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SERMON XXXI.

FOR IF THEY WHICH ARE OF THE LAW BE HEIRS, FAITH IS MADE VOID, AND THE PROMISE MADE OF NONE EFFECT. ROM. iv. 14.

THE

HE five books of Moses stand in the beginning of our Bible, and it is of great importance to all readers of the Scripture, that they should have a right understanding of them; for two reasons: first, because we have in those books the foundation of all that follows; and secondly, because in this age they have been dangerously misrepresented.

The doctrine of the text is this; that they who were under the law could not, as such, inherit the promise; because the promise had been made to the faith of 'Abraham before the law; and had it afterwards been given to the law, it would have been taken from faith; and so the whole together would have been a contradiction. But as the promise had first been given to faith, it could not be given to the law afterwards; and it was not given: for the law answers other purposes, as we shall see.

That the promise is given to faith, the case of the great father of the Church was intended to shew.

God called Abraham from his friends, that he might go out to a land which he had not seen: he commanded him to devote his son to God, and he obeyed: in consequence of which he received the promise.— Now I know that thou fearest God-thou didst not withhold thy son-in blessing I will bless thee, &c. Few words are here wanted to shew, what sort of religion is most pleasing to God. It is the religion of Abraham; which leaves father and mother, and forsakes the world, at the call of God; which believes his word, while appearances argue the contrary; and. resigns itself to his will, though he requires what is most valuable in life. In a word, it shews, that God is pleased with faith, and that without faith it is impossible to please him-he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness. Gen. xv. 6.

If you would know the justice of this, the case is plain. Man is in a state of alienation and forfeiture: the works of his nature are nothing worth: here is none righteous, no not one. God hath therefore concluded all under sin: and as righteousness is not to be found, another service is admitted, to be counted for righteousness: which is the service of faith. The Apostle breaks out into rapture when he thinks on it -O the depth of wisdom and goodness! that God should conclude all under sin, that he might have mercy upon all! Thus Gentiles as well as Jews are all brought in, as children of Abraham, and heirs of the promise. All that was given to faith in Abraham; the promise, and the blessing, and the oath which confirmed it, might also be given to the like faith in them. Every thing is given to this faith; even Christ himself, the greatest blessing of all. For as Abraham had given up his son, so did God ́in due time give up his. In return for that act, which resigned Isaac as a

sacrifice, did God on the very same spot, in after. ages, give Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world. In conformity to the same example the Christian is still required to resign his fame, his pleasure, his children, his friends, when God requires; and then he will have Christ in return. This is the true religion, which leads men to salvation, and which always did so; and it is as plain and easy as it is true.

But with this religion of faith, there was another sort of service, another necessary rule of obedience to God, called the law: concerning which the text informs us, that they who were of it could not be heirs ; that is, could not thereby be intitled to inherit the blessing which God had promised to Abraham.

And, I believe, whosoever shall examine the law of Moses, will find that no such promise is any where added to the works of the law. The apostle expressly declares the contrary: by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight: and again; a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Rom. iii. 20, 28. Certain it is then, that if the law cannot justify; it could give life; and if it could not give it, it could not promise it; and accordingly it never did. But here the Jew made a fatal mistake. He went about, thinking it possible to establish the sufficiency of his own righteousness by the deeds of the law; and so he failed of that other righteousness which God had imputed to Abraham. It is no disparagement to the law of Moses, that it did not give righteousness: nor should we hence imagine that the law and the promise were in opposition: God forbid for if there had been a law given, which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law; it was the most excellent system which could be for the purpose: but from the nature of man that could not possibly be.

The scripture had concluded all men, had as it were shut them all up together, under a sentence of sin and condemnation: so that justification must be brought in some other way; which way is that of faith; and a counting of that for righteousness, which in itself was not righteousness, till God pleased to make it so. It would surely have been a strange thing, if the law þad promised what it could not give: and much hath been said about this to little purpose: but there is in the mean time a great and useful question which deserves to be answered. For if the law could not give life, what was the design of it, and what end did it answer? The apostle instructs us, that it was added because of transgression; and that it was a schoolmaster unto Christ. We are therefore to examine into the signification of these two characters.

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And first, the law was added because of transgresIf it was added, there was something in use before it, to which it was added by way of preservation, in order to lessen transgression for the time to come. The case was this: from Adam to Noah, and down to Abraham, there had been a practice of divine worship, which comprehended the chief institutions of that law which was afterwards written. This worship, the people whom we call Heathens, and who are supposed to have arisen from the confusion at Babel, had corrupted, and had turned the rites of it to the service of false gods; whom they worshipped with such abominable practices as made them hateful to the true Gon, and of course very dangerous companions to his people. That Abraham might escape this danger, God called him from his family, who are said to have served other gods; (Josh. xxiv. 2.) and for the samę reason his posterity were separated from all other people and when they were to be settled in the land

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of Canaan, the nations of Idolaters were driven out. The first form in which God gave his law was that of the ten commandments: and the first of these forbids the worship of strange gods; as doth the second the invention of images, which was the constant wickedness of the heathens. And this, without any thing farther, is sufficient to shew, what kind of transgression the law was added to prevent, and who the transgressors were. What the witchcraft was which drew mankind away to the belief and worship of false Gods, it may not be easy for us, at this distance of time, to detect and understand. The shortest way is to suppose, what is certainly true, that idolatry was a subtle invention of the devil: and we know what he can do, and what absurdities men can receive and embrace, from what is at this time stirring in the world. Certain it is, that the company of these Heathens always was a snare to the people of God; of whom it is too truly said, that they transgressed against the God of their fathers, and went a whoring after the gods of the people of the land, whom God destroyed before them. We are to note well that expression, they went a whoring for as fornication and adultery are lusts of the body; so is disaffection to the true God, and a love of unclean idols, a lust of the mind; which ill company and bad teaching are sure to excite. For this cause God divided his people from the Heathens, and laid them under every possible obligation for their security, by the institutions of the law of Moses; as a good father would keep his son from the seducing company of profligates and blasphemers. Many of the Mosaic laws are preservatives against heathenism: but there is one law, of equal effect with all the rest: this is, the distinction of meats into clean and unclean, in the 11th of Leviticus. By this law Heathens and

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