1 Timothy 1:8-10
But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;…
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;