Now we know that the Law is good, if one uses it legitimately.
I. THE LAWFUL USE OF THE LAW. Scripture sets forth its design in plain language.
2. But it only brings us to Christ as it reveals to us our imperfections and our sins. "For by the Law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). It was, indeed, "added because of transgressions" (Galatians 3:19). The Law shows us our sinfulness, and drives us to the Savior. It thus "shuts us up to faith" (Galatians 3:23).
II. THE UNLAWFUL USE OF THE LAW.
1. To make it the occasion of endless logomachies - of vain talking, of "strivings about the Law."
2. To seek justification by obedience to its precepts.
3. To strive for the attainment of holiness by a use of the Law, interpreted, not in its plain sense, but with meanings imposed upon it by mystical allegorizings and theosophic culture. The errorists at Ephesus were no Pharisaic legalists or mere Judaists, but persons ignorant of the true nature and design of the Law; who abstained from things lawful and good, and were yet morally corrupt (Titus 1:10; Revelation 2:9, 14, 20, 24).
III. GROUND OF THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN ITS LAWFUL AND UNLAWFUL USE. "Knowing this, that the Law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless"
1. The Law is not made for a righteous man.
(1) This does not mean that a righteous man - that is, a man right with God, whose experience has made the principles of righteousness habitual with him - has no relation whatever to the Law.
(a) Because the Law had relation to
(α) Adam in innocence, who had the Law written in his heart;
(β) to Abraham, who was a righteous man;
(χ) to David, who was a righteous man;
(δ) and to all the Old Testament saints;
(ε) it had even relation to Jesus Christ himself,
(b) Because the Law has relation to believers under the Christian dispensation; for this very apostle enforces the obligation to obey it, specifying six of its enactments (Romans 13:8, 9; Ephesians 6:1). James says that believers who show respect of persons become "transgressors of the Law." Therefore, when the apostle says "the Law is not made for a righteous man," he does not mean that the righteous man is no longer bound to obey it. He delights in it; he actually serves it (Romans 7:25). If any should say that the apostle means that the righteous do not need the Law to direct them, we answer that they might as well say they do not need the Scripture to direct them, as the Law is already in their hearts. How is a righteous man to know sin but by the Law? "For by the Law is the knowledge of sin."
(2) His statement has an abstract cast, like our Lord's saying, "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
(a) The Law was not made because of righteous, but because of wicked, men. "It was added because of transgressions." It is similar to the statement of the apostle concerning the nine graces of the Spirit - "against such there is no Law" (Galatians 5:23). The Law does not, cannot condemn, any one of these graces.
(b) The Law was never made for the righteous man in the sense in which it was made for the unrighteous man, to condemn him; for the righteous man is redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13). Its penalty cannot affect him; its burden does not weigh him down; its terrors do not bring him into bondage. On the contrary, he delights in it as he serves it. Thus, while in one sense the righteous man delights in it and serves it, he is in another sense "not under the Law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14). It may be further observed that if Adam had continued in his original righteousness, the Law of Sinai would never have been given to man. "It was added because of transgressions."
2. The Law is made for the wicked. They are described according to the two tables of the Decalogue. Those in the first table go in pairs.
(1) The lawless and unruly. These terms describe opposition to the Law - the one in its more subjective, the other in its more objective side; the one representing, perhaps, a more passive, the other a more active hostility to Law.
(2) The ungodly and sinful. These terms describe the opposition to God - the one without reverence for him, the other living in defiance of him.
(3) The unholy and profane. These terms describe the manifestation of the wicked and godless spirit toward the Name or ordinances of God. They touch upon the violation of the first four commandments.
(4) Those in the second table in with
(a) sins against the fifth commandment: "smiters of fathers and smiters of mothers;"
(b) sins against the sixth: "man-slayers;"
(c) sins against the seventh: "fornicators, sodomites;"
(d) sins against the eighth: "men-stealers" - this special form of transgression being selected because the theft of a man himself is a far more serious offence than the theft of his goods;
(e) sins against the ninth: "for liars, for perjurers" - the one being a great advance in enormity upon the other.
(f) Strange that the apostle does not enumerate the tenth, which operated upon himself so powerfully (Romans 7:7). Perhaps it was designed by the inclusive reference no longer to the committers of sin, but to the sins themselves: "And if there be any other thing that is contrary to the sound instruction, according to the gospel of the glory of God which was committed to my trust." This language implies
(1) that the list is not designed to be exhaustive of the various forms of evil in the worm;
(2) that the Law and the gospel are in perfect harmony respecting what is sin;
(3) that the design of the gospel is to set forth the glory of God's mercy, goodness and love;
(4) that the gospel is a precious deposit committed to human hands, to be dispensed for the benefit of the race of man. The apostle did not shrink from such a solemn trust, but rather rejoiced in it. - T.C.
The law is good, if a man use it lawfully.
I. THE LAW WAS NOT MEANT AS AN INSPIRATION. "The law is not made for a righteous man." The statement is true, whether you think of a man "righteous" by nature or by grace. Those edicts and prohibitions were not intended for one who was eagerly inclined to obey their spirit. Such a revelation of God's will would not have been needed if Adam had continued in his righteousness, for things forbidden with pains and penalties after his fall were not at first attractive to him. If you walk through a private garden with the children of its owner, as one of themselves, you do not see anywhere the unsightly notice-boards, which are necessary in a place open to the public, asking you to move in this direction or in that, and to avoid trespassing hither or thither. Amongst the children, and as one of them, you are consciously above the need of such laws as those. Restrictions and warnings are always meant for those inclined to break them. Another example might be drawn from society. The laws on our statute books, the police who tramp through our streets, the vast organization represented by prisons and courts, by judges and magistrates, would no longer be necessary, and would never have been called into existence, if every man loved his neighbour even as himself. It is those who are disobedient in nature who make law a necessary institution. Similarly in the home. When your first child comes as a gleam of sunshine into your home, you parents do not begin to make a theoretical code of restrictions; but when the children grow older, and there are conflicts of will between them, and the household is likely to he disorderly by their thoughtlessness and faults, you begin to say, "You must not do this or that; it is to be from this time forward forbidden." But as the years roll on and good habits are formed by the young people, and from the love they bear you they instinctively know what you wish and readily do it, even these wise rules practically fall into desuetude. Because they are ruled by a right spirit they are set free from law. This leads to our second assertion, namely, that the law which was not meant for an inspiration was —
II. INTENDED FOR THE RESTRAINT OF THE DISOBEDIENT. A law less man is everywhere the least free. Carried hither and thither by his ungoverned passions; swayed now this way, now that, by his inexcusable carelessness and neglect, he nevertheless finds himself perpetually clashing against a will mightier than his own. Sometimes it is the law of his country which seizes him by the throat and holds him in restraint. Sometimes it is disease, the direct result of his own sin, which falls like a curse upon himself, and even upon his children. Some times it is conscience which protests and rebukes, until his whole life is made miserable. And these are but premonitions of what is coming when the Judge of all the earth will appear to give every man according to his works, and the thunders of outraged law will supersede the gentle voice of Christ's gospel. Terrible is the list of offences against human relationships which follows; though the first of the phrases in our version is at once too strong and too narrow. "Murderers of fathers" should be "smiters of fathers and smiters of mothers." The allusion may be to such crimes in the literal sense of the word, of which now and again we are horrified to hear, and which are commonest with those who are under the influence of drink — the cause of innumerable crimes! Or it may refer with equal force to those who smite their parents with the tongue, loading them with scorn and reproach, instead of encircling them with considerate love. "Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother, and let all the people say Amen." "Man-slayers" — those who, by their exactions and oppressions, indirectly destroy the lives of men — as well as murderers, who are regarded as the pariahs of society. "Whoremongers and they that defile themselves with mankind," are terms which are meant to include all transgressors of the seventh commandment, a law which our Lord Jesus so broadened out in its application as even to include indulgence in lustful thought. "Liars and perjured persons" are forms of that false witness against one's neighbour which the ninth commandment so strongly condemns; and nothing is clearer as an evidence of the rule of Christ's spirit than the transparent truthfulness of character, which wins the admiration of the world, and suns itself in the favour of God. This list is formidable enough, and the fact that the apostle does not confine himself to the phraseology of the Mosaic decalogue, is a sign that we do not evade the penalties of the law by keeping its letter.
III. THE APOSTLE ASSERTS THAT THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW IS AMONGST THE THINGS REVEALED IN THE GOSPEL OF THE BLESSED GOD, The "sound doctrine" he mentions is the teaching of our Lord and His apostles; which, as the phrase denotes, was thoroughly "sound" or wholesome, especially as opposed to the weak and distempered doctrines propounded by the false teachers whom Timothy had to oppose.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
2. Having said this much on the wrong use of the law, I have only time in this discourse to instance one right use of it. When we compare our conduct with its commandments, we cannot fail, in our deficiency and in our distance, to be convinced of sin.
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)
I. THE UNLAWFUL USE. Define law. By law, Paul almost always means not the Mosaic law, but law in its essence and principle, that is, constraint. This chiefly in two forms expresses itself — first, a custom; second, a maxim. As examples of custom we might give circumcision, or the Sabbath, or sacrifice, or fasting. Law said, thou shalt do these things; and taw, as mere law, constrained them. Or again, law may express itself in maxims and rules. Principle is one thing, and maxim is another. A principle requires liberality, a maxim says one-tenth. A principle says, "A merciful man is merciful to his beast," leaves mercy to the heart, and does not define how; a maxim says, thou shalt not muzzle the ex that treadeth out thy corn. A principle says, forgive; a maxim defines "seven times"; and thus the whole law falls into two divisions. The ceremonial law, which constrains life by customs. The moral law, which guides life by rules and maxims. Now it is an illegitimate use of law:
1. To expect by obedience to it to make out a title to salvation. By the deeds of the law shall no man living be justified. Salvation is by faith: a state of heart right with God; faith is the spring of holiness — a well of life. Salvation is not the having committed a certain number of good acts. Salvation is God's Spirit in us, leading to good. Destruction is the selfish spirit in us, leading to wrong. For a plain reason then, obedience to law cannot save because it is merely the performance of a certain number of acts which may be done by habit, from fear, from compulsion. Obedience remains still imperfect. A man may have obeyed the rule, and kept the maxim, and yet not be perfect. "All these commandments have I kept from my youth up." "Yet lackest thou one thing." The law he had kept. The spirit of obedience in its high form of sacrifice he had net.
2. To use it superstitiously. It is plain that this was the use made of it by the Ephesian teachers (ver. 4). It seemed to them that law was pleasing to God as restraint. Then unnatural restraints came to be imposed — on the appetites, fasting; on the affections, celibacy. This is what Paul condemns (1 Timothy 4:8). "Bodily exercise profiteth little." And again, this superstition showed itself in a false reverence — wondrous stories respecting angels — respecting the eternal genealogy of Christ — awful thoughts about spirits. The apostle calls all these, very unceremoniously, "endless genealogies" (ver. 4), and "old wives' fables" (1 Timothy 4:7). The question at issue is, wherein true reverence consists: according to them, in the multiplicity of the objects of reverence; according to St. Paul, in the character of the object revered.
3. To use it as if the letter of it were sacred. The law commanded none to eat the shewbread except the priests. David ate it in hunger. If Abimelech had scrupled to give it, he would have used the law unlawfully. The law commanded no manner of work. The apostles in hunger rubbed the ears of corn. The Pharisees used the law unlawfully in forbidding that.
II. THE LAWFUL USE OF LAW.
1. As a restraint to keep outward evil in check... "The law was made for sinners and profane."... Illustrate this by reference to capital punishment. No sane man believes that punishment by death will make a nation's heart right, or that the sight of an execution can soften or ameliorate. Punishment does not work in that way. The law commanding a blasphemer to be stoned could not teach one Israelite love to God, but it could save the streets of Israel from scandalous ribaldry. And therefore clearly understand, law is a mere check to bad men: it does not improve them; it often makes them worse; it cannot sanctify them. God never intended that it should. Hence we see for what reason the apostle insisted on the use of the law for Christians. Law never can be abrogated. Strict rules are needed exactly in proportion as we want the power or the will to rule ourselves. It is not because the gospel has come that we are free from the law, but because, and only so far as, we are in a gospel state. "It is for a righteous man" that the law is not made, and thus we see the true nature of Christian liberty.
2. As a primer is used by a child to acquire by degrees, principles and a spirit. This is the use attributed to it in verse 5. "The end of the commandment is charity." Compare with this two other passages — "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness," and "love is the fulfilling of the law." "Perfect love casteth out fear." In every law there is a spirit, in every maxim a principle; and the law and the maxim are laid down for the sake of conserving the spirit and the principle which they enshrine. Distinguish, however. In point of time, law is first — in point of importance, the Spirit. In point of time charity is the "end" of the commandment — in point of importance, first and foremost. The first thing a boy has to do is to learn implicit obedience to rules. The first thing in importance for a man to learn is to sever himself from maxims, rules, laws. Why? That he may become an Antinomian, or Latitudinarian? No. He is severed from submission to the maxim because he has got allegiance to" the principle. He is free from the rule and the law because he has got the Spirit written in his heart.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)1 Timothy 4:3). On the other hand, if enlightenment is everything and the body is worthless, then every kind of experience, no matter how shameless, is of value, in order to enlarge knowledge. Nothing that a man can do can make his body more vile than it is by nature, and the soul of the enlightened is incapable of pollution. Gold still remains gold, however often it is plunged in the mire. The words of the three verses taken as a text, look as if St. Paul was aiming at an evil of this kind. These Judaizing Gnostics "desired to be teachers of the Law." They wished to enforce the Mosaic Law, or rather their fantastic interpretations of it, upon Christians. They insisted upon its excellence, and would not allow that it has been in many respects superseded. "We know quite well," says the apostle, "and readily admit, that the Mosaic Law is an excellent thing; provided that those who undertake to expound it make a legitimate use of it. They must remember that, just as law in general is not made for those whose own good principles keep them in the right, so also the restrictions of the Mosaic Law are not meant for Christians who obey the Divine will in the free spirit of the gospel." Legal restrictions are intended to control those who will not control themselves; in short, for the very men who by their strangest doctrines are endeavouring to curtail the liberties of others. In a word, the very persons who in their teaching were endeavouring to burden men with the ceremonial ordinances, which had been done away in Christ, were in their own lives violating the moral laws to which Christ had given a new sanction. They tried to keep alive, in new and strange forms, what had been provisional and was now obsolete, while they trampled under foot what was eternal and Divine. "If there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine." In these words St. Paul sums up all the forms of transgression not specified in his catalogue. The sound, healthy teaching of the gospel is opposed to the morbid and corrupt teaching of the Gnostics, who are sickly in their speculations (1 Timothy 6:4), and whose word is like an eating sore (2 Timothy 2:17). Of course healthy teaching is also health-giving, and corrupt teaching is corrupting; but it is the primary and not the derived quality that is stated here. It is the healthiness of the doctrine in itself, and its freedom from what is diseased or distorted, that is insisted upon. Its wholesome character is a consequence of this. The extravagant theories of the Gnostics to account for the origin of the universe and the origin of evil are gone and are past recall. It would be impossible to induce people to believe them, and only a comparatively small number of students ever even read them. But the heresy that knowledge is more important than conduct, that brilliant intellectual gifts render a man superior to the moral law, and that much of the moral law itself is the tyrannical bondage of an obsolete tradition, is as dangerous as ever it was. It is openly preached and frequently acted upon. The great Florentine artist, Benvenuto Cellini, tells us in his autobiography that when Pope Paul
III. expressed his willingness to forgive him an outrageous murder committed in the streets of Rome, one of the gentlemen at the Papal Court ventured to remonstrate with the Pope for condoning so heinous a crime. "You do not understand the matter as well as I do," replied Paul III.: "I would have you to know that men like Benvenuto, unique in their profession, are not bound by the laws." Cellini is a braggart, and it is possible that in this particular he is romancing. But, even if the story is his invention, he merely attributes to the Pope the sentiments which he cherished himself, and upon which (as experience taught him) other people acted. Over and over again his murderous violence was overlooked by those in authority, because they admired and wished to make use of his genius as an artist. "Ability before honesty" was a common creed in the sixteenth century, and it is abundantly prevalent in our own. The most notorious scandals in a man's private life are condoned if only he is recognized as having talent. It is the old Gnostic error in a modern and sometimes agnostic form.
(A. Plummer, D. D.)
I. THE INFINITE PERFECTION OF THE LAW OF GOD. "The law," says the apostle, "is holy; and the commandment holy, just, and good"; and why? because God Himself "is holy, just, and good."
1. To understand the perfection of this law we must consider also the relation subsisting between the Governor and the governed. They are all dependent for everything, both new and for ever, upon Him. No man upon earth has a right to legislate, but as the representative of God Himself. Why is a father a legislator in his own family? because he is a father? No; but because God has invested him with that right. Moreover, legislation is not a something arbitrary in the Deity; His legislation flows from His own essential perfection. It must be what it is, it cannot be otherwise.
2. Consider the law of God as to its commandments. It requires, in the first place, supreme love to God; involving the exercise of all the affections of the heart. The commands of this law require, also, fraternal love.
3. Consider the law of God as to its curse. In this respect, also, it will appear to be "just and good." Does it seem unkind? No; for it throws the sinner no farther from God than he throws himself.
4. The law of God, then, is immutable and eternal. The law of God must necessarily relate to every inhabitant of heaven, of earth, of hell.
5. Consider the law of God under the Adamic covenant. It connected life with obedience, death with disobedience.
6. Consider the law of God under the Mosaic dispensation.
II. THE USES OF THE LAW OF GOD. "The law is good, if a man use it lawfully."
1. The law is abused and insulted by transgression. What is said of wisdom may be said of this law; "he that sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul."
2. The law is insulted and abused when men endeavour to justify them selves by it. This must arise, first, from ignorance of themselves; and, secondly, from ignorance of the law of God. Paul says of the Jews, "they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God's righteous ness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." The whole ceremonial law taught men that they were to be justified by another — that sin was to be atoned for.
3. And the law is insulted and abused whenever men endeavour to justify themselves, in the least degree, by it.
4. And not only is the law insulted and abused when men reject the law, but also when they reject the remedy for their disobedience. The rejection of the gospel is the greatest and most dreadful act of disobedience to the law. It is an insult offered to the government of God, and a wanton rejection of His goodness.But what are the uses of the law?
1. We should view it as fulfilled by Jesus Christ. But Christ died also for His brethren, that He might bring them to a state of perfect conformity to the law, and preserve them in that state for ever. The apostle speaks of being "under the law to Christ"; this is the state of the believer on earth, and this will be his state for ever.
2. To use the law aright, is to study it perfectly, and to see its beauty as it was exemplified in Christ.
3. To use the law aright is to connect it intimately with faith. There is a more intimate connection between faith and the law of God than we can possibly describe. By believing in Christ we honour the law as a covenant, in its commands, and its curse; and when we take it as a rule of life we honour it altogether.
4. The law is used and honoured as it should be, when we make it the guide of our dally conduct, when we aim to bring all our actions as near to the law of God as possible.
(W. Howels.)Psalm 119:28; Romans 7:12, 22).
I. NOTICE SOME INSTANCES IN WHICH SHE DIVINE LAW IS USED UNLAWFULLY.
1. In thinking that Christ's obedience to it renders our obedience unnecessary.
2. When, instead of judging ourselves by the law, we take occasion from it to judge uncharitably of others, we use it unlawfully. Thus did the Pharisees: "This people who know not the law are cursed," said they.
3. In depending upon the works of the law for justification before God, we make an improper use of the law; and that which is good in itself ceases to be good to us.
II. CONSIDER WHAT ARE THE PROPER USES OF THE DIVINE LAW. "The law is good, if a man use it lawfully."
1. It serves as a glass or mirror, in which we may behold the majesty and purity of God, and the guilty and wretched state of man.
2. It acts as a restraint upon our lusts and corruptions. If it be asked, "Wherefore serveth the law?" The answer is, "It was added because of transgressions"; that is, to prevent them by curbing the unruly passions and appetites of men.
3. The law is properly used as a means of conviction. "By the law is the knowledge of sin," and without it sin could not be fully known. "When the commandment came," says Paul, "sin revived, and I died."
4. It is a complete directory, or rule of conduct. One great end of the law ever was, and ever will be, to instruct us in our duty towards God, ourselves, and our neighbour. Like the pillar of fire which guided the Israelites through the wilderness, it is a light to our feet, and a lamp to our paths.
5. It serves as a criterion by which to judge of our experience, and whether we be the subjects of real grace.
(B. Beddome, M. A.)I. In the first place, then, we beg your attention to THE CHARACTER AND REQUIREMENTS OF GOD'S LAW.
1. This law, in the first place, is holy. It is the offspring of the mind of Deity, which is perfectly pure. It is the spotless transcript of God's holiness. It is the faithful representation of His moral excellence and perfection.
2. It is not only holy, but it is just. It is the standard of right, and the infallible standard of right. In all that it claims, in all that it forbids, in all that it inculcates, it is perfectly just to God the Lawgiver, and perfectly just to man the subject of His laws.
3. Moreover, the law is good. It is a kind and merciful law. The motive which prompted the promulgation of it was a motive of benevolence.
4. I beg to remind you that it is a supreme law; universal in its obligations, and binding on the consciences of every rational, intelligent, and accountable being.
5. I must beg you to remark, in the fifth place, that the law is unchangeable; and for this plain reason, because it is perfectly holy, perfectly just, perfectly good. Whatever change there is wrought in the law, it must be either for the better, or for the worse. If the law be already perfect, it cannot be changed for the better; and that God should change His law for the worse, is an idea not for a moment to be admitted into any rational understanding.
6. Let me further observe that this law is also eternal; for the very reasons to which I have already adverted. It requires not only a personal obedience but a perfect obedience. We must not only obey in some things but in all things — "all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." This obedience, also, must be perpetual. It is not a man's obeying the law to-day and violating it to-morrow, which will constitute the obedience which it requires: for "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them."
II. "WHEREFORE THEN SERVETH THE LAW?" If such are its characters, and such are its requirements, and every living man must feel that he is utterly incapable of rendering that personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience which the law requires, "wherefore then serveth it?"
1. The law of God serves for instruction. It holds up to our view the standard of right and of wrong.
2. The law serves for conviction — conviction of sin: and this it does in three ways. First, it demonstrates to us the evil of sin in its direct contrariety to God's nature and will. "I had not known sin" — I had not been acquainted with sin — "except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." But the law of God not only demonstrates what sin is, but it brings home a sense and a conviction of it, to the conscience of the sinner. Once more, the law serves for conviction, inasmuch as it utterly silences and stops the mouth of every transgressor, by showing him that he stands without excuse in the presence of the Lawgiver, on the ground of his manifold delinquencies and his innumerable breaches of this law. The law serves, in the third place, for condemnation. It will be the rule by which every sinner who perishes will be condemned at the last great day: for "the wages of sin is death." Fourthly, the law serves to magnify the all-sufficiency and perfection of that justifying righteousness, which Christ, as the surety of His people, has supplied. In the fifth place, this law serves as a rule of life and a directory of conduct to all who are the subjects of God's moral government. Some persons have adopted that most pernicious sentiment, that the law of God is not a rule of life to the believer. But I ask, why not? Cannot you easily conceive that the law of God may be annulled and abrogated in one view of it, and remain altogether in full force in another view of it? As a covenant, it is utterly taken out of the way; because it has been gloriously fulfilled in the person of the Surety. And therefore, now, by the deeds of the law no flesh living shall be justified." But it would be indeed a strange and most anomalous thing, if God, in removing His law as a covenant, should have disannulled that law as the rule of life. I speak it with all reverence, this is a thing which God Himself could not do; and for this plain reason, that the law is just a transcript of His own pure and perfect mind; the law is just the revelation of His holy and unchangeable will; and unless He could destroy His own perfect mind, and unless He could alter His own immutable will, then His law must ever remain the rule of life and manners, not only to all His redeemed children, but to all intelligences in heaven and in earth.
III. THEN, WHAT IS NECESSARY IN ORDER THAT WE MAY USE THE LAW LAWFULLY?
1. We should daily appeal to it, as the standard of action, the rule of self-examination, and the instrument of penitential conviction.
2. In the next place, be it remarked, that when we habitually divorce ourselves from the law as a covenant, as a means of justification, and as a ground of hope, we use it lawfully.
3. We use this law lawfully, in the third place, when Christ becomes inexpressibly dear to our hearts, as having honoured and fulfilled the law, placed it in the position of its just authority and importance, and at the same time redeemed us from its curse and from its punishment.
4. We use the law lawfully when, conscious of our own weakness and incapacity to fulfil its requirements, we are earnest in prayer for the Spirit of grace to renew and sanctify our nature, and to strengthen us to a compliance with all the known will of God.
5. Again, the law is used lawfully when we make it our constant study, and aim, to exemplify is holy requirements — to show the law of God in our habitual walk, in our life, our spirit, our behaviour. "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."
(G. Clayton, M. A.)
I. TO SHOW US OUR NEED OF A SAVIOUR. "By the law is the knowledge of sin." And again, "The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." Let us take but a cursory view of the various commandments, and we shall find that we have individually violated them all, and thus are verily guilty before God.
II. Observe, then, that in this case the law serves AS A RULE TO REGULATE OUR BEHAVIOUR. Like so many poles or beacons placed along a difficult navigation, or so many finger-posts erected along a road, the several commandments serve to indicate our course heavenward. If we wish to secure in the most effectual manner the fidelity of a son or a servant, we shall not proceed by a system of terror, but rather by one of authority, tempered by gentleness and kindness. Precisely such is the system adopted by the Father of mercies in the gospel. Seeking not the compulsory "eye-service" of the convict, but the cheerful and cordial obedience of an attached child, He employs a plan exquisitely suited to this desired end. He deals with us as creatures of reason and feeling. He knows that affection must be won, not forced; that men are not to be driven, but drawn into love. Accordingly the Christian, now that he is "justified by faith," obeys the law immeasurably better than he ever did, or could do before.
1. For now he obeys it not merely in the letter, but in the spirit; not as of necessity, but willingly; not partially, but universally. He esteems God's commandments concerning all things to be right.
2. And then he has now what he had not before, namely, the aid of the Holy Spirit working in him both to will and to do, and causing him, like water at the roots of a tree, to bring forth the fruits of righteousness to the Divine praise and glory. And now behold the necessary, the indissoluble connection between justification and sanctification. A person is justified through faith, which, uniting him to Christ, gives him an interest in His righteousness. Then this faith produces obedience by producing love. "Faith worketh by love." It becomes a living principle in the heart, urging to the performance of all such good actions as God has prescribed; and therefore this is termed "the obedience of faith."
(J. E. Hull, B. A.)I. We consider THE INSTITUTION, EXTENT AND APPLICATION OF THE LAW. When God formed man upright in His own image, the moral law, which inculcates eternal, unchangeable truth and perfect goodness, was written in his heart. By the fall, the fair image of God's purity was defaced, some faint lines of distinction only of right and wrong being left upon the natural conscience. When God was about to separate to Himself the people of Israel, with a view to preserve and perpetuate in the earth the knowledge of His character and will, He gave them the law from Sinai, not now inscribed on their hearts as before, but engraven on two tables of stone. Such was the institution of the law. We proceed to its extent and application. The moral law of the ten commandments is a complete summary of all human duty to God, to each other, and to themselves. We are not to limit the commandments to their literal meaning; otherwise a great part of our thoughts, and words, and even of our actions would be exempt from the notice and control of the law of God. It has the whole Word of God for its expositor, the regulation of the whole sphere of human principle and action for its object. "The law is spiritual." It does not merely regard the outward action, it goes down into the heart and motives, and tries every thought, intention, and principle of the soul.
II. To consider HOW IT IS LAWFULLY USED.
1. We use it lawfully when we receive and respect it in its full extent, and in every part of it. There is hardly any man, however wicked, who does not feel something like reverence for some parts of God's commands. A man will coolly break and profane the Sabbath who dares not curse and swear.
2. We use the law lawfully when we bring every part of our character, the inward as well as the outward man, to the test of its requirements. An action, though apparently agreeable to the law of God, if it originate in some base, selfish, unholy motive, is in His sight an act of disobedience, a positive sin. Jehu did an action which the law required, when he rooted idolatry out of the land; but it soon appeared that his object was not the glory of God, but his own distinction and advancement. Neither was Amaziah's conduct better than splendid sin, "who did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart."
3. We use the law lawfully when we seriously believe, and rally admit that it contains eternal and unalterable truth, that our holy God could not have given a law less holy, less extensive; that every being, in proportion as he is holy and fit for heaven, loves the law; that every transgression of it must expose us to Divine justice as guilty offenders; that the penalty of every sin is death eternal; and that till we seek mercy and forgiveness in His appointed way for each sin of our lives, the curse of the law, and the wrath of God abide upon us. All this must be true in the very nature of things.
III. THIS LAWFUL USE OF THE LAW ANSWERS GOOD ENDS, PRODUCES. HAPPY EFFECTS UPON US, WHATEVER OUR STATE AND CHARACTER MAY BE.
1. This lawful use of the law is good for the unconverted, whether a wicked or a self righteous man. When, under a serious and spiritual understanding of the law, he not only surveys his actions but enters with its light into the secret chambers of his heart, he discovers his true character in all its horrid deformities. He perceives that his heart has never felt the love of God, the principle of all true obedience. His best actions are now seen in their proper light, as needing the mercy, not claiming the reward of his holy God. He cannot be saved by works under the law, except he keep it perfectly. But if he could forget all his past sins, he finds that the law is so pure and extensive that he cannot keep it for a day. The more he tries the more he is condemned. In this awful state the gospel points his despairing eye to the Cross. "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world." Thus "the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." It drives us from Sinai to Calvary. It pulls down every false foundation of hope, that we may build on Christ alone, the rock of ages.
2. After the law has brought a penitent sinner to Christ for pardon, peace, and life, it is, if lawfully used, good and useful to him as a justified believer. He is called to be holy; and the practical part of the Word of God, which is a comment upon the law, shows him at large what is sinful and what is holy. It therefore becomes a light to his feet and a lamp to his paths. To be conformed to the law is to be conformed to the image of God, and to be capable of heavenly happiness with Him.(1) Let me entreat you, if you regard your immortal souls, diligently to read, hear, and meditate upon the Word of God at large, which explains the law and will of God by precept, and illustrates them by example.(2) Let your hearing and study of the Word of Life be ever accompanied with earnest humble prayer to God, for the powerful aid of His grace to give you a spiritual taste and judgment to dispel your ignorance, to guide you into all truth, and to fasten it with power on your hearts.(3) In considering the* several parts of the law of God your object should be to comprehend its full bearing, extent, and meaning. In order to succeed you cannot take a better model than our Saviour's view and explanation of a part of the law in His sermon on the mount.
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
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