תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

with a spirit of bondage and fear. It is impossible that any man of an enlightened conscience, that is, a man who discovers the purity and extent of the divine law, can be satisfied with his own condition in the sight of God, considered as a creature who is to be judged by that law. And, if he should set up, in his own mind, some other covenant of works than that which has proceeded from God;—if

, for example, he should propose, as his rule of duty, that which demands a sincere though imperfect obedience, by virtue of which he may

attain to everlasting life,-still will he be left with the burden of conscious guilt upon his soul. His apprehension of the law will always outstrip his will to obey it; and his will to obey will as constantly exceed his power to obey; and thus will he remain liable to the accusations of conscience,--seeking rest, it may be, but finding none, -obtaining no relief from his sense of

past guilt,--sensible at the same time of a constant accumulation of fresh transgressions --and inwardly afraid of that God “ to whom vengeance belongeth,” and who “ will by no means clear the guilty

By law is knowledge of sin.” This knowledge of sin may indeed, by the divine blessing, lead the soul unto the Saviour. God grant that each of ourselves may be so penetrated with a conviction of his guilt, that he

[ocr errors]

may joyfully repair to that fountain which hath been opened to wash it away, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness ! May the law be “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ!”

But if, with this conviction of sin in a man's bosom, the work of the Holy Spirit and of the Gospel do not begin to take effect, and if the work of the law continue, in other words, if, notwithstanding a consciousness of guilt, we still seek to become righteous in the sight of God by obedience to law,—then does that law, thus broken and misused, produce more sin. This is the invariable operation of the law in the mind of man, if regarded as the foundation of a covenant of works. The mind of the lawgiver and the tenor of his law are at variance with the corrupt nature of fallen man; and, when brought into contact with it, they are met by resistance in some form or other. What said the heathen on this subject ? “ We struggle to do that which is forbidden.” What is the recorded experience of St. Paul ? “ I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin re

ور

vived, and I died. And the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.” (Rom. vii. 7-10.) This effect of the law, to cherish sin in the mind of guilty man, is sometimes indirect, but it is always certain. Sometimes an erroneous adherence to a covenant of works leads to a misinterpretation of the law, to a lowering of its demands, or to a perversion of its precepts; and thus to the corruption or defilement of the conscience;---sometimes to pride and boasting, to a spirit of self-sufficiency and self-exaltation, as in the case of the Pharisee in our Saviour's parable, or of the Jew with whom St. Paul reasons in the second chapter of this epistle ; -sometimes to hypocrisy and dissimulation, as in the case of those whited sepulchres whom our Lord upbraided; or in the case of Saul, when he met the prophet with that false declaration, “I have obeyed the commandment of the Lord ;”—and sometimes, alas ! when conscience can be no longer stifled, and self-deception is at an end, to an open and undisguised hatred of the lawgiver and his law, or even to blasphemy and despair. And hence we read that the law is “ weak through the flesh.”

6. When we were in the flesh,” says St. Paul, “ the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members, to bring forth fruit unto death.” (Rom. vii. 5.)

This leads us to observe what it is to which the law conducts a man at last; namely, eternal condemnation, or, in the usual phrase of Scripture, death,

“ Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James i. 15.) “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” (Rom. i. 18.) And therefore “ the law worketh wrath.” (Rom. iv. 15.)

The law then, as it operates in the case of fallen and sinful man, produces the very opposite of justification. It cannot be a means of our becoming righteous before God: it ministers neither motives to holiness, nor power for the attainment of it: and, forasmuch as its office is, not to justify but to condemn; forasmuch as, instead of delivering men from sin, it tends, through their own fault, to multiply their transgressions and aggravate their guilt; forasmuch as the law is, like its author, immutable ;-hence it is always true that, “ as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” (Gal. iii. 10.) It is not agreeable to the perfections of the Most High that he should propose any other rule of duty than that which is in itself holy, and just, and good; or that he should accept an imperfect obedience to his law as a title to his favour. Man, at the same time, in his fallen condition, is

unable to fulfil God's law. And therefore, salvation by deeds of law,—by obedience to precepts of duty,—is, for man, utterly impossible.

PART II.

We thank God, however, that the righteousness, with its consequent blessings, which cannot be procured by our own obedience to the law of God, has been purchased for us by the merits of a Saviour, and may be appropriated to ourselves through faith.

“ If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Gal. iii. 21, 22.)

What then, we now proceed to ask, is that dispensation of grace, or covenant of faith, whereby man may be recovered from his ruin, saved from his sin and its consequences, and made partaker of eternal life?

We may describe this covenant, in general terms, as that which contains a promise or offer of complete salvation, made upon good and sufficient ground to sinful and helpless man, and to be by him accepted or embraced through faith. But in order to take a complete view of this great and momentous subject, we must inquire more parti

« הקודםהמשך »