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Wherefore, when you shall hereafter transgress any of the ten commandments, you are to know that you have thereby transgressed the law of Christ, and that the Lord sees it, and is angry with it, with a fatherly anger; and, if need be, will chastise you, (1 Pet. i. 6.) either with temporal or spiritual afflictions, or both. And this your heavenly Father will do in love to you ; eithe" to bring your sins to remembrance, as he did the sins of Joseph's brethren, (Gen. xlii. 21.) and as the widow of Zarephath confesseth concerning herself, (1 Kings xvii. 18.) or else" to purge or take away your sins," according to that which the Lord says, Isa. xxvii. 9, “By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, and this is all the fruit, even the taking away of sin.” “For indeed,” says Mr. Culverwell,“ afflictions, through God's blessing, are made special means to purge out that sinful curruption which is still in the nature of believers; and therefore are they, in Scripture, most aptly compared to medicines, for so they are indeed to all God's children, most sovereign medicines to cure all their spiritual diseases. And indeed we have all of us great need thereof; for as Luther, on the Galatians, p. 66, truly says, “ We are not yet perfectly righteous ; for whilst we remain in this life, sin dwells still in the flesh, and this remnant of sin God purgeth.” “ Wherefore,” says the same Luther in another place, b“ When God hath remitted sins, and received a man into the bosom of grace, then doth he lay on him all kind of afflictions, and doth scour and renew him from day to day." And to the same purpose, Tindal truly says, “ If we look on the flesh, and into the law, there is no man so perfect that is not found a sinner; nor no man so pure, that hath not need to be purged. And thus doth the Lord chastise believers to heal their natures, by purging out the corruption that remains therein."
And therefore, whensoever you shall hereafter feel the Lord's chastening hand upon you, let it move you to take the prophet Jeremiah's counsel, that is, to “search and try your ways, and turn unto the Lord,” (Lam. iii. 40,) and confess your sins, unto him, saying, with the prodigal, (Luke xv. 21,) “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son ;” and beg pardon and forgiveness at his hands, as you are taught in the fifth petition of the Lord's prayer, Matth. vi. 12. Yet do not you crave pardon and forgiveness at the hands of the Lord, as a malefactor doth at the hands of a judge, that feareth condemnation and death, as though you had sinned against the law of works, and therefore feared hell and damnation ; but do you beg pardon and forgiveness as a child doth at the hands of his loving father; as feeling the fruits of his fatherly anger, in his chastising hand upon you: and as fearing the continuance and augmentation of the same : c if your sin be not both pardoned and subdued : and therefore do you also beseech your loving Father to subdue your iniquities, according to his promise, Micah vii. 19. And if you find not that the Lord hath heard your prayers, by your feeling your iniquities subdued, d then join with your prayers, fasting and weeping, if you car; that so you may be the more seriously humbled before the Lord, and more fervent in prayer. And this, I hope, may be sufficient to have showed you what is the penalty which the law of Christ threatens.
fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sios, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance."-West. Confess. chap. xi. art. v. “ They may—fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God's displeasure, and grieve bis holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.”—Ib. chap. 17. art. 3. “ The threatenings serve to show what even their sins deserve ; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threate ened in the law." - Ib. chap. 19. art. 6. See page 331, note k.
b Chos. Sermons, Serm. Of the Kingdom of God, page 120.
Neo. 0, but, sir, I should think myself a happy man, if I could be so obedient to the law of Christ, that he might have no need to inflict this penalty upon me.
Evan. You say very weil; but yet, whilst you carry this body of sin about you, do the best you can, there will be need that the Lord should, now and then, give you some fatherly corrections : bnt yet, this let me tell you, the more perfect your obedience is, the fewer lashes you shall have ; " for the Lord doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men,” Lam. iii. 33. And therefore, according to my former exhortation, and your resolution, be careful to exercise your faith, and use all means to increase it; that so it may become effectual e working by love. 1 Thess. i. 3; Gal. v. 6. For, according to the measure of your faith, will be your true love to Christ and to his commandinents; and according to your love to them, will be your delight in them, and your aptness and readiness to do them. And hence it is that Christ himself says, John xiv. 15, “ If ye love me, keep my commandments :" and this is the love of God, says that loving disciple, " that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not griovous;" 1 John v. 3. Nay, the truth is, if you have this love in your hearts, it will be grievous unto you, that you cannot keep them as you would. O, if this love do abound in your heart, it will cause you to say with godly Joseph, in case you be tempted as he was, “ How can I do this great wickedness, and so sin against God ?” How can I do that which I know will displease so gracious a Father, and so merciful a Saviour ? No, I will not do it; no, I cannot do it: no, yon will rather say with the Psalmist, “ I delight to do thy will, O my God! yea thy law is within my heart,” Psalm xl. 8.
c Matt. vi. 9, 12, Af this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven-forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
d The subduing of sin is the mark of God's hearing prayer for the pardon of it; if one feels not his iniquity subdued, he cannot find that God hath heard his prayers for pardon.
e To the producing of holy obedience, according to the measure and degree of it.
Nay, let me tell you more, if this love of God in Christ be truly, and in any good measure rooted in your heart; then, though the chastising hand of the Lord be not upon you, nay, though the Lord do no way express any anger towards you, yet if you but consider the Lord's ways towards you, and your ways towards him, you will mourn with a gospel-mourning, reasoning with yourself after this manner: And was I under the law or works by nature, and so, for every transgression against any of the ten commandments, made liable to everlasting damnation ? and I am now, through the free mercy and love of God in Christ, brought under the law of Christ, and so subject to no other penalty for my transgressions, but fatherly and loving chastisements, which tend to the parging out of that sinful corruption that is in me? O what a loving Father is this ! O what a gracious Saviour is this! O what a wretched man am I, to transgress the laws of such a good God, as he hath been to me! O the due consideration of this will even, as it were, melt your heart, and cause your eyes to drop with the tears of godly sorrow! yea, the due consideration of these things will cause you to “lothe yourself in your own sight for your transgressions,” (Ezek. xxxvi. 31.) yea, not only to lothe yourself for them, but also to leave thein, saying with Ephraim, “ What have I to do any more with idols ?” (Hos. xiv. 8.) and to “cast them away as a menstruous cloth, saying unto them, get ye hence,” Isa. xxx. 22. And truly you will desire nothing more, than that you might so live, as that you might never sin against the Lord any more. And this is that
goodness of God which,” as the apostle says, " leadeth to repentance;" yea, this is that goodness of God which will lead you to a free obedience. So that if you do but apply the goodness of God in Christ to your soul, in any good measure, then will you answerably yield obedience to the law of Christ, not only without having respect either to what the law of works either promiseth or threateneth; but also without having respect to what the law of Christ either pro
miseth or threateneth; you will do that which the Lord commandeth, only because he commandeth it, and to the end that you may please him; and you will forbear when he forbids, only because heforbids it, to the end that you may not displease him.f And this
f The author doth here no otherwise exhort the believer to yield free obedience, without respect to what either the law of works, or the law of Christ, promises or threatens, than he exhorts him to perfection of obedience, which, in the beginning of this answer, he told him not to be attainable in this life. And the truth is, neither the one nor the other is the design of these words. But he had exhorted him before, to use all means to increase his faith; and for his encouragement, he tells him here, that if he by faith applied the goodness of God in Christ to his own soul, in any good measure, then he would, answerably, yield obedience, without respect to what either the law of works, or the law of Christ promises or threatens, and only because God commands or forbids. The freeness of obedience is of very different degrees; and believers' obedience is never absolutely free, till it be absolutely perfect in heaven; but the freeness of their obedience will always bear proportion to the measure of their faith, which is never perfect in this life: thus, the more faith, the more freeness of obedience, and the less faith, the less of that freeness. See page 219, note e.
“ The believer obeys with an angel-like obedience; then the Spirit seems to exhaust all the commanding awsomness of the law, and supplies the law's imperious power, with the strength and power of love."— Rutherford's Spirit. Antichrist. p. 318. “ The more of the Spirit (because the Spirit is essentially free, Psalm li. 12; 2 Cor. ii. 17.) the more freeness ; and the more freeness, the more renewed will in the obedience; and the more renewed will, the less coustraint, because freeness exhausteth constraint."-Ibid.
“ When Christ's blood is seen by faith to quiet justice, then the conscience becomes quiet also, and will not suffer the heart to entertain the love of sin, but sets the man on work to fear God for his mercy, and obey all his commandments, out of love to God, for his free gift of justification, by grace bestowed upon him ; for “ this is the end of the law” indeed, whereby it obtaineth of a man more obedience than any other way.”—Pract. Use of Sav. Knowledge, tit. The Third Thing Requisite, &c. fig. 7.
Promises and threatenings are not, by this doctrine, annexed to the holy law in vain, even with respect to believers; for the law of God is, in his infinite wisdom, suited to the state of the creature, to whom it is given : and therefore, howbeit the believer’s eternal happiness is unalterably secured from the moment of his union with Christ by faith ; yet, since sin dwells in him still wbile in this world, the promises of fatherly smiles, and threatenings of fatherly chastisements, are still necessary. But it is evident that this necessity is entirely founded on the believer's imperfection; as in case of a child under age. And therefore, although his being influenced to obedience by the promises and threatenings of the law of Christ, is not indeed slavish, yet it is plainly childish, not agreeing to the state of a perfect man, of one come unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. And, in the state of perfection, he shall yield such free obedience as the angels do in heaven, without being moved thereto by any promises or threatenings at all: and the nearer he comes in his progress to that state of perfection, the more will his obedience be of that pature. So by the doctrine here advanced, the author doth no more disown the necessity of promises to influence and encourage the believer's obedience, nor say, that he ought pot to have regard to promises and threatenings, than one is to be reckoned to say, that a
obedience is like unto that which our Saviour exhorts his disciples unto, (Matt. x. 8,) saying, "Freely you have received, freely give." And this is to "serve the Lord without fear" of any penalty, which either the law of works or the law of Christ threateneth, “in holiness and righteousness all the days of your life,” according to that saying of Zacharias, 9 Luke i. 74, 75. And this is to “pass the time of your sojourning here, in fear” to offend the Lord, by sinning against him; as the apostle Peter exhorts, 1 Pet. i. 17. Yea, and this is to “serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear;" as the author to the Hebrews exhorts, Heb. xii. 28. And thus, my dear friend Neophitus, I have endeavoured, according to your desire, to give you my judgment and direction in these points.
Neo. And truly, sir, your have done it very effectually; the Lord enable me to practise according to your direction !
§ 12. Nom. Sir, in this your answer to his question, you have also answered me, and given me full satisfaction in divers points, about which my friend Antinomista and I have had many a wrangling fit.
For I used to affirm with tooth and nail, (as men use to say) that believers are under the law, and not delivered from it; and that they do sin, and that God sees it, and is angry with them, and doth afflict them for it, and that therefore they ought to humble themselves, and mourn for their sins, and confess them, and crave pardon for them; and yet truly, I must confess, I did not understand what I said, por whereof I affirmed; and the reason was, because I did not know the difference betwixt the law, as it is the law of works, and as it is the law of Christ.
Ant. And believe me, sir, I used to affirm, as earnestly as he, that bellevers are delivered from the law, and therefore do not sin; and therefore God can see no sin in them; and therefore is neither angry with them, nor does afflict them for sin: and therefore they have no need either to humble themselves, or mourn, or confess their sins, or beg pardon for them; the which I believing to be true, could not conceive how the contrary could be true also. But now I plainly see that by means of your distinguishing betwixt the law, as it is the law of works, and as it is the law of Christ, there is a truth in both. And therefore, friend Nomista, whensoever either you, or any man else, shall bereafter affirm, that believers are under the law, and do sin; and God sees it, and is angry with them, and does chastise them for it; and that they humble themselves, mourn,
lame man has no need of, and should not have regard unto the crutches provided for bim; when he only says, That the stronger his limbs grow, he will have the less need of them, and will lean the less on them. g See the preceding note. Vol. VII.