Page images
[ocr errors]

wards the law. He now cordially approves of those precepts as just, and good, and reasonable, which he before condemned as arbitrary and extravagant. Instead of excusing himself, and objecting to the strictness of the law; he now commends that strictness, and sincerely condemns himself. We repeat, therefore, not indeed without fear of contradiction, but we hope without exposing ourselves to scriptural refutation; that we are lawfully, using the law, when we apply it, as the standard, measure, guide, rule, or by whatever other similar name it may be called, of the believer's life.

Thankfulness and diligence and humbleness of mind are the genuine characteristics of the true Christian, and in the exercise of all these, there is a direct reference to the law.

The law proves an occasion of thankfulness to the Christian, because it shows him, and nothing else can show him, the extent of the ruin in which he was involved, and the exceeding difficulty of the task which Christ undertook to perform in his stead. No created arm could have wrought that mighty work which caused even the everlasting Son of the most high God to shrink and tremble, and cry out in agony under the inconceivable weight that pressed upon him, when it pleased the Father to vindicate the sanctions of his most


holy law, by bruising his well-beloved Son. And as the law thus shows the difficulty of the performance, so also it points out the perfection of its accomplishment. Had Christ left one single precept of the law for the sinner to fulfil as a condition, all the rest would have been kept in vain; that one violated precept (according to the tenor of the covenant of works) would have been sufficient to sink the soul into everlasting ruin. But he kept it all he finished his righteous work: he redeemed his people, from what? from the curse; what curse? the curse of the law. And in proportion as by looking into that law, they obtain clearer views of the fearfulness of that curse, they shall have a more adequate sense of the magnitude of the blessing bestowed upon them; which is the mainspring of all their grateful thanksgiving. "What shall I render unto the Lord, for all the benefits he hath done unto me?"

Thus diligence springs up in the believer, as the legitimate fruit of this thankfulness of spirit. Am I indeed rescued from so dreadful a condemnation ? Am I indeed saved at so great a price? "Lord what wilt thou have me to do?" And in answer to this gracious inquiry, the law (and nothing else) points out the nature, and supplies the measure, of the obedience which God enjoins. The Old Testament and the New, speak here with one voice,

Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only thou shalt serve. Little children keep yourselves from idols. Love not the world, neither the things of the world. If any man love the world the love of the father is not in him; and thou shalt love thy father who is in heaven with all thy heart and mind and soul and strength.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: neither shalt thou swear at all by any oath; but be content with a simple assertion or denial, let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil. Remember the sabbath of the Lord thy God to keep it holy, calling it a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words, but giving thyself up to the service of the Lord thy God. Honour thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with promise. Thou shalt not kill, no, nor be angry with any man. Thou shalt not commit adultery, nor look upon a woman to lust after her. Thou shalt not steal, nor covet any thing belonging to any man, neither shalt thou go beyond nor defraud thy brother in any transaction. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour; nor circulate, nor rejoice in, nor exaggerate evil reports: neither shalt thou attempt to justify thyself in any of these, by pleading provo

cation, for thou shalt not retaliate, nor return evil for evil in any wise, but rather overcome evil with good. Owe no man any thing but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For these commandments above enumerated, and if there be any other commandment of the second table, all are briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Give all diligence to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love. This is the lawful use of the law as the guide and measure of the Christian's diligence.

And the standard thus set up, when faithfully contemplated, proves an occasion for

abundant humbleness of mind.

Seeing we are still so far, so very far from that holy height; seeing that with all our striving to obey, we are still living in habitual disobedience; that with all our earnest anxiety to avoid sin, there is still sin in every thing we do; not only in our worldly transactions, but peculiarly in our prayers, and our reading, and our attendance upon divine worship; such impatience of temper, such wandering of thought

and affections, such slothfulness and stupidity and carelessness of spirit, such forgetfulness and inveterate ingratitude, that we may well adopt the language of the Apostle labouring under the pressure of the same painful conflict. "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" This is what causes the Christian's instinctive breathing to echo and re-echo the prayer of the publican "God be merciful to me a sinner."

And now, my brethren, permit me to inquire with affectionate earnestness, in what link of this chain are you found at this moment? Are you still in the heedless carelessness and unsubdued pride of your fallen nature, uninterested and uninfluenced by the things of eternity? Dreaming of personal merit, and cleaving to a covenant of works in all the coldness of a barren theory? Or are you acquainted, experimentally acquainted, with the power of the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God? Has it reached you with its unanswerable charges of guilt against the Almighty? and with its plain statements of his most righteous indignation against guilt? Has it brought, not to your ears only but to your hearts also, the glad tidings of great joy that the Lord of Hosts in boundless grace, has given his dear Son to

« PreviousContinue »