Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

when David neglected a ceremony, that he might do a charity and relieve a necessity, and therefore Christ did it, not because David did it, but because he might. David's action was not Christ's warrant, but the piety of the thing was warrant to them both. And, indeed, this is the right use of examples: by the advantage of the man's fame they may reprove an adversary, but by the great lines of piety mingled with the body of the action, they may become a precedent for our imitation.

I have now given accounts concerning that principle (mentioned in Num. 25) which affirms every thing to be imitable, if done and described in the Scripture, unless it be signally forbidden. Concerning the other— That nothing is safe or warrantable that is not, I reserve it for its proper place.

CHAPTER III.

OF THE INTERPRETATION AND OBLIGATION OF THE LAWS OF

JESUS CHRIST.

RULE I.

In negative Precepts the Affirmatives are commanded; and in the affirmative Commandments, the Negatives are included.

1. Not he that gives the law only, but he who authoritatively expounds the law, becomes to us a lawgiver;. and all who believe in God and in Jesus Christ, confess themselves subjects of the Christian laws; but all do not obey alike, who confess themselves equally bound, and are equally desirous to obey: because men, by new or false or imperfect interpretation of laws, become a law unto themselves or others, giving them measures which our blessed Lord never intended; and yet an error in these things is far more dangerous than in a thousand others, in which men make greater noises. I shall therefore endeavour to describe plain and rational measures of interpretation, that we may walk securely.

[blocks in formation]

2. It is observable, that, in the decalogue, and so in the whole law of Moses, there are more negative precepts than affirmative. The Jewish doctors say, that there are six hundred and thirteen precepts given by Moses, according to the number of letters in the decalogue, which are six hundred and thirteen. But of these, two hundred and forty-eight are affirmative, according to the number of the joints of a man's body: but three hundred and sixty-five are negative, according to the number of the days of the year: but to omit these impertinent and airy observations of the Jews, it ministers some useful and material considerations, that in the decalogue, all the moral precepts, one only excepted, are negative (for that of the sabbath is the caput ceremoniarum'); but that of obedience to our superiors is only positive and affirmative. The reasons were these, by which also we can understand the usefulness of the observation.

3. (1.) Because this, being the first great reformation of the world, was to proceed by the measures of nature; from imperfection to growth; from the beginnings of religion to its greater excellencies: but in nature, the first step of our progression is to abstain from evil;

Virtus est vitium fugere, et sapientia prima
Stultitia caruisse.-

and therefore the face of the commandment was covered with the robe of discipline, and God would so secure their services, that they should not displease nor anger him; but the excellencies of holiness, by which he was to be endeared to mankind, were especially the glories of Christ, not the horns of Moses, the perfections of evangelical sanctity, not of the beginnings of the law.

4. (2.) The great sanction of the law was fear of punishment; and therefore God chose to represent his law to them in negatives, that according to the endearment, so might be the obedience. Now to abstain from evil is the proper effect of fear, but to do good for fear of punishment, is as improper as to threaten a man into love. Fear is the bridle of servants and boys; love is the spur of brave and good men.

· Hor. Ep. i. 1, 41.

Non furtum feci, nec fugi,' si mihi dicat
Servus, "habes pretium, loris non ureris,' aio:
• Non hominem occidi ;'— non pasces in cruce corvos b.'

be a

That is the dialogue of masters and servants : If you thief, you shall be condemned to the mill; if you be a murderer, you shall be broken upon the wheel: but if you abstain from such crimes, your reward shall be, you shall escape the furca.—Since, therefore, the spirit of the law was the spirit of fear and of bondage, God did transact his covenant with them in negative measures.

5. (3.) The law of Moses was a pursuance of the covenant of works; and since it had in it very little beside the umbrages of the XP Motos suyos, the sweet yoke' of the Gospel, it did stipulate for exact measures: but therefore the precepts were negative, that the obedience might be the more possible, and the injunction the nearer to paternal: for it is much more possible to abstain from sins of commission than from sins of omission: so that,

Optimus ille est
Qui minimis urguetur,

is the best measure of obedience to the Mosaic law : " he is the good man, who cannot be accused to have done what the law forbids; he who hath done the fewest evils, not he who does the most good:' and thus also the Pharisees understood their duty: and they were not reproved by our blessed Lord, for understanding the negative precepts by the rules of abstinence and a negative duty; but because they understood their negative duty only by the measures of the letter, not of the intention and spirit of the law: and, 2. because when they had been, by the commentaries of the prophets and other holy men, instructed in some evangelical measures, and more perfect intendments, secretly at first designed by God, and so expounded by the prophets by way of evangelical preparation, yet they would still adhere to the old and first understandings of the law; because they loved some sins which, as they had known, were forbidden by those negative precepts, if they would have opened their hearts to understand them as they should.

b Hor. ep. i. 16, 47.

c Sat. i. 3, 68.

6. (4.) That the fifth commandment is affirmative in the midst of all the commandments that are negative, hath a peculiar reason, but nothing against the former discourse: for it being a sanction of obedience to our superiors under God, is to be expressed in actions and external significations; not only because these only can do benefit, service, and advantages to our parents and princes, but because of nothing else can they be judges. Men take no cognizance of thoughts and secret purposes, but of outward significations ; and therefore, the precept was to be affirmative, that is, preceptive of outward actions. 2. There is in children toward their parents so much natural love, and so much fear, and they are so long under their power and the needs of minority, that it will very rarely happen, that children can despise their parents or curse them: their own interest, and their own passions, and their own affairs, will secure the negative measures of that commandment; and therefore the world was, in this instance, disposed to receive greater degrees of injunction and a higher commandment: nature, in this instance, doing the same office for them as the whole law did in the other; that is, it was mada/wris, ' a schoolmaster,' to bring them to Christ: and if they had been as much disposed for the entertainment of the rare and excellent affirmative commandments of Christ in the matter of chastity, and charity, and meekness, and humility, as in the matter of duty to their parents, there would have been less need of the interposition and interval of the law of Moses before the coming of Christ. 7. And these observations are verified by the dYTIOT70%),

corresponding part:' for the precepts of Christ are positive and affirmative, as appears in his Sermon on the Mount, which is the summary of his law ;-in which when he expounded the negative commands of Moses, he still superadded an affirmative of his own: so that it will be nothing but matter of speculation to discourse, whether or no, in the law of Moses, the affirmatives were included in the negatives; it is certain the Pharisees did not understand them so; and they are not always involved in the nature of each other, and the promises of the law were not sufficient to encourage the dragoggyia, the doing of good works,' though the fear was enough to restrain the evil: but that which

or

concerns the conscience, is that which now is evident, and palpable. In the laws of Jesus Christ, the negative and affirmative are but correlatives, opposita relativa,' and do infer each other. Thus we find it expressedd often, “ Whoso looketh on a woman to lust, hath committed adultery:" that was our blessed Lord's commentary on the sixth commandment, which was negative; but he adds“, “ If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out.”—So again, “ Resist not evil;" that is the negative precept; but Christ adds, “ If any man sues thee at the law and takes thy coat, let him have thy cloak also."-So in the matter of oaths, Christ said, “ Swear not at all :" for he still added a more severe negative to the negative of the law; but then he adds his own affirmative: “ Let your communication be yea, yea, nay, nay;" that is, let it be plain and simple, meek and positive, easy and inge

nuous.

8. Thus our blessed Lord did in his recitation and exposition of the moral commandments delivered by Moses; in the interpretation and enlargement of which, although it was proper to declare a negative by a negative, yet he would follow his own method and design, and superadd his own affirmative; and when he was doing the office of a lawgiver rather than of a prophet and expounder of the old law, there his words were positive and affirmative. Witness the eight beatitudes; the precepts of charity and humility, of giving and forgiving, of fasting and prayer, and many others : but because in the doing all this, he made large discourses, and gave laws and exhortations, precepts and reasons, promises and threatenings, in complication and mutual consequences ; therefore we are, without further inquiry, sufficiently instructed, that our duty is now intended to be complete; and as we must abstain from all evil, so we must do all the good

we can.

9. But this is to be understood with its proper caution. For we say in logic, ad negationem non semper sequitur affirmatio oppositi :' every negative does not presently infer every contrary affirmative,' as a matter of duty. It follows well, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but thou shalt pay to

d Mat!. v. 28, 22.

• Ver. 39, 40.

« AnteriorContinuar »