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THE USE OF THE LAW.
Evan. Yea, indeed he does; and if you make any question of it, I pray you,
consider further, that one asking our Saviour, which is the "great commandment
in the law?" he answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This," says he, "is the first and great
commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself," (Matt 22:37-39).
Whereupon, says a famous spiritual expositor, "God will have the whole heart";
all the powers of our souls must be bent towards him, he will have himself to be
acknowledged and reckoned as our sovereign and supreme good; our love to him
must be perfect and absolute: he requires, that there be not found in us the least
thought, inclination, or appetite of anything which may displease him; and that we
direct all our actions to this very end, that he alone may be glorified by us; and
that for the love we bear unto God, we must do well unto our neighbour,
according to the commandments of God. Consider, also, I pray you, that it is
which are written in the book of the law to do them." Now, if you do consider
these things well, you shall perceive that the Lord requires that every man do
keep all the ten commandments perfectly, according as I have expounded them,
and concludes all those under the curse that do not so keep them.
Nom. Surely, sir, you did mistake in saying that the Lord requires that every man
do keep all the ten commandments perfectly; for I suppose you would have said,
the Lord requires that every man do endeavour to keep them perfectly.
Evan. No, neighbour Nomologista, I did not mistake, for I say it again, that the
Lord requires of every man perfect obedience to all the ten commandments, and
concludes all those under the curse that do not yield it; for it is not said, Cursed is
every man that does not endeavour to continue in all things, but "Cursed is every
one that continueth not in all things," &c.
Nom. But, sir, do you think that any man continues in all things, as you have
Evan. No, no; it is impossible that any man should.
Nom. And, sir, what is it to be under the curse?
Evan. To be under the curse, as Luther and Perkins do well agree, is to be under
sin, the wrath of God, and everlasting death.
Nom. But, sir, I pray you, how can this stand with the justice of God, to require
man to do that which is impossible, and yet to conclude him under the curse for
not doing it?
Evan. You shall perceive that it does well stand with the justice of God, to deal so
with man, if you do consider, that this law of God, or these ten commandments,
which we have now expounded, are, as Ursinus' Catechism truly says, "A
doctrine agreeing with the eternal and immortal wisdom and justice that is in
God"; wherein, says Calvin, "God hath so painted out his own nature, that it doth
in a manner express the very image of God." And we read, (Gen 1:27), that man
at the first was created in the image or likeness of God; whence it must needs
follow that this law was written in his heart, that is to say, God did engrave in
man's heart such wisdom and knowledge of his will and works, and such integrity
in his soul, and such a fitness in all the powers thereof, that his mind was able to
conceive, and his heart was able to desire, and his body was able to put in
execution, anything that was acceptable to God; so that in very deed he was able
to keep all the ten commandments perfectly.
And, therefore, though God do require of man impossible things, yet is he not
unjust, neither does he injure us in so doing, because he commanded them when
they were possible, and though we have now lost our ability of performance, yet
it being by our voluntary falling from the state of innocence in which we were at
first created, God has not lost his right of requiring that of us which he once gave
Nom. But, sir, you know it was our first parents only that did fall away from God
in eating the forbidden fruit, and none of their posterity; how then can it be truly
said, that we have lost that power through our own default?
Evan. For answer to this, I pray you consider, that Adam, by God's appointment,
was not to stand or fall as a single person only, but as a common public person,
representing all mankind which were to come of him; and therefore, as in case of
he had been obedient, and not eaten the forbidden fruit, he had retained and kept
that power which he had by creation, as well for all mankind, as for himself; even
so by his disobedience in eating that forbidden fruit, he was disrobed of God's
image, and so lost that power, as well for all mankind as for himself.
Nom. Why then, sir, it should seem that all mankind are under sin, wrath, and
Evan. Yea, indeed by nature they are so, "For we know," says the apostle, "that
whatsoever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law, that every mouth
may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God," (Rom 3:19);
and again, says he, "We have proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all
under sin," (Rom 3:9). And in another place he says, "We were by nature children
of wrath as well as others," (Eph 2:3); and, lastly, he says, "So death passed upon
all men, for that all have sinned," (Rom 5:12).
Nom. But, sir, I pray you, tell me whether you think that any regenerate man
keeps the commandments perfectly, according as you have expounded them.
Evan. No, not the most sanctified man in the world.
Nom. Why then, sir, it should seem, that not only natural men, but regenerate
men also, are under the curse of the law. For if every one that keepeth not the
law perfectly be concluded under the curse, and if regenerate men do not keep
the law perfectly, then they also must needs be under the curse.
Evan. The conclusion of your argument is not true; for if by regenerate men you
mean true believers, then they have fulfilled the law perfectly in Christ, or rather
Christ has perfectly fulfilled the law in them, and was made a curse for them, and
so has redeemed them from the curse of the law, as you may see, (Gal 3:13).
Nom. Well, sir, now do I understand you, and have ever been of your judgment
in that point, for I have ever concluded this, that either a man himself, or Christ
for him, must keep the law perfectly, or else God will not accept of him, and
therefore have I endeavoured to do the best I could to keep the law perfectly, and
wherein I have failed and come short, I have believed that Christ has done it for
Evan. The apostle says, (Gal 3:10), "So many as are of the works of the law, are
under the curse." And truly, neighbour Nomologista, if I may speak it without
offence, I fear me you are still of the works of the law, and therefore still under
Nom. Why, sir, I pray you, what is it to be of the works of the law?
Evan. To be of the works of the law, is for a man to look for, or hope to be
justified or accepted in the sight of God, for his own obedience to the law.
Nom. But surely, sir, I never did so; for though by reason of my being ignorant of
what is required and forbidden in every commandment, I had a conceit that I
came very near the perfect fulfilling of the law, yet I never thought I did do all
things that are contained therein; and therefore I never looked for, nor hoped that
God would accept me for mine own obedience, without Christ's being joined with
Evan. Then it seems that you did conceive, that your obedience and Christ's
obedience must be joined together, and so God would accept you for that.
Nom. Yea, indeed, sir, there has been my hope, and indeed there is still my hope.
Evan. Aye, but neighbour Nomologista, as I told my neighbour Neophytus and
others not long since, so I tell you now, that as the justice of God requires a
perfect obedience, so does it require that this perfect obedience be a personal
obedience, that is, it must be the obedience of one person only. The obedience of
two must not be put together to make up a perfect obedience: and indeed, to say
as the thing is, God will have none to have a hand in the justification and salvation
of any man, but Christ only; for, says the apostle Peter, (Acts 4:12), "Neither is
there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given
among men whereby we may be saved." Believe it then, I beseech you, that
Christ Jesus will either be a whole Saviour, or no Saviour; he will either save you
alone, or not save you at all.
Nom. But, sir, if man's obedience to the law do not help to procure his
justification and acceptance with God, then why did God give the law to the
Israelites upon Mount Sinai, and why is it read and expounded by you that are
ministers? I would gladly know of what use it is.
Evan. The apostle says, (Gal 3:19), "That the law was added because of
transgression." That is, as Luther expounds it, "That transgressions might increase
and be more known, and seen"; or as Perkins expounds it, "For the revealing of
sin, and the punishment thereof; for by the law comes the knowledge of sin," as
the same apostle says, (Rom 3:20); and therefore when the children of Israel
conceived that they were righteous, and could keep all God's commandments
perfectly, as it is manifested by their saying, (Exo 19:8), "All that the Lord
commandeth we will do, and be obedient," the Lord gave them this law, to the
intent they might see how far short they came of yielding that obedience which is
therein required, and so, consequently, how sinful they were. And just so did our
Saviour also deal with the young expounder of the law, (Matt 19:16), who, it
seems, was sick of the same disease, "Good Master," says he, "what shall I do
that I may inherit eternal life?" "He does not," says Calvin, "simply ask, which
way, or by what means he should come to eternal life, but what good he should
do to get it." Whereby it appears, that he was a proud justiciary, one that swelled
in fleshly opinion that he could keep the law, and be saved by it; therefore he is
worthily sent to the law to work himself weary, and to see his need to come to
Christ for remedy.
Now then, if you would know of what use the law is, why first let me tell you, it
is of special use to all such as have a conceit that they themselves can do anything
for the procuring of their own justification and acceptation in the sight of God; to
let them see, as in a glass, that in that case they can do nothing. And, therefore,
seeing that you yourself have such a conceit, I beseech you, labour to make that
use of it, that so you may be hereby quite driven out of yourself unto Jesus
Nom. Believe me, sir, I should be glad I could make such a good use of it, and,
therefore, I pray you, give me some directions how I may do it.
Evan. Why, first of all, I would desire you to consider, that in regard that all
mankind were at first created in such an estate as I have declared unto you, the
law and justice of God requires that the man who undertakes, by his obedience,
to procure his justification and acceptation in the sight of God, either in whole, or
in part, be as completely furnished with the habit of righteousness and true
holiness, and as free from all corruption of nature, as Adam was in the state of
innocency, that so there may not be the least corruption mingled with any of
those good actions which he does, nor the least motion of heart or inclination of
will towards any of those evil actions which he does not do.
Secondly, I would desire you to consider, that neither you nor any man else,
whilst you live upon the earth, shall be so furnished with perfect righteousness
and true holiness, nor so free from all corruptions of nature, as Adam was in the
state of innocency; so that no good action which you do shall be free from having
some corruption mingled with it: nor any evil action which you do not do, free
from some motion of heart or inclination of will towards it; and that therefore you
can do nothing towards the procuring of your justification and acceptation in the
sight of God; the which the prophet David well considering, cries out, (Psa 143:2)
"Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord! for in thy sight shall not man
living be justified." Yea, and this made the apostle cry out, "Oh wretched man
that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death"! (Rom 7:24). Yea,
and this made him desire to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness
which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, (Phil 3:9).
Nom. But, sir, I am persuaded there be some good actions which I do, that are
free from having any corruption at all mixed with them; and some evil actions
which I do not do, towards the which I have no motion of heart, or inclination of
will at all.
Evan. Surely, neighbour Nomologista, you do not truly know yourself, for I am
confident, that any man who truly knows himself, sees such secret corruptions of
heart in every duty he performs, as causes him unfeignedly to confess, that
whatever good action he does, it is but a polluted stream of a more corrupt
fountain. And whatsoever you or any man else do conceive of yourselves, it is
most certain, that whatsoever sin is forbidden in the word, or has been practised
in the world, that sin every man carries in his bosom, for all have equally sinned
in Adam, and therefore original lust is equally in all.
Nom. Sir, I can hardly be persuaded to this.
Evan. Well, neighbour Nomologista, I cannot so well tell how it is with you, but
for mine own part, I tell you truly, I find my knowledge corrupted and defiled
with ignorance and blindness, and my faith corrupted and defiled with doubting
and distrust, and my love to God very much corrupted and defiled with sinful
self-love and love to the world; and my joy in God much corrupted and defiled
with carnal joy; and my godly sorrow very much corrupted and defiled with
And I find my prayers, my hearing, my reading, my receiving the sacrament, and
such like duties, very much corrupted and defiled with dullness, drowsiness,
sleepiness, wandering, and worldly thoughts, and the like.
And I find my sanctifying of the Lord's name very much corrupted and defiled,
by thinking and speaking lightly and irreverently of his titles; and by thinking, if
not by speaking, grudgingly against some acts of his providence.
And I find my sanctifying of the Lord's day very much corrupted and defiled, by
sleeping too long in the morning, and by worldly thoughts and words, if not by
And I find that all the duties that I have performed, either towards my superiors
or inferiors, have been corrupted and defiled, either with too much indulgence, or
with too much severity, or with base fears, or base hopes, or some self-end and
And I find that all my duties that I have performed, either for the preservation of
mine own or other's life, chastity, goods, or good name, have been very much
corrupted and defiled, either with a desire of mine own praise, own profit here, or
to escape hell, and to obtain heaven hereafter; so that I see no good action which
I have ever done free from having some corruption mixed with it.
And as for motion of heart, and inclination of will towards that evil which I have
not done, it is also manifest, for though I have not been guilty of idolatry, either in
making or worshipping of images, yet have I not been free from carnal
imaginations of God in the time of his worship nor from will-worship.
And though I have not been so guilty of profaning the name of the Lord after
such a gross manner as some others have been, yet have I not been free from an
inclination of heart, and disposition of will thereunto; for I have both thought and
spoken irreverently both of his titles, attributes, word, and works, yea, and many
times do so to this day.
And though I do not now so grossly profane the Lord's day, as it may be others
have done, and do still, yet have I formerly done it grossly, yea, and do still, find
an inward disposition of heart, and inclination of will, both to omit those duties
which tend to the sanctifying of it, and to do those worldly actions which tend to
the profanation of it.
And though when I was a child and young, I did not so grossly dishonour and
disobey my parents and other superiors, as some others did, yet I had an
inclination of heart and disposition of will thereunto, as it was manifest by my
stubbornness, and by not yielding of willing obedience to their commands nor
submitting patiently to their reproofs and corrections.
And though it may be, I have done more of my duty to my inferiors than some
others have done, yet have I found an inclination of heart, and a disposition of
will, many times to omit those duties which I have performed, so that I have as it
were, been fain to constrain myself to do that which I have done.
And though I have not been guilty of the gross act of murder, yet have I had, and
have still an inclination of heart and disposition of will thereunto, in that I have
been, and am still, many times subject to rash, unadvised, and excessive anger;
yea, I have been and still am divers times wrathful and envious towards others
that offend me.
And though I never was guilty of the foul and gross act of fornication or adultery,
yet have I had an inclination of heart, and disposition of will thereunto, in that I
have not been free from filthy imaginations, unchaste thoughts, and inward
motions and desire to uncleanness.
And though I was never guilty of the gross act of stealing, yet have I had an
inclination of heart, and a disposition of will thereunto, in that I have neither been
free from discontentedness with mine own estate, nor from covetous desire after
that which belongs to another.
And though I never did bear false witness against any man, yet have I had an
inclination of heart and disposition of will thereunto, in that I have not been free
from contemning, despising, and thinking too basely of others; neither have I been
free from evil surmisings, groundless suspicions, and rash judging of others.
And now, neighbour Nomologista, I pray you tell me whether you do think that
some of these corruptions are in you, which you hear are in me.
Nom. Yea, believe me, sir, I must needs confess that some of them are.
Evan. Well, though you have but only one of them in you, yet I pray you
consider, that you do hereby transgress one of the ten commandments; and the
apostle James says, that "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in
one point, he is guilty of all," (James 2:10). And call to mind, I also pray you, that
a curse is denounced against all those that continue not in "all things which are
written in the book of the law to do them." Mind it, I pray you, "that doth not
continue in all things": so that although you could for a time do all that the law
requires, and avoid all that it forbids, and that never so exactly, yet if you do not
continue so doing, but transgress the law once in all your life, and that only in one
thought, you are thereby become subject to the curse, which, as you have heard,
is eternal damnation in hell.
Nay, let me tell you more, although you never yet had transgressed the law in all
your life hitherto, not so much as in the least thought, nor ever should do whilst
you live, yet should you thereby become far short of the perfect fulfilling of the
law, and so consequently of your justification and acceptation in the sight of God.
Nom. That is very strange to me, sir, for what can be required more, or what can
be done more, than yielding of perfect and perpetual obedience?
Evan. That is true indeed; there is no more required, neither can there be more
done; but yet you must understand, that the law does as well require passive
obedience as active, suffering as well as doing; for our common bond entered into
for us all, by God's benefits towards the first man, is by his disobedience become
forfeited, both in respect of himself and all mankind; and, therefore, ever since
the fall of man, the law and justice of God does not only require the payment of
the debt, but also of the forfeiture; there is not only required of him perfect doing,
but also perfect suffering. "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die the
death," says the Lord, (Gen 2:17). Nay, let me tell you yet more; in order of
justice, the forfeiture ought to be paid before the debt; perfect suffering should go
before perfect doing, because all mankind, by reason of that first and great
transgression, are at odds and enmity with God; they are all of them children of
his wrath, and therefore God, as we may speak with holy reverence, cannot be
reconciled unto any man, before a full satisfaction be made to his justice by a
perfect suffering, (Col 1:21): perfect suffering, then, is required for the reconciling
of man unto God, (Eph 2:3), and setting him in the same condition he was in
before his fall, and perfect doing is required for the keeping of him in that
Nom. And, sir, is man as unable to pay the forfeiture as he is to pay the debt? I
mean, is he as unable to suffer perfectly, as to do perfectly?
Evan. Yea, indeed, every whit as unable; forasmuch as man's sin in eating of the
forbidden fruit was committed against God, and God is infinite and eternal, and
the offence is always multiplied according to the dignity of the person against
whom it is committed: man's offence must needs be an infinite offence, and the
punishment must needs be proportionable to the fault; therefore an infinite and
eternal punishment is required at man's hands, or else such a temporal
punishment, as is equal and answerable to eternal. Now, eternal punishment man
cannot sustain, because then he should never be delivered—he should ever be
satisfying, and never have satisfied; which satisfaction is such as is the
punishment of the devils and damned men in hell, which never shall have an end.
And for temporal punishment, which should be equivalent to eternal, that cannot
be neither, because the power and vigour of no creature is such that it may
sustain a finite and temporal punishment, equivalent to an infinite and eternal; for
sooner should the creature be wasted, consumed, and brought to nothing, than it
could satisfy the justice of God by this means; wherefore we may certainly
conclude, that no man can satisfy the law and justice of God, either by active or
by passive obedience, and so consequently no man shall be justified and accepted
in the sight of God by his own doings or sufferings.
Nom. Sir, I see it clearly, and am therein fully convinced, and I hope I shall make
that use of it. But, sir, is there no other use to be made of the law than this?
Evan. Yea, neighbour Nomologista, you must not only labour thereby to see your
own insufficiency to procure your own justification and acceptation in the sight of
God, though that indeed be the chief use that any unjustified person ought to
endeavour to make of it, but you must also endeavour to make it a rule of
direction to you in your life and conversation.
Nom. But, sir, if I cannot by my obedience to the law do anything towards the
procuring of mine own justification, and acceptation in the sight of God, or, which
as I do conceive is all one, if I can do nothing towards the procuring of mine own
eternal salvation, then methinks all that I do should be in vain, for I cannot see
any good I shall get thereby.
Evan. No, neighbour Nomologista, it shall not be in vain; for though you cannot
by your obedience to the law, do any thing towards the procuring of your own
justification or eternal salvation; yea, and though you should never make such a
use of it, as to be thereby driven out of yourself unto Jesus Christ for justification
and eternal salvation, but should be everlastingly condemned; yet, this let me tell
you, the more obedience you yield unto the law, the more easy shall your
condemnation be; for although no man, walk he ever so exactly and strictly
according to the law, shall thereby either escape the torments of hell, or obtain the
joys of heaven, yet the more exactly and strictly any man walks according to the
law, the easier shall his torments be, (Matt 11:22). So that although you by your
obedience to the law cannot obtain the uneasiest place in heaven, yet may you
thereby obtain the most easy place in hell: and therefore your obedience shall not
be in vain. Nay, let me tell you more, although you by your obedience to the law
can neither escape that hell, nor enjoy that heaven that is in the world to come,
yet you may thereby escape that hell, and enjoy that heaven which is to be had in
this present world; for the Lord dealeth so equally and justly with all men, that
every man shall be sure to receive his due at his hands; so that as every man who
is truly justified in the sight of God, by faith in Christ's blood, shall for that
blood's sake be sure of the joys of heaven, though his life may even after his
believing be in many respects unconformable to the law; yet the more
unconformable his life is thereunto, the more crosses and afflictions he shall be
sure to meet withal in this life, (Psa 89:30-32). Even so, though no man that is not
justified by faith in Christ's blood shall either escape the torments of hell, or attain
the joys of heaven, be his life never so conformable to the law, yet the more
conformable his life is thereunto, the less of the miseries and the more of the
blessings of this life he shall have; for it is not to men unjustified, though I
suppose not only to them that the Lord speaketh, (Isa 1:19), saying, "If ye be
willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good things of the land." And does not the
Lord in the fifth commandment promise the blessing of long life to all inferiors
that are obedient to their superiors? And may we not observe, and is it not found
true by experience, that those children who are most careful of doing their duties
to their parents, are commonly more free both from their parents' corrections and
the Lord's corrections; and are likewise blessed with obedient children
themselves, and do also taste of their parents' bounty and the Lord's bounty, as
touching the blessings of this life, more than others that are disobedient? And may
we not observe, and is it not found true by experience, that those servants that are
most faithful and diligent in their places are commonly more free either from the
Lord's or their masters' corrections, and are likewise rewarded with such servants
themselves, and with other temporal blessings both from their masters and from
the Lord, than others that are not so? And may we not observe, and is it not
found true by experience, that those wives that are obedient and subject to their
husbands, are commonly more free from their frowns, checks, and rebukes; at
least they are more blessed with peace of conscience and a good name amongst
men, than others that are not so? And may we not observe, that our mere honest
men, who for the most part live without committing any gross sin against the law,
are commonly more exempted from the sword of the magistrate, and have many
earthly blessings more in abundance than such as are gross sinners? And the
Scribes and Pharisees, who were strict observers of the law, in regard of the
outward man, were no losers by it, "Verily," says our Saviour, "I say unto you,
they have their reward," (Matt 6:2). So that still, you see, your obedience to the
law shall not be in vain; wherefore, I pray you, do your best to keep the ten
commandments as perfectly as you can. But above all, I beseech you, be careful
to consider of that which has been said touching the special use of the law to you,
that so through the powerful working of God's Spirit, it may become an effectual
means to drive you out of yourself unto Jesus Christ.
Oh, consider, in the first place, what a great number of duties are required and
what a great number of sins are forbidden in every one of the ten
commandments! And in the second place, consider, how many of those duties
you have omitted, and how many of those sins you have committed. And in the
third place, consider, that there has been much corruption mixed with every good
duty which you have done, so that you have sinned in doing that which in itself is
good; and that you have had an inclination of heart and disposition of will to
every sin you have not committed, and so have been guilty of all those sins which
you have not done. And in the fourth place, consider, that the law denounceth a
curse unto every one which continueth not in all things which are written in the
book of the law to do them. And then, in the fifth place, make application of the
curse unto yourself, by saying in your heart, if every one be cursed which
continueth not in all things, then surely I am cursed that have continued in
nothing. And then, in the sixth place, consider, that before you can be delivered
from the curse, the law and justice of God requires that there be a perfect
satisfaction made both by paying the debt and the forfeiture to the very utmost
farthing; perfect doing and perfect suffering are both of them required. And then,
in the last place, consider, that you are so far from being able to make a perfect
satisfaction, that you can do nothing at all towards it, and that therefore, as of
yourself, you are in a most miserable and helpless condition.
Nom. Well, sir, I do now plainly see that I have been deceived, for I verily
thought that the only reason why the Lord gave the law, and why you that are
ministers do show us what is required and forbidden in the law, had been, that all
men might thereby come to see what the mind and will of the Lord is, and be
exhorted, and persuaded to lead their lives thereafter. And I also verily thought
that the more any man did strive and endeavour to reform his life and do
thereafter, the more he procured the love and favour of God towards him, and
the more God would bless him, and do him good, both in this world and in the
world to come; yea, and I also verily thought, that it had been in the man's power
to have come very near the perfect fulfilling of the law, for I never read nor heard
any minister show how impossible it is for any man to keep the law, nor ever
make any mention of any such use of the law, as you have done this day.
Evan. Surely, neighbour Nomologista, these have not only been your thoughts,
but also the thoughts of many other men; for it is natural for every man to think
that he must and can procure God's favour and eternal happiness by his
obedience to the law, at the least to think he can do something towards it; for
naturally men think that the law requires no more but the external act, and that
therefore it is in man's power to keep it perfectly. Is it not an ordinary and
common thing for men when they hear or read that there is more required and
forbidden in the law than they were aware of, to think with themselves, Surely, I
am not right, I have transgressed the law more than I had thought I had done, and
therefore God is more angry with me than I had thought he had been; and
therefore to pacify his anger, and procure his favour towards me, I must repent,
amend, and do better; I must reform my life according to the law, and so by my
future obedience make amends for my former disobedience? And if thereupon
they do attain to any good measure of outward conformity, then they think they
come near the perfect fulfilling of the law; and if it were not that the doctrine of
the Church of England is, that no man can fulfil the law perfectly, and that none
but Papists do say the contrary, they would both think and say they did, or hoped
they should keep all the commandments perfectly. And upon occasions of this
their outward reformation according to the law, they think, yea, and sometimes
say, they are regenerate men and true converts, and that the beginning of this
their reformation was the time of their new birth and conversion unto God. And if
these men do confess themselves to be sinners, it is rather because they hear all
others confess themselves so to be, than out of any true sight and knowledge,
sense, or feeling they have of any inward heart-corruption. And if they do
acknowledge, that a man is not to be justified by the works of the law, but by
faith in Christ, it is rather because they have heard it so preached or because they
have read it so in the Bible, or some other book, than because of any
imperfection which they see in their own works, or any need they see of the
righteousness of Jesus Christ. And if they do see any imperfection in their own
works, and any need of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, then they imagine that
so long as their hearts are upright and sincere, and they do desire and endeavour
to do their best to fulfil the law, God will accept of what they do, and make up
their imperfect obedience with Christ's perfect obedience, and so will justify and
save them; but all this while, their own works must have a hand in their
justification and salvation, and so they are still of the works of the law, and
therefore under the curse. The Lord be merciful both to you and them, and bring
you under the blessing of Abraham!
Nom. Sir, I thank you for your good wishes towards me, and for your great pains
which you have now taken with me and so I will for this time take my leave of
you; only, I could wish, if it might not be too much trouble to you, that you
would be pleased at your leisure, to give me in writing a copy of what you have
this day said concerning the law.
Evan. Well, neighbour Nomologista, though I can hardly spare so much time, yet
because you do desire it, and in hope you may receive good by it, I will, ere long,
find some time to accomplish your desire.
Neo. I pray you, neighbour Nomologista, tarry a little longer, and I will go with
Nom. No, I must needs be gone; I can stay no longer.
Evan. Then fare you well, neighbour Nomologista, and the Lord make you to see
Nom. The Lord be with you, sir.
Neo. Well, sir, now I hope you have fully convinced him that he comes far short
of keeping all the commandments perfectly: I hope he will no longer be so well
conceited of his own righteousness as he has formerly been. But now, sir, I pray
you tell me before I depart, whether you would have me to endeavour to make
the same use of the law, which you have advised him to make.
Evan. No, neighbour Neophytus, I look not upon you as an unbeliever, as I did
upon him, but I look upon you as one who has already been by the law driven out
of yourself unto Jesus Christ; I look upon you as a true believer, and as a person
already justified in the sight of God, by faith in Christ, and so as one who are
neither to question your inheritance in heaven, nor fear your portion in hell. And
therefore I will not persuade you to labour to yield obedience to the law, by telling
you, that the more obedient you are thereunto, the easier torments you shall have
in hell, as I did him; neither would I have you to make application of the curse of
"Oh"! says the Lord, "that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had
walked in my ways! he should soon have fed them with the finest of wheat, and
with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee." Besides, the more
obedience you yield unto the ten commandments, the more glory you will bring to
God, according to that of our Saviour, (John 15:8), "Herein is my Father glorified,
that ye bear much fruit." To conclude, the more obedience you yield unto the ten
commandments, the more good you will do unto others, according to that of the
apostle, (Titus 3:8), "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou
affirm constantly, that they which have believed in Christ might be careful to
maintain good works; these things are good and profitable unto men."
Neo. But, sir, what if I should not purpose, desire, and endeavour to yield
obedience to all the ten commandments, as you say the Lord requires; what then?
Evan. Why, then, although it is true you have no cause to fear that God will
proceed against you, as a wrathful judge proceeds against a malefactor, yet have
you cause to fear that he will proceed against you as a displeased father does
against an offending child; that is to say, although you have no cause to fear that
he will unjustify you, and unson you, and deprive you of your heavenly
inheritance, and inflict the penalty of the law of works upon you, and so condemn
you, for says the apostle, "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ
Jesus," (Rom 8:1); yet have you cause to fear that he will hide his fatherly face,
and withdraw the light of his countenance from you; and that your conscience will
be ever accusing and disquieting of you, which if it do, then will you draw back,
and be afraid to ask anything of God in prayer; for even as a child whose
conscience tells him that he has angered and displeased his father, will be
unwilling to come into his father's presence, especially to ask of him anything that
he wants, even so it will be with you; and besides, you shall be sure to be
whipped and scourged with many bodily and temporal chastisements and
corrections, according to that which is said concerning Jesus Christ and his seed,
even true believers, and justified persons, (Psa 89:31-33), "If his children forsake
my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and walk not in
my commandments, then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their
iniquities with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving kindness will I not utterly take
from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail."
Wherefore, neighbour Neophytus, to apply these things a little more closely to
you, and so to conclude, let me exhort you, when you come home, call to mind
and consider of every commandment according as you have heard them this day
expounded, and resolve to endeavour yourself to do thereafter; and always take
notice how and wherein you fall and come short of doing what is required, and of
avoiding what is forbidden; and especially be careful to do this when you are
called to humble yourself before the Lord in fasting and prayer, and upon
occasion of going to receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and so shall you
make a right use of the law.
Neo. And, sir, why would you have me more especially to take notice of my sins,
when I am called to humble myself before the Lord in fasting and prayer?
Evan. Because the more sinful you see yourself to be, the more humble will your
heart be; and the more humble your heart is, the more fit you will be to pray, and
the more the Lord will regard your prayers: wherefore, when upon occasion of
some heavy and sore affliction, either felt, or feared to come upon yourself, or
someone sore judgment and calamity either felt, or feared to come upon the
nation or place where you live, the Lord calls you to humble yourself in fasting
and prayer, then do you thereupon take occasion to meditate, and consider
seriously what duties are required, and what sins are forbidden in every one of the
ten commandments, and then consider how many of those duties you have
omitted, and how many of those sins you have committed; consider also the
sinful manner of performing those duties you have performed, and the base and
sinful ends which you have had in the performance of them; consider also how
many sinful corruptions there are in our heart, which break not forth in our life,
and the disposition of heart which you have naturally to every sin which you do
not commit; and then consider, that although the sins which you do now commit
are not a transgression of the law of works, because you are not now under the
law, (Rom 6:14); yet are they a transgression of the law of Christ, because you
still are under that law, (1 Cor 9:31); and though they be not committed against
God as standing in relation to you as a wrathful Judge, yet have they been
committed against him as he stands in relation to you as a merciful loving Father;
and though they subject you not to the wrath of a Judge, nor to the penalty of the
law of works, yet they subject you to the anger and displeasure of a loving
Father, and to the penalty of the law of Christ.
Whereupon, do you draw near to God by prayer, saying unto him after this
"O merciful and loving Father! I do acknowledge that the sins which I did commit
before I was a believer, were a transgression of the law of works, because I was
then under that law; yea, and that they were committed against thee, as thou
stoodest in relation to me as a judge, and that therefore thou mightest most justly
have inflicted the curse or penalty of the law of works upon me, and so have cast
me into hell; but seeing that thou hast enabled me to believe the gospel, viz: that
thou hast been pleased to give thine own Son Jesus Christ to undertake for me, to
become my Surety, to take my nature upon him, and to be made under the law,
curse for me, to redeem me from the curse, and to reconcile me unto thee by his
death; now I know it stands not with thy justice to proceed against me by virtue
of the law of works, and so cast me into hell. Nevertheless, Father, I know that
the sins which I have committed since I did believe have been a transgression of
the law of Christ, because I am still under that law: yea, and I do acknowledge,
that they have been committed against thee, even against thee, my most gracious,
merciful, and loving Father in Jesus Christ, and that it is therefore meet thou
shouldest express thy fatherly anger and displeasure towards me, for these sins
which thy law has discovered unto me, in bringing this affliction upon me, or this
judgment upon the place or nation wherein I live: howbeit, Father, I , knowing
that thy fatherly anger towards thy children is never mixed with hatred, but
always with love, and that in afflicting of them thou never intendedst any
satisfaction to thine own justice, but their amendment, even the purging out of the
remainder of those sinful corruptions which are still in them, and the conforming
of them to thine own image; I therefore come unto thee this day, to humble
myself before thee, and to call upon thy name, not for any need, or power that I
do conceive I have to satisfy thy justice, or to appease thy eternal wrath, and to
free my soul from hell; for that I do believe Christ has fully done for me already;
but I do it in hopes thereby to pacify thy fatherly anger and displeasure towards
me, and to obtain the removal of this affliction or judgment which I feel or fear;
wherefore I beseech thee to pardon and forgive these my sins, which have been
the procuring cause thereof; yea, I pray thee not only to pardon them, but also to
purge them, that so this may be all the fruit, even the taking away of sin, and
making me partaker of thy holiness; and then, Lord, remove this affliction and
judgment when thy will and pleasure is."
And thus have I showed you the reason why I would have you more especially to
take notice of your sins, when you come to humble yourself before the Lord in
fasting and prayer.
Neo. And, sir, why would you have me to take notice of my sins, upon occasion
of my going to receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper?
Evan. Because the more sinful you see yourself to be, the more need you will see
yourself to have of Christ; and the more need you see yourself to have of Christ,
the more will you prize him; and the more you prize Christ, the more you will
desire him; and the more you do desire Christ, the more fit and worthy receiver
you will be.
Wherefore, when you are determined to receive the sacrament, then take
occasion to examine yourself as the apostle exhorts you, behold the face of your
soul in the glass of the law, lay your heart and life to that rule, as I directed you
before; then think with yourself and commune with your own heart, saying in
your heart after this manner, "Though I do believe that all these my sins are for
Christ's sake freely and fully pardoned and forgiven, so as that I shall never be
condemned for them, yet do I not so fully and comfortably believe it as I ought,
but am sometimes apt to question it: and besides, though my sins have not
dominion over me, yet I feel them too prevalent in me, and I would fain have
more power and strength against them; I would fain have my graces stronger and
my corruptions weaker; wherefore I, knowing that Christ in the sacrament of the
Lord's Supper, seals up unto me the assurance of the pardon and forgiveness of
all my sins; yea, and knowing that the death and bloodshed of Jesus Christ, which
is there represented, has in it both a pardoning and purging virtue; yea, and
knowing that the more fully I do apprehend Christ by faith, the more strength of
grace, and power against corruptions I shall feel:—wherefore I will go to partake
of that ordinance, in hope that I shall there meet with Jesus Christ, and apprehend
him more fully by faith, and so obtain both more assurances of the pardon of my
sins, and the more power and strength against them"; which the Lord grant you
for Christ's sake. And thus having also showed you the reason why I would have
you more especially to take notice of your sins before you come to receive the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper, I will now take my leave of you, for my other
occasions do call me away.
Neo. Well, sir, I do acknowledge, that you have taken great pains both with my
neighbour and me this day, for the which I do give you many thanks. And yet I
must entreat you to do the like courtesy for me which you promised my
neighbour Nomologista, and that is, at your leisure, to write me out a copy of the
conference we have had this day.
Evan. Well, neighbour Neophytus, I shall think of it, and it may be, accomplish
your desire. And so the God of peace be with you.
Neo. The Lord be with you, sir.
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