« ForrigeFortsæt »
is not speaking of the great attainment, that some few Christians arrive at; but he is speaking of that which is common to the state of all Christians : I do not frustrate the grace of God. Before I come to the proof of this, I would lay down a few cautions, to prevent mistakes.
1st, It must be allowed that a great many who have been made Christians have been long enemies to the grace of God; and there is not a greater instance of this than the good man that speaks in my text, the apostle Paul.' He was a great heart-enemy to Jesus Christ and he was an enemy to Christ, if I may so say, with a good conscience, according to the real light that the poor man's blinded conscience had : 1 verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, Acts xxvi. 9.—" I never heard “ a name that I hated so much as the name of this Jesus of “ Nazareth ; and I hated it from the heart, and my conscience “ prompted me to it.” When our Lord met him by the way, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? little did the poor man think Christ died for him, and should be a blessed fountain of life to him.-A believer may be a great enemy to the grace of God, before the grace of God makes him a believer.
2dly, It may not be denied but that a true believer may take in doctrines contrary to the grace of Christ in their tendency, though he perceive it not. I should be lothe to think that all these Galatians, that are here so sharply reproved by the apostle Paul, were rotten-hearted people ; there might be many sincere people amongst them, imposed upon by the cunning of them that lay in wait to deceive.
There may be through darkness, perplexed heads in many honest hearts, about several points concerning the grace of God. It is not for us to measure any body's state according to the principles that they profess, unless they be very bad.
Sdly, It is not to be denied but that in a fit of temptation, even a true believer may abuse the grace of God; he may turn it into wantonness, and may grow light and vain, because of his mistaking the nature of the grace of God. Several have done so, and God knows how to tame them that do so ; and the severest fatherly rebukes of the law are upon them that wax wanton because of his kindness. These things be
ing premised, I would briefly shew how it is that a good man cannot frustrate the grace of God.
(1.) Because good men are all grace's captives. Every believer, as a believer, and when he is made a believer, is made a captive of the grace of God. How are men saved, think you? We cannot see which way they are saved; the word goeth forth, and people hear it; but we do not know who gets good, and when they get good by it. I will tell you when men are saved; when the grace of God comes and lays hold of them, and claps hold of a poor sinner-" This “man shall be my captive, and I will save him.”—All believers are captives to the grace of God, and, therefore, they cannot frustrate the grace of God; they are all subdued by this grace, and made willing in the day of his power, Psalm cx. 3.
(2.) No believer can frustrate the grace of God, because he is dead to the law, as the apostle's word is in the context, Gal. ii. 19. And there are two things needful to make a man dead to the law;-to know the law, and to know himself: and whosoever knows both these, is a man dead to the law. He that knows the purity, and the spotlessness of the law of God, and he that knows his own heart, and its vileness, this man will natively draw this conclusion. “ Surely this law " can never do me any good- I can never fulfil it, and it can " never save me : if there be not another way of salvation " than by the law, I am gone for evermore.” I through the law am dead to the law, saith the apostle ; “ I need no more, " to make me despair of life by the law, than to see the law : “it commands what I cannot do, it threatens what I cannot " avoid nor bear; and therefore, I am dead to the law, that I F' might live to God;"_"my life must come in another way " than by the law."
So much shall serve for the opening of these truths. It would now follow to make some Application ; which I shall do in two things, respecting all the doctrines that I have raised from this former part of the verse.—By these doctrines here delivered by the apostle, you are called to try the spirits, to try the doctrines you hear--and you are called to try your
own state ; for every doctrine that is contrary to the grace of
GAL. ii. 21.
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by
the law, then is Christ dead in vain.
1st, That the grace of God shines gloriously in the justify.
2dly, That it is a dreadful sin to frustrate the grace of God.
Sdly, That all who seek righteousness by the law, they do frustrate the grace of God.
4thly, That no true sound believer can be guilty of this sin :-Frustrating the grace of God is a sin that no believer can commit.
I would now come to make some application of these, which I mean to prosecute from these two heads :
1. To warn you to take heed and to try the spirits, as the apostle exhorts, 1 John ir. I. according to this doctrine.
II. Try your own state according to your heart-thoughts of this matter.
I. You are to try the spirits—you are to try the doctrines that you hear.—When the greatest measure of the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the churches, and when extraordinary officers were raised up amongst them, and in a time when some of the apostles were living, by one of them was this exhortation given, 1 John iv. 1. Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.—And itis very observable, that the scope of that text, that the apostle there lays down, leads us plainly to the doctrine that I am upon, Believe not every spirit, for there are many false spirits, ard antichrists, that are gone out into the world.—But you will say, How shall we know them ? Saith the apostle, ver, 3. Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.-Now, by a very usual phrase, that was well understood then, and is not hard to be known now, by spirit, doctrine is meant-every doctrine that tends not this way is not of God. Aye, but you will say, Where there any that
say Christ is not come in the flesh, save the Jews? The apostle seems to make this a grand mark of antichrist. Now in antichrist's kingdom (and that is a fitter name for them than that of the church, for with the church they have nothing to do) it is every where asserted, that Christ is come in the Aesh; for they have made a great part of their religion to consist in carnal, wicked representations of Jesus Christ; they have made a goddess of his mother, and they have made a puppet-show of his life and death, by their ridiculous representations : aye, but the main thing that Christ came into the flesh for, that is forgotten by them :—and of this the apostle speaks, ver. 10. He hath sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. Christ's business in this world was to be made a sacrifice for sin ; and they that do not hold him forth as a sacrifice for sin, do, in effect, say he is not come in the flesh. Now, concerning these doctrines that I would warn you against, I would branch them forth into a few heads.
(1.) There are doctrines darkening the grace of God, and the righteousness of Christ, that you should beware of. The gospel is called by the apostle, “the gospel of the grace of
“God,” twice in one discourse to the church at Ephesus, iii. 2, 7. ; and “ the word of his grace," Acts xx. 32, What judgment then should Christians make of such men's spirits, tliat are called ministers, and will be called so, and yet you may hear them preach from one end of the year to another, and never hear a word of the grace of God, or the righteousness of Christ ?--if they be sound in the faith, it is well; but the very concealing of these things is a great sin, and a great snare to people; the very name of the gospel is “ the gospel “ of the grace of God;" it is miscalled by the name of "the “gospel,” if the grace of God runs not through every vein of it.
(2.) There are doctrines perplexing the grace of God; they make it dark, and they make it intricate: they perplex the doctrine with methods, and they perplex people's consciences with their doctrine. There is no church canon in all the world that is much worth regarding, but that which we have in Acts xv. ; for those that were called by the nanie of General Councils, for the first three hundred years after Christ, have many weaknesses and follies in them; and they began to savour of a begun degeneracy, though in the main points of the truths of the gospel they remained sound. In Acts xv. 1. certain men that came down from Judea had taken up this conceit, and taught the brethren, that except they were circumcised after the law of Moses, they could not be saved. Observe where they laid the stress of this thing, “except ye be cir« cumcised after the law of Moses, ye cannot be saved." You know very well, that the apostle Paul looked upon circumcision as a very indifferent thing : sometimess, in his travels, he ordered some to be circumcised, but at other times he would not; he looked upon it as a matter of indifference, for the avoiding of scandals, and so the apostle reckoned it no great matter : Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing. Aye, but when once it came to be broached into a doctrine, and a necessity laid upon it.--Except ye be circumcised after the law of Moses, ye cannot be saved-- let us see what this awful reverend assembly at Jerusalem say to it; the apostles, and elders, and brethren, a blessed company they were, a blessed church, worth all the churches in England,