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by the commandment, became exceeding sinful." Having taken this brief view of the law, we may proceed,
II. To consider the proper effect of a work of the law upon the heart. "Sin revived, and I died." The law is "the ministration of condemnation and of death." 2 Cor. iii. 7-9. If a person could keep it perfectly, it would entitle him to life; for it was originally" ordained to life;" but " I found it," saith St. Paul, "to be unto death." The reason is, because we cannot, through the weakness of our fallen nature, keep it perfectly; and if we fail in one point, we are guilty of all. Therefore it is written (Gal. iii. 10), "As many as are of the works of the law (that is, who trust to the works of the law for salvation) are under the curse; for cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them."
Now this is the sad condition of us all till we believe in Christ for righteousness. It is to no purpose for any one to plead, I have not sinned so and so.' Hast thou sinned at all? Hast thou sinned once? Then thou art guilty, and the law condemns thee to eternal death. The law makes no allowances, no abatements ; it does not say a word about sincere obedience, or doing as well as we can. No; the law says, Do all things that are commanded. Do them perfectly. Continue all thy life to do them; and then thou mayest be justified by thy works: but if thou fail in one instance, thou comest under the curse; for," whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all." James ii. 10.
A person may say, It is true I have sinned, but I am very sorry for my sins, and will amend my
will not this relieve me from the curse? No: the law has made no provision for repentance, reformation, or pardon. The style of the law is not Repent and live, or Reform and live; but keep the whole
law perfectly and continually, and live; Transgress it once, and die. It is true that the gospel brings relief for the sinner, because it reveals Christ and his righteousness; but the law knows nothing of mercy. It is not intended to give life, but to kill and destroy all hopes of life by obedience, and to force the sinner to fly to Christ for life. So St. Paul speaks, Rom. iii. 19,—“Now we know that whatsoever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God." This then cuts off all hopes of salvation by works; for the Apostle adds, "Therefore, by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin." This is its use: it can go no farther. It is by the gospel we have the knowledge of righteousness, for therein is the righteousness of God by faith revealed to faith."Rom. i. 17.
We should be very careful to distinguish between the law and the gospel; for many mistakes arise from mingling them together.
"According to the law, eternal life is by works; according to the gospel, it is by grace."
"The law says, Do this, and thou shalt live; but the gospel says, Believe this, and thou shalt be saved.'
"The law threatens to punish the sinner for the first offence; but the gospel offers him pardon for many offences."
"The law sentences him to death; the gospel offers him justification to life."
"By the law he is a guilty sinner; by the gospel he may be made a glorious saint.”
"If he die under the guilt of the broken law, hell will be his everlasting portion: if he die a partaker of the grace of the gospel, heaven will be his eternal inheritance."
And now, my dear friends, having laid before you the nature of the law, let me beg you most seriously to consider what has been said, and that with regard to yourselves. What do you know of God's law by your own experience? Have you not seen that it is exceeding broad; that it requires you to love God with all your heart, and soul, and strength? and to love your neighbour as yourself? And have you done this-all this-and always? Have you never once offended in thought, word, or deed? Alas! your conscience already smites you, and your own mouth must certainly condemn you. How often have you said, "We have offended against thy holy laws! we have left undone those things which we ought to have done! and we have done those things which we ought not to have done!" Probably you have often joined in the church-service, and said, after the reading of the Commandments, "Lord, have mercy upon us!" that is, forgive our disobedience to them," and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee." You have said, "We bewail our manifold sins and wickedness; we do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable." Did you really mean what you said? If not, you lied before God. You expressed that sorrow for sin which you never felt; and rose from your knees careless whether you obtained the mercy which you asked for, but never desired. You said you were "a miserable sinner," and yet perhaps, like the Pharisee, boast that you are not as other men are." What awful hypocrisy is this! But if, on the other hand, your confessions were sincere, then you have pleaded guilty to the charge of the law, and admit that you are under its dreadful curse.
And have you considered what "a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God"? Oh, how would your heart melt within you, if you duly considered what it is to be under his curse, and to bear his wrath to all eternity! If you can hear the curses of this law, and not be alarmed for your safety, your heart must be hard indeed. May God have mercy upon you, and take away the heart of stone!
Perhaps you are saying, Must I despair then? No: God forbid! You must, indeed, despair of obtaining salvation by your works, your sorrow for sin, or your future amendment; and this will make the gospel welcome to you. The law has done its office if it drives you to Christ. It is preached for this very purpose, and "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness." The gospel reveals a free, full, and everlasting salvation; it publishes to the convinced sinner pardon and life, as the free gift of God; for Christ has obeyed the precepts of the law in our stead; he has also borne the punishment in our room. "He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for us." What a blessing have you already received, if God, by his good Spirit, has convinced you of sin! This is the dawn of a glorious day. He will also convince you of righteousness, and show you that it may be yours, if you are but willing to submit to it, and be justified by it. Come, then, cast yourselves down at the footstool of mercy, confess your sins, acknowledge your guilt, own your helplessness, cry for pardon, fly to Jesus, who waits to be gracious, and all shall yet be well. He hath wounded, that he may heal you; he hath killed, that he may make you alive. You now will be glad of the physician, for you feel your sickness; and he waits to be gracious. You are weary and heavy laden, and he promises to give you rest.
ROMANS X. 4.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
HE two principal parts of Scripture which it concerns us most to know, are the Law and the Gospel. "He who can rightly distinguish between these," says Luther, "is a good Divine;" and we may add, that he who knows how to use both aright, in an experimental and practical manner, is a good Christian.
The nature and use of the law have been already considered. The proper effect of it is the same in every believer as it was in St. Paul: "I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." The person brought into this state will be put upon the inquiry,-How then can I come before God, and hope for pardon? If the law be so holy and strict,-if it can do nothing for me but convince me of my sin, and condemn me for it, by what means can I be accepted?
Now there are but two ways that ever were proposed of God, or devised of man: the one according to the old covenant,-Do and live: the other according to the new,-" Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Whatever ways and means have been thought of, by people of all religions, they may be reduced to these two,-Works or Grace; and these cannot be mixed: for if any