Page images
PDF
EPUB

lievers reap from the gospel ? since even under the law they at least were exempted from the curse and provocation to sin : and since to be free from the restraint of the law can mean nothing but that for which I contend, an entire exemption from the obligation of the law. For as long as the law exists, it constrains, because it is a law of bondage ; constraint and bondage being as inseparable from the dispensation of the law, as liberty from the dispensation of the gospel ; of which shortly.

Polánus contends, on Gal. iv. 4, 5. “ to redeem them that were under the law,” that 'when Christians are said to be redeemed from subjection to the law, and to be no longer under the law, this is not to be taken in an absolute sense, as if they owed no more obedience to it. What then do the words imply? They signify, that Christians are no longer under the necessity of perfectly fulfilling the law of God in this life, inasmuch as Christ has fulfilled it for them. That this is contrary to the truth, is too obvious not to be acknowledged. So far from a less degree of perfection being exacted from Christians, it is expected of them that they should be more perfect than those who were under the law; as the whole tenour of Christ's precepts evinces. The only difference is, that Moses imposed the letter, or external law, even on those who were not willing to receive it; whereas Christ writes the inward law of God by his Spirit on the heart of believers, 8 and leads them as willing followers. Under the law, those who trusted in God were justified by faith indeed, but not without the works of the law; Rom. iv. 12. “the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father esse a maledictione, et coactione legis, et peccati irritatione.' Polani Syntagm. Theol. lib. vi, cap. 10.

De Lege Dei.

what the Spirit within Shall on the heart engrave. Paradise Lost, XII. 523. • The state of religion under the gospel is far differing from what it was under the law; then was the state of rigour, childhood, bondage, and works, to all which force was not unbesitting; now is the state of grace, manhood, freedom, and faith, to all which belongs willingness and reason, not force: the law was then written on tables of stone, and to be performed according to the letter, willingly or unwillingly; the gospel, our new covenant, upon the heart of every believer, to be interpreted only by the sense of charity and inward persuasion.'-- Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes. Prose Works, II. 537.

1

Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.” The gospel, on the contrary, justifies by faith without the works of the law. Wherefore, we being freed from the works of the law, no longer follow the letter, but the spirit; doing the works of faith, not of the law. Neither is it said to us, whatever is not of the law is sin, but, whatever is not of faith is sin ; faith consequently, and not the law, is our rule. It follows, therefore, that as faith cannot be made matter of compulsion, so neither can the works of faith. See more on this subject in the fifteenth chapter, on Christ's kingly office, and on the inward spiritual law by which he governs the church. Compare also Book II. chap. i. where the form of good works is considered.

From the abrogation, through the gospel, of the law of servitude, results Christian liberty; though liberty, strictly speaking, is the peculiar fruit of adoption, and consequently was not unknown during the time of the law, as observed in the twenty-third chapter. Inasmuch, however, as it was not possible for our liberty either to be perfected or made fully manifest till the coming of Christ our deliverer, liberty must be considered as belonging in an especial manner to the gospel, and as consorting therewith ;? first, because truth is principally known by the gospel. John i. 17. “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ," and truth has an essential connection with liberty ; viii. 31, 32. “if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed ; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make

ye

free." v. 36. “if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Secondly, because the peculiar gift of the gospel is the Spirit; but “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Cor. ii. 17.

CHRISTIAN LIBERTY is that whereby WE ARE LOOSED AS IT WERE BY ENFRANCHISEMENT, THROUGII CHRIST OUR DE

9 • Surely force cannot work persuasion, which is faith ; cannot therefore justify or pacify the conscience: and that which justifies not in the gospel, condemns; is not only not good, but sinful to'do: Rom. xiv. 23. as whatsoever is not of faith, is sin." A Treatise of Civil Power, &c. Prose Works, II, 5.12.

what will they then
But force the Spirit of grace itself, and bind
His consort Liberty?

Paradise Lost, XII. 524. ?• In respect of that verity and freedom which is evangelical, St. Paul comprehends both ends alike,' &c.- Treatise of Civil Power, &c Prose Works, II. 539.

1

LIVERER, FROM THE BONDAGE OF SIN, AND CONSEQUENTLY FROM THE RULE OF THE LAW AND OF MAN; TO THE INTENT THAT BEING MADE SONS INSTEAD OF SERVANTS, AND PERFECT MEN INSTEAD OF CHILDREN, WE MAY SERVE GOD IN LOVE THROUGH THE GUIDANCE OF THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH. Gal. v. 1. “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free ; and be not entangled again with the goke of bondage.” Rom. viii. 2. “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." v. 15. “ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear ; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Gal. iv. 7. “wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son.” Heb. ii. 15. "that he might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." 1 Cor, vil 23. "ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.”

James i. 25. “Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein.” ii. 12. “so speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”

THAT WE MAY SERVE GOD. Matt. xi. 29, 30. “take my yoke upon ye.... for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” compared with 1 John v. 3—5. “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous. Rom. vi. 18. “ being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.' being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness.” vii. 6. “ now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held, that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” xii. 1, 2. “present your bodies ....a reasonable service; and be not conformed to this world ; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” James i. 25. “whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” 1 Pet. ii. 16. “as free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Hence we are freed from the yoke of human judgments, much more of civil decrees and penalties in religious matters. Rom. xiv. 1. “ who art thou that judgest another man's ser

V. 22. "

now

3

V. 8.

vant? to his own master he standeth or falleth." “ whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.” Matt. vii. 1. “judge not, that ye be not judged.” Rom. xiv. 10. “why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.” If we are forbidden to judge (or condemn) our brethten respecting matters of religion or conscience in common discourse, how much more in a court of law, which has confessedly no jurisdiction here ; since St. Paul refers all such matters to the judgment-seat of Christ, not of man? James ii. 12.“ so speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty;" namely, by God, not by fallible men in things appertaining to religion ; wherein if he will judge us according to the law of liberty, why should man prejudge us according to the law of bondage ?

BY THE GUIDANCE OF THE SPIRIT OF TRUTII IN LOVE. Rom. xiv. throughout the whole of the chapter; and chap. xv. 1-15. In these chapters Paul lays down two especial cautions to be observed ; first, that whatever we do in pursuance of this our liberty, we should do it in full assurance of faith, nothing doubting that it is permitted us.* v. 5. “ let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” v. 23. “whatever is not of faith, is sin.” Secondly, that we should give no just cause of offence to a weak brother. v. 20, 21, “for meat destroy not the work of God: all things indeed are pure, but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.” 1 Cor. viii. 13. “if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend;" which resolution, however, must be considered as an effect of the extraordinary love which the apostle bore his brethren, rather than a religious obligation binding on every believer to abstain from Hesh for ever, in case a weak brother should think vegetable food alone lawful. ix. 19–22. “though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might

3 • Ex ore tuo, hominum corruptissime, te redarguo ; illudque apostoli abs te prolatum in te retorqueo, quis es tu qui alienum servum judicas ? coram domino nostro sine stemus vel cadamus. Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano. Prose Works, Symmons' ed. V. 217.

ion religion whatever we do under the gospel, we ought to be thereof persuaded without scruple ; an are ju·tified by the faith we have, not by the work we do: Rom. xiv. 6. let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.' il Treatise of Civil Pouer, &c. P'rose Works, II. 542.

gain the more ; unto the Jews I became as a Jew.... to them that are under the law as under the law.... to them that are without law, as without law; being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ. ... to the weak became I as weak. ... I am made all things to all men.” x. 23. "all things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient.” Gal. v. 13. “for, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty ; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh; but by love serve one another." 2 Pet. ii. 19. "while they promise themselves liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption." 1 Cor. viii. 9. " take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak.”

This appears to have been the sole motive for the command given to the churches, Acts xv. 28, 29. “to abstain from blood, and from things strangled ;" namely, lest the Jews who were not yet sufficiently established in the faith should take offence. For that the abstinence from blood was purely ceremonial, is evident from the reason assigned Lev. xvii. 11. “the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls.” Thus the eating of fat was forbidden by the law, vii. 23, &c. yet no one infers from hence that the use of fat is unlawful, this prohibition applying only to the sacrificial times : Acts x. 13, &c.

No regard, however, is to be paid to the scruples of the malicious or obstinate. Gal. i. 4, 5. “and that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage ; to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour ; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” 1 Cor. xiv. 38. “if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” Christ was not deterred by the fear of giving offence to the Pharisees from defending the practice of his disciples in eating bread with unwashen hands. Matt. xv. 2, 3. and plucking the ears of corn, which it was considered unlawful to do on the sabbath-day, Luke vi. 1, &c. Nor would he have suffered a woman of condition to anoint his feet with precious ointment, and to wipe them with her hair, still less would he have vindicated and praised the action. John xii. 3, &c. neither would he have availed himself of the good offices and kindness of the women who ministered unto him whithersoever he went, if it were necessary on all occasions to satisfy the unreasonable scruples of malicious or

VOL. IV.

D D

« PreviousContinue »