1 Tim. ii.5. -- "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned."
In this chapter the apostle, after the inscription of this epistle, repeats a former commandment that he had given to Timothy, how he should both teach himself, and by authority, committed unto him by an extraordinary commission, see that other ministers teach so also. Paul almost in all his epistles, sets himself against legal preachers, and false teachers. It was a common error in the primitive times, to confound the law and grace, in the point of righteousness, or to make free justification inconsistent with the moral law. Therefore our apostle makes it his chief study to vindicate the doctrine of the gospel. He preaches the gospel, and yet is not Antinomian. He preaches the law, and yet is no legal preacher. He exalts Christ more than the Antinomian can do, and yet he presses holiness more than the mere legalist can do. He excludes the law in the point of justification and pardon, and then brings it in again to the justified man's hand. If these words were rightly understood, and made use of, it would put an end to the many useless controversies of the present time, and reform many of our practices.
There are as many practical abuses among Christians concerning the law and the gospel, as there are speculative errors among other sects. In the former verse, he more particularly directs him what to take a care of, that men may neither spend their own, or their neighbour's time, in foolish, unnecessary, or impertinent questions, that tend nothing to the edification of the body of Christ, or in building them up in our most holy faith, the doctrine of Christ Jesus, and faith in it. And in this verse, he shows the true meaning and purpose of the law, and commandment, when he meets these doctors, and draws an argument against them from their own doctrine. They boasted of the law, and were counted very zealous of it, but as it is said of the Jews, they had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge, because they did not submit unto the righteousness of God. They were also zealous for the commandment, but neither God nor the commandment would give them thanks. Why? Because they wholly mistake and pervert the meaning and purpose of the law. As long as they make the law inconsistent with the gospel, or would mix it with it, in the point of justification, they do it not unto edification in faith (as it is read), and as they ought to do, verses 4, 5, 6. We think this evangelic sentence, but rawly,(459) yea, legally exponed by many, when they look upon the words as they lie here, "the end of the commandment is love," for love worketh no evil, and is the fulfilling of the whole law, and this love is described to be pure and sincere, by the following properties. But we conceive the main business is not to describe love, or to oppose this unto their contentions about trifling questions. We choose rather to understand the text another way, according to the order of nature, which also the words themselves give ground for, "The end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart," out "of faith unfeigned." So then, according to the phraseology and meaning of the words, love is not first, but faith must be first, and primarily intended, so that the sense of the words is this, The end of the commandment is unfeigned faith, from whence flows a good conscience, a pure heart, and love, or the end of the commandment is faith, which is proved unfeigned by these effects, that it gives the answer of a good conscience, it purifies the heart, worketh by love, the effect of faith which is love, being to our knowledge more sensible than faith itself. We think it then more native(460) to make a pure heart, and love, marks of unfeigned faith, than faith and a good conscience the marks of love. This exposition is yet more confirmed by parallel places, Rom. x.4, "The end of the law is Christ for righteousness, unto them that believe." This is most principally intended, and even before love. Now it is all one to speak of faith as to speak of Christ. For faith and Christ are inseparably joined, and faith comes not as a consideration in the gospel, abstracted from Christ the object of it, as some enemies of Christ affirm. It justifies us not as an act or work, but as an instrument, whereby we apprehend Christ and his righteousness. For faith abstracted from Christ is but an empty notion, and among the dung and loss that Paul would quit to be found in Christ, Phil. iii.7-9. Now this sense only fits the scope and purpose, and leads on strongly against the false teachers. When Paul brings his argument from the law, which they defended against the gospel, they made the commandment to contradict the gospel. Paul makes the commandment to contradict them, and agree with the gospel, and to be so far from disagreeing with it, that it hath a great affinity with it as the mean to the end as that which is unperfect, without its own complement and perfection. Faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, quieting a man's conscience, is the very intent of the law, and the command was never given since Adam, to justify men by obedience to it, but to pursue men after Christ. And to satisfy you more fully, and clear it up he says, though the end of the command be not to justify, but to pursue a man from it to Christ, yet the command suffers no prejudice by this means, but rather is established by faith, the end of it, because this faith persuades the heart, and makes a man obey out of love to God, whereas before it should never have gotten any obedience, while men sought salvation by it.
You see then, there is an admirable harmony and consent between these things that are set at variance, both in the opinion and practice of the times. For what seems more contrary than the cursing commanding law, and the absolving promising gospel? Yet here they are agreed. Doth not justice go cross to mercy in the ordinary notion? Yet here there is a friendly subordination of justice to mercy, of the law to the gospel. Behold how faith is environed with the law, commanding and cursing on the one hand, and obedience to the command on the other hand, how faith is the middle party. A good conscience could never meet with the command since Adam's fall. A pure heart, and the obedience of love, had casten out(461) with the command, but here is the union, the meeting of old friends. Faith is the mediator, as it were, and the gospel comes between them, and so they dare meet again. Christ Jesus, who is our peace to make two one, comes in the middle, and takes away the difference. The law never meets with an obedient servant, or friend, till it meet first with Christ. It can find none righteous in all the world, none upright. Here you have the law's command and curse reconciled with the gospel's promise, and absolution reconciled with new obedience unto the command, the command leading to Christ, and Christ leading the man just back again to the command, the command serving Christ's design, and Christ serving the command. And this is the round that the believer shall go about in, until sin shall be no more. He shall be put over from one hand to another, till Christ shall be all in all. The command shall put him to Jesus, and Christ shall lead him back again, under a new notion, to his old master.
We may consider in the text a twofold relation that faith stands in, the relation of an end, and of a cause. Faith hath the relation of an end unto the commandment, of a cause unto a good conscience and a pure heart, and love, for these are said to be out of faith, which notes this dependence of a cause and fountain. The command is for faith, and a pure heart and love are from faith. We shall use no other division but consider the method of these effects that flow from faith. There is an order of emanation and dependence. There is a chain here. The first link nearest faith is a good conscience. The second link is a pure heart. The third is love, the hand follows the heart, and the heart follows the conscience.
We need not be subtile in seeking our purpose on these words, we think there is more in the plain words than we can speak of. We shall only resolve the verse in these propositions, without more observations. First, Faith in Jesus Christ is the end of the commandment, or law. Secondly, There is a faith feigned, and a faith unfeigned, a true and a false faith. Thirdly, Unfeigned faith gives the answer of a good conscience. Fourthly, Faith purging the conscience, purifies the heart. Fifthly, Faith purifying the heart, works by love. Here then is the substance of all the gospel, and all this makes up an entire complete end. Faith purifying the heart, purging the conscience, and working by love, is the end of the commandment.
First, The end of the commandment or law (for a part is put for the whole) is faith in Christ or Jesus Christ apprehended by faith, which is all one. For ye cannot abstract faith from Christ, for the whole gospel is a shadow without him. Grace and glory is but a beam of the Sun of righteousness, that if ye come between it and Christ, it evanishes presently, Rom. x.4, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes." And if Christ be the end of the law, then faith is the end of it, because faith is the profession of Christ, and union with him. But consider, I. That the end is not taken here for the consumption or destruction of a thing. Christ is not the end of the law in that sense, though indeed, if the Antinomian speak ingenuously, his sense would be this, Christ makes an end of the law, contrary to Christ's own express meaning, "I came not to destroy the law but to fulfil it," Matt. v.17. II. The end is either the intention or scope of a thing, the original word imports both. III. There is an end principally and directly intended in the thing, or work itself, and an end adventitious, and of the work. We may speak either of the end the law, of its own nature, is ordained unto, or the end of the Lawgiver in promulgating the law. These may be different. Next, concerning the law, consider, I. That the law may be taken strictly in a limited sense, as it comprehends only the command, and the promise of life, and the curse on the breach of it, and in this sense, it is frequently taken in Paul's epistles to the Romans, and Galatians, and opposed to faith and the gospel, as the gospel contains promises of salvation to penitent sinners. Or, II. It may, or useth to be so extended, as to comprehend all the administrations made under Moses, or all God's mind revealed under the Old Testament; now, in this sense, it comprehends the gospel, and covenant of grace in it, as we shall hear. Faith in Christ is the intention and scope of the law. Indeed, faith in Jesus is not the intention of the law itself, as it is only made up of commandments, promises, and curses. For the law as it commands, hath nothing to do, but to be a rule and obligation to men, and as it curses, it condemns men, and speaks nothing of Jesus Christ, or a way to make up the breach of the law. The gospel is not contained in the law, but rather accidental to it. For Jesus Christ comes with the gospel, as if some unexpected cautioner would come in, when the Judge is, as the angel that held Abraham's hand, -- when he was to slay his son, and offer him up a burnt offering, -- giving sentence to deliver him. It is an exception from the curse.
But Christ is directly intended and pointed out by the law. If ye consider the whole administration of Moses, that is, the law and covenant of works, though it was preached after the fall, yet it was never preached alone without the gospel, and so if ye consider the whole administration of God's mind and ordinances, Christ is principally aimed at. For, 1. The doctrine Moses delivered in mount Sinai contained a covenant of grace. If you look to the preface of the ten commandments, it is even the chief gospel promise, and article of the covenant. For how could God come to terms with men after sin, but in terms of grace? and on no other terms can man stand before God, nor God be his God. And likewise, seeing the gospel was preached in paradise, and afterwards to Abraham, God could not be false in his promise made to Abraham, neither could the promulgation of the law that followed make that null which went before, Gal. iii.17. What meant all the ceremonial law? It shadowed out Jesus Christ, the only sacrifice and propitiation. And this is the sum of the gospel salvation to penitents believing in Christ, and looking through the sacrifices unto him, and thus David's righteousness was the imputation of righteousness, and not inherent holiness, Psal. xxxii.1, 2; Rom. iv.5. But 2. It used to be a question, whether the law delivered upon mount Sinai was a covenant of works or not. Some say, that the law which was delivered upon mount Sinai was indeed a covenant of works, though they confess it was preached with the covenant of grace, and not delivered to them to stand by it or of intention to get righteousness by it, but to be subservient to the covenant of grace. Others speak absolutely that the law upon mount Sinai was a covenant of grace. We conceive this is but a contention about words. The matter is clear in itself, (1) That neither is now the gospel preached without the law, as ye may see in Christ's sermon upon the mount, and his sermon to the young man, (Matt. chapters v., vi., vii., Mark x.17,) nor yet was then the law preached without the gospel, as ye may see in Exod. chap. xx. The preface to the commandments, and the second command contains much of the gospel in them. Deut. xxx.6, 7, &c., compared with Rom. x.6, &c., where Paul notes both the righteousness of faith and of the works of the law. (2) Those who say the law on mount Sinai was a covenant of works, do not assert that God gave it to be a covenant of works, out of intention that men should seek salvation thereby, but they make it only a schoolmaster to lead us unto Christ, and to discover our sinful condition; and those who say it was a covenant of grace, consider it in relation to God's end of sending it, and as it takes in all the administration and doctrine of Moses. So there needs be no difficulty here. The matter seems clear, that the covenant of works was preached by Moses, and so it was by Paul, (Rom. x., Gal. iii.) and that neither Paul nor Moses preached the covenant of works, but as a broken covenant; not as such that men could stand unto, or be saved by. No man can preach the gospel, unless he preach the covenant of works; not because both concur to the justification of a sinner, but because the knowledge of a man's own lost condition under the one, presses him to flee to the other.
Now I say, Christ Jesus, or faith in him, is the scope and intention of the law. It is the scope and intention of the lawgiver, in giving out the law. God hath never given a command or curse since Adam's fall, but for this end, to bring sinners unto Christ. This is the end revealed, and appointed by him in his word. This we shall clear from some texts of scripture, because it is very material, Rom. v.20, 21. It might be questioned from the former words, since death hath reigned before Moses, for sins against nature's light, what means the new entry of the written law? What was the end of the promulgation of it on mount Sinai? He answers, "the law entered that sin might abound;" that is, the world knew not sin, the letters of nature's light were worn out and rusty; men thought not of their miserable condition by nature, and did not charge themselves before God; therefore a new edition and publication of the law must be given, that all men may know how much they owe, and how they were guilty in a thousand things they never dreamed of. But wherefore serves this? That grace might superabound where sin had abounded. The Lord would have sin abounding in men's knowledge, and their charge to be great and weighty, that God's pardoning grace might be more conspicuous, and the discharge more sweet. We also learn, (Gal. iii.19.) that the same question was moved, "Wherefore then serves the law? Seeing the covenant of grace was preached to Abraham, what meant the publishing of a covenant of works upon mount Sinai?" He answers, "It was added because of transgression, till the seed should come, to whom the promise was made;" and as it is said, Rom. v.13, "For until the law sin was in the world." It abounded in all places of the world before the law came; but men did not impute it unto themselves, nor condemn themselves as guilty. Therefore the law was added to discover many hidden transgressions, and to show them the curse they deserved. Now this law is not against the promise or covenant of grace, (ver.21.) which it behoved to be if it were not given of intention to drive men to Christ. But the 22d verse speaks out clearly the end of it, "the scripture hath concluded all men under sin," and under the curse both. To what end? That the promise by faith in Christ might come, or be given to believers. And ver.24, "The law" was a "schoolmaster" and teacher, to lead us unto Christ. The very doctrine of a command impossible for man to keep, was, as it were, a proclamation of Christ Jesus to him, a complete teaching of the necessity of some other way of salvation. The law exacted obedience rigorously, even such as we could not perform, and cursed every degree of disobedience. This, if there were no more, speaks that a man cannot stand to such terms, and therefore he must flee to Jesus Christ, who mends the broken covenant.
Again, the apostle, 2 Cor. iii.13, 14, while he speaks of the excellency of the ministry of the gospel beyond the ministry of Moses, notwithstanding all the material glory that accompanied that ministration, as the shining of Moses' face, &c., now opens up a great mystery here, -- Moses' face shining while he was with God upon the mount. This holds forth the glory of the law as in respect of God. By counsels and inventions they saw no more but temporal mercies in it, and were not able to fix their eyes on that glory; the carnal Israelites did not break through the ministry of the law and death, to see Jesus there, because a vail was upon their hearts. They thought God had been dealing with them in the terms of a covenant of works, and they would stand to all God had said, and undertook indeed very fairly, "All which God hath commanded, we will do, and be obedient." But though(462) they perverted God's meaning of the law, and did not see Jesus intended; for they did not look steadfastly to the end of that mystery. Now what was it the vail hid them from? For the same vail is yet on them to this day, while they read Moses and the prophets, and when they shall be converted it shall be done away in Christ, they shall then see him in Moses' law. So then, the end of this ministry of the law was Jesus Christ, and this they could not behold.
Now from all this it is very clear, that Jesus Christ, or faith in him, was the great purpose and end of the law, and covenant of works. The world was lying in sin, and none sought God, no not one; neither knew they well what sin was. Therefore God sends his gospel from mount Sinai, and publishes his law in a terrible manner, that they might know the way and manner of the God they served, and see that their obligation was infinitely beyond their ability or performance. But, poor souls! they clearly mistake the matter, and stand to the terms of the covenant of works, as if they were able to perform them. But God did not leave them so. For he adds a ceremonial law, and sacrifices, to shadow out Christ Jesus. Now, says God, though ye have undertaken so well, yet I know you better than ye do yourselves. Ye will never keep one word of what you say. Therefore, when ye sin bring a sacrifice, and look to my Son, the Lamb that is to be slain and offered up, and ye shall have pardon in him.
II. Christ Jesus apprehended by faith, is the accomplishment and perfection of the law.1. Because Christ Jesus, or faith laying hold upon him, accomplishes the same end that the law was ordained for of itself. The law was appointed to justify men, that it might be a rule of righteousness according to which men might stand before God and live. Now when the law was weak through the flesh, and could not give life, (Rom. viii.3; Gal. iv.21.) and the law ordained to life, wrought more death, and made sin exceeding sinful, (Rom. vii.10-13.) therefore Jesus Christ came in the flesh, to do what the law was unable to do, and to bring many sons unto glory, that the just might live by faith, Gal. iii.11. The law should never have gotten its end, no man should have stood before God, but the curse only would have taken place, and the promise would have been of no effect. Therefore, Jesus comes, and gives obedience to the law, and delivers men from the curse of it, and by faith puts men in as good, and even in a better condition, than they would have been by the promise; so that the justified sinner may come before God, as well as innocent Adam, and have as great confidence and assurance, and peace by faith, as he could have had by inherent holiness. Imputed righteousness comes in as a covering over the man's nakedness, and doth the turn(463) of perfect inherent holiness.
2. Christ, or faith laying hold on him, is the end or accomplishment of the law, because faith in Christ fulfils the righteousness of the law, in respect of a believer's personal obedience. Although the believer gave not perfect obedience, and so cannot stand in terms of justice, yet he gives sincere and upright obedience, which the law should never have got. The command wrought sin and death, by occasion of corruption, and never would any point of it be fulfilled by men. For as long as the curse was standing, no obedience could be acceptable till justice was satisfied, and though that might have been dispensed with, yet there is none that are righteous, none seek after God. No good principles of obedience were in us, but all are corrupt, and have done abominable works, and all our righteousness is as a menstruous cloth; and though upright obedience could have been yielded, yet the law exacted perfect obedience. But now faith in our Redeemer absolves a man from the curse of the law, so that now he is not looked upon as an enemy, but a friend; and then it puts a man upon obedience to the command from new motives and principles: and thus the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us, who walk after the Spirit, Rom. viii.4. And that imperfect obedience is accepted of God, and received off his hand, by virtue of the sacrifice and atonement of Christ. The law would accept of no less, no not of nine commandments, if the tenth was broken. But now God in Christ accepts of endeavours and minting,(464) and so is the law in some way or other accomplished. And faith leads a man on till he be perfected. He walks by faith from strength to strength, till he appear before God, and be made holy as he is holy. Faith in Christ is the end of the law.
3. Because whatever faith wants of perfect and personal obedience, it makes up in Christ's obedience, and thus is the law thoroughly accomplished, for what it wants in the believer it gets in Christ. Paul would have the Romans take this way, Rom. vi.11: "Likewise reckon ye yourselves dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ." Ye may gather by good consequence, that since Christ hath died to sin as a public person so ye should die with him unto sin, and mortify sin with him. And thus may ye have consolation against your imperfect personal mortification. Ye were thoroughly mortified in Christ. So the believer may look unto Jesus, as one who hath given obedience even unto the death, and that, not in his own name but for us, that the imperfect holiness and obedience of every sound believer, may have his complete righteousness to cover it, and come next the Father's eye. And thus is the law fulfilled, and this way doth faith not make void, but establish the law, Rom. iii.31. And as the law got better satisfaction in the sufferings of Christ, who became a curse for us, than in all the punishment we could endure, so it gets more satisfaction to the command by his obedience than if our personal had been perfect. Christ was "made under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons," (Gal. iv.4) and the Son's being made under the law is of more worth than all our being under it. Now faith puts that obedience of God Man in the law's hand. When we do God's will, he brings out Christ Jesus, "Lo, (says he) I come, I delight to do thy will," Psal. xl.7-9. In a word, faith in Jesus accomplishes the law, in the commands, in the promise, in the curse, as might be easily shown, if your time would allow.
(1) In the curse, because it lays hold upon Christ, who was "made a curse for us," (Gal. iii.13) and so gives complete satisfaction to the Lord's justice in that point. It holds up the sacrifice and propitiation of our Saviour, and justice says, I am satisfied. It holds up the ransom, (Job xxxiii.24) and therefore Christ says, "Deliver them from going down to the pit, for I have found a ransom." Again we also observe, (2) That faith in Christ also fulfils the commandments of the law, because it is the fountain of new obedience unto the law. It hath a respect unto all God's righteous judgments. It purifies the heart into the obedience of them, and it works by love, and so it is the end of the law for righteousness. It not only gives the answer of a good conscience unto all challenges and curses from Christ's blood, but daily derives virtue out of Jesus Christ, to bring forth fruit unto God. What it cannot reach by doing, it supplies by believing, and laying hold upon Christ's obedience. And this is the righteousness of the law fulfilled in us. Let us also,
(3) Look upon the promise of life, and it is accomplished also by faith in Christ. For the law could not have given life, and so the promise would now be in vain; but Christ by faith justifies the sinner, and he lives, yea, hath eternal life in him, and so all the three are strengthened and established. Faith is the most comprehensive commandment, 1 John iii.22, 23. It is put for all the commandments, (1) By acknowledgment of the breach of all, and so it magnifies the law, and makes it honourable, and subscribes to the sentence of justice and the authority of the command; (2) By satisfaction, because it gives a price for the breach of it, and puts the Cautioner(465) in the craver's hand; (3) By obedience, because after this, it hath a respect to all God's laws, and endeavours after new obedience to every one of them.
The improvement of all this is extremely plain. It may serve to discover unto us how we disappoint God of his end in giving unto us the command. And the law was given for the best purposes. But, the most part of men have no end, no use of the law. God hath given it for some end, but they know it not. They live without God, and without rule in the world. Men walk as if there was no law, nor command, nor curse. There are but two ends the command was ordained for, the first instituted end which it naturally tends unto is life, (Rom. vii.10) and the second end for which God hath appointed it since the first is missed, is to pursue men to Jesus Christ, and convince them of sin, to make them once die that they may live, Rom. vii.9. But the most part know neither of these ends. A carnal profane generation will not seek life by the righteousness of the law; their iniquities testify against them even to their face, and their sin is found hateful. There is not so much as an endeavour among too many Christian professors, either to approve themselves unto men, or their own consciences in their outward walking. They walk without any regard of a command, or rule, as it were by guess. Their own rule is what pleases them best. What suits their humours, and crosses God's word, that they will do, as if they knew not the curse, or were afraid of the sentence of condemnation. They walk in peace, and have no changes, they walk in the imagination of their vain hearts. They cannot say, and none will say for them, they seek life by the law, their contempt of it is so palpable, and yet no other end of it they know so it is to them as if God had never appointed it. Again,
2. There are many wrong and false ends, or uses of the law, when we make it the immediate mean to life and righteousness, and seek justification by it. And this was the end that these false teachers would have made of it. This is the end that the Israelites looked to. "All that the Lord hath commanded, will we do." O that was a great undertaking! Poor men, they knew not what they said. They thought upon no other thing but obedience to the command, and so made it a covenant of works. Thus did the people that followed Christ, John vi.28. And the young man that came to Christ said, "What good thing shall I do, to inherit eternal life?" Here doing was preferred to living by faith, Rom. x.1-23. The Jews did so, and missed the right way. And few of you will take(466) with this, that ye seek to be justified by your own works; and yet, it is natural to men, they will not submit to God's righteousness. There is need of submission to take Christ. O would not any think all the world would be glad of him, and come out and meet him bringing salvation? Would not dyvours(467) and prisoners be content of a deliverance? Were it any point of self denial for a lost man, to grip a cord cast unto him? Yet here must there be submission to quit your own righteousness. It were of great moment to convince you of this, that ye are all naturally standing to the terms of a covenant of works, ye who are yet alive, and the commandment hath not slain you, with Paul, Rom. vii.9, 11. Ye are yet seeking life by the law, if ye have not applied the curse unto yourselves. After application of yourselves to the command, ye are yet seeking life by it. Ye adorn yourselves with some external privileges, in some external duties of religion, some branches of the second table duties, and come to God with these. Some think to satisfy God for their faults, with an amendment in time to come. Some think God cannot punish some faults in them, because they have some good things in them. Ask many men the ground of their confidence, and in all the world they know not how to be saved, unless their prayers do it, or their keeping the kirk.(468) But this is not the end that God hath sent out the law for. Ye cannot now stand to such a bargain. The law is now weak through the flesh, and it is now impossible for it to give life. Though you would pray never so much, all is but abomination. And would not many of you think ye were in a fair venture for heaven, if no man living could lay any thing to your charge, but were you unblameable in all the duties of the first and second table? [Could you say,] though you know nothing as by yourselves, that you were frequent and fervent in prayer, reading, and meditation; and as far advanced as Paul, or David, or Moses, or Job, sure ye would think yourselves out of doubt of heaven? Nay, but in this, ye may see ye are seeking righteousness by the law. Though ye were so far advanced, yet God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, would look to your sins, and pass by your righteousness, and all that would be as menstruous rags before him; and therefore Paul was much wiser, who said, "though I know nothing by himself, yet am I not hereby justified." 3. Many make the law an end, when God hath only made it a mean. God hath appointed the law for some other use, namely, to be subservient to Christ and the gospel. But oftentimes we make the law the end of all God's speaking to us, and so conclude desperate resolutions from it, (Rom vii.9). "When the law came, sin revived, and I died." Here the man is slain by the commandment, and not yet come to the healing Physician at Gilead. We use to gather desperation of the command, when it presses so perfect and exact obedience, such as we cannot yield. When it craves the whole sum, without the abatement of a farthing, we sit down under the sense of an impossibility to obey, and will not so much as mint(469) at obedience. Because we cannot do as we ought, we will not do as we can. Because we cannot do in ourselves we conclude nothing can be done at all. This is to make the command the last word, and the end of God's speaking. Doth not the child of God frequently sit down and droop over his duty, while he looks upon the Egyptian taskmaster, the command, charging the whole work and portion of brick, and giving no straw to work upon? So are many in duties. While the aim and eye is upon some measure according to the perfect rule, the hands fall down feeble, and none is wrought at all, and they do not look if there be another word from God posterior to the command, a word of promise. We use also to gather desperate conclusions of the curse, and make the law according to which we examine ourselves, the end of God's manifesting his mind unto us, and do not look upon it as a way leading to some other thing. When ye have tried yourselves, and applied your own ways and state unto the perfect rule, God's verdict of all men's condition is true in you, "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," "there is none righteous, no, not one," and so if necessitated to apply the dreadful sentence of the judgment to yourselves, ye stay there, and sit down to lodge with the sentence of condemnation, as if that were God's last word to sinners. Is not this to make the law the end, which is but appointed for another end? The curse is not irrepealable. Why then do ye pass peremptory conclusions, as if there was no more hope, but it were perished from the Lord?
II. To discover unto us the right end and use of the law, the great design and purpose of God in making such a glorious promulgation of the law on mount Sinai, and delivering it by the ministry of angels, in the hands of a mediator. The end which God hath been driving at these six thousand years, is this only, that men may come to Jesus Christ and believe in him. The end wherefore the covenant of works hath been preached since Adam's fall, is only this, to make way for a better covenant of grace, that men may hearken to the offer of it. Now faith in Jesus Christ hath two special actings, either upon Christ for justification of the person, and eternal life and salvation, or for sanctification of the person and actions, in the fruits of new obedience. And in the text, unfeigned faith is described from both these, and gives the answer of a good conscience, that is, of absolution from the curse, by the blood of Jesus, and makes him as quiet as he had never sinned. And then it purifies the heart, and worketh by love.
Now the law is a mean appointed of God, and instituted to lead to both these, and Christ in these. The law is appointed to lead a man to faith in Christ, for salvation and righteousness, and the suitableness of it to that end, we comprehend thus: 1. It convinces of sin; "The law entered that the offence might abound," and "was added because of transgressions," Rom. v.20, Gal. iii.19. This is the end of God's sounding the trumpet, and declaring our duty, "that every mouth may be stopped" before God, and that none may plead innocence before his tribunal. While men are without the law, they are alive, and think well of themselves, but the entering of the commandment in a man's conscience, in the length, breadth, and spirituality of it, makes sin to appear exceeding sinful. Sin was in the house before, but was not seen before, and now when the bright beam of a clear, spiritual, holy law, carrying God's authority upon it, is darted into the dark soul, O what ugly sights appear! The house is full of motes. Ye cannot turn the command where it will not discover innumerable iniquities, an universal leprosy. For all the actions that were called honest, civil and religious before, get a new name, and they being seen in God's light, are called rottenness, and living without the law, Rom. vii.9 &c. Think ye, but the woman of Samaria knew her adultery, before Christ spake to her? Nay, but Christ speaks according to the law and makes it a mean of faith. He tells her all that ever she did. He tells her indeed what she knew before, but in another manner. Men know their actions, but the Lord discovers the sinfulness of them, as offensive to God's holy majesty, and pure eyes. It will force a man to give his sin the right name, it will take away all excuses and shifts, and aggravate sin, that it may become exceeding sinful. But further, 2. This is not the last end of it. Not only is it ordained to stop all mouths, but to make all flesh guilty before God, "For by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified," Rom. iii.18, 19. It convinces of an impossibility to stand before God, and so it kills a man. And now the man asks, "What shall I do to be saved?" He cannot stand before God in terms of justice, where none can stand, and so either must some other delivery come, or he is gone. Now here he is put from making satisfaction, "Who can abide with everlasting burnings?" He sees himself standing under the stroke of justice; and where can he go from God's presence? If he go to heaven, he is there, if to hell, he will find him out, the light and darkness are alike to him, Psal. cxxxix.7-11. Not only the cries of sinful man, but of wretched and miserable man, are heard from him! Now these are the steps the law proceeds by. But it must not stay there, or else it is not come to the end of it. It must put a man within the doors of the covenant of grace. The law is a messenger sent to pursue a man out of his own house of self confidence and security, he was like to perish in, and not to know it. Now by discovering his sinful and cursed condition, it brings him out of himself, and out of all created things. But the end is not yet attained, till it put him in Christ's hand, and enter him in the border of the city of refuge and this is the end of the abounding of sin by the law, that grace may superabound, Rom. v.20. And this is the end of the concluding him under sin, and making him guilty before God, that the promise of faith may be given him, and another righteousness revealed by faith, Rom. iii.20, 21, Gal. iii.23. And now he is at peace, being justified by faith, and rests as a stone in its own place (Rom. v.1, 2 ), and the law hath nothing to do with him; he is out of its jurisdiction.3. Now when it hath pursued him unto Christ for salvation, yet the command is still useful, and appointed yet for faith in Jesus, in performing new obedience. The Christian's daily walking is but the turning of the old round, as the sun doth this day go about the compass it did the first day, so his life is but a new conversion still. When he is now settled on Jesus for salvation, he must yet be put by(470) the command. It discovers his dally sins, and so he is put to Jesus, the open Fountain for all sin and uncleanness. And the command comes out in perfection, and discovers his shortcoming and inability, and therefore he is put to Jesus for strength. And this is the end of the perfect rule upon believers, that they, comparing duty with their ability, may be forced to make up their inability for duty by faith in Christ.
III. We may know from this what great encouragement we have to believe, and how great warrant, since not only God commands faith itself (1 John iii.23.), but he hath appointed faith to be the end of all other commands, and hath given the whole law for this end. For "without faith it is impossible to see God." Faith is that which God loves best in all obedience. What is it that makes faith so precious? Certainly not the act itself, but the precious object of it, Jesus Christ, in whom the Father is well pleased. Faith glorifies God in his justice and mercy most, and abases the creature. Now what an obligation lies on us to believe? It is usual to question a right and warrant of faith, when we have no doubt of other commands. But, in all reason, any command might be questioned before faith. There is no duty admits of less disputing. Hath not God put it out of all controversy? What warrant have ye to pray, or to sanctify the Sabbath? Is it not because God commands these duties? And do ye not go about them in obedience to God, notwithstanding of the sense of your own inability? How comes it then that ye make any more scruple of this? Hath not the same authority that gave the ten commands, given also this new command? And shall not disobedience be rebellion, and worse than witchcraft?(471) But when besides all this, it is the appointed end of all the commands, so that ye may say, it is commanded in all the commands and the whole law, -- command and curse is a virtual kind of commanding faith, -- then what shall disobedience be? When ye break one command, ye are guilty of all. Much more here, not only because of God's authority stamped upon all, but because it is the common end of all. If ye could once come to believe that ye had as good warrant to believe in Christ as to abstain from cursing God's name, and as great obligation, what could ye answer for disobedience?
IV: This is a point of great consolation also. What more terrible than the law? Nothing in all the world. Nothing in all the word so dreadful as the trumpet on Sinai, sounding louder and louder. The judge and law gives voice. Yet if ye could look to the end of it and if the vail that was on the Jews' heart be not upon yours, O how comfortable shall it be! Doth not a command and curse form a dead sound in an awakened man's ears, and strike unto his heart like a knife? But if he knew this, it would be a healing medicine. Would not many sinners wish there would be no such thing in the Bible as a condemning law, when they cannot get it escaped? But look to the end of it, and see gospel saving doctrine in the very promulgation of it. When it was published, it made the Jews all to tremble and cry out, and even holy Moses himself was afraid. But there is more consolation than terror here. This condemning law is delivered in a Mediator's hand, even Jesus Christ, Gal. iii.19, 20. Who was he that spake out of the cloud, and fire, and came and set down his throne on Sinai, accompanied with innumerable angels? Deut. xxxiii.2, Acts vii.53. It was Jesus Christ that spoke to Moses in the mount, and in the bush also, Acts vii.35, 38. Is it then the Mediator's law, whose office it is to preach glad tidings, and the day of salvation? Sure then it needs be dreadful to no man. For if he wound, he shall heal, and he comes to bind up the broken hearted. Ye may look on the command and curse as messengers sent by mercy, to prepare you, and make his way straight before his face. The end of the law is not to condemn you, to stop your mouth, and make you guilty. That is not the last work it is appointed for, but the Mediator hath another end, to bring you to the righteousness of faith, to save you without yourselves. Therefore ye may more willingly accept the challenge, since it comes in so peaceable terms. What should be terrible to you in all God's word and dispensation, since the ministry of condemnation and death is become the port(472) of heaven and life? What must all his other dealings be? Surely there is nothing in the world, but it must lead to this end also. Prosperity and adversity, the end of them is faith, conviction and challenges. Be not then as men without hope, when you are challenged, for the challenge comes from a Mediator who would have you saved.
V: You may see hence how injurious they are to grace who cry down the law. The Antinomian cannot be a right defender and pleader for faith (the end of the command), when he opposes the command that leads to that end. He can not exalt Christ aright, or lead men to him, when he will not come under the pedagogue's hand to be led to Christ. The law, even as a covenant of works, is of perpetual use to a believer, because it lays a blessed necessity upon him to abide with Christ. It is a guard put before the door, to keep him, as it was a schoolmaster to bring him to Christ, and makes a man subordinate to the gospel as a mean to the end, and so it ought to be used. So then it is against the truth [to say] that the Israelites were under the law, and not Christians. The law came not to be a mean of life and righteousness unto them, but that the offence might abound, that so grace might superabound. The law was not intended, but Christ was intended, and this end they could not fix their eyes upon, by reason of the hardness of their hearts. It is also false, that Christian believers are wholly exeemed(473) from the command and law. No, he hath use of all that leads to Jesus Christ, and the law itself becomes gospel under that notion. The command stands in its integrity, that he may be convinced of shortcoming and inability, and so may believe in Christ. The curse also stands, and condemns him for new sins, that he may believe in Christ, who justifies the ungodly. Again, it is not truth, that the law is no mean of conversion, though not in its own virtue and power, but as it is delivered in a Mediator's hand, and applied by the Spirit of grace and the gospel.
Use VI: We exhort you not to disappoint God of his end, and if he hath given the law for this end, never rest till ye be at the end. Let the law enter into you once, or enter ye into it. Ye cannot come to Jesus unless it lead you. Let it enter into your consciences, with God's power and authority as his law, and examine yourselves by it, else ye shall never believe in Christ.2. Accept all the challenges of the law, let it enter till your mouth be stopped. Read your obligation well, that ye may see how much ye owe.3. Let faith be the issue and result of all the applications of the law to yourselves. Ye go in the law's hand to Christ, but sit not down with it, or else you will not go free till ye have paid the last farthing. Make faith in Christ the end of the curse condemning you, that he may absolve you, the end of the command, commanding, that he may give strength and fulfil in you the righteousness of the law. God never sent a condition to you, but that you may believe, and be established.4. Let it be your exercise to travel between an impossible command, and Christ Jesus by faith, through whom all things are possible. Write always down how much ye owe, that ye may see grace superabounding. Sit not down to examine the duty, or go not about it in your own strength. Be not discouraged though ye find no strength. Ye are called in such a case to believe. Nay, in a word, what is all the Christian's employment? Faith exhausts it all. Look on the command, and it calls for believing. Look upon the curse and it calls also for believing.