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“ their enemies ;" (verse 43-47.) These, and such like al. lowances, they taught, were made in the law; and so, that such things were not sinful. But our Savior condemns their doctrine, as false and damning; and insists upon it, that the law is not abated, and never shall be ; but says, it still requires us to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect....(verse 48.) and declares, that if our righteousness exceedeth not the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, (who were so much for abating the law) zve shall never enter into the kingdom of heaven... (verse 20.) so far was our blessed Savior from any design to abate the holy law of God, or lessen our obligations to a perfect conformity to it: And indeed, if Christ had died, and should die a thousand times, to purchase an abatement of the law, (if it be lawful to make such a supposition) it would be to no purpose ; for it cannot be abated, unless God ceases to be what he is : For so long as God is infinitely lovely, we shall necessarily be under an infinite obligation to love him with all our heart, and with all our strength ; and it will necessarily be infinitely wrong not to do so.
The truth is, that God's sending his Son into the world to die for the redemption of sinners, instead of freeing us from our original natural obligations to keep the law, binds us more strongly so to do ; as we shall afterwards
Psalm cxix. 160.... Thy word is true from the beginning : And every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever : (Ver. 128.) I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to.be right. (Ver. 144.) The righteousness of thy testimonies is eve erlasting. (Ver. 152) Thou has founded them forever. And therefore (ver. 160,) Every one of them will endure forever" ; as if the Psalmist had said, “The thing required in thy law “ is, in its own nature, right, everlastingly right ; and, there“fore, as Governor of the world, thou hast by law forever set“tled and established it as duty—by a law never 10 be altered, “but to endure forever : And forever, therefore, will it en“ dure,”
Obj. Put is it fair and just for God to require more of his creatures than they can do ?
Ans. What are we come to, in this apostate world, that we cannot see it to be just and fair, in the great Governor of heaven and earth, the infinitely glorious God, to require us, as his creatures, so much as to love him, with all our hearts? What! Is this too much? Is this more than he deserves from us? Or does the truth lie here... that we hate him so, that we cannot find it in our hearts to love him ; and therefore cry,
6. He must “rot insist upon it ; or, if he does, he deals unjustly, and is •
very hard with us?” But is not this the very thing those citizens did, who hated their Prince, and sent after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us ?....Luke xix..14. These hints may serve as an answer for the present : But of this more hereafter.
But while some are pleading; that Christ died to purchase an abatement of the law, others carry the point still further, and say that Christ died entirely to disannul it ; and that now it wholly ceases to be a rule of life to believers : whenas one great and declared design of Christ's coming into the world was to recover his people to a conformity thereto : (Tit. ii. 11, 12, 13.) Oh how men love their corruptions, and hate God and his holy law, and long to have it cashiered and removed out of the world, that so they may live as they list, and yet escape the reproaches of their consciences here, and eternal punishment hereafter ! But God sitteth King forever, and will assert the rights of his crown, and maintain the honor of his majesty, and the glory of his great name, and vindicate his injured law; although it be in the eternal damnation of millions of his rebellious subjects: Luke xix. 27....But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. And here, by the way, we may see what an aversion men have to right thoughts of God and divine things; and may be convinced of the absolute necessity of a supernatural, all-conquering light, to remove these prejudices, and make men see and believe the truth, and love, and cordially embrace it. (Foha viii. 47–I Cor. ii. 14.) A holy God does not appear infinitely glorious and amiable to an unholy heart; and
sinners, not seeing the grounds of loving God with all their hearts, do not see the reason of the law ; they do not see how holy, just, and good the law is, and the carnal mind being enmity against God, is, at the same time, enmity against the law, which is a transcript of the divine nature....(Rom. viii. 7.) And hence, sinners do not love to believe either God or his law to be what they really are: And this temper makes them blind to what the scripture says, and leads them to frame a false image of God, and entertain false notions of his law, that they may have a God and a law both to their own minds.
And now, as are men's notions of the law, such are their notions of religion ; the essence of which principally consists in a conformity to the law.
Hence, here is one ; he pleads for great abatements in the law, and he contents himself with the mere form of religion. He is not unjust, nor an extortioner, nor an adulterer ; but much better than some of his neighbors : He prays in his family, goes to public worship, and attends the Sacrament, and thinks himself a very good man ; like him in Luke xviii. 9, 10, &c. But as for the doctrines relating to our natural depravity, regeneration, conversion, faith, communion with God, and all the inside of religion, he understands nothing about them ; they seem as strange as it did to Nicodemus to hear Christ discourse about the new birth.... John iii. And all the talk about the inward influences of the holy spirit, in awakening, convincing, humbling, and converting a sinner, and in enlightening, teaching, quickening, comforting, and sanctifying a believer, is quite unintelligible ; for these things do not come into his notions of religion. According to his opinion, the law is brought down so low, that it is an easy thing to become a good man : The change is but small, and there is scarce any need of the spirit's help ; much less any room for the exercise of sovereign grace ; for he is so good-natured, that he can become good of his own free will, (i. e. according to his notions of goodness,) and do that which shall effectually entitle him to the promises : And thus he has the staff in his own hand. And now here is a
charming religion, perfectly suited to the taste of an apostate world; for it is calculated to quiet the conscience, while the heart lies out estranged from God, and dead in sin...Rom. vii.8,9. Especially, so much of it as is for their credit, and apparently serves their worldly interest, will pretty readily and heartily be fallen in with ; and the best have their failings....no man is perfect....and I endeavor to be sincere....and the best have their doubts.....assurance is not to be attained, and such-like pleas, help to keep their consciences secure. And now, how they love those ministers, that cry, peace, peace ! but hate those that would search things to the bottom, and sound an alarm to secure sinners, and deluded hypocrites. The same temper that makes them hate God and his law, makes them hate his ministers too : And they are for another kind of God, and for another kind of law—another kind of religion, and another kind of ministers, that they may have all to their mind. And, when all is done, they are confident they are now in the right, because they are suited: They love to have it so, and there. fore firmly believe it is so.
Hence, again, here is another, who has been mightily terrified, and in great distress, under a sense of the wrath of God and the dreadfulness of damnation ; but, in the distressing hour, he has had it revealed to him (by the spirit of God, he thinks) that his sins are forgiven ; and now he is sure of heaven, and is ravished at the thoughts of eternal glory : he holds it a great sin to doubt ; and all his religion consists in faith and joy, i.e. in believing that his sins are forgiven, and rejoicing in his blessed and happy and safe estate, and in the expectation of future glory : But as for a real conformity to the law, it makes up no part of his religion. He understands rightly nothing what the law requires....he is neither sensible of his duty to God, or to his fellow-men ; yea, he hates to hear any thing about iw or duty : It is all legal, he cries, and tends to kill religion, and to wound weak christians, and grieve and drive away the spirit of grace ; and no preaching suits his taste, but what consists in telling over and commending such experiences as his, and in setting forth
the love of God and Christ to such, and calling upon such to believe and rejoice, and never doubt their state again : And, ia general, those things which tend to strengthen his confidence and increase his jov, he esteems right and good; and all things of a contrary tendency he esteems wrong and bad. This seems to be his only criterion of right and wrong, and the only rule he makes use of in drawing up a judgment; but as for the law, it is of no use with him. There is doubtless many a man' that feels and acts and lives as if the law was abated, who yet will not plead for that doctrine: So, doubtless, there is many a man that feels and acts and lives as if the law wholly ceased to be a rule of life, who yet will not venture to say so. The force of education, and their worldly interest and credit keep men many times from shewing what they are by an open profession : however, secretly this temper reigns within them ; yea, sometimes it breaks out into open light, in their visible conduct. But, as strange as it may seem, there are multitudes that not only have the root of these things in their hearts, but really believe them and openly profess and plead for them. Hence it is, on the one hand, that the Arminian, Neonomian, and Pelagiam errors have taken their rise, and the Antinomian on the other.Wrong notions of God lie at the bottom ; and then wrong notions of the law; and then wrong notions of religion in general: and all originally proceed and grow up out of the wrong temper of men's minds; for all unregenerate men would fain have a God, and a law, and a religion to suit the temper of their hearts. Micah iv. 5.... For all people will walk every one in the name of his God.
In the mean time, the truly godly man, who sees that the obo ligation which he is under, to love God with all his heart, resulting from the excellency of the divine nature, is unchangeable, and that the law which requires this is unalterable, instead of going about to contrive a religion that may suit the natural temper of his heart, is convinced that the temper of his heart is the very thing that must be changed: He is convinced of his infinite obligation to be altogether such as the law requires