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Arc you poor? By that condition of life you are especially necessitated to redeem time by assiduity and diligence in your calling. Sloth and idleness would throw you into want and distress and at the same time dishearten others from giving you relief.
Diligence is one of the proper virtues of your station, and the chief merit you can attain to. It will therefore recommend you to the regard of others, and induce them to lend you their helping hand for your support; especially, if, notwithstanding your best care, you should come into any remarkable straits and difficulties: whereas, if, whilst you are in poor and low circumstances, you are idle and unactive, by this demonstration of a worthless mind, at least a very great defect of virtue, you check the charity even of those who are of a kind and benevolent disposition.
And let me observe, that as the nature of your condition very much engages your time and thoughts in providing the necessaries of life, you ought most carefully to improve the rest of the Lord's day for the concerns of your souls and another life.
II. Having mentioned these advices and counsels, I shall now conclude all with some considerations by way of motive and argument.
1. Consider that time is precious, and the improvement of it is of great importance. It is the season and opportunity of serving and glorifying God, and securing the eternal welfare and
salvation of our souls.
Though there are special opportunities in the time of life, it may be all considered as an opportunity which God has given us of preparing and qualifying ourselves for another and better life. How careful should we be to improve that time and season on which so much depends; no less than everlasting glory and happiness, or final ruin and misery.
2. Consider that time is short and uncertain. There is no very long space between the day of our birth, and the day of our death. How strongly, by a variety of comparisons, does Job represent the shortness of human life, and the swift and irrevocable progress of time! my days are swifter than a post: they flee away. They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey," Job ix. 25, 26. And in another place, My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle," Job vii. 6.
3. Proportionable to your care and diligence will be your progress and improvement. So it is often seen in the affairs and business of this world. Among many who have the same or like outward advantages, he usually is the most successful who is the most diligent and punctual. In the pursuit of knowledge he likewise has, for the most part, the advantage, who best employs his time. It is the same in religion. The diligent, the watchful, the circumspect Christian, is the growing and improving Christian.
Perhaps you know some who set out with you in the Christian course. You began together with equal ardour, and have enjoyed in a great measure the same external means and helps : but yet, their improvements, you think, are by far more considerable than your's. Their knowledge of religious truths appears more distinct and clear. Their faith of invisible things is lively and affecting. They are prepared both for life and for death. They have no tormenting fears of the one, nor solicitous desire and concern for the other. Their moderation of affection toward the good and the evil things of this life, you evidently perceive, is not insensibility and stupidity : but a wise and reasonable, and determined preference of things heavenly and eternal, to things earthly and temporal.
They are seldom moved by anger: whereas you often fall into excesses of that passion. They can overlook and forget an injury, when almost every little offence produces deep resentment in your breast. They bear courageously very afflicting strokes of providence. You shrink under the weight of small burdens.
What is the reason of this? Is it not that you have too much depended upon the fervour of your first resolutions, and have much neglected the means of your progress and improvement? Whereas they have been careful in redeeming their time by frequently impressing on their minds the obligations they are under, and reviving the sense of the engagements they have entered into. They allot time for serious meditation and consideration. When they pray, or hear, or engage in other religious services, they are intent, and do it with all their might, as in the presence, and under the eye of God,
They not only read, but think. They not only hear, but recollect also, and meditate af terwards. They have not only been intent and fully engaged in their private and public devotions,
but they have also gladly embraced opportunities of edifying conversation and conference; and have carefully treasured up many valuable observations which they have made themselves, or received from others. By these and other means they are continually on the improving hand, and grow daily stronger and stronger in the Lord.
4. For better exciting to the right improvement or redeeming of time, you may do well to observe some great examples of diligence and zeal. Such an one was the apostle Paul, who was in labours more abundant, and carried the knowledge of true religion to a vast extent in the compass of his indefatigable life. And such was Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, who, as St. Peter justly says, "went about doing good," Acts x. 38. And himself once said, "I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day. The night cometh, wherein no man can work," John ix. 4. And how well every portion of the short time of his ministry was employed, we evidently perceive from the history of it in the gospels; which history, though very brief and compendious, sets before us the most eminent example of zeal for the glory of God, and the welfare of men, and of diligence in pursuing those great ends that ever the world saw.
5. Lastly, consider, that time well improved will afford comfort and peace in a day of affliction, and in the hour of death; especially, if you begin early to mind the true business of life, and proceed with steadiness in the way of religion and virtue. You will not have reason for boasting, nor will you be disposed to it. You will never be proud of your good works, but will humbly own your defects, and cheerfully ascribe the glory of what has been well done to God, the fountain of all perfection, who has upheld, guided, taught and strengthened you. But still it will be very pleasing and delightful to be conscious of those virtuous dispositions and services which God himself approves and will reward. And you may be able in the end to say with the apostle, and with a like joy and triumph: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge will give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing," 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
JESUS MADE A CURSE FOR US.
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith. Gal. iii. 13, 14.
EVERY VERY one knows that the main design of the apostle in this epistle, is to dissuade the Galatians from coming under the yoke of the law of Moses, as necessary to acceptance with God, and eternal salvation.
As these Christians were his own converts, and they had paid too great regard to some artful men, since come in among them; he reproves them with sharpness, and sets arguments before them with warmth and earnestness. "O foolish Galatians," says he in this third chapter, "who has bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth? before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth crucified among you? He therefore that ministereth the spirit to you, doth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying: In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written: Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that
no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident. For the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but the man that doth them shall live in them. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us. For it is written: Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.
I shall first endeavour to show what is meant by Christ's being made "a curse for us:" after which we will observe the end and design of it.
1. The meaning of the expression is, that our Lord had suffered the death of the cross.. "Christ," says he, "has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." The word, indeed, is harsh; but I say it truly and I may justly so express myself. "For it is written," in the law: "cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." The text here referred to, is in Deuteronomy. "And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree; but thou shalt in anywise bury him that day. For he that is hanged is accursed of God: that the land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance," Deut. xxi. 22, 23. The usual punishments among the Jews were strangling and stoning: and it is generally supposed, that by the hanging in Deuteronomy is intended the doing so after death. This This appears from the preceding words, which speak of the man's being put to death before his suspension; which shows that this punishment was not exactly the same as the Roman crucifixion. for they crucified men alive, whereby they expired before they were taken down. But this was: only hanging up their bodies after they were dead, exposing them to open shame for a time.
So say very judicious expositors. And if this be right, then, by our Lord's being on a cross so as to die there, he was made a curse in a very emphatical sense.
This "hanging on a tree," according to the law of Moses, was a suspension of men, after they had been put to death for idolatry or blasphemy, or some other great offence. But Jesus suffered the pain of crucifixion, and died upon a cross.
The words of the law, before cited, are, "If thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree: but thou shalt in anywise bury him that day. For he that is hanged is accursed of God: that thy land be not defiled."
That is, he is an object of execration, which ought to be taken out of the way; or he that is hanged on a tree, is an abomination; that is, the dead body of a man hung up and exposed above ground, is a thing extremely impure, and offensive, and disagreeable, and therefore it must be soon taken down and removed out of sight.
Our Lord therefore was treated as if he had been accursed and abominable in the sight of God and men.
The history of our Lord's death in the gospels is a comment upon this text, and is well known to all. He was apprehended, tried, condemned, and crucified as a criminal. And he зuffered death at the common place of execution without the gates of Jerusalem.
Every one did not consider him as an offender, or guilty of any thing worthy of death.. But the voice of the people, concurring with the opinion of their great council, prevailed ; and the sentence was executed without abatement.
Nor should we omit to observe the word "made: being made a curse for us." He was Innocent, but was treated as an offender: and that, according to the permission, will and appointment of God the Father, in which our Lord acquiesced. "Therefore does my Father love me," says he, "because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh. it from me; but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father," John x. 17, 18.
For this great trial he prepared himself by prayer and meditation. When it drew near, he earnestly requested "that the cup might pass from him:" but added: not my will, but thine be done." Prayer being ended, he rose up, and went cheerfully through the scene of sufferings that was allotted to him. So Christ was made a curse for us.. Or, as it is expressed in another text: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. v. 21.
2. In the next place therefore we are to consider the ends and effects of this appointment, which are here expressed in a twofold phrase: "redeeming us from the curse of the law,” and obtaining "the blessing of Abraham."
These words may be easily understood by observing the context, which was read at the beginning of this discourse. "For as many as are of the works of the law," ver. 10. that is, who aim to be justified by the works of the law," are under the curse. For it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them;" which is next to impossible: and therefore every one who adheres to the law, comes under a sentence of condemnation. "But Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law :" having set us free from an obligation to it, and taught us how we may be justified by faith, or according to the rule of his gospel.
Which is the same as the other privilege here mentioned, "that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ:" that is, that the Gentiles might be justified in the same way that he was, by faith, without the works of the Mosaic law, which were not then introduced or instituted. "Even as Abraham believed, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith," that is, who believe, as Abraham did, "the same are the children of Abraham," ver. 6, 7. and are accepted of God
as his people. "And the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith,"
ver. 8. that is, that the time would come when all men should be assured of justification and acceptance with God in the same way, "preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith," who believe, and look for justification by faith, according to the gospel, the law and rule of real, sincere holiness and virtue," are blessed with faithful Abraham," ver. 9.
This, I think, is the design and meaning of the apostle in this place. And it is what he often teaches; that by the death and crucifixion of Christ the law has been abrogated, or rendered useless.
It is, I say, a thing which he often speaks of, as the design of Christ's death, to deliver us from an obligation to the law of Moses, and from the penalties and inconveniences hanging over them that disobeyed the ritual ordinances of it. Even so we, when we were children," infants under age," were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,—that we might receive the adoption of sons." Gal. iv. 3, 4. 5. that we might be henceforth delivered from the numerous and burdensome rites of the law of Moses, which had in them no real excellence, and that we might be treated as sons, or children arrived to maturity; and might be accepted, and have access to God in the sincere performance of a truly holy and spiritual worship and service, which is reasonable in itself, perfective of our nature, and obligatory at all times.
And at the beginning of the third chapter of this same epistle: "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that that you should not obey the truth:" that ye should not continue steady to the truth of the gospel, in its genuine plainness and simplicity, without Jewish rites and ceremonies?" before whom Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you:" to whom Christ's death, and the ends and designs of it, were once so clearly represented.
And in the epistle to the Ephesians, ch. ii. 14.-16. "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments, contained in ordinances, to make in himself of twain, one new man, so making peace. And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross; having slain the enmity thereby."
To the like purpose also in the epistle to the Colossians, ch. ii. 13--15. "And you being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he hath quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
In these places the apostle seems plainly to represent the abolishing of the ritual ordinances of the law, as an effect, or at least a consequence of Christ's death. But it may be asked: what influence had the death of Christ to this purpose? How did Christ redeem us from the curse of the law by suffering himself an accursed death? How did he by his death on the cross, abolish the obligation of those ordinances which are not of a moral nature?
This question has in it some difficulty: nor did all at the time of the first preaching the gospel after our Lord's ascension discern the law to be abrogated.
Let us therefore observe a few particulars for the solution of this difficulty.
1. When St. Paul speaks of this, as having been effected by the cross of Christ, he may thereby intend the whole of his doctrine: as it is common, in many cases, to express the whole by a part.
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness :-But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them that are called both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God,” 1 Cor. i. 18, 23, 24. For "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified," 1 Cor. ii. 2. He does not mean Christ's crucifixion only: for he had taught the Corinthians Christ's resurrection, and the whole doctrine of the gospel. His meaning is, that he resolved not to preach among them any philosophical speculations, but the Christian religion only, and particularly Christ's death, with all the articles depending upon it. So likewise: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus, [that is, in the dispensation by him, and according to his doctrine,] neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision: but a new creature," Gal. vi. 14, 15.
We may therefore understand by the cross of Christ, his whole doctrine confirmed by his death; and easily perceive, how Christ may be said thereby to have abolished the law. For he taught only the great principles of religion, and the moral precepts of real holiness, in the greatest extent and perfection, as reaching the heart. And he assured men, that they who received that doctrine, and acted according to it, would build upon a good foundation, and might depend upon acceptance with God, and future happiness.
Yea, he did himself say such things as amounted to a declaration, that the peculiarities of the law were no longer obligatory. For he taught, that no part of divine worship was any longer to be confined to the temple at Jerusalem, or any other place: that God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth: and that those evil things only, which proceed from the heart of man are defiling.
2. The ceasing of the obligation of the Mosaic institution, may be spoken of as an effect or consequence of the death of Christ; inasmuch as his death was the conclusion of his ministry, and the accomplishment of all things foretold concerning the Messiah.
As the law was designed to be a type and adumbration only of good things to come, the obligation of it ceased upon Christ's being fully manifested: who was the end of the law, to whom it pointed, and directed men.
The apostle speaks to this purpose, particularly in the argument before taken notice of in the epistle to the Colossians. "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day:-which are a shadow of things to come: but the body, [the substance,] is of Christ."
Christ may be said, to have been fully come, and the things foretold concerning him, may be said to have been accomplished at his death, and his resurrection. As he said to the disciples: "These are the words which I spake unto you, whilst I was yet with you: that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me," Luke xxiv. 44.
Christ then being come, and all things foretold of him having been fulfilled in his ministry, and death, and subsequent resurrection: the law, and its rituals, which had been brought in, and appointed to be in force only till he came, ceased to have longer any obligation. "Wherefore then serveth the law?-It was added, because of transgression, till the seed should come, to whom the promise was made?-but before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith, which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our school-master, for child's guide,] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a school-master. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," Gal. iii. 19, 23—26.
3. Which brings me to one thing more, by way of solution of this difficulty. Upon the death of Christ the obligation of the law ceased, because by his excellent doctrine, and miracu