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after the manner of a servant; which is even that which Paul teaches in the following:
Verse 3. “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.” By the word elements, thou mayest here understand the first principles or law written ; which is as it were the first exercises and instructions of holy learning; as it is said in Heb. v. * As concerning the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.” And Col. i. 6 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world.” Again, Gal. iv. “How turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage.”
Here Paul calls the law, rudiments ; because it is not able to perform that righteousness which it requires. For whereas it earnestly requires a heart and mind given to godliness, nature is not able to satisfy it: herein it makes a man feel his poverty, and acknowledge his infirmity : it requires that of him by right, which he has not, neither is able to have. "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” 2 Cor. ii. Paul calls them the rudiments of the world, which, not being renewed by the spirit, only perform worldly things; to wit, in places, times, apparel, persons, vessels, and such sike. But faith rests not in worldly things, but in the grace, word, and mercy of God: counting alike, days, meats, persons, apparel, and all things of this world.
None of these by themselves either help or hinder godliness or salvation. With those of Cain's progeny, faith neither agrees in name or any thing else : one of them eats flesh, another abstains from it; one wears black apparel, another white ; one keeps this day holy, and another that : every one
has his rudiments, under which he is in bondage: all of them are addicted to the things of the world, which are frail and perishable. Against these Paul speaks, Col. ii. “Wherefore, if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances : touch not, taste not, handle not, which all are to perish with the using, after the commandments and doctrines of men. Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any ho. nour to the satisfying of the flesh."
By this and other places above mentioned, it is evident that monasteries and colleges, whereby we measure the state of spiritual men as we call them, plainly disagree with the gospel and christian liberty: and therefore it is much more dangerous to live in this kind of life, than among the most profane men. All their works are nothing but rudiments and ordinances of the world; neither are they christians but in name, wherefore all their life and holiness are sinful and most detestable hypocrisy. The fair show of feigned holiness which is in those ordinances, does, in a marvellous and secret manner, withdraw from faith, more than those manifest and gross sins of which open sinners are guilty. Now this false and servile opinion, faith alone takes away, and teaches us to trust in, and rest upon, the grace of God, whereby is given freely that which is needful to work all things.
Verse 4. “ But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law; Verse 5. To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." After Paul had taught us that righteousness and faith cannot come to us by the law, neither can we deserve it by nature, he shows us by whom we obtain it; and who is the author of
our justification. The apostle saith, “When the fulness of the time was come;" here Paul speaks of the time which was appointed by the Father to the son, wherein he should live under tutors, &c. This time being come to the Jews, and ended, Christ came in the flesh ; so it is daily fulfilled to others, when they come to the knowledge of Christ, and change the servitude of the law for the faith of sons. Christ for this cause came unto us, that believing in him, we may be restored to true liberty; by which faith they of ancient times also obtained the liberty of the spirit.
As soon as thou believest in Christ, he comes to thee, a deliverer and Saviour; and now the time of bondage is ended; as the apostle saith, the fulness thereof is come. This surely is very copious, and contains divers things most worthy of notice ; so that I greatly fear it will not be handled by us according to the importance of the subject. It teaches that it is not sufficient to believe that Christ has come, but we must believe also that he was sent from God, that he is the Son of God, and also very man; that he was born of a virgin, who hath alone fulfilled the law, and that not for himself, but for us ; that is, for our salvation.
Let us weigh and consider these things in order: First, it is sufficiently taught in the gospel of John, that Christ is the Son of God; which he that believeth not, is in a most miserable state ; as Christ himself says, John viii. “Except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins ;” and John i. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men !" It is not the will of God that we should believe or put our trust in any other thing, neither doth this honour belong to any other; we must believe that he is the very truth, and that without him we can neither live nor obtain salvation. The apostle saith, “God sent forth his Son ;" it is thereby manifest that he existed, before he was made man. If he be the Son, he is
more than a man or an angel; and as they are the highest surely he must be the true God. Again, seeing that he is sent of God, and is his Son, he must needs be another person ; so the apostle teaches here, the Father and the Son are one God, and two persons. Of the Holy Ghost we shall speak hereafter.
The second thing which ought here to be considered, is, that Christ is very man, and the son of man. Thus Paul teaches when he saith, “made of a woman;" for surely that which is made or born of a woman, is man; thus it is necessary that we believe as the Lord himself declares ; John vi. “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you :" but to eat his flesh and drink his blood, is nothing else than to believe that Christ took these upon him, and did also yield them up to death for our sake. This is that covenant which was promised to Abraham ; “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Gen. xxii. Christ is this seed, and therefore the true son of Abraham's flesh and blood. Hereby it appears that those prevail nothing, who make a way unto themselves, to come to God by their own works and godliness; and neglecting Christ, strive to come directly to God, as do the Turks and! Jews. But Christ alone is the mediator and blessed seed, by whom thou must receive blessings, otherwise thou shalt continue forever in malediction.
Christ himself saith, John vi. “ No man cometh to the Father but by me." The nature of God is higher than that which we are able to attain unto; wherefore he hath humbled himself, and taken upon him that nature which is best known, and most familiar to us; to wit, even our own.
Here he looks for us, here he will receive us ; he that will seek him here shall find him ; he that asks shall be heard ; here is the throne of grace and true mercy seat, from
which none are driven that with true faith resort to it. They who neglect him, as though he were made man for nought, and in the mean time pray to God without a mediator, shall pray, but none shall help them; they shall cry, but none shall hear them.
The third thing which is here set forth for us to believe, is, that Mary the mother of Jesus was a virgin. This Paul affirms, when he says that he was made of a woman, and not of a man. The covenant of God promised to Abraham required these two things; that Christ should be the true son of Abraham, that is, his seed, flesh and blood; and that he should also be born free from sin. Thus it was brought to pass, that he should of Mary, being very woman, and the daughter of Abraham, be born very man, and the right offspring of Abraham ; and that he should also be born without the commixion of man; a virgin having conceived by means of the Holy Ghost, it came to pass, that Christ became the true seed of Abraham, and yet free from all contagion of Adam; and is also the author of eternal blessing to them that believe.
The fourth thing to be considered in this place, is, that Christ hath satisfied the law for us; which he witnesseth of himself, Mat. v. “ I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it.” This also the condition of the covenant requires; for if by this seed of Abraham all men must be delivered from the curse, it is necessary that by it the law be fulblled. Men are by nature the children of wrath, and subject to the curse, it must needs be accursed, whatsoever they do ; for it is before proved at large, that he which is evil, can work nothing that is good : likewise, that we can do nothing that God will approve, unless we ourselves be approved of him before. The law requires the heart, which cannot be perned by them that are not as yet regenerated by spirit; therefore it must needs be that all the