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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 truth—all 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 defeat 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 ignorance 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 expeanion 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 sonte 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 fulfilment 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 sinner 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
the title to future reward. Somewhere, either in the sinner, sively, with temporal impunity and protection, and with tem-
It done arise, but from a proper view of what the law of God is to this, and this only, that the apostle refers in our text, as required should be done? Thus it is that true hope rests a spiritual law. This, he says, was ordained to life; or first upon a knowledge of the law; and until we have obtained designed to confer life upon man, as the result of his obethis knowledge, nothing under heaven can lead us to a simple dience; and it was only by its transgression that it was found and living faith in Jesus, or give us the hope which springs to be unto death. This law was perfectly holy. All its from such a faith.
commandments were holy, just, and good. And the very Under these three heads of just views, proper feelings and holiness of the law made sin appear exceeding sinful. scriptural hopes in religion, I think I have shown the import- Let us understand, then, distinctly, what is to be meant by ance of a proper knowledge of the divine law, and of the the moral law, of which the declaration of our text is made. petition which our text contains. O that I might impress It is that law which is embodied in the ten commandments upon your minds the vast importance of this subject! Its given to, Moses on Mount Sinai, by the ministration of ignorance is the root of all the superficial views and state-angels. It was written then by the finger of God, and ments in religion with which the Christian world is filled. communicated with a pomp and majesty which became its The salvation of your souls depends upon the acceptance or character. The ceremonial and national law was revealed rejection of the truths which are thus displayed. "Let the afterwards, and in private. The same law is reduced by earnest petition of the text be adopted by every hearer. God's Jesus Christ to two simple commandments, embracing suHoly Spirit must deliver you from darkness, in this all-in-preme love to the Creator, and universal benevolence to his volving concern. The day-spring from on high must guide creatures; and still more narrowed down in terms by St. your feet into the way of peace. If you find yourselves in Paul, who says, that love is the fulfilling of the law. To total ignorance, as many of you must, in this matter, or if this great law every angelic being is subjected. This law you find yourselves, though having partial knowledge to have was originally written upon the heart of man in paradise ;but indistinct conceptions of the truths which have been set but being obliterated in consequence of the fall, by the love before you, make the prayer of David the prayer of your of sin, and forgetfulness of God, it needed to be republished. hearts. Seek wisdom from above, and seek it with all your In fallen and degraded man, there remained no good thing; hearts, that you may walk no more in the blindness of your not even the remembrance of what his Creator had originally minds, having your understandings darkened through the required of him. In order, then, to display the real character ignorance that is in them. You must know the extent of of God; to show how much transgression abounded; to exyour disease before you will be adequately convinced of the hibit the universal necessity for the promised seed, whom importance of the remedy, or see the adaptation of the remedy God had taught men to expect, as a blessing to all nations; to your wants. Give yourselves, then, to the understanding the divine law was anew proclaimed to the Israelites. This of this vital portion of religious truth; that, by the Spirit of moral law was announced before any private and peculiar God opening your eyes, and elevating your affections, and institutions were imposed, because this was the foundation guiding your hearts, you may be led to the attainment and of all other commands. In the acknowledgment of subjecpossession of a hope which maketh not ashamed; a hope in tion to this, the Israelites confessed the right of God to Jesus, which shall lead you, though you see him not, yet impose upon them any precepts, which in his infinite wisdom believing in him, to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of should seem advisable. It showed them on what terms life glory.
was to have been obtained by man in a state of purity; the
the law, in a state of trausgression; and thus revealing on
the one hand the demand, and on the other the impossibility
Of this law our text speaks; a law of total submission to
Jews; as binding in heaven as upon earth. Of this it is said, I have spoken of the importance of a proper understanding we know that the law is spiritual. This attribute of the law of the divine law, upon two previous occasions. The character is a fundamental truth, and one as evident as the same attriof that law, of which we are to acquire a knowledge, comes bute of God. None can deny it, without denying the whole now before us as our present subject. In considering the character of God, of which the law is a transcript. And with nature of the law, the first and most important attribute of it the same authority and truth with which we can say, we is the one declared in our lext-its spirituality.
know that God is a Spirit, may we also say, we know that The apostle speaks in this text exclusively of the moral the law is spiritual. law, to which our attention has been, and is still turned. The I am now brought, therefore, to the point at which I desired judicial law of the Israelites was merely the common law of to arrive, the spirituality of the law. that nation. It never had, nor was it ever designed to have, 1. My first object will be to explain the meaning of the the least authority over the inhabitants of any other land. Jexpression—the law is spiritual. This law could not, in any sense, be said to be a spiritual 1. In its origin, it flowed from no human or subordinate law. Like all other statute books, its requisitions and pro- source, but from God, who is himself a spirit; whom no eye hibitions took cognizance only of the outward acts of its hath seen, nor can see. This law is a copy of the character subjects, and recompensed obedience or disobedience respect- and will of the Deity. The same inspiration which says,
THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE LAW.
love is the fulfilling of the law, says, God is love; so that a that one thought would as really annihilate the whole obeperfect conformity to the law would be an entire imitation dience to which it had been attached, as a life of iniquity. of the moral character of God. It was first established when This was the fact with the first man, who, by one purpose of the first creature was formed, for then the will of the Creator transgression, destroyed his whole covenant of life. This is was first declared. In heaven, it is binding upon the spirits the spirituality of the law's demands. It requires, in your exclusively; and the love which moves in the breasts of in- whole heart, a submission to God, uninterrupted by a single numerable holy beings around the throne of God, is the ful- insurgent feeling, a purity of character, uncontaminated by filling of this law. There its origin and its whole operation a single spot, and a zeal of devotion, unrelaxing in a single purare equally spiritual; and it is admired and reverenced there pose. Thus we know that in its precepts the law is spiritual; as the mirror in which the infinitely glorious perfections of it has no partialoperation for the earth. 'The very same character the Deity are beheld.
it requires throughout the universe. What angels are in heaven, In reference to man, the origin of the law is spiritual. It it requires that you should have been, from your birth, and be was communicated by the Holy Ghost. It was written by forever. Its precepts reach the heart, and there are to be obeyed the Spirit of God, upon the heart of man, in the hour of his in a perfect and perpetual display of the character of God. creation. When Adam opened his eyes first upon the beau- 3. "The law is spiritual in its operations. It was originally ties with which God had been pleased to surround him, this ordained to be a covenant of life, and its spiritual operation, spiritual law upon his heart led him to lift up his immediate then, was simply in its holy, searching and animating offering of pure and perfect love to his great Creator, and to guidance to a perfect conformity of the soul to God. It was scatter from his spotless soul the fragrance of the offering the friend and guide of man. It taught him what his Creator upon every created being. It was spiritually republished in required. It warned him of what his Creator had forbidden, the soul of every child of God, after the apostacy, in the hour and thus, in the keeping of its precepts, it gave him great in which that soul was brought back to God in a spirit of new reward. obedience. It was spiritually proclaimed through the media- The disobedience of man has changed the whole course of tion of Moses, and other men of God, who spake its requisi- these spiritual operations of the law. The law can never be tions, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. It has still the friend of sinners. It comes now with no offer of life. the same spiritual origin when the renewed heart is led to But faithful to God, it stands forth as the witness and the perceive and admire its perfections, and the inner man con- enemy against all who rebel against him. The whole operation verted unto God, is made to delight in its commands. It is of the law upon a sinner, is to convince and condemn him. It one of those important things which the natural man per- comes in the majesty of its authority, and in the clearness of ceiveth not, nor is able to know, but by the Spirit of God. In its accusations, for this twofold purpose. It lays out before its origin, in heaven, with the first created being; on earth, his conscience the extent of its own claims, and places, side in the heart of Adam; in the revelations of the scriptures, by side, with them, the enormity of his transgressions. It and in the soul of every ransomed sinner, we know that the shows him what God requires, and then it shows him what law is spiritual, and by the Spirit alone to be revealed to he has done, and thus, spiritually laying open to him liis man.
aggravated guilt, it convinces him of the truth of its state2. The law is spiritual in its requisitions. It was probably ments. It stops his mouth from all excuses. It compels chiefly under this aspect that the apostle made the declaration him to cry out in deep humiliation, unclean, unclean. Having of the text. The law is regarded by some, merely according thus convinced him of the fact of his transgressions, it comes to the letter of its precepts. The ten commandments, for in- in its condemning power to pass the sentence upon his soul. stance, are considered as simply referring, in their commands It proclaims the wages of sin; it announces a coming wrath; and probibitions, to the external acts or duties of which they it unveils destruction; it strips off the covering of hell; and speak. This is a false and partial view of the subject. In thus, spiritually destroying the transgressor's soul, it conopposition to it, the assertions of scripture carry these pre-strains him to exclaim in the bitterness of anguish, “O, cepts as strongly to the desires and purposes of the mind, as wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body to the open conduct of the life. The whole law is spiritual of this death." in its application. It lays its power upon the inner man, and Here the work of the law ends. It cannot go beyond this while it reveals what God commands, it requires unqualified limit. It convinces and condemns the sinner, and then leaves and unbroken obedience in the heart which God searches. If him to perish. In this aspect, every true Christian may say, man were shut out from the possibility of external breaches as the result of his own experience, I know that the law is of the commands; nay, if he were out of the body in which spiritual. they must be accomplished, and were wholly a spirit, the Under these three views I wish you to consider the spiritlaw would impose the same obligation upon him, and make the uality of the law. In its origin, its requisitions, and its opesame demands from him. The principle of obedience, is that rations. Spiritual in all, because it came from, and is emto which the law looks, a total submission to the authority of ployed by ihat Divine Spirit who first made man holy, and God. The change of occasional relations to other created now renews him again in holiness, after his own perfect beings, does not at all alter the demand for this single princi- image. ple of subjection to the divine will. This is the spirituality II. My second object will be, to draw some suitable reof the requisitions of the law. The thoughts and purposes flections from this subject. And, which lead, in their regular issue, to outward violations of 1. How deeply this view of the divine law must humble these requisitions, are themselves as much sins against the the soul of the very holiest of men! As to gross outward law, as the results to which they tend. When the law for- violations of the law, many of you may be comparatively bids a sin, it equally forbids every thought, and occupation, blameless. But who has rendered unto God that glory and feeling, which would lead to its commission; and when which is his due, and despised every thing, in comparison with it commands a duty, it equally enjoins every circumstance and him? Were we to trace that line of conduct which the law habit which can conduce to its performance. In the prohibi- lays down, in the different relations of life, who would not be tion of sin, it requires, in the same precept, the contrary duty, compelled, in view of it, to acknowledge that his transand in the injunction of a duty, it forbids the transgression gressions were multiplied more than the hairs of his head, which stands against it. It is thus exceeding broad in its ap- and as the sands npon the sea shore? And if we come to plication to the conscience, and like a two-edged sword, the tempers and dispositions which we have exercised, and cutting at the same moment in opposite directions. If the to the thoughts which we have harboured, who must not ten commandments, or any one of them, be considered, this blush to lift up his eyes unto heaven, and be ashamed and is to be the principle of their interpretation ; or if we take confounded in the presence of that God who searcheth the the two commands into which the Lord has resolved the hearts ? But to call to mind what we have done, or what we whole, this is their legitimate application. In the assertion have left undone, will give us a very inadequate view of our that the law is spiritual in its demands, we simply mean that sinfulness. If you would estimate yourselves aright, you it demands the heart, in its obedience. Its object is not the must take the high standard of God's holy law, and see how regulation of the outward conduct, the directing, or the infinitely short of your duty you have come, in every act of cutting off the streams of life. It goes to the fountain of all your lives, and in every moment of your existence. You character in the soul, and demands the perfect cleansing of must not inquire merely whether you have loved God at all; that, in a perfect conformity to the character of God. If it but how near you have come to what his law requires, and could be a possible event, it would be entirely true, that his perfections demand. You must trace the whole state of though in every feeling, and desire, and act of a whole life, your souls from the beginning of their life, and estimate it by an individual had been obedient, and but one single thought this rule. You will then see that your attainments have been had risen in rebellion against God, or gone astray from him, as nothing, literally, I say, as nothing, in comparison of your
THE CONVINCING POWER OF THE LAW.
short comings and defects. The poorest bankrupt that ever gether a spiritual law; and that it must remain so for ever. Let existed has paid as great a proportion of his debt as you it be thoroughly understood, that this is the nature of the law have of your debt to God; yea, he is in a far higher state of which, in these discourses, I am proceeding to speak; than you, for he, if he discharge nothing of his debt, adds and if you gain a clear insight into this important attribute nothing to it, but you have been augmenting your debt, every of the law, the uses and operations of it, as subsequently day, every hour, every moment. The very best deeds of considered, will be perfectly distinct and intelligible to your the very best men in an unconverted state, when tried by minds. My great object in the whole of this course of rethe touchstone of God's perfect law, are but one continued mark, is to persuade you to give up your vain confidence in accumulation of guilt and misery, against the day of wrath. yourselves ; to cease from man, whose breath is in his nosIf you try yourselves only by the letter of the law, you will trils; to lay aside every notion that you have any thing to not see this; but if you look into its spirit
, there will be no offer unto God, and to look for a righteousness which shall terms too humiliating to express your sinfulness and your correspond with the utmost demands of this spiritual law. desert of God's wrath and indignation.
Such a righteousness is provided in the Lord Jesus Christ, O that I could call you to this self-abasing view! That 1 and freely offered by him to every penitent and believing sincould wrest out of your hands that delusive plea, that you ner. Remaining under the law, you remain under a curse. have done no harm! I pray you take judgment for your You are exposed to the everlasting anger of God fos each line, and righteousness for your plummet, and judge your- thought of your life. It gives you no hope and no comfort. selves as God judgeth. It is by his judgment that you must The law is spiritual, and you are carnal and sold under sin. stand or fall, and not by your own; and his judgment, rely It condemns and destroys you in every one of its precepts; upon it, will be according to truth.
and it is the height of infatuation to look to it for justification Were the condemnation that awaits you to affect only the and life. If these appear to you hard sayings, the Spirit of present life, we might be contented to leave you under your God must enable you to receive them. He must subdue delusions. But we know that you must shortly appear be- your pride and rain
confidence; and show you by the very fore the heart-searching God, to receive your final doom. law to which you thus cling, that you are condemned and Then the book of his remembrance will be opened. Then ruined. Othat his convincing power were received and exyour own consciences will attest the truth of every accusa-ercised in all your consciences; that you could be compelled tion which shall be brought against you; and then will you to cry, God be merciful to us sinners ; that you could be see the equity both of the test by which you will be tried, constrained, in the view of the law's unbending, impossible and of the sentence which shall be pronounced against you. demands, to ask, What shall we do to be saved ? Then There will be no respect of persons in the judgment of this would you follow me in these considerations with success; spiritual law. The learned and dignified will stand on the and find, to your souls' salvation, that Christ is the end of same footing with the most'illiterate peasant; or rather will the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. have a severer judgment, in proportion to the advantages which they shall have neglected to improve. The Lord grant you ability to lay these considerations duly to heart; and enable you to abase yourselves before God with that humility of mind, and that brokenness of heart, which God will not despise.
LECTURE IV. 2. In conclusion I would remark, how foolish are all attempts to establish a righteousness of our own by the works of the law! There is not a single precept which does not testify before God against our guilt. Some persons, indeed, Now, we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them have an idea, that Christ has lowered the terms of the law, that are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the and brought down its demands to the standard of human in- world may become guilty before God.-Romans III. 19. firmity. But where can they find any thing that sanctions such an idea as this? Which of the commands has the Lord
The consideration of the spirituality of the law leads us to Jesus lowered ? He has summed up the whole decalogue in consider next, as the subject immediately succeeding, the his two precepts : Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all uses and operations of the law. The serious contemplation thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself. Which of these two of the extent of the divine law, must lead us with the has he set aside? Which has he dispensed with ? Or what Psalmist to exclaim, " Thy commandment is exceeding measure of atatement has he made in either of them? If broad.” Though, like him, we have seen an end of all perfecthis law before the coming of Chrisi required too much, was tion, taken and understood the dimensions of all other things, it then holy, just and good? If, on the contrary, it required and been able to estimate the worth of all created objects, yet only what was really due, then has not Christ, if he has at none by searching can find out God, or behold the extent of all lowered its demands, robbed God of the obedience which that law, which is a perfect transcript or picture of his chawas due to him; and thus become himself the minister and racter. The view which I have attempted to give you of the patron of sin ?
spiritual character of the law, is entirely inadequate to the On every subject which concerns the Deity would I speak importance of the subject; but it is probably sufficiently exwith reverence; but I must say, that God cannot reduce the tensive, to convince you that the subject is important in the demands of his own law. It would be to divest himself of highest degree, and one which it is reasonablo for us to dehis own glory, and to give liberty to man to violate the obli- sire to understand. gations which every rational creature of necessity owes to We now take the law, thus extended and illustrated, for ihe Creator. The law of God is as immutable as himself; our subject; and proceed to speak of its uses to us who live for it is a perfect transcript of his own mind and will. It is under the operation and within the reach of the privileges of a matter of indispensable duty to every creature to love the gospel grace. It is not uncommon to deny its whole appliCreator with supreme affection; and to love, in subordina- cation to men living under the gospel; and it is frequently tion to him, all the works of his intelligent creation. This denied to have any thing like the power and influence which law is unalterable. And if any would obtain a righteousness will be assigned to it in these discourses; and which are asby it, they must obey it perfectly, from first to last; and assigned to it, I believe, in the infallible revelations of the this is utterly impossible to those who are already trans- scriptures. The question which the apostle asks, "Whereto gressors, the thought of obtaining righteousness by the law serveth the law ?" is asked, but in a different spirit, by many must be relinquished by every soul of man. You must, if among us. The subject now before us will be sufficient, if you would be saved at all, seek for some other righteousness it he properly regarded, to answer this question, to those by more commensurate with the demands of the law, and more whom it is suggested in a spirit of inquiry; and to set aside consistent with the honour of the Lawgiver.
the objections of those by whom it is brought forward, in a I would to God you could all adopt the declaration of the fretful spirit of opposition. text: “We know that the law is spiritual.” But how gen- In pursuing my design, I shall present the spiritual law erally are you ignorant of this important matter! Nay, what of the Most High to your view, under four different aspects : general ignorance of it prevails throughout the Christian world! 1. In its CONVINCING power upon the conscience of the All sinners are desirous of moderating the law to their own sinner. standard. All are anxious to lessen their own criminality II. In its CONDEMNING power upon the soul of the impenitent. before God; and to do this, they thus attempt to make him NII. In its GUIDING power to lead the sinner to Christ. the partner of their guilt. I beseech you to settle it in your IV. In its GOVERNING power to control him after he has minds, as an indisputable fact, that the law of God is alto- embraced the gospel.