« PreviousContinue »
under the New Testament dispensation been any whit behind them in penitent acknowledgments of their guilt. Paul styles himself “ the chief of sinners ;" and the beloved disciple declares, in express terms, that all pretensions to innocence are not only false but blasphemous : “ If we say that we bave no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Nay, “ if we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and bis word is not in us." 1 John i. 8, 9.
This further appears from the various kinds of misery which abound in the world, especially death, from wbich none of Adam's posterity are exempted. These do necessarily suppose guilt; for it is not agreeable to the justice of God to afflict and punish innocent creatures. Now, this mean of conviction is so plain and obvious, that a man must do great violence to his reason before he can resist the evidence it affords. Goodness and justice are attributes which are universally considered as most essential to the Supreme Being; and yet it is impossible to account for the present calamitous state of mankind, in a consistency with these perfections, upon any other supposition than this, that “all have sinned,” and thereby incurred bis righteous displeasure. So that you see there is no penury of witnesses upon this head. The Scriptures expressly declare that all are sinners; the most eminent saints under both dispensations have at. tested the truth of this assertion; and the many awful tokens of the divine displeasure, which we daily behold and feel, render it absurd to suppose the contrary.
But there is yet another witness behind, whose testi. mony can be liable to no objection; a witness which ev. ery man will find within his own breast; I mean Con. science, to which I now appeal for the truth of this matter. And here I shall renew the question which Solo
mon proposed many ages ago: “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sins ?" Can you discover nothing amiss in your temper and practice? Do they in all points agree with the rule of God's word? Dare any of you appeal to the justice of God for acquittal? and claim happiness as the due reward of your obedience? Say, 0 man! bast thou no need at all of pardoning mercy? Wilt thou give it under thy hand, that thou shalt never plead the merits of a Saviour for thy justification ? that at the hour of death, or in the day of judgment, thou shalt never once implore bis help, nor cry for mercy, but stand upon the foundation of thy per. sonal righteousness before his impartial tribunal? Or ra. ther, my brethren, are you not conscious of innumerable instances of guilt, wherein you have acted in direct opposition, not only to the written law, but to the inward sense and authority of your own minds; doing what ye knew was displeasing to God; and that, not by the mere force of sudden temptation, but coolly and deliberately, in the face of those arguments which ought, in all reason to have restrained you from them? I think I may venture to affirm, that there is not one person here present who is not able to recollect several instances of this kind; and if our own blind and partial hearts do now condemn us, alas! how shall we justify ourselves at the bar of that God “who is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things?” This leads me to observe, in the
Third place, That one great end of the law is, to humble the pride of men; that, from a conviction of their guilty and miserable estate by nature, they may, as it were, be compelled, by a happy necessity, to flee for relief to the gospel method of salvation through Christ.
This important truth is directly asserted by the apostle, in my text, and frequently repeated in other parts of his writings. Nay, the principal scope of this epistle is, to call off the Jews from any dependance upon their own righteousness, by giving them a fair representation of the spirituality, extent, and rigour of the law; that, finding themselves unable either to answer its demands, or to endure its curse, they might thankfully embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, who is indeed - the end of the law fòr righteousness to every one that believeth.” And the subserviency of the law to the gospel, or the use of the law to lead men to the Saviour, will evidently appear, if we consider,
That the law demands nothing less than a perfect, unsinning obedience to all its precepts. It makes no manner of allowance for the infirmities of men; for “ whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point,” in the eye of the Lawgiver, " is guilty of all.” It declares what is due to God by his creatures, and insists upon the payment of it even to the uttermost farthing. In the law, strictly considered, there is no provision or promise of pardon to the guilty; on the contrary, it denounces condemnation and wrath against all transgressors of what kind soever; for thus it is written, “Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." It is not enough to do some things wbich are commanded; we must do them all: nor is it even sufficient that we do all things for a season; we must also continue in them, otherwise we forfeit the divine friendship, and become liable to the wrath of an infinitely just and omnipotent God. This is the genuine voice of the law, “ Do and live;" " but the soul that sinneth shall surely die." It knoweth no middle sentence between these two; it doth not whisper one word of mercy; but the smallest deviation subjects the transgressor to the justice of God,
and to all the fatal effects of bis indignation, both in this life and in that which is to come.
Now, this being the case, it is easy to discern the subserviency of the law to the gospel; or, in other words, the use of the law to lead men to the Saviour. The law discovers sin, and at the same time demands an unsinning obedience. None of us can plead innocence, and the law admits of no excuse for guilt; nay, it is not only silent as to the doctrine of forgiveness, which might leave some room for conjecture and hope, but in plain and awful words pronounces the sentence of death, and dooms to irremediable punishment all the workers of iniquity without exception. Thus the sinner is “ bound hand and foot,” as it were, “and cast into prison;" his mouth is stopped, and nothing remains for bim but either to continue in misery, and bear the curse of God for ever; or else to appeal from the law to the gospel, and to claim the benefit of that indemnity which Christ hath purchased with his blood, and freely offers to all who, condemning themselves, and renouncing their own righteousness, flee to bim as their hope and city of refuge. From all which we may conclude, in the
Fourth and last place, That erery apologizing sinner who opens his mouth in his own vindication, doth impiously give God the lie, and exclude himself from the offers of his mercy and grace; whereas the humble, selfcondemning sinner lies, so to speak, in the very road of mercy, and shall, through faith in Cbrist Jesus, obtain salvation with eternal glory.
This inference is so just and obvious, that it scarcely needs any illustration. For if “ all are sinners," and if this be one great end of the law, to bring men to a sense and acknowledgment of their guilt, that they may be compelled to flee to Christ Jesus for relief; what foolish, self-destroying creatures must those be, who, in despite of the clearest evidence, and in flat contradiction to the only method of deliverance and hope, will offer to babble in their own defence? What can you propose by this conduct, 0 sinners! God puts it to your choice, as it were, at what court you would be tried, whether you will plead at the tribunal of justice or of mercy? If you penitently acknowledge your guilt, and cry for mercy through the great Mediator, he is infinitely more willing to bestow it upon you, than you can be to ask it of him; but if you proudly insist in your own vindication; if you extenuate your guilt, or depend upon any thing in yourselves for pardon and acceptance, you thereby incur the rigour of the law; you “shall have judgment without mercy," and “ Jesus Christ can profit you no
Be persuaded, then, my dear friends, as the proper improvement of all that has been said, “to humble yourselves presently under the mighty hand of God, that you may be exalted in due time.” See and acknowledge your guilt and unworthiness, that you may not be finally condemned with the world; and beg of God that he may search and try you, and make you thoroughly acquainted with your real condition; that, finding yourselves “ wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," you may repair, without delay, to that all-sufficient Saviour, whose blood cleanseth from all sin," and “who is made of God, unto all who believe on him, wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”
As for you upon whom the law hath already had its effect, who are weary and heavy laden with the burden of sin, be not discouraged; the seeds of consolation are sown in your grief; this weeping night shall ere long