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“ For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of right
eousness by faith.”—Gal. v. 5. This day the wisdom of the ancient, primitive, and, I think, apostolic church, hath dedicated to the memory of an epiphany, or apparition of a miraculous star, which was sent to guide the magi, or wise men of the east, to the place where our Saviour was born. But suppose there were such a star seen, and three men of the east conducted by it; must all the Christian world presently fall a rejoicing for it? There was reason, indeed, that they should be exceeding glad, but shall we therefore lose a whole day's labour by it? To
say the truth, there is no reason for it; therefore, either better grounds must be found out for rejoicing, or it were well done to make Christmas a day shorter hereafter.
2. But for all this, if we well consider it, we gentiles might better spare any holiday in the year than this; for there is none, besides this, properly our own, but the Jews will challenge an equal interest in it. The appearing of the star then is the least part of the solemnity of this day: for a greater and more glorious light, than the star, this day arose unto us, even that so long expected light which was to lighten the gentiles, which was to give light to them which sat in darkness, and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet in the way of peace. This day, as
St. Paul saith, trepávn vi xápis tõv Otoī. (Tit. ii. 11.) There was an epiphany likewise of the grace of God, to wit, the gospel ; which now, as on this day, began to bring salvation, not to the Jews only, but to all men, even to us sinners of the gentiles, of whom these three wise men were the first fruits. And, to say the truth, the appearing of Christ himself, unless he had brought with him this light to lighten the gentiles in his hand, had not been sufficient to make a solemn day for us. The star then was not that light, but it was sent to bear witness of that light, namely, the glory whereof fills my text fuller than the majesty of God ever filled the temple. For here we have the whole nature of the gospel comprehended and straitened within the narrow compass of my text, yet no part of it left out; yea, we have not only the gospel discovered by its own light, as it is in itself, but in comparison with those twinkling, cloudy stars of Jewish ordinances, and that once glorious, but now eclipsed light, the law of works. Since then this is the day, which the Lord hath made for us, we will rejoice and be glad in it; and we will be ready to hearken, especially to any thing that shall be spoken concerning our epiphany, concerning that blessed light, for many ages removed out of our sight, and as on this day beginning to appear in our horizon.
3. The words of my text I find so full and swelling with expression, so fruitful and abounding in rich sense, that I am almost sorry I have said so much of them to fit them to this day: but, in recompense, I will spare the labour of shewing their dependence and connexion with the preceding part of the Epistle, and consider them as a
loose severed thesis ; in which is contained, not i only the sum and extract of this Epistle, but like
wise of the Christian religion in general, in opposition both to the Mosaical law given to the Jews, and the law of works, called also the moral, natural law, which from the beginning of the world hath been assented to, and written in the hearts of all mankind. The sense of which words, if they were enlarged, may be this: We Christians, by the tenor and prescript of our religion, expect the hope of righteousness, i. e. the reward, which we hope for by righteousness; not as those vain teachers newly sprung up among you Galatians, would have us, by obedience unto the carnal, ceremonial law of Moses, but through the Spirit, i. e. by a spiritual worship; neither by performing the old covenant of works, which we are not able to fulfil, but by faith, by such an obedience as is prescribed unto us in the gospel : “We through the Spirit wait,” &c.
4. In these words, then, which comprehend the complete essence of the covenant of grace, we may consider, First, The conditions on man's part required, in these words, through the Spirit," and " by faith.” Secondly, Upon the performance of our duty, there follows God's promise, or the condition, which God will make good unto us: and that is, the “hope of righteousness," or justification. In the former part, namely, the obedience which is required from us Christians, we may consider it, First, In opposition to the Mosaical law, by these words, “ through the Spirit;" which import, that it is not such an outward, carnal obedience, as Moses' law required; but an internal, spiritual worship of the heart and soul,
Secondly, The opposition of this new covenant to the old covenant of works, in these words, “by faith;” which signify, that we do not hope for salvation by the works of the law, but by the righteousness of faith, or the gospel. In the second general, we may likewise observe, First, The nature of justification, which comprehends the promises, which God has been pleased to propose to us as the reward of our obedience. Secondly, The interest, which we Christians in this life, after we have performed our duties, may have in these promises, which is hope, expressed in these words, “ We wait for the hope,” &c. Of these
5. First then of the covenant of grace, as it is distinguished from the Mosaical law, by these words, “ through the Spirit.” Where we will consider the nature of the Jewish law, and wherein it is distinguished from the Christian. When Almighty God, with a high hand and a stretchedout arm, had rescued the people of Israel from the Egyptian slavery, and brought them in safety into the wilderness, intending then to settle and reduce them into good order and government himself; they by common, voluntary consent, all agreed to submit themselves to whatsoever laws he should prescribe unto them, as we find Exod. xix. from the third to the ninth verse: so that afterwards, (Judges viii.) when the people, after an unexpected, glorious victory obtained by Gideon, would have made him a king, and have settled the government in his house: “No (saith Gideon, verse 23.) I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you, the Lord shall rule over you. And likewise, afterwards, when Samuel complained to God of the perverseness of the people, who were weary of his government, and would have a king, as the nations round about them had : thou art deceived, saith God, it is my government that they are weary of: “ They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me;" and now are risen up in rebellion against me, to depose me from that dominion, which with their free consents I assumed: for which intolerable, base ingratitude of that nation, in his wrath he gives them a king, he appoints his successor, who revenged those injuries and indignities offered to Almighty God, to the uttermost upon them.
6. Now during the time of God's reign over them, never any king was so careful to provide wholesome laws, both for church and commonwealth, as he was; insomuch, as he bids them look about, and consider the nations round about them, if ever any people was furnished with laws and ordinances of such equity and righteousness, as theirs were; which laws, because they were ordained by angels, in the hand of a mediator, namely Moses, are commonly called by the name of the Mosaical law, and are penned down at large by him in his last four books.
7. The precepts and prohibitions of this law are of several natures: for some duties therein enjoined, are such, as in their own natures have an intrinsical, essential goodness and righteousness in them; and the contrary to them are in themselves evil, and would have been so, though they had never been expressly prohibited : such are especially the ten words or precepts written by God's own finger in the two tables of stone: other precepts concern matters of their own na