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may we dread
21. Look to all the disorders of thy heart and life; they flow natively from hence, as the poisonous streams from the impoisoned fountain. Look to the disorders appearing in the lives of others, the fountain from whence they proceed is in thee. And if the cause be there, and the effect follow not, thank God and not thyself.
2. All particular lụsts are in it, as in the seed. It is the seed-plot of all particular sins. It is the cursed ground, where, let the gardener weed as he will, new ones will still spring up. It is the cage of unclean birds, the mystery of iniquity, which we will never get to the ground of till the foundations be overturned at death.
3. We never were without it, Psal. li. 5. It is a natural and hereditary disease that cannot be cured without a miracle. We dread the serpent that is naturally poisonous, more than any thing that is accidentally so. So this beyond all things else. When we were not capable of actually sinning, this made us guilty creatures.
4. We never are free of it, while awake or asleep. It is a permanent and abiding sin. Actual sins are transient, tho' not as to the guilt of them, yet as to the being of them; but whether the guilt of this be removed or not, it abides as fixed with bands of iron and brass.
Lastly, We never will be free of it while we live. If we die out of Christ it will never be cured. But even though we be in him, yet it abides till death, and will never be totally removed till then.
Thus I have now gone through the ten commands, labouring to lay before you the commandment in its exceeding breadth. And though I have been far from reaching all the particular duties commanded, and sins forbidden; yet, from the whole of what has been said, ye may see,
1. What a holy God we have to do with. We see his holiness in this law as in a glass. He can endure no evil thing; and there are many things which the world reckons not upon, which he abhors, and will punish.
2. What a holy law this law is, requiring all purity of nature, heart, lip and life; a perfection both of parts and degrees; discharging all manner of impurity and moral imperfection, not only in the substance, but in the manner of action.
8. That by the works of the law no flesh can be justified Who can come up to the perfection this law requires? what one line is there of this law that does not condemn us? where is that one point to the perfection of which we attain.
4. The preciousness and excellency of Christ, who has fulfilled this law in all its parts, has brought in everlasting righteousness, and furnishes all that believe in him with an answer to all its demands.
5. The rule of righteousness, by which ye are to examine yourselves, to see your sins and shortcoinings, the mark ye are to aim at if ye would be holy in all manner of conversa. tion, which is nothing the easier to be hit that it is so broad, and the evidence of your sincerity, in a perfection of those parts, though ye cannot attain to the degrees.
Lastly, Your absolute need of Christ, of his blood to sprinkle you from guilt, and of his Spirit to sanctify you, that ye may be complete in him. And therefore let this holy law be your schcolmaster to bring you to Christ for all.
OF MAN'S INABILITY TO KEEP THE LAW PER
EccLEs. vii. 20.-For there is not a just man upon earth, that
doth good, and sinneth not.
AVING at considerable length endeavoured to open
up and explain the law of God, as abridged in the ten commandments, in some measure in its spirituality and extent, by describing the several duties required, and sins for, bidden therein; and shewn the absolute impossibility of yielding a perfect obedience thereto, in order to give a title to eternal life; and directed you to come to Christ by faith, as the end of the law for righteousness, that your guilt may be removed by the application of his blood to your con. sciences, and that ye may be sanctified by his Spirit : I now proceed to the exposition of the remaining questions in the Catechism, which I shall mostly discuss in a very short dis. course on each, as I have been so long on the former part of this excellent composition.*
Here is the undoubted character of all the human race, fixing imperfection and sinfulness on the best of the kind in this world, and so concluding all to be liable to sin, and under it. In the words there are two things.
1. A position, There is not a just man upon earth. By the just man in this text is not meant an evangelically just man, or one just in respect of parts, though not of degrees; but one who is legally so, just in the eye of the law, as liaving yielded perfect obedience to all its commands; this is plain from the original pointing. Compare Psal. cxliii
. 2. 'Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” By this time the man Christ had not appeared on the earth : so it is meant of mere men. On the earth; to denote that in heaven they are just in that sense, arrived to legal perfection.
2. The explication of it: There is none who doth good, and sinneth not. There are some who do good, as all the godly; but they sin withal, and that daily, for so the word is to be understood of their using to sin.
The doctrine arising from the words is,
Doct. • Legal perfection is not attainable in this life, but
the best sin daily.' Or, No mere man, since the fall, is able, in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them, in thought, word, and deed.'
În discoursing from this doctrine, I shall,
* As some readers may be apt to think, in regard feveral of the following discourses are very short, that they are not fo full as they were de. livered, it is necessary to inform them, that, besides what the author has here faid of his intended brevity, he was generally a Mort preacher, sel. dom, on ordinary occasions, exceeding half an hour, and that his delivery was somewhat low. Besides, we have the testimony of his dear friends Meff. Wilson, Davidson, and Colden, that he generally wrote his fermons as full as he delivered them. See the preface to his sermons on afflictions. And it is believed, that the attentive reader, upon a careful perufal of this last part of the work, will find the several subjects fuffici. eotly, though briefly, illustrated, for promoting his best and moit effential interefts.
I. Shew what is legal perfection, or perfect keeping of the commands.
II. Consider the attainableness of this perfection.
III. Shew how the saints sin daily, and break the commands.
IV. Confirm the point, That perfection is not attainable in this life.
V. Give the reason of this dispensation.
1. I shall shew what is legal perfection, or perfect keeping of the commands. It is a perfect conformity of heart and life to the commands of God; and implies,
1. A perfection of the principle of action, Matth. xxii. 37. • Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.' For if the heart and soul be not sinless and pure, as in innocent Adam and Christ, but be polluted as our nature is, there can be no perfect keeping of the commands of God. That pollution will stain all.
2. A perfection of the parts of obedience. No part must be lacking, every command of whatsoever nature must be kept : For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them,' Gal. iii. 10. If one be wanting, all is wanting, all is marred. Hence says James, chap. ii. 10. 'Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
3. A perfection of degrees in every part, Matth. xxii. 37. • Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.' Sincerity is not enough in the eye of the law. In every thing one must come to the highest pitch, or there is no perfection.
4. A perfection of duration or continuance, Gal. iii. 10. forecited; without apostasy or defection, continuing to the end; for one bad trip after a course of obedience will mar all.
II. Let us consider the attainableness of this perfection.
1. Adam before the fall was able to have kept the commands perfectly; he might have attained it; for God made him upright,' Eccl. vii. 29. That law was the rule of Adam's covenant-obedience; and perfect obedience to it was the condition of the covenant, which God could not have proposed to him, if he had not given him strength sufficient to perform it.
2. The man Christ, who was not a mere man, but God. man, was not only able to keep the law perfectly, but actually did so. He made out what the first Adam failed in, to the salvation of the elect, and in their stead; and this in the whole extent of legal perfection. His obedience was per. fect in the principle, Heb. vii. 26. being 'holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners ;' in the parts, Matth. ii. 15. • It becometh us to fulfil all righteousness ? in the degrees, John xv. 13. • Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends;' and in continuance, Phil. ii. 8. He became obedient unto death.'
3. The saints in heaven are able, and do actually perfectly obey whatever God's will to them is : so that though in this life they do not attain it, yet in the life to come all the children of God shall attain perfection, Heb. xii. 23. where mention is made of the spirits of just men made perfect;' and there they shall be fully freed from sin, and all possibility of sinning.
4. But since Adam fell, no mere man is able, while in this life, either of himself, or by virtue of any grace now given, to keep the commands perfectly. Of himself he cannot do it; neither is there any measure of grace given to any in this life, whereby they may be enabled to do it: For “in many things we offend all, Jam. iii. 2. This inability is owing to the remains of corruption that cleaves to every one of them in this mortal state, Rom. vii. 23; and from which they ardently long to be delivered, ver. 24. And there is no promise of grace given in the word, whereby believers may be enabled to keep the commands of God perfectly; nor would it be consistent with the nature of spiritual growth, which is manifestly, like the natural, gradual; and it is certain that the saints do not arrive at their full sta. ture, till they come to the mansions of bliss, 1 Thess. iii. 1S.
III. I shall shew how the saints sin daily, and break the commands. . And here I shall consider,
1. How many ways the commands may be broken. . 2. In what respect the saints sin daily.
3. How these failures of theirs break the commands. VOL. III.