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JESUS MADE A CURSE FOR US.
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith. Gal. iii. 13, 14.
EVERY one knows that the main design of the apostle in this epistle, is to dissuade the Galatians from coming under the yoke of the law of Moses, as necessary to acceptance with God, and eternal salvation.
As these christians were his own converts, and they had paid too great regard to some artful men, since come in among them; he reproves them with sharpness, and sets arguments before them with warmth and earnestness. "O foolish Galatians," says he in this third chapter," who has bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth? before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth crucified among you? He therefore that ministereth the spirit to you, doth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying; In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written; Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident. For the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith; but the man that doth them shall live in them. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. For it is written; Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree; that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Jesus Christ."
I shall first endeavour to show what is meant by Christ's
being made " a curse for us:" after which we will observe the end and design of it.
1. The meaning of the expression is, that our Lord had suffered the death of the cross. 66 Christ," says he, "has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." The word, indeed, is harsh; but I say it truly; and I may justly so express myself. "For it is written,' in the law: " cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." The text here referred to, is in Deuteronomy. "And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree; but thou shalt in anywise bury him that day. For he that is hanged is accursed of God; that the land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance," Deut. xxi. 22, 23.
The usual punishments among the Jews were strangling and stoning; and it is generally supposed, that by the hanging in Deuteronomy is intended the doing so after death. This appears from the preceding words, which speak of the man's being put to death before his suspension; which shows that this punishment was not exactly the same as the Roman crucifixion; for they crucified men alive, whereby they expired before they were taken down. But this was only hanging up their bodies after they were dead, exposing them to open shame for a time.
So say very judicious expositors. And if this be right then, by our Lord's being on a cross so as to die there, he was made a curse in a very emphatical sense.
This "hanging on a tree," according to the law of Moses, was a suspension of men, after they had been put to death for idolatry or blasphemy, or some other great offence. But Jesus suffered the pain of crucifixion, and died upon a
The words of the law, before cited, are, "If thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree; but thou shalt in anywise bury him that day. For he that is hanged is accursed of God; that thy land be not defiled."
That is, he is an object of execration, which ought to be taken out of the way; or he that is hanged on a tree, is an abomination; that is, the dead body of a man hung up and exposed above ground, is a thing extremely impure, and offensive, and disagreeable, and therefore it must be soon taken down and removed out of sight.
Our Lord therefore was treated as if he had been accursed and abominable in the sight of God and men.
The history of our Lord's death in the gospels is a comment upon this text, and is well known to all. He was apprehended, tried, condemned, and crucified as a criminal. And he suffered death at the common place of execution without the gates of Jerusalem.
Every one did not consider him as an offender, or guilty of any thing worthy of death. But the voice of the people, concurring with the opinion of their great council, prevailed; and the sentence was executed without abatement.
Nor should we omit to observe the word, made; "being made a curse for us." He was innocent, but was treated as an offender; and that, according to the permission, will, and appointment of God the Father, in which our Lord acquiesced. "Therefore does my Father love me," says he, "because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me; but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father," John x. 17, 18.
For this great trial he prepared himself by prayer and meditation. When it drew near, he earnestly requested "that the cup might pass from him:" but added; "not my will, but thine be done." Prayer being ended, he rose up, and went cheerfully through the scene of sufferings that was allotted to him. So Christ was made a curse for us. Or, as it is expressed in another text: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. v. 21.
2. In the next place therefore we are to consider the ends and effects of this appointment, which are here expressed in a twofold phrase: " redeeming us from the curse of the law," and obtaining "the blessing of Abraham."
These words may be easily understood by observing the context, which was read at the beginning of this discourse. "For as many as are of the works of the law," ver. 10. that is, who aim to be justified by the works of the law," are under the curse. For it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them;" which is next to impossible; and therefore every one who adheres to the law, comes under a sentence of condemnation. "But Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law :" having set us free from an obligation to it, and taught us how we may be justified by faith, or according to the rule of his gospel.
Which is the same as the other privilege here mentioned, "that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gen
tiles through Jesus Christ:" that is, that the Gentiles might be justified in the same way that he was, by faith, without the works of the Mosaic law, which were not then introduced or instituted. "Even as Abraham believed, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith," that is, who believe as Abraham did, "the same are the children of Abraham," ver. 6, 7. and are accepted of God as his people. "And the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith," ver. 8. that is, that the time would come when all men should be assured of justification and acceptance with God in the same way," preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith," who believe, and look for justification by faith, according to the gospel, the law and rule of real, sincere holiness and virtue," are blessed with faithful Abraham," ver. 9.
This, I think, is the design and meaning of the apostle in this place. And it is what he often teaches; that by the death and crucifixion of Christ the law has been abrogated, or rendered useless.
It is, I say, a thing which he often speaks of, as the design of Christ's death, to deliver us from an obligation to the law of Moses, and from the penalties and inconveniences hanging over them that disobeyed the ritual ordinances of it. "Even so we, when we were children," infants under age, were in bondage under the elements of the world; but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, -that we might receive the adoption of sons," Gal. iv. 3— 5. that we might be henceforth delivered from the numerous and burdensome rites of the law of Moses, which had in them no real excellence, and that we might be treated as sons, or children arrived to maturity; and might be accepted, and have access to God in the sincere performance of a true, holy, and spiritual worship and service, which is reasonable in itself, perfective of our nature, and obligatory at all times.
And at the beginning of the third chapter of this same epistle: "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth:" that ye should not continue steady to the truth of the gospel, in its genuine plainness and simplicity, without Jewish rites and ceremo nies?" before whom Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you :" to whom Christ's death, and the ends and designs of it, were once so clearly represented.
And in the epistle to the Ephesians, ch. ii. 14-16, "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments, contained in ordinances, to make in himself of twain, one new man, so making peace. And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross; having slain the enmity thereby."
To the like purpose also in the epistle to the Colossians, ch. ii. 13-15," And you being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he hath quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
In these places the apostle seems plainly to represent the abolishing of the ritual ordinances of the law, as an effect, or at least a consequence of Christ's death. But it may be asked what influence had the death of Christ to this purpose? How did Christ redeem us from the curse of the law by suffering himself an accursed death? How did he by his death on the cross, abolish the obligation of those ordinances which are not of a moral nature?
This question has in it some difficulty; nor did all at the time of the first preaching the gospel after our Lord's ascension discern the law to be abrogated.
Let us therefore observe a few particulars for the solution of this difficulty.
1. When St. Paul speaks of this, as having been effected by the cross of Christ, he may thereby intend the whole of his doctrine; as it is common, in many cases, to express the whole by a part.
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness:-But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God," 1 Cor. i. 18, 23, 24. For "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified," 1 Cor. ii. 2. He does not mean Christ's crucifixion only: for he had taught the Corinthians Christ's resurrection, and the whole doctrine of the gospel. His meaning is, that he resolved not to preach among them any philosophical speculations, but the