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power will certainly perform. Therefore, fear not, ye that seek Jesus who was crucified. You shall not always pine away with hungry, eager desires and pantings for him, but your utmost wishes shall be accomplished, in the enjoyment of the good you desire. And if ever you have had any experience in this case, I need hardly tell you,
V. That the accomplishment of these desires affords great joy.
Abraham had his desire of seeing Christ's day fulfilled ; and it inspired him with joy: he saw it and was glad. How transporting, to view the glory of God shining in the gospel! to contemplate the love, the grace, and allsufficient fulness of Jesus! to feel the lively emotions of proper affections towards him, and all those heavenly exercises of mind, which attend the sight of Jesus Christ in the gospel! What is heaven but the day of Christ; a brighter day indeed, but enlightened by the same sun that shines in the gospel; the glory of God enlightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. Rev. xxi. 23. Therefore as much as you enjoy of this sacred light, so much of heaven do you enjoy on earth.
And now, to conclude. You have heard of Jesus Christ, and of the disposition of Abraham, and all good men towards him. But is not this all mystery and unintelligible talk to some of you? You never have experienced anything like it. And can you expect salvation from a neglected, unknown Saviour! Or are you able to save yourselves without him!
Alas! both are impossible. Therefore, my brethren, this day admit the conviction of your guilt and danger, be thoroughly convinced of your own unworthiness of salvation by natural means, or the guidance of your own wisdom, pray earnestly for spiritual help from above, in and through a glorious and all-powerful
CHRIST THE DESIRE AND DELIGHT OF SAINTS.
Mediator, and never be easy till you get out of darkness into day.
As for the children of light, let them surround the table of their Lord, and there place themselves under the warm, enlivening beams of the Sun of righteousness.
THE LAW AND GOSPEL.
Gal. iii. 23.—But before faith came, we were kept under
the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
In such a time of general deadness and security as this, it may really afford me painful perplexity what subject to choose. Now this and now that occurs to my mind, and engages my thoughts to pursue it for a while; but after many fluctuations and perplexities, I have at length fixed upon this text, and determined to open to you the nature of the law and gospel, and your concern with each of them: and I have this encouragement, that this may be styled an Apostolic subject, by way of eminence, and is that very doctrine which did such mighty execution among the Jews and Gentiles, and converted thousands to the faith of Christ, upon the first publication of Christianity. The law and the gospel were the grand topics of St. Paul's preaching, if we may judge of his sermons by his Epistles; for in his Epistles, particularly those to the Romans and Galatians, he insists at large upon these subjects. These may also properly be called the doctrine of the reformation from Popery; for no sooner did that sacred light dawn, than it began immediately to clear up the nature and the difference between the law and the gospel, and the condition of mankind as under the one or the other of these constitutions. Luther, in particular, made this the great scope of his preaching and writings; and he wrote an excellent commentary upon this epistle to the Galatians for this very purpose. And who knows but such a subject as this, which has been the ancient weapon for demolishing the kingdom of Satan, and wounding impenitent hearts, may do some execution, through the divine blessing, even when managed by my unskilful hand? Be the event what it will, in the name of the Lord, I would make the attempt.
I shall be the shorter at present, in explaining the text, because the whole of the following discourse will tend to reflect light upon
it. Faith, in my text, and in sundry places in this epistle, seems to have a complex signification: it signifies the object of faith, revealed in the gospel, or the method of salvation through faith in the righteousness of Christ; and it also signifies the grace of faith in the soul, or a hearty compliance with this way of salvation, so that this expression, before faith came, refers to the time before the doctrine of faith was revealed in the gospel to the Galatians, and before the grace of faith was wrought in their hearts. Here it may be proper to observe, that the members of the primitive church in general, and particularly that in Galatia, were brought under the gospel dispensation, and embraced the doctrine of the gospel by faith at one and the same time. But they were not, like us, educated under the gospel dispensation ; for part of them had been Jews, educated under the Mosaic dispensation, which by way of eminence is frequently called the law; and, as they were under the legal dispensation, they were generally under the influence of a legal spirit; that is, they sought for justification by their own works of obedience to that law
Another part of them had been educated heathens, and
were destitute at once of the revelation of the gospel, and of faith in it. Of this sort the generality of the Galatians had been. And yet St. Paul represents them also as having been under the law, not the Jewish or Mosaic law, which the Gentiles had no concern with, but the law of nature, which is universally binding upon all mankind. And as they were under this law, they were also possessed of a legal spirit; that is, they sought salvation by their own obedience to it, as the only way which they knew, and which was natural to them. But, when the gospel dispensation was set up in the world, and the doctrine of faith preached to them, they immediately believed, and so were freed from the outward dispensation of the law, and from a legal spirit at once; and they heard the doctrine, and received the outward dispensation of the gospel, and savingly believed, “at one and the same time.” Hence the apostle speaks of their being delivered from the dispensation of the law, and from a legal spirit, and of their being brought under the gospel dispensation, and cordially believing the gospel doctrine, in the same language “as one and the same thing;” and what he says is sometimes equally applicable to the outward dispensation and the inward temper denominated from it, and sometimes more pertinent to the one than to the other. So in my text, the time before faith came, is applicable to the state of the Galatians, while under the dispensation of the law, and under a legal or self-righteous temper; and while they had neither heard the doctrine of faith, nor received the grace of faith. And when in opposition to this (v. 25) he observes, “after that faith is come, we are no longer under the law as a schoolmaster:” he means both after the preaching of the gospel, and after it was received by faith. Many more instances of this might be given; particularly chap. iv. 3,5; Rom. vii. 1, 7.