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course on each, as I have been so long on the former part of this excellent compofition. *
Here is the undoubted character of all the human race, fixing imperfection and sinfulness on the best of the kind in this world, and so concluding all to be liable to sin, and under it. In the words there are two things.
1. A position, There is not a juft man upon earth. By the just man in this text is not meant an evangelically just man, or one just in respect of parts, though not of degrees; but one who is legally so, just in the eye of the law, as having yielded perfect obedience to all its commands: this is plain from the original pointing. Compare Psal. cxliii
. 2. “ Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy fight shall no man living be justified.” By this time the man Christ had not appeared on the earth : so it is meant of mere men. On the earth; to denote that in heaven they are just in that sense, arrived to legal perfection.
2. The explication of it: There is none who doth good, and finneth not. There are some who do good, as all the godly; but they sin withal, and that daily, for so the word is to be understood of their using to fin.
The doctrine arising from the words is,
Doct. “Legal perfection is not attainable in this life, but
the best fin daily.” Or, “No mere man, since the fall, is able, in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them, in thought, word, and deed."
In discoursing from this doctrine, I shall,
As some readers may be apt to think, in regard several of the fola lowing discourses are very short, that they are not so full as they were delivered, it is necessary to inform them, that, besides what the author has here faid of his intended brevity, he was generally a short preacher, sele dom, on ordinary occafions, exceeding half an hour, and that his delivery was somewhat flow. Besides, we have the testimony of his dear friends Meff. Wilson, Davidson, and Colden, that he generally wrote his sermons as full as he delivered them. See the preface to his sermons on afflictions. And it is believed, that the attentive reader, upon a careful perusal of this last part of the work, will find the several subjects sufficie ently, though briefly, illustrated, for promoting his best and most effential interests. Vol. III. No. 25.
I. Shew what is legal perfection, or perfect keeping of the commands.
II. Consider the attainableness of this perfection.
III. Shew how the saints sin daily, and break the commands.
IV. Confirm the point, That perfection is not attainable in this life.
V. Give the reason of this dispensation.
I. I shall shew what is legal perfection, or perfect keeping of the commands. It is a perfect conformity of heart and life to the commands of God; and implies,
1. A perfection of the principle of action, Matth. xxii. 37. “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” For if the heart and soul be not finless and pure, as in innocent Adam and Christ, but be polluted as our nature is, there can be no perfect keeping of the commands of God. That pollution will stain all.
2. A perfection of the parts of obedience. No part must be lacking, every command of whatsoever nature must be kept : “ For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them,” Gal. iii. 10. If one be wanting, all is wanting, all is marred. Hence says James, chap. ii. 10. “ Whosoever fhall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
3. A perfection of degrees in every part, Matth. xxii. 37. “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Sincerity is not enough in the eye of the law.' In every thing one must come to the highest pitch, or there is no perfection.
4. A perfection of duration or continuance, Gal. iii. 10. forecited; without apoftafy or defection, continuing to the end; for one bad trip after a course of obedience will mar all.
II. Let us consider the attainableness of this perfection.
1. Adam before the fall was able to have kept the commands perfe&ly; he might have attained it; for “ God made him upright,” Eccl. vii. 29.
Eccl. vi. 29. That law was the rule of Adam's covenant-obedience; and perfect obedience to it
was the condition of the covenant, which God could not have proposed to him, if he had not given him strength sufficient to perform it.
2. The man Christ, who was not a mere man, but Godman, was not only able to keep the law perfectly, but actually did so. He made out what the first Adam failed in, to the salvation of the elect, and in their stead; and this in the whole extent of legal perfection. His obedience was perfect in the principle, Heb. vii. 26. being “ holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from finners;" in the parts, Matth. iii. 15. “ It becometh us to fulfil all righteousness;" in the degrees, John xv. 13. “ Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends ;” and in continuance, Phil. ii. 8. “He became obedient unto death."
3. The faints in heaven are able, and do actually perfectly obey whatever God's will to them is : so that though in this life they do not attain it, yet in the life to come all the children of God shall attain perfection, Heb. xii. 23. where mention is made of “the spirits of just men made perfect ;" and there they shall be fully freed from, fin, and all possibility of finning.
4. But since Adam fell, no mere man is able, while in this life, either of himself, or by virtue of any grace now given, to keep the commands perfectly. Of himself he cannot do it; neither is there any measure of grace given to any in this life, whereby they may be enabled to do it: For “ in many things we offend all,” Jam. iii. 2. This inability is owing to the remains of corruption that cleaves to every one of them in this mortal state, Rom. vii. 23.; and from which they ardently long to be delivered, ver. 24. And there is no promise of grace given in the word, whereby believers may be enabled to keep the commands of God perfectly; nor would it be consistent with the nature of spiritual growth, which is manifestly, like the natural, gradual ; and it is certain that the saints do not arrive at their full stature, till they come to the mansions of bliss, i Thess. ii. 13,
III. I fhall shew how the saints fin daily, and break the commands. And here I shall consider,
1. How many ways the commands may be broken.
First, I am to shew how many ways the commands may be broken. They may be broken three ways, in deeds, words, and thoughts.
1. In deeds, done contrary to the command of God, or not done, though required. God's commands are the rule of men's outward life and conversation; and whatever we do or omit contrary to the law, is our sin, whether it be public, private, or secret, Psal. xiv. 2, 3.
2. In words, either speaking what we ought not, or not speaking what we ought, or speaking what we ought, but not in the manner commanded. (The fame is to be said of actions or deeds.) God's commands are a rule to our tongues, and tell us what to speak, how to speak, and what not to speak; and by regardlessness of the rule, the tongue is “ a fire, a world of iniquity," Jam. iii. 6.
3. In thoughts. Here God's law goes beyond men's laws as to the whole kind; for our thoughts are open to God, who is omniscient, as words or actions are equally open to him, Heb. iv. 13. and liable to his law. For says Christ, So Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart,” Matth. v. 28. “And so one may fin by thinking what he ought not, by omitting of good thoughts, and by not managing good thoughts, in the manner required by the law.
Secondly, I shall shew in what respect the faints fiņ daily, in thought word, and deed.
1. Negatively: not that the faints fall into gross fins daily, against the letter of the law, either in thought, word, or deed. God will disown those for faints, who entertain vile thoughts daily, swear daily, lie daily, do unjust things, or neglect his worship daily, Gal. v. 19.-21. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Such spots are not the spots of God's people. Christ's dwelling by his fpirit in them, the breaking of the reign of fin in them by the power of divine grace, and their habitual tenderness and watchfulness, hold them off that way of life. But,
2. Positively. Besides that faints may be surprised into
gross fins in thought, word, and deed, sometimes by inad. vertency, weakness, and violence of temptation, which is the burden of their souls, they sin every day in thought, word, and deed, when they keep the strictest watch, and have most of the divine assistance. What day passes, if without vile thoughts, yet without vain ones; without idle words, if without mischievous words; when there is not something done or undone, which God's law condemns, though perhaps the world cannot quarrel them ? Besides, what good thought is thought, good word fpoken, or good deed done by them, which the holy law will not spy a flaw in, as to the manner of its performance ?
Thirdly, I am to shew how these failures of theirs break the commands, while they sincerely endeavour to obey them. Why, the moral law is the eternal rule of righteousness, and in whatever state the creature be, he is bound to obey his Creator, whether in a state of nature or grace, glory, or damnation. And though perfection be not attainable in this life, yet it is the saints duty, as well as that of others, Matth. v. ult. “ Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heayen is perfect.” So every coming short of that perfection is their fin, needing to be taken away by Christ's blood.
And thus men daily break the commands of God in thought word and deed; which is the only possible way of transgressing the divine law; and our doing so in these respects fhews the equity of that charge which the Lord has against every man,“ Behold thou hast done evil, as thou couldst,” Jer. iii. 5,
IV. I shall now confirm the point, That perfection is not attainable in this life.
1. The scripture attests, that there is no man without fin, 1 Kings viii. 46. “ For there is no man that finneth not:'' and that “ in many things we offend all," Jam. iii. 2. If any set up for it in himself, the Spirit of God says he deceives himself, 1 John i. 8. See an unanswerable question, Prov. xx. 9. “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my fin?
2. The best have a corrupt as well as a gracious principle, making the spiritual combat, never ending till death give the separating stroke, Gal. v. 17. “ For the flesh lufteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are