Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

places ; his epistles are full of it, especially this of the Romans.

But the law given by Moses, being not given to all mankind, how are all men sinners; since, without a law, there is no transgression ?” To this the apostle, ver. 14, answers, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do, (i. e. find it reasonable to do) by nature the things contained in the law; these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves : which show the work of the law written in their hearts; their consciences also bearing witness, and amongst themselves their thoughts accusing or excusing one another.” By which, and other places in the following chapter, it is plain, that under the law of works, is comprehended also the law of nature, knowable by reason, as well as the law given by Moses. For, says St. Paul, Rom. iii. 9, 23, “ We have proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin : for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God :" which they could not do without a law.

Nay, whatever God requires any where to be done, without making any allowance for faith, that is a part of the law of works : so that forbidding Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge was part of the law of works. Only we must take notice here, that some of God's positive commands, being for peculiar ends, and suited to particular circumstances of times, places, and persons; have a limited and only temporary obligation, by virtue of God's positive injunction ; such as was that part of Moses's law, which concerned the outward worship, or political constitution of the Jews; and is called the ceremonial and judicial law, in contradistinction to the moral part of it; which being conformable to the eternal law of right, is of eternal obligation; and therefore remains in force still, under the Gospel; nor is abrogated by the law of faith, as St. Paul found some ready to infer, Rom. iii. 31, “ Do we then make void the law, through faith? God forbid ; yea, we establish the law.”

Nor can it be otherwise : for, were there no law of works, there could be no law of faith. For there could be no need of faith, which should be counted to men for righteousness; if there were no law, to be the rule and measure of righteousness, which men failed in their obedience to. Where there is no law, there is no sin; all are righteous equally, with or without faith. - The rule, therefore, of right, is the same that ever it was; the obligation to observe it is also the same : the difference between the law of works, and the law of faith, is only this: that the law of works makes no allowance for failing on any occasion. Those that obey are righteous; those that in any part disobey, are unrighteous, and must not expect life, the reward of righteousness. But, by the law of faith, faith is al. lowed to supply the defect of full obedience; and so the believers are admitted to life and immortality, as if they were righteous. Only here we must take notice, that when St. Paul says, that the Gospel establishes the law, he means the moral part of the law of Moses; for that he could not mean the ceremonial, or political part of it, is evident, by what I quoted out of him just now, where he says, That the Gentiles do, by nature, the things contained in the law, their consciences bearing witness. For the Gentiles neither did, nor thought of, the judicial or ceremonial institutions of Moses ; it was only the moral part their consciences were concerned in. As for the rest, St. Paul tells the Galatians, chap. iv. they are not under that part of the law, which, ver. 3, he calls elements of the world ; and, ver. 9, weak and beggarly elements. And our Saviour himself, in his Gospel sermon on the mount, tells them, Matt. v. 17, That, whatever they might think, he was not come to dissolve the law, but to make it more full and strict : for that that is meant by mineral is evident from the following part of that chapter, where he gives the precepts in a stricter sense than they were received in before. But they are all pre. cepts. of the moral law, which he re-enforces. What should become of the ritual law, he tells the woman of Samaria, in these words, John iv. 21, 23: “ The hour cometh, when you shall, neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. But the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”

Thus then, as to the law, in short: the civil and ritual part of the law, delivered by Moses, obliges not Christians, though, to the Jews, it were a part of the law of works; it being a part of the law of nature, that man ought to obey every positive law of God, whenever he shall please to make any such addition to the law of his nature. But the moral part of Moses's law, or the moral law, (which is everywhere the same, the eternal rule of right) obliges Christians, and all men, everywhere, and is to all men the standing law of works. But Christian believers have the privilege to be under the law of faith too; which is that law, whereby God justifies a man for believing, though by his works he be not just or righteous, i. e. though he come short of perfect obedience to the law of works. God alone does or can justify, or make just, those who by their works are not so: which he doth, by counting their faith for righteousness, i.e. for a complete performance of the law. Rom. iv. 3,“ Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” Ver. 5, " To him that believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Ver. 6, « Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works ;" i. e, without a full measure of works, which is exact obedience. Ver. 7, saying, “ Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.” Ver. 8, “ Blessed is the man, to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

This faith, for which God justified Abraham, what was it? It was the believing God, when he engaged his promise in the covenant he made with him. This will be plain to any one, who considers these places together, Gen. xv. 6, “ He believed in the Lord, or believed the Lord." For that the Hebrew phrase, “ believing in,” signifies no more but believing, is plain from St Paul's citation of this place, Rom. iv. 3, where he repeats it thus: “ Abraham believed God," which he thus explains, ver. 18-22, “ Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations : according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And, being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, nor yet the deadness of Sarah's womb. He staggered not at the promise of God, through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded, that what he had promised he was also able to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness." By which it is clear, that the faith which God counted to Abraham for righteousness, was nothing but a firm belief of what God declared to him; and a steadfast relying on him, for the accomplishment of what he had promised.: 16 Now this,” says St. Paul, ver. 23, 24, " was not writ for his [Abraham's] sake alone, but for us also ;" teaching us, that as Abrahain was justified for his faith, so also ours shall be accounted to us for righteousness, if we believe God, as Abraham believed him. Whereby it is plain is meant the firmness of our faith, without staggering, and not the believing the same propositions that Abraham believed ; viz. that though he and Sarah were old, and past the time and hopes of children, yet he should have a son by her, and by him become the father of a great people, which should possess the land of Canaan. This was what Abraham believed, and was counted to him for righteousness. But nobody, I think, will say, that any one's believing this now, shall be. imputed to him for righteousness. The law of faith then, in short, is for every one to believe what God requires him to believe, as a condition of the covenant he makes with him : and not to doubt of the performance of his promises. This the apostle intimates in the close here, ver. 24, “ But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead." We must, therefore, examine and see what God requires us to believe now, under the revelation of the Gospel ; for the belief of one invisible, eternal, omnipotent God, maker of heaven and earth, &c. was required before, as well as now.

What we are now required to believe to obtain eternal life, is plainly set down in the Gospel St. John tells us, John iii. 36, “ He that believeth on the Son, hath eternal life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life.” What this believing on him is, we are also told in the next chapter: “ The woman saith unto him, I know that the Messiah cometh : when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus said unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. The woman then went into the city, and saith to the men, Come see a man that hath told me all things that ever I did : is not this the Messiah ? and many of the Samaritans believed on him for the saying of the woman, who testified, he told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, many more believed because of his words, and said to the woman, We believe not any longer, because of thy saying; for we have heard ourselves, and we know that this man is truly the Saviour of the world, the Messiah.” John iv. 25, 26, 29, 39, 40, 41, 42.

By which place it is plain, that believing on the Son is the believing that Jesus was the Messiah ; giving credit to the miracles he did, and the profession he made of himself. For those who were said to believe on him, for the saying of the woman, ver. 39, tell the woman that they now believed not any longer, because of her saying ; but that having heard him themselves, they knew, i. e. believed, past doubt, that he was the Messiah.

This was the great proposition that was then controverted, concerning Jesus of Nazareth, “Whether he was the Messiah or no ?" And the assent to that was that which distinguished believers from unbelievers. When many of his disciples had forsaken him, upon his declaring that he was the bread of life, which came down from heaven, “ He said to his apostles, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of

VOL. VII.

« PoprzedniaDalej »