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In the same manner stands the case of the children of God, which are brought up and instructed under the law, as under a master, in the liberty of sons. The law profits them in this, that by the fear of it, and the punishment which it threatens, they are driven from sin, at least from the outward work: by it they are brought to a knowledge of themselves, and that they do no good at all with a willing and ready mind as becomes sons; whereby they may easily see what is the root of this evil, and what is especially needful unto salvation ; to wit, a new and living spirit to that which is good : which neither the law nor the works of the law is able to give; yea, the more they apply themselves to it, the more unwilling they find themselves to work those things which are good.
Here they learn that they do not satisfy the law, although outwardly they live according to its precepts. They pretend to obey it in works, although in mind they hate it; they pretend themselves righteous, but they remain sinners. .These are like unto those of Cain's progeny, and hypocrites; whose hands are compelled to do good, but their hearts consent unto sin and are subject thereto. To know this concerning one's self is not the lowest degree toward salvation. Paul calls such constrained works, the works of the law; for they flow not from a ready and willing heart; howbeit the law does not require works alone, but the heart itself; wherefore it is said in the first Psalm of the blessed man, "But his delight is in the law of the Lord : and in his law doth he meditate day and night." Such a mind the law requires, but it gives it not; neither can it of its own nature : whereby it comes to pass, that while the law continues to exact it of a man, and condemns him as long as he hath not such a mind, as being disobedient to God, he is in anguish on every side ; his conscience being grievously terrified.
Then Indeed is he most ready to receive the grace Tof God ; this being the time appointed by the Father when his servitude shall end, and he enter into the liberty of the sons of God. For being thus in distress, and terrified, seeing that by no other means he can avoid the condemnation of the law, he prays to the Father for grace; he acknowledges his frailty, he confesses his sin, he ceases to trust in works, and humbles himself, perceiving that between him and a manifest sinner, there is no difference at all except of works, that he hath a wicked heart even as every other sinner hath. The condition of man's nature is such, that it is able to give to the law, works only, and not the heart: an unequal division, truly, to dedicate the heart, which incomparably excels all other things, to sin, and the hand to the law: which is offering chaff" to the law, and the wheat to sin; the shell to God, and the kernel to satan. Whose ungodliness if one reprove, they become enraged, and would even take the life of innocent Mel, and persecute all those that follow the truth.
Those that trust in works, seem to defend them to obtain righteousness; they promise to themselves a great reward for this, by persecuting hereticks and blasphemers, as they say, which seduce with errour, and entice many from good works. But those that God hath chosen, learn by the law how unwilling the heart is to conform to the works of the law; they fall from their arrogancy, and are by this knowledge of themselves brought to see their own unworthiness. Hereby they receive that covenant of the eternal blessing and the Holy Ghost, which renews the heart: whereby they are delighted with the law, and hate sin; and are willing and ready to do those things which are good. This is the time appointed by the Father, when the heir must no longer remain a servant, but a son; being led by a free spirit, he is no more kept in subjection under tutors and gbvernours
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. n 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. ii. "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. iii. Paul calls them the rudiments of the world, which, not being renewed by the spirit, only perform worldly things; to wk, in places, times, apparel, persons, vessels, and such like. 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 tl/e 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 son?. 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