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shall all nations be blessed." Men of all kindreds and climes, shall have but one way to blessedness ; and that shall be by faith ;-such faith is thine. It is upon their likeness to thee, in this matter of faith, that their salvation shall depend.
Thus then the Apostle shewed that, so far back as Abraham's day, Almighty God had established, and had promulged the gospel method of salvation. It was a settled principle. Man was to be saved, not by the merit of what he should do; but by believing the promises which God should give.
This being so, however, a question now arises ; it arises on account of a remarkable fact, namely, that after this setting up faith as the way of man's salvation, God Himself proclaimed a law, the end and purport of which was to enjoin on man what God would have him do. The Almighty had indeed never left his creatures without a law, but it had pleased Him, on one most solemn occasion, to give to Israel, the people whom He had chosen, a code of statutes, and especially the Ten Commandments, in which we read, in an explicit form, the Maker's will concerning the regulation of men's hearts and lives.
Now the question is, what was the meaning of this? The Almighty publishes this law, calls for obedience to it, and threatens that whoever transgresses it shall die. Does He not seem to be putting forth a new way of salvation? Does not this law appear to set aside the method of acceptance by faith, preached as we have seen to
Abraham ? Does it not look as though God had changed his plan, and that men, instead of trusting God's promises, and so being saved, were to obey this law, and by their own merit obtain favour with God ?
You now understand the question with which our text opens, “Is the law against the promises of God?
When God sets forth his commands, calls on us to keep them, and warns us that to break them is to die ; are we to understand that He has withdrawn His promises ; that we are no more to look for salvation by faith ; but are to set ourselves to the task of doing all He requires, and in that way to save ourselves?
The question, brethren, is a very important one, and especially so, because it belongs to a subject on which men are constantly falling into grievous, yea, fatal error. It is marvellous to see how common,-I may say how universal, is the thought among the mass of mankind, that the way to be saved, is to do our best to keep the commandments of God, and then to hope that He will look with complacency upon us.
May I not put it to you, brethren, are there not many among you who to this hour have that idea upon your minds ?
minds? You imagine that God has given you his Law, in order that you, by keeping it as well as you can, may make yourselves deserving of his approval, and so secure your soul's salvation. Let me beg you now to attend to the text.
The question with which it opens is exactly this, are you to be saved in the way you suppose ? Is it the merit, of your obedience to the Law which is to obtain for you the favour of God? Was it for that end the Law was given,--to set aside faith in God's promises, and establish your good works as your title to heaven? What saith St Paul ? “God forbid !” No: no such thing. God never gave his Law for that end. Never did He mean by that Law to set aside faith as the way of salvation. Never did He mean to teach men that by doing his commands they were to gain eternal life as the due reward of their deeds. He could not teach this.
And why could He not ? We have the reason assigned : "for,” saith the Apostle, “if there had been a law given, which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the Law.”
In other words, had it been possible for man to keep any law which God could give, so as to deserve eternal life in merited recompense of hisobedience,—had it been possible for the Maker to frame such commandments as his fallen creatures should be able perfectly and fully to perform, and so purchase his favour, verily, righteousness should have been by the law;" God would have done this; He would have said that his creatures must save themselves by their own righteousness, the righteousness of their own obedience.
But has He said this? When He gave the law, did He declare any such thing? Did He say, by this law all who would be saved must
" then, work out their own righteousness, and so gain heaven?
No: far otherwise ; so far otherwise that He for ever shut the door against any such notion. For mark what follows in the text, “But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin :” that is to say, God in his word hath so spoken of man and of all his race, as to make it clear that He never could have thought of any of them being saved by their own righteousness. His word has already “ concluded” them all, shut them all up, “under sin.”
“ There is none righteous, no not one. There is none that doeth good. All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
So the scripture speaks: and indeed, take the whole tenor of its statements, and you find their sum and substance to be the same. The word of God all through deals with man as a fallen, condemned, helpless, hopeless creature in himself: all its representations of his state, all its provision for his wants, all its rich and precious promises of grace, all contemplate him, all exhibit him, as a lost sinner, one already deserying condemnation, one whom no law can save, one so fallen that no code of statutes, such as a holy God must give, perfectly pure, and demanding a perfect obedience, no such commandments would even come within his reach; for God can only give a perfect law, and man could never keep such a law, therefore the scripture at once concludes, and shuts up all under sin, and distinctly declares that " by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
And what is the end and object of all this representation of our sinful state? Why is it that scripture hath concluded us thus under sin ?
St. Paul tells us it was on purpose to drive us away from all notions of saving ourselves by obeying the law, and to keep us to that very thing which God had set forth, long before the law, as the only hope for sinners, faith, faith in his promises of mercy in Christ.
Mark the close of the text : “the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe ; " not to them that trust to their own good doings, their own supposed obedience to the law; no, but to the humble faithful soul, that conscious of sin, oppressed with guilt, and seeking peace with God, simply rests on the gracious promise of pardon and life given to lost sinners in Christ Jesus.
I have thus far endeavour briefly to give the sense of the passage before us. Let me now point out the instruction which it yields. I shall offer only two remarks.
See, I would say, in the first place, the use which we are not to make of the law of God.
Our text shews us this. We are not to set the law against the promises of God. Yet this is what multitudes do. They do look to the law as that which they are to keep, and keeping it obtain salvation. And thus they set it up
in preferen e to the faith of Christ. They do not