Imatges de pÓgina

word as a live coal taken immediately from the altar, and laid burning upon their hallowed lips; and who, as knowing the terrors of the Lord, will be plain and pungent with the consciences of men.

But instead of using the law against men as an instrument of death, and of drawing it forth as a glittering weapon against their dearest life, many instructors, wedded to the law themselves, labour with great success as in their natural element, to form the minds of people to tempers and exercises, comportable with views which are given of the duties and life contained in the law; and are thus able to harmonize the parties; not as the dead, who are always reconciled, but as living companions. In doing which, however, they take different courses, according to the different states of their minds. Some, who have not been the subjects even of legal convictions, will hold up the law as being much ameliorated by the spirit of the new dispensation. They conceive that great abatements are made in its requirements; and that the present conditions are so far from being impracticable, that with good dispositions; such as do not take unreasonable alarms; and with sound resolutions and endeavours; we may enjoy, in this relation, a comfortable living, and a hopeful prospect. Others, who have been deeply wounded and humbled by convictions of the law, yet being ignorant of the righteousness of God, take a more circuitous course to establish themselves upon this fatal ground. They conceive that the righteousness of the law would avail them for justification before God, provided they could attain it. They have never dreamed of any other medium of the divine favour; but they have been fully convinced, that they shall never obtain this by their own hands; that the breach between them and

the law is infinitely too wide for them to heal. In this trying difficulty, however, they have been"? relieved by a very ingenious and plausible invention. It has been fancied, that the design of the interposition of Christ, was to heal this breach; that, by his working out the required righteousness, and making satisfaction for transgression, the creature may be restored whole, to the acceptance and favour of the law; and with advantage too, insomuch that, for the future, his faith and sincere obedience will be accepted for perfect obedience. Under the influence of this delusion, the strife ends; the parties again come together, and the wandering soul returns home to the good man, with great reconciliation. The house is found empty, swept, and garnished; free from all that before had disturbed its peace; and every thing put into a new and evangelical style. The bed and board is convenient. Joyful is the return! With this lie in the right hand, the hapless subject lies down to slumber, and falls into a deep sleep, in the arms of the first husband. Alas, in this case, very few are again to be aroused, till the whole ground which once was shaken, crushes under the earth-rending blast of the last trumpet.

We are not as many, says the apostle, which corrupt the word of God. There is here an allusion to the practice of certain dealers in liquors, who, to increase their profits, adulterate them, by mixing those of various qualities together; and though, in this way, the virtues of the best wines are destroyed; yet it may be so done as to render them very pleasant to the common palate; and it would require much skill to detect the cheat. Of all the business of knavery practised in the world, this part taken by so many, of corrupting the word of God, by mixing together the law and gospel, is the most vile and in

jurious. They are things of such different qualities, that being mixed together, the potion becomes the most corrupt and cruelly poisonous. And of all the ways in which this is done, that which we have just noticed, of making the gospel as it were a bride-maid, to aid the awakened, trembling, expiring soul, in this work of reconcilement with the law; and to assist at the rejoining of their hands. This, I say, is the most dark and murderous. How will these agents of the destruction of souls, escape the damnation of hell?

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Without mixing the law and gospel, the word of God can never be pleasant to natural men; for if the law be truly preached, it is a ministration of death; and if the gospel be preached in sincerity, it will be perceived, that its application is not to the living; that it is commissioned to go for hearers to the valley of the slain, and that its portions are divided out for them who are quickened from the dead. Hence, taken on all sides, it is either a stumbling block or foolishness. But the effect of this work of corruption is apparent; the offence of the cross of Christ has ceased; the sermon is now admired; to the wise, it appears well digested; to the scribe, it is learned; the disputer of this world, pronounces it reasonable; it has even illuminated the renowned understanding, and improved the wisdom of this world. Why so much offence has been tak en at the word, by men in different ages of the world, cannot now be easily explained; unless it be imputed to awkwardness of its preachers. The effect, however, of this corrupting of the word is most manifest in the churches; where may be seen thousands of persons, once the subjects of awakenings, and of deep convictions, who have been thoroughly converted to an evangelical law, and to a legal gospel; and who, as S

might be expected, instead of being crucified to the world with Christ, and with him made alive unto God, are now as sheer worldings as live on the earth; they love the world, and the things that are in the world, and the world loves them, and admits them willingly to a liberal share of its possessions, pleasures and honours. By such fatal practices, the gracious tendency of the law and gospel, are both destroyed. The apostle, having stated the proper use of the law, Gal. ii. 19, I through the law am dead to the law; and the distinct application of the gospel, ver. 20, I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me......... In the 21st verse, he makes this remark, I do not frustrate the grace of God.

It appears, therefore, that the law, in its proper use, does not afford instruction into the way of life; but that its whole wonderful and glori ous skill lies in the art of dissection: "For the "word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharp"er than any two-edged sword, piercing even "to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and "of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner "of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

A law cver implies authorities and powers of administration: a government was instituted upon this ground of the law of works, the nature of which will be considered in a distinct section.

SECTION II......The Government by the Lan.

BEING a distinct community, a law and go-vernment were as indispensibly requisite for the

preservation and well-being of the church, as forTM any other proper society. The perfect law of the church is the law of faith, called the perfectTM law of liberty; and the perfect government of the church is the administration of the Holy Ghost, according to the faith or promise of God, called the ministration of the spirit and righteousness. But, for reasons which have been considered, the perfect state could be reached only by first going through an intermediate imperfect. state. This was shewn by the plan of the tem ple, as, in entering into the most holy place, it was necessary to pass over the ground of the first tabernacle; which was under a law conformable to the altar of sacrifice, and a state of the deepest humiliation.

Before the death and resurrection of Christ,. the church could reach the substance of the promises only by anticipation. The Holy Spirit. of promise was, indeed, shed forth upon individuals of that church; but, in this case, Christ, the Head of the Church, as a party in the covenant, drew upon the Father, as we may say, upon credit. This was done, however, according to a just maxim, that credit, where it is the best, should be used sparingly. Before the service-work was performed, complete as the credit of this great surety was in heaven, this immensely rich and glorious fund was never touched but in comparitively scanty measures and portions; and only in behalf of distinguished individuals; and not even for them, but to answer extraordinary calls, and to meet great exigencies.

Had the spirit been poured out anciently upon the old and young, and even upon the servants and hand-maids, with the profusion of the gospel-day, it would not have appeared, plainly as it does now, to have been the fruit of the work of Christ.. This, undoubtedly, was a great reason for the

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