Or The Righteousness of Faith;
The Difference between the
Law and the Gospel,
Old and New Covenant;
Justification and Divine Acceptance;
The Conveighance of the Evangelical Righteousness to us by Faith.
Except your Righteousness exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdome of heaven. Matth. 5. 20.
Having a form of Godliness, but denying the Power thereof. 2 Tim. 3. 5.
For the Law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did. Heb. 7. 19.
B. Macarius in Homil. 15.
Ὅσοι υἱοὶ εἰσι τοῦ φωτὸς καὶ τῆς διακοινίας τῆς καινῆς διαθήκης ἐν τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ, θεοδίδακτοί εἰσιν. ἀυτὴ γὰρ ἡ χάρις ἐπιγράφει. ἐν ταις καρδίαις ἀυτῶν τοὺς νόμους τοῦ πνεύματος. οὐκ ὀφείλουσιν οὖν εἰς τὰς γραφὰς μόνον τὰς δια' μέλανος γεγραμμένας πληροφορεῖσθαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ εἰς τὰς πλάκας τῆς καρδίας ἡ χάρις τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐγγράφει τοὺς νόμους τοῦ πνεύματος καὶ τὰ ἐπουράνια μυστήρια.
The Righteousness of Faith, &c.
Rom. 9. 31, 32.
But Israel which followed after the Law of righteousness, hath not attained to the Law of righteousness: Wherefore? Because they sought it not by Faith, but as it were by the works of the Law.
The Introduction, shewing What it is to have a right Knowledge of Divine Truth, and What it is that is either Availeable or Prejudicial to the true Christian Knowledge and Life.
THE Doctrine of Christian Religion propounded to us by our Saviour and his Apostles, is set forth with so much simplicity, and yet with so much repugnancy to that degenerate Genius and Spirit that rules in the hearts and lives of Men, that we may truly say of it, it is both the Easiest and the Hardest thing: it is a Revelation wrapt up in a Complication of mysteries, like that Book of the Apocalypse, which both unfolds and hides those great Arcana that it treats of; or as <286> Plato sometimes chose so to explain the secrets of his Metaphysical or Theological Philosophy, ὥστε ὁ ἀναγνοὺς μὴ γνῷ, that he that read might not be able to understand, except he were a Son of Wisdome, and had been train'd up in the knowledge of it. The Principles of True Religion are all in themselves plain and easie, deliver'd in the most familiar way, so that he that runs may read them; they are all so clear and perspicuous, that they need no Key of Analytical demonstration to unlock them: the Scripture being written doctis pariter & indoctis, and yet it is Wisdome in a mystery which the Princes of this world understand not; a sealed Book which the greatest Sophies may be most unacquainted with: it is like that Pillar of Fire and of a Cloud that parted between the Israelites and the Egyptians, giving a clear and comfortable light to all those that are under the manuduction and guidance thereof, but being full of darkness and obscurity to those that rebell against it. Divine Truth is not to be discerned so much in a mans Brain, as in his Heart. Divine wisdome is a Tree of life to them that find her, and it is only Life that can feelingly converse with Life. All the thin Speculations and subtilest Discourses of Philosophy cannot so well unfold or define any Sensible Object, nor tell any one so well what it is, as his own naked Sense will doe. There is a Divine and Spiritual sense which only is able to converse internally with the life and soul of Divine Truth, as mixing and uniting it self with it; while vulgar Minds behold only the body and out-side of it. Though in it self it be most intelligible, and such that mans Mind may most easily apprehend; yet there is a קליפה הטומאה (as the Hebrew writers call that יצר הרע) incrustamentum immunditiei upon all corrupt Minds, which hinders the lively taste and relish of it. <287> This is that thick and palpable Darkness which cannot comprehend that divine Light that shines in the Minds and Understandings of all men, but makes them to deny that very Truth which they seem to entertain. The World through wisdome (as the Apostle speaks) knew not God. Those great Disputers of this world were too full of nice and empty Speculations to know him who is only to be discerned by a pacate, humble and self-denying mind: their Curiosity served rather to dazzle their Eyes then to enlighten them; while they rather proudly braved themselves in their knowledge of the Deity, then humbly subjected their own Souls to a complyance with it; making the Divinity nothing else but as it were a flattering Glass that might reflect and set off to them the beauty of their own Wit and Parts the better: and while they seemed to converse with God himself, they rather amorously courted their own Image in him, and fell into love with their own Shape. Therefore the best acquaintance with Religion is θεοδίδακτος γνῶσις, a knowledge taught by God: it is a Light that descends from Heaven which is only able to guide and conduct the souls of men to Heaven from whence it comes. The Jewish Doctors use to put it among the fundamental Articles of their Religion, That their Law was from heaven, התורה מן השמים: I am sure we may much rather reckon it amongst the Principles of our Christian Religion in an higher way, That it is an Influx from God upon the Minds of good men. And this is the great designe and plot of the Gospel, to open and unfold to us the true way of recourse to God; a Contrivance for the uniting the Souls of men to him, and the deriving a participation of God to men, to bring in Everlasting righteousness, and to establish the true Tabernacle of God in the <288> Spirits of men, which was done in a Typical and Emblematical way under the Law. And herein consists the main preeminence which the Gospel hath above the Law, in that it so clearly unfolds the Way and Method of Uniting humane nature to Divinity; which the Apostle seems mainly to aim at in these words, But Israel which followed after the Law of righteousness, &c.
An Enquiry into that Jewish Notion of a Legal Righteousness, which is opposed by S. Paul. That their notion of it was such as this, viz. That the Law externally dispensed to them (though it were, as a Dead letter, merely without them) and conjoined with the power of their own Free-will, was sufficient to procure them Acceptance with God, and to acquire Merit enough to purchase Eternal Life, Perfection and Happiness. That this their Notion had these two Grounds; First, An Opinion of their own Self-sufficiency, and that their Free-will was so absolute and perfect, as that they needed not that God should doe any thing for them but only furnish them with some Law to exercise this Innate power about. That they asserted such a Freedom of Will as might be to them a Foundation of Merit.
FOR the unfolding whereof, we shall endeavour to search out, First, What the Jewish Notion of a Legal righteousness was, which the Apostle here condemns.
Secondly, What that Evangelical righteousness, or Righteousness of Faith, is, which he endeavours to establish in the room of it.
For the First, That which the Apostle here blames the Jews for, seems to be indeed nothing else but an Epitome or Compendium of all that which he otherwhere disputes against them for: which is not merely and barely concerning the Formal notion of Justification, as some may think, viz. Whether the Formal notion of it respects only Faith, or Works in the Person justified, (though there may be a respect to that also) it is not merely a subtile School-controversie which he seems to handle; but it is of a greater latitude; It is indeed concerning the whole Way of Life and Happiness, and the proper scope of restoring Mankind to Perfection and Union with the Deity, which the Jews expected by virtue of that Systeme and Pandect of Laws which were delivered upon Mount Sinai, augmented and enlarged by the Gemara of their own Traditions.
Which that we may the better understand, perhaps it may not be amiss a little to traverse the Writings of their most approved ancient Authors, that so finding out their constant received opinions concerning their Law and the Works thereof, we may the better and more fully understand what S. Paul and the other Apostles aim at in their disputes against them.
The Jewish notion generally of the Law is this; That in that Model of life contained in that Body of Laws, distinguished ordinarily into Moral, Judicial & Ceremonial, was comprised the whole Method of raising Man to his perfection; and that they having only this Book of Laws without them, to converse with, needed nothing else to procure Eternal life, Perfection and Happiness: as if this had been the only means God had for the saving of Men and making them happy, to set before them in an External <290> way a Volume of Laws, Statutes and Ordinances, and so to leave them to work out and purchase to themselves Eternal life in the observance of them.
Now this General notion of theirs we shall unfold in 2 Particulars.
First, as a Foundation of all the rest, They took up this as an Hypothesis or common Principle, That Mankind had such an absolute and perfect Free-will, and such a sufficient power from within himself to determine himself to Vertue and Goodness, as that he only needed some Law as the Matter or Object to exercise this Innate power about; and therefore needed not that God should doe any thing more for him then merely to acquaint him with his Divine will and pleasure.
And for this we have Maimonides speaking very fully and magisterially, That this was one of their Radices fidei or Articles of their Faith, and one main Foundation upon which the Law stood. His words are these in Halacah teshubah or Treatise of Repentance, Chap. 5. רשות לכל אדם נתונה אם רצה להטות עצמו לדרך טובה וכוי, The Power of Free-will is given to every man to determine himself (if he will) to that which is good, and to be good; or to determine himself to that which is evil, and to be wicked, (if he will.) Both are in his power, according to what is written in the Law, Behold, Man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: that is to say, Behold this sort of Creature, Man, is alone (and there is not a Second like to Man) in this, viz. That Man from himself by his own proper knowledge and power knowes good and evil, and does what pleaseth him in an uncontrollable way, so as none can hinder him as to the doing of either good or evil.
And a little after he thus interprets those words in <291> the Lamentations, of the repenting Church, ch. 3. 40. Let us search and try our waies, and turn unto the Lord, הואיל רשותינו בידינו וכוי, Seeing that we who are endued with the power of Free-will, have most wittingly and freely committed all our transgressions; it is meet and becoming that we should convert our selves by repentance, and forsake all our iniquities, forasmuch as this also is in our power: This is the importance of those words, Let us search and try our ways, and turn unto the Lord. And this is a great Fundamental, the very Pillar of the Law and Precept, according to what is written Deuter. 30. See, I have set before thee this day life and death, good and evil.
Thus we see Maimonides, who was well vers'd in the ancientest Jewish learning, and in high esteem among all the Jews, is pleased to reckon this as a main Principle and Foundation upon which that Law stood; as indeed it must needs be, if Life and Perfection might be acquired by virtue of those Legal precepts which had only an External administration, being set before their External Senses, and promulged to their Eares as the Statute-laws of any other Common-wealth use to be. Which was the very notion that they themselves had of these Laws. And therefore in Breshith Rabba (a very ancient Writing) the Jewish Doctors taking notice of that passage in the Canticles, Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, they thus gloss upon it; At the time of the giving of the Law, the Congregation of Israel desired that Moses might speak to them, they being not able to heare the words of God himself: and while he spake, they heard, and hearing forgat; and thereupon moved this debate among themselves, What is this Moses, a man of flesh and blood? and what is his law, that we so soon learn, and so soon forget it? O that <292> God would kiss us with the kisses of his mouth! that is, in their sense, that God would teach them in a more vital and internal way. And then (as they goe on) Moses makes this answer, שלא יכול להיות עתה אלא יהיה לעתיד לבא בימי המשיח וכוי That this could not be then: But it should so come to pass in the time to come, in the daies of the Messiah, when the Law should be written in their hearts, as it is said, Jer. 31. I will write it in their hearts.
By this we may see how necessarie it was for the Jews, that they might be consistent to their grand Principle of obtaining Life and Perfection by this dead letter and a thing merely without themselves, (as not being radicated in the vital powers of their own Souls) to establish such a power of Free-will as might be able uncontrollably to entertain it, and so readily by its own Strength perform all the dictates of it.
And that Maimonides was not the first of the Jewish writers who expound that passage Gen. 3. [Behold, man is become like one of us, to know good and evil] of Free-will, may appear from the several Chaldee Paraphrasts upon it, which seem very much to intimate that Sense. Which by the way, (though I cannot allow all that which the Jews deduce from it) I think is not without something of Truth, viz. That that Liberty which is founded in Reason, and which Mankind only in this lower world hath above other Creatures, may be there also meant. But whatever it is, I am sure the Jewish Commentators upon that place generally follow the rigid sense of Maimonides.
To this purpose R. Bechai, a man of no small learning both in the Talmudick and Cabalistical doctrine of the Jews, tells us, That upon Adam's first transgression, that grand Liberty of Indifferency equally to Good or <293> Evil began first to discover it self; whereas before that he was כלו שכלי all Intellect and wholy Spiritual, (as that common Cabalistical Notion was) being from within only determined to that which was Good. But I shall at large relate his words, because of their pertinency and usefulness in the Matter now in hand. האדמ היה מוכרח על מעשיו קודמ שחטא וכוי, that is, Adam before his sin, acted from a necessity of Nature, and all his actions were nothing else but the issues of pure and perfect Understanding. Even as the Angels of God, being nothing else but Intelligences, put forth nothing else but acts of intelligence; just so was Man before he sinned, and did eat of the Tree of Knowledg of good and evil: But after this transgression, he had the power of Election and Free-will, whereby he was able to will good or evil. And a little after glossing on those words Gen. 3. 7. [And the eyes of them both were opened] he addeth, המשינו רצון ובחירה מעץ הדעת וכוי, They derived the power of Free-will from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: And now they became endued with this power of determining themselves to Good or Evil; and this Property is divine, and in some respect a good Property. So that according to the mind of our Author, the First original & pedigree of Free-will is to be derived not so much from the Æra of Creation, as from that after-Epocha of Mans transgression or Eating of the forbidden fruit: so that the Indifferency of mans Will to Good or Evil, and a Power to determine himself freely to either, did then first of all unfold it self; whereas before he conversed like a pure Intelligence with its First cause, without any propension at all to Material things, being determined like a proper natural Agent solely to that which is good: and these Propensions arising upon the First transgression to Material things (which they <294> supposed to be in mens power either so to correct and castigate as to prevent any sin in them, or else to pursue in a way of vice) are, if not the Form and Essence, yet at least the Original and Root of that יצר הרע which they speak so much of. But of this in another place.
All this we have further confirmed out of Nachmanides, an Author sufficiently versed in all Matters concerning the Jewish Religion. His words are these in his Comment upon Deut. 30. 13. מזמן הבריאה וכוי From the time of the Creation Man had a power of Free-Will within him to do Good or Evil according to his own choice, as also through the whole time of the Law; that so he might be capable of Merit in freely chusing what is Good, and of Punishment in electing what is Evil. Wherein that he tells us that this Free-will hath continued ever since the Creation, we must not understand rigidly the very moment of mans Creation, but that Epocha taken with some latitude, so that it may include the time of mans First transgression: for he after suggests thus much, That before the First Sin Adam's power to Good was a mere Natural power without any such Indifferency to Evil; and therefore he makes that State of Adam the Model and platform of future perfection which the most ancient Jewish Authors seem to expect in the time of their Messiah, which he expresseth in this manner, לא יחמוד ולא יתאוה וכוי, He shall not covet nor desire (after a Sensitive manner,) but Man shall return in the times of the Messiah to that Primitive State he was in before the sin of the First man, who naturally did whatsoever was good, neither was there any thing and its contrary then in his choice. Upon which Ground he afterwards concludes, That in those times of the Messiah there shall neither be Merit nor Demerit, <295> because there shall be no Free-will, which is the alone Mother and Nurse of both of them: But in the mean while, That Good or Evil are to men (that I may phrase it in the language of the Stoick) ἐλεύθερα, ἀκώλυτα, ἀπαρεμπόδιστα. none prejudicing or in the least degree hindering the exercise of this Liberty, neither from within nor from without, none either in Heaven or in Earth לא מן העליונים ולא מן התחתונים. And thus the same Nachmanides expounds that solemn Attestation, Deut. 30. 19. wherein Heaven and Earth are called to witness That that day Life and Death were set before them; as if God himself had now established such a Monarchical power in man which Heaven and Earth should be in league withall and faithfull to.
Hereupon R. Saadia Gaon (so call'd by way of Eminency) doubts not to tell us that the common sense of all the Jewish Doctors was, That this Liberty to good or evil was such an Absolute kind of authority established in a mans soul, that it was in a sort Independent upon God himself; this being, as he saith (in the book call'd Sepher emunah) the meaning of that old and vulgar Maxime amongst the Jews, sometimes mentioned in the Talmud, יש כל בידי השמים חוץ מיראת השמים Omnia sunt in manu Cœli (i. Dei) excepto timore Dei.
I am not ignorant there is another Axiome of the Jews as common, which may seem partly to cross this and what hitherto hath been spoken, viz. בא ליטחר מסייעין אותו בא ליטמא פותחין לו, the meaning of which is this, That assistence is perpetually afforded to all endeavours both of Sanctity and Impiety. But Maimonides hath somewhere told us (and, as I remember, in his Sepher Hamedang) how they mince the matter, and mean nothing else by it but this, That when men endeavour after the performance of the Law, God in a <296> way of providence furnisheth them with External matter and means, giving them peace and riches and other outward accommodations, whereby they might have advantage and opportunity to perform all that good which their own Free-will determines them to: whereas Wicked men find the like help of External matter and means for promoting and accomplishing their wicked and ungodly designes.
Thus we see how the Jews, that they might lay a Foundation of Merit, and build up the stately and magnificent fabrick of their Happiness upon the sandy Foundation of a dead Letter without them, endeavour to strengthen it by as weak a Rampart of their own Self-sufficiency and the Power of their own Free-will able (as they vainly imagined) to perform all Righteousness, as being adequate and commensurate to the whole Law of God in its most Extensive and Comprehensive sense and meaning; rather looking upon the Fall of man as the Rise of that Giant-like Free-will whereby they were enabled to bear up themselves against Heaven it self, as being a great Accessory to their happiness (rather then prejudicial to it) through the access of that multitude of divine Laws which were given to them; as we shall see afterwards. And so they reckoned upon a more Triumphant and Illustrious kind of Happiness victoriously to be atchieved by the Merit of their own works, then that Beggerly kind of Happiness (as they seem to look upon it) which cometh like an Alms from Divine bounty. Accordingly they affirm That Happiness על דרך הגמול by way of Reward is farr greater and much more magnificent then that which is על דרך החסד by way of Mercy.
The Second ground of the Jewish Notion of a Legal Righteousness, viz. That the Law deliver'd to them on Mount Sinai was a sufficient Dispensation from God, and all that needed to be done by him to bring them to Perfection and Happiness: and That the Scope of their Law was nothing but to afford them several ways and means of Merit. The Opinion of the Jewish Writers concerning Merit and the Reward due to the Works of the Law. Their distinguishing of men in order to Merit and Demerit into three sorts, viz. Perfectly righteous, Perfectly wicked, and a Middle sort betwixt these. The Mercenary and Low Spirit of the Jewish Religion. An account of what the Cabbalists held in this Point of Legal Righteousness.
THE Second Ground of that Jewish Notion of a Legal Righteousness is this, That the Law delivered to them upon Mount Sinai was a sufficient Dispensation from God, and all that needed to be done by him for the advancing of them to a State of Perfection and Blessedness; and That the proper Scope and End of their Law was nothing but to afford them several waies and means of Merit. Which is expresly delivered in the Mishnah, רצה הקי בה לטכוח את ישראל וכוי. The meaning whereof is this, That therefore the precepts of the Law were so many in number, that so they might single out where they pleased, and in exercising themselves therein procure Eternal life; as Obadias de Bartenora expounds it, That <298> whosoever shall perform any one of the 613 Precepts of the Law (for so many they make in number) without any worldly respects, for love of the Precept, הגה זכה בה לחיי עולם הבא, behold, this man shall merit thereby everlasting life. For indeed they supposed a Reward due to the performance of every Precept, which Reward they supposed to be encreased according to the secret estimation which God himself hath of any Precept, as we find suggested in the Mishnah, in the Book Pirke avoth, in the words of the famous R. Jehuda, הוי זהיר במצוה קלה כבחמורה וכוי, Be carefull to observe the lesser Precept as well as the greater, because thou knowest not the Reward that shall be given to the observation of the Precepts.
Here we must take notice that this was a great debate among the Jews, which Precepts they were that had the greatest Reward due to the performance of them; in which controversie Maimonides in his Comment upon this place thus resolves us, That the measure of the Reward that was annex'd to the Negative Precepts might be collected from the measure of the Punishments that were consequent upon the breach of them. But this knot could not be so well solved in reference to the Affirmative Precepts, because the Punishments annex'd to the breach of them were more rarely defined in the Law: accordingly he expresseth himself to this sense, As for the Affirmative Precepts מצות עשה, it is not express'd what Reward is due to every one of them; and all for this end, that we may not know which Precept is most necessary to be observed, and which Precept is of less necessity and importance. And a little after he tells us that for this reason their Wise men said, העוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוה, Qui operam dat præcepto, liber est à præcepto; which he expounds to this <299> sense, That whosoever shall exercise himself about any one Precept, ought without hæsitation or dispute to continue in the performance of it, as being in the mean while freed from minding any other. For if God had declared which Precepts himself had most valued and settled the greatest revenue of happiness upon, then other Precepts would have been less minded; and any one that should have busied himself in a Precept of a lower nature, would presently have left that, when opportunity should have been offered of performing a higher. And hence we have also another Talmudical Canon for the performing of Precepts, of the same nature with the former quoted by our foresaid Author, אין מעבירין על המצות, It is not lawfull to skip over Precepts, that is, as he expounds it, When a man is about to observe one Precept, he may not skip over and relinquish that, that so he might apply himself to the observation of another. And thus, as the performance of any Precept hath a certain Reward annex'd to it; so the Measure of the Reward they suppose to be encreased according to the Number of those Precepts which they observe, as it is defined by R. Tarphon in the foresaid Mishnah, c. 2. אמ למדת תורה הרבה נותנין לך שכר הרבה וכוי, If thou hast been much in the study of the Law, thou shalt be rewarded much: For faithfull is thy Lord & Master, who will render to thee a Reward proportionable to thy Work. And a little before we have the same thing in the words of another of their Masters, מרבה תורה מרבה חיים, Qui multiplicat legem, multiplicat vitam. And lest they should not yet be liberal enough of God's cost, they are also pleased to distribute Rewards to any Israelite that shall abstain from the breach of a Precept; for so we find it in the Mishnah l. Kiddushin, Whosoever keeps himself from the breach of a Pre <300> cept, ניתנים לו שכר בעושה מצוה, shall receive the Reward as if he had kept the Precept.
But this which hath been said concerning the performance of any one Precept, must be understood with this Caution, That the performance of such a Precept be a continued thing, so as that it may compound and collect the performance of many good works into it self; otherwise the single performance of any one Precept is only available, according to the sense of the Talmudical Masters, to cast the scale, when a mans Good works and Evil works equally balance one another, as Maimonides telleth us in his Comment upon the forenamed Mishnah l. Kidd. cap. 1. Sect. 10. where the words of the Jewish Doctors are these, כל העושה מצוה אחת וכוי, He that observes any one Precept, it shall be well with him, and his days shall be prolonged, and he shall possess the Earth: But he that observes not any one Precept, it shall not be well with him, nor shall his days be prolonged, nor shall he inherit the Earth. Which words are thus expounded by Maimonides, He that observes any one Precept, &c. that is, so as that by the addition of this work to his other good works, his good works overweigh his evil works, and his merits preponderate his demerits.
For the better understanding whereof we must know, That the Jewish Doctors are wont to distinguish of Three sorts of Men, which are thus ranked by them, צדיקים גמורים men perfectly righteous, רשעים גמורים men perfectly wicked, and בינונים, a middle sort of men betwixt them. Those they are wont to call perfectly righteous, who had no transgression or demerits that might be counted fit to be put into the balance against their Merits; and those they call'd simply צדיקים righteous, whose Merits outweighed their <301> demerits: Whereas on the other side the perfectly wicked in their sense were such as had no Merits at all; and those simply רשעים wicked, whose demerits made the weightiest scale: And the Middle sort were such as their good deeds and evil deeds equally balanced one another. Of this First sort of Men, viz. the perfectly righteous, they supposed there might be many; and such the Pharisees seem to have been in their own esteem, in our Saviours time. And according to this Notion our Saviour may seem to have shaped his answer to that Young man in the Gospel, who asked him, What shall I doe to inherit eternal life? To which our Saviour answers, Keep the Commandements: which our Saviour propounds to him in so great a latitude, as thereby to take him off from his self-conceit, and that he might be convinced upon reflexion on himself, that he had fallen short of Eternal life, in failing of a due performance of the Divine law. But he insisting upon his own Merit in this respect, enquires of our Saviour whether there be yet any thing wanting to make him a צדיק גמור one perfectly righteous. To this our Saviour replies, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, &c. The meaning of which Reply may, as I conceive, be this, to convince him of his imperfect Obedience to, and compliance with, the law of God, from his over-eager love of this world. But secondly, for the Medii, or those that were in the middle rank of men, the Jewish Doctors had divers Rules, as, 1. In case a mans Evil works and Good were equal, the addition of one either way might determine them to Eternal life or misery. 2. That in case a mans Evil works should preponderate and weigh down his Good, yet he may cast the scale by Repentance, if he will; or in the other world by chastisements and punishments he may make expi <302> ation for them. These & the like ways they have found out, lest any of their fraternity should miscarry. To all which we must take in this Caution which they are pleased to deliver to us, viz. That Mens Works have their different weight; some Good works being so weighty that they may weigh in the balance against many Evil works, and vice versâ.
All which we shall find largely set down by R. Albo, l. de fundamentis fidei; and partly by R. Saadia: but especially by Maimonides in his Treatise of Repentance, chap. 3. who also tells us of other Expedients provided by their Law for the securing of Merit and Happiness, which I shall not here mention. And indeed in fine they have found out so many artifices to entail a Legal righteousness and Eternal happiness upon all the Israelites, that (if it be possible) none might be left out of Heaven: as may partly appear by that Question captiously proposed to our Saviour, Master, are there few that shall be saved? whereby they expected to ensnare him, they themselves holding a General Salvation of all the Jews by virtue of the Law, however their wickedness might abound. Which we find expresly set down by Maimonides in the fore-named place, כל הרשעים שעונותיהם מרובים וכוי, All wicked ones whose Evil deeds exceed their Good deeds, shall be judged according to the Measure of their Evil deeds so exceeding; and afterwards they shall have a portion in the World to come; שכל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הנא, for that all Israelites have a portion in the World to come, אף על פי שחטאו, and this nowithstanding their Sins. Now that Maxime of theirs, All Israelites have a portion in the world to come, is taken out of the Mishnah l. Sanhedr. c. 11. where it is put down as the most Authentick opinion of the Jewish Doctors; only some Few <303> there are there recited who are excepted from this happiness; otherwise their greatest Malefactors are not excepted from it: for so Obadias de Bartenora unfoldeth their meaning, אפילו אלו שנתחייבו מיתה בביד וכוי, even such as are judged by the great Synedrium worthy of death for their wickednesse, these have a portion בעולם הבא in the world to come. I know here that the Notion of The World to come is differently represented by Nachmanides and Maimonides, and their followers. But whether Maimonides his sect or the other prevail in this point, it is not much material as to our present business, seeing both sides conclude that this Seculum futurum, or World to come, points out such a state of happiness, as should not revolve or slide back again into Misery.
And by the way we may observe what a Lean and Spiritless Religion this of the Jews was, and how it was nothing else but a Souleless and Liveless form of External performances, which did little or nothing at all reach the Inward man, being nothing but a mere Bodily kind of drudgery and servility: and therefore our Saviour when he modells out Religion to them Matth. 5. he points them out to Something fuller of inward life and spirit, and such a one as might make them Perfect, as their Father in heaven is Perfect. Such dull heavy-spirited Principles as this Talmudical doctrine we have quoted affordeth us, is very like began to possess the Chair in Antigonus his time, who therefore put in this Caution against part of it, That God was not to be served so much upon the account of Merit and for hope of Wages, as out of Love; though his Disciples Sadoc and Baithus, the founders of the sect of the Sadducees, straining that sober Principle too far, might more strengthen that Mercenary belief a <304> mongst the other Doctors which they had before entertained.
But before I leave this Argument, it may not be amiss to examine also what the Cabbalistical Jewes thought concerning this matter in hand; which in summe is this, That the Law delivered upon Mount Sinai was a Device God had to knit and unite the Jews and the Shechinah or Divine presence together. Therefore they are pleased to stile it in the Book Zohar (which is one of the ancientest monuments we have of the Jewish learning) גנוזוי דחיי the Treasures of life. And as if the living God could be united to the Souls of men by such a dead letter as this was, (as it is stiled by the Apostle, 2 Cor. 3.) they are pleased to make this External administration the great Vinculum Dei & hominis. And to this purpose R. Simeon ben Jochai (the Compiler of the fore-quoted Book, which is a mystical Comment upon the Pentateuch) discourseth upon those words Deut. 30. 20. He is thy life, and the length of thy days, upon which he grounds this Observation, שכינתא לא מתישבא אלא עם תורה, The Shechinah or Divine Presence is no where established but by the Mediation of the Law: and a little after he thus magnifies the study of the Law, כל מאן דשתדל אוריתא, Whosoever doth exercise himself in the Law, doth merit the possession of the upper inheritance which is in the holy kingdome above; and doth also merit the possession of an inheritance here below in this World. Where by the way we may take notice that the ancient Jews looked upon the Inheritances of the land of Canaan as being Typical and significative of an higher inheritance in the kingdome of heaven; both which they supposed to be the due rewards of mens works: and therefore they talk so much in the same place of Guardian <305> Angels which are continually passing to and fro between Heaven and Earth, as the Heralds and Messengers of Mens good works to God in Heaven. And further upon those words in Levit. 18. 5. Ye shall keep my statutes and judgments; which if a man doe, he shall live in them, he tells us, That the portion of Israel is meritorious, because that the Holy Blessed One delighteth in them above all the Idolatrous Nations; and out of his favour and goodness to them gave them גימוסין רקשוט, the laws of Truth, and planted amongst them the Tree of life; and the Schechinah was with them. Now what doth all this signifie? Thus much, That since the Israelites are signed with the Holy seale in their flesh, they are thereby acknowledged for the Sons of God: as on the contrary, They that are not sealed with this mark in their flesh, are not the Sons of God, but are the children of uncleanness: Wherefore it is not lawful to contract familiarity with them, or to teach them the Words of the Law. Which afterwards is urged further by another of their Masters, Whosoever instructeth any uncircumcised person אפי את ועירא דאוריתא though but in the least precepts of the Law, doth the same as if he should destroy the World, and deny the name of the Holy Blessed One.
All which plainly amounts to thus much (as we had before out of the Talmudists,) That the Law was given unto the Israelites for this purpose, To enrich them with good works, and to augment their Merits, & so to establish the foundations of Life & Blessedness amongst them; and to make it a Medium of the Union betwixt God and Men, as R. Eliezer in the same Book speaketh of the near Union between these Three, the Holy Blessed One, the Law, and Israel.
There is one Passage more in our fore-named Author R. Simeon ben Jochai, at the end of Parashah <306> Jethro, which (though it be more Mystical then the rest, yet) may be well worth our observing, as more fully hinting the Perfection of the Law, & setting that forth as an absolute and complete Medium of rendring a man Perfect; upon which R. Jos. Albo in his third Book de fundamentis hath spent two or three Chapters. Thus therefore, as if the Law was the great Magazine and Store-house of Perfection, our foresaid Author there telleth us, That when the Israelites stood upon Mount Sinai, they saw God עינא בעינא, eye to eye, or face to face, and understood all Secrets of the Law, and all the arcana superna & inferna, &c. and then he adds, That the same day in which the Israelites stood upon Mount Sinai, אעבד זוהמא מניהון, all uncleanness passed away from them, and all their Bodies did shine in brightness like to the Angels of heaven when they put on their bright shining Robes to fit themselves for the Embassy upon which they are sent by God their Lord. And a little after, thus; And when their uncleanness passed away from them, the bodies of the Israelites became shining and clear without any defilement; and their Bodies did shine כזוהרא דרקיעא as the brightness of the Firmament. And then thus concludeth all, When the Israelites received the Law upon Mount Sinai, אתבשם עלמא the world was then perfum'd with a most aromatick smell, and Heaven and Earth were established, and the Holy Blessed One was known above and below, and he ascended in his glory above all things.
By all which Mystical and Allegorical Expressions our Author seems to aim at this main Scope, viz. To set forth the Law as that which of it self was sufficient, without any other Dispensation from God, for the perfecting of those to whom it was dispensed; and to make them Comprehensours of all Righteousness here <307> and Glory hereafter: Which they are wont to set forth in that transcendent state of Perfection which the Israelites were in at the receiving of the Law; whence it hath been an ancient Maxime amongst them, In Statione montis Sinai Israelitæ erant sicut Angeli ministerii.
And thus we have endeavoured to make good that which we first propounded, namely, to shew That the grand Opinion of the Jews concerning the way to Life and Happiness was this, viz.
That the Law of God externally dispensed, and only furnished out to them in Tables of Stone and a Parchment-roll, conjoined with the power of their own Free-will, was sufficient both to procure them acceptance with God, and to acquire Merit enough to carry them with spread sails into the Harbour of Eternal rest and blessedness.
So that by this time we may see that those Disputes which S. Paul and other Apostles maintain against the Jews touching the Law and Faith, were not merely about that one Question, Whether Justification formally and precisely respects Faith alone; but were of a much greater latitude.
The Second Enquiry, Concerning the Evangelical Righteousness or the Righteousness of Faith, and the true difference between the Law and the Gospel, the Old and the New Covenant, as it is laid down by the Apostle Paul. A more General Answer to this enquiry, together with a General observation of the Apostle's main End in opposing Faith to the Works of the Law, viz. To beat down the Jewish proud conceit of Merit. A more particular and Distinct answer to the Enquiry, viz. That the Law or Old Covenant is considered only as an External administration, a dead thing in it self, a Dispensation consisting in an Outward and Written Law of Precepts: But the Gospel or New Covenant is an Internal thing, a Vital Form and Principle of Righteousness in the Souls of men, an Inward manifestation of Divine life, and a living Impression upon the Minds and Spirits of Men. This proved from several Testimonies of Scripture.
HAving done with the First Enquiry, we now come to the Second, which was this, What the Evangelical Righteousness or the Righteousness of Faith is which the Apostle sets up against that of the Law, and in what Notion the Law is considered by the Apostle: Which in summe was this, viz. That the Law was the Ministery of death, and in it self an External and Liveless thing, neither could it procure or beget that Divine life and spiritual Form of Godliness in the Souls of <309> men, which God expects from all the heirs of Glory, nor that Glory which is only consequent upon a true Divine life. Whereas on the other side the Gospel is set forth as a mighty Efflux and Emanation of life and spirit freely issuing forth from an Omnipotent source of Grace and Love, as that true God-like vital influence whereby the Divinity derives it self into the Souls of men, enlivening and transforming them into its own likeness, and strongly imprinting upon them a Copy of its own Beauty and Goodness: Like the Spermatical virtue of the Heavens, which spreads it self freely upon this Lower world, and subtily insinuating it self into this benummed feeble earthly Matter, begets life and motion in it. Briefly, It is that whereby God comes to dwell in us, and we in him.
But that we may the more distinctly unfold the Difference between That Righteousness which is of the Law, & That which is of Faith, & so the better shew how the Apostle undermines that fabrick of Happiness which the Jews had built up for themselves; we shall observe First in general, That the main thing which the Apostle endeavours to beat down was, that proud and arrogant conceit which they had of Merit, and to advance against it the notion of the Divine grace and bounty as the only Fountain of all Righteousness and Happiness. For indeed that which all those Jewish notions, which we have before taken notice of, aim principally at, was the advancing of the weakened Powers of Nature into such an height of Perfection as might render them capable of Meriting at Gods hands: and that Perfection which they speak so much of (as is clear from what hath been said) was nothing else but a mere sublimation of their own Natural Powers and Principles, performed by the strength of their own Fancies. And <310> therefore these Contractors with Heaven were so pleased to look upon Eternal life as a fair Purchase which they might make for themselves at their own charge; as if the spring and rise of all were in themselves: their eyes were so much dazled with those foolish fires of Merit and Reward kindled in their own Fancies, that they could not see that light of Divine grace and bounty which shone about them.
And this Fastus and swelling pride of theirs (if I mistake not) is that which S. Paul principally endeavours to chastise in advancing Faith so much as he doth in opposition to the works of the Law. For which purpose he spends the First and Second Chapters of this Epistle to the Romans in drawing up a charge of such a nature both against Gentiles and Jews, but principally against the Jews, who were the grand Justitiaries, that might make them bethink themselves of imploring Mercy, and of laying aside all plea of Law and Justice; and so chap. 3. 27. he shuts up all with a severe check to such presumptuous arrogance, ποῦ οὖν ἡ καύχησις; Where then is boasting? This seems then to be the main End which S. Paul every where aims at in opposing Faith to the works of the Law, namely to establish the Foundation of Righteousness and Happiness upon the Free mercy and grace of God: the glorifying and magnifying of which in the real manifestations of it he holds forth upon all occasions, as the designe & plot of the Gospel-administration; seeing it is impossible for men by any Works which they can perform to satisfie God's Justice for those Sins which they have committed against him, or truly to comply with his Divine will, without his Divine assistance. So that the Method of reconciling men to God, and reducing of straying Souls back again to him, was to be attri <311> buted wholy to another Original then that which the Jews imagined. But
Secondly, That Righteousness of Faith which the Apostle sets up against the Law, and compares with it, is indeed in its own nature a Vital and Spiritual administration, wherein God converseth with Man; whereas the Law was merely an External or Dead thing in it self, not able to beget any true Divine life in the Souls of Men. All that Legal Righteousness which the Jews boasted so much of, was but from the Earth, earthly; consisting merely in External performances, & so falling extremely short of that Internal & God-like frame of Spirit which is necessary for a true conjunction and union of the Souls of Men with God, and making of them capable of true Blessedness.
But that we may the more distinctly handle this Argument, we shall endeavour to unfold the true Difference between the Law and the Gospel, as it seems evidently to be laid down every where by S. Paul in his Epistles: and the Difference between them is clearly this, viz. That the Law was merely an External thing, consisting in such Precepts which had only an Outward administration; but the Gospel is an Internal thing, a Vital Form and Principle seating it self in the Minds and Spirits of Men. And this is the most proper and formal Difference between the Law and Gospel, that the one is considered only as an External administration, and the other as an Internal. And therefore the Apostle 2 Cor. 3. 6, 7. calls the Law διακονίαν γράμματος and θανάτου, the ministration of the letter and of death, it being in it self but a dead letter; as all that which is without a mans Soul must needs be. But on the other side he calls the Gospel (because of the Intrinsecal and Vital administration thereof in living impressions upon <312> the Souls of men) Διακονίαν πνεύματος, the Ministration of the Spirit, and Διακονίαν τῆς δικαιοσήνης, the Ministration of righteousness. By which he cannot mean the History of the Gospel, or those Credenda propounded to us to believe; for this would make the Gospel it self as much an External thing as the Law was, and according to the External administration as much a killing or dead letter as the Law was: and so we see that the preaching of Christ crucified was to the Jews a Stumbling-block, and to the Greeks Foolishness. But indeed he means a Vital efflux from God upon the Souls of men, whereby they are made partakers of Life and Strength from him: and therefore (ver. 7.) he thus Exegetically expounds his own meaning of that short description of the Law, namely, that it was διακονία τοῦ θανάτου ἐν γράμμασιν, ἐντετυπωμένη ἐν λιθοις. which, I think, may be fitly thus translated, it was a dead (or liveless) administration (for so sometimes by an Hebraisme the Genitive case in regimine is put for the Adjective) or else an administration of death exhibited in letters, and engraven in tables of Stone: and therefore he tells us (ver. 6.) what the Effect of it was in those words, Τὸ γράμμα ἀποκτείνει, The letter killeth, as indeed all External precepts which have not a proper vital radication in the Souls of men, whereby they are able to secure them from the transgression of them, must needs doe. Now to this dead or killing letter he opposes (ver. 8.) a quickning Spirit, or the Διακονία τοῦ Πνεύματος, the ministration of the Spirit, which afterwards (v. 9.) he expounds by Διακονία τῆς δικαιοςήνης, the ministration of righteousness, that is, the Evangelical administration. So that the Gospel or Evangelical administration must be an Internal impression, a vivacious and Energetical Spirit and Principle of Righteousness in <313> the Souls of men, whereby they are inwardly enabled to express a real conformity thereto. Upon this Ground the Apostle further pursues the Effects of both these from the 14. verse to the end.
By all which the Apostle means to set forth to us How vast a Difference there is between the External manifestations of God in a Law of Commandements, and those Internal appearances of God whereby he discovers the mighty power of his Goodness to the Souls of men.
Though the History and outward Communication of the Gospel to us in scriptis, is to be always acknowledged as a special mercy & advantage, and certainly no less Privilege to Christians then it was to the Jews to be the Depositaries of the Oracles of God: yet it is plain that the Apostle, where he compares the Law and the Gospel, and in other places, doth by the Gospel mean something which is more then a piece of Book-learning, or an Historical Narration of the free love of God in the several contrivances of it for the Redemption of mankind. For if this were all that is meant properly by the Gospel, I see no reason why it should not be counted as weak and impotent a thing, as dead a letter as the Law was, (as we intimated before;) and so there would be no such vast Difference between them as the Apostle asserts there is; the one being properly an External declaration of Gods will, the other an Internal manifestation of Divine life upon mens Souls: and therefore Gal. 3. 21. he so distinguisheth between this double Dispensation of God, that this Evangelical dispensation is a vital and quickening thing, able to beget a Soul and Form of Divine goodness upon the Souls of men; which because the Law could not doe, it was laid aside, as being insufficient to restore man to the favour of <314> God, or to make him partaker of his righteousness. If there had been a Law which could have given life, ὄντως ἂν ἐκ νόμου ἦν ἡ δικαιοσύνη, verily Righteousness should have been by the Law; where by δικαιοσύνη he seems to mean the same thing which he meant by it when in his Epistle to the Corinthians he calls the Oeconomy of the Gospel Διακονίαν δικαιοσύνης, the ministration of righteousness, or as זכית is taken among the Jewish writers for acceptance with God, and that Internal form of Righteousness that qualifies the Soul for Eternal life: and so he takes it in a far more large and ample sense then that External righteousness of Justification is: and indeed it seems to express the Just state of those who are renewed by the Spirit of God, and made partakers of that Divine life which is emphatically called the Seed of God. For this δικαιοσύνη Righteousness, which he here speaks of, is the proper result of an enlivening and quickening Law, which is this New Law of the Gospel in opposition to that Old Law which was administred only in scriptis: and therefore this New Law is called in the Epistle to the Hebrews, chap. 8. 6. &c. κρείττων Διαθήκη the better Covenant, whereas the Old was faulty. In which place this is put down as the Formal difference between the Legal and Evangelical administration, or the Old and New Covenant, That the Old Covenant was only externally promulged and wrapt up as it were in Ink and Parchment, or, as best, engraven upon tables of Stone; whereas this New Covenant is set forth in living characters imprinted upon the Vital powers of mens Souls, as we have ver. 10, 11. This is the Covenant that I will make, &c. I will put my Laws into their Minds, and write them in their Hearts: and therefore the Old Covenant is v. 7. said not to be ἄμεμπτος an unblamable or faultless thing, because it was <315> not able to keep off trangressions, or hinder the violation of it self, no more then an Inscription upon some Pillar or Monument is able to inspire life into those that read it and converse with it: the Old Law or Covenant being in this respect no other then all other Civil Constitutions are, which receive their efficacy merely from the willing compliance of mens Minds with them, so that they must be enlivened by the Subject that receivs them, being dead things in themselves. But the Evangelical or New Law is such a thing as is an Efflux of life and power from God himself the Original thereof, & produceth life wheresoever it comes. And to this double Dispensation, viz. of Law and Gospel, doth S. Paul clearly refer 2 Cor. 3. 3. You are the Epistle of Christ, ministred by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not in tables of Stone: which last words are a plain Gloss upon that mundane kind of administring the Law in a mere External way, to which he opposeth the Gospel. And this Argument he further pursues in the 7 and 8 chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, in which last chap. v. 2. he stiles the Gospel νόμον τοῦ πνεύματος τῆς ζωῆς the Law of the spirit of life, which was able to destroy the power of Sin, and to introduce such a spiritual and heavenly frame of Soul into men, as whereby they might be enabled to express a chearfull compliance with the Law of God, and demonstrate a true heavenly conversation and God-like life in this world.
We read in Iamblichus and others, of the many preparatory Experiments used by Pythagoras to try his Scholars whether they were fit to receive the more sublime and sacred pieces of his Philosophy; and that he was wont to communicate these only to Souls in a due degree purified and prepared for such doctrine, μετὰ ψυχῆς μνήσεις καὶ καθαρμούς. and what did all this <316> signifie but only this, that he might by all these Methods work and mold the Minds of his Hearers into such a fit Temper, as that he might the better stamp the Seal of his more Divine Doctrine upon them, and that his Discourses to them περὶ δικαίων τε καὶ καλῶν καὶ ἀγαθῶν, of things just and lovely and good, might be written τῷ ὄντι ἐν ψυχῇ truly and really in the Soul, that I may use Plato's words in his Phædrus, where he commends the Impressions of Truth which are made upon mens Souls above all outward Writings, which he therefore compares to dead pictures. By this we see what the wisest and best Philosophers thought of this Internal writing; But it peculiarly belongs to God to write the Laws of Goodness in the Tables of mens hearts. All the outward Teachings of men are but dead things in themselves. But God's imprinting his Mind and Will upon mens hearts is properly that which is called the Teaching of God, and then they become living Laws written in the living Tables of mens Hearts fitted to receive and retain Divine impressions. I shall only adde that speech of a Chymist not impertinent in this place, Non tam discendo quàm patiendo divina perficitur Mens humana.
And that we may come a little nearer to these words upon which all this present Discourse is built, this seems to be the Scope of his argument in this place, where this νόμος δικαιοσύνης Law of righteousness may fairly be parallel'd with that which before he called νόμον πνεύματος the law of the spirit, and which he therefore calls δικαιοσύνην πίστεως the righteousness of faith, because it is received from God in a way of believing. For I cannot easily think that he should mean nothing else in this place but merely the Righteousness of Justification, as some would perswade us, but rather <317> that his Sense is much more comprehensive, so as to include the state of Gospel-dispensation, which includes not only Pardon of sins, but an Inward spirit of Love, Power, and of a sound Mind, as he expresseth it 2 Tim. 1. 7. And this he thus opposeth to the Law, Rom. 10. 6, &c. But the Righteousness of Faith speaketh on this wise; Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? &c. or, Who shall descend into the deep? But what saith it? The Word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that is, the word of faith which we preach. In which words Cunæus in his De Repub. Hebr. would have us to understand some Cabbala or Tradition amongst the Jews for this meaning of that place, Deut. 30. 12. from which these words are borrowed, which as they there stand, seem not to carry that Evangelical sense which here S. Paul expounds them into; though yet Cunæus hath not given us any reason for this opinion of his. But indeed the Jewish writers generally, who were acquainted with the principles of the Cabbala, commenting upon that place do wholly refer it to the Times of the Messiah, making it parallel with that place of Jeremy which defines the New Covenant to be a writing of the Law of God in mens hearts. And thus that Life and Salvation that results from the Righteousness of Faith is all, as Faith it self is, deriving from God gratuitously dispensing himself to the Minds of men: Whereas if Life could have been by the Law, its Original and Principal must have been resolved into men themselves who must have acted that dead matter without them, and have produced that Virtue and Energy in it, by their exercising themselves therein, which of it self it had not; as the Observance of any Law enables that Law it self to dispense that Reward which is due to the observance of it: and therefore the Righteous <318> ness of the Law was so defin'd, that he that did those things should live in them. And thus the New Testament every where seems to present to us this twofold Dispensation or Oeconomy, the one consisting in an External and written law of Precepts, the other in Inward life and power. Which S. Austin hath well pursued in his Book de Litera & Spiritu, from whom Aquinas (who endeavours to tread in his foot-steps) seems to have taken first of all an occasion of moving that Question, Utrum Lex nova sit lex scripta, vel lex indita; and thus resolves it, That the New Law or Gospel is not properly lex scripta, as the Old was, but Lex indita: and that the Old Law is foris scripta, the other intus scripta, written in the tables of the Heart.
Now from all this we may easily apprehend how much the Righteousness of the Gospel transcends that of the Law, in that it hath indeed a true command over the inward man which it acts and informs; whereas the Law by all its menaces and punishments could only compell men to an External observance of it in the outward man; as the Schoolmen have well observed, Lex vetus ligat manum, Lex nova ligat animum.
And herein S. Paul every where magnifies this Dispensation of the free mercy & grace of God, as being the only soveraign remedy against all the inward radicated maladies of sin and corruption, as that Panacea or Balsamum vitæ which is the universal restaurative of decayed & impotent Nature. So he tells us Rom. 6. Sin shall not have dominion, because we are not under the law, but under grace. And this is that which made him so much extol his acquaintance with Christ in the Dispensation of grace, and to despise all things as loss, Philip. 3. where among his other Jewish privileges having reckoned up his blamelesness in all points touching the <319> Law, he undervalues them all, and counts all but loss Διὰ τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνώσεως, for the excellency of the knowledg of Christ Jesus. In which place the Apostle doth not mean to disparage a real inward righteousness and the strict observance of the Law; but his meaning is to shew how poor and worthless a thing all Outward observances of the Law are in comparison of a true Internal conformity to Christ in the renovation of the Mind and Soul according to his Image and likeness; as is manifest from v. 9, 10. &c. in which he thus delivers his own meaning of that knowledge of Christ which he so much extoll'd, very emphatically, That I may be found in him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. Where by the way we may further take notice what this δικαιοσύνη πίστεως and δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ, the righteousness of faith and the righteousness of God (which we have already spoke much of) is according to his own true meaning, as he expounds himself, viz. a Christ-like Nature in a mans Soul, or Christ appearing in the Minds of men by the mighty power of his Divine Spirit, and thereby deriving a true participation of himself to them: so we have it v. 10. That I may know the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. And thus Christ and Moses are opposed, as Christ is the Dispenser of Grace and Truth, of Gods free and gratuitous bounty, of Life and Substance: whereas Moses was but the Minister of the Law, of Rites and Shadows.
But it may perhaps be questioned whether the same Internal dispensation of God was not as well under the Law, as since our Saviour's coming, and so consequently that the Jews were equally parta <320> kers thereof; and so it could be no new thing to them.
To all which I might reply, That this Dispensation of grace was then a more Mystical thing, and not so manifested to the world as it hath been since our Saviours coming. Secondly, This dispensation of Free grace was not that which properly belonged to the Nation of the Jews, but only a Type and shadow of it.
For the fuller understanding of which and all that hath been spoken, we must know, That before our Saviour's coming the great Mysteries of Religion being wrapt up in Hieroglyphicks and Symbolical rites, (the unfolding of all which was reserved for him who is the great Interpreter of Heaven and Master of Truth) God was pleased to draw forth a Scheme or Copy of all that divine Oeconomy and Method of his commerce with mankind, and to make a draught of the whole artifice thereof in External matter: and therefore he singled out a Company and Society of men of the same common Extraction, marked out from all other sorts of men by a character of Genealogical Sanctity (for so Circumcision was) collected and united together by a common band of Brotherhood; and this he set up as an Emblem of a divine and holy seed or society of men which are all by way of Spiritual generation descended from himself. And hence it is that the Jews (the whole Jewish nation universally considered) who were but a mere Representative of this Spiritual fraternity & congregation, are called the Holy seed or the Holy people. Then afterwards amongst these he erects a Government & Politie, & rules over them in the way & manner of a Political prince, as hath been long since well observed by Josephus, who therefore properly calls the Jewish government θεοκρατίαν, a Theocracy, or the Government of God himself.
And thus in a Scheme or Figure he shadows forth that Spiritual kingdome and government which he would establish amongst that Divine society of men, in reference to which we have so much mention made of the Kingdome of heaven in the Gospel, which is not generally and solely meant of the State of glory, much less of any outward Church-rites, but mainly of that Idea and Exemplar of which the Jewish Theocracy was an imitation. Lastly, as a Political Prince God draws forth a Body of laws as the Political Constitutions and Rules of this Government which he had set up, chusing Mount Sinai for the Theatre whereon he would promulge those Laws by which all his Subjects should be governed. And so I doubt not but that Preface by which the Law is usher'd in, Exod. 20. which speaks of God's mercy in delivering them from the Egyptian thraldome, may very well be allegorized and mystically expounded. And all this was to signifie and set forth that Law which was to goe forth from mount Sion, the promulgation whereof was to be in a Vital and Spiritual way among the Subjects of this Spiritual Kingdom. To all which we may add those Temporal inheritances which he distributed to the Jewish families, in imitation of that Eternal blessedness and those Immortal inheritances which he shares out amongst his Spiritual Sons and Subjects in Heaven. And this I the rather add, because here the Jews are much perplex'd about untying this knot, namely, what the Reason should be that their Law speaks so sparingly of any Eternal reward, but runs out generally in promises of Mundane and Earthly blessings in the land of Canaan. But by this we may see the true Reason of that which the Apostle speaks concerning them, 2 Cor. 3. 14. Until this day τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυμμα the same vail in the reading of <322> the Old Testament μένει μὴ ἀνακαλυπτόμενον remaineth untaken away. That Vail which was on Moses his face was an Emblem of all this great Mystery: and this Vail was upon the face of the Jews in their reading the Old Testament; they dwelling so much in a carnal converse with these Sacramental Symbols which were offered to them in the reading of the Law, that they could not see through them into the thing signified thereby, and so embraced Shadows in stead of Substance, and made account to build up Happiness and Heaven upon that Earthly Law to which properly the Land of Canaan was annex'd: whereas indeed this Law should have been their School-master to have led them to Christ whose Law it prefigured; which that it might doe the more effectually, God had annexed to the breach of any one part of it such severe Curses, that they might from thence perceive how much need they had of some further Dispensation. And therefore this state of theirs is set forth by a State of bondage or πνεῦμα δουλείας. For all External precepts carry perpetually an aspect of austerity and rigour to those Minds that are not informed by the internal sweetness of them. And this is it only which makes the Gospel or the New Law to be a Free, Noble and Generous thing, because it is seated in the Souls of men: and therefore Aquinas out of Austin hath well observed another difference between the Law and Gospel, Brevis differentia inter Legem & Evangelium est Timor & Amor. This I the rather observe, because the true meaning of that Spirit of Bondage which the Apostle speaks of is frequently mistaken. We might further (if need were) for a confirmation of this which we have spoken concerning the Typicalness of the whole Jewish Oeconomy appeal to the third and fourth chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians, which cannot <323> well be understood without this Notion, where we have the Jewish Church, as a Type of the true Evangelical Church, brought in as a Child in it's Minority in servitude under Tutors and Governours, shut up under the Law till the time of that Emphatical revelation of the great Mysterie of God should come, till the Day should break, and all the shadows of the Night flee away.
That I may return from this Digression to the Argument we before pursued, this briefly may be added, That under the Old Covenant and in the time of the Law there were amongst the Jews some that were Evangelized, that were re, non nomine Christiani; as under the Gospel there are many that do Judaize, are of as Legal and Servile Spirits as the Jews, children of the Bond-woman, resting in mere External observances of Religion, in an outward seeming Purity, in a Form of Godliness, as did the Scribes and Pharisees of old.
From what hath hitherto been discoursed, I hope the Difference between both Covenants clearly appears, and that the Gospel was not brought in only to hold forth a new Platform and Model of Religion; it was not brought in only to refine some Notions of Truth, that might formerly seem discoloured and disfigured by a multitude of Legal rites and ceremonies; it was not to cast our Opinions concerning the Way of Life and Happiness only into a New mould and shape in a Pedagogical kind of way: it is not so much a System and Body of saving Divinity, but the Spirit and vital Influx of it spreading it self over all the Powers of mens Souls, and quickening them into a Divine life: it is not so properly a Doctrine that is wrapt up in ink and paper, as it is Vitalis Scientia, a living impression made upon the Soul and Spirit. We may in a true <324> sense be as Legal as ever the Jews were, if we converse with the Gospel as a thing only without us; and be as far short of the Righteousness of God as they were, if we make the Righteousness which is of Christ by Faith to serve us only as an Outward Covering, and endeavour not after an Internal transformation of our Minds and Souls into it. The Gospel does not so much consist in Verbis as in Virtute: Neither doth Evangelical dispensation therefore please God so much more then the Legal did, because, as a finer contrivance of his Infinite understanding, it more clearly discovers the Way of Salvation to the Minds of men; but chiefly because it is a more Powerful Efflux of his Divine goodness upon them, as being the true Seed of a happy Immortality continually thriving and growing on to perfection. I shall adde further, The Gospel does not therefore hold forth such a transcendent priviledge and advantage above what the Law did, only because it acquaints us that Christ our true High priest is ascended up into the Holy of holies, and there in stead of the bloud of Bulls and Goats hath sprinkled the Ark and Mercy-seat above with his own bloud: but also because it conveys that bloud of sprinkling into our defiled Consciences, to purge them from dead works. Farr be it from me to disparage in the least the Merit of Christ's bloud, his becoming obedient unto death, whereby we are justified. But I doubt sometimes some of our Dogmata and Notions about Justification may puff us up in far higher and goodlier conceits of our selves then God hath of us; and that we profanely make the unspotted righteousness of Christ to serve only as a Covering to wrap up our foul deformities and filthy vices in; and when we have done, think our selvs in as good credit and repute with God as we are with our <325> selves, and that we are become Heaven's darlings as much as we are our own. I doubt not but the Merit and Obedience of our Saviour gain us favour with God, and potently move down the benign influences of Heaven upon us: But yet I think we may sometimes be too lavish and wanton in our imaginations, in fondly conceiting a greater change in the Esteem which God hath of us then becomes us, & too little reckon upon the Real and Vital Emanations of his favour upon us.
Therefore for the further clearing of what hath been already said, and laying a ground upon which the next part of our Discourse (viz. Concerning the Conveiance of this God-like righteousness to us by Faith) is to proceed, We shall here speak something more to the business of Justification and Divine Acceptance, which we shall dispatch in two Particulars.
Two Propositions for the better understanding of the Doctrine of Justification and Divine Acceptance. 1. Prop. That the Divine judgment and estimation of every thing is according to the truth of the thing; and God's acceptance or disacceptance of things is suitable to his judgment. On what account S. James does attribute a kind of Justification to Good works. 2. Prop. Gods justifying of Sinners in pardoning their Sins carries in it a necessary reference to the sanctifying of their Natures. This abundantly proved from the Nature of the thing.
OUR first Proposition is this, The Divine judgment and estimation of every thing is according to <326> the truth of the thing; and Gods acceptance or disacceptance of things is suitable and proportionable to his judgment. Thus S. Peter plainly tells us Act. 10. God is no respecter of persons; But every one that worketh righteousness is accepted of him. And God himself posed Cain (who had entertained those unworthy and ungrounded suspitions of his partiality) with that Question, If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? Wheresoever God finds any stamps and impressions of Goodness, he likes and approves them, knowing them well to be what they indeed are, nothing else but his own Image and Superscription. Whereever he sees his own Image shining in the Souls of men, and a conformity of life to that Eternal Idea of Goodness which is himself, he loves it and takes a complacency in it, as that which is from himself, and is a true Imitation of himself. And as his own unbounded Being & Goodness is the Primary and Original object of his Immense and Almighty Love: so also every thing that partakes of him, partakes proportionably of his Love; all Imitations of him and Participations of his Love and Goodness are perpetually adequate and commensurate the one to the other. By so much the more acceptable any one is to God, by how much the more he comes to resemble God. It was a common Notion in the old Pythagorean and Platonick Theology, Τὸν Δία μετασχηματισθέντα εἰς τὸν ἔρωτα, &c. as Proclus phraseth it, That the Divinity transformed into Love, and enamour'd with it's own unlimited Perfections and spotless Beauty, delighted to copy forth and shadow out it self as it were in created Beings, which are perpetually embraced in the warm bosome of the same Love, which they can never swerve nor apostatize from, till they also prove apostate to the estate of their Creation. And certainly it is true in our <327> Christian divinity, that that Divine light and goodness which flows forth from God, the Original of all, upon the Souls of men, never goes solitary and destitute of Love, Complacency and Acceptation, which is alwaies lodg'd together with it in the Divine Essence. And as the Divine Complacency thus dearly and tenderly entertains all those which beare a similitude of true Goodness upon them; so it alwaies abandons from its embraces all Evil, which never doth nor can mix it self with it: The Holy Spirit can never suffer any unhallowed or defiled thing to enter into it or to unite it self with it. Therefore in a sober sense I hope I may truly say, There is no perfect or through-reconciliation wrought between God and the Souls of men, while any defiled and impure thing dwells within the Soul, which cannot truly close with God, nor God with that. The Divine Love according to those degrees by which it works upon the Souls of men in transforming them into its own likeness, by the same it renders them more acceptable to it self, mingleth it self with and uniteth it self to them: as the Spirit of any thing mixeth it self more or less with any Matter it acts upon, according as it works it self into it, and so makes a way and passage open for it self.
Upon this account I suppose it may be that S. James attributes a kind of Justification to Good works, which unquestionably are things that God approves and accepts, and all those in whom he finds them, as seeing there a true conformity to his own Goodness and Holiness. Whereas on the other side he disparageth that barren, sluggish and drowsie Belief, that a lazy Lethargy in Religion began in his times to hugg so dearly, in reference to acceptation with God. I suppose I may fairly thus gloss at his whole Discourse upon this Argument: <328> God respects not a bold, confident and audacious Faith, that is big with nothing but its own Presumptions. It is not because our Brains swim with a strong Conceit of God's Eternal love to us, or because we grow big and swell into a mighty bulk with airy fancies and presumptions of our acceptance with God, that makes us ere the more acceptable to him: It is not all our strong Dreams of being in favour with Heaven that fills our hungry souls ere the more with it: It is not a pertinacious Imagination of our Names being enrolled in the Book of life, or of the Debt-books of Heaven being crossed, or of Christ being ours, while we find him not living within us, or of the washing away of our sins in his bloud, while the foul and filthy stains thereof are deeply sunk in our own Souls; it is not, I say, a pertinacious Imagination of any of these that can make us ere the better: And a mere Conceit or Opinion as it makes us never the better in reality within our selves; so it cannot render us ere the more acceptable to God who judges of all things as they are. No, it must be a true Compliance with the Divine will, which must render us such as the Divinity may take pleasure in. In Christ Jesus neither Circumcision nor Uncircumcision availeth any thing (nor any Fancy built upon any other External privilege) but the keeping of the Commandments of God. No, but If any man does the will of God, him will both the Father and the Son love; they will come in to him and make their abode with him. This is the Scope and Mark which a true Heaven-born Faith aims at; and when it hath attain'd this End, then is it indeed perfect and compleat in its last accomplishment. And by how much the more ardency and intention Faith levels at this mark of inward goodness and divine activity, by so much the more perfect and sincere it is. This is that which God justi <329> fies, it being just and correspondent to his own good pleasure: and in whomsoever he finds this, both it and they are accepted of him. And so I come to the second Particular.
God's justifying of Sinners in pardoning and remitting their sins carries in it a necessary reference to the sanctifying of their Natures; without which Justification would rather be a glorious name then a real privilege to the Souls of men. While men continue in their wickedness, they do but vainly dream of a device to tie the hands of an Almighty Vengeance from seizing on them: No, their own Sins, like so many armed Gyants, would first or last set upon them, and rend them with inward torment. There needs no angry Cherub with a flaming Sword drawn out every way to keep their unhallowed hands off from the Tree of life: No, their own prodigious Lusts, like so many arrows in their sides, would chase them, their own Hellish natures would sink them low enough into eternal death, and chain them up fast enough in fetters of darkness among the filthy fiends of Hell. Sin will alwaies be miserable; and the Sinner at last, when the empty bladders of all those hopes and expectations of an aiery mundane Happiness, that did here bear him up in this life, shall be cut, will find it like a Talent of Lead weighing him down into the bottomless gulf of Misery. If all were clear towards Heaven, we should find Sin raising up storms in our own Souls. We cannot carry Fire in our own bosoms, and yet not be burnt. Though we could suppose the greatest Serenity without us, if we could suppose our selves nere so much to be at truce with Heaven, and all divine displeasure laid asleep; yet would our own Sins, if they continue unmortified, first or last make an Ætna or Vesuvius within us. Nay those <330> Sun-beams of Eternal Truth, that by us are detained in unrighteousness, would at last in those hellish vaults of vice and darkness that are within us kindle into an unquenchable fire. It would be of small benefit to us, That Christ hath triumph'd over the principalities and powers of darkness without us, while Hell and Death, strongly immur'd in a Fort of our own Sins and Corruptions, should tyrannize within us: That his Blood should speak peace in heaven, if in the mean while our own Lusts were perpetually warring and fighting in and against our own Souls: That he hath taken off our guilt and cancell'd that hand-writing that was against us, which bound us over to Eternal condemnation; if for all this we continue fast sealed up in the Hellish dungeon of our own filthy Lusts. Indeed we could not expect any relief from Heaven out of that misery under which we lie, were not Gods displeasure against us first pacified and our Sins remitted: But should the Divine Clemency stoop no lower to us then to a mere pardon of our sins and an abstract Justification, we should never rise out of that Misery under which we lie. This is the Signal and Transcendent benefit of our free Justification through the Bloud of Christ, that God's offence justly conceived against us for our sins (which would have been an eternal bar and restraint to the Efflux of his Grace upon us) being taken off, the Divine grace and bounty may freely flow forth upon us. The Fountain of the Divine grace and love is now unlock'd and opened, which our Sins had shut up; and now the Streams of holiness and true goodness from thence freely flow forth into all gasping Souls that thirst after them. The warm Sun of the Divine love, whenever it breaks through and scatters the thick Cloud of our iniquities that had formerly separated between God & us, <331> it immediately breaks forth upon us with healing in its wings; it exerciseth the mighty force of its own light and heat upon our dark and benummed Souls, begetting in them a lively sense of God, and kindling into sparks of Divine goodness within us. This Love, when once it hath chased away the thick Mist of our Sins, it will be as strong as Death upon us, as potent as the Grave: many Waters will not quench it, nor the Floods drown it. If we shut not the windows of our Souls against it, it will at last enlighten all those Regions of darkness that are within us, and lead our Souls to the Light of Life, Blessedness and Immortality. God pardons mens Sins out of an Eternal designe of destroying them; and whenever the sentence of death is taken off from a Sinner, it is at the same time denounced against his Sins. God does not bid us be warm'd and be fill'd, and deny us those necessaries which our starving and hungry Souls call for. Christ having made peace through the bloud of his cross, the Heavens shall be no more as Iron above us: but we shall receive freely the vital dew of them, the former and the later Rain in their season, those Influences from above, which Souls truly sensible of their own Misery and Imperfection uncessantly gaspe after, that Righteousness of God which drops from above, from the unsealed Spring of Free goodness which makes glad the city of God. This is that Free Love and Grace which the Souls of Good men so much triumph in; This is that Justification which begets in them lively Hopes of an happy Immortality in the present Anticipations thereof which spring forth from it in this life. And all this is that which we have called sometimes the Righteousness of Christ, sometimes the Righteousness of God; and here, the Righteousness which is of Faith. In Heaven it is a <332> not-imputing of sin; in the Souls of men it is a reconciliation of rebellious Natures to Truth and Goodness. In Heaven it is the lifting up the light of God's countenance upon us, which begets a gladsome entertainment in the Souls of men, holy and dear reflections and reciprocations of Love: Divine Love to us, as it were by a natural emanation, begetting a Reflex love in us towards God, which, like that Ἔρως and Ἀντέρως spoken of by the Ancients, live and thrive together.
How the Gospel-righteousness is conveighed to us by Faith, made to appear from these two Considerations. 1. The Gospel lays a strong foundation of a chearful dependance upon the Grace and Love of God, & affiance in it. This confirmed by several Gospel-expressions containing plainly in them the most strong Motives and Encouragements to all ingenuous addresses to God, to all chearfull dependance on him, and confident expectation of all assistance from him. 2. A true Evangelical Faith is no lazy or languid thing, but an ardent breathing and thirsting after Divine grace and righteousness: it looks beyond a mere pardon of sin, and mainly pursues after an inward participation of the Divine nature. The mighty power of a living Faith in the Love and Goodness of God, discoursed of throughout the whole Chapter.
WE come now to the last part of our Discourse, viz. To shew the Way by which this God-like and Gospel-righteousness is conveighed to us; and that is by <333> Faith. This is that powerful Attractive which by a strong and divine Sympathy draws down the virtue of Heaven into the Souls of men, which strongly and forcibly moves the Souls of good men into a conjunction with that Divine goodness by which it lives and grows: This is that Divine Impress that invincibly draws and sucks them in by degrees into the Divinity, and so unites them more and more to the Centre of Life and Love: It is something in the hearts of men which, feeling by an Occult and inward sensation the mighty insinuations of the Divine goodness, immediately complies with it, and with the greatest ardency that may be is perpetually rising up into conjunction with it; and being first begotten and enlivened by the warm Beams of that Goodness, it alwaies breaths and gasps after it for its constant growth and nourishment. It is then fullest of life and vivacity, when it partakes most freely of it; and perpetually languisheth when it is in any measure deprived of that sweet and pure nourishment it derives from it.
But that we may the more clearly unfold this business, How Gospel-righteousness comes to be communicated through Faith, we shall lay it forth in 2 Particulars.
First, The Gospel lays a strong foundation of a chearfull dependance upon the Grace and Love of God, and affiance in it. We have the greatest security and assurance that may be given us of God's readiness to relieve such forlorn and desolate Creatures as we are: That there are no such dreadful Fates in Heaven as are continually thirsting after the bloud of sinners, insatiably greedy after their prey, never satisfied till they have devoured the Souls of men. Lest we should by such dreadful apprehensions be driven from God, we are told of the Bloud of sprinkling that speaks better things <334> for us; of a mighty Favourite solliciting our Cause with perpetual intercessions in the Court of heaven; of a new and living way to the Throne of grace and to the Holy of holies which our Saviour hath consecrated through his flesh: We are told of a great and mighty Saviour able to save to the utmost all that come to God by him: We heare of the most compassionate and tender Promises that may be from the Truth it self, that Whosoever comes to him he will in no wise cast out; that They that believe on him, out of them should flow streams of living water: We hear of the most gracious invitations that Heaven can make to all weary and heavyladen sinners to come to Christ, that they may find rest: The great Secrets of Heaven and the Arcana of Divine Counsells are revealed, whereby we are acquainted that Glory to God in the highest, Peace on earth, Good will towards men, are sweetly joined together in Heavens harmony, and happily combin'd together in the composure of it's Ditties: That the Glory of the Deity and Salvation of men are not allaied by their union one with another, but both exalted together in the most transcendent way, that Divine love and bounty are the supreme rulers in Heaven and Earth, καὶ φθόνος ἔξω ἴσταται τοῦ χόρου, There is no such thing as sowre Despight and Envy lodged in the bosome of that ever-blessed Being above, whose name is LOVE, and all whose Dispensations to the Sons of men are but the dispreadings and distended radiations of his Love, as freely flowing forth from it through the whole orbe and sphear of its creation as the bright light from the Sun in the firmament, of whose benign influences we are then only deprived when we hide and withdraw our selves from them. We are taught that the mild and gentle breathings of the Divine Spirit are moving <335> up and down in the World to produce life, and to revive and quicken the Souls of men into a feeling sense of a blessed Immortality. This is that mighty Spirit that will, if we comply with it, teach us all things, even the hidden things of God; mortifie all the lusts of rebellious Flesh, and seal us up to the day of redemption. We are taught that with all holy boldness we may in all places lift up holy hands to God, without wrath or doubting, without any sowre thoughts of God, or fretfull jealousies, or harsh surmises. We can never distrust enough in our selves, nor ever trust too much in God. This is the great Plerophory, and that full Confidence which the Gospel every where seems to promote: and should I run through all the Arguments and Solicitations that are there laid down, to provoke us to an entertainment hereof, I should then run quite through it from one end to another: it containing almost nothing else in the whole Complex and Body of it but strong and forcible Motives to all Ingenuous addresses to God, and the most effectual Encouragement that may be to all chearfull dependance on him, and confident expectation of all assistance from him to carry on our poor endeavours to the atchievment of Blessedness, and that in the most plain and simple way that may be, sine fraude & fuco, without any double mind or mental reservation; Heaven is not acquainted so feelingly with our wicked arts and devices. But it is very strange that where God writes Life so plainly in fair Capital letters, we are so often apt to read Death; that when he tells us over and over, that Hell & destruction arise from our selves, that they are the workmanship of our own hands, we will needs understand their Pedegree to be from Heaven, and that they were conceived in the Womb of Life and Blessedness. No, but the Go <336> spel tells us we are not come to Mounts of burning, nor unto blackness and darkness and tempest, &c. Hebr. 12. v. 18. Certainly a lively Faith in this Love of God, and a sober converse with his Goodness by a cordial entertainment and through perswasion of it, would warm and chafe our benummed Minds, and thaw our Hearts frozen with Self-love; it would make us melt and dissolve out of all Self-consistencie, and by a free and noble Sympathie with the Divine love to yield up our selves to it, and dilate and spread our selves more fully in it. This would banish away all Atheisme and ireful slavish Superstition; it would cast down every high thought and proud imagination that swells within us and exalts it self against this soveraign Deity; it would free us from all those poor, sorry, pinching and particular Loves that here inthrall the Souls of men to Vanity and Baseness; it would lead us into the true liberty of the sons of God, filling our Hearts once enlarged with the sense of it with a more generous and universal love, as unlimited and unbounded as true Goodness it self is. Thus Moses-like conversing with God in the Mount, and there beholding his glory shining thus out upon us in the face of Christ, we should be deriving a Copy of that Eternal beauty upon our own Souls, and our thirstie and hungry spirits would be perpetually sucking in a true participation and image of his glory. A true divine Love would wing our Souls, and make them take their flight swiftly towards Heaven and Immortality. Could we once be throughly possess'd and mastered with a full confidence of the Divine love, and God's readiness to assist such feeble, languishing creatures as we are, in our assays after Heaven and Blessedness, we should then, finding our selves borne up by an Eternal and Almighty strength, dare to adven <337> ture courageously and confidently upon the highest designes of Happiness, to assail the kingdome of heaven with a holy gallantry and violence, to pursue a course of well-doing without weariness; knowing that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord, and that we shall receive our Reward, if we faint not: We should work out our salvation in the most industrious manner, trusting in God as one ready to instill strength and power into all the vital faculties of our Souls: We should press towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, that we may apprehend that for which also we are apprehended of Christ Jesus. If we suffer not our selves to be robb'd of this Confidence and Hope in God as ready to accomplish the desires of those that seek after him, we may then walk on strongly in the way to Heaven and not be weary; we may run and not faint. And the more the Souls of men grow in this blissfull perswasion, the more they shall mount up like Eagles into a clear Heaven, finding themselvs rising higher and higher above all those filthy mists, those clouds and tempests of a slavish Fear, Despair, Fretfulness against God, pale Jealousies, wrathfull and embittered Thoughts of him, or any struglings or contests to get from within the verge of his Power and Omnisciency, which would mantle up their Souls in black and horrid Night.
I mean not all this while by this holy Boldness and Confidence and Presence of Mind in a Believer's converse with the Deitie, that high pitch of Assurance that wafts the Souls of good men over the Stygian lake of Death, and brings them to the borders of life; that here puts them into an actual possession of Bliss, and reestates and reestablishes them in Paradise: No, That more general acquaintance which we may have <338> with God's Philanthropy and Bounty, ready to relieve with the bowells of his tender compassions all those starving Souls that call upon him, (for surely he will never doe less for fainting and drooping Souls then he doth for the young Ravens that cry unto him;) that converse which we are provoked by the Gospel to maintain with God's unconfined love, if we understand it aright, will awaken us out of our drowsie Lethargy, and make us aske of him the way to Sion with our faces thitherward: This will be digging up fresh fountains for us while we goe through the valley of Baca, whereby refreshing our weary Souls we shall goe on from strength to strength until we see the face of our loving, and ever-to-be-loved, God in Sion. And so I come to the next Particular wherein we shall further unfold how this God-like righteousness, we have spoken of, is conveighed to us by Faith: and that is this,
A true Gospel-faith is no lazie or languid thing, but a strong ardent breathing for and thirsting after divine Grace and Righteousness: it doth not only pursue an ambitious project of raising the Soul immaturely to the condition of a darling Favourite with Heaven, while it is unripe for it, by procuring a mere empty Pardon of sin; it desires not only to stand upon clear terms with Heaven by procuring the crossing of all the Debt-books of our sins there; but it rather pursues after an Internal participation of the Divine nature. We often hear of a Saving Faith; and that, where it is, is not content to wait for Salvation till the world to come; it is not patient of being an Expectant in a Probationership for it untill this Earthly body resignes up all it's worldly interest, that so the Soul might then come into its room: No, but it is here perpetually gasping after it, and effecting of it in a way of serious Mortification <339> and Self-denial: it enlarges and dilates it self as much as may be according to the vast dimensions of the Divine love, that it may comprehend the height and depth, the length and breadth thereof, and fill the Soul, where it is seated, with all the fullness of God: it breeds a strong and unsatiable appetite where it comes after true Goodness. Were I to describe it, I should doe it no otherwise then in the language of the Apostle; It is that whereby we live in Christ, and whereby he lives in us; or, in the dialect of our Saviour himself, Something so powerfully sucking in the precious influences of the Divine Spirit, that the Soul where it is, is continually flowing with living waters issuing out of it self. A truely-believing Soul by an ingenuous affiance in God and an eager thirst after him is alwaies sucking from the full breasts of the Divine love; thence it will not part, for there, and there only, is its life and nourishment; it starves and faints away with grief and hunger, whensoever it is pull'd away from thence; it is perpetually hanging upon the arms of Immortal Goodness, for there it finds its great strength lies; and as much as may be armes it self with the mighty Power of God, by which it goes forth like a Gyant refreshed with wine to run that race of Grace & Holiness that leads to the true Elysium of Glory, and that heavenly Canaan which is above. And whensoever it finds it self enfeebled in its difficult Conflict with those fierce and furious Corruptions, those tall sons of Anak, which arising from our terrene and sensual affections doe here encounter it in the Wilderness of this world; then turning it self to God, and putting it self under the conduct of the Angel of his presence, it finds it self presently out of weakness to become strong, enabled from above to put to flight those mighty armies of the aliens. True <340> Faith, (if you would know its rise and pedegree) it is begotten of the Divine bounty and fulness manifesting it self to the Spirits of men, and it is conceived and brought forth by a deep and humble sense of Self-indigency and Poverty. Faith arises out of Self-examination, seating and placing it self in view of the Divine plenitude and Allsufficiency; and thus (that I may borrow those words of S. Paul) we received the sentence of death in our selves, that we should not trust in our selves but in him. The more this Sensual, Brutish and Self-Central life thrives and prospers, the more divine Faith languisheth; and the more that decays, and all Self-feeling, Self-love, and Self-sufficiency pine away, the more is true Faith fed and nourished, it grows more vigorous: and as Carnal life wasts and consumes, so the more does Faith suck in a true divine and spiritual life from the true Αὐτοζωὴ who hath life in himself, and freely bestowes it to all those that heartily seek for it. When the Divinity united it self to Humane nature in the person of our Saviour, he then gave mankind a pledge and earnest of what he would further doe therein, in assuring of it into as near a conjunction as might be with Himself, and in dispensing and communicating himself to Man in a way as far correspondent and agreeable as might be to that first Copy. And therefore we are told of Christ being formed in us, and the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us; of our being made conformable to him, of having fellowship with him, of being as he was in this world, of living in him and his living in us, of dying, and rising again, and ascending with him into Heaven, and the like: because indeed the same Spirit that dwelt in him, derives it self in its mighty Virtue and Energy through all believing Souls, shaping them more and more into a just resemblance and con <341> formitie to him as the first Copy & Pattern: Whence it is that we have so many waies of unfolding the Union between Christ and all Believers set forth in the Gospel. And all this is done for us by degrees through the efficacy of the Eternal spirit, when by a true Faith we deny our selves and our own Wills, submit our seves in a deep sense of our own folly and weakness to his Wisdome and Power, comply with his Will, and by a holy affiance in him subordinate our selves to his pleasure: for these are the Vital acts of a Gospel-Faith.
And according to this which hath been said I suppose we may fairly gloss upon S. Paul's Discourses which so much prefer Faith above Works. We must not think in a Gyant-like pride to scale the walls of Heaven by our own Works, and by force thereof to take the strong Fort of Blessedness, and wrest the Crown of Glory out of God's hands whether he will or no. We must not think to commence a suit in Heaven for Happiness upon such a poor and weak plea as our own External compliance with the Old Law is. We must not think to deal with God in the Method of Commutative Justice, and to challenge Eternal life as the just Reward of our great Merits, and the hire due to us for our labour and toil we have took in God's Vineyard. No, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble: it must be an humble and Self-denying address of a Soul dissolved into a deep and piercing sense of its own Nothingness and unprofitableness, that can be capable of the Divine bounty: he fills the hungry with good things, but the rich he sends empty away. They are the hungry and thirsty Souls, alwaies gasping after the living springs of Divine grace, as the parched ground in the desert doth for the dew of Heaven, ready to drink <342> them in by a constant dependance upon God; Souls that by a living, watchfull and diligent Faith spreading forth themselves in all obsequious reverence and love of him, wait upon him as the Eyes of an handmaid wait on the hand of her Mistress: These are they that he delights to satiate with his goodness. Those that being master'd by a strong sense of their own indigency, their pinching and pressing povertie, and his All-sufficient fulness, trust in him as an Almighty Saviour, and in the most ardent manner pursue after that Perfection which his grace is leading them to; those that cannot satisfie themselves in a bare performance of some External acts of righteousness, or an External observance of a Law without them, but with the most greedy and fervent ambition pursue after such an acquaintance with his Divine Spirit as may breath an inward life through all the powers of their Souls, and beget in them a vital form and soul of Divine goodness; These are the spiritual seed of faithful Abraham, the sons of the Free-woman and heirs of the promises, to whom all are made Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus; These are they which shall abide in the house for ever, when the sons of the Bond-woman, those that are only Arabian proselytes, shall be cast out.
An Appendix to the foregoing Discourse; How the whole business and Undertaking of Christ is eminently available both to give full relief and ease to our Minds and Hearts, and also to encourage us to Godliness or a God-like righteousness, briefly represented in sundry Particulars.
FOR the further illustration of some things especially in the latter part of this Discourse, it may not be amiss in some Particulars (which might easily be enlarged) to shew How the Undertaking of Christ (that Great Object of Faith) is greatly advantageous and available to the giving full relief and ease to our Minds and Hearts, and also to the encouraging us to Godliness, or a true God-like righteousness.
In the General therefore we may consider, That full and evident assurance is given hereby to the world, That God doth indeed seek the saving of that which is lost; and men are no longer to make any doubt or scruple of it. Now what can we imagine more available to carry on a Designe of Godliness, and to rouze dul and languid Souls to an effectual minding of their own Salvation, then to have this News sounding in their Ears by men that (at the first promulgation thereof) durst tell them roundly in the Name of God, that God required them every where to repent, for that his Kingdome of grace was now apparent; and that he was not only willing, but it was his gracious designe to save & recover lost Sinners who had forsaken his Goodness?
Particularly, That the whole business of Christ is very advantageous for this purpose, and highly accommodate thereto, may appear thus:
We are fully assured that God hath this forementioned designe upon lost men, because here is one (viz. Christ) that partakes every way of Humane Nature, whom the Divinity magnifies it self in, and carries through this world in Humane infirmities and Sufferings to Eternal glory: a clear manifestation to the World that God had not cast off Humane Nature, but had a real mind to exalt and dignifie it again.
The way into the Holy of holies or to Eternal happiness is laid as open as may be by Christ, in his Doctrine, Life, and Death: in all which we may see with open face what Humane Nature may attain to, and how it may by Humility, Self-denial and divine Love, a Christ-like life, rise up above all visible heavens into a state of Immortal glory and bliss.
Here is a manifestation of Love given, enough to thaw all the iciness of mens hearts which Self-love had quite frozen up: For here is One who in Humane Nature most heartily every where denying himself, is ready to doe any thing for the good of Mankind, and at last gives up his life for the same purpose; and that according to the good will and pleasure of that Eternal love which so loved the World, that he gave this beloved and his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Whereas every Penitent Sinner carries a sense of Guilt upon his own Conscience, is apt to shrink with cold chill fears of offended Majesty, and to dread the thoughts of violated Justice: He is assured that Christ hath laid down his life, and thereby made propitiation & atonement for sin; That He hath laid down his life for <345> the Redemption of him; and so in Christ we have Redemption through his bloud, even the forgiveness of sins. Thus may the Hearts of all Penitents, troubled at first with sense of their own guilt, be quieted, and fully establisht in a living Faith and Hope in an Eternal goodness; seeing how their Sins are remitted through the bloud of Jesus that came to die for them and save them, and through his bloud they may have free access unto God.
Seeing Sin and Guilt are apt continually to beget a jealousie of God's Majesty and Greatness, from whom the Sinner finds himself at a vast distance, he is made acquainted with a Mediator through whom he may address himself to God without this jealousie or doubting; for that this Mediator likewise is one of Humane Nature, that is highly beloved and accepted of God, he having so highly pleased God by performing his Will in all things. Certainly it is very decorous and much for the Ease of a Penitent's mind, (as it makes also for the disparagement of Sin) that our Addresses to God should be through a Mediator. The Platonists wisely observ'd that between the Pure Divinity and Impure Sinners as there is no Union, so no Communion: it is very agreeable every way and upon all accounts, that they who in themselves are altogether unworthy and under demerit, should come to God by a Mediator.
Thus the Scripture every where seems to represent and hold forth Christ in the forenamed Particulars, (without descending into Niceties and Subtilties, such as the School-men and others from them have troubled the World with) in a very full and ample manner, that so the Minds of true Believers (that are willing to comply with the Purpose of God for their own Eternal peace) might in all Cases find something in <346> Christ for their relief, and make use of him as much as may be to encourage and help on Godliness: for by this whole Undertaking of Christ manifested in the Gospel God would have to be understood Full relief of Mind and Ease of Conscience, as also all Encouragement to Godliness, and Disparagement of Sin. And indeed the whole business of Christ is the greatest Blow to Sin that may be; For the World is taught hereby, that there is no Sinning upon cheap and easie terms: men may see that God will not return so easily into favour with Sinners; but he will have his Righteousness acknowledged, and likewise their own Demerit. And this Acknowledgment he is once indeed pleased to accept of in the person of our Saviour: yet if men will not now turn to him, and accept his favour, they must know that there is no other Sacrifice for Sin.
By these Particulars we have briefly touch'd upon (to name no more) it may appear, That when we look into the Gospel, we are taught to believe that Christ hath done, according to the good pleasure of God, every thing for us that may truly relieve our Minds, and encourage us to Godliness, a God-like Righteousness far exceeding the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.
 lib. Maccoth sect. ult.
 Matt. 19. 21.
 Rom. 3. 2.
 1 Cor. 7. 19.
 John 14.
 John 7. 38.
Cite as: John Smith, ‘A Discourse treating of Legal Righteousness, Evangelical Righteousness, or the Righteousness of Faith’, from Select Discourses (1660), pp. 283-346, https://www.cambridge-platonism.divinity.cam.ac.uk/view/texts/normalised/Smith1660G-excerpt007, accessed 2024-02-21.