« PreviousContinue »
of the world, contracted new relations, and consequently had new duties and obligations; and men hindered one another, and their faculties, by many means, became disordered, and lessened in their abilities; and their will becoming perverse, they first were unwilling, and then unable, by superinducing dispositions and habits, contrary to their duty. However, because there was a necessity that man should be tied to more duty, God did, in the several periods of the world, multiply commandments, first to Noah, then to Abraham, and then to his posterity; and by this time they were very many: and still God held over man's head the covenant of works.
3. Upon the pressure of this covenant all the world did complain, “ tanta mandata sunt, ut impossibile sit servati ea," said St. Ambrose : “ the commandments were so many and great, that it was impossible they should be kept i. For, at first, there were no promises at all of any good, nothing but a threatening of evil to the transgressors ; and after a long time they were entertained but with the promise of temporal good things, which to some men were performed by the pleasures and rewards of sin; and then there being a great imperfection in the nature of man, it could not be that man should remain innocent; and for repentance, in this covenant there was no regard, or provisions made. But I said,
4. The covenant of works was still kept on foot;-how justly, will appear in the sequel ; but the reasonableness of it was in this, that men, living in a state of awfulness, might be under a pedagogy or severe institution, restraining their loosenesses, recollecting their inadvertences, uniting their distractions. For the world was not then prepared by spiritual usages and dispositions to be governed by love and an easy yoke, but by threatenings and severities. And this is the account St. Paul gives of it, ó vóuoc maidaywyòs, " the law' was a schoolmasterk;" that is, had a temporary authority serving to other ends, with no final concluding power. It. could chastise and threaten, but it could not condemn: it had not power of eternal life and death; that was given by other measures. But because the world was wild and barbarous, good men were few, the bad potent and innumerable,
i In cap. 3. Gal.
* Gal. jj. 24.
and sin was conducted and helped forward by pleasure and impunity,—it was necessary that God should superinduce a law, and shew them the rod, and affright and check their confidences, lest the world itself should perish by dissolution. The law of Moses was still a part of the covenant of works. Some little it had of repentance : sacrifice and expiations were appointed for small sins; but nothing at all for greater. Every great sin brought death infallibly. And as it had a little image of repentance, so it had something of promises, to be as a grace and auxiliary to set forward obedience. But this would not do it. The promises were temporal, and that could not secure obedience in great instances; and there being for them no remedy appointed by repentance, the law could not justify; it did not promise life eternal, nor give sufficient security against the temporal; only it was brought in as a pedagogy for the present necessity.
5. But this pedagogy or institution was also a manuduction to the Gospel. For they were used to severe laws, that they might the more readily entertain the holy precepts of the Gospel, to which eternally they would have shut their ears, unless they had had some preparatory institution of severity and fear: and therefore St. Paul also calls it, Tadagwyíav eis Xplotov, “a pedagogy,” or institution leading “ unto Christ.”
6. For it was this which made the world of the godly long for Christ, as having commission to open the kpuntòY ato tūv aiúvwv, 'the hidden mystery of justification by faith and repentance. For the law called for exact obedience, but ministered no grace but that of fear, which was not enough to the performance or the engagement of exact obedience. All, therefore, were here convinced of sin ; but by this covenant they had no hopes, and therefore were to expect relief from another and a better : according to that saying of St. Paul, “ The Scripture concludes all under sin (that is, declares all the world to be sinners), that the promise by the faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believel.” This St. Bernard expresses in these words; " Deus nobis hoc fecit, ut nostram imperfectionem ostenderet, et Christų avidiores nos faceret:” “Our imperfection was suffi
! Gal. iii. 22.
ciently manifest by the severity of the first covenant, that the world might long for salvation by Jesus Christ.”
7. For since mankind could not be saved by the covenant of works, that is, of exact obedience, they must perish for ever; or else hope to be saved. by a covenant of ease and remission, that is, such a covenant as may secure man's duty to God, and God's mercy to man; and this is the covenant which God made with mankind in Christ Jesus, the covenant of repentance.
8. This covenant began immediately after Adam's fall. For as soon as the first covenant, the covenant of works, was broken, God promised to make it up by an instrument of mercy, which himself would find out. The seed of the woman' should make up the breaches of the man. But this should be acted and published in its own time, not presently. In the meantime, man was, by virtue of that new covenant or promise, admitted to repentance.
9. Adam confessed his sin and repented. Three hundred years together did he mourn upon the mountains of India; and God promised him a Saviour, by whose obedience his repentance should be accepted. And when God did threaten the old world with a flood of waters, he called upon them to repent; but because they did not, God brought upon them the flood of waters. For one hundred and twenty years together, he called upon them to return, before he would strike his final blow. Ten times God tried Pharaoh, before he destroyed him. And in all ages, in all periods, and with all men, God did deal by this measure; and (excepting that God in some great cases, or in the beginning of a sanction to establish it with the terror of a great example) he scarce ever destroyed a single man with temporal death for any nicety of the law, but for long and great prevarications of it: and when he did otherwise, he did it after the man had been highly warned of the particular, and could have obeyed easily; which was the case of the man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath; and was like the case of Adam, who was upon the same account judged by the covenant of works.
10. This, then, was an emanation both of God's justice and his mercy. Until man had sinned, he was not the sub
ject of mercy : and if he had not then received mercy, the infliction had been too severe and unjust ; since the covenant was beyond the measures of man, after it began to multiply into particular laws, and man by accident was lessened in his strengths.
11. From hence the corollaries are plain, 1. God was not unjust for beginning his intercourse with mankind by the covenant of works, for these reasons.
I. Because man had strengths enough to do it, until he lessened his own abilities.
II. The covenant of works was, at first, instanced but in a small commandment: in abstaining from the fruit of one tree, when he had by him very many others for his use and pleasure.
III. It was necessary that the covenant of works should begin: for the covenant of faith and repentance could not be at first; there was no need of it, no opportunity for it, it must suppose a defailance, or an infirmity, as physic supposes sickness and mortality.
IV. God never exacted the obedience of man by strict measures, by the severity of the first covenant after Adam's fall; but men were saved then as now; they were admitted to repentance, and justified by faith and the works of faith. And therefore the Jews say that three things were before the world, the law,—the name of the Messias,-and repentance ;--that is, as St. Paul better expresses it, This repentance through faith in the Messias is “the hidden wisdom of God, ordained before the world unto our glorym."o! So that, at first, it was not impossible; and when it was, it was not exacted in the impossible measure; but it was kept in pretence and overture for ends of piety, wisdom, and mercy, of which I have given account; it was oopía åtokekpunuévní 'a wise dispensation, but it was ‘hidden.'
12. For since it is essential to a law, that it be in a matter that is possible, it cannot be supposed that God would judge man by an impossible commandmenta. A good man would not do it, much less the righteous and merciful judge of men and angels. But God, by holding over the world
m 1 Cor. ii, 7.
• Plato, lib. 5. de leg. Demosth. contra Timocralem. Plular. in Solon. Curius Fortunatjanus Rhel. Nemo obligatur ad impossibile.
the covenant of works, "non fecit prævaricatores sed humiles ;" "did not make us sinners” by not observing the åkpißela, the minutes and tittles of the law, “but made us humble,” needing mercy, begging grace, longing for a Saviour, relying upon a better covenant, waiting for better promises, praying for the Spirit of grace, repenting of our sins, deploring our infirmities, and justified by faith in the promises of God.
13. II. This, then, is the great introduction and necessity of repentance. We neither could have lived without it, nor have understood the way of the divine justice, nor have felt any thing of his most glorious attribute. But the admission of us to repentance is the great verification of his justice, and the most excellent expression of his mercy: this is the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, springing from the fountains of grace, purchased by the blood of the holy Lamb, the eternal sacrifice, promised from the beginning, always ministered to man's need in the secret economy of God, but proclaimed to all the world at the revelation of God incarnate, the first day of our Lord Jesus.
14. But what are we eased now under the Gospel, which is a law of greater holiness and more commandments, and a sublimer purity, in which we are tied to more severity than ever man was bound to, under any institution and covenant? If the law was an impossible commandment, who can say he hath strictly and punctually performed the injunctions of the Gospel? Is not the little finger of the Son, heavier than the Father's loins? Here therefore it is to be inquired, Whether the commandments of Jesus Christ be as impossible to be kept as the law of Moses? If we by Christ be tied to more holiness, than the sons of Israel were by Moses's law, then because that could not be kept, then neither can this. But if we be not tied to more than they, how is the law of Christ a more perfect institution ? and how can we now be justified by a law no better than that, by which we could not be justified? But then, if this should be as impossible as ever, why is it anew imposed ? why is it held over us, when the ends for which it was held over us, now are served ? And at last, how can it be agreeable to God's wisdom and justice, to exact of us a law which we cannot perform, or to impose a law which cannot justly be exacted? The answering and expli