Imágenes de páginas

that "

grace which is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death and brought life and immortality to light thro’the gospel," (2 Tim. i. 1o.) Now therefore they are no more servants, but sons. So that whatsoever was the case of those under the law, we may safely affirm with St. John, that since the gospel was given, He that is born of God, sinneth not. '11. It is of great importance to observe, and that more carefully than is commonly done, the wide difference there is between the Jewish and the Christian dispensation : and that ground of it which the same apostle assig's in the seventh chapter of his gospel, verse 38, &c.

After he had there related those words of our blessed Lord, " He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water," he immediately subjoins, " This spake he of spirit, και εμελλον λαμθανείν οι πιςευοντες εις αυτον which they who should believe on him, were afterwards to receive. For the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” Now the apostle cannot mean here (as some have taught) that the miracle-working power of the Holy Ghost was not yet given. For this was given; our Lord had given it to all his apostles, when he first sent them forth to preach the gospel. He then gave them power over unclean spirits to cast ihem out ; power to heal the sick, yea, to raise the dead. But the Holy Ghost was not yet given in his sanctifying graces, as he was after Jesus was glorified. It was then when" he ascended up on high, and led captivity captive," that he “ received those gifts for men, yea, even for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come,” then first it'was, that they who "waited for the promise of the Father,” were made more than conquerors over sin, by the Holy Ghost given unto them.

12. That this great salvation from sin was not given till Jesus was glorified, St. Peter also plainly testifies“; where speaking of his “ brethren in the flesh," as now “ receiving the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls,” he adds, (1 Pet. i. 9, 10, &c.) “ Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched dili


[ocr errors]

gently, who prophesied of the grace” (i. e. the gracious dispensation) ri that should come unto you : searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified before-hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory" (the glorious salvation) “ that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister, the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven” (viz. at the day of Pentecost, and so unto all generations, into the hearts of all true believers.) On this ground, even the grace which was brought unto them by the revelation of Jesus Christ, the apostle might well build that strong exhortation, “Wherefore girding up the loins of your inind, -as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation."

13. Those who have duly considered these things, must allow, that the privileges of Christians, are in no. wise to be measured by what the Old Testament records concerning those who were under the Jewish dispensation : seeing the fulness of times is now come; the Holy Ghost is now given: the great salvation of God, is brought unto men, by the revelation of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of heaven is now set up on earth : concerning which the Spirit of God, declared of old (so far is David from being the pattern or standard of Christian perfection) He that is feeble among them at that day, shall be as David : and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them (Zech. xii. 8.),

14. If therefore you would prove that the apostle's words, he that is born of God sinneth not, are not to be un. derstood, according to their plain, natural, obvious meaning, it is from the New Testament you are to bring your proofs : else you will fight as one that beateth the air. And the first of these which is usually brought is taken from the examples recorded in the New Testament. The apostles themselves (it is said) committed sin: nay, the greatest of them, Peter and Paul: St. Paul, by his sharp contention with Barnabas, and St. Peter, by his dissimulation at Antioch.Well; suppose boch Peter and Paul did then commit sin : what is it you would infer 3 2 2

from both

from hence? That all the other apostles committed sin sometimes ? There is no shadow of proof in this. Or, would you thence infer, that all the other Christians of the apostolic age committed sin ? Worse and worse ; this is such an inference as one would imagine a man in his senses could never have thought of. Or, will you argue thus ? “ If two of the apostles did once commit sin, then all other Christians, in all agés, do, and will commit sin as long as they live.” Alas, my brother! a child of common understanding, would be ashamed of such reasoning as this. Least of all can you with any colour of argument infer, “ That any man must commit sin at all." NO ; God forbid we should thus speak. No necessity of sinhing was laid upon them. The grace of God was surely sufficient for them. And it is sufficient for us at this day. With the temptation which fell on them, there was a way to escape: as there is to every soul of man in every temptation. So that whosoever is tempted to any sin, need not yield ; for no man is, tempted above that he is able to bear.

- 152 " But St. Paul besought the Lord thrice ; and yet he could not escape from his temptation." Let us consider his own words literally translated.

1. There was given to me, a thorn to the flesh, an angel, or messenger of Satan, to buffet me. Touching this I besought the Lord thrice, that it or he might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee. For my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in these my weaknesses, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses,--for when I am weak then am I strong."

16. As this scripture is onë of the strong-holds of the patrons of sin, it may be proper to weigh it thoroughly. Let it be observed then, first, It does by no means appear, that this thorn, whatsoever it was, occasioned St. Paul to commit sin : much less laid him under any necessity of doing so. Therefore, from hence it can never be proved that any Christian must commit sin. Secondly, The ancient father's inform us, it was bodily pain : a violent head-ach, saith Tertullian (de Pudic.) to which both Chrysostom and St. Ferom agree. St. Cyprian * expresses it a little morc gonerally in those terms, “ Many and grievous torments of the flesh and of the body.". * Thirdly, To this exactly agree the apostle's own words, 5 A thorn to the flesh, to smite, beat, or buffet me. My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Which same words occur no less than four times in these two verses only. But, fourthly, Whatsoever is was, it could not be either inward or outward sin. It could no more be inward stirrings, than outward expressions, of pride, anger, or lust. This is manifest beyond all possible exception, from the words that immediately follow, “ Most gladly will I glory in these my weaknesses, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me.” What? Did he glory in pride, in anger, in lust?

Was it through these weaknesses, that the strength of Christ rested upon him ? He goes on ; " Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses ; for when I am weak, then am I strong ;" i. e. When I am weak in body, then am I strong in spirit. But will any man dare to say, when I am weak by pride or lust, then am I strong in spirit? I call you all to record this day, who find the strength of Christ resting upon you, can you glory in anger, or pride, or lust? Can you take pleasure in these infirmities? Do these weaknesses make you strong ? Would you not leap into hell, were it possible, to escape them? Even by yourselves then judge, whether the apostle could glory, and take pleasure in them? Let it be, lastly, observed, That this thorn was given to St. Paul above fourteen years before he wrote this epistle : which itself was wrote several years before he finished his course. So that he had after this a long course to run, many battles to fight, many victories to gain, and great increase to receive in all the gifts of God, and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Therefore from any spiritual weakness (if such 'had been) which he at that time felt, we could by no means infer, that he was never made strong, that Paul, the aged, the Father in Christ, still laboured under the saine weaknesses: that he was in no higher state till the day of his death. From all which it appears, that this in

* De mortalitate. + Carnis & corporis multa ac : gravia tormenta.

stances himself?

stance of St. Paul is quite foreign to the question, and does in no wise clash with the assertion of St. John, " He that is born of God, sinneth not."

17- “ But does not St. James, directly contradict this? His words are, In many things we offend all

, ch. iii. 2. And is not offending the same as coinmiting sin ?". In this place I allow it is. I allow the persons here spoken of did commit sin, yea, that they all committed many sins. But who are the persons here spoken of? Why, those many masters or teachers, whom God had not sent (probably the same vain men who taught that faith without works, which is so sharply reproved in the preceding chapter.) Not the apostle himself, nor any real Christian. That in the word we (used by a figure of speech, common in all other, as well as the inspired writings) the apostle could not possibly include himself, or any other true believer, appears evidently, first, From the same word, in the ninth verse; "Therewith (saith he) bless we God, and therewith curse we men. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing." True ; but not out of the mouth of the apostle, nor of any one who is in Christ a new creature. Secondly, From the verse immediately preceding the text, and manifestly connected with it. My brethren, be not many masters” or teachers, “knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation : for in many things we offend all :" We! Who? Not the apostles, nor true believers ; but they who knew they should receive the greater condemnation, because of those many offences. But this could not be spoken of the apostle himself, or of any who trod his steps ; seeing there is no condemnation for them, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. Nay, thirdly, The very verse itself proves, that we offend all, cannot be spoken, either of all men, or of all Christians; for in it there immediately follows the mention of a man who offends not, as the we first mentioned did : from whon, therefore he is professedly contradistinguished and pronounced, a perfećt man.

18. So clearly does St. James explain himself, and fix the meaning of his own words. Yet lest any one should still remain in doubt, St. John, writing many years after St. James, puts the matter intirely out of dispute, by the express declarations above recited. But here a fresh difficulty may arise. How shall we reconcile St. John with

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »