Thomas Boston Edward Fisher.

The marrow of modern divinity: in two parts online

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promised for Christ's sake unto all who truly believe on his

^dlyy We are to consider what the nature and office of the
law is, and what the nature and office of the Gospel is.

Now, the nature and office of the law is to show unto us
our sin, Rom. iii. 20, our condemnation, our death, Rom.
ii. 1; vii. 10. But the nature and office of the Gospel is to
show unto us, that Christ has taken away our sin, John i. 29,
and that he also is our redemption and life, Col. i. 14; iii. 4.
So that the law is a word of wrath, Rom. iv. 14 ; but the
GOSPEL is a word ofpectce, Eph. ii. 17.

Sdl^j We are to consider where we may find the law writ-
ten, and where we may find the Gospel written.

Now, we shall find this law and this Gospel written and re-
corded in the writings of the prophets, evangelists, and apostles,
namely, in the books called the Old and New Testament, or
the Scriptures. For, indeed, the law and the Gospel are the
chief general heads which comprehend all the doctrine of the
Scriptures ; yet we are not to think that these two doctrines
are to be distinguished by the book^ and leaves of the Scrip-
tures, but by the diversity of God's Spirit speaking in them:
we are not to take and understand whatsoever is contained in
the compass of the Old Testament, to be only and merely, the
word and voice of the law ; neither are we to think that what-
soever is contained within the compass of the books called the
New Testament, is only and merely the voice of the Gospel ;
for sometimes in the Old Testament, God does speak comfort,
as he comforted Adam, with the voice of the Gospel; some-
times also in the New Testament he does threaten and terrify,
as when Christ terrified the Pharisees. In some places, again,
Moses and the prophets do play the evangelists ; inasmuch that
Hierom doubts whether he should call Isaiah a prophet or an
evangelist. In some places, likewise, Christ and the apostles
-supply the part of Moses : Christ himself, until his death, was



under the law, which law he came not to break, but to fulfil ;
so his sermon made to the Jews, for the most p^rt, run all
upon the perfect doctrine and works of the law, showing and
teaching what we ought to do by the right law of justice, and
what danger ensues in the non-performance of the same. All
which places, though they be contained in the book of the
New Testament, yet are they to be referred to the doctrine of
the law, ever having included in them a privy exception of re-
pentance, and faith in Jesus Christ. As for example, where
Christ thus preaches, " Blessed are the pure in heart, for they
shall see God," Matt. v. 8. Again, " Except ye be converted,
and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the king-
dom of heaven,** Matt, xviii. 3. And again, " He that doeth
the will of my Father which is in heaven, shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven,** Matt vii. 21. And again, the parable
of the wicked servant cast into prison for not forgiving his
fellow. Matt, xviii. 30 ; the casting of the rich glutton into hell,
Luke xvi. 23. And again, " He that denieth me before men,
I will deny him before my Father which is in heaven,** Luke
xii. 9 ; with divers such other places, all which, I say, do ap-
pertain to the doctrine of the law.

Wherefore, in the fourth place, we are to take heed, when
we read the Scriptures, we do not take the Gospel for the law,
nor the law for the Gospel, but labour to discern and distin-
guish the voice of the one from the voice of the other ; and
if we would know when the law speaks, and when the Gospel
speaks, let us consider and take this for a note. That when in
Scripture there is any moral work commanded to be done,
either for eschewing of punishment, or upon promise of any
reward, temporal or eternal ; or else when any promise is made,
with the condition of any work to be done, which is com-
manded in the law, there is to be understood the voice of the

Contrariwise, where the promise of life and salvation is
offered unto us freely, without any condition of any law, either
natural, ceremonial, or moral, or any work done by us, all
those places, whether we read them in the Old Testament, or
in the New, are to be referred to the voice and doctrine of
the Gospel; yea, and all those promises of Christ coming in
the flesh, which we read in the Old Testament, yea, and all
those promises in the New Testament, which oflTer Christ upon
condition of our believing on his name, are properly called the
voice of the Gospel, because they have no condition of our




trine, are many times to be joined together, yet, in the case
of justification, the law must be utterly separated from the

Therefore, whensoever, or wheresoever, any doubt or ques-
tion arises of salvation, or our justification before God, there
the law and all good works must be utterly excluded and stand
apart, that grace may appear free, and that the promise and
faith may stand alone : which faith alone, without law or works,
brings thee in particular to thy justification and salvation,
through the mere promise and free grace of God in Christ ;
so that I say, in the action and office of justification, both law
and works are to be utterly excluded and exempted, as things
which have nothing to do in that behalf. The reason is this ;
for, seeing that all our redemption springs out from the body
of the Son of God crucified, then is there nothing that can
stand us in stead, but that only wherewith the body of Christ
is apprehended. Now, forasmuch as neither the law nor works,
but faith only b the thing which apprehendeth the body and
passion of Christ, therefore faith only is that matter which
justifies a man before God, through the strength of that object
Jesus Christ, which it apprehends ; like as the brazen serpent
was the object only of the Israelites' looking, and not of their
hands* working; by the strength of which object, through the
promise of God, immediately proceeded health to the behold-
ers: so the body of Christ being the object of our faith, strikes
righteousness to our souls, not through working, but through

Wherefore, when any person or persons, do feel themselves
oppressed or terrified with the burden of their sins, and feel
themselves with the majesty of the law and judgment of God
terrified and oppressed, outweighed and thrown down into ut-
ter dbcomfort, almost to the pit of hell, as happens sometimes
to God*s own dear servants, who have soft and timorous con-
sciences; when such souls, I say, do read or hdar any such
place of Scripture which appertains to the law, let them then
think and assure themselves that such places do not appertain
or belong to them ; nay, let not such only who are thus deeply
humbled and terrified do this, but also let every one that does
but make any doubt or question of their own salvation, through
the sight and sense of their sin, do the like.

And to this end and purpose, let them consider and mark
well the end why the law was given, which was not to bring us
to salvation, nor to make us good, and so to procure God's




love and favour towards us : but rather to declare and convict
our wickedness, and make us feel the danger thereof; to thin
end and purpose, that we seeing our condemnation, and being
in ourselves confounded, may be driven thereby to have our
refuge in the Son of God, in whom alone is to be found our
remedy. And when this is wrought in us, then the law bas
accomplished its end in us ; and therefore it is now to give
place unto Jesus Christ, who, as the apostle says, '< is the end
of the law," Rom. x. 3. Let every true convicted person,
then, who fears the wrath of God, death, and hell, when they
hear or read any such places of Scripture as do appertain to
the law, not think the same to belong to them, no more than
a mourning weed belongs to a marriage feast ; and therefore
removing utterly out of their minds all cogitations of the law,
all fear of judgment and condemnation, let them only set be-
fore their eyes the Gospel, viz. the glad and joyful tidings of
Christ, the sweet comforts of God's promises, free forgiveness
of sins in Christ, grace, redemption, liberty, psalms, thanks,
singing, a paradise of spiritual jocundity, and nothing else :
thinking thus within themselves, the law hath now done its
office in me, and therefore must now give place to its better ;
that is, it must needs give place to Jesus Christ, the Son of
God, who is my Lord and Master, the fulfiller and accomplisher
of the law.

Lastly, As we must take heed and beware that we apply

not the law where the Gospel is applied, so must we also take

heed and beware that we apply not the Gospel where the

law is applied. Let us not apply the Gospel instead of the

law ; for, as before, the other was even as much as to put on

a mourning-gown at a marriage feast, so this is but even the

casting of pearls before swine, wherein is great abuse amongst

many ; for commonly it is seen, that these proud, self-conceited,

and unhumbled persons, these worldly epicures and secure

mammonists, to whom the doctrine of the law does properly

appertain, do yet notwithstanding put it away from them, and

bless themselves with the sweet promises of the Gospel, saying,

*< They hope they have as good a share in Christ as the best

of them all, for God is merciful, and the like." And contrari-

^:>^ ^i_- -^i^gj. contrite and bruised hearts, to whom belongs

but the joyful tidings of the Gospel, for the most

and apply to themselves the terrible voice and

the law. Whereby it comes to pass, that many do

they should mourn ; and on the other side, many



do fear and mourn when they should rejoice. Wherefore, to
conclude^ in private use of life, let every person discreetly dis-
cern between the law and the Gospel, and apply to himself that
which belongs to him. Let the man or the woman, who did
never yet to any purpose (especially in the time of health and
prosperity) think of, or consider their latter end, that did never
yet fear the wrath of God, nor death, nor devil, nor hell, but
have lived, and do still live a jocund and merry life ; let them
apply the curse of the law to themselves, for to them it belongs :
yea, and let all your civil honest men and women, who, it may
be, do sometimes think of their latter end, and have had some
kind of fear of the wrath of God, death, and hell, in their
hearts, and yet have salved up the sore, with a plaster made
of their own civil righteousness, with a salve compounded of
their outward conformity to the duties contained in the law,
their freedom from gross sins, and their upright and just deal-
ing with men; let these hearken to the voice of the law, when
it says, " Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things
which are written in the book of the law to do them ;* but let
all self-denying, fearful, trembling souls, apply the gracious
and sweet promises of God in Christ unto themselves, and
rejoice because their names are written in the Book of Life.

Digitized by VjOOQlC



Erridnes, Gabriel Watson, and seven others, remonstated to the next
Assembly against these decisions as injurious to the doctrine of God's
grace. And in their answers to the Commission's Thoehe Q^erie8, they
illustated these doctrines with no small clearness and evidence. Perhaps
influenced by this, as well as by the wide spread detestation of their acts
(1720) on that point, the Assembly 1722, reconsidered the same, and
made an act explaining and confirming them. This was less gross and
erroneous. Nevertheless, the twelve representers protested against it as
injurious to truth ; but this protest was not allowed to be marked. The
Moderator, by the Assembly's appointment, rebuked them for their re-
flections on the Assembly 1720, in their representation, and admonished
them to beware of the like in all time coming; against which they

Queries agreed unto by the Commission of the General As-
SENTATION AND Petition against the 5th and 8th Acts op
Assembly 1720, with the Answers given by these Ministers
to the said Queries.*

Adhering to and holding, as here repeated, our subscribed Answer
given in to the Reverend Commission, when by them called to receive
these Queries, we come to adventure, under the conduct of the faithful
and true Witness, who has promised the Spirit of truth to lead his people
into truth, to make answer to the said Queries. To which, before we
proceed, we crave leave to represent, that the title thereto prefixed, viz.
" Queries to be put to Mr. James Hog, and other Ministers, who gave in
a Representation in Favours of the Marrow, to the General Assembly,
1721," as well as that prefixed to the Commission's overture anent this
affair, has a native tendency to divert and bemist the reader, to expose
us, and to turn the matter off its proper hinge, by giving a wrong colour
to our Representation, as if the chief design of it was to plead, not for
the precious truths of the Gospel, which we conceive to be wounded by
the condemnatory act, but for ** The Marrow of Modern Divinity," the «
which, though we value for a good and useful book, and doubt not but J
the Church of God may be much edified by it, as we ourselves have been,
yet came it never into our minds to hold it, or any other private writ-
ing, faultless, nor to put it on a level with our approved standards of
doctrine. 1

Query. I. — Whether are there any precepts in the Gospel that were
not actually given brfore the Gospel was revealed ?

Answer. — The passage in our representation, marked out to us for the
grounds of this query, are these : — "The Gospel doctrine, known only by

• ** A masterly production," says the judicious Mr. Fraser, of Kenno-
way, " which has undergone many impressions, and which discusses the
.points at issue with a perspicuity and energy that has commanded the
esteem and admiration of Mr. James Hervey, and many others who had
no immediate concern in the controversy,"




commandment that bound him to trust and depend on, and to believe
the promises of God Creator, no doubt obliged him to believe in God
Redeemer, when revealed. Nor was Adam obliged to sorrow for sin
ere it was committed. But this same law that bound him to have a
sense of the evil of sin in its nature and effects, to hate, loathe, and flee
• from sin, and to resolve against it, and for all holy obedience, and to
have a due apprehension of the goodness of God, obliged him also to
mourn for it, whenever it should fall out. And we cannot see how the
contrary doctrine is consistent with the perfection of the law ; for if the law
be a complete rule of all moral, internal and spiritual, as well as external
and ritual obedience, it must require faith and repentance, as well as
it does all other good works. And that it does indeed require them, we
can have no doubt of, when we consider, that without them ail other
religious performances are, in God's account, as good as nothing ; and
that sin being, as the Scripture and our own standard tell us, any want
of conformity to, or transgression of the law of God, unbelief and im-
penitency must be so too. And if they be so, then must faith and re-
pentance be obedience and conformity of the same law, which the forqier
are a transgression of, or an inconformity unto; unbelief particularly be-
ing a departing from the living God, is, for certain, forbidden in the first
commandment, therefore faith must needs be required in the same
commandment, according to a known rule. But what need we more,
after our Lord has told us, that faith is one of the weightier matters of
the law ? and that it is not a second table duty which is there meant, is
evident to us, by comparing the parallel place in Luke, where, in place
of faith, we have the love of God. As for repentance, in case of sia
against God, it becomes naturally a duty; and though neither the cove-
nant of works nor of grace admitted of it, as any expiation of sin, or
federal condition giving right to life, it is a duty included in every com*
mandraent, on the supposal of a transgression.

What moves us to be the more concerned for this point of doctrine is,
that if the law does not bind sinners to believe and repent, then we see not
how faith and repentance, considered as works, are excluded from our|
justification before God, since in that case, they are not works of the
law, under which character all works are in Scripture excluded from the i
use of justifying in the sight of God. And we can call to mind that, on /
the contrary doctrine, Arminius laid the foundation of his rotten prin-
ciples, touching sufficient grace, or rather natural power. '* Adam," says a
he, " had not power to believe in Jesus Christ, because he needed him npt ;
nor was he bound to believe, because the law required it not. Therefore, '
since Adam by his fall did not lose it, God is bound to give every man
power to believe in Jesus Christ.*' And Socinians, Arminians, Papists, \
and Baxterians, by holding the Gospel to be a new, proper, preceptive
law, with sanction, and thereby turning it into a real, though milder
covenant of works, have confounded the law and the Gospel, and brought
works into the matter and cause of a sinner's justification before Gpd.
And, we reckon, we are the rather called to be on our guard here, that
the clause in our representation, making mention of the new, ior Gospel-
law, is marked out to us, as one of the grounds of this query, which we
own to be somewhat alarming. Besides all this, the teaching that faith
and repentance are Gospel commandments, may yet again open the door
to Antinomianism, as it sometimes did already, if we may believe Mr.
Cross, who says, " History tells us that it sprung from such a mistake,
that faith and repentance were taught and commanded by the Gospel



only, and tbat as thej contained all necessary to salvation, so the law
was needless."

On this head also, namely, that all precepts belong to the law, we
might Iflcewise adduce a cloud of witnesses beyond exception, such as
Pemble; Essenius, Anth, Burges, Rutherford, Owen, Witzius, Dicksob,
Fergusson, Troughton, Larger Catechism on the duties required, and
sins forbidden in the first commandment. But, without insisting further,
we answer, —

2(Uy, In the Gospel, taken largely for the whole doctrine of Christ and
the apostles, contained in the New Testament, or for a system of all the
promises, precepts, threatenings, doctrines, histories, that any way con-
cern man*s recovery and salvation, in which respect, not only idl the
ten commandments, but the doctrine of the covenant of works belong to
it, but in this sense, the doctrine is not contradistinct from the law ; —
in the Gospel, taken thus at large, we say, there are doubtless many
precepts that were not actually given (that is, particularly and expressly
promulgated or required) before the Grospel was revealed. Love to our
enemies, to instance in a few of many, mercy to the miserable, bearing
of the cross, hope and joy in tribulations, in prospect of their having a
desired issue, love, thankfulness, prayer, and obedience to a God Redeem-
er, zealous witnessing against sin, and for truth, in case of defection from
the faith or holiness of the Gospel, confessing our faults to and forgiving
one another. All the ceremonial precepts under the Old Testament,
together with the institutions of Christ under the New, faith in Jesus
Christ, repentance unto life, with many more, to say nothing of personal
and particular precepts, were not actually given before the Gospel was
revealed ; all which are nevertheless reducible to the law of the ten com-
mandments, many of them being plain duties of the law of nature,
though they had no due and proper objects, nor occasions of being exer-
cised in an innocent state. It is true, there are many of them we had
never heard of, without the Gospel had been revealed ; yet are they not,
therefore, in any proper sense, precepts of the Gospel, but of the law,
which is exceeding broad, extending to new objects, occasions, and cir-
cumstances. The law says one thing to the person unmarried, and
another thing to the same person when married ; one thing to him as a
child, another thing to him as a parent, &c. yet is it the same law still. The
law of God being perfect ; and like unto its Author, must reach to every
condition of the creature ; but if for every new duty or new object of
faith there behoved to be a new law, how strangely must laws be multi-
plied ? The law itself (even as in the case of a man) may meet with any
changes, and yet remain the same as to its essence. Now, as to faith
and repentance, though ability to exercise them, and acceptance of them,
be by the Gospel, yet it is evident they must be regulated by the same
law, the trangression of which made them necessary. The essence of
repentence, it is plain, lies in repeating and renewing, with a suitable
frame of spirit, the duties omitted, or in observing the law one had vio-
lated. For as the divine perfections are the rule and pattern of God's
image in man, as well in his regeneration as in his creation, so the holy
law of God is the rule of our repentance, as well as of our primitive
obedience. And why faith, when it has God Mediator, or God Redeemer,
for its object, may not be from the same law as when it had God Crea-
tor, or God Preserver for its object, we cannot see.


A1»PENDIX. 329

QuBliY 11. — Is not the believer now boundy by the authority qf the
Creator, to personal obedience to the moral law, though not in order to
justification ?

-4jm.— ^Vliat is given us for the ground of this query, is the following
clause of our representation, viz. — " Since believers are not under it, to
be thereby justified or condemned, we cannot comprehend how it con-
tinues any longer a covenant of works to them, or as such to have a com-
manding power over them, that covenant form of it being done away in
Christ with respect to believers." This clause of the representation being
so much one, even in words, with our Confession, we could never have
expected the Reverend Commission would have moved a query upon
it; but since they have been pleased to think otherwise, we answer
affirmatively : —

The believer, since he ceases not to be a creature by being made a new
creature, is, and must ever be bound to personal obedience to the law of
the ten commandments, by the atfthority of Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost, his Creator. But this authority is, as to him, issued by and from
the Lord Jesus Christ, at whose mouth he receives the law, being as well
his Lord God Creator, as his Lord God Redeemer, and having all the
fulness of the godhead dwelling in him ; nor can nor will the sinful
creature ever apply himself to obedience acceptable to God, or com-
fortable to himself, without the Creator's authority come to him in that

We are clear and full of the same mind with our Confession, that the
moral law of the ten commandments does for ever bind all, as well justi-
fied persons as others, to the obedience thereof, not only in regard of the
matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the
Creator who gave it, and that Christ does not in the Gospel any way dis- ^
solve, but much strengthen this obligation ; for how can it lose any thing
of its original authority, by being conveyed to the believer in such a i
sweet and blessed channel as the hand of Christ, since both he himself is ^
the supreme God and Creator, and since the authority, majesty, and
sovereignty of the Father is in his Son, he being the same in substance, '
equal in power and glory? " Beware of Him," says the Lord unto Israel,
concerning Christ the angel of the covenant, " and obey his voice, pro-
voke him not : for my name is in him." That is, as we understand it,
my authority, sovereignty, and other adorable excellencies, yea, the
whole fulness of the godhead is in him, and in him only will I be served
and obeyed. And then it follows, *' But if thou shalt indeed obey his
voice, and do all that I speak." The name of the Father is so in him ; '
he is so of the same nature with his Father, that his voice is the Father's
voice : " K thou obey his voice, and do all that I speak."

We desire to think and speak honourably of Him, whose name is

Online LibraryThomas Boston Edward FisherThe marrow of modern divinity: in two parts → online text (page 27 of 30)