« PreviousContinue »
so that he is dead to the Law, from the clearest conviction, from the deepest sensibility, of his being utterly unable to perform that obedience which the Law requires, so as to be justified by it.
The believer is dead to the Law, not depending upon that sincere, but imperfect obedience which by the grace of God he is now able to perform. Being made sensible of the exe ceeding sinfulness of sin, and of its dreadful and destructive consequences, he fled from it, as from the most dreadful of all evils, and turned to God, by true repentance. And when waiting upon God, in bis ordinances, and seeking him with his wbole heart, he did not depend upon his religious duties, or upon any obedience of his own; but sought to be justified through faith in Christ, without the least regard to his oworighteousness.
Nor does the believer, even when he is conscious a real change is wrought in his mind, so that he can serve the Lord in newness of spirit, and bring forth fruit to the glory of God, build his hopes of beaven upon his own righteouse ness, or his faithfulness to the grace received ; nor does he hope for an increase of grace on that foundation ; for al., though he is satisfied, it is his indispensible duty to be faith ful to him who hath called him, with so bigh and holy a calling, and feels himself to be under the greatest obligations to walk circumspectly before the Lord , yet he builds all his hopes of an increase of grace and of eternal glory, upon the truth and faithfulness of God, and upon the all-sufficient merits of an infinitely gracious Redeemer.
The believer is dead to the Law, well knowing he is not under it; considered as a covenant of works ; He is not un der that dispensation, but under grace, the gracious dispensation of the Gospel : Hence he sees, that the sacrifice of Christ has procured present and eternal redempption for him, he must be wholly indebted to Christ for every degree of salvation; and that faith in the Redeemer, as it gives him an interest in all that he hath done and suffered ; so according to the degree of his faith, he is made a happy partaker of those inestimable benefits, which Chrisc hath purchased for him; nor is there the least danger that any follower of Christ should dishonour his profession, while he lives by faith in the Son of Godk How should this be, when faith is continually going out to Cbrist for fresh supplies of divine grace, and never returns empty; but is constantly bringing an increase of divine light, peace, and love into the soul; so that the man is comforted with still clearer views of his interest in
Christ, is quickned by the power of his Spirit; and of consequence, is still more lively in his own soul, and more abondastly zealous for the glory of God. He feels bimself under the highest obligations to make the best returns in bis power, to the God of love who hath dealt so bountifully with him ; and the love of Christ powerfully constrains him to devote himself wholly to God, and to spend all his time and strength to his glory. A poor backslider mav be deceived, and may think, because he professes faith in Christ, therefore all must be well with him, as he hopes to be eternally saved by grace and not by the works of the Law; but he has forgotten that faith purifieth the heart, and worketh by love, and is constantly attended with all the fruits of righteousness, which are by Christ Jesus, to the honour and praise of God. But the true believer, whose faith is kept in constant exercise, is continually receiving fresh supplies of spiritual life from Christ, and is therefore fruitful in every good word and work, he does not make void the Law through faith, but establishes the Law, and that very righteousness which the Law requires, he now performs, while he walks not after the flesh, but after the spirit, yet he builds all his hopes of eternal -salvation upon Christ, and not upon his own obedience to the Law. This brings us to consider,
Secondly, By what means the believer is brought into this state of death.
By the Law in the hand of the holy Spirit, he has been convinced of his utter inability to perform that obedience, which is absolutely necessary, in order to be justified thereby. “The Lair," saith the Apostle;" is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good But we are the Tererse of this, we are neither holy, nor just, nor good; but on the contrary, carnal, earthly, sensual, and devilish; and therefore can, in no wise, do that which is acceptable in the sight of God. The mind being defiled we can not bring forth the fruits of holiness, in our life and conversation, till an entire change is wrought in us by the Spirit of God.
By the Law, in the hand of the Holy Spirit, we are made sensible of the guilt which we have already contracted by breaking the Law, "had not known sin," saith the Apostle, “but hy means of the Law." I had not known evil desire to be sinful, had not the Law said, “Thou shalt not covet.” Again : "I was alive without the Law once;" · I was not sensible that I was under the sentence of death, being condemned by the Law of God, as a transgressor ; and I had lively hopes of heaven too, having a good opinion of my own state of mind : “ But when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” When I was led to see the commandment, or the Law of God, in a proper light, “ sin : revived;" I saw myself a guilty, helpless, and polluted sinner; therefore " I died." I saw myself under sentence of death, and consequently all my hopes of heaven vanished away; and the commandment, which was originally ordained to life, wbile man continued in his primitive integrity, I found to be unto death ; being a fallen, degenerate creature, the Law became an instrument of inaking me sensible of it, so that I might see the necessity of being saved by grace through faith.
“ Was then,” saith the Apostle, “that which is good made death unto me?" Not so; “but sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me, by that which is good, that sin by the commandment might appear exceeding sinful;" divine light shining upon my mind, I was enabled to view sin in the clear glass of God's holy and righteous law, and I saw all its native deformity, its contrariety to the will, or Law of God, I saw it to be truly diabolical and infinitely hateful; as it had rendered me an object of God's displeasure, and utterly unft to enjoy that heavenly felicity, which he hạth prepared for those who love him. Thus the Law became a schoolmaster to bring me to Christ, that I might be justified by faith. The Law discovered to me my wretchcd and ruined condition, and shewed me the necessity of obtaining a pardon for my past transgressions, and of experiencing that grace by which I might be enabled to serve God acceptably for the time to come.
The believer is made sensible, that since the fall, it never was the design of God that any man should be justified by his obedience to the Law, it being impossible; for how can a creature, naturally unholy in himself, perform perfect obedience to a Law, perfectly holy in all its parts and branches ? " What the Law could not do," saith the Apostle, " in that it was weak through the flesh ;" because of our original depravity, the Law was not sufficient to save us ; it was only calculated to condemn, not to justify us. The blessed God did that which the Law could not do, by sending bis only. Son, in the likeness of man ; that being justified and saved by him, “the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the desh, but after the Spirit.” Hence it follows, that as the God of Love sent his well-beloved Son into the world, to
redeem and save us, it must needs he his will, that being convinced of our own exceeding sinfulness, gult, and help. lessness, we should Ay for refuge, to lay hold upon the only hope which is set before us in the Gospel; should embrace the offers of mercy and grace made into us by our blessed Redeemer, and experience redemption and salvation through him.
Hence we see the astonishing wisdom and goodness of God, manifested in the whole plan of our salvation. How suitable is the provision which he hath made for uş, considered in our fallen and degenerate state! Is the mind blinded by sin ? Christ considered as the Sun of Righte. ousness, ariseth upon us and we are made children of the light and of the day. Are we guilty in the sight of God, and condemned by our own consciences ? Christ, considered as our atoning sacrifice, takes all our guilt away, and we stand justified before God. Are we all unholy, altogether unclean in the sight of the Lord ? Christ, by the sanctifying influences of his Spirit, works an entire change in the mind, creates as anew, and makes us inwardly holy. Were we without strength, and unable to perform obedience to the holy and righteous Law of God? Through faith in Christ, spiritual strength is communicated, whereby we are enabled to walk unblameable in holiness, doing the will of the Lord from the ground of the heart.
Thirdly, We come now to consider the design of God in working this death in us, “ That we might live unto God;" may so live, that all his wise and gracious designs might be fulfilled in us, might live under a continual sense of his favour, being made fully sensible that he is reconciled to us, through the Son of his Love. This must, be his will, or his design, in sending Christ into the world, could not be fulfilled : “ He hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us ;" and the benefit of this redemption is brought into the soul, by faith in the Redeemer: “ For being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” But this peace cannot be enjoyed, unless we are assured of our interest in Christ, and made sensible God is reconciled to us, through bim. The consideration of such unmerited mercy, being extended to us through Christ, becomes a powerful motive to obedience, and the serious considera tion of his love constraineth us, to make the best returns 10 God we possibly can, of sincere love, of unfeigned gratitude, and chearful obedience, to every precept of his
holy word. We would not dishonour that most graciou God, who hath freely forgiven all our past tresspasses ; nor grieve his Holy Spirit, who hath brought us into his favour; we would not again defile our consciences, by bringing fresh guilt upon them; and therefore we carefully abstain from every appearance of evil.
Our gracious God certainly designs, we should stand fast in that state of liberty into which we are brought, and that grace should reign through righteousness unto eternal life. "Divine grace communicated, gives us a single eye that purity of intention, which leads us to seek the glory of God, in all we think, or speak, or do. We live in the presence of him, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. “Thou God seest me," is the language of our heart; hence our grand design, our one continued endeavour is, to please God in all things, that with the holy Apostle, " we may rejoice in the testimony of a good conscience," being persuaded God is well pleased with us, through our blessed Redeemer.
As the enlightening grace of God discovers to us the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and we hate, and constantly avoid the accursed thing; it also discovers the exceeding beauty of that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord, and we follow after that which appears so desirable. As divine grace spiritualizes the soul, it becomes natural for us to walk in holy obedience to the will of God: His commandments are no longer grievous, but by the grace of God, we cordially embrace them, and order our whole conduct agreeable thereto. If we pray, as our Lord hath taught us, “Thy kingdom come," it is that we may also pray, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven. The kingdom of grace being set up in the mind, it follows, that our will is brought into subjection to the will of God, our affections are regulated by the word, and sanctified by the Spirit of God, and consequently are all fixed upon their proper objects; we hope and fear, we desire and abhor, we delight in or detest, just as God in his holy word directs, and also love and hate, as he himself bath taught us.
To live upto God implies, that we are directed by his word, and are infuenced by his Spirit ; and if so, the word of God will lead us to pursue the highest degrees of Christian holiness, and the Spirit of God will work that holiness in our minds : In the word we see full and complete salvation treasured up for us in the precious promises of God; and through the aid of the Spirit, we lay hold