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refreshes none; he may furnish the head, but cannot manure the heart; he may nurse pride, but never nourish the soul; he may lead to presumption, but cannot communicate faith, being but a minister of the letter.
“ For the letter killeth.” It threatens death temporal to every transgressor. The blasphemer was stoned without the camp; the worshippers of Baal-peor were killed on the spot; he that gathered sticks on the sabbath-day was killed at the command of God; the rebellious child, that dishonoured his parents, was to be stoned. It ministers spiritual death, cursing every transgressor who is under it, and already dead by it; and it ministers eternal death to both body and soul. It condemns the soul to eternal wrath, and the body to endless flames.
“But the Spirit giveth life." He quickens the dead soul, gives it life and feeling, and motion towards God. He removes the sting of death by the application of the atonement, and removes the sentence of death by bringing in the righteousness of Christ. He works faith in the heart, and presents the Lord and giver of life to it, and so enables the soul to live by the faith of the Son of God.
“ But if the ministration of death written and engraven in stones was glorious.” The law was given with much glorious majesty. God came down upon mount Sinai; his chariots were twenty thousand, even thousands of angels; thunder,
lightnings, smoke, and darkness, the sound of a
“ So that the children of Israel could not sted.
the wrath of the Lamb; and, as he cannot endure the light, he shall be driven to outer darkness, to the generation of his fathers, and shall never see light. If all this glory attended the ministration of death,
“ How shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious?” The law reveals the holiness and justice of God, and his wrath and indignation at all sin: but the gospel reveals and promises the Holy Ghost to every soul that believes; who is the God of glory, and makes the saints' bodies his own temple; who reveals the Father's eternal love, grace, mercy, and good-will of
and of promise; who shines with a glorious light, works a glorious work of grace, is an earnest of future glory, and a pledge of it, and will at last put the soul in full possession of it.
“ For, if the ministration of condemnation be glory.” If a dispensation, that brings in the whole world guilty before God; which makes the offence of Adam abound, and all sin become exceeding sinful; that curses, condemns, and assigns men over to future judgment, there to have the sentence passed and eternally executed be glory,
“Much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.” For the gospel reveals the righteousness of God fully satisfied by the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ; and the perfect obedience of the Son of God is clearly revealed in the gospel, and imputed by God himself to the justification of all that believe; who likewise promises grace and strength to help in every time of need, that we may be thoroughly furnished for every good work. As much as the incorruptible seed, the word of God, exceeds the letter; as eternal life exceeds eternal death; as much as a blessing exceeds a curse; and as righteousness exceeds condemnation; so much the everlasting gospel exceeds the moral law, engraven on tables of stone.
“For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.” The law was but, a moon-light at best; which rules over the night, and over the children of the night and of darkness, who have the old vail upon their heart, and are of the works of the law, under it, and under the curse of it. But, like the moon, there is no heat to warm the heart in it, nor does it cause any genuine fruitfulness in the barren soil that is under it. Bitter clusters of error, wild grapes of sin, and dead works, are all the fruits that can be found in bond children; and you may as well expect grapes from thorns, and figs from thistles, as to look for any other from barren hearts, unrenewed by grace. But the gospel reveals God in all his glory and majesty; and Christ, the sun of righteousness, with all his reviving glorious light and heat, who turns the desert into a fruitful field, and the barren heart into a springing well: it brings life and immortality to light, and shews the way of life and the path of peace. As soon as the beams of light dart into the sinner's heart, and the glory of God rises upon him, this is the sun that shall never go down, but make the path of the just shine more and more, even to perfect day: and the child of light, however eclipsed, however obscure, bid, or unknown in this world, will at last shine forth as the sun in the glory of his Father's kingdom for ever and ever, when he comes to enjoy the inheritance with the saints in light. This is the glory that excelleth; the law had no glory in this respect, for it neither shews, discovers, nor gives, any of these things.
“For, if that which was done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.” Paul here repeats his assertion, that the law is done away. The old covenant gives way to the new; the will of precept gives way to the will of purpose and of promise, which brings glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and good-will towards men. The new covenant is not according to the old; it is not a killing command, and a cursing sentence; but is attended with the Spirit of God, who writes his laws of faith, truth, and liberty in the sinner's mind; takes the stony heart away, and gives an heart of flesh; pardons iniquity and remembers sin no more; cleanses the sinner from all his filthiness and from all his idols, and brings him to loathe himself under the soulmelting flames of everlasting love. And this ministry shall ever remain, though the other is waxed old and vanished away, because of the