« AnteriorContinuar »
Thou shalt not kill: yea, and causeless anger, and bloody revengeful purposes; as appears, Gen. iv. 5, 6: fornication was then also accounted a sin worthy of death; as appeareth, Gen. xxxviii. 24: the outward worship and service of God in solemn and public assemblies, was then known to be a duty; as appears, Gen. iv. 26. so that the Church of God never was, never shall be, without this Law; both written upon their hearts, and likewise preached unto them publicly by the ministry of the Church: for, so, Noah is said to be a preacher of righteousness to the old world: 2 Pet. ii. 5. Yet,
3. It is said to be given by Moses, because of the more Solemn and Conspicuous Delivery of it at Mount Sinai: when God especially magnified him, by calling him up into the Mount; conversing with him forty days; writing with his own finger the Ten Commandments, or Two Tables of Stone, and delivering them into his hands to exhibit unto the people. Now, because of this solemn promulgation of the Law by the means and ministry of Moses, our Saviour tells the Jews, that it was given them by him.
And this is all that I shall consider in the Expostulation; Did not Moses give you the Law?
II. That, which I principally intend to insist on, is the ACCUSATION: and yet none of you keepeth the Law.
An Accusation, that may truly be laid, not only against the Jews, but against all the world. Never any of the sons of men, from the very first creation of the world unto this day, excepting him only who was the Son of God, as well as the Son of Man, and whom it became to fulfil all righteousness, ever did or can perfectly and exactly fulfil all that the Law of God requires.
And, to this, the Scriptures give abundant testimony. Rom. iii. 23. All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Jam. iii. 2. In many things we offend all. And the Prophet confesseth the corruption of our natures, and the imperfection of our best performances: Isa. lxiv. 6. We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Solomon challengeth the best and holiest upon this point: Prov. xx. 9. Who can' say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? Many other places may be alledged to the same purpose: as, 1 John i. 8. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. And, v. 10. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar. And all those exhortations which we
find in Scripture, to confess our sins, to repent of them, to watch and strive against them, do all clearly beat down the insolent pride of those, who except themselves out of the number of transgressors and offenders.
And, is it not very strange, that, after so many express testimonies of Scripture, than which nothing can be more plain and positive, notwithstanding that every day and hour might administer abundant conviction to them; yet there should be a generation of men so impudently vain-glorious, as to boast of an absolute perfection in this life?
And yet this is the doctrine of the Papists*, That a man may, all his lifetime, eschew every mortal sin; and do all, that the Law of God requires of him. And, not only so; but, as if God's laws were not a rule strict enough for them to walk by, they hold, he may do much more than he is obliged unto; and supererogate, and merit for others, who fall short of perfection; and lay the alms of his good works into the common stock and treasury of the Church, to be granted out to others that want them! And, although they affirm, that a justified person is still liable to commit venial sins; yet they make these venial sins to be of so slight a nature, that they are not repugnant to grace, interrupt not our friendship with God, deserve not eternal punishments, require neither confession nor repentance; and are of so harmless a nature, that he, that dieth in them, may yet notwithstanding be savedt. Certainly, these be a strange kind of sins, that do not offend God, nor deserve punishment, nor need repentance: and, if a man live free from all these, I think he may readily conclude that he may live free from all sin; for as they describe these venial sins, they can be none. Yea, some of them grant, that, by the special grace of God, a man may live free from the taint, not only of mortal, but of venial sins too; and so attain to a spotless perfection.
And this proud conceit of perfection is not only entertained by Papists; but by a sort of frantic people amongst us, who yet exclaim against all others, as Popish and Antichristian: but perceive not whose craft hath taught them, both that and many other popish doctrines; as Justification by Works, the Insuf
* Conc. Trid. Ses. 6. c. 11.
↑ Bellar. de Amis. Grat. 1. i. c. 3. Nos docemus, communi consensu, peccata quædam, ex naturá suá, non indignum reddere hominem amicitia Dei, et mortis aterna reum.
ficiency of the Scriptures, and Infallibility seated in any Human Breast. Certainly, the hand of Joab is in all this.
Concerning these, I shall say no more, but what the Wise Man observed of such a race of confident Self-Justiciaries in his days: Prov. xxx. 12. There is a generation, that are pure in their own eyes; and yet are not washed from their filthiness.
i. "But what! ARE THEN THE LAWS OF GOD IMPOSSIBLE TO BE FULFILLED? Is it not an imputation to the equity and wisdom of God, that he should command that, which we are not able to perform?"
1. The laws of God are in themselves possible as well as just ; and there is nothing, which he now requires of us, which he did not endow us with strength in our creation to perform.
2. In this our fallen and corrupted estate, our perfect obedience is become impossible; not because the Law is more strict and rigorous, but because we are grown weaker and more averse.
3. It is no injustice in God, to require what is impossible for us to perform, when that impossibility riseth from our own default. It is not God, but ourselves who have made the observation of his laws impossible. And, although we have wasted our stock, and are become bankrupts; yet he may righteously exact from us the debt of obedience, which we owe him.
4. Although a perfect and consummate obedience be now impossible; yet an inchoate and sincere obedience is possible, through the assistance of divine grace. And, certainly, that Law which commands absolute perfection from us, requires us to endeavour after the highest degree that is attainable. So that these Commands, which exceed our present power, are neither vain nor unjust for they engage us to exert our strength to the utmost, whereby we shall certainly attain unto a far greater perfection in our obedience, than if we were enjoined that, which were easy, or merely possible to perform. And such is the disingenuity of our temper, that, as much as the Law were relaxed of its severity, so much proportionably we also should remit of our industry and, therefore, since our sloth will take allowances to itself, it is far more expedient for us, that God hath commanded from us things beyond the sphere of our present ability, than if he had commanded what was within it. For, I much doubt, whether, if God did not command us to do more than we can, we should do as much as we do.
ii. But, you will say, "TO KEQUIRE MORE THAN IS POSSIBLE FOR US TO PERFORM, MAY RATHER SEEM A DISCOURAGEMENT, THAN AN EXCITEMENT TO OUR ENDEAVOURS: FOR WHAT NATURAL MAN WILL ATTEMPT THAT, WHICH HE KNOWS TO BE IMPOS, SIBLE?"
To this I answer,
1. That there is a Twofold Impossibilty; one, that consists in the Nature of the thing propounded unto us; another, that consists only in an eminent and superlative Degree of it.
The first sort of impossibility, which consists in the Nature of the thing itself, doth utterly forbid all attempts and endeavours, Never any wise man attempted to climb up into the sun, or to metamorphose himself into an angel; because the thing itself, in all considerable degrees of it, is impossible.
But, where the impossibility consists only in some eminent Degree, and yet every degree that is attainable by us hath excellency enough in itself to invite and engage our endeavours, there the impossibility of the highest degree is no discouragement to a wise and rational man, from attempting to do his utmost. So it is, in this case: many degrees of holiness and obedience are attainable by us, and every degree that we can attain unto is infinitely worth our pains and labour; and, therefore, though absolute perfection in it be impossible; yet this can be no discouragement from using our utmost endeavours. The more we strive after it, the more we shall still attain: and what we do attain, is an abundant recompence of our industry; and carries in it so much excellency, as will quicken and excite us unto farther improvements. And, certainly, whilst we endeavour toward unattainable perfection, we shall attain unto much more, than if we set our mark shorter: as he, that aims at a star, is likely to shoot much higher, than he that aims only at a turf.
2. As we must distinguish of Impossibility, so likewise of Perfection; which is either Legal or Evangelical.
(1) There is a Legal Perfection, to which two things are necessarily required:
 Freedom from original sin: that there be no taint derived down upon our natures, no corruption inherent in us, that should incline us unto evil: for where original sin is, there legal righteousness and perfection cannot possibly be; for even this sin is a violation of the Law.
 There must be a perfect and exact actual fulfilling of all the laws of God, without failing in the least circumstance or
least tittle of observation: for legal perfection cannot possibly consist with the least guilt.
(2) There is an Evangelical Perfection: which is a state, though not of innocency; yet of such a personal righteousness and holiness, as shall be accepted and rewarded by God.
Now this Evangelical Perfection consists in three things:
 In true and sincere Repentance for our past offences; begging pardon at God's hands, and endeavouring to abstain from the commission of the like for the future.
 In a true and lively Faith; whereby we rely upon the merits and satisfaction of Christ alone, for the remission of our sins.
 In new and sincere Obedience; endeavouring to live more holily, and to walk more strictly and perfectly before God, according to the rules which he bath prescribed us in his holy laws. And this consists both in the mortification of the corrupt and sinful desires of the flesh, and in the daily quickening and renewing of the Spirit; whereby we grow in grace, and make farther progress in Christianity.
When we do all this in the truth and sincerity of our souls, we are said to be perfect with an Evangelical or Gospel-perfection and this, indeed, is all the inherent perfection and righteousness, that is attainable by us in this life. Thus it is, that the saints are, in Scripture, termed righteous: so Noah is called righteous: Gen. vii. 1: and Abraham pleads with God for the righteous in Sodom: Gen. xviii. 23, 24: and Zachary and Elizabeth have this testimony, that they were both righteous, walking in all the commandments of God blameless: Luke i. 6. Thus we have the ways of holiness called paths of righteousness: Ps. xxiii. 3: and the works of holiness, works of righteousness: Ps. xv. 2. Isa. lxiv. 5.
(3) This Evangelical perfection is attainable in this life; and, indeed, is attained by every sincere and upright Christian.
(4) But, for a Legal Perfection, it neither is nor can be attained in this life. And that upon two accounts.
Because of the infinite exactness and holiness of the Law, it is not attained.
Because of the corruption of our natures, it cannot be attained.
 The Law of God is infinitely spiritual; and obligeth us, not only to the performance of the external duties of obedience, but requires also the absolute perfection of the inward dispo