« PreviousContinue »
has done, what our Saviour directed the lawyer, who asked, Luke x. 25, What he should do to inherit eternal life? “ Do this,” i. e. what is required by the law, 6 and thou shalt live.”
On the other side, it seems the unalterable purpose of the divine justice, that no unrighteous person, no one that is guilty of any breach of the law, should be in paradise : but that the wages of sin should be to every man, as it was to Adam, an exclusion of him out of that happy state of immortality, and bring death upon him. And this is so conformable to the eternal and established law of right and wrong, that it is spoken of too, as if it could not be otherwise. St. James says, chap. i. 15, “Sir, when it is finished, bringeth forth
death," as it were, by a natural and necessary production. “ Sin entered into the world, and death by “ sin,” says St. Paul, Rom. v. 12 : and vi. 23, “ The
wages of sin is death.” Death is the purchase of any, of every sin. Gal. iii. 10,
6 Cursed is every one, “ who continueth not in all things which are written “ in the book of the law to do them.” And of this St. James gives a reason, chap. ii. 10, 11, “ Whosoever “ shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, “ he is guilty of all: for he that said, Do not conimit
adultery, said also, Do not kill:" i. e. he that offends in any one point, sins against the authority which established the law.
Here then we have the standing and fixed measures of life and death. Immortality and bliss, belong to the righteous; those who have lived in an exact conformity to the law of God, are out of the reach of death; but an exclusion from paradise and loss of immortality is the portion of sinners ; of all those who have any way broke that law, and failed of a complete obedience to it, by the guilt of any one transgression. And thus mankind by the law are put upon the issues of life or death, as they are righteous or unrighteous, just, or unjust; i. e. exact performers or transgressors of the law.
But yet, “all having sinned,” Rom. iii. 23, “ and “ come short of the glory of God," i. e. the kingdom of God in heaven, (which is often called his glory,)
“ both jews and gentiles ;" ver. 22, so that, “ by the “ deeds of the law,” no one could be justified, ver. 20, it follows, that no one could then have eternal life and bliss.
Perhaps, it will be demanded, “ Why did God give so hard a law to mankind, that to the apostle's time
no one of Adam's issue had kept it? As appears by “ Rom. iii. and Gal. iii. 21, 22.'
Answ. It was such a law as the purity of God's nature required, and must be the law of such a creature as man ; unless God would have made him a rational creature, and not required him to have lived by the law of reason; but would have countenanced in him irregularity and disobedience to that light which he had, and that rule which was suitable to his nature; which would have been to have authorised disorder, confusion, and wickedness in his creatures: for that this law was the law of reason, or as it is called, of nature; we shall see by and by: and if rational creatures will not live up to the rule of their reason, who shall excuse them? If you will admit them to forsake reason in one point, why not in another? Where will you stop ? To disobey God in any part of his commands, (and 'tis he that commands what reason does,) is direct rebellion; which, if dispensed with in any point, government and order are at an end; and there can be no bounds set to the lawless exorbitancy of unconfined man. The law therefore was, as St. Paul tells us, Rom. vii. 12,
holy, just, and good," and such as it ought, and could not otherwise be.
This then being the case, that whoever is guilty of any sin should certainly die, and cease to be; the benefit of life, restored by Christ at the resurrection, would have been no great advantage, (for as much as, here again, death must have seized upon all mankind, because all have sinned; for the wages of sin is everywhere death, as well after as before the resurrection,) if God had not found out a way to justify some, i. e. so many as obeyed another law, which God gave; which in the New Testament is called “ the law of faith, Rom. iii. 27, and is opposed to “ the law of works."
And therefore the punishment of those who would not follow him, was to lose their souls, i. e. their lives, Mark viii. 35—38, as is plain, considering the occasion it was spoke on.
The better to understand the law of faith, it will be convenient, in the first place, to consider the law of works. The law of works then, in short, is that law which requires perfect obedience, without any remission or abatement; so that, by that law, a man cannot be just, or justified, without an exact performance of
Such a perfect obedience, in the New Testament, is termed dixologúvn, which we translate righteousness.
The language of this law is, “ Do this and live, “ transgress and die.” Lev. xviii. 5, “ Ye shall keep
my statutes and my judgments, which if a man do, “ he shall live in them." Ezek. xx. 1), “ I “ them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, “ which if a man do, he shall even live in them. “ Moses, says St. Paul, Rom. x. 5, describeth the “ righteousness, which is of the law, that the man, " which doth these things, shall live in them.”
Gal. iii. 12, “ The law is not of faith ; but that man, that “ doth them, shall live in them.” On the other side, transgress and die; no dispensation, no atonement. Ver10, “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all
things which are written in the book of the law to do 66 ther."
Where this law of works was to be found, the New Testament tells us, viz. in the law delivered by Moses, John i. 17, “ The law was given by Moses, but grace “ and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Chap. vii. 19, “ Did not Moses give you the law ?” says our Saviour, “ and yet none of you keep the law.” And this is the law, which he speaks of, where he asks the lawyer, Luke x. 26,“ What is written in the law? How readest “ thou? ver. 28, This do, and thou shalt live.” This is that which St. Paul so often styles the law, without any other distinction, Rom. ii. 13, “ Not the hearers “ of the law are just before God, but the doers of the “ law are justified.” "Tis needless to quote any more
places; his epistles are full of it, especially this of the Romans.
“ But the law given by Moses, being not given to “ all mankind, how are all men sinners; since, with“ out a law, there is no transgression ?" To this the apostle, ver. 14, answers, “For when the gentiles, “ which have not the law, do (i. e. find it reasonable
to do) by nature the things contained in the law;
these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; “ which show the work of the law written in their
hearts; their consciences also bearing witness, and “ amongst themselves their thoughts accusing or ex
cusing one another.” By which, and other places in the following chapter, 'tis plain, that under the law of works, is comprehended also the law of nature, knowable by reason, as well as the law given by Moses. For, says St. Paul, Rom. iii. 9, 23, “ We have proved both
jews and gentiles, that they are all under sin : for all “ have sinned, and come short of the glory of God:" which they could not do without a law.
Nay, whatever God requires any-where to be done, without making any allowance for faith, that is a part of the law of works: so that forbidding Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge was part of the law of works. Only we must take notice here, that some of God's positive commands, being for peculiar ends, and suited to particular circumstances of times, places, and persons; have a limited and only temporary obligation by virtue of God's positive injunction; such as was that part of Moses's law, which concerned the outward worship or political constitution of the jews; and is called the ceremonial and judicial law, in contradistinction to the moral part of it; which being conformable to the eternal law of right, is of eternal obligation; and therefore remains in force still, under the gospel ; nor is abrogated by the law of faith, as St. Paul found some ready to infer, Rom. iii. 31, “Do we then make “ void the law, through faith? God forbid; yea we “ establish the law."
Nor can it be otherwise : for, were there no law of works, there could be no law of faith. For there could
be no need of faith, which should be counted to men for righteousness; if there were no law, to be the rule and measure of righteousness, which men failed in their obedience to. Where there is no law, there is no sin; all are righteous equally, with or without faith.
The rule, therefore, of right, is the same that ever it was; the obligation to observe it is also the same: the difference between the law of works, and the law of faith, is only this : that the law of works makes no allowance for failing on any occasion. Those that obey are righteous; those that in any part disobey, are unrighteous, and must not expect life, the reward of righteousness. But, by the law of faith, faith is allowed to supply the defect of full obedience: and so the believers are admitted to life and immortality, as if they were righteous. Only here we must take notice, that when St. Paul says, that the gospel establishes the law, he means the moral part of the law of Moses; for that he could not mean the ceremonial, or political part of it, is evident, by what I quoted out of him just now, where he says, That the gentiles do, by nature, the things contained in the law, their consciences bearing witness. For the gentiles neither did, nor thought of, the judicial or ceremonial institutions of Moses; 'twas only the moral part their consciences were concerned in. As for the rest, St. Paul tells the Galatians, chap. iv. they are not under that part of the law, which ver. 3, he calls elements of the world, and ver. 9, weak and beggarly elements. And our Saviour himself, in this gospel sermon on the mount, tells them, Matt. v. 17, That, whatever they might think, he was not come to dissolve the law, but to make it more full and strict : for that which is meant by tampão an is evident from the following part of that chapter, where he gives the precepts in a stricter sense, than they were received in before. But they are all precepts of the moral law, which he re-inforces. What should become of the ritual law, he tells the woman of Samaria, in these words, John iv. 21, 23, “ The hour cometh, when you shall, neither in “ this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the “ Father. But the true worshippers shall worship the