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moral law. And would to God all men were convinced of this! It would prevent innumerable evils ; Antinomianism in particular : for, generally speaking, they are the Pharisees who make the Antinomians. Running into an extreme so palpably contrary to Scripture, they occasion others to run into the opposite one. These, seeking to be justified by works, affright those from allowing any place for them.
6. But the truth lies between both. We are, doubtless, justified by faith. This is the corner stone of the whole Christian building. We are justified without the works of the law, as any previous condition of justification : but they are an immediate fruit of that faith, whereby we are justified. So that if good works do not follow our faith, even all inward and outward holiness, it is plain our faith is nothing worth ; we are yet in our sins. Therefore, that we are justified by faith, even by faith without works, is no ground for making void the law through faith ; or for imagining that faith is a dispensation from any kind or degree of holiness.
7. “Nay, but does.not St. Paul expressly say, 'Unto him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness ?' And does it not follow from hence, that faith is to a believer in the room, in the place, of righteousness? But if faith is in the room of righteousness or holiness, what need is there of this too ?”
This, it must be acknowledged, comes home to the point, and is indeed the main pillar of Antinomianism. And yet it needs not a long or laboured answer. We allow, 1. That God justifies the ungodly; him that, till that hour, is totally ungodly; full of all evil, void of all good : 2. That he justifies the ungodly that worketh not, that, till that moment, worketh no good work: neither can he; for an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit: 3. That he justifies him by faith alone, without any goodness or righteousness preceding : and, 4. That faith is then counted to him for righteousness; namely, for preceding righteousness : i. e. God, through the merits of Christ, accepts him that believes, as if he had already fulfilled all righteousness. But what is all this to your point? The apostle does not say, either here or elsewhere, that this faith is counted to him for subsequent righteousness. He does teach, that there is no righteousness before faith. But where does he teach that there is none after it? He does assert, holiness cannot precede justification; but not, that it need not follow it. St. Paul, therefore, gives you no colour for making void the law, by teaching that faith supersedes the necessity of holiness.
III. 1. There is yet another way of making void the law through faith, hich is more common than either of the former. And that is, the doing it practically; the making it void in fact, though not in principle; the living, as if faith was designed to excuse us from holiness.
How earnestly does the apostle guard us against this, in those well known words: óf What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace ?-God forbid :· Rom. vi, 15 : a caution which it is needful thoroughly to consider, because it is of the last importance.
2. The being “under the law," may here mean, 1. The being obliged to observe the ceremonial law : 2. The being obliged to conform to tl.e whole Mosaic institution : 3. The being obliged to keep the whole moral law, as the condition of our acceptance with God. and 4. The being under the wrath and curse of God; under sentence of eternal death; under a sense of guilt and condemnation, full of horror and slavish fear.
3. Now although a believer is not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,” yet from the moment he believes, he is not “under the law,” in any of the preceding senses. On the contrary he is “under grace,” under a more benign, gracious dispensation. As he is no longer under the ceremonial law, nor under the Mosaic institution ; as he is not obliged to keep even the moral law, as the condition of his acceptance; so he is delivered from the wrath and the curse of God, from all sense of guilt and condemnation, and from all that horror and fear of death and hell, whereby he was all his life before subject to bondage. And he now performs (which while “under the law” he could not do) a willing and universal obedience. He obeys not from the motive of slavish fear, but on a nobler principle; namely, the grace of God ruling in his heart, and causing all his works to be wrought in love.
4. What then? Shall this evangelical, principle of action be less powerful than the legal ? Shall we be less obedient to God from filial love, than we were from servile fear
It is well, if this is not a common case; if this practical Antinomianism, this unobserved way of making void the law through faith, has not infected thousands of believers.
Has it not infected you ? Examine yourself honestly and closely. Do you not do now, what you durst not have done when you was “under the law," or (as we commonly call it) under conviction? For instance: You durst not then indulge yourself in food : you took just what was needful, and that of the cheapest kind. Do you not allow yourself more latitude now? Do you not indulge yourself a little more than you did ? Oh beware, lest you “sin, because you are not under the law, but under grace!”
5. When you was under conviction, you durst not indulge the lust of the eye in any degree. You would not do any thing, great or small, merely to gratify your curiosity. You regarded only cleanliness and necessity, or at most very moderate convenience, either in furniture or apparel ; superfluity and finery of whatever kind, as well as fashionable elegance, were both a terror and an abomination to you.
Are they so still ? Is your conscience as tender now in these things, as it was then? Do you still follow the same rule both in furniture and apparel, trampling all finery, all superfluity, every thing useless, every thing merely ornamental, however fashionable, under foot ? Rather, have you not resumed what you had once laid aside, and what you could not then use without wounding your conscience ? And have you not learned to say, “Oh, I am not so scrupulous now ?” I would to God you were! Then you would not sin thus, “because you are not under the law, but under grace!"
6. You was once scrupulous too of commending anysto their face, and still more, of suffering any to commend you. It was a stab to your heart; you could not bear it; you sought the honour that cometh of God only. You could not endure such conversation; nor any conversation which was not good to the use of edifying. All idle talk, all trifling discourse, you abhorred; you hated as well as feared it; being deepiy sensible of the value of time, of every precious fleeting moment.
In like manner, you dreaded and abhorred idle expense ; valuing your money only less than your time, and trembling lest you should be found an unfaithful steward even of the mammon of unrighteousness.
Do you now look upon praise as deadly poison, which you can neither give nor receive but at the peril of your soul? Do you still dread and abhor all conversation, which does not tend to the use of edifying; and labour to improve every moment, that it may not pass without leaving you better than it found you ? Are not you less careful as to the expense both of money and time? Cannot you now lay out either, as you could not have done once? Alas! How has that “which should have been for your health, proved to you an occasion of falling !" How have you " sinned because you was not under the law but under grace!"
7. God forbid you should any longer continue thus to “turn the grace of God into lasciviousness !” Oh remember how clear and strong a conviction you once had concerning all these things! And, at the same time, you was fully satisfied, from whom that conviction came. The world told you, you was in a delusion; but you knew it was the voice of God. In these things you was not too scrupulous then; but you are not now scrupulous enough. God kept you longer in that painful school, that you might learn those great lessons the more perfectly. And have you forgot them already ? Oh recollect them before it is too late! Have you suffered so many things in vain ? I trust, it is not yet in vain. Now use the conviction without the pain ! Practise the lesson without the rod! Let not the mercy of God weigh less with you now, than his fiery indignation did before. Is love a less powerful inotive than fear? if not, let it be an invariable rule, “I will do nothing now I am 'under grace,' which I durst not have done when ' under the law.""
8. I cannot conclude this head, without exhorting you to examine yourself, likewise, touching sins of omission. Are you as clear of these, now you“ are under grace," as you was when “under the law ?” How diligent was you then in hearing the word of God ? Did you neglect any opportunity ? Did you not attend thereon day and night ? Would a small hinderance have kept you away? A little business? A visitant ? A slight indisposition ? A soft bed? A dark or cold morning ?-Did not you then fast often; or use abstinence to the uttermost of your power? Was not you much in prayer, (cold and heavy as you was,) while you was hanging over the mouth of hell ? Did you not speak and not spare even for an unknown God ? Did you not boldly plead his cause ?-reprove sinners ?—and avow the truth before an adulterous generation ? And are you now a believer in Christ? Have you the faith that overcometh the world ? What! and are you less zealous for your Master now, than you was when you knew him not ? Less diligent in fasting, in prayer, in hearing his word, in calling sinners to God? Oh repent! See and feel your grievous loss! Remember from whence you are fallen? Bewail your unfaithfulness! Now be zealous and do the first works ; lest, if you continue to make void the law through faith,” God cut you off, and appoint you your portion with the unbelievers!
SERMON XXXVI.—The Law established through Faith.
DISCOURSE II. “ Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid : yea, we establish tie law,” Rom. iii, 31.
1. It has been shown in the preceding discourse, which are the most usual methods of making void the law through faith; namely, first, the not preaching it at all; which effectually makes it all void at a stroke; and this under colour of preaching Christ and magnifying the gospel, though it be, in truth, destroying both the one and the other: secondly, the teaching, (whether directly or indirectly,) that faith supersedes the necessity of holiness; that this is less necessary now, or a less degree of it necessary, than before Christ came; that it is less necessary to us, because we believe, than otherwise it would have been; or, that Christian liberty is a liberty from any kind or degree of holiness : (so per verting those great truths, that we are now under the covenant of grace, and not of works; that a man is justified by faith, without the works of the law; and that “to him that worketh not, but believeth, his faith is counted for righteousness:") or, thirdly, the doing this practically; the making void the law in practice, though not in principle; the living or acting as if faith was designed to excuse us from holiness; the allowing ourselves in sin, “ because we are not under the law, but under grace." It remains to inquire, how we may follow a better pattern, how we may be able to say with the apostle, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid : yea, we establish the law."
2. We do not, indeed, establish the old ceremonial law; we know that it is abolished for ever: much less do we establish the whole Mosaic dispensation ; this we know our Lord has nailed to his cross. Nor yet do we so establish the moral law, (which it is to be feared too many do,) as if the fulfilling it, the keeping all the commandments, were the condition of our justification. If it were so, surely“ in his sight should no man living be justified.” But all this being allowed, we still, in the apostle's sense,“ establish the law," the moral law.
I. l. We establish the law, first, by our doctrine; by endeavouring to preach it in its whole extent, to explain and enforce every part of it, in the same manner as our great Teacher did, while upon earth. We establish it by following St. Peter's advice : “ If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God ;” as the holy men of old, moved by the Holy Ghost, spoke and wrote for our instruction; and as the apostles of our blessed Lord, by the direction of the same Spirit. We establish it whenever we speak in his name, by keeping back nothing from them that hear; by declaring to them, without any limitation or reserve, the whole counsel of God. And in order the more effectually to establish it, we use herein great plainness of speech. “We are not as many that corrupt the word of God;" xanna EUOVTES ; (as artful men their bad wines ;)—we do not cauponize, mix, adulterate, or soften it, to make it suit the taste of the hearers :-“but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ;" as having no other aim, than “by manifestation of the truth, to commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.”
2. We then, by. our doctrine, establish the law, when we thus openly declare it to all men; and that in the fulness wherein it is delivered by our blessed Lord and his apostles; when we publish it in the height, and depth, and length, and breadth thereof. We then establish the law, when we declare every part of it, every commandment contained therein, not only in its full, literal sense, but likewise in its spiritual meaning; not only with regard to the outward actions, which it either forbids or enjoins, but also with respect to the inward principle, to the thoughts, desires, and intents of the heart.
3. And indeed this we do the more diligently, not only because it is of the deepest importance ;-inasmuch as all the fruit, every word and work, must be only evil continually, if the tree be evil, if the dispositions and tempers of the heart be not right before God;—but likewise, because as important as these things are, they are little considered or understood, so little, that we may truly say of the law too, when taken in its full spiritual meaning, It is a mystery which was hid from ages and generations since the world began." It was utterly hid from the heathen world. They, with all their voasted wisdom, neither found out God, nor the law of God; not in the letter, much less in the spirit of it. “Their foolish hearts were” more and more “ darkened ;" while “professing themselves wise, they became fools.” And it was almost equally hid, as to its spiritual meaning, from the bulk of the Jewish nation. Even those who were so ready to declare concerning others, “ This people that knoweth not the law are cursed," pronounced their own sentence therein, as being under the same curse, the same dreadful ignorance. Witness our Lord's continual reproof of the wisest among them, for their gross misinterpretations of it. Witness the supposition almost universally received among them, that they needed only to make clean the outside of the cup; that the paying tithe of mint, anise, and cummin,.-outward' exactness,would atone for inward unholiness, for the total neglect both of justice and mercy, of faith and the love of God. Yea, so absolutely was the spiritual meaning of the law hidden from the wisest of them, that one of their most eminent rabbis comments thus on those words of the psalmist, “If I incline unto wickedness with my heart, the Lord will not hear me;" " that is,” saith he, “ if it be only in my heart, if I do not commit outward wickedness, the Lord will not Tegard it; he will not punish me, unless I proceed to the outward act!”
4. But, alas! the law of God, as to its inward, spiritual meaning, is not hid from the Jews or heathens only, but even from what is called the Christian world ; at least, from a vast majority of them. The spiritual sense of the commandments of God is still a mystery to these also. Nor is this observable only in those lands, which are overspread with Romish darkness and ignorance : but this is too sure, that the far greater part, even of those who are called reformed Christians, are utter strangers at this day to the law of Christ, in the purity and spirituality of it.
5. Hence it is that to this day," the scribes and Pharisees," the men who have the form but not the power of religion, and who are generally wise in their own eyes, and righteous in their own conceits,— hearing these things are offended ;" are deeply offended, when we speak of the religion of the heart; and particularly when we show, that without this, were we to "give all our goods to feed the poor," it would profit us