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whilst he feels "convinced of the law as a transgressor," he will see himself placed under its wrathful condemnation; from which he has no means of escape, unless a sacrifice, and a mediator, can be found to interpose and to save him.
Whether men thus repair to the law, or not, to ascertain their lost condition, it actually sits in judgment on their conduct, and charges every descendant of Adam with those manifold breaches of its precepts, of which they have been already, and daily are, guilty.
5. The law is of great service in displaying the infinite guilt of sin. Next to the intense sufferings of Christ, which fixed an immense demerit on transgression, the Commandments prove that sin is exceedingly sinful". The denunciations which they utter against it undeniably set the evil in a most striking light. "The wages of sin is death." Now, if the punishment, which will hereafter be inflicted on unrepented sin, bears a just proportion to its heinous nature-as we may be sure it does, (for Jehovali will never stain his character by any acts of injustice towards his creatures,) then there must be a degree of enormity in it, which men are accustomed to overlook. Thus speaks the Divine Word concerning the intentions for which the law of God was given: "It was added, because of transgressions ":" and it "entered, that the offence might abound";" that its deformity, malignity, and evil deserts, might be exhibited in such colours as should powerfully dissuade men from committing it. Whoever looks at sin through this mediuin, with a spiritual vision, will discern its odious character, and adinit that it deserves God's indignation.
Rom. iii. 10-24.
hib. vii. 13.
i ib. vi. 23.
6. Furthermore, the law is useful in deterring us from iniquity, by apprising us of the danger to which it necessarily exposes us. To declare his unconquerable hatred of sin, God has resolved to doom his enemies to perpetual destruction. His righteous law threatens every one who transgresses it with a most tremendous curse'. It holds the thunderbolt of Divine vengeance, as lifted up and ready to fall on the head of the offender. It brings men under fear of a judge, who will certainly visit their sins with condign punishment; of which, the past judgments executed on the ungodly afford a positive assurance". May these terrors of the Lord dissuade you from the practice of evil deeds, for which such endless wrath is prepared! May you be afraid to insult the autho rity of God any longer! and, returning to him with deep sorrow for all your former misdoings, may you heartily seek his grace, to pardon them, and to enable you hereafter to walk in strict accordance with his holy will!
7. It is clear, that a very useful design of the law is, to confound the pride of self-righteous persons, who, in vain, seek justification by it.
mandment was, indeed, ordained to be unto life," for truly righteous men and no doubt the conduct of Adam and Eve, whilst they continued in a state of innocence, was conformable thereto. But they soon infringed the covenant of works, and thus were obliged to avail themselves of the mercy of God, to be afterwards displayed through a crucified Redeemer".
Ever since the Fall, not one of the human race' has been in a condition to obey a law which rigidly exacts a perfect righteousness; in default of which it
2 Pet. ii. 4-7. Jude. an Gal. iii. 21-25.
inflicts its awful penalty. "Wherefore, then, serveth the law?" Its office principally is, to arraign and convict men of transgression; and to consign every impenitent offender, who dies without an interest in the atonement of Christ, through which the contrite are saved, to endless punishment. Hence it is called the ministration of condemnation, and of death°: first, it fastens a conviction of guilt on the conscience; and then it passes a sentence of death, which binds over every Christless soul to eternal sufferings in hell. What folly is it, then, still to cleave to the law for justification, by which a man never can be saved, without a sinless obedience to its demands ; an obedience which no imperfect creatures, like ourselves, are capable of performing".
Reader, are you engaged in the hopeless attempt of obtaining acceptance with God in this way? and, can you seriously think you have already kept the Commandments, and are likely to continue in such an unbroken course of holiness as they require? A knowledge of yourself would correct a thought so arrogant and delusive; for, when you remember the open and secret offences of your past life, and consider that want of conformity with the will of God which is observable in your daily walk; and, furthermore, when you think upon the corrupt state of your heart, which is alienated from God; how can you expect salvation by a law, which will not tolerate a single failure, nor assign the reward of everlasting life, but on the ground of perfect obedience? The confessions of Job, David', Isaiahs, and St. Paul', shew the absurdity of such an expectation. Why then expose yourself any longer to the delusion of
* 2 Cor. iii. 7-10. PRom. vii. 14-25.
'Ps. cxix. 96. cxliii. 2. " Isai. vi. 5.
Job ix. 2, 3. xlii.5, 6. 1 Tim. i. 13.
Satan; who has filled you with a proud opinion of your own merit, in order to blind your mind, "lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine into it"?" Henceforth renounce all expectations of saving yourself: for such a sentiment tends to supersede the meritorious death of Christ, to which every redeemed soul must finally ascribe its salvation"".
8. A very beneficial design of God's law is, to make depraved man sensible of his various wants. It is well suited to answer this purpose, by exhibiting a standard of perfection, to which every one's conduct should be referred. So long as we are unacquainted with the unblemished purity of the Divine character, and the Gospel method of justification, we shall remain in total ignorance of our spiritual necessities with the Laodiceans, we shall fancy we are possessed of every moral and religious excellence*; or, like the young man who came to Christ with such exalted ideas of his own attainments, we shall ask, in the pride of our hearts, What lack we yet **? or else, with the self-justifying Pharisee, we shall extol our good deeds, and exult over the rest of mankind, as if we deemed ourselves much better than they ". The Scripture censures such boasting, as the effect of a deceived heart: and the moment we see the holiness of God in the mirror of his perfect law, the deception is removed; and instead of glorying in ourselves, we learn that our own righteousness, in which we once trusted for acceptance, is not only insufficient for the purpose", but is absolutely defiled, even as filthy rags. Now, the best actions we ever performed clearly appear defective, both in mo
2 Cor. iv. 4. xx Mat. xix. 20. a Isa. lxiv. 6.
uu Rev. vii. 14, 15.
* Rev. iii. 17.
tive and in end. Now, we begin to suspect that we have been too often actuated by a love of applause ; and that many things which have raised us in the estimation of men, have had no other origin than ostentation, a thirst of human applause, or a wish to compound with God for our sins.
Thus a discovery of the wickedness of the heart makes every convinced sinner exclaim, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Thus humbled under a sense of his deficiencies, he finds himself a helpless, undone Without any ability to satisfy the claims of the law, or to work out his salvation; without any personal righteousness, or inherent power to do the will of God; he sees himself reduced to a condition in which he must perish, unless some one is able to redeem him from destruction.
9. In this manner, the Law becomes, what it was intended to be, an excellent preparative for a cordial reception of the Gospel. A conscience weary and heavy laden with sin can find no repose under the severe discipline of the covenant of works, "which gendereth to bondage:" nay, the burden does but increase, so long as relief is expected from that quarter. The menaces which it holds out are more terrible to an awakened conscience, than the awful circumstances which attended its delivery on Mount Sinaï were to the Children of Israel".
The law, however, does not produce such terrors in the soul, but with a view to point us to Christ, who is ready to allay them. It inflicts the wound, that He might heal it, by the application of his grace. Now, if you have abandoned every false ground of confidence; if you have renounced every plea of
b Rom. viii. 24.
Heb. xii. 18-22.
Isa. 1. 1-4.