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The EPISTLE for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.
Gal. iii. 16. and following Verfes.
To Abraham and his Seed were the Promifes made. He faith not unto Seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to thy Seed, which is Chrift; and this I fay, &c.
HE Collect for this Day teaches us to pray unto God for Grace, that we may fo faithfully ferve him in this Life, that we fail not finally to attain his heavenly Promises. The Promifes here meant are thofe of Juftification and Salvation by Faith in Christ, whereby all Mankind, who, by the Sin of our first Parents, were doom'd to temporal and eternal Death, are, by the Merits of a Saviour, happily reftor'd to a fpiritual and everlafting Life. Thefe St. Peter ftiles, exceeding great and precious Promifes, as proceeding from the rich inexhaustible Treafure of Divine Goodness, 1 Pet. 1. 4. And of these St. Paul here treats in the Epiftle for this Day, which begins with the fixteenth Verse of this Chapter, Now to Abraham and his Seed were the Promifes made, and fo on to the 23d : In which we are taught,
Firft, To whom these Promises were made, and when. Secondly, That the Law which was given after did not vacate or difannul them.
Thirdly, To what End or Use the Law ferv'd, and how it was given.
Fourthly, The Confiftency of the Law with these Promifes, and the Conclufion of the whole. Of which particularly: And,
First, Of the Perfons to whom thefe Promises were made, and that the first words of the Epistle tell us, 'Twas
to Abraham and his Seed. Now this Promife was made to Abraham, long before the giving of the Law by Moses; of which we read, Gen. 12. 3. In thee, that is, in thy Seed, fhall all the Families of the Earth be bleffed. He faith not of Seeds, as of many, faith the Apoftle; for Abraham's Children by the Bond-woman, viz. Ifmael and his Iffue, were not included in the Promife; but in the fingular Number, as of one, that is, Ifaac, born of Sarah the Free-woman, who was a Type of Chrift, that defcended from him: and therefore 'tis added, and to thy Seed, which is Christ. This is more fully exprefs'd, Chap. 4. ver. 22, &c. where we read, That Abraham had two Sons, the one by a Bond-maid the other by a Free-woman; the one denoting the Law, and the other the Gofpel. He who was of the Bond-woman was born after the Flesh, and fo fubject to the carnal Ordinances and Obfervances of Mofes's Law; but he of the Free-woman was by Promife, and fo free from thofe Mofaical Rites, and are justify'd not with, but without them. After which he applies this to the Chriftians, faying, ver. 28. Now we, Brethren, as Ifaac was, are the Children of the Promife; that is, intitled to the Grace of the Gofpel, and feek not Juftification by the Works of the Law; for we are not Children of the Bond-woman, but of the Free, ver. 31. The Sense of all which is, that the Promife of God's bleffing all the Nations of the Earth, both Gentiles as well as Jews, was made to Abraham and his Seed not to the fpurious Brood of Hagar the Handmaid, who continu'd under Circumcifion, and were Debtors to the whole Law; but to the lawful IẾ fue of Sarah his Wife, who, by an extraordinary Blessing of Heaven, conceiv'd and brought forth her only Son Ifaac, who was to be the Inftrument of conveying down these great Bleffings to the World. The Defcendants from him are those Ifraelites mention'd by St. Paul, Rom. 9. To whom pertaineth the Adoption, and the Glory, and the Covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the Service of God, and the Promifes, whofe are the Fathers, and of whom, as concerning the Flesh, Chrift came, who is over all, God blessed for ever; ver.4, 5. Thefe great Privileges belong'd to them, as they were the Offspring of Abraham, to whom Chrift was primarily and principally promis'd and fent.
But did the Promife of thefe great Bleffings belong to all that defcended from the Loins of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? No, faith the Apoftle, for they are not all Ifrael that are of Ifrael, neither, because they are the Seed of Abraham,
are they all Children; but in Ifaac hall thy Seed be call'd: meaning, that they fhall be reckon'd the Seed of Abraham who are born after the manner of Ifaac's Birth, that is, by the Word or Promife of God; for they which are the Children of the Flesh (faith he) thefe are not the Children of God, but the Children of the Promife are counted for the Seed; ver. 6, 7, 8. The Senfe whereof is, that the Promise made to Abraham and his Seed, was not made to his carnal, but his fpiritual Seed, to Believers begotten after the Image of his Faith, and born by the Word of God, as was Ifaac.
Now Abraham's Faith is defcrib'd to us in fundry places of Scripture: Abraham believ'd in God, and it was counted to him for Righteoufnefs; Rom. 4. 3. Gal. 3. 6. He fagger'd not at the Promife of God through Unbelief, but was strong in Faith, giving glory to God; being fully perfuaded, that what he had promis'd he was alfo able to perform. Again, the fame Apostle affirms, That he was not weak in Faith, but against Hope believ'd in Hope, that he might be the Father of many Nations, according to that which was spoken, So fhall thy Seed be: Rom. 4. 18, &c. Moreover, the Author to the Hebrews tells us, that by Faith Abraham left his own Country, obeying God's Call, not knowing whither he went by Faith he trufted in God's Promife that he fhould have a Son, tho he was old, and Sarah paft Age for the natural Courfe of Conception. By Faith he offer'd up his only Son Ifaac, the Son of his Love and of his Hope, that he fhould be comforted, and all Nations bleffed in him; ftill believing that of him, tho as good as dead, fhould Spring as many as the Stars in the Sky for Multitude, and as the Sand on the Sea-fhore innumerable: judging him faithful that had promis'd thefe things, and counting that God was able to raife up Ifaac again from the dead, to accomplish his Purpofe; from whence he receiv'd him in a Figure. Heb. 11.820.
Thefe are fome of the many noble Acts of Abraham's Faith, fo often recorded, and fo much celebrated in Holy Scripture all which were counted to him for Righteouf nefs, that is, they justify'd him before God, and procur'd Acceptance with him.
Now they that tread in the fteps of his Faith, and imi tate his ftedfaft Belief of the Promises, they are the fpiritual Seed of Abraham, to whom thefe Promises of Juftification and Salvation were made: in respect of thefe it is, that he is call'd the Father of the Faithful, and the Father of
them that believe; Rom. 4. 16. They that attain to this Faith, are the Children of Abraham, and Heirs of the Promife and thefe will obtain the fame Privilege with their Father Abraham, to have their Faith counted to them for Righteoufnefs; that is, their Sins fhall not be imputed to them, but their Perfons fhall be accepted, and counted righteous before God, which are the greatest Bleflings that can be bestow'd on any People: which yet are not abfolute, but conditional, being founded on the Condition of Faith in Chrift, and a firm Reliance upon his Merits.
This then is the Promife, which contains in it the Pardon of Sin, and the Acceptation of our Perfons as righteous, and thefe are the Perfons to whom it is made, even the Seed of Abraham, that adhere to the Promise as he did, and walk in the steps of his Faith.
But did not the Law, after given by Mofes, any ways alter or abrogate the Promife made to Abraham, and bring in new Terms of Juftification by the Works of that Law? No, in no wife: fo the Apoftle in the next Verfe of our Text folemnly declares This I fay (faith he) that the Co; venant that was confirm'd before of God in Chrift, the Law that was four hundred and thirty Years after could not difannul, that it should make the Promife of none effect: meaning, that the Covenant of bleffing all Nations in Abraham, and the Promife of Mercv made to his Seed in the Mefliah, were long before confirm'd by God to them, and made art everlasting Covenant, that fhould not be broken. And it cannot reasonably be imagin'd, that the Law deliver'd by Mofes 430 Years after the Ratification of that Covenant, fhould fruftrate or invalidate that Covenant made with Abraham, and in him with all Believers fo long before; or that the Goodness of God would permit him to impofe harder, and indeed impoflible Terms of Juftification, by the Obfervation of the Law, when in his Promife to Abraham and his Seed he had granted it long before upon the inilder and better Terms of Faith in Chrift which would be not only to alter, but to deftroy the Promife of God, and niake it of no effect. This he farther argues in the following Verfe: For if the Inheritance (faith he) be of the Law, it is no more of Promife, but God gave it to Abraham by Promife that is, the afferting of Juftification by the Works of the Law, will quite alter the method of God's dealing with Abraham, and of his Proceedings with all his VoLIV, Part 2. X
Pofterity. For if the Blefling foretold to come upon all Nations, Gentiles as well as Jews, come upon the performance of the Mofaical Law, then there is an end of the Promife made to Abraham, and nothing can come to him or his Seed by virtue of that; which is directly contrary to the whole Tenor of Scripture, for that affirms it to come to Abraham and his Pofterity by Promise only. Be fide,
The afcribing of Juftification to the Works of the Law, will attribute our Juftification to our felves, and our own Performances, and wholly derogate from the Honour and Efficacy of Chrift's Satisfaction: for if our keeping the Law be the Terms of our Acceptance with God, we are then our own Juftifiers and Saviours, and there can be no need of another's Righteousness, if our own will ferve the turn. Moreover,
This will advance the Notion of Merit, and beat down the Price of the Mercy and Merits of a Redeemer: for if our Works are fufficient to Juftification, then may they deferve and claim it at God's hand, and we need look no farther, or be beholden to any other. 'Tis upon this foot, that St. Paul fo_ftrongly argues against Juftification by Works, in his Epiftle to the Romans and elsewhere; telfing us, that they who raife the Structure of their Hopes upon the Foundation of their legal Performances, and trust too much to themselves, have whereof to boaft: like the proud Pharifees, who counted upon a generous kind of Happiness to be atchiev'd by the Merit of their own Works, and fcorn'd a borrow'd and beggarly Felicity, that came like an Alms from the Bounty of Heaven. Which Pride and Arrogance of the Pharifees is fharply rebuk'd by our Saviour, who told them that Publicans and Harlots fhall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven before them.
Now to him that worketh (faith St. Paul) is the Reward reckou'd not of Grace, but of Debt, Rom. 4. 4. that is, he that looks to be juftify'd by his own Works, receives the Blefling not as from the Grace and Favour of God, but as a Debt due to his own Merits: which Vanity he blames in fome of the Ifraelites, who being ignorant of Chrift's Righteoufnefs, and going about to establish their own Righteousness, fubmitted not to the Righteousness of God; Rom. 10. 3. And this depriv'd them of all the Comfort and Benefit of it; and therefore we are all taught to fay, Not by Works of Righteoufnefs which we have done, but by his Mercy he faveth