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Sect. CXLII. — PAUL however proceeds; and testifies, that he now expressly speaks with reference to all men, and to those more especially who are the greatest and most exalted: saying, “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” (Rom. iii. 19-20).

How, I pray you, shall every mouth be stopped, if there be still a power remaining by which we can do something? For one might then say to God — That which is here in the world is not altogether nothing. There is that here which you cannot damn: even that, to which you yourself gave the power of doing something. The mouth of this at least will not be stopped, for it cannot be obnoxious to you. — For if there be any sound power in “Free-will”, and it be able to do something, to say that the whole world is obnoxious to, or guilty before God, is false; for that power, whose mouth is not to be stopped, cannot be an inconsiderable thing, or a something in one small part of the world only, but a thing most conspicuous, and most general throughout the whole world. Or, if its mouth be to be stopped, then it must be obnoxious to, and guilty before God, together with the whole world. But how can it rightly be called guilty, if it be not unrighteous and ungodly; that is, meriting punishment and vengeance?

Let your friends, I pray you, find out, by what ‘convenient interpretation’ that power of man is to be cleared from this charge of guilt, by which the whole world is declared guilty before God; or by what contrivance it is to be excepted from being comprehended in the expression “all the world.” These words — “They are all gone out of the way, there is none righteous, no not one,” are mighty thunderclaps and riving thunder-bolts; they are in reality that hammer breaking the rock in pieces mentioned by Jeremiah; by which, is broken in pieces every thing that is, not in one man only, nor in some men, nor in a part of men, but in the whole world, no one man being excepted: so that the whole world ought, at those words, to tremble, to fear, and to flee away. For what words more awful or fearful could be uttered than these — The whole world is guilty; all the sons of men are turned out of the way, and become unprofitable; there is no one that fears God; there is no one that is not unrighteous; there is no one that understandeth; there is no one that seeketh after God!

Nevertheless, such ever has been, and still is, the hardness and insensible obstinacy of our hearts, that we never should of ourselves hear or feel the force of these thunder-claps or thunder-bolts, but should, even while they were sounding in our ears, exalt and establish “Free-will” with all its powers in defiance of them, and thus in reality fulfil that of Malachi i. 4, “They build, but I will throw down!”

With the same power of words also is this said — “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” — “By the deeds of the law” is a forcible expression; as is also this, “The whole world;” and this, “All the children of men.” For it is to be observed, that Paul abstains from the mention of persons, and mentions their ways only: that is, that he might comprehend all persons, and whatever in them is most excellent. Whereas, if he had said the commonalty of the Jews, or the Pharisees, or certain of the ungodly, are not justified, he might have seemed to leave some excepted, who, from the power of “Free-will” in them, and by a certain aid from the law, were not altogether unprofitable. But now, when he condemns the works of the law themselves, and makes them unrighteous in the sight of God, it becomes manifest, that he condemns all who were mighty in a devoted observance of the law and of works. And none devotedly observed the law and works but the best and most excellent among them, nor did they thus observe them but with their best and most exalted faculties; that is, their reason and their will.

If therefore, those, who exercised themselves in the observance of the law and of works with all the devoted striving and endeavouring both of reason and of will, that is, with all the power of “Free-will,” and who were assisted by the law as a divine aid, and were instructed out of it, and roused to exertion by it; if, I say, these are condemned of impiety because they are not justified, and are declared to be flesh in the sight of God, what then will there be left in the whole race of mankind which is not flesh, and which is not ungodly? For all are condemned alike who are of the works of the law: and whether they exercise themselves in the law with the utmost devotion, or moderate devotion, or with no devotion at all, it matters nothing. None of them could do any thing but work the works of the law, and the works of the law do not justify: and if they do not justify, they prove their workmen to be ungodly, and leave them so: and if they be ungodly, they are guilty, and merit the wrath of God! These things are so clear, that no one can open his mouth against them.

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