« PreviousContinue »
very sure, never will be found, among the mere children of Adam; “ for no man li“ veth, and sinneth not ;” and God has shut up all under sin, that he might have mercy on all; fo that none could ever be * faved, but by free fovereign mercy and
grace: for the law is express, Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things writen in the book of the law, to do them. :
But might not one say of the whole nation of the Jews in this view, as the difciples said to their master in another case, “Who then could be saved ?" for they were all under the law as given by Moses, There was even in that law a provision made for the forgiveness of sin, so far as it went. Thus we find it often repeated, that on their offering a sacrifice after the divine appointment, their sin should be
forgiven them. Whence, it is likely, the : ignorant Jews, who did not see into the
spirit of their law, might flatter themselves with the prospect of eternal life by the law. But what was promised there was mere forgiveness of the sins for which they had offered the facrifice: and that could be no further than putting them in the same case they were in, and restoring : B b 2
them to the poffefsion of the fame life they had before they transgressed, with the privileges belonging to it; but did not, and could not, remove the original curse by which they, and all mankind, were bound under death; from which they could not be relieved, but by raising them from the dead, and the grant of a new life by the promised seed, as it was made to their father Abraham, and which was continued down through all the times of the law; and in virtue of which the believers among them lived. Hence it is that we find the Apostle making a distinction between simply being under the law, as all the natural Jews were, and being of the works of the law; that is, living or attempting to live by fulfilling the commands and precepts of it; whereas their business was, and indeed they were equally bound, by their law, to take in the promise, and to live by the faith and belief of the free gift made there."
That this was really the case, and that those of the Israelitish or Jewish nation who had the prospect, and well-grounded hopes of eternal life, had it not at all by any works of law, he says, vers. 11. is evident, by what he lays down as a fundamental principle, and which he had a good right to suppose indisputable, because it stood on record in those writings which they received as the oracles of the living God, by his prophet Habakkuk, ii. 4.
Our translators, and many before them, render both the prophet and Apostle's words, The just shall live by faith. The proposition carries in it a great truth, that the just or righteous man lives by faith; so the Apostle had said, the life which he then lived in the flesh, was by the faith of the Son of God. But as the natural import of it supposes the man to be already righteous.or just who thus lives, without saying either how he came to be so, or wherein his righteousness lies, an unwary reader may be led into a very dangerous mistake, viz. that one must be a just and a righteous man before he presumes to live by faith; and which indeed there is no way of guarding effectually against it, but by making the expression equivalent to this, Whatever righteousness a man may be, or imagine himself to be, possessed of, the only way he can live, i.e. have eternal life, is by faith.
But But even this leaves a point doubtful, which, we may be very sure, the Apostle never meant to do; viz. that there might bę some other way of one's being righteous than by faith, or believing God as Abraham did. The plain literal sense of the words, as they stand, both in the propher and in the Apostle, is, that he who is righteous by faith, shall live. This rendering, and this only, answers the Apostle's argument. He proposes to prove, that no man can be justified by the law; and proves this by the divine oracle, which allowed or sustained the righteousness which came by faith, or believing, as that only which did or could give a sinner any title or right to life; and accordingly reckons his point fully proyed, by asserting, verf. 12. what could not be denied, that the law is not of faith, &c. I suppose it out of dispute, that justifying in the fight of God, and sustaining a person righteous, are, in all respects, the same thing, unless a distinction is made, by supposing justifying to. be the sentence given by the sovereign judge, and righteousness the foundation. an which the sentence stands, which
comes to the fame point. God gives a perfect right to life, by his promise and grant in Christ Jesus; the believer trusts the faithful promifer, on the proofs he has given of his fixed and unalterable purpose of making it good, and his faith and hope are fixed on God. Thus he receives and rests on the promise, and surely the promiser must sustain the plea; and the greatest finner that ever was on earth may, and ought, to draw near to a throne of grace, with boldness and confidence; or, as the fame Apostle expresses it, “ with “ full assurance of faith. The least doubt is an affront to the promiser, and
his blessed Son, who has undertaken, to i make it good.
CHAP. iii. 13. - 18. 13. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law,
being made a curse for us : for it is written, Curfed is every one that hangeth on a tree : 14. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 15. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men ; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disanulleth, or addeth thereto. 16. Now to. Abraham and his feed were the promises made. He faith not, And to feeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which