صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

"*

with those we have been using, with reference to laws generally. “ Now we know,” says he," that 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 become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge (rather, the recognition or conviction) of sin.' Again : “ The law entered that the offence (rather, a sense of the offence) might abound.”+ And again : “ I had not known sin (or rather, had not known what was sin) but by the law; for I had not known lust, (i. e. as such), except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”# The object of this law therefore was, first, to instruct mankind as to what they ought to do, or from what they ought to abstain; and, secondly, to annex the promise of rewards, or the threats of punishment, to what should, or should not, respectively, be performed or abstained from, in compliance with its several declarations. The necessary consequence of this would be, either a sense of merit or of demerit in the persons subject to this law. The passages just cited from St. Paul go directly to the question of demerit; and this, as we shall presently see, was really all that this law could effect. The laws of nations, therefore, and those laid down in our Scriptures, generally proceed upon the same principles; the only difference discoverable in them is, the different authority on which they stand, and the different character, tendency, and extent, of their several enactments. The authority on which our Divine law rests has already been considered : || the particular character of its requirements will be discussed in another place. All we have now to do will, therefore, be to consider its different tendency and extent.

The tendency, and indeed the object, of human laws, is merely to provide against those contingencies, or to punish them when occurring, which may prove injurious to society generally; and, as far as they are available for the purposes of morality, they are for the most part of a negative character, forbidding those crimes only of which they can take cognizance, and annexing the punishment decreed whenever these have been perpetrated. The scope, as well as the object, of the Divine law, however, is of a much more extended and complicated character. Its business is not only to advance the interests of human society, but also to prepare its subject for a higher state of existence; and, accordingly, it comprehends the command to abstain both from every suggestion, and from all appearance, of evil; and, moreover, lays its obligations on the believer to persevere in every good affection and work. It therefore lays its precepts upon the heart, and as much condemns the sinner in thought, as it does the transgressor in deed, whether such deed be done contrary to its declarations, or have resulted only from a neglect of obedience to its commands.

|| Serm. III. IV.

Rom. iii. 20. t Ib. v. 20. | Ib. vii. 7. $ Dissertation I. Section x. in this work.

Here, it may be remarked, may be seen one of the great and necessary ends of a Divine revelation. Human laws can provide only against certain evils: they will deter the robber or the murderer from the perpetration of crime to a certain extent only, not universally and without exception. The Divine law, on the contrary, makes actual provision for the existence and cultivation of every virtue. It affords motives and grounds sufficient to recommend it to the regard of all rational beings; and holds out encouragements such as to create an assurance, that no sacrifice is too great to be made for its cultivation, furtherance, and enjoyment. And this is the great desideratum of man ; this is the acquisition of which the reasonable soul stands most in need, and without which it never can,

and never will, find satisfaction. We have here, therefore, that, and that only, which a revelation ought to afford ; and, we have that too which nothing else can. In this respect, then, our law is efficient and good.

Again; human laws, as already remarked, can be available only to a certain extent, because the judge can determine from appearances alone (and in these he may occasionally be deceived): the power of punishment too, with which he is invested, is both partial and limited. The Divine Lawgiver and Judge, however, is very differently situated and empowered in these respects. He can see and judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart; and his power to punish is full and complete in every point of view. No human artifice can here baffle the one, nor time or circumstance circumscribe the other. The law is perfect and effective; and the consequences are positive, permanent, and inevitable. “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," says the ancient lawgiver, “with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might;" and “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”* And,“ on these two commandments,” declares our blessed Lord,“ hang ALL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS.”+ This law is, therefore, from first to last, spiritual; and it claims, as it ever has done, an entire control over the thoughts and purposes of the heart, over all the plans, projects, tempers, and acts of the life.

Let us now see, on what kind of subjects this law was intended to act. That man is an infirm and imperfect being, no proof need be adduced; the testimony of experience is so constant and so intelligible, on this point, that it must be a work of supererogation, to offer any thing either to corroborate or to explain it; we shall, therefore, offer none. be asked, then, What is a being so circumstanced to do? By the moral law he stands condemned; 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.”I Will such an one have recourse to after-deeds of virtue, and so, by a life partly virtuous and partly vicious, attempt to satisfy the requirements of a law, which pronounces death, at the least, upon every transgression ? Whatever may be said of the Divine economy, human laws certainly admit of no such evasion. The open and wanton transgression of these must be visited in every case; and, if they take not away the life, afterdeeds of virtue may possibly recommend the penitent to the regards of society; but the law must first be satisfied ; and, if death be the penalty (as it is the case with the Divine law); no further sacrifice for sin can be either proposed or made. The soul that sinneth,it positively declares, shall die ;"* and, it adds: “No man can redeem his brother.”+ Human powers, therefore, how efficient soever they may be in other cases, can do nothing in this; and, where “every mouth is stopped,and “ all the world pronounced guilty before God,”# nothing short of an exertion of the Divine energies and favour, can propose any thing adequate to save a being thus situated.

It may

* Deut. vi. 5; Lev. xix. 18.

+ Matt. xxii. 37-40.

| Gal. iii. 10.

Having, then, ascertained the character, objects, extent, and summary conclusions, of the Divine law, we may now consider the bringing in of that better hope mentioned in our text, by which we are enabled to secure the inestimable privilege of drawing nigh unto God. We have seen in what way human laws generally provide for the penitent but unpresumptuous transgressor ; we now come to inquire, whether the Divine economy, of which we have been speaking, does not propose its favours in a way in some respects analogous.All have sinned,says St. Paul, “and come short of the glory of God.”||

This is, as we have seen, the sentence of the moral law. But, with reference to the pardon of which all must now stand in need, it is said :

Being justified FREELY BY HIS Grace through the REDEMPTION that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the REMISSION or sins that are past, through the forbearance of God,- to declare, I say,

at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the JUSTIFIER of him which believeth in Jesus.

6. Where is

* Ezek. xviii. 4.

+ Ps. xlix. 7.

Rom. iii. 19.

|| Ib. iii. 23.

OF FAITH.

FAITH

boasting then?continues he ; It is excluded.

By what law ?-of works? Nay: but by THE LAW Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by without (zagis, apart from, separate from, independently of) the deeds of the law." * This doctrine is stated still more strongly, if possible, in the Epistle to the Galatians, thus : " For as many,it is said, “ as are of 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." And it is added : But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them." It is then said : Christ hath 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.”+ And aguin : If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise : but God gave it to Abraham BY PROMISE."

And again : Scripture hath concluded ALL UNDER SIN, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ MIGHT BE GIVEN TO THEM THAT BELIEVE."S

From these extracts, I think, the following propositions can be fairly deduced: first, That salvation is not to be had by the works of the law ;- secondly, That it is proposed for attainment through the exertion of faith in Christ; not without a compliance with the works of the law, but on another, a different, and an additional ground ;-and, thirdly, That the final cause of its attainment is purely the grace and mercy of Almighty God. The first of these points has already been discussed; we shall now, therefore, proceed to consider the second ; and then, in order, go on to the third.

By faith seems constantly to be implied in the phraseology of Scripture, that disposition of the mind which not only

The

* Rom. iü. 24-28.

Ib. ver. 18.

§ Ib. ver. 22.

+ Gal, iii, 10—13.

h

« السابقةمتابعة »