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In this definition and description of justification, a repetition of terms and sentiments has been deemed unavoidable; and has been used with the earnest desire to prevent any misapprehension of the nature and character of a doctrine of such essential importance in the Christian system, that its reception or rejection was considered by the great reformer Luther, to be the best evidence of a standing or a falling church. And, in regard to yourselves, brethren, enough has been said to demonstrate, that if you are not justified, you are yet without the pale of salvation. Dying, in this state, you must everlastingly perish ; for there is no purgatory, or intermediate state of punishment between the death of the body and the consummation of all things, as feigned by the Romish church. I proceed, in the second place,
II. To confirm the apostle's assertion, that none can be justified by the law.
This proposition may be confirmed in various ways, and for several reasons.
1. In the first place, the law denounces all mankind as sinners.
In numberless passages of the scripture of truth it is declared that all men are sinners, by nature and practice; because they are transgressors of the law: “for where no law is, there is no trangression.” To cite the various texts which prove that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” would very far exceed the compass of a single discourse. A few passages only; can be here noticed. The sin
in which the world has ever been overwhelmed, has flowed in a continued stream from the first transgression of Adam; and the sinfulness of every person's practice derives its origin from the depravity of his nature. What was the state of the old world before the deluge? “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that the imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And what was the reason which the Lord assigned after the flood, why he would not again curse the ground any more for man's sake?” “For,” said he, “the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." The confession of David clearly proves the sin of man, by nature and practice. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” What the Psalmist here says of himself, is true of all; otherwise, instead of making a part of his humiliating confession, he must have used it as an excuse for his sin. It was his intention to humble himself before God, not only for the particular sins he had committed, but as a transgressor
from the womb. But I will adduce one passage more from scripture, to prove the position laid down. It appears in the conclusion of the apostle's argument on the subject, in his Epistle to the Romans. After having brought the most awful charges of guilt and transgression against all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, he gives a summary of his argument, with a citation of several passages from the Old Testament, as follows:-"What then? are we better than they?
ways: and the
No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous; no, not one: there is none that understandeth: there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good; no, not one.
Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their
of peace they have not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to those who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The substance of the law is—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Is not this law reasonable? is it not holy, just, and good ? is it not as unchangeable as its author? How, then, can God dispense with it? How can He require any thing less than its demands ? Then, my brethren, bring home the subject to your own hearts. Have you kept the law, or have you broken it? Have you always done the will of Him who made, preserves, and supports you? Let conscience perform its office; and what will it say?
“We are all sinners and transgressors; and as such, the law has denounced us.”
2. The law has shut up all under condemnation.
As all men are transgressors of the law, till they obtain deliverance, they are all under its curse. And what is this? — condemnation to death and eternal misery. In the chapter that follows the one from which the text is taken, the apostle says, “The scripture hath concluded all under sin.” It has “shut them up,” as the Greek word signifies, under condemnation. Some persons seem to suppose, that men in general are only the subjects of a few frailties and imperfections. But this is not the view which the scripture gives of the subject. The records of inspiration declare that, they are rebels and enemies, and as such are shut up, as it were, in a prison. In mankind, by nature, there is a rooted enmity against God. Hence the apostle declares, “The carnal mind” (that is, the mind of every man in its natural state) "is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God; neither, indeed, can be.” Such is the hostility of the human heart against God, that the throne of the Almighty would not be secure, were it not beyond the reach of man. When it is said, therefore, that all are concluded under sin, it is implied that men are like rebels, who have exposed themselves to the penalty of the law, and who are tried, condemned, and shut up in prison, awaiting the hour of execution. And this is the case, not only of some who may be viewed as notorious sinners, and numbered amongst the vilest of the human race, but
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of all; for all are equally under condemnation by
3. The nature and character of the law is such, as
The apostle, in the Epistle to the Romans (viii. 3), has informed us that God has effected, by sending his Son, “what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh.” The words, "what the law could not do,” may be literally translated, impossibility of the law.” But what occasions this impossibility? the nature and obligations of the law, considered in relation to the present condition of
We have before seen what the substance of the law is; namely, the perfect love of God and man. And if we would understand its perfection, holiness, severity, and obligations, we must look into our Lord's sermon on the mount.
In that divine exposition of the law, an unchaste look is denominated adultery in the heart; an angry word is considered as a degree of murder; and in regard to the love of our neighbour, we are required to be perfect, even as God himself is perfect.
In fact, the law is not satisfied with less than complete, perpetual, and unerring obedience. Do you ask, Does the law require this perfection of sinful dust and ashes? The answer is, It does require it: it demands it. The law forbids every sin, in every form and degree: in
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