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insipid to these nice and refined professors; and they are ready, with a scornful pity, to censure it for honest, moral doctrine, fit only for young beginners, who are not as yet come from under a Legal Dispensation.
Beware, my Brethren, that you do not thus vilify and disparage the Holy Law of God. For, let me tell you, this is the Rule, that he hath given us to guide our actions; and this is the Law, by which he himself will judge them. There is no other way to obtain salvation, but only through obedience to it. This Law is the very gate of heaven; and the Two Tables are the two leaves of it. We shall never enter into it, but only through these: Rev. xxii. 14. Blessed are they, that do his commandments, that they may have right to the Tree of Life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. Although our salvation be the purchase of Christ; and he alone hath redeemed us from death, and procured for us glory and immortality by his own most precious blood; yet here the Scripture affirms, that we obtain a right to the Tree of Life; i. e. to everlasting life, by our obedience, and doing the commandments of God: a right, not indeed of merit; but a right of evidence. Our obedience to the Law is the only sound evidence, that we can have for outright to the promises of the Gospel: and, without an universal obedience in the whole course of our lives, all our joys, and comforts, and confident expectations of heaven and happiness are but splendid delusions and enthusiastical dreams; by which men of loose principles and practices seek to unite together two things, which God hath put at an irreconcileable distance: that is to say, an unholy life here, and a happy life hereafter. And if, to press this great truth upon the conscience; and to insist on the necessity of new obedience, and repentance from dead works, as well as faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, be legal preaching; let mine be ever so accounted. But, indeed, this is so far from being a legal doctrine, that it is one of the greatest and most precious truths, that the Gospel exhibits. To preach up Justification by the Law, as a Covenant, is legal; and makes void the death and merits of Jesus Christ: but to preach Obedience to the Law, as a Rule, is evangelical: and it savours as much of a New-Testament-Spirit, as they phrase it, to urge the Commands of the Law, as to display the Promises of the Gospel. ;.
There are Two great Ends, for which the Law was at first given: Conviction, and Reformation.
First. It was given, and ought still to be preached, for the Conviction of Sinners.
And it serves to convince them of Three Things.
First. Of their Guilt, contracted by the transgression of the Law. For, by laying their actions to the rule, and comparing the strictness and purity of the one with the obliquity and defects of the other, they may discern wherein they have offended; and their natural conscience may have an advantage, to charge their sin and guilt upon them. Thus, saith the Apostle, Rom. iii. 19, 20. We know, that what things soever the Law saith, it saith to them who are under the Law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.... for by the Law is the knowledge of sin.
Secondly. Of that Wrath and Eternal Death, to which they stand exposed by reason of their sin and guilt. The soul that sinneth, it shall die: Ezek. xviii. 20. And, Cursed is every one, that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them: Gal. iii. 10. And,
Thirdly. It serves to convince us of the utter Impossibility under which we lie, in this our fallen and corrupt estate, of ever obtaining Justification by the Works of the Law. Rom. iii. 20. By the works of the Law, shall no man be justified.... for by the Law is the knowledge of sin. For we cannot be justified by our obedience to it; since the Law demonstrates that our obedience is imperfect. Nor can we be justified by making satisfaction for our disobedience; since the same Law assures us, that the divine justice will accept no other satisfaction from us, but our undergoing the penalty threatened; which is eternal death. So that, to hope for life by satisfying and recompensing divine justice for our offences, is altogether as vain and foolish, as to hope for salvation by being damned.
Thus far the convincing work of the Law proceeds; and, when it hath brought a man to despair in himself, by shewing him his guilt, and that wrath to which he stands exposed, and the remedilesness of his sad condition by anything that he can either do or suffer, it there leaves him in this horror of darkness, till the Spirit of God, who hath thus by the Ministry of the Law convinced him of his own unrighteousness in himself, doth also by the Ministry of the Gospel convince him of a righteousness out of himself, in the Lord Jesus Christ: for it is the Spirit, that convinceth us of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: John xvi. 8
Secondly. Another great end of the Moral Law, is, Reformation and Obedience: that, having our rule before us, we may endeavour to conform our actions according unto it; and be deterred, by the majesty and authority of it, from adding sin to sin, and treasuring up to ourselves wrath against the day of wrath; and that, by seeing our defects, we may endeavour to amend them. Thus the Apostle tells us, Gal. iii. 19. that the Law was added because of transgressions: i. e. because pf the • exceeding proneness of our corrupted natures to transgress, God hath given us a holy and severe law to curb in our lusts, to check our headstrong desires and sensual appetites, and to keep us within the bounds of duty and obedience. For these Two great Ends was the Law given; Conviction and Reformation. And, upon both these accounts, the preaching of the Law is of absolute necessity. For, First. Where the Law hath not wrought its convincing work with power upon the conscience, there the preaching of Jesus Christ will be altogether in vain. For,until a sinner be thoroughly convinced of his guilt and misery; and his conscience be awakened by the threats and terrors of the Law, that he stands forfeited to the justice of God, liable to eternal wrath, and may every moment be swallowed up in the abyss of woe and torments, into which thousands before him have been already plunged; it will be impossible to persuade him seriously to embrace those tenders of mercy, which the Gospel holds forth unto him by Jesus Christ. He wraps himself in his own carnal confidence and security, and sees no need of looking out after any other righteousness than his own: and, although his own righteousness be but filthy rags, both imperfect and impure; yet, being his own, he thinks them better than borrowed robes. And, therefore, saith our Saviour, Mat. ix. 12. The whole need not a physician; but they, that are sick: i. e. those, who think themselves whole and sound, although indeed they be sick unto death, they need not a physician: i. e. they apprehend not their need of him, nor will they be persuaded to seek unto him. And, Secondly. As Christ cannot be accepted, where the Law doth not perform its convincing work; so he will not save, where it doth not perform its reforming work. Where there is no amendment of life, there can be no forgiveness of sins, nor true hopes of salvation: for Christ is given us, not to save us in our sins,
but from them. He is the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him: Heb. v. 9.:
And thus you see of what absolute necessity it is, to press the Law upon the conscience, to denounce its terrors, to inculcate its precepts; since the convincing work of it prepares us for Christ, and its reforming work for the salvation purchased by Christ. Without the one, we shall never come unto him: and, without the other, we shall never come to heaven by him.
That, which I chiefly design for the present, is, to treat of the Convincing Work of the Law: and that, in each of its three branches; Conviction of Guilt, Conviction of Wrath, and Conviction of the utter Impossibility we lie under to deliver ourselves from it by our own righteousness.
I shall now treat of the First.
To which purpose, I have chosen this portion of Scripture: John vii. 19. Did not Moses give you the Law? and yet none of you keepeth the Law.
In which words, we have an Expostulation and an Accusation.
I. In the EXPOSTULATION, we may take notice of Three Things.
i. That this Law, of which our Saviour speaks, was THE Whole System Of Divine Precepts, both concerning Ceremonial Rites, Judicial Processes, and Moral Duties.
For the Jews, from Moses's hands, received instructions for all their observances, gifts, offerings, washings, and other typical parts of worship; and for all their suits and controversies between man and man, which was the common and standing law of their nation; and, lastly, for all moral and natural duties, respecting either God or man. But this last being the chief part of the Law of Moses, is here likewise chiefly meant and intended. Yet none of you keepeth the Law: i. e. None of you observeth to do according to the commands of the Moral Law: for our Saviour frequently bears them witness, that they were very punctual observers of the Ceremonial and Judicial Laws; but condemns them, for neglecting the weighter matters of the Moral Law: judgment, mercy, and faith: Mat. xxiii.
ii. Whereas it is said, That the law was given unto them: i.e. to the Jews; it must be understood, that THE Ceremonial
AND JUDICIAL LAW WAS GIVEN UNTO THEM, BOTH IMMEDIATELY AND ONLY; BUT THE MORAL LAW WAS GIVEN TO THEM INDEED IMMEDIATELY, BUT NOT ONLY.
No other people on earth were necessarily obliged to the observation of the Ceremonial Law, much less of the Judicial, but the Jews alone. Yea, and, as I have before observed, Proselytes of other nations were admitted to the hopes of salvation, without binding them to any other observances, besides the keeping of the Seven Precepts of Noah: to renounce idols; to worship the True God; to commit no murder, nor uncleanness, nor theft; to execute justice; and to abstain from blood. But the Moral Law, although it was given to them immediately, yet not only to them: but its obligation is as universal as human nature itself; for, indeed, it is the very law of nature and right reason, reduced into precepts: and, therefore, although Moses gave this Law unto them as the Minister and Mediator of the Old Covenant; yet it is likewise given to us by God, as the Cause and Author of our Nature, and the commands of it are as obligatory unto us, as them: so that, as our Saviour saith to the Jews, Did not Moses give you the Law? I may say to you, "Did not God give you the Law? and yet none of you keepeth the Law".
iii. Whereas it is said, that Moses Gave Them The Law, we must here note:
1. That Moses gave it only ministerially; but God primarily and authoritatively. And, therefore, Gal. iii. 19, it is said, that the Law was given by the hand of a mediator: and Moses is commended for heingfaithful in all God's house, as a servant: Heb. iii. 5. as one, who received commands from the great Lord and Master of it, and delivered them to his fellow-servants.
2. That, although the Law were given by Moses; yet, as to the Moral part of it, and some of the Ceremonial, it was owned in the Church of God long before his ministry. As for some parts of the Ceremonial Law, we read frequently of sacrifices^and circumcision in use among the Patriarchs, many ages before Moses's time: and so saith our Saviour, John vii. 22. Moses gave unto you the circumcision; not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers. And, for the Moral Law, all the duties of it were incumbent upon mankind from the very first creation of the world, long before the promulgation of the Law from Mount Sinai: murder was forbidden, and known to be a sin, before the Lord proclaimed,