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Before we go any farther, it may be proper to say something of the nature of the curse which the Apostie denounces here. And there are three remarkable instances by which we may form a judgement about it, without any danger of being mistaken, viz. the original curfe pronounced on mankind in our first father, and the ground for his fake; the curse annexed to the Mofaic law, and particular cafes under that dispensation, where certain persons or things were devoted, or laid under the curse; and the curse which our blessed Redeemer kindly took upon himself. In all these cases, the effect of the curse was no less than the utter destruction of the subject on which it once rested. When it fell on persons, death was the consequence, and that makes an end of the man. That is the case of all mankind. But when life was extinguished, the law was fulfilled; for the curse had done its business. The law has dominion over a man so long as he liveth; but when he is dead, he is no more a subject, and it has nothing to say to him; and the creator may, when he pleases, restore him to a new life. But as that is as much an
act of, pure sovereign grace, as the first creation was, he may with-hold it where he pleases; and in that case the man is bound for ever under that death under which the curse bound him. .
The case of Jesus may be imagined an exception from this general rule: for he had no sin, and of course could not be cut off from God, in which the spiritual death lies. It is true he had no fin, and had a perfect right to life by the law, in the strictest tenor of it; and thence had power, such as never another man had, to lay down his life, and to take it up again. Death neither had nor could have any power over him; nor was it in the power of any man to take his life from him. But he could lay it down, as he did on the cross; a kind of death which God, in the prospect of this grand event, had pronounced a curse upon. And as he submitted to the destruction of all that life which he derived from Adam; so when, by his office of priesthood, he had taken upon himself the fins of all who come to him in that character, in order to put them away, he appears 'to have tasted pretty deeply in the spiritual death, when he cried out, “ My God VOL. III. in F
“ my “ my God, why hast thou forsaken me?".
This by the way accounts perfectly for his agony in the garden, and his repeated earnest prayer, that " if it was possible " that cup might pass from him ;". which affords a full answer to the reproach cast upon him by a fort of men. who know no more of him but the name, viz, that he did not show half the firmness and resolution that many of those did who suffered for his sake. He knew perfectly the pleasure and happiness of the spiritual life, and the way of living on God; the consequences too of being separated from him: no wonder the dreadful prospect put him into the greatest agony, however short the time might be of its continuance. They who suffered for his fake, were so far from any such prospect, that they found themselves perfectly secured against it; and the worst they had to fear was, the loss of what they had already renounced, a perishing life, and the equally perishing gratifications and enjoyments of it, and some thort bodily torment, which should introduce them into "the 53, joy of their Lord.” sertempts have been made to dwindle
away the import of this curse, into à church-censure which went under that name. And the rather, that the account he gives of those against whom he denounces it, appears to extend very far, and takes in numbers whom they are very loath to condemn. It does indeed extend very far; for they are not only such, in his account, who teach or preach any thing contrary to the gospel of Christ, which he had preached to them, and they had received; but such as teach any thing besides it, for that is his word; that is to say, who should pass any thing upon their hearers or readers for gospel, which is not really the gospel of Christ. And what numbers of men, besides those whom the Apostle had in his eye, will fall under this condemnation! Nor will it mend the matter, that the Apostle means no more than excommunication, or cutting them off from the communion of the faithful ; since no man may be thus cut off, but for such conduct as God and his blessed Son have denounced eternal damnation against, even the curse in its utmost extent.
If any should take it into their head to ask the fame question about Paul that F 2
was put to his master, By what authori. ty he did those things, since none but the sovereign of the universe has either authority to denounce, or power to inflict, such a curse ? the answer is easy : He did it by the same authority by which he proclaimed and published the gospel; that is, by his authority who hath the keys of hell and of death; and he did no more than his master had done before, when he gave his apoftles authority, to go and preach the gospel to every creature, with this fanction, “ He that believeth, shall be saved ; “ and he that believeth not, shall be damn“ ed.”
By this very warm declaration of his sentiments, he effectually obviates what we find by chap. v. 11. the false teachers had attempted to persuade the Galatians of, viz. that Paul himself was a promoter of circumcision; which he tells them, chạp. vi. 12. they insisted on for no other reason, but to get favour from the unbelieving Jews, that they might avoid perfecution for the cross of Christ. This is the true key to what he says, verf. 10.; For do I now persuade men, or God? &c. the meaning of which, as it stands in our