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This chapter containeth two special admonitions, which were very needful as the state of things then were. The first is against `respect of persons, because of outward advantages, especially in church matters. The other is against a vain opinion and ostentation of faith, where there was no presence or testimony of works to commend it. He dealeth in the former admonition from the 1st verse to the 14th. And in the latter from thence to the end of the chapter.
In this 1st verse he propoundeth the matter to them which he would have them to avoid, `respect of persons `because of some outward excellency, which hath no kind of affinity or pertinency at all to religion. The sense will be most clear by a particular explication of the words.
My brethren.—An usual compilation throughout the epistle. Some think he chiefly intendeth in this expression the presbyters and deacons, who had a great hand (say they) in giving every one their convenient places. But I know no reason why we should so restrain it, it being applied in all the other passages of the epistle to the whole body of those to whom he wrote; and here, where he dissuadeth them from respect of persons, it seemeth to have a special respect, as noting the equal interest of all Christians in the same Father.
Have not the faith.—Faith is not taken strictly, but more generally for the profession of Christian religion, or the manifestations of the grace of Christ in the souls of his people. The meaning is, have not grace, have not religion, &c.
Of our Lord Jesus Christ.—He doth not mean the personal faith of Christ, or, as some accommodate the expression, faith wrought by Christ. This manner of speech doth not note the author so much as the object. Faith of Christ, in the intent of the scripture, is faith in Christ; as Gal. ii. 20, `I live by the faith of the Son of God;, so Eph. iii. 12, `We have confidence, and access, by the faith of him;, so Phil. iii. 9, `The righteousness which is through the faith of Christ;, and so elsewhere. Now Christ is here called our Lord, because it is the proper term for him as mediator and head of the Church, and by virtue of our common and equal interest in him: the head is dishonoured in the disrespect of the members.
The Lord of glory.—Some read, `The faith of the glory of Christ with respect of persons;, that is, do not measure the glorious faith by these outward and secular advantages, or `the faith of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ;, for we supply the word Lord, which is but once in the original, partly because he is called so in other places: 1 Cor. ii. 8, `They would not have crucified the Lord of glory;, partly because it is fitly repeated out of the context; partly because in this place it hath the force of an argument. Christianity being a relation to the Lord of glory, putteth honour enough upon men, though other wise poor and despicable; and if men did believe Christ were 180glorious, they would not so easily despise those in whom there is the least of Christ.
With respect of persons, ἐν προσωπολημψίαις.—Respect of persons is had when, in the same cause, we give more or less to any one than is meet, because of something in his person which hath no relation to that cause. The word properly signifieth accepting of one's face or outside, and so noteth a respect to others out of a consideration of some external glory that we find in them. The phrase, when it is used in the Old Testament, is rendered by the Septuagint by θαυμάζειν τὸ πρόσωπον,153153See Cartw. in Gen. xix. 21. wondering at a man's face, as being overcome and dazzled at the beauty of it; which probably gave occasion to that expression of St Jude, ver. 16, θαυμάζοντες πρόσωπα, which we render, `having men's persons in admiration because of advantage., But, before we go on, we must rightly pitch and state the offence from which our apostle dissuadeth, for otherwise absurdities will follow. Civility and humanity calleth for outward respect and reverence to them that excel in the world. To rise up to a rich man is not simply evil. If all difference of persons, and respect to them, were sinful, there would be no place for government and mastership. Therefore I shall inquire:—
I. What respect of persons is sinful.
II. The particular abuse which the apostle taxeth and noteth in this expression.
First, What respect of persons is sinful? There is a holy and warrantable respect of persons either by God or men:—(1.) By God; he is said to `accept the faces, of his people, Gen. xix. 21—;naschati panecha, so it is in the Hebrew; and so elsewhere God is often said to respect their persons; their persons first, and then their services. (2.) By men, when we prefer others out of a due cause, their age, calling, gifts, graces: yea, it is lawful to put a respect upon them be cause of that outward glory and excellency wherewith God hath furnished them. There is a respect proper and due to their persons, though not so much for their own sakes as for the bounty of God to them; as they that bowed before the ass that carried about the rites of Isis, non tibi, sed religioni, did obeisance to the religion, not the beast.
But then there is a vicious respect of persons, when the judgment is blinded by some external glory and appearance, so that we cannot discern truth or right, and a cause is over-balanced by such foreign circumstances as have no affinity with it. Thus it is said, Lev. xix. 15, `Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the mighty; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour., Neither swayed with foolish pity, on the one hand, nor with respect to might, power, friendship, greatness, on the other; as usually those are the two prejudices against the execution of justice: either carnal pity saith, He is a poor man, or else carnal fear saith, He is a great man; and so the outward accidents of life are rather valued than the merits of the cause. So Deut. i. 17, `Thou shalt not respect persons in judgment, but hear the small as well as great.,
Secondly, What is this particular offence which the apostle calleth 181the `having the faith of Christ in respect of persons, which was the sin of those times? I answer—;(1.) In the general, their having too great a care of these differences and outward regards in their church administrations, both in their worship, and courts, and censures, as we shall show in the next verse. In the things of God all are equal; rich and poor stand upon the same level and terms of advantage. Our salvation is called `a common salvation, Jude 3; and the faith of all, for the essence and object of it, `a like precious faith, 2 Peter i. 1. But now their respects were only carried out to those that lived in some splendour in the world, with a manifest and sensible contempt of their poor brethren, as if they were unworthy their company and converse; as appeareth not only by the present context, but by chap, i. 8, 9, where he comforteth the poor despised brethren, showing that grace was their preferment; and 1 Cor. x. 1, from ver. 19 onward, `Every one took his own supper;, ver. 22, but `despised the church of God;, that is, excluded the poor, who were the church as well as they. So that mark, there was not only a difference made between the poor and the rich, but great reverence showed to the one, with a proud contempt of the other. (2.) More particularly—;(1st.) They over-esteemed the rich, doing all the grace and reverence they could devise in the congregation and courts of judicature; yea, they went so far as to esteem the wicked rich above the godly poor, honouring and observing those that were apt to hale them to the judgment-seats. (2d.) They debased the poor, not considering them according to their eminency in grace and high station in Christianity; passing by the appearance of God in them, without any mark or notice; yea, they offered injury and contumely to them, because of their outward abasure and despicableness, out of a proud insolence, scarce behaving themselves towards them as men, much less as Christians.
The notes are these:—
Obs. 1. That respect of persons in religious matters is a sin. We maybe many ways guilty of it:—(1.) By making external things, not religion, the ground of our respect and affection. The apostle saith, 2 Cor. v. 16, `Henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth know we him no more., Knowing after the flesh is to love and esteem any one out of secular and outward advantages. Paul, when a Pharisee, looked for a Messiah coming in outward pomp and glory; but being converted, he had laid aside those fleshly thoughts and apprehensions. It is true what Solomon saith, `Wisdom with an inheritance is good., When grace and outward excellency meet together, it maketh the person more lovely; but the ground and rise of our affection should be grace. Love to the brethren is an evidence, but we should be careful of the reason of that love, that we love them qua brethren, because of that of God which we see in them. That saying of Tertullian is usual, We must not judge of faith by persons, but of persons by faith.154154`Non judicamus ex personis fidem, sed ex fide personas.,—Tertul. (2.) When we do not carry out the measure and proportion of affection according to the measures and proportions of grace, and pitch our respects there where we find the ground of love most eminent. David's delights were `to the saints, 182and the excellent of the earth, Ps. xvi. 3; that is, to those which were most eminent among them. Some prefer a cold, neutral profession before real grace, will not own mean Christians by any familiarity and converse, though the power and brightness of God's image shine forth most clearly in them. The apostle saith, 1 Cor. xii. 23, `We bestow most honour on the uncomely parts., Those who have least of worldly pomp and grace, if they excel in Christ, should have most of Christian respect and honour. (3.) When we can easily make greatness a cover for baseness, and excuse sin by honour, whereas that is the aggravation; the advantage of greatness maketh sin the more eminent and notable. It is good to note with what freedom the scriptures speak of wicked persons in the highest honour: Dan. iv. 17, he giveth kingdoms `to the basest of men;, the world cannot think as basely of the children of God, but the word speaketh as basely of them. The Turkish empire, as great as it is, saith Luther, it is but a morsel, which the master of the house throweth to dogs.155155`Turcicum imperium, quantum quantum est, mica est quam paterfamilias canibus projicit.,—Luth. David maketh it a description of a godly man, Ps. xv. 4, `In whose eyes a vile person is contemned, but he honoureth them that fear the Lord;, let him be what he will be, if he be a wicked person, he is to them a vile person. How low was that evil king in the eyes of the holy prophet! 2 Kings iii. 14, `Were it not that I regarded the presence of Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, I would not look towards thee, nor see thee, (4.) When we yield religious respects, give testimonies to men for advantage, and, under pretence of religion, servilely addict ourselves to men for base ends; this Jude noteth in that expression, Jude 16, `Having men's persons in admiration because of advantage., The apostle speaketh of some heretics that were otherwise proud, but yet for advantage fawning and servile, as usually none so base-spirited as the proud are, when it may make for their worldly profit.156156Ut dominetur aliis prius servit; curvatur obsequio ut honore donetur.,—Ambros. It was observed of our late bishops, by one of their own party,157157Dr Jackson in his Treatise of Faith, part ii. c. 26, p. 457. that (though they were otherwise of a proud, insulting spirit) they were willing to take Ham's curse upon them, that they might domineer in the tents of Shem; to be servi servorum, slaves to great men-servants, that they might bear rule over the tribe of Levi. But to return; this is a clear respect of persons, when men keep at a distance, and are proud to the poor servants of God, but can crouch, and comply, and do anything for profit and advantage. It was a brave resolution that of Elihu, Job xxxii. 21, `I cannot accept any man's person; I know not to give flattering titles, (5.) When church administrations are not carried on with an indifferent and even hand to rich and poor, either by way of exhortation or censure. By way of exhortation: Christ died for both, and we must have a care of both, Exod. xxx. 15; the poor and the rich were to give the same atonement for their souls; their souls were as precious to Christ as those that glitter most in outward pomp. The apostle saith, `We are debtors both to the bond and free., Rom. i. 14. Christ saith to Peter, `Feed my lambs, as well as `Feed my sheep, John xxi. So for censure: Micaiah feared not Ahab, nor John Baptist 183Herod and the Pharisees. It was an excellent commendation that which they gave to Christ, Mark xii. 14, `Thou carest for no man, and regardest the person of no man, but teachest the way of God in truth., Ah! we should learn of our Lord and Master. We are never true ministers of Jesus Christ till we deal alike with persons that are alike in themselves. (6.) When we contemn the truths of God be cause of the persons that bring them to us. Usually we regard the man rather than the matter, and not the golden treasure so much as the earthen vessel;158158`Omnia dicta tanti existimantur, quantus est ipse qui dixerit, nec tam dictionis vim atque virtutem quam dictatoris cogitant dignitatem.,—Salvia. contra Avarit., lib. i. it was the prejudice cast upon Christ, `Is not this the carpenter's son?, We look upon the cup rather than the liquor, and consider not what, but who bringeth it. Matheo Langi,159159Hist. of Council of Trent. Edit. Lond. 1629, p. 55. Archbishop of Saltzburg, told every one that the reformation of the mass was needful, the liberty of meats convenient, and to be disburdened of so many commands of men just; but that a poor monk (meaning Luther) should reform all was not to be endured. So in Christ's time the question was common, `Do any of the rulers believe in him?, Thus you see we are apt to despise excellent things, because of the despicableness of the instrument: `The poor man delivered the city, (saith Solomon) `but he was forgotten, Eccles. ix. 15, 16. The same words have a different acceptation, because of the different esteem and value of the persons engaged in them. Erasmus observed, that what was accounted orthodox in the fathers, was condemned as heretical in Luther.160160`Compertum est damnata ut haeretica in libris Lutheri, quae in Bernardi, Augustinique libris ut orthodoxa immo et pia leguntur.,—Erasm. in Epist. ad Card. Mogunt. Thus you see how many ways in religious matters we may be guilty of respect of persons.
Use. Oh! consider these things. It is a heinous evil, and a natural evil. We are marvellous apt to think that there is no eminency but what consisteth in outward greatness. This is to disvalue the members of Christ; yea, to disvalue Christ himself: `He that despiseth the poor, though they be but the common poor, `reproacheth their maker, Prov. xvii. 5. But to despise poor Christians that are again renewed to the image of God, that is higher; and it is highest of all when a Christian doth despise Christians; as it is far worse for a scholar to disvalue scholarship, or a soldier his profession, than for other men. It is nothing so bad in worldly men, that are acquainted with no higher glory. Oh! consider what a dishonour it is to Christ for you to prefer mammon before him, as if wealth could put a greater value upon a person than grace.
Obs. 2. That Jesus Christ is a glorious Lord, not only in regard of his own person, which is `the brightness of his Father's glory, Heb. i. 3, or in regard of his present exaltation, whereby he hath `a name above all names, Phil: ii. 9. Not only as he enjoyeth it in himself, but as he dispenseth it to others. He will give you as much glory as your hearts can wish for. He putteth an honour upon you for the present. You may be sure you shall not be disgraced by him, either in your hope; it is such as `shall not make you ashamed., Rom. v. 5: false worshippers may be ashamed, as Baal's were, of their trust in their god, 1841 Kings xviii; or of your enjoyments: you are ( made comely in his comeliness, Ezek. xvi. 14; and the church is called `the fairest among women, Cant. v. 9; or of your service: your work is an ornament to you. God himself is `glorious in holiness, Exod. xv. 11. But for the future you will always find him a Lord of glory; sometimes in this world, after you have been a long time beclouded under disgrace, reproach, and suffering. When hair is shaven, it cometh the thicker, and with a new increase; so, when the razor of censure hath made your heads bare, and brought on the baldness of reproach, be not discouraged: God hath a time to `bring forth your righteousness as the noon-day, Ps. xxxvii. 6, by an apparent conviction to dazzle and discourage your adversaries. The world was well changed when Constantine kissed the hollow of Paphnutius, eye, that was erewhile put out for Christ. Scorn is but a little cloud that is soon blown over. But if Christ do not cause your enemies to bow to you, yet he will give you honour among his people; for he hath promised to honour those that honour him, 1 Sam. ii. 30; and he is able to do it, for the hearts of all men are in his hands, and he can dispose of their respects at pleasure. That sentence of Solomon intimateth that God is resolved upon it, `A man shall be commended according to his wisdom, Prov. xii. 8. But, however, suppose all this were not, in the next world you shall be sure to find Christ a Lord of glory, when he cometh to put the same glory upon the saints which the Father hath put upon himself, John xvii. 22, 24. `In that day, as the apostle saith, `he will be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe, 2 Thes. i. 10. It is a notable expression; not only admired in himself, but in his saints; as if he accounted the social glory which resulteth to his person from the glory of his children a greater honour to him than his own personal glory. Well, then, look to your thoughts of Christ. How do you consider him? as a Lord of glory? The apostle saith, `To them that believe, Christ is precious, 1 Peter ii. 7, in the original, τιμὴ, an honour. They account no honour like the honour of having relation to Christ. You will know this disposition by two notes:—(1.) All other excellencies will be as nothing. Birth, `an Hebrew of the Hebrews;, dignity, `a Pharisee;, moral accomplishments, `touching the law, blameless;, beauty and esteem in the world, `if any man might have confidence in the flesh, I much more;, yet `I count all things but dung and loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, Phil. iii. 8. (2.) All other abasures will be nothing: πάπεινος, the `brother of base degree, may count his baseness for Christ a preferment; let him `rejoice in that he is exalted, James i. 9. So of Moses it is said, he `esteemed the reproaches of Christ better treasures than the riches of Egypt, Heb. xi. 26. Mark, he did not only endure the reproaches of Christ, but counted them treasures, to be reckoned among his honours and things of value. So Thuanus reporteth of Ludovicus Marsacus, a knight of France, when he was led, with other martyrs that were bound with cords, to execution, and he for his dignity was not bound, he cried, `Give me my chains too; let me be a knight of the same order,161161`Cur non et me quoque torque donas, et insignis hujus ordinis militem creas?,—Thuan. Hist. Certainly it is an honour to be 185vile for God, 2 Sam. vi. 22. To a gracious spirit, nothing is base but sin and tergiversation; disgrace itself is honourable, when it is endured for the Lord of glory.
Obs. 3. Those that count Christ glorious will account Christianity and faith glorious. The apostle maketh it an argument here, `The faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory., He that prizeth the person of Christ prizeth all his relatives. As among men, when we love a man, we love his picture, and whatsoever hath relation to him. Grace is but a ray, a derived excellency from Christ. A Christian is much known by his esteem. What, then, do you account most excellent in yourselves or others? (1.) In yourselves. What is your greatest honour and treasure? What would you desire for yourselves or others? What would you part with first? Theodosius valued his Christianity above his empire. Luther said, he had rather be Christianus rusticus than ethnicus Alexander—a Christian clown than a Pagan emperor. (2.) In others. Who are most precious with you? those in whom you see most of the image of Christ? We use to honour the servants of glorious kings: Prov. xii. 26, `The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour., Who is the best neighbour to you? those that fear God? and do you like them best, when their conferences are most religious? You shall see this indefinite proverb is restrained by another, Prov. xix. 1, where Solomon intimateth that the righteous poor man is better than his rich neighbour. There, indeed, is the trial. Communion with holy and gracious spirits is far better than the countenance and respects of a great man to you. Oh! do not despise those jewels of Christ that lie in the dirt and dunghill. David could see silver wings in those doves that had lain among the pots.
Ver. 2-4. For if there come into your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and you have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say to him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool; are ye not then partial in yourselves, and become judges of evil thoughts?
I have put all these verses together, because they make but one entire sentence. The apostle proveth how guilty they were of this evil from whence he dissuadeth them, by a usual practice of theirs in their ecclesiastical conventions.
If there come into your assembly.—The word in the original is, εἰς συναγωγὴν, `into your synagogue, by which some understand their Christian assembly for worship: but that is not so probable, because the Christian assembly is nowhere, that I can remember, expressed by συναγωγὴ, synagogue, but by ἐκκλησία, church; and in the church-meeting there may be, without sin, several seats and places appointed for men of several ranks and dignities in the world; and it is a mistake to apply the censure of the apostle to such a practice. Others apply it to any common convention and meeting for the deciding of controversies, establishing of public order, and disposing of the offices of the church; and by synagogue they understand the court where they judged all causes belonging to themselves.162162`Per conventum significantur coetus seu cougregationes publicae profanae, in quibus conveniebant Christiani ut justis legibus et arbitris domesticas vel politicas communesque lites dirimerent.,—Hevar. in loc. Austin seemeth to 186incline to this sense for one part of it, namely, for a meeting to dispose of all offices that belonged to the church, which were not to be intrusted to men according to their outward quality, but inward accomplishments;163163`Nec sane, quantum arbitror, putandum est leve esse peccatum in personarum acceptione habere fidem Domini nostri Jesu Christi, si illam distantiam sedendi ac standi ad honores ecclesiasticos referamus; quis enim ferat eligi divitem ad sedem honoris ecclesiae, contempto paupere instructiore atque sanctio re.,—Aug. Epist. 29. there being the same abuse in fashion in the primitive times which, to our grief, hath been found among us, that men were chosen and called to office out of a respect to their worldly lustre rather than their spiritual endowments, and the gold ring was preferred before the rich faith, a practice wholly inconsonant with Christian religion and with the dispensation of those times; God himself having immediately called fishermen, and persons otherwise despicable, certainly of little note and remark in the world, to the highest offices and employments in the church. If we take the words in this restrained sense, for a court or meeting to dispose of ecclesiastical offices and functions, the context may be accommodated with a very proper sense, for, according to their offices, so had they places in all church-meetings; and therefore the apostle Paul useth that phrase, `He that occupieth the room of the unlearned, 1 Cor. xiv. 16; or, as it is in the original, τόπον ἰδιώτου, the place of the private person. The elders they sat by themselves,164164`President probati quique seniores, honorem istum non pretio sed testimonio adepti.,—Tertul. in Apol. then others that were more learned, then the ignorants; the church herein following the custom of the synagogue, which (as the author of the Comment upon the Epistles, that goeth under the name of Ambrose, observeth) was wont to place the elders in chairs, the next in rank on benches, the novices at their feet on mats;165165`Synagogae traditio est ut sedentes disputent, seniores dignitate in cathedris, sequentes in subselliis, novissimi in pavimento super mattas.,—Ambros. in primam ad Cor. and thence came the phrase of `sitting at the feet, of any one for a disciple, as it is said Paul was `brought up at the feet of Gamaliel., And for the women, Grotius telleth us, that the first place was given to the widows of one man, then to the virgins, then to the matrons.166166`Primus locus viduis univiris, proximus virginibus, deinde matronis.,—Grot. in loc. Now, because they assigned these places preposterously, out of a regard of wealth rather than grace, and said to the rich, `Sit thou here, καλῶς, honourably, and to the poor, however qualified, `Stand thou there, or sit at my feet, the place of learners and idiots, the apostle doth with such severity tax the abuse, to wit, their carnal partiality in distributing the honours of the church. Thus you see the context will go on smoothly. But I must not limit the text to this one use of the court or synagogue; and therefore, if we take in the other uses of deciding all causes and differences between the members of the Church, &c., every passage in the context will have its full light and explication; for the apostle speaketh of judging, and of such respect of persons as is condemned by the law, ver. 9, which is an accepting of persons in judgment, Lev. xix. 5. And therefore I understand this synagogue of an assembly met to do justice. In which thought I am confirmed by the judgment and 187reasons of a late learned writer,167167Herbert Thorndike, in his book of the Right of the Church in a Christian State, printed at London, 1649. See pp. 38, 39. who proveth that it was the fashion of the Jews to keep court in their synagogues; and therefore do we so often read those phrases. Mat. x. 17, `They shall scourge you in their synagogues;, Acts xxii. 19, `Beaten in every synagogue;, Acts xxvi. 11, `I punished them in every synagogue, because, as he saith, where sentence was given, there justice was executed; and it is probable that, being converted to Christianity, they still held the same course. And it is very notable, which he quoteth out of Maimonides, Sanhedrim, cap. 21, `That it is expressly provided by the Jews, constitutions, that when a poor man and a rich plead together, the rich shall not be bidden to sit down, and the poor stand, or sit in a worse place, but both sit, or both stand:, which is a circumstance that hath a clear respect to the phrases used by the apostle here; and the rather to be noted, because our apostle writeth to `the twelve tribes, Hebrews by nation, with whom these customs were familiar and of known use. So that out of all we may collect that the synagogue here spoken of is not the church assembly, but the ecclesiastical court or convention for the decision of strifes, wherein they were not to favour the cause of the rich against the poor; which is an explication that cleareth the whole context, and preventeth the inconveniences of the received exposition, which so far pleadeth the cause of the poor as to deny civility and due respect to the rich and honourable in Christian assemblies.
A man with a gold ring, χρυσοδακτύλιος, `a gold-fingered man, that is the force of the original word. The gold ring was a badge of honour and nobility; therefore Judah had his signet, Gen. xxxviii. 18-25; and Pharaoh, as a token that Joseph was promoted to honour, `took off his ring from his hand and put it upon Joseph's, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, Gen. xlii. So Ahasuerus dealt with Mordecai, Esther viii. 8.
In goodly apparel.—This also was a note of dignity: Gen. xxvii. 15, `Rebecca took the goodly garment of her son Esau;, by which some understand168168Lightfoot in Gen. the gorgeous priestly ornaments which be longed to him as having the birthright. So when the prodigal returned, the father, to do him honour, calleth for the best robe and a ring; some marks and ornaments of honour which were put on upon solemn days. But the luxury of after-times made the use more common. It is said of the rich man in the Gospel, Luke xvi. 19, that he was `clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared deliciously every day.,
A poor man in vile raiment.—In the original, ἐσθῆτι ῥυπαρᾷ, `filthy, sordid raiment;, it is the same word which the Septuagint use in Zech. iii. 3, 4, where mention is made of the high priest's `filthy garments, which was a figure of the calamitous state of the church; where the Septuagint have ἱμάτια ῥυπαρά.
And you have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing.—Ἐπιβλέπειν; is to gaze and observe with some admiration and special reverence.188
Sit thou here in a good place, καλῶς, `in an honourable or worthy place;, and so it noteth, either the rash disposal of the honours of the church into their hands, or the favouring of them in their cause, as before.
Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool.—Expressions of contempt and disrespect. Standing or sitting at the feet was the posture of the younger disciples. Sometimes standing is put for those that stood upon their defence; as Ps. cxxx. 3, `If thou shouldst mark what is done, who can stand?, that is, in curia, in court, as those that make a bold defence. So Eph. vi. 13, `Take the armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and when you have done all, to stand;, that is, before God's tribunal: it is an allusion to the posture of men in courts. This different respect of poor and rich bringeth to my mind a passage of Bernard, who, when he chanced to espy a poor man meanly apparelled, he would say to himself, Truly, Bernard, this man with more patience beareth his cross than thou: but if he saw a rich man delicately clothed, then he would say, It may be that this man, under his delicate clothing, hath a better soul than thou hast under thy religious habit. An excellent charity, and a far better practice than theirs in the text, who said to him in the goodly raiment, `sit, to the poor, `stand., To the rich they assigned `a good place, but to the poor the room `under the footstool.,
Are ye not partial in yourselves?—This clause is severally rendered, because of the different significations of the word διακριθῆτε. Some turn it without an interrogation, thus, `Ye were not judged in yourselves, but, &c.; as if the sense were—Though they were not judged themselves, yet they judged others by these inevident signs. But it is better with an interrogation; and yet then there are different readings. Some thus, `Are ye not condemned in yourselves?, that is, do not your own consciences fall upon you? Certainly the apostle applieth the fact to their consciences by this vehement and rousing question; but I think διακριθῆτε must not be here rendered condemned. Others thus, `Have ye not doubted or questioned the matter in yourselves?, for that is another sense of the word in the text. But here it seemeth most harsh and incongruous. Another sense of the word is, to make a difference; so it is often taken: διακρινόμενοι, `making a difference, Jude 22; οὐδὲν διεκρίνε, `He put no difference, Acts xv. 9; and so it may be fitly rendered here, `Have ye not made a difference?, that is, an unjust difference, out of carnal affection, rather than any true judgment. And therefore, for more perspicuity, we explain, rather than interpret, when we render, Are ye not partial? It is an appeal to their consciences in making such a difference: Are ye not counterpoised with perverse respects? Many times we may know the quality of an action by the verdict of conscience. Is not this partiality? Doth not conscience tell you it is making a difference which God never made? Sins directly disproportionate to our profession are against conscience, and in such practices the heart is divided. There are some disallowing thoughts which men strive to smother.
And become judges of evil thoughts.—From the running of the 189words in our translation, I should have guessed the sense to be this, That by these outward appearances of meanness and greatness in the world, they judged of men's hearts; which is here expressed by what is most transient and inward in the heart, the thoughts. But this κριταὶ διαλογισμῶν πονηρῶν, is to be taken in quite another sense.169169`Genetivus hic non est objecti, sed attributi.,—Grot. The meaning is, you altogether judge perversely, according to the rule of your own corrupt thoughts and intentions. Their esteem and their ends were not right, but perverted by carnal affections. They esteemed outward pomp above spiritual graces, which was contrary to reason and religion; and they proposed to themselves other ends than men should do in acts of choice and judicature. They had men's persons in admiration, because of advantage; and did not weigh so much the merits of the cause, as the condition of the persons contending.
From these verses, besides the things touched in the explication, you may observe:—
Obs. 1. That men are marvellous apt to honour worldly greatness. To a carnal eye nothing else is glorious. A corrupt judgment tainteth the practice. A child of God may be guilty of much worldliness, but he hath not a worldly judgment. David's heart went astray; but his judgment being right, that brought him about again, Ps. lxxiii.: compare the whole psalm with the last verse, `It is good for me to draw nigh to God., Moses, uprightness and love to the people of God was from his esteem: Heb. xi. 26, `Esteeming the reproach of Christ, &c. When men have a right esteem, that will make them prize religion, though shrouded under poor sorry weeds; but when their judgments and conceits are prepossessed and occupied with carnal principles, nothing seemeth lovely but greatness, and exalted wickedness hath more of their respect than oppressed grace. But you will say—May we not show honour and respect to men great in the world if they are wicked?
I answer—There is a respect due to the rich, though wicked; but if it be accompanied with a contempt of the mean servants of God, it is such a partiality as doth not become grace. More particularly, that you may not mistake in your respects to wicked men, take a direction or two:—(1.) Great men in the world must have respect due to their places, but the godly must have your converse and familiarity: `My delight is in the excellent of the earth, Ps. xvi. 3. A Christian can not delight in the converse of a wicked man so as he can in the children of God; besides that the object in the eye of grace hath more loveliness, there is the advantage of sweet counsels and spiritual communion: `Comforted by the mutual faith of you and me., Rom. i. 12. (2.) You must be sure not to be ashamed of the meanest Christians, to vouchsafe all due respects to them. Onesimus was a mean servant, yet, when converted, Paul counted him `above a servant, as a brother, Philem. 16. So the messengers of the churches are called `the glory of Christ, 2 Cor. viii. 23, such as Christ will boast of. Christ is ashamed of none but those that are ashamed of him: it is glory enough in the eye of Christ and grace that they are holy. (3.) You must own them for brethren in their greatest abasures and afflictions, as Moses did the people of God, Heb. xi. 25. (4.) Be sure to drive on 190no self-design in your respects; be not swayed by a corrupt aim at advantage: this will make us take Egyptians for Israelites, and perversely carry out our esteem. It chiefly concerneth ministers to mind this, that they may not gild a potsherd, and comply with wicked men for their own gain and advantage: it is a description of false teachers, 2 Peter ii. 3, `Through covetousness they shall, with feigned words, make merchandise of you: `they apply themselves to those among whom they may drive on the trade best; not to the saints, but to the rich, and soothe up them; where there is most gain, not where most grace: Hosea vii. 3, `They made the rulers glad with their lies.,
Obs. 2. From that are ye not partial? He urgeth them with a question. To bring us to a sense of things, it is good to put questions to our consciences, because then we do directly return upon our own souls. Soliloquies and discourses with yourselves are of excellent advantage: Ps. iv. 4, `Commune with your own hearts, and be still., It is a hard matter to bring a man and himself together, to get him to speak a word to himself. There are many that live in the world for a long time—some forty or fifty years—and all this while they cannot be brought to converse with their own hearts. This questioning of conscience will be of use to you in humiliation, faith, and obedience. (1.) In your humbling work. There are several questions proper to that business, as in the examination of your estate, when you bring your ways and the commandment together, which is the first rise of humiliation: you will find the soul most awakened by asking of questions. Oh!, what have I done?, Jer. viii. 6. Do I walk according to the tenor of this holy law? Can I say, `My heart is clean?, Prov. xx. 9. Then there is a second question: When guilt is found out concerning the rigour of the law, and the sureness of wrath, every violation is death: will God be partial for thy sake?, His jealousy shall smoke against that man that saith, I shall have peace, though I walk in the way of mine own heart, Deut. xxix. 19. Then there are other questions about the dreadfulness of wrath: Ezek. xxii. 14, `Can my heart endure, and my hands be made strong, in the days that God shall deal with me?, Shall I be able to bear up under torments without measure and without end? Can I dwell with those devouring burnings? Then there is a fourth question, after a way of escape: `What shall I do to inherit eternal life?, Acts xvi. 30; or, as it is in the prophet, `Wherewith shall I come before God?, Micah vi. 8. With what recompense shall I appease his angry justice? Thus you see the whole business of humiliation is carried on in these interrogative forms. (2.) For the work of faith, these questions are serviceable, partly to quicken the soul to the consideration of the offer of God; as when the apostle had disputed of free justification, he enforceth all by a question, `What shall we then say to these things?, Rom. viii. 31. Soul, what canst thou object and urge against so rich mercies? Paul, all the while before, had been but drawing the bow,^ now he letteth fly the arrow. `What shall we say?, Partly because it maketh us more sensible of the danger of not believing: Heb. ii. 3, `How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?, If I neglect God's second offer, what will become of me? Thus it is an help to the work of faith. (3.) In the work of obedience these questions 191are serviceable; as when a temptation is like to carry it in the soul, it is good to come in with a smart question: Gen. xxxix. 9, `How can I do this wickedness, and sin against God?, So if the heart drive on heavily in duties of worship, `Offer it now to the governor; would he accept it at my hands?, Mal. i. 8. Would I do thus to an earthly prince in an earthly matter? Thus you see questions are of singular use in every part of the holy life. Be more frequent in them; and in every matter take occasion to discourse with your own souls.
Obs. 3. From that judges of evil thoughts. Evils begin first in the thoughts: Mat. xv. 19, `Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts;, that is in the front of that black roll. Affections pervert the thoughts, and thoughts stain the judgment. Therefore, when God would express the wickedness of the old world, he saith, `The imagination of their thoughts were evil, Gen. vi. 5. The reason of atheism is blasphemy in the thoughts: Ps. x. 4, `All their thoughts are that there is no God., The reason of worldliness is some wretched thought that is hidden in the bosom: Ps. xlix. 11, `Their inward thought is that their houses shall continue for ever., You see, then, there is reason why you should go to God to cleanse your spirits from evil thoughts, why you should be humbled under them, why you should watch against them: Isa. lv. 7, `Let the wicked man forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and return unto the Lord., Mark, not only his way, but his thoughts. Trace every corrupt desire, every inordinate practice, till you come up to some inward and hidden thought. There are implicit thoughts, and thoughts explicit: explicit are those that are impressed upon the conscience, and are more sensible; implicit are those which the scripture calleth `hidden thoughts, and the `sayings of the heart., Though the desires, purposes, actions, are according to them, yet we do not so sensibly discern them; for they are so odious, that they come least in sight. Many such there are; as this was the hidden thought implied in the text, that wealth is to be preferred before grace; and that made them judge so perversely. It is good therefore to wait upon the word, which `discovereth the thoughts and intents of the heart, Heb. iv. 12, that upon every experience you may refer things to their proper head and cause: sure there hath been a vile thought in me, that there is no God; that the world is for ever; that riches are better than grace; that the pleasures of sin are better than the hopes of life, &c. It is good to interpret every action, and to observe the language that is couched in it; your lives do but speak out these thoughts.
Obs. 4. That this is an evil thought, that men are to be valued by their outward excellency. It is against the dispensation of God, who putteth the greatest glory upon those that are of least account and esteem in the world. It is against the nature of grace, whose glory is not sensible, obvious to the senses, but inward and hidden:^ Ps. xlv. 13, `The king's daughter is all glorious within., A Christian's inside is best; all the world's glory is in show, fancy, and appearance: Agrippa and Bernice `came with great pomp, Acts xxv. 23, μετὰ πολλῆς φαντασίας, with much show and fancy. Painted things have a greater show with them than real. Nazianzen saith, the world is Helena without, and Hecuba within: there is nothing answerable to the appearance; but now grace is under a veil, `it doth not appear what we shall be, 1 John iii. 2. Thus Cant. i. 6, the church is said to be `black, but comely;, full of spiritual beauty, though outwardly wretched, and deformed with afflictions; which is there expressed by two similitudes, like `the tents of Kedar, and the curtains of Solomon., The tents of Kedar: the Arabians lived in tents, which were but homely and slender in comparison of city buildings, obscure huts, sullied and blacked with the weather, but rich within, and full of costly utensils; therefore we hear of `the glory of Kedar, Isa. xxi. 16. And Solomon's curtains may possibly signify the same thing. Josephus saith, Solomon had Babylonian curtains, of a baser stuff and work, to hide the curious imagery that was carved on the marble walls. The greatest glory is within the veil: `The hidden man of the heart, is an ornament `of great price, 1 Peter iii. 4. And as it is against the nature of grace, so it is against all right reason: we do not use to judge so in other cases: we do not prize a horse for the gaudry of his saddle and trappings, but for his strength and swiftness. That painter was laughed at who, because he could not draw Helena fair, drew her rich. We do not therefore judge it a good sword because it hath a golden belt. Well, then, if it be against providence, and grace, and reason, go by a wiser rule in valuing things and persons than outward excellency: do not think that faith best which the ruler professeth, John vii. 48, nor those persons best that glitter most with worldly lustre. Christ cometh often in a disguise to us, as well as the Jews—to us in his poor members.
In this verse the apostle urgeth another argument against respect of persons: you will despise those whom God, out of his wise ordination, hath called to the greatest honour. He instanceth in a threefold dignity which the Lord putteth upon the godly poor: they are elected of God, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom.
Hearken, my beloved brethren.—He exciteth their attention, and still giveth them the loving compellation which he had formerly used. In all grave and weighty matters, it is usual in the scripture to preface and premise some craving of attention: `He that hath an ear to hear let him hear, Mat. xiii. 9; so James in the council of Jerusalem: Acts xv. 13, `Men and brethren, hearken unto me., Here the apostle useth this preface, partly to stir them up to consider the dispensation proper to that age. So 1 Cor. i. 26, `Behold your calling, brethren, not many wise, not many mighty, &c.; that is, seriously consider the matter of God's calling in these times. Partly because he is about to urge a warm argument against the perverseness of their respects, and when the matter concerneth our case, it calleth for our best attention.
Hath not God chosen? that is, by the special designment of grace he hath singled out the poor to be heirs of life. You will find it so always, for the most part, but in those times especially. Partly to confute the pride of great persons, as if God should respect them for 193their outward dignity. The first choice that God made in the world was of poor men; and therefore do we so often read that the poor received the gospel; not only the poor in spirit, but the poor in purse. God chose fishermen to preach the gospel, and poor persons to receive it: few were won that were of any rank and quality in the world; and partly that we might not think that wonderful increase and spreading of the gospel to come to pass by the advantage of human power, fleshly aids and props, but by the virtue of divine grace.
The poor of the world; that is, in regard of outward enjoyments: 1 Tim. vi. 17, there he speaketh of `the rich of this world., There is another world that hath its riches, but they that have estate there are usually poor and despicable. The saints are described to be those that have not their hopes in this world, 1 Cor. xv. 19, or poor in this world; that is, in the opinion of the present world they are vile and abject.
Rich in faith.—So they may be said to be two ways: Either in regard of high measures and raised degrees of faith; as Abraham was said to be `strong in faith., Rom. iv. 20, or that woman, Mat. xv. 28, `O woman! great is thy faith., So when the apostle presseth them to a spiritual abundance in gifts and graces, he saith, Col. iii. 16, `Let the word of God dwell in you, πλουσίως, richly., Or rich, in opposition to worldly poverty, as noting the recompense that is made up to them for their outward poverty in their hopes and privileges. And mark, God is said to `choose rich in faith;, that is, `to be rich in faith., It is such am expression as is used Rom. viii. 29, `He hath chosen us like his Son;, that is, `to be like his Son;, which is plainly averred by the apostle, Eph. i. 4, `He hath chosen us in him that we might be holy:, not because we are good, but that we might be good. This place cannot be urged for the foresight of faith; for as he chose us rich in faith, so he chose us heirs of glory: and therefore it doth not note the reason of God's choice, but the end; not that they were so, but that they might be so.
Heirs of the kingdom.—Glory is often set out by a kingdom, and the faithful as princes under years.
To them that love him.—Why this grace is specified, see the reasons alleged in the explication and notes of the 12th verse of the first chapter. Only observe the order used by the apostle; first he placeth election, then faith, then love.
The notes are these:—
Obs. 1. That oftentimes God chooseth the poor of this world. The lion and the eagle are passed by, and the lamb and the dove chosen for sacrifice. The gospel, that was `hidden from the wise and prudent, was revealed to babes, Mat. xi. 25. This God doth, partly to show the glory of his power in preserving them, and truth amongst them,170170`Adverte coeleste consilium: non sapientes aliquos, non divites, non nobiles, sed piscatores et publicanos, quos dirigeret, elegit; ne traduxisse potentia, redemisse divitiis, nobilitatisque auctoritate traxisse aliquos videretur, et veritatis ratio, non disputationis gratia, praevaleret.,—Ambr. in Luc., cap. 6, sec. 3. 194that were not upheld by worldly props. The church is called `the congregation of the poor, Ps. lxxiv. 19; a miserable sort of men, that were destitute of all worldly advantages. Usually he showeth his power by using weak means. Moses, hand was made leprous before it wrought miracles, Exod. iv. Jericho was blown down with rams, horns, and Goliah slain with a sling and a stone. Partly because God would show the riches of his goodness in choosing the poor. All must now be ascribed to mercy. At the first God chose the worst and the poorest, which was an argument that he was not moved with outward respects; the most sinful and the most obscure,171171`Noluit prius eligere senatores, sed piscatores, magna artificis misericordia! Sciebat enim quia si eligeret senatorem, diceret senator, dignitas mea electa est, &c. Et paulo post.—Da mihi, inquit, istum piscatorem, veni tu pauper, sequere me, nihil habes, nihil nosti, sequere me.,—Aug. Ser. xix. de Verb. Dom. `that all flesh might glory in the Lord, 1 Cor. i. 28. A thief was made the delight of paradise, and Lazarus taken into Abraham's bosom. Those that had not the least pretence of glorying in themselves are invited to grace. Partly because God would discover his wisdom by making up their outward defects by this inward glory. Levi, that had no portion among his brethren, had the Lord for his portion. God is wanting to no creature; the rich have somewhat, and the poor have `the favour of his people, Ps. cvi. 4, special mercies. The buyers, and sellers, and money-changers were whipped out of the temple; the rich have least interest there. Partly that the members might be conformed to the head, the saints to Christ, in meanness and suffering: Zech. ix. 9, `Thy king cometh unto thee poor., Partly because poverty is a means to keep them upright; riches are a great snare. The moon is never eclipsed but when it is at the full. Certainly God's people are then in most danger. They say the sun never moveth slower than when it is highest in the zodiac. Usually men are never more flat in duty and dead in service than when mounted high in worldly advantages. A pirate never setteth upon an empty vessel: the devil is most busy in the fulness of our sufficiency. Those that were taken up with the pleasantness of the country, and saw it fit for sheep, would not go into Canaan. The disciples pleaded, `Lord, we have left all things, and followed thee;, as if the keeping of an estate, and the keeping of Christ were hardly compatible. Well, then—(1.) You that are poor, bless God; it is all from mercy that God should look upon you. It is a comfort in your meanness; rejected by the world, chosen by God. He that is happy in his own conscience cannot be miserable by the judgment of others: Isa. lvi. 3, 4, `Let not the eunuch say, I am a dry tree; for I will give him an everlasting name., Be not discouraged, though outwardly mean. The poor man is known to God by name: Luke xvi., he hath a proper name, Lazarus; whereas the rich man is called by an appellative name. Among men it is^ otherwise. Divitum nomina sciuntur, pauperum nesciuntur, saith Cajetan. However we forget the poor, we will be sure to remember the rich man's name and title. (2.) You that are rich, consider this is not the favour of God's people; be not contented with common bounty. You may have an estate, and others may have higher privileges. As Luther,172172`Valde protestatus sum me nolle sic ab eo satiari.,—Luth. profess that you will not be contented 195so; you will not be quiet till you have the tokens of his special mercy.
Obs. 2. There are poor in this world, and poor in the world to come. Dives, that fared deliciously every day, and was clothed in fine linen, yet wanted a drop to cool his tongue. Desideravit guttam, saith Austin, qui non dedit micam; he wanted a drop, that would not give a crumb: Isa. lxv. 13, 14, `Behold my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry; behold my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: they shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed., Ye are left to your choice, to be rich in this world, but poor in the world to come; though here you swim and wallow in a sea of pleasures, yet there you may want a drop to cool your tongue.
Obs. 3. The poor of this world may be spiritually rich. The apostle's riddle is made good, 2 Cor. vi. 10, `As having nothing, yet possessing all things;, nothing in the world, and all in faith.
Obs. 4. Faith maketh us truly rich; it is the open hand of the soul, to receive all the bounteous supplies of God. If we be empty and poor, it is not because God's hand is straitened, but ours is not opened. A man may be poor notwithstanding the abundance of wealth: it putteth a difference between you and others for a while, but in the grave `the poor and the rich meet together, Job iii. 19; that is, are all in the same estate without difference. In the charnel-house all skulls are in the same case, not to be distinguished by the ornaments or abasures of temporal life. It is grace alone that will make you to excel for ever. Nay, riches cannot make you always to differ in this world: `They take to themselves wings, and fly away, Prov. xxiii. 5. Well, then, you that are poor, do not envy others, plenty; you that are rich, do not please yourselves in these enjoyments. Istae divitiae nec verae sunt, nec vestrae—they are neither true riches, neither can you always call them your own.
Obs. 5. The Lord loveth only the godly poor. There are a wicked poor whose hearts are ignorantly stubborn, whose lives are viciously profane. Christ saith, `Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God, Luke vi. 20. In the evangelist Matthew it is explained, 1 Blessed are the poor in spirit, Mat. v. 3. David saith, `The abjects gathered themselves against me, Ps. xxxv. 15. Many times men of that quality are malignant opposites to the children and cause of God, saucy dust, that will be flying in the faces of God's people; and their rage is the more fierce because there is nothing of knowledge, politic restraints, and civil or ingenuous education, to break the force of it.
Obs. 6. All God's people are heirs; they are heirs, they are but heirs. They are heirs; that cometh to them by virtue of their sonship: Rom. viii. 17, `If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, Jesus Christ was the natural son and the natural heir; and we, being adopted sons, are adopted heirs. He is called, Heb. i. 2, `the heir of all things;, and he hath invested us with his own privileges. Do but consider what an heir a child of God is, one that is received into the same privileges with Christ; and therefore the apostle saith, he is a `joint-heir., In a spiritual manner, and as we are capable, we shall possess the same glory that Christ doth. Again, they are 196heirs whose right is indefeasible. Men may appoint heirs, and alter their purpose, especially concerning adopted heirs; but God never changeth. In assurance of it we have earnest, 2 Cor. i. 22, and we have first-fruits, Rom. viii. 23. We have earnest to show how sure, we have first-fruits to show how good, our inheritance is; a taste how good, and a pledge how sure. Well, then, you that have tasted of the grapes of Eshcol, have had any sense of your adoption, you may be confident God will never alter his purposes of love. Again, they are heirs that not only look to inherit the goods of their heavenly Father, but his person. God doth not only make over heaven to you, but himself: `I will be your God;, quantus quantus est, God is yours. So Ps. xvi. 5, `The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance., Again, they are heirs that possess by173173Qu. `in, or `during,?—ED. their father's lifetime. Men give their estates to us when they can possess them no longer. But this is our happiness, that God and we possess it together; and therefore it is said, `glorified with him., Again, they are heirs to an estate that will not be diminished by the multitude of co-heirs. Many a fair stream is drawn dry by being dispersed into several channels; but here, the more the greater the privilege. What a happiness is it to enjoy God among all the saints! They `shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob., We may jointly inherit without envy. The company is a part of the blessing: it is one of the apostle's motives, `Ye are come to an innumerable company of saints and angels, Heb. xii. 22, 23. It was a foolish question, that, `Who shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven?, Mat. xviii.; for when God is all in all, he will fill up every vessel. Such a question suiteth with our present state; but in glory, as there is no sin to provoke such curiosity, so there is no want to occasion it. They are but heirs: alas! now they groan and wait for the adoption, Rom. viii. 23, that is, for the full enjoyment of the privileges of it. So 1 John iii. 2, `We are the sons of God, but it doth not appear what we shall be;, we have a right, but not full possession. Hope cannot conceive what the estate will be when it cometh in hand. There is much goodness laid out, but more laid up, Ps. xxxi. 19. It is observable that all Christian privileges are spoken of in scripture as if they did not receive their accomplishment till the day of judgment. I have spoken already of adoption, that the saints wait for it. For justification, then, we shall know the comfort of it; when Christ, in his solemn and most imperial day, in the midst of the triumph of his justice, shall remember only the services, and pass by the sins, of the faithful. Then shall we know the meaning of that promise, `I am he that forgiveth your iniquities, and will remember your sins no more., Our comfort now is mixed, and we are often harassed with doubts and fears; but when our pardon is solemnly proclaimed before all the world, then shall we indeed know what it is to be absolved. Therefore the scripture speaketh as if an act for our justification were only passed then: Acts iii. 19, `Repent, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord., And possibly that may be the reason of that expression that intimateth forgiveness of sins in the world to come: Mat. xii. 32, `It shall never be forgiven, in this 197world, or in the world to come;, i.e., an act of pardon can neither now be really passed, or then solemnly declared. So for redemption: we shall not understand that privilege till we are redeemed from death and the grave, and have a full and final deliverance from all evils; therefore we are said to `wait for the redemption of our bodies., Rom. viii. 23, and `lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh, Luke xxi. 28. And that possibly may be the reason why the apostle, when he numbereth up the fruits of our union with Christ, he putteth redemption last, 1 Cor. i. 30. Here we have righteousness, wisdom, grace, but in the world to come we have redemption; therefore, the day of the Lord is called `the day of redemption, Eph. iv. 30. So also for union with Christ; it is begun here, but so often interrupted, that it is rather an absence than a union: 2 Cor. v. 6, `Whiles we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord., The apostle speaketh so, because we do not so freely enjoy the comforts of his presence. So Phil. i. 23, `I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ;, a Christian is with Christ here, but rather without him. Then shall we know what it is to be with him, when we shall in body and soul be translated into heaven, and be always in his eye and presence. So for sanctification: there is so much of the old nature remaining, that there is scarce anything of the new; and therefore the day of judgment is called παλιγγενεσία, the regeneration, Mat. xix. 28; that is, the time when all things are made new, when we come to be settled in our everlasting state; and that may be the occasion of the apostle's expression, 1 Thes. iii. 13, `Sanctified at Christ's coming., Thus you see, in all points of Christian privilege, we are, though heirs, yet but heirs. Well, then, you that `have the first-fruits of the Spirit, come and rejoice in your hopes: `Behold what manner of love the Father hath showed you!, 1 John iii. 1. We were strangers, yet we are made sons—nay, heirs; we were of low degree—it may be poor, beggarly in the world—yet have we this ἐξουσίαν, this dignity put upon us, to be chosen to the fairest kingdom that ever was and will be, John i. 12. We were enemies, rebellious as well as despicable, yet still heirs: from `children of wrath, made `heirs of glory., God needed not such an adoption; he had a Son who is called his delight and rejoicing before all worlds, Prov. viii. 31, and yet he would make thee, that wast a stranger to his family, a rebel to his crown, so base in the world, a joint-heir with his only Son. Oh! what love and thankfulness should this beget in us! Every person of the Godhead showeth his love to us; the Father he adopteth us: `Behold what manner of love the Father, &c.; the Son for a while resigneth and layeth aside his honour—nay, dieth, to purchase our right, Gal. iv. 6; and `the Spirit witnesseth that we are the sons of God., Rom. viii. 15. Oh! adore the love of the Trinity with high and raised thoughts. Consider what a comfort here is against all the discouragements and abasures that we meet with in the world; princes in disguise are often slighted, and the heirs of heaven are made the world's reproach. But why should you be dejected? 2 Sam. xiii. 4, `Why art thou so lean from day to day? art not thou the king's son?, Are not you heirs of the kingdom of glory? And, by the way, here is some advice to the world: Do not contemn the meanest that are godly—they are 198heirs; every one worshippeth the rising sun, and observeth the heir. Oh! make you friends of them, they will stead you another day: Luke xvi. 9, `Make you friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations;, that is, with that wealth, which is usually abused to sin, make you friends of the poor godly saints; they with Christ shall judge the world, 1 Cor. vi. 2. Make them friends, that they may give their suffrage to you, and receive you into heavenly joys. A main thing that Christ taketh notice of at the day of judgment, is this: `Thus have ye done to one of my naked brethren, Mat. xxv. 40.
Obs. 7. That the faithful are heirs to a kingdom. Heaven and glory is often set out to us under that notion. You have places every where. Kingdoms are for kings; and every saint is a spiritual king: Rev. i. 6, `He hath made us kings and priests unto God his Father., Suitable to which expression it is said, 1 Peter ii. 9, that we are `a royal priesthood., These two dignities are joined together, because heretofore their kings were priests; and the heads of the families were the priests of it. Cohen signifieth both a prince of Midian and a priest of Midian. But to return. They are kings because of that spiritual power they have over themselves, sin, Satan, and the world; and be cause they are kings, therefore their glory must be a kingdom. Again, Christ is a king, and therefore they are kings, and his kingdom is their kingdom. Being united to Christ, they are possessed of his royalty. Again, there is a very great resemblance between the glory we expect and a kingdom: Luke xii. 32, `Fear not, little flock; it is your Father's pleasure to give you a kingdom., It is called a kingdom in regard of its splendour, festivity, and glory. That is the highest excellency and note of a difference amongst men. And also in regard of attendants; angels are `ministering spirits, Heb. i. 14. They are so already; but there they are as porters standing at the twelve gates of our city, Rev. xxi. 12. Nay, Christ himself will gird himself, and serve those whom he findeth watching at his second coming, Luke xii. 37. And it is a kingdom in regard of power and dominion. `All things are theirs, 1 Cor. iii. 21, 22. They `shall judge the world, 1 Cor. vi. 2, 3; yea, the evil angels. And also in regard of abundance of content and satisfaction. There is `fulness of pleasures for evermore, Ps. xvi. 11. All these things concur to make it a kingdom. It is a state of the highest honour and glory, great pleasure and contentment, noble attendants, vast dominion. To all these you may add the great liberty and freedom which we shall enjoy from sins and troubles. We shall be above the control of Satan, and the opposition of a vile heart. Oh! then, we that expect these things, `what manner of persons ought we to be?, The apostle hath an exhortation suitable to this purpose: 1 Thes. ii. 11, 12, `Walk worthy of God, that hath called you to his kingdom., Live as kings for the present, commanding your spirits, judging your souls, above ordinary pursuits—it is not for eagles to catch flies; above ordinary crosses—cogita te Caesarem esse. Remember thou shalt one day be a king with God in glory. Enter upon thy kingdom by degrees: `The kingdom of God is joy and peace in the Holy Ghost., Rom. xiv. 17. But now for others, who as yet remain, at the best, but in an uncertain estate, it is a motive to press 199them to do what they can to interest themselves in these hopes: Mat. xi. 12, `The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence., It is a kingdom, and therefore men are so violent for it. Oh! consider, it is for a crown, and that will encourage you to all earnestness of pursuit. A lazy wish, a drowsy prayer, is not enough.
Obs. 8. That heaven is a kingdom engaged by promise. It is not only good, to tempt your desires, but sure, to support your hopes. Look upon it not only as a kingdom, but as a promised kingdom, and judge him faithful that hath promised. None can comfort themselves in these hopes but they that have interest in the promise. They can plead with God for their own souls—We have thy word; there is a `promise wherein thou hast caused us to hope, Ps. cxix. 49. Heaven is not only prepared, but promised. You may not only have loose hopes, but a steadfast confidence.
Obs. 9. That the promise of the kingdom is made to those that love God. Love is the effect of faith, and the ground of all duty, and so the best discovery of a spiritual estate. They do not believe that do not love; and they cannot obey that do not love. Look, then, to this grace. Do you love God? When promises have the condition specified in them, we cannot take comfort in the promise till we are sure of the condition. As Christ asked Simon Peter, `Lovest thou me?, so commune with your own souls, Dost thou love God? Nay, urge the soul with it again, Dost thou indeed love God? The effects and products of love are many. Those which love God, love that which is of God. As (1.) His glory. Their great desire and delight is to honour him, that they may be any way serviceable to the glory of God. The sin mentioned, 2 Tim. iii. 2, `Lovers of themselves, is the opposite frame to this. When all that men do is with a self-respect, they have little love to God. (2.) His commandments. I observed before, that usually men love sin and hate the commandment. They are vexed with those holy laws that thwart their corrupt desires. Natural conscience impresseth a sense of duty, and vile affection worketh a dislike of it. But now, 1 John v. 3, `This is the love of God, that his commandments are not grievous., Duty is their delight, and ordinances their solace: Ps. xxvi. 8, `How have I loved the habitation of thine house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth!, They will desire to be often in the company of God, to be there where they may meet with him. (3.) His friends. They love Christians as Christians, though otherwise never so mean. Love of the brethren is made an evidence of great importance, 1 John iii. 14. By these discoveries may you judge yourselves.
Here the apostle endeavoureth to work them to a sense of their own miscarriage. For, having proved respect of persons a sin, he falleth. directly upon their consciences; and you have been guilty of it, you have despised the poor. And then, to show that their practice was not only vain and evil, but mad and senseless, he urgeth a new argument: `Do not rich men oppress you?, He doth, in effect, ask them, whether they would show so much honour to their executioners and oppressors? But you will say, Doth not the apostle herein stir them 200up to revenge? and are we not `to love our enemies, and to do good to them that hate us,? I answer—(1.) It is one thing to love enemies, another to esteem them out of some perverse respect; and there is a difference between fawning and offices of humanity and civility. (2.) Some have deserved so ill of the church, that they cannot challenge the least civil respect from the people of God: 3 John 10, `Bid him not God speed., So 2 Kings iii. 14, `Were it not for Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, I would not look towards thee, nor see thee, (3.) The apostle doth not speak to the persons, but to the case. Will you honour wealth, which is the visible cause of all mischief? You see that men of that rank and order are usually persecutors and blasphemers. He speaketh of rich men in general, not such as used to frequent the church and synagogue; for otherwise you mistake the apostle's argument if you think the words directed to the persons rather than the order. His argument runneth thus: Will you prefer men for wealth in the church, when you see that none are so mischievous, and such public enemies to the church, as those that are wealthy? To prove that wealth is no sufficient ground of Christian respect, he urgeth the usual abuse of it.
But ye have despised the poor.—He showeth how contrary their practice was to God's dispensation: God hath put honour upon them, but ye dishonour them, as the original word signifieth. The prophet expresseth such a like sin thus: Amos v. 11, `Ye have trodden the poor under foot.,
Do not rich men.—Either he meaneth rich Pagans and Jews that had not embraced Christianity, persecutions usually arising from men of that sort and order, as the scribes, pharisees, and high priests: `The chief men of the city were stirred up against Paul and Barnabas, Acts xiii. 50; or else pseudo-Christians, who, being great and powerful, oppressed their brethren, and used all manner of violence towards them. Or, rather, in general, any sort of rich men.
Oppress you.—The word is καταδυναστεύουσι, abuse their power against you, or usurp a power over you which was never given them. In which sense Solomon saith, Prov. xxii. 7, `The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender, Ruleth, that is, arrogateth a power, though not invested with the honour of magistracy.
And draw you before the judgment-seats?—If it be understood of the unconverted Jews, the meaning is, they helped forward the persecution, and implieth the same with that, Mat. x. 17, `They shall deliver you up to councils., Or, if of rich men in the general, to which I rather incline, it noteth the violent practices which they used to the poor, dragging them, as they used to do with their debtors: `He plucked him by the throat, Mat. xviii. 28. And the prophet Isaiah expresseth the same cruelty by `smiting with the fist of wickedness, Isa. lviii. 4. A great liberty the creditor had over the debtor among the Jews, and that our apostle intimateth in the word ἕλκουσι, `they draw you;, and when he addeth `before judgment-seats, he aggravateth this wickedness that was now grown customary among them; which was not only violent usage of the poor, but oppressing them under a form of law: either wearing them out by 201vexatious suits, or defrauding them presently of their right, through the favour which they obtained by their power and greatness, a practice common among all nations, but especially among the Jews, and therefore is it everywhere noted in the scriptures. See Ps. x. 9, 10.
The notes are these:—
Obs. 1. From that despised the poor. That known and apparent guilt must be roundly charged. Nathan said to David, 2 Sam. xii. 7, `Thou art the man., When the practice is notorious, a faint accusation doth no good. The prophet striketh David on the breast; this is thy sin. When a city is on fire, will a man come coldly and say, Yonder is a great fire, I pray God it doth no harm? No; he will cry, Fire, fire; you are undone if you do not quench it. So when the practice is open and clearly sinful, it is not good to come with a contemplative lecture and lame homily, but to fall to the case directly. Ye have despised the poor. Sirs, this is your sin, and if you do not reform it, this will be you ruin. It is good to be a little warm when the sin is common and the danger imminent.
Obs. 2. From that but you. He opposeth their practice to God's dispensation; that despising the poor is a sin, not only against the word and written will of God, but his mind and intent in his works and dispensations. It is a kind of gigantomachy, a resisting of God. (1.) It is against the mind of God in their creation: Prov. xxii. 2, `The rich and the poor meet together, the Lord is the maker of them both;, that is, they meet in this, that they have but one maker. There is another meeting, Job iii. 15; they meet in the grave, they meet in their death, and in their maker. Now God never made a creature for contempt. These considerations should restrain it. They were made as we were, and they die as we do. The poor man is called our `own flesh, Isa. lviii. 7; Adam's child, as we are. (2.) It is against God's providence,—his common providence, who hath constituted this order in the world: Prov. xvii. 5, `Whoso reproacheth the poor despiseth his maker;, that is, contemneth the wise dispensation of God, who would have the world to consist of hills and valleys, and the poor intermingled with the rich; therefore Christ saith, Mat. xxvi. 11, The poor you have always present with you., It is one of the settled constitutions and laws of providence, and it is necessary for the uses and services of the world; this preserveth order. There are many offices and functions which human societies cannot want, and therefore some men's spirits are fitted for handicrafts, and hard manual labours, to which men of a higher spirit and delicate breeding will not condescend. (3.) It is also against God's special providence, by which many times the greatest gifts are bestowed upon them that are poor and despicable in the world; their wit being sharpened by necessity, they may have the clearer use of reason. Naaman's servant saw more than his master, 2 Kings v. 13; and Solomon telleth of `a poor man that delivered the city,, Eccles. ix. 15. Nay, God many times putteth that singular honour of being heirs of salvation upon them. The poor are rich in faith in the context; and then injury must needs redound to him, for they are his friends and children; and friends have all things common, both courtesies and injuries.202
Obs. 3. Rich men are usually persecutors or oppressors. Their wickedness hath the advantage of an occasion. And usually when a disposition and an occasion meet together, then sin is drawn forth and discovered. Many have will, but have no power. The world would be a common stage to act all manner of villanies upon, were it not for such restraints of providence. Therefore Solomon maketh an oppressing poor men to be a kind of wonder and prodigy. Besides, riches exalt the mind, and efferate it. They have had little experience of misery, and so have little pity. God's motives to Israel were these: Do good to strangers, for thou wert a stranger; and do good to the poor, for thy father was a poor Syrian. Such reasonings are frequent in scripture. But now, when men live altogether at ease, their hearts are not meekened with a sense of the accidents and inconveniences of the common life. And therefore, having power in their hands, they use it, as beasts do their strength, in acts of violence. The prophet often complaineth, Amos vi., of `the excellency of Jacob, and `the oppression that was in her palaces., Again, wealth often endeth in pride, and pride breaketh all common and moral restraints; and so men make their will a law, and think as if the rest of the world were made to serve their pleasures. And besides, the world filleth their hearts with a ravenous desire to have more of the world, how unjustly soever it be purchased and gotten. You see the reason why they are oppressors and they are persecutors, because commonly the meanest are most forward in religion. The spirit of the world and the spirit of Christ are at enmity. The gospel putteth men upon the same level, which persons elevated and exalted cannot endure. Besides, they are afraid that the things of Christ will bring some disturbance to their worldly concernments and possessions. The Jewish rulers were afraid of division among the people, and the coming in of the Romans. The Gadarenes were afraid of their hogs. Many such reasons might be given. Well, then, rich men should be more careful to avoid the sins that seem to cleave to their rank and order. It is very hard, but `with God all things are possible., Wealth is called `the mammon of unrighteousness, Luke xvi. 9. because it is usually the instrument and incentive of it. That of Jerome is harsh, but too often true—Omnis dives aut iniquus est, aut iniqui haeres—that every rich man is either an oppressor himself, or the heir of one. Certainly it is but almost impossible to be rich and righteous. There are many evils incident to your state. Moral evils, such as heathens discerned, as pride: `Charge them that they be not high-minded, 1 Tim. vi. 17. Boasting, with some contempt of others: Jer. ix. 23, `Let not the rich man glory in his riches;, so injustice: Prov. xxii. 7, `The rich ruleth over the poor;, that is, by force and violence: the word may be read, `domineereth., Then luxury and profuseness. Men abuse the fatness of their portion, and lay it out upon their lusts. Dives `fared deliciously every day., But there are also spiritual evils, which are worse, because they lie more closely and undiscerned. These are—(1.) Forgetting of God, when he hath remembered them most. Men that live at ease have little or no sense of duty. Agur prayeth, `Give me not riches, lest I be full, and deny thee, Prov. xxx. 9. And (2.) creature-confidence. Hence those frequent cautions: 1 Tim. vi. 17, `Trust not in uncertain riches;, and Ps. lxii. 10, `If riches increase, set not your hearts upon them., Usually the creatures rival God; and when we enjoy them in abundance, it is hard to keep off the heart from trust in them. (3.) Worldliness. We are tainted by the objects with which we usually converse; and the more men have, the more sparing for God's uses and their own. Solomon speaketh of `riches kept by the owners to their hurt, Eccles. v. 13. And there is an expression in the book of Job, chap. xx. 22, `In the fulness of his sufficiency, he shall be in straits., There is no greater argument of God's curse than to have an estate and not to enjoy it. So (4.) security: Luke xii. 19, `Soul, take thine ease, thou hast goods laid up for many years., These are evils that cleave to wealth, like rust to money. I have but named them, because I would not digress into illustrations.
He proceedeth in reckoning up the abuses of riches. Who are the enemies of God and of religion, the scorners of the worthy name of Christians, but the rich?
Do not they blaspheme.—Some interpret it of the carnal rich men that professed religion, as if, by the scandal of their practices, they had brought an odium and ill report upon Christianity itself. So that `they blaspheme, in their sense, is, `they cause to blaspheme., They think it is an Hebraism, kal for hiphil. The whole stream of interpreters run this way. They urge for it those parallel places: Rom. ii. 24, `Through you is the name of God blasphemed among the Gentiles;, and 2 Peter ii. 2, by them is `the way of truth evil spoken of;, that is, by their means. And that in the 1st epistle to Timothy, chap. vi. 1, Let servants be obedient, `that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed;, and Titus ii. 5, The wives should be discreet and chaste, `that the word of God be not blasphemed., Certainly religion is never more dishonoured than by the lives of carnal professors. But this is the great mistake of this context, to apply what is here spoken to rich Christians. The apostle only giveth an observation of the manners of the rich men of that age; they were usually such as were bitter enemies to Christianity; and thereupon inferreth that wealth was not a valuable consideration in the church to prefer men to places of rule and honour, or to further their cause whenever it came into debate.
That worthy name, καλὸν, `honourable;, as before, ver. 3.—καλῶς, `in a good place, is, in the original, honourably.
By which ye are called.—In the original, τὸ ἐπικληθὲν ἐφ᾽ ὑμᾶς, `which is called upon you;, and some interpret that thus, `which you call upon., It is made a description of Christians: 1 Cor. i. 2, `All that call upon the name of Christ;, and 2 Tim. ii. 18, `Let him that nameth the name of Christ., Or else thus: Which is called upon over you; that is, in baptism, Mat. xxviii. 19, and Acts ii. 38. Or rather, as we translate, `by which ye are called;, for that is the proper import of that phrase, `called upon you., It is applied to wives, that are called after the name of the husband: Isa. iv. 1, `Let thy name be called upon us;, or to children, as Gen. xlviii. 16, `Let my name be called on them, and the name of my fathers, &c.; and so it 204implieth the name of Christ, which is put upon his people, who sustain these relations to him of spouse and children.
The notes are these:–
Obs. 1. That wicked rich men, above all others, are most prone to blasphemy. They `set their hearts as the heart of God, Ezek. xxviii. 5, 6. Riches beget pride, and pride endeth in atheism. Besides, they, enjoying a most liberal use of the creature, are apt to talk unseemly. When their hearts are warmed and inflamed with wine and mirth, they cannot contain, but must needs disgorge their malice upon the ways and servants of Christ. The merry and full-fed Babylonians must have a Hebrew song, Ps. cxxxvii. And it is no feast with many unless John the Baptist's head be brought in a charger. Religion, or religious persons, must be served in to feed their mirth and sportiveness.
Obs. 2. They that love Christ will hate blasphemers. When he would work them into a disesteem of these ungodly wretches, he saith, `Do they not blaspheme that worthy name?, Moses burned with a holy zeal when he heard that one had blasphemed God, Lev. xxiv. 13, 14. And David saith, Ps. cxxxix. 20-22, `They speak against thee wickedly; thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them that hate thee? I hate them with a perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies, Love is tender of the least wrong done to the thing beloved. More especially will it sparkle and burn with a fiery zeal when such high contempt is cast upon it as blasphemy putteth upon Christ. Those Gallios of our time, that can so tamely, and without any indignation, hear the worthy name of Christ profaned with execrable blasphemies, show how little love they have to him. David counted them his enemies that spoke wickedly against his God; but such are their darlings.
Obs. 3. That Christ's name is a worthy name. Christianity will never be a disgrace to you; you may be a disgrace to Christianity. `I am not ashamed, saith the apostle Paul, `of the gospel of Christ., Rom. i. 16. Many are ashamed to own their profession in carnal company, as if there could be any disgrace in being Christ's servant. Oh! it is an honour to you. And as Christianity is an honour to you, so should you be an honour to it, that you may not stain a worthy name: `Adorn the gospel, Titus ii. 10. The herd of wicked men they are ignota capita, persons unknown and unobserved; they may sin, and sin again, yet the world taketh no notice of it. But how doth it furnish the triumphs of the uncircumcised to see men of a worthy name overtaken in an offence? The Hams of the world will laugh to see a Noah drunk. Spots and stains in white are soon discerned.
Obs. 4. The people of Christ are named and called after Christ's name; Christians, from Christ. The apostle saith, Eph. iii. 15, `From him the whole family, both in heaven and earth, is named., The name was first given them at Antioch, Acts xi. 26. They were called `disciples, before, but, to distinguish themselves from false brethren, they named themselves `Christians., They were called `Nazarites, and `Galileans, by their enemies; and about this time there was a sect of that name, half Jews and half Christians. Now the very name presseth us to care and holiness. Remember what Christ did: you are called after 205 his name: 2 Tim. ii. 19, `Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity: πᾶς ὁ ὀνομάζων, he that counteth it his honour to use the name of Christ in invocation. Alexander the Great said to one of his captains, that was also called Alexander, Recordare nominis Alexandri—see you do nothing unworthy the name of Alexander. So, see you do nothing unworthy the name of Christ. And, as another said, speaking of something unbeseeming, I could do it, if I were not Themistocles; so, I could do it, if I were not a Christian. Or, as Nehemiah, `Should such a man as I flee?, Shall I, that am named by the name of Christ, do this? Again, this name is an argument which you may use to God in prayer for grace and mercy; his name is upon you, that endeareth you to his bowels. God's promises are made to such, `If the people that are called by my name, &c., 2 Chron. vii. 14. And so there is a notable promise, Deut. xxviii. 10, `And all the people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of God, and they shall be afraid of thee., So you shall see the church pleading this, Jer. xiv. 9, `Yet thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not., So may you go to God: Lord, it is thus with us, but `we are called by thy name.,
Now he comes to discover the ground upon which they did thus preposterously dispense their respects. It was not charity, as they did pretend, but having men's persons in admiration, because of advantage. For this verse is a prolepsis, or a prevention of an excuse foreseen, which might be framed thus: That they were not to be blamed for being too humble, and giving respect there, where it was least due; and that they did it out of relation to the common good, and a necessary observance of those ranks and degrees which God hath constituted among men. The apostle supposeth this objection, and answereth it partly by concession: if you do it in obedience to the second table (the tenor of which the apostle expresseth by that general rule `Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,), then, such respect, rightly regulated, and `according to the scriptures, is but a duty; partly by way of conviction: your inordinate respect of the rich, with contempt of the poor, is such a flattery and partiality which the law doth openly condemn. The poor, and those whom we may help and relieve, being in the law, or scripture-notion, as much, yea, rather more, the neighbour than the rich.
If ye fulfil, τελεῖτε.—If ye do squarely and roundly come up to the obedience of the law, that part of it which is the rule of outward respects. The word properly signifies, `if ye perfectly accomplish., Sincerity is a kind of perfection. The Papists, among other places, bring this for one to show that a just man may fulfil the law of God. In this place it only implies a sincere respect to the whole duty of the law.
The royal law.—So he calleth it, either because God is the King of kings, and Jesus Christ the King of saints, Rev. xv. 3; and so the law, either in God's hands or Christ's hands, is a royal law, the least deflection from which is rebellion. You would not easily break kings, 206laws. God's laws are royal laws because of the dignity of the author of them. The Syriac interpreter favoureth this sense, for he translateth it `the law of God;, or they may be called so from their own worth: that which is excellent, we call it royal; or else because of its great power upon the conscience. Men's laws are but properly ministerial and explicatory; God's is royal and absolute. Or `the royal law, to show the plainness and perspicuity of it, like `a royal way;, or, as we express it, `the king's highway., So it is said, Num. xxi. 22, `We will only go by the king's way., Suitable to which expression, `the royal law `may imply the highway and road of duty. Or, lastly, a royal law, to note the ingenuity of its precepts. The command of God, that is to guide you in dispensing your respects, doth not oblige you to this servility; the duty of it is more royal and ingenuous.
According to the scriptures; that is, as the tenor of it is often set down in the word. The form here specified is often repeated, Lev. xix. 18. The Septuagint, in the translation of that place, have the same words with our apostle. It is often repeated by our Lord, see Mat. xxii. 39; and often by the apostles, see Rom. xiii. 9; Gal. v. 14. The full import of this rule we shall anon open.
Ye do well.—The same form is used, Phil. iv. 14, and implieth that then they were not blameworthy, and might justly be absolved and acquitted from the guilt charged in the context. And by the way we may hence gather, that the apostle doth not simply forbid a respect to the rich, but a respect sordid and invested with the circumstances of the context.
Out of this verse observe:—
Obs. 1. That the vilest wickedness will have a fair covert and pretence. Sin loves to walk under a disguise; the native face of it is ugly and odious. Therefore Satan in policy, and our hearts deceived by ignorance and self-love, seek to mask and hide it, that we may spare ourselves, which should press us to the greater heed. Never seek a cover of duty for a vile practice, and to excuse checks of conscience by some pretence from the law. It is Satan's cunning some times to dress up sins in the form and appearance of duty, and at other times to represent duty in the garb of sin: as Christ's healing on the Sabbath day. Be the more suspicious, especially in a matter wherein your private advantage is concerned, lest base compliance be reputed a necessary submission, and unjust gain be counted godliness. Examine the nature of the practice by the rule, Is the royal law appliable to such servility? And examine your own hearts. Is my aim right as well as my action? It is not enough to do what the law requires, but it must be done in that manner which the law requireth. Matter of duty may be turned into sin, where the respect and aim is carnal.
Obs. 2. That coming to the law is the best way to discover self-deceits. If it be according to the law (saith the apostle), it is well. Paul died by the coming of the commandment, Rom. vii. 9; that is, in conviction upon his heart; saw himself in a dead and lost estate. So Rom. iii. 20, `By the law is the knowledge of sin;, and therefore we should often talk with the commandment, consult with it in all practices.207
Obs. 3. That the Lord's law is a royal law. (1.) It hath a kingly author. The solemn motive to obedience is, `I am the Lord., Marcion blasphemed in saying the law came from an evil God. Many now speak so contemptuously of it as if they had a Marcionite's spirit. The same Lord Jesus that gave the gospel gave also the law. Therefore it is so often said, Acts vii., that the law was `given by an angel;, that is, the angel of the covenant. So Heb. xii. 25 to end; the apostle proves that it was the voice of the Lord Jesus that shook Mount Sinai. It is a known rule in divinity that the Father never appeared in any shape, and therefore that all those apparitions in the Old Testament were of the second person. (2.) It requires noble work, fit for kings; service most proportioned to the dignity of a man's spirit. Service is an honour, and duty a privilege: Hosea viii. 12, `The great things, (it is in the vulgar honorabilia legis, the honourable things) `of my law., It is said of Israel that no nation was so high in honour above all nations, because they had God's statutes, which was `their wisdom, Deut. vii. The brightest part of God's glory is his holiness; and therefore it is said, `Glorious in holiness;, and it is our dignity to be holy. That must needs be a royal law that maketh all those kings that fulfil it. (3.) There is royal wages; no less than all of you to be made kings and princes unto God: `Enter into the kingdom prepared for you;, and, `henceforth is laid up for me a crown, 2 Tim. iv. 8. This is the entertainment that ye shall have from God hereafter, to be all crowned kings and princes. Oh! then, give the law this honour in your thoughts. Naturally men adore strictness. How great is the excellency of God's statutes! Check yourselves, that you can no more come under the power of them. In the ways of sin you have a bad master, worse work, and the worst wages. There is a bad master: `His lusts will ye do, John viii. 44; they are Satan's lusts, he is the author of them. There is bad work; sin is the greatest bondage and thraldom, 2 Peter ii. 18, the heart naturally riseth against it. Then there is bad wages: Rom. vi., `The wages of sin is death., Well, then, press these disproportions, and say, `What evil have I found in God?, Jer. ii. 5. Hath God or sin been a land of darkness to me? I have served him these eighty years (said Polycarp), καὶ οθ̓κ ἠδίκησε μὲ, and he never did me harm. Reason with yourselves: Will you sin against a royal Lord, such royal work, such a royal reward?
Obs. 4. That the rule that God hath left us is laid down in the scriptures; there is the signification of his will, and from thence must it be sought: they are `able to make the man of God perfect.,
Obs. 5. The scriptures require we should love our neighbour as ourselves. Paul saith, Gal. v. 14, `All the law is fulfilled in one word: love thy neighbour as thyself., All the law, that is, all that part of the law which concerns our duty towards others; or all the law, by worshipping God, in discharging our duty towards man, and so turning both tables into one. And Christ saith, Mat. vii. 12, `This is the law, and the prophets,—that is, the sum of the whole word, and that standard of equity which is erected therein—that `whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them:, for which saying Severus reverenced Christ and Christianity. But must a man 208 \love his neighbour with the same proportion of care and respect that he doth himself? The special love of a man to his wife is expressed by this, Eph. v. 28, `So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies;, and the Hebrew expression is the same in all other places: `Let him love his neighbour as his own body., And must he now love every one with those singular respects and proportions of affection that he beareth to himself and his wife?
I answer—The strictness of the precept should not amaze us. Christ raiseth it one peg higher: John xiii. 34, `I have given you a commandment, that as I have loved you, so ye should love one another., There is another manner of pattern: Christ's love was intense, and the measure of it beyond the conceit of our thoughts: Yet as I love, so must ye love one another.
But for the opening of this matter, I shall first show you, Who is your neighbour; secondly. What kind of love is required to him.
First, Who is your neighbour?—a question necessary to be propounded. It was propounded to Christ himself: Luke x. 29, `Who is my neighbour?, The solution may be gathered out of Christ's answer. First, In the general, every man to whom I may be helpful; and the term neighbour is used because our charity is most exercised and drawn out to those that are near us, the objects that are about us. But it must not be confined there: for Christ proves that a stranger may be a neighbour, Luke x. 36. All people that have the face of a man are called `our flesh, Isa. lviii. 7, and `one blood, Acts xvii. 26—`one blood, cousins at a remoter distance. Any man is a neighbour in regard of the nearness of our first original, and as he is capable of the same glory and blessedness which we expect; and so a stranger, an enemy, may be a neighbour by the gospel rules, and an object of such love as we bear unto ourselves, we being bound to desire his good, by virtue of his manhood, as we would our own. Secondly, There are more especial neighbours, who dwell about us, and are more frequent with us, whose necessities must provoke us to more acts and expressions of love; and as they are more or less near unto us, so are we to proportion our love to them: those that dwell with us before strangers. Thus the Hebrews preferred the men of their own nation before the Grecians `in the daily ministration, Acts vi. And then our kindred, and those of our family, before a common neighbour; as the apostle saith, 1 Tim. v. 8, `If any man provideth not for his own, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel., He speaks upon the case of showing pity at home. And then our children are in the next rank before them; and the wife of the bosom before them all: and accordingly must all acts of bounty and provision be dispensed. Thirdly, There are spiritual neighbours, and they are those who are begotten by the same Spirit to the same hopes, who are to have a special preferment in our affection; I mean, in that kind of affection which is proper to Christianity: and for all outward acts of bounty and love, they are to have the pre-eminence, our children and families only excepted, which, by the law of nature, in this case are to be looked upon as a part of ourselves: Gal. vi. 10, `As we have opportunity, let us do good to all men; especially to the house hold of faith., In short, in the love of bounty, the poor and necessitous 209man is the special neighbour; in the love of delight, the godly man is to have the preferment: `My delights are to the excellent of the earth, Ps. xvi. 2. Which also is Bernard's determination, Meliori major affectus, indigentiori major effectus, tribuendus est—the best must have most of our affection, the poorest most of our bounty: Luke xiv. 12-14, `When thou makest a feast, call not thy rich neighbours, &c. He doth not condemn honest courtesies, but reproveth the Pharisees, error, who thought by these things to satisfy the commandment; just as these did here in the text, who would seem to make that an act of charity which was but an act of covetousness, and called that love which was base servility and compliance: and we still see that many esteem that Christian communion which is indeed but a carnal visit, and pretend courtesy to excuse charity.
Secondly, What kind of love is required in this expression, we are to love them as ourselves? I answer—The expression showeth the manner of our love, not the measure of it; a parity and likeness for kind, not for proportion. It cannot be understood in the same degree, partly because in some cases a man is bound to love his neighbour more than himself; as 1 John iii. 16, `We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren, my single life to save^the whole community. And so we ought to help on one another's spiritual good with the loss of our temporal: we may expose ourselves to uncertain danger to hinder another's certain danger. The apostle Paul, in a glorious excess of charity, could prefer the common good of the salvation of all the Jews before the particular salvation of his own soul: Rom. ix. 3, `I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren and kinsmen according to the flesh;, and Moses, for the general safety of Israel, could wish himself to be `blotted out of God's book, Exod. xxxii. Cases may happen wherein a public good may be more considerable, and better in itself, than my particular happiness; and then in self-denial I am bound to love others better than myself. And partly because, on the other hand, in ordinary cases it is impossible I should be as strongly moved, or as industriously active, in another man's case as I would in my own; therefore, as I said, the rule intendeth the kind of affection, and the way of it; that is, with what mind and in what course I should pursue the good of others—with the same heart and in the same way I would mine own; and chiefly aimeth at the prevention of a double evil usual among men—self-love and injury: self-love, when men out of the privacy and narrowness of their spirits, only `mind their own things;, and injury, when men care not how they deal with others. First, It preventeth self-love by pressing us—(1.) To mind the good of others: 1 Cor. x. 24, `Let no man seek his own, but each man another's wealth, their comfort and contentment, by all offices of humanity suitable and convenient to their necessities; especially to promote their spiritual good, labouring to procure it, praying for them, though they be enemies, as David fasted for his enemies, Ps. xxxv. But alas! this love is quite decayed in these last ages of the world. ^They are mightily infamed in the scriptures for self-seeking, 2 Tim. iii. 2. One said,174174Ludolphus de Vita Christi. The world was once destroyed, propter ardorem cupidinis, with 210water for the heat of lust; and it will be again destroyed, propter teporem charitatis, with fire for the coldness of love. These duties are quite out of date and use. (2.) To mind their good really, as truly, though not as much. The apostle saith, `Let love be without dissimulation;, and St John speaketh often of `loving in truth., Though we are not every way as earnest, yet we must be as real in promoting their good as our own, without any self-end and reflections upon our own advantage and profit. Secondly, It preventeth injury, by directing us to deal with others as we would have them to deal with ourselves; wishing them no more hurt than we would wish our own souls: I mean, when we are in our right reason, and self-love is regular; hiding their defects and infirmities as you would your own; pardoning their offences as you desire God should do yours; and in all contracts and acts of converse putting your souls in their stead. Would I be thus dealt with? If I had my own choice, would not I be otherwise used? In all our commerce it is good to make frequent appeals to our consciences: Would I have this measure measured unto my own soul?
And thus I have opened the great rule of all commerce, `Love thy neighbour as thyself;, whose intent is, as I said, partly to prevent self-love, by showing we must do others good as well as ourselves; and partly to prevent injury, that we may do others no more evil than we do ourselves.
Here is the second part of the apostle's answer. In the former part there was the concession, `Ye do well, if you give this respect in obedience to the law: but here is the correction; you give it contrary to the direction of the law, and so it is not a duty, but a sin.
But if ye have respect to persons; that is, if, in distributing the honours and censures of the church, you judge altogether according to men's outward quality and condition, as before was cleared—
Ye commit sin; that is, it is not a duty, as you pretend, but a sin; and, whatever you think, the law, which is the rule of Christ's process, will find you guilty.
And are convinced of the law.—This may be understood, either generally, that, whatever their pretences were, yet the law would find them out, and distinguish their unjust partiality from a necessary respect; or else, more especially, it may be understood of the law which they urged,; Love thy neighbour as thyself;, which required an equal respect to the neighbour, however distinguished, whether rich or poor; or else the apostle intendeth the law against respect of persons: Lev. xix. 15, `Thou shalt do no unrighteousness in judgment; thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor the person of the mighty; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour., To which place I suppose the apostle alludeth, because it is so fair for his purpose, and because in that context the general of love to the neighbour is repeated, see ver. 18; and in that the Septuagint have the very same words which the apostle useth in ver. 8.
As transgressors.—Ὠς, the word in the original for as, implieth reality,175175`Veritatem, non similitudinem.,—Laurent. in locum. 211not only similitude and likeness; that is, that you are indeed transgressors. I do the rather note it for the opening of a like expression in a matter important and weighty; it is in John i. 14, `We saw his glory, as the glory of the only-begotten Son of God;, that is, not like the glory of the Son of God, but that he was indeed so.
Little is to be observed out of this verse, because the matter of it is handled in the context. Only note:—
Obs. 1. That the word and rule discovereth wickedness when our blind consciences do not. Conscience hath but a weak light, and that light is partial: `Favour thyself, is the language of corrupt nature; and, therefore, that we may not be injurious to our own quiet, deluded conscience is apt to mistake every pretence for duty, and the outward work of every duty for the power and life of it; therefore the apostle saith of the heathens, that had but a little light, that they only minded ἔργον νόμου, `the work of the law., Rom. ii. 14; that is, the external matter of the commandment. Nay, those that have more light are every way as unfaithful in the use of it. Paul rested contented with his pharisaism and outward righteousness, till, by a serious application of the rule, he found that to be a merit of death which he had formerly reckoned upon as a plea for life. That I suppose he intendeth when he sayeth, `I was alive without the law, but the commandment coming, I died., Rom. vii. 9. Well, then, we see we have need to attend upon the word, and consult with the law, not the crooked rule of our own consciences.
Obs. 2. It is but a crafty pretence when one part of the law is pleaded to excuse obedience to another; for when we pick and choose, we do not fulfil God's will, but our own.176176`Qui facit solummodo ea quae vult facere, non dominicam voluntatem implet, sed suam.,—Salvian. These pretended submissive respect to the rich, as due by the law, but forgot those other precepts that established a duty to the poor. Conscience must be satisfied with something; therefore men usually please themselves in so much of obedience as is least contrary to their interests and inclinations, and have not an entire uniform respect to the whole law. It is as if a servant should think himself dutiful when he goeth to a feast or a fair when his master biddeth him; when, in the meantime, he declineth errands of less trouble, but of more service: whereas in such matters he doth not obey his master's will, but his own inclination. So in commands easy and compliant with our own humours and designs, we do not so much serve God as our own interests; and there is more of design than of duty and religion in such actions; and, therefore, they lose their reward with God. As to instance in a matter suitable to the context, God hath required that persons should be hospitable and harborous. Now men of a social nature will soon hear in that ear, and think themselves liberal and bountiful because they spend much in festivity and entertainment, or in feasting with their rich neighbours; whereas little or nothing is done out of a well-tempered charity, and in refreshing the poor members of Christ. Now this is no more accepted of God than the offering of a dog's head in sacrifice; because all this is but a lust fed and served under a pretence of religion—joviality under the disguise of Christian charity and bounty; and, 212therefore the apostle maketh entertainments to he hut `sowing to the flesh, Gal. vi. 8; for I suppose the drift of that context is to distinguish between what is spent in charity and luxury: and in the process of the last day (described Mat. xxv.), Christ doth not ask what thou hast done to the rich, but to his poor members—to the hungry, the naked, &c. Well, then, beware of such a partial, disproportionate obedience. Hypocrites use to divide between the tables—between duty to God and duty to man; and in the respects due to man they are swayed more by their own humours and interests than the true motives of obedience; and, therefore, though they usually exceed in their duty and submission to the rich, yet they neglect if not contemn the poor, either in their suffrages and elections to ecclesiastical honours and offices, or in acts of judicature, or in duties of private charity, in visits and entertainments; which respect of persons our apostle justly disproveth, taxing it for a transgression, and not a duty.
The connection between this verse and the former is this: They had pleaded that their respect of the rich was but a necessary civility, and a duty of the law; or, at least, that it was but a small offence, such as might be excused by their innocent intention, and obedience in other things, which was an opinion rife in those days; and that some177177See Camero, the last edition of his works in folio, p. 170. make to the occasion of this sentence, that the apostle might disprove that conceit which was then so common, that obedience in some things did make amends for their neglect and disobedience in other things. That the conceit was common appeareth by several passages of Christ and the apostles. Our Saviour chargeth it often upon the Pharisees. Ben Maimon, in his treatise of repentance, hath such a passage as this is: `Every one, saith he, `hath his merits and his sins., He whose merits are equal to178178Qu. `Greater than,?—ED. his sins, he is tzadoc, the righteous man; he whose sins are greater than his merits, he is rashang, the wicked man; but where the sins and the merits are equal, he is the middle man, partly happy, and partly miserable., This was the sum of the Jewish doctrine in the more corrupt times; and some think the apostle might meet with this error in this verse, by showing that the least breach rendered a man obnoxious to the danger of the violation of the whole law. Rather, I suppose, it lieth thus: They satisfied themselves with half duty, using over-much observance to the rich, and to the poor nothing at all. He had before said, εἰ νόμον τελεῖτε βασίλικον, `If ye fulfil, or perfect, the royal law., Now, they minded that part of it that was advantageous to them; it was not full or perfect obedience to cut off so much of duty as was less profitable: therefore the law convinced them `as transgressors., The royal law saith, `Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;, and man is not to make such exceptions as please him best, to defalcate and cut off such a considerable part of duty at his own pleasure. God saith, `thy neighbour;, and I must not say, `my rich neighbour only., There must be an even and adequate care to comply with the whole will of God, or else it is not obedience, but you are in the danger of transgressors. This hint maketh much for the opening of the verse, 213a place in itself difficult. Augustine179179Aug. Retract., lib. ii. cap. 45; et Epist. 102 ad Evodium; et Epist. 29 ad Hieron. consulted with Jerome about the sense of it in a long epistle; and, indeed, at the first view, the sentence seemeth harsh and rough. I shall first open the phrases, remove false inferences from it, and then establish the true notes and observations, that this scripture may have its due and proper force upon the conscience.
Whosoever shall keep the whole law.—He speaketh upon supposition. Suppose a man should be exact in all other points of the law, which yet is impossible, we may suppose things that never shall be. Or else he speaketh according to their pretences and presumptions. They supposed they were not to be taxed or convinced as transgressors in any other matter: grant it, saith the apostle; or else he speaketh of the whole of this commandment, `Thou shalt love thy neighbour, &c. Suppose your duty to rich men, and where it may make for your advantage, be whole and entire.
Yet if he offend in one point.—Willingly, constantly, and with allowance from conscience; with thought of merit and excuse, because of his obedience in other matters.
He is guilty of all.—Liable to the same punishment, standeth upon the same terms of hope and acceptance with God, as if he had done nothing. A man may violate totam legem though not totum legis; sin against the dignity and authority of the whole law, though he doth not actually break every part of it. Ay! but you will say, as the apostles, Mat. xix., `Who then can be saved?, Here is a terrible sentence that will much discourage God's little ones, who are conscious to themselves of their daily failings. I answer—That which the apostle aimeth at is the discovery of hypocrites, not the discouragement of saints. As Zuinglius, when he had flashed the thunder and lightning of God in the face of sinners, he was wont to come in with this proviso, Bone Christiane, haec nihil ad te—poor Christian, this is not spoken to thee. So this is not spoken to discourage God's children, however it may be of use to them to make them more humble, cautious, and watchful, as lions will tremble when dogs are beaten. To clear the place, before I come to lay down the notes, I shall, according to promise, remove the false inferences. (1.) You cannot conclude hence that all sins are equal. They are all damning, not all alike damning. Some guilt may be more heinous, but all is deadly. And that is it which James asserteth: he saith, `he is guilty of all, but not equally guilty. The apostle would infer an equality of care and respect to the whole law, but not an equality of sin. All that can be collected is this, that one allowed, wilful, deliberate breach and violation forfeiteth our righteousness, and maketh us become obnoxious to the curse of the whole law, and the sinner shall no less die than if he had broken all by an actual transgression. So that, although all allowed sins deserve death, yet there is a difference still remaining in the several degrees of guilt and the curse. (2.) You cannot hence conclude that total rebellion is simply, and in itself, better than formal profession. Christ loved the man for the good things that were in him from his youth, and telleth him, `Thou art not far from the kingdom of God., We read of greater sins, and more intolerable judgment. Good moral 214heathens may have a cooler hell. (3.) You cannot apply it to them whose care of obedience is universal, though the success be not answerable: Ps. cxix. 6, `Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect to all thy commandments;, not when I have observed, but when I have respect. Gracious hearts look to all, when they cannot accomplish all; and upon every known defect and failing they humble themselves, and seek mercy. It doth not exclude them, for then it would exclude all. But when men allow and please themselves in a partial obedience, without fore-care, present-striving, and after-grief, they come under the terror of this sentence. God will dispense with none that can dispense with themselves in any known failing. (4.) You must not urge this sentence to the exclusion of the comforts of the gospel, and the hopes that we have by the grace of God in Christ: for this sentence in itself is legal, the very rigour of the law, and such sayings brook the exceptions of repentance and free grace: for the rigour of the law can only take place on those that are under the bond of it, and are not freed by Christ. That this is the voice of the law is plain, because it consenteth with that sum and tenor of it which is laid down Deut. xxvii. 26, `Cursed is every one that continueth not in all the words of this law to do them., If they failed but in a circumstance, in a ceremony, they were under the power of the curse. So the apostle urgeth it. Gal. iii. 10, `As many as are under the works of the law, are under the curse; for cursed is he that continueth not in all things to do them., Now Christ hath redeemed all those that have interest in him from this curse, by being (as the apostle saith there, ver. 13) `made a curse for us;, so that there is a remedy in Christ, of which we are possessed by faith and repentance. And let it not seem strange to any that I say the sentence is legal, for many of that nature are here and there intermixed and scattered throughout the gospel, because they are of excellent use and service for gospel ends and purposes: as to convince hypocrites, whose obedience is always partial; to drive men to the grace revealed in the gospel; and for the guidance and rule of Christians, that they may know the whole will of God. For though we are freed from the rigour of the law, yet we ought to look to the whole rule, and, as much as in us lieth, to strive, μὴ πταίειν ἐν ἑνὶ, not to offend in one point and tittle, not to rest in their imperfections, but to strive against them. Christ hath again revived this strictness: Mat. v. 19, `Whosoever shall break one of these commandments, and teach men to do so, shall be least in the kingdom of God;, that is, shall not be owned for a gospel minister. Christ is chary of his least saints and least commandments. Though there be a pardon, of course, for infirmities and failings, yet Christ hath not abated any thing of the strictness of the law. The Pharisees thought that some commandments were little and arbitrary; and therefore the lawyer came to Christ: Mat. xxii. 36, `Master, which is the great commandment in the law?, It is true, some duties are more excellent; but the question was propounded according the mind of the Pharisees, who accounted outward devotionary acts most singular, and their own traditions weighty things; now he cometh to see if Christ liked the distribution. (5.) You must not urge this sentence to pervert the order of the commandments; as if a man, in committing theft, committed 215adultery; and in committing adultery, he committed murder. It is notable the apostle doth not say, `He transgresseth all, but `he is guilty of all., The precepts are not to be taken disjunctim, but conjunctim and completivè; not severally, but altogether, as they make one entire law and rule of righteousness, the contempt reflecting upon the whole law when it is wilfully violated in one part; as he that wrongeth one member, wrongeth the whole man or body of which it is a part. The text being vindicated, I shall sum up the whole verse into one observation, which is:—
Obs. That voluntary and allowed neglects of any part of the law make us guilty of the violation of the whole law. Many reasons might be urged to mollify the seeming asperity and rigour of the point; as partly because the contempt of the same authority is manifested in the breach of one as well as of all: all the commands are equal in regard of God; they are all ratified by the same authority, which man contemneth when he maketh his own will the measure of obedience; and partly because the same curse is deserved, which, when neglects are voluntary, taketh place; partly because the law is but one copulation, like a chain which is dissolved by the loosening of one link; partly because all sin proceedeth from the same corruption: the least sin is contrary to love, as well as the least drop of water to fire;180180`Contra eam charitatem facit, in qua pendent omnia.,—Aug. Epist. 29. partly because amongst men it is counted equal: one condition not observed forfeiteth the whole lease; and partly because one sincere duty hath much promised to it, and therefore one sin hath its proportionable guilt. True love is called a `fulfilling of the whole law., Rom. xiii. 8. And, in God's account, he that sincerely repenteth of one sin, repenteth of all. And so, on the contrary, one allowed sin is virtually a violation of the whole law; and, therefore, when some went to gather manna on the Sabbath day, God said, Exod. xvi. 28, `How long will ye refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?, implying that in the breach of that one they had broken all.
There are many uses of this note: because they are of profit and concernment to you, in the right application of this place, I shall give them you in their order.
1. It showeth how tender we should be of every command: wilful violation amounteth to a total neglect; therefore, as wisdom adviseth, Prov. vii. 2, `Keep my law as the apple of thine eye., The least dust offendeth the eye; and so the law is a tender thing, and soon wronged. Lest you forfeit all your righteousness at once, it is good to be careful.
2. That partial obedience is an argument of insincerity. When we neglect duties that either thwart carnal desires or prejudice carnal concernments, we do not please God, but ourselves. We are to walk `in all God's statutes, Luke i. 6. David fulfilled πάντα τὰ θελήματα, `all the wills of God, Acts xiii. 22.
3. That it is a vain deceit to excuse defects of one duty by care of another. Sometimes men ante-date, sometimes they post-date, an indulgence. They ante-date it when they sin upon a presumption they shall make amends by repentance, or that their future good deeds shall be a sufficient expiation or satisfaction. They post-date 216it when, from duties already done, they take liberty or an occasion to sin the more freely: Ezek. xxxiii. 13, `If he trust to his righteousness, and commit iniquity, that is, if, upon that occasion of righteousness so done, called, or thought to be so in his apprehension, he shall adventure upon sin, the doom is, `he shall die the death., We see many men's hearts grow loose and vain after duties, and they are the more presumptuous and careless out of a vain conceit that supererogating in some things will excuse obedience in others.
4. That upon any particular failing we ought to renew our peace with God. I have done that now which will make me guilty of the whole law; therefore, soul, run to thy advocate: 1 John ii. 1, `If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous., Oh! go to Christ that he may sue out your pardon; your hearts are not right with God if you do not use this course: after daily transgressions sue out a daily pardon. The children of God are like fountains; when mud is stirred up they do not leave till they can get themselves clear again. Particular sins must have particular applications of grace, for in themselves, in their own merit, they leave you under a curse. It is good to deprecate it, as David doth, Ps. vi. 1, `O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, &c.
5. That we must not only regard the work of duty, but all the circumstances of it; and so proportionably, not only the acts of sin, but the vicious motions and inclinations of it. One point is dangerous. The Pharisees were for external duties, and the avoiding of gross sins, but securely allowed themselves in sins more hidden, which yet are of a dangerous consequence. Malice is murder; and thereupon John saith, 1 John iii. 15, `No murderer hath, eternal life., And lust is adultery, Mat. v. 28; a look, a glance, a thought, a desire, is in itself damnable, and brooketh only the exception of the divine grace.
6. That former profession will do no good in case there be a total revolt afterward. A little poison in a cup, and one leak in a ship, may ruin all. A man may ride right for a long time, but one turn in the end of the journey may bring him quite out of the way. Gideon had seventy sons, and but one bastard, and yet that bastard destroyed all the rest, Judges viii. It is said, Eccles. ix. 18, `One sinner destroyeth much good., Once a sinner, all is lost; the ancients expound it that way. So Ezek. xxxiii. 13, `All his righteousness shall be forgotten;, that is, all will be to no purpose. As the sins of one that repenteth are carried into a land of darkness, so are their duties who apostatise.
7. That the smallness of sin is a poor excuse; it is an aggravation rather than an excuse: it is the more sad, that we should stand with God for a trifle. Luke xvi. 21, he would not give a crumb, and this wonderfully displeased God; he did not receive a drop. God's judgments have been most remarkable when the occasion was least. Adam was cast out of paradise for an apple; so gathering of sticks on the Sabbath day, looking into the ark, &c. God's command bindeth in lesser things as well as greater; though the object be different, the command is still the same: `I tasted but a little honey (saith Jonathan), and I must die, 1 Sam. xiv. 43. It will be sad to you to 217go to hell for a small matter. One of the prophet's aggravations is, that they `sold the righteous for a pair of shoes, Amos ii. 6. Would you contest with God for a small thing and of little consequence? As it is imprudence, so it is unkindness.
Here is a proof of the intent of the former sentence, that we are not to look to the matter of the command, how it complieth with our desires and interests, but to the authority of the lawgiver. He giveth an instance in the sixth and seventh commandments. God, that hath said one, hath said both; they are precepts of the same law and law giver; and therefore, in the violation of one of these laws the authority of the law is violated.
He that said, Do not commit adultery; that is, that threatened adultery with death, Deut. xxii. 22, threatened also murder with death, Lev. xxiv. 17, and Deut. xix. 13; and the apostle useth that phrase `He that said, as alluding to the preface of the law: Exod. xx. 1, `God spake all these words, saying., He instanceth in such sins as are not only digested into the sum of the moral law, but are more directly against the light of nature, that so his argument might be the more strong and sensible; which is to be noted, lest we should think that only a uniformity of obedience is required to those precepts that forbid sins openly gross and heinous.
Out of these words observe:—
Obs. 1. That we must not so much dispute the matter of the command, as look to the will of the lawgiver. He proveth that the whole law had an equal obligation upon the conscience, because he that said the one said the other. God's will is motive enough to obedience, 1 Peter ii. 15; 1 Thes. iv. 3; v. 18. Every sin is an affront to God's sovereignty, as if his will were not reason enough; and to his wisdom, as if he did not know what were good for men; and to his justice, as if the ways of God were unequal. When your hearts stick at any duty, shame yourselves with these considerations: It is a trial of sincerity; then duty is well done when it is done intuitu voluntatis, with a bare sight of God's will. And it is a motive to universal obedience;181181`A quatenus ad omne valet consequentia., this duty is required as well as other duties, and enjoined by the same will.
Obs. 2. Duties and sins are of several kinds, according to the several laws of God. Man hath several affections; every one must have a special law: he hath several essential parts; God giveth laws to both: he is disposed to several providences, which needeth a distinct rule; he is under several relations and obligations to God, which call for duties of a different nature and respect. Well, then, be not contented, with Herod, to `hear many things, gladly to practise somewhat. He that calleth you to pray calleth you to hear, to redeem time for meditation and other holy purposes. All commands are equally commanded, and must be equally observed. And be not secure, though you be not guilty of such sins as are reproved in others. Other diseases are mortal besides the plague: though you are not for the 218farm, you may be for the merchandise: though thou art not a thief or whore, yet thou mayest be covetous and worldly. There is, as Hippocrates said, δίπλη μανία, a double madness—a sober madness as well as a trying.182182So in first edition; in second edition, `toying., Qu. `crying,?—ED. You may be dead in sins, though not dissolute; and though the life may be gravely ordered, yet the heart may be averse from God. The Pharisee could say, I am no adulterer, but he could not say, I am not proud, I am not self-confident.
Out of the whole discourse he inferreth a seasonable exhortation, that they would order their speeches and actions so as to endure the test and trial of the law, especially in the matter of impartial respects, because commanded by an impartial law. The reason of it lieth thus: Those that would be judged by the law should not omit the least part of it. But you desire to be judged by the moral law, evangelised or made a `law of liberty;, in which term he hinteth the reinforcement of the duties of the law of Moses in the gospel, which doth as exactly require a care in our speeches and actions as the law; for though believers be freed from the terror of the law, yet not from the obedience of it; yea, if they continue in any known and allowed neglects, they lose their privilege, and are not judged by a law of liberty, but fall under the utmost rigour and severity of the sentence forementioned.
So speak ye, and so do.—He joineth the matter hinted in the close of the former chapter concerning speech, ver. 27, and the matter of the present chapter, concerning impartial respects, together; and saith, `so speak, as relating to those directions; `so do, as relating to the present case; and the rather, because not only actions but speeches fall under the judgment of God and the law.
As they that shall be judged.—Some read, `as those that will judge, as applying it to the direct context; and they make out the sense thus:—In the Old Testament, differences of persons were not so expressly forbidden; but now, as differences of nation, so of relation, are taken away by the law of liberty: bond and free are all one in Christ, Gal. iii. 28; and therefore you are to judge without any respect of persons. But this seemeth more argute than solid. It is better to keep our own reading, `as those that shall be judged;, that is, either in conscience here, or rather at the tribunal of God hereafter.
By the law of liberty.—The same expression is used in the 25th verse of the former chapter. But what is the force of it here? The lowest reason may be, because their observance of rich men was servile, and the law commanded nobler and freer respects, more separate from base aims and self-advantage; or else in this expression the apostle may anticipate an objection which might be framed against the rigour of the former sentence; they might pretend they had an exemption by Christ. The apostle granteth there was a liberty, but not a license; for still there is a law, though to the elect a law of liberty; but, saith he, see that your interest be good. To wicked men it is still a bondage, and a hard yoke. Therefore, walk so that you may not be judged in a legal way, for then the least failing maketh you obnoxious to the curse; which rigour, if you would not undergo, see 219that you walk so that you may give evidence that you are come under the banner of love and the privileges of the gospel. And then, when you come to be judged, you will be judged upon gospel terms; other wise there is no liberty or freedom for any that allow themselves in the least breach or voluntary neglect, nothing to be expected but judgment without mercy.
From this verse I observe:—
Obs. 1. That the law in the hands of Christ is a law of liberty.
1. It is a `law:, 1 Cor. ix. 21, `I am not ἄνομος, without the law, but ἔννομος, under the law to Christ., There is a yoke, though not an insupportable burden. Though there be not rigour, yet there is a rule still. It is directive: `He hath showed thee, man, what is good, Micah vi. 8. The acceptable will of God is discovered in the law of ten words, and the moral part of the scripture is but a commentary upon it. And it is also imperative. It is not arbitrary to us whether we will obey or no. Laws are obliging. The will of the creator being signified to us in the law, we are under the commanding power of it. Things moral and just are perpetually obliging: Rom. vii. 12, `The law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good., It is holy, it discovereth true strictness. It is just or suitable to those common notices of right and equity which are impressed upon the creature; and it is good, that is, profitable, useful for man. All which things infer a perpetual obligation; and if the law were not obliging, there could be no sin; for where there is no obligation, there is no transgression: 1 John iii. 4, `Whosoever committeth sin, transgresseth the law; for sin is the transgression of the law., Now natural conscience would soon be offended at that doctrine that should make murder, incest, or adultery no sins; and therefore it is but the vain conceit of profane men in these times to think that the gospel freeth us from the obligation of the law because it freeth us from the curse of it, for then all duty would be will-worship, and sin but a fond conceit.
2. It is a `law of liberty;, for there is a great deal of freedom purchased by Christ.
[1.] We are freed from the law, as a covenant of works. We are not absolutely bound to such rigour and exactness as that required. Life and glory is not offered upon such strict terms. We ought to aim at exactness of obedience, but not to despair if we can not reach it. We are so far to eye perfect obedience, as if it were still the matter of our justification, as to be humbled for defects. A gracious heart cannot offend a good God without grief. Sin is still damning in its own nature, still a violation of a righteous law, still an affront to God. Nay, there are new arguments of humiliation, as sinning against God's love and kindness, the forfeiting of our actual fruition of the comforts of the covenant, though not our right in it, &c. And as to be humbled for our defects, so to be as earnest in our endeavours. You have more reason to be strict, because you have more help. Lex jubet, gratia juvat—we have more advantages, and therefore we should have more care of duty: Phil. iii. 11, `I press on, that if it be possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead;, that is, the holiness of that state. A Christian's actions are much below his aims. They have no grace that can be content with a little 220grace. So that you see we ought to look to the law's utmost, though we be not judged by the law's rigour. Failings not allowed are pardoned, and weaknesses passed by; the obedience required of us being not that of servants, but children: Mal. iii. 17, `I will spare them, as a man spareth his only son.,
[2.] We are freed from the curse and condemnation. The law may condemn the actions, it cannot condemn the person. It judgeth actions according to their quality, but it hath no power over the person. So we are said to be `dead to the law, Gal. ii. 19, and the law to us, Gal. iv. 6, and therefore the apostle saith, οὐδὲν κατάκριμα, `There is not one condemnation to them that are in Christ., Rom. viii. 1. The curse may be proposed to a believer, but it cannot take hold of a believer. Not only colts, but horses already broken, need a bridle.
[3.] We are freed from the curse and irritation of the law: Rom. vii., `Sin took occasion from the commandment., Carnal hearts grow worse for a restraint, as waters swell and rage when the course is stopped. The very prohibition is an occasional provocation; but to a gracious heart it is motive enough to a duty, because God willeth it.
[4.] We are freed from bondage and terrors. By natural men duties are done servilely, and out of slavish principles: `We have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear., Rom. viii. 15. The great principle in the Old Testament, when the dispensation was more legal, was fear. Therefore it is said, `The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, Prov. ix.; and `the whole duty of man is to fear God, and keep his commandments, Eccles. xii. 13. Fear is represented as the great principle of duty and worship in the Old Testament, as suitable to that dispensation. But in the New we read that `love constraineth, 2 Cor. v. 14; that love `keepeth the commandments, 1 John v. 2, &c. To the old world God more discovered his will, to us his grace; and therefore our great constraint is to arise from love and sweetness.
Use. It showeth us the happiness of those which are in Christ: the law to a believer is a law of liberty; to another it is the law of bondage and death. We may `serve him without fear, Luke i. 57, that is, without slavish fear. Beasts are urged with goads, and things without life haled with cart-ropes; but Christians are led by sanctified affections, motives of grace, and considerations of gratitude. Oh! look to yourselves, then, whether you be in Christ or no. How sweet is this, when we are `free for righteousness, and do not complain of the commandment, but of sin, and the transgression is looked upon as a bondage, rather than duty! The same apostle that groaned under the body of death, delighted in the law of the Lord in the inward man, Rom. vii. God's restraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions. And again, how sweet is this, when the command giveth us a warrant, and love a motive, and we can come before God as children, not as hirelings!
Obs. 2. That we shall be judged by the law at the last day; see Rom. ii. 12, `As many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law., The apostle's drift is to prove that all men out of Christ are under a condemnation, whether they had a law promulged or a law inbred; a law written in tables of stone, as the Jews; or in tables 221of the heart, as the Gentiles. All are judged according to the declarations of his will that God hath made to them: they that have gospel by gospel, or `the law of faith, Rom. iii. 31, `The words that I have spoken, shall judge them at the last day, John xii. 48; they that have only the law of nature, by the law natural; they that had the law written, by the law of tables; believers, by the law of liberty,—Christ's obedience shall be put upon their score. However their actions are brought to be scanned by a law and rule, their faith shall be judged and approved by their works, which, though they be not the causes of glory, yet they are the evidences: as motion is not the cause of life, but the effect and token of it. That works are brought into judgment appeareth by that scheme, Mat. xxv. 35. So Rev. xx. 12, `The books were opened, and every man was judged according to his works., The judge of the world will show that he doth rightly. The works of the wicked are produced as the merit of their ruin; the works of the godly, as evidences of glory: and therefore the apostle, when he speaketh of the process of God with the godly and wicked, he noteth the reward and the recompense of the godly in a different term and phrase: Rom. vi. 23, `The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life., The works of the wicked are produced to show the equity of their wages; the works of the godly, to declare their interest in his gift. Well, then, if the law be the rule of judgment, then let it be so now. If your confidence will not stand before the word, it will not stand before Christ at his appearing. We might anticipate and prevent the sentence of that day if we would go to the law and to the testimony. This is usual in experience, that persons the more ignorant, the more presuming; and men that contemn and neglect the means of grace have highest hopes. The reason is, because they cherish a confidence which the word would soon confute; and therefore, out of a secret consciousness of their own guilt, shun that way of trial: `They come not to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved, John iii. 20. Oh! if you dare not stand before the word now, as it is opened by a minister, what will you do when it is opened by Christ? Therefore when the word reproveth, regard it with all reverence and fear: This word judgeth me now, and it will judge me at the last day. Many fret at the light; as the Ethiopians once a year solemnly curse the sun. Oh! but how will they gnash the teeth when this word shall be brought against them at the coming of Christ in the clouds!
Again, if we shall be judged according to the measure of light and knowledge that we have of the law, it presseth us to bring forth fruits answerable to the dispensation of God. It is sad to put the finger in nature's eye, much more to grow black and wanzy in the sunshine of the gospel. As God looketh to the rule, so to our proportions and measures of light: `If I had not spoken to them, they had had no sin, saith Christ; that is, no such sin, not that kind of sin, not so much sin. Gentiles shall answer for their knowledge, and we according to our proportions. In sins of knowledge there is more of sin; for according to the sense that we have of the law forbidding, so is sin increased, and there is more of malice; therefore apostates, who have most knowledge of the truth, are (as Arnobius saith) Maximi osores sui 222ordinis—the greatest enemies to their own order and profession; and suitable the prophet Hosea v. 2, `The revolters are profound to make slaughter., Certainly there is more unkindness to God when we sin against a direct sight and intuition of his will: and therefore David aggravateth his adultery, because it was committed after God had made him `to know wisdom in the inward part, Ps. li. 6; which certainly is the intent of the Hebrew text there, though we read somewhat otherwise in our translation. It is sad that after the law is written upon the heart, it should be transgressed; in such acts there is a kind of violence offered to the principles and suggestions of our own bosom.
Obs. 3. It is a great help to our Christian course to think of the day of judgment. They best prepare themselves to the spiritual battle that always hear the sound of that day's trump. Do not think it is against the liberty of the gospel to think of these severe accounts, or a talk only for novices; it is useful for the children of God. Though they are delivered from the rigour of that day, yet they ought still to reflect upon it with reverence. I confess there are some servile reflections which beget nothing but torment and bondage in the spirit; these will not become the children of God. But still a holy awe and reverence is necessary; you will find it of special use to quicken you to Christian care and watchfulness. There are evangelical reflections which serve to make the spirit strict, but not servile. It is a fondness in them that think this argument is wholly legal. The apostle Paul maketh the doctrine of judgment to come to be a part of the gospel, Rom. ii. 13: `God will judge the secrets of all men according to my gospel, that is, according as I have taught in the dispensation of the gospel. And, indeed, it is a branch of the most glorious part of the doctrine of the gospel; Christ's judging being the highest and most imperial act of his kingly office. The truth is, it is of excellent use to invite wicked men to repentance, and therefore Paul chose this argument at Athens, Acts xvii. 31, `He hath commanded all men to repent, because he hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness., Three reasons may be given why he useth that motive to them at first. One is intimated in the text, because it is a forcible and pressing motive to repentance; and the other two may be easily conjectured, or collected out of the context. As, secondly, to prevent their plea, that if they had been in a wrong way, they had found it a happy way; no judgment or plague had lighted upon them. The apostle anticipateth this objection by telling them, `at those days of ignorance God winked, but now taketh notice; and if they did not repent now, however they escaped here, they should be sure to meet with judgment to come. And, thirdly, because the heathens themselves had some kind of dread and expectation of such a day, conscience being but the counterpart of this doctrine; and, therefore, when Paul spake of `judgment to come, Felix trembled, though an heathen, Acts xxiv. 25. The philosophers had some dreams of a severe day of accounts, as appeareth by Plato's Gorgias, many passages in Tully, &c. And possibly herein the light of nature might be much helped by tradition; so that, for the first and inviting motive, it serveth excellently. Nay, the people of God, that are already brought into Christ, find a great deal of sweet use and profit by exercising 223their thoughts in it. The strictness of it serveth to scare them out of their own righteousness. Nothing but Christ's righteousness will serve for Christ's judgment: `That I maybe found in him, &c., Phil. iii. 9. When wrath cometh thus solemnly to make inquisition for sinners, it is comfortable to be `hidden in the cleft of the rock, to be `found in him., So also it is useful to make them more strict and watchful; that they may keep faith and grace in a constant exercise, and so be fit to meet the Lord when he cometh, with joy and boldness. The preacher, when he had propounded the whole duty of man, he enforceth it upon this motive, `For God shall bring every work to judgment, Eccles. xii. 13, 14. And again, more faithful in their callings. Whatever things are omitted at the day of judgment, our carriage in our callings is chiefly noted and produced, it being that particular sphere to which we are limited and confined for serving the great ends of our creation. And as all callings are respected, so especially those high callings wherein there is some peculiar and special ministration to God, or some charge and employment for the public good. Paul himself, though a chosen vessel, a man of strong affections to Christ, yet thought need sometimes to use the spur; and though he professed that he chiefly acted out of the constraints of love, yet he also took the advantage of fear, `Knowing the terror of the Lord in that day, we persuade men, 2 Cor. v. 11, implying that a reflection upon the severity and strictness of the day of judgment was a great enforcement to urge him to faithfulness in the ministry; and having found the use of it in his own spirit, he presseth Timothy by the same motive: 2 Tim. iv. 1,2, `I charge thee, before Jesus Christ, who shall judge quick and dead, be instant; preach the word in season, out of season., It is a most vehement persuasive to diligence, when we consider that we must give an account of our work. So also to make them thankful. There cannot be a greater argument of praise than when we consider our deliverance from wrath, when wrath is drawn out to the height, that we can look Christ in the face with comfort, 1 John ii. 28; and we may begin our triumph when others are overwhelmed with terrors. So the apostle saith, 1 John iv. 17, `Herein is love perfect, that we may have boldness at the day of judgment;, that is, therein is the height and perfection of the divine love discovered, that when others call upon mountains to cover them, we may lift up our heads with comfort, and may call the world's judge our friend and father.
Lastly, To awaken their souls to an earnestness of desire and expectation. The good servant expecteth his master's coming, Mat. xxiv. 45, and `the bride saith, Come, Rev. xxii. The day of judgment is the day of Christ's royalty and your espousals: here we are betrothed, not married. When Christ went out of the world, there were mutual and interchangeable pledges of love and affection. Nobis dedit arrhabonem Spiritus; à nobis accepit arrhabonem carnis.183183Tertullianus. He left us the pledge of his Spirit, as Elijah ascending, left his mantle; he took from us the pledge of our flesh and nature; therefore certainly all that have interest in Christ must needs `love the day of his appearing, 2 Tim. iv. 8.224
Use. Well, then, often exercise your thoughts in this matter. Think of the judge, of his majesty, on the glory of his appearance; when the graves are opened, rocks are rent, and Christ's unspeakable glory shall break forth like lightning through the heavens; when he shall come riding on the clouds, environed with flames of fire, attended with all the host of the elect angels, and the great shout and trump shall summon all before the royal throne of Christ's judgment. Consider, also, his purity and holiness. When God discovered himself in a particular judgment, they said, 1 Sam. vi. 20, `Who can stand before this holy God?, But when Christ cometh to judge all the world, `with a garment white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool, Dan. vii. 9, how will guilty spotted creatures appear in his presence? Christ's throne is `a white throne, Rev. xx. 11, and black sinners can not stand before it. None have confidence in that day but either such as are of an unspotted innocency, as the angels, or those that are washed in Christ's blood, as the saints. Consider his strict justice: nothing so small and inconsiderable but, if it be sinful, God hateth it. Idle and light words weigh heavy in God's balance, Mat. xii. 36. Nothing so hidden and secret but is then opened; deadness, irreverence, unsavoriness in holy duties, the least failing or defect in circumstance, manner, or end. A man should never think of the severity of that day but he should cry out, `If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, who shall stand?, Ps. cxxx. 3. Stand, that is, rectus m curia, be able to make a bold defence in that day. Those sins which, through the commonness and easiness of error, seem to challenge a pardon of course, and wherein we are most indulgent to ourselves, as the follies and excesses committed through the heat of youth, and so in man's account, who hath but a drop of indignation against sin, are venial, shall be then produced: Eccles. xi. 9, `Know that for all these things God will bring thee to judgment., Oh! think of these things to an evangelical purpose, that ye may trust in nothing but Christ's righteousness against Christ's judgment.
Obs. 4. From that so speak, and so do: that not only our actions, but our speeches, in which we are less deliberate, come under the judicatory of God and the word: Mat. xii. 36, `But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment; for by thy words shalt thou be justified, by thy words condemned., Usually we forget ourselves in our speeches, and make light account of them; ay! but for idle words, not only evil, but idle, we shall be judged in the last day. Evil words show a wicked heart, and idle words a vain mind. There is a quick intercourse between the heart and the tongue; and whatever aboundeth in the heart cometh uppermost, and findeth vent in the speech. Therefore let wicked men beware lest `their own tongue fall upon them, Ps. lxiv. 8. Better have a whole mountain than one evil tongue to fall upon us; this will crush you to pieces in the day of wrath. Well, then, it shows how fond their excuse is who hope they are not so bad as they make themselves in their words. Alas! this is one of the nearest and clearest discoveries of what is in thy heart; thy tongue should be thy glory, Ps. ix., and it is thy shame. Evil words have a cursed influence; that σάπρος λόγος, `rotten communication, Col. iv. 6, 225passeth through others like lightning, and setteth them all on fire. Behold a great deceit in good things: men think their talking should excuse their walking; in bad they hope their hearts are good, though their communications be vile and base. A stinking breath argueth corrupt lungs; such putrid and rank speeches come from a foul heart. Christ asked his disciples, `What manner of communications they had?, Luke xxiv. 17. Xenophon and Plato gave rules that men's speeches at meals, and such like meetings, should be written, that they might be more serious. Oh! consider, God writeth them. What a shameful story will be brought out against you at the day of judgment, when all your rotten and unsavoury speeches shall be numbered and reckoned up to you! It is observable, when Paul, Rom. iii. 13, 14, maketh an anatomy of a natural man, he standeth more on the organs of speech than all the other members: `Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues have they used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, &c. The inward dunghill reeketh, and sendeth forth its stench most this way.
He applieth the former direction to the matter: `So speak, and so do, as those that would not come under the rigour of the covenant of works; for if you allow yourselves in any sin, or do anything against any part of the royal law, you can expect nothing but `judgment without mercy., But to be cruel to your brethren with allowance and indulgence is a sin that will put you into that capacity; not only as it is an allowed transgression of the law, but a special sin, that in equity seemeth to require such a judgment; it being most meet that they should find no mercy that would show none.
For he shall have judgment without mercy.—In which expression he intimateth the effect of the covenant of works, which is judgment without any mixture and temper of mercy, the law abating nothing to the transgressor; as also to imply the retaliation of God: hard men justly meet with hard dealing and recompense.
That showed no mercy.—As if he had said, Mercy is not for those that only honour rich men, but them that are full of bowels and bounty to the poor; for by `showing no mercy, he either intendeth shutting up the bowels against the necessities of the poor, or using them with contumely, injury, and reproach. They were so far from giving due respect, that they were guilty of undue disrespect; a practice which certainly will leave us ashamed at the day of judgment, when the Lord shall slight our persons, and leave us to our own just horrors and discouragements.
And mercy rejoiceth over judgment.—The word is κατακαυχᾶται, boasteth, lifteth up the head; as a man will when anything is accomplished with glory and success. This latter clause hath been tortured and vexed with diversity of expositions: it were fruitless to number up all to you: they may be referred to two general heads. Some take mercy here for God's mercy; others for man's mercy. They that apply it to God either expound it thus: They have a severe judgment; and if it be not so with all, it is merely the mercy of God 226which hath rejoiced and triumphed over his justice. So Fulgentius among the fathers. But this is too forced. Others, as Gregory, &c., carry it, with more probability, thus: Though unmerciful men be severely handled, yet, in the behalf of others, mercy rejoiceth over judgment; that is, in the conflict and contest between attributes about sinners, mercy getteth the victory and upperhand, and so rejoiceth, as men when they divide the spoil. Piscator maketh out this sense yet more subtilely, taking καὶ, which we translate and, for though or yet, as it is often in scripture; and then the sense is, Though mercy itself would fain rejoice over judgment, acts of pity and kindness being exercised with more of God's delight, yet at the sight of unmercifulness the bowels of it shrink up and retire. I should incline this way, but that the apostle speaketh here of that mercy which man showeth to man: for there seemeth to be a thesis and an antithesis, a position and an opposition, in the verse. In the position the apostle asserteth that the unmerciful shall find no mercy; in the opposition, that mercy findeth the judgment not only tempered, but overcome; that is, he that showeth mercy is not in danger of damnation, for God will not condemn those that imitate his own goodness; and therefore he may rejoice over his fears, as one that hath escaped. Now the orthodox, that go this way of applying it to man's mercy, do not make this disposition a cause of our acceptance with God, but an evidence; mercy showed to men being an assured pledge of that mercy which he shall obtain with God. I confess all this Is rational; but look to the phrase of the text, and you will find some inconvenience in this opinion; for it will be a speech of a most harsh sound and construction to say that our mercy should rejoice against God's judgment; for then man would seem to have `somewhat wherewith to glory before God, which is contrary to David, who denieth any work of ours to be justifiable in his sight, Ps. cxliii. 2, or to be able to hold up the head or neck against his judgment; contrary to Christ, who forbiddeth this rejoicing against the divine judgment, though we be conscious to ourselves of performing our duty, Luke xvii. 10; and contrary to Paul, who saith there is no glorying before God, Rom. iv. 2. All the rejoicing we have against God's justice is in the victory of his mercy; therefore I believe these two senses may be well compounded and modified each by the other, thus: It is the mercy of God that rejoiceth over his justice, and it is mercy in man that giveth us to rejoice in the mercy of God; and therefore the wisdom of the apostle is to be observed in framing the speech so that it might be indifferently compliant with both these senses. Yea, upon a more accurate and intimate consideration of the words, I find that the opposition in the apostle's speech doth not lie so much between unmercifulness and mercy, as between judgment without mercy and judgment overcome by mercy. Therefore, upon the issue of the whole debate, I should judge that the apostle's speech is elliptical, and more must be understood than is expressed; mercy in God being expressed as the rise of our triumph, and mercy in man being understood as the evidence of it: and the sum is, that the merciful man may glory as one that hath received mercy, for the mercy of God rejoicing over the justice of God in his behalf; he may 227rejoice over Satan, sin, death, hell, and his own conscience. In the court of heaven the mercy of God rejoiceth; in the court of conscience, the mercy of man: the one noteth a victory over the divine justice, the other a victory over our own fears.
The observations are these:—
Obs. 1. The condition of men under the covenant of works is very miserable. They meet with justice without any temper of mercy. The word speaketh no comfort to them. Either exact duty or extreme misery are the terms of that covenant. `Do and live, and `do and die, is the only voice you shall hear whilst you hold by that tenure. God asked of Adam, `What hast thou done?, not, Hast thou repented? So in the prophet, Ezek. xviii., `The soul that sinneth shall die., The least breach is fatal. To man fallen the duty of that covenant is impossible, the penalty of it is intolerable. Fore-going sins cannot be expiated by subsequent duties. Paying of new debts doth not quit the old score. Will you hope in God's mercy? One attribute is not exercised to the prejudice and wrong of another. In that covenant God intendeth to glorify justice, and you are engaged to a righteous law, and both law and justice must have satisfaction. As the word speaketh no comfort, so providence yieldeth none. All God's dispensations are judicial: Ezek. vii. 5, `An evil, and an only evil., Their crosses are altogether curses. There is nothing befalleth them that are under the covenant of grace, but there is some good in it; something to invite hope, or to allay sorrow: `In wrath God remembereth mercy, Hab. iii. 2. The rod is not turned into a serpent, and therefore comforteth, Ps. xxiii. 5. Whereas to these every comfort is salted with a curse; and in their discomforts there is nothing but a face and an appearance of wrath. But the worst of the covenant of works is hereafter. When he dealeth with his people all in mercy, he will deal with them all in judgment: Rev. xiv. 10, `A cup of wrath unmixed;, that is, simple and bare ingredients of wrath. Yet it is said, Ps. lxxv. 8, that `the cup of the Lord is full mixed;, full mixed with all sorts of plagues, but unmixed, without the least drop or temperament of mercy. Oh! how will ye do to suffer those torments that are without ease and without end? Rev. xx. 7, `They shall be cast into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, where they shall be tormented for ever and ever., Nothing more painful to the sense than fire; no fire more noisome or more scalding than brimstone; and all this for ever and ever. There is an eternity of extremity; it is without measure and without end , which is the hell of hell, that after a thousand years are passed over, that worm dieth not, and that fire is not quenched. The brick-hills and the furnace of Babel are but shadows to it. There was a sad howling and yelling in Sodom when God rained hell out of heaven. How did the poor scalded creatures run up and down in that deluge of brimstone, and shriek and howl because of their pains! Oh! but what weeping and gnashing will there be in hell, when a `fiery stream shall go out from the throne of God, Dan. vii. 10, and poor damned creatures shall wallow hither and thither, and have `not a drop to cool their tongues!, Well, then, it should awaken those that are under the covenant of works to come under the banner of grace. Those that are condemned 228in one court have liberty of appeal to another; and when `ye are dead, and lost to the first law, you may be; alive to God, Gal. ii. 19. Let `the avenger of blood, make you fly to `the city of refuge., But you will say, Who are now under the covenant of works? There is a vulgar prejudice abroad which supposeth that the first covenant was repealed and disannulled upon the fall, and that God now dealeth with us upon new terms; as if the covenant of grace did wholly extrude and shut out the former contract, wherein they think Adam only was concerned. But this is a gross mistake, because it was made not only with Adam, but with all his seed. And every natural man, whilst natural, whilst merely a son of Adam, is obliged to the tenor of it. The form of the law runneth universally, `Cursed is every one that, &c., Gal, iii. 10; which rule brooketh no exception but that of free grace and interest in Christ. And therefore every child, even those born in the church, are obnoxious to the curse and penalty of it: `Children of wrath, even as others, Eph. ii. 3; and therefore are natural men described by this term, `Those that are under the law, Gal. iv. 5; that is, under the bond and curse of the law of works. If the law of works had been repealed and laid aside presently upon Adam's fall, Christ had not come under the bond and curse of it as our substitute and surety, for he was to take our debt upon him, to submit to the duty and penalty of our engagement; therefore it is said, in the place last quoted, he was `made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law., So also Gal. iii. 13, `He was made a curse for us;, that is, in our room and place. And, again, the law is not repealed, because it is an unchangeable rule, according to which God proceedeth, μία κεραία: `Not a pick of the law shall pass away, Mat. v. 18, till all be fulfilled, either by the creature, or upon the creature, by us, or by our surety. It is the covenant of works that condemneth all the sons of Adam. The rigour of it brought Christ from heaven to fulfil it for believers. Either we must have Christ to fulfil it, or for the breach of it we must perish for ever. And therefore our apostle saith, that at the day of judgment God proceedeth with all men according to the two covenants; some are `judged by the law of liberty, and some `have judgment without mercy., The two covenants have two principal confederate parties that contracted for them and their heirs—Adam and Christ; therefore, as long as thou art Adam's heir, thou hast Adam's engagement upon thee. The covenant of works was made with Adam and his seed, who were all natural men. The covenant of grace with Christ and his seed, who are believers, Isa. liii. 10. God will own no interest in them that claim by Adam. As Abraham was to reckon his seed by Isaac, not by Ishmael, `la Isaac shall thy seed be called;, so God's children are reckoned by Christ. Others, that have but a common interest, cherish a vain hope: `God that made them will not save them, Isa. xxvii. 11.
But you will say, how shall we more distinctly know what is our claim and tenure? I answer—;
1. It is a shrewd presumption that you are under the old bond, if you cannot discern how your copy and tenure is changed. The heirs of promise are described to be those that `fly for refuge to 229the hope that is before them, Heb. vi. 18. God's children are usually frighted out of themselves by some avenger of blood; and do the more earnestly come under the holy bond of the new oath, and fly to Christ, by considering the misery of their standing in Adam. The apostle supposed that wrath made inquisition for him, and therefore crieth out, `Oh! that I might be found in him, Phil. iii. 9. They that presume that they had ever faith and a good heart towards God, grossly mistake. That justiciary said, `All these I kept from my youth, Mat. xix. 20.
2. Much may be discerned from the present state and frame of your hearts. If they carry a proportion with the covenant of works, it is to be feared you hold by that title and copy. As (1.) When the spirit is legal. There is a suitable spirit both to law and gospel. A servile spirit is the spirit of the law, a free spirit is the spirit of the gospel. It is the character of men under works: Heb. ii. 15, `All their lifetime they are subject to bondage., Religion is careful, but a foolish scrupulosity and servile awe argue bondage. See Rom. viii. 15, and 2 Tim. i. 7. (2.) When we seek `a righteousness of our own., Rom. x. 3, and settle our life and peace upon a foundation of our own works. The covenant of works is natural to us. Common people hope to be saved by their works and good meaning, and by their good prayers to be accepted with God. `What shall we do?, is the language of every convinced man. And the Jews said, John vi. 28, `What are the works of God?, We would fain engage the divine grace by our own works. But this disposition reigneth most in such as either—;(1st.) Plead their works, as those in the prophet that `delighted to draw nigh to God;,184184Vide Sanctium in locum. that is, to expostulate and contend with him about their works, for so it followeth in the next verse: Isa. lviii. 2, 3, `Wherefore have we fasted?, So the Pharisee, Luke xviii. 11. And hypocrites are brought in by Christ pleading their works, as noting the secret ground of their confidence: Mat. vii. 21, `We have prophesied in thy name, cast out devils., The saints of God own no such thing: Mat. xxv. 37, `When saw we thee an hungered, naked?, &c. They wonder Christ should remember such sorry things. As they perform duties with more care, so they overlook them with more self-denial; whereas others build upon their great gifts, employment in the ministry, urge every petty thing as an engagement upon God. (2d.) When they take more liberty to sin, hoping to make amends by their duties. Conviction would not let them prosecute their sins so freely, if they did not make fair promises of reformation. It is usual with men to carry on a sin the more securely out of a presumption of a former or after duty. Sir Edwin Sands observeth that the Italians are emboldened to sin, that they may have somewhat to confess. And Solomon speaketh of `sacrifice with an evil mind, Prov. xxi. 27. And Balaam built seven altars, and offered seven rams, &c., Num. xxi., out of a vain hope to ingratiate God, that he might curse the people. And the prophet speaketh of committing iniquity out of a trust in righteousness, Ezek. xxxiii. 13.
3. You may collect much from the unsuitableness of your hearts to the state of grace. As (1.) If you live under the reign of any sin, 230when it is constant and allowed, that rule holdeth good: James ii. 10, `He that is guilty of one, is guilty of all., Then the devil hath an interest in you, not Christ. Habituated dispositions, good or bad, show who is your father. It is notable that of Rom. vi. 14, `Sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law, but under grace., An interest in grace cannot consist with a known sin. (2.) If you abuse grace; for then you make grace an enemy, and then justice will take up the quarrel of abused mercy. Usually men please themselves in this, if they be right in doctrine, but do not take notice of that taint that is insensibly conveyed into their manners. Oh! consider, when out of a pretence of gospel you grow neglectful of duty, less circumspect and wary in your ways, more secure, slighting the threatenings of the word, you offend grace so much that it turneth you over to justice. There are Antinomists in life as well as doctrine. Good Christians are angry that others make that an occasion to lust which is to themselves a ground of hope: `They turn the grace of our God, &c., Jude 4. Therefore that man that maketh it fuel for sin hath a naked apprehension of it, not a sure interest.
Obs. 2. Unmerciful men find no mercy. (1.) It is a sin most un suitable to grace. Kindness maketh us pity misery: `Thou wast a stranger, be kind to strangers., He that was forgiven, and plucked his fellow-servant by the throat, had his pardon retrieved, Mat. xviii. We pray, `Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us, Mat. vi. God's love to us melteth the soul, and affecteth us not only with contrition towards God, but compassion to our brethren. At Zurich, when the gospel was first preached, they gave liberty to their captives and prisoners, out of a sense of their own deliverance by Christ. (2.) It is unlike to God; he giveth and forgiveth. How will you look God in the face, if you should be so contrary to him? Dissimilitude and disproportion is the ground of dislike. It is a disposition that will check your prayers; beware of it. Unmercifulness is twofold—when we neither give nor forgive. It notes—(1st.) A defect in giving, or shutting up the bowels. They ask, and your hearts are as flint or steel. We are faulty when we do not what we should do, as when we do what we should not do. Covetousness and violence will weigh alike heavy in God's balance; and you may be as cruel in neglect as injury. (2d.) In denying pardon to those that have wronged us. They have done you hurt, but you must be like your heavenly Father. No man can do thee so much hurt as thou hast done God. Sin is more opposite to his nature than wrong can be to your interests. Would you have God as slack in giving, as backward to forgive? What would you say if God should deal thus with you, either for grace or pardon? Certainly bounteous and piteous hearts pray with most confidence.
Obs. 3. God usually retaliates and dealeth with men according to the manner and way of their wickedness. The sin and suffering oft meet in some remarkable circumstance: Babylon hath blood for blood. Jacob cometh as the elder to Isaac, and Leah cometh as the younger to Jacob: he that denied a crumb, wanted a drop, Luke xvi.: Asa, that set the prophet in the stocks, had a disease in his feet. Well, then, when it is so, know the sin by the judgment, and silence murmuring. 231Adoni-bezek, a heathen, observed, `As I have done, God hath done to me, Judges i. And it showeth you what reason you have to pray that God would not deal with you according to your iniquities, your manner of dealing either with him or men; and walk with the greater awe and strictness. Would I have God to deal thus with me? Would I have the recompenses of the Lord to be after this rate?
Obs. 4. God exerciseth acts of mercy with delight; his mercy rejoiceth over justice. So in the prophet, `Mercy pleaseth him, Micah vii. 18; so in another prophet, `I will rejoice over them, to do them good, Jer. xxxii. 41. God is infinitely just as well as merciful, only he delighteth in gracious dispensations and discoveries of himself to the creature: this should encourage you in your approaches to God. Mercy is as acceptable to God as to you. In 2 Sam. xiv. 1, when `Joab perceived the king's heart was to Absalom, he setteth the woman of Tekoah to make request for him. The King's heart is set upon mercy, your requests gratify his own bowels; and again, if `mercy hath rejoiced over judgment, so should you too: go and triumph over death, hell, devil, damnation, and make your boast of mercy all the day long: 1 Cor. xv. 55, `O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory?, You have another triumph: Rom. viii. 33, `Who shall lay anything to our charge?, And though the devil be the accuser of the brethren, yet because mercy hath rejoiced over judgment, therefore we may rejoice over Satan, and go to heaven singing.
Obs. 5. Mercy in us is a sign of our interest in God's mercy: Mat. v. 7, `Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy., They shall obtain: God will deal kindly with them, but it is mercy which they obtain, not a just reward; so Prov. xi. 25, `The liberal soul shall be made fat: `the widow of Sarepta's barrel had no bottom. I shall show you what this mercy is. It is manifested—(1.) In pitying miseries. Jesus had compassion on the multitude, Mat. xv. 32; so should we. It is not mercy unless it ariseth from a motion in the bowels: `If thou shalt draw out thy soul to the hungry, Isa. lviii. 10. Heart and hand must go together: bounty beginneth in pity. (2.) In relieving wants by counsel or contribution: it is not enough to say, `Be clothed, James ii. 16. (3.) In forgiving injuries and offences, Mat. xviii. 22, `until seventy times seven;, that is, toties quoties—it is an allusion to Peter's number, `Must I forgive seven times? 7 Yea, saith Christ, `seventy times seven:, an uncertain number for a certain. God `multiplieth pardon, Isa. lv. 7, and so should we. As Tully said of Caesar, Nihil oblivisci soles nisi injurias—that he forgot nothing but injuries; so should you. Secondly, I shall show you when it is a pledge of mercy. (1.) When it is done as duty, and according to the manner God hath required: `To distribute forget not, for with such sacrifice God is well pleased, Alms must be sacrifice, given to men for God's sake; not merely done as a commendable act, but in conscience of the rule. (2.) The grounds must be warrantable. The right spring of mercy is from sense of God's mercy; it is a thank-offering, not a sin-offering.232
Here is the second exhortation against boasting of an idle faith, and it suiteth with the last argument urged in behalf of the former mat ter. He had spoken of a law of liberty; now, lest this expression should justify the misprision of some false hypocrites, who thought they might live as they list, so as they did profess faith in Christ, he disproveth the vanity of this conceit by divers arguments.
What doth it profit, my brethren; that is, how will it further the ends of a profession or a religion? So the apostle, when he confuteth another such presumptuous persuasion, saith οὐδὲν εἰμί, `I am nothing, 1 Cor. xiii. 2; that is, of no esteem with God, upon the supposition that his gifts were without charity.
If a man say he hath faith.—Say, that is, boast of it to others, or pride himself in the conceit of it. It is notable that the apostle doth not say `if any hath faith, but `if any man say he hath faith., Faith, where it is indeed, is of use and profit to salvation; and he that hath faith is sure of salvation, but not always he that saith he hath faith. In this whole discourse the apostle's intent is to show, not what justifieth, but who is justified; not what faith doth, but what faith is. And the drift of the context is not to show that faith without works doth not justify, but that a persuasion or assent without works is not faith; and the justification he speaketh of is not so much of the person as of the faith.
And hath no works; that is, if there be no fruits and issues of holiness from it. It is the folly of the Papists to restrain it to acts of charity. There are other products of faith; it being a grace that hath a universal influence into all the offices of the holy life.
Can faith save him? that is, a pretence of faith, for otherwise faith saveth; that is, in that way of concurrence in which any act of the creatures can be said to save. So Paul, Eph. ii. 8, Τῇ χάριτί ἐστέ σεσωσμένοι διὰ τῆς πίστεως, `Ye are saved by grace through faith, not by works., And therefore certainly our apostle meaneth a pretence of faith, otherwise there would be a direct contradiction, and it may be collected out of all the whole discourse. The two next verses show he meaneth such a faith as is in the tongue and lips, such a faith as is alone and by itself; ver. 17, such a faith as the devils may have; ver. 19, such a faith as is dead; that is, no more can be accounted faith than a dead man can be accounted a man.
The notes out of this verse are these:—
Obs. 1. That pretended graces are fruitless and unprofitable. For mal graces, as well as formal duties, bring in nothing to the spirit^ for the present no grace, no comfort, and can beget no hope of glory for the future. Pretences of the truth are a disadvantage, for they argue a conviction of the truth, and yet a refusal of it. It is a kind of practical blasphemy to veil an impure life under a profession of faith; for we do as it were tack on and fasten the errors and excesses of our lives upon religion: therefore it is said, Rev. ii. 9, `I know the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews and are not., There is less dishonour brought to God by open opposition, then by profession used as a cover and excuse for profaneness. And in the Gospel it is determined in that parable, Mat. xxi. 28, 29, that that son was less culpable that said `I will not, than the other that said `I will, and 233did not. All this is spoken to illustrate that passage, `What doth it profit if a man say he hath faith?,
Obs. 2. Pretences of faith are easy and usual. Men are apt to say they have faith; when they see the vanity of works, and cannot stand before God by that claim, they pretend to faith. In so free a discovery of the gospel, men are apt to declaim against resting in works, but it is as dangerous to rest in a false faith.
Obs. 3. From that and hath no works. He proveth it is but a saying they have faith if there be not works and fruits of it. The note is that where there is true faith there will be works. There are three things that will incline the soul to duty—a forcible principle, a mighty aid, a high aim; all these are where faith is. The forcible principle is God's love, the mighty aid is God's Spirit, the high aim is God's glory. (1.) For the principle, where there is faith there will be love: affection followeth persuasion; and where there is love there will be work; therefore do we often read of `the labour of love, Heb. vi. 10; 1 Thes. i. 3; and `faith worketh by love., Faith, which is an apprehension of God's love to us, begetteth a return of love to God, and then maketh use of so sweet an affection to carry out all its acts and services of thankfulness: it first begetteth love, and then maketh use of it. (2.) There is a mighty aid received from the quickening Spirit. Help engageth to action; man's great excuse is want of power. Faith planteth into Christ, and so receiveth an influence from him. He liveth in us by his Spirit, and we live in him by faith, and therefore we must needs `bring forth much fruit, John xv. 4. It is observable that in the 17th and 26th verses, that the apostle calleth a workless faith a dead or lifeless faith, void of the life and quickening of the Spirit. Where there is life there will be acting. Operation followeth being. Hypocrites are said to be `twice dead, plucked up by the roots, Jude 12. Twice dead, dead in their natural condition and dead after their profession, and then plucked up; that is, plainly discovered to be those that never had any vital influence from Christ. (3.) Where there is faith there will be aims to glorify God. Faith that receiveth grace returneth glory: 1 Peter ii. 12, `Glorify God in the day of visitation., When God visiteth their souls in mercy, they will be devising how they may do him glory; for faith is ingenuous, it cannot think of taking without giving: and when it apprehendeth mercy it contriveth what shall be rendered unto the Lord. Well, then, try your faith; it is not a naked assent or an inactive apprehension; there will be effects, some works, which you may know to be good if they be done in Christ; χωρὶ ἐμοῦ, `without me, or out of me, ye can do nothing, John xv. 5—by Christ, `I can do all things through Christ that strengthened me, Phil. iv. 13, that is, by the actual influence of his grace; and for Christ, that is, for his sake and glory; ἐμοὶ τὸ ζῆν Χριστός, Phil, i. 21. Paul's whole life, his τὸ ζῆν, was consecrated to Christ for the uses and purposes of his glory. In short, they that work in Christ, as united to him by faith, work by Christ, by the continual supply of his grace, and for Christ, with an aim at his glory.
Obs. 4. From that can faith save him? that is, will you come before God with these hopes for salvation? We should cherish no 234other confidence than such as will abide the day of the Lord, and hold out to salvation. Will this be a plea, then, when all mankind is either to be damned or saved, to say you made profession? 1 John ii. 28. The solemnity of Christ's coming is the circumstance that is often used for detecting ungrounded hopes; as Luke xxi. 36, `Watch and pray, that you may be able to stand before the Son of man;, that is, without shame and remorse at his coming. So 1 John iv. 17, `That we may have boldness at the day of judgment., Men consider what will serve for the present purposes, what will quiet the heart, that they may follow their business or pleasures with the less regret. Oh! but consider what will serve you for salvation; what will serve turn at the day of death or the day of judgment. No plea is sufficient but what may be urged before the throne of the Lamb. Well, then, urge this upon your souls, Will this faith save me—interest me in Christ, so as I may have boldness at the day of judgment? As Christ asked Peter thrice, `Lovest thou me?, so put the question again and again unto your souls, Can I look Christ in the face with these hopes? Sincere graces are called τὰ ἐχόμενα τῆς σωτηρίας, Heb. vi. 9, `Things that accompany salvation., This is the issue and result of all self-inquiries, Is it a saving grace? Nothing should satisfy me but what can save me.
Ver. 15-16. If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily bread, and one of you say to them, Depart in peace, be you warmed, be you filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things that are needful to the body, what doth it profit?
If a brother or a sister.—The apostle compareth faith and charity, and showeth that pretences of faith avail no more than pretences of charity. By brother or sister he meaneth Christians, united together by the bond of the same profession, terms oft used in that sense in this epistle.
Be naked; that is, ill-clothed; so nakedness is often taken: so 1 Cor. iv. 11, `We suffer hunger, we are naked;, that is, destitute of necessary apparel. So Job xxii. 6, `Thou hast stripped the naked of their clothing;, that is, the ill-clothed are brought to worse poverty by thy extortion. So when men have not a decent garment, or be coming their state, 1 Sam. xix. 24. Saul prophesied naked; that is, without the vestment of a prophet.
And destitute of daily bread; that is, not only of moderate supplies, but such as are extremely necessary. They have not from hand to mouth, or wherewith to sustain life for a day. Christ calleth it, ἄρτον ἐπιούσιον, `present bread, Mat. vi. 11. Under these two notions of nakedness and hunger, he comprehendeth all the necessities of the human life, for these are the things utterly necessary. Therefore Christ saith, `Take no thought what ye shall eat, or wherewith ye shall be clothed, Mat. vi. 31;, And if we have food and raiment, let us be therewith content, 1 Tim. vi. 8. And Jacob promiseth worship if God would give him `bread to eat, and raiment to put on, Gen. xxviii. 20. Till the world grew to a height of luxury, this was enough.185185`Cibus et potus sunt divitiae Christianorum.,—Hieron. The bill of provisions was very short, `food and raiment.,235
And one of you say to them; that is, that hath ability otherwise to do them good; for else good wishes are not to be despised; and some can only give a cheap alms, prayers, and counsel.
Depart in peace.—A solemn form of salutation,186186See Luke ii. 29, and 2 Kings v. 19, where only is a salutation, not an allowance or grant of his request; yea, Naaman's words imply a resolution rather than a case and request. which is as much as, `I wish you well., See Mark v. 34; Luke vii. 50, and Luke viii. 48.
Be you warmed, or be you filled.—After the general form, he cometh to instance in good wishes, suitable to the double necessity forementioned: `Be warmed, that is, be clothed; it is opposed to `naked., So Job xxxi. 20, `The poor were warmed with the fleece of my sheep., The Septuagint have it, ἐθαρμάνθησαν ἀπὸ κουρὰς ἄμνων μοῦ, `Be filled;, that is, I wish you food to sustain your hunger.
Notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; that is, when you are able; otherwise a hearty wish is of use and acceptance. So `a cup of cold water, is welcome, Mat. x. 42; and it is not reason that `other men should be eased and we burdened, 2 Cor. viii. 13. His chief aim was to shame the rich, that thought .to satisfy their duty by a few cheap words and charitable wishes; which offence was as common as pretence of faith, as appeareth 1 John iii. 18, `Let us not love in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth.,
What doth it profit? that is, the poor; the belly is not filled with words, or the back clothed with wishes. This is but like that mad person that thought to pay his debts with the noise of money, and instead of opening his purse, shaked it. The poor will not thank you for good wishes, neither will God for saying you have faith.
The points are these:—
Obs. 1. That an excellent way to discover our deceitful dealing with God is to put the case in a sensible instance, or to parallel it with our own dealings one with another. You will not count words liberality, neither will God count pretences faith: this is the reason of parables; matters between God and us are stated by instances of like matters between man and man. The judgment hath best view of things when they are carried in a third person, and is not so blinded and perverted as in our own case. David could determine, 2 Sam. xii., `The man that doth this shall die the death., If the case had been represented in a downright reproof, no doubt he would have been more favourable. Again, by this means they are made more plain and sensible; for heavenly things, being represented in an earthly form, come clothed with our own notions. We can see the sun better in a basin than in the firmament, and interpret heaven's language when it speaketh to us in the dialect of earth. Well, then, use this art, put the case in a temporal matter: Mal. i. 8, `Offer it now to the governor; will he be pleased with thee? or will he accept thy person?, Would men account this fair dealing, to come with a gift so sickly and imperfect? So sometimes suppose the case your own: would I be thus dealt withal? Thus Christ made the Pharisees to give judgment against themselves, Mat. xxi. Those that despised, 236abused, persecuted the messengers, killed the son, saith Christ to them, `What will the Lord of the vineyard do with them?, They answer, ver. 40, 41, `He will miserably destroy them, and let out his vineyard to other men., So will God do to you, saith Christ, ver. 43. And thus God appealeth to the Jews upon a parable, Isa. v. 3, `Judge between me and my people., We shall soon see the irrationality of our inferences in divine matters when we put the case in terms proper to human affairs; as when `grace is turned into wantonness, how absurd and illogical is the consequence, when we infer carelessness of duty out of the abundance of grace? It is as if you should say, My master is good, therefore I will offend him and displease him. Thus you may do in many cases, especially when the word giveth you the hint of a metaphor; only take heed you do not reason thus in the matter of believing and expecting mercy from God, lest you straiten free grace, which is not dispensed `after the manner of man, 2 Sam. vii. 19. God will accept a returning prostitute, which man will not, Jer. iii. 1. Otherwise it will be of special use to shame us with neglect, to open a gap to conviction, to shame us with the absurdity and irrationality of our inferences in matters of religion.
Obs. 2. From that if a brother or a sister. God's own people may be destitute of necessary outward supports: Heb. xi. 37, they `of whom the world was not worthy, `wandered about, destitute, afflicted, tormented., It is true David saith, Ps. xxxvii. 25, `I have been young, and now am old, yet never saw I the righteous forsaken, or their seed begging bread;, but either he speaketh merely upon his own experience, or asserteth that they were not forsaken though begging bread; or else he speaks of the shameful trade of begging, which among the Jews was a token of God's curse; as Ps. lix. 15, `Let them wander up and down for meat, and grudge if they be not satisfied., So, `let them be vagabonds, Ps. cix. 10. Certainly the Jews had more of the carnal and outward blessing of the covenant than believers under the gospel, it being more suitable to their dispensation.
Obs. 3. Bare words will not discharge or satisfy duty. Good words are good in themselves, and do become a Christian mouth, but they must not be rested in. Some cannot go so far in profession as good words, religious conference, and holy discourse. Words argue that you have a knowledge of duty; and bare words, that you want a heart for it.
Obs. 4. More particularly observe, that a few charitable words are not enough. Some men's words are fierce and cruel, others `love in word and in tongue, 1 John iii. 20; but this is not enough. Words are cheap, compliments cost nothing; and will you serve God with that which costeth nothing? Words are but a cold kind of pity; the belly is not filled with words, but meat;187187`Venter non habet aures., nor is the back clothed with good wishes. Words are but a derision; you mock the poor when you bid them `be warmed, be filled, and do not minister to their necessities. Nay, it is a kind of mocking of God: Gal. vi. 7, `Be not deceived, God is not mocked., He speaketh of such as would fain be accounted liberal and charitable, but it was only in words and excuses.237
Here he cometh to accommodate the instance and similitude, and showeth that a naked profession of faith is no better than a verbal charity; God looketh upon it as dead, cold, and useless.
Even so faith.—He speaketh according to their presumption: you call it faith; and, according to appearance it hath some likeness to faith, but it is dead in itself.
If it have not works.—He doth not only intend acts of charity, but all other fruits and operations of faith.
Is dead.—The apostle speaketh in allusion to a corpse or a dead plant, which hath only an outward similitude and likeness to those which are living; it is dead in regard of root, and dead in regard of fruits; it is void of the life of Christ, and it is void of good fruits. Operation or motion is an argument and effect of life.
Being alone.—In the original καθ᾽ ἑαυτὴν, it is dead by itself, or dead in itself; that is, how great soever it be, it is all dead. We translate it `being alone, as noting the emptiness, barrenness, and nakedness of such profession or general assents; and so it suiteth with that known maxim among the Protestants, Sola fides justificat, sed non fides quae est sola, that faith alone justifieth, but not that faith which is alone; not a naked assent or bare profession: which interpretation is suitable enough to the context.
Obs. That false faith is a dead faith. It cannot act, no more than a dead body can arise and walk; it is dead, because it doth not unite us to Christ. True faith planteth us into Christ, and so receiveth virtue and life from him: `I live by faith in the Son of God, Gal. ii. 20. It is dead, because it doth not discover itself in any motions or operations of life. You may know there is life by the beating of the pulses: a living faith will be active, and bewray itself in some gracious effects; there will be liveliness in holy duties: `dead works, do not become `the living God, Heb. ix. 14. There will be some what more than morality in duties of conversation; yea, there will be life in death itself. Faith is the life of our lives, the soul that animateth the whole body of obedience. Faith is not always alike lively, but where it is true, it is always living. We read of `a lively faith, and `a lively hope, 1 Peter i. 3, and then we have a greater feeling of the motions of the spiritual life: at other times it is only living, and then if you be not sensible of life, you will be sensible of deadness: sense is the lowest token of life; you will be complaining and groaning under corruptions. Well, then, hereby you may try your faith; doth it receive life from Christ? Doth it act? If Christ be in you, he would live in you. Never think of living with Christ, unless you live in Christ: and there is none liveth in Christ but he `bringeth forth much fruit, John xv. 5.
The apostle amplifieth the present argument against an empty, solitary faith, by supposing a dialogue between a believer, that can manifest his faith by his works, and a boasting hypocrite, that can produce no such effect and experience. So that the dispute doth not lie so 238much, between faith and works, as between faith pretended and faith discovered by works; for the apostle doth not introduce them speaking thus, Thou standest upon thy faith, and I upon my works; but `Show me thy faith without works, and I will, &c., that is, Show me a warrant for thy faith, and I will soon prove mine own.
Yea, a man may say; that is, some true believer may come and plead thus with a boasting hypocrite.
Thou hast faith.—Let it be as thou sayest, but that is all thou hast; a naked profession of faith, or at best, but some historical assent; for the apostle granteth that, ver. 19, yea, not only to them, but to the devils.
And I have works.—He doth not mean without faith; that is contrary to an expression in the text, `I will show thee my faith by my works., Works without faith are as a building without a foundation, but acts of nature lustred with common graces. Thou boastest with thy tongue of faith; I shall not boast, but produce works, which are but a real apology and commendation. Christ produceth no other testimony but his works, Mat. xi. 4, 5. Our works do best `praise us in the gates.,
Show me thy faith without thy works.—This clause is diversely read in the original. Some, as Œcumenius, read only δεῖξον τὴν πίστιν σοῦ, `Show me thy faith, and I will soon warrant mine. Most copies read ἐκ τῶν ἔργων, that is, prove thy works, since they are such inseparable fruits of faith, where are they? But the most approved copies have χωρὶς ἔργων, `without thy works;, and the meaning is, Thou wantest the truest testimony and discovery of faith. Now, show me such a faith, that is, make it good by any warrant from the principles and maxims of our religion.
And I will show thee my faith by my works; that is, soon evidence it to the world, or soon evince it to be true faith out of the word.
The notes are these:—
Obs. 1. A great means to convince hypocrites is to show how grace worketh in true Christians. The apostle instituteth a dialogue between both; thus Christ compareth the two builders, Mat. vii. 24, &c., and the wise virgins and the foolish, Mat. xxv. This awakeneth emulation; it showeth that the austerities of Christianity are possible. Others can go higher than your forms. Take this course, Do we live as they do—as they that, through faith and patience, inherit the promises?
06s. 2. From that show me thy faith without works, &c.—In all our hopes and conceits of grace we should always look to the warrant we have for them. Can I show or prove this to be faith or love by any rational grounds or scripture arguments? If Christians would look to the warrant of their hopes, they might discern more of the guile of their spirit. Presumption is a rash trust, without the sight of an actual or clear ground. He that `built on the sand, built hand over head, not considering whether the foundation were sufficient to support the structure. But he that built on the rock, did not only consider whether it would bear up such a stress, but was clearly resolved in his mind of the strength and sufficiency of the foundation. It is 239good to believe, `as the scripture saith, John vii. 38, to cherish no persuasion without an actual sight of a clear and distinct warrant, that we may be able to `show our faith, upon all cavils and challenges, that is, evince it to be good.
Obs. 3. Works are an evidence of true faith. Graces are not dead, useless habits; they will have some effects and operations when they are weakest and in their infancy. It is said of Paul, as soon as he was regenerate, `Behold, he prayeth., New-born children will cry at least before they are able to go. This is the evidence by which we must judge, and this is the evidence by which Christ will judge. (1.) The evidence by which we must judge. It is the drift of many scriptures to lay down evidences taken from sanctification and the holy life; they were written to this very purpose; as more especially Ps. cxix. and the first epistle of John; see 1 John v. 13. Yea, conclusions are drawn to our hands. It is said, `Hereby we may know, &c. See 1 John iii. 14, and 1 John iii. 19. In many places promises are given out, with descriptions annexed, taken from the meekness, piety, good works of the saints, as Ps. i. 1, 2; Ps. xxxii. 1-9; Rom. viii. 1. Good works are the most sensible discovery; all causes are known by their effects. The apples, leaves, and blossoms are evident when the life and sap is not seen. (2.) This is the evidence according to which Christ proceedeth at the day of judgment: Rev. xx. 12, They were `judged according to their works., So Mat. vii. 23, `Depart from me, ye that work iniquity., They made profession, but their works were naught. So Mat. xxv. 41, 42.
Use. You may make use of this note to judge yourselves and to judge others. (1.) Yourselves: when the causes are hidden, the effects are sensible; therefore you may try graces by their fruits and operations. Works are not a ground of confidence, but an evidence; not the foundations of faith, but the encouragements of assurance.188188`Bona opera sunt spei quaedam seminaria, caritatis incentiva, occulta praedestinationis judicia, non fiduciae fundamenta, futurae felicitatis praesagia, &c.—Bernard. Comfort may be increased by the sight of good works, but it is not built upon them; they are seeds of hope, not props of confidence; sweet evidences of election, not causes; happy presages and beginnings of glory; in short, they can manifest an interest, but not merit it. We have `peace with God, by the righteousness of Christ, and `peace of conscience, by the fruits of righteousness in ourselves; but more of this anon. (2.) Others may be judged by their works: where there is knowledge, and a good life, it is not Christian to suspect the^ heart. The devil said, when he had nothing to object against Job's life, `Doth Job serve God for nought?, If men be knowing, and profess, and be fruitful in good works, it is an injury to say they are only civil, moral men. Profession may be counterfeited, but when it is honoured with works, you must leave the heart to God, James i. 27. To be `undefiled, and `visit the fatherless and widows, that is `true religion;, that is the great note and discovery of it. Empty profession may have more of a party in it, than of power; but profession honoured with works is charity's rule to judge by.240
This instance showeth what faith he disputeth against, namely, such as consisteth in bare speculation and knowledge; which can no more save a man than looking on the sun can translate a man into the sphere and orb of it.
Thou believest; that is, assentest to this truth: the lowest act of faith is invested with the name of believing.
There is one God.—He instanceth in this proposition, though he doth limit the matter only to this, partly because this was the first article of the creed, the primitive truth in religion, `that there is one God, by it intending also assent to other articles of religion; partly be cause this was the critical difference between them and the pagans, and the shibboleth of the Christian profession as to heathens.
Thou dost well.—It is an approbation of such assent so far as it is good, and not rested in; though it be not saving, yet so far as it is historical it is good good in its kind, as a common work and preparation; for so it is required: `Hear, O Israel, our God is one Lord, Deut. vi. 4. And so in another article of religion it is said, 1 John iv. 2, `He that believeth Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God;, that is, so far forth of God.
The devils also believe; that is, assent to this truth, and other truths revealed in the word.
And tremble, φρίσσουσι.—The word signifieth extreme fear and horror of spirit; it cometh from φρὶξ, a word that implieth that noise which is caused by the commotion of the sea. Now, this clause is added, `they tremble, not to imply, as some suppose, that they do more than assent, as having an experience of some work upon their affections, but to disprove this kind of faith, and to show that it is not saving; they have an assent which causeth horror and torment, but they have not a faith which causeth confidence and peace, the proper fruit of that faith which is justifying, Rom. v. 1; Eph. iii. 12.
Obs. 1. Bare assent to the articles of religion doth not infer true faith. True faith uniteth to Christ, it is conversant about his person; it is not only assensus axiomati, an assent to a gospel-maxim or proposition; you are not justified by that, but by being one with Christ. It was the mistake of the former age to make the promise rather than the person of Christ to be the formal object of faith; the promise is the warrant, Christ the object: therefore the work of faith is terminated on him in the expressions of scripture. We read of coming to him, receiving him, &c.; we cannot close with Christ without a promise, and we must not close with a promise without Christ: in short, there is not only assent in faith, but consent; not only an assent to the truth of the word, but a consent to take Christ; there must be an act that is directly and formally conversant about the person of Christ. Well, then, do not mistake a, naked illumination, or some general acknowledgment of the articles of religion for faith. A man may be right in opinion and judgment, but of vile affections; and a carnal Christian is in as great danger as a pagan, or idolater, or heretic; for though his judgment be sound, yet his manners are heterodox and heretical. True believing is not an act of the understanding only, but a work of `all the heart, Acts viii. 37. I confess some expressions of scripture seem to lay much upon assent, 241as 1 John iv. 2, and v. 1; 1 Cor. xii. 3; Mat. xvi. 17; but these places do either show that assents, where they are serious, and upon full conviction, come from some special revelation; or else, if they propound them as evidences of grace, we must distinguish times: the greatest difficulty lay then upon assent, rather than affiance. The truths of God suffering under so many prejudices, the gospel was a novel doctrine, contrary to the ordinary and received principles of reason, persecuted in the world, no friend to natural and carnal affections, and therefore apt to be suspected. The wind that bloweth on our backs, blew in their faces; and that which draweth on many to assent to the gospel was their discouragement. Consent and long prescription of time, the countenance and favour of the world, do beget a veneration and reverence to religion; and therefore assent now is nothing so much as it was then, especially when it is trivial and arreptitious, rather than deliberate; for this is only the fruit of human testimony, and needeth not supernatural grace. Therefore do not please yourselves in naked assents; these cost nothing, and are worth nothing. There is `a form of knowledge., Rom. ii. 20, as well as `a form of godliness, 2 Tim. iii. 5. `A form of knowledge `is nothing but an idea or module of truth in the brains, when there is no power or virtue to change and transform the heart.
Obs. 2. From that thou doest well. It is good to own the least appearance of good in men. So far it is well, saith the apostle. To commend that which is good is the ready way to mend the rest. This is a sweet art of drawing on men further and further: so far as it is good, own it: 1 Cor. xi. 2, with 17, `In this I praise you, saith Paul; and again, `In this I praise you not., Jesus loved the young man for his moral excellency, Mark x. 21. It was a hopeful step. It is good to take off the scandal of being severe censurers, not to be always blaming. It reproveth them that blast the early bud dings of grace, and discourage men as soon as they look toward religion by their severe rigour; like the dragon that watched to `destroy the man-child as soon as he was born, Rev. xii. 4. The infant and young workings of grace should be dandled upon the lap of commendation, or, like weak things, fostered with much gentleness and care.
Obs. 3. The devils assent to the articles of Christian religion. It cometh to pass partly through the subtlety of their natures they are intellectual essences; partly through experience of providences, sight of miracles. They are sensible of the power of God in rescuing men from their paws; so that they are forced to acknowledge there is a God, and to consent to many truths in the scriptures. There are many articles acknowledged at once in Mat. viii. 29, `Jesus, thou Son of God, art thou come to torment us before our time?, They acknowledge God, Christ the Son of God, not in an ordinary adoptive way; for it is. Luke iv., `That thou art the Holy One of God;, then a day of judgment, which will occasion more torment to themselves and other sinners. And so you shall see Paul adjured the devil `by the name of Christ, Acts xvi. 18. And the devils answer the sons of Sceva, `Paul I know, and Jesus I know; but who are ye?, Acts xix. 15. They acknowledged that Jesus as the master, Paul as the 242servant and messenger, had mightily shaken their power and kingdom. So it is said, Phil. ii. 10, `Things under the earth;, that is, the devils who are turned into hell, which is represented as a subterranean place, do `bow the knee, to Christ. Well, then, never rest in the devils, faith. Can the devils be justified or be saved? They believe there is a God, that there is a Christ, that Christ died for sinners. A Christian is to exceed and go beyond devils; nay, beyond other men, beyond pagans; nay, beyond hypocrites in the church; nay, be yond himself; he must `forget the things that are behind, &c. Is it not a notable check to atheistical thoughts, Should I be worse than devils? David said, `I was as a beast before thee, Ps. lxxiii. 23; and Agur, Prov. xxx. 2, `Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man., Whilst we go about to ungod God, we do but unman ourselves; nay, worse, an atheist is not only a beast, but a devil. Christ called Judas `devil, John vi. 70. Nay, worse than devils: the devils are under the dread of this truth; we are stupid, insensible of providence, careless of judgments, when `the devils believe and tremble., The Lord might well expostulate thus, `Fear ye not me, O foolish people, that have no understanding?, Jer. v. 21,22.
Obs. 4. Horror is the effect of the devils, knowledge: the more they know of God the greater trembling is there impressed upon them. They were terrified at a miracle, or any glorious discovery of Christ's power on earth: `Art thou come to torment us before our time?, Well, then, hence you may collect—(1.) Light that yieldeth us no comfort is but darkness. The devils have knowledge left, but no comfort, therefore said to be `held under chains of darkness, Jude 6. The more they think of God the more they tremble. It is miserable to have only light enough to awaken conscience, and knowledge enough to be self-condemned, to know God, but not to enjoy him. The devils cannot choose but abominate their own thoughts of the Deity. Oh! rest not, then, till you have gotten such a knowledge of God as yieldeth comfort: Ps. xxxvi. 9, `In thy light shall we see light;, there is light in this light, all other light is darkness. (2.) All knowledge of God out of Christ is uncomfortable: that is the reason why the devils tremble; they cannot know God as a father, but as a judge; not as a friend, but as an enemy. Faith looking upon God as a father and as a friend, yieldeth peace to the soul, Rom. v. 1; and `fear is cast out, for fear hath torment in it, 1 John iv. 18. This is the misery of devils and damned men and natural men, that they cannot think of God without horror; whereas this is the great solace and comfort of the saints, that there is a God: Ps. civ. 34. `My meditation of him shall be sweet;, and Cant. i. 3, `Thy name is as an ointment poured out, full of fragrancy and refreshing. Salt waters being strained through the earth become sweet. God's attributes, which are in themselves terrible and dreadful to a sinner, being derived to us through Christ, yield comfort and sweetness. The children of God can long for the day when Christ's appearance will be most terrible: `Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.,243
Here he reinforceth the dispute against a carnal professor; the disputation is not about the cause of justification, but what we should think of an empty faith.
But wilt thou know; that is, wilt thou rightly understand and consider of the matter, or hearken to what can be said against thy faith? The like form of speech is used Rom. xiii. 3, `Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?, that is, be taught how not to fear it.
O vain man, ἄνθρωπε κενέ, O empty man; a metaphor taken from an empty vessel. It is the parallel word to raka, which is forbidden Mat. v. 22. The Septuagint render rikim by ἄνδρας κένους, Judges xi. 3. You will say. Was it lawful for the apostle to use such words of contempt and disgrace? I answer—(1.) Christ doth not forbid the word, but the word used in anger. You shall see fool, another term there forbidden, is elsewhere used by Christ himself: Mat. xxiii. 17, `O ye fools and blind;, and Luke xxiv. 25, `ye fools, and slow of heart to believe., And so Paul, Gal. iii. 1, `O ye foolish Galatians., There is a difference between necessary corrections and contemptuous speeches or reproofs. (2.) The apostle doth not direct this to any one person, but to such an order or sort of men;189189`Hic notantur non certi homines, sed certa hominum genera.,—Grot. in locum. such speeches to private persons savour of private anger: but being directed to such a sort of men, do but note the just detestation of a public reproof.
That faith without works is dead.—Mark, he doth not say, `faith is dead without works, but `faith without works is dead: `there is a difference in these predications; as if he said, faith is dead without works, it would have argued that works are the cause that gave life to faith, whereas they are effects that argue life in faith. As, for instance, `a man without motion is dead, is proper, but a `man is dead without motion, is a predication far different. Briefly, in this dispute the apostle proceedeth upon the supposition of several maxims. As (1.) That the way to know graces is by their effects and operations, as causes are known by their necessary effects. (2.) That works are an effect of faith; `faith without works is dead, and works are dead without faith. So that works that are gracious are a proper, perpetual, and inseparable effect of faith; they are such effects as do not give life to faith, but declare it; as apples do not give life to the tree, but show it forth.
The notes are these:—
Obs. 1. From that wilt thou know? Presumers are either ignorant or inconsiderate. False and mistaken faith is usually a brat of darkness; either men do not understand what faith is, or do not consider what they do. Ignorance and incogitancy maketh such unwarrantable conceits to escape without censure.
Obs. 2. From that O vain or empty man. Temporaries are but vain men; like empty vessels, full of wind, and make the greatest sound; they are full of windy presumptions and boasting professions. (1.) Full of wind, they have a little airy knowledge, such as puffeth up: 2 Peter i. 8, `Barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ., There is knowledge, but it is a 244barren and unfruitful knowledge; they are void and destitute of any solid grace. (2.) Of a great sound and noise; can talk of grace, boast of knowledge, glory in their faith. Usually presumers are of a slight, frothy spirit, that are all for tongue and an empty profession. A vain faith and a vain man are oft suited and matched.
Obs. 3. Hypocrites must be roused with some asperity and sharpness. So the apostle, `O vain man;, so Christ, `O ye foolish and blind;, so John the Baptist, `O ye generation of vipers, Mat. iii. 7. Hypocrites are usually inconsiderate, and of a sleepy conscience, so that we must not whisper, but cry aloud. An open sinner hath a constant torment and bondage upon his spirit, which is soon felt and soon awakened; but a hypocrite is able to make defences and replies. We must, by the warrant of those great examples, deal with him more roughly; mildness doth but soothe him in his error.
Obs. 4. That an empty barren faith is a dead faith. I noted this before; let me touch on it again. It is a dead faith—(1.) Because it may stand with a natural state, in which we are `dead in trespasses and sins., (2.) It is dead, because it receiveth not the quickening influences of the Spirit. (3.) It is dead, because it wanteth the effect of life, which is operation; all life is the beginning of operation, tendeth to operation, and is increased by operation; so faith is dead, like a root of a tree in the ground, when it cannot produce the ordinary effects and fruits of faith. (4.) It is dead, because unavailable to eternal life, of no more use and service to you than a dead thing. Oh! pluck it off; who would suffer a dead plant in his garden? `Why cumbereth it the ground?, Luke xiii. 7.
Here he propoundeth the demonstration that might convince the vain man, which is taken from the example of Abraham; the believers of the Old and New Testament being all justified the same way.
Was not Abraham our father.—He instanceth in Abraham, because lie was the prime example and idea of justification, and because many were apt to plead that instance urged by Paul, Rom. iv. 1-4, &c., and because he was a man of special reverence and esteem among the Jews. And he calleth him `our father, because he was so to those to whom he wrote, to the twelve dispersed tribes, and because he is to all the faithful, who are described to be those that `walk in the steps of our father Abraham., Rom. iv. 12. And indeed this is the solemn name and title that is given to Abraham in the scriptures, `Abraham our father., See John viii. 53; Acts vii. 2; Rom. iv. 1.
Justified by works; that is, declared to be just by his works before God and the world. But you will say, is not this contrary to scripture? It is said, Rom. iii. 20, `By the works of the law no man is justified;, and particularly it is said of Abraham, that he was `not justified by works., Rom. iv. 2. How shall we reconcile this difference? I shall not enter upon the main question till I come to the 24th verse; only, for the clearing of the present doubt, give me leave to return some thing by way of answer. Some distinguish of justification, it is either in foro divino or humano, in heaven or before men, and that is again 245either in our own consciences or in the sight of others: in the two latter senses they grant that works do justify; though not before God, yet in the court of conscience and before the world. The distinction is not altogether without warrant of scripture, for, Rom. iii. 20, `By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight., Mark that, in his sight, implying there is another justification before men, which may take in works. So also Rom. iv. 2, that `Abraham had not whereof to glory before God., That last clause implieth he could avouch his sincerity, as Job also did, before men, Job xxxi. Well, then, according to this opinion, these two places may be thus reconciled: Paul speaketh of the use and office of faith in foro divino, before God, and James speaketh of the effects and qualities of faith by which it is justified before men. And thus the business may be fairly accommodated; but that I believe there is somewhat more in it, because he speaketh of some special justification that Abraham received upon his offering of Isaac; and you shall find that from God he then received a justification of his faith, though thirty years before that he had received a justification of his person. When he was an idolater and ungodly, Joshua xiv. 2, Rom. v. 4, then God called him out of grace, Gen. xii. 3, and justified him. It is said, `He believed, and it was counted to him for righteousness, Gen. xv. 6. He was justified by imputation, and absolved from guilt and sin, so as it could not lie upon him to damnation. But now, when he offered Isaac, his faith was justified to be true and right, for that command was for the trial of it; therefore upon his obedience God did two things—renewed the promise of Christ to him, Gen. xxii. 16, 17, and gave him a testimony and declaration of his sincerity, ver. 12, `Now I know that thou fearest God, saith Christ to him, who is there called the `Angel of the Lord., I conceive, as works are signs in foro lmmano, to men, by which they may judge of the quality of faith, so in foro divino, before God, God judging `according to our works, as it is distinctly said, Rev. xx. 12. God will evince the faith of his saints to be right by producing their works, and will discover the ungrounded hopes of others by their works also, for great and small are all judged according to that rule. And not only hereafter, but now also doth God judge according to works; that is, look upon them as testimonies and declarations of faith. `Now I know that thou fearest God;, that is, now I have an experience; upon which experience Abraham was justified and the promise renewed. I conceive our apostle alludeth to that experience, for he speaketh as in a known case, `Was not Abraham justified by works?; that is, upon this did not he receive a testimony and declaration from God that he was justified? And suitable to this the author of the Book of Maccabees saith, 1 Mac. ii. 52, `Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation? and it was imputed to him for righteousness., Found faithful is a phrase equivalent to that which James useth, `was justified., Therefore Paul and James may be thus reconciled: Paul speaketh of the justifying of a sinner from the curse of his natural condition, the occupations of the law, &c., and accepting him into the favour of God, which is of grace, and not^ of debt; James of the justifying and approbation of that faith by which we are thus accepted with God. God giveth us the comfort of our 246former justification by such experiences and fruits of faith, for in them we are found faithful; that is, before God and man approved to have a right faith. And to this purpose Diodat excellently glosseth, that justification in Paul is opposite to the condemnation of a sinner in general, and justification in James is opposite to the condemnation of a hypocrite in particular. In Paul's sense a sinner is absolved, in James's sense a believer is approved; and so most sweetly, and for aught I can see, without exception the apostles are agreed. For the Popish exceptions I shall handle them, ver. 24.
When he offered Isaac upon the altar.—Mark, though Abraham never actually offered him, but only in purpose and vow, yet it is said `he offered., So Heb. xi. 17, `By faith Abraham offered Isaac, &c.; he purposed it, and if God had continued the command, would actually have done it.190190`Immolari sibi Deus filium jussit, pater obtulit, et quantum ad defunctionem cordis pertinet, immolavit.,—Salvian. de Gub. Dei, lib. i. God counteth that to be done which is about to be done, and taketh notice of what is in the heart, though it be not brought to practice and actual accomplishment.
Obs. 1. Those that would have Abraham's privileges must look to it that they have Abraham's faith. You claim kin of him as believers. How was it with Abraham? Two things are notable in his faith—(1.) He received the promises with all humility: Gen. xvii. 3, `And Abraham fell on his face, as mightily abashed and abased in himself, to see God deal thus with him. (2.) He improved them, with much fidelity, being upright before God, and walking in all relations for his glory. Two instances there are of his obediences, upon which the Holy Ghost hath set a special mark and note—one was leaving his father's house, Gen. xii. 1, wherein he denied himself in his possessions; the other was the sacrificing of his son, Gen. xxii. 1, wherein he denied himself in his hopes. Oh! `look to the rock from whence you were hewn, the hole of the pit out of which you were digged, to Abraham your father, Isa. li. 1, 2. Do you receive mercies so humbly, improve them so thankfully? Who would not stick at those commands wherewith Abraham was exercised and tried? God calleth every believer more or less to deny something that is near and dear to him.
Obs. 2. Believers must see that they honour and justify their faith by works. Never content yourselves with an empty profession. Profession showeth to what party we addict ourselves, but holiness showeth we addict ourselves to God. Disagreeing parties may accord in the same guilt and practices: `What do you more?, Mat. v. 47. Christianity may be professed out of faction by them that have a pagan heart, under a Christian name. All natural men, however they differ in interest, agree in one common rebellion against God. But the chief thing which I would urge, is to press them that profess themselves to be justified by grace to make good their interest in grace, to look to the evidence of works. Libertines press men absolutely to believe that they are justified from all eternity; and to lull them asleep in a complete security, make it a sin to doubt of or question their faith, whether it be right or no. Saltmarsh saith, That we are no more to question faith than to question the promise, and that Christ and his 247apostles did not press men to ask the question whether they did believe or no, and that Christ's commands to believe are not to be disputed, but obeyed, &c.191191Saltmarsh in his Free Grace, cap. v., pp. 62-64. Vain allegation! There is a difference between questioning the command and questioning our obedience. Though we are not to dispute against the duty, yet we are to examine whether we perform it. The apostle speaketh directly to this purpose: `Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith, 2 Cor. xiii. 5. There is no other way to undeceive the soul, and to discover false conceptions from true graces. How sad was it for the foolish virgins, that never doubted of their faith till it was too late! It is the vulgar mistake to think that the excellency of faith lieth in the security and strength of persuasion; and that whoever can make full account that Christ died for him, or that he shall go to heaven, doth believe; whereas the difference between faith and presumption doth not lie in the security of persuasion, but in the ground of it, Mat. vii., latter end. The two buildings there might be raised in equal height and comeliness; the difference was in the foundation. A hypocrite may have as fair and as full a confidence as a believer, but it is not as well built and raised; and, if the scripture shall give sentence, he is not most happy that hath least trouble, but he that hath least cause; therefore you had need look to your faith and confidence, that it may be justified, justified by your works. This is a sensible evidence, and most in sight. I confess, by some it is decried as litigious, by others as legal. Some think that because there are so many shifts, and circuits, and wiles in the heart of man, it is an uncertain, if not an impossible way of trial. I confess, if in trial we were only to go by the light of our conscience and reason, the objection would seem to have weight in it. Who can discover the `foldings of the belly, Prov. xx. 27, without God's own candle? The main certainty lieth in the Spirit's witness, without which the witness of water is silent, 1 John v. 8. Graces shine not without this light. God's own interpreter must `show a man his righteousness, Job xxxiii., otherwise there will be many shifts in the heart, and we shall still be in the dark. Under the law every thing was to be established `in the mouth of two or three witnesses, Deut. xvii. 6. So here are two witnesses, the Spirit with our spirits, the Spirit with our renewed consciences, Rom. viii. 16. It is the Holy Ghost that giveth light, whereby we may discern the truth of grace, imprinteth the feeling and comfort, and by satisfying the soul begetteth a serenity and calmness within us. Therefore the apostle pitcheth the main certainty upon the Spirit's evidence: Rom. ix. 2, `I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost;, that is, my conscience is assured by the Holy Ghost that I do not err or lie. Others cry it up for legal, as by pressing men to look to works as an evidence, we went about to establish their confidence in their own righteousness, or a merit in themselves. Certainly it is one thing to judge by our graces, another thing to rest or put our trust in them. There is a great deal of difference between declaring and deserving. Works as fruits may declare our justified estate. There is a difference between `peace with God, and `peace of conscience., Peace and amity with God we have merely by grace and free justification, that εἰρήνη 248πρὸς Θεὸν, Rom. v. 1; but in the court of conscience there must be some evidence and manifestation. A broken man hath peace in court as soon as the surety hath paid his debt, but hath the comfort of it within himself when it is signified to him by letter or otherwise. Free justification is the ground of our comfort, but works the evidence that intimate it to us. However, we had need be cautious. An undue use of marks will keep the soul full of doubts; and we want the comfort that we seek when we do not bottom and found it upon Christ, according to his free promises. Above all things a Christian should be most delicate and tender in founding his hopes. God is impatient of a copartner in the creature's trust; he will not give that glory to another; and if you do, he will declare his anger by leaving you to a constant uncertainty and dissatisfaction. Always when we think to warm ourselves by our own sparkles, we lie down in sorrow. Because the business is of great concernment, I shall give you a few directions, how you may reflect upon your graces, or works, as evidences of your estate.
1. You must be loyal to Christ. Many seek all their happiness in the gracious dispositions of their own souls, and so neglect Christ.192192See Mr T. Goodwin in his preface before his book called `Faith Triumphing in its Object., This were to prize the love token before the lovely person. To rectify it, it is good to go to work this way:—(1.) Let there be a thorough going out of yourselves; be sure to keep the heart right in point of righteousness; and in founding your hopes, see that you do not neglect `the corner stone., Paul reckoneth up all his natural privileges, moral excellencies, nay, his own righteousness, what he did as a Pharisee, what as a Christian. `If any might have confidence in the flesh, Paul might; but he renounceth all; nay, counts it `loss, i.e., dangerous allurements to hypocrisy and self-confidence, Phil. iii. It is good to have such actual and fresh thoughts in ourselves when we proceed to trial, that our souls may be rather carried to than diverted and taken off from Christ. Usually assurance is given in after a solemn and direct exercise of faith: Eph. i. 13, `After ye believed, ye were sealed by the Spirit of promise;; where the apostle showeth the order of the Spirit's sealing, after believing or going to Christ, and the quality under which the Spirit sealeth, as a Spirit of promise; implying, that when the thoughts have been newly and freshly exercised in the consideration of our own unworthiness and God's free grace and promises, then are we fittest to receive the witness and certioration of the Spirit. (2.) In the very view and comfort of your graces still keep the heart upon Christ. See what would become of you were it not for free grace. God could find matter of condemnation against you, not only in the worst sins, but in the best duties; the most regenerate man durst not adventure his soul upon the heavenliest thought that ever he conceived. When Nehemiah had performed a zealous action he subjoineth, Neh. xiii. 22, `Remember me, my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy;, intimating, that therein God might find enough to ruin him. So Paul, 1 Cor. iv. 4, `I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified:, he knew no unfaithfulness in his ministry, yet this would not make him righteous before God. So that, in the presence of the greatest evidences, you should see free 249grace is the surest refuge; as Jehoshaphat, when he had all the strength of Judah, who are numbered to be five hundred thousand, yet goeth to God, as if there were no presence of means: 2 Chron. xx. 12, `We have no might; our eyes are unto thee., So in the fairest train of graces you should still keep Christ in the eye of faith, and let the soul stay upon him; or, as in a pair of compasses, one part is fixed in the centre whilst the other foot wandereth about in the circumference, so must the soul stay on Christ, be fixed on him, whilst we search after evidences and additional comforts. (3.) After the issue and close of all, you must the more earnestly renew your addresses to Christ, and exercise faith with the more advantage and cheerfulness. You have much more encouragement to close with him when you survey his bounty to your souls, and consider those emanations of grace by which you are enabled to good works. So 1 John v. 13, `These things have I written to you that believe, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on him., His meaning is, that upon assurance they might renew the act of faith with the more cheerfulness; as Thomas, when he felt Christ's wounds, had the greater reason to believe, John xx. 27; non nova, sed aucta fide, as Estius glosseth, by a renewed and increased faith. So when you have had a feeling and sense of Christ's bounty to you, and by good works have cleared up your interest in eternal life, you have the greatest reason to cast yourselves again upon Christ by faith and confidence; for, as the apostle saith, `The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith., Rom. i. 17. The whole business of our justification before God is carried on by a continual act of faith, from one act and degree to another. In short, whatever comfort we seek in our works and graces, Christ must still `lie as a bundle of myrrh between our breasts, Cant. i. 12; be kept close and near the heart, always in the eye of faith and the arms of love.
2. You must go to work evangelically, and with a spirit suiting the gospel. Consider and understand your evidences and graces not in a legal perfection, but as `sprinkled with the blood of the covenant., If you should look for love, fear, faith, hope, in that perfection which the law requireth, the heart will still be kept unsettled; your business is to look to the truth rather than the measure. Usually men bring their graces rather to the balance than to the touchstone, and weigh them when they should try them, as if the quantity and measure were more considerable than the essence and nature. It is good to own grace, though mingled with much weakness: the children of God have pleaded the truth of their graces, when conscious to themselves of many failings: Cant. i. 5, `I am black, but comely., There is grace, though under the veil and cloud of much weakness; so Cant. v. 2, `I sleep, but my heart waketh:, the spouse hath a double aspect, to what was evil and what was good; so he in the Gospel could with confidence plead his faith, though humbled with sad relics and remains of un belief: `Lord, I believe; help my unbelief, Mark ix. 24. We must not bear false witness against others, much less against ourselves; and, therefore, own a little good, though in the midst of much evil.
3. You must go to work prudently, understanding the nature of marks, and the time to use them; everything is beautiful in its season. There are times of desertion, when graces are not visible. In darkness 250we can neither see black nor white. In times of great dejection and discouragement the work of a Christian is not to try, but believe: `Let him stay himself on the name of God, Isa. l. 10. It is most seasonable to encourage the soul to acts of faith, and to reflect upon the absolute promises, rather than conditional. The absolute promises were intended by God as attractives and encouragements to such distressed souls. There is a time when the soul is apt to slumber, and to be surprised with a careless security; then it is good to awaken it by a serious trial. To a loose, carnal spirit, an absolute promise is as poison; to a dejected spirit, as cheering wine. When the soul lieth under fear and sense of guilt, it is unable to judge, therefore examination doth but increase the trouble. But again, when the heart is drowsy and careless, trial is most in season; and it is best to reflect upon the conditional promises, that we may look after the qualifications expressed in them ere we take comfort. When David was under hatches, he laboured to maintain faith, and outbrave discouragements: Ps. iii. 2, the enemies said, `Now there is no help for him in his God., He hath fallen scandalously, and that psalm was penned upon occasion of Absalom's rebellion, which was ordered by way of correction of David's sin; and this made them vaunt, Now God is his enemy. Now David doth not mention the sin, but awakeneth his trust; in the very face of the temptation he maintaineth his confidence: `But thou art my shield, my glory, and the lifter up of my head, &c., ver. 3. And elsewhere he professeth that this was his general practice: Ps. lvi. 3, `At what time I am afraid, I will put my trust in thee., In times of discouragement, and when terror was likely to grow upon his spirit, he would look after arguments and supports of trust and dependence. So, on the contrary, when the heart groweth rusty and secure, it is good to use Nazianzen's policy, when his heart began to be corrupted with ease and pleasure,193193Nazian. Orat. xiii. circa med. Τοῖς Θρῆνοις συγγίγνομαι, saith he, I use to read the Lamentations of Jeremiah, or to inure his mind to matter sad and lamentable. In all spiritual cases it is good to deal prudently, lest we put ourselves into the hands of our enemies, and further the devices of Satan.
4. Your great care must be to be humbly thankful; thankful, be cause all is from God. It is a vain spirit that is proud of what is borrowed, or glorieth because he is more in debt than others: 1 Cor. iv. 7, `Who made thee differ? and what hast thou which thou hast not received? 7 Whatever we find upon a search, it must not be ascribed to free-will, but to free grace: `He giveth will and deed according to his pleasure, Phil. ii. 13. Free-will establisheth merit; free grace checketh it. The sun is not beholden, because we borrow light from it, or the fountain because we draw water. We may all say, as David, `Of thine own have we given thee;, Lord, this is thy bounty. Then humble we must be, because as every good work cometh from God's Spirit, so it passeth through thy heart, and there it is defiled; partus sequitur ventrem. Our good works have more of the mother in them than the father; and so `our righteousnesses, become `dung, Phil. iii. 8, and `filthy rags, Isa. lxiv. 6. Thus, lest pride taint the spirit by the sight of our graces, it is good to make distinct and actual reflections on God's bounty and our own vileness.251
Obs. 3. From that when he offered Isaac. Isaac is counted offered, because he was so in Abraham's purpose. The note is, that serious purposes of obedience are accepted for obedience. God hath given in pardon upon a purpose of returning: Ps. xxxii. 5. `I said I would confess, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin., Only remember they must be such purposes as are like Abraham's. (1.) Serious and resolved, for he prepared himself to the performance; not vain purposes to betray present duties, when men hope to do that to-morrow which they should do to-day; these are vanishing and flitting motions which God taketh notice of: Ps. xliv. 21, `God knoweth the secrets of the hearts, and that such delays are but modest denials, or rather deceitful offers, to put off the clamour and importunity of conscience. Nothing more usual than such purposes for the future to justify present neglects. God will search it out: Abraham was ready. (2.) They must be such as end in action, unless in the case of allowable hindrances. When is that? (1st.) When we are hindered, as Abraham was, from heaven; he, by divine command; we, by providence: 1 Kings viii. 18, `Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well in that it was in thine heart., When mere providence diverteth us from holy intentions, God accepteth of the will. (2d.) By invincible weakness: Rom. vii. 18, `To will is present with me; but to perform that which is good, I find not., The apostle could not, κατεργάζεθαι, come up to the rate of his purposes; in such a case God looketh to what is in the heart. Well, then—(1.) It serveth for comfort to the people of God, who, because they do not perform duty as they would, are much discouraged. God taketh no tice of the purpose, and judgeth of you, as physicians do of their patients, not by their eating, but their appetite. Purposes and desires are works of God's own stirring up, the free native offering and motions of grace. Practices may be overruled, but such earnest purposes as make you do what you can are usually serious and genuine. The children of God, that cannot justify their practices, plead the inward motions and desires of their hearts: John xxi. 17, `Thou knowest all things, and thou knowest that I love thee;, Neh. i. 11, `Desire to fear thy name, &c. (2.) It is for advice to us to be careful of our purposes. Many would be more wicked, were they not bound up.194194`Solve leonem et senties., God takes notice of what is in their hearts: Mat. v. 28, `He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her in his heart., So also Seneca, Incesta est et sine stupro quae stuprum cupit—the purpose maketh guilty, though the act be restrained. God took notice of the king of Babylon's purposes and intentions: Isa. x. 7, `It is in his heart to destroy, and cut off nations not a few., Motions and inclinations should be watched over. (3.) It showeth God's readiness to receive returning sinners; he met his son `while he was yet a great way off, Luke xv. As soon as the will layeth down the weapons of defiance, and moveth towards God, the Lord runneth to embrace and fall upon the neck of such a poor soul, that he may satisfy it with some early comforts. So Isa. lxv. 24, `Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear, Acts of grace do anticipate and often prevent acts of duty. `Turn me, saith 252Ephraim, and then `a dear and pleasant son, Jer. xxxi. 18, with ver. 20. As soon as you set your faces towards God, he runneth towards you. (4.) It showeth how we should entertain the purposes and promises of God; look upon them in the promise with such a certainty as if they were actually accomplished: Rev. xiv. 8, `Babylon is fallen, is fallen., God can read duty in the purpose: we have much more cause to read accomplishment in the promise. `Hath he said, and shall he not do it? hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?, Num. xxiii. 19. His will is not changeable as ours, neither is his power restrained.
Obs. 4. From that offered Isaac upon the altar. He bringeth this as the great argument of the truth of Abraham's faith. It is not for faith to produce every action, unless it produce such actions as Abraham's. Such as will engage you to self-denial are troublesome to the flesh. David scorned such service as cost nothing. There where we must deny our own reason, affections, interest, that is an action fit to try a believer. Let us see what is observable in this action of Abraham, that we may go and do likewise. (1.) Observe the greatness of the temptation. It was to offer his own son, the son of his love, his only son, a son longed for, and obtained when `his body was dead, and `Sarah's womb dead;, nay, `the son of the promise., Had he been to contend only with natural affection, it had been much—descensive love is always vehement; but for love to Isaac there were special endearing reasons and arguments. But Abraham was not only to conflict with natural affection, but reason; not only with reason, but faith. He was, as it were, to execute all his hopes; and all this was to be done by himself; with his own hand he was at one stroke to cut off all his comforts; the execution of such a sentence was as harsh and bitter to flesh and blood as to be his own executioner. Oh! go and shame yourselves without, you that can so little deny yourselves for God, that attempt duties only when they are easy and obvious, never care to recover them out of the hands of difficulty and inconvenience. Public duties, if well done, are usually against carnal interests, private duties against carnal affections. Can you give up all that is near and dear to you? Can you offer up your Isaac? your ease and pleasure for private duties? your interests for public? Every action is not a trial of faith, but such as engageth to self-denial. (2.) Consider the readiness of his obedience. As Abraham is the pattern of believing, so of obeying. He received the promises as a figure of our faith; he offered up his son as a figure of our obedience, Heb. xi. 17. (1st.) He obeyed readily and willingly: Gen. xxii. 3, `Abraham rose early in the morning., In such a service some would have delayed all the time they could, but he is up early. Usually we straiten duty rather than straiten ourselves; we are not about that work early. (2d.) Resolutely; he concealeth it from his wife, servants, from Isaac himself, that so he might not be diverted from his pious purpose. Oh! who is now so wise to order the circumstances of a duty that he may not be hindered in it? (3d.) He denied carnal reason. In difficult cases we seek to elude the command, dispute how we shall shift it off, not how we shall obey it. If we had been put upon such a trial, we would question the vision, 253or seek some other meaning; perhaps offer the image of Isaac, or some youngling of the flock, and call it Isaac; as now we often pervert a command by distinctions, and invent shifts to cheat our souls into a neglect of duty; as the heathens, when their gods called for φωτα, a man, they offered φῶτα, a candle; or as Hercules offered up a painted man instead of a living. But Abraham doth not so, though he had a fair occasion, for he was divided between believing the promise and obeying the command. God tried him in his faith: his faith was to conflict with his natural reason as well as his obedience with his natural affection. But `he accounted that God was able to raise him from the dead, Heb. xi. 19, and he reconcileth the commandment with the promise. How easily could we have slipped out at this door, and disobey, out of pretences and reasons of religion. But Abraham offered Isaac.
Having alleged the instance, he now urgeth it by an apostrophe to the boasting hypocrite, who nourished an impure life under the pretence of faith.
Seest thou, βλέπεις.—He seeketh to awaken the secure carnalist by urging this instance upon his conscience: `Seest thou?, that is, is it not clear? or without an interrogation, `Thou seest.,
How his faith wrought with his works.—Many senses are given of this phrase. The Papists urge it to prove that faith needeth the concurrence of works in the matter of justification, as if works and faith were joint causes; but then the apostle would have said, that works wrought with his faith, and not faith with his works. Among the orthodox it is expounded with some difference. That sense which I prefer is, that his faith rested not in a naked, bare profession, but was operative; it had efficacy and influence upon his works, co-working with all other graces; it doth not only exert and put forth itself in acts of believing, but also in working.
And by works was faith made perfect.—This clause also hath been vexed into several senses. The Papists gather hence that in the work of justification faith receiveth its worth, value, and perfection from works—a conceit prejudicial to the freeness of God's love, contrary to the constant doctrine of the scriptures; for faith rather giveth a value to works than works to faith, Rom. xiv. 23; Heb. xi. 4-6; and works are so far from being chief, and the more perfect cause of justification, that they are not respected there at all. This sense being justly disproved, divers others are given. As (1.) `Made perfect, that is, say some, `made known and discovered;,195195`Opera non sunt causa quod aliquis justus sit apud Deum, sed potius sunt executiones et manifestationes justitiae,—Thom. Aquin. in Gal. iii., lect. 4. as God's strength is said to be `perfected in our weakness, 2 Cor. xii. 9. None will be so mad as to say that our strength doth add anything to the power of God, that is incapable of increase and decrease, and hath no need to borrow aught from the weakness of man. It is `made perfect, because it hath the better advantage of discovery, and doth more singularly put forth and show itself; so faith is made perfect, that is, more fully known and apparent. And the reason of the expression is—(1st.) Because 254excelling things, whiles kept private, suffer a kind of imperfection; or (2d.) Because it is an argument faith is come to some maturity and perfection of growth, not only living, but lively, when it can produce its proper and necessary operations; this sense is probable. But (2.) Others understand it thus: that faith or profession is not full and complete till works be joined with it, faith and works being the two essential parts which make up a believer; which interpretation suiteth well enough with the scope of the apostle. (3.) The exposition which I take to be most simple and suitable is, that faith co-working with obedience is made perfect, that is, bettered and improved; as the inward vigour of the spirits is increased by motion and exercise: and so in short (as Dr Jackson explaineth it196196Jackson of Faith.), works do not perfect faith by communication and imputation197197Qu. `impartation,—ED. of their perfection, to it, but by stirring, exercising, and intending the natural vigour of it.
From this verse thus opened observe:—
Obs. 1. There is an influence of faith upon all a Christian's actings, Heb. xi. Faith is made the grand principle; acts are there spoken of, which do more formally belong to other graces. But we say the general won the day, though the private soldiers did worthily in the high places of the field, because it was under his conduct and direction. So because all other graces inarch, and are brought up in their order, to fight under the conduct of faith, the honour of the day and duty is devolved upon it. The influence of faith is great into all the offices of the heavenly life. (1.) Because it hath the advantage of a sweet principle: `It worketh by love, Gal. v. 6. It represents the love of God, and then maketh use of the sweetness of it by way of argument: it urgeth by such melting entreaties, that the believer cannot say nay. Paul intimateth the argument of faith, Gal. ii. 20, `I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved, and gave himself for me., When the soul is backward, faith saith, Christ loved you, and gave himself up for you. He was not thus backward in the work of salvation; as the soldier said to Augustus when he refused his petition—I did not serve you so at the battle of Actium. (2.) It presents strong encouragements; it seeth assistance in the power of God, acceptance in the grace of God, reward in the bounty of God. When you are weakened with doubtings and discouragements, faith saith, Do your endeavour, and God will accept you. When Christ came to feast with his spouse he saith, Cant. v. 1, `I will eat my honeycomb with my honey., Though it were mixed with wax, and embased with weakness, Christ will accept it. When jealousy maketh the heart faint, and the hands feeble, lest we should drive on heavily, faith showeth the soul `an angel that standeth at the altar with sweet incense, Rev. viii. 3, 4. Duty coming immediately out of our hands would yield an ill savour, therefore Christ intercepteth it in the passage, and so it is perfumed in the hands of a mediator. Again, are you discouraged with weakness? faith will reply, Thou art weak, but God will enable thee. It is an advantage, not a discouragement, to be weak in ourselves, that we may be `strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, Eph. vi. 10. When the bucket is empty, it can be the better filled out of the ocean. Paul saith, 2 Cor. xii. 10, 255 `When I am weak, then am I strong., There is no heart so dead but God can quicken it, and he is willing. It is said, 1 Chron. xv. 26, `God helped the Levites, when the work was bodily; and we are less apt to be indisposed for bodily labour. God helped them by discharging their lassitudes; so certainly he will much more give inward strength, more love, joy, hope, which are the strength of the soul, Neh. viii. 10. Again, if the heart be lazy and backward, or stick at ease and pleasure, faith can present the glory of the reward, the pleasures at God's right hand, &c. (3.) It breaketh the force of opposite propensions; if the world standeth in the way of duty, `faith overcometh the world, 1 John v. 4; partly by bringing Christ into the combat, partly by spiritual replies and arguments. Reason telleth us we must be for ourselves; faith telleth us we must be for God. Reason saith, If I take this course, I shall undo myself; faith, by looking within the veil, seeth it is the only way to save all, 2 Cor. iv. 15-17. Reason presenteth the treasures of Egypt, and faith the recompense of reward. From hence are those bickerings and counterbuffs which a believer feeleth sometimes within himself.
Well, then, out of all this we may infer—(1.) That we had need get faith; there is as great a necessity of faith as of life; it is the life of our lives and the soul of our souls; the primum mobile, the first pin, that moveth all the wheels of obedience, like the blood and spirits which run through the whole body. There is by the ordination of God as great a necessity of faith as of Christ: what good will a deep well do us without a bucket? He that hath a mind to work, would not be without his tools; and who would be without faith that maketh conscience of duty? (2.) Act it in all your works; no works are good till faith work with them, they are not acceptable, nor half so kindly Heb. xi. 4, `By faith Abel offered, πλείονα θυσίαν (not only a better sacrifice, as we render it, but) `more sacrifice, as the word will bear. Faith is the best support you can have; carnal ends make us mangle duty, doubts weaken us in duty.
Obs. 2. That faith is bettered and made more perfect by acting. Neglect of our graces is the ground of their decrease and decay; wells are the sweeter for draining.198198`Τὰ φρέατα ἐναντλουμένα βελτίω ἔστι.,—Basil. Christians get nothing by dead and useless habits. Talents hid in a napkin gather rust; the noblest faculties are embased when not improved in exercise. The apostle wisheth Timothy ἀναζωπυρεῖν, to `excite and enliven his gifts, 2 Tim. i. 6. It is an allusion to the fire of the temple, which was always to be kept burning. Well, then, be much in duty, draw out the acts of your graces; many live, but are not lively; decays do insensibly make way for deadness.
To strengthen the former argument from the example of Abraham, he produceth a testimony of scripture to prove that Abraham had true faith, and that Abraham was truly justified.
And the scripture was fulfilled.—You will say, How can this be, since that saying was spoken of Abraham long before? Compare 256Gen. xv. 6 with Gen. xxii.; and the apostle Paul saith that scripture was fulfilled in him `while he was yet in his uncircumcision., Rom. iv. 10, which was before Isaac's birth, certainly before his being offered. Luther199199Luth. Praef. in hanc epistolam, ubi dicit, Haec verba Mosis violenter a Jacobo trahi et torqueri, &c. upon this ground rejecteth this epistle with some incivility of expression. The Papists seek to reconcile the matter thus: That though faith were imputed to Abraham for righteousness before he offered Isaac, yet our apostle would prove that faith was not enough to justify him, but there needed also works; for, say they, his righteousness was not complete and full till it was made perfect by the accession of works. And the Socinians200200`Fides, nisi bonorum operum fructibus perficiatur, justificationein perfectam ac salutem sempiternam conciliare hominibus non potest, ut apertissime testatur Jacobus.,—Volkel de Vera Religione, lib. iv, cap. 3, 139. pipe after the same tune and note, but without ground and warrant; for Paul quoteth the very same words for justification without works, Rom. iv. 2, 3, and proveth that he had such a justification as made him completely happy and blessed, ver. 6-8. And if James should go about to superinduce the righteousness of works, he would be directly contrary both to Moses and Paul. The words of Moses can no way bear that sense, who plainly averreth faith to be imputed to him for righteousness. Briefly, then, for opening the place, you must note, that a scripture is said to be fulfilled in several senses: sometimes when the main scope of the place is urged; at other times when a like case falleth out, and so a scripture is quoted, and said to be fulfilled, not by way of argument, but allusion; sensu transumptivo, as divines201201Spanhem. Dub. Evang., pars 2.—Dub. 64, et alibi. speak; and they give a note whereby the allusive sense may be distinguished from that which is chief and proper. When a text is quoted properly, it is said, `that it might be fulfilled, as noting the aim and scope of the place. When it is quoted by allusion, or to suit it with a parallel instance, it is said, `then it was fulfilled, as implying that such a like case fell out. So here, `Then was the scripture fulfilled;, that is, upon this instance and experience of his faith it might be again said that faith was imputed to him for righteousness; and we may rather own this exposition, because this sacrifice of his son, Gen. xxii., was a greater manifestation and discovery of his faith than that sacrifice mentioned Gen. xv., when this honour was first put upon him. And things are said to be fulfilled when they are most clearly manifested; as in that known place of Acts xiii. 32, 33, where those words, `Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee, are said to be fulfilled at Christ's resurrection, because then he `showed himself to be the Son of God., Rom. i. 4. So here; this being the evident discovery of Abraham's faith, it appeared how truly it was said of him that `he believed, and it was imputed to him for righteousness., By that action he declared he had a true justifying faith, and therefore202202As also the author of the book of Maccabees saith it was now fulfilled: Ἀβραὰμ ἐν πειρασμῳ̂ εὑρέθη πίστος, καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῳ̂ εἰς δικαιοσύνην.—1 Mac, ii. 52. the Lord saith after this trial, `Now I know that thou fearest me, Gen. xxii. 12. And I suppose that he doth the rather use this expression to prevent an objection that might be drawn from Genesis or the doctrine of Paul; as also intimating that 257his doctrine tended not to press men to renounce the righteousness of faith, but to get their interest therein cleared, the testimony of Abraham's righteousness being so every way compliant with the doctrine proposed.
Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.—The original meaning of that phrase, `it was counted to him for righteousness, is only to show that the thing was approved and accepted by God: and so it is often used in the Old Testament; as Phinehas, zeal is said to be `counted in him for righteousness:, Ps. cvi. 30, 31, `He stood up and executed judgment; and that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore., And therefore in this phrase the scripture doth not declare what is the matter of our justification, but only what value the Lord is pleased to put upon acts of faith or obedience, when they are performed in the face of difficulty and discouragement. It is true, it is quoted by the apostle to prove the righteousness which is of faith, without that of works: Rom. iv. 3, `What saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness., But I suppose the .apostle doth not quote the rigour of the expression, as if he would infer that faith is the matter of our righteousness, but only that the first testimony and solemn approbation which Abraham had from God was because of his faith. When scriptural expressions are rigorously urged, without considering their first and constant use, no wonder that mistakes and controversies do arise. For those great disputes about the matter of justification, I would not intermeddle; let it suffice to note, that the general current of Paul's epistles203203See Rom. iv. 23-25; Rom. v. 19; 1 Cor. i.30; 2 Cor. v. 21; Phil. iii. 9. carrieth it for the righteousness of Christ, which being imputed to us, maketh us just and acceptable before God; and this righteousness we receive by faith. So that faith justifieth not in the Popish sense as a most perfect grace, or as a good work done by us, but in its relation to Christ, as it receiveth Christ and his satisfactory righteousness; and so whether you say it justifieth as an instrument, a sole-working instrument, or as an ordinance, or relative action, required on our parts, all is to the same issue and purpose: to contend about mere words and bare forms of speech is to be too precise and critical.
And he was called the friend of God.—The apostle saith `he was called;, that is, he was; as Isa. xlviii. 8, `Thou wast called a transgressor from the womb;, that is, thou wast a transgressor. So in the New Testament: 1 John iii. 1, `To be called the sons of God;, that is, to be the sons of God. Or it alludeth to the solemn appellation wherewith Abraham is invested in scripture; as Isa. xli. 8, `Thou Israel are the seed of Abraham my friend., So 2 Chron. xx. 7, `Thou art our God, and thou gavest this land to the seed of Abraham thy friend,204204`εμρατυρήθη μεγάλως Αβραὰμ καὶ φίλος προσηγορεύθη τοῦ Θεοῦ.,—Clem. in Epist. ad Cor. And this title was given to Abraham because of his frequent communion with God—he had often visions; and because of his frequent covenanting with God—a great condescension, such as the kings of the earth use only to their equals and friends: and therefore, in the places where this title is given to Abraham, there is some respect to the covenant; and here it is said to be given to him upon that testimony 258of his faith and obedience in offering Isaac, when the covenant was solemnly renewed and confirmed to him by oath.
Obs. 1. Works ratify the Spirit's witness. The apostle saith, `Then it was fulfilled;, that is, seen that Abraham was a believer indeed, according to the testimony of God. The Spirit assureth us sometimes by expressions, speaking to us by some inward whisper and voice; sometimes by impressions, implanting gracious dispositions, as it were writing his mind to us. It is well when both are sensible, and with the witness of the Spirit we have that of water, 1 John v. 8. To look after works is the best way to prevent delusion. Here is no deceit, as in flashy joys. Fanatic spirits are often deceived by sudden flashes of comfort. Works, being a more sensible and constant pledge of the Spirit, beget a more solid joy: 1 John iii. 29, `Hereby we know we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him;, that is, by real acts of love and charity. The way of immediate revelation is more flitting and inconstant; such actings of the Spirit being like those outward motions that came upon Samson—`the Spirit came upon him at times;, and so upon every withdrawment new scruples and doubts do arise. But the trial by grace is most constant and durable, it being a continual real pledge of God's love to us. Flashes of comfort are only sweet and delightful while felt; but it is said of grace, `the seed abideth in him, 1 John iii. 8, and `the anointing, ἐν ὑμῖν μένει, abideth in you, 1 John ii. 7. This is a standing glory, and the continual repast of the soul; whereas those ravishings are like delicacies which God tendereth to his people in the times of festivity and magnificence. Well, then, learn—(1.) That good works are not a doubtful and litigious evidence. Men of dark spirits and great fancy will be always raising scruples; but the fault is in the persons, not the evidence. (2.) Learn to approve yourselves to God with all good conscience in times of trial; this will ratify and make good those imperfect whispers and mutterings in your souls concerning your interest in Christ. Do as Abraham did: upon a call he forsook his country; though he were childless, he believed the promise of a numerous issue; when God tempted him, he offered Isaac. When God trieth your faith or obedience with some difficulty, then is the special time to gain assurance by being found faithful.
Obs. 2. Believers are God's friends. This was not Abraham's title alone, but the title of all the righteous. Thus Christ saith, John xi. 11, `Our friend Lazarus sleepeth., And more expressly, John xv. 15, `Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends., Now they are friends to God—(1.) Because they are perfectly reconciled to him in Christ: we were enemies by nature; but God would not only pardon us, but receive us into friendship, Col. i. 21. Absalom was pardoned, but he `could not see the king's face., In other breaches, when the wound is healed, the scar remaineth; but now we are not only restored, and brought into an estate of amity, but advanced to higher principles. God doth not only spare converts, but delight in them. Periissemus nisi periissemus—we had been lost if we had not been lost; the fall made way for the more glorious restoration; as a broken bone, when it is well set, is strongest in the crack. (2.) All dispensations and duties that pass between them are passed in a friendly way: As (1st.) 259Communication of goods. Plutarch's reasoning is good: Τὰ τῶν φιλῶν πάνα κοινὰ, friends have all things in common; but God is our friend, and therefore we cannot want—a rare speech from a heathen. In the covenanted is ours, and we are his, Jer. xxxi. 33, and xxxii. 38, 39; Zech. xiii. 9. He maketh over himself to us, quantus quantus est, as great as he is; and so by an entire resignation we are given up to him. The covenant is like a conjugal contract, and may be illustrated by that of the prophet, Hosea iii. 3, `Thou shalt be for me, and I will be for thee., God maketh over himself and all his power and mercy to us, so that no dispensation cometh to us but in the way of a blessing; if it be so common a mercy as rain, `the rain shall be a rain of blessing, Ezek. xxxiv. 26; so we give up ourselves to God, even to the lowest interest and enjoyment: `Upon the horse-bells there shall be written, Holiness to the Lord, Zech. xiv. 20; all is consecrated. (2d.) Communication of secrets. So our Lord urgeth this relation: John xv. 15, `Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard I have made known to you., Servants are only acquainted with what concerneth their duty and work;205205`Servus herilis imperii non servus est sed minister.,—Seneca. the master commandeth, but doth not tell them the reason of the command. But now Christ had dealt more socially and sweetly with the apostles; he had opened all the secrets of the Father concerning his own resurrection, mission of the Holy Ghost, the calling of Gentiles, last judgment, eternal life, &c. And so shall you that lie in Christ's bosom know his secrets: Gen. xviii. 17, `Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do?, He will acquaint you with everything that concerneth your salvation and peace. So, on the other side, do believers open their secrets to God: Eph. iii. 12; Heb. x. 19, they `come with boldness to the throne of grace;, the word is, μετὰ παῤῥησίας, with liberty of speech; or, as it more strictly signifieth, liberty to speak all our mind. We may use some freedom with God, and acquaint him with all our griefs, and all our fears, and all our wants, and all our desires, as a friend would pour out his heart into the bosom of another friend; as it is said, Exod. xxxiii. 11, `The Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend., (3d.) Conformity and correspondency of will and affections. True friendship is built upon likeness and consent of wills:206206`Eadem velle et nolle, ea demum firma est amicitia.,—Sallust. God and the soul willeth the same thing—holiness as the means, and God's glory as the end: John xv. 14, `Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you;, to do otherwise is but false, glavering affection. It is the commendation of Ephesus, Rev. ii. 6, `Thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate., No friendship like that where we love and hate the same things, to hate what God hateth, and love what God loveth. See Prov. viii. 13; so see Ps. cxxxix. 21. (4th.) By mutual delight and complacency; they delight in God, and God in them: Isa. lxii. 4, `The Lord delighteth in thee, in their persons, their graces, their duties; so do they delight in God, in their addresses to him, in his fellowship and presence , they cannot brook any strangeness and distance; they cannot let a day pass, or a duty pass, without some 260communion and intercourse with God. It is said of the hypocrites, Job xxvii. 10, that `they will not delight themselves in God., Formal duties are a burden, `What a weariness is it, Mal. i. 13, though it were a sickly lamb. The prodigal thought it best to be out of the father's eye, best in a far country, Luke xv.; but it is their delight to be with Christ; his work is sweet to them, his statutes their songs, Ps. cxix. 54; duties come from them freely, as graces do from God; he `rejoiceth over them to do them good;, and they can say, every one of them, `How do I delight in thy law!, (5th.) By the special favour and respect God beareth them. Others have but common mercies, they saving; they have `hidden manna, joys which others cannot conceive, Rev. ii. 17. Others are brought into the palace, Ps. xlv. 15, but they into the chambers of the great King, Cant. i. 4; they have closet mercies, a sweet fellowship with God in all their ways; others have the letter, they the power; others have the work of an ordinance, they the comfort: Cant. v. 1, `Eat, O friends, &c. Well, then—(1.) Here is comfort to the righteous, to those that have found any friend-like affection in themselves towards God, any care to please him. God is your friend; you were enemies, but you are made near through Christ. God delighteth in your persons, in your prayers, in your graces, your outward welfare. It is a great honour to be the king's friend; you are favourites of heaven! Oh! this is your comfort that delight in his presence, that walk in his ways as much as you can, though not as much as you should. (2.) Here is caution to you; your sins go nearest to God's heart: `It was my familiar friend, Ps. lv. 12. It was sad to Christ to be betrayed by his own disciples; it is a like grief to his Spirit when his laws are made void by his own friends: 2 Sam. xvi. 17, `Is this thy kindness to thy friend?, It was David's aggravation: Ps. xli. 9, `Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted., Unexpected injuries surprise us with the more grief. Oh! walk carefully, watchfully!
You see then.—It is either a consectary out of the whole discourse, or out of the particular example of Abraham; he alludeth to Paul's manner of reasoning: Rom. iii. 28, `Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law;, and probably this discourse is intended to correct the abuse of that doctrine.
How by works; that is, by the parts and offices of the holy life.
A man is justified; that is, acquitted from hypocrisy; for he is said to be justified, in the phrase of our apostle, whose faith appeareth to be good and right, or who is found just and righteous; as Christ is said to be `manifested in the flesh, but justified in the Spirit, 1 Tim. iii. 16; that is, approved to be God.
And not by faith only.—Not by a bare naked profession, or a dead vain faith, such as consisteth in a mere assent or empty speculation, which is so far from justifying that it is not properly faith.
The main work in the discussion of this verse is to reconcile James with Paul. The conclusions seem directly opposite. See Rom. iii. 28; Gal. ii. 16. Paul also bringeth the instance of Abraham against justification by works. Much ado there hath been to reconcile this 261seeming difference. Some upon this ground deny the authority of the epistle; so Luther, and many of the Lutherans at first. Camerarius207207`Contentionis studium quoddam irritatum ab importunis ostentatoribus doctrinae fidei, longius hujus epistolae auctorem quasi extulisse videri possit, nam hoc in certaminibus semper fieri consuevit.,—Camerar. in hanc Epist. speaketh boldly and rashly, as if heat of contention had obtruded the apostle upon the contrary extreme and error; but this is to cut the knot, not to untie it. The apostles, acted by the same Spirit of truth, could not deliver contrary assertions; and though men usually out of the extreme hatred of one error embrace another, yet it cannot be imagined, without blasphemy, of those who were guided by an infallible assistance. They show more reverence to the scriptures who seek to reconcile both places than to deny the authority of one. Many ways are propounded; I shall briefly examine them, that with good advice and evidence we may pitch upon the best.
1. The Papists208208`Paulus loquitur de prima justificatione, et nomine operum intelligit opera quae fiunt sine fide et gratia, solis viribus liberi arbitrii. Jacobus autem de secunda justincatione, &c.—Bellarm. de Verbo Dei, lib. i. cap. 13, sec. 12. say that Paul speaketh of the first justification, by which a man, if unjust, is made just; and that by works he understandeth works done without faith and grace, by the sole power and force of free-will. But James speaketh of the second justification, whereby of just he is made more just; and by works he understandeth such as are performed in faith, and by the help of divine grace. To this I answer—;(1.) That it confoundeth justification with sanctification. (2.) That the distinction is false, and hath no ground in scripture. We can merit nothing after we are in a good estate, and are saved by grace all our lives: Rom. i. 17, `the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, for the just shall live by faith., If the righteousness whereby a sinner is justified be wholly absolved by faith, there is no place for works at all. But the apostle saith, throughout the whole life it is revealed from faith to faith; besides, the apostle Paul excludeth all works, even those done by grace. It is true, this error is less than that of the Pelagians, who said that by natural abilities the law might be kept to justification. However, it is not enough to ascribe justificatory works to the grace of God. So did the Pharisee: Luke xviii. 11, 12, `God, I thank thee, not myself. Yet he went not away justified. It is ill to associate nature with grace, and to make man a coadjutor in that in which God will have the sole glory. (3.) It is little less than blasphemy to say, We are more just by our own works than by the merits of Christ received by faith;209209`Contumeliosum est in sanctum meritum Christi, asserere secundam justificationem, quae in nostris operibus consistit, majorem et auctiorem et digniorem esse apud Deum quam primam, quae solo merito Christi nititur, et quidem non primam sed secundam justificationem mereri vitam aeternam.,—Chemnitius, Exam. Concil. Trident., p. 153. for to that justification, whereby a man is made more just, they admit works. (4.) The phrase of being more just suiteth not with the scope of the apostle, who doth not show how our righteousness is increased, but who hath an interest in it. Neither will the adversaries grant that those against whom the apostle disputeth had a first and real righteousness; and beside, it is contradicted by the example of Rahab, who, according to their explication, cannot be said to be justified in their second way of justification, and yet in our apostle's sense she is 262justified by works; and therefore the Popish gloss will not remove the seeming contrariety between the apostles.
2. The Arminians and Socinians go another way to work; and that they may deceive with the fairer pretence, seem to ascribe all to grace, and to condemn the merit of all sorts of works, because poor, weak, and imperfect; but they make new obedience the instrument of justification, and say that the free grace of God is only seen in the acceptation of our imperfect obedience. So doth Socinus210210Socin. Fragm. de Juatificat., p. 9. and others.211211Confess. Armin., cap. 18, sec. 3. Dr Hammond, Cat., p. 47, the first edition. And the way of reconciliation which they propose between the apostles is this: Paulus cum negat nos ex operibus justificari, nomine operum perfectam per totam vitam legis divinae observationem intelligit, nec aliud quidquam dicere vult, nisi nos ex merito ipsorum operum nequaquam justificari coram Deo, non autem ad nos coram ipso justificandos nulla opera nostra requiri; sunt enim opera, id est obedientia quam Cliristo praestamus, licet nec efficiens, nec meritoria, tamen causa sine qua non justificationis coram Deo atque aeternae salutis. That Paul, when he denieth justification by works, understandeth by works perfect obedience, such as the law required; and James only new obedience, which is the condition, without which we are not justified. So Socinus, 2 Synops. Justif., p. 17, and herein he is generally followed by the men of his own school.212212`Paulus ea a fide opera removet quae perpetuum perfectissimumque per omnem vitae cursum obedientiam continent. Jacobus vero ea intelligit opera quae homines spe praemiorum divinorum ducti ex animo, omnibusque viribus perficiunt, quamvis omni prolapsione nequaquam careant, habitus tamen vitiorum quidem omnium exuisse, omnium autem virtutum sibi comparasse, merito dici possint.,—Volkel. lib. de Vera Religione, cap. 3, p. 180. But to this I reply—(1.) That the apostle Paul doth not only exclude the exact obedience of the law, but the sincere obedience of the gospel, all kind of works from the business of justification, as appeareth by the frequent disjunction or opposition of faith and works throughout the scriptures. Take these for a taste:—Eph. ii. 8, 9, `By grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast., So Rom. xi. 6, `If by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more of grace; otherwise work is no more work., The two ways of grace and works are incompatible. A mixed and patched way of works and grace together will never be accepted of God. The new cloth sewed on upon the old confidence makes the rent the worser. It was the error of those against whom Paul dealeth in his epistles to rest half upon Christ and half upon works; and therefore is he so zealous everywhere in this dispute: Gal. v. 4, `Christ is become of none effect unto you, whosoever are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace., For they did go about to mix both the covenants, and so wholly destroyed their own interest in that of grace. (2.) It is a matter of dangerous consequence to set up works, under what pretence soever, as the matter or condition of our justification before God. It robbeth God of his glory, and weakeneth the comfort of the creature. God's glory suffereth, because, as far as we ascribe to ourselves, so much do we take off from God. Now when we make our own obedience the 263matter or condition of our righteousness, we glory in ourselves, contrary to that, Rom. iv. 2, 3, and detract from free grace, by which alone we are justified, Rom. iii. 24, and the creature suffereth loss of comfort when his righteousness before God is built upon so frail a foundation as his own obedience. The examples of the children of God, who were always at a loss in themselves, show how dangerous it is to stand upon our own bottom. Take a few places: Job ix. 2, 3, `How shall a man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he can not answer him one of a thousand., So ver. 20, `If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me. If I say, I am perfect; it shall also prove me perverse., So ver. 30, 31, `If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean, yet thou shalt plunge me in a ditch; my own clothes shall abhor me., So also David showeth that he was never able to enter upon this plea, to justify himself by his own obedience, Ps. cxliii. 3, and cxxx. 3. And in the New Testament abundantly do the saints disown their obedience and righteousness, as not daring to trust it, yea, their new obedience upon gospel terms: 1 Cor. iv. 4, `I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified., He did what he was able, was conscious to himself of no crime and unfaithfulness in his ministry and dispensation, yet all this will not justify. So Phil. iii. 9, `Oh! that I might be found in him, not having my own righteousness, &c. He durst not trust the inquiry and search of justice with any act or holiness of his own.
Briefly to clear this point more fully, let me lay down a few propositions.
(1.) Whosoever would be accepted with God must be righteous: Hab. i. 13, `Thou art of purer eyes than to behold iniquity., God cannot give a sinner, as a sinner, a good look. (2.) Every righteousness will not serve the turn: it must be such as will endure the pure eyes of his glory. Hence those phrases, `justified in thy sight, Ps. cxliii. 2; Rom. iii. 20; and `glorying before God., Rom. iv. 2; so Gal. iii. 11 , &c. (3.) Such a righteousness can be found in no man. Our obedience is a covering that is too short: Job xv. 14, `What is man, that he should be clean? and he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?, So 1 Sam. vi. 20, `Who can stand before this holy God?, The least defect leaveth us to the challenge of the law and the plea of justice. (4.) This righteousness is only to be had in Christ; there is no other name given under him;213213Qu. `heaven,?—ED. there indeed it is to be found; therefore he is called, `The Lord our righteousness, Jer. xxiii. 6, and he is `made to us righteousness, 1 Cor. i. 30. Therefore we are bidden `to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, Mat. vi. 33. We must seek God's righteousness if we would enter into God's kingdom. (5.) This righteousness is made ours by faith: ours it must be, as in the first proposition, and ours it is only by faith: Rom. i. 17, `The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith., From first to last the benefit of Christ's righteousness is received by faith; it is the fittest and most self-denying grace; it is the grace that beginneth our union with Christ; and when we are made one with Christ, we are possessed of his righteousness and merit, as our right, for our comfort and use. So see Rom. iii. 22, and Phil. iii. 9, where the righteousness of God by faith is opposed to `our own righteousness, 264which is of the law;, which intimateth to us that this righteousness is of God, and that it is made ours by faith. (6.) Those that receive the righteousness of Christ are also sanctified by him. New obedience is an inseparable companion of justification: 1 Cor. i. 30, `righteousness and sanctification;, by virtue of the union we have both: 2 Cor. v. 17, `Whosoever is in Christ is a new creature., So that obedience is not the condition of justification, but the evidence; not the condition and qualification of the new covenant, so much as of the covenanters. Faith justifieth, and obedience approveth:214214See Mr Ball of the Covenant, p. 20. it must be in the same subject, though it hath not a voice in the same court.
3. The orthodox, though they differ somewhat in words and phrases, yet they agree in the same common sense, in reconciling James and Paul. Thus, while some say Paul disputeth of the cause of justification, and so excludeth works; James, of the effects of justification, and so enforceth a presence of them; and others say Paul disputeth how we are justified, and James how we shall evidence ourselves to be justified; the one taketh justification for acquittance from sin, the other for acquittance from hypocrisy; the one for the imputation of righteousness, the other for the declaration of righteousness. Or as others, Paul speaketh of the office of faith, James of the quality of faith; Paul pleadeth for saving faith, James pleadeth against naked assent; the one speaketh of the justifying of the person, the other of the faith, &c. All these answers are to the same effect, either subordinate to one another or differing only in expression, and do very well suit with the scope of the apostle. You shall see everywhere he seeketh to disvalue and put a disgrace upon that faith he speaketh of; he calleth it a vain dead faith, a faith which is alone, &c. And when he fixeth the scope of the disputation, he saith, `Show me thy faith by thy works;, where he plainly discovereth what was the matter in controversy, to wit, the evidencing of their faith. And it is notable, that when he beginneth to argue, the proposition which he layeth down is this, that a bare profession of faith without works will not save. It is true, it is delivered by way of question, ver. 14, `What will it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, and hath not works? Will faith save him?, Or, as it is in the original, will ἡ πίστις, will that faith save him? Now such questions are the strongest way of denial, for they are an appeal to the conscience; and you shall see that the conclusion is this always, that faith which is alone and without works, is dead; which plainly showeth what was the τὸ ζητούμενον, or the thing in question, to wit, the unjustifiableness of that faith which is without works.
Out of the whole discourse you may observe:—
Obs. 1. That in the scriptures there is sometimes a seeming difference, but no real contrariety. The τὸ ἐναντιοφανὲς, the seeming difference, is ordered with good advice. God would prevent misprisions and errors on every side; and the expressions of scripture are ordered so that one may relieve another.215215 ,Alterius sic Altera poscit opem res, et conjurat amice., As, for instance, some hold that Christ had only an imaginary body, and was man but in appearance; therefore, to show the reality of his human nature, you have that 265expression, John i. 14, `The word was made flesh., Others, straining that expression, held a change of the Godhead into the humanity; to correct which excess we have another expression, 1 Tim. iii. 16, `God manifested in the flesh., To a Valentinian, urging that place in Timothy for Christ's fantastic and imaginary body, we may oppose that in John, `The word was made flesh;, to a Cerinthian, pleading for a change of the Godhead, we may oppose that in Paul, `God manifested, &c. So in some places we are bid `to work out our salvation, Phil. ii. 12, 13; and the whole business of salvation is charged upon us, to check laziness. In other places the will and deed is altogether ascribed to God, to prevent self-confidence. Thus Paul, having to deal with pharisaical justiciaries, proveth invincibly justification by faith without works; James, having to deal with carnal gospellers, proveth as strongly that a profession of faith without works is vain. The scripture hath so poised and contempered all doctrines and expressions, that it might wisely prevent human mistakes and errors on every hand, and sentences might not be violently urged apart, but measured by the proportion of faith.
Obs. 2. That a bare profession of faith is not enough to acquit us from hypocrisy. Christ would not own them that professed his name but wrought iniquity, Mat. vii. 21, 22; so also the church should not own men for their bare profession. In these times we look more at gifts and abilities of speech than good works, and empty prattle weigheth more than real charity.
Here he bringeth another instance. But why doth he mention Rahab? (1.) Because this act of hers is made an effect of faith: Heb. xi. 31, `By faith Rahab the harlot perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies in peace., It was indeed a great act of faith for one that had lived among heathens to be persuaded of the power of the God of Israel, of the right they had to that land; which faith was wrought in her by divine instinct, upon the report which was made of God and his works. (2.) Because this instance doth well to be annexed to the former. They might object that every one could not go as high as Abraham, the great idea and pattern of all believers; ay! but the lowest faith must produce works as well as the highest; and therefore he bringeth Rahab for an in stance of the weakest faith. (1st.) For her person; she was a woman, a harlot, a heathen, when God wrought upon her; there being so many disadvantages, it is to be presumed this was as low an instance as can be brought. (2d.) For the act itself, it was accompanied with weakness, with a lie, which indeed is suppressed, or not mentioned, lest it should deface the glory of her faith. (3d.) Because there might be some doubt of this instance. They might object that bare profession was accounted faith in Rahab, and she a harlot. He replieth that in Rahab the doctrine might be made good; for her faith, how weak soever, yielded some self-denying act or fruit.
But you will say, How is this pertinent to the purpose, to prove that pretence or profession of faith without works is not enough to 266acquit us of hypocrisy? I answer—You must conceive it thus: If she had only said unto these messengers, I believe the God of heaven and earth hath given you this whole land for a possession, yet I dare not show you any kindness in this city, it had been but such a dead barren faith as he here treateth of; but this belief prevailed so far with her, that she performed a grateful office to them, though she incurred present danger, and the tortures which the rage of her citizens would inflict upon her for harbouring spies. I come now to the words.
Likewise also.—It hath relation to the former instance of Abraham.
Was not Rahab the harlot.—Lyranus thinks that the word hazzonah, for harlot, was her proper name; others think it only signifieth that she was a hostess or victualler; so the Chaldee paraphrase rendereth it a woman that kept a tavern, תתא פדוקיתא, γυναῖκα πανδοκεύτριαν; the Chaldee word being formed out of the Greek, they derive the original zonah from zun, which signifieth to feed, though others derive it from zanah, he played the adulterer; and they think it altogether improbable for a prince of Judah to marry a common harlot. But the article ἡ πόρνη, that harlot, so commonly used in scripture, and because this is still repeated as a noted circumstance, and the Syriac hath a word that properly and only signifieth harlot, seem to infer that she was indeed a woman of a vicious and infamous life , and it is but folly to excuse that which God would have made known for his own glory. Probably she might be both a hostess and a harlot too, as many times such are of an evil fame. She lived from her parents; no mention is made of husband and children: if her pretence had not been to keep a place of entertainment, it is not likely that the spies would turn into an open brothel-house, unless ignorant of it, or by divine providence guided thither.
Justified by works; that is, approved to be sincere, and honoured by God before all the congregation; there being a special charge to save her and her household when all her countrymen were slain, and she being after joined in marriage with a prince of Israel.
When she had received the messengers, and sent them out another way.—The story is in the 2d of Joshua. But is not this act questionable? Is it not treachery? Did she not sin against that love and faithfulness that she owed to her country? Abulensis thinketh she had not sinned if she had betrayed the messengers; but vainly, and against the direct testimony of scripture: she sinned not, because she had a warrant and particular revelation from God that the land of Canaan, and so her town, was given to the Israelites, Josh. ii. 9-11, &c. And being gained to the faith, she was to leave her Gentile relation, and to be amassed into one body with the people of Israel, and so bound to promote their interest, as Calvin well observeth.216216`Sola cognitio Dei, quam Deus animo ejus indidit, eam eximit a culpa, tanquam solutam communi lege, quamvis ad eum usque diem obstricta fuisset suis popularibus; ubi tamen co-optata fuisset in corpus Ecclesiae, nova conditio manumissio fuit a jure societatis, quo jure devinciuntur cives.,—Calvin in Joshuam, ii. 4. But you will say, If there be no sin, wherein lieth the excellency of the action? what is it more than civility, or necessary prudence and caution, she being thus persuaded? I answer—(1.) There was much 267faith in it, in believing what she had heard of God in the wilderness and the desert places of Arabia, and magnifying his power and ability to destroy them. Though the people of her city were in great strength and prosperity, they thought themselves safe within their walls, and were not sensible of their sins and ensuing dangers; and besides, God having revealed it to her by some special instinct, she was confident of future success: Josh. ii. 11, `The Lord your God is God in heaven above and the earth beneath: I know the Lord hath given you the land., And so, as Origen observeth,217217`Illa quae aliquando erat meretrix, jam Spiritu. Sancto repleta est, et de praeteritis quidem confitetur, de presentibus vero credit, prophetat et praenunciat de futuris.,—Origen. Hom. 3, in Josuam. she acknowledgeth what is past, believeth what is present, and foretelleth what is to come. (2.) There was obedience in it; for whatever she did here in, she did it out of a reverence and dread of God, whom she knew to be the author of this war; and though there was some weakness in the action, yet for the main of it, it was a duty. (3.) There was self-denial in it; it was an action that might have been of a very dangerous consequence to her; but to manifest her fidelity to God she overlooketh the threats and cruelties of her citizens,218218`Non minae civium, non bellorum pericula, non incendia patriae, non suorum pericula terrent: disce, vir, disce, Christiane, quomodo veruin Jesum sequi debeas, quando faemina contempsit omnia sua.,—Ambrose in Enarrat. Ps. xxxvii. the promiscuous events of war, the burning of her country, which she would never have done, if she had thought a profession of confidence enough.
The points observable in this verse are many. I shall dispatch them briefly.
Obs. 1. Many times God may choose the worst of sinners. Faith in a harlot is acceptable: `The last shall be first;, that is, those that set out late for heaven do often make more way than an early professor. No women are reckoned in the genealogy of Christ but such as were stained with some infamy; idolatrous women, adulterous women, in Christ's own line, such as Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, Tamar. Chrysostom219219Chrysostom. Homil. 3, in Matt. giveth the reason, ὡς ἱάτρος, οὐχ ὡς δικαστὴς παραγέγονεν, he came to save sinners, and therefore would be known to come of sinners according to the flesh. Manasses was received after witchcraft, Paul after blasphemy, 1 Tim. i. 13; and all as precedents in which God would show forth mercy and long-suffering; as Rahab here. So you shall see it is said, Mat. xxi. 31, `Publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God., The most odious and despised sinners, when they turn to God by repentance, find grace and place in Christ's heart.
Obs. 2. The meanest faith must justify itself by works and gracious effects. Rahab, a Gentile convert, doth not only profess, but preserve the spies. Let not hypocrites plead every one is not like Abraham. Are you like Rahab? Can you produce any evidence of your faith? The lowest degree will show itself by some effect or other. Christ in the garden taketh notice of the `green figs, Cant. ii. 13. The smallest faith, though it be but like a grain of mustard-seed, will have some branches.
Obs. 3. Believers, though they justify their profession, are still 268monuments of free grace. It is `Rahab, the harlot, though justified by works. The scars and marks of old sins remain, not to our dishonour, but God's glory.
Obs. 4. Ordinary acts are gracious when they flow from faith and are done in obedience; as Rahab's receiving the messengers: entertainment in such a case is not civility, but religion: Mat. x. 42, `A cup of cold water in the name of a prophet `is not courtesy, but duty, and shall not lose its reward. Heb. xi., many civil and secular acts are ascribed to faith, as fighting of battles, saving of children, &c., because by faith directed to spiritual ends, and performed by supernatural strength. A carnal man performeth his religious duties for civil ends, and a godly man his civil duties for religious ends, and in offices natural and human he is spiritual. Certainly there is no chemistry like to that of grace; there brass is turned into gold, and actions of commerce made worship. A Christian is always doing his great work, whether in the shop or in the closet, obeying God and glorifying God in his respects to men.
Obs. 5. The great trial of faith is in acts of self-denial. Such was Rahab's, to prefer the will of God before the safety of her own country; and such was Abraham's in the former instance. Self-denial is the first thing that must be resolved upon in Christianity, Mat. xvi. 24. A man is not discovered when God's way and his own lie together. Your great inquiry should be, Wherein have I denied myself for God? thwarted any lust? hazarded any concernment? No trial like that when we can part with some conveniency in sense, upon the proper and sole encouragements of faith.
Obs. 6. The actions and duties of God's children are usually blemished with some notable defect; as Rahab's entertainment with Rahab's lie. `Moses smote the rock twice, Num. xx. 11; there was anger mixed with faith. Abraham offered Isaac, but equivocated with his servants: `I and the lad will return, Gen. xxii. 5; and yet he meant with a mind to sacrifice him. Thus we still plough with an ox and an ass in the best duties, and discover corruption in the very trials of grace.
Obs. 7. God hideth his eyes from the evil that is in our good actions. Here is mention made of receiving the messengers, but no mention of the lie. He that drew Alexander, whilst he had a scar upon his face, drew him with his finger upon the scar. God putteth the finger of mercy upon our scars. See James v. 11, `Ye have heard of the patience of Job;, we have heard of his impatience, his cursing the day of his birth, &c., but no murmurings are mentioned. How unlike are wicked men to the Lord I they only pitch upon the evil and weaknesses of his people, and overlook the good; like flesh-flies, that pitch upon the sores, or vultures, that fly over the gardens of delight, and light upon a carrion: one blemish shall be enough to stain all their glory. But the Lord pardoneth much weakness where he findeth anything of grace and sincerity. It is said, 1 Peter iii. 6, `Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord., The place alluded to is Gen. xviii. 12. Sarah's whole sentence is full of unbelief: `Shall I have pleasure, my lord also being old?, There was but one good word, that of lord, the note of respect and reverence to her husband, 269and that the Spirit of God takes notice of. Certainly it is good serving of that master, who is so ready to reward the good of our actions, and to pardon the evil of them.
Here the apostle concludeth the whole dispute, showing how little is to be ascribed to an empty profession of faith without works; it is but as the body without the vital spirit—a carcase, useless but noisome. There needeth not much illustration of this verse, the matter of it being already discussed in ver. 17 and 20.
For as the body without the spirit.—There is some difference about the meaning of the word πνεύματος; we read in the margin, breath; in the text, spirit. Many prefer the marginal reading, because it is not ψυχῆς, as the body without the soul, but as the body without the spirit or breath. Of this opinion is Cajetan, whose words are notable, because they fully accord with the Protestant doctrine. `By spirit, saith he, `is not meant the soul, but the breath: for as the body of a beast when it doth not breathe is dead, so is faith without works dead, breathing being the effect of life, as working is of living faith. Whence it is clear what the apostle meaneth,220220`Unde apparet quo sensu dicit, fidem sine operibus mortuam esse, non quod sentiat opera esse formam fidei, sed quod sentit opera esse concomitantia fidei, sic at halitus concomitatur vitam corporis.,—Cajetan in locum. when he saith, faith is dead without works, not that works are the soul of faith, but that works are the companions of faith, as breathing is inseparable from life., By which exposition their doctrine that charity is the soul of faith, and their distinction of inform and formed faith, fall to the ground. But, however, I rather think that πνεύματος in the text is not to be translated breath, but spirit or soul, that substance which quickeneth and animateth the body, which is elsewhere expressed by this word; as in those noted places, Luke xxiii. 46, `Into thy hands do I commit my spirit;, and Acts vii. 59, `Lord Jesus, receive my spirit., And that respiration which is the effect of life is expressed by other words, πνοὴ and ἀναπνοὴ; as Acts xvii. 25, he giveth ζωὴν καὶ πνοὴν καὶ τὰ πάντα, `he giveth life, and breath, and all things., The meaning is, then, as a body without a soul, so is faith without works. And yet hence it will not follow that charity or the works are the soul of faith, for the comparison doth not hold in regard of animation and information, but in regard of operation. As in the body without soul there are only the outward proportions and lineaments, but nothing to discover life; so in empty profession there are some lineaments of faith, but no fruits to discover the truth and life of it, it differing as much from faith as a carcase doth from a man.
Is dead; that is, cannot perform the functions and offices of life, or of a man.
So faith without works.—The Papists understand true justifying faith, for they suppose it may be without works; but dead faith cannot be true faith, as a carcase is not a true man, and a true faith cannot be without works, Gal. v. 6. We must understand, then, an external profession of belief, which, because of some resemblance with what is true, is called faith.270
Is dead; that is, false or useless to all the ends and purposes of faith.
For practical notes see ver. 17, 20; only observe:—
Obs. That naked profession, in respect of true faith, is hut as a dead body and carcase. It is so in two respects:—(1.) It is noisome as a rotten carcase. A carnal Christian is the carcase of a true Christian; there are the lineaments with corruption. An impure life veiled under profession is as noisome to God as a dead body is to you. When carnal professors draw nigh to Christ, he goeth further off, as you would from what offendeth: Mat. vii. 23, `Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity;, I cannot endure your presence. When they come to him in prayer, `The prayer of the wicked is abomination;, like the breath that cometh from rotten lungs. (2.) It is useless, as to all the purposes of faith;221221`Ὁὐδὲν κέρδος ὑγιοῦς πίστεως, τῆς πολιτείας διεφθαρμένης.,—Chrysostom de Sacerdotio, lib. iv. it cannot unite you to Christ, that you may possess yourselves of his righteousness, or give you a feeling of his Spirit. In short, it bringeth no glory to God, yieldeth no comfort to him that hath it, and no benefit to others; of no more use than a dead body when the spirits are gone.
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