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expressions of law, words, statutes, testimonies, precepts, and commandments, in almost every verse of the 119th Psalm. And he says of himself, "O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day!"
St. Paul was as evangelically legal as David; for he knew the law is as much contained in the Gospel, as the tables of stone, on which the moral law was written, were contained in the ark. He therefore assured the Corinthians, that "though he had all faith," even that which is most uncommon, and performed the greatest wonders, it would "profit him nothing," unless it was accompanied by "charity," unless it "worked by love," which is "the fulfilling of the law;" the excellency of faith arising from the excellent end it answers in producing and nourishing love.
Should it be objected, that St. Paul says to the Galatians, "I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live to God;" and to the Romans, "Ye are become dead to the law by the body of Christ:" I answer, in the apostle's days, that expression, the law, frequently meant "the whole Mosaic dispensation;" and in that sense every believer is dead to it, dead to all that Christ has not adopted. For, (1.) He is dead to the Levitical law," Christ having abolished in himself the law of ordinances. Touch not, taste not, handle not." (2.) He is dead to the ceremonial law, which was only "a shadow of good things to come," a typical representation of Christ and the blessings flowing from his sacrifice.. (3.) He is dead to the curse attending his past violations of the moral law; for "Christ hath delivered us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." And lastly, he is dead to the hopes of recommending himself to God by the merit of his obedience to the moral law; for in point of merit, he "is. determined to know nothing but Christ and him crucified."
To make St. Paul mean more than this, is, (1.) To make him maintain that no believer can sin: for if "sin is the transgression of the law," and "the law is dead and buried," it is plain, no believer can sin, as nobody can transgress a law which is abolished: for "where no law is, there is no transgression." (2.) It is to make him contradict St. James, who exhorts us to "fulfil the royal law, according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." And, (3.) It is to make him contradict himself: for he charges the Galatians " by love to serve one another; all the law being fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." And he assures the Hebrews, that under the new covenant, believers, far from being "without God's laws, have them written in their hearts; God himself placing them in their minds." We cannot, therefore, with any shadow of justice, put Dr. Crisp's coat upon the apostle, and press him into the service of Antinomians."
And did our Lord side with Antinomians? Just the reverse. from repealing the two above mentioned royal precepts, he asserts, that" on them hang all the law and the prophets;" and had the four Gospels been then written, he would no doubt have represented them as subservient to the establishing of the law, as he did the book of Isaiah, the evangelical prophet. Such high thoughts had he of the law, that when a lawyer expressed his veneration for it, by declaring that "the love of God, and our neighbour, was more than all whole
burnt offerings and sacrifices, Jesus, seeing that he had answered discreetly, said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God."
The Gospel itself terminates in the fulfilling of the commandments. For as the curse of the law, like the scourge of a severe schoolmaster, drives, so the Gospel, like a loving guide, brings us to Christ, the great Law Fulfiller, in whom we find inexhaustible treasures of pardon and power; of pardon for past breaches of the law, and of power for present obedience to it. Nor are we sooner come to him than he magnifies the law, by his precepts, as he formerly did by his obedience unto death. "If ye love me," says he, "keep my commandments." "This is his commandment, that we should love one another; and he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."
Again: the Gospel displays Jesus' dying love, that by "believing" it "we may" love him, that is, "have everlasting life," the life of love which abideth when the life of faith is no more. Hence St. John sums up Christianity in these words, "We love him because he first loved us!" And what is it to love Jesus, but to fulfil the whole law at once, to love God and man, the Creator and the creature, united in one divinely human person!
Did the Son of God "magnify the law," that we might vilify it? Did he "make it honourable," that we might make it contemptible? Did he "come to fulfil it," that we might be discharged from fulfilling it according to our capacity? That is, discharged from loving God and our neighbour? Discharged from the employment and joys of heaven? No: the "Word was never made flesh" for this dreadful end. None but Satan could have become incarnate to go upon such an infernal errand as this! Standing, therefore, upon the rock of evangelical truth, we ask, with St. Paul, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid! Nay, we establish the law." We point sinners to that Saviour in and from whom they may continually have the law-fulfilling power; "that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit."
Such are the glorious and delightful views which the Scriptures give us of the law, disarmed of its curse in Christ; the law of holy, humble love, so strongly enforced in the discourses, and sweetly exemplified in the life and death of the "Prophet like unto Moses!" So amiable, so precious is the book of the law, when delivered to us by Jesus, sprinkled with his atoning blood, and explained by his loving Spirit! And so true is St. Paul's assertion, "We are not without law to God, but under the law to Christ!"
Instead then of dressing up the law as a scarecrow, let us in our degree "magnify it, and make it honourable," as did our Lord. Instead of representing it as "an intolerable yoke of bondage," let us call it, with St. Paul," the law of Christ ;" and, with St. James, "the perfect law of liberty." And let every true believer say, with David, "I love thy commandments above gold and precious stones: I shall alway keep thy law, yea, for ever and ever; I will walk at LIBERty, for I seek thy precepts."
But, alas! how few give us these evangelical views of the law, and practical views of the Gospel! How many intimate Christ has
filled all righteousness," that we might be the children of God
with hearts "full of unrighteousness!" If some insist upon our "fulfilling all righteousness" also, is it not chiefly when they want to draw us into their peculiarities, and dip us into their narrow denomination? And what numbers, under the fair pretence that they "have a living law written in their hearts," insinuate, "there is no need of preaching the law" to them, either to show them more of God's purity, endear the atoning blood, regulate their conduct, or convince them of the necessity of perfecting holiness!
But suppose these objectors love, as they say, "the law written in their inward parts," (which the actions and tempers of some make rather doubtful,) is the writing so "perfectly finished," that no one stroke need to be added to it? Is not the law an important part of "the word of righteousness?" And could not the Holy Ghost retouch the writing, or deepen the engraving, by the ministry of "the word of righteousness?" Again: if the internal teachings of the Holy Spirit supersede the letter of the law, must they not, by the same reason, supersede the letter of the Gospel? Is there any more need of preaching the Gospel than the law to believers? Or have they not the Gospel "written in their hearts," as well as the law?
At what amazing heights of unscriptural perfection must our objectors suppose themselves to have arrived! What palpable errors do they run into, that they may have the honour of passing for evangelical! And who will envy them the glory of countenancing the Antinomian delusion, by standing in direct opposition to Christ, who thus decides the controversy : Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled," either in what it requires or denounces for the law is "fulfilled" not only when its precepts are obeyed, but when rewards are given to the observers, and punishments inflicted upon the violators of it. "Whosoever, therefore, shall do my commandments, and TEACH them, shall be great in the kingdom of heaven."
Do not imagine, Rev. sir, I thus cry up God's law to drown the late cries of heresy and apostasy. I appeal to matter of fact and your own observations. Consider the religious world, and say, if ANTINOMIANISM is not in general a motto better adapted to the state of professing congregations, societies, families, and individuals, than HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD, the inscription that should be even upon our "horses' bells."
II. Begin with CONGREGATIONS, and cast first your eyes upon the hearers. In general they have curious "itching ears, and will not endure sound doctrine." Many of them are armed with the "breastplate of a righteousness" which they have vainly* imputed to them
* Our imputation of Christ's righteousness to ourselves is a trick of our Antinomian hearts, and is a dreadful delusion: but God's imputing of Christ's righteousness to true believers is a most blessed reality, for which we cannot too much contend. "He speaks the word and it is done;" his imputation is not an idea, but a fiat; wherever it takes place, "Jehovah our righteousness, or Christ the righteous, dwells in the heart by faith." I wish that with respect to imputed righteousness we paid more regard to the late Mr. Hart's sentiment. This experienced and sound Calvinist, in the account of his conversion, prefixed to his Hymns, says, with great truth: "As much as Lazarus coming out of the grave,
selves: they have on the showy " helmet of a presumptuous hope," and hold fast the impenetrable shield of strong prejudice. With these they "quench the fiery darts of" convincing truth, and stand undaunted under volleys of reproof.
They say, they "will have nothing but Christ." And who could blame them, if they would have Christ in all his offices? Christ, with all his parables and sermons, cautions and precepts, reproofs and expostulations, exhortations and threatenings? Christ, preaching to the multitudes upon a mountain, as well as honourably teaching in the temple? Christ, fasting in the wilderness, or praying in Gethsemane ; as well as Christ making the multitude sit down upon the grass to receive "loaves and fishes," or promising "thrones" to his disciples? Christ,"constraining them to get into a ship, and toil in rowing all night with a contrary wind;" as well as Christ "coming in the morning," and causing "the ship to be immediately at the land whither they went?" Christ upon Mount Calvary, as well as Christ upon Mount Tabor? In a word, who would find fault with them if they would have Christ with his poverty and self denial, his reproach and cross, his Spirit and graces, his prophets and apostles, his plain apparel and mean followers?
But alas! it is not so. They will have what they please of Christ, and that too as they please. If he come accompanied by legal Moses and honest Elijah, who talk of the crucifixion of the body, and "decease" of the flesh, they can do very well without him. If he preach "free grace, free will, faithfulness, or heavenly mindedness," some turn to the right, some wheel about to the left, others go directly back, and all agree to say or think, "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?"
They admire him in one chapter, and know not what to make of him in another. Some of his words they extol to the sky, and others they seem to be ashamed of. If he assert his authority as a Lawgiver, they are ready to treat him with as little ceremony as they do Moses. If he say, "Keep my commandments: I am a king;" like the Jews of old, they rise against the awful declaration; or they "crown him" as a Surety, the better to "set him at naught" as a Monarch. And if he add, to his ministers, "I am the prophet that was to come; go in my name, and teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you;" they complain, "This is the law; give us the Gospel; we can relish nothing but the Gospel!"
They have no idea of "eating the paschal lamb" whole, "his head with his legs, and the purtenance thereof;" nor do they take care of "not breaking his bones;" they do not like him roast with fire neither; but "raw or sodden with water" out of their own "broken cisterns." If you present him to them as the type of the "Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, and maketh an end of it;" their
and feeling himself restored to life, differed from those who only saw the miracle, or believed the fact told them; so great is the difference between a soul's real coming to Christ out of himself and having the righteousness of Christ imputed to him by the precious faith of God's elect; and a man's bare believing the doctrine of imputed righteousness, because he sees it contained in the Scripture, or assenting to the truth of it when proposed to his understanding by others."
hearts heave, they say, "Pray have me excused" from thus feeding upon him and though it is said, "Ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning, you shall eat it in haste," they postpone, they beg leave to keep it till the article of death and if, in the meantime, you talk to them of " bitter herbs," they marvel at your Jewish, legal taste, and complain that you spoil the Gospel feast.
They do not consider we must "give every one his portion of meat," or proper medicine, "in due season;" and that sweet things are not always wholesome. They forget we must "leave all" Antinomian refinements" to follow Christ," who sometimes says to decent Pharisees, "How can you escape the damnation of hell?" And to a beloved disciple that shuns the cross, "Satan, thou savourést not the things of God, but the things of men." They will have nothing but the atonement. Nor do they choose to remember, that St. Paul, who "did not shun to declare the whole counsel of God," preached Christ to Felix, by "reasoning of temperance, righteousness, and judgment to come."
Hence it is that some preachers must choose comfortable subjects to please their hearers; just as those who make an entertainment for nice persons are obliged to study what will suit their difficult taste. A multitude of important scriptures may be produced, on which no minister, who is unwilling to lose his reputation as "an evangelical preacher," must dare to speak in some pulpits, unless it be to explain. away or enervate their meaning. Take some instances :
The good old Calvinists, (Archbishop Leighton for one,) questioned whether a man was truly converted who did not sincerely "go on to perfection," and heartily endeavour to "perfect holiness in the fear of God." But now, if we only quote such passages with an emphasis, and enforce their meaning with some degree of earnestness, the truth of our conversion is suspected: we even pass for enemies to Christ's righteousness,
If we have courage to handle such scriptures as these, "To do good and to distribute forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Show me thy faith by thy works. Was not Rahab justified by works? By works was Abraham's faith made perfect," &c, the bare giving out of our text prejudices our Antinomian hearers against us, and robs us of their candid attention, unless they expect a charity sermon; for on such an occasion they will yet allow us, at the close of our discourse, to speak honourably of good works: just as those who run to the opposite extreme, will yet, on some particular days, such as Christmas and Good Friday, permit us to make honourable mention of Jesus Christ.
The evil would be tolerable if we were only obliged to select smooth texts in order to gratify an Antinomian audience; but, alas! it is grown so desperate, that unless we "adulterate the sincere milk of the word," many reject it as poison. It is a doubt whether we could preach in some celebrated pulpits on "the good man, who is merciful and lendeth, who hath dispersed abroad and given to the poor, and whose righteousness remaineth for ever;" or on "breaking off our sins by righteousness, and our iniquities by showing mercy to the poor;" or on the righteousness which exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees;" or on "the robes washed and made white in the blood of