Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

The law of God is the foundation of his government, and of the happiness which it confers on his intelligent creatures ; a happiness partly attendant on the obedience, in its very nature, and partly its reward from the lawgiver. The importance of the law, therefore, cannot be measured.

The greatness and dignity of the lawgiver are infinite.

That the guilt of disobedience bears, at least, a general proportion to these things will not be denied. Of course, it must be very great, much greater than we can comprehend. Particularly, it is incalculably greater than if committed merely against human laws, so inferior in their importance, and their capacity of producing happiness ; or against mere human lawgivers, infinitely inferior in dignity and excellence.

The worth of our services, at the same time, is proportioned to the worth of ourselves who render them. The law of God requires the obedience of archangels as well as that of men. The law is the same, but the difference between the subjects and the services in this case is inestimable by us. vices of the archangel are plainly of very great worth, in a comparative view, those of man of very little. The difference evidently arises from the difference of worth in those who render them.

But the lowest created being, as truly as the highest, can sin against any law and any ruler. His crimes, therefore, can be very great, while his services must of necessity be very small in their importance.

Hence it is plain, that, if we could do works of supererogation, or services not required, we still could make no atonement for our sins. Qur sins are enormous evils, and our services in a sense nothing.

The ser

[ocr errors]

V. The law of God threatens punishment to the first transgression, and also to every succeeding transgression.

• Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them.' He, therefore, 'who continues in all things written in the book of the law,' except one,' and does them as required, yet for the omission of that one ' is cursed.' • The soul that sinneth shall die.' The soul that sinneth once, that sinneth at all; not that sinneth in a long course and to a given degree of transgression.

• In the day that thou eatest thereof,' said God to Adam,

6

• thou shalt surely die.' Adam ate the forbidden fruit once, and lost his immortality.

Human laws also are always formed in the same manner. The thief, the burglar, the murderer, are all punished by human laws for the first theft, burglary, or murder. This is indeed the very nature of law. It forbids whatever it forbids, and requires whatever it requires, under a penalty for every transgression. The plea, that this is the first transgression, though often alleged as a reason for tenderness and clemency, was, it is presumed, never proposed to a tribunal of justice as a cause of exempting the criminal from punishment, or, perhaps more properly, as a proof that he did not merit punishment.

These considerations plainly cut off all hope as well as all ground of the justification of transgressors in the sight of God on the score of justice ; and prove the absolute impossibility of justification by works of law. Still multitudes of mankind, and among them no small number of divines, have thought proper, notwithstanding this peremptory and decisive language of the law of God, to annex to it a condition upon which, in their view, the hope of acceptance may be rationally formed. I say a condition, because I know of but one, viz, repentance, As this has been abundantly insisted on, it demands a particular consideration.

The scheme of those who urge this condition is, so far as my informaữon extends, the following; that, although the law of God does indeed demand perfect obedience, yet from the benevolence of God it may be fairly expected that, even under this law, every sincere penitent will be accepted.

On this scheme I observe,

1. The law itself makes no mention of any such condition.

Hence the evidence of this scheme, if it exist at all, must be extraneous to the law itself. It cannot but be seen that a case of this nature must demand evidence clearly decisive, both because it is a case infinitely interesting to every child of Adam, and because the law is perfectly silent on this subject. This circumstance renders the scheme originally suspected; for wo cannot easily conceive of a reason why, if acceptance was in

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

tended to be granted according to this scheme, God in publishing his law should observe an absolute silence concerning this condition, and should couch the law in such language as, for aught we can see, is directly contradictory to this scheme.

2. Revelation is everywhere silent concerning this condition of acceptance.

That Revelation nowhere expressly annexes the final acceptance of mankind to repentance alone will, I suppose,

Ι be granted. I have been able to find no passage of this nature myself, and, so far as I know, such a passage has not hitherto been pointed out by any one of those who adout the scheme. Whatever importance is annexed to repentance, it certainly cannot be said with truth, that faith in the Redeemer is not considered in the Gospel as absolutely necessary to the justification of the penitent. It is nowhere said, that God may be just, and yet the justifier of him who' repenteth. Until something equivalent to this can be pointed out, as expressly declared in the Gospel, all the evidence in favour of this scheme must be found in inference and argument.

3. Revelation declares the contrary doctrine.

In Galatians üi. 21, St. Paul says, ' If there had been a law which could have given life, verily righteousness had been by the law. In this passage it is evident beyond denial, that no law exists, or has ever existed, which could give life, or furnish acceptance and consequent salvation, to men. It is further evident also, that righteousness is not to man by the law, or, more properly, as in the Original, by law ; that is, by any law whatever. But how those who are not the subjects of righteousness, that is of moral excellence, or holiness, can 'see the Lord,' or be justified and saved, the Scriptures have nowhere explained.

In Galatians ii. 21, the same Apostle says, ' If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain ;' or, more accurately according to the Greek, 'if Righteousness exist by means of law, Christ certainly hath died in vain.' If righteousness do not exist by means of law in any sense whatever, then man as a mere subject of law can never be accepted. If righteousness do exist by means of law, then, as God himself has declared, Christ died in vain.' A serious man must find

[ocr errors]

an insurmountable difficulty in receiving ary doctrine which involves this consequence.

In Romans iii. 25, 26, the Apostie says, ' Whom God lrath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. In this passage of Scripture it is declared, that God set forth Jesus Christ to be a propitiation, to declare his righteousness in the remission of sins, that he might be just, while justifying him that believeth in Jesus. It is therefore certain, that, if he had not set forth Christ to be a propitiation, he either would not have justified any of mankind; or if he had done it, would not have been just. Of course, all men who are justified are justified only in consequence of this propitiation, and not by means of law in any sense whatever.

It is also evident, that Christ becomes a propitiation to us through faith in his blood; and that those only are justified

l who believe in Jesus. In the same manner, in Romans v. 9, the Apostle says, ' Being justified through, or by means of, • his blood. It is therefore certain, that those who do not believe will not be justified, and that none are justified without the blood of Christ.

In Romans iii. 30, it is said, . One God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith. Therefore, God will justify neither circumcision nor uncircumcision through or by repentance. The prophet Habbakkuk, chapter ii. verse 4th, repeatedly quoted by St. Paul, says, “The just shall live by his faith ;' more exactly, The just by faith shall live ;' that is, he who by faith is just, shall live. Therefore no other will live.

All these and the like considerations have, however, been unsatisfactory to the abettors of this scheme; not, as it appears to me, from any want of explicitness in the declarations themselves, but from their want of accordance with a pre-conceived system ; a system derived, I am apprehensive, more from philosophy than from the Scriptures. Let us, therefore, examine the dictates of reason concerning this subject; and see whether they do not plainly and exactly harmonize with Revelation.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

What then must be the nature and language of a law prescribing repentance as the condition of acceptance and justification? Plainly it must be this: He, who disobeys the law, shall be punished with death ; but if he repents of bis disobedience he shall not be punished. What would be the consequences of such a law?

1. All men who hoped to repent would disobey.**

But from universal experience we are assured beyond a doubt, that every man would hope that he should at some time or other repent, because every man would consider repentance as in his power. The consequence therefore is irresistible, that every man would disobey.

It is equally evident also, that from the love and the habit of disobedience every man would continue to disobey so long as he thought repentance was in his power. But disobedience protracted to so late a period, would become a habit so strong that none would repent. Nothing is more self-deceiving than a spirit of procrastination. We see it in every thing, and always see it the same. Such a law, therefore, would frustrate itself, and prove a mere encouragement to disobedi

ence.

a

2. The thing punished by such a law would not be disobedience, but impenitence.

It is undoubtedly true, that every law designs to punish that which it considers as the transgression, and that only. The thing punished, whatever it is, is in the view of the law the crime ; and in that view nothing is a crime except that which is punished. But here the law does not threaten the punishment to disobedience, but to impenitence. Impenitence, therefore, is in the view of such a law the only crime. Disobedience, according to the very language of the law, is no crime. But nothing can be a crime except that which is constituted a crime by the law. It may be said, that disobedience, being forbidden by the law, is for that reason the crime. This opinion, however, is wholly a mistake. The law, without a penalty, or with respect to whatever it does not threaten with a penalty, ccases to be a law; and becomes mere advice. Disobedience to what it thus prohibits may indeed be imprudence, or impropriety; but cannot be a crime in the eye of such a law. Undoubtedly, if the law regarded disobedience as a crime it would punish it, as every law has done. As, therefore, the

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »