The Inward Experience of Believers

Taken and adapted from, “Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne”
Written by, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Sermon XV
Put together and published by Andrew Bonar, 1894.

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“For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”   —Romans. 7:22–25.

A BELIEVER is to be known not only by his peace and joy, but by his warfare and distress…

His peace is peculiar: it flows from Christ; it is heavenly, it is holy peace. His warfare is as peculiar: it is deep-seated, agonizing, and ceases not till death. If the Lord will, many of us have the prospect of sitting down next Sabbath at the Lord’s Table. The great question to be answered before sitting down there is, “Have I fled to Christ or no?”

’Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,

Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I his, or am I not?

To help you to settle this question, I have chosen the subject of the Christian’s warfare that you may know thereby whether you are a soldier of Christ— whether you are really fighting the good fight of faith.

I.   A believer delights in the law of God.—“I delight in the law of God after the inward man,” ver. 22.

(1.) Before a man comes to Christ, he hates the law of God—his whole soul rises up against it. “The carnal mind is enmity,” etc., 8:7.

First, Unconverted men hate the law of God on account of its purity. “Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it.” For the same reason worldly men hate it. The law is the breathing of God’s pure and holy mind. It is infinitely opposed to all impurity and sin. Every line of the law is against sin. But natural men love sin, and therefore they hate the law, because it opposes them in all they love. As bats hate the light, and fly against it, so unconverted men hate the pure light of God’s law, and fly against it.

Second, They hate it for its breadth. “Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” It extends to all their outward actions, seen and unseen; it extends to every idle word that men shall speak; it extends to the looks of their eye; it dives into the deepest caves of their heart; it condemns the most secret springs of sin and lust that nestle there. Unconverted men quarrel with the law of God because of its strictness. If it extended only to my outward actions, then I could bear with it; but it condemns my most secret thoughts and desires, which I cannot prevent. Therefore ungodly men rise against the law.

Third, They hate it for its unchangeableness. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or one tittle of the law shall in no wise pass away. If the law would change, or let down its requirements, or die, then ungodly men would be well pleased. But it is unchangeable as God: it is written on the heart of God, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. It cannot change unless God change; it cannot die unless God die. Even in an eternal hell its demands and its curses will be the same. It is an unchangeable law, for He is an unchangeable God. Therefore ungodly men have an unchangeable hatred to that holy law.

(2.) When a man comes to Christ, this is all changed. He can say, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” He can say with David, “Oh how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” He can say with Jesus, in the 40th Psalm, “I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.”

There are two reasons for this:—

First, The law is no longer an enemy.—If any of you who are trembling under a sense of your infinite sins, and the curses of the law which you have broken, flee to Christ, you will find rest. You will find that He has fully answered the demands of the law as a surety for sinners; that He has fully borne all its curses. You will be able to say, “Christ hath redeemed me from the curse of the law, being made a curse for me, as it is written, Cursed,” etc. You have no more to fear, then, from that awfully holy law: you are not under the law, but under grace. You have no more to fear from the law than you will have after the judgment-day. Imagine a saved soul after the judgment-day. When that awful scene is past; when the dead, small and great, have stood before that great white throne; when the sentence of eternal woe has fallen upon all the unconverted, and they have sunk into the lake whose fires can never be quenched; would not that redeemed soul say, I have nothing to fear from that holy law; I have seen its vials poured out, but not a drop has fallen on me? So may you say now, O believer in Jesus! When you look upon the soul of Christ, scarred with God’s thunderbolts; when you look upon his body, pierced for sin, you can say, He was made a curse for me; why should I fear that holy law?

Second, The Spirit of God writes the law on the heart.—This is the promise: “After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jer. 31:33. Coming to Christ takes away your fear of the law; but it is the Holy Spirit coming into your heart that makes you love the law. The Holy Spirit is no more frightened away from that heart; He comes and softens it; He takes out the stony heart and puts in a heart of flesh; and there He writes the holy, holy, holy law of God. Then the law of God is sweet to that soul; he has an inward delight in it. “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Now he unfeignedly desires every thought, word, and action to be according to that law. “Oh that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes: great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” The 119th Psalm becomes the breathing of that new heart. Now also he would fain see all the world submitting to that pure and holy law. “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes because they keep not thy law.” Oh that all the world but knew that holiness and happiness are one! Oh that all the world were one holy family, joyfully coming under the pure rules of the gospel! Try yourselves by this. Can you say, “I delight,” etc.? Do you remember when you hated the law of God? Do you love it now? Do you long for the time when you shall live fully under it—holy as God is holy, pure as Christ is pure?

Oh come, sinners, and give up your hearts to Christ, that He may write on it his holy law! You have long enough had the devil’s law graven on your hearts: come you to Jesus, and He will both shelter you from the curses of the law, and He will give you the Spirit to write all that law in your heart; He will make you love it with your inmost soul. Plead the promise with Him. Surely you have tried the pleasures of sin long enough. Come, now, and try the pleasures of holiness out of a new heart.

If you die with your heart as it is, it will be stamped a wicked heart to all eternity. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” Rev. 22:11. Oh come and get the new heart before you die; for except you be born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God!

II.    A true believer feels an opposing law in his members.

“I see another law,” etc., ver. 23. When a sinner comes first to Christ, he often thinks he will now bid an eternal farewell to sin: now I shall never sin any more. He feels already at the gate of heaven. A little breath of temptation soon discovers his heart, and he cries out, “I see another law.”

(1.) Observe what he calls it—“another law;” quite a different law from the law of God; a law clean contrary to it. He calls it a “law of sin,” ver. 25; a law that commands him to commit sin, that urges him on by rewards and threatenings—“a law of sin and death,” 8:2; a law which not only leads to sin, but leads to death, eternal death: “the wages of sin is death.” It is the same law which, in Galatians, is called “the flesh:” “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit,” etc., Gal. 5:17. It is the same which, in Eph. 4:22, is called “the old man,” which is wrought according to the deceitful lusts; the same law which in Col. 3 is called “your members”—“Mortify, therefore, your members, which are,” etc.; the same which is called “a body of death,” Rom. 7:24. The truth then is, that in the heart of the believer there remains the whole members and body of an old man, or old nature: there remains the fountain of every sin that has ever polluted the world.

(2.)  Observe again what this law is doing—“warring.” This law in the members is not resting quiet, but warring—always fighting. There never can be peace in the bosom of a believer. There is peace with God, but constant war with sin. This law in the members has got an army of lusts under him, and he wages constant war against the law of God. Sometimes, indeed, an army are lying in ambush, and they lie quiet till a favourable moment comes. So in the heart the lusts often lie quiet till the hour of temptation, and then they war against the soul. The heart is like a volcano: sometimes it slumbers and sends up nothing but a little smoke; but the fire is slumbering all the while below, and will soon break out again. There are two great combatants in the believer’s soul. There is Satan on the one side, with the flesh and all its lusts at his command; then on the other side there is the Holy Spirit, with the new creature all at his command. And so “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these two are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

Is Satan ever successful? In the deep wisdom of God the law in the members does sometimes bring the soul into captivity. Noah was a perfect man, and Noah walked with God, and yet he was led captive. “Noah drank of the wine, and was drunken.” Abraham was the “friend of God,” and yet he told a lie, saying of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” Job was a perfect man, one that feared God and hated evil, and yet he was provoked to curse the day wherein he was born. And so with Moses, and David, and Solomon, and Hezekiah, and Peter, and the apostles.

First. Have you experienced this warfare? It is a clear mark of God’s children. Most of you, I fear, have never felt it. Do not mistake me. All of you have felt a warfare at times between your natural conscience and the law of God. But that is not the contest in the believer’s bosom. It is a warfare between the Spirit of God in the heart, and the old man with his deeds.

Second, If any of you are groaning under this warfare, learn to be humbled by it, but not discouraged.

1st, Be humbled under it.—It is intended to make you lie in the dust, and feel that you are but a worm. Oh! what a vile wretch you must be, that even after you are forgiven, and have received the Holy Spirit, your heart should still be a fountain of every wickedness! How vile, that in your most solemn approaches to God, in the house of God, in awfully affecting situations, such as kneeling beside the death-bed, you should still have in your bosom all the members of your old nature! Let this make you lie low.

2d, Let this teach you your need of Jesus.—You need the blood of Jesus as much as at the first. You never can stand before God in yourself. You must go again and again to be washed; even on your dying bed you must hide under Jehovah our Righteousness. You must also lean upon Jesus. He alone can overcome in you. Keep nearer and nearer every day.

3d, Be not discouraged.—Jesus is willing to be a Saviour to such as you. He is able to save you to the uttermost. Do you think your case is too bad for Christ to save? Every one whom Christ saves had just such a heart as you. Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life. Take up the resolution of Edwards: “Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” “Him that over-cometh will I make a pillar,” etc.

III.   The feelings of a believer during this warfare

(1.) He feels wretched.—“O wretched man that I am!” ver. 24. There is nobody in this world so happy as a believer. He has come to Jesus, and found rest. He has the pardon of all his sins in Christ. He has near approach to God as a child. He has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. He has the hope of glory. In the most awful times he can be calm, for he feels that God is with him. Still there are times when he cries, O wretched man! When he feels the plague of his own heart; when he feels the thorn in the flesh; when his wicked heart is discovered in all its fearful malignity; ah, then he lies down, crying, O wretched man that I am! One reason of this wretchedness is, that sin, discovered in the heart, takes away the sense of forgiveness. Guilt comes upon the conscience, and a dark cloud covers the soul. How can I ever go back to Christ? he cries. Alas! I have sinned away my Saviour. Another reason is, the loathsomeness of sin. It is felt like a viper in the heart. A natural man is often miserable from his sin, but he never feels its loathsomeness; but to the new creature it is vile indeed. Ah! brethren, do you know anything of a believer’s wretchedness? If you do not, you will never know his joy. If you know not a believer’s tears and groans, you will never know his song of victory.

(2.) He seeks deliverance.—“Who shall deliver me?” In ancient times, some of the tyrants used to chain their prisoners to a dead body; so that, wherever the prisoner wandered, he had to drag a putrid carcase after him. It is believed that Paul here alludes to this inhuman practice. His old man he felt a noisome putrid carcase, which he was continually dragging about with him. His piercing desire is to be freed from it. Who shall deliver us? You remember once, when God allowed a thorn in the flesh to torment his servant,—a messenger of Satan to buffet him,—Paul was driven to his knees. “I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” Oh, this is the true mark of God’s children! The world has an old nature; they are all old men together. But it does not drive them to their knees. How is it with you, dear souls? Does corruption felt within drive you to the throne of grace? Does it make you call on the name of the Lord? Does it make you like the importunate widow: “Avenge me of mine adversary?” Does it make you like the man coming at midnight for three loaves? Does it make you like the Canaanitish woman, crying after Jesus? Ah, remember, if lust can work in your heart, and you lie down contented with it, you are none of Christ’s!

(3.) He gives thanks for victory.—Truly we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us; for we can give thanks before the fight is done. Yes, even in the thickest of the battle we can look up to Jesus, and cry, Thanks to God. The moment a soul groaning under corruption rests the eye on Jesus, that moment his groans are changed into songs of praise. In Jesus you discover a fountain to wash away the guilt of all your sin. In Jesus you discover grace sufficient for you,—grace to hold you up to the end,—and a sure promise that sin shall soon be rooted out altogether. “Fear not, I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by my name; thou art mine.” Ah, this turns our groans into songs of praise! How often a psalm begins with groans and ends with praises! This is the daily experience of all the Lord’s people. Is it yours? Try yourselves by this. Oh, if you know not the believer’s song of praise, you will never cast your crowns with them at the feet of Jesus!

Dear believers, be content to glory in your infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon you. Glory, glory, glory to the Lamb!

The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry

“The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry” 1740, was written by Gilbert Tennent.
The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry, Considered in a Sermon on Mark 6:34.
The sermon is related herein by Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, 1740.
Only lightly edited for sense and readability.

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And Jesus, when he came out, saw much People, and was moved with Compassion towards them, because they were as Sheep not having a Shepard. — Mark 6:34

As a faithful Ministry is a great Ornament, Blessing, and Comfort, to the Church of God; even the feet of such Messengers are beautiful: So on the contrary, an ungodly Ministry is a great Curse and Judgment: These Caterpillars labor to devour every green Thing.

There is nothing that may more justly call forth our saddest Sorrows, and make all our Powers and Passions mourn, in the most doleful Accents, the most incessant, insatiable, and deploring Agonies; than the melancholy Case of such, who have no faithful Ministry! This truth is set before our Minds in a strong Light, in the Words that I have chosen now to insist upon; in which we have an account of our Lords Grief, with the Causes of it.

We are informed, that our dear Redeemer was moved with Compassion towards them. The Original Word signifies the strongest and most vehement Pity, issuing from the innermost Bowels.

But what was the Cause of this great and compassionate Commotion in the Heart of Christ? It was because he saw much People as Sheep having no Shepherd. Why, had the People then no Teachers? Oh yes! They had heaps of Pharisee-Teachers, that came out, no doubt after they had been at the feet of Gamaliel the usual Time, and according to the Acts, Canons, and Traditions of the Jewish Church. But notwithstanding of the great Crowds of these Orthodox, Letter-learned and regular Pharisees, our Lord laments the unhappy Case of that great number of People, who, in the Days of his Flesh, had no better Guides: Because that those were as good as none (in many Respects) in our Savior’s Judgment. For all them, the People were as Sheep without a Shepard.

Natural Men have no Call of GOD to the Ministerial Work, under the Gospel-Dispensation.

Isn’t it a principal part of the ordinary Call of GOD to the Ministerial Work, to aim at the Glory of GOD, and, in Subordination thereto, the Good of Souls, as their chief Marks in their Undertaking that Work? And can any natural Man on Earth do this? No! no! Every skin of them has an evil Eye; for no cause can produce effects above its own Power. Are not wicked Men forbid to meddle in Things sacred? Ps. 50. 16. But unto the wicked, GOD saith, What hast thou to do to declare my Statutes, or that thou should take my Covenant in thy Mouth? Now, are not all unconverted Men wicked Men? Does not the Lord Jesus inform us, John 10. I. That he that enters not by the Door into the Sheep-fold, but climbs up some other Way, the same is a Thief and a Robber? In the 9th v. Christ tells us, That He is the Door; and that if any Man enter in by him, he shall be saved, by him, i.e. By Faith in him, says Henry. Hence, we read of a Door of Faith, being opened to the Gentiles. Acts 14. 27. It confirms this Gloss, that Salvation is annexed to the Entrance before-mentioned. Remarkable is that Saying of our Savior, Matthew 4:19. Follow me, and I will make you Fishers of Men. See, our LORD will not make Men Ministers, until they follow him. Men that do not follow Christ, may fish faithfully for a good Name, and for worldly . . . ; but not for the Conversion of Sinners to God. Is it reasonable to suppose, that they will be earnestly concerned for others Salvation, when they slight their own? Our LORD reproved Nicodemus for taking upon him the Office of instructing others, while he himself was a stranger to the New Birth, John. 3. 10. Art thou a Master of Israel, and knowest not these Things? The Apostle Paul (in 1Tim. 1. 12.) thanks GOD for counting him faithful, and putting him into the Ministry; which plainly supposes, That GOD Almighty does not send Pharisees and natural Men into the Ministry: For how can these Men be faithful, that have no Faith? It’s true, Men may put themselves into the Ministry, through Unfaithfulness, or Mistake; or Credit and Money may draw them, and the Devil may drive them into it, knowing by long Experience, of what special Service they may be to his Kingdom in that Office: But God sends not such hypocritical Varlets. Hence Timothy was directed by the Apostle Paul, to commit the ministerial Work to faithful Men. –2 Tim. 2. 2. And are not these Qualifications, necessary for Church-Officers, as specified 1.Tim. 3. 7,8,9,11. & Tit. 1.7,8. plainly suppose converting Grace? How else can they avoid being greedy of filthy Lucre? How else can they hold the Mystery of Faith in a pure Conscience, and be faithful in all Things? How else can they be Lovers of Good, sober, just, holy, temperate? . . .

All the Doings of unconverted Men, not Proceeding from the Principles of Faith, Love, and a new Nature, nor being directed to the divine Glory as their highest End, but flowing from, and tending to Self, as their Principle and End; are doubtless damnably wicked in their Manner of Performance, and do deserve the Wrath and Curse of a Sin-avenging GOD; neither can any other Encouragement be justly given them, but this, That in the Way of Duty, there is a Peradventure or Probability of obtaining Mercy.

And natural Men, wanting the Experience of those spiritual Difficulties, which pious Souls are exposed to, in this Vale of Tears; they know not how to speak a Word to the Weary in Season.

Their Prayers are also cold; little Child-like Love to God, or Pity to poor perishing Souls, runs through their Veins.

Their Conversation hath nothing of the Savior of Christ, neither is it perfumed with the Spices of Heaven. They seem to make as little Distinction in their Practice, as they do in their Preaching. . . .

If it be so, That the Case of those, who have no other, or no better than Pharisee-Teachers, is to be pitied: Then what a Cry and Scene of Mourning, and Lamentation, and Woe, is opened! Because of the Swarms of Locusts, the Crowds of Pharisees, that have as covetously as cruelly, crept into the Ministry, in this adulterous Generation! . . .

If the Ministry of natural Men be as it has been represented; Then it is both lawful and expedient to go from them to hear Godly Persons. . . .

To bind Men to a particular Minister, against their Judgment and Inclinations, when they are more edified elsewhere, is carnal with a Witness; a cruel Oppression of tender Consciences, a Compelling of Men to Sin: For he that doubts, is damned if he eat; and whatsoever is not of Faith, is Sin. . . .

To trust the Care of our Souls to those who have little or no Care for their own, to those who are both unskillful and unfaithful, is contrary to the common Practice of considerate Mankind, relating to the Affairs of their Bodies and Estates; and would signify, that we set light by our Souls, and did not care what became of them. For if the Blind lead the Blind, will they not both fall into the Ditch? . . .

I would conclude my present Meditations upon this Subject, by Exhorting

All those who enjoy a faithful Ministry, to a speedy and sincere Improvement of so rare and valuable a Privilege; lest by their foolish Ingratitude the Righteous GOD be provoked, to remove the Means they enjoy, or his Blessing from them, and so at last to expose them in another State to Enduring and greater Miseries. For surely, these Sins, which are committed against greater Light and Mercy, are more presumptuous, ungrateful, and inexcusable; there is in them a greater Contempt of GOD’s Authority, and Slight of his Mercy; those Evils do awfully violate the Conscience, and declare a Love to Sin as Sin; such Transgressors do rush upon the Bosses of GOD’s Buckler, they court Destruction without a Covering, and embrace their own Ruin with open Arms. And therefore according to the Nature of Justice, which proportions Sinners Pains, according to the Number and Heinousness of their Crimes, and the Declaration of divine Truth, you must expect an inflamed Damnation: Surely, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the Day of the LORD, than for you, except ye repent.

And let gracious Souls be exhorted, to express the most tender Pity over such as have none but Pharisee-Teachers; and that in the Manner before described: To which let the example of our LORD in the Text before us, be an inducing and effectual Incitement; as well as the gracious and immense Rewards, which follow upon so generous and noble a Charity, in this and the next State.

And let those who live under the Ministry of dead Men, whether they have got the Form of Religion or not, repair to the Living, where they may be edified. Let who will, oppose it. What famous Mr. Jenner observes upon his Head, is most just, That if there be any godly Soul, or any that desires the Salvation of his Soul, and lives under a blind Guide, he cannot go out (of his Parish) without giving very great Offense; it will be thought a Giddiness, and a Slighting of his own Minister at home. -When people came out of every Parish round about, to John, no Question but this bred Heart-burning against John, ay, and Ill-will against those People, that would not be satisfied with that Teaching they had in their own Synagogues. Thus far he. But though your Neighbors growl against you, and reproach you for doing your Duty, in seeking your Souls Good; bear their unjust Censures with Christian Meekness, and persevere; as knowing that Suffering is the Lot of Christs Followers, and that spiritual Benefits do infinitely overbalance all temporal Difficulties.

And O! that vacant Congregations would take due Care in the Choice of their Ministers! Here indeed they should hasten slowly. The Church of Ephesus is commended, for trying them which said they were Apostles, and were not; and for finding them Liars. Hypocrites are against all knowing of others, and Judging, in order to hide their own Filthiness; like Thieves they flee a Search, because of their stolen Goods. But the more they endeavor to hide, the more they expose their Shame. Does not the spiritual Man judge all Things? Though he cannot know the States of subtle Hypocrites infallibly; yet may he not give a near Guess, who are the Sons of Seeva, by their Manner of Praying, Preaching, and Living? Many Pharisee-Teachers have got a long fine String of Prayer by Heart, so that they are never at a Loss about it; their Prayers and Preachings are generally of a Length, and both as dead as a Stone, and without all Savor. I beseech you, my dear Brethren, to consider, That there is no Probability of your getting Good, by the Ministry of Pharisees. For they are no Shepherds (no faithful ones) in Christs Account. They are as good as none, nay, worse than none, upon some Accounts. For take them first and last, and they generally do more Hurt than Good. They serve to keep better out of the Places where they live; nay, when the Life of Piety comes near their Quarters, they rise up in Arms against it, consult, contrive and combine in their Conclaves against it, as a common Enemy, that discovers and condemns their Craft and Hypocrisy. And with what Art, Rhetoric, and Appearances of Piety, will they varnish their Opposition of Christs Kingdom? As the Magicians imitated the works of Moses, so do false Apostles, and deceitful Workers, the Apostles of Christ.

I shall conclude this Discourse with the Words of the Apostle Paul, 2 Cor. 11. 14,15.

“And no Marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an Angel of Light: Therefore it is no great Thing if his Ministers also be transformed as the Ministers of Righteousness; whose End shall be according to their Works.”

Understanding John 3:16; and why the term κόσμος (world) may not mean everybody

Written by A.W. Pink

Many people suppose they already know the simple meaning of John 3:16, and therefore they conclude that no diligent study is required of them to discover the precise teaching of this verse. Needless to say, such an attitude shuts out any further light which they otherwise might obtain on the passage. Yet, if anyone will take a Concordance and read carefully the various passages in which the term “world” (as a translation of “kosmos”) occurs, he will quickly perceive that to ascertain the precise meaning of, the word “world” in any given passage is not nearly so easy as is popularly supposed. The word “kosmos,” and its English equivalent “world,” is not used with a uniform significance in the New Testament. Very far from it. It is used in quite a number of different ways. Below we will refer to a few passages where this term occurs, suggesting a tentative definition in each case:

“Kosmos” is used of the Universe as a whole:

Acts 17: 24 – “God that made the world and all things therein seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth.” is used of the Universe as a whole: Acts 17: 24 – “God that made the world and all things therein seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth.”

“Kosmos” is used of the earth:

John 13:1; Eph. 1:4, etc., etc.- “When Jesus knew that his hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world He loved them unto the end.” “Depart out of this world” signifies, leave this earth. “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” This expression signifies, before the earth was founded—compare Job 38:4 etc.

“Kosmos” is used of the world-system:

John 12:31 etc. “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the Prince of this world be cast out”— compare Matt. 4:8 and I John 5:19, R. V.

“Kosmos” is used of the whole human race:

Rom. 3: 19, etc.—”Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”

“Kosmos” is used of humanity minus believers:

John 15:18; Rom. 3:6 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.” Believers do not “hate” Christ, so that “the world” here must signify the world of unbelievers in contrast from believers who love Christ. “God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world.” Here is another passage where “the world” cannot mean “you, me, and everybody,” for believers will not be “judged” by God, see John 5:24. So that here, too, it must be the world of unbelievers which is in view. is used of humanity minus believers: John 15:18; Rom. 3:6 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.” Believers do not “hate” Christ, so that “the world” here must signify the world of unbelievers in contrast from believers who love Christ. “God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world.” Here is another passage where “the world” cannot mean “you, me, and everybody,” for believers will not be “judged” by God, see John 5:24. So that here, too, it must be the world of unbelievers which is in view.

“Kosmos” is used of Gentiles in contrast from Jews:

Rom. 11:12 etc. “Now if the fall of them (Israel) be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them (Israel) the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their (Israel’s) fullness.” Note how the first clause in italics is defined by the latter clause placed in italics. Here, again, “the world” cannot signify all humanity for it excludes Israel!

“Kosmos” is used of believers only:

John 1:29; 3:16, 17; 6:33; 12;47; I Cor. 4:9; 2 Cor. 5:19. We leave our readers to turn to these passages, asking them to note, carefully, exactly what is said and predicated of “the world” in each place. is used of believers only: John 1:29; 3:16, 17; 6:33; 12;47; I Cor. 4:9; 2 Cor. 5:19. We leave our readers to turn to these passages, asking them to note, carefully, exactly what is said and predicated of “the world” in each place.

Thus it will be seen that “kosmos” has at least seven clearly defined different meanings in the New Testament. It may be asked, Has then God used a word thus to confuse and confound those who read the Scriptures? We answer, No! nor has He written His Word for lazy people who are too dilatory, or too busy with the things of this world, or, like Martha, so much occupied with “serving,” they have no time and no heart to “search” and “study” Holy Writ!

Should it be asked further, But how is a searcher of the Scriptures to know which of the above meanings the term “world” has in any given passage? The answer is: This may be ascertained by a careful study of the context, by diligently noting what is predicated of “the world” in each passage, and by prayer fully consulting other parallel passages to the one being studied.

The principal subject of John 3:16 is Christ as the Gift of God. The first clause tells us what moved God to “give” His only begotten Son, and that was His great “love;” the second clause informs us for whom God “gave” His Son, and that is for, “whosoever (or, better, ‘every one’) believeth;” while the last clause makes known why God “gave” His Son (His purpose), and that is, that everyone that believeth “should not perish but have everlasting life.”

That “the world” in John 3:16 refers to the world of believers (God’s elect), in contradistinction from “the world of the ungodly” (2 Pet. 2:5), is established, unequivocally established, by a comparison of the other passages which speak of God’s “love.” “God commendeth His love toward US”—the saints, Rom. 5:8. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth”—every son, Heb. 12:6. “We love Him, because He first loved US”—believers, I John 4:19. The wicked God “pities” (see Matt. 18:33). Unto the unthankful and evil God is “kind” (see Luke 6:35). The vessels of wrath He endures “with much long-suffering” (see Rom. 9:22). But “His own” God “loves”!!

Hypocrisy; And the beginning of the Ministry of Thomas Scott

 

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By experience, I am well acquainted with Satan’s intention in employing so many of his servants to invent and propagate those pestilential errors, whether in speculation or practice, that have, in all ages, corrupted and deviated from the pure and powerful doctrine of the gospel; for they lead to forgetfulness of God, and security in sin, and are deadly poison to every soul that drinks of them, unless a miracle of grace prevents it.

Such, on the one hand, are all the superstitious doctrines of popery: purgatory, penances, absolutions, indulgences, merits of good works, and the acceptability of will-worship and uncommanded observances. What are these but engines of the devil to keep men quiet in their sins? Man, resolved to follow the dictates of his depraved inclination, and, not bound in his pursuits and enjoyments by the limits of God’s holy law, catches at anything to soften the horrible thought of eternal misery. This is the awakening reflection, God’s sword in the conscience, which it is Satan’s business, by all his diabolical tricks, to endeavor to sheath, blunt, or turn aside; knowing that while this alarming thought is present to the soul, he can never maintain possession of it in peace.

By such inventions, then, as these, he takes care to furnish the sinner with what he seeks, to enable him to walk according to the course of this wicked world and the desires of depraved nature, without being disturbed by such dreadful thoughts. The same, on the other hand, is the tendency of all those speculations of reasoning men, which set God’s attributes to contradict each other; which represent the Supreme Governor as so weakly merciful, that he regards neither the demands of his justice, the glory of his holiness, the truth of his Word, nor the peaceable order and subordination of the universe; which explains away all the mysteries of the gospel, and represents sin, that fruitful root of evil, that enemy of God, that favorite of Satan, as a very little thing, scarcely noticed by the Almighty, and which, contrary to the Scriptures and universal experience and observation, would persuade us that man is not a depraved creature.

To these latter sentiments, I agreed, and maintained them as long as I could; and I did it most certainly because they soothed my conscience, freed me from the intolerable fears of damnation, and enabled me to think favorably of myself. For these reasons alone, I loved and chose this ground: I fixed myself on it, and there fortified myself by all the arguments and reasons I could find. These things I wished to believe; and I had my wish: for, at length, I most confidently believe in them. Being taken captive in this snare of Satan, I should here have perished with a lie in my right hand, had not the Lord, whom I dishonored, snatched me as a brand from the burning!

In this awful state of mind, I attempted to obtain admission into Holy Orders! Wrapped up in the proud notion of the dignity of human nature, I lost sight of the evil of sin, and thought little of my own sinfulness. I was filled with a self-important opinion of my own worth, and the depth of my understanding, and had adopted a system of religion accommodated to that foolish pride; having almost wholly discarded mysteries from my creed, and regarded with supreme contempt those who believed them.

As far as I understand such controversies, I was nearly a Socinian and Pelagian, and wholly an Arminian: yet, to my shame may it be said, I sought to obtain an acceptance. Possibly some readers may not fully understand the importance of these terms: and, for their benefit, I would observe that the Socinians consider Christ as a mere man, and his death merely as an example of patience, and a confirmation of his doctrine, and not as a real atonement satisfactory to divine justice for man’s sins. They deny the Deity and personality of the Holy Spirit, and will not admit that all Christians experience his renewing, sanctifying, and comforting influences; and they generally reject the doctrine of eternal punishment.

The Pelagians deny original sin, and explain away the scriptural history mission into the ministry, in a church whose doctrines are diametrically opposed to all three; without once concerning myself about those barriers which the wisdom of our forefathers has placed around her, purposely to prevent the intrusion of such dangerous heretics as I then was.

While I was preparing for this solemn office, I lived as before in known sin, and in utter neglect of prayer; my whole preparation consisting of nothing else than an attention to those studies which were more immediately requisite for a good pass in the previous examination.

Thus, with a heart full of pride and wickedness, my life polluted with many unrepented and unforsaken sins, without one cry for mercy, one prayer for direction or assistance, or a blessing upon what I was about to do; after having concealed my real feelings under a mask of general expressions. After having subscribed to articles directly contrary to what I believed; and after having blasphemously declared, in the presence of God and of the congregation, in a most solemn manner, sealing it with the Lord’s Supper, that I judged myself to be “inwardly moved by the Holy Spirit to take that office upon me” (not knowing or believing that there was a Holy Spirit!).

On Sept. 20th, 1772, I was ordained a Deacon. Forever blessed be the God of all long-suffering and mercy, who had patience with such a rebel and blasphemer; such an irreverent trifler with his Majesty; and such a presumptuous intruder into his sacred ministry! I never think of this daring wickedness without being filled with amazement that I am out of hell; without admiring that gracious God, who permitted such an atrocious sinner to live, yes, to serve him, and with acceptance, I trust, to call him Father; and as his minister to speak in his name.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies.” (Psalm 103:1-4)

May I love, and very humbly and devoutly serve that God, who has multiplied his mercies in abundantly pardoning my complicated provocation!

…..
Thomas Scott (1747–1821) was an influential preacher and author who is principally known for his best-selling work “A Commentary On The Whole Bible” and “The Force of Truth” and as one of the founders Scott was, with Newton, and its first Secretary. of the Church Missionary Society. However, in 1772, Scott became ordained as an Anglican priest at the age of 25. As he afterwards admitted, he went into the ministry for a comfortable career, and did not believe in most of the doctrine he was required to preach. Scott began a friendship and correspondence with the hymn writer John Newton who was curate of neighboring Olney. This instigated the examination of his conscience and study of the scriptures that were to convert him into an evangelical Christian, a conversion he related in his spiritual autobiography The Force of Truth published in 1779. This excerpt comes from his book “The Force of Truth.”

8 Ways to Profit from the Scriptures

Written by J.C. Ryle

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(1) For one thing, begin reading your Bible this very day.

The way to do a thing — is to do it; and the way to read the Bible — is actually to read it! It is not merely meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it — which will advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else to read it to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears — the words of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.

(2) For another thing, read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it.

Do not think for a moment, that the great object is to turn over a certain quantity of printed paper, and that it matters nothing whether you understand it or not. Some ignorant people seem to imagine, that all is done if they advance so many chapters every day, though they may not have a notion what they are all about, and only know that they have pushed on their bookmark ahead so many pages. This is turning Bible reading into a mere ritual form. It is almost as bad as the Popish habit of ‘buying indulgences’ — by saying an astounding number of ‘Ave-Marias’ and ‘Pater-nosters’ (Hail-Mary’s and Our-Father’s — on their ‘rosary beads’.) It reminds one of the poor Hottentot who ate up a Dutch hymn-book because he saw it comforted his neighbors’ hearts! Settle it down in your mind as a general principle, that a Bible not understood — is a Bible that does no good! Say to yourself often as you read, “What is this all about?” Dig for the meaning like a man digging for gold.

(3) For another thing, read the Bible with child-like faith and humility.

Open your heart — as you open God’s book, and say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!” Resolve to believe implicitly whatever you find there, however much it may run counter to your own desires and prejudices. Resolve to receive heartily every statement of truth — whether you like it or not. Beware of that miserable habit into which some readers of the Bible fall — they receive some doctrines because they like them; and they reject others because they are condemning to themselves, or to some relation, or friend. At this rate, the Bible is useless! Are we to be judges of what ought to be in God’s Word? Do we know better than God? Settle it down in your mind — that you will receive all and believe all, and that what you cannot understand — you will take on trust. Remember, when you pray — that you are speaking to God, and God hears you. But, remember, when you read Scripture — that God is speaking to you, and you are not to “dictate,” but to listen!

(4) For another thing, read the Bible in a spirit of obedience and self-application.

Sit down to the study of it with a daily determination that you will . . .
live by its rules,
rest on its statements,
and act on its commands.

Consider, as you travel through every chapter, “How does this affect my thinking and daily conduct? What does this teach me?” It is poor work to read the Bible from mere curiosity, and for speculative purposes — in order to fill your head and store your mind with mere opinions; while you do not allow the book to influence your heart and life. That Bible is read best — which is practiced most!

(5) For another thing, read the Bible daily.

Make it a part of every day’s business to read and meditate on some portion of God’s Word. Private means of grace are just as needful every day for our souls — as food and clothing are for our bodies. Yesterday’s food will not feed the laborer today; and today’s food will not feed the laborer tomorrow. Do as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Gather your manna fresh every morning. Choose your own seasons and hours. Do not scramble over and hurry your reading. Give your Bible the best, and not the worst part of your time! But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and God’s Word every day.

(6) For another thing, read all of the Bible — and read it in an orderly way.

I fear there are many parts of the Word which some people never read at all. This is to say at the least, a very presumptuous habit. “All Scripture is profitable.” (2 Timothy 3:16.) To this habit may be traced that lack of well-proportioned views of truth, which is so common in this day. Some people’s Bible-reading is a system of perpetual ‘dipping and picking’. They do not seem to have an idea of regularly going through the whole book. This also is a great mistake.

No doubt in times of sickness and affliction, it is allowable to search out seasonable portions. But with this exception, I believe it is by far the best plan to begin the Old and New Testaments at the same time — to read each straight through to the end, and then begin again. This is a matter in which every one must be persuaded in his own mind. I can only say it has been my own plan for nearly forty years, and I have never seen cause to alter it.

(7) For another thing, read the Bible fairly and honestly.

Determine to take everything in its plain, obvious meaning — and regard all forced interpretations with great suspicion. As a general rule, whatever a verse of the Bible seems to mean — it does mean! Cecil’s rule is a very valuable one, “The right way of interpreting Scripture is to take it as we find it, without any attempt to force it into any particular theological system.”

(8) In the last place, read the Bible with Christ continually in view.

The grand primary object of all Scripture, is to testify of Jesus! Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament deliverers are types of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ’s sufferings, and of Christ’s glory yet to come. The first coming and the second; the Lord’s humiliation and His glorious kingdom; His cross and the crown — shine forth everywhere in the Bible.

Keep fast hold on this clue, if you would read the Bible aright!

“Is It Time to Write the Eulogy? The Future of Seminary Education”

Written 3/21/2011, by FREDERICK SCHMIDT
Sourced from: Patheos

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Our seminaries are dying and the Master of Divinity degree has been discredited.

Bishops and other church leaders once believed both were essential to effective ministry, but today they are considered one of several routes to ordination and an increasing number of church leaders are arguing that attending seminary may actually be detrimental to the process they once considered the gold standard.
A large number of the mainline seminaries are selling their buildings and property, cutting faculty, and eliminating degree programs. Those that are not, are competing for a shrinking pool of prospective students and rely on scholarships and lower academic standards to attract the students that they do have.
There are countless reasons for the crisis, some of them as old as the professional preparation of clergy itself.
In the quest for academic respectability, seminaries have not always remembered that preparing clergy was the mission and lifeblood of their institutional life. Some have focused on preparing scholars, which though essential, is secondary to its primary ministry of preparing new generations of spiritual leaders. 
Some have prepared students who lacked the practical skills to effectively lead a congregation. Others have produced students who were so poorly grounded in the Christian faith that they lacked the necessary spiritual formation to be effective.
Changing trends in theological education often truncated and colored the theological education that many received. In the ’60s, seminaries prepared a generation of seminarians that rightly attended to issues of social justice. That was fair enough—sin has its corporate dimensions. 
But some professors argued there was really little else to the Gospel and soon the church’s teaching on justice became little more than a brand of political discourse. In the ’70s and ’80s, this trend gave way to the importance of pastoral counseling. Here, too, there were important lessons to learn, including the realization that many people are defeated spiritually by psychological and familial systems that, narrowly speaking, cannot be easily traced to any classical definition of sin. 
But, as with other excesses spawned by trends in theological education, the net result was a generation of clergy who practiced unlicensed therapy.
Now the trend is leadership and there can be little doubt that among the next generation of graduates will be the aspiring CEOs. There has never been any doubt that the church needs to be better led, but one has to wonder how much spiritual guidance there is to be had at the hands of clergy who think of themselves as ecclesiastical managers.
Seminary faculty often lack any real affinity for the church and, that too, has colored the kind of graduate that seminaries have produced. In part this state of affairs can be traced to the seminaries themselves, which hired faculty from a wide array of institutions, including many that were shaped not so much by theological categories as they were the assumptions of religious studies programs. But churches also made it difficult, if not impossible, to be ordained and, at the same time, prepare for an academic career. The complaint that anyone with a Ph.D. isn’t really interested in the church or is looking for advanced placement is a common refrain sung by bishops, boards, and commissions charged with overseeing the ordination process; and it thins the ranks of those committed to serving the church in her seminaries.
Faculty have also indulged their academic interests, creating both classes and curricula that correspond with their research issues and academic agenda but don’t necessarily speak to the basic and perennial needs of the church’s ordained ministry. The net result is a Master’s degree that is often skewed to allow as many electives as possible and catalogues filled with boutique courses that have little application to pastoral ministry. Likewise, seminaries have trimmed academic requirements in some essential fields to the point that graduates often have little more exposure to the Old and New Testaments than a general introduction to each and one elective. In most cases a biblical language requirement is completely missing, and the elective could be as arcane as a class on “Bach and Romans.”
In spite of the fact that there is room for so many extras, the degree itself is bloated and expensive. The Association of Theological Schools require at least 72 hours of course work, but some seminaries require as much as 106 hours; and the inside joke among most seminarians is that they will be fortunate to crowd three years into four . . . or five.
Meanwhile, whatever the canon law or discipline of mainline denominations may appear to suggest, the church has failed to articulate what it wants from its seminaries and its graduates.
The church uses seminarians to fill the chinks in its clerical armor, appointing them to serve in churches long before they have completed the education that is needed to do their work safely and with integrity. 
Denominations have left seminarians to pay for their educations, saddling them with debt that they cannot comfortably repay because beginning salaries for clergy are often below the poverty level. And, at the same time, they have offered alternative routes to ordination bypassing seminary entirely, leaving those who do go to wonder why they worked so hard to accomplish the same goal. What we will never know is how many prospective clergy are lost because they conclude that if the ministry is something you can do without preparation it isn’t really worthy of their attention.
To make matters worse, most mainline churches give little more than fitful attention to the formation and support of clergy. Relying on the occasional workshop and briefing from denominational lawyers, churches are effective at insulating themselves from liability for clergy misconduct, but there is often little more attention given; and in the earliest stages responsibility for the effective preparation of ordinands is being tossed back and forth between the church and the seminary, leaving the ordinands themselves to pick their way through a conflicting minefield of expectations.
Seminarians often head off to school, uproot their families, and begin paying tuition bills with little clear indication from their churches that their denominations share their enthusiasm for their vocation; and there is little honest information about the shape of the opportunities that lie ahead. In some cases a seminarian can wait five to seven years before learning if she will be ordained, and in the meantime he is forced to run a gauntlet of committees and requirements that is more akin to hazing for membership in a fraternity, than it is serious preparation for ministry.
So, should we throw the system out, disband our seminaries, and launch even more deeply into the brave new world of clergy preparation? Should we throw the task back on the churches, requiring each one to grow its own clergy? Or should we rely on regional choices and an array of on-line approaches? All of those options are currently in play.
Realistically speaking, I am afraid that we will limp along with a struggling seminary system and a church that never quite clarifies what it wants from its clergy. As one bishop told me, “We (bishops) don’t have strategic conversations about this or anything.” Although he spoke for his own denomination, I have no doubt he could have spoken for many others. In the absence of bold, creative leadership there is little chance that things will change. Only time and Darwinian forces may resolve the dilemma. But I am equally certain that the survival of the fittest will not provide the church with the faithful, sophisticated leadership that it needs and deserves.
If the world of theological education were mine to remake—and it is not—I would be guided by the following convictions:
One, rigorous academic preparation is absolutely essential to creative, competent, servants of Christ who are deeply formed and capable of forming others.
Two, that kind of preparation is more important than ever before. We live in a complex and fast-changing world that will require a generation of leaders who are as well trained and educated as are the people in any other profession. It is a crime and miscarriage to require anything less. 
I often tell my students, “If you were laying in the operating room and some one bounded in and declared, ‘Hi, I’m Fred, and I don’t know a thing about anatomy or the practice of medicine, but I just love the idea of serving God through surgery,’ you would use your remaining moments of consciousness to roll off the gurney and claw your way down the hall. And yet it was Jesus who said, ‘Fear not those who can kill the body, but those who kill the soul.'” Churches that fearfully cast around for quick fixes to the training of clergy, give it scant attention, and then abandon their priests and pastors to the vagaries of forming themselves cannot expect to be a spiritual force in the world. Nor can they expect their clergy to be positive spiritual forces in the lives of others.
Three, I am also convinced that as many new creative approaches to education as there might be, a residential model of focused, face-to-face education and formation in the faith is the best means of preparing a generation of thoughtful, faithful servants of the Gospel. This is not to denigrate those who have been encouraged by the church to pursue alternative means of completing the requirements for ordination. It is to say that the church should instead make resources available for all those who do pursue the church’s ministry to avail themselves of that face-to-face formation.
So, many will argue that what I have outlined below is impractical, but this is what I would do:
Candidates for ordination would be required to:
1. Attend seminary and complete a Master of Divinity.
2. Prepare in a residential setting.
3. Select their schools from a well-honed list of seminaries.
4. And perform at the top of their ability.
In exchange, the church would:
1. Help to pay for a significant amount of their education.
2. Provide close, caring, thoughtful, formative companionship along the way.
3. Support a handful of seminaries financially in their effort to prepare their ordinands.
4. Provide their candidates with an early, honest, responsible evaluation of their candidacy. (The ordination process should not take more years than the forming of doctors and lawyers.)
5. Abandon alternative approaches to ordination, confining its attention to preparing properly everyone it does ordain.
6. Do what it takes to see that new clergy receive a living wage.
7. Support the best and the brightest of their clergy in academic formation and pursuits, seeing them as an extension of the church’s teaching ministry.
In return the seminaries would promise to:
  1. Create a Master of Divinity that is lean and designed to do what it should do, covering a set of definable core competencies that were offered and taught—no more, no less. (The M.Div. is not a research degree; it is a professional degree analogous to the Juris Doctorate required of lawyers and it should be treated as such.)
  2. Educate and spiritually form the students sent to them.
  3. Enlist a faculty that is both willing and able to teach an essential body of knowledge and skills, as well as teach the faith.
  4. Communicate effectively and often with the church about the preparation of its candidates.
The result would be fewer ordinands and students then there already are.
But if churches and seminaries focus on the rigorous formation of clergy we could produce a generation of leaders who, God willing, might change the world and save mainline Christianity. 
The alternative is to limp and wander into the future, trusting Darwin with the lives of our clergy, seminaries, and churches. If we do, others will preach the Gospel, but God will not compensate us for faithless, feckless, unimaginative neglect.

For our God is a Consuming Fire

Taken and adapted from,“Select Practical Writings of Robert Traill”
Written by, Robert Traill

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“For our God is a consuming fire.”
—Hebrews 12:29.

THE transgression of the wicked saith, within the heart of every man to whom God hath given spiritual understanding, that there is no fear of God before their eyes. The formal and fearless approaches unto the Lord in all his ordinances, which have now become so common among professors, ought to say to us, that they have but little of this fear. The beginning, yea, the whole of religion, consisting in a great measure in this holy fear, and being denominated from it frequently in scripture, it cannot but be a sad evidence of the decay of religion, when this fear is so evidently wanting or weak: and therefore, to be exercised a little (if we would in the right manner) in the consideration of this matter, as it is at all times suitable to them to whom the vitals of religion are savoury, so, in a special manner it is pertinent for those, who have the solemn ordinance ensuing in their eye and aim.

There are three false grounds upon which Satan and our own corrupt hearts are ready to plead against this so precious and necessary a grace, and the exercise of it. The first is more gross, yet such as carries away thousands to destruction; that is—an apprehension that God is all mercy and goodness. It is true his mercy and goodness are infinite; and yet, so is his justice. We shall not stand to shew either the grounds and reasons of this woful mistake, or to discover it largely; it is enough that it is here removed, by the Holy Ghost declaring somewhat of the terrible majesty of God, in a figurative expression. The second is—some think that the New Testament dispensation doth not so require the fear and dread of God, as the Old Testament did, as it did also then more manifest his dreadfulness both, at the giving of the Law; and in his punishments, sometimes extraordinary, for the breaches of it; but under the New Testament, he manifesteth his mercy, and calleth for love. The scope of the Apostle in bringing in this word, doth evidently obviate the mistake of this: for from the 18th verse to the end, he instituteth a comparison, and stateth the differences between the two dispensations; and in the preceding verse, doth draw a conclusion, from all the love and mercy revealed in the gospel, which is the worship with fear; and backs it with the argument in this our text. The third ground of mistake may be—granting the dreadfulness of God in himself, and in the New Testament dispensation also; yet, that a saving interest in this God, as ours in Christ, doth remove all this dreadfulness, and calls for nothing but love, and delight, and familiarity. This ground of mistake the Holy Ghost obviates, by declaring, that even “our God,” our covenanted God, is a “consuming fire.”

This word then containeth a very weighty declaration of the dreadfulness of God, under the borrowed term of “a consuming fire.” It is the gracious condescending way of the Holy Ghost, in scripture, to speak of God according to our capacities, and to manifest him by such names and descriptions as may convey to our understandings some sense and knowledge of him. By this word, then, we are to understand, that as fire, and a consuming fire, is a dreadful creature, so when the name of it is ascribed unto God, we are to take notice of his dreadful and terrible nature and majesty.

The words then being plain, we shall not stand to start and raise questions and difficulties from them. We have then these instructions from them:

Observation 1. The Lord Jehovah is a most dreadful and terrible God:

Observation 2. And that as He is so in himself, so this attribute of his doth still continue, notwithstanding of a saving and covenant relation unto him. Both these are in the words themselves,

Observation 3. This truth hath a great influence, as a motive and argument, upon our serving of him with reverence and godly fear. The connecting word “for” beareth this.
As to the first,—The dreadfulness of God in himself—we may well say of this subject, as Jacob of that place, “How dreadful is it!” Much of the dread of it upon the heart, would enable us to speak and hear of it to better purpose than otherwise we do. We shall not prosecute it as a common-place, or multiply notions concerning it; but would plainly and briefly make it clear from the word. And as the metaphor here doth evidently point out a relation to some object which, as fuel, is in hazard of being devoured by this consuming fire, so, in speaking of this terribleness of God, we shall prosecute it as relating to us. Consider him then, 1st, As in himself; 2d, In his works; 3d, In his ordinances.

First,

Although everything in God, (if we may use the phrase, nothing being in him which is not himself:) every attribute of God doth demonstrate this, we shall name but a few:

1. Consider his incommunicable attributes, which paint forth somewhat of his nature and being—his infiniteness, absolute sovereignty, eternity, independency, and inexpressible glory—and we, poor, finite, dependent beings, at the next door to nothing, lately brought out of nothing by his infinite power, and by the same every moment preserved from returning into it. This infinite distance betwixt him and us, will work dread in every considerate soul. It is a great wonder, that the whole frame of nature is not swallowed up by the glory of his majesty. Upon account of this, Abraham dreads to speak unto him: upon this account, the angels in a holy dread cover their faces; and Job, upon a discovery of this, abhors himself in dust and ashes: from this it is, that no man can see God and live; that is to say, a discovery of God in his majesty, is enough to confound a creature into nothing. “No man hath seen him at any time,” saith he who is God—the Holy Ghost. This his glory is light inaccessible. “Whom no man hath seen, nor can see”—a strange word! Light is that which manifesteth every thing, and yet, it is a cover unto God from the eyes of all creatures.

2. Consider the holiness of his nature. “Holy, holy, holy!” (Isa. 6.; Rev. 4.): “Thou only art holy,” (Rev. xv. 4). And therefore we, by the unholiness and vileness of our nature, our hearts, and lives, are upon this account as stubble fully dry before him. Is it not a wonder then that He, who is of purer eyes than that he can behold iniquity, doth not every moment consume us who drink up iniquity as water? How can a sinner, then, not fear?

3. Consider this dreadful and holy One as sitting in judgment, and exercising his justice in making laws, and giving sentence against the breakers thereof. “His eyes behold the things that are equal; he sitteth in the throne, judging right.” And here we are to be considered as breakers of his laws from the womb to the grave. Oh! how dreadful is this attribute of God! and how stupid must senseless hearts be!

4. And as this holy just One pronounceth righteous sentences, so there cometh next to be considered his infinite truth in accomplishing, and his irresistible power in executing them. No creature can, either by subtlety or strength, escape His hand.

Second,

Consider the dreadfulness of this God in his works. The very sight of the glory of the heavens and earth—of the frame of nature, every way admirable—of his ordinary and extraordinary works—ought to stir in us a dread of this God: his ordering of all creatures, his accomplishing of all his purposes, his maintaining of this All—his sovereign distributing of blessedness and misery to men and angels, according to his wise decrees. Heaven and hell are dreadful things, and should awaken our hearts to greater fear.

Third,

But to come nearer to our present work. How much of his dreadful glory is to be seen in his church, and ordinances in dispensing of them, and the blessing or curse of them. He is terrible out of his holy places, (Psalm 68:35; Gen. 28:17).

In his ordinances this consuming fire draws near to us, and we to him, though with offers of mercy and salvation; yet to abusers there is a certain fearful looking-for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. In prayer, we speak to him. Abraham, and Moses, and Jacob,—with what fear are they in this duty! The prophets begin with this, “Thus saith the Lord,” to strike secure hearts with some awe of their Master. Here we hear him speaking to us. Do we communicate?—Damnation, judgment, and wrath are then to stir us up to a careful, heedful way of performing that duty.

But it may be said that all this is true; but we, who have a saving interest in this God, need not entertain such impressions. I answer, Happy indeed are they who upon good grounds can say so! Such, indeed, ought not to fear to be ever actually destroyed by this consuming fire. But yet there is a fear called for from such, and this leads us to the second note.

Observation 2. Even God in covenant with his own is a dreadful God, (Deut. 28:58). We find such in scripture entertain the most deep impressions of his terribleness; and that is,

1st, Because only such do know him, and none can know him but they must fear him. It is a most native effect of a discovery of God, to have a holy dread and fear of him. “Men do therefore fear him,” (Job 37:24). Surely the want of fear floweth from ignorance.
2d, The Lord, though in covenant with his people, is still the same God, and in him are all those things which move holy fear. It is true that his justice having received satisfaction from their Surety, shall never break out against them to destroy them; and that, upon the account of their covenant-relation unto him, they may with comfort and delight travel through all the attributes of God, even such as are most terrifying. Yet, notwithstanding of all this, all those things are still in our covenanted God, which are the grounds of fear and reverence.
3d, And as He is still the same, so we are but very little changed, and there is but a little of that removed that lays us open to destruction from this consuming fire. It is true that there is a change in the state of believers in their justification and adoption, which is a begun change in their natures in sanctification; yet still they are creatures—still there is much unholiness in their hearts and lives, and all sin in itself is equally hateful to God, and contrary to his holy nature; still they are under his holy law, and bound to obedience, though not as a covenant of life, yet as the rule of their life; still they are in hazard of his anger (though not as an unappeased enemy, yet as an offended father), and of the fruits of it, upon their breaking of his laws.
4th, The experience of the Lord’s people who have felt somewhat of the wrath of God upon their own hearts for sin doth prove this, and calleth for fear. Not only at first conversion, when by a mighty hand He makes a conquest of them, the design whereof, though it be great mercy and salvation in his heart, yet his way of managing it towards many proclaimeth that anger in his face, and strokes in his hand; but after conversion, many experiences have the saints of the dreadfulness of God. It was so eminently with David, (Psalm 102 and 51:5). The saints have some attributes of God to move fear and dread, which others have not: his goodness, love, pardoning and healing mercy, the manifestations of that love and mercy (Hos. 3:5, Psalm 130:4),—unto a considerate soul, how ready are these to stir up holy fear and dread!

The application and use of this doctrine the Holy Ghost here maketh, which is our third note.

Observation 3. The dreadfulness of God ought to enforce a reverent and holy fearful way of serving him. This is evidently the scope of the Holy Ghost, in bringing in this reason to back the former exhortation. So Psalm 2:11, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling;” and, in the next verse, it is backed with the same argument; because there is burning wrath in him, gross sinners are in hazard of being destroyed; and this is said to be in the Son, the Mediator.

And in general, this sense of the dreadfulness of God, calleth for these three things in our way of serving him.

1. In all our approaches to him, and in all His approaches to us in his word or works, to have, and keep up upon the heart, a due deep sense of the infinite distance that there is betwixt him and us; and of his glory and majesty, and our vileness and nothingness. We find frequently in Scripture, that the more near the Lord did draw to his people, even in gracious communications of himself, the more of this was upon their hearts. How did the Lord’s condescension to Abraham humble him? How did his merciful proclaiming of his name to Moses humble him? So was it with David, (2 Sam. 7:18). Have a care that you forget not yourself, when he admitteth you to nearness to himself.
2. A second general observation in our way of serving of him, which this dread should stir us up unto, is, always to approach unto him, and converse with him, in the Mediator. Without this, there is no possible escaping of being consumed in our approaches unto him. This is a blessed act of holy fear, and is of great concernment unto our safety. Not only in our first reconciliation with God we must have Christ with us, but we are to abide in him; to put him on as our apparel, as our armour to defend from wrath; and always to dwell in him, and to have him dwelling in us.
3. In all your worship and walk, beware especially of sin. This is the very throwing of ourselves into this fire. It is sin which mainly makes us as fuel before this fire: it is upon the account of sin that ever the Lord did break out, to destroy and consume any.

But before we come to the more particular application of those truths, we would obviate some objections that may arise in the heart against them, the clearing whereof may give some light and understanding in the matter in hand.

First, It may be said, that this is legal doctrine, and inconsistent with that boldness in approaching unto God, which is allowed unto his own. To this I answer,
1. It cannot be denied but that such is the weakness and infirmity of the Lord’s people, that it is hard for them to distinguish the boundaries betwixt some graces in their actings; so that when the love and favour of God are borne in with power upon their hearts, to the filling of them with joy, it is no easy matter to keep up holy fear in exercise; and when his holiness and majesty are manifested, it is hard not to find some abating of love and delight. But this floweth from our own infirmity and weakness, and not from any opposition betwixt these two graces. And the infirmity which is the cause of this, is twofold: First, The infirmity of grace, and the weakness of the new man even in the best; and their having the old man in some vigour and power yet remaining. This, as it keepeth the best from such an intense and vigorous acting of any grace as is called for, so it disposeth them, to make different graces to clash one against the other. To instance it in the particular in hand—when the Lord by the breathing of his Spirit, and the manifestation of himself, doth draw out the soul to act the grace of holy fear and dread of God, unbelief, which in some measure remaineth with the best, is very ready to render that prejudicial to the acting of faith and love, by misapplying of the discovery of his dreadfulness, unto the stirring up of a doubt of his love and favour unto such vile ones as we are. And on the other hand, when he draweth near to fence the soul with consolations, and the sense of his favour, it is ready to forget itself, and the sense of his greatness—which greatness and majesty of his, though they be nothing abated by his gracious condescension to the soul, yet is the soul ready to esteem it so, because in a great measure even the best are ignorant of God. And therefore it is no wonder, since the best find such a difficulty in reconciling in their thoughts these attributes of God, which to our shallow understanding seem different—as his justice and mercy, majesty and love—that it should also be very hard not to make these graces clash together which act upon these different objects—the attributes of God. But, secondly, The infirmity and weakness of our very constitutions have some influence upon this; for the graces of the Spirit being seated in our souls, and in the actings of them the powers and affections of the soul being increased, it is no wonder, since our souls are not capable of acting strongly with different affections, nor able to entertain an impression of fear and dread in an intense degree, which is not prejudicial unto that of love and joy,—that even upon this account, we are in hazard of making the actings of different graces prejudicial, and in a manner opposite unto one another. But we shall not stand on this.

I answer, 2. That there is no such fear of God called for from the doctrine of his majesty rightly understood, as is any way legal, or opposite unto faith and love: for it is deep heart-reverence and holy awe that are called for, which, as we find in some measure in the kindly affections of children to their parents, is very well consistent with love, and trusting them with the care of all their movements. So also is it very well consistent in the Lord’s people with faith in, and love unto him. And therefore, when we read of the fear and fearers of God in scripture, we are not to take it, as holding forth that passion of fear which is an apprehension of some ill coming; but rather, this reverence and holy awe, which may be, where there is no fear of wrath as coming. And so, here, the serving of him acceptably, with reverence and godly fear, upon the account of his being a consuming fire, though the exhortation, as it concerns the visible church, ought not to be taken as exclusive of the fear of consuming by him; (since many in the church are enemies to God, and so, are commanded to fear that, as a mean to make them submit unto him:) yet, as it is an argument pressing the regenerate to reverent service of God, (which is the scope of the Holy Ghost here,) it imports no ground of such an unbelieving fear, in them who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before them.

3. I answer —That though these things, reverence and love, be not inconsistent, yet are we at some times, and in some cases, called more to the exercise of the one than of the other: so that as a disconsolate soul is warranted to be more in the meditation of the mercy, and love, and condescension of God, that thereby the heart may be stirred up to act faith and love, for the removing of that distemper; so, a secure and backslidden saint, is called in such a condition, to the meditation of God’s holiness, majesty, and hatred of sin, that thereby he may be stirred up unto repentance, and returning to God. Not but that there is much need of the anointing which washeth all things, to instruct us in the way of duty here; nor that the Lord doth not sometimes recover backslidden souls, (as at first he occasionally converts some,) by a sovereign merciful leading by the bands of love. But we find this the Lord’s ordinary way in scripture of dealing with his people, of mixing threatenings with promises, and manifestations of his holiness and justice with those of his mercy; and thus, to distribute to every one their portion. And according to this is his ordinary method with his own, as their experience can testify.

But that we may also answer an objection which may be in the heart, though not avowed—it may be said, That there are not now such proofs of the dreadfulness of God in his dispensations, as were formerly in the Old Testament, when many immediate judgments were poured out upon sinners.

I answer,
1.
Look by faith down to hell, and all such objections would for ever evanish.
2. The Old Testament dispensation of the gospel was administered more in external encouragements and punishments, and the New Testament in spiritual ones; and as the one are more choice and merciful, so the other are more terrible. And if we shall compare the one with the other, we shall find, that it is no less dreadful to approach unto God in the New Testament ordinances, than it was in those of the Old Testament. Look to the Popish church accursed, or the dreadful spiritual plagues that fall on thousands within the Reformed churches, and we shall be forced to say, with the Bethshemites, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?”

But now, to draw some practical conclusions, for a more particular application of all this:
1. We see what a doleful condition those are in, who are not in Christ, and have no saving interest in this dreadful God. His holy nature makes him hate them; his justice pronounceth sentence against them; his truth and power execute it. Every moment’s breath they draw is from his patience. They are as dry stubble before this consuming fire. Oh, if it were but believed, what work upon hearts would it raise!

2. And as it is thus with them, so we should learn to lament over the sins of the Church of God in these days; and over our own hearts, wherein are such evident tokens of the want of, or at best of the weakness, of this holy dread. I shall name only some plain proofs of it, which as they flow from the want of the due impression of his dreadfulness, so, where it is, they are in a great measure removed—which may both make this grace of fear more desirable, and the want of it more hateful.

1. From this floweth, as a sad proof, the disorderly loose walk of the greatest number of professors. How many fools are there now who make a sport of sin? And what is this, but to sport with a consuming fire? Strict walking with God, keeping up a watch over the heart, ordering the tongue in savoury and edifying discourse, accurate, exact, and circumspect walking, are reduced into notions by the far greater part. And whence floweth all this, but from ignorance of Him with whom we have to do? How rare is the power of religion, and the shining of it, in the conversations of Christians!
2. Consider the manner of worship of many, and examine your own. When many come to pray, they rush irreverently unto the work, and carry themselves so in it as if they were coming to present a compliment, or, at best, to discourse with a man like themselves. How rare is it to feel the heart deeply pressed with the sense of that dreadful majesty to whom they make the address! Come they to hear the word? Many carry themselves as if their only errand were to get a proof of the parts and gifts of the speaker, or to get more brain-knowledge, that they may be more qualified to talk of the matters of God. And oh! how few who take heed how they hear,—who come to get a message delivered to them from the living God, and who tremble at the word! And all this cometh from the want of the due fear of God, who in that ordinance speaks to them. How do many approach unto God in the sealing ordinance? Holy fear of receiving unworthily, and the dreadful plagues that follow upon it; preparation made conscience of, is not every one’s exercise that sitteth down at that holy table. And this floweth from the want of the due impression of this, that it is one of the most solemn approaches that the Lord maketh to us, and that we make unto him. If the fear of taking his name in vain in that ordinance were upon the heart, there would be seen another sort of work in preparing for it than is commonly to be seen.
3. And in as far as heart-exercise may be guessed at, by the manner of walking and of worshipping God, we may lament that in all appearance this is in a great measure gone, and all because of the want of the due fear of God. And in reference to this, I would only pose you with these questions, and let the conscience of every one answer them to the Lord, who speaketh to them from heaven. 1. What find you of a constant care of keeping up constant communion with God, walking as in his sight, taking his law for your rule in all your ways? If this be gone, you are at a great loss: Herein lies a great part of the lively exercise of religion. Take you godliness to be no more than an outwardly blameless conversation and frequenting of the ordinances? This is a gross mistake. 2. If you have convictions of your shortcoming, what do you with them? Do you quench or entertain them? Surely the security and sleeping of many, even within the reach of this consuming fire, doth proclaim that there is little fear of him: fear would set us to our feet, and make us haste to escape. 3. Wherewith do you entertain your affections throughout the day? What is it that hath the flower of your thoughts in the morning, and the last at night? Is it God? or somewhat which you would be ashamed to name to a man like yourself? How can the fear of God be in that man, we may say, as John of the love of God in another place.

USE.

Since, then, it is so that the want of this due impression of the majesty of God is so evident, and bringeth forth such sad fruits, it is exceedingly of your concernment to endeavour to have this, as you tender the welfare of your souls,—as you would grow up in his way, and bring forth fruit to his praise. They must be at a sad pass who desire not this. And as you would have these deep impressions of the majesty of God,
1. Strive for the knowledge of him. It is the ignorance of God that is the most universal cause of all the sin and misery in the world, and in the church. It is a hard matter to convince many of their ignorance of God; and why? Because they can answer some questions anent his nature, and the persons, and anent his attributes. And yet they demonstrate their ignorance by their want of fear in their walk and worship, for it is impossible to separate the knowledge and fear of God.
2. Remember that both are premised in the well-ordered covenant, and therefore it is your part to plead those gracious promises (Jer. 31. and 32.; Ezek. 36.), and patiently and believingly wait for the accomplishment of them.
3. Converse much in the serious meditation of him,—a duty which of all is the most clear token of a lively serious Christian. What wonder is it to see one fearless of God, who doth rush on in his course, as the horse doth into the battle? But let a man set aside some time every day, or in the silent watches of the night, to muse and think again and again of God, and of what is revealed of him in his word and works, and let the heart be exercised therein, and you will find light and life flowing in upon your soul; you will find the holy fear of that glorious One quickening your soul.
4. Beware of every thing which hardeneth your heart against his fear; not only all sin in the general, but those things in particular which you find in experience most to influence your hearts to stupidity. Every soul exercised in searching himself will know what is his own iniquity.

And in all, and with all, be sensible of the work being above your own strength; and that, though you be called to some views of duty, in reference to the obtaining of this fear of God, yet this is only to put you in God’s way wherein he ordinarily meeteth his own. But you must be endued with power from on high: there must be an impress of his own hand upon your heart, to bring out this grace to exercise. Pant, therefore, for it, and wait on him, and he will manifest his glory unto you, and stir up this holy fear in you.

THE LAW: Not Teacher, but Paidagōgós (Guardian) –Galatians 3:24-25

Adapted and lightly edited from, “A Historical Commentary on St Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians”
Written by, William M. Ramsey

pedagogy

Before the age of Faith began, we of the Jewish race were shut up and kept under the guard of the Law, in preparation for the approaching revelation of Faith.

Thus, the Law has played the part of “a servant, responsible for our safety, and was charged to keep us out of bad company,” until the age of Christ arrived, so that we might be made righteous by Faith. For that results could not have been attained unless special care had been taken of us during the interval. We could not safely be permitted to be free at that time, for we could not then acquire Faith, that vitalizing and strengthening power, seated in our mind and working itself out in our conduct. It also enables those of us who have spiritually seen and known Christ, to be free and yet safe.

But now the age of Faith has begun, and we are set free from the guard and the directing care of the Law.

When Paul compared the Law to a παιδαγωγός (paidagōgós), he intended undoubtedly to describe it as having a good moral character, and exercising a salutary, though a strict and severe, effect on those who were placed under it. He speaks no evil of the Law; however, he represents it as subsidiary and inferior to Faith, –but still as a wholesome provision given in God’s kindness to the Jews.

Further, he chose an illustration which would make this clear to his Galatian readers; and they must, therefore, have been familiar with that characteristic Greek institution, the paidagōgós, and considered it salutary and good. This throws some light on the social organization in the Galatian cities, for it places us in the midst of Greek city life, as it was in the better period of Greek history. “In the free Greek cities, the system of education was organized as a primary care of the State. The educational system was the best side of the Greek city constitution. Literature, music and athletics are all regulated in an interesting inscription of Teos, the salaries of the teachers are fixed, and special magistrates survey and direct the conduct of teachers and pupils.”

In that period, it would appear that the paidagogoi were trusted servants and faithful attendants, standing in a very close relation to the family (in which they were slaves). Their duty was not to teach any child under their charge, but simply to guard him. Among the Romans, who adopted this institution from the Greeks, the paidagōgós gave some home instruction to the child: he was a Greek speaking slave, who looked after the child, and taught him to use the Greek language.

Though he also accompanied the child to school, there was not the same kindly feeling –between the child to the Roman guardian and ward, as there was in the Greek cities during the better period.

Roman paidagōgói were often chosen without the slightest regard to the moral side of their teaching, and brought the child in contact with the lower side of life among vicious slaves; among the Greeks in the later period, amid the steady degeneration of Pagan manners in the whole Roman empire, Plutarch complains that a slave, worthless for any other purpose, was used as a paidagōgós; and a little earlier Juvenal gives a terrible picture of the upbringing of young children, which, though exaggerated in his usual style, is still an indication of what was characteristic of ordinary pagan homes (though certainly with some, perhaps with many, brilliant exceptions).

In contrast with the care for education shown in the government of Greek cities, the Roman imperial government lavishly provided shows and exhibitions of a more or less degrading character for the population of Rome and the Provinces, but it was the degeneration of the provision for watching over and educating the young in the cities was the worst feature of the Roman period. This had much to do with the steady deterioration in the moral fiber of the population, and the resulting ruin of the empire.

This passage of the Epistle, therefore, places us in the midst of Greek city life as it was in the better period of Greek history. When read in relation to the provision for education in the Greek cities, the illustration which Paul selects becomes much more luminous. But there is nothing here characteristic of North Galatia. We are placed amid the Greek – speaking population of Antioch and Iconium, where Greek ways and customs had been naturalized since Alexander had conquered the country and left behind him a long succession of Greek kings, Even in Lystra, recently founded as a military station in a more barbarous district, and off the main line of trade, the probability is that only a minority of the population were so used to education that this illustration would have appealed to them but I have often argued that it was among that minority that Christianity first spread.

Moreover, it is an early state of Greek manners which is here presented to us. We turn to Plato for the best illustration of Paul’s meaning, and not to late writers. So, we see that is all descriptions are characteristic of South Galatia, where the chief Graecizing influence was the Seleucid rule, ending in B.C. 189. Thus, it was a rather early form of Greek society which maintained itself in a city like Pisidian Antioch; and that society was likely to be kept vigorous by the constant struggle which it had to maintain against oriental influence.

This passage throws an interesting light on Paul’s conception of the Divine purpose in the world. The Disposition by God of the religious inheritance which ultimately is intended for all men, involved a gradual training of mankind [through the Jews] in order that they might be able to accept the inheritance by fulfilling the conditions: The Disposition is first in favor of one man [Adam], then of a nation, finally of all nations. The one man at first needed no schoolmaster he was able to respond at once to the requirements of God. But the nation, when it came to exist, was not able in itself to rise to the conditions which God demanded. It needed education and the constant watching of a careful guardian the Law was given to watch over the young nation as it was being trained and educated in the school of life:

The Law was not itself the teacher, but the paidagōgós, or guardian. Then came the age of Christ, who opened, first to the Jews and through them to all nations, the door of Faith.