« PreviousContinue »
Let such consider that there is a God in heaven, who beholds them, and sees how they conduct themselves in their daily traffick with one another; and i that he will try their works another day. Justice shall assuredly take place at
last. The righteous Governor of the world will not suffer injustice without control ; he will control and rectify it, by returning the injury upon the head
of the injurer: Matt. vii. 2, “ With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured I to you again.”
3. To those who plead for the lawfulness of practices generally condemned by God's people. You who do this, consider that your practices must be tried at the day of judgment. Consider, whether or no they are likely to be approved by the most holy Judge at that day : Prov. v. 21, “The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord; and he pondereth all his goings.” However, by your carnal reasonings, you may deceive your own hearts, yet you will not be able to deceive the judge, he will not hearken to your excuses, but will try your ways by the rule; he will know whether they be straight or crooked.
When you plead for these and those liberties which you take, let it be considered, whether they be likely to be allowed of by the judge at the last great day. Will they bear to be tried by his eyes, which are purer than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity? 4. To those who are wont to excuse their wickedness.
Will the excuses which you make for yourselves be accepted at the day of judgment ? If you excuse yourselves to your own consciences, by saying, that you were under such and such temptations which you could not withstand ; that corrupt nature prevailed, and you could not overcome it; that it would have been so and so to your damage, if you had done otherwise; that if you had done such a duty, you would have brought yourselves into difficulty, would have incurred the displeasure of such and such friends, or would have been despised and laughed at; or if you say, you did no more than it was the common custom to do, no more than many godly men have done, no more than certain persons of good reputation now practise, that if you had done otherwise, you would have been singular; if these be your excuses for the sins you commit, or for the duties which you neglect, let me ask you, will they appear sufficient when they shall be examined at the day of judgment ?
5. To those who live in impenitence and unbelief. There are some persons who live in no open vice, and perhaps conscientiously avoid secret immorality, who yet live in impenitence and unbelief. They are indeed called upon to repent and believe the gospel, to forsake their evil ways and thoughts, and to return to God, that he may have mercy on them; to come unto Christ, laboring, and heavy-laden with sin, that they may obtain rest of him; and are assured, that if they believe, they shall be saved; and that if they believe not, they shali be damned ; and all the most powerful motives are set before them, to induce them to comply with these exhortations, especially those drawn from the eternal world; yet they persist in sin, they remain impenitent and unhumbled; they will not come unto Christ, that they may have life.
Now such men shall be brought into judgment for their conduct, as well as more gross sinners. Nor will they be any more able to stand in the judgment than the other. They resist the most powerful means of grace; go on in sin against the clear light of the gospel ; refuse to hearken to the kindest calls and invitations; reject the most amiable Saviour, the judge himself; and despise the free offers of eternal life, glory and felicity. And how will they be able to answer for these things at the tribunal of Christ?
IV. If there be a day of judgment appointed, then let all be very strict in
trying their own sincerity. God on that day will discover the secrets of all hearts. The judgment of that day will be like a fire, which burns up whatsoever is not true gold; wood, hay, stubble, and dross, shall be all consumed by the scorching fire of that day. The judge will be like a refiner's fire, and fuller's soap, which will cleanse away all filthiness, however it may be colored over : Mal. iii. 2, “ Who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap;" and chap. iv. 1, "For behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble, and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts.”
There are multitudes of men that wear the guise of saints, appear like saints, and their state, both in their own eyes and in the eyes of their neighbors, is good. They have sheep's clothing. But no disguise can hide them from the eyes of the judge of the world. His eyes are as a flame of fire: they search the hearts and try the reins of the children of men. He will see whether they be sound at heart ; he will see from what principles they have acted. A fair show will in no degree deceive him, as it doth men in the present state. It will signify nothing to say, “Lord, we have eaten and drunk in thy presence; and in thy name have we cast out devils
, and in thy name have done many wonderful works.” It will signify nothing to pretend to a great deal of comfort and joy, and to the experience of great religious affections, and to your having done many things in religion and morality, unless you have some greater evidences of sincerity.
Wherefore let every one take heed that he be not deceived concerning himself; and that he depend not on that which will not bear examination at the day of judgment. Be not contented with this, that you have the judgment of men, the judgment of godly men, or that of ministers, in your favor. Consider that they are not to be your judges at last. Take occasion frequently to compare your hearts with the word of God; that is the rule by which you are to be finally tried and judged. And try yourselves by your works, by which also you must be tried at last. Inquire whether you lead holy, Christian lives, whether you perform universal and unconditional obedience to all God's commands, and whether you do it from a truly gracious respect to God.
Also frequently beg of God, the judge, that he would search you, try you now, and discover you to yourselves, that you may see if you be insincere in religion ; and that he would lead you in the way everlasting. Beg of God, that if you be not upon a good foundation, he would unsettle you, and fix you upon the sure foundation. The example of the Psalmist in this is worthy of imitation : Psal. xxvi. 1, 2, “ Judge me, O Lord, examine me, and prove me; try my reins and mine heart;" and Psal. cxxxix. 23, 24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart : try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” God will search us hereafter, and discover what we are, both to ourselves and to all the world; let us pray that he would search us, and discover our hearts to us now. We have need of divine help in this matter; for the heart is deceitful above all things.
V. If God hath appointed a day to judge the world, let us judge and condemn ourselves for our sins. This we must do, if we would not be judged and condemned for them on that day. If we would escape condemnation, we must see that we justly may be condemned; we must be so sensible of our vileness and guilt, as to see that we deserve all that condemnation and punishment which are threatened; and that we are in the hands of God, who is the sovereign disposer of us, and will do with us as seemeth to himself good. Let us
therefore often reflect on our sins, confess them before God, condemn and abbor ourselves, be truly burnbled, and repent in dust and ashes.
VI. If these things be so, let us by no means be forward to judge others. Some are forward to judge others, to judge their hearts, both in general and upon particular occasions, to determine as to the principles, motives, and ends of their actions. But this is to assume the province of God, and to set up ourselves as lords and judges. Rom. xiv. 4, “Who art thou, that thou judgest another man's servant ?" Jam. iv. 11, “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law.” To be thus disposed to judge and act censoriously towards others, is the way to be judged and condemned ourselves. Matt. vii. 1. 2, “ Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
VII. This doctrine affords matter of great consolation to the godly. This day of judgment, which is so terrible to ungodly men, affords no ground of terror to you, but abundant ground of joy and satisfaction. For though you now meet with more affliction and trouble than most wicked men, yet on that day you shall be delivered from all afflictions, and from all trouble. If you be unjustly treated by wicked men, and abused by them, what a comfort is it to the injured, that they may appeal to God, who judgeth righteously! The Psalmist used often to comfort himself with this.
Upon these accounts the saints have reason to love the appearing of Jesus Christ. 2 Tim. iv. 8, “ Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day : and not to me only, but to all those that love his appearing.” This is to the saints a blessed hope. Tit. ii. 13,“ Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ. This day may well be the object of their eager desire, and when they hear of Christ's coming to judgment they may well say, “ Even so come, Lord Jesus," Rev. xxii. 20. It will be the most glorious day that ever the saints saw; it will be so both to those who shall die, and whose souls shall go to heaven, and to those who sball then be found alive on earth : it will be the wedding-day of the church. Surely then in the consideration of the approach of this day, there is ground of great consolation to the saints.
The main subject of the doctrinal part of this epistle, is the free grace of God in the salvation of men by Christ Jesus; especially as it appears in the doctrine of justification by faitir alone. And the more clearly to evince this doctrine, and show the reason of it, the apostle, in the first place, establishes that point, that no flesh living can be justified by the deeds of the law. And to prove it, he is very large and particular in showing, that all mankind, not only Gentiles but Jews, are under sin, and so under the condemnation of the law; which is what he insists upon from the beginning of the epistle to this place. He first begins with the Gentiles; and in the first chapter shows that they are under sin, by setting forth the exceeding corruptions and horrid wickedness that overspread the Gentile world: and then through the second chapter, and the former part of this third chapter, to the text and following verse, he shows the same of the Jews, that they are also in the same circumstances with the Gentiles in this regard. They had a high thought of themselves, because they were God's covenant people, and circumcised, and the children of Abraham. They despised the Gentiles as polluted, condemned, and accursed; but looked on themselves, on account of their external privileges, and ceremonial and moral righteousness, as a pure and holy people, and the children of God, as the apostle observes in the second chapter. It was therefore strange doctrine to them, that they also were unclean and guilty in God's sight, and under the condemnation and curse of the law. The apostle does therefore, on account of their strong prejudices against such doctrine, the more particularly insist upon it, and shows that they are no better than the Gentiles; and as in the 9th verse of this chapter, “ What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.” And to convince them of it, he then produces certain passages out of their own law, or the Old Testament (whose authority they pretend a great regard to), from the 9th verse to the verse wherein is our text. And it may be observed, that the apostle, first, cites certain passages to prove that mankind are all corrupt, in the 10th, 11th, and 12th verses : “ As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Secondly, the passages he cites next, are to prove, that not only all are corrupt, but each one wholly corrupt, as it were all over unclean, from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet; and therefore several particular parts of the body are mentioned, as the throat, the tongue, the lips, the mouth, the feet : verses 13, 14, 15, “ Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used de ceit; the poison of asps is under their lips ; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood.” And, thirdly, he quotes other passages to show, that each one is not only all over corrupt, but corrupt to a desperate degree, in the 16th, 17th, and 18th verses; in which the exceeding degree of their corruption is shown, both by affirming and denying: by. affir
matively expressing the most pernicious nature and tendency of their wickedness, in the 16th verse : “Destruction and misery are in their ways.” And then by denying all good or godliness of them, in the 17th and 18th verses, “And the
peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.” And then, lest the Jews should think these passages of their law do not concern them, and that only the Gentiles are intended in them, the apostle shows, in the verse of the text, not only, that they are not exempt, but that they especially must be understood : “Now we know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law.” By those that are under the law is meant the Jews; and the Gentiles by those that are without law; as appears by the 12th verse of the preceding chapter. There is a special reason to understand the law, as speaking to and of them, to whom it was immediately given. And therefore the Jews would be unreasonable in exempt. ing themselves. And if we examine the places of the Old Testament whence these passages are taken, we shall see plainly that special respect is had to the wickedness of the people of that nation, in every one of them. So that the law -shuts all up in universal and desperate wickedness, that every mouth may be stopped; the mouths of the Jews, as well as of the Gentiles, notwithstanding all those privileges by which they were distinguished from the Gentiles.
The things that the law says, are sufficient to stop the mouths of all mankind, in two respects :
1. To stop them from boasting of their righteousness, as the Jews were wont to do; as the apostle observes in the 230 verse of the preceding chapter.That the apostle has respect to stopping their mouths in this respect, appears by the 27th verse of the context, “ Where is boasting then? It is excluded.” The law stops our mouths from making any plea for life, or the favor of God, or any positive good, from our own righteousness.
2. To stop them from making any excuse for ourselves, or objection against the execution of the sentence of the law, or the infliction of the punishment that it threatens. That it is intended, appears by the words immediately following, " That all the world may become guilty before God.” That is, that they may appear to be guilty, and stand convicted before God, and justly liable to the condemnation of his law, as guilty of death, according to the Jewish way of speaking
And thus the apostle proves, that no flesh can be justified in God's sight by the deeds of the law; as he draws the conclusion in the following verse; and so prepares the way for the establishing of the great doctrine of justification by faith alone, which he proceeds to do in the next verse to that, and in the following part of the chapter, and of the epistle.
It is just with God eternally to cast off and destroy sinners.
For this is the punishment which the law condemns to; which the things that the law says, may well stop every mouth from all manner of objection against.
The truth of this doctrine may appear by the joint consideration of two things, viz., man's sinfulness, and God's sovereignty.
I. It appears from the consideration of man's sinfulness. And that whether we consider the infinitely evil nature of all sin, or how much sin men are guilty of.
i. If we consider the infinite evil and heinousness of sin in general, it is not