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it. Do we make void the law of God through faith? The apostle startles at the thought-God forbid ! Far be it from us to entertain any such idea! We are so far from inculcating any doctrine which, under the pretence of exalting the grace of the gospel, would relax the obligations of the moral law, that the doctrine in question, when fairly and impartially considered, has a very opposite tendency.-Such is the import of the apostle's reasoning.
I. He asserts, that the doctrine of justification by faith does not make void the law of God. And,
II. That, on the contrary, it establishes the law.
I. This doctrine does not make void the law of God.
There are two ways in which the law of God may be said to be made void, or its moral influence rendered ineffectual. 1. In principle; when any doctrine is taught which has an obvious and direct tendency to weaken its authority, or to make us think lightly of offences committed against it. And, 2. In practice; when men take occasion from thence to continue in sin, as the apostle expresses it, that grace may abound.
1. In principle; when any doctrine is taught which has a direct and obvious tendency to weaken the authority of the law of God, or to make us think lightly of offences committed against it.
But this is so far from being the case with respect to the doctrine in question, that it enforces the perpetual obligation and sacred authority of the moral law in the strongest possible manner. Those who are unfriendly to the doctrine of justification by faith, speak of the gospel as having introduced a mitigated law, which admits of sincere instead of perfect obedience. This is a mere gratuitous assumption, without any countenance whatever from the word of God. But supposing that we could find any text in scripture in which it was expressly declared, that as man cannot now yield a perfect obedience to the divine law, God is willing to accept of an imperfect instead of a sinless obedience to its precepts, would not the admission of such a principle be highly dishonourable to the divine government? Would it not be a practical proof of God's indifference to the conduct of his creatures, and be regarded as an acknowledgment that his law was originally too severe in denouncing death as the punishment of one single act of disobedience ?
The principle, on the other hand, on which justification by the blood of Christ proceeds, is the immutability of the divine law, the equity, the perfect rectitude of all its requirements, and consequently the infinite turpitude and demerit of sin.
Which of these principles—that which admits offenders into favour on the footing of their own imperfect obedience, or that which looks solely to the meritorious obedience and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ for pardon and acceptance with God—which of these is most licentious in its tendency, and most injurious to the rights of the divine government, is no difficult question to deter
mine. The whole scheme of redemption demonstratès equally with the covenant of works, the rigour with which the law exacts the penalty of disobedience, when once it has been incurred; since even the Son of God himself, when he undertook to redeem a peculiar people to himself, could not procure for them a remission of the penalty, without himself enduring that penalty in all its rigour and extent. We cannot, therefore, commit a greater or more fatal mistake, than to suppose that, under the gospel dispensation, merèy is exercised at the expense of justice ; that God recedes from his original demand of an absolutely perfect obedience, and repents himself of the severity of his awful threatenings; that, in sending his Son to redeem us, he tacitly allows either that his law was too holy, or its penalty too severe. On the contrary, by exacting the penalty of his only and beloved Son, when he substituted himself in the room and stead of sinners of mankind, he manifested his infinite abhorrence of sin, his ineffable delight in holiness, and his fixed and immutable determination never to recede, in the smallest iota, from the demands of his righteous law. The astonishing wisdom of the plan of redemption through the blood of Christ, consists in its reconciling the exercise of mercy and grace with the most rigid claims of inflexible justice. It is this which fills heaven with wonder; nor will eternal ages diminish the rapturous delight with which the angelic host, and the innumerable multitude of the redeemed out of all nations, and people, and languages, will for ever contemplate this adorable mystery. And the more sensible we are of our inability to act up to the requirements of God's holy and righteous law, the more we shall be convinced of our need of that mercy and
which God has manifested towards us in Christ Jesus; the more confidently will we rely on the righteousness of God our Saviour; the more deeply will our minds be impressed with a sense of our obligations to live no longer unto ourselves, but unto Him who gave himself for us.
The law, then, is not made void by faith. This is not a doctrine which, in its just and legitimate consequences, has a tendency to weaken its authority, or to make us think lightly of offences committed against it. Neither,
2. Is there any thing in this doctrine which tends to make void the law of God in practice, or to encourage men to continue in sin because
It is upon light thoughts of the evil of sin, that a disbelief of the doctrine of justification by faith in the blood of Christ, is grafted. But let men think as lightly of it as they may, yet if God thinks otherwise of it, they must be in the wrong: for the judgment of God is according to truth. Nor can any thing be more presumptuous, than to imagine that the great God would have employed such a wonderful method to assert the dignity and honour of his law, only that his creatures might have the liberty of transgressing it. This will appear with
still greater evidence from the other proposition contained in the text.
II. That the doctrine of justification by faith, instead of making void, establishes the law.-For,
1. The faith which leads a sinner to Christ for justification, includes a conviction not only of the danger, but also of the demerit of sin.
Never did the world behold such a display of the evil of sin as in the sufferings of the Son of God, when he offered himself as a substitute for guilty man. The dignity of his person, and the extremity of his anguish, when bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, are two circumstances which mark in stronger colours than words can express, God's infinite abhorrence of sin, and his determined invariable purpose to punish it. If these things were done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry ? If such were the sufferings of the Son of God, when bearing only the punishment of imputed guilt, how dreadful the condition of the guilty unpardoned offender, when brought into judgment for his personal offences! If God dealt so with the innocent Son of his love, what shall be done to the guilty children of his wrath! Knowing, therefore, says the apostle, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. We urge every motive which can work upon their fears as well as upon their hopes, that they may flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold of eternal life: not, indeed, as the reward of merit, but as the gift of God through Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth as a propi