For as many as are of the works of the law
The apostle does not say, "as many as were of the law", to whom it belonged, who were born and brought up in it, and to whom it was given, the Jews; for there were some of them who believed in Christ, were blessed with Abraham, and not under the curse of the law; nor does he say, "as many as do the works of the law": for the works of the law are to be done, though not in order to obtain righteousness and life by them; yet it is not the doing of them, but the not doing of them, that entails the curse on men: his meaning is, that as many as seek for justification by the works of the law, and trust in their own righteousness for acceptance with God, these are so far from being blessed or justified hereby, that they
are under the curse,
that is, of the law; they are under its sentence of condemnation and death, they are deserving of, and liable to the second death, eternal death, the wrath of God, here meant by the curse; to which they are exposed, and which will light upon them, for aught their righteousness can do for them; for trusting in their works, they are trusting in the flesh, and so bring down upon themselves the curse threatened to the man that trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm; not only that trusts in a man of flesh and blood, but in the works of man; his own, or any other mere creature's: besides, by so doing, he rejects Christ and his righteousness, whereby only is deliverance from the curse of the law; nor is it possible by his present obedience to the law, be it ever so good, that he can remove the guilt of former transgressions, and free himself from obligation to punishment for them: nor is it practicable for fallen man to fulfil the law of works, and if he fails but in one point, he is guilty of all, and is so pronounced by the law; and he stands before God convicted, his mouth stopped, and he condemned and cursed by that law he seeks for righteousness by the deeds of:
for it is written,
( Deuteronomy 27:26 )
cursed is everyone that continues not in all things written in the
book of the law to do them.
The law requires doing; it is not content with mere theory without practice; it is not enough to know it, or hear it, it must be done. The Jews boasted of their knowledge, and trusted much to the hearing of it read every sabbath day; but not those who had a form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law, or were hearers of it, were just before God, but the doers of it are justified; and it requires perfect obedience, an observance of all things contained in it, which can never be performed by fallen man. The Jews pretend F16, that Abraham their Father (hlwk hrwth lk Myyq) , "fulfilled all the whole law"; and the same they say F17 of the Israelites in common, than which nothing is more untrue; for in many things all men offend: moreover, the law requires constant perfect obedience; not only that a man should do all things commanded in it, but that he should continue to do them from his infancy, to the day of his death; and in failure hereof, it pronounces every man cursed, without any respect to persons, or any regard to pleas, taken from the infirmity of human nature, the sincerity of the heart, or repentance for transgressions. It should be observed, that the word "all" is not in the Hebrew text, in ( Deuteronomy 27:26 ) , but is manifestly implied, an indefinite proposition being equal to an universal one; and agreeably to the true sense of the words, it is inserted by the apostle here, as it is in the Septuagint and Samaritan versions there; and perfectly accords with the sense of the best interpreters among the Jews; one of them has this gloss upon the words F18, (hlwk hrwth lk ta llk Nak) , "here he (Moses) comprehends all the whole law"; and another F19 says the same thing, almost in the same words; this
``(says he) includes all the commandments which are in the law: and the note of a third is F20, there are some that say, this is to be understood (hrwth lk le) "of the whole law"; and there are others that say, it is to be understood of those things that are mentioned (above), but they say nothing, for it is written "to do them"; and it is right in my eyes, that he curses for the negative commands mentioned, and he curses him who does not keep even secretly the affirmative precepts, wherefore he says "to do them":''to which may be added, the observation of another of them F21 that these words intimate, that a man ought to honour the law, (hvembw rwbydbw hbvhmb) , "in thought, and word, and in deed": nor should this be thought to be too severe, that the law of God curses men for nonperformance of the whole. The Athenians F23 formerly condemned persons as guilty, though they had not broke the whole law, yet if they had transgressed but one syllable of it: upon the whole it is a clear point, that there can be no justification by the works of the law, since it curses in case of want of perfect and constant obedience to it.
F16 Misn. Kiddushin, c 4. sect 14. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 28. 2.
F17 T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 3. 1.
F18 Jarchi in loc.
F19 Bechai in loc.
F20 Aben Ezra in loc.
F21 R. Abraham Seba, Tzeror Hammor, fol. 152. 3,
F23 Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 3. c. 5.