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sons of Adam are guilty of transgressing the law; and unless Christ perform that which the law requires of them, they must perish by the curse thereof. When Christ went about to show that the law required the heart, and to condemn the works which proceeded not from a heart that is godly and consenting to the law, he was accused of the Pharisees, having come to destroy the law. In order to take away this false opinion, he said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, for I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil;" yea, and I will give a spirit unto them that are mine, which shall justify their hearts by faith, and incline them to truly good works.
The same is usual with Paul also ; who, when he had rejected the works of the law, and extolled faith, answering such an objection, saith, Rom. iü. “Do we then make the law of no effect? God forbid : yea, we establish the law :” for we teach that the fulfilling of the law is by Christ. The like objections are frequently made to us, as though we forbid good works, when we disallow of monasteries and their works, and teach that they must first by faith become good and approved of God; whereby they may afterwards do truly good works, by which their flesh may be chastised, and their neighbours benefitted.
As the law stays us with threatenings and promises, we oftentimes abstain from evil, and do those things that are good; howbeit, we do them not for the love of goodness and hatred of evil, but for fear of punishment, and in anticipation of reward : wherefore being left to ourselves, we are servants of the law ; neither do we hear it any otherwise than servants do their hard and cruel master. But those that are not under the law, that is, are not against their wills in subjection to it, do good works and abstain from evil, being neither terrified by the threatenings, nor allured with the promises thereof; they
voluntarily bear a love to honesty, and hate that which is dishonest ; being from their hearts delighted with the law of God, they desire to live no otherwise than the law commands.
Those that are such, are sons ; whom, not nature, but that blessed seed of Abraham, that is, Christ, could make such ; renewing by his grace and spirit the hearts of them that believe in him : wherefore not to be under the law, is not to be free from it, that they may do those things that are contrary to it, but it is to do good and abstain from evil, not through compulsion, but by free love and with pleasure, even as if the law did not command them. This is the true liberty of a christian, and the deliverance of him from the law; whereof Paul speaks, 1 Tim. i. “ The law is not made for a righteous man,” &c. which is as much as if he had said, a righteous man of his own accord doth good, and abstains from evil, having no regard either to rewards or punishments; and Rom. vi. “Ye are not under the law, but under grace;" that is, ye are sons, not servants; and also Rom. viii. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption.”
The fifth thing that Paul here commands for us to believe, is, that Christ for our sake was made under the law, that he might deliver us from the bondage of it; and of unwilling servants, make us free sons. Paul saith, speaking of Christ, “ He was made under the law, that he might redeem them which were under the law;" that is, might deliver them from the law. He delivers them from it, not by abolishing it, but by fulfilling it; giving a free spirit which shall do all things willingly without any respect to its promises or threatenings. This was the condition of Adam and Eve before they had sinned. But by what means is this spirit given and liberty obtained ? no otherwise than by faith ; for he that truly believes that Christ came for
this cause, that he might deliver us from the law, and that he hath already delivered him, he, I say, hath indeed received the spirit of liberty, and doth verily obtain that which he believeth ; for both faith and the spirit come together.
When the angel went into the prison to deliver Peter, both of them were in the prison together : Peter was there, being cast in by Herod, not of his own accord ; but the angel went in of his own accord, wherefore it was free for him to go forth whenever he pleased : he was there for Peter's sake, and not for his own; whom when Peter heard and followed, it was free for him also to go forth out of the prison. The prison here represents the law ; Peter our conscience ; and the angel Christ. Christ being absent, our conscience is held captive by the law; being unwilling of itself, it is mored unto good things by the threatenings and promises thereof. The keepers of the prison are the teachers which declare the force of the law to us. So we, being bound in the prison of the law, Christ comes to us and makes himself subject to the law, and does the works of the law with his own accord; yea, and doth them for our sake, that he may join us unto him.
If now we cleave to him, and follow him, we go forth ; but this cleaving to, and following him, is nothing else than to believe in him, and not to doubt that he became man, and was made subject to the law for our salvation ; whereby he makes us ready and willing to do with pleasure all things that the law requires. The greater our faith is, the more ready and willing our minds are to do those things that God commands : this is the true deliverance from the law, and from the condemnation of sin and death. By faith we must pass from sin and death, to righteousness and life. Unless we understand the nature of faith, we shall be but little benefitted by the writings of Paul.
Verse 6. “ And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the spirit of his son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Here we see plainly that the Holy Ghost cometh to the saints, not by works, but by faith alone. Sons believe, while servants only work ; sons are free from the law, servants are held under the law ; as appears by those things that have been before spoken. But how comes it to pass
that he saith, “ because ye are sons, God hath sent fortlı the spirit,” &c. seeing it is before said, that by the coming of the spirit we are changed from servants to sons : but here, as though we could be sons before the coming of the spirit, he saith, “because ye are sons,” &c. To this question we must answer, that Paul speaks here in the same manner that he did before; that is, before the fulness of the time came, we were in bondage under the rudiments of the world : all that shall become sons, are counted in the place of sons with God: therefore he saith rightly, “ because ye are sons ;" that is, because the state of sons is appointed to you from everlasting, “God hath sent forth the spirit of his son ;" to wit, that he might finish it in you, and make you such as he hath long since of his goodness determined that he would make you.
Now if the Father give unto us his spirit, he will make us his true sons and heirs, that we may with confidence cry with Christ, Abba, Father; being his brethren and fellow heirs. The apostle has well set forth the goodness of God which makes us partakers with Christ, and causes us to have all things common with him, so that we live and are led by the same spirit. These words of the apostle show that the Holy Ghost proceeds from Christ, as he calls him his spirit. God hath sent forth the spirit of his Son, that is, of Christ ; for he is the spirit of God, and comes from God to us, and not ours ; unless one will say after this manner, “my holy spirit,” as we
say, "my God," “my Lord,” &c. As he is said to be the holy spirit of Christ, it proves him to be God of whom that spirit is sent, therefore it is counted his spirit.
Christians may perceive by this, whether they have in themselves the Holy Ghost: to wit, the spirit of sons; whether they hear his voice in their hearts: for Paul saith, he crieth in the hearts which he possesseth, Abba, Father; he saith also, Rom. viii. “ We have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father.” Thou hearest this voice when thou findest so much faith in thyself, that thou dost assuredly without doubting presume that not only thy sins are forgiven thee, but also that thou art the beloved son of God; which being certain of eternal salvation, durst both call him Father, and be delighted in him with a joyful and confident heart. To doubt these things, brings a reproach upon the death of Christ, as though he had not obtained all things for us.
It may be that thou shalt be so tempted, as to fear and doubt, and think plainly that God is not a favourable Father, but a wrathful revenger of sins ; as it happened with Job and many other saints : but in such a conflict, this trust and confidence that thou art a son, ought to prevail and overcome. It is said, Rom. viii..“ The spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and that he beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” How can it therefore be that our hearts should not hear this cry and testimony of the spirit? But if thou dost not feel this cry, take heed that thou be not slothful and secure ; pray constantly, for thou art in an evil state.
Cain saith, Gen. iv. “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth ; and from thy face shall I be hid ; and it shall come to pass, that