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them that believe; Rom. 4. 16. They that attain to this Faith, are the Children of Abraham, and Heirs of the Pro. mise: and these will obtain the fame Privilege with their Father Abraham, to have their Faith counted to them for Righteousness ., that is, their Sin? shall not be imputed to them, but their Persons shall be accepted, and counted righteous before God, which are the greatest Blessings that can be bestow'd on any People: which yet are not absolute, but conditional, being founded on the Condition of Faith in Christ, and a firm Reliance upon his Merits^
This then is the Promise, which contains in it the Pardon of Sin j and the Acceptation of our Persons as righteous-, and these are the Persons to whom it is made, everi the Seed of Abraham, that adhere to the Promise as he did, and walk in the steps of his Faith.
But did not the Law, after given by Moses, any ways attef or abrogate the Promise made td Abraham, and bririg irk hew Terms df Justification by the Works of that Law? No, in no wise: so the Apostle in the next Verse of pur Text solemnly declares -, This I fay (faith he) that the Covenant that was confirm'd before of God in Christ, the Lap that was four hundred and thirty Tears aft er could riot disannuls that it should make the Promise of none efseEl: meaning, that the Covenant of blessing all Nations in Abraham,. the Promise bf Mercv made to his Seed iii the Messiah, were long before confirm'd by G6d to them, and niade art everlasting Covenant, that shduld not be broken. And it cannot reasonably be imagin'd, that the Law ddiver'd by xMvfes 43oYear$ after the Ratification of that Covenant, should frustrate or invalidate that Covenant *made with Abraham, and in him with all Believers so long before ., or that the Goodness of God would permit him to impose harder, and indeed impossible Terms of Justification, by the Observation df the Law, when in his Promise to Abraham and his Seed he had granted it long before upori the lnilder and better Terms df Faith in Christ : which would be not dnly to alter, but to destroy the Promise of God, and make it of no effect; This he farther argues in the following Verse : For if the Inheritance (faith he) be of the Lam, it is no more of Promise; but God gave it to Abraham by Promise i that is, the asserting of Justification by the Works of the Law, will quite alter the method of God's dealing with Abraham, and of his Proceedings with all his VohlVi Part a. X PostePosterity. For if the Blessing foretold to come upon al l Nations, Gentiles as well as Jews, come upon the performance of the Mosaical Law, then there is an end of the Promise made to Abraham., and nothing can come to him or his Seed by virtue of that; which is directly contrary to the whole Tenor of Scripture, for that affirms it to come to Abraham and his Posterity by Promise only. Beside,
The ascribing of Justification to the Works of the Law, will attribute our justification to our selves, and our own Performances, and wholly derogate from the Honour and Efficacy of Christ's Satisfaction: for if our keeping the Law be the Terms of our Acceptance with God, we are then our own Justifiers and Saviours, and there can be no fleed of another's Righteousness, if our own will serve the turn* Moreover,
^•This, will advance the Notion of Merit, and beat down the Price of the Mercy and Merits of a Redeemer: for if pur Works are sufficient to Justification, then may they deserve and claim it at God's hand, and we need look no farther, or be beholden to any other. 'Tis upon this foot, that St. Paul so strongly argues against Justification by Works, in his Epistle to the Romans and elsewhere; telling us, that they who raise the Structure of their Hopes upon the Foundation of their legal Performances, and trust too much to themselves, have whereof to boast: like the proud Pharisees, who counted upon a generous kind of Happiness to be atchiev'd by the Merit of their own Works, and scorn'd a borrow'd and beggarly Felicity, that came like an Alms from the Bounty of Heaven. Which Pride and Arrogance of the Pharisees iff sharply rebuk'd by our Saviour, who told them that Publicans and Harlots shall enter into the Kingdom os Heaven before them.
Nov? to him that worketh (faith St. Paul) is the Reward reckon'd not of Grace, but of Debt, Rom. 4.4. that is, he that looks to be justify'd by his own Works, receives the Blessing not as from the Grace and Favour of God, but as a Debt due to his own Merits: which Vanity he blames in some of the Israelites, who being ignorant of Christ's Righteousness, and going about to establish their own Righteousness, submitted not to the Righteousness of God; Rom. 10. 3. And this depriv'd them of all the Comfort and Benefit of it j and therefore we are all taught to (ay, Not by Works of Righteousness which we have done, but by his Mercy he saveib
Us. By all which it appears, that the Blessings of Justification and Salvatiori which we expect, must come from the Promise made to Abraham and his Seed, and not from the Law, which was after given by Mefeu
But if matters be thus, Wherefore thenserveth the Law? as the Apostle asks the question j in the next Verse of our Text: to which the Answer is in the following words • , It was added because of Transgressions, till the Seed stjould come, to whom the Promise was made. Where its being added because of Transgressions, signifies its being given botft to discover and prevent Sin, which is the Transgression of the Law: By the Law (faith the Apostle) Cometh the Knowledg of Sin, for I had not known Lust, if the Law had not said, Thou shalt not covet* And as it was given to discover, so was it added to prevent Sin, and to restrain Men from it* by shewing them the Guilt and Punishment os it) and making them to seek out for a Remedy-• , which could only be by this promis'd Seed t and therefore they were to read and study and live by that Law, till the Seed should conie, to whom the Promise was made; that is, till Christ and bis Members, his Disciples and Believers, should come to give them clearer and fuller Directions. So that the Law was given them as a Rule to walk by, and to govern their Actions, tho it could not be the Means of Instrument of their justification, which could only be done by Faith in Christ. In the mean time, the principal Use and Design of the Law was to keep them from Sin, and to affright them from all Transgressions and Violations of it: to which end, it was ordain d by Angels in the hand of a Mediator; that is, it was deliver'd by them in a most solemn and glorious manner, with Thunder and Lightning, arid the Sound of a Trumpet, and with all the pompous Solemnities of Dread and Terror, to keep them to the Observance of it* Yea, so terrible was the Appearance, that the People durst not approach the Mountain ; and therefore Moses was call'd up to be a Mediator, to shew them the Word of the Lores, and by his Hand to deliver it to them* Now this Mediator was not to God only$ but between God and the People £ for a Mediator is not a Mediator of one, but God is one.
When the Apostle bad given this Account of the Use and Reason of the LaWj he proceeds, in the next Verse, to another Question* which they might be apt to move in this
Xi Cafe: Cafe ; and that is, Is the Law then against the Promises of God? Since the Promise made to Abraham is, so full of Comfort, and the Law given by Moses so full of Terror, is there any Clashing or Opposition between them?
This Question he answers with an Abfit \ No, God forbid! for if there had been a Law given, which could have given Lise, verily Righteousness should have been by the Law j ver, ±1. That is, had the Law any power of absolving us from our Guilt, and granting to us Life and Salvation, indeed then Righteousness might' have been by the Law then might the Promise made to Abraham have been superseded as void and useless, having a later Remedy of being justify'd and pronounc'd righteous by the Law.
But alas! the Cafe is quite otherwise : for neither hath the Law any such power of acquitting and granting Life; nor if it had, have we any power of performing the Conditions requisite to the receiving the benefit of it-, and so must remain for ever in a helpless and undone Condition, if not reliev'd by the Promise made to Abraham and his Seed, and by the Merits of the Messiah who issa'd from him. This is evident from
'The last Words of our Text .., for the'Scripture hath concluded'all under Sin, that the Promise by Faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. The Scripture tells us, that no mere Man ever did or could keep the whote Law y tor in many things we offend all, and if we fay we have no Sin, we deceive our selves, and the Truth is not in us. . The Law exacts from us perfect and unsinning Obedience, which is not in our power to pay ; and pronounces a Curse upon every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the Book of the Law, to do them. So that by this we ate all shut up under Sin, and sentene'd to eternal Death, the just Wages and Punishment of it. This the Scriptures have reveal'd to us, that we may have recourse to a Saviour, and that the Promise by Faith in Christ might be given to them that believe.
This is the Sense an'd Suni of the Epistle for this Day y from whence we may infer a few weighty and useful Lessons: As,
i. We may learn hence to magnify the infinite Wisdom, Power, and Goodness of God, in providing this Remedy for us in the promised Seed: We were all lost in Adam, but: are happily restor'd in Abraham j she Sin of the One being' ^ done done away by the Righteousness of the other. This was the blessed Contrivance of Heaven for the Restauration of Mankind, who had neither Knowledg nor Ability to help themselves: in this forlorn Condition our gracious God took pity upon us, and found out this Expedient to relieve us in our lowest State, and thereby distinguish'd us in his Favour above the noblest Rank of Creatures: for tho the Angels first fell from their Station of Glory, and after drew us into the fame Misery with themselves, yet .the Son of God was pleas'd to pass by them, and f restore us; for he took not on him the Nature of Angels, but took on him the Seed of Abraham: which is an Instance of the Divine Goodness, ever to be own'd and admir'd by the Sons of Men.
2. We learn hence the right Way and Method of our Justification, which is not by the Works of the Law, by which no Flesh living can be justify'd, but by Faith in Christ. The Law speaks nothing but Death and Damnation ^ and as many as are under the Law, are under the Curse. 'Tis the Grace and Spirit of the Gospel, which alone speaks Life and Salvation ., 'tis that helps us to the Pardon of bur Sins, and the Acceptance of our Persons as righteous before God. We all stand condemn'd by the Sentence of the Law, which the best of us daily break in Thought, Word, and Deed; so that we can expect no Favour thence, and it would be Arrogance and Folly to build the Hopes of Salvation upon so bad a Foundation. To find Mercy, we must have recourse to the Promise made to us in Abraham, and look for a. Blessing from the promis'd Seed : and to obtain Justification', we must appeal from the Rigour and Curfe of the Law, to the Mercy and Favour of the Gospel, to rely upon the Atonement reveal'd in it as purchas'd by Christ, and bestow'd on them that believe.
Lastly, Let us learn from hence to qualify our selves for this Blefling, and that is by Faith in Christ; for the Promise is made and given only to them that believe. 'Tis not the bare Descent from Abraham that will intitle to it j for St. John bid the Jews, not to think it sufficient to fay, We have Abraham tq our Father, for God was able of these Stones to raise up Children unto Abraham ., Mat. 3,Q. And our Savjpur tells them, that calling Abraham their Father would be of no use to them, without doing the Works and following the Faith of Abraham , John 8. Mo external Privileges can' do them any service, without internal Grace in the Heart, for neither Circumcision or Vncircumcifion availetk <wy thi»e,,
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