« PreviousContinue »
gressed the law. This law is the law of love; and this is the fulfilling of the law. When Christ came, not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it, he came to write its principles in the hearts of the transgressors of the law. This is magnifying it, and making it honorable.
It will now easily be seen that the salvation of all the transgressors of the law is necessary to a complete fulfilment of the law. A salvation of all the transgressors of the law is the salvation of all men; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. When a father requires obedience of his children, can the obedience of a part of them, wholly fulfil his command? No more can the obedience of a part of mankind, fulfil the law, which requires the obedience of all. By the same rule the obedience of one who is appointed to reconcile the disobedient children, never can be accepted in the room of the chil dren. If he have failed in the work of reconciliation, he has but performed what was required of him. His faithfulness caunot be imputed to the children, so as to answer the demands of the father against them. If they be forever disobedient, not all the blood of bulls or of goats, the ashes of an heifer, or the sacrifice of an innocent son, can so magnify his word and make it honorable, as to have it said he commanded, and, by them, was ever obeyed. The law, then, in being magnified, is to have the honor of being obeyed, which is the greatest honor that could be possibly con
ferred upon it. It preaches to all mankind, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself;" and when love which is the fulfilling of the law is written in every heart, then its preaching will prove effectual, and the law itself exceedingly magnified. But if there be a single individual among those that are under the law that never reseives this principle of love, but continues eternally unreconciled, as much as a jot or tittle certainly passes from the law without fulfilment. It forever calls in vain to that individual, to love the Lord and his neighbor, without having the honor of ever being obeyed. But Christ has promised, that not a jot or tittle shall pass till the whole is fulfilled. In arguing for the salvation of the whole, we argue for the salvation of each individual, as necessary to a complete fulfilment of the law. It is plain from the words of Christ, that if the fulfilment of the law respect one individual of the race of Adam, it equally respects the whole. It is equally as plain from the words of St. Paul, that it does respect mankind, or he never would have said, "He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." The conclusion, then, of the salvation of all sinners, is rendered as indisputable as the words of Christ and his apostles. To many it is as indisputable, although to others, it may not appear so. A subject that appears the most
clear and decisive to one, may be like the darkness of Egypt to another. When we say the proof of our subject is clear, we wish not to be understood that we have no charity for those who are unable to see it. "Charity beareth all things, and endureth all things."
An inquiry may now be made, how are we to support the doctrine of rewards and punishments according to these ideas of the requisitions of the divine law? If the law require love and obedience only, how can it require punishment? and if it do not require punishment, what does? The law may evidently approve of any penalty, or require any punishment, that is for the benefit of the punished, or for the general good of the subjects of law. Any punishment that is calculated to lead to love and obedience, is easily seen to be consistent with the requisitions of the divine law. The law may not only approve of such punishment, but in subserviency to its main design, absolutely require it. A law naturally presupposes penalties, and punishments for disobedience, but in subservience to the requirement of love. But the reason which is given for the law's requiring punishment, totally excludes the idea of endless punishment, because in such punishment, we can discern no ground for supposing an intention to amend, or an object akin to the requirement of the law according to scripture. From this consideration we can see nothing against the law's requiring punishment in a future
state as well as in the present, if it be for the same use and purpose. That punishment is for the benefit of the punished, is a point clearly maintained in the scripture. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and Scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit that we might be partakers of his holiness."
Shall we now attend to the question, what is the difference between the law and the gospel? The law, we conclude from the scripture, requires life, love, and obedience. But it is the province of the gospel to give the blessing of life, the requirement of the law. The law and the gospel are the same in nature, but different in the manner of bestowing their blessings. "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid for if there had been a law given that could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law." We are not to understand the law and the gospel to be in opposition to each other. What our heavenly Father has built
with one hand, he does not pull down with another. To arm his justice and his mercy directly against each other, divides him against himself, and produces in him the discord of "God and mammon," of "Christ and Belial." Hence the poet's declaration,
"A God all mercy is a God unjust,"
is foreign from every good principle of theology. If God be merciful at all, he is infinitely merciful; for he possesses no attribute short of full perfection. He is a God all merciful, and yet a God of justice. "The wisdom that is from above," says James, "is full of mercy." Then according to our poet it is unjust. David says, "The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works."
We discern a difference between the law and the gospel in that "the law is not of faith; but the man that doeth them," the things required in the law, "shall live in them."The law promises rewards in and for obedience; the gospel gives the principle of obedience. The law bestows rewards, but no gifts; in the gospel is the gift of eternal life. It finishes what the law requires. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.