Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

ment is the execution of the penalty of the law upon an o Fender, for transgressing the precept. Thus St. Paul reasons (Rom. v. 13, 14.) until the law ;- that is, all the time from Adam's fall till the giving of the law at mount Sinai, (about 2536 years) sin rai in the world, and consequently there was a law then in force ; for sin is not imputed where there is no law. But sin was evident. ly imputed in that period ; for though the Sinai law was not then published, nevertheless death, the penalty of the lawo, reigned with dreadful uncontrolled power, from Adam to Moses. Thus you see the patriarchal age was under a law to God. And as to the Gentiles, though they had not the revealed law, yet they were not lawless, but bound by the law of nature : of the contents of which their own reason and conscience informed them in the most important particulars. Thus St. Paul tells us, that the Gentiles who have not the revealed law, perform by nature the part of a law, and therefore are a law to themselves, the works of the law being written in their hearts. Rom. ii. 14, 15. As to us, who live under the gospel, we are not, as the apostle observes, without law to God, but under the law to Christ ; (1 Cor. ix. 21.) that is; ve are still under a law to God, with all those endearing obligations superadded, which result from the gracious gospel of Christ. And we cannot suppose the contrary, without supposing that the gospel has put an end to all religion and morality, and set us at liberty to all manner of vice and impiety ; for if we are still obliged to religion and virtue, it must be by some constitution that has the general nature of a law. St. Paul rejects the thought with horror, that the law is made void by the gospel. Do we then make void the law by faith? Far be the thought, nay, we ertablish the law. Rom. iii. 31. This first proposition therefore is sufficiently evident, " That all mankind, in all ages, and under every dispensation of religion, are under a law to God." Let us now advance a step farther :

II. This law was first of all given to man in a state of innocence, under the model of a covenant of works; that is, it was the constitution, by obedience to which he was to secure the fa: vour of God, and to obtain everlasting felicity. It was his duty to observe it with a view to obtain immortality and happiness by it ; and these blessings he was to secure by his own works of obedience. That the law was first published to man' with this

So I would choose to render. Quosi tal og vélho, Troin ; and thus it agrees better with what follows, faulois ciri vóp c.

view, is evident from many passages of scripture, particularly from that often repeated maxim of the apostle, The man that doth these things shall live by. them ; (Rom: x. 5. Gal. vii. 12. see also Lev. xvii. 5. Neb: ix. 29. Ezek. XX. 11, 13, 21.) 'nay, he tells us expressly that the commandment was ordained unto life ; (Rom.vii. 10.) that is, it was appointed as a plan by' which man was to oba tain life. Hence Cbrist assures the lawyer, who had repeated the substance of the law to him, This do, and thou shalt live, Luke x. 28. This implies, that if he fully obeyed the law, he would certainly obtain life by it, according to the original design of that constitution. And when St. Paul'says, That the salvation of sinners was a thing which the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, Rom. vii. 3, it is implied, that it was not wcak in itself, but fully sufficient to give life; only, by the weakness of our flesh, we were not able to obey it, and on this account it was not able to save us. This proposition also is sufficiently evident, that the law was first given to man in innocence as a covenant of works, or as a constitution according to which he was to obtain life, by his own works. I now proceed to the next proposition, and to shew you,

III. That this law has passed through several editions, and received several additions and modifications, adapted to the various circumstances of mankind, and the designs of Heaven towards them.

That you may more fully understand this, I would observe by the way, that the law is either moral or positive. By the moral law, I mean that law which is founded upon the eternal reason of things, and that enjoins those duties which creatures under such and such circumstances owe to God, and to one another, and which necessarily flow from their relation to one another. Thus, love to God, and justice to mankiod, are moral duties universally binding upon mankind in all circumstances, whether in a state of innocenco, or in a state of sin ; whether under the revealed law, or the law of nature. There can be no possible circumstances in which mankind are free from the obligation of such duties, and at liberty to commit the contrary sins. These are more proper: ly the materials of a moral law. But there is another set of du: ties agreeable to the circumstances of fallen creatures under a dispensation of grace, which I may call evangelical morals; I mean repentance and reforination, and the utmost solicitude to re-obtain the forfeited favour of our Maker. These are univerVOL. II.

54

sally binding upon mankind in their present state, and result from their circumstances, and consequently partake of the general nature of a moral law. By a positive law, I mean a law not necessarily resulting from the reason of things, and our relations and circumstances, but founded upon the will of the lawgiver, and adapted to some particular occasion. Such was the appendage to the first covenant, “ Thou shalt not eat of the tree of knowl, edge." Such were the institution of sacrifices immediately after the fall, the ordinance of circumcision given to Abraham, and the various ceremonies of the law of Moses ; and such are baptism and the Lord's supper, and the institution of the first day of the week for the christian Sabbath under the gospel. These ordi. nances are not binding in their own nature, and consequently they are not of universal or perpetual obligation, but they are in force when and where the lawgiver is pleased to appoint. And the moral law, under every dispensation, has had some of these institutions annexed to it; though in the state of innocence, and under the spiritual dispensation of the gospel, they are but few

and easy.

I now resume the proposition, “ That the law has passed through several editions, and received several additions and mod ifications." With regard to Adam in his original state, it only required of him the duties naturally binding upon him, and adapted to his condition as an innocent creature, with this one positive precept added, that he should not eat of the tree of knowledge. This was its model while a covenant of works. But when man fell, it received several additions and modifications adapted to his circumstances, and subservient to the gospel, the new plan of life, which was immediately introduced, as I shall have occasion to observe more fully hereafter. Such was the early institution of sacrifices, to prefigure the grand atonement of Christ, which then took its rise, and thence spread through all nations, though they soon forgot its original design and evangelical reference. Thus the law continued for many hundreds of years, from Adam's fall to the deluge. After the deluge it was given to Noah, with the institution of sacrifices continued, and the addition of some new laws, particularly the allowance of animal food, with the exception of blood. And it is this addition of the law that was most strictly universal with regard to all mankind, who were the

About 1656 years. (niversal History, Vol. xx. p. 2..

posterity of Noah, the second root of human nature, and who received it from him ; though it was soon forgotten, or adulterated with superstitions. After some time, * when the knowledge and worship of the true God was almost lost in the world, he was pleased to separate Abraham from the idolatrous world, to set up his church in his family, and to continue the former edition of the law, with the addition of the sacred rite of circumcision, as a token of initiation into the church, and of the purification of the heart, and as a seal of the righteousness of faith. And this con-' stitution continued in the posterity of Abraham for about 430 years; when it was new modelled and improved by a more full edition. A summary of the moral law was published with the utmost majesty and terror on Mount Sinai, and written by God himself on two tables of stone. "But besides this moral law, and besides the positive institutions given to Adam, Noah, and Abraham, God was pleased to add a great variety of positive laws, concerning the manner of sacrificing, and the system of worship, concerning ceremonial pollutions, concerning the Jewish policy, or civil government of that people, and many other things : of all which we have a full account in the law of Moses.

This dispensation continued in force from that time for about 1525 years, till the ascension of Christ, and the day of Peritecost, when the more glorious dispensation of the gospel was introduced. It is often called the law, by way of eminence ; and it is to this most perfect dispensation of the law that the apostle particularly refers, when disproving the possibility of a sinner's justification by the law. And it was to his purpose to have this particularly in view : for if a sinner could not be justified by this edition of the law, which was the most complete, and that in which the Jews peculiarly gloried and trusted, it is evident that he cannot be justified by the law at all, under any form whatsoever. Now, though the gospel, or the covenant of grace, as I shall observe presently, was interwoven with this dispensation, as well as every other, and it was the great design of the law to be subservient to it, yet there was much of a covenant of works in this dispensation, and that in two respects. 1. In the dreadful majesty and terror of the publication from amidst the thunders and lightnings, and darkness of Sinai, which spread such a horror through the whole camp of Israel, and made even Moses confess, I exceedingly fear and quake. This had not the

* About 427 years, circumcision was instituted 451 years after the deluge.

[ocr errors]

aspect of friendship : it did not appear as if God was amicably conversing with an innocent people, and setting up a constitution of mere grace among them. It rather appeared like a dispensa. tion of a provoked God towards a guilty people, intended to strike terror into their impenitent hearts, to make them sensible of his awful majesty and justice, of the terror of his law, and of their aggravated breaches of it. There were indeed gracious: designs at the bottom of all this : but they were such designs as could not be accomplished, till sinners were made deeply sensible of their dreadful guilt, and the terrors of God and his holy law, which they had broken ; and therefore to accomplish them, God puts on all these dreadful forms of wrath. Thus the Sinai dispensation was intended to prepare men for the method of salvation through Christ, by making them sensible of their miserable condition by the breach of the covenant of works; and hence it had so much of the terrible aspect of the covenant of works in its pros. mulgation. This is one thing ine apostle means, when he says, the law worketh wrath, Rom. iv, 15, that is, it is adapted to impress a sense of divine wrath upon the minds of the guilty. Hence he calls that dispensation, the ministration of death and condemnation ; 2 Cor. iii. 7, 9. that is, it had a tendency to excite a sense of death and condemnation; and he makes Hagar, the bond-woman, an allegorical representation of this Sinai covenant, Gal iv. 24, 25, because it was calculated to excite in sinners a spirit of bondage, or to strike them with a sense of slavery, terror and condemnation. This view also clears up the meaning of several things which he says of the Jewish law, as that it was added because of transgression ; Gal. iii. 19. that is, it was annexed to the covenant of grace, because it was necessary that sinners should be made deeply sensible of their guilt and condempation by the breach of the law, in order to their seeking salvation in the way of grace through Christ. And hence, says he, the law was our schoolmaster, io bring us to Christ, ver. 24. that is

, the painful discipline and smarting rod of the law were necessary and conducive to constrain us to fly to Christ as the only Saviour, without whom we were shut up under irreversible cons demnation. And again, Rom. v, 20, the law enfcredo that the offence might abound ; that is, that it might appear that the offence had abounded, and overspread the world ; and therefore, that they stood in the utmost need of a Saviour.

« ElőzőTovább »