Page images


you so evidently need, under the deep conviction, that unless we are sinners. Not a human being, probably, would deny he save you, you must perish.

either of these facts. But it is a deep and abiding conscious ness of our guilty and undone state. It is a consciousness that darkness itself is not more opposite to light, than we are to the pure and holy law of God. It is such a sense of our

utter alienation from God, and of our voluntary enmity against

him; of the fact, that every imagination of the thoughts of LECTURE II.

our heart is only evil continually, as makes us really abhor

and loath ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes, before a Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of God who searcheth the heart, who has surrounded us with the law.-PBALM CXIX. 18.

This mercies, and will bring every secret thing into judgment,

whether it be good, or whether it be evil. This is that broken As a proper introduction to this course of sermons upon and contrite spirit which God will not despise. But how the Divine Law, I have attempted to show you the vast im- rarely is this seen! How seldom do we find persons peneportance of an accurate knowledge of this law. In my last trated with this deep sense of sin, smiting upon their breasts, discourse I opened this subject by asserting that upon a and crying aloud for mercy, as sinners deserving God's infiproper knowledge of the operation and demands of the law nite wrath and indignation! Suppose you saw a man under of God, depended all our just views of religious truthall our this proper consciousness of sin, crying out, “I am damned, proper feelings of religious character, and all our scriptural and I am damned already,"-groaning under the most distressing well-founded hopes of religious blessings.

apprehensions of the anger of God; which of you, even if The proof of the first of these assertions occupied our at- you did not deride his fears, would not be ready to suppose tention when I addressed you before; and it was my object that he carried matters quite to an excess, and that unless he to show, that without an accurate knowledge and view of the had been guilty of some transgressions far beyond the comdivine law, we could form no just conceptions of the perfections mon walk of men, there could be no reason for such excesof God, of the offices of Christ, or of the operations of the sive griefs and sorrows? Such penitents are few, and such Holy Ghost. In this view of the subject, there was seen comforters, miserable as they are, would be found in every abundant reason for the petition of the text. But what we class of life. then considered, forms only a part of the wondrous things But why is all this? Would it be a false view of the which we may here behold, and we shall find still more rea- sinner's character that would lead to such distress ? No. son to desire that our eyes may be opened with spiritual un- This false estimation of his sorrow arises from universal ige derstanding upon this all-important subject, when we have norance of the divine law. Men do not try either themselves finished our meditations upon the other two points before or others by this high standard. Being insensible of their

departures from God, they see no cause for such humiliation II. A proper knowledge of the law lies at the foundation on account of these departures. The idea of humility, as the of all true religion, practical as well as doctrinal, and while scriptures present the term, never enters into the natural all just views of religious truth rest upon this, all proper mind. The unconverted man does not know the meaning of feelings in religion, the whole state of the affections accepta- the word. Copious as were the languages of Greece and ble in the sight of God, are dependant upon it also. Rome, they had not a word which can convey the idea of

1. All the affections and feelings which now belong to man, humility, as expressed in the language of the Bible. The in connexion with his Creator, are those which arise from the word which expressed their notion of humility, spoke of it fact of his natural sinfulness and guilt. Mere natural reli- just as every natural man thinks of it, as associated with gion, of which men sometimes speak, the religion of man's meanness and dishonour, rather than as a high and exalted own reason, brings no offerings unto God, but those of Cain, virtue. Though all now profess to admire humility as a which, like his, must be inevitably rejected. Man has no grace, there is not in the universe a man in his natural and way of his own by which he can find an acceptable approach unconverted state, that either possesses it, or approves of it to his offended Maker. His native situation is one of utter according to its real import. It is one of the wondrous things ruin and danger; the wrath of God abideth on him, and he to be beheld from a proper knowledge of the law, and God is living upon the despised forbearance of his Judge, a ves- alone can open our eyes to see and desire it. sel of wrath fitted for destruction. Of the extent of this na- 3. The same assertion may be made of true gratitude to tural guilt and danger, however, he is ignorant, and must be God. Gratitude is nothing but a thankful sense of mercies ignorant, until he be made acquainted with what God requires which have been received, and it will depend in its degree of him. By the law is the knowledge of sin; and the con- entirely upon the amount of benefits which the individual viction which the sinner has of his guilt, will depend entirely supposes to have been conferred upon him. The Christian upon the view which he takes of the divine law. If he has who sees himself in the light of God's revelations, will view been accustomed to see it as a spotless and inflexible system, himself as a poor bondslave, ransomed from sin and Satan, to hear it say to him, of the utmost conceivable devotion to death and hell, and ransomed, too, by the precious blood of God, and obedience to his will, “ Do this, do it always, do it his Incarnate God. He will be, in his own apprehension, perfectly, do it forever, or thou must die;" when his eyes are altogether " a brand plucked out of the burning." An apostate opened, to behold his own deficiencies, he will see himself to fiend, redeemed from the very fires of hell, would not, in his be counted altogether guilty, and to have his mouth entirely estimation, be a greater monument of grace than he. Having stopped before God; he will see in the demands of the holy this view of himself, his whole soul blesses his redeeming law, such an extent of violated and neglected claims upon his God, and he calls upon all that is within him to praise his soul, that there is left for him no feeling upon which he can holy name. But, alas ! how rarely do we see this transport! rest the shadow of hope, nor any circumstance which he can How few, even truly redeemed, appear duly sensible of the plead in extenuation of a single deficiency; he is condemned; weight of obligations which has been laid upon them? A he is only condemned; he is condemned eternally. This the proper and reasonable sense of man's unworthiness and God's law shows him, when he beholds its searching application to abundant love, would be generally esteemed extravagant and his own character.

absurd. To the generality of men, some faint acknowledge But if he has been satisfied with more general and indefi- ments are quite sufficient to express their sense of redeeming nite views of the claims of the law, the same indistinctness love; and stronger language, and stronger emotions, than is transferred to his conviction of his personal guilt. What they indulge, are considered fanatical and false. But oh! he sees not to be guilty in fact, he will not see to be guilty in how different is this state of mind from the feelings of the himself. His heart will plead a thousand excuses from holy beings around the throne of God. Angels and saints temptation and imbecility and inadvertence; and while he ac- are penetrated with the devoutest admiration of the stupenknowledges that in many things he has certainly done wrong, dous mystery of grace displayed in man's redemption. The he cannot see that even his holy things have been guilt, and one, adoring its transcendant excellency; the other, giving every recess of his heart filled with odious and abominable praise to God, as experiencing themselves its richest wickedness. Upon a proper knowledge of the divine law benefits. depends all true conviction of sin.

They are all prostrating themselves before the throne of 2. Again, without an accurate knowledge of the law, there the Lamb. Why is it that men are so cold and insensible ? can be no true humility. In the connexion between man and Is it not simply because they see not the depths from whence his Creator, this grace is of the highest importance. But they have been redeemed? Because they have no clear view what is humility? It is not merely a sense of our weakness of the condemnation under which the law had sealed them, as creatures, nor is it a mere general acknowledgment that for repeated violation ? Did they see in the mirror of God's holy law, the depth of misery from which they have been no man,—what but ignorance of the law has veiled his mind delivered, they would have far other thoughts and feelings in with an expectation so deceitful ? While he sees not that regard to that heavenly Saviour who came down into the his very best deeds stand in need of mercy as much as his abyss of their ruin, to save them with an everlasting salva-vilest sins; that the smallest defeet entails upon him an etertion; and from this knowledge of the claims of the law, holy nal curse as truly as the most enormous transgressions; that and ardent gratitude would arise to him who was content to his prayers, by themselves, will condemn him as certainly bear its demands himself, that they might be released from as his oaths, upon what but total misapprehension of the the necessity of bearing them forever. But having reduced nature of the divine claims and requisitions, does his false almost to nothing, in this ignorance of the law, their obliga- confidence of security depend? tions to him, it is not a matter for surprise that their gratitude If another man speaks of his hope as founded upon the unfor his goodness should be proportionably weak and vapid. bounded mercy of God, which is over all his works, the

4. Without having our eyes opened to behold the true charac- same ignorance of the law lies at the foundation of this deluter of the divine law, there will be no holy zeal for God. Who sion. When a judge is seated upon the bench, could the among the redeemed on earth, feels this in any measure cor- plea of guilt, on the part of the criminal, be in any degree respondent with what the Scripture demands? We are repre- affected by an assertion of previous dependence upon the sented as bought with a price; and are therefore called upon mercy that should be found on trial ? The hour of trial is to glorify God in our bodies and spirits, which are his. the time of law, and not the time for mercy. In the present Were we truly sensible of our obligations to God, no service life, there is abundant mercy offered to the sinner ; but in ander heaven would appear too great as a return to him. God's own way. When the time of final retribution arrives, All that we could do for such a Lord, would be nothing in all claim upon mercy has passed by; and the principles of our eyes; and all that we could suffer for him would be ac- just and equal law must govern every determination. The counted light and vain. Our time, our talents, our property, man still sinning, and trusting in divine mercy for final and our influence, our whole life, would appear of no value, but future pardon, is destroyed by his iguorance of the law. Its as they could be made subservient to advance the divine claims must be satisfied. It allows not, it cannot allow, the glory. But how little of this spirit is seen ! and how little name of mercy. Without the shedding of blood, it offers no is it approved among men even when it is seen! How in- remission ; and until its full penalty has been sustained, it is finitely below this is the standard of those who value them- utterly vain to think of charming its demands to rest. The selves upon their morality of conduct! And this deficiency mercy of God is shown in his gracious method of making must be traced to the cause we have repeatedly noticed. satisfaction to the law for the sinner's soul. It can never be Humility, gratitude, and zeal for God, all rise or fall, ac- exhibited in setting aside the demands of the law while they cording to our views of the law. According as these are remain unsatisfied. deep, or superficial, will the others evince themselves to ac- From the same ignorance of the law springs that indefinite cord, or disagree, with the standard which is proposed to us kind of hope which great numbers express in the merits of in the gospel.

the Lord Jesus Christ. They can give no reason for trusting We can never have an entire devotedness of heart to God, in him. They have no clear idea of what he has done, that as his redeemed people, until we apprehend the extent of our should lead them to this confidence. They furnish no eviredemption. With defective views of this, we shall be con- dence in the holy devotion of their lives, that they have been tented with a low standard of obedience, and never aspire truly brought by the Holy Spirit to believe in him ; nor have after a perfect conformity to the divine image of God. "To they probably any distinct emotion in their hearts connected walk altogether as Christ walked, will appear to us as with that faith of which they speak. But they say they bebondage. "To tread in the steps of the holy apostles, will be lieve in Jesus Christ, and that all their hope is in him. At regarded as being righteous overmuch. To glory in the the same time, they do not, and will not accept salvation, cross for Christ's sake, and to rejoice that we are counted upon the terms on which it is offered in the gospel. They Worthy to suffer shame, and even death for him, will be will not agree to renounce their good works, as they are thought a state of mind, desirable only for apostles, and mis- called, as a partial ground of dependance; and to enter the sionaries, and martyrs. But no state of mind inferior to this kingdom of heaven at the same gate with publicans and harwill prove us to be really sincere in the service of the Lord. lots. This is too humiliating. Their proud hearts must No partial devotion will be an acceptable sacrifice unto the have something in which they can boast themselves. And Lord. If we would be Christ's indeed, we must live not if they cannot make their own lives the sole ground of their unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us and rose again ; justification, they will rely upon them in part. Or if they purifying ourselves even as he is pure, and being perfect are to be brought to rest only upon the merit of Christ, they even as our Father who is in heaven is perfect. _This is the will make their own goodness a reason for believing in him. result of the constraining love of Christ. The grace of They will not suffer themselves to be stript of all selfChrist alone can effect it in us. Without this grace we preference. They will not glory solely in the cross of Christ. must remain destitute of this spirit forever. Without a vital The condemning character of the law they have never expeunion to Christ we have not, and we cannot have, these high rienced nor seen. They have not the least idea of the attainments of the gospel; and our ignorance of the divine way in which it lays guilt and death upon their souls; law will keep us separated from Christ forever. Upon a nor though they assert the possession of a hope in Jesus proper knowledge of the law, therefore, all religious feelings, Christ, do they know or trouble themselves to think what he the whole right state of the affections, depend. And this fact has done, or how he has done any thing for them. brings home to us, with great seriousness and value, the pe- All these false hopes, and all other hopes of the same kind, tition of our text: Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold rise up and are entertained in the unconverted mind, because wondrous things out of thy law.

the eyes have never been opened to see wondrous things in III. Our third general object is to show that a proper un, the divine law. Man cannot live without some hope ; and derstanding of the divine law is the foundation of all scrip-Satan, perfectly aware of this, presents these refuges of lies ; tural hopes of religious blessings, as well as of all just views and keeping his mind in ignorance, deceives him into the and proper feelings in religion.

embracing and confiding in these unfounded expectations. It is made the subject of repeated prayer by the apostles, The fact that ignorance is the source of these false hopes, that the Christians, to whom they wrote and ministered, will open to us, in part, the importance of that knowledge of might have the eyes of their understanding enlightened, that the law which lies at the foundation of all true and scriptural they might be able to comprehend for themselves the nature hope. Hope is founded entirely upon faith. It is a kind of and worth of gospel hopes and privileges, and be able to personal application of the subject of faith. Now the faith give to others a reason for the hope which was in them. which alone justifies the soul, is that which brings us simply Clear views of religious truth are indispensable to the en- to the Lord Jesus Christ as the great end and fulilment of the joyment of a rational and consoling hope of life eternal; and law for the believing sinner. If we attempt in any measure while Satan is deluding the vast multitudes of the uncon- or degree to blend with the work of Christ's redemption any verted with false and unfounded hopes, the nature and the thing of our own, we make utterly void all that he has done fact of these deceits are only to be ascertained by an ex- and suffered for us. From that moment Christ has become amination of the ground upon which the professed' hope is of no effect to us. As far as we are concerned, he has died resting.

in vain. All false hopes of life arise from an ignorance of the di- Faith looks to Christ as the sole answer to the demands of vine law. When a sioner is found claiming, as it were, the law. A due attention to the law presents two distinct from the reasonableness and justice of God's dealings, eternal claims, which it makes upon every sinner. Death, as the life, because he has done no harm, has injured or defrauded punishment of past guilt; and spotless, eternal obedience, as

« PreviousContinue »