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Which expressions show, that the apostle supposed Gentiles as well as Jews to have been by Christ set at liberty from the law of Moses; or, as in the text, that he had “ j. us from the curse of the law.” For before that, according to the constitution of things introduced by the law of Moses, since the Abrahamic cove— nant, all were to be proselyted to the Jewish religion. There was no other way of admission to religious communion, or civil conversation with the people of God. The character of Cornelius in the Acts, is, that “he was a devout [or good] man, who feared God with all his house,” Acts x. 2. Nevertheless Peter, till farther enlightened, and better instructed in the christian scheme, and particularly directed, scrupled to go to him. And when he came to his house, he said: “Ye know, how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come to one of another nation. But God, [through Christ, I has shewed me, that I should not call any man common or unclean,” Acts x. 28. 2. We here see reason to admire the love of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ; and what a tribute of titude, respect, and obedience is due to him who was “made a curse for us:” who, according to the will of the Father, resigned himself to a most painful, and above all, a most ignominious death: who suffered as a malefactor with men of the worst characters. How reproachful this in the eye of the world ! How grievous an affliction must this have been to the Lord Jesus, after all the honours of his miraculous ministry ! Here is every thing grievous and reproachful that can touch an innocent and generous mind Yet our Lord went through it patiently and meekly, with a view to the great and desirable ends proposed by it: and therefore his death is indeed most glorious; and it has been greatly rewarded. But it was a mixture of very bitter ingredients which he tasted of: and it was for our sake; and in particular, that we might be delivered from the burden of the law, and from all the penalties annexed to neglect and disobedience to it. And it is through him, that we, who once were afar off, have been brought nigh unto God: that we, who before were aliens, are made heirs and fellowcitizens, and of the household of God, without any of the burdensome institutions of the law of Moses, which must still have been in force, and we must have submitted to them, in order to our being of the people of God, and members of his church, if Christ had not by his death given such attestations as he has done to the truth of that doctrine of pure religion which he had taught. And if he had not also thereby inspired his immediate disciples and followers with an invincible love and zeal for truth and virtue, enabling them to withstand and surmount the greatest allurements, and the most frightful discouragements of the present life. 3. A serious attention to this text, and argument, may assist us to understand some other texts, where Christ is said to have died for us, for our sins. It seems that the death of Christ was not, properly speaking, so necessary on God's part as on ours. God never valued, nor delighted in, the external ordinances of the law of Moses. What he looked for, and required, chiefly, was “truth in the inner parts.” He desired “mercy rather than sacrifice, and the knowledge of God the Lord more than burnt-offerings,” &c. He was not at all unwilling that men should be released from the obligation of numerous ritual institutions. Find but out a way to bring men to good understanding in things of religion, and a love of real holiness; so that they shall no longer be in danger of casting off the divine fear, and going after idols that are not able either to hear or save those who serve them; and he would be willing that ordinances of positive appointment shall be laid aside. This way he has |...} graciously discovered and aproved of; sending his Son, the Messiah, and appointing the umiliation, as well as other circumstances of his life and death, in which he acquiesced. Whereupon the many peculiarities of the law of Moses were abolished and laid aside with the consent and approbation of him who had appointed them. In like manner God was not unwilling to pardon sinners, if they could but be brought to repentance. For this purpose the life and death of Christ are admirably suited, by affording more forcible considerations to awaken and reclaim sinners, and confirm the virtue of good men, than all the discoveries of reason, aided by former revelations. God needed not to be appeased. But sinners needed to be amended. When they are so, he readily accepts them. God is in himself gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in goodness and truth. He desires not the death of sinners, but their life and salvation. If sinful men will but be persuaded to forsake their evil ways, which are disleasing to a pure and holy God, the controversy between im and them will be made up. This is the doctrine of the Old and New Testament. Says God, by the prophet Isaiah: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon,” Isa. lv. 7. It is the same under the dispensation of the gospel. There also forgiveness is annexed to repentance. This is the important doctrine preached by Christ himself, and his forerunner John the |. o his apostles after him. Of John the Baptist, St. Luke says: “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,” Luke iii. 3. The same is the character of our Lord's ministry, in all the Evangelists. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” So in Matthew, ch. iv. 17. To the like purpose in Mark, ch. i. 14, 15. And our Lord, when risen from the dead, tells his disciples, that now “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem,” Luke xxiv. 47. And after our Lord's ascension, when the Jews at Jerusalem' were much moved by the discourse Peter had made, and “said to him, and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,” Acts ii. 37, 38. And afterwards, Peter, in the presence of the Jewish council, says: “Him hath God o —to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins,”Acts v. 31. St. Paul reminding the elders at Miletus of his past conduct among them, observes, “how he had kept back nothing that was profitable to them, but had showed them, and taught them publicly, and from house to house; testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” Acts xx. 20, 21. And giving an account of his conduct, and the doctrine taught by him, since his conversion to the faith of Jesus Christ, he declares to king Agrippa, and the great company with him, how he had “showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance,” ch. xxvi. 20. Sincere repentance therefore is the condition, upon which sinful men may obtain the forgiveness of their past sins. Yea, our Lord assures us, “there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.” He also says, that “there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance,” Luke xv. 7–10. It is certain therefore, that God in his great goodness, will pardon and accept of penitent sinners. But the great difficulty is to bring men to forsake their sins, and return to the practice of virtue. This, and our great want of consideration, our affection for earthly and sensible things, the little regard which men have for the things of religion, have rendered the most awakening arguments necessary. These are set before us in Christ Jesus. And Christ has died, in order to bring us to God, and to induce us to continue in the ways of righteousness. “Who his ownself bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; |. are now returned unto the shepherd and bishop of your souls,” 1 Pet. ii. 24, 25. 4. And lastly. Our meditations on this text may assist us in discerning the divine wisdom in the time of the christian revelation. The apostle says, “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son—made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons,” Gal. iv. 4, 5. The purpose was formed very early. And Christ is spoken of as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” Rev. xiii. 8. But the full manifestation of this design was deferred. The world was not sooner fit for the mild and racious dispensation of the gospel. It is true, that Abraam, and the Patriarchs, were free from many incumbrances afterwards introduced. And for a while true religion, the worship of God, was upheld by the piety of the heads of that family. But when that family became a nation, it evidently appeared, that a number of discriminating rites was needful to keep them separate from their idolatrous neighbours, and to maintain true religion in that which was the only nation and people, that worshipped the only true God. We ought not therefore to surmise, that the coming of the Messiah was too long deferred. . If the expectations of men had not been raised beforehand, if there had not been great preparations made for his reception; the christian revelation, and the death of Christ itself, might have been either in vain, or however, not to so good purpose as it Was. Let us then acknowledge and celebrate the wisdom of the Divine Being in affording the world the advantage of so reasonable, so spiritual, and so gracious an institution. Let us be thankful, that the knowledge of it has been brought to us, and that the evidences of the divine original of this religion are still so clear and satisfactory. And as we in these late ages of the world have the blessing of Abraham, which was so carly designed, free from the incumbrances afterwards introduced, and imposed even upon his own posterity by nature; let us prize it, and steadily adhere to the essential articles, and indispensable laws of it, cheerfully “serving God in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life,” Luke i. 74, 75.
THE PROMISE ANNEXED TO GODLINESS.
For bodily erercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Tim. iv. 8.
THESE words comprise in them three propositions. I. Bodily exercise profiteth little. II. Godliness is profitable unto all things, having, particularly, promise of the life that is to come. III. Godliness has also promise of the life that now is. I intend to consider each proposition, in the order just mentioned. I. “Bodily exercise profiteth little.” Which words are differently explained by expositors. 1. Some interpret these words in this manner: all that men do outwardlyin religion, though commanded by God, if it be separated from the devotion of the heart, profiteth little. This cannot procure acceptance with God, nor make amends for defects and miscarriages, in point of true holineSS. But there seems to be little ground for this interpretation. It is not favoured by any part of the connection, except that godliness, which is opposed to bodily exercise, does indeed undoubtedly include in it the devotion of the heart, as well as outward acts and performances of religion. 2. Some suppose o: apostle herein to refer to the exer