« הקודםהמשך »
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets ; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.
THE first of these verses contains a conclusion drawn from facts stated in the foregoing part of this epistle. The apostle had shown that the Gentiles had broken the law of God written in their hearts, and that the Jews also had trans
gressed the law delivered to them by Moses : and hence he concludes, that by the law,—-by means of a law which all have broken,-no man can be justified.
The text advances three points of doctrine concerning that great question, the justification of man in the sight of God;—namely, that by obedience to the law no man can be justified, that God has provided a source from which justification may, however, be obtained,—and that the means of receiving it is faith.
We must not proceed far in an examination of this subject, without determining what is meant by that expression, to be justified. It means, to be made righteous: that is, to be placed in the condition of a righteous person; to be entitled to be treated as having rendered perfect obedience to the law, or as having done all that the law requires in order to the enjoyment of divine favour. When this is said with regard to a transgressor of the law, it is obvious that the term must include the idea of remission, or the not imputing, of sin. And accordingly, sinful man is said to be in a justified state, when he is regarded by God as free from the guilt of sin, or from its merited punishment, and as possessing that righteousness which gives him a claim to the divine favour and reward. In other words, to be
justified is, to have sin forgiven and to be accounted righteous; to have, not the breach of the law, but the fulfilment of the law, placed to our account; to be treated by the infinite and holy God as creatures who have not a shadow of guilt resting upon their souls, but who, on the contrary, have performed that perfect and meritorious obedience which entitles them to the divine complacency, and to the reward of eternal life.
Inestimable blessing! How may we obtain it? That is the question which the apostle answers in our text. May the Holy Spirit, who taught and enabled him to pronounce this declaration, guide us continually into the reception of it, in the fulness of its meaning and its power!
In order to take a complete view of our subject, let us consider the nature, character, and results of the two ways or methods by which the attainment of righteousness has been, under different circumstances, proposed to man ;-namely, the dispensation of law, or the covenant of works; and the dispensation of grace, or the covenant of faith. These covenants, it will appear, are entirely distinct from each other, and incapable of existing together, in any portion or degree, with reference to man in the same condition. The one can exist only with regard to man as guiltless and able to render complete obedience; the
other, only with regard to man as guilty, and unable to fulfil the perfect law. The one, under every form, and with every modification which it may receive, must lead a sinner to misery and death; the other conducts him to peace, and holiness, and life.
We ask, first, what are the nature, character, and results of the dispensation of law, or covenant of works?
I. Law, in its general sense, imports a rule of duty, attended with certain sanctions. And the law which is mentioned in the text, and in many other places of the New Testament, as excluded from the office of justification, is this ;—the whole rule of duty prescribed by God to man, in what way soever that rule may be declared and presented to the conscience, whether by the dictates of the heart, by tradition, by precept, or by a written code. In one word, the law by obedience to which we, who have once broken it, can never be made righteous, is the moral law. This is the law which, according to the apostle, the Gentiles had received; as appeared by their performance of moral acts, and by the workings of their conscience. “ For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves : which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” (Rom. ii. 14, 15.) This also is the law which the Jews had received, and by the breach of which they had been proved to be under sin. Nor is it right to make any distinction, in this
distinction, in this respect, between the ceremonial and the moral parts of the law delivered by Moses. Obedience to a positive command of God, such as that by which the Jewish ceremonies were established, is itself nothing less than a moral duty, and is included in that comprehensive precept, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” And the Jews themselves, without making any such distinction, understood that the fulfilment of their whole law was comprised in love to God and to their neighbour. In the course of our Lord's ministry, “ A certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law ? how readest thou? And he answering said, 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. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke x. 25-28.)
Thus too, in the passage before us, the ques