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Isaac, and Jacob, to bear witness to his truth. It was his goodness alone, which when, “ darkness had covered the earth, and thick darkness the people,” gave a written law to Moses, and through him to the nation whom he had chosen. It was love which explained these living oracles by David and all the prophets that followed ; until when the fulness of time was come, he sent his only begotten Son, “ not to destroy the law, but to fulfil,” confirm every jot and tittle thereof; till, having wrote it in the hearts of all his children, and put all his enemies under his feet," he shall deliver up (his mediatorial kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all.”
11. And this law, which the goodness of God gave at first, and has preserved through all ages, is like the fountain from whence it springs, full of goodness and benignity; it is mild and kind; it is, as the Psalmist expresses it, “sweeter than honey and the honey comb." It is winning and amiable. It includes “ whatsoever things are lovely or of good report. If there be any virtue, if there be any praise” before God and his holy angels, they are all comprised in this; wherein are hid all the treasures of the divine wisdom, and knowledge, and love.
12. And it is good in its effects, as well as in its nature. As the tree is, so are its fruits. The fruits of the law of God written in the heart, are “ righteousness, and
peace, and assurance for ever." Or rather, the law itself is righteousness, filling the soul with a peace that passeth all understanding, and causing us to rejoice evermore, in the testimony of a good conscience towards God. It is not so properly a pledge, as earnest of our inheritance," being a part of the purchased possession. It is God made manifest in our flesh, and bringing with him eternal life; assuring us, by that pure and perfect love, that we are "sealed unto the day of redemption;" that he will “ spare us as a man spareth his own son that serveth him," " in that day when he maketh up his jewels;" and that there remaineth for us a crown of glory which fadeth not away.
IV. 1. It remains only to show, in the fourth and last place, the uses of the law. And the first use of it, without question, is, to convince the world of sin. This is, indeed, the peculiar work of the Holy Ghost; who can work it without any means at all, or by whatever means it pleaseth him, however insufficient in themselves, or even improper to produce sueh an effect. And accordingly some there are, whose hearts have been broken in pieces in a moment, either in sickness or in health, without any visible cause, or any outward means whatever; and others (one in an age) have been awakened to a sense of the "wrath of God abiding on them," by hearing, that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” But it is the ordinary method of the Spirit of God, to convict singers by the law. It is this, which, being set home on the conscience, generally breaketh the rocks in pieces. It is more especially this part of the word of God, which is (wv XAI Evegyr5,-quick and powerful, full of life and energy, and sharper than any two edged sword." This, in the hand of God and of those whom he hath sent, pierces through all the folds of a deceitful heart, and “divides asunder even the soul and the spirit;" yea, as it were, the very “joints and marrow.” By this is the sinner discovered to himself. All his fig leaves are torn away, and he sees that he is “ wretched, and
poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked,” The law flashes conviction on every side. He feels himself a mere sinner. He has nothing to pay. His "mouth is stopped," and he stands " guilty before God. "
2. To slay the sinner is then the first use of the law; to destroy the life and strength wherein he trusts, and convince him that he is dead while he liveth; not only under the sentence of death, but actually dead unto God, void of all spiritual life, “dead in trespasses and sins." The second use of it is, to bring him unto life,--unto Christ, that he may
live. It is true, in performing both these offices, it acts the part of a severe school master. It drives us by force, rather than draws us by love. And yet love is the spring of all. It is the spirit of love, which, by this painful means, tears away our confidence in the flesh, which leaves us no broken reed whereon to trust, and so constrains the sinner, stripped of all, to cry out in the bitterness of his soul, or groan in the depth of his heart,
“I give up every plea beside,
Lord, I am dainn'd; but thou hast died.” 3. The third use of the law is, to keep us alive. It is the grand means whereby the blessed Spirit prepares the believer for larger communications of the life of God.
I am afraid this great and important truth is little understood, not only by the world, but even by many whom God hath taken qut of the world, who are real children of God by faith. Many of these lay it down as an unquestioned truth, that when we come to Christ, we have done with the law; and that, in this sense, “ Christ is the end of the law, to every one that believeth." “ The end of the law:'--so he is, " for righteousness,” for justification, “ to every one that believeth.” Herein the law is at an end. It justifies none, but only brings them to Christ; who is also, in another respect, the end, or scope of the law,-the point at which it continually aims. But when it has brought us to him, it has yet a farther office, namely, to keep us with him. For it is continually exciting all believers, the more they see of its height, and depth, and length, and breadth, to exhort one another so much the more,
“ Closer and closer let us cleave
To his beloved einbrace;
And grace to answer grace.” 4. Allowing then, that every believer has done with the law, as it means the Jewish ceremonial law, or the entire Mosaic dispensation; (for these Christ hath taken out of the way :) yea, allowing we have done with the moral law, as a means of procuring our justification; for we are "justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus; yet, in another sense, we have not done with this law: for it is still of unspeakable use, first, in convincing us of the sin that yet remains both in our hearts and lives, and thereby keeping us close to Christ; that his blood may cleanse us every moment ; secondly, in deriving strength from our Head into his living members, whereby he empowers them to do what his law commands; and, thirdly, in confirming our hope of whatsoever it commands and we have not yet attained, -of receiving grace upon grace, till we are in actual possession of the fulness of his promises.
5. How clearly does this agree with the experience of every true believer! While he cries out, “Ch what love have I unto thy law! ail
the day long is my study in it;" he sees daily, in that divine mirror, more and more of his own sinfulness. He sees more and more clearly, that he is still a sinner in all things, that neither his heart nor his ways are right before God; and that every nioment sends him to Christ. This shows him the meaning of what is written, “Thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, Holiness to the Lord. And it shall be
upon Aaron's forehead," the type of our great High Priest,] "that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel sha! hallow, in all their holy gifts:" (so far are our prayers or holy things from atoning for the rest of our sin !] “ And it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord," Exod. xxviii, 36, 30
6. To explain this by a single instance: the jaw says, “ Thou shalt not kill :” and hereby, (as our Lord teaches,) forbids not only outward acts, but every unkind word or thought. Now the more I look into this perfect law, the more I feel how far I come short of it; and the more I feel this, the more I feel my need of his blood to atone for all my sin, and of his Spirit to purify my heart, and make me “perfect and entire, lacking nothing."
7. Therefore, I cannot spare the law one moment, no more than 1 can spare Christ : seeing I now want it as much, to keep me to Christ, as I ever wanted it to bring me to him. Otherwise, this “ evil heart of unbelief” would immediately “ depart from the living God." Indeed each is continually sending me to the other,--the law to Christ, and Christ to the law. On the one hand, the height and depth of the law constrain me to fly to the love of God in Christ; on the other, the love of God in Christ endears the law to me " above gold or precious stones;” seeing I know every part of it is a gracious promise, which my Lord will fulfil in its season.
8. Who art thou, then, oh man, that “ judgest the law, and speakest evil of the law ?" That rankest it with sin, Satan, and death, and sendest them all to hell together! T'he apostle James esteemed judging or “speaking evil of the law,” so enormous a piece of wickedness, that he knew not how to aggravate the guilt of judging our brethren more, than by showing it included this. “ So now,” says he,
“ thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge !" A judge of that which God hath ordained to judge thee! So thou hast set up thyself in the jurigment seat of Christ, and cast down the rule whereby he will judge the world! Oh take knowledge what advantage Satan hath gained over thee ; and, for the time to come, never think or speak lightly os, much less dress up as a scarecrow, this blessed instrument of the grace of God. Yea, love and value it for the sake of him from whom it came', and of him to whom it leads. Let it be thy glory and joy, next to the cross of Christ. Declare its praise, and inake it honourable before all men.
9. And if thou art thoroughly convinced, that it is the offspring of God, that it is the copy of all his inimitable perfections, and that it is “ holy, and just, and good," but especially to them that believe; then, instead of casting it away as a polluted thing, see that thou cleave to it more and more.
Never let the law of mercy and truth, of love to God and man, of low.iness, meekness, aud purity, forsake thee. “Bind it about thy neck; write it on the table of thy heart." Keep close to the law, if thou wilt keep close to Christ; huld it fast ; let it not go. Let this
continually lead thee to the atoning blood, continually confirm thy hope, till all the "righteousness of the law is fulfilled in thee," and thou art “ filled with all the fulness of God."
10. And if thy Lord hath already fulfilled his word, if he hath already “ written his law in thy heart," then stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made thee free.” Thou art not only made free from Jewish ceremonies, from the guilt of sin, and the fear of hell ; (these are so far from being the whole, that they are the least and lowest part of Christian liberty ;) but what is infinitely more, from the power of sin, from serving the devil, from offending God. Oh stand fast in this liberty; in comparison of which, all the rest is not even worthy to be named ! stand fast in loving God with all thy heart, and serving him with all thy strength! This is perfect freedom; thus to keep his law, and to walk in all his commandments blameless. “Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." I do not mean of Jewish bondage; nor yet of bondage to the fear of hell : these, I trust, are far from thee. But beware of being entangled again with the yoke of sin, of any inward or outward transgression of the law. Abhor sin far more an death or hell; abhor sin itself, far more than the punishment of it. Beware of the bondage of pride, of desire, of anger; of every evil temper, or word, or work. “Look unto Jesus," and in order thereto, look more and more into the perfect law, the law of liberty;" and "continue therein;" so shalt thou daily “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
SERMON XXXV.-The Law established through Faith.
“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid : yea, we establish the law," Romans iii, 31.
1. St. Paul, having in the beginning of this epistle, laid down his general proposition, namely, that " The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth ;"—the powerful means, whereby God makes every believer a partaker of present and eternal salvation ;—goes on to show, that there is no other way under heaven, whereby men can be saved. He speaks particularly of salvation from the guilt of sin, which he commonly terms justification. And that all inen stood in need of this, that none could plead their own innocence,
proves at large by various arguments, addressed to the Jews as well as the heathens. Hence he infers, (in the 19th verse of this chapter,) “That every mouth," whether of Jew or heathen, must be stopped from excusing or justifying himself, “ and all the world become guilty before God.” “Therefore,” saith he, by his own obedience, “ by the works of the law, shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” “ But now the righteousness of God without the law,”—without our previous obedience thereto,—" is manifested;" "even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all that believe :" " For there is no difference, as to their need of justification, or the manner wherein they attain it;" for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;"--the glorious image of God wherein they were created and all (who attain " are justified freely by his grace, through
the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God liath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood; that he might be just, and yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus;"—that without any impeachment to his justice, he might show him mercy for the sake of that propitiation. "'Therefore we conclude, (which was the grand position he had undertaken to establish,] that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law,” verse 20–28.
2. It was easy to foresee an objection which might be made, and which has in fact been made in all ages; namely, That to say we are justified without the works of the law, is to abolish the law. The apostle, without entering into a formal dispute, simply denies the charge. “Do we then,” says he, “ make void the law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law.”
3. 'The strange imagination of some, that St. Paul, when he says, “A man is justified without the works of the law,” means only the ceremonial law, is abundan*ly confuted by these very words. For did St. Paul establish the ceremonial law ? It is evident, he did not. He did make void that law through faith, and openly avowed his doing so. It was the moral law only, of which he might truly say, We do not make void, but establish this, through faith.
4. But all men are not herein of his mind. Many there are who will not agree to this. Many in all ages of the church, even among those who bore the name of Christians, have contended, that “the faith once delivered to the saints” was designed to make void the whole law. They would no more spare the moral than the ceremonial law, but for " hewiny," as it were, “ both in pieces before the Lord;" vehemently maintaining, “ If you establish any law, Christ shall profit you nothing; Christ is become of no effect to you ; ye are fallen from grace.
5. But is the zeal of these men according to knowledge ? Have they observed the connection between the law and faith, and that, considering the close connection between them, to destroy one is indeed to destroy both ? That, to abolish the moral law, is, in truth, to abolish faith and the law together; as leaving no proper means, either of bringing us to faith, or of stirring up that gift of God in our soul ?
6. It therefore behooves all, who desire either to come to Christ, or to walk in him whom they have received, to take heed how they “make void the law through faith ;" to secure us effectually against which, let us inquire, first, Which are the most usual ways of " making void the law through faith ?" And, secondly, How we may follow the aposile, and by faith establish the law ?
I. 1. Let us, first, inquire, What are the most usual ways of making void the law through faith ? Now the way for a preacher to make it all void at a stroke is, not to preach it at all. This is just the same thing as to blot it out of the oracles of God. More especially, when it is done with design ; when it is made a rule, not to preach the law; and the very phrase, “ a preacher of the law,” is used as a term of reproach, as though it meant little less than an enemy to the gospel.
2. All this proceeds from the deepest ignorance of the nature, properties, and use of the law; and proves, that those who act thus, either know not Christ,—are utter strangers to living faith,—or, at least, thal they are but babes in Christ, and, as such," unskilled in the word of righteousness."