Page images
PDF
EPUB

engagements of that day. But do you not find that the good impressions have been greatly weakened, and that, whilst the ardour of your will and affections has cooled, little remains except the convictions of your judgment? Ah! beware of “ leaving your first love," or of resting satisfied with past experiences. Know that it is not on any one day that these transactions must be realized, but every day of your lives. You should be again and again renewing your vows unto the Lord, and be daily occupied in fulfilling them. Look to it then, that neither the cares of the world, nor the deceitfulness of riches, nor the lusts of the flesh, nor the fear of man, nor any other thing, “ choke the good seed within you, or prevent your bringing forth fruit unto perfection."] To those who wish for such a day,

[(For we trust that such there are amongst us, who yet cannot speak of such a day as past,) we would earnestly suggest some necessary cautions.

Delay not thus to give yourselves up to God: but be particularly on your guard not to do it in a legal, self-righteous, self-dependent spirit. There are two mistakes which are very generally made, which yet are of most fatal consequence: the first is, that our covenant-engagements relate only to the performance of our duties; whereas they relate primarily to our acceptance of God as our reconciled God in Christ Jesus: and the second is, that we are to found all our hopes of covenant advantages on our own obedience; whereas we should regard them, not as purchased by us, but as bestowed on us in the covenant, and as secured to us in Christ Jesus. Happy would it be, if this matter were more clearly understood: it lies at the very root of all our comfort, and of all our stability: till we see all our holiness secured to us as well as required of us, we shall never rely as we ought on the promises of God, or give to him the glory due unto his name. See how the covenant is expressed by an inspired prophet: not only does it say,

They shall be my people, and I will be their God," but, to secure their part of the covenant as well as God's, God promises “not to turn away from them, or to suffer them to turn away from him?.” Thus is “the covenant ordered in all things, and therefore sure:" but it is sure to those only who lay hold on it with a just apprehension of its nature, and a simple dependence on its provisions.] Those, who have no idea of any such day,

[May probably be found amongst us. There are some who seem to take credit to themselves for never having made any profession of religion at all. But can they suppose that this is any excuse for their irreligion, or that it invalidates their obligation to serve the Lord? See the solemn injunction that precedes the textá: can they make that void ? See what is the prophet's description of things under the gospel dispensationh: there not only are the Lord's people represented as encouraging one another to covenant thus with God, but the state of their minds is accurately delineated, and the whole mode of their proceeding described. Be it known then that this is the duty of every one amongst us. If we would have God for our portion in a better world, we must accept him now: and, if we would be his people in a better world, we must give ourselves up to him now. To make excuses is vain. This duty is paramount to every other: and therefore we call upon all of you this day to avouch God for your God,” that he, in the day of judgment, may acknowledge you as his redeemed people.] 8 ver. 16.

f Jer. xxxii. 38–41.

h Jer. 1. 4, 5.

CCXIX.

THE EXTENT AND EXCELLENCY OF THE MORAL LAW. Deut. xxvii. 26. Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words

of this law to do them : And all the people shall say, Amen.

THE law here spoken of is the moral lawa. This every person is bound to keep in its utmost extent.

The curse of God is denounced against every violation of it. This sanction, tremendous as it is, should be universally approved. Hence God commanded his people to express their approbation of it. “ Amen" in Scripture signifies an affirmation", or a wisho. The adding of “ Amen” to the doctrine of the text implies, I. An assent to its truth

The doctrine is, that the law of God curses us for one offence. This is often, through ignorance of the Scriptures, denied; but it may be established by a cloud of witnesses.

[Death is declared to be the necessary fruit of sind. Every deviation from the line of duty subjects us to God's wrath. An idle word is sufficient to condemn usf. The most secret thought is punishable by our Judgek. Omissions of duty will entail on us the same judgments". A violation of the law in one point ensures condemnation as truly, though not as severely, as a rejection of the whole'. One single transgression brought misery on the whole worldk; and this was agreeable to the terms of the Adamic covenant'. St. Paul speaks of this penalty as still in force m. He even cites the very words of the text in proof of the doctrine which we deduce from them". Hence the law is called " a ministration of death."]

a Several particulars of the moral law are enumerated from ver. 15 to the end ; and here it is mentioned summarily, as comprehending the whole. b John iii. 3.

c Matt. vi. 13. d Jain. i. 15. e Rom, i. 18.

f Matt. xii. 36.

None, however, will cordially assent to the truth of this doctrine till they see ground for, II. A confession of its reasonableness

The law, both in its extent and sanctions, is highly reasonable'. That one sin may reasonably subject us to condemnation appears, From analogy

[Offences in civil society are rated according to the dignity of the person against whom they are committedP. Now sin is committed against an infinitely great and good God. Hence it contracts an inexpressible malignity. Moreover one act of treason is punished with death. Nor is this judged unreasonable in human governments. Why then may not the death of the soul be annexed to every instance of rebellion against God??] From the nature of sin

[Sin dishonours God, takes part with Satan, and unfits for heaven. Are these such light evils, that they not only may, but must be overlooked? Is God forced to honour those who dishonour him? Has not He as much right to be our enemy, as we have to be his? When he sees us destitute of any love to him, is he bound to renew our hearts that we may be capable of enjoying him? Is he unjust if he leave us to eat the fruit of our own way"?

and every

8 Eccl. xii. 14. h Matt. xxv. 30. i Jam. ii. 10. k Rom. v. 12, 18, 19.

1 Gen. ii. 17. m Rom. vi. 23. It is not said that death is the wages of much or heinous sin, but of sin, i.e. of any

sin. n Gal. iii. 10.

• We would not be understood to make the doctrine depend on its reasonableness, and much less on our statement of its reasonableness : we only wish to vindicate it from the objections which unhumbled reason would bring against it. If we were not able to urge one reason in its defence, it were quite sufficient to say, 'God has revealed it, and therefore it must be reasonable ;' for nothing can be unreasonable which proceeds from him.

p Should we strike an inferior, an equal, a superior, a benefactor, a parent, a sovereign, the offence would proportionably rise ; so that, what in one case might be expiated by a small fine, in another would be counted worthy of death.

9 Is not God's majesty to be regarded as well as man's ? and his government to be supported as well as man's ?

But an extorted confession of its reasonableness is not sufficient

God requires of us further,
III. An acknowledgment of its excellency-

The law thus sanctioned is truly excellent : any other would have been less worthy of the great Lawgiver

[Had it required less than perfect obedience, or had the penalty of transgressing it been no more than a temporary punishment, neither his holiness nor his justice had been so conspicuous.]

Any other would have been more ruinous to man

[A permission to violate that law in ever so small a degree would have been a licence to make ourselves miserable. Had death been annexed to many transgressions, and not to one, we should have been at a loss to know our state. We should have been with more difficulty drawn from seeking righteousness by our obedience to the law. We should have seen less evil in transgressing it. We should have been less anxious to obtain an interest in Christ. Thus, though mercy is provided, we should have been less likely to obtain it, or to secure its continuance.]

Any other would have been less honourable to Christ

[He would have endured less suffering for us. His inter

r Is it unreasonable that God should vindicate his own honour ? Are we at liberty to insult him, and he not to punish us? May we be his enemies, and must he treat us as friends ? When our first parents sinned, was God obliged to remedy the evil they had brought upon themselves? Might he not have left them, as he had already left the fallen angels ? Was there any necessity that God should assume the human nature, and offer himself a sacrifice for his creatures' sin ? If so, they, even after their fall, might have disdained to ask for heaven as a gift; they might still have demanded it as a debt. Then God is under a law, and we are free from a law; we are free to live as we please ; and he is under a necessity to save us at all events. The absurdity of such positions is obvious. VOL. II.

Е Е

[ocr errors]

position for us had been less needed; it would have discovered far less love. The obligations conferred by it would have been comparatively small. He would have been less honoured by all. Some would have been saved without his aid. Many woald, to eternity, have ascribed the honour of their salvation to themselves.]

In this view “ the ministration of death was glorious

Such a discovery of its excellency will immediately produce, IV. An approbation of it with respect to our own

particular caseA person taught of God will cordially approve of this law : he will love it as the means of humbling him in the dust

[It discovers to him, as in a glass, his manifold transgressions. It convinces him of his desert of punishment. It shews him the impossibility of making reparation to God. It constrains him to cry, “Save, Lord, or I perish!” And thus it brings him to the state he most desires]

He will delight in it as endearing Christ to his soul

[The depth of his disorder makes him value the Physician. He sees his need of one to “bear the iniquity of his holy things . He finds that Christ is set forth for this very purpose*. Hence he rejoices in Christ as his Almighty Saviour.]

Such an approbation of it was expressed by Jeremiah'. St. Paul also highly commends it in this view"; and every true Christian can adopt his words . APPLICATION

[Let us study this law as a covenant. Let us acknowledge our condemnation by it. Let it serve as a “ schoolmaster to bring us to Christb." Let that declaration be the ground of our hope.]

[ocr errors]

s 2 Cor. iii. 7,9,10,11.
x Rom. x. 4.
a Rom. vii. 22.

t Luke xviii. 13.
y Jer. xi. 3, 5.
b Gal. iii. 24.

u Exod. xxviii. 38.
2 Rom. vii. 12.
c Gal. iii. 13.

« PreviousContinue »