But if any should object, and say, But the law doth not command impossible things of natural man,—
I should answer in this case as the Apostle did in another very much like unto it, saying, "Understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." For doth not the law command thee to love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, with all they strength, with all thy might, etc., and can the natural man do this? How can those that are accustomed to do evil, do that which is commanded in this particular? "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" (Jer 12:23).
Doth the law command thee to do good, and nothing but good, and that with all thy soul, heart, and delight? which the law as a Covenant of Works calleth for; and canst thou, being carnal, do that? But there is no man that hath understanding, if he should hear thee say so, but would say that thou wast either bewitched or stark mad.
6. They that are under the law are in a sad condition, because that though they follow the law, or Covenant of Works; I say, though they follow it, it will not lead them to Heaven; no, but contrariwise, it will lead them under the curse. It is not possible, saith Paul, that any should be justified by the law, or by our following of it; for by that "is the knowledge of sin," and by it we are condemned for the same, which is far from leading us to life, being the ministration of death (2 Cor 3). And again; "Israel, which followeth after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but by the law, and by the works thereof" (Rom 9:30-32).
7. They that are under the law are in a sad condition, because they do not know whether ever they shall have any wages for their work or no; they have no assurance of the pardon of their sins, neither any hopes of eternal life; but poor hearts as they are, they work for they do not know what, even like a poor horse that works hard all day, and at night hath a dirty stable for his pains; so thou mayest work hard all the days of thy life, and at the day of death, instead of having a glorious rest in the Kingdom of Heaven, thou mayest, nay, thou shalt, have for thy sins the damnation of thy soul and body in Hell to all eternity; forasmuch, as I said before, that the law, if thou sinnest, it doth not take notice of any good work done by thee, but takes its advantage to destroy and cut off thy soul for the sin thou hast committed.
8. They that are under the law are in a sad condition, because they are under that administration; upon whose souls God doth not smile, they dying there; for the administration that God doth smile upon His children through, is the Covenant of Grace, they being in Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and consolation; but contrariwise to those that are under the law; for they have His frowns, His rebukes, His threatenings, and with much severity they must be dealt withal—"For they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord" (Heb 8:9).
9. They are in a sad condition, because they are out of the faith of Christ; they that are under the law have not the faith of Christ in them; for that dispensation which they are under is not the administration of faith. The law is not of faith, saith the Apostle (Gal 3:12).
10. Because they have not received the Spirit; for that is received by the hearing of faith, and not by the law, nor the works thereof (Gal 3:2).
11. In a word, if thou live and die under that covenant, Jesus Christ will neither pray for thee, neither let thee have one drop of His blood to wash away thy sins, neither shalt thou be so much as one of the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; for all these privileges come to souls under another covenant, as the Apostle saith—"For such are not under the law, but under grace"—that is, such as have a share in the benefits of Jesus Christ, or such as are brought from under the first covenant into the second; or from under the law into the grace of Christ's Gospel, without which Covenant of Grace, and being found in that, there is no soul can have the least hope of eternal life, no joy in the Holy Ghost, no share in the privileges of saints, because they are tied up from them by the limits and bonds of the Covenant of Works. For you must understand that these two covenants have their several bounds and limitations, for the ruling and keeping in subjection, or giving of freedom, to the parties under the said covenants. Now they that are under the law are within the compass and the jurisdiction of that, and are bound to be in subjection to that; and living and dying under that, they must stand and fall to that, as Paul saith, "To his own master he standeth or falleth." The Covenant of Grace doth admit to those that are under it also liberty and freedom, together with commanding of subjection to the things contained in it, which I shall speak to further hereafter. [For what purpose the Law was added and given.]
But now, that the former things may be further made to appear—that is, what the sad condition of all them that are under the law is, as I have shown you something of the nature of the law, so also shall I show that the law was added and given for this purpose, that it might be so with those that are out of the Covenant of Grace.
First, God did give the law that sin might abound, not that it should take away sin in any, but to discover the sin which is already begotten, or that may be hereafter begotten, by lust and Satan (Rom 5:20). I say, this is one proper work of the law, to make manifest sin; it is sent to find fault with the sinner, and it doth also watch that it may do so, and it doth take all advantages for the accomplishing of its work in them that give ear thereto, or do not give ear, if it have the rule over them. I say, it is like a man that is sent by his lord to see and pry into the labours and works of other men, taking every advantage to discover their infirmities and failings, and to chide them? yea, to throw them out of the Lord's favour for the same.
Second. Another great end why the Lord did add or give the law, it was that no man might have anything to lay to the charge of the Lord for His condemning of them that do transgress against the same. You know that if a man should be had before an officer or judge, and there be condemned, and yet by no law, he that condemns him might be very well reprehended or reproved for passing the judgment; yea, the party himself might have better ground to plead for his liberty than the other to plead for the condemning of him; but this shall not be so in the judgment-day, but contrariwise; for then every man shall be forced to lay his hand on his mouth, and hold his tongue at the judgment of God when it is passed upon them; therefore saith the Apostle, "What things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law"; that is, all the commands, all the cursings and threatenings that are spoken by it, are spoken, saith he, "that every mouth may be stopped"; mark, I beseech you, "it saith," saith he, "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Rom 3:19). So that now, in case any in the judgment-day should object against the judgment of God, as those in the 25th of Matthew do, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee thus and thus? and why dost Thou pass such a sad sentence of condemnation upon us? surely this is injustice, and not equity: now for the preventing of this the law was given; ay, and that it might prevent thee to purpose, God gave it betimes, before either thy first father had sinned, or thou wast born. So that again, if there should be these objections offered against the proceedings of the Lord in justice and judgment, saying, Lord, why am I thus condemned, I did not know it was sin? Now against these two was the law given and that betimes, so that both these are answered. If the first come in and say, Why am I judged? why am I damned? then will the law come in, even all the Ten Commandments, with every one of their cries against thy soul; the First saying, He hath sinned against Me, damn him; the Second saying also, He hath transgressed against Me, damn him; the Third also saying the same, together with the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth; even all of them will discharge themselves against thy soul if thou die under the first covenant, saying, He or they have transgressed against us, damn them, damn them: and I tell thee also, that these ten great guns, the Ten Commandments, will, with discharging themselves in justice against thy soul, so rattle in thy conscience, that thou wilt in spite of thy teeth be immediately put to silence, and have thy mouth stopped. And let me tell thee further, that if thou shalt appear before God to have the Ten Commandments discharge themselves against thee, thou hadst better be tied to a tree, and have ten, yea, ten thousand of the biggest pieces of ordnance in the world to be shot off against thee; for these could go no further but only to kill the body; but they, both body and soul, to be tormented in Hell with the devil to all eternity.
Third, Again; if the second thing should be objected, saying, But Lord, I did not think this had been sin, or the other had been sin, for nobody told me so; then also will the giving of the law take off that, saying, Nay, But I was given to thy father Adam before he had sinned, or before thou wast born, and have ever since been in thy soul to convince thee of thy sins, and to control thee for doing the thing that was not right. Did not I secretly tell thee at such a time, in such a place, when thou wast doing of such a thing, with such an one, or when thou was all alone, that this was a sin, and that God did forbid it, therefore if thou didst commit it, God would be displeased with thee for it: and when thou was thinking to do such a thing at such a time, did not I say, Forbear, do not so? God will smite thee, and punish thee for it if thou dost do it. And besides, God did so order it that you had me in your houses, in your Bibles, and also you could speak and talk of me; thus pleading the truth, thou shalt be forced to confess it is so; nay, it shall be so in some sort with the very Gentiles and barbarous people that fall far short of that light we have in these parts of the world; for, saith the Apostle, "The Gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law," that is, not written as we have, yet they "are a law unto themselves: which show the works of the law written in their hearts" (Rom 2:14,15). That is, they have the law of works in them by nature, and therefore they shall be left without excuse; for their own consciences shall stand up for the truth of this where he saith, "Their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another." Ay, but when? Why, "in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel" (Rom 2:15,16). So this, I say, is another end for which the Lord did give the law—namely, that God might pass a sentence in righteousness, without being charged with any injustice by those that shall fall under it in the judgment.
Fourth, A fourth end why the Lord did give the law it was, because they that die out of Jesus Christ might not only have their mouths stopped, but also that their persons "might become guilty before God" (Rom 3:19). And indeed this will be the ground of silencing, as I said before, they finding themselves guilty, their consciences backing the truth of the judgment of God passed upon them, "they shall become guilty"—that is, they shall be fit vessels for the wrath of God to be poured out into, being filled with guilt by reason of transgressions against the commandments; thus, therefore, shall the parties under the first covenant be "fitted to destruction" (Rom 9:22) even as wood or straw, being well dried, is fitted for the fire; and the law was added and given, and speaks to this very end, that sins might be shown, mouths might be stopped from quarreling, and that "all the world," mark, "the world may become guilty before God," and so be in justice for ever and ever overthrown because of their sins.
And this will be so for these reasons—
1. Because God hath a time to magnify His justice and holiness, as well as to show His forbearance and mercy. We read in Scripture that His eyes are too pure to behold iniquity, and then we shall find it true (Hab 1:13). We read in Scripture that He will magnify the law, and make it honourable, and then He will do it indeed. Now, because the Lord doth not strike so soon as He is provoked by sin, therefore poor souls will not know nor regard the justice of God, neither do they consider the time in which it must be advanced, which will be when men drop under the wrath of God as fast as hail in a mighty storm (2 Peter 3:9; Psa 50:21,22). Now, therefore, look to it all you that count the long-suffering and forbearance of God slackness; and because for the present He keepeth silence, therefore to think that He is like unto yourselves. No, no; but know that God hath His set time for every purpose of His, and in its time it shall be advanced most marvelously, to the everlasting astonishment and overthrow of that soul that shall be dealt withal by justice and the law. O! how will God advance His justice! O! how will God advance His holiness! First, by showing men that He in justice cannot, will not regard them, because they have sinned; and, secondly, in that His holiness will not give way for such unclean wretches to abide in His sight, His eyes are so pure.
2. Because God will make it appear that He will be as good as His Word to sinners. Sinners must not look to escape always, though they may escape awhile, yet they shall not go far all adoe unpunished; no, but they shall have their due to a farthing, when every threatening and curse shall be accomplished and fulfilled on the head of the transgressor. Friend, there is never an idle word that thou speakest but God will account with thee for it; there is never a lie thou tellest, but God will reckon with thee for it; nay, there shall not pass so much as one passage in all thy lifetime but God, the righteous God, will have it in the trial by His law, if thou die under it, in the judgment-day.
[WHO THE ARE THAT ARE UNDER THE COVENANT OF WORKS.]
THIRD. But you will say—"But who are those that are thus under the law?"
Answ. Those that are under the law may be branched out into three ranks of men; either, first, such as are grossly profane, or such as are more refined; which may be two ways, some in a lower sort, and some in a more eminent way.
First, Then they are under the law as a Covenant of Works who are open profane, and ungodly wretches, such as delight not only in sin, but also make their boast of the same, and brag at the thoughts of committing of it. Now, as for such as these are, there is a Scripture in the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy Chapter 1, verses 9, 10, which is a notable one to this purpose, "The law," saith he, "is not made for a righteous man," not as it is a Covenant of Works, "but for the" unrighteous or "lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars," look to it, liars, "for perjured persons, and," in a word, "if there be any other thing that is not according to sound doctrine." These are one sort of people that are under the law, and so under the curse of the same, whose due is to drink up the brimful cup of God's eternal vengeance, and therefore I beseech you not to deceive yourselves; for "know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor 6:9,10). Poor souls, you think that you may have your sins, your lusts, and pleasures, and yet you shall do pretty well, and be let to go free in the judgment-day; but see what God saith of such in Deuteronomy 29:19, 20—which shall "bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace," I shall be saved, I shall do as well as others, in the day when God shall judge the world by Jesus Christ; but, saith God, I will not spare them, no, but My anger and My jealousy shall smoke against them. How far? Even to the executing all the curses that are written in the Law of God upon them. Nay, saith God, I will be even with them, "for I will blot out their names from under Heaven." And indeed it must of necessity be so, because such souls are unbelievers, in their sins, and under the law, which cannot, will not, show any mercy on them; for it is not the administration of mercy and life, but the administration of death and destruction, as you have it (2 Cor 3:7,9); and all those, every one of them, that are open profane, and scandalous wretches are under it, and have been so ever since they came into the world to this day; and they will for certain live and die under the same dispensation, and then be damned to all eternity, if they be not converted from under that covenant into and under the Covenant of Grace, of which I shall speak in its place; and yet for all this, how brag and crank 6 are our poor wantons and wicked ones in this day of forbearance! as if God would never have a reckoning with them, as if there was no law to condemn them, as if there was no hellfire to put them into. But O how will they be deceived when they shall see Christ sitting upon the judgment-seat, having laid aside his priestly and prophetical office, and appearing only as a judge to the wicked? when they shall see all the records of Heaven unfolded and laid open; when they shall see each man his name in the Book of Life, and in the book of the law; when they shall see God in His majesty, Christ in His majesty, the saints in their dignity, but themselves in their impurity. What will they say then? whither will they fly then? where will they leave their glory? O sad state! (Isa 10:3).
Second. They are under the law also who do not only so break and disobey the law, but follow after the law as hard as ever they can, seeking justification thereby—that is, though a man should abstain from the sins against the law, and labour to fulfill the law, and give up himself to the law, yet if he look no further than the law he is still under the law, and for all his obedience to the law, the righteous Law of God, he shall be destroyed by that law. Friend, you must not understand that none but profane persons are under the law; no, but you must understand that a man may be turned from a vain, loose, open, profane conversation and sinning against the law, to a holy, righteous, religious life, and yet be in the same state, under the same law, and as sure to be damned as the other that are more profane and loose. And though you may say this is very strange, yet I shall both say it and prove it to be true. Read with understanding that Scripture in Romans 9:30-31, where the Apostle, speaking of the very thing, saith, "But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness"; mark, that followed after the law of righteousness; they notwithstanding their earnest pursuit, or hunting after the law of righteousness, "hath not attained to the law of righteousness." It signifies thus much to us, that let a man be never so earnest, so fervent, so restless, so serious, so ready, so apt and willing to follow the law and the righteousness thereof, if he be under that covenant, he is gone, he is lost, he is deprived of eternal life, because he is not under the ministration of life if he die there. Read also that Scripture, Galatians 3:10, which saith, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse"; mark, they that are of the works of the law. Now, for to be of the works of the law, it is to be of the works of the righteousness thereof—that is, to abstain from sins against the law, and to do the commands thereof as near as ever they can for their lives, or with all the might they have: and therefore I beseech you to consider it, for men's being ignorant of this is the cause why so many go on supposing they have a share in Christ, because they are reformed, and abstain from the sins against the law, who, when all comes to all, will be damned notwithstanding, because they are not brought out from under the Covenant of Works, and put under the Covenant of Grace.
Object. "But can you in very deed make these things manifestly evident from the Word of God? Methinks to reason thus is very strange, that a man should labour to walk up according to the Law of God as much as ever he can, and yet that man notwithstanding this, should be still under the curse. Pray clear it."
Answ. Truly this doth seem very strange, I do know full well, to the natural man, to him that is yet in his unbelief, because he goeth by beguiled reason; but for my part, I do know it is so, and shall labour also to convince thee of the truth of the same.
1. Then, the law is thus strict and severe, that if a man do sin but once against it, he, I say, is gone for ever by the law, living and dying under that covenant. If you would be satisfied as touching the truth of this, do but read Galatians 3:10, where it saith "Cursed is every one," that is, not a man shall miss by that covenant, "that continueth not in all," mark, in all "things which are written in the book of the law to do them." (1.) Pray mark, here is a curse, in the first place, if all things written in the book of the law be not done, and that, continually too—that is, without any failing or one slip, as I said before. Now there is never a one in the world but before they did begin to yield obedience to the least command, they in their own persons did sin against it by breaking of it. The Apostle, methinks, is very notable for the clearing of this in Romans 3:5. In the one he endeavours for to prove that all had transgressed in the first Adam as he stood a common person, representing both himself and us in his standing and falling. "Wherefore," saith he, "as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men," mark that; but why? "for that all have sinned" (Rom 5:12). That is, forasmuch as all naturally are guilty of original sin, the sin that was committed by us in Adam; so this is one cause why none can be justified by their obedience to the law, because they have in the first place broken it in their first parents. But, (2.) in case this should be opposed and rejected by quarrelsome persons, though there be no ground for it, Paul hath another argument to back his doctrine, saying, For we have proved (already) that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one." "They are all gone out of the way, they are together," mark, together, "become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no, not one." "Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit, the poison of asps is under their lips." Their "mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood." In a word, "Destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace have they not known." Now then, saith he, having proved these things so clearly, the conclusion of the whole is this, "That what things soever the law saith," in both showing of sin, and cursing for the same, "it saith" all "to them who are under the law that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Rom 3:10,19). So that here, I say, lieth the ground of our not being justified by the law, even because, in the first place, we have sinned against it; for know this for certain, that if the law doth take the least advantage of thee by thy sinning against it, all that ever thou shalt afterwards hear from it is nothing but Curse, curse, curse him, "for not continuing in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."
2. Thou canst not be saved by the righteous Law of God, the first covenant, because that, together with this thy miserable state, by original and actual sins, before thou didst follow the law, since thy turning to the law thou hast committed several sins against the law—"In many things we offend all." So that now thy righteousness to the law being mixed with sometimes the lust of concupiscence, fornication, covetousness, pride, heart-risings against God, coldness of affection towards Him, backwardness to good duties, speaking idle words, having of strife in your hearts, and such like; I say, these things being thus, the righteousness of the law is become too weak through this our flesh (Rom 8:3), and so, notwithstanding all our obedience to the law, we are yet through our weakness under the curse of the law; for, as I said before, the law is so holy, so just, and so good, that it cannot allow that any failing or slip should be done by them that look for life by the same. "Cursed is every one that continuteth not in everything" (Gal 3:10). And this Paul knew full well, which made him throw away all his righteousness. But you will say, that was his own. Answ. But it was even that which while he calls it his own, he also calls it the righteousness of the law (Phil 3:7-10) and to account it but dung, but as dirt on his shoes, and that, that he might be found in Christ, and so be saved by Him "without the deeds of the law" (Rom 3:28). But,
3. Set the case, the righteousness of the law which thou hast was pure and perfect, without the least flaw or fault, without the least mixture of the least sinful thought, yet this would fall far short of presenting of thee blameless in the sight of God. And that I prove by these arguments—(1.) The first argument is, that that which is not Christ cannot redeem souls from the curse, it cannot completely present them before the Lord; now the law is not Christ; therefore the moral law cannot, by all our obedience to it, deliver us from the curse that is due to us (Acts 4:12). (2.) The second argument is, that that righteousness that is not the righteousness of faith, that is, by believing in Jesus Christ, cannot please God; now the righteousness of the law as a Covenant of Works is not the righteousness of faith; therefore the righteousness of the law as acted by us, being under that covenant, cannot please God. The first is proved in Hebrews 11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him"; mark, it is impossible. The second thus, "The law is not of faith" (Gal 3:12; Rom 10:5,6), compared with Galatians 3:11. "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident; for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith."
But for the better understanding of those that are weak of apprehension, I shall prove it thus—1. The soul that hath eternal life, he must have it by right of purchase or redemption (Heb 9:12; Eph 1:7). 2. This purchase of redemption must be through the blood of Christ. "We have redemption through His blood." "Without shedding of blood is no remission." Now the law is not in a capacity to die, and so to redeem sinners by the purchase of blood, which satisfaction justice calls for. Read the same Scriptures (Heb 9:22). Justice calls for satisfaction, because thou hast transgressed and sinned against it, and that must have satisfaction; therefore all that ever thou canst do cannot bring in redemption, though thou follow the law up the to the nail-head, as I may say, because all this is not shedding of blood; for believe it, and know it for certain, that though thou hadst sinned but one sin before thou didst turn to the law, that one sin will murder thy soul, if it be not washed away by blood, even by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, that was shed when He did hang upon the cross on Mount Calvary.
Object. But you will say, "Methinks, that giving of ourselves up to live a righteous life should make God like the better of us, and so let us be saved by Christ, because we are so willing to obey His law."
Answ. The motive that moveth God to have mercy upon sinners is not because they are willing to follow the law, but because He is willing to save them. "Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprighteous of thine heart dost thou go to possess their land" (Deu 9:4-6). Now understand this: if thy will to do righteousness was the first moving cause why God had mercy on thee through Christ, then it must not be freely by grace—I say, freely. But the Lord loves thee and saves thee upon free terms, having nothing beforehand to make Him accept of thy soul, but only the blood of Christ; therefore to allow of such a principle it is to allow that grace is to be obtained by the works of the law, which is as gross darkness as lies in the darkest dungeon in Popery, and is also directly opposite to Scripture—For we are "justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ"; not through the good that is in our selves, or done by us, no, "but by faith, without"—mark that—"without the deeds of the law" (Rom 3:24-28). Again, "Not of works, least any man should boast" (Eph 2:9). No, no, saith he, "Not according to our works," or righteousness, "but according to His own purpose"; mark "according to His own purpose and grace, which was" a free gift, "given us in Christ Jesus," not lately, but "before the world began" (2 Tim 1:9).
Object. But you will say, "Then why did God give the law, if we cannot have salvation by following of it?"
Answ. I told you before that the law was given for these following reasons—1. That thou mightest be convinced by it of thy sins, and that thy sins might indeed appear very sinful unto thee, which is done by the law these ways—(1.) By showing of thee what a holy God He is that did give the law; and, (2.) By showing thee thy vileness and wickedness, in that thou, contrary to this holy God, hast transgressed against and broken this His holy Law; therefore, saith Paul, "the law entered, that the offence might abound," that is, by showing the creature the holiness of God, and also its own vileness (Rom 5:20). 2. That thou mayest know that God will not damn thee for nothing in the judgment-day. 3. Because He would have no quarreling at His just condemning of them at that day. 4. Because He will make thee to know that He is a holy God and pure.
WHAT MEN MAY ATTAIN TO THAT ARE UNDER THIS COVENANT OF WORKS.
[FOURTH] Quest. "But seeing you have spoken thus far, I wish you would do so much as to show in some particulars, both what men have done, and how far they have gone, and what they have received, being yet under this covenant, which you call the ministration of condemnation."
Answ. This is somewhat a difficult question, and had need be not only warily, but also home and soundly answered. The question consists of three particulars—First, What men have done; Second, How far men have gone; Third, What they have received, and yet to be under the law, or Covenant of Works, and so in a state of condemnation.
[First.] As for the first, I have spoken something in general to that already; but for thy better understanding I shall yet speak more particularly.
1. A man hath and may be convinced and troubled for his sins, and yet be under this covenant, and that in a very heavy and dreadful manner, insomuch that he find the weight of them to be intolerable and too heavy for him to bear, as it was with Cain, "My punishment," saith he, "is greater than I can bear" (Gen 4:13).
2. A man living thus under a sense of his sins may repent and be sorry for them, and yet be under this covenant, and yet be in a damned state. And when he, Judas, saw what was done, he "repented" (Matt 27:3).
3. Men may not only be convinced, and also repent for their sins, but they may also desire the prayers of the children of God for them too, and yet be under this covenant and curse, "Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, in haste, and he said, I have sinned; entreat the LORD your God that He may take away from me this death" (Exo 10:16, 17).
4. A man may also humble himself for his offences and disobedience against his God, and yet be under this covenant (1 Kings 21:24-19).
5. A man may make restitution unto men for the offence he hath done unto them, and yet be under this covenant.
6. A man may do much work for God in his generation, and yet be under this first covenant; as Jehu, who did do that which God bid him (2 Kings 9:25, 26). And yet God threateneth even Jehu, because though he did do the thing that the Lord commanded him, yet he did it not from a right principle; for had he, the Lord would not have said, "Yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu" (Hosea 1:4).
7. Men may hear and fear the servants of the Lord, and reverence them very highly; yea, and when they hear, they may not only hear, but hear and do, and that gladly too, not one or two things, but many; mark, many things gladly, and yet be lost, and yet be damned, "For Herod feared John," why? not because he had any civil power over him, but because "he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly" (Mark 6:20). It may be that thou thinkest that because thou hearest such and such, therefore thou art better than thy neighbours; but know for certain that thou mayest not only hear, but thou mayest hear and do, and that not with a backward will, but gladly—mark, "gladly"—and yet be Herod still, an enemy to the Lord Jesus still. Consider this, I pray you.
Second. But to the second thing, which is this, How far may such an one go? To what may such an one attain? Whither may he arrive, and yet be an undone man, under this covenant?  answer—
1. Such an one may be received into fellowship with the saints, as they are in a visible way of walking one with another; they may walk hand in hand together, "The Kingdom of Heaven," that is, a visible company of professors of Christ, is likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the Bridegroom, "five of them were wise, and five were foolish" (Matt 25:1,2). These, in the first place, are called virgins—that is, such as are clear from the pollutions of the world; secondly, they are said to go forth—that is, from the rudiments and traditions of men; thirdly, they do agree to take their lamps with them—that is, to profess themselves the servants of Jesus Christ, that wait upon Him, and for Him; and yet when He came, He found half of them, even the virgins, that had lamps, that also went forth from the pollutions of the world and the customs of men, to be such as lost their precious souls (verse 12) which they should not have done, had they been under the Covenant of Grace, and so not under the law.
2. They may attain to a great deal of honour in the said company of professors, that which may be accounted honour, insomuch that they may be put in trust with church affairs, and bear the bag, as Judas did. I speak not this to shame the saints, but, being beloved, I warn them; yet I speak this on purpose that it might, if the Lord will, knock at the door of the souls of professors. Consider Demas!
3. They may attain to speak of the Word as ministers, and become preachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, insomuch that the people where they dwell may even take up a proverb concerning them, saying, "Is he among the prophets?" his gifts may be so rare, his tongue may be so fluent, and his matter may be so fit, that he may speak with a tongue like an angel, and speak of the hidden mysteries, yea, of them all; mark that, and yet be nothing, and yet be none of the Lord's anointed ones, with the Spirit of grace savingly, but may live and die under the curse of the law (1 Cor 13:1-4).
4. They may go yet further; they may have the gifts of the Spirit of God, which may enable them to cast out devils, to remove the biggest hills or mountains in the world; nay, thou mayest be so gifted as to prophesy of things to come, the most glorious things, even the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to reign over all His enemies, and yet be but a Balaam, a wicked and a mad prophet (2 Peter 2:16; Num 24:16-25).
5. There may not only stand thus for awhile, for a little season, but they may stand thus till the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with His holy angels; ay, and not be discovered of the saints till that very day. "Then all those virgins arose,"—the wise and the foolish; then! when? why, when this voice was heard, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him" (Matt 25:1-6). And yet were out of the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet were under the law.
6. Nay, further, they may not only continue in a profession till then, supposing themselves to be under the grace of the Gospel, when indeed they are under the curse of the law, but even when the Bridegroom is come, they may still be so confident of their state to be good, that they will even reason out the case with Christ why they are not let into the kingdom of glory, saying, "Lord, Lord, we have eaten and drunk in Thy presence; and Thou hast taught in our streets." Nay, further, "Have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils?" Nay, not only thus, but, "done many," mark, we have "done many wonderful works." Nay, further, they were so confident, that they commanded, in a commanding way, saying, "Lord, open to us." See here, I beseech you, how far these went; they thought they had had intimate acquaintance with Jesus Christ, they thought He could not choose but save them; they had eat and drunk with Him, sat at the table with Him, received power from Him, executed the same power. In Thy name have we done thus and thus; even wrought many wonderful works (Matt 7:22; Luke 13:25,26). And yet these poor creatures were shut out of the kingdom. O consider this, I beseech you, before it be too late, lest you say, Lord, let us come in, when Christ saith, Thrust him out (Verse 28). Hears you cry, "Lord open to us," when He saith, "Depart, I know you not"; lest though you think of having joy, you have "weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Third. But the third thing touched in the question was this—What may such an one receive of God who is under the curse of the law?
1. They may receive an answer to their prayers from God at some times, for some things as they do stand in need of. I find in Scripture that God did hear these persons that the Apostle saith were cast out (Gen 21:17). "And God heard the voice of the lad," even of cast-out Ishmael; "and the angel of God called to Hagar" which was the bond-woman, and under the law (Gal 4:30). "out of heaven, and said unto her, Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is." Friends, it may be you may think, because you have your prayers answered in some particular things, therefore you may suppose that as to your eternal state your condition is very good. But you must know that God doth hear the cry of a company of Ishmaelites, the sons of the bondwomen, who are under the law as a Covenant of Works. I do not say He hears them as to their eternal state, but He heareth them as to several straits that they go through in this life, ay, and gives them ease and liberty from their trouble. Here this poor wretch was almost perished for a little water, and he cried, and God heard him, yea, He heard him out of Heaven. Read also Psalm 107:23-29. "He gave them their desire, but He sent leanness into their soul" (Psa 106:15). 7
But some may say, Methinks this is yet more strange that God should hear the prayers, the cries of those that are under the law, and answer them. Answ. I told you before, He doth not hear them as to their eternal state, but as to their temporal state; for God as their Creator hath a care for them, and causeth the sun to shine upon them, and the rain to distill upon their substance (Matt 5:45). Nay, He doth give the beasts in the field their appointed food, and doth hear the young ravens when they cry, which are far inferior to man (Psa 147:9). I say, therefore, that God doth hear the cries of His creatures, and doth answer them too, though not as to their eternal state; but may damn them nevertheless when they die for all that.
2. They may receive promises from the mouth of the Lord. There are many that have promises made to them by the Lord in a most eminent way, and yet, as I said before, are such as are cast out and called the children of the bond-woman, which is the law—"And the angel of God called to Hagar out of Heaven," that was the bond-woman, saying, "Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; FOR I WILL MAKE HIM,"—mark, there is the promise,—"for I will make him," of the son of the bond-woman, "a great nation" (Gen 21:17,18).
3. Nay, they may go further; for they may receive another heart than they had before, and yet be under the law. There is no man, I think, but those that do not know what they say, that will think or say that Saul was under the Covenant of Grace; yet after he had talked with Samuel, and had turned his back to go from him, saith the Scripture, "God gave him another heart" (1 Sam 10:9). Another heart, mark that, and yet an out-cast, a rejected person (1 Sam 15:26,29). Friends, I beseech you, let not these things offend you, but let them rather beget in your hearts an inquiring into the truth of your condition, and be willing to be searched to the bottom; and also, that everything which hath not been planted by the Lord's right hand may be rejected, and that there may be a reaching after better things, even the things that will not only make thy soul think thy state is good now, but that thou mayest be able to look sin, death, Hell, the curse of the law, together with the Judge, in the face with comfort, having such a real, sound, effectual work of God's grace in thy soul, that when thou hearest the trumpet sound, seest the graves fly open, and the dead come creeping forth out of their holes; when thou shalt see the judgment set, the books opened, and all the world standing before the judgment-seat; I say, that then thou mayest stand, and have that blessed sentence spoken to thy soul, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt 25:34).
[Objection to this head.] But, you will say, for all this, We cannot believe that we are under the law, for these reasons—As, First. Because we have found a change in our hearts. Second. Because we do deny that the Covenant of Works will save any. Third. Because, for our parts, we judge ourselves far from legal principles; for we are got up into as perfect a Gospel order, as to matter of practice and discipline in church affairs, as any this day in England, as we judge.
[Answer to reason first.] That man's belief that is grounded upon anything done in him, or by him only, that man's belief is not grounded upon the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of Jesus Christ; for that man that hath indeed good ground of his eternal salvation, his faith is settled upon that object which God is well pleased or satisfied withal, which is that man that was born of Mary, even her first-born Son—that is, he doth apply by faith to his soul the virtues of His death, blood, righteousness, etc., and doth look for satisfaction of soul nowhere else than from that, neither doth the soul seek to give God any satisfaction as to justification any other ways; but doth willingly and cheerfully accept of and embrace the virtues of Christ's death, together with the rest of His things done by Himself on the cross as a sacrifice, and since also as a priest, advocate, mediator, etc.; and doth so really and effectually receive the glories of the same, that thereby—mark that—thereby he is "changed into the same image, from glory to glory" (2 Cor 3:18). Thus in general; but yet more particular—
1. To think that your condition is good because there is some change in you from a loose profane life, to a more close, honest, and civil life and conversation; I say, to think this testimony sufficient to ground the stress of thy salvation upon is very dangerous. First, because such a soul doth not only lay the stress of its salvation besides the man Christ Jesus that died upon the cross; but secondly, because that his confidence is not grounded upon the Saviour of sinners, but upon his turning from gross sins to a more refined life,—and it may be to the performance of some good duties—which is no Saviour; I say, this is very dangerous; therefore read it, and the Lord help you to understand it; for unless you lay the whole stress of the salvation of your souls upon the merits of another man—namely, Jesus—and that by what He did do and is adoing without you, for certain, as sure as God is in Heaven, your souls will perish. And this must not be notionally neither, as with an assenting of the understanding only; but it must be by the wonderful, invisible, invincible power of the Almighty God, working in your souls by His Spirit such a real, saving, holy faith, that can, through the operation of the same Spirit by which it is wrought, lay hold on and apply these most heavenly, most excellent, most meritorious benefits of the man Christ Jesus, not only to your heads and fancies, but to your very souls and consciences, so effectually, that you may be able by the same faith to challenge the power, madness, malice, rage, and destroying nature either of sin, the law, death, the devil, together with Hell and all other evils, throwing your souls upon the death, burial, resurrection, and intercession of that man Jesus without (Rom 8:32-39). But,
2. Do you think that there was no change in the five foolish virgins spoken of (Matt 25:1-3). Yes; there was such a change in those very people, that the five wise ones could give them admittance of walking with them in the most pure ways and institutions of the Gospel of Christ, and yet but foolish; nay, they walked with them, or shall walk with them, until the Lord Jesus Christ shall break down from Heaven, and yet be but foolish virgins, and yet but under the law, and so under the curse, as I said before.
[Second part of objection.] But, say you, We have disowned the Covenant of Works, and turned from that also.
[Answer to reason second.] This is sooner said than done. Alas, alas! poor souls think because they say, "Grace, grace, it is freely by grace," therefore they are under the Covenant of Grace. A very wide mistake. You must understand thus much, that though you be such as can speak of the grace of the Gospel, yet if you yourselves be not brought under the very Covenant of Grace, you are yet, notwithstanding your talk and profession, very far wide of a sense and of a share in the Covenant of the Grace of God held forth in the Gospel.
The Jews were of a clearer understanding many of them than to conclude that the law, and only the law, was the way to salvation; for they, even they that received not the Christ of God, did expect a Saviour should come (John 7:27,41-43). But they were men that had not the Gospel Spirit, which alone is able to lead them to the very life, marrow, or substance of the Gospel in right terms; and so being muddy in their understandings, being between the thoughts of a Saviour and the thoughts of the works of the law, thinking that they must be accomplished for the obtaining of a Saviour, and His mercy towards them; I say, between these they fell short of a Saviour. As many poor souls in these days, they think they must be saved alone by the Saviour, yet they think there is something to be done on their parts for the obtaining of the good-will of the Saviour, as their humiliation for sin, their turning from the same, their promises, and vows, and resolutions to become new men, join in church-fellowship, and what not; and thus they, bringing this along with them as a means to help them, they fall short of eternal salvation if they are not converted; see that Scripture (Rom 9:30-32). The Apostle saith there, that they that sought not did obtain, when they that did seek fell short. "What shall we say then?" saith he. "That the Gentiles which sought not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness," yea, "even the righteousness which is of faith." And what else? Why, "but Israel which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness." How came that to pass? "Because," saith he, "they sought it not by faith, but as it were"—mark, he doth not say, altogether, no, "but as it were"—that is, because as they sought, they did a little by the bye lean upon the works of the law. And let me tell you, that this is such a hard thing to beat men off of, that though Paul himself did take the work in hand, he did find enough to do touching it; how is he fain to labour in the ten first chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, for the establishing of those that did even profess largely in the doctrine of grace, and also in that Epistle to the Galatians; and yet lost many, do what he could. Now, the reason why the doctrine of grace doth so hardly down—even with professors—in truth, effectually, it is because there is a principle naturally in man that doth argue against the same, and that thus: Why, saith the soul, I am a sinner, and God is righteous, holy, and just; His holy Law, therefore, having been broken by me, I must, by all means, if ever I look to be saved, in the first place, be sorry for my sins; secondly, turn from the same; thirdly, follow after good duties, and practise the good things of the law and ordinances of the Gospel, and so hope that God for Christ's sake may forgive all my sins; which is not the way to God as a Father in Christ, but the way, the very way to come to God by the Covenant of Works, or the law, which things I shall more fully clear when I speak to the second doctrine.
Again, therefore, those that this day profess the Gospel, for the generality of them they are such, that, notwithstanding their profession, they are very ignorant of that glorious influence and lustre of the same; I say, they are ignorant of the virtue and efficacy of the glorious things of Christ held forth by and in the Gospel, which doth argue their not being under the Covenant of Grace, but rather under the law or old covenant (2 Cor 4:3). As, for instance, if you do come among some professors of the Gospel, in general you shall have them pretty busy and ripe; also able to hold you in a very large discourse in several points of the same glorious Gospel; but if you come to the same people and ask them concerning heart-work, or what work the Gospel hath wrought on them, and what appearance they have had of the sweet influences and virtues on their souls and consciences, it may be they will give you such an answer as this—I do find by the preaching thereof that I am changed, and turned from my sins in a good measure, and also have learned (but only in tongue), to distinguish between the law and the Gospel, so that for the one—that is, for the Gospel—I can plead, and also can show the weakness and unprofitableness of the other. And thus far, it is like they may go, which is not far enough to prove them under the Covenant of Grace, though they may have their tongues so largely tipped with the profession of the same (2 Peter 2:20) where he saith "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," which was not a saving knowledge, "they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end" of that man "is worse than the beginning" (Matt 25:1-4, etc.; Matt 7:22).
Object. But, you will say, is not this a fair declaring of the work of grace, or doth it not discover that, without all gainsaying, we are under the Covenant of Grace, when we are able, not only to speak of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, but also to tell, and that by experience, that we have been changed from worse to better, from sin to a holy life, by leaving of the same, and that by hearing of the Word preached?
Answer 1. A man may, in the first place, be able to talk of all the mysteries of the Gospel, and that like an angel of God, and yet be no more in God's account than the sounding of a drum, brass, or the tinkling of a cymbal, which are things that, notwithstanding their sound and great noise, are absolutely void of life and motion, and so are accounted with God as nothing—that is, no Christians, no believers, not under the Covenant of Grace for all that (1 Cor 13:1-4). 2. Men may not only do this, but may also be changed in reality, for a season, from what they formerly were, and yet be nothing at all in the Lord's account as to an eternal blessing. Read 2 Peter 2:20, the Scripture which I mentioned before; for, indeed, that one Scripture is enough to prove all that I desire to say as to this very thing; for, if you observe, there is enfolded therein these following things—(1.) That reprobates may attain to a knowledge of Christ. (2.) This knowledge may be of such weight and force, that, for the present, it may make them escape the pollutions of the world, and this by hearing the Gospel. "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end of that man is worse than the beginning." [Some professors, take them at the best, they are but like dogs, spewing out their filth for a time.] Now that they are reprobates, dogs, or sows, read further; "But," saith he, "it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (Verse 22).
[Third part of objection.] The last part of the objection. But, say you, our practices in the worship of God shall testify for us that we are not under the law; for we have by God's goodness attained to as exact a way of waking in the ordinances of God, and as near the examples of the Apostles, as ever any churches since the primitive times, as we judge.
[Answer to reason third.] What then? Do you think that the walking in the order of the churches of old, as to matter of outward worship, is sufficient to clear you of your sins at the judgment-day? or, do you think that God will be contented with a little bodily subjection to that which shall vanish and fade like a flower, when the Lord shall come from Heaven in flaming fire, with His mighty angels (2 Thess 1:7,8). Alas, alas, how will such professors as these are fall before the judgment-seat of Christ! Then such a question as this, "Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?" will make them be speechless, and fall down into everlasting burnings, thousands on a heap; for you must know that it is not then your crying, Lord, Lord, that will stand you in stead; not your saying, We have ate and drank in Thy presence, that will keep you from standing on the left hand of Christ. It is the principle as well as the practice that shall be inquired into at that day.
Quest. The principle, you will say, what do you mean by that?
Answ. My meaning is, the Lord Jesus Christ will then inquire and examine whether the spirit from which you acted was legal or evangelical—that is, whether it was the Spirit of adoption that did draw you out to the thing you took in hand, or a mere moral principle, together with some shallow and common illuminations into the outward way of the worship of God, according to Gospel rule.
Quest. But, you will say, it is like, How should this be made manifest and appear?
Answ. I shall speak briefly in answer hereunto as followeth—First, then, that man that doth take up any of the ordinances of God—namely, as prayer, baptism, breaking of bread, reading, hearing, alms-deeds, or the like; I say, he that doth practise any of these, or such like, supposing thereby to procure the love of Christ to his own soul, he doth do what he doth from a legal, and not from an evangelical or Gospel spirit: as thus—for a man to suppose that God will hear him for his prayer's sake, for his alm's sake, for his humiliation's sake, or because he hath promised to make God amends hereafter, whereas there is no such thing as a satisfaction to be made to God by our prayers or whatever we can do; I say, there is no such way to have reconciliation with God in. And so also for men to think, because they are got into such and such an ordinance, and have crowded themselves into such and such a society, that therefore they have got pretty good shelter from the wrath of the Almighty; when, alas, poor souls, there is no such thing. No, but God will so set His face against such professors, that His very looks will make them to tear their very flesh; yea, make them to wish would they had the biggest millstone in the world hanged about their neck, and they cast into the midst of the sea. For, friends, let me tell you, though you can now content yourselves without the holy, harmless, undefiled, perfect righteousness of Christ; yet there is a day a-coming in which there is not one of you shall be saved but those that are and shall be found clothed with that righteousness; God will say to all the rest, "Take them, bind them hand and foot, and cast them into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 22:13). For Christ will not say unto men in that day, Come, which of you made a profession of Me, and walked in church-fellowship with My saints: no; but then it shall be inquired into, who have the reality of the truth of grace wrought in their hearts. And, for certain, he that misseth of that shall surely be cast into the Lake of Fire, there to burn with the devils and damned men and women; there to undergo the wrath of an eternal God, and that not for a day, a month, a year, but for ever, for ever, for ever and ever; there is that which cutteth to the quick. Therefore, look to it, and consider now what you do, and whereon you hang your souls; for it is not every pin that will hold in the judgment, not every foundation that will be able to hold up the house against those mighty, terrible, soul-drowning floods and destroying tempests which then will roar against the soul and body of a sinner (Luke 6:47-49). And, if the principle be rotten, all will fall, all will come to nothing. Now, the principle is this—Not to do things because we would be saved, but to do them from this—namely, because we do really believe that we are and shall be saved. But do not mistake me; I do not say we should slight any holy duties; God forbid; but I say, he that doth look for life because he doth do good duties, he is under the Covenant of Works, the law; let his duties be never so eminent, so often, so fervent, so zealous. Ay, and I say, as I said before, that if any man or men, or multitudes of people, do get into never so high, so eminent; and clear practices and Gospel order, as to church discipline, if it be done to this end I have been speaking of, from this principle, they must and shall have these sad things fall to their share which I have made mention of.
Object. But, you will say, can a man use Gospel ordinances with a legal spirit?
Answ. Yes, as easily as the Jews could use and practise circumcision, though not the moral or Ten Commandments. For this I shall be bold to affirm, that it is not the commands of the New Testament administration that can keep a man from using of its self [that administration] in a legal spirit; for know this for certain, that it is the principle, not the command, that makes the subjector to the same either legal or evangelical, and so his obedience from that command to be from legal convictions or evangelical principles.
Now, herein the devil is wondrous subtle and crafty, in suffering people to practise the ordinances and commands of the Gospel, if they do but do them in a legal spirit, [I beseech you, do not think because I say this, therefore I am against the ordinances of the Gospel, for I do honour them in their places, yet would not that any of them should be idolized, or done in a wrong spirit,] from a spirit of works; for he knows then, that if he can but get the soul to go on in such a spirit, though they do never so many duties, he shall hold them sure enough; for he knows full well that thereby they do set up something in the room of, or, at the least, to have some, though but a little, share with the Lord Jesus Christ in their salvation; and if he can but get thee here, he knows that he shall cause thee by thy depending a little upon the one, and so thy whole dependence being not upon the other, that is, Christ, and taking of him upon his own terms, thou wilt fall short of life by Christ, though thou do very much busy thyself in a suitable walking, in an outward conformity to the several commands of the Lord Jesus Christ. And let me tell you plainly, that I do verily believe that as Satan by his instruments did draw many of the Galatians by circumcision (though, I say, it was none of the commands of the moral law) to be debtors to do upon pain of eternal damnation the whole of the moral law, so also Satan, in the time of the Gospel, doth use even the commands laid down in the Gospel, some of them, to bind the soul over to do the same law; the thing being done and walked in, by and in the spirit; for, as I said before, it is not the obedience to the command that makes the subjector thereto evangelical, or of a Gospel spirit; but, contrariwise, the principle that leads out the soul to the doing of the command, that makes the persons that do thus practise any command, together with the command by them practised, either legal or evangelical. As, for instance, prayer—it is a Gospel command; yet if he that prays doth it in a legal spirit, he doth make that which in itself is a Gospel command an occasion of leading him into a Covenant of Works, inasmuch as he doth it by and in that old covenant spirit.
Again; giving of alms is a Gospel command; yet if I do give alms from a legal principle, the command to me is not Gospel, but legal, and it binds me over, as aforesaid, to do the whole law—"For he is not a Jew," nor a Christian, "which is one outwardly"—that is, one only by an outward subjection to the ordinances of prayer, hearing, reading, baptism, breaking of bread, etc.—"But he is a Jew," a Christian, "which is one inwardly," who is rightly principled, and practiseth the ordinances of the Lord from the leadings forth of the Spirit of the Lord, from a true and saving faith in the Lord (Rom 2:28,29). Those men spoken of in the 7th of Matthew, for certain, for all their great declaration, did not do what they did from a right Gospel spirit; for had they, no question but the Lord would have said, "Well done, good and faithful servant." But in that the Lord Jesus doth turn them away into Hell, notwithstanding their great profession of the Lord, and of their doing in His name, it is evident that notwithstanding all that they did do, they were still under the law, and not under that covenant as true believers are—to wit, the Covenant of Grace; and if so, then all their duties that they did, of which they boasted before the Lord, was not in and by a right evangelical principle or spirit.
Again, saith the Apostle, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin," (Rom 14:23); but there are some that do even practise baptism, breaking of bread, together with other ordinances, and yet are unbelievers; therefore unbelievers doing these things, they are not done in faith but sin. Now to do these things in sin, or without faith, it is not to do things in an evangelical or Gospel spirit; also they that do these things in a legal spirit, the very practising of them renders them not under the law of Christ, as Head of His Church, but the works they do are so much contradiction to the Gospel of God, or the Covenant of Grace, that they that do them thus do even set up against the Covenant of Grace; and the very performance of them is of such force that it is sufficient to drown them that are subjects thereunto, even under the Covenant of Works; but this poor souls are not aware of, and there is their misery.
Quest. But have you no other way to discover the things of the Gospel, how they are done with a legal principle, but those you have already made mention of?
Answ. That thou mightest be indeed satisfied herein, I shall show you the very manner and way that a legal, or old-covenant-converted professor, bear with the terms, doth take both in the beginning, middle, and the end of his doing of any duty or command, or whatsoever it be that he doth do. 1. He thinking this or that to be his duty, and considering of the same, he is also presently persuaded in his own conscience that God will not accept of him if he leave it undone; he seeing that he is short of his duty, as he supposeth, while this is undone by him, and also judging that God is angry with him until the thing be done, he, in the second place, sets to the doing of the duty, to the end he may be able to pacify his conscience by doing of the same, persuading of himself that now the Lord is pleased with him for doing of it. 2. Having done it, he contents himself, sits down at his ease, until some further convictions of his duty to be done, which when he seeth and knoweth, he doth do it as aforesaid, from the same principle as he did the former, and so goeth on in his progress of profession. This is to do things from a legal principle, and from an old-covenant spirit; for thus runs that covenant, "The man that doth these things shall live in them," of "by them" (Lev 18:5; Gal 3:12; Rom 10:5). But more of this in the use of this doctrine.
Object. But, you will say, by these words of yours you do seem to deny that there are conditional promises in the Gospel, as is clear, in that you strike at such practices as are conditional, and commanded to be done upon the same.
Answ. The thing that I strike at is this, that a man in or with a legal spirit should not, nay, cannot, do any conditional command of the Gospel acceptably, as to his eternal state, because he doth it in an old-covenant spirit. "No man putteth new wine into old bottles"; but new wine must have new bottles, a Gospel command must have a Gospel spirit, or else the wine will break the bottles, or the principle will break the command.
Object. Then you do grant that there are conditional promises in the New Testament, as in the moral law, or Ten Commands.
Answ. Though this be true, yet the conditional promises in the New Testament do not call to the same people in the same state of unregeneracy to fulfill them upon the same conditions.
The Law and the Gospel being two distinct covenants, they are made in divers ways, and the nature of the conditions also being not the same, as saith the Apostle, the righteousness of the law saith one thing, and the righteousness of faith saith another (Rom 10:4-6). That is, the great condition in the law is, If you do these things, you shall live by them; but the condition, even the greatest condition laid down for a poor soul to do, as to salvation—for it is that we speak of—is to believe that my sins be forgiven me for Jesus Christ's sake, without the works or righteousness of the law, on my part, to help forward. "To him that worketh not," saith the Apostle [that is] for salvation, "but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith"—mark, "his faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom 4:5). So that we, saith, he, "conclude that a man is justified by faith without"—mark again, "without the deeds of the law" (Rom 3:28).
But again; there is never a condition in the Gospel that can be fulfilled by an unbeliever; and therefore, whether there be conditions or whether there be none, it makes no matter to thee who art without the faith of Christ; for it is impossible for thee in that state to do them, so as to be ever the better as to thy eternal estate; therefore, lest thou shouldst split thy soul upon the conditions laid down in the Gospel, as thou wilt do if thou go about to do them only with a legal spirit; but, I say, to prevent this, see if thou canst fulfill the first condition; that is, to believe that all thy sins are forgiven thee, not for any condition that hath been or can be done by thee, but merely for the Man's sake that did hang on Mount Calvary, between two thieves, some sixteen hundred years ago and odd. And, I say, see if thou canst believe that at that time He did, when He hanged on the Cross, give full satisfaction, for all thy sins, before thou in thy person hadst committed ever a one. I say, see if thou canst believe this; and take heed thou deceive not thyself with an historical, notional, or traditional acknowledgment of the same. And, secondly, see if thou canst so well fulfill this condition, that the very virtue and efficacy that it hath on thy soul will engage thee to fulfill those other conditions, really in love to that Man whom thou shouldst believe hath frankly and freely forgiven thee all, without any condition acted by thee to move Him thereto, according to that saying in 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15; and then thy doing will arise from a contrary principle than otherwise it will do—that is, then thou wilt not act and do because thou wouldst be accepted of God, but because thou hast some good hope in thy heart that thou art accepted of Him already, and not on thine, but wholly and alone upon another man's account; for here runs the Gospel spirit of faith: "We believe,"—mark, "We believe, and therefore speak." So we believe, and therefore do (2 Cor 4:13). Take heed, therefore, that you do not DO, that you may believe, but rather believe so effectually that you may DO, even all that Jesus doth require of you from a right principle, even out of love to your dear Lord Jesus Christ, which thing I shall speak to more fully by and by.
Object. But what do you mean by those expressions? Do not do that you may believe, but believe so effectually that you may do.
Answ. When I say, Do not do that you may believe, I mean, do not think that any of the things that thou canst do will procure or purchase faith from God unto thy soul; for that is still the old-covenant spirit, the spirit of the law, to think to have it for thy doing. They that are saved, they are saved by grace, through faith, and that not of themselves, not for anything that they can do, for they are both the free gift of God, "Not of" doing, or of "works, lest any man should," be proud, and "boast" (Eph 2:8,9). Now, some people be so ignorant as to think that God will give them Christ, and so all the merits of His, if they will be but valiant, and do something to please God, that they may obtain Him at His hands; but let me tell them, they may lose a thousand souls quickly, if they had so many, by going this way to work, and yet be never the better; for the Lord doth not give His Christ to any upon such conditions, but He doth give Him freely; that is, without having respect to anything that is in thee (Rev 22:17; Isa 55:1,2). To him that is athirst will I give; He doth not say, I will sell; but, I will give him the water of life freely (Rev 21:6).
Now, if Christ doth give it, and that freely, then He doth not sell if for anything that is in the creature; but Christ doth give Himself, as also doth His Father, and that freely, not because there is anything in us, or done by us, that moves Him thereunto. If it were by doing, then, saith Paul, "Grace is not grace," seeing it is obtained by works; but grace is grace, and that is the reason it is given to men without their works. And if it be by grace, that is, if it be a free gift from God, without anything foreseen as done, or to be done, by the creature, then it is not of works, which is clear; therefore it is grace, without the works of the law. But if you say, Nay, it is of something in the man done by him that moves God thereunto; then you must conclude that either grace is no grace, or else that works are grace and not works. Do but read with understanding (Rom 11:6).
Now before I go any further, it may be necessary to speak a word or two to some poor souls that are willing to close in with Jesus Christ, and would willingly take Him upon His own terms, only they being muddy in their minds, and have not yet attained the understanding of the terms and conditions of the two covenants, they are kept off from closing with Christ; and all is, because they see they can do nothing [to merit His favour]. As, for example, come to some souls, and ask them how they do, they will tell you presently that they are so bad that it is not to be expressed. If you bid them believe in Jesus Christ, they will answer that they cannot believe; if you ask them why they cannot believe, they will answer, because their hearts are so hard, so dead, so dull, so backward to good duties; and if their hearts were but better, if they were more earnest, if they could pray better, and keep their hearts more from running after sin, then they could believe; but should they believe with such vile hearts, and presume to believe in Christ, and be so filthy? Now all this is because the spirit of the law still ruleth in such souls, and blinds them so that they cannot see the terms of the Gospel. To clear this, take the substance or the drift of these poor souls, which is this—"If I were better, then I think I could believe; but being so bad as I am, that is the reason that I cannot." This is just to do something that I may believe, to work that I may have Christ, to do the law that I may have the Gospel; or thus, to be righteous that I may come to Christ. O man! thou must go quite back again, thou art out of the way, thou must believe, because thou canst not pray, because thou canst not do; thou must believe, because there is nothing in thee naturally that is good, or desireth after good, or else thou wilt never come to Christ as a sinner; and if so, then Christ will not receive thee; and if so, then thou mayest see that to keep off from Christ because thou canst not do, is to be kept from Christ by the law, and to stand off from Him because thou canst not buy Him. Thus having spoken something by the way for the direction of those souls that would come to Christ, I shall return to the former discourse, wherein ariseth this objection—
Object. But you did but even now put souls upon fulfilling the first condition of the Gospel, even to believe in Christ, and so be saved; but now you say it is alone by grace, without condition; and therefore by these words, there is first a contradiction to your former sayings, and also that men may be saved without the condition of faith, which to me seems a very strange thing. I desire, therefore, that you would clear out what you have said, to my satisfaction.
Answer, 1. Though there be a condition commanded in the Gospel, yet He that commands the condition doth not leave His children to their own natural abilities, that in their own strength they should fulfill them, as the law doth; but the same God that doth command that the condition be fulfilled, even He doth help His children by His Holy Spirit to fulfill the same condition; "For it is God which worketh in you,"—mark "in you," believers, "both to will and to do of His own good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). "Thou also hast wrought all our works in us, and for us" (Isa 26:12). So that, if the condition be fulfilled, it is not done by the ability of the creature. But,
2. Faith, as it is a gift of God, or an act of ours, take it which way you will, if we speak properly of salvation, it is not the first nor the second cause of our salvation, but the third, and that but instrumentally neither—that is, it only layeth hold of and applieth to us that which saveth us, which is the love of God, through the merits of Christ, which are the two main causes of our salvation, without which all other things are nothing, whether it be faith, hope, love, or whatever can be done by us. And to this the great Apostle of the Gentiles speaks fully, for, saith he, "God, who is rich in mercy, loved us, even when we were dead in sins" (Eph 2:4,5). That is, when we were without faith, and that was the cause why we believed for He thereby hath quickened us together, through the meritorious cause, which is Christ, and so hath saved us by grace—that is, of His own voluntary love and good will; the effect of which was this, He gave us faith to believe in Christ. Read soberly Ephesians 2:4-8. Faith, as the gift of God, is not the Saviour, as our act doth merit nothing; faith was not the cause that God gave Christ as the first, neither is it the cause why God converts men to Christ; but faith is a gift bestowed upon us by the gracious God, the nature of which is to lay hold on Christ, that God afore did give for a ransom to redeem sinners; this faith hath its nourishment and supplies from the same God that at the first did give it, and is the only instrument, through the Spirit, that doth keep the soul in a comfortable frame, both to do and suffer for Christ; helps the soul to receive comfort from Christ when it can get none from itself, beareth up the soul in its progress heavenwards. But that it is the first cause of salvation, that I deny, or that it is the second, I deny; but it is only the instrument, or hand, that receiveth the benefits, that God hath prepared for thee before thou hadst any faith; so that we do nothing for salvation as we are men. But if we speak properly, it was God's grace that moved Him to give Christ a ransom for sinners; and the same God, with the same grace, that doth give to the soul faith to believe, and so, by believing, to close in with Him whom God out of His love and pity did send into the world to save sinners, so that all the works of the creature are shut out as to justification and life, and men are saved freely by grace. I shall speak no more here; but in my discourse upon the second covenant, I shall answer a Hell-bred objection or two, to forewarn sinners how they turn the grace of God into wantonness.
And thus, you see, I have briefly spoken to you something touching the law. First, what it is, and when given; secondly, how sad those men's conditions are that are under it; thirdly, who they are that be under it; fourthly, how far they may go, and what they may do and receive, and yet be under it; which hath been done by way of answers to several questions, for the better satisfaction of those that may stand in doubt of the truth of what hath been delivered.
Now, in the next place, I shall come to some application of the truth of that which hath been spoken; but I shall in the first place speak something to the second doctrine, and then afterwards I shall speak something by way of use and application to this first doctrine.
The second doctrine now to be spoken to is, TO SHOW THAT THE PEOPLE OF GOD ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW BUT UNDER GRACE—"For ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom 6:14).
You may well remember that from these words I did observe these two great truths of the Lord—FIRST, That there are some in Gospel times that are under the law, or Covenant of Works. SECOND, That there is never a believer under the law, or Covenant of Works, but under grace. I have spoken something to the former of these truths—to wit, that there are some under the law, together with who they are, and what their condition is, that are under it. Now I am to speak to the second, and to show you who they are, and what their condition is, that are under that [Covenant of Grace].
But before I come to that, I shall speak a few words to show you what the word "grace" in this place signifies; [I touched upon this in the first doctrine] for the word "grace" in the Scripture referreth sometimes to favour with men (Gen 33:10; 39:4; 50:4). Sometimes to holy qualifications of saints (2 Cor 8:7). And sometimes to hold forth the condescension of Christ in coming down from the glory which He had with His Father before the world was, to be made of no reputation, and a servant to men (2 Cor 8:9; Phil 2:7). Again: sometimes it is taken for the free, rich, and unchangeable love of God to man, through Jesus Christ, that for our cause and sakes did make Himself poor; and so it is to be understood in these words, "For ye are not under the law," to be cursed, and damned, and sent headlong to Hell, "but" you are "under grace," to be saved, to be pardoned, to be preserved, "and kept by the mighty power of God, through faith," which alone is the gift of grace, "unto eternal glory." This one Scripture alone proves the same—"For by grace are ye saved" (Eph 2:8), by free grace, by rich grace, by unchangeable grace. And you are saved from the curse of the law; from the power, guilt, and filth of sin; from the power, malice, madness, and rage of the devil; from the wishes, curses, and desires of wicked men; from the hot, scalding, flaming, fiery furnace of Hell; from being arraigned as malefactors, convinced, judged, condemned, and fettered with the chains of our sins to the devils to all eternity; and all this freely, freely by His grace (Rom 3:24) by rich grace unchangeable grace; for, saith He, "I am the LORD, I change not: therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Mal 3:6). This is grace indeed.
The word "grace," therefore, in this Scripture (Rom 6:14) is to be understood of the free love of God in Christ to sinners, by virtue of the new covenant, in delivering them from the power of sin, from the curse and condemning power of the old covenant, from the destroying nature of sin, by its continual workings; as is all evident if you read with understanding the words as they lie—"For," saith he, "sin shall not have dominion over you," or, it shall not domineer, reign, or destroy you, though you have transgressed against the Covenant of Works, the law; and the reason is rendered in these words, "For ye are not under the law"—that is, under that which accuseth, chargeth, condemneth and brings execution on the soul for sin,—"but under grace"; that is, under that which frees you, forgives you, keeps you, and justifies you from all your sins, adversaries, or whatever may come in to lay anything to your charge to damn you. For that is truly called grace in this sense that doth set a man free from all his sins, deliver him from all the curses of the law, and what else can be laid to His charge, freely, without any foresight in God to look at what good will be done by the party that hath offended; and also that doth keep the soul by the same power through faith—which also is his own proper gift—unto eternal glory.
Again; that it is a pardon not conditional, but freely given, consider, first, it is set in opposition to works—"Ye are not under the law." Secondly, The promise that is made to them (saying, "Sin shall not have dominion over you") doth not run with any condition as on their part to be done; but merely and alone because they were under, or because they had the grace of God extended to them. "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for," mark the reason, "ye are not under the law, but under grace."
The words being thus opened, and the truth thus laid down, HOW THERE IS NEVER A BELIEVER UNDER THE COVENANT OF WORKS, BUT UNDER GRACE, the free, rich, unchangeable love of God, it remaineth that, in the first place, we prove the doctrine, and after that proceed.
THE DOCTRINE PROVED.
Now in the doctrine there are two things to be considered and proved—FIRST, That believers are under grace. SECONDLY, Not under the law as a Covenant of Works; for so you must understand me. For these two we need go no further than the very words themselves; the first part of the words proves the first part of the doctrine, "Ye are not under the law"; the second part proves the other, "but" ye are "under grace." But besides these, consider with me a few things for the demonstrating of these truths, as,
First. They are not under the law, because their sins are pardoned, which could not be if they were dealt withal according to the law, and their being under it; for the law alloweth of no repentance, but accuseth, curseth and condemneth every one that is under it—"Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them" (Gal 3:10). But, I say, believers having their sins forgiven them, it is because they are under another, even a new covenant—"Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with them."—"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more" (Heb 8:12).
Second. They are not under the law, because their sins and iniquities are not only forgiven, but they are forgiven them freely. They that stand in the first covenant, and continue there, are to have never a sin forgiven them unless they can give God a complete satisfaction; for the law calls for it at their hands, saying, "Pay me that thou owest." O! but when God deals with His saints by the Covenant of Grace it is not so; for it is said, "And when" He saw "they had nothing to pay, He frankly" and freely "forgave them" all—"I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely."—I will blot "out thy transgressions for Mine own sake," etc. (Luke 7:42; Hosea 14:4; Isa 43:25).
Third. The saints are not under the law, because the righteousness that they stand justified before God in is not their own actual righteousness by the law, but by imputation, and is really the righteousness of Another—namely, of God in Christ (2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9). "Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all," that is, imputed to "them that believe" (Rom 3:22). But if they were under the old covenant, the Covenant of Works, then their righteousness must be their own, [But it is impossible that the righteousness of man by the law should save him.] or no forgiveness of sins—"If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?" but if thou transgress, "sin lieth at the door," saith the law (Gen 4:7).
Fourth. In a word, whatsoever they do receive, whether it be conversion to God; whether it be pardon of sin; whether it be faith or hope; whether it be righteousness; whether it be strength" whether it be the Spirit, or the fruits thereof; whether it be victory over sin, death, or Hell; whether it be Heaven, everlasting life, and glory inexpressible; or whatsoever it be, it comes to them freely, God having no first eye to what they would do, or should do, for the obtaining of the same. But to take this in pieces—1. In a word, are they converted? God finds them first, for, saith He, "I am found of them that sought Me not" (Isa 65:1). 2. Have they pardon of sin? They have that also freely,—"I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely" (Hosea 14:4). 3. Have they faith? It is the gift of God in Christ Jesus, and He is not only the Author, that is, the beginner thereof, but He doth also perfect the same (Heb 12:2). 4. Have they hope? It is God that is the first cause thereof—"Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope" (Psa 119:49). 5. Have they righteousness? It is the free gift of God (Rom 5:17). Have they strength to do the work of God in their generations, or any other thing that God would have them do? That also is a free gift from the Lord, for without Him we neither do nor can do anything (John 15:5). 7. Have we comfort, or consolation? We have it not for what we have done, but from God through Christ; for He is the God of all comforts and consolation (2 Cor 1:3-7). 8. Have we the Spirit, or the fruits thereof? it is the gift of the Father—"how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him (Luke 11:13)? "Thou has wrought all our works in us" (Isa 26:12).
And so, I say, whether it be victory over sin, death, Hell, or the devil, it is given us by the victory of Christ—"But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 15:57; Rom 7:24,25). Heaven and glory it is also the gift of Him who giveth us richly all things to enjoy (Matt 25:34).
So that these things, if they be duly and soberly considered, will give satisfaction in this thing. I might have added many more for the clearing of these things; as 1. When God came to man to convert him, He found him a dead man (Eph 2:1,2). He found him an enemy to God, Christ, and the salvation of his own soul; He found him wallowing in all manner of wickedness; He found him taking pleasure therein; with all delight and greediness. 2. He was fain to quicken him by putting His Spirit into him, and to translate him by the mighty operation thereof. He was fain to reveal Christ Jesus unto him, man being altogether senseless and ignorant of this blessed Jesus (Matt 11:25,27; 1 Cor 2:7-10). 4. He was fain to break the snare of the devil, and to let poor man, poor bound and fettered man, out of the chains of the enemy.