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JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
DOES NOT LESSEN THE
OBLIGATIONS, OR THE MOTIVES, TO OBEDIENCE
ROMANS iii. 31.
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid : yea,
we establish the law.
In a series of discourses, I have endeavoured to explain and prove the doctrine of Justification by faith without works.
Beside the direct opposition made to this doctrine, it has been opposed on account of its apprehended consequences, particularly, on account of this important consequence; that it renders the Law of God useless, as a rule of obedience. This objection St. Paul foresaw, and thought proper to anticipate, in this passage of Scripture: Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid : yea, we establish the law. As if he had said, From the doctrine of justification by faith without works, which I have here asserted to be the true doctrine of the Gospel, I foresee it will be objected, that I render the law of God, as a rule of obedience, useless. This, however, is so far from being true, that the doctrine which I have taught, in reality establishes the law.
So peremptory a declaration of the Apostle might, one would hink, have been amply sufficient to silence the objectors; and
to have persuaded them, that this opinion of theirs was totally unfounded, and precluded the necessity of any future effort to éstablish the doctrine. The fact, however, has been otherwise.
, The objection has been maintained ever since the Apostle wrote. Even at the present time, it is a favourite and popular objection in the mouths of multitudes; and is alleged with triumphant confidence, in defiance, as I apprehend, of both reason and revelation.
It is remarkable, that the doctrine, contained in the objection, has been strenuously holden by men of totally opposite principles: those who assert, and those who deny, justification by faith. The former class are called Antinomians; the latter Arminians; with whom are united, in this particular, Ariuns, Socinians, Pelagians, and many others. It ought, however, to be observed, that Arminius himself, and many of his followers, have agreed in admitting without hesitation the doctrine of justification by faith.
As the scheme, opposed in the text, has been adopted by these two opposite classes of men; so it has been adopted with precisely contrary views. The former admit the doctrine that the law is made void by faith, as true; and yet hold, that we are justified by faith. Of course, they consider it as a part of the design of God to make the law void; and hold themselves to be under no obligations to obey its precepts. In their view, the fact, that the doctrine of justification by faith makes void the law, is so far from being an objection to it, that it is an original part of the Evangelical system; a thing, in itself proper, right, and good. The latter class bring this consequence as a direct, and formidable, objection against the doctrine of justification by faith, from which, they suppose, the consequence certainly, and necessarily, flows. Were they right in this supposition, I cannot, I confess, answer the objection ; nor should I know how, consistently with the Scriptures, to admit any doctrine, which renders the law of God useless, or in the least degree impairs its authority.
These two different modes of considering this subject demand different answers. Thesc I shall give under the following scheme: viz. that the doctrine of justification by faith lessens not in any degree, but establishes in the most effectual manner,
1. The Obligations, and,
Under the first of these heads, I shall direct my arguments against the Antinomian, and, under the second, against the Arminian scheme concerning this subject.
1. This doctrine does not lessen, but establishes, the Obligations, which mankind are under, to obey the law of God.
In proof of this position, I observe,
By this I intend, that to love God with all the heart, and our neighbour as ourselves, is to love God, and our neighbour, in the very manner in which He loves both : that is, so far as creatures are capable of resembling their Creator. In other words, it is to be perfectly benevolent. Beloved, says the Apostle John, let us love one another : for love is of God: and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God: for God is love. In this passage St. John refers, as he does also in the 12th and 13th verses of the first chapter of his Gospel, to two observations of Christ: Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God: and this is life eternal ; that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. Every one that loveth, he here informs us, is thus born of God, and knows God, in such a sense, as is life eternal. On the other hand, he further declares, that he who loveth not knows not God, in this sense. Hence it is plain, that he, who is not the subject of this love, is not a child of God, nor an heir of eternal life. Of course, he is not the subject of justification, nor of the faith, to which it is annexed. Finally, St. John asserts, that God is love; or that love is his whole moral character, and essence. He, therefore, who is not the subject of this love, is not like God; has not the same moral character; or, in other words, is not renewed after the image of God.
Again, the Apostle observes, in the 16th verse, He who dwelleth, or continueth, in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. Of course, he who does not dwell, or continue, in love, does not dwell in God, nor God in him.
But love is the fulfilling of the law. To fulfil the law, then, is
to be born of God, to know God, to dwell in God, and to have God dwell in us.
Not to fulfil the law is of course, to be destitute of all these characteristics, and blessings. Thus the law expresses to us, and requires in us, the very same moral character, which is the essence, and glory, of God.
and glory, of God. That such a law should cease from any part of its obligatory force is plainly impossible.
2dly. The law is a perfecl rule of righteousness.
It is perfect, as it requires nothing but righteousness. "To love God with all the heart, and our neighbour as ourselves, can never be in any degree, or manner, wrong. This will not be disputed.
It is perfect, as it requires all possible acts of righteousness. However high, however low, any moral being is, the law of God reaches, and controls, 'all his possible moral conduct. Angels on the one hand, and little children on the other, can do nothing which is good, which at the same time is not required by this boundless rule of rectitude.
It is perfect, as it prohibits every thing sinful ; that is, every thing of the nature of moral evil. Sin, says the Apostle, is a transgression of the law. In this declaration is involved not only that every transgression of the law is sin, but that the commandment is so exceedingly broad, as to prohibit every thing, which is of the nature of moral evil. But we need no testimonies on this subject. A little consideration will make it evident, that to love God with all the heart, and our neighbour as ourselves, is necessarily incompatible with the existence of sin in the heart, or life, of him, in whom this love is found; and that, as love worketh no ill
; to his neighbour, so it works no ill towards God.
If, then, we are released by the doctrine of justification by faith from our obligations to obey the law, we are released from our obligations to conform to a perfect rule of righteousness; to a law, a commandment, which is absolutely holy, just, and good. Can God be supposed to consent to this release? Can it be rationally wished by man? Must it not be regarded as a dreadful calamity hy every good man? To what would it amount ? To nothing more, nor less, than being released from all obligations to be virtuous.
3dly. This doctrine is completely disproved by Christ. He denied it to be any part of the end of his mission. ThinkVol. II.
not, that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. That there may be no doubt concerning the connection between the phrase, the law and the prophets, and the object here in view, let it be observed, that Christ, having recited the two great commands which I have mentioned. says, On these two hang all the law and the prophets. If, then, he came not to destroy the law, and the prophets, but to fulfil them, it was certainly no part of the end of his mission to destroy, in any degrec, the two commands, on which they are entirely suspended. He has declared the thing to be impossible. Sooner, saith he, shall heaven and earth pass away, than one jot, or one tittle, of the law shall pass, until all be fulfilled. This is no other than a declaration, that God will sooner annihilate the whole creation, than consent to give up his law. Nor is this doctrine at all unbecoming the Divine character. To create new heavens and a new earth is a thing easy to him, and can be accomplished by a command. But were he to give up his law in any instance, and with respect to any being, he must recede from governing, the Universe by a perfect rule, and in a perfect manner. This would be to deny himself: for it would be no other than declaring by a most solemn act, that he was willing, that the Universe should no longer be governed by a perfect rule; and that he would, henceforth, either not govern it at all, or govern it by an imperfect rule. The injury thus done to his character would be infinite ; nor can any bounds be set to the mischiefs, which in such a case would accrue to the Universe.
4thly. This doctrine is every where denied by St. Paul.
In the 6th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul declares, that Christians are not under law, but under grace. The Antinomians, totally mistaking the meaning of this declaration, have supposed, that Christians are not under the law, as a rule of obedience; whereas the Apostle meant only, that they are not under the law, as a sentence of condemnation. In the very next verse
he says, What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. But not to obey the law is to sin. Again, in the 1st verse of the same chapter, he asks, What shall we say then? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein? Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body. Of