« PreviousContinue »
ral law, but also for their present failings. They want the merits of his most precious blood every day; for all that they do wants to be cleansed in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness. They are forced to bring their very duties to be cleansed here; because they do not come up to the perfect demands of the moral law. There are short-comings in their most holy things, for which they want an atonement. O how precious then must the blood of Christ be to such persons! With what love will their hearts burn towards him! With what gratitude will they serve him! How dear will the ordinances be to them, since there they find their Lord spiritually present, comforting, strengthening, and establishing their hearts! These persons want no arguments to persuade them to a constant attendance upon the ordinances for they know that they shall in them find him whom their soul longeth for, and shall in them enjoy sweet communion with him, until the day of glory break, and the earthly shadows flee away. Then they shall see him face to face, and shall be for ever with the Lord. O that this happiness may be yours and mine! Grant it, Holy Father, for thy dear Son's sake, to whom, with the eternal Spirit, three persons in one Jehovah, be equal honour and glory, praise and worship, for ever and ever. Amen.
On the Law of Faith.
"Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith."-ROMANS, iii. 27.
HAVING already considered the nature of the
moral and of the ceremonial law, I am now tó treat of the law of faith, mentioned in my text. The moral law is the holy, just, and good will of God, to which he required, and does require, perfect obedience; for his will is like himself, always one and the same, without variableness or shadow of turning: but there is no salvation now to be expected from this law, because all have sinned against it, and are liable to the threatened penalties. Upon the first breach of it, God was graciously pleased to reveal the ceremonial law, the design and scope of which was to point out the promised Messiah, and to be the means of grace to the people of God: for by its services, which were shadows and types of Christ, and of the good things to come through him, the eye of faith was kept earnestly looking upon him, and waiting for the happy time, when the day should break and the shadows flee away, and he should come in the flesh to deliver his people from the curses of the moral law. At the end of four thousand years he came, and having fulfilled the ceremonial law, and accom. plished every thing signified by its typical services, it
was then repealed, and the law of faith alone was established, by which believers have been saved from the beginning, and are to be saved to the end of the world.
If we take a short view of the apostle's reasoning in this chapter, we shall easily discover what this law of faith is. He is treating of the corruption of mankind, of the Jews as well as of the Gentiles and he proves that they are all under sin: for they all broken the moral law, and are guilty in the sight of God, and are thereby become absolutely incapable of ever attaining inherent legal righteousness. After the moral law has been once broken, it can never afterwards justify the sinner: because it requires perfect, uninterrupted obedience, and allows of no failing, no, not in thought. Its style and language is"Do this, and thou shalt live"-"If thou transgress, dying thou shalt surely die." And when any one transgresses, it knows nothing of mercy, nor has made any provision for pardon; but calls aloud for justice to inflict the deserved punishment. And since all men have transgressed, therefore the apostle concludes, that by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God. Thus every mouth is stopped, and all the world is become guilty before God. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested in the covenant of grace, in which the honour and dignity of the moral law is secured, and a wonderful way is revealed, whereby the sinner may be pardoned, and infinite justice may be glorified in showing him mercy. The Lord Christ, being God equal with the Father, freely covenanted to take man's nature, and in it to act and suffer as his representative, to pay the law perfect and infinitely meritorious obedience, and to endure satisfactory and infinitely meritorious sufferings; yea, to bear the wrath, and to die the death, which man deserved and thus he wrought out an all-perfect righteousness, even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.
And this method of justifying sinners, by his being made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, is thus opened and explained by the apostle in the words going before the text. All have sinned, says he, and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace, and if by grace, then it is not by works, but it is all a free gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. His blood made the propitiation, and faith applies and receives it, and thereby declares the righteousness of God for the remission of sins that are past. And in this way of justifying sinners through the righteousness of the Lord Christ, God the Father proves himself to be just, and the justifier of him who is of the faith of Jesus. He vindicates his justice, and the honour of his law, and these being secured he can then justify him that is ungodly, if he believe in Jesus: for then his faith will be imputed unto him for righteousness.
When the carnal man hears this doctrine, he is apt to take offence at it. He has such an high opinion of himself, and of his own boasted abilities, that he cannot conceive how God should justify sinners by his free grace, without any of their works and merit, and he is ready to ask, what! must I do nothing towards my justification? No; you can do nothing; because while your sins are unpardoned, you are under sentence of death; you are dead in law, and you can no more do any act that is good and valid in the court of heaven, than a condemned criminal can do any act that is good and valid in one our courts of justice. What am I not to work out, says he, and to merit some part of my justification? No, none at all. The scripture gives all the glory to God, that it may cut off all boasting from man; for if God justify sinners freely by faith, without any works, where is boasting then, says the apostle? Man would have room to boast, if he was justified wholly by his own works, or partly by faith, and partly by his works;
if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but since he is justified entirely by free grace, through faith in the righteousness of another, all boasting is excluded. By what law? By the law of works? No, by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified, and therefore no flesh can boast: for how absurd would it be to boast of the works of that law which brings sinners in guilty and condemns them? But all boasting is excluded by the law of faith: for faith receives justification freely from Jesus Christ, without any merit or works of man, and therefore is obliged to give all the glory to God; so that faith effectually excludes boasting, and the law of faith, the obligation that a sinner is under to go out of himself for righteousness, and to believe in the righteousness of another, in order to his being justified, still farther excludes boasting: for the Lord God has made a decree, and heaven and earth shall pass away rather than it shall not be carried into execution, that a sinner shall be justified no other way but by faith. This is the law of the most high God, which he hath revealed from heaven, that ye believe in him whom he hath sent for righteousness. Under this law we now live, and by it only can we be saved; and may he who teacheth man wisdom, teach you the nature of it. May he accompany with his grace and blessing what I shall observe from the text: First, concerning the law of faith, and
Secondly, in defence of the apostle's doctrine, and Thirdly, by way of application.
As to the first head, the apostle has thus explained the law of faith. The moral law is still in force, but there is no salvation by it: because it requires perfect, uninterrupted obedience, and will not allow of the least failing, no, not in thought. If you offend once, you have lost all claim to legal righteousness for ever; so that by the works of the moral law no flesh can be justified, since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And as the moral law cannot save the sinner, neither can the ceremonial: