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mountain: he calls them serpents. This was his office, to lay the axe at the root of the tree.
3. And Christ himself coming into the world, and preaching to Nicodemus, begins: "Unless a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." A man in his natural condition can never enter into heaven, for he is carnal. "That that is born of the flesh is flesh, and that that is born of the Spirit is Spirit." It is carnal, and must be born again. A little patching will not serve the turn. Thou must be new born, new moulded, a little mending is not sufficient: A man must be a new creature, and new made. So that this is the substance of this doctrine of Christ, that if thou be no better than moral virtue, or civil education can make thee; if thou hast any thing less than regeneration, believe me thou canst never see heaven. There is no hope of heaven till then, till thou art born again: till then our Saviour excludes all these fancies that way.
4. The apostles begin to gather the first church after Christ's resurrection. They do not begin to preach Christ first, his virtue and efficacy; but first they tell them of their great sin, in crucifying the Lord of life, viz. "Whom with wicked hands you have taken and crucified." But what was the end of their doing thus? It is set down: "They were pricked to the heart, and then they cried out, Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?" See, this was the end of all, the humbling of them, that by declaring what they had done, they might be pricked at the heart; so that now they see it, if it be no better with them, than for the present, it is like to go ill with them. This makes them cry out, "What shall we do? Then," saith Peter, " repent and be baptized, and you shall receive the gift of the holy Ghost." After he had told them their own, and had brought them to their search, which is their first work, then comes the promise of Christ. Observe the apostle's method in the epistle to the Romans: which book is a perfect catechism of the Church, which contains
e Acts, chap. 2. ver. 23.
d John, chap. 3.
Acts, chap. 2. ver. 37.
these three parts of divinity: humility, justification, and sanctification. See how the apostle orders his method. From the first chapter to part of the third, he treats all of the law, and "convinces both Jew and Gentile, and all, of sin." Then mark his conclusion: "that every mouth may be stopped." When he had stopped every mouth, cast down every strong hold, which lifted itself up against God: when he had laid all at God's feet, and left them bleeding, as it were, under the knife of God, then comes he to Christ: "The righteousness of God without the law is manifest." He had done his first business in humbling them, in shewing them their sins by the law and as soon as that was done, when every mouth was stopped, then comes he to "the promise by faith in Jesus Christ to all that believe."
You see then the method of the Scripture is first to "conclude all under sin," and so to fit men for the promise of Jesus Christ. Know, therefore, that law is the highway to the Gospel, the path that leads to it, that way which must be trodden in: we are still out of our way, till we have begun our walks in this path: and if thou art not terrified by the law, and the sight of thy sins, been at thy wits end, as it were, weary of thy condition and bondage, thou art not in the way yet. "Ouri sowing must be in tears." And it is said, that in the Church triumphant" all tears shall be wiped away from our eyes." That is a promise: but is it possible that tears should be wiped from our eyes before we shed them? Shall we look to go to heaven in a way that was never yet found out? Shall it be accounted a point of preciseness to walk in this way, or a soul-torturing doctrine to preach it? This is the way that all our forefathers have both preached and gone. This is that time of sowing spoken of in Psal. CXXVI. ver. 5, 6. " They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." It brings us joy in the end, to begin our "sowing in tears." It waters that precious seed, and makes it
h Rom. chap. 3. ver. 21.
Chap. 3. ver. 19.
i Psalm 126. ver. 5. VOL. XIII.
bring forth joy unto us in abundance, yet such as no man can take from us.
So then having laid this point for a foundation, we now will come to the next.
That until we come to Christ, the law lays hold of us. Till Christ come we are shut up under the law, kept under it. And if there were nothing else in the world. to make a man weary of his condition, this were enough. Until a man hath given over himself to Christ, and renounced his own righteousness, he is subject to the law, kept under it, not under grace. It brings a man only to the place where grace is. Put this therefore close to your consciences, and jumble not these two together. First nature cometh, and whilst you are under that, you are under the law. Never think you are under the covenant of grace, till you believe, of which belief we shall speak more hereafter. Whilst you are under the law you are held under it, and by it made obnoxious to the wrath of God; "Whoever is under the law, is under the curse."
Now that I may unfold it, and shew what a fearful thing it is to be under the law, to be held under it, although many think it no great matter, hearken what the apostle saith of it: "Cursed be every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." Well then, art thou under the law? Then never think of being under grace at the same time; not but that we may hope to be under grace afterwards: by this law we must be judged, and the judgment of the law is very severe: it requires not only, that thou do this, or that good thing, but if thou continuest not in every thing that is written therein, it condemns thee.
Strange conceits men have now adays, and strange divinity is brought forth into the world: that if a man does as much as lies in him, and what he is of himself able to do; nay farther, though he be a heathen, that knows not Christ, yet if he doth the best he can; if he live honestly towards men, according to the conduct of
* Gal. chap. 3. ver. 10.
his reason, and hath a good mind towards God, it is enough, he need not question his eternal welfare. A cursed and desperate doctrine they conclude hence. Why, say they, may not this man be saved as well as the best? But if it be so, I ask such, What is the benefit and advantage of the Jew more than the Gentile? What is the benefit of Christ? of the Church? of faith? of baptism? of the sacrament of the Lord's supper? This ground of Pelagianism is that, for which the devout spouse of Christ, the Church, abhors us, when we shall undertake to bring a man to salvation without Christ: whereas, if he be not under grace, under Christ, he is accursed. If thou wilt be saved by the law, it is not thy endeavour or doing what lieth in thee, that will serve the turn;" every jot and tittle that the law requires must be fulfilled. What would be thine estate, if thou shouldst be examined according to the strict rigour of the law? Not the least word or thought, that is contrary to it, but thou must give an account for. If thou standest upon thine own bottom, or lookest to be saved by thine own deeds; not one vain word which thou speakest, but thou shalt be questioned for, cast, and condemned. Consider then the great difference of being under Christ and grace, and of being under the law. When we are under Christ, we are freed from a great deal of inconvenience: we are not liable to answer for those evil things which we have committed; as in that comfortable place of Ezekiel: "All his iniquities that he hath done shall not be mentioned unto him." When a man is come to forsake his old way, his evils are cast out of mind; a marvellous comfort to a Christian: whereas if a man be not in Christ, every idle word he must be accountable for; if in Christ, the greatest sin he ever committed he shall not hear of. All they that stand on God's right hand, hear only of the "good things they have done, you have fed, cloathed, and visited me:" but they on the left hand hear not a word mentioned concerning the good they have done, only their evil deeds are reckoned up.
Now that I may declare to you the difference between
the law and the Gospel, I will difference it in three particulars.
1. The law rejects any kind of obedience besides that which is thorough, sound, full, and perfect, without any touch of the flesh. It rejects all cracked payment: it will take no clipped coin. That obedience which hath any imperfection joined with it, will not be accepted: but here I must not speak without book. See Rom. chap. VII. ver. 14. "We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal." And then concludes: "O wretched man," &c. "The law is spiritual," what is that? We may know the meaning of it by the particle but: "but I am carnal." "The law is spiritual." That is, it requires, that all our works be spiritual, without any carnality, or touch of the flesh. If in any point of our obedience there be a smell of the cask, it is rejected. If the beer be never so good, yet if it have an evil smatch, it will not relish. Let our services have this savour of the flesh, and they will not be pleasing to God, neither will they have a right savour in his nostrils. And thus "the law is spiritual, but we are carnal." Now it is otherwise here in the state of the Gospel: alas! we are carnal, it is true. The apostle himself complains, "That there is a law in his members rebelling against the law of his mind, and leading him captive," &c. Yet notwithstanding the Gospel accepts our obedience, though the law will not. What is the reason of this? Why, it is plain. When the law comes, it looks for justice, it presents a strict rule to us; it requires we should be complete: but now the Gospel doth not so; it requires not justification of our own, but looks that, being justified by God's free grace, we should shew forth our thankfulness, and express that we are so in heart, by our obedience to our utmost power. Here is all the the strictness of the Gospel: "If there be a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to what a man hath not." God takes well the desires of our mind. This is then our
12 Cor. chap. 8. ver. 12.