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It is thus that God has wisely balanced the advantages of different ages. The fathers obtained much; but not all. In respect of the blessings of Messiah's kingdom, they sowed, and we reap; they labored, and we enter into their labors. Thus it is ordered, that they without us should not be made perfect. The fulfilments of our times must come in to answer the faith, and complete the hopes of those who have gone before us.
Rom. ii. 14. The Gentiles, which have not the law, do
by nature the things contained in the law. Ephes. ii. 3. Among whom we all had our conversation
in times past.....and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
THE term "nature" in these two passages is of very different signification. In the first it stands opposed to the written law of God, or the light of revelation. In the latter it is opposed to custom, education, or any thing merely accidental. In the one case it is expressive of their want of external means: in the other of the inward disposition of their minds. The phrase "by nature” in the former, refers to the rule of action; but in the latter to the cause of it. All arguments therefore against the total depravity of human nature, or in favor of a natural disposition to virtue, drawn from the first of these passages, are entirely unfounded.
Rom. xiv. 5. One man esteemeth one day above another:
another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. VOL. III. * 38
Gal. iv. 10, 11. Ye observe days, and months, and times,
and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.
The key to this apparent difficulty will be found in attending to the persons addressed. The Roman and Galatian churches were each composed of both Jews and gentiles; but they are not addressed promiscuously; nei. ther are they the same description of people who are addressed in both passages. Those who "regarded days" among the Romans were the converted Jews, who haying from their youth observed them as Divine appointments, were with difficulty brought to lay them aside. And as their attachment had its origin in a tender regard to Divine authority, they were considered as “keeping the day unto the Lord;" and great tenderness was enjoined upon the gentile converts towards them in that matter.
Those, on the other hand, who among the Galatians “observed days, and months, and times,” were converted gentiles, as iš manifest from the context, which describes them as having, in their unconverted state, “done service to them which by nature were no gods.” (verse 8.) These being perverted by certain judaising teachers, were, contrary to the apostolic decision, (Acts xv.) circumcised, and subjected themselves to the yoke of Jewish ceremonies. Nor was this all: they were brought to consider these things as necessary to justification and salvation, which was subversive of the doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus Christ. Acts xv. i. Gal. v. 4.
Considering these differences, the different language of the apostle is perfectly in character. Circumcision, and conformity to the laws of Moses, in Jewish converts, was held to be lawful. Even the apostle of the gentiles himself, “to the Jews became a Jew," frequently, if not constantly, conforming to the Jewish laws; and writing to others he expresses himself on this wise: “Is any man called, being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? Let him not become circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but keeping of the commandments of God.” (1 Cor. vii. 18, 19.) But for gentiles, who had no such things to be alleged in their favor, to go off from the liberty granted to them, (Acts. xv.) and entangle themselves under a yoke of bondage; and not only so, but to make it a term of justification, was sufficient to excite a fear least the labor which he had bestowed upon them was in vain.
1 Cor. x. 13. God who is faithful, will not suffer you to
be tempted above that ye are able. 2 Cor. i. 8. We were pressed out of measure, above
strength, insomuch thut we despaired even of life. The ability in the first of these passages, and the strength in the last are far from being the same. The former is expressive of that Divine support which the Lord has promised to give to his servants under all their trials: the latter of the power which we possess naturally as creatures. We may be tried beyond this,
as all the martyrs have been, and yet not beyond the other. The outward man may perish, while the inward man is renewed day by day.
Gal. vi. 2. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil
the law of Christ. Gal. vi. 5. Every man shall bear his own burden. The first is an exhortation to Christian sympathy under present afflictions: the last is a declaration of the rule of future judgment, according to character. We may alleviate each other's sorrows in this life; but cannot stand in each other's place at the last day.
Phil. iv. 5. The Lord is at hand. 2 Thess. ii. 2. Be not soon shaken in mind, nor troubled,
neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
EVERY thing with respect to degrees is what it is by comparison. Taking into consideration the whole of time, the coming of Christ was at hand. There is reason to believe from this, and
many other passages of the New Testament, that the sacred writers considered themselves as having passed the meridian of time, and entered into the afternoon of the world, as we may say. Such appears to be the import of the following, among other passages; "God hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son: Once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself: Upon whom the ends of the world are come: The coming of the Lord draweth. nigh: Surely I come quickly!"*
* Heb. i. 2. ix. 26. 1 Cor. a. 11, James v. 8. Rev. xxi. 20.
But taking into consideration only a single generation, the day of Christ was not at hand. The ThessaIonians, though a very amiable people, were by some means led into a mistake on this subject: so as to expect that the end of the world would take place in their lifetime, or within a very few years. To correct this error, which might have been productive of very serious evils, was a principal design of the second epistle to that people.
Heb. xi. 33. Who through faith obtained promises.
Heb. xi. 39. They received not the promise. The Old Testament worthies by faith obtained many promises, but it does not follow that they obtained all. That of the Messiah in particular, "they received not;" God having provided this better blessing for us nnder the New Testament. Thus things are wisely balanced between us. We could not do without their prophecies; and they, without what has taken place in our days, could not be made perfect.
I John i. 8. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive
ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John iii. 9. Whosoever is born of God doth not com
mit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
It appears that the word sin, in these passages, is of different signification. In the first it is to be taken properly, for any transgression of the law of God. If any man say, in this sense, he has no sin, he only proves himself to be deceived, and that he has yet to learn what is true religion,