, if she please, unite herself to another; so the believer ceases to have any connection with the law of God, now that it is cancelled by Christ: the law is dead to him; or, to use the language of our text, he is crucified to it.

2. To sin.

The believer, previous to his conversion, had no wish beyond the things of time and sense. He "walked according to the course of this world," "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind." He possibly might be pure from gross acts of sin; but all his actions, of whatever kind they were, sprang from self, and terminated in self: self-seeking, and self-pleasing, constituted the sum total of his life. He possessed no higher principle than self; the stream therefore could rise no higher than the fountain-head. But now he feels the influence of nobler principles, and determines to "live no longer to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. The time past suffices to have wrought his own will," and henceforth he desires to have, not only every action, but "every thought, brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." He now "crucifies the flesh with the affections and lusts." They form what the Scriptures call "the old man;" and this "old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin may he destroyed, that henceforth he should not serve sin." Even the things that are innocent, are yet among the number of those things to which the believer is crucified. He enjoys them indeed; (for "God has given him all things richly to enjoy;") but he will not be in bondage to them; he will not serve them; he will not regard them as constituting his happiness, no, nor as essential to his happiness: if he possess (as he may very innocently do) the pleasures, the riches, or the honors of the world, he does not set his affections upon them; he regards them rather with a holy jealousy, lest they should ensnare him, and alienate his heart from God: he sits loose to them; and is willing to part with them at any moment, and in any manner, that his Lord shall call for them: in short, he regards the world, and everything in it, as a crucified object, which once indeed was dear to him, but which he is now willing, if need be, to have buried out of his sight. He makes a conscience of fulfilling all his duties in the world, as much, or more than ever: but since he has learned how to appreciate the cross of Christ, "the world has become crucified unto him, and he unto the world." Whatever is positively sinful in it, (however dear it once was to him,) is renounced and mortified; and even the most innocent things in it have comparatively lost all their value, and all their relish. His delight in heavenly things has rendered inferior things insipid; and his joy in God has eclipsed all sublunary joy.

Nevertheless, the Christian lives: and to show the truth of the paradox, we proceed to state,

II. In what manner he lives.

That he has the same life as the unregenerate, is obvious enough: but he has also a life different from theirs; and his whole manner of life is different from theirs: he lives a new life in, and through, Christ: he lives,

1. By the influences of his Spirit.

He once was—dead in trespasses and sins," but that same voice which bade Lazarus to come forth out of the grave, has bidden him live. The Lord Jesus has infused into his soul a new and living principle; and has "given him that living water, which is in his soul a well of water springing up unto everlasting life." "Christ himself lives in him," and "is his very life." This accounts for his being able to do things which no other man can. In himself, he is weak as other men; he cannot perform a good act, or speak a good word, or think a good thought; but by the almighty operation of Christ within him he can do all things. Being dead with Christ (as has been before shown), he is risen and lives with him; according as it is written, "Christ being raised from the dead, dies no more; death has no more dominion over him: for in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he lives, he lives unto God: likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord"

2. In dependence on his sacrifice.

The atonement of Christ is the one ground of all the Christian's hopes. If he look for reconciliation with God, it is through the blood of the Redeemer's cross: if for peace, for strength, for any blessing whatever, he has no other plea than this; "My Lord and Savior has bought it for me with his blood." He views everything treasured up for him in Christ: and to him he goes, in order to "receive out of his fullness" whatever his necessities require. His whole life is "a life of faith on the Son of God." He never goes to God but in, and through, Christ: he never expects any blessing to flow down upon him, but for the sake of Christ, and through him, as the immediate channel of conveyance. The very life which he receives from Christ, he considers as purchased for him by Christ's obedience unto death: and on that very ground he presumes to "make Christ his wisdom, his righteousness, his sanctification, and his complete redemption."

3. Under a sense of his love.

The Christian is not contented with acknowledging the love of Christ to mankind in general; he views it especially as it respects himself; and delights in contemplating his own personal obligations to him. O how wonderful does it appear, that Christ should ever love such a one as him, and give himself for him! That for such a wretch as him, he should submit to all the shame and agonies of crucifixion! What incomprehensible breadths and lengths and depths and heights does he behold in this stupendous mystery! And what unsearchable riches does he seem to possess in this blessed assurance! It is this that animates him, this that "constrains him." Had he a thousand lives, he would dedicate them all to his service, and lay them clown for his honor. And though he cannot perhaps at all times say, "My beloved is mine, and I am his," yet the most distant hope of such a mercy fills his soul with "joy unspeakable and glorified."

Address.

1. Those who object to the Gospel.

Many there are, who, when we speak of being dead to the law, imagine that we are enemies to good works, and that the Gospel which we preach tends to licentiousness. It is true, we do say, (and we speak only what the Scriptures speak,) that though the law is still in force as a rule of duty, we are free from it as a covenant of works; and that in consequence of being free from it, the believer has neither hopes nor fears arising from it. But are we therefore regardless of the interests of morality? Does not the Apostle himself say, that "he, through the law, was dead to the law?" Yet what does he conclude from this? That he might live as he pleased? No, he was, "dead to the law, that he might live unto God." And then he repeats the same important truth; "I am crucified with Christ," and again guards it against any similar misrepresentation, by showing that the believer has a strength for obedience which no other person possesses, and motives for obedience which no other person feels. Let these two things be considered, and it will appear, that the Gospel, so far from militating against good works, is the only doctrine that secures the performance of them.

If this argument be not satisfactory, we ask the objector, What are those good works in which the declaimer about morality excels the believer? Yes, we ask, Whether they who renounce all dependence on their good works, be not the very people who are universally censured on account of the strictness and holiness of their lives? Away then with your objections; and know, that if the Gospel be excellent as a system, it is yet more excellent as advancing the interests of morality.

2. Those who profess the Gospel.

Religion consists not in the adoption of any creed, but in a radical change both of heart and life. The words before us sufficiently show, that it is a matter of experience, and not of mere talk and profession. Hear the Apostle: "I am crucified with Christ;" "I live;" "Christ lives in me;" "I live by faith;" "I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." All this has its seat, not in the head, but in the heart. Know therefore that, in order to ascertain the real state of your souls, you must inquire, not what principles you have imbibed, but how they operate; and whether in these respects you resemble this holy Apostle? Beloved, we entreat and charge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, not to deceive yourselves with respect to this matter. To form a just estimate of your state, you must examine whether you be really dead to the law, and dead to sin; and whether, by the almighty operation of the Spirit of God within you, you are enabled to live to the glory of our blessed Lord and Savior? These are the true tests of vital religion; and, according as your experience accords with them or not, your state will ultimately be determined at the judgment-seat of Christ.

3. Those who obey the Gospel.

It appears to others, and may sometimes even to ourselves, a painful thing to experience a continual crucifixion. I confess, that the right eye being plucked out, and the right hand cut off, does imply a considerable degree of pain and self-denial. But we would ask, whether, in those seasons when the in-dwelling operation of Christ is plainly felt, and his unspeakable love in giving himself for you is distinctly seen, the exercise of self-denial be not both easy and pleasant? We ask, whether the joy arising from these discoveries do not far more than counterbalance any joy which you may be supposed to lose by abstaining from the gratifications of flesh and blood? We are sure that no difference of opinion can exist respecting these things, among those whose experience qualifies them to form a just judgment about them. We therefore hesitate not to say, "Be you more and more crucified to the world and to sin," "Live more and more by faith on the Son of God," and let a sense of your personal obligations to him lead you to a more entire devotedness of yourselves to his service, until you are taken to serve him without ceasing in the world above.

 

MMCLIX

Departing from the Simple Gospel

Galatians 3:1. O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

THE method of a sinner's justification is plainly revealed in the Gospel: nor is any doctrine more worthy of attention. An error with respect to many other points may consist with our salvation, but to err in this, is to destroy all hope of acceptance. Hence Paul devotes even an angel from Heaven to a curse, if it could be supposed that one should be found who would introduce a gospel different from that which he himself had preached. Unhappily, however, the Galatians had been misled. The Apostle writes this epistle in order to reclaim them: he tells them that he had reproved even Peter himself, and that, too, before the whole Church at Antioch, for dissembling the truth. He then proceeds to reprove their declension also.

We shall consider,

I. Wherein their disobedience to the truth consisted.

The Galatians had formerly "received the truth in the love of it."

They had entertained the highest respect for him who first evangelized them; they had been knit to him with the most cordial affection; they had found much blessedness by means of the Gospel; they had received miraculous powers in confirmation of the word; they had been enabled to adorn their profession by a suitable life and conversation; they had even endured many sufferings for their attachment to the truth.

But they had lately imbibed the doctrines of some Judaizing teachers.

Many of the Jewish converts were still zealous for the law of Moses: hence they labored to make proselytes wherever they came. Many of the Galatian churches were induced to embrace their doctrines: hence, though Gentiles originally, they put themselves under the yoke of the Jewish law.

Thus they, in fact, "disobeyed and renounced the truth" itself.

They had been taught to expect justification by faith in Christ, but now they superadded an obedience to the law as a joint ground of hope: by this they declared that faith in Christ was insufficient for their justification. They did not indeed intend by this to reject Christ entirely:; but the Apostle tells them repeatedly that God considered their conduct as equivalent to an utter rejection of the Gospel: and hence he warns them, that they were turned altogether to "another Gospel."

Their defection therefore involved them in the deepest guilt; as will appear more fully, if we consider,

II. The particular aggravation with which it was attended.

Paul himself had preached among them in a most lively and affecting manner.

Wherever he went, his constant subject was Christ crucified: he fully opened to his hearers the nature and ends of Christ's death: he always declared the efficacy of it as an atonement for sin: he earnestly exhorted all to trust in it for their acceptance with God: he had dwelt so much, and in so affecting a manner, on this subject, that the crucifixion of Christ might be said to have been depicted, or even exhibited before their eyes.

This was a great aggravation of their guilt in departing from the faith.

Had they heard less of Christ, they had been less culpable; had they heard of him in a less affecting manner, they had not been without a plea; had they seen no particular effects flowing from the Apostle's preaching, they might have bad some excuse; had the subserviency of the law to the Gospel never been opened to them, their defection from the truth might have been accounted for: but to renounce the truth, after it had been set forth with such energy, and attended with such effects, was extreme folly and wickedness: their conduct was no less than a crucifying of Christ afresh.

What animadversion their disobedience merited we may see in,

III. The reproof which the Apostle gave them on account of it.

Paul ascribes their declension to the subtlety of their false teachers.

Sin has an astonishingly fascinating power. Error, whether in faith or practice, soon insinuates itself into our hearts. Whenever people are drawn from the truth, they are first beguiled by the specious appearances of false principles. Apostates therefore may be justly considered as deluded creatures; and if at any time they be recovered, they wonder at themselves how they ever could have been so "bewitched," so blinded, so befooled.

Nevertheless he deservedly censures their compliance with them

"He was far from indulging a contemptuous or vindictive spirit, yet he judged it his duty to "rebuke them sharply," he therefore spoke of their conduct with holy indignation: he expressed his wonder that they could be so soon turned from the truth: he seems at a loss to represent their folly in terms sufficiently humiliating; yet his question evidently imports also a mixture of pity: he felt deeply in his soul for their spiritual welfare; he therefore expostulated with them in order to reclaim them.

Inferences.

1. How great is the evil and danger of self-righteousness!

The Galatians intended to honor God's own institutions; but by laying an undue stress upon them they endangered their own salvation. How careful then should we be not to trust in any righteousness of our own! Let us remember in what light our own righteousness should be viewed—let us bear in mind our Savior's directions—let us cultivate the disposition of the great Apostle.

2. What need have even the most eminent Christians to watch against apostasy!

The attainments of the Galatians seemed to be very eminent: yet they were soon seduced from the simplicity of the Gospel. Who then are we, that we should be over confident? Our dearest friends may well regard us as Paul did the Christians at Corinth. Let us attend then to the advice which he gives us—nor let us despise that beneficial admonition of Peter.

3. What cause of thankfulness have they who are kept steadfast in the truth!

They who know their own instability will wonder that they are kept at all. Surely such will adopt the grateful acknowledgment of David—and these are the persons in whom that declaration shall be verified. We conclude with that suitable doxology.

 

MMCLX

The Gospel Preached to Abraham

Galatians 3:8, 9. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In you shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

THE point which Paul above all things labors to establish, especially in his Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, is the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The Jews universally were adverse to this doctrine, because it derogated, as they thought, from the honor of their law. And the Gentiles also were hostile to it, because it cut off from them all occasion of boasting in themselves. But the more the unbelieving world set themselves against it, the more this holy Apostle strove to place it beyond all contradiction or doubt. And well he might, since on the reception or rejection of it depends the everlasting salvation of every child of man. Let it not therefore be deemed superfluous, if on a point of such infinite importance we follow him, and bring it before you in a variety of views. If we have already received it, we still need to be confirmed in it from time to time, lest by any means we be drawn aside from it. There is something "bewitching" in the idea of meriting salvation at the hands of God; and we are but too apt to listen to any statement which shall so flatter the pride of our hearts. Many converts belonging to the Churches of Galatia, after having been for a time established in the truth, were at last turned aside from it; and drew from the Apostle this spirited remonstrance; "O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?" He appeals to them, that the miracles which he had wrought among them, as also the miraculous powers which they had received through his instrumentality, were all in confirmation of this doctrine; by which, in fact, Abraham himself had been saved; and by which alone they could ever be partakers of Abraham's felicity. This, he tells them, was the unvaried testimony of Scripture; and it had been declared two thousand years before to Abraham, in those most memorable words, "In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."

In discoursing on these words, we will show,

I. What was that Gospel which the Scripture preached to Abraham.

Abraham was informed, that "in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed."

This was repeatedly declared to him, and at an interval of nearly fifty years. The full import of this promise was not clearly revealed in the declaration itself; but it was doubtless made known to him by the Spirit of God, and was typically represented to him in the sacrifice of his son Isaac. By the command of God, he took his own son, the child of promise, in order to offer him up as a burnt-offering to the Lord. On this his son he laid the wood which was to reduce him to ashes; he led him to Mount Moriah (the very place where the Promised Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ, was afterwards offered); he bound him, and, in purpose and intention, offered him up a sacrifice to God: and then, having actually offered up the ram which God had substituted in the place of Isaac, he received his son as from the dead: and thus was taught, that, by the death and resurrection of the Promised Seed, the blessings of salvation were to be brought to a ruined world. Such was the view given him of this great mystery; and by his faith in the Promised Seed so "dying for our offences, and so raised again for our justification," he was justified, as all his believing posterity shall also be.

Here it is particularly to be remembered, that the law bore no part in his justification; for it was not given until four hundred and thirty years after the promise of a Savior had been made to him, and by faith in that promised Savior he had been justified. It must be remembered also, that circumcision bore no part in his justification; for no less than twenty-four years elapsed between the period of his being justified by faith, and the appointment of that rite. It is of the utmost importance that these things be borne in mind: for, if we once admit the idea of his being either in whole or in part justified by anything but faith, we shall subvert the Gospel altogether; seeing that there is but one method of a sinner's justification before God for him and for us. True it is, that before men he was justified by his obedience, as James has truly said: for it was by the fruits which his faith produced, that it was seen to be a living, and not a dead, faith: but in the sight of God he had nothing of his own whereon to place the least dependence: it was by faith only, without any work whatever of his own, that he was counted righteous before God: and, if it had not been so, his salvation had been, not a gift of grace, but a reward of debt, to which he was entitled, and in which he would to all eternity have had a ground of glorying before God.

In this promise "the Gospel was preached to him."

This way of salvation is emphatically and exclusively called "the Gospel." It was glad tidings to Abraham, when taken out of an idolatrous state, and ignorant of any means of acceptance with God, to be informed, that God had provided a Savior for him; and that, through a person who should descend from his loins, a righteousness should be brought in, fully adequate to the necessities of the whole world, and certainly effectual for all who should believe in him. To that event he looked forward; and, beholding it by faith, he greatly rejoiced in it. And this is glad tidings to us also: for where should we find a Savior, if this promised Seed had not been given? Or what hope should we have had of ultimate salvation, if we had been required to earn it in any measure by our own works? Were it required of us to produce only one single work on which to rest our claim of Heaven, where should we find one? But, blessed be God, we are taught to rely on the Promised Seed, and on him alone: and it is this very circumstance which warrants us to expect eternal happiness; since, unworthy as we are, the free promise of God, duly apprehended by faith, can never fail of its accomplishment.

Such was the Gospel which the Scripture preached to Abraham: nor does it differ at all from,

II. What it preaches unto us also.

It declares to us,

1. That this is the way which God has ordained for us also.

"The Scripture," that is, the Holy Spirit who spoke by it, "foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached this Gospel to Abraham." There was not to be one way of salvation for him, and another for us; but one and the same for both. And as God foresaw that men would be ready to catch hold of anything that might afford in ever so slight a degree a ground of glorying, he took care to cut off all occasion for glorying, by justifying Abraham solely through faith, while yet he remained in an uncircumcised state: thus showing to the uncircumcised of all nations, that, in relation to the great matter of their justification before God, they were on a perfect equality with the circumcised; and that, as faith alone was available for Abraham's salvation, so it would avail for the salvation of all who truly relied upon the Promised Seed. True it is, we are to "walk in the steps of our father Abraham," and not to imagine that we can be saved by a dead inoperative faith: but still it is by faith only that we become children of Abraham, and by faith only that we become partakers of his blessings: if we seek these benefits in any other way, "we frustrate the grace of God, and cause the death of Christ to be ill vain." In the very same promise then that the Gospel was preached to Abraham, it is preached to us: to every one of us it is said, "In the Promised Seed shall you be blessed." And with this agrees the testimony of Paul, who, specifying distinctly all the great blessings which the Gospel offers to us, tells us, about nine times in eleven verses, that it is all "in Christ," "in Christ," "in Christ."

2. That all who embrace it shall be partakers of its blessings.

There is no exception whatever; no difference between Jews and Gentiles: if only we "be of faith, we are from that moment blessed with all the blessings which Abraham himself enjoyed." Was he justified? So shall we be. Was he made "the friend of God?" So shall we be. Was God to him "a shield, an exceeding great reward?" Such will he be to us also. Is Abraham now "in the kingdom of his God? We also shall, with him and Isaac and Jacob, sit down there," yes, and shall be "in Abraham's bosom" to all eternity. All this, and infinitely more than we can either utter or conceive, shall we receive, if we truly believe in Christ: for "all things are ours, if we be Christ's."

From hence we may see,

1. The antiquity of the Gospel.

In every age the doctrine of justification by faith only is stigmatized as a new doctrine: it is very generally represented as such among ourselves: and so it was by the Papists at the time of the Reformation: in the apostolic age it was regarded in the same light. When "Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection, it was asked, what this new doctrine meant." But it is as old as Abraham, to whom it was distinctly preached: yes, it must be traced to the time of Adam; for to him also was it preached, when he was told that "the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head." That persons who have the Scriptures in their hands should speak of this as a new doctrine, is perfectly surprising; since it is written in every page of the sacred volume as with a sun-beam: but that a member of the Established Church should be so ignorant, is yet more astonishing; since it Is that essential and fundamental doctrine on which the very edifice of our Church is built. Let not any therefore reject this doctrine; or at least let them not call themselves members of the Church of England, if they do. The way of justification by faith is "the good old way," in which all the saints of God have gone from the foundation of the world; and it is the only way in which any man can "find rest unto his soul."

2. The excellency of the Gospel"

The idea of being saved by faith only, is so simple, that the world can see no excellency in it: but this very simplicity constitutes a very distinguished part of its excellency. Supposing that salvation had been by works, or by faith and works united, who would ever have been able to ascertain what measure of good works would suffice for us, or what measure of imperfection would consist with their ultimate acceptance? Truly, under such uncertainty, no human being could enjoy one hour's peace in the prospect of his great account: but when we are told that salvation is by faith only, then, whatever our works may have been in times past, we have peace in our souls the very instant we believe; because we know that Christ is "able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him," we know that "by faith we are Abraham's children;" and that "all the blessings of Abraham are ours," and shall be ours forever.

But the excellency of the Gospel appears no less in the fruits that it produces. Abraham was justified the first moment he believed. And did he on that account become indifferent to good works? See his conduct: he immediately went forth from his family and country at the command of God, though he knew not where lie was to go. In every place where he went, he built an altar to his God: and, even when called to sacrifice with his own hands his beloved Isaac, he hesitated not, but for three successive days prosecuted his journey to the place where the offering was to be made, and executed without reluctance the Divine command. So shall we do, if we truly believe in Christ. There will be no reserves in our hearts; nothing which we will not do, nothing which we will not sacrifice, nothing which we will not suffer, if only our God may be glorified thereby. Let the world produce a list of worthies like those recorded in the Epistle to the Hebrews, or like the holy Apostles, and show that they were actuated by a different principle from that of faith in Christ, and then will we confess that the Gospel is not so excellent as it is said to be: but until that is done, we must affirm, that in point of practical efficacy it has no rival; and that in comparison of it the whole world is only as dung and dross.

 

MMCLXI

The Spirituality and Sanctions of the Law

Galatians 3:10. As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

THE reason that Christianity is so little understood, is, that men are not aware of the occasion which there is for such a dispensation as the Gospel contains. They know not the state in which they are by nature; and therefore they cannot comprehend the provision made for their recovery from it by grace. If the generality of Christians were asked what God requires of them in his law, or what is now the proper use of the law, they would be able to give, at best, a very imperfect, and probably a very erroneous, account of these things. But it is of the utmost importance that we should understand the law: for, until we do, we can never understand the Gospel.

Now, in the words which we have read, we see,

I. The requirements of God's law.

The law is contained in the Ten Commandments: and the summary given of it by our Lord is, that we must love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.

Now consider what is comprehended in these two commandments—and remember, the obedience to be paid to them must be perfect ("in all things"); personal (by "every one of us"); and perpetual (we must "continue in" it, from the first to the latest hour of our life). It is not sufficient that we wish to do them: we must "do them;" do them "all;" "every one of us;" and "continue" so to do, even to the end. This was written under the law; and it is confirmed to us by the Apostle's citation of it under the Gospel. Now we must remember, that on our perfect obedience to it all its promises are suspended; and if, in any one instance, even in thought or desire, we fall short of it, we must then be considered as violators of the law. This is a point not sufficiently considered. Paul himself did not clearly understand it, previous to his conversion. He interpreted the law only in its literal sense; and could not conceive that such an one as he had ever violated its commands: but when he saw that it forbade an inordinate desire as much as an overt act, he then saw that he was condemned by it, and had forfeited all hope of acceptance by his obedience to it.

But, to understand the law aright, we must know,

II. The sanctions with which it is enforced.

It denounces a curse on every, the least, violation of its commands: "Cursed is every one," etc. What this curse is, we may know from other passages of Holy Writ. It was said to Adam, in reference to the forbidden fruit, "In the day you eat thereof you shall surely die." Now, from the moment of his transgression he became mortal as to his body: (for "death entered by sin;" and never would have entered, if man had not sinned:) his soul, also, became spiritually dead to God; and he was doomed to "the second death," in "the lake that burns with fire and brimstone." To this the Apostle Paul bears testimony, when he says, "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Perhaps it may assist us more, if we consider what the penalty of transgression was to the fallen angels: they were cast out of Heaven from the presence of their God; and were consigned to "a lake of fire prepared on purpose for them," there to endure forever the vengeance of their offended God. Thus man, on his fall, lost the favor and presence of God, and was subjected to his heavy and everlasting displeasure. Being a partaker with the angels in their offence, he became a partaker with them in their punishment.

Now let every one that has transgressed the law in ever so small a degree, though it may have been only once, consider what the law says to him: it says, "Cursed is every one that continues not in all things that are written in the hook of the law, to do them."

This, I say, is,

III. The tremendous inference that must be drawn in relation to every one of us.

We all are under the law. The law was given to man in Paradise. It was written in his heart, when he came out of his Creator's hands. We all, therefore, are under it; and, consequently, "every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God."

If this inference be not true, I would ask, which of the premises is erroneous?

Does the law require less than I have stated? If any one think so, let him tell me where God has dispensed with any one of its commandments? Where has he authorized us to alienate from him any measure of that love which he had required in his law? or where has he lowered the standard of our love to man; and permitted us to act otherwise towards him, than we, in a change of circumstances, should think it right that he should act towards us?

If the requirements of the law are not reduced, are its sanctions altered? Has God any where revoked them? Has he not, on the contrary, expressly said, "The soul that sins, it shall die?"

If its requirements are not altered, nor its sanctions revoked, can you say you are not under it? The whole race of mankind are under it: and must continue under it, until they lay hold on that better covenant which God has given us in his Gospel.

There is, then, no possibility of evading the inference that is here drawn; namely, that as many as are under the law, and consequently the whole race of mankind, are under the curse. O! remember this, you old; it curses you: you young; it curses you: you moral; it curses you. There is not a child of man to whom it does not say, "You are cursed."

Who, then, must not see,

1. The folly of seeking to be justified by the works of the law?

If you had sinned but once, and then only in thought, you would be cursed, as a violator of God's law; and, consequently, be without hope of obtaining salvation by it. For, if you would be saved by it, you must first atone for your offences against it; and then obey it perfectly in future. But which of these can you do? If you were to shed rivers of tears, they could never wash away one sin. The whole race of mankind would never be able to atone for one sin. And suppose your past offences forgiven; which of you, for a single clay or hour, could fulfill the law perfectly in future? Know that this would be an hopeless attempt; and that, consequently, "by the works of the law can no flesh living be justified." Paul himself renounced all hope of acceptance with God by any righteousness of his own, and sought it solely by faith in Christ: and so must you, if ever you would obtain mercy at the hands of God.

2. The happiness of those who have obtained an interest in Christ?

They are dead to the law; and the law is dead to them. To them is no condemnation: on the contrary, they have, and ever shall possess, eternal life. In all the book of God there cannot be found one curse denounced against them. To them belong nothing but blessings, even all the blessings of grace and glory. Say, beloved, Are not these happy? Seek you, then, this happiness. Flee to Christ: believe in Christ: and then you "shall never perish, but shall have eternal life."

3. The reasonableness of a life devoted to Christ?

Contemplate the benefits you receive by faith in Christ; and say, whether any return that you can make can ever be too great? To tell you, that, if you believe in Christ, you must obey him, is, I had almost said, to degrade human nature below the beasts. Does "the ox know its owner, and the donkey his master's crib;" and shall a believer not know, and love, and serve, his heavenly Benefactor? Shall the Lord Jesus Christ have "bought you with his blood, and you not desire to glorify him with your bodies and your spirits, which are his?" O! brethren, do not oblige me to say, you must obey him; but "be forward of yourselves," and give yourselves wholly to him; and let the inquiry of your soul, every day and hour, be, "What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits conferred upon me?"

 

MMCLXII

Redemption by Christ

Galatians 3:13. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.

THE law, which subjects all mankind to a curse, is the moral law; that is principally intended in the passage before us: it remains unalterable in its demands of obedience or punishment. But in the Gospel a remedy is provided for transgressors: this remedy is proposed to us in the text.

I. Clear up some points relative to redemption.

The most important truths of Christianity are often denied; but we must be established in them, if we would receive the blessings of redemption. We should know clearly,

1. What is that "curse" from which we are redeemed.

Many suppose it to be annihilation, or at most a temporary punishment; but the Scriptures represent it in a far different light: we cannot precisely declare the exact quality of it; it consists, however, partly in banishment from God, and partly in inconceivable anguish both of soul and body. Its duration certainly will be eternal; it will continue coeval with the happiness of the righteous; neither the curse shall cease, nor sinners cease to endure it.

2. Who is it that redeems us from it.

It is thought by many that we must deliver ourselves by repentance, etc. But it is impossible for fallen man to deliver his own soul: he cannot by doing, because he cannot perfectly obey the law in future; and if he could, his obedience would not atone for past sins: he cannot by suffering, because the penalty of one sin is eternal death. Nor could the highest archangel redeem the world; if he could, God needed not to have sent his own Son. None but "Christ" was sufficient for so great a work; but his obedience unto death has effected our redemption; he "made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness."

3. Who they are that shall enjoy the benefits of redemption.

Many imagine that, because Christ has died for all, all shall be saved; but redemption is by no means so extensive as the curse. With respect to heathens we know little how God will deal with them; but we know what will be his conduct towards the Christian world: they who believe in Christ, and they only, will be finally saved; such alone were comprehended under the term "us."

These points being cleared up, we shall,

II. Show by what means we are redeemed.

By the Mosaic law persons hanged were deemed accursed. Hence Christ, in his death, was "made a curse" or held accursed. In becoming a curse, he was our substitute.

Christ did not die merely for our good; he endured the curse in our stead. This was typically represented under the Mosaic law:—the prophets concur in establishing this truth—the Apostles confirm it in the plainest terms—His curse indeed was not the same with ours, either in quality or duration; yet it was fully adequate to all the demands of law and justice; and it was such as God appointed for him, and accepts on our behalf.

This substitution of Christ was the mean of effecting our redemption.

God ordained it for this very end. He was pleased with it in this view. He was reconciled to man on account of it. Our redemption is expressly ascribed to it. Our deliverance from the guilt and power of sin is effected by it. It was the price paid for the salvation of the church.

Inferences.

1. How great was the love of Christ towards our fallen race!

That he who was happy in the bosom of his Father should become a curse! That he should submit to such misery in our place and stead! Well might that anathema be denounced against the ungrateful—Let us then study to "comprehend the heights and depths of his love."

2. What folly and impiety is it to seek justification by the law!

When the moral law was once broken, it was absolutely impossible that any man should be justified by it. There remained no way of escaping its curse but by embracing the Gospel. What folly then is it to reject salvation when it is freely offered, and to seek it in a way in which it cannot be found! Nor is the impiety of the conduct less than the folly. It declares that the sacrifice of Christ was unnecessary, or ineffectual. This conduct proved destructive to the bulk of the Jewish nation. May we never imitate them to our eternal ruin!

3. How strong are the Christian's obligations to holiness!

Christ did not die to deliver us from the curse only, but from sin also. Shall we hope to attain one end of his death while we defeat the other? We should reject such a thought with the utmost abhorrence. Let every one then strive to attain the disposition of Paul.

 

MMCLXIII

The Uses of the Law

Galatians 3:19. Wherefore the serves the law?

PERHAPS, of all the subjects connected with religion, there is not one so rarely unfolded to Christian auditories as the law. We are ready to suppose, either that men are sufficiently acquainted with it; or that it is antiquated, and unnecessary to be known. But the law lies at the foundation of all true religion; and it ought to be studied, in the first place, as alone opening the way to the true knowledge of the Gospel. The mistakes which obtain in reference to it are very numerous. In truth, there are but few persons who have just views respecting it: and, on that account, I propose to call your attention to it throughout this series of discourses. I am aware, that persons deeply impressed with any particular subject are apt to magnify its importance beyond due bounds: and, being aware of this, I will endeavor to avoid that error on the present occasion. But I feel that it is scarcely possible to speak too strongly respecting the importance of the law. Those, indeed, who have never considered it, will possibly be somewhat staggered at the positions which I shall be necessitated to maintain in this my introductory discourse: and the rather, because the full proof of my assertions must, of necessity, be deferred to those discourses wherein the several parts will be more largely considered. But should this impression be unfortunately made on any of my hearers, I must request that their ultimate decision be suspended, until the subject has undergone the proposed investigation. As for those who are conversant with the subject, I have no fear but that they will go along with me in my statement, and concur with me in the sentiments which shall be submitted to them.

In the epistle before us, the Apostle Paul is maintaining a controversy with the Judaizing teachers; who wished to combine the Law with the Gospel, as a joint ground of hope before God. In order to rectify their views, he shows, that, if they would make their works, whether ceremonial or moral, in any degree the ground of their hopes, they must stand altogether on the footing of the law, which prescribed perfect obedience as the way to life; and must renounce all interest in the covenant which was made with their father Abraham, and which promised life to men by believing in the Promised Seed. Upon this, they naturally ask, "Wherefore, then, serves the law?" that is, 'If we are not to be saved by the law, for what end did Moses give us the law? What end can it answer?'

Now, to this inquiry I purpose to address myself. My first point will be, to show the incalculable importance of the inquiry itself; and then, in my future discourses, to give what I conceive to be the true answer to it.

To mark the vast importance of the inquiry will sufficiently occupy us at this time. But, really, I scarcely know in what terms to state it, if indeed I would state it with becoming fidelity. I have already said, that the knowledge of the law is at the foundation of all true religion: and I hope to convince all who will candidly investigate the subject, that without a clear, distinct knowledge of the law we can have no just sentiments, no proper feelings, no scriptural hopes. And, while I attempt this arduous discussion, may Almighty God pour out upon us his Holy Spirit, to give to every one of us the seeing eye, the hearing ear, the understanding heart, and ultimately to guide our feet into the way of peace!

First, then, let me say, that without a distinct knowledge of the law we can have no just sentiments. Of course, I confine this, and all my observations, to religion; for of things that are merely civil or moral it is beside my purpose to speak at all. And I wish this to be borne in mind, throughout my whole discourse: for otherwise I shall appear to run into a very erroneous excess.

It must be remembered, that I speak only of the moral law; as I shall show more fully in my next discourse. For with the ceremonial law there is no such connection as I am about to trace, nor any necessary reference to it in my text.

I say, then, that without a distinct knowledge of the moral law we can have no just sentiments respecting God and his perfections, or Christ and his offices, or the Holy Spirit and his operations.

Let us proceed to illustrate this.

It will be readily acknowledged, that the holiness of the Deity is, and must be, marked in the law, which he has given for the government of his rational creation: and, if we suppose that law to be a perfect transcript of his mind and will; if we suppose it to extend to every action, word, and thought, and to require, that in the habit of our minds we shall retain all that purity in which we were originally created, and preserve to our latest hour God's perfect image upon our souls; if it admit not of the slightest possible deviation or defect, no, not even through ignorance or inadvertence; if it promise nothing to us but after a spotless adherence to its utmost demands from first to last; it will, of course, be seen that he is indeed a holy Being, that cannot look upon iniquity without the utmost abhorrence. But, if we suppose his law to require anything less than this, and to admit of anything short of absolute perfection, we must, of necessity, conceive of him as less abhorrent of sin, in proportion to the degree in which he lowers his own demands, and in which he leaves us at liberty to depart from this high standard, the standard which he proposed to man in Paradise, and which he still ordains for the angels that are around his throne.

In like manner, if we suppose that the sanctions with which he enforces his law are strong and awful; if we suppose that they involve nothing less than the everlasting happiness or misery of every child of man; if we suppose that one single defect, of whatever kind, forfeits all title to happiness, and involves the soul in irremediable guilt and misery; if we suppose that these sanctions can never be set aside, never mitigated, never cease to operate through all eternity; we shall, of necessity, have a high idea of God's justice, which will never relax the smallest atom of its demands, either in reference to the obedience of man, or the execution of the threatenings denounced against him. But, if we have an idea that God will overlook some slighter imperfections, or punish them only for a time, and that too in a way which may be found supportable by feeble man; we, of course, proportionally lower our ideas of divine justice, and accommodate our views of it to the standard of human imperfection.

Respecting his mercy, also, we may make the same observations. If we suppose the guilt that man has contracted to be beyond all measure and conception great, and the judgments to which he is exposed to be commensurate with his deviations from God's perfect law; if we suppose his sins to be more in number than the sands upon the sea shore; and every one of those sins to be deserving of God's eternal wrath and indignation; then we shall indeed stand amazed at the mercy of God, who, instead of executing his threatened vengeance, has provided a remedy for the whole world; a remedy suited to their wants, and sufficient for their necessities; a remedy, whereby he may restore them to his favor, not only without compromising the honor of his other perfections, but to the everlasting advancement of them all. Yes, truly, with such views of his law, we shall magnify his mercy, that can pardon so much guilt, and relieve from so much misery, and exalt to glory such unworthy creatures. But, if we suppose man's offences to have been comparatively few, and his desert of vengeance to be comparatively light, who does not see that we reduce almost to nothing the mercy of our God, which has been so little needed, and which has effected for us so inconsiderable a deliverance? I think that there is nothing strained in this statement, nothing which must not approve itself to every candid mind: and I am the more concerned that this view should be clearly understood, because it will open the way for a just apprehension of what I have yet further to offer under this head.

I proceed then to observe, that, without a clear knowledge of the law we can have no just views of Christ and his offices. From whence arose a necessity for a Savior? was it not because we were condemned by the law, and incapable either of atoning for our past sins, or of restoring ourselves to the Divine image? Now, suppose our guilt to have been exceeding great; and that every deviation from God's perfect law brought upon us a curse, an everlasting curse, under the wrath of Almighty God: suppose, too, that the demands of law and justice could never be satisfied without the punishment of the offender, either in his own person, or in the person of an adequate surety; then, in exact proportion as you magnify our guilt and misery, you magnify the Savior, who by the sacrifice of himself has restored us to the Divine favor: and in proportion as you diminish our necessities, you depreciate the value of his atonement. Again, conceive of the law as never satisfied without a perfect obedience to its commands, and as requiring every soul to possess, either in himself or in his surety, a righteousness commensurate with its highest demands; then will Christ be proportionably exalted, in that he has wrought out a righteousness for all who shall believe in him, and that, through his righteousness, a way of salvation is opened for every child of man. But reduce that righteousness to any lower standard—say, to sincere, but imperfect, obedience; your need of Christ for this end is proportionably reduced, and your obligation to him almost altogether cancelled.

But take a larger view of his offices: conceive of him as a Prophet, who is to instruct us; a Priest, that is to atone for us; a King, that is to rule over us: what comparative need is there of his instructions, if so defective a knowledge of his religion will suffice? What need of his sacrifice, if repentance and reformation can restore us to God's favor? And what need of his government, if so little is to be effected in our behalf, either in a way of deliverance from sin, or in a way of effective renovation? The less that is required of man himself, the less must of necessity be required of his Surety: and, consequently, the whole work of Christ, whether for us or in us, must be reduced, in proportion as we reduce the demands of the law, and the necessities of man.

The same reasoning must be applied to the operations of the Holy Spirit: The less is required of us, the less there is for him to do within us. And hence it is, that many deny the necessity of his influences altogether, either for the illumination of our minds, or the sanctification of our souls. The truth is, that the whole denial of the doctrine of the Trinity, and of all the doctrines dependent on it—the doctrine of the atonement, of imputed righteousness, and of divine influences—must be traced to this source. Men feel not their need of a Divine Savior: they feel not the need of an Almighty Agent, to work in them the whole work of God. Hence their principles of theology are brought down to the low standard of the Pelagian, Arian, and Socinian hypotheses. Let but a person obtain a thorough insight into the spirituality of the law, he will see that their meager systems can never supply his wants, never afford a remedy suited to his necessities. If any one less than God himself undertake to effect his salvation, he sees that he must inevitably perish: and, if he had none but a creature to rely upon, glad would he be to be permitted to take his portion under rocks and mountains.

Having established, I trust, the truth of my first position, namely, that without a knowledge of the law we can have no just sentiments; I proceed to show, in the second place,

That neither can we have any proper feelings. Of course, I must make the same limitation as before, and be understood as speaking only of feelings so far as religion is concerned.

Without the knowledge of the law there can be no true humility. This is a matter of vast importance.—What is humility? It is not a mere sense of our weakness as creatures, nor a general acknowledgment that we are sinners; but a deep and abiding consciousness of our guilty and undone state; a consciousness, that darkness itself is not more opposite to light, than we are to the pure and holy law of God. It is a sense of our utter alienation from God, yes, and of enmity against him; insomuch, that "every imagination of the thoughts of our heart is only evil continually," it is such a sense of this as makes us really to "loath and abhor ourselves, and to repent before God in dust and ashes." This is that "broken and contrite heart which God will not despise." But where do we find persons penetrated with this contrition, and smiting on their breasts, and crying for mercy as sinners deserving of God's wrath and indignation? Or, if we saw one under such distressing apprehensions, who among us would not be ready to think that he carried matters to excess; and that, unless he had been guilty of some sins beyond what were commonly committed, he had no need for such excessive griefs and sorrows? It is well known that such penitents are few; and that such comforters, if indeed disgust did not preclude any attempt to administer comfort, would be found in every company we meet with. But to what is all this owing? It arises from men's ignorance of the law: they try not either themselves or others by so high a standard: and, being insensible of their departures from it, they see no cause for such humiliation on account of those departures. In fact, the very idea of such humility enters not into the mind of the natural man: and, copious as were the languages of Greece and Rome, they had no word whereby to express it. With the word which they used to express their idea of humility, they associated rather the notion of baseness, than of an exalted virtue: and, though all of us profess to admire humility as a grace, there is not in the universe a man, in his natural state, that either possesses or approves of it, according to its real import.

The same may be said of gratitude.—What is gratitude, but a thankful sense of mercies received? A truly enlightened Christian will view himself as a poor bond-slave redeemed from sin and Satan, death and Hell; redeemed, too, by the precious blood of our incarnate God. He will be altogether, in his own apprehension, "a brand plucked out of the burning," an apostate fiend would not, in his estimation, be a greater monument of grace than he. Hence he blesses his redeeming God, and calls upon all that is within him to bless his holy name. But where do we find this transport? Where do we see persons oppressed under the weight of the obligations conferred upon them? Were we to behold a person so elevated with joy, or so depressed with a sense of his great unworthiness, the generality among us would call it extravagance, and perhaps ridicule it as the height of absurdity. To the generality, some faint acknowledgments are quite sufficient to express their sense of redeeming love. But how different is this from the feelings of those around the throne of God! They, angels as well as saints, are penetrated with the devoutest admiration of this stupendous mystery: the one, as viewing its transcendent excellency; the other, as themselves experiencing its richest benefits. They are all prostrating themselves before the throne of God. And wherefore is it that men are so cold and insensible? Is it not because they see not the depths from which they have been redeemed? Did they see in the glass of God's law the depth of the misery from which they have been delivered, they would have far other thoughts of their Deliverer. But, having reduced to almost nothing their obligations to him, no wonder if their gratitude to him be proportionably weak and vapid.

Of holy zeal, also, I must say the same. Who feels it in any measure corresponding with what the Scriptures require at our hands? We are represented as being "bought with a price;" and therefore are called to "glorify God with our body and our spirit, which are God's." To a man sensible of his obligations, no service under Heaven would appear too great. All that he can do for the Lord is nothing in his eyes: and all that he can suffer for the Lord is accounted light. His time, his talents, his property, his influence, his whole life, appear of no value, but as they may be made subservient to the advancement of the Divine glory. But how little of this is seen! and how little is it approved, when seen! What names are too harsh, whereby to stigmatize such a life as this? and how infinitely below this is the standard of those who value themselves upon their morality! To the same cause must this also be traced. In fact, humility, and gratitude, and zeal, must of necessity rise and fall together: and according as our views of the law are deep or superficial, will all of these evince themselves to accord or disagree with the standard proposed to us in the Gospel of Christ.

I come now, in the third place, to show, that without the knowledge of the law we can have no scriptural hopes. The faith which alone justifies the soul, is that which brings us simply to the Lord Jesus Christ as our only hope and refuge. If we attempt, in any measure or degree, to blend with his merits anything of our own, we make void all that he has done and suffered for us: "Christ himself is from that moment become of no effect unto us." As far as respects us, "his death is in vain." But who will exercise this faith? Who will condescend to accept salvation on such terms? Who will bear to renounce his good works in point of dependence on them, and to enter into Heaven at the same gate with publicans and harlots? All this is too humiliating for our proud hearts: we will not endure it: we will have something of our own, whereof to boast. If we make not our own works the sole ground of our justification, we will rely on them in part: or, if we be brought to rely solely on the merits of Christ, and to seek salvation by faith alone, we will make our own goodness a warrant for believing in him. We cannot, we will not, suffer ourselves to be stripped of all self-preference: we will not glory solely in the cross of Christ. And wherefore is all this reluctance to comply with the terms of the Gospel? It proceeds from our ignorance of the law. We see not, that our very best deeds stand in need of mercy, as much as our vilest sins. We see not, that the smallest defect entails a curse upon us, as truly as our most enormous transgression. When these things are clearly seen, all the difficulty vanishes; and we are contented to be saved altogether by grace. But, until we have obtained this knowledge of the law, nothing under Heaven can prevail upon us to exercise faith with becoming simplicity.

As to an entire devotedness of heart to God, as his redeemed people, we shall be equally defective in that also. We shall be contented with a low standard of obedience, and never aspire after a perfect conformity to the Divine image. To "walk altogether as Christ walked," will appear a bondage. To tread in the steps of the holy Apostles, will be regarded as being "righteous over-much." To glory in the cross for Christ's sake, and to "rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer shame" and death for him, will be thought fit only for Apostles, and a culpable excess in us. But nothing less than this will prove us sincere: nothing less than this will be an acceptable sacrifice unto the Lord. If we would be really Christ's, we must "live, not unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us, and rose again;" "purifying ourselves, even as he is pure;" and being "perfect, even as our Father which is in Heaven is perfect." This, let it be remembered, is inseparable from a scriptural hope: and, inasmuch as nothing but a scriptural hope can constrain us to it, and nothing but the grace of Christ effect it in us, we must remain destitute of it: our ignorance of the law will keep us from Christ; and our want of union with Christ will keep us far lower in our attainments than the Gospel requires, and, consequently, destitute of the hope which the Gospel only can inspire.

I think enough has now been spoken to show the importance of the inquiry in my text. I am sensible that many strong things have been spoken; and spoken, it may be thought, without sufficient proof: and I candidly acknowledge, that if I had not, in prospect, further opportunities of unfolding the subject, I would gladly have lowered, as far as Christian fidelity would have admitted of it, my statement. But my desire is, to impress your minds with the importance of the subject. I wish, if it may please God, to prepare the way for a careful and impartial investigation of it. I certainly do feel that it is not sufficiently considered by Christians in general; and that, in comparison of other subjects, it is very rarely discussed. And most assuredly do I know, that an ignorance of it is at the root of all those superficial views and statements, with which the Christian world rests satisfied. O, that it might please God to accompany our investigation of it with his Holy Spirit, and to bring home the subject with power to all our hearts! Certainly, if the representation which I have given of it be true, a more important subject cannot occupy our attention. And there is need of much candor in the consideration of it. I wish it to be weighed: I know, that, if not founded in truth, and supported by clear convincing argument, it can have no weight with the audience which I have the honor to address. But I know, at the same time, that if, in some respects, it appear strange, it will not therefore be discarded as unworthy of attention. From the experience of many years do I know, that statements proposed with modesty are in this place heard with candor: and God forbid that I should affect to dogmatize, where it becomes me to speak with deference and humility! Yet I cannot dissemble, that my whole soul goes along with the subject; because I believe that the salvation of all your souls depends upon your acceptance or rejection of the truths essentially connected with it. Let me desire, therefore, that all among you, who know what it is to have access to God in prayer, will aid me with their supplications for an out-pouring of his Holy Spirit upon us in all our future discussions. It is but a little time that I have to speak for the Lord, or you to hear. O, that all of us may so improve the present hour, that, in that great day, when we shall stand at the judgment-seat of Christ, we may be accepted of our God; and that I who speak, and you who hear, may rejoice together!

 

MMCLXIV

The Spirituality of the Law

Galatians 3:19. Wherefore then serves the law?

WE now enter upon the second part of our subject. We proposed to inquire into the use of the law. But, without entering distinctly into that point, we endeavored to call your attention to it by an exposition of its vast importance. We were aware that we should anticipate much which would afterwards be brought forward; and that we should assume, for the present, some things, which, though partially proved, would remain to be afterwards more fully established. Yet we would hope that nothing was adduced without sufficient proof; and nothing asserted, which those who are at all acquainted with the subject would not readily concede. We think it highly probable, that in our subsequent discussions there may also be somewhat of repetition. If we were content to prosecute all the separate parts of the subject without pointing out their bearing upon the heart and conscience, we might easily keep them all distinct, without anticipating anything, or repeating anything. But you would, of course, wish me to discharge my high office with a due attention to your eternal interests: and, consequently, you will be prepared to allow me the liberty which is necessary to the attainment of this great object. Of course, I shall not trespass more in this respect than necessity shall require: but, if I be found to need your indulgence in this matter, you are now apprised of the reason of it, and will no doubt readily grant to me the liberty I request.

I am now about to answer the inquiry which I have instituted, and the importance of which I have already shown. But, previous to my entering upon the distinct answer, there is one point which must, of necessity, be settled. You will ask me, 'Of what law are you speaking? Let me understand that first; for, otherwise, all that you shall speak about its use will be in vain!' I am aware that this must be first clearly and distinctly stated. I was constrained, in my former discourse, to pass over this point; and to assume, that the Apostle was speaking of the moral law. But now, as I then gave you reason to expect, I will address myself to that consideration; and will show,

First, what is that law which the Apostle spoke of: and, secondly, what bearing this part of my subject has upon the question before us.

First, what is that law which the Apostle spoke of, and respecting which he instituted his inquiry?

The word "Law," in the New Testament, is used in several different senses. But as in this place it can mean only the law as given to Moses, it must, of necessity, mean the moral, or the ceremonial, or the judicial law; or a compound of them all together. But of the judicial law the Apostle makes no question. He is speaking of a law which appeared to stand in competition with the promise which had been made to Abraham four hundred and thirty years before. But between the promise and the judicial law, which I may call the common law of the land, there could be no such competition: for the promise made to Abraham will be equally in force in every country under Heaven, whatever be its code of laws, or the outward form of its administration. Of the ceremonial law he does speak; and that frequently: because it was to that that the Jews adhered with such inveterate pertinacity. But still, if we admit that to be included in the passage, it is only included as being that outward form which the Jews supposed to be inseparable from the moral law; and the performance of which they regarded as an obedience to the moral law. It is of the moral law chiefly, if not exclusively, that the Apostle speaks. The line of his argument is this: God promised to Abraham and his seed, life, by faith in the Messiah, who should spring from his loins. Four hundred and thirty years afterwards he gave to Moses a law of works, which were partly moral, and partly ceremonial. It may be asked, then; In publishing this law, did God intend to set aside the promise? No, he did not; and he could not: he could not, because the promise made to Abraham was made to him and to his believing seed, whether of Jews or Gentiles, to the end of the world: but the law given to Moses was given only to a small portion of Abraham's seed; and that only for a time: and, consequently, as no covenant can be annulled but by the consent of both the parties interested in it, and only one of those parties was present at the transaction on Mount Sinai, nothing that was done there could supersede what had been done with others four hundred and thirty years before. Then, it would be asked, 'For what end was this law given?' The Apostle answers, "It was given because of transgressions, until the seed should come, to whom the promise was made;" that is, it was given to show to what an extent transgression had abounded; and how greatly they needed the Promised Seed, to recommend them to God. Instead of setting aside the promises, then, as a person unacquainted with its uses might be ready to suppose, it was intended rather to be subservient to them; by showing to men, that, being condemned by the law, they must seek for life as a free gift of God, through faith in the Promised Seed.

Let it then be observed, that, if we admit the ceremonial law to be in part intended, it is only in part: it is only as showing that works of every kind, whether ceremonial or moral, are equally excluded from the office of justifying the soul before God. This is the whole scope of the Apostle's argument, whether in the Epistle to the Galatians, or in that to the Romans: and to say, that, though ceremonial works cannot justify us, moral works may, is to oppose the whole line of his argument throughout both the epistles, and to set it aside altogether. The great question in both is, Whether we are to be justified by works or by faith? And his whole argument, in both, goes to prove this one point, that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes!"

Further proofs of this point will be adduced in their proper place. What I have here stated is quite sufficient to establish the point proposed; namely, that the moral law is that chiefly respecting which the Apostle's inquiry is instituted.

Now, then, let me say what I mean by the moral law. It is that law which was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, and was "ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator." It was the law of the ten commandments only that God wrote on tables of stone, or that was given to Moses at that time amidst the ministration of angels. All the ceremonial law was revealed to Moses afterwards, and in private, without any of the attendant pomp with which the moral law was given.

But what was this law? and in what light was it to be considered? It was the very law which was originally written upon the heart of man in Paradise; and which, having been effaced in a great measure by the fall, and altogether obliterated from the minds of men through forgetfulness, and the love of sin, needed now to be republished; in order that men might know how transgression had abounded; and how greatly they stood in need of that Promised Seed, whom God had before taught them to expect, and "in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed." It was intended to show them on what terms life had been originally promised to man in Paradise; and on what terms alone it could give life to man. But, inasmuch as all had transgressed it, none could obtain life by it now; but all must seek for life in the way which God had provided, even by faith in the Promised Seed; to which way of salvation the law was now intended to shut them up.

Now, then, we come to show the true nature of this law. We have shown, that it is of the moral law that we are speaking: and to that we are more especially also directed in the words of my text. The Apostle says in my text, "We know that the law is spiritual." Now, that is not true respecting either the judicial or ceremonial law: not of the judicial; for that was only a code of laws for the regulation of the state, just like any other code of laws that exists in any other state: nor of the ceremonial; for that the Apostle expressly calls, "a law of a carnal commandment," and he represents it as consisting altogether of "carnal ordinances." We are arrived, therefore, at the point where we desired to come; namely, to show the spirituality of this law: and this we will show by an examination of it in all its parts.

The law, if we merely attend to the words in which it was promulgated, seems to refer only to external acts, whereas, in reality, it was intended to bind us to the performance of every thing connected with those acts, either in word or thought; and to prohibit everything which could in any way, even by inclination or desire, prove an incentive to transgression. The duties of the first table did not merely forbid outward idolatry, such as the serving of gods of wood and stone; but the inward respect of the soul, as paid to any creature in comparison of the Creator. Nothing, either within us or without us, is to stand in competition with him. Nothing is to be made, in any respect or any degree, an object of our alliance. Our own wisdom, strength, righteousness, must be altogether renounced as objects of dependence; and God alone be acknowledged as the source of all good. So neither must we seek our happiness in any creature, except in entire subserviency to him. For though "he has given us all things richly to enjoy," our enjoyment must be, not so much of the creature itself, as of God in it; that God may be to us our "all in all." The reverence of his great name, and the observance of his Sabbaths, come in as component parts of the regard we are to show towards him. They must not be limited to words or acts, but must extend to the entire habit of our souls: for, as I have said, the prohibition includes an injunction of all that is contrary to the thing prohibited. We must not only have no other gods besides him, but must love him with all the heart, and all the mind, and all the soul, and all the strength: and this frame of mind must pervade our every action, every word, every thought: and, inasmuch as every seventh day is set apart for him, the body, as well as the soul, must on that day be devoted to his service, not only according to the measure prescribed for other days, but exclusively, even as the soul itself.

If we come to the duties of the second table, we shall find them of equal extent, whether as commanding what is good, or as prohibiting what is evil. The fifth command enjoins all that can attach to us, as superiors, equals, or inferiors: it seems, indeed, to comprehend only one relation, and that of the inferior only: but it extends to every relation in which man can stand to his fellow-man; and to every possible expression of mutual love.

The sixth and seventh commandments seem extremely limited; but we are warranted to affirm that they extend as much to the dispositions of the soul as to the actions of the body. Our blessed Lord has explained them to us in his Sermon on the Mount. The Scribes and Pharisees had narrowed their import, and reduced them to mere bodily acts. But our Lord and Savior showed, that an angry thought was a transgression of the one, and an impure look a violation of the other. Exceeding thankful should we be for this infallible exposition of their meaning: for this throws the true light upon the whole; and serves as a clew, whereby to find our way through every commandment of the decalogue. If the letter of them only were to be taken, the great mass of us, I would hope, might congratulate ourselves as innocent in relation to them: but if an angry word, even to the saying to a brother, 'Raca,' subjects us to the danger of hell-fire; and an impure look, even the looking on a woman to lust after her, is a commission of adultery with her in the heart; who has not need to humble himself before God, and to tremble for the judgment that awaits him?

The eighth and ninth commandments must be understood as reaching, in like manner, to every injury that may be done to our neighbor's property or reputation; and to every act, or word, or thought, whereby either the one or the other may be endangered.

But the key to the whole is the tenth commandment. That, even in words, goes beyond the mere act, and prohibits the disposition of the mind. It was this which opened the eyes of the Apostle Paul, in reference to his state before God. Having been educated a Pharisee, he rested in the exposition which the Pharisees were accustomed to give of the commandments; and knowing that, according to their literal import, he was innocent, he thought himself, as "touching the righteousness of the law, blameless." But, when he came to consider more attentively the tenth commandment, he knew not how to withstand it, or to justify himself any longer as one who had truly observed it. He perceived that an inordinate desire of any kind was an actual violation of it; and he was conscious, that though he had withstood any unlawful desires, he had not been free from the motions of them in his heart. Hence he was constrained to acknowledge, that he had transgressed the law, and was consequently condemned by it; and needed to cry to God for mercy, as much as the vilest sinner upon earth. Hear his own account of this matter: "I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died: and the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death." The law, as given to man in Paradise, was ordained to life; but as continued to man in his fallen state, it is invariably unto death; and every man upon the face of the whole earth is condemned by it.

Thus I have, as briefly as possible, marked the spirituality of the law: and sure I am, that all who consider it aright must subscribe to that saying of the Psalmist, "I have seen an end of all perfection; but your commandment is exceeding broad," far beyond the reach or comprehension of any finite intelligence.

Now, at the hazard of anticipating some future remarks, I propose to show,

Secondly, What bearing this part of our subject has on the great question before us.

It will be remembered what that question is; namely, What are the uses of the moral law? And had I been content with amplifying my foregoing observations, I should have been under no necessity to trespass at all on the ground which we shall hereafter occupy. But it is not to the understanding alone that I would speak, but to the heart and conscience; humbly imploring of God to clothe his word with power, and to make it the means of everlasting salvation to every soul that hears it.

Now, who that has attended to the foregoing statement does not see, in the first place, What abundant grounds the best among us have for deep humiliation before God.

I will readily admit, that, as to gross outward violations of this law, many among us may be blameless. But who among us has rendered unto God the honor due unto his name; loving him, serving him, glorifying him, as it became us? Who has despised everything in comparison of him, and walked as in his immediate presence; reverencing everything in proportion as it appeared to proceed from him, or to lead to him; and wholly devoting to him the Sabbath-day; and having, on that sacred day especially, the entire rest of his soul in him, as an earnest and foretaste of the eternal Sabbath? Who among us will venture to say, that he has so lived, not unto himself, but unto his God; doing his will on earth as it is done in Heaven? Nay, who has come near this standard? Who has ever come up to it for so much as one day in his whole life? Again, if we look at the duties of the second table, wherein men are particularly ready to vaunt themselves as innocent, where is there one who has fulfilled all that is required of him, as a husband or wife, as a parent or child, as a master or servant, as a magistrate or subject? Were we to trace the line that is required in all the different relations, and compare our conduct with it, who must not acknowledge that his transgressions have been multiplied, even as the hairs of his head, and as the sands upon the sea-shore? If we come to the tempers and dispositions that we have exercised, and to the thoughts that we have harbored, and consider the interpretation which our Lord himself has put upon them, who among us must not blush to lift up his eyes unto Heaven, and be ashamed and confounded in the presence of that God who searches the heart? We are not sufficiently observant of the desires which break not forth into outward acts: but God notes them all, and imputes them to us as transgressions of his holy law. But, in truth, if we look at our words and actions, we shall not find ourselves so blameless as we are ready to imagine. For, where our own interest has stood in competition with our neighbor's, who has not felt a leaning to self? Who has, in all things, viewed his neighbor's claims with the same impartiality that he would a competition between others, in which he had no interest? And, in speaking of our neighbor, especially if he have shown himself adverse to us, who will venture to say that he has at all times evinced the same candor and charity as, in a change of circumstances, he should have judged due to him? We may not be conscious of having been under an undue influence in these matters: but, when we see how all are affected around us, we may be sure that we have felt the general contagion, and been but too deeply imbued with the spirit of infirmity that pervades our fallen nature. And what shall we say to the last command? If even the Apostle Paul was slain by that, who shall stand before it? Who must not acknowledge, that, times without number, he has been under the influence of irregular and inordinate desires? and who, under a sense of his guilt, must not put his hand on his mouth, and his mouth in the dust, crying, "Unclean, unclean?"

Perhaps you will think that I have borne somewhat hard upon your consciences; and availed myself of the spirituality of the law to inflict, unnecessarily, a wound upon your minds. But the truth is, that I have spoken nothing yet in comparison of what I ought to speak, in order to do justice to my subject. Forgive me, then, if I proceed to put this matter in its true point of view.

To call to mind what we have done, or what we have left undone, will give us a very inadequate view of our sinfulness. If we would estimate ourselves aright, we must take the high standard of God's holy law, and see how infinitely short of our duty we have come, in every act of our lives, and in every moment of our existence. We must not inquire merely, whether we have loved God at all; but how near we have come to what his law requires, and his perfections demand. We must trace the whole state of our souls from the beginning, and estimate it by this rule. We shall then see that our attainments have been as nothing, in comparison of our shortcomings and defects; literally, I say, as nothing. The poorest bankrupt that ever existed has paid as great a proportion of his debt as we have of our debt to God: yes, he is in a far higher state than we: for he, if he discharge nothing of his debt, adds nothing to it; but we have been augmenting our debt every day, every hour, every moment. The very best deeds of the best of men, while in their unconverted state, if weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, have been lighter than vanity; and if tried by the touchstone of God's perfect law, have been no better than splendid sins; or, rather, they have been one continued accumulation of guilt and misery against the day of wrath. If we try ourselves only by the letter of the law, we shall see nothing of this: but if we enter into the spirit of it, and examine ourselves by that, there will be no terms too humiliating for us whereby to express our sinfulness and our desert of God's wrath and indignation.

Permit me, then, to call you to this self-abasing state. Permit me to wrest out of your hands that delusive plea, that you have done no harm. I pray you to take judgment as your line, and righteousness as your plummet, and to judge of yourselves as God judges. It is by his judgment, and not by your own, that you must stand or fall: and his judgment will be according to truth.

Were the condemnation that awaits men to affect only this present life, we might be contented to leave them under their delusions. But we must shortly appear before the heart-searching God, to receive our final doom. Then the book of his remembrance, wherein all our actions, words, and thoughts, were written, will be opened; then will our own consciences also attest the truth of every accusation that shall be brought against us; and then, above all, shall we see the equity, both of the test whereby we shall be tried, and of the sentence that shall be pronounced against us. And then there will be no respect of persons with God. The learned and the dignified will stand on the same footing with the most illiterate peasant; or rather, will have a severer judgment, in proportion to the advantages which they have neglected to improve. The Lord grant that these considerations may be duly laid to heart; and that all of us, while yet the opportunity is afforded, may abase ourselves before God, with all humility of mind, and with that brokenness of heart which God will not despise!

I must not close this subject without observing, in the second place, What a folly it is ever to think of establishing a righteousness of our own by the works of the law.

If God required only an observance of the letter of his law, then indeed we might entertain a hope of this kind. Yet even then, when we reflected on the tenth commandment, we should see how vain and hopeless would be the attempt. But when we see that there is not so much as one commandment, either of the first or second table, which we have not violated, it seems a perfect infatuation to stand on the ground of our own righteousness. Persons, I know, have an idea that Christ has lowered the terms of the law, and brought down its demands to the standard of human infirmity. But where can they find any thing that sanctions such an idea as this? Which of the commands has the Lord Jesus lowered? The whole decalogue he has summed up in two commands, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul, and with all your strength; and your neighbor as yourself." Which of these two has he set aside? which has he dispensed with? or what measure of abatement has he made in either of them? If this law, before the coming of Christ, required too much, then was it not "holy, or just, or good," if, on the contrary, it required only what was really due, then has Christ, if he has at all lowered its demands, robbed God of the obedience due to him, and become himself a minister and patron of sin.

I would speak with reverence on every subject wherein the Deity is concerned: but I must say, that God cannot reduce the demands of his own law: it would be to divest himself of his own glory, and to give liberty to man to violate the obligations which every rational creature must, of necessity, owe to his Creator. His law is as immutable as he himself is: it is a perfect transcript of his mind and will. With the exception of the Sabbath, which is a positive institution, and has no foundation but in the will of God, the law exists of necessity, and independent of any revelation of it whatever. It must, of necessity, be the duty of a creature to love and serve his Creator; and to love, in subordination to him, all the works of his intelligent creation. I must say, then, that this law is unalterable; and that, if any would obtain righteousness by it, they must obey it perfectly, from first to last: and as this is impossible, since we all are transgressors of it, the thought of obtaining righteousness by the law must be relinquished by every soul of man. We must, if ever we would be saved at all, look out for some other righteousness more commensurate with the demands of the law, and more consistent with the honor of the Lawgiver.

But here I must stop, because this would lead me to what must occupy a separate discourse. I conclude, therefore, with commending these thoughts to your attentive consideration; and with entreating, that you would seek to make yourselves acquainted with this all-important subject. The Apostle says, "We know that, the law is spiritual," would to God that all of us could say the same! But, indeed, it is not generally "known." On the contrary, a very general and lamentable ignorance of it prevails in the Christian world. Every one is desirous of moderating the demands of the law to his own standard. Every one is desirous of lessening his own criminality before God: and, to effect this, he lowers the standard whereby to try his obedience. But I pray you to settle it in your minds, as an indisputable fact, that the law is, and ever must remain, spiritual. Unless this be thoroughly understood, it will be impossible for you to go along with me in my future discourses: for how can you comprehend the uses of the law, if you know not what the law itself is? Indeed, if you get not a clear insight into this as the first step, I shall appear to you to be bringing forward things strange and unwarrantable. But let the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians be attentively read with this particular view; and I dare affirm, that the spirituality of the law will be found written in them as with a sun-beam: and, that once seen, you will be prepared to understand the uses of the law, as they shall be more fully developed in my future discourses. You will not then be ready to exclaim, as otherwise you possibly may, "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" You will see that our future statements necessarily grow out of this: and you will find no difficulty in adopting that sentiment, which is the ultimate drift of my whole argument, namely, that if ever you be saved at all, you must renounce all dependence on your own righteousness, and must possess a righteousness corresponding with the utmost demands of the law, even that righteousness which the Lord Jesus Christ wrought out by his own obedience unto death, and which he confers on all his penitent and believing people.

 

MMCLXV

The First Use of the Law

Galatians 3:19. Wherefore then serves the law?

NOW we begin to enter fully on our subject. Not that we could have omitted our last statement: for it was necessary that the spirituality of the law should be fully known; since, without the knowledge of that, it is impossible for any man to understand the truths that are founded on it. But, having thus prepared the way, we may now state what we conceive to be the chief uses of the law; namely,

1. As a monitor, to guard us against adhering to the first covenant.

2. As an instructor, to guide us to a better covenant.

3. As a rule to govern us, when we have laid hold on that better covenant.

These three uses will form the subject of our present and two future Discourses.

At this time, I am to show, that the law is intended as a monitor, to guard us against adhering to the former covenant.

The law was originally given to man in Paradise, as a covenant between God and him. It was not, indeed, written in a book; but it was written on his heart. The terms of it were, that man was to obey whatever God should command; and then both he and his posterity should live. But if he transgressed in any particular, he and all his posterity should die. This, indeed, is but obscurely intimated in the history of man's creation. It was there said to him, "In the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die." It is, however, most fully opened in the New Testament. There it is said, "By one man's disobedience many were made sinners," and again, "By the offence of one, many died; and judgment came upon all men to condemnation." Now it is a plain indisputable fact, that death came upon all men from the very moment that Adam sinned: it has come, not on those only who have sinned like him, but on millions who never have committed actual sin; whose sufferings, therefore, must have been the punishment of his transgression. If sin had not been imputed to infants, they could never have been called to bear the penalty of sin. But they do pay that penalty even from the womb; and therefore it is manifest that they are considered as having fallen in Adam, and as being in some way chargeable with his transgression. That is the covenant, under which every child of man is born into the world. The terms of the covenant having been forgotten, God was pleased to publish it by Moses, and with his own hand to write it upon tables of stone. The obligations of it were stated in the Ten Commandments: and the sanctions of it were added, "Do this, and live: Transgress, and die."

It is true, that to Israel in the Wilderness it was published in somewhat of a mitigated form: because it was introduced by that gracious declaration, "I am the Lord your God." But still the terrors, with which the publication of it was accompanied, showed, that it was "a fiery law," "a ministration of death," "a ministration of condemnation." It is from Paul's reasonings chiefly, that we gain a clear insight into it. Though published in the form of a covenant, it is not really intended to be a covenant of life to man, now in his fallen state: it is intended only to show him what this covenant is which he is under, and how impossible it is for him to obtain salvation by it. This will appear clearly, if we attend to its requirements and its sanctions, as they are expressed in my text: "Do this," is the command given: Do it all; all without exception: continue to do it from first to last. On these terms you shall live. But a curse awaits you, even an everlasting curse, if you violate it in any one particular. Plead what you will, its denunciations are inflexible, irreversible. 'I wish to obey it.' 'Tell me not of your wishes; but do it.'—'I have endeavored to obey it.' 'Tell me not of your endeavors: but do it; or else you are cursed.'—'I have done it in almost every particular.' 'Tell me not of what you have done almost: have you obeyed it altogether? have you obeyed it in all things? If not, you are cursed.'—'I have for a great number of years obeyed it; and but once only, through inadvertence, transgressed it.' 'Then you are cursed. If you have offended in one point, you are, as James informs you, guilty of all. If you have not continued to obey it from the first moment of your existence to the last, you are cursed.'—'But I am sorry for my transgression.' 'I know nothing of your sorrows: you are cursed.'—'But I will reform; and never transgress again.' 'I know nothing of your reformation: you are cursed.'—'But I will obey it perfectly in future.' 'I know nothing of what you may do in future: you are cursed. I cannot alter my terms for any one. My declaration to all, without exception, is, "Cursed is every one that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them." If you have risen to these terms, I will give you life: if you have fallen short of them, in any one particular, nothing remains for you but "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." '

This, let it be observed, is no inference of mine; but the deduction of the Apostle Paul: for he says, "As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse." And on what does he ground this sweeping sentence of condemnation? He grounds it on the declaration of the law itself: "As many as, etc. etc. For it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them." There is no human being that ever has obeyed the law thus perfectly: and therefore all, without exception, are obnoxious to the curse; and all, who are yet looking to the law for justification, are actually "under the curse;" and must, if they die in their present state, endure it for evermore.

Such, then, are the terms of the covenant, even of that covenant under which we all are born.

Now let us see how the law, as a monitor, guards us against adhering to this covenant.

It opens to us what that obedience is which the covenant requires. It shows us it, indeed, chiefly in prohibitions, and in prohibitions of gross overt acts: and, if it included no more than these acts, it would rather encourage us to cleave to that covenant, and to hope for salvation by it. But, as I showed in my last, it comprehends in its requirements perfect love to God in its utmost possible extent, and perfect love to man, even such as a man bears to himself: and it charges us with guilt, not merely on account of open violations of its commands, but on account of the defectiveness of our best actions.—I will suppose, at this moment you are filled with love to God. 'Tis well: but does your love rise to the full extent that is due to him? I will take you at this, the best moment that you ever lived: Are all the powers of your soul called forth in these acts, so that there is no more defect in you than in Adam before the fall? If this be not the case, you are guilty; and these your most exalted virtues, instead of being meritorious in the sight of God, stand in need of his pardon on account of their defects. The same must be said of the best moment that you ever passed in reference to your fellow-creatures: Did your actions carry with them the whole soul in love to God, and to man for God's sake? And were they so perfect, that there was not in them the smallest blemish or defect? If not, you stand in need of pardon for your defects; and, consequently, can claim nothing on the score of merit.' Now, if the law is so rigorous in its demands as this, and admits of no deviation, no weariness, no defect even for a moment, under any circumstances, to the very end of life, what must it, of necessity, be considered as saying unto us? 'Think not of obtaining life by the covenant of works: you see its demands: you see how impossible it is that they should ever be relaxed: you see how inexorably it denounces its curse against the least transgression: you see, it makes no abatement on account of your weakness: it offers no assistance for the performance of any one duty: it knows nothing of repentance or reformation: it exacts perfect obedience from first to last: and that not paid, even though the failure be only once, and in the smallest point, it does nothing but denounce its curses against you. And will you seek life by such a covenant as this? Oh! flee from it; and dread lest you continue under it one hour longer. The terrors of Mount Sinai did but faintly represent the fearfulness of your state. And the strict injunctions relative to the touching of the mount did but faintly mark the impossibility of your ever gaining access to God by that covenant: and, truly, if Moses himself said on that occasion, "I exceedingly fear and quake," much more may you in the contemplation of the danger to which you are exposed, and of the judgments that await you.'

I am aware that this counsel of the law appears harsh. But it is not really so: nay, it is a statement in which the Israelites of old were expected cordially to acquiesce. The very passage which, with some slight alterations, the Apostle quotes in Galatians 3:10, are contained in the words which the Levites, as God's representatives, were to deliver to all the people of Israel from Mount Ebal: "Cursed be he who confirms not all the words of this law, to do them: and all the men shall say, Amen." Let me hope, therefore, that, instead of exclaiming, 'God forbid!' as some perhaps would ignorantly be disposed to do, in reply to the statement before given, there shall be but one sentiment pervading this whole assembly; and that all, in a way of cordial approbation, as well as in a way of intellectual acknowledgment, shall with one voice cry, 'Amen, Amen.'

Now, the Scripture bears ample testimony that this is indeed the first use of the law. "It was not possible that a law should be given to fallen man whereby he should have life: if it had, truly," says the Apostle, "righteousness should have been by the law." The law, therefore, must not be regarded as intended to give life: it was given to show how sin abounded; as Paul says, "The law entered, that the offence might abound;" that is, might appear to abound. And again he says, "By the law is the knowledge of sin." And this view of the law will-explain what he means, when he says, "I, through the law, am dead to the law." In fact, this expression comprehends and illustrates this entire part of my subject. The Apostle saw that the law did nothing but condemn him; and therefore he renounced it utterly in point of dependence, and determined to seek salvation in some other way. And the same effect must the knowledge of the law produce on us; it must destroy all our hope by the covenant of works; and lead us to inquire after the way of salvation which God has provided for us in the Gospel of his Son.

Having pointed out this first use of the law, I now come to recommend it in that particular view, and for that express end.

It is well known that men have a great propensity to cleave to the law, and to seek salvation by it. This was the besetting sin of the Pharisees of old: "they had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge; for, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they would not submit to the righteousness of God." This was the fault also of the Judaizing teachers: they were always blending the law with the Gospel, as a joint ground of hope before God; not being aware, that, if they relied upon the law at all, they must stand or fall by it altogether. The moment they did anything with a view to obtain justification by it, they became "debtors to do the whole law;" and, not having discharged their whole debt to that, nothing awaited them but chains of darkness for evermore. The same propensity there is in us, though it is indulged by men in very different degrees. Some look for their justification altogether upon the footing of their good works: these know not for what end good works can be required at all, but with the view of our obtaining justification by them: and, when they are told that they can never be justified by their works, they suppose that we set aside the observance of good works altogether, and encourage all manner of licentiousness. Others see, that some honor is due to Christ; and that if he came to save us, we must, in part at least, stand indebted to him for salvation. Hence they are willing to rely in part on his vicarious sacrifice, and in part on their own obedience to the law. They do not perceive that the one makes void the other; and that salvation must be wholly of works or wholly of grace; and therefore they unite the two as the foundation of their hope. But they see not that their foundation is only like the image of iron and clay in Nebuchadnezzar's vision; the parts of which could never cohere, nor form any permanent basis for the superincumbent weight. Others rather think to enter into a composition with the Lord, and agree to render him service, if he will impart to them salvation. Thus, though they do not expressly unite their merits with his, they make their obedience the ground on which they hope for an interest in him; and, to a certain degree, a price, which they propose to pay for it. It never occurs to them, that they have nothing but sin and misery to present to him; and that therefore their entire hope must be in his sovereign grace and mercy. They forget that they are to receive all "without money and without price." Others refine yet more; and, conceiving themselves willing to give to the Lord Jesus all the glory of their salvation, they only look to themselves for their warrant to believe in him: either they dare not go to him, because they are so vile, and therefore they will endeavor to make themselves better, in order that they may venture into his presence, and indulge a hope of acceptance with him; or, they have a good hope that he will apply to them all the benefits of his passion, because they have not transgressed beyond the common bounds of human frailty. But the plain answer to all these delusions is this: Salvation must be wholly of works, or wholly of grace: as the Apostle has said, "If it be of grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work." You perceive, therefore, that you must not attempt to blend the two covenants in any respect: if you cleave in any degree to the covenant of works, you can have nothing to do with the covenant of grace: if you come not solely, and with your whole hearts, to the Lord Jesus Christ, to be saved by his blood and righteousness, laying aside and renouncing every other hope, you must go back to the covenant of works, and seek for acceptance through it. But do you not hear the law? Do you not hear how inflexible it is in its demands, and how inexorable in its denunciations? Alter it you cannot, in any respect; obey it you must, if you will still found your hopes on it in any measure or degree: and therefore it is your wisdom to adopt the determination of Paul, and to seek henceforth to "be found in Christ; not having your own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ."

What now becomes us in this view of the law? what, indeed, but humiliation and contrition in the deepest degree? We must see how many curses hang over our devoted heads. We must not merely look at our grosser violations of the law, but at our defects: for "the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men;" and every transgression, whether by commission or omission, whether by excess or defect, will receive its just recompense of reward. Let it be granted, then, that our lives have been blameless, as far as respects outward sin: still, if we judge ourselves by the perfect law of God, our sins will be found more than can be numbered, and greater than can be conceived. When we compare ourselves with some of our fellow-creatures, who trample under foot all the laws of God and man, we appear to be very worthy characters: and such we are in the sight of man; but in the sight of God there is by no means so great a difference between us as we are apt to imagine. In estimating our character, and weighing our comparative worth, God may see less indeed of gross iniquity, but a far more abundant measure of spiritual sins, which are not a whit less hateful in his eyes. Suppose it all true which the self-applauding Pharisee affirmed, that he had been no extortioner, not unjust, and no adulterer; did he not make ample compensation for this, by his pride, his self-delight, his uncharitableness? Yes, in truth; these weighed as much in the scales of Heaven, as the grosser evils from which he was exempt. Had he tried himself by a just standard, he would have found but little reason for his self-preference and self-applause: he would have seen that his boasted righteousness was as defective as that of the poor Publican: and the only difference between the two, supposing the one to have been as good as he imagined, and the other as evil as was supposed, was, that the one was a painted sepulcher, and the other a sepulcher without paint. I must not, indeed, be understood to say, that gross carnal sins do not add to the criminality of the person in whom they are found; but only, that, supposing one person to abound more in carnal filthiness, and another in spiritual, the latter, to say the least, has as little reason to glory in himself, or to trust in his own righteousness, as the former. The point to which we must all look for real humiliation is, the defectiveness of our obedience. Let this be seen, and seen too in all its aggravated character, as against a God of infinite love and mercy; against a Savior who has assumed our nature, and laid down his life for us; against the Holy Spirit, who, by his gracious influences, has striven with us all our days, to guide us aright, and to bring us to repentance: let it be seen, also, as against light and knowledge, against vows and resolutions, against judgments and mercies; and, further, as continued in, for years, without any shame or remorse: let our impenitence also be marked, and our proud rejection of God's offered mercy in Christ Jesus: let all this be viewed; and we shall see little reason to value ourselves on not having committed some of the grossest sins: we shall see that our iniquities have grown up unto Heaven; and that they must sink us into everlasting perdition, if God do not, in the multitude of his tender mercies, interpose for our deliverance, and make "his grace to super-abound, where our sins have so greatly abounded," We shall see, that to call ourselves the chief of sinners, is not merely a kind of modest and becoming saying, which, while it sounds well from the lips, needs not be felt in the heart; but that it is a character which belongs to the very best among us; since the best man in the universe knows more evil in himself than he can know of others, except where the evils have been made notorious by overt acts. If the law be properly used, the person who thus tries himself by it will see himself exposed to God's heaviest judgments, no less than the most flagrant transgressor in the world: and he will cry for mercy, precisely in the same manner as Peter did, when sinking in the waves, "Save, Lord, or I perish!" Others, who have not such views of the law, will wonder at him, and say, 'What can you have done, to call for such remorse and fear?' But he knows his own desert before God, and will therefore lie low before him, in the deepest self-abasement.

This, then, is what I would wish you to do: it is for this end that I bring the subject before you: it is for this end that I hold up thus the glass of the law before your eyes, that you may know your true character before God. I would not that it should be said of us, as of the Jews of old, that "we seek righteousness, and cannot attain to it, because we seek it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law." I would that it should be a settled principle in all our minds, that "by the works of the law shall no flesh living be justified." O, if we could but listen to this monitor! If the warnings which he gives us be alarming, they still are beneficial: and it were surely better be warned that our house is built on sand, than that we should be left to perish under its ruins. And were a person who perceived our danger to withhold the warning, he would be justly considered by all as accessary to our destruction.

I am aware that there has been an aspect of severity about this part of my subject; of severity, which I would gladly have avoided, if it had been compatible with that fidelity which became me. But I speak to an audience who can distinguish between the harsh anathemas of man, and the authoritative declarations of Almighty God. If, indeed, I have put a harsher sense upon God's word than it manifestly imports, I will be contented that all the blame, which such an inconsiderate proceeding would deserve, shall attach to me. But, if I have spoken only what God himself has authorized and enjoined, and what will assuredly be found true at the last, then let me hope, that the beneficial warning will be kindly received; and that you will be the better prepared for our next subject, wherein a balm will be applied to every wound, and a refuge opened for every one that would flee from the wrath to come. To that I look forward, as to a subject far more congenial with my feelings than the terrors of the law. To bring forward the glad tidings of salvation, and to proclaim mercy through the sufferings of our incarnate God, is, I trust, the joy and delight of my soul. From the first moment that ever a dispensation was committed to me to preach the Gospel, "I have determined to know nothing in my ministrations but Jesus Christ, and him crucified." O that in my next I may be enabled to commend Him to you, as a suitable and all-sufficient Savior! And if, through what has been already spoken, any of you be pricked in your hearts, and be stirred up to cry, "What shall we do to be saved?" may the answer, that shall be given you in my next, be accompanied with a blessing from on high, and prove "the power of God unto salvation to every one that hears it!"

 

MMCLXVI

The Law, a Schoolmaster, to Bring Us to Christ

Galatians 3:19. Wherefore then serves the law?

WE are now arrived at the second use of the law, which is very strongly pointed out in the passage before us. The law itself has been explained as spiritual; and as extending to the whole of man's duty, whether to God or man. This, as you have heard, was originally given to man as a covenant of life: and, if man had obeyed it perfectly, it would have given him a title to life. But to man in his fallen state, "that which was ordained to life is found to be unto death." The first use, therefore, of the law now is, as a monitor, to guard us against adhering to the first covenant. The second use is as an instructor, to guide us to a better covenant. And it is in this view that I am to speak of it at this time.

You will perceive that I exclude from my discussion everything which does not immediately belong to my argument. The subject itself is exceedingly extensive, and might easily be pursued through a great variety of branches, all useful and important in their place. But to prosecute it to this extent would be to weaken the general impression. I wish the whole of what I shall have to offer to be an answer to the question specified in the words before us, "Wherefore then serves the law?" To show what the law is, was necessary of course: so that the exhibition of that was no deviation from my plan, but rather indispensable to the prosecution of it. And my strict adherence to this line, if it appear to leave out much which might enrich the subject, will have this advantage at least, that it will simplify the subject. And, in truth, after having so solemnly prepared your minds for it in the first discourse, I should feel that I were criminally inattentive to your feelings, if I did not labor to the uttermost to keep that alone in view which I then described to be of so much importance.

To open, then, that part of the subject on which I am now entering, I must, show, in the first place, What we refer to as that better covenant; and then, How the law, as an instructor, guides us to it.

First, What do we mean by that better covenant? What better covenant has God given us? You will naturally say, Let us know, distinctly, what the covenant is? With whom it was made? In what respects it is a better covenant? And, after all, what it has to do with the subject before us?

To these points I will briefly address myself in succession.

What the covenant is, the Prophet Jeremiah will inform us: "Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, says the Lord: but this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." But has this anything to do with us under the Christian dispensation? Yes: twice does the Apostle quote that very passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews; expressly declaring, in both places, that it is that very covenant which we, under the Gospel dispensation, are supposed to have embraced.

But when, and with whom, was this covenant made? It is that covenant which God made with Abraham, when he promised to him, that "in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed." Peter, addressing the Jews of his day, says, "You are the children of the Prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in your seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed."

But what have we to do with it? Paul tells us, it is the Gospel covenant, whereby we, and every one under the Gospel dispensation, must be saved: "The Scripture," says he, "foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In you shall all nations be blessed."

But in what respects is this a better covenant? It is by God himself called "a better covenant," and well does it deserve that name; since, as he tells us, it is "established upon better promises." The covenant, so far as it was a national covenant, made with the Jewish people, promised nothing but temporal blessings; and, as made with Adam in Paradise, and with all mankind in him, it promised nothing but upon perfect obedience. But the new covenant engages to supply our every want: it points out a Savior to us; and makes over to us, not pardon only, but purity; assuring us, that God will send to us his Holy Spirit, to renew us after the Divine image; and to give us, not Heaven only, but also a fitness for the enjoyment of it. One of its principal provisions is, "A new heart will I give unto you, and a new spirit will I put within you." In a word, the covenant of works required every tiring, and imparted nothing: whereas the covenant of grace imparts everything, and requires nothing, except that we should receive thankfully what God offers to us freely, in the Son of his love. (Of course, in the free offers of God I include the new heart, of which I have just spoken, and the entire sanctification of the life as flowing from it.) I may add, too, that the new covenant has a better Mediator. Moses, the mediator of the covenant of works, could do nothing for his people, but make known to them what God had revealed to him: whereas our Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, is ever living to intercede for us with the Father; and has in himself a fullness treasured up for us, a fullness of all that we ever can stand in need of. In fact, he is not a Mediator only of the covenant, but a "Surety of it" also: and he engages with us for God, and with God for us: with us for God, that "he shall never depart from us to do us good;" and with God for us, that "he will put his fear in our hearts, so that we shall never depart from him." This, I say, is the very covenant which he makes with us: and it is from this that we derive all our hopes both of grace and glory.

You will still ask, What, after all, has this to do with the argument before us? I answer, It is the covenant which Paul declares to have been made with Abraham for the benefit of himself and all his believing posterity; and which he therefore calls us to lay hold on, in order that we may be delivered from the curse entailed on us by the first covenant. Hear his own statement, in the passage which on the last occasion we considered: "All," says he, "are cursed by the law," but "Christ has redeemed us from that curse, that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles, through Jesus Christ." Then, lest we should think that the Abrahamic covenant was superseded by that which was afterwards made with Moses, he observes, that it could not be disannulled by any transaction that took place with Moses on Mount Sinai, because only one of the parties that were interested in it was present on that occasion. Then comes his question, "Wherefore, then, serves the law?" And this he answers by observing, that "it was added because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise was made;" or, in other words, that it was to be introductory to a new covenant, and to prepare men for their admission into it. Still, however, as there was, in appearance, an opposition between the two covenants, he asks, "Is the law then against the promises of God? No, God forbid!" says he: "for if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture has concluded (shut up) all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept (kept in close custody) under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law, so far from keeping us from Christ to be justified by works, was actually our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." Hence he concludes, that, "faith being now come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster, but are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."

We see, then, what the better covenant is, and wherein its superiority consists; the one being a covenant of works, and the other, of grace. We see, also, that the covenant of works, though re-published four hundred and thirty years after the covenant made with Abraham, was not intended to supersede the covenant of grace, but to be subservient to it, and to shut up men to it, and to constrain them to embrace it.

I am fearful of obscuring the subject by multiplying citations of Holy Writ: I will, therefore, close this part with merely adducing one passage as explanatory of the whole. Paul, contrasting the two covenants, represents each of them as declaring to us its own terms, precisely in the way that I have done: "Moses describes the righteousness of the law, That the man that does those things shall live by them. But the righteousness of faith speaks on this wise: Say not in your heart, Who shall ascend into Heaven? (that is to bring Christ down from above:) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what says it? The word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach; that if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved: for with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

Having then shown what this better covenant is, I now come to show how the law, as an instructor, guides us to this better covenant; or, as my text expresses it, how it is "a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith."

It must ever be borne in mind, that the law can never be set aside: in its requirements, and in its sanctions, it is unalterable, even as God himself is. It is holy, and can never abate of its commands; it is just, and can never mitigate its sanctions; it is good, and must eternally continue so, whatever may become of those who are subject to its dominion. In everything which it requires, its direct tendency is, to promote the honor of God, and the happiness of man; and, if it become an occasion of unhappiness to any, it is only through their own perverseness in violating its commands. Being, then, thus immutable, what does it say to us? It says, 'The curse I have denounced, must be inflicted; and the commands I have given must be obeyed. If there be any person found to endure the one for you, and to fulfill the other, and God be pleased to accept him in your be-half, it is well. But without such a deference to my rights, and such a regard to my honor, shall no flesh living be saved. I must "be magnified and made honorable" in the eyes of the whole creation, before any child of man shall find acceptance with Him from whom I proceeded, and whose authority I maintain.

Thus, so to speak, the law puts us upon looking out for a Savior. But where shall one be found that answers to this character, or can by any means sustain this office? Where shall we find one who is capable of bearing the wrath of Almighty God? Where shall we find one that is capable of obeying in all things the perfect law of God? And, above all, where shall we find one that can do these things for us? A creature must sink under the wrath of God: for that wrath is everlasting. There can never come a period when that curse shall end, and the cup which the sinner is doomed to drink of shall be exhausted. So also, if a creature, even the highest archangel, were to subject himself to the control of the law, he could obey only for himself. As a creature, he would be bound to fulfill all that the law has enjoined: he could do nothing beyond what was absolutely required; and therefore, after all, he would be only an unprofitable servant. He could not obey for others: he could not exceed what was due from himself. The only thing that could give the slightest hope to man, so far at least as has ever been revealed, would be, for God himself to put himself in the place of sinners, and in their nature to suffer and obey for them. But how could this be hoped? How could such a thought as this be entertained, for a moment, in the bosom of God, or in the mind of any of his creatures? Were this possible, there might indeed be a hope; because the dignity of the sufferer would put a value on his sufferings, sufficient to overbalance the eternal sufferings of the whole world; and the obedience paid by the Lawgiver himself, who could be under no obligation to obey it, until he had assumed our nature for that very end, would be sufficient to form a justifying righteousness for all the sinners of mankind. But how can such a thing be contemplated for a moment? How can it come within the verge of probability—I might almost say, of possibility? But, whatever be thought of this matter, the law says, 'I can consent to no lower terms than these. Suppose such a plan sanctioned, approved, and executed by the Almighty himself, then I can consent to the salvation of sinners; yes, I can not only consent to it, but highly approve of it; because, by having Jehovah himself enduring my penalties, and executing my commands, I shall be infinitely more glorified than I ever could have been either by the obedience or condemnation of the whole human race. Let but such a covenant as this be made and executed on God's part, and I consent that you shall be saved by it; yes, and that you shall receive a weight of glory far beyond what you ever could have received, if you had never fallen.'

Such hints we may suppose to be given by the law. And now we look into the Gospel, to find whether such an idea ever was, or could be, realized. And behold, with what amazement must we see that such a plan has actually been devised and executed by Almighty God! Can it be indeed, that God has assumed our nature, and obeyed and suffered in our stead, and wrought out a righteousness for us, that, being clothed in it, we may stand without spot or blemish before him? Yes; it is true: "God has been manifest in the flesh," and "made in all things like unto us, sin only excepted," he has also fulfilled the law in its utmost possible extent: he has, moreover, "borne our sins in his own body on the tree," and for our sakes "become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." "To redeem us from the curse of the law, he has actually become a curse for us," yes, "He, who knew no sin, has become sin for us; that we, who had, and could have, no righteousness, might be made the righteousness of God in him." This point, then, being clearly ascertained, let us hear our divine instructor, and sit at the feet of this heavenly "schoolmaster." Methinks I hear the law saying to me, 'You have heard the strictness of my demands, and the awfulness of my denunciations: now hear the end for which I have so proclaimed both the one and the other: it has been to show you your need of a Savior; it has been to make you welcome this Savior, and embrace him with your whole hearts. Had I been less strict in my demands, or less awful in my denunciations, you would still have adhered to me, and founded your hopes on me. But I have thundered thus, in order to drive you to despair of ever finding acceptance through me; and to urge you, with all possible speed and earnestness, to lay hold on the hope set before you in the Gospel.'

Let me now suppose one to ask, 'But how shall I go to the Savior? How shall I obtain an interest in him? How shall I procure his favor? What would he have me do, in order to recommend myself to him?' In reply to all these anxious inquiries, our "schoolmaster" gives us this important information:—'You must not attempt to recommend yourselves to him by any works whatever: you must go ignorant, that you may be enlightened; guilty, that you may be pardoned; polluted, that you may be purified; enslaved, that you may experience his complete redemption. You must carry nothing to him but your wants and miseries; and expect nothing at his hands but as the fruit of his mediation, and as the free gift of God for his sake. You must renounce everything of your own; and desire to "have him made all unto you, your wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, that to all eternity you may glory in the Lord alone." If you entertain the idea of meriting or earning anything at his hands by your own good works, you will only come back to me, and be dealt with according to the terms proposed by me. You must disclaim all thought of this; and be content to be saved by grace alone, and to receive everything out of the fullness that is treasured up in Christ. For this end, you must trust in him, and live altogether by faith in him. You well know how a branch receives everything from the stock into which it has been engrafted: precisely thus must you receive from him all the blessings both of grace and glory. You must by faith abide in him: and, by virtue derived from him, bring forth fruit to the glory of his name. This is a way of salvation both suited to you, and honorable to God: it is suited to you, because it provides everything for you as a free gift: and it is honorable to God, because, while it preserves my honor inviolate, it exalts and glorifies every perfection of the Deity. I charge you, then, embrace the covenant which Christ has ratified with his blood: exercise faith in him: look to him as the procuring cause of all your blessings. And be not discouraged by any sense of your own unworthiness; but go to him as the very chief of sinners, that you may be made the brightest monuments of his grace. "It was for sinners that he came, to call them to repentance," it was "the lost, and them alone, whom he came to save," and the more deeply you feel your need of him, the more readily will he receive you to the arms of mercy: for his address to persons in your very state is, "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest," "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool," "him that comes unto me, I will in no wise cast out.' "

And now, after having heard the advice given by the law, shall 1 go too far, if I entreat you all to sit at the feet of this schoolmaster, as his disciples? I grant, that there is an aspect of severity about him: but he will teach you aright. He is sent by God himself for your instruction: and all who will obey his dictates shall assuredly be guided into the way of peace. Other instructors, beside the law, you will find in great numbers, who will speak to you in milder terms, and accommodate themselves more to your carnal minds. But O! listen not to them. Many pleasing statements they will give, about the value of good works, and the mercy of God, and about the Savior having lowered the terms of salvation to sincere obedience. But they will only deceive you to your ruin. Take their favorite term, of sincere obedience: no matter whether it be to the moral law, or to a reduced and mitigated law of their own formation: let it be a law of any kind that can possibly be conceived to have proceeded from God; and then suppose yourselves to stand or fall by your sincere obedience to that law: where is there one among you that ever could be saved? If this is the standard by which you are to be tried, it has been so from the beginning of your life: and where is there one among us that has from the beginning of his life sincerely striven with all his might to mortify every inclination which his judgment condemned; and to fulfill, to the uttermost, every duty, both to God and man, so far as he was acquainted with it, or might have been acquainted with it, if he had sincerely improved every opportunity of gaining instruction? Who has from his earliest youth acted up fully to the light that he has enjoyed, and done everything which he knew or believed to be required of him? Nay, who would dare to stand upon this ground for any one day of his life, and consent that his everlasting doom should be determined by the issue of such a trial? Know, then, that these blind instructors will, if listened to, betray you to your everlasting ruin. Some there are, who, "unable to endure sound doctrine," will labor to show, that all which is spoken in the Gospel about faith in Christ means no more than a general belief of his word; and that, after all, salvation is, and must be, in part at least, by the works of the law. But, if any man will say that Christ has either repealed or mitigated, let him show us what law that is which Christ has repealed, or mitigated, and reduced to the standard of human capacity to obey it. But this no man on earth can show. The law is unalterable, both in its demands and sanctions; and if we will but listen to it as our instructor, it will guide us infallibly to the Savior of the world. It will tell you plainly, 'I cannot save you, either in whole or in part: but the Lord Jesus Christ both can, and will, if you will believe in him. And, if you needed an intercessor with the Father to receive you for Christ's sake, I myself, if permitted to be heard, would become your friend: yes, I, who have denounced so many curses against you, would willingly become your advocate. If suffered to address the Most High, I would say, You yourself, O God, did appoint your Son Jesus Christ to be their Surety: and He has paid to me the utmost farthing of their debt. Did I demand, that all the curses which the violation of my precepts merited, should be inflicted? they have been borne by him. Did I require that perfect obedience should be rendered to my commands? it has been rendered by him. Only admit Him, therefore, as their Surety, and I have nothing to demand at their hands: or rather my demand must be, that they who plead the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ for them, may stand accepted through his righteousness; and may be rewarded with eternal life, precisely as they would have been, if they had themselves fulfilled all that I required of them. Nay, I would even go further, and ask, that they may be recompensed with a higher degree of glory than they ever could have attained by their own obedience; because the obedience and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ their Savior have done infinitely greater honor to me than ever could have been done either by the obedience or sufferings of the whole world.'

Listen, then, I entreat you, to the counsels of this instructor. They are safe: nor can they be resisted, but at the peril of your souls. Only get a clear understanding of that question, "Wherefore, then, serves the law?" and then you will be prepared for all the blessings of the Gospel, and find in Christ all that your necessities require.

An illustration of my whole subject shall now place it in a point of view in which it cannot possibly be misapprehended. O that God may be graciously pleased to open all our hearts, to discern, to embrace, to realize the truth as it shall now be exhibited before you! We have supposed you all to be condemned by the law; and to be precisely in the condition of the Israelites when bitten by the fiery serpents; incapable of restoring yourselves to health, or of finding any healing balm in the whole universe. What now shall be done? Death is sweeping you off in quick succession; and, ah! where is it bearing you? But for you, who are yet alive, can no remedy be found? Yes: Moses shall point out a remedy—that very Moses, who gave the law, and denounced the curse against all who should transgress it—that very Moses, I say, shall be your instructor and counselor: and "if you believe Moses, you shall believe in Christ." By God's command he erected a brazen serpent; and proclaimed the joyful tidings, that all who should look unto it should be saved. The opportunity was gladly embraced by the perishing multitudes, and the means were instantly crowned with the desired success. And happy am I to say, that at this very moment is that transaction renewed in the midst of you. You are all dying of the wounds of sin. Not a creature in the universe can render you the least assistance towards a recovery from your perishing condition. But the Lord Jesus Christ is this day "set forth crucified in the midst of you," and the law itself, yes, the law itself, I say, directs you to Him, as God's appointed ordinance for your salvation. This day does the law proclaim itself as your instructor, "to bring you to Christ, that you may be justified by faith in him." And is this an illustration of mine? Is the comparison between the two a mere accidental coincidence? No, the one was intended, by God himself, to be an illustration of the other. Hear the application of this record, as it was made by our Lord Jesus Christ himself: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so shall the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." View, then, the Savior this day erected on the cross; and hear him addressing you in these gracious terms, "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth! for I am God, and there is none else," "no Savior beside me."

Thus, then, you see that both the law and the Gospel, if properly understood, speak the same language. Both the one and the other say, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." "All that believe in him are justified from all things." "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory." May God Almighty discover to us all this blessed truth, and give us the sweet experience of it in our own souls! Sure I am, that, if our last discourse placed the law in a terrific view, you cannot now do otherwise than behold it as a most faithful counselor and friendly instructor: and, if it please God to accompany his word with power to your souls, you will have reason to bless God for every wound that has been inflicted; and will enter fully into our next discourse, with a determination, through grace, that, while you flee from the law as a covenant, you will not neglect it as a rule of life; but will rather "delight in it in your inward man," and aspire after the most perfect conformity to it in the whole of your deportment.

 

MMCLXVII

The Third Use of the Law, as a Rule of Life

Galatians 3:19. Wherefore then serves the law?

THE last use of the law being now to be contemplated, we shall set before you the law as a rule to govern us, when we have embraced the new covenant. And it is with peculiar pleasure that I enter upon this subject, because there exists at this day, precisely as there did in the apostolic age, a jealousy upon the subject of good works, and a fear lest the free salvation of the Gospel should render men indifferent to them. You will remember, that Paul's statements gave occasion to men to ask, "Shall we, then, continue in sin, that grace may abound?" And the same thoughts may possibly have arisen in your minds, while I have with all the clearness in my power, shown, that we are not, in any degree whatever, to seek justification by the works of the law, but solely and exclusively by faith in Christ. I did, indeed, endeavor to guard against such thoughts, by intimating, in the very first instance, that there was a third end and use of the law, namely, to be a rule of life to the believer: but had I been less guarded in this respect, and left this point to be developed afterwards, without any previous intimation of my purpose, I fear that the same objections, as were urged against the Apostle's statements, would have greatly enervated mine, and prevented that favorable reception which I hope, through the tender mercy of God, they have met with in your minds. But I have longed for the present occasion, that I might vindicate the Gospel from the charge of licentiousness; and prove, to the satisfaction of you all, that it is indeed, what the Apostle calls it, "a doctrine according to godliness."

Paul was at all times most anxious to guard against a misconception of his sentiments and conduct on account of his neglect of the ceremonial law. The one great object of his ministry was, to win souls to Christ. For the advancement of this end, he conformed, in all matters of indifference, to the views of those among whom he ministered; "to the Jews, becoming a Jew; to those who were under the law, as under the law; and to those who were without law, as without law." But, fearing lest these compliances of his might be construed as a contempt of the divine authority, he took care to remove all ground for such an idea, by declaring, that he still considered himself as much bound to obey God as ever; or, rather, that he felt himself under additional obligations to fulfill all the divine commands, in consideration of the unbounded mercy that had been given to him through Jesus Christ. He had, it is true, neglected the observances of the law: but it had not been from any disrespect to God's commands, but because that law was in fact abrogated; whereas the moral law was as much in force as ever: and to the latest hour of his life he should look upon himself as "under that law to Christ."

This acknowledgment of his comes fully to our point. It shows, that he still regarded the law as a rule of life; and it gives me a fair opportunity,

1st, To establish the perpetuity of the law, as a rule of life; and,

2dly, To enforce its obligations.

I. In order to establish the perpetuity of the law as a rule of life, let it be remembered, that the law is a perfect transcript of the mind and will of God. It arises necessarily out of the relation which we bear to him and to each other. It did not depend on any arbitrary appointment of the Deity, (except, indeed, so far as the Sabbath is concerned,) but would have been equally in force whether it had been the subject of a particular revelation or not. Allowance, indeed, will, as Paul informs us, be made for those, who, for want of a revelation, have but very imperfect conceptions respecting the Divine will: but, wherever that is known, it must be a rule of conduct to man, and will be a rule of judgment to God. No change of circumstances whatever can alter its demands. In whatever situation we be, it must be our duty to love God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves: nor can this law by any means be dispensed with. In truth, God cannot dispense with any part of this law; for if he did, he would authorize men to despoil themselves of his image, and to rob him of his glory.

That the law is still a rule of duty to the people of God, appears from that injunction of Paul, in the thirteenth chapter to the Romans: "Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he who loves another has fulfilled the law." Then, specifying the duties contained in the second table of the law as essential constituents of true love, he adds, "Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Consequently, if it is our duty to exercise love, it is our duty to fulfill the law, which is in all respects identified with love.

But to insist on this is needless: for, instead of the law being superseded by the Lord Jesus Christ, it is in his hand more imperative than ever, and comes to us with tenfold obligations to obey it: and this is the point to which I mean to call your particular attention. To say that "we are not without law to God," is comparatively a small matter: the point I am to establish is, that "we are under the law to Christ."

In confirmation of this, I assert, that our obedience to the law was contemplated by God himself: first, in all that Christ did and suffered for us; next, in his liberating of us from the law as a covenant of works; and, lastly, in his admission of us into a new covenant, the covenant of grace.

First, I say, our obedience to the law was one great object which our Lord and Savior had in view, in all that he did and suffered for us. It was not from death only that he came to save us, but from sin. Indeed, he was on that very account "named Jesus, because he was to save his people from their sins." Hear how plainly this was declared concerning him, even before he came into the world: "Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, when filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he has visited and redeemed his people, and has raised up an horn of salvation for us … to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life." This clearly shows, that, instead of "making void the law, Christ has established" its authority to the very end of time. And to this agrees the testimony of Paul: "He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." And again, expressly adverting to the government which Jesus still maintains over his people, he says, "None of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself: for whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's: for to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living."

Next I say, that our obedience to the law was a most important end, for which we are liberated from the law as a covenant of works. This is repeatedly asserted by Paul. In the eighth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, he says, "The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death," (that is, the Gospel has freed me from the law:) "for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, has condemned sin in the flesh," (and now observe for what end)—"that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The law could neither justify nor sanctify us: the Gospel does both: and the very end for which Christ has liberated us from the law, was, that both these ends might be accomplished in us.

To this I will add a passage, which needs no explanation: it is so clear, so precise, so full to the point, that it leaves no doubt upon the subject. Paul, speaking of his own experience, says, "I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God."Here you perceive that it was the law itself which made him dead to the law. It was so rigorous in its demands, and so awful in its sanctions, that he utterly despaired of obtaining salvation by it; and, in this view, became wholly dead to it. But did he therefore neglect it as a rule of life? Quite the reverse: "Through the law, he was dead to the law, that he might live unto God," and serve him in newness of life.

But there is an illustration of this matter given us by the Apostle, which places it in a still clearer point of view; in a view at once peculiarly beautiful, and unquestionably just. In the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans he compares the law to a man to whom the Church is united, as it were, in the bonds of marriage. He then observes, that, as a wife is bound to her husband by the nuptial contract as long as he lives, and would be justly called an adulteress if she were to connect herself with another man during his life, so are we united in the closest bonds of the law. But, by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his satisfying all the demands of that law for us, its power over us is annulled, and it becomes, from the very moment of our believing in him, dead with respect to us; so that we are at liberty to be united to Christ, and to enter into a new covenant with him. This benefit, he observes, we derive from Christ. But for what end? That our obligations to holiness may be vacated? No; by no means; but the very reverse: he conveys this benefit, in order that, in our new-covenant state, we may bring forth that fruit, which we never did, nor could, bring forth in connection with our former husband. Hear his own words: "Know you not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,)" (I beg you to pay particular attention to thin, because it is addressed to those especially who know the law,) "Know you not how that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he lives; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if, while her husband lives, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but, if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, you also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ" (that is, through the sufferings of Christ, the power of the law over you is cancelled), "that you should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that you should bring forth fruit unto God." If there were no other passage in all the Scriptures than this, it would be quite sufficient, not only to establish the point in hand, but to silence, forever, all jealousies respecting the practical intent and tendency of the Gospel.

But I must go on yet further to observe, in the last place, that our obedience to the law is one of the chief blessings conferred upon us by the new covenant, the covenant of grace. You will remember, that the first covenant merely says, "Do this, and live." It condemns for disobedience; but never does anything towards enabling us to obey. But what says God to us in. the new covenant? "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law into their mind, and write it in their hearts." And again, "A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh: and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and to keep my judgments and do them." Here, by the very terms of the new covenant, is obedience to the law infallibly secured; because God himself undertakes to work it in us by the influences of his good Spirit. His assured promise to every one that embraces the new covenant is, "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace."

Hence, then, you see the perpetuity of the law fully established. It is only in its covenant form that it is cancelled: as a rule of duty, it is, as I have before observed, altogether unchangeable: and its authority, instead of being invalidated by the Gospel, is confirmed and strengthened by it: since our obedience to it was, as I have distinctly shown, first, the end for which Christ came into the world; next, the end for which he delivered us from the law as a covenant of works; and, lastly, the end for which he has brought us into the new covenant, the covenant of grace. In answer, therefore, to every one who doubts the practical tendency of the Gospel, we are prepared to say, with the Apostle Paul, "Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid."

Having thus endeavored, with the utmost plainness, to show that we are still under the law to Christ, I come,

In the second place, to enforce its obligations.

Is the law designed to be a rule to govern us after we have laid hold on the covenant of grace? Let us use it for that end, without attempting to lower any one of its demands, and with the utmost cheerfulness and zeal. Let us, first, use it for that end. Doubtless, its primary uses must be carefully kept in remembrance. We must never forget, that its first office is, to convince us of sin, and to show us our undone state, according to the covenant of works. In this view it must produce in us the deepest humiliation, and an utter renunciation of all dependence on our own works, either in whole or in part, for justification before God. Its next use must be, to drive us to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may obtain salvation through his meritorious death and passion. There is no righteousness but his, that is commensurate with its demands; and there is no other in which we can ever stand accepted before God. These things, I say, we must ever bear in remembrance; and be careful never to make, in any degree, our obedience to the law a ground of our hope. But, having this well settled in our minds, we must address ourselves to a diligent performance of all that the law enjoins. It is by this that we are to show ourselves to have experienced a work of grace in our souls: for "we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them." If we profess to hope that we have been "chosen of God" and "predestined unto life," shall we make these mysterious truths an occasion of remissness in the path of duty? God forbid: on the contrary, we must ever bear in mind, that, if we have been chosen of God at all, "we have been chosen that we may be holy, and without blame before him in love;" and if we have been predestined by God at all, we have been predestined "to be conformed to the image of his Son." And if we glory in the finished work of Christ (for you will take notice that I am following the Antinomian into all his strong-holds), we must remember what his end was in accomplishing salvation for us: "We have been bought with a price, that we may glorify him with our body and our spirit, which are his." There are two great errors from which we must keep equally remote; namely, from legal dependence on our own obedience to the law, and, at the same time, from an Antinomian contempt of its commands. We must distinguish between the motives and principles by which we are actuated, and which determine the true quality of our actions. Whatever we do, in order to earn salvation by it, will be rejected of God, and will disappoint our hopes: but, whatever we do from a sense of duty to God, and with a view to honor the Savior and evince the sincerity of our love to him, will be accepted for his sake, and will receive a proportionable reward of grace. Only take cave that your obedience be from faith and love, and not from a vain hope to purchase the Divine favor; and then will you answer the true ends of your deliverance from the law as a covenant of works, and of your subjection to it as a rule of life.

In enforcing the obligations of the law, I would next say, Attempt not in anything to lower its demands. We have before shown, that, as a covenant, it recedes not from its commands of perfect obedience; no, not in one jot or tittle of its requirements. And, as a rule, its requirements are of equal extent. It enjoins us to love God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves: and no lower standard must we propose to ourselves for our daily walk. We must not be satisfied with the world's standard: we must not be contented with a round of duties, and the performance of a few kind and charitable acts. "We must die unto sin altogether, and live unto righteousness." We must seek to have "the whole body of sin crucified within us;" and must "delight ourselves in the law after our inward man," and strive to "perfect holiness in the fear of God." Nothing must satisfy us, but the attainment of "God's perfect image in righteousness and true holiness." If the law is our rule, Christ himself must be our pattern: we must endeavor to "walk in all things as he walked," and to "purify ourselves even as he is pure." Nothing short of absolute perfection should satisfy our minds: we should strive to be "holy, as God himself is holy," and to be "perfect, even as our Father which is in Heaven is perfect."

Now, need I say that these efforts are very rarely seen? and that, when seen, they are almost universally discountenanced and discouraged? Cautions in plenty are given, "not to be righteous over-much," but who ever hears the friendly caution, to "be righteous enough?" If we are outwardly decent and moral, we may be as regardless of the state of our souls before God as we please, and no one will warn us of our danger: but, if the love of Christ constrain us to devote ourselves altogether unto him, there is a general alarm respecting us; and nothing is heard but cautions and warnings on every side.

Let it not be imagined that I would recommend anything that savors of real enthusiasm or fanaticism: so far from it, I would discourage these evils to the utmost of my power: but, if love to God and love to man be, by common consent, as it were, branded with these names, I say, let not any man be deterred from the performance of his duty by any opprobrious names whatever; but let every one aspire after universal holiness, and seek to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."

One thing more would I say; namely this: In your obedience to the law, be willing servants. We are not to serve the Lord "grudgingly, or of necessity," but "with a willing mind." What Paul has spoken on this head deserves peculiar attention. He says, "now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held: that we should serve God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." Here he refers to the same image as before, the dissolution of marriage by the death of our husband; and the consequent termination of those restraints, in which, during his life, we were held. But what is to be the effect of this liberty? an abandonment of ourselves to sin? No, but an obeying of our new husband, not in the servile way to which we have been accustomed, but with real pleasure and delight, panting after the highest possible perfection both of heart and life. This service we are to account perfect freedom: and we are to live altogether for him, "running the way of his commandments with enlarged hearts." Now, "wherever the Spirit is, there is this liberty." But, alas! how little of this liberty is seen in the Christian world! Instead of panting to attain "the full measure of the stature of Christ," we are satisfied with our own stinted growth; so that, in the course of several years, scarcely any improvement is visible in us. The little we do for the Lord, is rather "from constraint, than willingly." Our defects create in us no real humiliation: our weakness stimulates us not to earnest cries for help: our inability to fulfill our duty leads us not to exult and glory in the work of Christ, or to clothe ourselves from day to day with his perfect righteousness. No, of these feelings, respecting which I spoke largely in my first discourse, the generality are wholly destitute; and therefore destitute, because they understand not the law either in its condemning or its commanding power. Ignorant of the law, they are of necessity ignorant of the Gospel also; and, consequently, are strangers to all those high and holy feelings which the Gospel inspires. Be it however remembered, that if, "through the knowledge of the law, we be, as we must be, dead to the law," we shall account it our first duty, and our truest happiness, to "live unto our God."

Before I close my subject, I think you will not deem me presumptuous if I venture to address a few words to my brethren who either are already in the ministry, or are preparing to engage in that sacred office. I think it must strike you, that this subject has by no means that prominence in our public addresses which its importance demands. If it be true, that without the knowledge of the law we cannot understand the Gospel, the neglect of opening the law is most injurious to the souls of men. I know, indeed, that God may, by convincing men of sin, supply that defect; and lead them to a simple reliance on the Savior, even while they are ignorant of the spirituality of the law, and of the uses for which it was promulgated: but still they cannot be truly enlightened Christians; nor can their faith be so firm as it would be, if they had more enlarged views of the Gospel. But how can we hope that this work of conviction should prevail among our hearers, when we withhold from them God's appointed means of producing it in their souls? In truth, this accounts, in a great measure, for the inefficiency of our ministrations. In numberless places, during a whole course of years, not so much as a single instance is found of a sinner being "pricked to the heart, and crying out, What must I do to be saved?" or, if such an instance occur, it is found only in some one who is condemned by the mere letter of the law. But it would not be so, if the law were preached by us in all its spirituality and extent, and the Gospel were represented as God's only remedy for the salvation of men. A simple exhibition of these truths would reach the heart, and would be accompanied with power from on high. Let me then entreat you, for your own sake, and for your people's sake, to study the law; and to make the use of it which God has especially ordained, even to drive them, like the pursuer of blood, to the refuge that is set before them in the Gospel.

If there be among us any who yet cannot understand this subject, let me next, address them, and entreat that they will not too hastily dismiss it from their minds: for truly, it demands from every child of man the most attentive consideration. I know that prejudices do exist, even as they have in all ages existed, against both the Law and the Gospel; against the Law as severe, and against the Gospel as licentious. But, to every one of you I must say, Take heed to this subject: for "it is your life," and, in unfolding it to you, I have, with all possible fidelity, "set life and death before you." Let the law, I pray you, have its first work in convincing you of sin. Let it then operate effectually to bring you to Christ. And, lastly, let it serve you as a rule, to which your whole life shall be conformed. Set not yourselves against it in any one of these views: set not yourselves against it, as too harsh in its covenant form, or too lax in its abrogated state, or too strict in its requirements as a rule: but improve it for all the ends for which it has been given; so shall it work its whole work within you, and bring you in safety to God, to holiness, to glory.

But I trust there are among us not a few who really "know the law," and approve of it in all its uses. And to them, lastly, I would address myself. To them, in particular, I would say, Be sure that you unreservedly give yourselves up to God. Those who enter not into your views, will judge both of you and of your principles by the holiness of your lives. Let them see in you what the tendency of the Gospel really is: let them see, that "the grace of God, which brings salvation to you, teaches you to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, and soberly, and godly, in this present world." You will forgive me, if I feel a more than ordinary anxiety about you. On you the honor of God and his Gospel pre-eminently depends: and I am earnestly desirous that you should "walk worthy of your high calling; yes, and worthy of the Lord himself also, unto all pleasing." I would that there should not be a duty either to God or man in which you should be found remiss. Whatever your situation particularly requires, that should be an object of your most diligent attention; that, if a comparison be instituted between you and those who make no profession of religion, you may at least be found to stand on equality with the best among them; and be able to say, "Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they exemplary in the whole of their deportment? so am I." It must never be forgotten, that the duties of the second table are as necessary to be observed as those of the first: and if there be one among you who would set the two at variance, I must declare my testimony against him, as greatly dishonoring the Gospel of Christ. But of the great mass of religious characters among you, "I am persuaded better things, though I thus speak." Go on then, I entreat you, and abound more and more in everything that is excellent and praiseworthy: and, in reference to every duty that is required of you, let it be seen that you are "under the law to Christ." This is expected at your hands, and may well be expected: for if you are remiss in these things, who will be attentive to them? Remember, it is "by well-doing that you are to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men," and never forget, that there is no other way of proving yourselves Christ's disciples indeed, but by doing his will, and keeping his Commandments."t

 

MMCLXVIII

The True Use of the Law

Galatians 3:21–26, Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might he given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But, after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

THE true nature and intent of the moral law is by no means generally understood: and, if the question put by the Apostle into the mouth of an objector, "Wherefore then serves the law?" were addressed to the great mass even of considerate Christians, very few among them would know what answer to return to it. Hence it is that such opposition is everywhere made to the free offers of the Gospel. We have continually the very same contest to maintain against the generality of Christians, as the Apostle had against the Jews. The Apostle preached, that the Messiah, the Seed in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, was come: and that all were now to be justified by faith in him, precisely as Abraham had been two thousand years before. The Jews maintained, that this could not be the true way of salvation; for that God had given a law to Moses; and that law was of perpetual obligation; and, if we were now to be justified by faith alone, the law would be made void, and had in reality been given to no purpose. To this the Apostle answers, that the law, which was given to the Jews alone, could not invalidate the promise which had many ages before been given to Abraham and all his believing seed, whether among the circumcised Jews, or the uncircumcised Gentiles; and that there was no such opposition between the two as the Jews imagined; the law being in fact designed to introduce the Gospel with more effect, and to endear it to all, when it should come to be more fully revealed. This was the state of the question between the Apostle and his opponents; to whom a complete answer is given in the words before us. The question simply was, 'Is there any real opposition between the law as given to Moses, and the promises as given to Abraham?' No; says the Apostle: there is a subserviency of the one to the other; and both the one and the other proclaim to us, in fact, the same salvation—salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and by faith alone.

To make this clear to the comprehension of all, I will distinctly mark what he says respecting,

I. The use of the law.

The law, when originally given to Adam in Paradise, "was ordained to life," and would, if perfectly fulfilled by him, have given him a title to eternal life: but, having been once broken, it is no longer capable of giving a title to life, and is only "a ministration of condemnation and death." Had it been possible to have given a law which should have rendered the salvation of fallen man consistent with the Divine attributes, God would never have given his only-begotten Son to take our nature and die for us: the publication of a new law would have been so obvious and so easy, that he would undoubtedly have preferred that. But no such law could be given: for, if it required the same as the original law did, namely perfect and perpetual obedience, it was impossible that that should ever be rendered to it by fallen man: and, if it required less, it would dispense with obligations, which of necessity exist between the creature and the Creator, and would, in fact, give a license to sin: which it is impossible for a holy God to do. The law then, as given to Moses, was not intended for any such purpose as this: it was intended,

1. To prepare men for the Gospel.

The Gospel is a revelation of mercy through the incarnation and sufferings of the Son of God: and that mercy is freely offered to all who will believe in Christ. Previously to the coming of Christ, this mystery was but very imperfectly understood: but the law as published on Mount Sinai was well calculated to prepare the minds of men for the fuller manifestation of it. For it made known to men the true extent of their duty: it showed that we were bound to love God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength: and to love our neighbor in all respects as ourselves. Nothing less than this was to be paid by us from the earliest moment of our existence to our latest breath, Revealing this, it further showed to men the inconceivable depth of their guilt. By this standard are we to be tried every moment: yet in no one moment of our lives have we acted up to it, either towards God or man. On the contrary, we have been at an infinite distance from it, having been altogether engrossed by self, and caring nothing either for God or man, any farther than the interests of self might he promoted by them. Thus, not to speak of any particular actions, the whole state and habit of our minds, every day, every hour, every moment, has been as contrary to the law as darkness to light, and Hell to Heaven. Hence the law proceeds still further to show men their infinite desert of wrath and condemnation. For every single deviation from this perfect standard, the wrath of God is denounced against us; agreeably to that sentence of the law, "Cursed is every one that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." Consider then our duty as ramified in all its extent, and in one single day our sins against it are more numerous than the stars of Heaven, or the sands upon the sea-shore; and of course, a proportionable weight of wrath and condemnation is entailed upon us.

Such is the light which the law reflects on our state before God: and does it not endear to us the offer of a free and full salvation? Doubtless it does: and for this end it was given, that we might the more thankfully accept the promises made to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2. To shut men up to the Gospel.

Men naturally go to the law, having no idea of obtaining salvation in any other way than by obedience to its commands. Hence the sinner, when once awakened to a concern about his soul, and sensible that he has not obeyed the law in its full extent, hopes to make a composition, as it were, and to he accepted on paying a part for the whole. But the law thunders in his ears, 'You must obey me in all things.' He then hopes, that the law will accept his repentance for past transgressions, and sincere obedience for the time to come. But the law replies, 'I know nothing of repentance, or of sincere obedience: you must pay me my lull demands, and "continue obedient in all things" from first to last: I have stated the extent of your duty; and I have said, "Do this, and you shall live." These are the only terms on which I can offer you anything: if you can not bring perfect obedience with you, it is in vain to come to me: you must seek a remedy elsewhere: for I can afford you none.' Thus the law, being inflexible in its demands, and inexorable in its denunciations, compels the sinner to look out for some other way of escape from the wrath to come, and "shuts him up" to that which is revealed in the Gospel: it declares to him, that, as long as he continues to found his hopes on the law, he is, and must be, under its curse: and, just as at the first promulgation of the law, the people, trembling with apprehensions of immediate death, entreated that God would give them a mediator, through whom they might venture to approach him; so now the terrors of Mount Sinai constrain men to look for mercy solely through the mediation and intercession of the Lord Jesus. In this view "the law was to be a schoolmaster to us, to bring us to Christ," it was by instruction to inform us, and by discipline to constrain us; that so the promises made to us in the Gospel might become available for their destined end.

The law thus viewed, opens to us in all its grandeur,

II. The benefit of the Gospel.

"Before faith came," and while the way of salvation through a crucified Redeemer was but darkly and partially disclosed, the law kept men in a state of bondage, like prisoners shut up, and looking forward to a future deliverance: but, "when faith did come," and the Gospel was fully revealed, then it appeared what unspeakable mercy God had kept in store for the sinners of mankind: for by the Gospel,

1. We are liberated from the law.

The very instant we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and lay hold on the covenant of grace, we cease to be any longer under the covenant of works. The law, as a covenant, has no longer any power either to command, or to condemn: it is abrogated with respect to us; yes, it is dead: and has no more power over us, or connection with us, than a man who is dead has with the widow whom he has left behind him. This is not only affirmed by the Apostle, but is illustrated also by this very image. "If," says he, "her husband is dead, the woman is loosed from the law of her husband: so we are become dead to the law and the law is become dead to us, by the body of Christ; yes, we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held." And this effect is produced by the law itself; as he also tells us in the chapter preceding our text: "I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God," that is, the law so utterly condemns me, that I can have no hope from it whatever, and am forced, whether I will or not, to renounce all dependence upon it, and to live no longer as one who hopes to earn life for himself, but as one who seeks only to honor and glorify his Redeemer. Hear the account which Paul gives of this matter in another epistle. Speaking to those who had believed in Christ, he says, "You are not come unto the Mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of the trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard, entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: but you are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in Heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, which speaks better things than the blood of Abel." In a word, the moment we believe in Christ, "we are no longer under a schoolmaster," or, as it is elsewhere said, "we are no longer under the law, but under grace."

2. We are brought into possession of all spiritual and eternal blessings.

"We are justified by faith;" we are "justified freely from all things, from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses," Our "sins, whatever they may have been, are put as far from us as the east is from the west," "nor shall they ever more be remembered against us." Nor is this all: we are brought into the very family of God, and "made the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Nor are we children only, but children of full age, who are "no longer under tutors and governors," but already admitted to the most intimate communion with our God, and enjoying, as far as in this world we can enjoy, the inheritance prepared for us.

And here we cannot but call your attention in a more especial manner to the means by which all these blessings are secured. It is again and again said, that they become ours "by faith in Christ Jesus." There is no other way: it is simply and solely by faith: there is no mixture of works: works, so far from augmenting our title to these things, or contributing to the acquisition of them, will, if wrought for this end, cut us off from all hope of ever coming to the possession of them. So inconsistent with each other are the covenants of grace and of works, that the smallest portion of works utterly excludes grace; and the slightest imaginable dependence on them invalidates all that Christ has done and suffered for us. The instant we blend anything with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we make "the promise of no effect," and "Christ," with respect to us, "has died in vain."

And now, in conclusion, let us inquire,

1. Whence is it that there is so much occasion to insist on these truths?

Is it that there is any difficulty in them? No; in all personal matters we find it easy enough to distinguish between a gift and a debt. We are at no loss to make this distinction, if a man, who has never done one thing for us in all his life, claim a reward at our hands. It is to little purpose that he compliments us with an appeal to our generosity: the single circumstance of his founding his hope, though in a small degree, on services which he professes to have rendered us, especially if, instead of having done us any service, he has all his days been adverse to our will and hostile to our interests, is quite sufficient to cut him off from all hope of receiving the benefits he expects. And much more may this be the case when a sinner presumes to prefer a claim of merit before his God. For what is this but the most abominable pride? Take an illustration, which will serve to place the matter in its true point of view. A prince offers pardon to his rebellious subjects, provided they will sue for it through the mediation of his son, to whom he has committed the whole government of his kingdom. Some apply in the appointed way, and are pardoned: but others say, 'We will not accept of pardon on the terms he offers it: if the king will levy a fine upon us, we will pay it; or, if he will appoint us a service, be it never so difficult, we will perform it: but to stoop to the method which he has prescribed, namely, that of asking pardon through the mediation of his son, is a humiliation to which we will not submit.' Who does not see, that pride is the principle by which these persons are actuated; and that, if they perish as rebels, it is altogether through their own fault? Know then, that it is pride, and pride alone, that keeps any from seeing the excellency of the Gospel salvation. It is pride that makes any so averse to be saved entirely by faith without the works of the law: and, until the proud hearts of men be humbled, the Gospel will always be to them a stumbling-block, and rock of offence. But be it known to you, that, how desirous soever you may be "to establish a righteousness of your own," you can never do it, but "must submit to the righteousness of God."

2. Why are we so earnest in enforcing them?

If the present life only were concerned, we might be content to let you go on your own way. But on your acceptance or rejection of the Gospel salvation depends your happiness both in this world and the world to come. This accounts for Paul insisting so much on this doctrine in his Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians; and for his declaring so repeatedly, that, if they did any work whatever with a view to recommend them to Christ for justification, "Christ himself should profit them nothing." See what he says on this subject respecting his Jewish brethren. He tells us, "that the Gentiles, who had not followed after righteousness, had attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith: but that Israel, who had followed after the law of righteousness, had not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? (says he:) Because they sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law: for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone." So it will be with all who will not submit to the righteousness of faith. If they would "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, they should never be ashamed," but if, through an ignorant zeal for the law, they will not embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as their only hope, they must inevitably and eternally perish. This is the reason that, in going through this epistle, we bring the matter before you in such various points of view, and with such an earnest desire to fasten a conviction of it on your minds: and we entreat all to bear in remembrance the importance of the subject, and not to give sleep to their eyes or slumber to their eye-lids, until they have embraced the Lord Jesus Christ with their whole hearts, and made him "all their salvation and all their desire."

3. Are the promises any more against the law, than the law is against the promises?

The law, as has been shown you, is subservient to the promises, and was given on purpose to make us more earnest in apprehending them, and more simple in relying on them. So the promises in return secure obedience to the law; as Paul has said, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yes, we establish the law." To this truth the whole Scriptures bear witness. "The grace of God which brings salvation, teaches us obedience;" and the faith that apprehends that salvation, secures it; for it "works by love," and "purifies the heart," and "overcomes the world." The state into which we are brought by the promises, precludes a possibility of our living in any willful sin: it would be contrary to the very idea of our being servants of Christ, to render service to that which he so abhors. A spiritual man cannot endure the thought of so grievous an inconsistency. On the contrary, the promises afford him encouragement to aspire after universal holiness, because, while they set him free from all slavish fears, they assure him of a constant supply of grace and strength proportioned to his necessities. Hence, apprehending and living upon the promises, he will "cleanse himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God." Let this then appear in all our lives: so shall it be seen beyond all contradiction, that, though we build not on our works, we diligently perform them; and that the doctrine we profess is in truth "a doctrine according to godliness."

 

MMCLXIX

Benefits and Obligations of Baptism

Galatians 3:27–29. As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you be Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

TO enter fully into these words, the whole scope of the Apostle's argument should be duly considered. He has been insisting upon justification by faith alone, without the deeds of the law. This, to a Jew, was a most unpalatable doctrine, because it set aside the observance of all those ceremonies which had been ordained of God under the Mosaic dispensation. Hence many, after they had embraced the faith of Christ, were still zealous for the law; and desirous of blending the law with the Gospel, as a joint-ground of their hope before God. Persons of this stamp had come among the Galatian converts, and had perverted the minds of many. Hence the Apostle, in this Epistle to the Galatians, expostulates with those who had been drawn aside, as having acted a most foolish and unreasonable part. "O foolish Galatians! who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you?" He then proceeds to reason with them: 'Have you not had among yourselves an evident proof and demonstration that the Gospel which I preached to you is true? The Holy Spirit set his seal to the truth of it, by his miraculous operations: but did he ever, in one instance, so confirm the doctrines opposed to it! Besides, with my doctrine agree the declarations of God himself; who says, that as Abraham was justified by faith, so by the same faith the whole heathen world shall be justified. But to the law no power of justifying is ever ascribed. That can do nothing but condemn: and it is only by pleading what Christ has done and suffered to deliver us from its curse, that any one of us can ever escape its curse, and obtain the blessings which are accorded to us by the Abrahamic covenant.'

To make this matter clear, he illustrates it by a well-known fact. 'If,' says he, 'a covenant be made between men, it cannot be disannulled, except by the consent of both the parties that are interested in it. But Abraham, and all his believing seed throughout the whole world and to the very end of time, were interested in the covenant made with Abraham; whereas, in the covenant made four hundred and thirty years afterwards on Mount Sinai, none but Abraham's natural descendants, and a very small portion even of them, were interested: and therefore this latter covenant can never supersede the former, or in any degree change its gracious provisions. In truth, the Mosaic covenant, so far from superseding that which had been made with Abraham, was intended rather to be subservient to it, and as a schoolmaster, to educate persons for it, and to bring them to a participation of its blessings. Consequently Christ, with whom, as well as with Abraham, the covenant of grace was made, having now come, and fulfilled in our behalf all that was required by that covenant, we, of whatever nation we be, have nothing to do but to believe in him; and then all the blessings of the covenant will become ours. Being united to him by faith, we shall be regarded as one with him; and be made partakers of all the benefits which he, as our Great Surety, has purchased for us.

This is, in few words, the general scope of the Apostle's argument in the chapter before us. But, for the more particular elucidation of the words of my text, I will show,

I. What, in the judgment of charity, we possess, the very instant that we profess ourselves to be Christ's.

The covenant of grace made with Abraham and his seed is that under which we live: and we are admitted to a participation of its blessings now by baptism, as, previously to the coming of Christ, men were by circumcision. To be "baptized into Christ," is to be baptized in the name of Christ; and by baptism, to be initiated into his religion. As the Jews were "baptized unto Moses" by passing through the sea and being sprinkled with its spray, and so became his disciples; so do we, by descending into the water in baptism, or by being sprinkled with it in the name of Christ, become the followers of Christ. Now, respecting persons baptized into the religion of Christi, the Apostle says, "They have put on Christ." And what are we to understand by this? I conceive it refers, not to any change of garments which was made by persons at their baptism; for we hear of no such custom in the apostolic age: but it refers to the change of garments which was made by Aaron, and all succeeding priests, at the time of their consecration to the priesthood. The persons consecrated to the priesthood were first washed with water, and then had the coat, and the robe, and the ephod, and the breast-plate, put upon them; and were girded with the curious belt of the ephod; and the mitre, with the holy crown upon it, was put upon their head. "Thus were the priests of old consecrated unto God," and thus are we, in our baptism, made "a holy priesthood" to the Lord. But, though this gives us a general idea of what is meant by putting on Christ, it falls very far short of the full import of the expression, as used in my text. In another place, the expression is used to signify the putting on the moral character of Christ: but here it signifies the putting on of his complete and entire character; so that God may view us altogether as in him, clothed with his righteousness from head to foot, and transformed into his image in righteousness and true holiness.

Now, this the Apostle represents as taking place at our baptism. And, not content with so representing it in some cases, or in many, or in most, or generally in all, he speaks as if this change were absolutely universal, without any exception: "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." Here is, if I may so express myself, a distributive individuality; by means of which he comprehends every baptized person separately, and without any exception. Yet, in this very epistle, he speaks of some of whom "he stood in doubt." How, then, are we to understand this? The Apostle here spoke according to the judgment of charity; even as he does in many other places, where he addresses whole collective bodies, and Churches, as "saints, and faithful in the Lord." And I cannot but think, that in this passage we have a complete justification of the language used by our reformers in the baptismal service. After having baptized any child, we are there taught to return thanks to God in these words: "We yield you hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it has pleased you to regenerate this infant with your Holy Spirit, to receive him for your own child by adoption, and to incorporate him into your holy Church." Now this strikes many as too strong; and they scarcely know how to utter it before God. I grant it is strong: but is it stronger than the Apostle's language in my text? No, not in the least: and if it be said that the prayer in our Liturgy refers to each individual separately; I answer, so does the Apostle's language also: for it is equivalent to saying to every individual of the Christian Church, 'Have you been baptized? then you have put on Christ: for as many as have had the sacrament of baptism administered to them, have been made partakers of this benefit.'

But, strong as this language is, the Apostle is not content: for he goes on to say, that, in the attainment of these exalted privileges, there is no distinction of persons whatever; none arising from nation, or rank, or gender; as there was, to a great degree, under the legal dispensation: "There is neither Jew nor Greek," says he; "there is neither bond nor free; there is neither male nor female: but you are all one in Christ Jesus," so that, inasmuch as all, without exception, are baptized into one body in Christ; all, without exception, enjoy the benefits conferred by that ordinance.

Let me not, however, be mistaken. I do not mean to say that the Apostle's words are to be taken strictly in this unlimited extent: but I mean to say, that he spoke thus, according to the judgment of charity, respecting those who had been consecrated to God in baptism; and that our reformers studiously-followed the Apostle, both in his spirit and language: and that, if we do not complain of the Apostle, or refuse to read his words, neither ought we to complain of our reformers, or refuse to use their words; when their only fault has been, if fault it may be called, in adhering so closely to the example and the language of an inspired Apostle.

I make not these observations wantonly, to provoke controversy; but in a spirit of love, with a view to satisfy the minds of any, if such there be among us, who have been stumbled in any respect at the expressions referred to in our baptismal service. And I shall think my pains well bestowed, if I may-produce in any scrupulous mind the peaceful conviction which the foregoing thoughts have imparted to my own bosom.

If it be thought that the foregoing observations are liable to abuse, they will be found effectually guarded by the Apostle himself, who proceeds to show,

II. What in reality we possess, when once we become really Christ's.

"If we be Christ's, then are we Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Now, let us, for a moment, return to the Apostle's argument. He shows, that Christ being the Seed to whom the promises in the Abrahamic covenant were made, all who are in Christ must, of necessity, inherit those promises: and that, as Abraham partook of those promises simply by faith, while yet he was in an uncircumcised state, so all his believing posterity also are entitled to a participation of them simply by faith, without any legal observance whatever. Now, by believing in Christ, we become perfectly one with Christ.

This is affirmed in my text: "We are all one in Christ Jesus." It is also frequently declared in other places. I will specify one, where the union which is formed with Christ in baptism is represented as equivalent to that which exists between the head and members of the same body; so that the persons baptized are actually called by his very name, as being altogether identified with him: "As the body is one, and has many members; and all the members of that body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ;" that is, so also is the Church of Christ. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free".… "We are indeed many members, yet are we but one body." Thus it appears, that, inasmuch as we become one with Christ by faith in him, we become in and with him the seed of Abraham, and heirs of all the promises that were made to him.

And being united unto Christ by faith, we need nothing to be superadded to us by the works of the law.

The natural descendants of Abraham, as such, have no title to these benefits: for "all are not Israel who are of Israel; neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children;" for it was said to him, "In Isaac shall your seed be called: that is, they which are the children of the flesh are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed." Now, by union with Christ we become the children of promise, and consequently heirs of all that God has promised. But how is this union effected? It is effected simply by faith. No work of the law can contribute to it. Even if we were of Abraham's natural posterity, it would avail us nothing: nor, if we were to keep the whole law, would it avail us anything. We must believe in Christ, and by faith be made one with him; and then the benefits are ours: nor shall all the powers of darkness prevail to rob us of them. Only let these two things be remembered, and our whole argument will be clear. First, no want of external privileges can deprive us of these benefits; and next, no observances whatever can augment our title to them, if only we believe in Christ: for "if we be Christ's, then are we Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

Now let me address myself,

1. To those who are Christ's in profession only.

You perceive, that, as "baptized into Christ," you profess to have "put on Christ." Now, then, permit me to ask, have you ever felt your need of Christ? Have you ever been conscious of the nakedness of your soul by reason of sin; and of the utter insufficiency of the fig-leaves of your own righteousness to cover your nakedness; and of the indispensable necessity of your being clothed in Christ's righteousness, in order to your acceptance before God? Have you, under a deep sense of your need of his righteousness, gone to him, and apprehended him, and put him on by faith? and does all your hope of happiness in the eternal world arise from this thought, that God views you, not as you are in yourselves, but as you are in Christ, clothed from head to foot with his unspotted robe, and therefore standing without spot or blemish in the sight of the heart-searching God? Let but conscience return a candid answer to these inquiries, and you will have a perfect insight into your real state before God. You will then see, that, though baptized into Christ, you have never really availed yourselves of your privilege to "put him on." You are in the state of a widow, who, though entitled to a certain portion of the estate of her deceased husband, neglects to take out administration according to law: she cannot turn any part of the estate to her own account; and must perish with hunger, even as if she had no title whatever to the estate, if she continue to neglect the appointed means of coming to the possession of it. And so must you perish under the guilt of all your sins, if you neglect to put on Christ by faith, and to cover yourselves with the robe of his unspotted righteousness. You may be as observant of the law as ever Paul was in his unconverted state: but yet will you perish forever, as he also would have done, if you apply not to Christ, that you may "be found in him, not having your own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in him." As for your baptism, it will avail you nothing without this: for he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." On the other hand, let me say, that if only you will believe in Christ, though you were the most ignorant of Gentiles or the most abandoned of sinners, you should be accepted in him, and be made partakers of all his blessings, both of grace and glory.

2. To those who are Christ's in reality and truth.

I trust there are many such among you. And what shall I say to you? what but this? Survey the covenant which was made with Abraham, and all the promises contained in it; and say, 'All these are mine.' Survey all that Abraham ever possessed, or possesses at this moment at the right hand of God; and then say, 'As Abraham's seed, and Abraham's heir, I am entitled to all of this.' Go further still, and survey all that Christ himself ever enjoyed, or at this moment enjoys, as the promised Seed of Abraham, and the great Heir of all; and then say, 'All this also, so far as I am capable of enjoying it, is mine: God is my God, even as he is Christ's; and Christ's throne is my throne: Christ's kingdom is my kingdom; Christ's glory, my glory; for "the glory which God has given him, he has given me."

What then shall I do, to show my sense of the benefits conferred upon me? This will I do, to the utmost of my power: I will "put on Christ," I will put him on daily; so that God shall never see me but as I am in him, covered with the robe of his righteousness; nor shall my fellow-creatures ever see me but as possessing "the very mind which was in Christ." I will "put on the Lord Jesus Christ," even as a man puts on his garments; so that all who see me shall say that I resemble him. I will, God helping me, be "a living epistle of Christ, that shall be known and read of all men;" so that all may know how he walked when on earth, and how he wills that we should walk.

This, my beloved brethren, is the true way to prove yourselves Christ's believing people; and this will bring down to you a Heaven upon earth.

 

MMCLXX

The Time and Manner of Christ's Incarnation

Galatians 4:4, 5. When the fullness of the time was come, 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.

THE advantages which we as Christians enjoy above the Jews are exceeding great. The Jewish Church was like an heir to a large estate during the years of his minority: he has indeed bright prospects before him; but at present he receives no more than what his guardians judge necessary for his use, and suited to his condition. "He, in fact, differs nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all," for he is altogether "under the control of tutors and governors, until the time appointed by his father," whose possessions he is to inherit. We, on the contrary, are like the same person when arrived at full age, having perfect liberty from servile restraints, and entering into the complete enjoyment of the inheritance, to which by our Father's will we are entitled. In this view Paul himself has illustrated the subject in the chapter before us. Having in the preceding verses described the state of the Jewish Church, he declares, in the words of our text, the superior privileges which, through the incarnation of the Son of God, we enjoy.

To bring the whole subject under your consideration, it will be proper to notice the time, the manner, and the end of our Savior's incarnation.

I. The time.

It may seem strange that, when God had promised to send his Son into the world, he should delay the execution of that promise four thousand years. But it does not become us to sit in judgment upon God's proceedings; it is sufficient for us to know that he cannot err. But, in relation to the point before us, we may observe, that the time when our Lord came into the world, was,

1. The time fixed in the Divine counsels.

When the promise of a Savior was given to our first parents, nothing was specified respecting the time. Hence Eve (as it should seem) imagined that her first-born child was he: for she named him Cain (which signifies getting); intimating, that "she had gotten a man from the Lord," or rather, that she had gotten the man, the Lord. Nothing seems to have been declared concerning the time of the Messiah's arrival, until it was revealed to Jacob, that "the scepter should not depart from Judah, until Shiloh should came," and it is remarkable, that a separate jurisdiction did depart from all the other tribes several hundred years before Christ's advent; but that Judah retained it, in a measure, even during the captivity in Babylon; and never completely lost it, until Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, and the whole Jewish polity was dissolved.

After the restoration of the Jews from Babylon, it was revealed to the Prophet Haggai, that the Messiah should come while that temple was standing; and by his presence in it should add greater glory to it, than the former temple, with all its magnificence and peculiar appendages, possessed.

But that which marked the period with most precision, was the prophecy of Daniel, which declared, that in seventy weeks (of years), or four hundred and ninety years, from the command given by Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem, the Messiah should be cut off. This determined the time with such accuracy, that the expectation of the Messiah's advent was very general among the Jews, when our Lord made his appearance upon earth.

Thus the fullness of the time was come, because it was the time ordained by God in his eternal counsels, and made known to the world by his holy prophets.

2. The fittest time.

If our Lord had come into the world at an earlier period, several valuable purposes would either not have been answered, or not in so eminent a degree. By the delay, there was abundant proof given, how little could be done by reason, with all its improvements; or by the law, with all its sanctions; or by the most signal judgments and mercies.

Reason had attained its summit. The learning of Greece and Rome had left nothing to be added for the perfecting of the human intellect. Yet what did all their boasted philosophy effect? Were the habits and dispositions of men meliorated? Was the dominion of sin broken, or virtue made more generally prevalent throughout the world? Read the account which Paul gives of the heathen world; and judge.

God has been pleased to republish his law, in a way calculated to awe his people, and secure their obedience to it. He had enforced it with the most solemn sanctions; and had himself written it on tables of stone, in order that it might not any more be mutilated and forgotten, as it had been when left to the uncertainty of oral tradition. And did this succeed? No. The Jew had nothing to boast of above the Gentiles. Paul draws their character also, and shows that they, with all their advantages, were as far from God and righteousness as the heathen themselves.

The interposition of the Deity had also been displayed in a visible series of mercies and judgments, correspondent to the moral conduct of his people. Not only had thousands and tens of thousands been struck dead at a time for some great offence, but even the whole nation were sent into a miserable captivity for seventy years. On the other hand, their restoration from captivity had been so miraculous, as evidently to bear the stamp of Omnipotence upon it. These things did lead the Jews to renounce idolatry: but how far they prevailed to introduce general habits of piety and virtue, may be seen in the awful unanimity which obtained among them in rejecting and crucifying the Son of God.

No fitter time therefore could have been chosen for the sending of this last remedy, than when all other remedies had been fully tried, and their inefficacy had incontrovertibly appeared.

The next thing to be noticed respecting the incarnation of Christ, is,

II. The manner.

Though Christ was God equal with the Father, yet in his mediatorial capacity he acted as the Father's Messenger or Servant. The Father sent his Son,

1. "Made of a woman."

This expression would have been superfluous if applied to any mere man; but, as applied to the Lord Jesus, it is peculiarly important. Our adorable Savior was not born like other men; but was formed in the womb of a pure virgin by the operation of the Holy Spirit: and this was necessary on many accounts.

If Christ had been born in the ordinary way of generation, he would have been comprehended in Adam's natural posterity, and would therefore have been involved in the same curse as all others are on account of the first transgression: for "in Adam all died;" and "through his disobedience many were made sinners," even all who were represented by him as their covenant-head. Moreover, he would have been corrupt, as all others are; for "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" But, not deriving his existence from man, he could not be ranked among the sons of Adam; and, being formed by the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit, he was perfectly immaculate.

This miraculous mode of conception and birth was farther necessary, in order to fulfill the prophecies: for in the very first promise that announced God's gracious intentions to the world, it was said, that "the Seed of the woman (not of the man, but of the woman) should bruise the serpent's head." It had afterwards been more plainly declared, that "a virgin should conceive, and bear a Son, whose name should be called Emmanuel," God with us.

Hence the expression in the text marks at once, that Christ was fitted for his mediatorial office; and that he is the very person fore-ordained from the foundation of the world to sustain and execute it.

2. "Made under the law."

Not being represented by Adam, and not inheriting his defilement, Christ was not under the curse of the law; but, being born of a Jewish parent, he was under the authority of the law, as well the ceremonial as the moral. The law was to him, as it was to Adam in Paradise, a covenant of life and death. The covenant made with Adam was for himself and all his natural posterity: that which was made with Christ, was for himself and all his spiritual seed. Now, Adam, by violating the covenant, had entailed a curse on all his descendants. To remedy this evil, two things were to be done: the curse due to us was to be endured; and a new claim to Heaven was to be established for us. For these two purposes Christ was fitted, when he was sent into the world: He was sent "made of a woman only," that, not being himself obnoxious to the curse of the law, he might bear the curse for us; and that, fulfilling all the demands of the law, he might "bring in an everlasting righteousness," which should be imputed to us, and placed to our account.

If we attend to the various circumstances of his life and death, we shall find that he actually fulfilled the law in every particular. He fulfilled the ceremonial law both actively and passively: actively, by submitting to circumcision, by attending the stated feasts, and by complying with the Mosaic ritual in all its parts: he fulfilled it also passively, by accomplishing everything which was there prefigured, and by exhibiting in himself the substance of everything which the Mosaic ritual had shadowed forth. He fulfilled also the moral law, obeying it in its utmost extent, insomuch that not a spot or blemish could be found in him. In short, as "it became him to fulfill all righteousness," so he did fulfill it; and, being "made under the law," he resigned not his breath until he could say in reference to all that the law required of him, "It is finished."

The incarnation of our blessed Lord remains yet further to be considered, as it respects,

III. The end.

We may say in general terms that he was sent,

1. To redeem us from guilt and misery.

The Jews alone were under the ceremonial law, and therefore they alone can be said to have been delivered from the yoke which that law imposed upon them. But the whole human race are under the moral law: they are under it as a covenant, which, having been once violated, denounces only its curses against them, without affording them the smallest hope of mercy. Now the Lord Jesus Christ came to redeem us from the law; and to establish a new covenant for us, by embracing which we are released from the covenant of works, and brought into a perfectly new state. This new covenant offers us life upon totally different terms from those which were proposed under the old covenant: the old covenant said, "Do this and you shall live," the new covenant says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." The very instant we lay hold on the new covenant, the old covenant is cancelled with respect to us: It cannot condemn us, because its penalties have been inflicted on our Surety: It cannot command us, because we are not under its jurisdiction. As a rule of duty, it retains its authority; but, as a covenant, it is altogether abrogated and annulled. Thus through the incarnation and death of Christ we are redeemed from the condemnation we have merited by our past transgression of the law, and from all obligation to stand or fall by the terms which that law prescribes.

2. To exalt us to happiness and glory.

Our blessed Lord had yet higher ends in view when he became incarnate. He came to restore us to all the blessedness from which we had fallen. By creation we were children of God: but, when sin entered, that relation ceased; and we became "children of the devil." This being our state, Christ came, that through him we might again return to the family of God. Though we are by nature strangers and aliens, we may receive through him the adoption of sons, and be regarded by God as dear children. We are expressly assured that this privilege is given to all without exception who believe in Christ. What is implied in this privilege, the Apostle states in the two verses following the text. He specifies both the present and future benefits of this adoption. In this world, instead of having any occasion to dread the wrath of God, we may look up with filial confidence to him, "crying, Abba, Father;" and may expect from him all that care, and love, and mercy which are suited to the relation of a father. In the eternal world, we shall be raised to such dignity and glory as no words can express, no imagination can conceive. "Being sons, we are heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ," and whatever God or Christ possess either of happiness or glory, shall be possessed by us, according to the degree of our fitness for it, and the measure of our capacity to enjoy it.

"This honor have all the saints;" and that they might enjoy it in its fullest extent, was the design of God in sending his dear Son into the world.

Inferences.

1. The folly of adhering to the law.

Men, in seeking salvation by the works of the law, have no idea what folly they are guilty of. What should we think of a man, who, when offered an estate which had been purchased for him at an immense price, should decline accepting it as a gift, and should prefer the making a stipulation to earn it, and that too by labors which a thousand men were not able to perform? Yet that were wisdom when compared with a rejection of the Gospel, and a seeking of salvation by the works of the law; because it is impossible for fallen man to be saved by the covenant of works: and, if Christ had not redeemed us from that covenant, we must all have perished together. Will any of you then be so mad as to adhere to that covenant, now that God has sent his own Son to redeem you from it? You think indeed by this to show your zeal for good works; but it is a zeal which is not according to knowledge; and a zeal which will only leave you, as it left the self-righteous Jews, destitute of any part in the salvation of Christ." We would not discourage your zeal for good works: we only wish to give it a right direction. Obey the law; but obey it with proper views. Renounce your dependence upon it as a covenant of works, and seek salvation by faith in Christ. Then shall you receive that spirit of adoption, which will make the service of God to be perfect freedom, and afford you ample scope for your most active exertions.

2. The blessedness of receiving the Gospel.

What an astonishing transition does that soul experience, which is delivered from the terrors of Mount Sinai, and brought into "the liberty of the children of God!" From being harassed with the dread of God's wrath, and impelled by servile fears to irksome, unsatisfying, ineffectual labors, how delightful to behold the face of a reconciled God and Father, to feel a holy boldness and confidence before him, and to anticipate the joys of Heaven! This is not a picture which is drawn by a warm imagination: it is a reality; it is the experience of thousands; it is in a greater or less degree known to all who believe in Christ. Seek then, my brethren, this happiness. You can easily conceive the difference between the labors of a slave under the lash of the whip, and the services which an affectionate child renders to an indulgent parent: you can see that even at present their states are exceeding different. Such is the difference between those who are under the law, and those who embrace the Gospel. But what will be the difference hereafter? "Now, believers are the sons of God: but it does not yet appear what they shall be: but we know that, when they shall see Christ in glory, they shall be like him, for they shall see him as he is." Let all of us then believe in Christ, that "we may see the good of his chosen, and rejoice in the gladness of his nation, and give thanks with his inheritance."

 

MMCLXXI

The Spirit of Adoption

Galatians 4:6. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

IF we were to judge by the exterior of men's lives, we should be ready to think that Christianity had done but little hitherto for the world: for it must be confessed, that, of those who profess our holy religion, the greater part differ very little from heathens. But then it must be recollected, that there is much wrought by the Gospel, which, though to a certain, degree visible in its effects, is seen clearly only by God himself. There is in every one, who receives the Gospel aright, a change, both in his state before God and in the secret habit of his mind. From an enemy to God, he is made a friend and a son; and from serving God by constraint, as a slave, he comes to him with a spirit of adoption, as a beloved child. Now, the acts of this person may be, in many respects, what they were before; so that one who looks only on the outward appearance, shall see no great difference between him and others: but God, who has made all this difference, discerns it; and appreciates the obedience that is paid to him, not according to the mere act, but according to the motive or principle from which it flows. Now, taking this view of Christianity, we must say, that it has been, and yet is, productive of incalculable good: for still, as well as in the apostolic age, God begets sons to himself by means of it; and "when they are made sons, he pours forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father."

In illustration of these words, I will show,

I. The relation which every true Christian bears to God.

Every Christian, from a rebel and an enemy, becomes "a son."

In this we have the advantage of those under the law.

The Jews, though God's peculiar people, were not his sons, but his servants: or, if we call them his sons, (for doubtless he was a Father unto them,) still they were only as "minors, who differed very little from servants." They were under severe and burdensome restraints: they had but a small portion of their inheritance in actual enjoyment; and they performed their duties altogether in a servile spirit. But under the Gospel we are regarded as adult sons, who are freed from those restraints, and enjoy a spirit of liberty in the whole of our life and conversation. This is not only affirmed in our text, but taken, as it were, for granted, and assumed as the ground of those further blessings which are bestowed upon us.

And to this we are introduced by our Lord Jesus Christ.

He has redeemed us from that bondage in which we were once held. Though, as Gentiles, we have never been bound by the ceremonial law, we have, of necessity, been subject to the moral law, which is equally binding on every child of man: and under that we have been exposed to the most tremendous curses for our violations of it. But the Lord Jesus Christ, by his obedience unto death, has both fulfilled its demands, and suffered its penalties, for us; and has thus freed us from it as a covenant, and has brought us into a better covenant, the covenant of grace. Hence it is that we receive a Spirit of adoption: for, in this better covenant, God grants all the blessings of salvation to us freely, whether we be Jews or Gentiles; and, as soon as ever we believe in Christ, admits us into his own family, as his beloved children. Thus are we brought to God in the relation of sons, and have all the benefits of children conferred upon us.

But that which we are chiefly to notice, concerning the Christian, is,

II. The privileges, which, by virtue of this relation, he enjoys.

The Spirit of Christ is sent forth into his heart.

The Holy Spirit is here, as in many other passages of Scripture, called, "the Spirit of Christ." Not that we are to conceive of the Godhead as consisting of persons of unequal majesty and glory; for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are in glory equal, and in majesty co-eternal. But each person in the ever-blessed Trinity sustains a distinct office in the economy of redemption; the Father sending the Son to work redemption for us; and the Son sending the Holy Spirit to apply that redemption to us. It is in their official character alone that this subordination consists; and, agreeably to this distinction, we must go to the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit; and expect blessings from the Father in the very channel by which we gain access to him. Now, if we go to God in this way, he will send his Holy Spirit into our hearts as a Spirit of adoption; giving us thereby,

1. Liberty of access to him.

The Jews dared not to draw near to God within the limits that were assigned them, whether on Mount Sinai, or in the temple. But, at the death of our blessed Lord, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, to intimate to us, that now there was "opened for us a new and living way into the holiest of all," even for every child of man; and that the nearer we came to God's mercy-seat, the more certainly we should find acceptance with him.

2. Boldness to spread our wants before him.

To the Jews there were many things which, however they might desire them, they dared not ask. Korah and his company were consumed for affecting the priesthood, and presuming to offer incense to the Lord. But to our requests no limit whatever is assigned, provided they be in accordance with God's will, and have a tendency to advance his glory. With these obvious and necessary distinctions, we may "ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us," however wide we open our mouths, God will fill them. If we are "straitened at all, it is in our own affections;" we are not straitened in God: for he is both "able and willing to do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we can either ask or think."

3. Confidence in his care.

A servant may hope for kind attentions from his master in a day of necessity, though still to a very limited extent; but a son is assured, that whatever relief his father can afford him shall be readily bestowed. His necessities may be great, and his troubles of long continuance; but he has no fear that the tender sympathy of his father shall fail. Now this is what "a Spirit of adoption" gives to every true Christian. "He knows in whom he has believed; and that he is both able and willing to keep that which he has committed to him." He knows not, indeed, how God shall interpose for him, or when: but he is persuaded that "God will never leave him nor forsake him;" but "will make all things work together for his ultimate good," and "cause his light and momentary afflictions to work out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Hence, without doubting of a happy issue to his afflictions, "he casts his care on God, who cares for him."

4. An assured expectation of his inheritance.

Of this a servant can have no hope. But a son knows that he has a title to his father's inheritance; and that his father has assigned it to him in his will. But stronger far is the Christian's assurance of his title to Heaven, and of his ultimate possession of it. God has promised to him, not grace only, but glory also; and has begotten him to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in Heaven for him, who is also kept by the power of God for it. And who shall rob him of this inheritance? "Who shall separate him from his Father's love?" He can look on the innumerable hosts of men and devils, and boldly defy them all. The Spirit of adoption, which enables him to "cry, Abba, Father," assures him of the victory, and is to him a pledge and earnest of his future glory.

Observe.

1. How little is the true nature of Christianity understood among us!

Men conceive of Christianity as a system of restraints; or, at best, as a system of doctrines and duties. But, though it partakes of all these things, it is in reality a system of privileges: it "takes men from the dunghill, to set them among princes;" and "translates them from the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of God's dear Son." Contemplate Christianity in this view; as taking "strangers and foreigners; and not only bringing them into the household of God," but making them "sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty." Well might John express his wonder, saying, "Behold, what manner of love is tills with which the Father has loved us, that we should be called the sons of God!" Truly, this is the light in which we should view the Gospel; and this is the end for which we should receive its gracious declarations.

2. What enemies to themselves are the unbelieving world!

It is to bring you to this very blessedness that we preach unto you the Gospel of Christ. For this we set forth all the wonders of redeeming love. For this we invite you to come to Christ, and believe in him. It is not to make you melancholy, as foolish people imagine; but to make you blessed in the enjoyment of your God and in the possession of his glory. Why then will you put these things far from you? Why will you pour contempt upon them, as if they did not deserve the attention of any considerate man? Be assured, that, in rejecting the salvation offered you in the Gospel, you are your own enemies: you rob yourselves of happiness, of which not all the universe could deprive you; and plunge yourselves into misery, which all the universe would be unable to entail upon you. Tell me, is it so light a matter to he sons of God, that you will despise it; and to have a sweet sense of this sealed by the Holy Spirit upon your soul, that you will reject it? Ah! who can make you amends for the loss of these privileges; or console your minds, when they are irrecoverably placed beyond your reach? Be wise, I pray you; and seek these blessings, before they are forever hid from your eyes.

3. How earnestly should we hold fast the blessings thus accorded to us!

Great as these blessings were, the Galatian Christians were soon prevailed on to abandon the possession of them, and to go back again to the bondage in which they had formerly been held. And the same disposition remains in us. We all have a measure of servility in our minds; and are ready to bind on ourselves burdens from which Christ has made us free. Legal hopes, legal fears, legal endeavors, are quite in consonance with our depraved hearts. But do not dishonor our blessed Lord by indulging such propensities as these: strive rather to get rid of them, and stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made you free. Then will you find the service of your God to be perfect freedom; and the enjoyment of him, on earth, a foretaste of that complete fruition of him that awaits you.

 

MMCLXXII

Ministers Laboring in Vain

Galatians 4:11. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.

MINISTERS are, in the Scriptures, compared to gardeners. Now, no one can doubt, for a moment, what the object is of those labors which the gardener pursues. Whether he prosecute the initiatory work of manuring and plowing his ground, or cast upon it, and harrow in, the seed, every one knows that he looks to the harvest, as the compensation of his toil: and so far as the produce abounds, he considers himself as well repaid; but so far as it fails, he regards himself as having labored in vain. Thus a faithful minister rests not satisfied with having discharged his duty: he looks for the effects of his labors in the conversion of souls to God, and in the salvation of his fellow-men. If, in these respects, his ministrations are crowned with success, "he sees of all his travail, and is satisfied." But if the people to whom he ministers remain in a state of ignorance, or, while they profess to have received the Gospel, they walk unworthy of it, he feels constrained to adopt the language of Paul, and to say, "I am afraid of you, that I have bestowed upon you labor in vain."

Now I propose to show you,

I. When a minister may be said to have "labored among his people in vain."

This complaint he may justly utter,

1. When they cleave to the law, as a ground of their hopes.

What is the one great object of ministers, but to bring men to Christ, that through him they may find reconciliation with their offended God? In this view, their ministry is called "the ministry of reconciliation." But, in order to effect this great work, they must detach persons altogether from their dependence on the law. Men, by nature, are born under the law: and they invariably look to their obedience to the law as the ground of their hope towards God. But, as it is impossible for fallen man ever to render to the law that perfect obedience which it requires, God has given him a Savior, through whom he may obtain a perfect righteousness, fully commensurate with all the demands of law and justice. But, in order to his obtaining an interest in this, every other ground of hope must be renounced. He must be saved wholly, either by works or by grace. The two grounds of hope cannot exist together. If a man attempt to blend them together, even in the smallest possible degree, he will fail: the slightest dependence on his works will altogether invalidate the work of Christ, and make void all that he has done for the salvation of men. If, therefore, a person still practice any works of the law, in order to obtain, either in whole or in part, justification by them, all the labor that has ever been bestowed on him will be in vain. Paul said to the Galatian converts, "You observe days, and months, and times, and years." And on this he grounded the complaint in our text. The observance of days was not evil in itself: it was only evil, as arguing an affiance in the law, and a consequent departure from the faith of Christ. But this being the proper construction to be put upon it, he regarded it as a dereliction of the Gospel; and therefore expressed his fears, that all the labor he had bestowed on them had been in vain.

2. When they depart from the law as the rule of their life.

The law, though set aside by the Gospel as a ground of our hope, remains, in all its pristine force, as a rule of life. It must be obeyed, and obeyed from the heart too, as much as if we were to obtain justification by it: nor is there any other standard by which our lives must be regulated, in order to please and honor God. The Gospel proposes nothing new in respect of morals. It adds to our motives for obedience, and gives us a more complete pattern: but it enjoins nothing beyond the requirements of the law. The law enjoins us to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves: and beyond that we cannot go. The Gospel informs us, that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself;" and, consequently, all the faith and love which we are taught to exercise towards God, we exercise towards our adorable Emmanuel; and all the love which we manifest to man, we manifest it for Christ's sake, and in conformity to the pattern which he has set us: but beyond the demands of the law we cannot go; nor short of those demands are we allowed to stop. If, therefore, we see any one relaxing in his obedience to the law, we declare to him, that "faith has not in him its perfect work." His heart must be right with God: he must labor to "walk in all things as Christ walked," he must, if not in absolute attainment, yet in desire and endeavor, be "holy as God himself is holy, and perfect as his Father which is in Heaven is perfect." There must be no sin, though dear as a right eye or useful as a right hand, retained: and if we see a man proposing to himself any lower standard than this, we must, of necessity, "stand in doubt of him;" and fear, so far as he is concerned, that we have bestowed on him labor in vain.

Let me, then, point out to you,

II. The awful state of a people that are so circumstanced.

Truly,

1. Their responsibility is great.

It is here taken for granted, that the Gospel has been faithfully preached to them. And I hope this may be said with respect to you, my brethren. Yes; you will bear me witness, that "Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth crucified among you, even as it were before your eyes." Now, our blessed Lord said to his hearers, that "if he had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but that now they had no cloak for their sin." What, then, must I say to you? You well know, that "many prophets and kings have in vain desired to hear and see the things which have been made familiar to you; and that, at this moment, many would account themselves "blessed," if they could possess the privileges which you enjoy: but you cannot but know also, that on these grounds a proportionable responsibility attaches to you. Yet, is there not reason to fear, that many of you are still so ignorant both of the Law and of the Gospel, as not to understand their respective offices, and not to render to them that peculiar honor which they severally demand? Is there not reason to apprehend, that many have never yet come to Christ, as helpless, hopeless sinners; discarding every other ground of hope, and glorying in him as all their salvation and all their desire? Yet, if you have never been brought to this, O! think how much you have to answer for! If the fate of Chorazin and Bethsaida was made worse than that of Tyre and Sidon, yes, than that of Sodom and Gomorrah, by their abuse of the Gospel, judge, I pray you, what the criminality of those is, who, like you, have slighted all the blessings of salvation, which have been so freely offered, and so fully set before you? Jehovah himself appealed to his people of old: "Judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard: what could have been done more for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? And wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" The same appeal I must, in Jehovah's name, make to you also. The various means of grace you have enjoyed in rich abundance; and they must be accounted for as talents which you were bound to improve.

2. Their danger is imminent.

It is an awful truth, that "the word preached, if it be not a savor of life to those who hear it, proves to them a savor of death unto their death" In fact, it is sometimes sent, to a people in judgment, rather than in mercy: "Go, and tell this people, Hear you indeed, but understand not; and see you indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed." No less than six times is that passage quoted in the New Testament, to show us the immense importance of it, and to put us on our guard, lest it be realized in us. We are warned, that "the earth which drinks in the rain that comes oft upon it, and brings forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receives blessing from God: but that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is near unto cursing; whose end is, to be burned." Ah! think "how near the curse may be!" and how tremendous it will be, when it shall fall upon you! You know what was said to the barren fig-tree; "Cut it down: why cumbers it the ground?" And you also, though spared for the present, through the intercession of your Lord, must soon expect that doom, if you continue to make no return for all the labor bestowed upon you.

Application.

1. Improve, then, the opportunities which are yet afforded you.

"The seed is sown on your hearts: look to it, that it be not taken away by Satan, before the process of vegetation has taken place at all Beware too, lest, if it spring up, it be not soon withered for want of root; or, if it continue to grow, it be not choked by thorns, so as not to bring forth fruit to perfection." Prepare your hearts, by meditation and prayer, before you come to the house of God: and when you have received the good seed, harrow it in by a repetition of the same process: and bear in mind, that you are to requite the labors of cultivation, by bringing forth fruit, according to the measure of divine grace bestowed upon you.

2. Look forward to your great account.

It is but a little time, and both you and I must give account of our stewardship: I, of my ministrations; and you, of your improvement of them. If I have omitted to warn you, and you perish through my neglect, woe be unto me; for "your blood will be required at my hands." But if I have been faithful to my high calling, then shall I have the joy of presenting you to God; saying, "Here am I, and the children you have given men." O blessed day, if I may "have many of you as my joy and crown of rejoicing in that day!" On the other hand, how painful is the thought, that against those who have not improved the opportunities afforded them, I shall "appear as a swift witness" and every sermon I have ever delivered will testify against you, to your confusion. But let us hope that such shall not be the result of our meeting, my beloved brethren: no; let me entreat you to give yourselves unto prayer—for me, that the blessing of God may be upon my labors; and for yourselves, that "you may not receive the grace of God in vain."

 

MMCLXXIII

The Nature and Importance of Christian Zeal

Galatians 4:18. It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing.

MEN act with energy in things that are agreeable to them. But while some are earnest in the support of religion, others are no less active in opposing it. This was the case with the false teachers, who sought to exclude the Apostle, that they might extend their own influence in the Churches of Galatia. But the Apostle justly condemns them, and recommends energy in a better cause.

The text will lead us to consider,

I. The nature of Christian zeal.

Zeal is a strong affection of the mind; and is good or evil, according to the object towards which it is directed, and the manner in which it is exercised. It is more frequently in Scripture spoken of as evil: but there is also a Christian zeal; which is distinguished by two things:

1. It is good in its object.

Some spend their zeal in things that are in themselves sinful: and others on things indifferent: but the Christian's zeal is directed to what is good; he maintains with steadfastness the faith of the Gospel; and engages heartily in the practice of its precepts.

2. It is uniform in its operation.

The zeal of many is only occasional and partial; but the Christian's is uniform and universal: it has respect to every duty; stimulating to private and personal, as well as public and official, duties. It does not, however, lay the same stress on trifles, as on the weightier matters of the law; but proportions its exercise to the importance of the things about which it is engaged.

That such a zeal is truly praiseworthy, will appear, while we point out,

II. Its excellence.

The text pronounces it to be "good;" and not without reason; for,

1. It is that which stamps a value on all other graces.

What are the most excellent graces without this? Faith is only a cold assent; hope, a mere doubtful expectation; and love, a general good-will, or rather, an empty name. The best of services without this is a worthless formality. But, on the other hand, the poorest and meanest service accompanied with this, is pleasing to God. The widow's mite surpassed the rich donations of the wealthy; nor shall a cup of cold water lose its reward.

2. It is by that alone that we can honor God.

Lukewarm services declare, in fact, that God is not worthy of any better testimony of our esteem; and hence it is that they are so odious in his sight. But, if we act with zeal, we silently, yet powerfully, proclaim to all, that God is worthy of all the love and honor we can render him. God himself testifies, that if we observe the Sabbath in a becoming manner, we honor him: and the same is true of every other duty we perform.

3. By that we may ensure success.

Exertion does not always command success in an earthly race or warfare. But in spiritual things none can fail who exert themselves with zeal in God's appointed way. "They shall know, who follow on to know the Lord;" and to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, shall eternal life assuredly be given. Many seek to enter into the kingdom of Heaven, and are not able: but none ever yet strove in vain.

Address.

1. Those who have no zeal at all in religion.

Whatever zeal men exercise in their worldly callings, few, alas! are much in earnest about religion. The natural man has no heart, no life or spirit in anything he does for God. But will the heart-searching God be pleased with mere formal services? We ourselves do not accept them favorably at the hands of a fellow-creature; and shall God from us? If we would ever be approved of God, let us follow that injunction, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."

2. Those who have declined in their zeal.

"When iniquity abounds, the love of many will wax cold." And are there none among us who have "left off to behave themselves wisely;" none who have lost their first love? Let the solemn charge addressed to such persons in the primitive churches, be duly considered, and obediently regarded: for "it were better never to have known the way of righteousness, than, having known it, to turn from it."

3. Those who feel the importance and necessity of zeal.

Good as zeal is in a good cause, it may become pernicious both to ourselves and others, if it be not properly directed. There is "a zeal without knowledge," which may easily be mistaken for Christian zeal. Let all then who would serve God acceptably, endeavor to have their zeal well regulated, both with respect to its objects, and the manner of its operation. Let their own sins, rather than the sins of others, and their own duties, rather than those of others, be the first objects of their regard. Let not a proud, bigoted, or vindictive spirit be cherished by them under the cloak of zeal; but let every duty to God or man be tempered with meekness, humility, and love. Let nothing bear such a preponderance in their mind as to make any other duty appear light and insignificant. Let the world, the family, and the closet, have each its proper portion of attention: and, with increasing ardor, let them follow Christ, whose "meat was to do the will of him that sent him"

 

MMCLXXIV

A Minister's Chief Wish for His People

Galatians 4:19, 20. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.

THE pastoral relation is described in the Scriptures by images well calculated to convey an idea of anxious concern, and fond endearment. Paul sometimes speaks of himself as "the father" of his converts, as "having begotten them through the Gospel;" and sometimes as their mother "travailing in birth with them." Corresponding with these images, are the feelings of a minister's heart in reference to his people. If he see them in a sick and dying state, he will not be indifferent about their recovery, but will, with parental tenderness, administer such instruction and advice as may conduce to their welfare. There are too many indeed, who, from an affection of candor, hope well concerning the states of all their people. But the faithful minister dares not to act on such delusive principles; he knows the danger to which the unconverted are exposed, and the awful responsibility of his own office; and therefore he will faithfully discharge his duty, and "divide to every one the word of truth," consoling or reproving them as occasion may require.

In the words before us, we see,

I. What a minister chiefly desires on behalf of his people.

As a parent rejoices to see his children prospering in bodily health and worldly circumstances, so a minister is glad to see his people free from sickness and distress. He is thankful too, if he behold an outward reformation among them, and a diligent attendance on ordinances, and the establishment of family prayer, and a decided approbation of the Gospel record. But all this falls very far short of his wishes. He never is satisfied respecting them, until he have a clear evidence that "Christ is formed in them,"

1. As a vital principle in their hearts.

Whatever they may have, or whatever they may do, they have no spiritual life, until "Christ lives in them." If "Christ dwell not in their hearts, they are no other than reprobates." "Christ is the life" of the soul, as much as the soul is the life of the body. He animates all our faculties; and without him they are as incapable of spiritual exertions as a breathless corpse is of performing the functions of a living body. "Christ in us is the hope of glory;" and all profession of religion, without the in-dwelling of his Spirit in our souls, is only like the motion and re-union of the dry bones, before God has breathed into them a principle of life.

2. As a visible character in their lives.

Concerning the quickening of a soul, we can judge only by its actions. While therefore a minister desires that his people may be really alive to God, he looks for the fruits of righteousness as the proper evidence of their regeneration. He expects to find "Christ formed" in their tempers, their spirit, their whole conduct. He is not contented to behold such virtues as may be found in heathens: he longs to see in them a victory over the world, a supreme delight in God, an unwearied exercise of all holy and heavenly affections. He is satisfied with nothing but an entire "renovation after the Divine image," and a "walking in all things as Christ walked."

But as this change is rarely so satisfactory as might be wished, we proceed to show,

II. When he has reason to stand in doubt of them respecting it.

In every place where the Gospel is faithfully preached, there are some of whom the minister may enjoy a full and confident persuasion of their acceptance with God. But there will also be some respecting whom he must feel many anxious fears. This will be the case, wherever he sees them,

1. Fluctuating in their principles.

The Galatians had been warped by means of Judaizing teachers, and turned from the simplicity of the Gospel: and on this account the Apostle "feared he had bestowed upon them labor in vain." It is much to be regretted, when godly persons are distracted by "matters of doubtful disputation." They always, in a greater or less degree, "suffer loss" by means of it, because their attention is divided, and the energy of their minds, in reference to their more important concerns, is weakened. But when, as in the case of the Galatians, their doubts relate to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, their danger is exceeding great. They show that they are only "children, when they are tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine;" and their want of establishment in the faith gives reason to fear lest they should be finally overthrown.

2. Unsteady in their conduct.

Such was the state of the Galatians. When the Apostle was with them, they were "zealously affected with good things," but now he was absent from them, their love to him, and to the truth itself, had cooled; and their zeal was turned into a very different channel. No wonder then that "he travailed in birth with them again," since they betrayed such fickleness of mind. Thus, wherever we see a zeal that is only occasional in its exercise, or partial in its operation, we may well "stand in doubt of" such persons. If the ardor of their minds decay, or be called forth chiefly about the non-essentials of religion; if they are more occupied about church-government than about the government of their own tongues; and more offended at the miscarriages of their brethren than at the evils of their own hearts; if they are violent about doctrines, and remiss in practice; there is but too much reason to groan and tremble for them. They are "like a cake not turned," (doughy on one side, and burnt up on the other,) alike unacceptable both to God and man. And it is to be feared that they will prove at last to be only hypocrites and apostates.

Such doubts must needs be painful in proportion to the regard we feel for our people's welfare, and the importance of the object which we desire on their behalf. Every minister therefore should inquire,

III. By what means he may most effectually promote it in them.

Waving other things which might be mentioned, we shall notice two, which more immediately arise from the text; namely,

1. A personal fellowship with them.

The evils arising from the non-residence of ministers is incalculable. But a minister may reside in the same place with his people, and yet profit them very little, if he have not a private acquaintance with them, and frequent conversations with them on the concerns of their souls. His public ministrations cannot be sufficiently particular to enter into the views and feelings of all his congregation. Errors may become inveterate in their minds, before he knows anything about them. We do not impute blame to the Apostle for not abiding with the Galatians; because his commission was to preach the Gospel throughout the world: but we are well assured, that the Judaizing teachers would never have gained such an ascendency over them, if he had abode with them as their stated pastor. His presence would have been more advantageous to them than a hundred letters; on which account he says, "I desire to be present with you now." Let ministers then avail themselves of this advantage; and the people give them every opportunity of access to them.

2. A suiting of his address to their respective cases.

When the Apostle was with the Galatians, he comforted and encouraged them. Now in this epistle he warned and reproved them: and if, by conversing with them, he could restore them to their former state, he would gladly "change his voice," and speak to them again in terms of approbation and confidence. He would adapt himself to the state of every individual, distinguishing the different degrees of criminality that were found in each, and "giving to each his proper portion of consolation or reproof, as the season" or occasion required. In this way ought ministers to address their people. The speaking only in a general manner leaves the greater part of our hearers in an ignorance of their real state. We should descend to men's business and bosoms. We should "warn the unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, and support the weak." We should answer the objections, solve the doubts, and rectify the errors, of our people; and, by suitable instructions, confirm them in the faith. It is in this way only that we can enjoy much satisfaction in them, or expect to have them as "our joy and crown of rejoicing in the day of judgment."

Address.

1. Those of whom we stand in doubt.

Think us not uncharitable on account of the fears we express: "we are jealous over you with a godly jealousy." If we felt as we ought, we should be pained and distressed as a woman in her travail, while we see any of you in a doubtful state. We must desire to see in you what we know to be essentially necessary to your salvation: and while we behold any allowed and habitual deviations from the Gospel, whether it be in principle or practice, we must warn you of your danger. Would you have us tell you that you are safe, when we are doubtful whether Christ be formed in you? When we observe one proud, another passionate, another covetous, another unforgiving, another censorious, another formal, would you have us satisfied respecting you? Surely our anxiety about you is the best proof of our love: and we earnestly entreat you all "to judge yourselves, that you may not be judged of the Lord."

2. Those of whom we entertain no doubt.

Where shall we find persons of this description? Where? alas! in every place. Can we stand in doubt about the swearer, the Sabbath-breaker, the whoremonger, the adulterer? Can we stand in doubt of those who live without secret prayer; of those who never felt their need of having Christ formed in them, nor ever endeavored to conform themselves to his example? No, infidels may stand in doubt; but they who believe the Bible cannot doubt at all; the state of all such persons is as clear as the light at noon-day; and their inability to see it, only proves how awfully "the God of this world has blinded their eyes." We must declare unto you, brethren, and would speak it with tears of pity and of grief, that, if you die before that Christ has been formed in you, "it would have been better for you that you had never been born."

But there are others also of whom we cannot doubt; I mean, the humble, spiritual, devoted "followers of the Lamb." Of these even infidels entertain no doubt; because, upon their own principles, they who are most virtuous are most safe. But they have also the word of Jehovah on their side: and, if we were to stand in doubt of them, we must doubt the states of all the holy Prophets and Apostles, whose faith they follow, and whose example they imitate. No, in such as them are found "the things that accompany salvation." We congratulate them therefore on the safety and happiness of their state: and "we are confident that He who has begun the good work in them, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." They may indeed have sometimes doubts and fears in their own minds: but we say unto them, in the name of the Most High God, "Fear not, little flock; for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

 

MMCLXXV

Sarah and Hagar Types

Galatians 4:22–24. It is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid, the other by a free-woman. But he who was of the bond-woman was born after the flesh; but he of the free-woman was by promise. Which things are an allegory.

THERE are many things in the Old Testament which we should have passed over as unworthy of any particular notice, if their use and importance had not been pointed out to us in the New Testament. Such is the occurrence which is here referred to; and which the Apostle found to be of singular use to illustrate the nature of the Gospel covenant. He was endeavoring to counteract the influence of those Judaizing teachers, who had perverted the faith of the Galatians: with this view he expostulates with those who had turned aside to a compliance with the ceremonial law; and shows them, by an allegorical explanation of the history before us, that the law itself might have taught them a very different conduct.

To understand the allegory in all its parts, we must attend carefully to the main scope of it, which is, to show, that, as both Sarah and Hagar brought forth children to Abraham, yet those children differed widely from each other; so the old and new covenants bring forth, as it were, children to God; but there will be found, between their respective offspring, such a difference as may well deter men from returning to the covenant of works, and make them resolutely adhere to the covenant of grace.

We may observe then a corresponding difference between the two women and their offspring, and the two covenants and their offspring,

I. In their nature.

Ishmael, the son of the bond-woman, was born according to the common course of nature: but Isaac, the son of the free-woman, was born in a preternatural way, through the more immediate agency of God himself.

Thus they, who are under the law, have nothing but what they derive in a natural way from their parents. They may possess strong intellects, and discover many amiable qualities; but whatever they have, it is all carnal; no part of it is spiritual; their reason is carnal reason; their affections are carnal affections. But they, who are under the covenant of grace, are "born of God;" their faculties are all renewed; their views and desires are spiritual; they have "put off the old man, and put on the new;" yes, they are partakers, as far as flesh and blood can be, of a divine nature. Hence they are called "new creatures;" and are as much distinguished from the mere natural man, as light is from darkness, or Christ from Belial.

This is the first point of distinction which the Apostle himself notices; and it is confirmed by the declaration of our Lord, that whatever is born of the flesh is carnal; whereas, that which is born of the Spirit (as all who embrace the new covenant, are) is spiritual.

II. In their disposition.

Ishmael, being born of the bond-woman, was himself a slave; and therefore must, of necessity, have a servile spirit: but Isaac, the child of promise, felt all that freedom of spirit which an affectionate and beloved child is privileged to enjoy.

Thus the children of the old covenant are "brought forth to bondage." They may obey in many respects the will or their Father; but they are invariably actuated, either by self-righteous hopes, or slavish fears. Whatever they do for God, it is "grudgingly and of necessity," his work is irksome to them; or, if at any time it be pleasant, their satisfaction arises from pride and self-delight, and not from any delight they feel in his service. But the children of the new covenant are enabled to walk before God with holy confidence and joy. They serve him, not from fear, but from love; not that he may save them, but because he has saved them. Whatever they want, they make known their requests to him, assured that he will gladly do for them more than they can ask or think. Thus they maintain sweet fellowship with him, regarding him in all things, not as a master or a judge, but as a father and a friend.

This distinction too is marked by the Apostle, who says also in another place, that believers have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry Abba, Father.

III. In their conduct.

Whatever outward conformity Ishmael might show to his father's will, it is certain he was averse to it in his heart; for he persecuted Isaac on account of his superior piety, and derided him for claiming an exclusive right to his father's inheritance: but Isaac patiently endured the trial, "knowing in whom he had believed," and that "He was faithful who had promised."

Thus it is with all the children of the old covenant: they may obey the law in many points; but they do not really love it in any respect: on the contrary, they hate those, whose superior piety is a reproach to them, and who profess, that the children of promise shall exclusively inherit their Father's kingdom. "The saints and the elect" are with them terms not of respect and honor, but of mockery and derision. Our Lord teaches all his followers to expect this treatment, and to expect it on this very account from those, who are merely born after the flesh: "if," says he, "you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." The children of the new covenant, in the mean time, meekly bear the cross; "being defamed, they entreat; being persecuted, they suffer it;" "committing themselves to him that judges righteously," and waiting the accomplishment of all his promises.

IV. In their end.

Ishmael, by his conduct, brought upon himself that very exclusion, which he had confidently supposed would never take place: and Isaac in due time inherited the portion, which, in dependence on God's word, he had professed to expect. Nor was the difference made merely through the partiality of the parents, but by the express order of God himself.

Thus shall they, who are under the law, be, before long, banished from their Father's house. In vain shall they plead their carnal relation to God, and his people: they belong to a covenant that entails on them a curse, and not a blessing. and though they will not be persuaded of their danger now, yet will they find at last, that their confidence was presumption, and their hope vanity. On the contrary, they who are under the covenant of grace will inherit the promised laud: their professions shall be vindicated, their expectations realized, their hopes accomplished: and to eternity shall they dwell with God, as monuments of his sovereign grace, and his unchanging faithfulness.

We shall still continue to follow the Apostle in the improvement of this subject. It is useful,

1. For examination.

There cannot be a more interesting inquiry than this, Am I a "child of the bond-woman, or of the free?" Nor will it be at all difficult to attain a satisfactory knowledge of our state, if we will but follow the clew, which this instructive allegory affords us. Let us ask ourselves then, What have I that nature cannot give, and that evidently marks me as born of God? Am I walking with God in the daily exercise of filial affection, accounting his service to be perfect freedom; or am I rendering him only a formal, partial, and constrained obedience? Do I look for Heaven as the free gift of God through Jesus Christ; and expect it solely on the humiliating terms of the new covenant: or am I ready to take offence at the electing love of God, and to deride as deluded enthusiasts those, who found all their hopes upon it? According to the answer which conscience gives to these queries, we may determine to which covenant we belong, and consequently, what our end must be when we go hence. Let our inquiries then be prosecuted with care and diligence, that, when our state is ascertained, we may tremble or rejoice, as the occasion may require.

2. For direction.

When we are brought under the covenant of grace, we are ever in danger of returning, as many of the Galatians did, to the covenant of works. We are prone to indulge self-righteous hopes, and servile fears. We are ready to confound the covenants by associating works with our faith as joint-grounds of our hope. But we must carefully avoid this, and watch against every approach towards it. We must "stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us free; and never more be entangled with the yoke of bondage." "Salvation is by grace through faith," and "it is by faith, that it may be by grace." The very instant we mix any work of ours with Christ's obedience unto death, we fall from grace, and Christ becomes of no effect to us. Faith and works, as grounds of our justification before God, are opposites, and can no more be blended than light and darkness. Let us then hold fast the covenant of grace; and, in spite of all the persecution which our profession may bring upon us, let us "maintain our confidence, and the rejoicing of our hope, firm unto the end."

 

MMCLXXVI

Justification Faith Maintained

Galatians 4:30. Nevertheless what says the Scripture? Cast out the bond-woman and her sun: for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the free-woman.

THE whole of God's blessed word is highly instructive; and the Old Testament is an excellent preparative for the New. Indeed, those who are at all conversant with Scripture, expect to find mysteries in the ceremonial law, because that is confessedly a shadow of good things to come: but few are aware how much is to be found in the historical parts of the Old Testament. We are, however, in no danger of erring, if we say that the sacrifice which Abel offered was not a mere accidental difference from that of Cain; but a typical exhibition of the sacrifice of Christ, to which, by faith, the pious offerer had respect. The preservation of Noah from the deluge, too, was not a mere mercy given to himself and family; but a type of the benefit which we receive by baptism, which, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, saves us, (on a supposition we have received it aright,) as the ark, by its buoyancy, saved him from destruction by the tempestuous billows. In my text, there is reference to what we might have supposed to be an accidental disagreement in Abraham's family. We might naturally suppose that a wife and a concubine would not agree very well, and that their children would prove a source of mutual animosity. And so it turned out. But was this a mere accidental circumstance? No, it was permitted of God, in order to afford a good occasion for illustrating the covenant of grace, and the exclusive blessedness of those who adhered to it. You will perceive, that, in my text the words of Hagar are cited as a general rule of procedure in reference to the souls of men at the last day: and as they are somewhat intricate, and have at the same time an appearance of harshness and severity, I will endeavor to explain and vindicate the declaration contained in them.

Here is evidently a sentence denounced: and my endeavor shall be,

I. To explain the sentence.

To understand it aright, we must consider what was the subject in dispute between the Apostle and his opponents.

Some Judaizing teachers had drawn away his Galatian converts from the pure Gospel which he had taught them, to an affiance in the ceremonial law. And, to bring them back to the truth of Christ, he showed them, throughout this whole epistle, that salvation is by faith alone; and that to attempt to build our hopes in any measure on the law of works, was to "pervert the Gospel," and, in fact, to introduce "another Gospel." In confirmation of this sentiment, he proves, at large, that salvation is by faith only: he proves it, I say,

1. In a way of argumentative discussion.

In the beginning of the preceding chapter, after reminding them that through the preaching of faith, and not by any works of the law, they had obtained the miraculous influences of the Holy Spirit, he reminds them of the way in which Abraham was justified. This was by faith, as the Gospel preached to Abraham had foretold, in relation both to himself and all his spiritual seed: and, consequently, we must be saved in the same way as he—He then proves the same from the very terms in which the Law and the Gospel are promulgated; the one requiring obedience, and the other faith; the one killing, and the other giving life—He next adduces the end for which Christ came into the world. This was not to give men an opportunity of saving themselves by the law; but to redeem them, by his own death, from the curses of the law; and to open a way for the blessing which had been promised to Abraham to descend upon them through the exercise of faith—From thence he leads them to the contemplation of the covenant in which all the blessings of salvation were contained. This covenant had been made with Abraham, four hundred and thirty years before the law was given to Moses; and in it, all the believing seed of Abraham were interested. Now, this covenant could never be annulled, except by the consent of all the parties contained in it. But a very small part of those who were interested in that covenant were present when the law was given. That was only given to Abraham's children after the flesh: his spiritual children had nothing to do with it: and therefore to them is the covenant of grace as valid as ever; the publication of the law having made no difference in it whatever—Here, supposing naturally that his opponent would ask, "Of what use then the law was?" he proceeds to show, that it was not given in order to establish anything in opposition to the Gospel, but to operate in subserviency to the Gospel; showing men their need of it; and, like a schoolmaster, disciplining them for the grateful reception of it—and, consequently, now that the Gospel was fully revealed they should adhere to it, and look for acceptance solely by faith in it.

Here another question would arise. If the law was given to the Jews from the time of Moses, in what state were those Jews? Were they under the covenant of grace, or under the covenant of works? This he answers, by showing that they were, in fact, under the covenant of grace; but yet, that they were like minors, who, while they are under age, differ but little from servants; not having any further enjoyment of their inheritance than their tutors and governors judged expedient for them. The time, however, being now come for them to enter on their possessions without restraint, he exhorts them to avail themselves of their liberty, and to walk no more as servants under bondage; but as sons and heirs, at perfect liberty.

Thus he has made it appear, that to live under bondage to the law, is to abandon our dearest privileges, and to violate our most solemn duties.

He now proceeds, after some suitable admonitions, to establish the same truth,

2. In a way of allegorical illustration.

In the history to which the Apostle refers, we should not, I confess, have seen any confirmation of the doctrine before us, if one who was inspired of God himself had not explained it to us. The transaction was this: Sarah, Abraham's wife, saw Ishmael, who was Abraham's son by Hagar, mocking her son Isaac. I apprehend that Ishmael derided Isaac, the younger son, for presuming to assert his title to his father's inheritance, in preference to him, who was the elder. Sarah, indignant at this behavior, desired Abraham to expel Hagar and her son from his presence; saying, "Cast out the bond-woman and her son; for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac." This was exceedingly grievous to Abraham, who felt a paternal love for Ishmael, and knew not how to part with him: but God himself confirmed the word that had been spoken; and enjoined Abraham to comply with his wife's request, since it was his determination that "in Isaac should Abraham's seed be called."

Now, in my text, we are told, that under this domestic occurrence a great mystery was veiled; for that it represented the distinction which, should, to all eternity, be made between those who cleaved to the covenant of works, and those who should lay hold on the covenant of grace. Hagar, a bond-woman, represented the legal covenant which should in due time be made on Mount Sinai; as her son Ishmael did the persons who should adhere to it: whereas Sarah, the married wife, represented the covenant of grace which had already been made with Abraham; and her son Isaac, the persons who should obtain an interest in that. Now, all persons, by nature, live under the covenant of works: but divine grace, where it operates, brings men under the covenant of grace: but all the former will be cast out from God; and the latter only will be partakers of his inheritance: and this distinction, we are told, was intended to be marked in the foregoing history. It may appear hard that such a distinction should ever be made: but made it shall be; God having declared this to be his sovereign will, his irrevocable decree: "Cast out the bond-woman and her son; for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the free-woman."

Shall it be said, that this is too figurative and too recondite to add any weight to the preceding argument? I answer: This very circumstance, of its being so figurative and so recondite, gives it, in my mind, even greater weight than if it had been more plain and obvious; because it shows the unspeakable importance of that truth which it is brought to confirm. Had not the doctrine of justification by faith alone been of prime and indispensable necessity to every child of man, the Apostle would have been satisfied with establishing it by the train of argument which he has pursued: but, feeling that the rejection of it would prove fatal to the soul, he would omit nothing that could contribute to the enforcing of it on men's consciences, or the impressing of it on their minds.

Aware, however, that, in the opinion of many, there are strong objections to this doctrine, I will proceed,

II. To vindicate it.

Against the very act itself, which is referred to in my text, we should have been rather disposed to object, if it had not been approved by God himself: we should have thought Abraham would have been better employed in pacifying the rage of Sarah, than in lending himself as an instrument to give it energy and effect. We should have thought it more worthy of him to use his influence for the purpose of allaying domestic feuds, than to exert his authority for the rendering of them irreconcilable and eternal. But God commanded it; and therefore it must, of necessity, have been right, whether we can explain the reasons of it or not. And the doctrine which it was intended to shadow forth is right, whether we can understand it or not. To exclude from salvation all who adhere to the covenant of works, and to save those only who lay hold on the covenant of grace, may appear unjust, severe, and partial: but we will undertake to vindicate it from all that can be said against it, even from every charge,

1. Of injustice.

If it had pleased God to deal with fallen man precisely as He had dealt with fallen angels, what injustice would he have done to any? Wherein did we merit an interposition in our favor more than they? Why, when we had violated the old covenant, should he enter into a new covenant, whereby we might be restored to his favor? Why, in order to render this measure consistent with his glorious perfections, should he give us his only-begotten Son to bear our sins, and to effect a reconciliation for us through the blood of his cross? Could we claim any such mercy at his hands? Or, could any one have had reason to complain, if no such mercy bad been ever manifested? What injustice, then, can be done to any one, by confining mercy to this particular channel; and by requiring this new covenant in Christ Jesus to be made our hope and our plea, in order to our participation of its benefits? If we neither had, nor could have, any claim for mercy at all, we certainly can have no ground for complaint against God, for offering it in a way honorable to himself; and not granting it in a way of our own, that would reflect dishonor on every one of his perfections.

2. Of severity.

Though the shutting up of mankind to one only way of salvation may not be altogether unjust, yet it may be deemed somewhat unmerciful and severe; because it makes the rejection of that salvation a fresh ground of offence, and involves the offender in deeper guilt and misery than he could otherwise have incurred. But there is no undue severity in this. Let us suppose that God had acted towards the fallen angels as he has towards us. Let us suppose that he had sent his only dear Son to bear their punishment in his own person, and to work out a righteousness whereby they might be justified: and that he had offered to restore to his favor very soul among them who would accept it in his Son's name; but would account all who should reject this overture as having added pride and ingratitude to all their other sins, and make them answerable for this their augmented guilt: is there one of us that would conceive God to be acting with severity towards them? Is there one who would not regard this as a stupendous effort of love and mercy, and acknowledge, that all who should despise this offered mercy would deserve their appointed doom?

But there is another evil, which the despisers of the new covenant are guilty of: they invariably "mock" and deride those who found all their hopes upon it. They may not, indeed, be open scoffers, like Ishmael; but in their hearts they do of necessity "mock at the counsel of the poor, who puts his trust in God." At this hour, as well as in the Apostle's days, it may be said, "As, then, he who was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now." How then can it be supposed that these despisers of God's people should be made heirs together with them? or, what severity can there be in refusing to them a portion which they so wantonly despise? The sentence, as denounced by Sarah, might have been deemed severe; but, as inflicted by the Most. High God, it is merited in its full extent: for not even Satan himself was ever guilty of rejecting a Savior, and pouring contempt on redeeming love.

3. Of partiality.

It is not persons, but characters, that are rejected of God: nor is it from descent, but from choice, that they fall short of the promised inheritance. In this respect, the parallel between the history and the doctrine established by it must be drawn with a due attention to all the circumstances, and must not be pressed too far. That was but a shadow; and we must distinguish between resemblance and identity. Ishmael shadowed forth those who are born after the flesh: Isaac represented those who are born after the Spirit: the former therefore characterizes all of us in our natural state; the latter, those who are regenerated by the Spirit of God. The latter, it is true, owe all their happiness to God's electing love: but the former can never ascribe their misery to any decree of absolute reprobation. The blessings of salvation are offered equally to all: the sins of all were equally borne by the Lord Jesus Christ in his own body on the cross: for "he is a atoning sacrifice , not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world." "The Lord laid on him the iniquities of us all." Though born of the bond-woman, we may by grace become children of the free: and, if we will not avail ourselves of this offered mercy, the fault is altogether our own. In the parable of the Marriage-supper, the man who was cast out for not having on the wedding-garment, is represented as "speechless," having not a word to utter in his own defense. He, it is true, was poor, and had been brought in suddenly from the highways and hedges: but a wedding-garment had been provided for him by the Master of the feast, and would have been given him if he had asked for it: and therefore he was justly punished for presuming to appear at table without it. So is salvation provided for every child of man: and he who neglects to seek it, must trace his failure to that neglect. The word of our blessed Lord is decisive upon this point: "Him that comes unto me, I will in no wise cast out," if therefore the sentence be passed on us, "Cast out that son of the bond-woman," we know whom alone we have to blame: the fault is not in God, as unwilling to save us; but in ourselves, as neglecting to seek salvation at his hands.

From this subject we may see,

1. What is the one standard and test of truth.

Men place reliance on their own opinions, and cite as authority the opinions of others. But man is weak and fallible. Even in relation to things which come most under his cognizance, he is apt to err: but in the things of God, which, of necessity, are so remote from his apprehensions, he is entitled to no confidence at all; seeing that he can know nothing, any further than it has been revealed to him by God himself. But it is in the sacred volume alone that we have any revelation from God; and therefore that must, of necessity, be the only standard and test of truth. "To the word and to the testimony," says the prophet: "if men speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Tell me not then, you vain disputer, what your sentiments are. "What says the Scripture?" You imagine that you can lay down laws for God, and tell how he shall regulate his proceedings in the day of judgment: but I must declare to you, that "your wisdom," however great you may imagine it, "is foolishness with God;" and that his counsel shall stand, whether you will hear, or whether you will forbear.

3. On what ground our eternal destinies shall be fixed.

I well know that men shall be judged according to their works. But we greatly mistake, if we suppose that our faith shall not become a ground of decision, either against us or in our favor, as much as any other work. It is as much "a command from God, that we believe in his Son, as that we should love one another,"and our compliance with it must equally be made a subject of inquiry at that day. We may think it strange, perhaps, that God should take such matters into account in the final judgment: but, whatever opinion we may form respecting it, God will then say, "Cast out the bond-woman and her son: for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the free-woman." It will not be found a matter of such indifference, then, whether we believed in Christ or not, and whether we embraced the covenant of grace. No, this new covenant contains all the wonders of Divine wisdom, and love, and mercy: and, if we flee not to it from the terrors of the broken law, and from the fallacious hopes which are engendered by pride, his sentence will come forth against us, to our irreparable and eternal ruin. Take you care then, beloved, that you deceive not your own souls. Examine diligently whose children you are, and to which family you belong. Renounce all dependence on your own works, and lay hold on the promises of God in Christ Jesus. So shall "you, like Isaac, be the children of promiser;" and with him be partakers of an everlasting inheritance.

 

MMCLXXVII

Liberty of the Christian

Galatians 5:1. Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

THE doctrine of justification by faith is inculcated throughout all the Holy Scriptures, even in parts where we should never have thought of looking for it. Not only was it fully and explicitly declared to Abraham; but it was allegorically set forth by his putting away of Hagar and her son Ishmael, and his constituting of Isaac his sole heir. This was intended by God to shadow forth to us that we cannot be saved by the legal covenant, the covenant of works; but that we must embrace, and be saved by, the new covenant, the covenant of grace. By the covenant of grace we are liberated from the bondage of the covenant of works; and "in this liberty it becomes us all to stand fast."

We shall be led from these words to notice,

I. The Christian's privilege.

The Christian is a believer in Christ: and by his faith he is made a partaker of all that Christ has procured for him. He was formerly under the law; and by that law was condemned. As long as he continued under that law, he continued under the curse. But "Christ has freed him from that law" and brought him to a state of perfect liberty.

1. By suffering the penalty due to his transgressions, he has released us from it.

Christ became the Surety and Substitute of sinful man. Did we owe a debt which it was impossible for us to pay? He discharged it for us, even to the uttermost farthing. Were we under the curse of the broken law? "He became a curse for us," and endured all that was due to our sins. Hence there remains "now no condemnation to us." "If only we believe in Christ, we are justified from all things," and "our sins are blotted out as a morning cloud."

2. By giving us faith, he has brought us into a better covenant.

There is a new covenant, which is a perfect contrast with the old covenant. The old covenant cursed us for one transgression, and provided no remedy for us whatever: the new covenant provides for us all that our necessities can require—pardon, and peace, and holiness, and glory. Into this covenant all are brought, who believe in Jesus. He therefore, by imparting faith to our souls, translates us from the one to the other; and both liberates from all the evils of the former, and conveys to us all the blessings of the latter. From the very instant of our believing in Christ, we cease to have anything either to hope or fear from the covenant of works; we are dead to it, and it is dead to us: it is abrogated and annulled: and, like a woman released from her nuptial bonds by the death of her husband, we are at liberty to "unite ourselves to Christ, that through him we may bring forth fruit unto God." Thus, "being made free by Christ, we are made free indeed."

We may easily conceive, from hence, what is,

II. The Christian's duty.

Privilege and duty comprehend all that constitutes religion. In themselves they are widely different; but they are never to be separated from each other. Possessing this high privilege of freedom from the law, we are to "stand fast in it;"

1. Against the influence of false teachers.

There were such among the Jews, who were extremely zealous in propagating their sentiments, and in endeavoring to subvert the faith of Christ. And such there are at this day. What is the whole system of popery, but an establishment of the covenant of works? It inculcates, in all its ordinances, the merit of good works, and teaches men to expect salvation by their works. And what do they who teach that we are justified by the act of baptism; and they who administer the Lord's supper to dying persons as a passport to Heaven? I deny not the use or efficacy of the sacraments, when duly received: but, to teach men to rely on the mere administration of them, irrespective of the manner, and mind, and spirit in which they are received, is as fatal an error as ever was broached: it is nothing but popery revived among us. Against all such errors, by whoever they are inculcated, you must be on your guard. If Peter himself make such an use of a sacrament, he must be reproved, as a traitor to the cause of Christ: and "if an angel from Heaven were to bring such a doctrine as that, he must be held accursed."

2. Against the devices of Satan.

That great adversary is ever fighting against Christ; and endeavoring to "blind men, lest the light of Christ's glory should shine unto them." But you must "resist him, steadfast in the faith." It is impossible for you to be too much on your guard against his temptations. As he beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so will he, if possible, turn you from the simplicity that is in Christ." He will, both by his emissaries and by his suggestions, pervert the Scriptures themselves, just as he did when he tempted Christ: but you must "take the sword of the Spirit, and the shield of faith," and, "in the strength of Christ, resist him" to the uttermost; that you "may never be moved away from the hope of the Gospel," or be induced to "make shipwreck of your faith in Christ."

3. Against the treachery of your own hearts.

There is no evil whatever more deeply rooted in the heart of man than self-righteousness. It will assume in you ten thousand shapes. Sometimes it will put on the garb of holiness; and make you fearful of exalting Christ too much, lest you should depreciate and discourage morality. Sometimes it will assume the form of humility; and make you stand aloof from Christ because of your own unworthiness: 'You are not good enough to come to him: he will never receive so vile a sinner as you.' There is no end to the delusions which your own deceitful hearts will suggest, to sanction, in some degree or other, a dependence on your own works. But you must put away every thought that may interfere with the honor of Christ, to whom the glory of your salvation must be given, whole and entire, from first to last. It is altogether the purchase of his blood, and the gift of God for his sake: and it must be received, by every creature under Heaven, "without money, and without price." Paul tells you, that if you do the best act in the world with a view to augment your interest in Him, "he shall profit you nothing." The least attempt of this kind will invalidate the whole Gospel: and therefore look well to yourselves, that you "receive not the grace of God in vain."

Address.

1. Those who are yet cleaving to the covenant of works.

What works will you ever do, that shall be effectual for your salvation? or what single act have you ever done, that will bear the test of God's law? O, think of your folly and your wickedness! your folly, in preferring bondage to liberty; and your wickedness, in so requiting the grace of Christ.

2. Those who are enjoying the liberty with which Christ has made them free.

Enjoy it, and be thankful for it—but "turn it not to licentiousness." Show, by your lives, that the Gospel is "a doctrine according to godliness," and let the world see that, while you "contend earnestly for the faith delivered to the saints," you are "careful to maintain good works."

 

MMCLXXVIII

Self-Righteousness Reproved

Galatians 5:2–4. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whoever of you are justified by the law: you are fallen from grace.

ON matters of morality, men will permit us to speak with the utmost freedom; but, on points of faith, they would have us use none but the mildest possible expressions, lest we should appear dogmatic and severe. Paul, where moral offences had been committed, was lenity itself; but when the fundamentals of our faith were endangered, his energy rose even to intolerance. I mean not to say that he disregarded morality, or that we should think lightly of it: but I mean, that we ought to entertain far different thoughts about the leading doctrines of religion, than those which generally prevail. Hear the Apostle, when he found that some of the Galatian Church had been drawn from the pure Gospel to a reliance on the observances of the Jewish ritual: "Though we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed." I grant, that he, as inspired, was authorized to speak in terms that would be unseemly for one who is not under an infallible guidance: but, so far as our doctrines accord with those of the Apostle, we may, yes, and must, maintain them, with a measure of the firmness which he uses in the promulgation of them. The passage which we have selected for our meditation this day contains nothing but what must be affirmed by every servant of Christ But who that reads it must not tremble, lest he be found in the predicament there referred to? That we may fully understand the mind of the Apostle, I will, with all possible plainness, state,

I. What was the conduct here reproved.

It was not the mere practice of circumcision.

This was a rite which had been ordained by God himself; and the neglect of which had so incensed God against his servant Moses, that, if his wife Zipporah had not instantly, and without delay, performed the rite with her own hands, that favorite of Heaven would have been destroyed. And though the ceremonial law was now abolished, the observance of this rite was innocent: for Paul himself, in condescension to the prejudices of the Jews, had circumcised Timothy; and in this very place, where he so decidedly condemns the observers of it, speaks of it as a matter of perfect indifference: "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith, which works by loved." It is clear, therefore, that it was not of circumcision, as an act, that he spoke, when he declared it to be incompatible with an interest in Christ.

It was self-righteousness to which the advocates of circumcision were strongly inclined.

Circumcision, when first appointed of God, was given to Abraham as "a sign and seal of that righteousness which he possessed in his uncircumcised state," and which he had obtained solely by faith. But the Jews had altogether perverted it from its original intention, and had made it a fundamental article of the Mosaic ritual: they regarded it as connected with the Law, rather than with the Gospel; and founded their hopes of salvation, in a considerable measure, on their observance of it. This it was which Paul so severely reprobated; because it undermined the Gospel itself, and led the people to look to the law for righteousness, which the Gospel alone could impart. Nor was it without just reason that he so strongly guarded them against this error: for it obtained very generally among the Jews; and was the great stumbling-block over which they fell, to the utter destruction of their souls.

That we may see how circumcision could by any means be so injurious to their souls, I will proceed to show,

II. Wherein the evil of it consisted.

1. It was a recurrence to the law.

So the Apostle interprets it: "As many of you as are justified by the law." This shows, that the Apostle viewed the act as performed in order to their justification before God: and such was really their end in performing it. There were many who insisted upon it as still obligatory upon all: and maintained, that "except men were circumcised, they could not be saved." And it was Paul's firm opposition to this tenet that so greatly incensed the Jews against him. If he would have yielded to them in this one particular, they would have laid aside their hostility against him, and have left him at liberty to make as many converts as he could. But "he would not give place, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the Gospel might be kept inviolate." And to those who wished to represent him as still favoring their sentiments, he appealed: "If I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offence of the cross ceased." Viewing, then, this rite as a recurrence to the law for salvation, he declared to every person who submitted to it, that he "became a debtor to do the whole law," for if the law was obligatory in one part, it was in all: and, if they looked for salvation by obedience to any law whatever, whether ceremonial or moral, they must go back to the covenant of works altogether, and stand or fall by that. But this would be to involve themselves in inevitable and eternal ruin; since "it was written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them," and, consequently, in going back to the law, they must bring down all its curses upon their souls. This, then, was one reason why it was wrong to practice circumcision in the way they did.

2. It was a renunciation of the Gospel.

All who had been baptized into the faith of Christ had professed to accept salvation as the free gift of God for Christ's sake. But, in going back to circumcision, and insisting upon that as necessary to salvation, they did, in fact, declare that they considered the work of Christ as incomplete, and as insufficient for their salvation, without this work of the law super-added to it. All therefore who had imbibed this error were "fallen from the grace" of the Gospel altogether. They thought, indeed, to combine the law with the Gospel; but this was impossible. Salvation must be wholly of the one or the other: works and grace, as foundations of hope before God, were absolutely contrary to, and inconsistent with, each other: as the Apostle says, "If salvation be by grace, it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace: but if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work." Would they, then, be content to forego all hope by the Gospel, and to abandon as worthless all the promises of grace? This was, in fact, their conduct, while they thus placed their reliance on this abrogated rite: and the folly of such conduct once seen, must deter them, forever, from the prosecution of it.

But we are yet further taught by the Apostle,

III. What was, and must in all cases be, the issue of it.

"Christ would become of no effect to them," and "would profit them nothing." Never, to all eternity, would they derive any benefit from him,

1. As their atoning Sacrifice.

He died indeed for sinners, and offered himself a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world: but, in renouncing him, and going back to the law, they cut themselves off from all participation of the benefit: so that, as far as they are concerned, "he died altogether in vain."

2. As their great High-priest.

For his people he is gone within the veil, there to make continual intercession for them: and through his intercession their peace is maintained with God. But never does he make mention of their name; never prefer one request in their behalf. If he were once to bring their case before his Father, it would be rather to "make intercession against them;" and to say, 'How long do you, O my Father, forbear to execute vengeance on those ungrateful creatures?' "How long do you not judge, and avenge my blood upon them?"

3. As their Federal Head and Representative.

To those who are united to Christ by faith, he is, under the new covenant, what Adam was to his posterity, under the old covenant. "In Adam, all" his natural posterity "died," and "in Christ all" his spiritual children "are made alive." But those who return to the law, renounce the covenant of grace, and go back to the covenant made with Adam in Paradise; according to the tenor of which they shall be justified or condemned, Having no other representative than Adam, "in whom they have sinned," they have no one through whom they can obtain any better title than what they have derived from him, or any other portion than what is entailed upon them as his descendants.

4. As their Head of vital influence.

Believers in Christ derive from Him all that they need for life and godliness, as branches of the living vine. But those who, in any measure or degree, transfer to the law their dependence, become as branches that are broken off, and that derive from Him no benefit whatever. To their impotence they are left; and as destitute of all spiritual good, they perish.

What a fearful thought is this! But let me dwell somewhat upon it, in a way of more direct

Application.—See, I pray you,

1. How indispensable to our happiness is an interest in Christ.

The Apostle represents the being without any profit from Christ, as the sum of human misery. And so, indeed, it is: for what can he possess who has no part in Christ? He may have wealth and honor in the richest abundance; but he has no life, no hope in this world, no portion but misery in the world to come—Can you reflect on this, my brethren, and not desire an interest in Christ? My brethren, seek him, lay Hold on him, "cleave unto him with full purpose of heart;"and let no consideration under Heaven induce you for a moment to draw back from him.

2. What need we have to examine the state of our minds towards him.

The persons who laid so great a stress on circumcision little thought what evils they were bringing on their own souls: and it is highly probable that they thought the affirmations of the Apostle needlessly severe. But this very circumstance rendered it the more necessary that he should deal faithfully with them, and declare to them the danger to which they were exposed. And so it is, when we declare the danger of self-righteousness, we are thought harsh and uncharitable. But we must declare, and "testify to every one" who relies on the works of the law, or blends anything whatever with the merits of Christ, that he makes void the whole work of Christ, and cuts himself off from any part in his salvation. Examine yourselves, therefore: for self-righteousness is deeply rooted in the heart of man; and it has many specious pretexts for its acting. But be on your guard against it, and watch against it in every form; and determine, through grace, that you will henceforth trust in nothing, and "glory in nothing, but the cross of Christ."

 

MMCLXXIX

The Righteousness of Faith

Galatians 5:5. We, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

THE object of Paul, in this epistle is, to maintain and establish the doctrine of justification by faith alone, without the deeds of the law. This doctrine had been assailed and controverted by Judaizing teachers, who had gained such influence in the Church, as to draw multitudes after them, and to intimidate even the Apostles themselves. We are told that Peter, through fear of the circumcision, dissembled, and drew Barnabas also, his friend and fellow-laborer, into a participation of his crime. Paul, with becoming zeal, set himself to stem the tide. He felt for the honor of God, whose Gospel was thus perverted; and for the welfare of immortal souls, whose salvation was endangered; and, without partiality, he rebuked Peter in the face of the whole Church; showing that all mixture of the Law with the Gospel was a fatal error; and that all who would be saved must seek salvation wholly and exclusively by faith in Christ.

Having concluded his argument, he enforces the truth he had established; and declares, that all who were under the influence of the Spirit of God would wait for the hope of righteousness, not by works, but by faith alone.

The words before us will lead me to show,

I. To what every true Christian looks for justification before God.

The context makes known to us the Apostle's views.

The energy of the Apostle on this subject is such as must, on no account, be overlooked. He declares, in opposition to the Judaizing teachers, that the blending of the Law with the Gospel, in any respect, would make void all that Christ has done and suffered for us; that it would bring us back altogether to the covenant of works, which promised nothing but to perfect obedience; and that it was, in fact, an utter renunciation of the Gospel, and a contempt of all the grace contained in it. "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you: whoever of you are justified by the law, you are fallen from grace." Now, of all works that could be performed, circumcision was the most innocent: for it had been expressly commanded of God, from the first moment that Abraham had been admitted into covenant with him: it was enjoined under the penalty of death: Moses himself was in imminent danger of being slain by God for the neglect of it: and, though abrogated by the Gospel, Paul had sanctioned the observance of it in the case of Timothy. 'Yet,' says Paul, 'the observance of this rite, with a view to increase or confirm your interest in the Gospel, will invalidate the Gospel altogether, and plunge your souls into inevitable perdition.'

Having solemnly asserted and testified of these things, he goes on to declare what he himself, and all true Christians, looked to for their justification before God: " 'we," we Apostles, we who are truly under the influence of the Spirit, "wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." We renounce every other hope whatever: we blend nothing with the merits of Christ: we look for acceptance through His righteousness alone: and we expect to obtain an interest in it, and to be made partakers of it, simply and solely by faith in Him.'

In accordance with these are the views of every true Christian.

Every one who is but a babe in Christ knows that he neither has, nor can have, any righteousness of his own. Having transgressed the law, he feels that he is obnoxious to its curse denounced against him; and that he must obtain some better righteousness than his own, if ever he would find acceptance with God. He looks into the Scriptures, and learns, that the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the co-equal, co-eternal Son of God, has left his throne of glory, and assumed our nature; and in that nature has suffered the penalty which we had merited, and obeyed the law which we had broken; and has thereby "brought in an everlasting righteousness" for all who believe in him. Convinced of this, he casts himself entirely on the Lord; calling him "The Lord our Righteousness;" and saying, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength." Thus, renouncing all hopes by the works of the law, he "waits for the hope of righteousness by faith" alone. He considers that righteousness as wrought out on purpose for him: he regards it as promised to him the very instant he believes in Christ: he looks to him by faith, in order to obtain an interest in it; and he "waits for" it God's appointed time: he waits for it here, even for the manifestation of it to his soul; and he waits for it hereafter, as the ground of his acquittal at the bar of judgment, and as the ground of his elevation to the throne of glory. At no period does he hope for anything on the ground of his own merits: and though he knows that his works shall be rewarded, he looks for that recompense, not as a reward of debt, but of grace: and to God alone does he give all the glory of his salvation, from first to last.

As the Apostle ascribes his experience in this respect to the agency of the Holy Spirit, it will be proper for me to show,

II. How far the Holy Spirit operates to the production of these views.

"In God we live, and move, and have our being." But, in the economy of redemption, there is a special office assigned to the Third Person of the ever-blessed Trinity, even that of applying all its benefits to the souls of men, and rendering it effectual for their salvation. It was "through the Spirit" that the Apostle waited for the hope of righteousness by faith:

1. Through his teaching in the word.

All the prophets, from the beginning, have spoken by inspiration of God, even as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Now, from the beginning has the Holy Spirit declared, that our hope of righteousness is solely by faith in Christ. To Adam, as soon as he had fallen, was it made known, that "the Seed of the woman, the Lord Jesus Christ, should bruise the serpent's head," and repair the evil which that wicked fiend had introduced. Abel, we are told, "by faith offered" an acceptable sacrifice unto his God. Now this presupposes a revelation from God in relation to that sacrifice: for there can be no scope for the exercise of faith, where nothing has been revealed. Here, then, it is clear, that God had made known to Abel, that a sinner should be saved through the intervention of a sacrifice, even of that Great Sacrifice which should in due time be offered upon the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ; who is therefore called, "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Through all successive ages was this represented by a variety of types, and proclaimed in a variety of prophecies; to particularize which will be unnecessary, because Paul expressly affirms all that we have asserted:—"Now," says he, "the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe." Here, I say, we are not only directed to the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Author of salvation, but we are told that his righteousness is the ground of our hope; that we must obtain an interest in it by faith; and that to this way of salvation both the law and the prophets have borne witness from the beginning. It is clear, therefore, that if we ever attain to it at all, it must be "through the Spirit's" teaching in the word.

2. Through his influence upon the soul.

To this way of salvation man is extremely averse. He wants to have something of his own whereon to trust, and something which shall serve him as a ground of glorying before God. No human power can divert him from this: no arguments can convince him; no persuasion can move him; not all the promises or threatenings of the Scriptures can induce him to renounce all self-confidence, and rely on Christ alone. "God himself must make him willing in the day of his power." And this work the Holy Spirit effects. "He convinces the man, of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment," of sin, so as to make him feel himself lost and utterly undone; of righteousness, so as to show him that in Christ there is a sufficiency for the very chief of sinners; and of judgment, so as to assure him, that, by faith in this Savior, Satan himself shall be vanquished, and bruised under his feet.

But, as man, while ignorant of his own sinfulness, disdains to accept of mercy in God's appointed way; so, when his eyes are opened to see how unworthy he is, he is ready to think that God never can show mercy to one so vile as he. Here, therefore, the Holy Spirit's operations are again called for: and here he exerts himself effectually for the production of the desired end. Having first inclined the person, and made him willing to submit to God's method of justifying a sinner, he next encourages and enables him to repose his confidence in God, and to accept the offered mercy. This the Holy Spirit does, by revealing Christ unto his soul, in all the fullness of his sufficiency, and in all the freeness of his grace. He glorifies Christ: he takes of the things that are Christ's, and shows them unto the trembling soul; and thus overcomes his reluctance on the one hand, and his diffidence on the other. In this way the person is brought to see, that "righteousness is by faith" only; and to "hope" for that righteousness, yes, and to "wait for" it, until it shall please God to make known to him his interest in it, and to speak peace unto his soul.

Address.

1. Those whose views of this subject are indistinct.

All have "a hope of righteousness," which, in some way or other, shall prove sufficient for their acceptance, when they go hence. But, if we come to examine the grounds of their hope, we find that few, very few, have their views clear, decided, scriptural. To renounce all dependence on our own works, to have no leaning whatever to any righteousness of our own, is a very rare attainment. If we were told, that the smallest measure of self-righteousness would make "Christ himself of no effect to us," and leave us in the very state of the fallen angels, who have no Savior, we should account it harsh. We are willing that the Lord Jesus Christ should have the principal share of the glory arising from our salvation, but not all. Beloved brethren, I pray you, examine into this matter: see whether you can be content to be saved precisely as one of the fallen angels would be, if he were now plucked as a brand out of the burning. You must be brought to this. Why was it that so many millions of moral and religious Jews have perished, while millions of immoral and idolatrous Gentiles have been saved? It has arisen from this: the Jews could not be brought to renounce all dependence on the law; while the Gentiles have thankfully accepted the righteousness provided for them in the Gospel. "The Jews have stumbled," as thousands of Christians also do, "at that stumbling-stone," for, on this account, Christ has proved to them no other than "a rock of offence;" while to those who have believed in him he has invariably proved a rock of salvation. And this is the peculiar danger of those who are most moral, and most religiously inclined. It was the Jews, who "had a great zeal for God," who fell into this unhappy snare, and would not submit to the righteousness provided for them in the Gospel. I pray God, that you, my brethren, may not reject the overtures that are now made to you. I believe that there are many of you who have a zeal of God: but I fear that, in many cases, it is not a zeal "according to knowledge." You do not clearly see that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness;" and that he is so to those only who "believe." I beseech you, leave not this matter unexamined, and undecided, in your minds: but beg of God to reveal his Son in you; and that you may never be suffered to rest, until you can say, with the Apostle, "I desire to be found in Christ, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."

2. Those who, while they have these views, are afraid fully to rely upon them.

A free and full salvation, even to the chief of sinners, and simply by faith in Christ, seems to be so rich a blessing, that it would be presumptuous in any human being to entertain a hope of it: and, from this feeling, many are led to put it away from them, as too great ever to be obtained. But, my brethren, if God has revealed it, and absolutely appointed it as the one only way in which he will receive sinners to himself, who are we that we should refuse it? This is a false humility. If we could see ourselves possessed of some worthiness, then we should be content to receive salvation at God's hands: but, because we see our utter unworthiness, we put it from us. But this is greatly to dishonor God, and grievously to insult the Lord Jesus Christ; yes, and to do despite also to the Holy Spirit, who has revealed this salvation to us. Be content to receive all freely from God, as you receive the light of the sun, and the very air you breathe. Remember, that the more unworthy you feel yourselves to be, the more will his grace be exalted and magnified. There is a righteousness already wrought out for you, and ready to be imparted to you. It is appointed to be received simply and solely by faith. It is "the hope laid up for you in Heaven," and you are to "wait for" it, in the exercise of earnest and continual prayer. O! beg of the Holy Spirit to reveal it fully to your souls, and to overcome all your doubts and all your fears; and so to work faith in your hearts, that you may be filled with peace and joy in this world, and attain, in a better world, "the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."

MMCLXXX

The Office and Operation of Faith

Galatians 5:6. In Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works by love.

THE peculiar character of the Gospel is, that it shows how a sinner may be justified before God; yet the generality of Christians are far from entertaining just views of this most fundamental point: they confound the different offices of faith and works. But Paul distinguishes them with much accuracy and precision; he invariably declares that our justification is by faith; yet, though he denies to works the office of justifying, he invariably insists on them as the fruits and evidences of our faith. Nothing can be more decisive than the declaration before us.

We shall,

I. Explain it.

Man is prone to trust in outward rites and ceremonies.

The Jews confided in the ordinance of circumcision: the Judaizing teachers also among the Christians inculcated the observance of that rite as a ground of hope: among ourselves also, many think it sufficient that they have been baptized, or expect to find admission into Heaven because they have attended regularly at the Lord's table.

But no outward observances can avail for our salvation.

An external conformity with the rule of duty may proceed from the basest principles: it may spring from a desire to obtain man's applause, or to establish a righteousness of our own; and it may consist with the indulgence of evil tempers and vicious appetites. It cannot therefore of itself characterize the true Christian, nor can it "avail anything" towards procuring the Divine favor. If indeed it proceed from faith and love, it will be rewarded; but if it be made the ground of our hope, it will prevent, rather than procure, our acceptance with God.

That which alone can avail for our acceptance with God, is "faith."

All the promises of God are made to faith. It is by faith that all the saints of old obtained salvation. Paul and James do not really differ respecting this, nor do any passages of Scripture really contradict it. If salvation be of grace, it must be by faith.

Yet this faith must be productive of good works.

It is not a mere notional assent to certain doctrines, nor is it a confident assurance respecting the safety of our own state; but it is a living operative principle in the heart: it is, on our part, the bond of union between Christ and our souls, and it cannot but discover itself by "works of love.—If it produce not holy tempers, and an sincere regard for the bodies and souls of men, it is no better than the faith of devils.

The declaration in the text being explained, we shall,

I. Improve it.

Every part of Scripture, rightly understood, is profitable for the directing both of our faith and practice.

We will improve this before us,

1. "For doctrine," that is, for the establishing of true doctrine.

The way of salvation is simply by faith in Christ: and every kind of work, ceremonial or moral, must be considered as of no avail with respect to justification before God. However necessary, however valuable, our obedience may be if performed aright, it ceases to be valuable the moment we depend upon it. This is clearly stated in the text and context; and Paul himself was practically persuaded of this doctrine. Let us then renounce all confidence in our own works, and rely wholly on the blood and righteousness of Christ.

2. "For reproof," that is, for the refuting of false doctrines.

Some have argued from the text, that faith saves us as an operative principle. Thus they affirm that we are justified by something within ourselves. But faith, as a principle, is not of more value than love; and if we were justified by it as an operative principle, we should have room to boast, just as much as we should if we were justified by love or any other principle. The reason of our being justified by faith is, that faith unites us unto Christ, which is a property not common to any other grace. Our works do not make our faith to be good or saving, but only prove it to be so. If our faith be genuine, we shall discover it to God by a simple dependence upon Christ, and to man by the practice of good works.

3. "For correction" of unrighteous conduct.

It must be confessed that many profess faith in Christ while their lives are unworthy of the Gospel: but such persons stand condemned even by their own profession. No faith is of any avail, but such as "works by love." Let professors then weigh themselves in the balance of the sanctuary; let them examine their tempers, dispositions, and actions; let them acknowledge that a proud, envious, passionate, unforgiving, covetous, or selfish Christian, is as much a contradiction in terms, as an adulterous or murderous Christian; let them put away either their profession or their sins.

4. "For instruction in righteousness."

To point out all the offices of love would be tedious. Let us contemplate it as set forth by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 13.—and, not content with any measure that we have attained, let us abound in it more and more.

 

MMCLXXXI

Offence of the Cross

Galatians 5:11. Then is the offence of the cross ceased.

THE Gospel, in the first ages, was an object of hatred and persecution both among Jews and Gentiles: to the Jews it was a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness," and it was the one constant labor of them both to corrupt it; the one by their traditions; the other by that which was falsely called philosophy. Hence, while those opposite parties felt the utmost contempt for each other, they united their efforts against Christianity; as Herod and Pontius Pilate had done for the destruction of its Founder.

In the passage before us, Paul is guarding his converts against the attempts of the Judaizing teachers; who sought to bring back their brethren to a dependence on the law, and who labored even to subject the Gentile converts also to an observance of the Mosaic ritual. Circumcision, in particular, was that which these teachers insisted on as ordained of God and as of perpetual obligation. Paul tells the Galatians, that the whole of the Mosaic ritual was abrogated; and that they must never suffer any one to bring them into subjection to it. If he would have consented that the Jews should blend the Law with the Gospel, they would have been well pleased with him and with his doctrines too: "If," says he, "I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? for then is the offence of the cross ceased."

From these words I will endeavor to show,

1. Whence it is that the doctrine of the cross gives offence.

The doctrine of the cross is simply that declaration, that Christ died upon the cross for our redemption, and that through his obedience unto death we must obtain favor with God.

Now this doctrine uniformly gives offence to those who hear it, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. For it is,

1. An humiliating doctrine.

It brings down all men upon a level; so far, at least, that they must renounce all dependence on themselves, and seek for salvation solely through the righteousness of another. It leaves no room for any man to boast, or to glory in anything that he possesses. The best, as well as the worst, must owe their salvation simply and entirely to Christ, from first to last.

2. An unaccommodating doctrine.

It will not bend to men's prejudices or passions: nor must its advocates "give way to any one, no, not for an hour." Moral works, as well as ceremonial, must be excluded utterly from the office of justifying the soul; and the whole glory must be given to Christ alone.

3. A peremptory doctrine.

It appeals not to our reason, but demands assent to its dictates. It requires the most perfect submission to all that it inculcates; and threatens with eternal damnation every one who withholds his assent from its truths, or his obedience to its commands. Its plain declaration is, "He who believes, and is baptized, shall be saved; and he who believes not shall be damned."

On these grounds, I say, it is hated. It is esteemed licentious, bigoted, severe: licentious, as denying any merit to works, and therefore cutting off all motives for the performance of them; bigoted, as admitting of no relaxation, but binding all persons to receive it simply as it is; and severe, as denouncing such heavy judgments on all who cannot bring their minds to embrace it.

The Apostle clearly supposes that this character is essential to the Gospel; and that it will, to the remotest ages, give the same offence. We inquire therefore,

II. Why it can never cease to do so.

Two reasons may be assigned;

1. The Gospel must ever remain the same.

No alteration has ever taken place in it, or ever can take place. It is a revelation of the way which God has devised for the salvation of fallen man. He gave up his only-begotten Son to die for us, and by his own blood to make an atonement for our sins. The Lord Jesus Christ has executed this great work, and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. "That cross we preach," as the one only means of reconciling man to God: and all the servants of God have but this one testimony to bear; namely, that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." We have nothing to announce about the merits of man: we are not authorized to make any distinction between one man and another: we are to bear the same testimony to all, whether Jews or Greeks, bond or free: and without hesitation must we declare to all, that "no other foundation of hope for sinful man can ever be laid, than that which God has laid, which is Jesus Christ;" and that "there is no other name given under Heaven whereby any man can be saved."

Now, if this could admit of any change, or any modification, we might hope to please men: but we are shut up to this: we can preach nothing else; and they must hear nothing else: and if they will not receive this, there is no alternative left them: perish they must, and under an accumulated condemnation too: for they will be judged, not only as transgressors of the law, but as despisers of the Gospel also; and, consequently, will have a far sorer punishment to bear, than if they had never heard of the salvation provided for them.

2. Human nature ever remains the same.

Men are born into the world with all the same propensities as they were in the apostolic age. Man has, by nature, the same pride of heart, that rises against the humiliating doctrines before specified. Every one wishes to have within himself some ground of glorying. To be stripped naked, as it were, without so much as one "rag of righteousness," as the Scripture expresses it, to cover him, is more than he can endure. To be nothing, that Christ may be all, is a hard lesson.

Again: the heart of man is as worldly as ever: it affects not the things that are above, but the things only of time and sense. But the same Gospel which requires such self-renunciation in its principles, requires no less self-denial in its practice. We must "live not in any degree to ourselves," but wholly and unchangeably "unto Him who died for us, and rose again." To this our carnal hearts will not submit: and until the heart be changed by grace, it will ever quarrel with these appointments, as unreasonably precise. In no point of view whatever is the Gospel palatable to the carnal mind: let a new heart be given to a man, and all will be well: but, while the heart of man continues what it is, "the offence of the cross can never cease."

Address.

1. Let none reject the Gospel on account of the offence attaching to it.

Many conceive the doctrine of the cross must be erroneous, because it is everywhere spoken against. But, if this is any argument against the doctrine now, it was so equally in the apostolic age; for the enmity of mankind against it was most inveterate and universal. I will certainly grant, that the existence of enmity against any doctrine will not of itself prove that doctrine to be true; for then the most pernicious tenets of the wildest enthusiasts would have a claim to our belief. But this is certain, that any Gospel which gives no offence, must be false. There are multitudes who hear what they call the Gospel, and are extremely well pleased with it: the worldly approve it: the self-righteous approve it: even the most profligate find no fault with it. Can that, I ask, be the Gospel which Paul preached? It is impossible. I know, indeed, that there is a way of preaching even truth itself without offence: but the truth, the whole truth delivered with authority as the truth of God must give offence. Men have no alternative left them, but to be offended with the preacher, or with themselves. And the very offence which they take is so far from being an argument against the doctrines they have heard, that it is a presumptive argument in their favor. If, then, you hear the doctrine of the cross firmly stated, and find that it gives offence, take it and compare it with the doctrine which Paul delivered: and, if you find that it accords with his, then embrace it, and hold it fast, and glory in it; saying, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world,"

2. Let none cause others to reject it, by giving any needless offence.

Many who have embraced the Gospel are sadly inattentive to the feelings and prejudices of those around them. They will run into many absurdities, without ever considering what stumbling-blocks they lay in the way of their unconverted brethren. Some give great offence by the crude and partial statements which they make of the Gospel; and others, by the harsh, uncharitable, and contemptuous way in which they speak of those who do not accord with their views. It is a great misfortune to the world to have such persons connected with them; because they are almost of necessity led to impute to the Gospel itself the indiscretions and absurdities of those who profess it. Let these incautious professors consider what evil they do, and what guilt they contract: for if there is a "woe to the world because of offences, there is a double woe to those by whom the offence comes." As for those who cause "the way of truth to be evil spoken of" by their inconsistent conduct, by their neglect of their own proper calling; for instance, by a want of truth in their words, or integrity in their dealings; "let them look to it;" for evil is before them: and the very Gospel which they so dishonor will plunge them into tenfold perdition. Let all who profess the Gospel see to it, "that they give no needless offence in anything." Let them rather be far more observant of the whole of their duty, that they may "give no occasion to the enemy to speak reproachfully," and let it be their one continued care to "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things."

MMCLXXXII

Walking in the Spirit, A Preservative from Sin

Galatians 5:16. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

IN the Church of God, no less than in the ungodly world, there have always been found persons ready to foment divisions, and to kindle animosities between man and man. It was so in the apostolic age: it is so at this day: and it must of necessity be so, as long as tares are left growing among the wheat, or persons professing godliness suffer themselves to be led captive by a proud, unmortified, and contentious spirit. In the Galatian Church, persons of this description abounded: and to such a height did their contentions arise, that the Apostle was constrained to give them this solemn warning: "If you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another."

Now, how shall this propensity be counteracted? The Apostle tells us, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh." Let us consider then,

I. The direction here given.

Before we can enter fully into the passage before us, we must explain the terms which the Apostle uses to convey his sentiments. The whole context shows that there are two principles in the regenerate man; one which is called flesh, and another which is called spirit: the one comprehending all which we bring into the world with us, and which is common to the natural man; the other importing that better principle which is infused into the soul by the Spirit of God, when he quickens us to a new and heavenly life: as our Lord says, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Sin of every kind is the fruit of the former; and holiness of every kind is the offspring of the latter. Among "the works of the flesh," the Apostle numbers "idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies," which shows, that we are not, when speaking of "the lusts or desires of the flesh," to confine our views to sins which are acted in and by the body; but to take in all the corruptions of our nature, in mind as well as body. With this explanation, we shall the more easily see, that, to "walk in the Spirit," we must walk,

1. In a constant attention to the new principle infused into us.

I cannot give a more just idea of this new principle, which the Spirit of God imparts to us in our conversion, than by comparing it with the modern invention of the compass. Before the invention of the compass, mariners, in a dark night, were unable with any precision to direct their course. While they were in sight of land, or had a view of the sun or stars, they could proceed with some degree of certainty: but, in the absence of these, they were altogether at a loss. But it is not so with mariners at this time. By the help of the compass they can by night steer the ship, as well as in the day; having constantly at hand, as it were, a sure directory. Now this is the difference between the natural and the spiritual man: the natural man has reason and conscience, which, to a certain degree, are capable of directing his path. But numberless occasions arise whereon they fail him utterly. The spiritual man has, superadded to these, a new and living principle abiding in him; a principle infused into him by the Spirit of God, and in exact accordance with his mind and will: and by this principle the Spirit himself guides him in all his way. The spiritual man, therefore, in every doubt or difficulty, should consult this divine principle within him; and see its bearings, and follow its directions. And as the mariner, while he observes his compass, consults also his chart and maps; so must we, while attending to the motions of this principle, consult also the directory which God has given us in the Holy Scriptures: and by means of these observations we shall be kept from any great aberrations from the way of truth. This process, however, must be continued throughout all our way: we must not only live in the Spirit, but must "walk in the Spirit," every step we take.

2. In a humble dependence on that Divine Spirit who has infused it.

The new principle within us may suggest what is right; but it cannot enable us for the performance of it: for all power to do the will of God, we must be indebted altogether to the Spirit of God. Our blessed Lord expressly says, "Without me you can do nothing." There is no surer cause of failure than self-confidence and self-dependence. Peter, and with him all the other Disciples, declared that they would follow their Lord even unto death: but no sooner did the trial come, than "they all forsook him and fled." And we, too, if we make resolutions in our own strength, shall learn, by bitter experience, that "he who trusts in his own heart, is a fool." We must be careful, too, not to make any difference between matters of greater or lesser difficulty, as though we were competent for the one any more than the other. We must, in the whole course of our journey, depend on God alone: we are never, for a moment, to feel strong in ourselves, but "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," and in every step that we take, we must cry, "Hold you me up, and I shall be safe."

To this direction the Apostle adds,

II. Our encouragement to the observance of it.

We have before shown, that by the "lusts of the flesh" we are to understand all the motions of our corrupt nature: and from these we shall be preserved, if we follow the direction given us in our text. But here we must carefully distinguish between what is promised, and what is not.

1. It is not promised that we shall not be tempted by the lusts of the flesh.

The carnal principle still remains with us after we are renewed; as the Apostle says, "The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit, against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that you cannot do the things you would." If, on the one hand, our spiritual principle keeps us from following the evil bias of our nature; so, on the other hand, the remainder of the carnal principle within us keeps us from following so fully as we could wish the dictates of our renewed mind. The Apostle Paul himself complained, that "when he would do good, evil was present with him;" and that, notwithstanding he delighted in the law of God after his inward man, "he had still a law in his members, warring against the law of his mind, and at times bringing him, in some degree, into captivity to the law of sin which was in his members." And we, too, shall find the same, even to our dying hour. But,

2. It is promised that we shall not fulfill them.

God will "strengthen us by his Spirit in our inward man," and enable us to "crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts." Weak as we are in ourselves, "nothing shall be impossible to us," if we trust in Him: he will "give us more grace," and "strength according to our day." Whatever be our temptations, "the grace of Christ shall be sufficient for us;" and "we shall be enabled to do all things through Christ, who strengthens us."

From this subject we may clearly learn,

1. What is the great work we have to do.

The one employment which we have daily to attend to, is, to be putting off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and to be "putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." We are here as in a great hospital, where the process of healing is going forward, and many are convalescent; but we need still to apply the same remedies; and we are none of us possessed of that measure of health which we hope to attain previous to our dismissal. We follow still the prescriptions of our physician; and we hope, in so doing, to obtain, in due season, a perfect recovery.

2. The need we have of constant vigilance and exertion.

The old principle, as has been observed, still remains within us: and, if we be not constantly on our guard, it will regain its former ascendency over us. A stronger army, if the sentinels fall asleep, may be surprised and vanquished by troops that are far inferior: and we too, notwithstanding the power given us by the indwelling Spirit, shall surely be overcome, if we be not constantly on our watch-tower. We must be prepared to meet our adversary at his first approach. Our blessed Lord says, "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation," and the sad consequences of sleeping on our post may be seen in the Disciples, when they failed to observe this important admonition. Corruption will often put on the appearance of virtue, and Satan assume the garb of an angel of light: but if we be on our guard, we shall detect his devices; and "if we resist him manfully, he will flee from us."

3. The security that is afforded us, if we be only faithful to ourselves.

God assures us of success, if only we follow his directions. "If we sow to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption: but if we sow to the Spirit, we shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." In two respects shall we be placed on a totally different footing from that on which we stood before: we shall not be judged according to the perfect law, which condemns us for the smallest act of disobedience; for, "if we walk in the Spirit, we are not under the law," on the contrary, our imperfect obedience shall be eternally rewarded: for God would deem himself "unrighteous, if he were to forget" anything that we do for his sake. With boldness, then, I say to every one among you, "Be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, and you may rest assured that your labor shall not be in vain in the Lord."

 

MMCLXXXIII

The Principles of Flesh and Spirit Considered

Galatians 5:17. The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would.

IT might be naturally imagined, that, from the moment of our conversion to God, the transformation of the soul into the Divine image should proceed so rapidly, as soon to extirpate sin altogether. But God has not seen fit so to carry on his work in his people's hearts. The Canaanites were not rooted out of the land at once, but "by little and little," and so it is with our spiritual enemies: they have strong-holds, from which they cannot be expelled, but by means of a long-protracted warfare. They remain, to be "thorns in our eyes and in our sides;" and ultimately in a more conspicuous manner to subserve the glory of God in their final extirpation. The best of men have yet within them two contrary and contending principles; the one being used by Satan as an instrument for the defeating of God's gracious purposes towards them; the other being employed by God for the furthering and securing of their eternal welfare. To what an extent the conflict between the two is sometimes carried, may be seen in the Galatian converts, many of whom betrayed by their contentious dispositions how great an ascendant the evil principle yet retained over them, notwithstanding all the professions of piety which they made, and the distinguished advantages they enjoyed. The Apostle did not mean to extenuate, and much less to excuse, the sinfulness of their unstable and contentious conduct; but he exhorts them to walk more entirely under the influence of the Holy Spirit, as the only means of securing them against the evil propensities which they had manifested, and of carrying on unto perfection the good work that had been begun in them.

In speaking of the two principles mentioned in our text, we shall notice,

I. Their united existence.

There yet remains in God's people an evil principle, which is here designated by the name of "flesh."

Man, since the fall of our first parents, is born into the world a corrupt creature: for "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" He is depraved in all the members of his body, and in all the faculties of his soul: there is no part which is not defiled and debased by sin; the understanding is become dark; the will perverse; the affections sensual; the conscience seared; the memory retentive only of things that are gratifying to the carnal mind. However this depravity may be checked by grace, it is not extirpated: it remains like the infection in the leprous house, and will remain until the house itself is leveled with the ground.

But there is also in them a new heaven-born principle, which is called "spirit."

This is spoken of by our blessed Lord as contradistinguished from the other, and in precisely the same terms: "That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit." Under the term "flesh," he includes all that we bring into the world with us, and all that characterizes us as men: but the "spirit" is that which makes and designates us new men, or "new creatures in Christ Jesus." Indeed, it is called "the new man," as the other is "the old man;" and is "a renewal in the spirit of our mind," after the "very image of our God, in righteousness and true holiness." This new principle is infused into the soul at the time of our regeneration; and it is, if I may so speak, the seminal principle of our conversion. At the instant of its infusion into the soul, we are "quickened from the dead," and "pass from death unto life." Previously to the communication of it to us from above, we are like the dry bones in Ezekiel's vision: we may have the form of men, but we are not living men: it is not until we have received that, that "Christ lives in us;" but then "Christ himself becomes our life." Now this principle co-exists with the former: it does not at once expel the former; nor is itself barred out by the former: but it enters into, and occupies, the whole man, even as the former did; and, according to the measure in which it is imparted, it communicates light to the understanding, submission to the will, heavenliness to the affections, tenderness to the conscience, and to the memory a tenacious apprehension of all that is good. From the time of its existence in the soul, it becomes a second self, a spiritual self as distinguished from the carnal self; agreeably to what the Apostle has repeatedly said for the purpose of distinguishing the more fully the actings of the two contrary principles: "It is no more I that do this evil, but sin that dwells in me."

Both these principles being strong and active in the soul, we will consider,

II. Their contrary operations.

The flesh is always striving to regain its former ascendency over us.

The members of our bodies are but its agents and instruments: the chief seat of its residence is the soul; in every faculty of which it works, to "bring forth fruit unto death." In the understanding, it suggests proud reasonings against the revealed will of God, prompting us to dispute the authority of his precepts, the truth of his promises, the justice of his threatenings, and the wisdom of that mysterious plan of redemption which he has devised for the recovery of fallen man. In the will, it stirs up rebellion against him, and a determination to follow "its own corrupt and deceitful lusts." In the affections, it magnifies the things of time and sense, so as to make them, if not the only, at least the chief, objects of its pursuit. In the conscience, it produces such blindness and partiality, as to force from it a sentence of condemnation or acquittal, not according to truth, but according to its own predominant habits and inclinations. Nor does the memory escape its baneful influence, being filled by it with all manner of corrupt images, which from time to time it presents to the imagination, as the means of corrupting the heart, and enslaving the soul.

The better principle, on the other hand, protests against all the workings of the flesh, and presents to the mind such considerations as are calculated to awaken the tempted soul to a sense of its guilt and danger. Especially it reminds the soul of the obligations it owes to God the Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ for all the wonders of redeeming love; and provokes it to high and heavenly pursuits. What is said of the Holy Spirit may also be said of this divine principle which is formed in the soul; namely, that "when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit lifts up a standard against him." The standard of the cross especially is that by which it calls forth into activity all the powers of the soul, and unites them in the service of their God. The reflux of a tide may not unfitly illustrate its operation on the soul. The flesh, like a majestic river, runs with irresistible impetuosity towards the ocean, until the tide begins to flow; and then, from an invisible but mighty influence, its waves are stayed, until by degrees its current is turned back again towards the source from whence it emanated. This in the material world is but the process of a few hours; but in the spiritual world it is the work of the whole life. The dominance of the flesh is exhibited in the progress of the river to the ocean; the conflicts and triumphs of the spirit are depicted in the reversal of its course, and the progress towards the fountain-head.

In this however the illustration fails, that when the tide has once overcome the resistance of the river, the conflict ceases: but it is not so with the Christian's conflicts: they continue to the end; and may perhaps be better compared with a conflagration which is opposed by engines, where the supply of water is scarcely equal to the demand: sometimes the fire yields to the well-directed stream; and at other times it breaks forth with renewed fury, and seems to defy the efforts of those who would arrest its progress. This, I say, will place in the most just view the operations of the two principles within us, and enable us to comprehend,

III. Their combined effects.

Acting always in opposition the one to the other, they prevent us from following either to the extent that we should, if there were but one principle within us. Through the simultaneous actings of each,

1. We do not serve sin as we did.

We did follow it with constancy and alacrity, and without remorse. But not so now. The better principle will not admit of it. Like the angel that was sent to Balaam, it presents itself in our way to obstruct our course; and, if we overcome it on one occasion, it will meet us again, and renew its opposition until it has prevailed. Nor can we now so easily run into evil. Sin now appears to he sin, and consequently to be an object of aversion and dread: and, though its solicitations may prevail, we yield to them rather as a captive that is dragged against his will, than as persons following the bent and inclination of their own hearts. Now too we can no longer wipe our mouth, like the adulteress, and say, What evil have I done? Remorse and shame are now the followers of transgression: and an evil thought now occasions more pain in the soul, than formerly the perpetration of the act. Thus the corrupt principle, though not extirpated, is obstructed, and ceases to maintain an undisputed sway.

2. Nor do we serve God as we would.

The renewed soul pants after universal holiness: it would be pure as God is pure, and perfect as God is perfect. It would believe every word of God without the smallest hesitation or doubt: but unbelief creeps in, and weakens the energy of our faith. We would love God with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength; but the contracted soul cannot expand itself to the occasion. We would draw near to him in prayer and praise, and hold most intimate fellowship with the Father and the Son; but the heart "starts aside as a deceitful bow," and, like a bird entangled in a snare, is incapable of executing its most ardent desires. In a word, the renewed soul would be satisfied with no exertions, however great; no services, however eminent; no enjoyment of God, however intimate: it aspires after absolute perfection, and a total transformation into the Divine image. But, alas! its attainments fall infinitely short of its desires, and it is constrained to cry, "O that I had wings like a dove! then would I flee away and be at rest!"

That this is no false representation of the Christian's state, may be seen from the account which Paul himself gives of his own experience. Of the united existence of these two principles, and of their contrary operations within him, and of their combined effects, he speaks at large in the seventh chapter to the Romans: "He had a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin, which was in his members," "When he would do good, evil was present with him;" so that "the good which he would, he did not, and the evil which he would not, that he did." "To will indeed was present with him; but how to perform that which was good, he found not." Hence, feeling himself like a poor captive chained to a putrid corpse, which he was compelled to drag about with him to the latest period of his existence, he brake forth into this mournful complaint, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

From this subject we may draw many important lessons.—It is of use,

1. For instruction.

How shall I know whether I am a Christian indeed? Shall I know it by a freedom from all anxieties, or by a deliverance from all sin? No; but by an earnest anxiety about the soul, and an incessant conflict with sin and Satan. A body, when dead, is insensible, whatever be the state to which it is reduced: and, if the soul be insensible of its state, it is a proof that it is dead also. A living soul trembles at the Divine judgments; labors to obtain a well-founded hope of peace with God; flees to the Lord Jesus Christ for refuge, and cleaves to him with full purpose of heart. Being united unto Christ by faith, the believer enlists under his banners, and, as a good soldier, heartily engages in a conflict with all his enemies. Never for a moment will he turn his back; he may be wounded, but he will not yield; he may be beaten down, but he will rise again to renew the combat: he will never put off his armor, until he is crowned with victory, and beholds "Satan himself bruised under his feet."

Now, if we will ascertain our real state before God, let us inquire, what we know of this spiritual warfare? Is it begun? Is it carried on vet daily? Are we like soldiers in a camp, watching with all care, withstanding firmly the assaults of our enemies, and in our turn vigorously pursuing them to their strong-holds, and suffering none to approach us with impunity? Yes, truly, if we are Christians indeed, we are "warring a good warfare," and "fighting the good fight of faith." There may be, as in earthly campaigns, short seasons of comparative ease: but if we truly belong to Christ, this is our one business, our one employment, to walk in the Spirit, and to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts.

2. For consolation.

No man can be engaged in this warfare without feeling deeply humbled on account of the strength and number of his corruptions. Many will be his sighs, his tears, his groans: yes, "even they who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even they will groan within themselves," will "groan, I say, being burdened," longing to get rid of their corruptions, and to have "mortality, with all its attendant evils, swallowed up of life." But, if sin be our burden, it is at least a comfort to us to reflect, that we are enabled to feel it a burden: for there was a time, when it was harbored and indulged without remorse. This too is a source of comfort, that, in this struggle within us, the younger shall prevail; "however sin may have abounded, grace shall much more abound; and as sin has formerly reigned unto death, so shall grace ultimately reign, through righteousness, unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Doubtless the conflicts will be painful to flesh and blood: but by them shall the soul be trained for Heaven, and be made "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." Go on then, stripling as you are, believer, against the Goliath that menaces your existence: and know that you may enter into the combat, singing, "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"

3. For direction.

Whatever your attainments be, "walk humbly with God." Were you as perfect as Job, it would still become you, on account of your remaining corruptions, to acknowledge yourselves "vile," and to "repent and abhor yourselves in dust and ashes."—Be watchful too against your spiritual enemies. With hearts so deceitful and corrupt as yours, and in the midst of an ensnaring world, surrounded too by myriads of evil spirits, whose devices none but God can understand, how can you hope to maintain your steadfastness, if you stand not upon your watch-tower, and guard against every motion of your corrupt nature?—And never for a moment turn away your eyes from the Lord Jesus Christ. Where can you wash away your past iniquities, but in the fountain of his blood? Or where can you obtain grace sufficient for your daily necessities, but out of the fullness which is treasured up for you in him?—Lastly, continue instant in prayer. Nothing can come to you but in answer to prayer; (for "if you ask not, neither will you have;") nor shall anything be wanting to you, if only you ask it of God for Christ's sake. Examine your own hearts, or inquire of others what their experience has been, and you will find it invariably true, that your victories or defeats have been proportioned to your urgency in prayer, or your remissness in that holy duty. As in the days of old, while Moses held up his hands, Israel prevailed; but when his hands hanged down, success was transferred to Amalek; so it is in every age, with every saint. Watch therefore unto prayer; continue instant in prayer: "give unto your God no rest day or night," plead with him: wrestle with him as Jacob did: and you shall find "your inward man renewed day by day," until the work of grace that has been begun in you is perfected, and consummated in glory.

 

MMCLXXXIV

The Christian Freed from the Law

Galatians 5:18. If you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law.

TO understand these words aright, we must notice, first the general scope of the whole epistle, and then, the particular scope of the more immediate context. The epistle itself was written to establish the doctrine of justification by faith alone, without the deeds of the law; in opposition to the Judaizing teachers, who insisted on the necessity of observing the Jewish ritual, in order to form a justifying righteousness, or, at all events, to increase and confirm their interest in Christ. In support of his argument, the Apostle shows, that though the Law was, as a preparatory dispensation, subservient to the Gospel, it was, as a ground of hope before God, directly opposed to the Gospel; so that they could not consist together, either in whole or in part; and any attempt to blend the Law with the Gospel would invalidate the Gospel altogether, and render "Christ himself of no effect." But, as this controversy had been carried on with great vehemence, and had produced a very grievous irritation in the minds of the contending parties, Paul, after establishing the truth on a basis that could not be shaken, and enjoining his converts to "stand fast in the liberty with which Christ had made them free, and on no account to suffer themselves to be entangled any more with the yoke of bondage," goes on to say, "Brethren, you have been called unto liberty: only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another: for all the law is fulfilled in one word, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But, if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another. This I say, then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that you cannot do the things that you would; but, if you be led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." This, you perceive, is the immediate context, wherein the Apostle cautions the Galatians against either abusing their liberty, or maintaining it with an unchristian spirit; since, if they acted as became their holy profession, they would exercise nothing but love, either towards their friends or their enemies. And this he trusted they would do; because they had within themselves a spiritual principle, which, though strongly and perseveringly opposed by the carnal principle yet remaining in them, would ultimately prevail: and the effectual operation of that better principle would be sufficient of itself to prove that they were not under the law; since the law could never accomplish so blessed a work; whereas the very design of the Gospel, and its invariable effect, was to produce it. The dominance of the better principle was a proof that they were "not under the law, but under grace."

This I apprehend to be the precise import of the passage before us: wherein we see a state presumed; namely, that the true Christian is "led by the Spirit," and a privilege inseparably connected with that state; namely, that the person so living is not under the law.

To these points I will now address myself, in their order.

Let us first notice,

I. The state presumed.

It is here taken for granted, that every child of God "is led by the Spirit." But, whether we are to understand this expression as referring to the Holy Spirit, or to that spiritual principle which is infused into us by the Spirit of God, it is not easy to determine. I rather prefer the latter sense, as more immediately suggested by the context: and it is certain that our Lord speaks of that divine principle under the very term which is here used; "That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit." By being "led by the Spirit," then, I understand the being under the influence of a spiritual principle, in opposition to that carnal principle which directs and governs the natural man. And this really characterizes every true Christian. Not only does he possess a new and spiritual nature; but in him,

1. It gains the ascendant.

We acknowledge, that in him the old man still remains; and that the law of sin still works in his members, to bring forth fruit unto death. But there is in him a new man, a law in his mind, which counteracts his evil propensities, and enables him finally to overcome them. True, indeed, the conflict is often severe; and the saint will at all times be constrained to say, "The good which I would, I do not; and the evil which I would not, that I do." Still, however, through grace he gains the victory over his corruptions, and is daily renewed in the spirit of his mind after the Divine image. Though tempted by the world, the flesh, and the devil, "he triumphs over them all in Christ Jesus;" and with his groans for more entire deliverance mingles this song of praise, "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"

2. It forms his taste.

Outward victory may be gained to a great extent, while yet the heart remains unchanged. But where this new principle really exists, the man will hate the things which once he loved, and love the things which once he hated. Though he may still be tempted in a variety of ways, he will feel, in a measure, as our Lord himself did under the temptations of Satan. There will be less of the inflammable matter in his soul for the fiery darts of Satan to fix upon; and a greater plenty of water at hand, even of the Spirit of God, to counteract the first action of the fire upon his soul. There will also be a greater delight in heavenly things; so that he will engage in them with greater ease, and find himself more in his element, when employed in holy exercises. We may conceive what would be the taste of an angel, if sent down to sojourn for a time on earth; with what indifference he would behold the things of time and sense; and with what a zest he would perform the will of God: and thus the true Christian, though far, alas! from anything like angelic attainments, will lose his relish for the things which he once affected, and will savor those things only which are suited to the spiritual mind. And this will serve him as a criterion whereby to judge of his state before God. He may for a time be driven, by the force of temptation, from that which his soul supremely affects, even as the needle may be forced from its usual rest: but let the opportunity once return for the discovery of his real feelings, and he will turn to his God, even as the needle to the pole: and by that he will show whose attractions he delights in, and whose motions he obeys.

3. It regulates his life.

The aberrations of the more advanced Christian will be comparatively small and transient. Though in the world, he will not be of the world. Whether he move among the higher classes, or in. the humblest walk of life, there will be a consistency about him: he will be "the man of God" in all places, and in. all situations: "he will shine as a light in a dark world;" and "his light will shine more and more unto the perfect day." The spiritual principle within him is compared by our Lord to a fountain of water; which pours not out its streams like an engine wrought upon from without; but sends them forth by a power from within, and "springs up, as it were, unto everlasting life." Behold him day or night, and he is still the same; a blessing to the world, an ornament to his profession, an honor to his God.

Let not any one suppose that this is an imaginary character, drawn only to serve a purpose: it is a real character; and, though doubtless it exists in different degrees, it really distinguishes every child of God: and In my text we see,

II. The privilege inseparably connected with it.

He is not under the law.

He has nothing to fear from its curses; because the Savior, in whom he has believed, and from whom he has received the gift of the Holy Spirit, has borne them for him. He has no dependence on its promises; seeing that he has a better righteousness than that can ever afford to fallen man; even the righteousness of Christ himself imputed to him, and made his by faith. Not even its commands have the same terrific influence on his mind which they had in his unconverted state. For though he still feels bound to obey them, he does not obey them with the same slavish fear which once oppressed his mind: they are no longer to him the terms of salvation, on a perfect compliance with which his everlasting happiness depends: they are to him rather the expressions of his Father's will, which it is the joy of his soul to fulfill and execute. His real state in relation to the law, is like that of a woman to her deceased husband. He was once altogether under its authority, while in his unconverted state; but when he embraced the Gospel, the Law became dead with respect to him, and he dead with respect to it: and, though he still makes it the rule of his life, he obeys it through grace communicated to him by the Lord Jesus; to whom, as a woman on her second marriage, he now bears fruit unto holiness.

Of his liberation. from the law he has within himself a clear and decisive evidence.

This I conceive to be the true meaning of my text. He is under the prevailing influence of the Holy Spirit, and of a new nature implanted by him: but "whence did he receive the Holy Spirit? Was it under the law, or by the hearing of faith?" It was by the hearing of faith, no doubt; that is, by the Gospel of Christ, who purchased for his people the gift of the Holy Spirit, and who sends forth his Spirit upon all who believe in him. "What the law could not do for him, in that it was weak through the flesh, the Gospel has done: "it has destroyed the power of sin" within him; and enabled him to "walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Hence he is assured that "there is no condemnation to him," for if "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus have made him free from the law of sin," it has also freed him from "death," which is the consequence of sink. Behold, then, the liberty into which he is introduced: "Being delivered from the power of darkness, he is translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son;" and, "being made free by him, he is become free indeed."

From this subject, I cannot but urge upon you two words of advice:

1. Take care that your principles are pure and evangelical.

It is thought by many, that if our outward conduct be correct, we need not he under any anxiety dissecting the principles which we profess. But, is it of no consequence whether we continue under the law, or whether we embrace the Gospel? Are we not expressly told, that "as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse?" Are we not also told, that "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?" Is it of no importance, then, whether we lie under this curse, or be redeemed from it? Would God have used such means for our redemption, if it had been a matter of indifference whether we were redeemed or not? Take the Apostle Paul in his unconverted state: "he was, as touching the righteousness which was in the law blameless," but yet he found afterwards, that, had he died in his unconverted state, he must have perished forever. So, indeed, must all of you, who cleave to the law as a covenant of works, instead of laying hold of the covenant of grace. Nothing can be more clearly declared than this: Be your advantages or attainments what they may, if you go about to establish your own righteousness, instead of submitting to the righteousness of God, you must perish. The very law itself is intended to "lead you to Christ;" and "He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes." I call you, then, to believe in Christ for salvation, and, like the Apostle, to renounce your own righteousness altogether, that you may be found in Christ, and be accepted through "the righteousness which is by faith in him."

2. Take care that your conduct be such as becomes the Gospel of Christ.

You clearly see, in my text, that principles and conduct must go together: neither will stand without the other. Without faith in Christ, you can never hope to receive the Holy Spirit, or to be renewed in the spirit of your mind: nor, on the other hand, will any change whatever avail you, if you rely not entirely on the Lord Jesus Christ for righteousness and salvation. It is in vain to build a superstructure, if it be not founded on Him; and it is in vain to think you are founded on him, if your faith do not manifest itself by a superstructure of good works. You must never forget, that "faith without works is dead." You must "be led by the Spirit of God, if ever you would approve yourselves sons of God." The world, as I have before shown you, must be put under your feet: sin, in all its actings, must be mortified and subdued: the whole soul must be given up to God; and holiness become the very element in which you breathe and live. Indeed, it is not a mere formal observance of duties that will suffice: we must "have the very mind that was in Christ," and "walk in all things as Christ himself walked." This will be our evidence, that we are really his: for then only can it be known that "we are not under the law, but under grace, when Christ himself lives in us, and no sin whatever is permitted to have dominion over us."

 

MMCLXXXV

The Fruits of the Flesh and of the Spirit Contrasted

Galatians 5:19–24. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery fornication, impurity, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, ravelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

THROUGHOUT this whole epistle we have mention made of two covenants, under the one or other of which all mankind are of necessity comprehended, the covenant of works, and the covenant of grace. Those who are under the covenant of works are under the curse of God as transgressors: but those who are under the covenant of grace, are delivered from that curse through the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has become a curse for them. The transition from the one state to the other is effected solely by faith. But faith is an operation of the mind wholly invisible to men, and but too liable to be mistaken even by ourselves. How then shall it be ascertained either by others or ourselves to which of these covenants we adhere? We are told, that, on the transition from the one to the other, we are endued with a new and vital principle, under the influence of which we from that moment begin to live. The principle which rules in us under the former state, is called "flesh;" and that which animates us under the latter, is called "Spirit." Not that on the transition from the one state to the other, the former principle is taken away: No; it lives, and acts, and withstands with all its might the latter principle, and prevents it from operating so successfully as we could wish: but still it is progressively weakened in its operations: and by the dominance of the better principle we know that we are no longer under the law, nor exposed to the curse which the legal covenant entails on all who are cleaving to it.

Thus we have somewhat of a criterion whereby to judge of our state: but still that criterion is of no farther use than as we have a distinct view of the fruits which the two opposite principles will produce: let these be clearly marked, and then no further difficulty will arise: we have only to examine our works, of what kind they are; and then we shall arrive at a certain conclusion as to our state before God: for, as "a good tree cannot bring forth corrupt fruit, nor a corrupt tree good fruit," we shall know the quality of the tree by the fruit which is produced by it.

This satisfaction then is afforded us by the Apostle in the words before us: in which we see,

I. The works of the flesh.

In enumerating them, the Apostle mentions,

1. Those which stand in more immediate connection with the body.

"Adultery" is an evil against which even heathens in all ages have felt the deepest indignation. "Fornication" was not regarded by them in so heinous a light: would to God the malignity of it were duly appreciated even by the Christian world! But God views these evils with the utmost abhorrence; and not the acts only, but the dispositions from which they spring: "Impurity and lasciviousness," if cherished in the heart, are marked by him with the same displeasure as the acts to which they lead; because the indulging of them, in word, in look, in thought, indisputably proves, that it is not the fear of God that keeps them from breaking out into more open acts, but some other consideration totally distinct from a regard to him: since the fear of God, if operating at all, would operate as much to the suppression of the desire, as to the non-indulgence of the act. Hence the mere looking on a woman to lust after her, is declared, on infallible authority, to be an actual commission of adultery with her in the heart. Now all these acts and dispositions proceed from a corrupt principle within us, even from that principle which is called "flesh," and which is the true source of all the other evils we commit.

2. Those which more properly have their seat in the mind.

Of these, some have a more immediate reference to God, and others are called forth only in our fellowship with men. Of the former kind are "idolatry and witchcraft," which being specified as "works of the flesh," clearly show what we are to understand by "flesh," namely, not merely any corporeal propensity, but that general propensity to evil which operates throughout the whole extent of our fallen nature.

"Idolatry" is a total rejection of God; and "witchcraft" is an application to evil spirits, to impart to us something which we have no hope of obtaining from the true God: and both the one and the other of these is properly a "work of the flesh," inasmuch as it betrays a total alienation of heart from God, and an entire subjection to that "carnal mind," which, as God himself declares, "is enmity against him."

The other evils which are called forth by our fellowship with men, as "hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, ravelings, and such like," form such a picture of our fallen nature as may well humble us in the dust before God. It is unnecessary to enter into a distinct consideration of them: it is in the aggregate only that we can stop to notice them at this time: but what an accumulation of evil do they present to our view! Yet is it no other than what we may see in every community under Heaven. Look at the seditions that agitate states; the divisions and heresies that disturb the Church; the feuds and quarrels that set man against his fellow man, and often terminate even in "murder" itself: whence do they all arise.? Come they not hence, even from the lusts that war in our members? or, in other words, from the corruption of the human heart? There are some evils which pass under the milder name of good fellowship, and conviviality; some which, like the "ravelings" that were common among the heathen, consist of feastings, dancings, and excess of every kind: but, however we may soften them down by specious names, and plead for them as innocent amusements, they are all hateful to God, and destructive to man: insomuch that the man who finds his pleasure in them "can in no wise enter the kingdom of Heaven." Often had the Apostle entered his protest against such carnal indulgences, so unworthy of a rational being, and so unsuited to persons standing on the brink of eternity. Can we conceive, that if man had retained his primeval innocence, he would have found delight in any such things as these? If the ungodly themselves saw pious people seeking their happiness in such things as these, would they see no incongruity between their professions and their occupations? Yes; they would be the first to proclaim the hypocrisy of such professors: which is itself an acknowledgment that the things themselves are adverse to piety, and inconsistent with it.

Know then, that all these and "such like" evils, whether arising from the body, or emanating from the mind, are decidedly to be ranked under "the works of the flesh," "which whoever does shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Unwelcome as this declaration was to the carnal man, Paul hesitated not to make it repeatedly, and in the strongest terms: arid we also, if we will approve ourselves faithful to God and to the office committed to us, must proclaim the same awful truth, and forewarn all, that, if they continue under the power of any of the hateful dispositions before specified, or seek their happiness in the things of time and sense, they will inevitably and eternally exclude themselves from the kingdom of Heaven.

In contrast with these, the Apostle proceeds to enumerate,

II. II. The fruits of the Spirit.

And here he mentions,

1. Those which have their sphere of action chiefly within our own bosoms.

The very mention of them marks at once their nature and their origin—"Love, joy, peace!" Whence come they? Are they the offspring of our corrupt nature? No; nature never bare such fruits as these: these spring from that divine principle, which is imparted to us by the Spirit of God at the time of our regeneration and conversion. Then love springs up in the soul: love to God; love to Christ; love to man for Christ's sake. Then also does a "joy with which the stranger intermeddles not," a "joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ," a joy in the testimony of a good conscience, a joy in the prospect of a glorious immortality, transport the soul: and its ebullitions, which, if continued, would exhaust the strength of our animal frame, subside into a peaceful composure, a sweet serenity of mind, a "peace of God which passes all understanding." These are the never-failing fruits of divine grace in the soul. A variety of circumstances may occur which may impede the exercise of these holy affections; especially the workings of a corrupt nature, still striving to bring us into captivity to sin, may occasionally prevail to damp our joy and interrupt our peace; but according to the measure of the grace given unto us, will be the fruits of that grace abounding in the soul.

2. Those which have a more immediate relation to our fellow-creatures.

Towards them, both the active and passive virtues are called forth by incidents of daily occurrence. "Long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith (or fidelity), meekness" have a constant scope for exercise, as also "temperance" has, both in the desire of earthly things, and in the enjoyment of them. Here again it is not necessary to enter minutely into these different virtues: it is the collective body of them which characterizes the true Christian, and marks, beyond a possibility of doubt, the excellence of the principle from which they spring.

"Against these there is no law." Not one word is there to be found in all the Holy Scriptures that condemns the production of these fruits. Were they condemned, our blessed Lord and Savior must fall under condemnation; since he maintained and exercised these virtues to a degree never equaled by mortal man. It is impossible to yield these fruits too much: the more we abound in them, the more we resemble the Lord Jesus Christ, and the more do we evince a fitness for the heavenly inheritance.

Now comes the point to be determined: namely, What is,

III. The Christian's state in reference to them both.

The description given of Christians must not be overlooked.

There is no periphrasis by which they can be more fitly described, than that given in our text, "They that are Christ's." This is their title universally; and it belongs to them alone. They were from eternity given unto Christ by the Father; as Christ himself says, "Your they were; and you gave them, to me." They have been purchased by Christ himself, as his peculiar possession: and they have given up themselves to him by a willing and deliberate surrender of all that they are and have. By a vital union also are they his, being, as it were, "one spirit with him." Hence in many parts of Scripture are they designated as in the words of our text: "All things are yours; and you are Christ's," and again, "If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's." Blessed distinction! glorious privilege! Believer, think of yourself under this character, and then sec what obligations you owe to God for this unspeakable mercy, and "what manner of person you should be in all holy conversation and godliness,"

Their state is suited to this high character.

"They have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Crucifixion, it must be remembered, is a lingering death. The thieves who were crucified with Christ poured forth their venom against him, even while they were suspended on the cross. Thus also, "the old man in believers is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin may be destroyed, that henceforth they should not serve sin," nevertheless it is not utterly extinct: it still lives; and still rages and rebels against Christ; and would, if suffered to come down from the cross, regain its former ascendency. But there it is fixed: and thence it never shall come down, until the body itself shall cease to live. All its affections and all its desires, though still possessed of considerable strength, are checked in their operation, and restrained in their exercise; "the Spirit" now reigns: the new affections now put forth a vigor, which "the flesh" can no longer withstand. The warfare is indeed continued: but victory declares itself on the side of the better principle; so that, whereas the believer formerly "walked after the flesh," he now in his daily life and conversation "walks after the Spirit," and progressively advances in his heavenly course as long as he continues in the world. "His path is like the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day."

See then from hence,

1. How blessed is the influence of the Gospel!

By the Gospel this change is wrought. And, to form an estimate of the change, paint to yourselves the countenances of the Jews when they met on the day of Pentecost with their hands yet reeking with their Savior's blood; and the same persons on the evening of that day, when they were "eating their bread with gladness and singleness of heart, blessing and praising God," methinks, Heaven and Hell scarcely present a greater contrast, than those very persons within that short period. Yet such is the change which the Gospel will produce, wherever it is received in deed and in truth. Hear how the Prophet Isaiah describes it: "You shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree; and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, and for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off." O, beloved, see that this change take place in you: for to effect it is the glory of the Gospel; and no further than this change is wrought in you, have you any evidence that you belong to Christ.

2. How vain are the expectations of carnal professors!

Frequently does the Apostle characterize as "carnal," those who are yet under the power of unholy tempers and affections. Look, you professor of godliness, and see what your conduct is, in the family, the Church, the state. Are you a favorer of feuds, of heresies, of seditions? Take off your mask, and proclaim yourself an hypocrite. You have no part nor lot in the salvation of God. Yet rest not hero: but go on to examine how far all holy tempers and heavenly affections abound in you: see whether you live in the habitual exercise of love, joy, peace; and whether your whole walk be marked by long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, temperance? See whether in these things you resemble Him whose property you profess yourself to be, even that blessed Jesus who requires you to walk as he walked? Know of a certainty, that, "if you walk after the flesh, you shall die; but if through the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the body, then, and then only, shall you live."

3. How desirable is it to obtain an interest in Christ!

All this will he do for those who truly believe in him. Came he, think you, to save you from Hell only? No; he came to "save you from your sins." He came to make you new creatures; and to transform you into the Divine image, in righteousness and true holiness. Seek then an interest in him. Give up yourselves to him, to be washed in his blood, and to be renewed by his Spirit. Do this, and you shall have no cause to complain that your corruptions are invincible: for his grace shall be sufficient for you, even though your corruptions were ten thousand times more powerful than they are. Nor imagine that the maintenance of holy tempers and affections shall be such an impracticable task as Satan would represent it to be: for the love of God shed abroad in the heart shall render everything easy. Only receive the Lord Jesus Christ into your hearts by faith, and he will work effectually within you, as he does in all his saints: "He will fulfill in you all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power; and so shall the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God, and the Lord Jesus Christ."

 

MMCLXXXVI

Walking in the Spirit

Galatians 5:25. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

MEN, as creatures, may be called "the offspring of Jehovah," "in whom they live, and move, and have their being." But, as created anew in Christ Jesus, we have a nearer relation to God, seeing that his Spirit dwells in us: and consequently, we are bound in a more peculiar manner to glorify him by a suitable life and conversation. This is strongly intimated in the words of our text: in which we see,

I. The Christian's character.

It is here assumed that the Christian "lives in the Spirit." That the Christian's character, as here described, may be fully understood, let us mark,

1. The import of the assumption.

Two things are implied in the expression "living in the Spirit," namely, that the Christian is endued with the Spirit; and that he lives under the influence of the Spirit. The Christian has not merely the powers and faculties which he brought into the world with him, and which an heathen possesses as well as he; but he has received the Spirit of God, by whom he has been quickened from a death in trespasses and sins, and been made a partaker of a new principle of life, whereby he is enabled to live to God. This new principle is distinct from anything which man, by any powers of his own, can acquire, and from anything which can by any means be derived from man. It is a sovereign gift of God, as much as the natural life is: and they who have received it, are said to have "been born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." They who have experienced this heavenly birth, have the Spirit of God dwelling and abiding in them; enlightening their minds, directing their steps, sanctifying their hearts, and "fulfilling in them all the good pleasure of their God."

2. The truth of this assumption.

It is taken for granted by the Apostle, as an unquestionable truth, that every real Christian "lives in, and by, the Spirit." And well may this be taken for granted; since the Spirit of God is to the soul of man, what the soul itself is to the body. Without the soul, the body is dead; and the body, when bereft of it. is no more a man, but a mere corpse. So the soul without the Spirit of God is dead; and the person destitute of the Spirit, is not a Christian, but a mere man, like any heathen man. This is expressly asserted by the Apostle Paul: "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." To the same effect. also, our blessed Lord most solemnly affirms, "Truly, truly, I say unto you, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." The point, then, is clear and indisputable: a Christian is one who is born of the Spirit, and who lives under the Spirit's influence: and if any person would estimate his own character aright, he must inquire into these two points. It is not sufficient that he has been baptized into the faith of Christ, or that he gives a speculative assent to all the truths of Christianity; he must possess a principle which none but God can give him, and which regulates all his views, desires, and pursuits. I pray you, brethren, before you go any further, examine yourselves in relation to this matter: for I must declare to you before God, that if Jesus Christ dwell not in you in this manner, you are not Christians, but mere baptized heathens: and so unquestionable is this truth, that Paul makes it a matter of appeal, to be decided by your own selves: "Know you not that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?"

Answerable; to this high character are,

II. His obligations.

"If we be in the Spirit, we should also walk in the Spirit;" that is, we should walk,

1. In compliance with his motions.

There are inward motions of the Spirit, which a person who lives near to God may discern, and which it becomes him very carefully to follow. Not that they can with certainty be distinguished from the voice of a man's own conscience, except by the quality of the suggestions themselves; (for it is in and by the conscience that the Spirit speaks:) but they are so agreeable to the mind of God, that they manifest from whom they come; and God himself, "who knows what is the mind of the Spirit," when he beholds them in us, acknowledges them to be of divine origin. When temptations to evil arise, the Spirit softly whispers to the soul, "O, do not that abominable thing which I hate." So also, when doubts arise in the mind respecting the path of duty, he causes us to "hear a voice behind us, saying, This is the way; walk you in it." And in a mind that is at all well regulated, I believe that the first intimations of conscience will be found to be, for the most part, most accordant with the mind and will of God: and though I would on no account discourage the closest possible examination of what is so suggested, and the trial of it by the touchstone of God's word, yet I cannot but say, that in our subsequent reasonings the voice of the Spirit is too often silenced, and its suggestions are superseded by the dictates of prejudice, or fear, or interest, or passion.

2. In obedience to his will.

God's will is revealed in the written word; and to that we must refer, on every occasion. In that is our whole course distinctly marked; and by that must our every step be regulated: as says the prophet; "To the word and to the testimony: if we speak not according to that word, there is no light in us." By that must the suggestions, of which we have before spoken, be tried. For it is possible that suggestions may come even from the wicked one: and if we were to place implicit confidence in them, we might run into the most fatal errors, while we supposed ourselves under heavenly guidance. Of this we are sure, that the Spirit of God never moves us to anything which is contrary to the written word. In following the voice of inspiration, we are safe: and to that we should yield the most implicit obedience. When we combine the two, and are simultaneously directed by the light within and the light without, we may reasonably hope that we are in the right way, and "walking in the Spirit," as God requires.

From the passage thus explained, I would take occasion to commend to your constant aim,

1. Consistency.

This is the primary point suggested in our text: our practice must accord with our profession: if, as we profess, we "live in the Spirit," we must take care to "walk in the Spirit." We must "walk worthy of our high calling;" or rather, I should say, we must "walk worthy of the Lord himself." We must attend equally to both tables of the law; and never make a respect for the one a plea for neglecting and violating the other. Our conduct must be uniform, at all times, in all places, under all circumstances. What we are in the public assembly, and in the society of God's people, that we must be in the world, the family, the closet. All our tempers and dispositions must resemble those of Christ; so that every one who sees us may bear testimony to us, that we "have both the Spirit of Christ," and "the mind of Christ." Dear brethren, it is in this way only that we can honor God, or approve ourselves his children indeed.

2. Advancement.

We must be making a continual progress in the divine life; and never think ourselves so advanced, but that we need to be going forward in our Christian course. Our "path must be like that of the sun, which shines more and more unto the perfect day." Even Paul thought not that he had yet "attained, or was already perfect," but this one thing he did, "forgetting the things that were behind, and reaching forth unto those that were before, he pressed forward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." And we also, if we would be perfect, must "be thus minded."

3. Rest.

To this it is our privilege to look forward; even as Israel did, when journeying in the wilderness. In truth, this life, with all its labors and conflicts, would be a very miserable life, if we had no prospect of a better. But "there is a rest that remains for the people of God," and with that in view, we may well exert ourselves with all our might. That will richly recompense all our labors. What will not men do, even for a corruptible crown? But ours is incorruptible. "Be not weary, then, in well-doing: for in due season you shall reap, if you faint not."

 

MMCLXXXVII

Benevolence Recommended

Galatians 6:2. Bear you one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

TO open and unfold the mystery of the Gospel, is doubtless an employment which, in point of utility to others, or of comfort to ourselves, may vie with any other, in which a human being can be engaged. But to inculcate the morality of the Gospel is also a most delightful office: and a minister of Christ, who feels averse to it, gives reason to fear that he has never yet entered into the spirit of the doctrine which he professes to teach. Paul manifestly delighted in this good work; for, in the close of all his epistles, he paid the most marked attention to it. Nor did he rest in general instruction, but descended to the most minute particulars; omitting nothing that could tend to advance the honor of God, or the welfare of mankind.

That we may enter into the precept before us, we will consider,

I. The duty enjoined.

Burdens of some kind every man is called to sustain.

Some may be comparatively freed from them; nor do they lie on any with the same weight and pressure at all times: but no child of man is altogether exempt from them. The body is subject to diseases, the mind to trials, and the outward estate to disasters, which no human foresight can prevent, no power on earth can avoid. They greatly mistake, who think that trouble is the exclusive portion of the poor. The rich, in their respective spheres, are as obnoxious to it as the poor; and, for the most part, by reason of their keener sensibility, they feel it more acutely.

Nor can any support their burdens alone.

The king upon the throne needs the assistance of others, as much as the beggar upon the dunghill. The very necessities of our nature call for mutual aid. No one could support himself alone. It is by the division of labor that society is kept together, and every individual that composes it is made happy. All, taking on themselves someone office for the benefit of others, promote, at the same time, both their own welfare, and the welfare of the whole community. The artisan, the man of science, the practitioner in any useful line, supply the wants of others in common with their own; and, while depending on their employers for their own support, administer support in return to them. It is thus that the hungry are fed, the naked clothed, the sick healed, and the weak protected in their rights.

But, not confining ourselves to the duty of our own particular station, we should endeavor, as God may enable us, to bear the burdens of all.

This may be done in a way of sympathy, and in a way of support. As members of the same body, we ought all to care for each other, and to sympathize with each other under our several circumstances, whether of joy or sorrow. The Divine command is, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." But sympathy must show itself in deeds, and not in words only. It will be to little purpose to "say to our destitute and naked brother, 'Be warmed,' or, 'Be filled,' while we withhold from him what is needful for his support." True, indeed, we cannot all administer relief to others in the same way, or to the same extent: but what we can do, we should with alacrity and joy. The eye, the ear, the tongue, the hand, the foot, cannot all render the same service to the body: but, if they improve their respective energies and powers for the good of the whole, they answer the end for which they were formed. Thus we should consider what service we are best capable of rendering to every afflicted brother: and to that we should address ourselves with all diligence; blessing and adoring God, who has put it into our power to show love to our fellow-creatures, and fidelity to Him. The word which Paul used, to express the assistance which the Holy Spirit affords to us in our necessities, marks the precise office which we are to occupy in assisting all who stand in need of help from us: we should take hold on the opposite end of their load, and bear it together with them. And this we may all do in some measure, yes, and must do, if we would approve ourselves faithful to the trust reposed in us.

That we may be stimulated to this duty, let me endeavor to impress upon your minds,

II. The consideration by which it is enforced.

In executing this office, we "fulfill the law of Christ."

The Lord Jesus Christ has enjoined it as our duty: "These things I command you, that you love one another." He has gone further; and proposed himself to us as the pattern to which, in our exercise of love, we should be conformed: "A new command I give unto you, that you love one another: as I have loved you, that you also love one another." He has gone further still; and declared, that the love which we are here called to exercise is the distinctive badge of all his followers: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another." Nay more; he has told us that it is the test whereby he will try our fidelity to him in the day of judgment: to those who have administered to the necessities of others be will give a suitable reward; and to those who have neglected this great duty, a just and fearful doom.

Now, if he had only expressed it as a wish that we would perform such services for him, methinks it were abundantly sufficient to call forth all our exertions in his service. But when he issues it as his command, as his command which we must obey at the peril of our souls, who will venture to disobey it? Think but a moment what Christ has done for you: "You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich." Has He, the God of Heaven, left his throne of glory, that, through his own sufferings unto death he might exalt you to it: and will not you, a redeemed sinner, forego some small comforts, in order to administer to the necessities of your afflicted brethren; and especially when called to it by your Redeemer himself?.

This law, then, I now call you to obey.

Let the affluent bear the burdens of the poor—The healthy, of the sick—The enlightened, of the ignorant—The saved, of those who are perishing in their sins—And let those who are not able to engage actively in the duties of benevolence spread the cases of their afflicted brethren before God in prayer, and bring down from God the help which they themselves are unable to impart.

 

MMCLXXXVIII

Against Self-Deceit

Galatians 6:3–5. If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.

SELF-KNOWLEDGE is at the root of all true religion. Without that, we shall have no right disposition, either towards God or man. Without that, we shall not be able to pity the fallen, or sympathize with the afflicted; but shall be alike unfeeling towards the failings and the necessities of our fellow-creatures. But, if we are duly conscious of our own weakness, we shall be ready to "restore in meekness any brother that has been overtaken with a fault," and, if we know our own desert, we shall most willingly labor to "fulfill the law of Christ, in bearing the burdens of others," as He has borne ours. To cultivate self-knowledge therefore is, in this view, extremely important: but more especially is it so in the prospect of that judgment which God himself will shortly pass on every child of man: for, whatever be our estimate of our own character, it is not by that, but by God's own view of us, that our state shall be determined to all eternity. This is plainly declared in the words before us; in which we may see,

I. An evil complained of.

The entertaining too high an opinion of ourselves is a common evil; I should rather say, is an evil co-extensive with the human race, with those at least who have not been converted by the grace of God. If it be asked, Whence does this evil arise? I answer,

1. From judging ourselves by a defective standard.

The generality take no higher standard than that which custom has established in the place where they live: and if they conduct themselves agreeably to that, they consider themselves as having fulfilled all that can reasonably be required of them. They never once suspect, that to "walk according to the course of this world is to walk according to the prince of the power of the air," or that "the broad road is that which leads to destruction." They have satisfied others; and therefore they have satisfied themselves.

But some take a far higher standard, even the law of God itself, (as far as they understand it,) and aim at obedience to the whole will of God. But they take only the letter of the law; and if they abstain from the actual commission of murder, adultery, and theft, they imagine that they have no reason to reproach themselves with any violation of the commandments which forbid those crimes. Hence, like the Young Man in the Gospel, they will recite the commandments, and say, "All these have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?" This was the source of Paul's self-deception, in his unconverted state. He knew not the spirituality of the law; and therefore he imagined himself to be alive, while he was really dead, with respect to all spiritual obedience. He thought himself to be something, when he was nothing; and thereby deceived himself.

2. From comparing ourselves with others.

Some look at those who are of the same rank and age with themselves: and, if they fall not below them, they conclude that they are right. Others look at those rather who live without any particular regard to morals: and, from seeing a manifest superiority in themselves to these, they will with a self-complacent air say, in their hearts at least, if not with their lips, "I thank you, O God, that I am not as other men are, or even as this Publican." Others again will compare themselves with the religious world. They will select those who have in any respect dishonored their holy profession, and hold them forth as a proper specimen of all. Or they will take the more defective part of a good character, and represent it as exhibiting a just picture of the man himself. In doing this too they will believe all they hear, without any examination or inquiry: they will make no allowances for anything as arising out of peculiar circumstances: they overlook entirely all the humiliation and contrition which in a real saint follow the commission of a fault: they will go further still, and impute all this evil to willful and deliberate hypocrisy: and then they will bless themselves that they are at least as good, if not better than those who make so much profession of godliness; yes, therefore better, because they make no such profession.

But to these we may apply what the Apostle said of the false teachers at Corinth; "They measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." For what have they to do with others? It is not by any comparative goodness that their character will be estimated. Whether they be better or worse than others, they are in God's sight precisely what they are in themselves: and, while they form a judgment of themselves by the relative situation which they occupy in the scale of general goodness, they only deceive their own souls.

3. From comparing our present with our former state.

It may be, that at an early period of our lives we were mirthful and dissipated: and that since that time we have reformed, and become observant of many duties. Yet still we may be very far from a state that is pleasing and acceptable to God: we may even (and it is no uncommon case) be more odious in his eyes than before, by having become more inflated with pride and self-confidence, in proportion as we have reformed our external conduct. For what is this, but to exchange "fleshly for spiritual filthiness," and to acquire the image of Satan in proportion as we have relinquished that of the beast? But, waving this circumstance, which may or may not exist, the question is, not what reformation we have experienced, but what yet remains to be reformed? It matters little that the outward conduct is changed, if the heart remains the same. If we are not "new creatures in Christ Jesus," we have attained nothing to any good purpose: and, if we look with delight on any change short of that, we fancy ourselves something when we are nothing, and fatally deceive ourselves.

4. From judging under the influence of partiality and self-love.

Self-love blinds us: it hides from us our faults; or puts such a specious gloss upon them, that they are scarcely discerned as faults. It magnifies our virtues too, and not unfrequently represents as virtues what in reality are grievous sins. If there be any point in our character that is more favorable, (as generosity, or benevolence, or any other good quality,) self-love represents that to us as constituting almost the whole of our character, and then fills us with self-delight in the contemplation of it. Thus it was with the Pharisees of old, who "trusted in themselves that they were righteous," while in the sight of God they were no better than "whited sepulchers." And thus it will be with all of us, until God open our eyes to see things as they really are, and give us hearts to judge righteous judgment.

But for this evil there is in our text,

II. A remedy prescribed.

God has given to us an unerring standard of right and wrong.

In the Holy Scriptures, he has revealed to us his mind and will, and shown us what is that state which becomes us, as creatures, and as sinners. As creatures, we ought to love him with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. As sinners, we ought to humble ourselves before him in dust and ashes; to lay hold on the covenant which he has made with us in the Son of his love; to seek for mercy solely through the atoning sacrifice of Christ; to live by faith on Christ, receiving out of his fullness as branches from the vine; and by the influences of his Spirit to bring forth fruit to his glory. And, to form a right estimate of our character, we must try ourselves by this standard: we must see how far we are observant of his law, and how far we are obedient to his Gospel.

But besides this written standard, we have a copy of all perfection set before us in the example of Christ. We see how ardent and uniform was his zeal for God, and how active and self-denying his love for man. We see him in all situations of difficulty; we behold all his tempers and dispositions tried to the uttermost by the perverseness and cruelty of men; and we see in everything how to conduct ourselves towards God and man. In his example, we have a touchstone whereby to try our supposed virtues: and, wherein we differ from him, or come short of him, (unless in those things which arose out of his mediatorial character,) we may assuredly conclude that we are wrong.

Further, though the word of God, and the example of Christ, are the only unerring standards of truth, we have yet further,—what is of great advantage to us,—the examples of men who were of like passions with ourselves. We see Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles, all walking, as it were, before our eyes; and we learn from them how we ought to walk and to please God. If we take the life of Abraham, of Daniel, of the Apostle Paul; if we contemplate their unshaken faith, and unreserved obedience; and then inquire how we have demeaned ourselves under any circumstances which have borne an affinity with theirs; we may certainly attain a pretty correct knowledge of our state and character before God.

By this standard then we should try ourselves.

It is of use to all persons, and under all circumstances. From the king on the throne to the beggar on the dunghill, all may find it suitable to their condition. To it therefore we should refer the whole of our conduct, and by it "every one should prove his own work." Every particular work should be tried by it. Whatever the work be, we should examine what the written word required of us, and see how far our work fell short of the true standard. We should bring it to the test, and inquire into the principle from which it flowed, the manner in which it was executed, and the end for which it was performed; and then form our judgment, after a candid and impartial survey of its defects.

But it is not our actions only that should be so proved: we should examine also the entire state and habit of our minds: for it is this, and this only, that will determine our real character before God. And who that does this will think highly of his own attainments? Who that considers what is that love which is due to the Supreme God; what is that gratitude which the Lord Jesus Christ calls for at our hands; what is that affiance which we should place in him; and what is that zeal which we should put forth in his service; who, I say, will then vaunt himself as somebody, and swell with self-preference and self-conceit? The remedy once brought into daily and habitual use, will soon cure the evil complained of in our text.

What the Apostle thought of this remedy, appears from,

III. The prescription eulogized.

A more valuable prescription could not be given either,

1. As it respects our present happiness.

To what purpose is it to be applauded by others, even though we were held forth as patterns of all that is great and excellent? It might please our vanity; but it would afford us no solid satisfaction, while we are afraid to bring our conduct to the only true test. What comfort would a merchant feel to hear that he was reputed rich, if his affairs were so embarrassed that he dared not examine his accounts, and knew not but that he was on the very verge of bankruptcy? So is the man, who, while he is extolled by his fellow-creatures, is averse to learn what is said of him by his God. On the contrary, the man who tries himself by the standard of God's word, and finds that, amidst innumerable defects, he is on the whole upright before God, he "has his rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." He lives not on the testimony of his fellow-creatures: his comfort is independent either of their censure or applause. He rejoices in the testimony of his own conscience, as the Apostle Paul did. He "has the witness in himself," and "the Spirit of God also witnesses with his Spirit," that he is a "child of God." O what an advantage is this, under every situation and circumstance of life! Are we in a state of prosperity? We shall make no account of our wealth or honor in comparison of the testimony of a good conscience. Are we in adversity? Our spirit will be buoyant in a sea of troubles; we shall know assuredly that all things are working together for our good, and that, "light and momentary in themselves, they are working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

2. As it respects our eternal welfare.

Whatever others may think of us, or we may think of ourselves, it will not at all influence the judgment of our God: "for not he who commends himself will be approved, but he whom the Lord commends." The works that are applauded of men, may be recorded in his book of remembrance as splendid sins: and the works that are condemned by men, may be put to our account as services greatly to be rewarded. The very same judgment which the written word pronounces now, our God will pronounce hereafter. Hence, in bringing ourselves continually to this standard, we know what will be approved in the last day, and what sentence to expect at the mouth of a righteous Judge. There will doubtless be many actions which will be erroneously judged by man, and the precise quality of which we ourselves also are at present unable to discover: but, while we are conscious of an sincere desire to please and honor God, we shall say with the Apostle, "It is a small matter to be judged of man's judgment; yes, I judge not my own self: but he who judges me is the Lord." My own heart does not condemn me; and therefore I have confidence towards God." While practicing this habit, we shall be attentive to everything we do. We shall preserve a tenderness of conscience: we shall spy out readily anything that has been amiss. We shall, from a sense of the imperfection of our very best deeds, wash them daily in the fountain of Christ's blood, and never hope for the acceptance of them but through his atoning sacrifice, and his all-powerful intercession. Thus, while all, who refer their actions to any inferior standard, delude their own souls, and "treasure up wrath against the day of wrath," the careful Christian attains a just knowledge of his own state, and accumulates "a weight of glory," which "the Lord, the righteous Judge," shall confer upon him in exact proportion to the services he has rendered to his God. Here we are called to bear the burdens of others; and frequently to groan under burdens that are unrighteously cast upon us: but in the day of judgment, both the one and the other of these will be removed from us, and we shall "bear that only which is properly our own," "we shall reap precisely what we have sown: if we have sown to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption; and, if we have sown to the Spirit, we shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."

Address.

1. Those who form too favorable an opinion of their state.

Do not imagine that we wish unnecessarily to disturb your peace. We would to God that "your peace might flow down like a river!" All that we are anxious to do, is, to keep you from resting in undue security, and "saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace." When we entreat you to stop and try yourselves, and to prove your own work, what do we but consult your truest happiness both in time and in eternity? We desire to bring every one of you to a state of holy joy, even to "a joy which no man can take from you," "a rejoicing in yourself alone, and not in another." Let me then say to you, as the Apostle does, "Let not any man think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but think soberly," and again, "Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith: prove your own selves." It is in this way only that you can attain self-knowledge, or be delivered from self-deception. Think what you will of yourselves, "you are nothing," nor ever can be anything, but poor, weak, guilty creatures, indebted to the free grace of God alone for all your hope and all your salvation. Even Paul, while declaring that "he was not a whit behind the very chief Apostles," confessed that "he was nothing." Let the same mind be in you, and you will find the salvation of the Gospel sweetly suited to your souls.

2. Those who form too unfavorable an opinion of their state.

Some there are, who, when they see how far they have departed from God, are ready to imagine, that they have sinned beyond the reach of mercy, and that, with respect to them, Christ has died in vain. But no man is warranted to say, that his state is desperate; nor ought any man to come to such a conclusion after the strictest search. There is one distinction which ought never to be forgotten: it is this; that whatever grounds sin affords for humiliation, it affords none for despondency. If there were not a sufficiency in the blood of Christ to cleanse from the guilt of sin, we might well despair: or, if there were not a sufficiency in the grace of Christ to rescue from the power of sin, we might justly say, There is no hope: but, while we are assured that Christ "is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him," we need not fear, but that if we go to him, he will receive us; and if we trust in him, he will glorify himself in our salvation. Attempt not then to hide from your own eyes the extremity of your guilt; nor, when it is revealed to you, indulge any desponding fears: but flee unto Christ, and lay hold on him, and cleave to him, and determine, that, if you perish, you will perish at the foot of his cross, trusting in his blood, and pleading with him that promise, "Whoever comes unto me I will in no wise cast out."

3. Those who are enabled to form a just estimate of their state.

These persons are a perfect mystery to all around them. The world sees them humbling themselves as the very chief of sinners, and yet exulting under a sense of God's pardoning love: and how to reconcile this they know not. 'If,' say they, 'you are so vile, how can you rejoice? and, if you have such cause for joy, how is it that you yet sigh, and mourn, and weep, as if you were the vilest of mankind?' But it is this union of humility and confidence which characterizes the true Christian: and, the more eminent the Christian is, the more do both these graces flourish in his soul. Thus then, brethren, let it be with you: affix no limits to your self-abasement; for it is not possible for you ever to have too humiliating thoughts of yourselves: yet, on the other hand, let there be no limits to your confidence in Christ, as able, and willing to save the very chief of sinners. Yet, at the same time, do not imagine, that, because you are vile in yourselves, you are at liberty to indulge in sin; or because "in Christ you are complete," you are not under any necessity of practicing universal holiness: these would be fatal errors indeed: were any such licence given you, "Christ would be a minister of sin." But this is far from being the case. It is true, that you are justified by faith alone: but by your works will you be judged: and the measure of your works will be the certain measure of your reward.

 

MMCLXXXIX

The Ground of God's Final Decision

Galatians 6:7, 8. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. For he who sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

SIN and misery are often found to be nearly connected in this life; yet rewards and punishments are not always distributed according to man's actions. The necessity therefore of a future state of retribution is obvious and undeniable. This was discoverable in a measure by the light of reason; but revelation establishes the certainty of such a state. The inspired writers often urge the consideration of it as a motive to virtue. Paul is stating to the Galatians the duty of providing liberally for their pastors. He is aware that some might offer pleas and excuses for their neglect of this duty. He knew that some might even pretend a prior and more sacred obligation. He therefore cautions them against self-deception, and reminds them that God will hereafter pass sentence on us according to the real quality of our actions.

I. It is in vain to hope for salvation while we live in a neglect of religious duties.

It is common for men to offer pleas and excuses for their disregard of religion:

1. That a life of religion is needless.

They see the world in a state of wickedness. They cannot believe that so many can be in danger of perishing. They forget that the course of this world is just such as Satan would have it. They recollect not our Lord's declaration respecting the broad and narrow way. They consider not that the care of the soul is the "one thing needful."

2. That a life of religion is impracticable.

They hear what holiness of heart and life God requires of us. They feel how unable they are of themselves to fulfill their duty. They therefore conclude, that it is impossible to serve God aright. At least they think that a religious life cannot consist with social duties. But they forget that the grace of Christ is all-sufficient: nor are they aware that that grace will stimulate us to every duty, whether civil or religious, social or personal.

Besides these, they substitute other things in the place of religion:

1. Their good intentions.

They purpose to amend their lives at some future period. They expect to find some "more convenient season" for repentance. They hope that their good designs, though never executed, will be accepted.

2. Their moral lives.

They are guilty of no very enormous crimes. They perform many commendable actions. They hope that such a life, though they know nothing of contrition, of faith in Christ, of delight in God, etc. will procure them admission to Heaven.

3. Their profession of certain truths.

Many receive the doctrines of Christianity as a system of truth. They trust to the mere profession of these doctrines without experiencing their transforming efficacy. Thus they substitute "the form of godliness for the power of it."

But no pleas or pretenses can deceive God.

To attempt to deceive God is, in fact, to "mock" him. It is to insult him, as though he were too ignorant to discern, too indifferent to regard, or too weak to punish, hypocrisy. But God cannot be deceived; nor will he be mocked.

Let none then deceive themselves with vain expectations.

II. Our final state will be exactly answerable to our present conduct.

Under the metaphor of a sower the text affords a striking discrimination of character:

Some "sow to the flesh."

To sow to the flesh, is to seek in the first place our carnal ease and interests. This we may do notwithstanding we are free from gross sins. Every one comes under this description who "sets his affections on things below."

They whose life is so occupied will "reap corruption."

The present enjoyments they will have are both corruptible and defiling. The future recompense will be everlasting destruction. This is elsewhere affirmed in the plainest terms.

Others "sow to the Spirit."

The Holy Spirit invariably inclines men to the love of God, and of holiness. The new nature of the regenerate affects also spiritual objects and employments. To sow to the Spirit therefore is to seek and delight in spiritual things.

They who do this will reap everlasting life.

A life of devotedness to God can never issue in misery. God has promised that it shall terminate in glory.

Thus, not our pleas and pretenses, but our life and conduct, will determine our eternal state.

Our harvest will accord with the seed we sow. These different ends are inseparable from the different means. The punishment, however, will be as wages earned; the reward as a gift bestowed.

Inferences.

1. What extreme folly is it to live regardless of God and our own souls!

No gardener expects to reap wheat, when he has sown only tares. How absurd then to hope for Heaven while we seek not after it! Let us be convinced of our folly, and learn wisdom even from the children of this world.

2. How absurd would it be to be diverted from our duty by any difficulties we may meet with in the discharge of it!

The gardener does not regard inclemencies of weather, much less would he be deterred from his work by the advice or ridicule of the ignorant and supine. Shall we then be discouraged, whose seed-time is so precarious, and whose harvest is so important? Let all go forward, "sowing in tears that they may reap in joy."

 

MMCXC

Steadfastness in Duties

Galatians 6:9. Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

THE way of duty is difficult, while that of sin is easy. After we have received grace, we are still prone to depart from God; but the prospect of an happy issue of our labors is a strong support. The Gospel encourages us to expect a certain and seasonable recompense.

We have here,

I. A word of caution.

Well-doing respects every part of a Christian's duty. We may apprehend ourselves weary in it, when we are not really so. We are not necessarily so, because our affections are not so lively as they once were.

Age and infirmity may occasion a stupor of the mind: a more enlarged view of our own depravity may cast us down. Love itself may grow in some respects, even while its ardor seems to abate.

We are not necessarily so, because our corruptions appear to have increased.

When we are first awakened, we know but little of our own hearts. As we proceed, the Lord discovers to us more of our hidden abominations. The discovery of them, as of objects in a dark place, argues only more light from Heaven.

We are not necessarily so, because we do not find enlargement in prayer.

Excess of trouble may, for a time, distract and over-whelm the soul. Our Lord himself seems to have experienced somewhat of this. Our prayers, perhaps, are never more acceptable, than when they are offered in broken accents, in sighs, and groans.

But we have reason to apprehend that we are weary in well-doing,

1. When we do not make a progress in our religious course.

We cannot stand still in religion: we must advance or decline. There are seasons when we grow rather in humility than in the more lively graces; but if we neither shoot our branches upward, nor our roots downward, it must be ill with us.

2. When we are habitually formal in religious duties.

The best of men find cause to lament an occasional deadness; but no true Christian can be satisfied in such a state. Habitual formality therefore proves, either that we have never been truly in earnest, or that we are in a state of miserable declension.

3. When we do not carry religion into our worldly business.

As long as we are in the world, we must perform the duties of our station; but if our souls be prospering, we shall maintain a sense of religion even when we are not actually engaged in the offices of it.

4. When our consciences are not tender.

It is essential to a Christian to hate evil: he strives to "avoid even the appearance of evil." He will in no wise allow one sinful temper or inclination.

We cannot be too much on our guard against such a state.

To confirm what has been spoken, let me add,

II. A word of encouragement.

If we persevere in our exertions, we shall reap the fruit of our labor.

There will be a harvest to all who labor in God's field. It may not come so soon as we would desire; but it shall come, as the earthly harvests, "in due season." We must, however, wait God's appointed time. If we faint, we shall lose all that we have before wrought: but if we continue patiently in well-doing, we shall succeed at last.

Our prospects of the harvest may well encourage us to persevere, since it will be,

1. Certain.

The gardener endures many toils for an uncertain harvest: his hopes may be blasted in a variety of ways. But God has pledged himself, that his faithful servants shall be rewarded: nor shall either men or devils prevent the accomplishment of his promise.

2. Glorious.

What are all the harvests that ever were gathered since the creation of the world, in comparison of that which the Christian will reap? Shall we faint then with such a prospect in view?

3. Everlasting.

However abundant our harvests here may be, we must renew the same process, in order to supply our returning wants: but when once we have reaped the heavenly harvest, we shall "rest from our labors" for evermore. If then a year of toil be considered as compensated by a transient supply, shall not an eternity of happiness be thought worth our care, during the short period of human life? Do any, that are now in glory, regret the pains they bestowed to get there? Let us "be followers of them," and we shall soon participate their bliss.

 

MMCXCI

The Cross of Christ

Galatians 6:14. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

THE Christian, in whatever he does, is characterized by singleness of eye and simplicity of mind. All others, even when they appear most zealous for God, have sinister and selfish ends in view. This may be seen in the Judaizing teachers, while they were insisting on the observance of circumcision and the Jewish ritual. They wished to have it thought that they were actuated only by a conscientious sense of duty to Moses, and to God: but there were other secret motives by which they were impelled: they were themselves preachers of the Gospel; but knowing how obnoxious both to Jews and Gentiles the simple preaching of the cross was, while the blending of certain observances with it was palatable to every mind, they sought to avoid the persecution which they knew that a simple exhibition of Christ crucified would bring upon them. They had an eye also to their own glory: for they affected to be leaders of a party in the Church, and labored to exalt themselves by augmenting the number of their followers. That they were not actuated by a real desire to approve themselves to God, was evident from hence, that they, notwithstanding all their endeavors to enforce the observance of the law on others, did not keep the law themselves. But all such corrupt practices Paul abhorred; and, while he disdained to seek his own glory, he was proof against the fear of man, and labored only to advance the glory of his Divine Master, and the salvation of those to whom he ministered: "They," says he, "who constrain you to be circumcised, desire to make a fair show in the flesh," "but God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world!"

In this commendation of the cross of Christ, we behold,

I. His views of its excellency.

By "the cross of Christ," is here meant the doctrine of salvation through a crucified Redeemer. This he preached, and it was the great subject of all his ministrations. Though it was "to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness," yet he would "know nothing else," and "glory in nothing else." He gloried in it,

1. As displaying such wonders of love and mercy to the world at large.

Here was a plan of salvation suited to, and sufficient for, the necessities of the whole world. All were involved in one common ruin: all needed an atonement to be offered for their sins: the whole universe could not present one capable of expiating their guilt; the highest archangel was as incompetent to it as was the blood of bulls and goats. But God, of his infinite mercy, had devised a way: he had entered into covenant with his only-begotten Son: he had agreed with him, that, if he would assume our nature, and "make his soul an offering for sin," his sacrifice should be accepted in their behalf, and he should have from among the fallen race of Adam a seed, who should serve him, and enjoy him forever. This stupendous plan has been executed: the Lord Jesus Christ has "been made in the likeness of men, and has become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," and, having "borne our sins in his own body on the tree," and been exalted to the right hand of God as the Head and Forerunner of his people, he now offers salvation unto all freely, "without money and without price." The persons sent out and commissioned by him to preach his Gospel, are empowered to declare, that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." To every living man is this message sent, with a full assurance, that "they who believe in Christ shall never perish, but shall have eternal life."

Now in this wonderful mystery Paul saw such honor reflected on all the Divine perfections, and such blessedness secured to man, that he could not but glory in it, and determine never to glory in anything else.

2. As making such ample provision for his own soul.

Paul felt himself to be the very "chief of sinners," and deserving of God's heaviest indignation. But this Savior had revealed himself to him, even in the midst of all his wickedness; and by a signal act of grace had not only pardoned his sins, but had appointed him to preach to others that salvation, of which he was so remarkable a monument. By the manifestation of Christ to his soul, he was assured of mercy and acceptance with God. From that moment he no more doubted of his own salvation, than he did of his existence: and the blessing which was thus imparted to him, he had been the means of imparting unto others, even to hundreds and thousands of the Gentile world. Could he then be insensible of the value of that which had filled his own soul with such peace and joy, and which, through his ministrations, had diffused such unspeakable blessings all around him? No, he could not but commend to others what had been so effectual for his own benefit, and glory in the cross as "all his salvation, and all his desire."

As an especial reason for glorying in the cross, he mentions,

II. His experience of its power.

The words "by whom," should rather be translated, "by which;" for it is to the doctrine of the cross as received into his soul, and not to Christ's personal agency upon his soul, that he traced the effects produced.

The world was in the Apostle's eyes as an object that was crucified; himself also being as one crucified in respect of it.

The image here used is very remarkable, and deserving of particular attention, "The world was crucified to him." A person dying upon a cross, how dear so ever he may have been to us, is no longer an object of desire. As soon as he has surrendered up his life, if his body be given to us, we bury it out of our sight. We no longer look to him for any of those comforts which are derived from social fellowship: all relation to him, all dependence on him, all satisfaction in him, are dissolved: every tie that once bound us together is broken, and "we know him no more." The Apostle further adds, that "he also was crucified to the world." This does not mean, that the world despised him, and wished him buried out of its sight (that was indeed true; but it is not the truth that is here intimated): the expression imports, that, while the world was as a crucified object in his eyes, he beheld everything in it as a man would do who was himself dying on a cross. He may have loved the world in ever so high a degree; but he now loves it no more. He may have sought its pleasures, its riches, and its honors, with the most insatiable ardor; but he has now no desire after anything that is in it. He feels himself dying; and he has now no wish but to improve his few remaining moments, for his own benefit, and the benefit of those around him. Take the penitent thief as an example. If crowns and kingdoms could have been given him for the few remaining hours that he had to live, they would have been of no value whatever in his eyes.

Now thus the Apostle looked upon the world and everything in it. There was nothing in it that he desired: "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," were all lighter than vanity, in his estimation: he had now no longer any taste for them: he felt that, whether his life was of longer or shorter continuance, he had nothing to do, but to honor God, and benefit his fellow-creatures, as far as he should have opportunity, and seek the salvation of his own soul. All that the world could either give or take away, was "counted by him as dung, that he might win Christ, and be found in him."

And whence was it that he attained such extraordinary deadness to the world?

This holy feeling was wrought in him altogether by the cross of Christ; which brought such glories to his view, as eclipsed all sublunary good; and filled his soul with such joys as rendered all earthly satisfactions worthless and distasteful as the husks of swine. This it was which raised him above those vain hopes with which the Judaizing teachers were animated, and above those unworthy fears with which their fidelity to God was assailed. A sense of "love to his Redeemer constrained him;" and, when menaced with all that the world could inflict, he could say, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me, so that I may but finish my course with joy, and fulfill the ministry committed to me." Nor was this a vain boast: his whole life testified, that it was his actual experience; and that the doctrine which formed the only basis of his hopes, had a transforming effect, such as no other principles under Heaven could produce.

But we must not suppose this state of mind to be peculiar to the Apostle: it is produced invariably by the cross of Christ, wherever it is surveyed and gloried in as it ought to be. We may see therefore from hence,

1. How sublime are the Christian's views!

The cross of Christ is that, and that alone, in which every Christian under Heaven will glory. The very words of our text afford the best comment on that description which the Apostle gives of the cross of Christ, when he calls it, "The wisdom of God, and the power of God." So unfathomable are the counsels of Divine Wisdom contained in it, that all the angels of Heaven are searching into it, with a thirst that is insatiable: and such is its efficacy, that nothing can withstand its influence. By this then, you, my brethren, may judge whether you be Christians in deed and in truth, or whether you be such in name only, A nominal Christian is contented with approving of the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer: the true Christian loves it, delights in it, glories in it, and shudders at the thought of glorying in anything else. Say, brethren, are such your views, and such your feelings? Do you see how base and unworthy it would be to glory in anything else? Does your spirit rise with indignation at the thought of so requiting your adorable Redeemer? Be assured, it will be thus with you, if your hearts are truly enlightened, and if you have "learned of the Father as the truth is in Jesus."

2. How heavenly his life!

He is in the world; but "he is not of it: he has overcome the world; and this is the victory by which he has overcome it, even his faith." "His treasure is in Heaven;" and "his conversation is there also." Behold him, and you will see "a man of God;" a man "born from above;" a man "filled with the Holy Spirit;" a man "walking as Christ himself walked." In Christ you see the figure which is used in our text completely illustrated. "He had not even where to lay his head;" yet, "when the people would have taken him, to make him a king, he withdrew, and hid himself from them." In the primitive Christians, too, you see the same spirit: for "they were not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world." Aspire you then, beloved, after this high and holy attainment. Walk you in a holy indifference to the world: show yourselves superior to all the things of time and sense. "Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth." Let all your joys flow from the contemplation of his cross. Thus shall you "dwell in God, and God in you," you shall be "one with God, and God with you," and the very instant that the ties between the world and you shall be finally dissolved by death, you shall soar as on eagles' wings, to take possession of the crowns and kingdoms that await you in a better world.