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SERMON XXV I.

LAW OF GOD, THE MEDIUM OF

THE MEDIUM OF CONVERSION.

"THE law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”—Psalm xix. 7.

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It is generally believed, that sinners must be converted in order to be saved ; but it has long been a serious question whether God employs any, and if any, what means, in producing this essential change. David, in this Psalm, first indirectly tells us what means God does not employ in converting sinners, and then plainly mentions what means he does employ in turning them effectually to himself. Though he allows, that God makes some discovery of his being and perfections by his works of creation and providence; yet he expressly declares, that it is by his word that he produces a saving change in the human heart. Hear his own words upon this subject : “ The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language

where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” To this light of nature the Psalmist immediately contrasts the light of divine revelation. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." By the law of the Lord, David sometimes means the whole of that revelation, which God had given to his people at that day; but here he seems to have a more particular reference to the moral law, which is more properly and emphatically called the law of God. And what he says concerning the law seems to apply to the law of love, rather than to divine revelation in general. Of this law it may be truly said, “It is perfect, converting the soul.” The text contains two things, which deserve a distinct consideration.

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I. That the law of God is perfect; and

II. That it is the medium through which he converts sinners.

The perfection of the divine law is the first thing to be considered.

The law of God consists of two parts, the precept, and the penalty; or that which it requires, and that which it threatens.

We are expressly told what the precept of the law is, by two infallible expositors, Moses and Christ. Moses has explained it in these words: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” When a certain lawyer asked Christ, “ Which is the great commandment in the law ? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." The first and great commandment involves the second, and every other commandment. For the law requires nothing but love. And upon this ground, the apostle says, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the ful. filling of the law." But what love does the divine law require ? The answer is plain and easy ; it is the same kind of love, which forms the moral character and supreme glory of God. “God is love." And his love embraces all percipient beings, whether rational or irrational, whether holy or unholy. He " is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works." His law is a transcript of his own moral character, and requires men to exercise the same pure, holy love, which he exercises. This our Saviour taught in his sermon on the mount. 66 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others ? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” It is now easy to see, that the law of God is absolutely perfect, or perfect in all respects, because it requires that kind of love, in which all

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moral perfection consists, and in exact proportion to the powers and faculties of every individual person, who is capable of understanding the law. It requires every one to love God, at all times, with all his, heart, mind, and strength. And this is requiring neither too much nor too little. It is a precept, perfectly adapted to all mankind.

If we now consider the penalty of the divine law, it will a;pear as perfect as the precept. The penalty of the law is death. "The soul that sinneth it shall die." "The wages of

66 " sin is death." “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” This is the curse, which shall be inflicted on all the impenitent at the last day; and therefore signifies nothing less than everlasting punishment. The transgression of a perfectly holy and just law is sin; and every sin deserves punishment; and this desert of punishment can never be taken away. Punishment has no tendency to destroy the desert of punishment; and consequently, if sin deserves any punishment, it deserves that punishment forever

. The punishment which the fallen angels have already endured, has not lessened their desert of punishment, and no future punishment can lessen their ill-desert. Consequently they must in strict justice be punished forever. If then it was just for God to threaten any punishment to the transgressors of his holy law, it was just to threaten them with endless punishment. This he has threatened, and this threatening is perfectly just. So the apostle thought, when he saw this threatening pointed against himself. “I was alive without the law once : but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment which was ordain ed to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Thus the law of God is absolutely perfect, both in its precept and in its penalty. I now proceed,

II. To show, that it is through the medium of this perfect law, that God converts sinners. It is the perfection of the divine law, which gives it all its weight and energy, and makes it a proper instrument of converting the souls of men. Through

a the medium of his perfect law, which is clothed with his infinite authority, God causes sinners to feel the weight of all his great and glorious perfections, which is sufficient to make the stoutest hearts stoop. This leads me to observe,

1. That it is by means of his perfect law, that he awakens sinners to a realizing sense of their danger. They are naturally stupid, and extremely insensible of their lost and perish

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ing condition, and do all in their power to keep themselves in carnal security. They say unto God, “ Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.They shut their eyes against the light, stop their ears against the truth, and harden their hearts against conviction. They think themselves “rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Such were the views and feelings of Paul, in his natural state. He says, “I was alive without the law once.” He had no apprehension of the wrath of God, and

” of his danger of eternal destruction. But there is a propriety, if not an absolute necessity of awakening sinners to see their dangerous condition, before they are converted. According God usually gives sinners a clear and affecting view of their dangerous state, before he makes them the subjects of his special grace. This he does by means of his perfect law, which condemns them for the least violation of it, to eternal death. Though Paul was very suddenly converted, he was first awakened by the divine law. The penalty, of the law destroyed his carnal peace, and alarmed his fears. Though he was alive without the law; yet when the commandment came, sin revived, and he died. It is in the penalty of his law, that God has expressed his feelings towards sinners, and manifested his vindictive justice, which will burn to the lowest hell. And when he brings the law home to sinners, he makes them feel that they are every moment exposed to endless ruin. It was such a sense of danger that alarmed the three thousand on the day of Pentecost, and constrained them to cry out in the utmost anxiety and distress, “ Men and brethren, what shall we do.” There is no peace to the wicked, while they realize the wrath of God abiding upon them, and the penalty of his holy law pointed against them. God, indeed, acts as a sovereign in awakening sinners. He awakens some much more than others, and holds them under the terrors of his law much longer, before he delivers them from its condemnation.

2. It is through the medium of his perfect law, that God convinces sinners of their guilt, and just desert of eternal destruction. It is one thing to make them see their danger, and another to make them feel their guilt. It is one thing to awaken their fears, and another to set their sins in order before them, and make them see that they deserve eternal death. God awakens multitudes whom he never convinces nor converts. All the children of Israel were awakened by the divine law at mount Sinai, but they soon lost their fears, and many of them fell and perished in the wilderness. A vast many were

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awakened under the preaching of John, and of Christ, who we have reason to think were never convinced, nor converted, While the three thousand were converted on the day of Pentecost, fear fell upon every soul of the spectators of that solemn

Sinners may have a distressing sense of their danger, while they are insensible that they are under the reigning power of sin. This makes them complain of God as a hard master, who is disposed to punish them more than they deserve. And they never see the plague of their own hearts, until God sets home the divine law upon their consciences. They imagine they have some good desires, some right motives, and really mean well in what they do to please God and secure his favor. But when the commandment comes, which requires disinterested love, and condemns all selfish affections, desires, and conduct, they find they have done nothing but sin all their days, and that their hearts are full of evil. It is by the law, that God gives them the knowledge of sin. Paul says, he had not known sin, except the law had said, “Thou shalt not covet,” that is, thou shalt not be selfish. As soon makes sinners see, that all selfishness is sin, they cannot help seeing, that they have always lived to themselves, and not unto God; that they have always loved themselves supremely, and never exercised any holy love to God, to their neighbor, or to themselves. The perfect law of God condemns all their internal exercises, and external conduct. Hence the apostle says, “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.” When God causes sinners to see the extent and spirituality of his holy law, they find they are dead in trespasses and sins, without holiness, and justly condemned for everything they have said, and done, and thought, and felt.

Their sins revive, and appear astonishingly numerous, as well as exceedingly great and aggravated. They become convinced, that they have a carnal mind, which is enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. It was through the medium of the law, that Paul was thoroughly convinced of the entire corruption of his heart, and of the justice of God in his condemnation. " But when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good;

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