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look to be saved by God's mercy in Jesus, but by the merit of their own doings.
I am sure too that many do this whose professions are very different. Talk with them, and they will say, 'certainly Jesus only is our Redeemer, we hope to be saved through him.' Converse with them a little more, and the truth comes out at length, that they cannot think Christ will save them, unless they deserve it; they must be as good as they can, and then, for Christ's sake, they hope they shall be accepted. So that really the ground and foundation of their hope is something in themselves, their own doings, their own works, their own obedience to the law.
In fact, all trusting to works, in any shape or to any extent, as the means of our justification and acceptance with God, is an appeal to the law. Whoever takes his own doings at all as the ground of his hope is going to the law to save him.
God will be merciful to me,' says such a man, 'if I am good before God. My Maker will deal graciously with me, if I am obedient towards Him. Jesus will be my Saviour, if I do all I can not to want his help, but go as far to heaven as I may by my own good works.'
Is notsuch really the language of many hearts ? I know it is. And what is this? It is salvation by the law. The first stone of the whole structure of the sinner's hopes he lays in his own doings. He uses the law as a means of obtain
Now our text shews us how completely wrong is all this. God never meant his law to be used in any such way. He never meant us to go to it, rather than to his promises in Jesus Christ. He never meant us to look on it as a law to give us life. He never meant us to have our righteousness by it.
Therefore if any of us have been setting about our salvation in this way, we have been going clean contrary to God's intentions : doing just what God says is not to be done. And can this be safe? Nay, we are perilling our souls : we are clinging to a hope which God does not warrant: more than this, a hope which God condemns. It is written, As
many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.”
But some will say, are there not certain places of Scripture which seem to speak very differently to all this?
How are they to be reconciled ? For example, we read in Ezekiel, “ If a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, if he hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God.” Now does not this seem to say that eternal life is to be obtained by our own obedience ?
Not at all. The life there spoken of is not eternal life. Jehovah is dealing with the Jews. They had murmured against Him: they complained that He punished them for their father's sins: they were chastised and afflicted, and, as they said, were dying for sins their fathers had done. · Now,' saith God, 'ye shall have no more any cause to murmur in this way: I will deal with
you, each by himself : the righteous shall live, the wicked shall die.'
By living is here meant life in this world: and so there are many passages of a like kind in the Old Testament. They do not belong to the subject we are treating of. They do not touch the question of eternal life, and the soul's salvation. They refer to those rewards and punishments in this world, wherewith God was wont to mark the obedience or disobedience of the Jews as a peculiar people.
But again, there are texts in the New Testament. I allude especially to two, both recorded by St. Luke. In the tenth Chapter of his Gospel you hear of a certain lawyer coming to Jesus. “Master,” said he, "what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus sent him to the Law, “This do, said He, and thou shalt live."
Again, in the eighteenth Chapter, you read of a certain ruler who asked, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
He too was taken to the Law. "Thou knowest the commandments.”
Now surely, it will be said, this was as much as to teach in both cases, that if they would enter into life eternal, they must keep the Law, and by so doing earn salvation as their reward. Our answer is, just the reverse. Read both narratives through, and see the issue. See for what it was that Jesus took the lawyer and the ruler both to the Commandments. It was to shew them that by the Law neither of them could be justified. They came to Him thinking that some “good thing ” which they should do was to save them. They wanted to go to the Law for their salvation. Jesus proves to them both that in that way there was no salvation for them. To the lawyer he proves that he had not loved even his neighbour as he ought. The ruler he convicts of not loving God as he ought.
So that when Jesus pointed these men to the Law, and said, “do this and thou shalt live, he meant in real truth, prove that you have kept, or can keep the Law, then and not till then, speak of doing some good thing yourselves to gain eternal life. You will find that the hope is vain. Appeal to the Law, and it only con
In all these instances then it will be found, as well as in every other, that the doctrine of God's word is consistent with itself. The Law was never given for man to save himself by keeping it. Not since Adam fell, has God ever called on man by his own doings to save himself. God is well aware that he cannot.
May you and I, dear brethren, see it too. May we deeply feel how impossible it is for us by works, or goodness, or merits of our own, ever to have righteousness, life and salvation. If we will seek our salvation in that way, then we contradict God. God says, 'believe my promises ; ' we say, 'no, our works shall be our confidence.' Fearful and daring folly! O, selfrighteous sinner, be admonished. Trust to thy doings, trust at all to them, and thou art lost.
Our second instruction flows at once out of what has been already shown: and our text leads us on to it :-How is it that we are to be saved ? St. Paul replies, “ The promise is given to them that believe. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
We are shut up to this. There is no other way. The Scripture leaves us no other door of hope. It gives the alternative, salvation alone by faith in Christ, or no salvation at all.
But what a mercy is this ! How good and gracious the hand which closes fast all other ways in order to shut us up to Christ! Do we try any other way, any other path to heaven? A flaming sword meets, and drives us back : but then it is a flaming sword, not, like that at Eden, to keep us from, but to guide us to, the tree of life.
Brethren, there are those of you who feel indeed that as to the Law there is no hope thence for you. The more you look at the Law, and compare yourselves with it, the worse your case appears. * By the Law is the knowledge of sin.”
Then we call you to the promises : the promises of God in Christ : the free promises of pardon, peace, and acceptance now ; promises of grace, guidance, comfort, and help in this world; and to crown the whole, of everlasting glory in the world to come:-all given you in Christ. Christ, the Son of God, has kept the Law which you could never have fulfilled, and has borne the curse which you could never have endured.