Page images

God concerning the behaviour of his creatures. The law says, "Do this and thou shalt live. Transgress this, and dying, thou shalt surely die." This is the will of the supreme lawgiver, and his justice is enga ged to see the honour of his law maintained, as well in punishing transgression with death, as in rewarding obedience with life. The law cannot possibly do any injustice, because it is directed by the unerring will of God. God, and his will, and his law, are alike just: for it is written in the law, "the Lord's work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he."

All his ways and dealings with the children of men are perfectly just, and they are also good. His law is good. It partakes of the goodness of its divine author, inasmuch as it tends to promote the welfare and happiness of his creatures. The creature was made to show forth the glory of its great Creator, and the law was the rule by which it was to walk, in order to promote his glory: and in this holy walking there was all good to be met with. It was the way of pleasantness, and the path of peace. It preserved the assurance of the divine favour, afforded a perpetual feast of conscience, and gave sure and certain hopes of a glorious immortality; for Moses thus describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man who doeth these things shall live by them. If he do all things written in the book of the law, he shall live unto God, and shall live with God. He shall enjoy a life of happiness here in the love and communion of God, and he shall enjoy an endless life of glory. Surely then the law is good, since the keeping of it would have produced all good, and since the transgressing of it has brought all the evil upon man which he can suffer in time and in eternity. Consider, my brethren, how good the law is, from that deluge of evil which came in upon the breach of it. When the Lord God at the end of his six days' work surveyed all that he had made, behold, it was very good. There was then no evil of any kind to

afflict either body or soul; but by sin the body became subject to sickness, pain, and death, and the soul to guilt and misery; and in the next life both body and soul were subject to the worm that never dieth, and to the fire that never shall be quenched.

Such is the goodness of the law. It is the all-wise provision which God has made for his own glory, and for the happiness of his creatures, to whom he has published it. He made it known to our first parents in paradise. It was their rule of action while they stood in the likeness and image of God. They had no opposition then to his good and acceptable and perfect will, but the understanding had a clear view of it, the will chose it, and the heart loved it, and they were able to do it with all their mind and with all their strength. And when sin entered into the world, the will of God was not changed, nor his law repealed. The law was in full force from Adam to Moses, in whose time the Lord God recorded it with the most awful majesty on mount Sinai, and engraved it with his own hands upon two tables of stone. And it stands unrepealed to this day; promising life to obedience, and threatening death to transgression.

Since then the law has been properly promulged, an holy, just and good law, that altereth not, let us hear what it requires. It is the will of the lawgiver that he who doeth the things written in the book of the law shall live by them. But then he must do all things without exception. He must not fail in any one point. If he will enter into life, he must keep all the commandments. He must be universally holy, just, and good, as the law is. If he ever receive the promised reward he must perform the condition, that is, he must pay the law perfect uninterrupted obedience, with every faculty of soul and body, in their utmost strength and vigour: for it cannot suffer any transgression; but for the least, inflicts the threatened punishment.

This is an essential property of the moral law. Upon the very first offence it cuts the sinner off

from all claim to the promised reward, and, as to any thing that he can do, cuts him off for ever. It is not in his power to make himself innocent again. Having once failed in his obedience, the law knows nothing of mercy, cannot accept the greatest repentance, nor be satisfied with the deepest sorrow for what is past; but immediately passeth sentence acccording to what is written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." If you fail in one single instance of obedience, you do not continue to perform all things, but fall under the curse of the broken law, and are as much liable to punishment, though not in the same degree, as if you had failed in every instance. In which sense the words of St. James are to be understood: "He that offendeth in one point is guilty of all."

I have now gone through the several parts of the definition before given of the moral law, and it appears to be the holy, just, and good will of God made known and promulged to his creatures in all those particulars wherein he requires their perfect obedience in order to their happiness. Since this is the case, it highly concerns every one of us to enquire, whether we be under an obligation to keep the law, which is the second particular I proposed to consider, namely,

Whether the moral law be still in force, and still requires of them who expect to be saved by it perfect unsinning obedience. And upon the first proposal of this question it would occur to every attentive person, that the law being as holy, just, and good, as God is, can no more admit of any variableness or shadow of turning, than God himself can. He says, "I change not;" how then can his law, which is the discovery of his mind and will, be changeable? Man may change, but the law is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. It altereth not. If man does not keep it, it will lose none of its honour. Justice will be glorified by supporting the holiness of the law, and by inflicting the deserved punishment on the

transgressors of it. But let us consult the law and the testimony. The psalmist says, Psal. cxi. 7, 8, "all his commandments are sure: they stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness." All his commandments, not excepting one, are fixed upon a sure immoveable foundation: for they stand fast for ever in full force, established by the unchangeable will of God, and are ordained in perfect harmony with all the divine attributes, being done in truth, which cannot lie, and uprightness, which cannot err. To the same purpose he says in another psalm, (cxix. 160,) "thy word is true from the beginning; and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever." These righteous judgments are the decrees of the moral law, and there is not one of them that can be repealed, but they shall all endure in full force for ever. Our blessed Saviour has thrown great light upon this subject. The whole moral law is summed up in the ten commandments, which he has reduced to these two, the love of God and the love of our neighbour: "on these two commandments," says he, "hang all the law and the prophets;" for love is the fulfilling of the law, and love never faileth, consequently the law of love can never fail, but its debt of gratitude will be paying (and happy is he who shall be paying it) to all eternity. Thus the moral law, stands established by the authority of our divine teacher. In his sermon upon the mount he reforms the abuses and false comments which the Scribes and Pharisees had put upon the moral law, and he begins with this remark; Matth. v. 17— "Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets-I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil;" to fulfil the law, by paying it infinitely perfect obedience, and by being obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; and by this active and passive obedience he showed that it was easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than that one tittle of the law should fail. If the law could have abated any thing of its demands, there would have been no necessity

for Christ's fulfilling it by his obedience and death. But the law was unalterable. It could not be satisfied with any obedience, but what was absolutely holy, just, and good; and as all men had failed in paying it this obedience, they must therefore have been punished in their own persons, unless God, out of the riches of his wisdom and grace, had found out a way by which the honour of his law might be advanced, and yet the sinner might be saved; and that was by sending his Son to fulfil the law. He was equal to this work; because he was God equal with the Father, and he took our nature, and God and man were united in one Christ, that he might be capable of doing, and suffering, and meriting in an infinite degree. Accordingly in the fulness of time he stood up in the place of sinners, and therefore he became liable to do and to suffer whatever law and justice demanded, that having magnified the law by obeying its precepts, and made it honourable by suffering its penalties, the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in them who should believe on him to everlasting life; but the law is still in force to condemn every one who does not savingly believe on him, and will be for ever in force to inflict the deserved punish


It is evident then that the moral law stands to this day unrepealed. Although man be changed from what he was at first, yet the law is not. It is still the holy, just, and good will of God requiring perfect obedience. And when the holiness of the law is violated, the justice of God is bound to see the sanctions of the law executed upon the disobedient, and the divine goodness cannot plead an arrest of judgment; because it is a good law which is broken, and therefore it is a good thing to see the transgressors of it be paid the wages of sin.

My brethren, are not these very alarming truths? and ought they not to suggest to every one of you such reflections as these? What am I under the law, bound to keep it with a perfect unsinning obe

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »