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liberty wbt entanglegcain, addrliberty,only This
liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage:"* and so again, addressing believers, he says, “ Ye are called unto liberty, only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh.”p This allegory instructs us by the two mothers
2. In the relation which they sustained to each other; the bondwoman was handmaid to the free. In that character she was taken into the family of the patriarch, and as such was content to continue for a long time; and even her offspring, as soon as he was born, was claimed as the property of her master. So the covenant which she represented was designed to serve, and at length to give way to another and a better.
Viewed in the above light, the Mosaic dispensation was one of the most striking displays of the benevolence and compassion of God. That there are many other reasons for which the freeness of the salvation of Christ is objected to, besides a want of conviction as to its necessity, is too manifest to need a proof; but there can be no doubt that this is the cause to which its rejection is most commonly to be ascribed. From an erroneous impression that the threatenings of the law will not be enforced, or being so ignorant of themselves as to think that they can obey its precepts, the unmerited mercy of God in Christ Jesus is not sought. To prevent the adoption of this error, therefore, especially on the part of the Jews, God gave the Decalogue upon Mount Sinai. To convey salvation was no part of its object; not because the
* Gal. v. 1. † Gal. v. 13.
Almighty would not have accepted the obedience of his creatures, could they have performed its requirements, for he had too great a regard to the work of his own hands to degrade man unnecessarily. Hence the apostle says, “ If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness would have been by the law."* But it did not impart salvation, just because it could not. It “ was weak, through the flesh."it It was to serve the interest of the gospel-to point out the necessity for that pardon which is given through the blood of Christ, it pronounced its curses; and to convince men of their need of sanctifying influences, the ancient ceremonies for purifying and cleansing were appointed. The relation to himself into which God takes his spiritual people was typified by that of the Jewish nation; nor were there many rites but had their counterpart in the more glorious dispensation to which that of Moses led. Therefore, when Paul supposed that some Jews would ask, 66 Wherefore then serveth the law ? and is the law against the promises of God ?” he answers, “ God forbid,"I and then goes on to show its intent and meaning.
3. The manner in which the use and places of these two persons were perverted also conveys to us important instruction. Hagar was taken by Abraham into the place of Sarah ; then, as a natural consequence of her elevation, she assumed an importance to which she had before been a stranger, and this led to the disorder which was afterwards found in the family * Gal. iii. 21. † Rom. viii. 3. Gal. iii. 19—21.
God fort the promises the the law
of the patriarch. Had the bondwoman been kept in her proper situation, she would have been a useful member of the household ; but when out of it, she became as injurious as before she had been serviceable. It is just so when the places of the law and the gospel are confounded and perverted.
The works of the Lord are perfect, and their perfection appears as much in the circumstance that they are not appropriate beyond their design, as in their complete adaptation to the end he has to accomplish in them. To nothing will this apply with more propriety than those dispensations which he has, in different ages of the world, introduced. No defect can be discovered in them when compared with the necessity which called for their existence, and the purpose the Almighty had in view; but when they have been employed to serve a purpose which he did not contemplate, they have not only failed, but have also provoked his displeasure. See this in the case of Cain and Abel. Had the offering of Cain been brought before the fall, so well was it suited to that period that it would have been accepted, and secured to him honour and favour; but it was, at the time he presented it, the offering of an abrogated dispensation, and therefore could not please God.
But in nothing was this ever seen so much as in the law and the gospel, and the consequences which follow from their perversion. Putting one in the place of the other, however, was the error of the Jews. They had been as children under age; and now, although arrived at maturity, they were still conforming themselves to the time of their pupilage. “Before faith came, they were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed ;"* but it was 'not intended that when it appeared they should remain under the law as a schoolmaster. Christ wrought out a righteousness which is “unto all and upon all them that believe."op “But they being ignorant of it, went about to establish their own,"I which was of the law. “But we know that the law is good if a man use it lawfully."$ It is not however to be substituted for the gospel: hence, to prevent this perversion, the apostle declares to the Galatians, “ Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”l)
That this should be the case with the Jews we might be prepared to expect, considering the circumstances in which they had been placed; but it is somewhat a matter of surprise that so many professing Christians are, in this respect, following their example, and looking for happiness to Sinai rather than to Zion. .
The allegory of Sarah and Hagar teaches an important lesson
II. In regard to their sons. This is applicable,
1. To their births. That of Ishmael was natural, having nothing about it extraordinary, except the great age of his father at the time it took place should be considered to give it a peculiar character; but that of Isaac was by the • Gal. iii. 23. ^ Rom. iii. 22. Rom. x. 3.
§ 1 Tim. i. 8. Il Gal. v. 4.
interposition of a special Divine agency in connection with the common means.
It is ascribed to credit given to the word of Almighty God, and Isaac is designated “He who was by the freewoman—by promise."* He was long expected by his parents, and received at last as the reward and fruits of their faith. Outwardly there was no difference between the two cases, or,
if any, it was in favour of Ishmael. So there is an essential contrast between the origin of the two characters which these represented,—that of a true believer in Christ, and a person who is looking to the law as a covenant of works, and hoping to obtain salvation by it. To the eye of sense they may appear the same, but they are not so before God. Every one must be aware of the fact, that although human nature is depraved, and at enmity with God, nevertheless to bring men to a certain point in religion is not very difficult. The facility with which this may be effected arises not only from the natural impression that they have of the importance and propriety of religion, but also from the tendency there is in the common influences attending the means of grace to produce a moral character. Fear is one of the strongest passions of the mind of man. It is soon awakened; and when the power of God, either directly or in connection with the word, is brought to bear upon it, a measure of regard to the rule of faith
may be expected to follow. Fallen creatures, however, do not naturally love God, though they may fear him, and sometimes with a slavish dread. To produce a new heart, and union to the Lord
* Gal. iv, 23.