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CONTINUANCE OF THE LAW.
GALATIANS iii. 19. Until the seed came unto which the promise was made.
Paul maketh not the law perpetual, but he saith that it was given and added to the promise “ for transgressions ;” that is to say, to restrain them civilly; but especially, to reveal and to increase them spiritually; and that, not continually, but for a time. Here it is necessary to know, how long the power and tyranny of the law ought to endure which discovereth sin, sheweth unto us what we are, and revealeth the wrath of God. They whose hearts are touched with an inward feeling of these matters, should suddenly perish if they should not receive comfort. Therefore, if the days of the law should not be shortened, no man should be saved. A time, therefore, must be set, and bounds limited to the law, beyond the which it may not reign. How long then ought the dominion of the law to endure? “ Until the seed come:" to wit, that seed of which it is written, “ In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." The tyranny of the law then must so long continue, until the fulness of time, and until that seed of the blessing come. Not to the end that the law should bring this seed, or give righteousness; but that it should çivilly restrain the rebellious and obstinate, and shut them up as it were in prison; and then, spiritually, should reprove them of sin, humble them and terrify them; and when they are thus humbled and beaten down, it should constrain them to look up to that blessed seed.
We may understand the continuance of the law, both according to the letter, and also spiritually. According to the letter, thus :—that the law continued until the time of grace. “ The law and the prophets (saith Christ) prophesied until John. From the time of John until this day the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force,” Matt. xi. 19, 13. In this time, Christ was baptized and began to preach. At what time also, (after the letter) the law and all the ceremonies of Moses ceased.
Spiritually, the law must be thus understood,—that it ought not to reign in the conscience, any longer than to the appointed time of the blessed seed. When the law sheweth unto me my sin, terrifieth me, and revealeth the wrath and judgment of God, so that I begin to tremble and to despair, there hath the law his bounds, his time, and his end limited; so that now, he ceaseth to exercise his tyranny any more. For when he hath done his office sufficiently, he hath revealed the wrath of God, and terrified enough. Here we must say, “Now leave off, law: thou hast done enough: thou hast terrified and tormented me enough.' All thy floods have run over me, and thy terrors have troubled me. Lord, turn not away thy face in thy wrath from thy servant. Rebuke me not, I beseech thee, in thine anger,” &c. (Ps. xlii. 7, lxix. 2, xxvi. 9.) When these terrors and troubles come, then is the time and the hour of the blessed seed come. Let the law then give place; which, indeed, is added to reveal and to increase transgressions, and yet, no longer than until that blessed seed be come. When it is come, then let the law leave off to reveal sin, and to terrify any more, and let him deliver up his kingdom to another; that is to say, to the blessed seed, which is Christ; who
gracious lips, wherewith he accuseth and terrifieth not, but speaketh of far better things than doth the law; namely of grace, peace, forgiveness of sins, victory over sin, death, the devil, and damnation, gotten by his death and passion unto all believers.
Paul therefore sheweth by these words, “ Until the seed should come unto whom the blessing was promised,” how long the law should endure, literally, and spiritually. According to the law, it ceased after the blessed seed came into the world, taking upon him our flesh, giving the Holy Ghost, and writing a new law in our hearts. But the spiritual time of the law, doth not end at once, but continueth fast rooted in the conscience.
Therefore it is a hard matter for a man which is exercised with the spiritual use of the law, to see the end of the law. For in these terrors and feeling of sin, the mind cannot conceive this hope--that God is merciful, and that he will forgive sins for Christ's sake; but it judgeth only that God is angry with sinners, and that he accuseth and condemneth them. If faith come not here to raise up again the troubled and afflicted conscience, or else (according to that saying of Christ, “Where two or three be gathered together in my name,” &c.) there be some faithful brother at hand that may comfort him, by the word of God, which is so oppressed and beaten down by the law, desperation and death must needs follow. There, it is perilous for a man to be alone; “ Wo be to him that is alone (saith the preacher;) for when he falleth, he hath none to raise him up." Wherefore, they that ordained that cursed monkish solitary life, gave occasion to many thousands to despair. If a man should separate himself from the company of others for a day or two, to be occupied in prayer, (as we read of Christ, that sometime he went aside alone into the mount, and by night continued in prayer,) there were no danger therein. But when they constrained men continually to live a solitary life, it was a device of the devil himself. For when a man is tempted and is alone, he is not able to raise up himself, no not in the least temptation that
RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUSTIFICATION
GALATIANs mi.' 6. As Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.
The apostle now addeth the example of Abraham, and rehearseth the testimony of the scripture. The first is out of Gen. xv. 6. “ Abraham believed God," &c. This place the apostle here mightily prosecuteth, as also he did in his Epistle to the Romans; “ If Abraham (saith he) was justified by the works of the law, he hath righteousness and rejoicing; but not before God, but before men, (Rom. iv. 2, 3.) For before God, there is nothing in him but sin and wrath. Now he was justified before God, not because he did work, but because he did believe. For the scripture saith, “ Abraham believed, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” This place doth Paul there notably set forth and amplify, as is most worthy; “ Abraham (saith he) was not weak in the faith, neither considered he his own body which was now dead, being almost an hundred years old, neither the deadness of Sarah's womb; neither did he doubt of the promise through unbelief, but was strengthened in the faith, and gave glory to God; being fully assured, that whatsoever God had promised he was able to do. Now it is not written for him only that it was imputed to him for righteousness, but for us also," &c. (Rom. iv. 19, 20.)
Paul, by these words, “Abraham believed,” maketh, of faith in God, the chiefest worship, the chiefest duty, the chiefest obedience, and the chiefest sacrifice. Let him that is a rhetorician amplify this place, and he shall see, that faith is an almighty thing, and that the power thereof is infinite and inestimable, for it giveth glory unto God, which is the highest service that can be given unto him. Now, to give glory unto God, is, to believe in him, to count him true, wise, righteous, merciful, almighty; briefly, to acknowledge him to be the author and giver of all goodness. This reason doth not, but faith. That is it which maketh us divine people; and, as a man would say, it is the creator of certain divinity, not in the substance of God, but in us. For without faith, God loseth in us his glory, wisdom, righteousness, truth, and mercy. To conclude, no majesty or divinity remaineth unto God, where faith is not. And the chiefest thing that God requireth of man, is, that he give unto him his glory and his divinity ; that is to say, that he take him not for an idol, but for God who regardeth him, heareth him, sheweth mercy unto him, and helpeth him. This being done, God hath his full and perfect divinity: that is, he hath whatsoever a faithful hea can attribute unto him. To be able therefore to give that glory unto God, is the wisdom of wisdoms, the righteousness of righteousnesses, the religion of religions, and the sacrifice of sacrifices ! Hereby we may perceive, what an high and excellent righteousness faith is; and so, by the contrary, what an horrible and grievous sin infidelity is.
Whosoever then believeth the Word of God, as Abraham did, is righteous before God; because, he hath faith which giveth glory to God; that is, he giveth to God that which is due to him. For faith saith thus, I believe thee, O God, when thou speakest. And what saith God? Impossible things, lies, foolish, weak, absurd, abominable, heretical, and devilish things, if ye
believe reason! For what is more absurd, foolish, and impossible, than when God saith to Abraham, that he should have a son of the barren and dead body of his wife Sarah !
So, if we will follow the judgment of reason, God setteth forth absurd and impossible things, when he setteth out unto us the articles of the Christian faith. Indeed, it seemeth to reason an absurd and a foolish thing, that, in the Lord's Supper, is offered unto us the body and blood of Christ; that baptism, is the laver of the new birth and of the renewing of the Holy Ghost ; that the dead shall rise at the last day; that Christ the Son of God was conceived and carried in the womb of the Virgin Mary; that he was born; that he suffered the most reproachful death of the cross; that he was raised up again; that he now sitteth at the right hand of God the Father, and that he hath power both in heaven and in earth. For this cause, Paul calleth the Gospel of Christ crucified, the word of the cross and foolish preaching, (1 Cor. i. 18;) which, to the Jews was offensive, and to the Gentiles foolish doctrine. Wherefore, reason doth not understand, that to hear the Word of God and to believe it, is the chiefest service that God requireth of us. But it thinketh, that those things which it chooseth and doth of a good intent, (as they call it) and of her own devotion, please God. Therefore, when