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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Galatians 3

Verse 1

DISCOURSE: 2059
DEPARTING FROM THE SIMPLE GOSPEL

Galatians 3:1. O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

THE method of a sinner’s justification is plainly revealed in the Gospel: nor is any doctrine more worthy of attention. An error with respect to many other points may consist with our salvation, but to err in this, is to destroy all hope of acceptance. Hence St. Paul devotes even an angel from heaven to a curse, if it could be supposed that one should be found who would introduce a gospel different from that which he himself had preached. Unhappily, however, the Galatians had been misled. The Apostle writes this epistle in order to reclaim them: he tells them that he had reproved even Peter himself, and that, too, before the whole Church at Antioch, for dissembling the truth [Note: Galatians 2:13-14.]. He then proceeds to reprove their declension also.

We shall consider,

I.

Wherein their disobedience to the truth consisted—

The Galatians had formerly “received the truth in the love of it”—
[They had entertained the highest respect for him who first evangelized them [Note: Galatians 4:14.]; they had been knit to him with the most cordial affection [Note: Galatians 4:15.]; they had found much blessedness by means of the Gospel [Note: Gal 4:15]; they had received miraculous powers in confirmation of the word [Note: Galatians 3:2.]; they had been enabled to adorn their profession by a suitable life and conversation [Note: Galatians 5:7.]; they had even endured many sufferings for their attachment to the truth [Note: Galatians 3:4.].]

But they had lately imbibed the doctrines of some Judaizing teachers—
[Many of the Jewish converts were still zealous for the law of Moses: hence they laboured to make proselytes whereever they came. Many of the Galatian churches were induced to embrace their doctrines: hence, though Gentiles originally, they put themselves under the yoke of the Jewish law [Note: Galatians 4:8-10.].]

Thus they, in fact, “disobeyed and renounced the truth” itself—
[They had been taught to expect justification by faith in Christ [Note: Gal 2:16], but now they superadded an obedience to the law as a joint ground of hope: by this they declared that faith in Christ was insufficient for their justification. They did not indeed intend by this to reject Christ entirely:; but the Apostle tells them repeatedly that God considered their conduct as equivalent to an utter rejection of the Gospel [Note: Galatians 2:21; Galatians 5:2-4.]: and hence he warns them, that they were turned altogether to “another Gospel [Note: Galatians 1:6.].”]

Their defection therefore involved them in the deepest guilt; as will appear more fully, if we consider,

II.

The particular aggravation with which it was attended—

St. Paul himself had preached among them in a most lively and affecting manner—
[Wherever he went, his constant subject was Christ crucified [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:2.]: he fully opened to his hearers the nature and ends of Christ’s death: he always declared the efficacy of it as an atonement for sin: he earnestly exhorted all to trust in it for their acceptance with God: he had dwelt so much, and in so affecting a manner, on this subject, that the crucifixion of Christ might be said to have been depicted, or even exhibited before their eyes.]

This was a great aggravation of their guilt in departing from the faith—
[Had they heard less of Christ, they had been less culpable; had they heard of him in a less affecting manner, they had not been without a plea; had they seen no particular effects flowing from the Apostle’s preaching, they might have bad some excuse; had the subserviency of the law to the Gospel never been opened to them, their defection from the truth might have been accounted for: but to renounce the truth, after it had been set forth with such energy, and attended with such effects, was extreme folly and wickedness: their conduct was no less than a crucifying of Christ afresh [Note: Hebrews 6:6.].]

What animadversion their disobedience merited we may see in,

III.

The reproof which the Apostle gave them on account of it—

St. Paul ascribes their declension to the subtlety of their false teachers—
[Sin has an astonishingly fascinating power [Note: This seems the exact import of the original.]. Error, whether in faith or practice, soon insinuates itself into our hearts. Whenever people are drawn from the truth, they are first beguiled by the specious appearances of false principles. Apostates therefore may be justly considered as deluded creatures; and if at any time they be recovered, they wonder at themselves how they ever could have been so “bewitched,” so blinded, so befooled.]

Nevertheless he deservedly censures their compliance with them“
[He was far from indulging a contemptuous or vindictive spirit, yet he judged it his duty to “rebuke them sharply:” he therefore spoke of their conduct with holy indignation: he expressed his wonder that they could be so soon turned from the truth [Note: Galatians 1:6.]: he seems at a loss to represent their folly in terms sufficiently humiliating; yet his question evidently imports also a mixture of pity: he felt deeply in his soul for their spiritual welfare [Note: Galatians 4:19.]; he therefore expostulated with them in order to reclaim them.]

Inferences—
1.

How great is the evil and danger of self-righteousness!

[The Galatians intended to honour God’s own institutions; but by laying an undue stress upon them they endangered their own salvation. How careful then should we be not to trust in any righteousness of our own! Let us remember in what light our own righteousness should be viewed [Note: Isaiah 64:6.]—let us bear in mind our Saviour’s direction [Note: Luke 17:10.]—let us cultivate the disposition of the great Apostle [Note: Philippians 3:9.]—]

2.

What need have even the most eminent Christians to watch against apostasy!

[The attainments of the Galatians seemed to be very eminent: yet they were soon seduced from the simplicity of the Gospel. Who then are we, that we should be over confident? Our dearest friends may well regard us as Paul did the Christians at Corinth [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:3.]. Let us attend then to the advice which he gives us [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:12.]—nor let us despise that salutary admonition of St. Peter [Note: 2 Peter 3:17.]—]

3.

What cause of thankfulness have they who are kept steadfast in the truth!

[They who know their own instability will wonder that they are kept at all. Surely such will adopt the grateful acknowledgment of David [Note: Psalms 26:12.]—and these are the persons in whom that declaration shall be verified [Note: 1 Peter 1:5.]—We conclude with that suitable doxology [Note: Jude, ver. 24, 25.]—]


Verses 8-9

DISCOURSE: 2060
THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO ABRAHAM

Galatians 3:8-9. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

THE point which St. Paul above all things labours to establish, especially in his Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, is the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The Jews universally were adverse to this doctrine, because it derogated, as they thought, from the honour of their law. And the Gentiles also were hostile to it, because it cut off from them all occasion of boasting in themselves. But the more the unbelieving world set themselves against it, the more this holy Apostle strove to place it beyond all contradiction or doubt. And well he might, since on the reception or rejection of it depends the everlasting salvation of every child of man. Let it not therefore be deemed superfluous, if on a point of such infinite importance we follow him, and bring it before you in a variety of views. If we have already received it, we still need to be confirmed in it from time to time, lest by any means we be drawn aside from it. There is something “bewitching” in the idea of meriting salvation at the hands of God; and we are but too apt to listen to any statement which shall so flatter the pride of our hearts. Many converts belonging to the Churches of Galatia, after having been for a time established in the truth, were at last turned aside from it; and drew from the Apostle this spirited remonstrance; “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” He appeals to them, that the miracles which he had wrought among them, as also the miraculous powers which they had received through his instrumentality, were all in confirmation of this doctrine; by which, in fact, Abraham himself had been saved; and by which alone they could ever be partakers of Abraham’s felicity. This, he tells them, was the unvaried testimony of Scripture; and it had been declared two thousand years before to Abraham, in those most memorable words, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”
In discoursing on these words, we will shew,

I.

What was that Gospel which the Scripture preached to Abraham—

Abraham was informed, that “in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed”—
[This was repeatedly declared to him, and at an interval of nearly fifty years [Note: Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18.]. The full import of this promise was not clearly revealed in the declaration itself; but it was doubtless made known to him by the Spirit of God, and was typically represented to him in the sacrifice of his son Isaac. By the command of God, he took his own son, the child of promise, in order to offer him up as a burnt-offering to the Lord. On this his son he laid the wood which was to reduce him to ashes; he led him to Mount Moriah (the very place where the Promised Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ, was afterwards offered); he bound him, and, in purpose and intention, offered him up a sacrifice to God: and then, having actually offered up the ram which God had substituted in the place of Isaac, he received his son as from the dead [Note: Hebrews 11:17-19.]: and thus was taught, that, by the death and resurrection of the Promised Seed, the blessings of salvation were to be brought to a ruined world. Such was the view given him of this great mystery; and by his faith in the Promised Seed so “dying for our offences, and so raised again for our justification,” he was justified, as all his believing posterity shall also be [Note: Romans 4:22-25.].

Here it is particularly to be remembered, that the law bore no part in his justification; for it was not given till four hundred and thirty years after the promise of a Saviour had been made to him, and by faith in that promised Saviour he had been justified. It must be remembered also, that circumcision bore no part in his justification; for no less than twenty-four years elapsed between the period of his being justified by faith, and the appointment of that rite [Note: Compare Genesis 12:3-4. with Genesis 17:1; Genesis 17:7; Genesis 17:10; Genesis 17:23-24.]. It is of the utmost importance that these things be borne in mind: for, if we once admit the idea of his being either in whole or in part justified by any thing but faith, we shall subvert the Gospel altogether; seeing that there is but one method of a sinner’s justification before God for him and for us [Note: See Romans 4:9-14.]. True it is, that before men he was justified by his obedience, as St. James has truly said [Note: James 2:21-23.]: for it was by the fruits which his faith produced, that it was seen to be a living, and not a dead, faith: but in the sight of God he had nothing of his own whereon to place the least dependence: it was by faith only, without any work whatever of his own, that he was counted righteous before God: and, if it had not been so, his salvation had been, not a gift of grace, but a reward of debt, to which he was entitled, and in which he would to all eternity have had a ground of glorying before God [Note: Romans 4:1-5.].]

In this promise “the Gospel was preached to him”—
[This way of salvation is emphatically and exclusively called “the Gospel.” It was glad tidings to Abraham, when taken out of an idolatrous state, and ignorant of any means of acceptance with God, to be informed, that God had provided a Saviour for him; and that, through a person who should descend from his loins, a righteousness should be brought in, fully adequate to the necessities of the whole world, and certainly effectual for all who should believe in him. To that event he looked forward; and, beholding it by faith, he greatly rejoiced in it [Note: John 8:56.]. And this is glad tidings to us also: for where should we find a Saviour, if this promised Seed had not been given? Or what hope should we have had of ultimate salvation, if we had been required to earn it in any measure by our own works? Were it required of us to produce only one single work on which to rest our claim of heaven, where should we find one? But, blessed be God, we are taught to rely on the Promised Seed, and on him alone: and it is this very circumstance which warrants us to expect eternal happiness; since, unworthy as we are, the free promise of God, duly apprehended by faith, can never fail of its accomplishment [Note: Romans 4:16.].]

Such was the Gospel which the Scripture preached to Abraham: nor does it differ at all from,

II.

What it preaches unto us also—

It declares to us,

1.

That this is the way which God has ordained for us also—

[“The Scripture,” that is, the Holy Spirit who spake by it, “foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached this Gospel to Abraham.” There was not to be one way of salvation for him, and another for us; but one and the same for both. And as God foresaw that men would be ready to catch hold of any thing that might afford in ever so slight a degree a ground of glorying, he took care to cut off all occasion for glorying, by justifying Abraham solely through faith, whilst yet he remained in an uncircumcised state: thus shewing to the uncircumcised of all nations, that, in relation to the great matter of their justification before God, they were on a perfect equality with the circumcised; and that, as faith alone was available for Abraham’s salvation, so it would avail for the salvation of all who truly relied upon the Promised Seed [Note: Romans 3:30.]. True it is, we are to “walk in the steps of our father Abraham,” and not to imagine that we can be saved by a dead inoperative faith [Note: Romans 4:12. with James 2:20; James 2:24; James 2:26.]: but still it is by faith only that we become children of Abraham, and by faith only that we become partakers of his blessings [Note: Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9.]: if we seek these benefits in any other way, “we frustrate the grace of God, and cause the death of Christ to be ill vain [Note: Galatians 2:21.].” In the very same promise then that the Gospel was preached to Abraham, it is preached to us: to every one of us it is said, “In the Promised Seed shalt thou be blessed.” And with this agrees the testimony of St. Paul, who, specifying distinctly all the great blessings which the Gospel offers to us, tells us, about nine times in eleven verses, that it is all “in Christ,” “in Christ,” “in Christ [Note: Ephesians 1:3-13.].”]

2.

That all who embrace it shall be partakers of its blessings—

[There is no exception whatever; no difference between Jews and Gentiles: if only we “be of faith, we are from that moment blessed with all the blessings which Abraham himself enjoyed.” Was he justified? So shall we be. Was he made “the friend of God?” So shall we be. Was God to him “a shield, an exceeding great reward?” Such will he be to us also. Is Abraham now “in the kingdom of his God? We also shall, with him and Isaac and Jacob, sit down there,” yea, and shall be “in Abraham’s bosom” to all eternity. All this, and infinitely more than we can either utter or conceive, shall we receive, if we truly believe in Christ: for “all things are ours, if we be Christ’s [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:22-23.].”]

From hence we may see,
1.

The antiquity of the Gospel—

[In every age the doctrine of justification by faith only is stigmatized as a new doctrine: it is very generally represented as such amongst ourselves: and so it was by the Papists at the time of the Reformation: in the apostolic age it was regarded in the same light. When “St. Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection, it was asked, what this new doctrine meant [Note: Act 17:18-19].” But it is as old as Abraham, to whom it was distinctly preached: yea, it must be traced to the time of Adam; for to him also was it preached, when he was told that “the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.” That persons who have the Scriptures in their hands should speak of this as a new doctrine, is perfectly surprising; since it is written in every page of the sacred volume as with a sun-beam: but that a member of the Established Church should be so ignorant, is yet more astonishing; since it Is that essential and fundamental doctrine on which the very edifice of our Church is built. Let not any therefore reject this doctrine; or at least let them not call themselves members of the Church of England, if they do. The way of justification by faith is “the good old way,” in which all the saints of God have gone from the foundation of the world; and it is the only way in which any man can “find rest unto his soul.”]

2.

The excellency of the Gospel”

[The idea of being saved by faith only, is so simple, that the world can see no excellency in it: but this very simplicity constitutes a very distinguished part of its excellency. Supposing that salvation had been by works, or by faith and works united, who would ever have been able to ascertain what measure of good works would suffice for us, or what measure of imperfection would consist with their ultimate acceptance? Verily, under such uncertainty, no human being could enjoy one hour’s peace in the prospect of his great account: but when we are told that salvation is by faith only, then, whatever our works may have been in times past, we have peace in our souls the very instant we believe; because we know that Christ is “able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him:” we know that “by faith we are Abraham’s children;” and that “all the blessings of Abraham are ours,” and shall be ours for ever [Note: ver. 7–9.].

But the excellency of the Gospel appears no less in the fruits that it produces. Abraham was justified the first moment he believed. And did he on that account become indifferent to good works? See his conduct: he immediately went forth from his family and country at the command of God, though he knew not whither lie was to go. In every place where he went, he built an altar to his God: and, even when called to sacrifice with his own hands his beloved Isaac, he hesitated not, but for three successive days prosecuted his journey to the place where the offering was to be made, and executed without reluctance the Divine command. So shall we do, if we truly believe in Christ. There will be no reserves in our hearts; nothing which we will not do, nothing which we will not sacrifice, nothing which we will not suffer, if only our God may be glorified thereby. Let the world produce a list of worthies like those recorded in the Epistle to the Hebrews, or like the holy Apostles, and shew that they were actuated by a different principle from that of faith in Christ, and then will we confess that the Gospel is not so excellent as it is said to be: but till that is done, we must affirm, that in point of practical efficacy it has no rival; and that in comparison of it the whole world is only as dung and dross.]


Verse 10

DISCOURSE: 2061
THE SPIRITUALITY AND SANCTIONS OF THE LAW

Galatians 3:10. As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

THE reason that Christianity is so little understood, is, that men are not aware of the occasion which there is for such a dispensation as the Gospel contains. They know not the state in which they are by nature; and therefore they cannot comprehend the provision made for their recovery from it by grace. If the generality of Christians were asked what God requires of them in his law, or what is now the proper use of the law, they would be able to give, at best, a very imperfect, and probably a very erroneous, account of these things. But it is of the utmost importance that we should understand the law: for, till we do, we can never understand the Gospel.
Now, in the words which we have read, we see,

I.

The requirements of God’s law—

[The law is contained in the Ten Commandments: and the summary given of it by our Lord is, that we must love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves.
Now consider what is comprehended in these two commandments — — — and remember, the obedience to be paid to them must be perfect (“in all things”); personal (by “every one of us”); and perpetual (we must “continue in” it, from the first to the latest hour of our life). It is not sufficient that we wish to do them: we must “do them;” do them “all;” “every one of us;” and “continue” so to do, even to the end. This was written under the law [Note: Deuteronomy 27:26.]; and it is confirmed to us by tile Apostle’s citation of it under the Gospel. Now we must remember, that on our perfect obedience to it all its promises are suspended; and if, in any one instance, even in thought or desire, we fall short of it, we must then be considered as violators of the law. This is a point not sufficiently considered. St. Paul himself did not clearly understand it, previous to his conversion. He interpreted the law only in its literal sense; and could not conceive that such an one as he had ever violated its commands: but when he saw that it forbade an inordinate desire as much as an overt act, he then saw that he was condemned by it, and had forfeited all hope of acceptance by his obedience to it [Note: Romans 7:7; Romans 7:9.].]

But, to understand the law aright, we must know,

II.

The sanctions with which it is enforced—

[It denounces a curse on every, the least, violation of its commands: “Cursed is every one,” &c. What this curse is, we may know from other passages of Holy Writ. It was said to Adam, in reference to the forbidden fruit, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Now, from the moment of his transgression he became mortal as to his body: (for “death entered by sin;” and never would have entered, if man had not sinned:) his soul, also, became spiritually dead to God; and he was doomed to “the second death,” in “the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.” To this the Apostle Paul bears testimony, when he says, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord [Note: Romans 6:23.].” Perhaps it may assist us more, if we consider what the penalty of transgression was to the fallen angels: they were cast out of heaven from the presence of their God; and were consigned to “a lake of fire prepared on purpose for them,” there to endure for ever the vengeance of their offended God. Thus man, on his fall, lost the favour and presence of God, and was subjected to his heavy and everlasting displeasure. Being a partaker with the angels in their offence, he became a partaker with them in their punishment.

Now let every one that has transgressed the law in ever so small a degree, though it may have been only once, consider what the law says to him: it says, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the hook of the law, to do them.”]

This, I say, is,

III.

The tremendous inference that must be drawn in relation to every one of us—

[We all are under the law. The law was given to man in Paradise. It was written in his heart, when he came out of his Creator’s hands. We all, therefore, are under it; and, consequently, “every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God [Note: Rom 3:19].”

If this inference be not true, I would ask, which of the premises is erroneous?
Does the law require less than I have stated? If any one think so, let him tell me where God has dispensed with any one of its commandments? Where has he authorized us to alienate from him any measure of that love which he had required in his law? or where has he lowered the standard of our love to man; and permitted us to act otherwise towards him, than we, in a change of circumstances, should think it right that he should act towards us?
If the requirements of the law are not reduced, are its sanctions altered? Has God any where revoked them? Has he not, on the contrary, expressly said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die [Note: Ezekiel 18:20.]?”

If its requirements are not altered, nor its sanctions revoked, can you say you are not under it? The whole race of mankind are under it: and must continue under it, till they lay hold on that better covenant which God has given us in his Gospel.
There is, then, no possibility of evading the inference that is here drawn; namely, that as many as arc under the law, and consequently the whole race of mankind, are under the curse. O! remember this, ye old; it curses you: ye young; it curses you: ye moral; it curses you. There is not a child of man to whom it does not say, “Thou art cursed.”]

Who, then, must not see,
1.

The folly of seeking to be justified by the works of the law?

[If you had sinned but once, and then only in thought, you would be cursed, as a violator of God’s law; and, consequently, be without hope of obtaining salvation by it. For, if you would be saved by it, you must first atone for your offences against it; and then obey it perfectly in future. But which of these can ye do? If ye were to shed rivers of tears, they could never wash away one sin. The whole race of mankind would never be able to atone for one sin. And suppose your past offences forgiven; which of you, for a single clay or hour, could fulfil the law perfectly in future? Know that this would be an hopeless attempt; and that, consequently, “by the works of the law can no flesh living be justified [Note: Romans 3:20.].” St. Paul himself renounced all hope of acceptance with God by any righteousness of his own, and sought it solely by faith in Christ [Note: Philippians 3:9.]: and so must you, if ever you would obtain mercy at the hands of God [Note: Romans 9:31-32; Romans 10:3-4.].]

2.

The happiness of those who have obtained an interest in Christ?

[They are dead to the law; and the law is dead to them [Note: Romans 7:1-4; Romans 2:19.]. To them is no condemnation [Note: Romans 8:1.]: on the contrary, they have, and ever shall possess, eternal life [Note: John 3:16; John 3:18.]. In all the book of God there cannot be found one curse denounced against them. To them belong nothing but blessings, even all the blessings of grace and glory. Say, beloved, Are not these happy? Seek ye, then, this happiness. Flee to Christ: believe in Christ: and then ye “shall never perish, but shall have eternal life.”]

3.

The reasonableness of a life devoted to Christ?

[Contemplate the benefits you receive by faith in Christ; and say, whether any return that ye can make can ever be too great? To tell you, that, if you believe in Christ, you must obey him, is, I had almost said, to degrade human nature below the beasts. Does “the ox know its owner, and the ass his master’s crib;” and shall a believer not know, and love, and serve, his heavenly Benefactor? Shall the Lord Jesus Christ have “bought you with his blood, and you not desire to glorify him with your bodies and your spirits, which are his?” O! brethren, do not oblige me to say, you must obey him; but “be forward of yourselves,” and give yourselves wholly to him; and let the inquiry of your soul, every day and hour, be, “What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits conferred upon me?”]


Verse 13

DISCOURSE: 2062
REDEMPTION BY CHRIST

Galatians 3:13. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.

THE law, which subjects all mankind to a curse, is the moral law; that is principally intended in the passage before us [Note: It is that law, from the curse of which Abraham and the Gentiles were redeemed, ver. 10; and consequently, though the ceremonial law be not entirely excluded, the text must be understood principally in reference to the moral law.]: it remains unalterable in its demands of obedience or punishment. But in the Gospel a remedy is provided for transgressors: this remedy is proposed to us in the text.

I.

Clear up some points relative to redemption—

The most important truths of Christianity are often denied; but we must be established in them, if we would receive the blessings of redemption. We should know clearly,

1.

What is that “curse” from which we are redeemed—

[Many suppose it to be annihilation, or at most a temporary punishment; but the Scriptures represent it in a far different light: we cannot precisely declare the exact quality of it; it consists, however, partly in banishment from God [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:9.], and partly in inconceivable anguish both of soul and body [Note: Luke 16:23-24.]. Its duration certainly will be eternal; it will continue coeval with the happiness of the righteous [Note: Matthew 25:46. αἰώνιον is used respecting both.]; neither the curse shall cease, nor sinners cease to endure it [Note: Our Lord repeats this no less than five times in six verses, Mark 9:43-48.].]

2.

Who is it that redeems us from it—

[It is thought by many that we must deliver ourselves by repentance, &c. But it is impossible for fallen man to deliver his own soul: he cannot by doing, because he cannot perfectly obey the law in future; and if he could, his obedience would not atone for past sins [Note: The ceasing to increase a debt will not cancel a debt already incurred: see Luke 17:10.]: he cannot by suffering, because the penalty of one sin is eternal death. Nor could the highest archangel redeem the world; if he could, God needed not to have sent his own Son. None but “Christ” was sufficient for so great a work; but his obedience unto death has effected our redemption; he “made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness [Note: Daniel 9:24.].”]

3.

Who they are that shall enjoy the benefits of redemption—

[Many imagine that, because Christ has died for all, all shall be saved; but redemption is by no means so extensive as the curse. With respect to heathens we know little how God will deal with them; but we know what will be his conduct towards the Christian world: they who believe in Christ, and they only, will be finally saved [Note: Mark 16:16. The faith here spoken of is not a mere assent to the truths of Christianity, but a living, operative, and purifying faith, Acts 15:9. James 2:20; James 2:26.]; such alone were comprehended under the term “us.”]

These points being cleared up, we shall,

II.

Shew by what means we are redeemed—

By the Mosaic law persons hanged were deemed accursed [Note: Deuteronomy 21:23.]. Hence Christ, in his death, was “made a curse” or held accursed [Note: See the words immediately following the text.]. In becoming a curse, he was our substitute—

[Christ did not die merely for our good; he endured the curse in our stead. This was typically represented under the Mosaic law [Note: Leviticus 16:7-10; Leviticus 16:21-22. It is impossible not to see in this passage that the scape-goat had the iniquities of the Jewish nation transferred to him, while the goat that died made atonement for them.]: — — — the prophets concur in establishing this truth [Note: Daniel 9:26. “Not for himself,” Isaiah 53:5.]; — — — the Apostles confirm it in the plainest terms [Note: 2Co 5:21. 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18.] — — — His curse indeed was not the same with ours, either in quality or duration; yet it was fully adequate to all the demands of law and justice; and it was such as God appointed for him, and accepts on our behalf.]

This substitution of Christ was the mean of effecting our redemption—
[God ordained it for this very end [Note: Romans 3:25.]. He was pleased with it in this view [Note: Ephesians 5:2.]. He was reconciled to man on account of it [Note: Romans 5:10.]. Our redemption is expressly ascribed to it [Note: Ephesians 1:7.]. Our deliverance from the guilt and power of sin is effected by it [Note: Hebrews 9:13-14.]. It was the price paid for the salvation of the church [Note: Acts 20:28. with 1 Corinthians 6:20.].]

Infer—
1.

How great was the love of Christ towards our fallen race!

[That he who was happy in the bosom of his Father should become a curse! That he should submit to such misery in our place and stead! Well might that anathema be denounced against the ungrateful [Note: 1 Corinthians 16:22.]—Let us then study to “comprehend the heights and depths of his love.”]

2.

What folly and impiety is it to seek justification by the law!

[When the moral law was once broken, it was absolutely impossible that any man should be justified by it [Note: Galatians 3:21.]. There remained no way of escaping its curse but by embracing the Gospel [Note: Galatians 3:22.]. What folly then is it to reject salvation when it is freely offered, and to seek it in a way in which it cannot be found! Nor is the impiety of the conduct less than the folly. It declares that the sacrifice of Christ was unnecessary, or ineffectual. This conduct proved destructive to the bulk of the Jewish nation [Note: Romans 9:31-32; Romans 10:3.]. May we never imitate them to our eternal ruin!]

3.

How strong are the Christian’s obligations to holiness!

[Christ did not die to deliver us from the curse only, but from sin also [Note: Titus 2:11.]. Shall we hope to attain one end of his death while we defeat the other? We should reject such a thought with the utmost abhorrence [Note: Romans 6:1.]. Let every one then strive to attain the disposition of St. Paul [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.]—]


Verse 19

DISCOURSE: 2067
THE THIRD USE OF THE LAW, AS A RULE OF LIFE

Galatians 3:19. Wherefore then serveth the law?

THE last use of the law being now to be contemplated, we shall set before you the law as a rule to govern us, when we have embraced the new covenant. And it is with peculiar pleasure that I enter upon this subject, because there exists at this day, precisely as there did in the apostolic age, a jealousy upon the subject of good works, and a fear lest the free salvation of the Gospel should render men indifferent to them. You will remember, that St. Paul’s statements gave occasion to men to ask, “Shall we, then, continue in sin, that grace may abound [Note: Romans 6:1.]?” And the same thoughts may possibly have arisen in your minds, whilst I have with all the clearness in my power, shewn, that we are not, in any degree whatever, to seek justification by the works of the law, but solely and exclusively by faith in Christ. I did, indeed, endeavour to guard against such thoughts, by intimating, in the very first instance, that there was a third end and use of the law, namely, to be a rule of life to the believer: but had I been less guarded in this respect, and left this point to be developed afterwards, without any previous intimation of my purpose, I fear that the same objections, as were urged against the Apostle’s statements, would have greatly enervated mine, and prevented that favourable reception which I hope, through the tender mercy of God, they have met with in your minds. But I have longed for the present occasion, that I might vindicate the Gospel from the charge of licentiousness; and prove, to the satisfaction of you all, that it is indeed, what the Apostle calls it, “a doctrine according to godliness.”

St. Paul was at all times most anxious to guard against a misconception of his sentiments and conduct on account of his neglect of the ceremonial law. The one great object of his ministry was, to win souls to Christ. For the advancement of this end, he conformed, in all matters of indifference, to the views of those amongst whom he ministered; “to the Jews, becoming a Jew; to those who were under the law, as under the law; and to those who were without law, as without law.” But, fearing lest these compliances of his might be construed as a contempt of the divine authority, he took care to remove all ground for such an idea, by declaring, that he still considered himself as much bound to obey God as ever; or, rather, that he felt himself under additional obligations to fulfil all the divine commands, in consideration of the unbounded mercy that had been vouchsafed to him through Jesus Christ. He had, it is true, neglected the observances of the law: but it had not been from any disrespect to God’s commands, but because that law was in fact abrogated; whereas the moral law was as much in force as ever: and to the latest hour of his life he should look upon himself as “under that law to Christ [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:21.].”

This acknowledgment of his comes fully to our point. It shews, that he still regarded the law as a rule of life; and it gives me a fair opportunity,
1st, To establish the perpetuity of the law, as a rule of life; and,
2dly, To enforce its obligations.
I. In order to establish the perpetuity of the law as a rule of life, let it be remembered, that the law is a perfect transcript of the mind and will of God. It arises necessarily out of the relation which we bear to him and to each other. It did not depend on any arbitrary appointment of the Deity, (except, indeed, so far as the Sabbath is concerned,) but would have been equally in force whether it had been the subject of a particular revelation or not. Allowance, indeed, will, as St. Paul informs us, be made for those, who, for want of a revelation, have but very imperfect conceptions respecting the Divine will [Note: Romans 2:14-15.]: but, wherever that is known, it must be a rule of conduct to man, and will be a rule of judgment to God. No change of circumstances whatever can alter its demands. In whatever situation we be, it must be our duty to love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves: nor can this law by any means be dispensed with. In truth, God cannot dispense with any part of this law; for if he did, he would authorize men to despoil themselves of his image, and to rob him of his glory.

That the law is still a rule of duty to the people of God, appears from that injunction of St. Paul, in the thirteenth chapter to the Romans: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Then, specifying the duties contained in the second table of the law as essential constituents of true love, he adds, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law [Note: Romans 13:8-10.].” Consequently, if it is our duty to exercise love, it is our duty to fulfil the law, which is in all respects identified with love.

But to insist on this is needless: for, instead of the law being superseded by the Lord Jesus Christ, it is in his hand more imperative than ever, and comes to us with tenfold obligations to obey it: and this is the point to which I mean to call your particular attention. To say that “we are not without law to God,” is comparatively a small matter: the point I am to establish is, that “we are under the law to Christ.”
In confirmation of this, I assert, that our obedience to the law was contemplated by God himself: first, in all that Christ did and suffered for us; next, in his liberating of us from the law as a covenant of works; and, lastly, in his admission of us into a new covenant, the covenant of grace.
First, I say, our obedience to the law was one great object which our Lord and Saviour had in view, in all that he did and suffered for us. It was not from death only that he came to save us, but from sin. Indeed, he was on that very account “named Jesus, because he was to save his people from their sins [Note: Matthew 1:21.].” Hear how plainly this was declared concerning him, even before he came into the world: “Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, when filled with the Holy Ghost, prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us..…to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life [Note: Luke 1:67-75.].” This clearly shews, that, instead of “making void the law, Christ has established” its authority to the very end of time. And to this agrees the testimony of St. Paul: “He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” And again, expressly adverting to the government which Jesus still maintains over his people, he says, “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself: for whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s: for to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living [Note: Romans 14:7-8.].”

Next I say, that our obedience to the law was a most important end, for which we are liberated from the law as a covenant of works. This is repeatedly asserted by St. Paul. In the eighth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, he says, “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death:” (that is, the Gospel hath freed me from the law:) “for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, hath condemned sin in the flesh:” (and now observe for what end)—“that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [Note: Romans 8:2-4.].” The law could neither justify nor sanctify us: the Gospel does both: and the very end for which Christ has liberated us from the law, was, that both these ends might be accomplished in us.

To this I will add a passage, which needs no explanation: it is so clear, so precise, so full to the point, that it leaves no doubt upon the subject. St. Paul, speaking of his own experience, says, “I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God [Note: Galatians 2:19.].”Here you perceive that it was the law itself which made him dead to the law. It was so rigorous in its demands, and so awful in its sanctions, that he utterly despaired of obtaining salvation by it; and, in this view, became wholly dead to it. But did he therefore neglect it as a rule of life? Quite the reverse: “Through the law, he was dead to the law, that he might live unto God,” and serve him in newness of life.

But there is an illustration of this matter given us by the Apostle, which places it in a still clearer point of view; in a view at once peculiarly beautiful, and unquestionably just. In the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans he compares the law to a man to whom the Church is united, as it were, in the bonds of marriage. He then observes, that, as a wife is bound to her husband by the nuptial contract as long as he lives, and would be justly called an adulteress if she were to connect herself with another man during his life, so are we united in the closest bonds of the law. But, by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his satisfying all the demands of that law for us, its power over us is annulled, and it becomes, from the very moment of our believing in him, dead with respect to us; so that we are at liberty to be united to Christ, and to enter into a new covenant with him. This benefit, he observes, we derive from Christ. But for what end? That our obligations to holiness may be vacated? No; by no means; but the very reverse: he conveys this benefit, in order that, in our new-covenant state, we may bring forth that fruit, which we never did, nor could, bring forth in connexion with our former husband. Hear his own words: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,)” (I beg you to pay particular attention to thin, because it is addressed to those especially who know the law,) “Know ye not how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman who hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but, if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ” (that is, through the sufferings of Christ, the power of the law over you is cancelled), “that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God [Note: Romans 7:1-4.].” If there were no other passage in all the Scriptures than this, it would be quite sufficient, not only to establish the point in hand, but to silence, for ever, all jealousies respecting the practical intent and tendency of the Gospel.

But I must go on yet further to observe, in the last place, that our obedience to the law is one of the chief blessings conferred upon us by the new covenant, the covenant of grace. You will remember, that the first covenant merely says, “Do this, and live.” It condemns for disobedience; but never does any thing towards enabling us to obey. But what says God to us in. the new covenant? “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my law into their mind, and write it in their hearts [Note: Hebrews 8:10.].” And again, “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh: and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and to keep my judgments and do them [Note: Ezekiel 36:26-27.].” Here, by the very terms of the new covenant, is obedience to the law infallibly secured; because God himself undertakes to work it in us by the influences of his good Spirit. His assured promise to every one that embraces the new covenant is, “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace [Note: Romans 6:14.].”

Hence, then, you see the perpetuity of the law fully established. It is only in its covenant form that it is cancelled: as a rule of duty, it is, as I have before observed, altogether unchangeable: and its authority, instead of being invalidated by the Gospel, is confirmed and strengthened by it: since our obedience to it was, as I have distinctly shewn, first, the end for which Christ came into the world; next, the end for which he delivered us from the law as a covenant of works; and, lastly, the end for which he has brought us into the new covenant, the covenant of grace. In answer, therefore, to every one who doubts the practical tendency of the Gospel, we are prepared to say, with the Apostle Paul, “Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid [Note: Romans 6:15.].”

Having thus endeavoured, with the utmost plainness, to shew that we are still under the law to Christ, I come,
In the II. place, to enforce its obligations.
Is the law designed to be a rule to govern us after we have laid hold on the covenant of grace? Let us use it for that end, without attempting to lower any one of its demands, and with the utmost cheerfulness and zeal. Let us, first, use it for that end. Doubtless, its primary uses must be carefully kept in remembrance. We must never forget, that its first office is, to convince us of sin, and to shew us our undone state, according to the covenant of works. In this view it must produce in us the deepest humiliation, and an utter renunciation of all dependence on our own works, either in whole or in part, for justification before God. Its next use must be, to drive us to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may obtain salvation through his meritorious death and passion. There is no righteousness but his, that is commensurate with its demands; and there is no other in which we can ever stand accepted before God. These things, I say, we must ever bear in remembrance; and be careful never to make, in any degree, our obedience to the law a ground of our hope. But, having this well settled in our minds, we must address ourselves to a diligent performance of all that the law enjoins. It is by this that we are to shew ourselves to have experienced a work of grace in our souls: for “we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” If we profess to hope that we have been “chosen of God” and “predestinated unto life,” shall we make these mysterious truths an occasion of remissness in the path of duty? God forbid: on the contrary, we must ever bear in mind, that, if we have been chosen of God at all, “we have been chosen that we may be holy, and without blame before him in love;” and if we have been predestinated by God at all, we have been predestinated “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” And if we glory in the finished work of Christ (for you will take notice that I am following the Antinomian into all his strong-holds), we must remember what his end was in accomplishing salvation for us: “We have been bought with a price, that we may glorify him with our body and our spirit, which are his.” There are two great errors from which we must keep equally remote; namely, from legal dependence on our own obedience to the law, and, at the same time, from an Antinomian contempt of its commands. We must distinguish between the motives and principles by which we are actuated, and which determine the true quality of our actions. Whatever we do, in order to earn salvation by it, will be rejected of God, and will disappoint our hopes: but, whatever we do from a sense of duty to God, and with a view to honour the Saviour and evince the sincerity of our love to him, will be accepted for his sake, and will receive a proportionable reward of grace. Only take cave that your obedience be from faith and love, and not from a vain hope to purchase the Divine favour; and then will you answer the true ends of your deliverance from the law as a covenant of works, and of your subjection to it as a rule of life.

In enforcing the obligations of the law, I would next say, Attempt not in any thing to lower its demands. We have before shewn, that, as a covenant, it recedes not from its commands of perfect obedience; no, not in one jot or tittle of its requirements. And, as a rule, its requirements are of equal extent. It enjoins us to love God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves: and no lower standard must we propose to ourselves for our daily walk. We must not be satisfied with the world’s standard: we must not be contented with a round of duties, and the performance of a few kind and charitable acts. “We must die unto sin altogether, and live unto righteousness.” We must seek to have “the whole body of sin crucified within us;” and must “delight ourselves in the law after our inward man,” and strive to “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” Nothing must satisfy us, but the attainment of “God’s perfect image in righteousness and true holiness.” If the law is our rule, Christ himself must be our pattern: we must endeavour to “walk in all things as he walked,” and to “purify ourselves even as he is pure.” Nothing short of absolute perfection should satisfy our minds: we should strive to be “holy, as God himself is holy,” and to be “perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Now, need I say that these efforts are very rarely seen? and that, when seen, they are almost universally discountenanced and discouraged? Cautions in plenty are given, “not to be righteous over-much:” but who ever hears the friendly caution, to “be righteous enough?” If we are outwardly decent and moral, we may be as regardless of the state of our souls before God as we please, and no one will warn us of our danger: but, if the love of Christ constrain us to devote ourselves altogether unto him, there is a general alarm respecting us; and nothing is heard but cautions and warnings on every side.

Let it not be imagined that I would recommend any thing that savours of real enthusiasm or fanaticism: so far from it, I would discourage these evils to the utmost of my power: but, if love to God and love to man be, by common consent, as it were, branded with these names, I say, let not any man be deterred from the performance of his duty by any opprobrious names whatever; but let every one aspire after universal holiness, and seek to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Colossians 4:12.].”

One thing more would I say; namely this: In your obedience to the law, be willing servants. We are not to serve the Lord “grudgingly, or of necessity,” but “with a willing mind.” What St. Paul has spoken on this head deserves peculiar attention. He says, “now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held: that we should serve God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter [Note: Romans 7:6.].” Here he refers to the same image as before, the dissolution of marriage by the death of our husband; and the consequent termination of those restraints, in which, during his life, we were held. But what is to be the effect of this liberty? an abandonment of ourselves to sin? No: but an obeying of our new husband, not in the servile way to which we have been accustomed, but with real pleasure and delight, panting after the highest possible perfection both of heart and life. This service we are to account perfect freedom: and we are to live altogether for him, “running the way of his commandments with enlarged hearts.” Now, “whereever the Spirit is, there is this liberty [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:17.].” But, alas! how little of this liberty is seen in the Christian world! Instead of panting to attain “the full measure of the stature of Christ,” we are satisfied with our own stinted growth; so that, in the course of several years, scarcely any improvement is visible in us. The little we do for the Lord, is rather “from constraint, than willingly.” Our defects create in us no real humiliation: our weakness stimulates us not to earnest cries for help: our inability to fulfil our duty leads us not to exult and glory in the work of Christ, or to clothe ourselves from day to day with his perfect righteousness. No: of these feelings, respecting which I spoke largely in my first discourse, the generality are wholly destitute; and therefore destitute, because they understand not the law either in its condemning or its commanding power. Ignorant of the law, they are of necessity ignorant of the Gospel also; and, consequently, are strangers to all those high and holy feelings which the Gospel inspires. Be it however remembered, that if, “through the knowledge of the law, we be, as we must be, dead to the law,” we shall account it our first duty, and our truest happiness, to “live unto our God.”

Before I close my subject, I think you will not deem me presumptuous if I venture to address a few words to my brethren who either are already in the ministry, or are preparing to engage in that sacred office. I think it must strike you, that this subject has by no means that prominence in our public addresses which its importance demands. If it be true, that without the knowledge of the law we cannot understand the Gospel, the neglect of opening the law is most injurious to the souls of men. I know, indeed, that God may, by convincing men of sin, supply that defect; and lead them to a simple reliance on the Saviour, even whilst they are ignorant of the spirituality of the law, and of the uses for which it was promulgated: but still they cannot be truly enlightened Christians; nor can their faith be so firm as it would be, if they had more enlarged views of the Gospel. But how can we hope that this work of conviction should prevail amongst our hearers, when we withhold from them God’s appointed means of producing it in their souls? In truth, this accounts, in a great measure, for the inefficiency of our ministrations. In numberless places, during a whole course of years, not so much as a single instance is found of a sinner being “pricked to the heart, and crying out, What must I do to be saved?” or, if such an instance occur, it is found only in some one who is condemned by the mere letter of the law. But it would not be so, if the law were preached by us in all its spirituality and extent, and the Gospel were represented as God’s only remedy for the salvation of men. A simple exhibition of these truths would reach the heart, and would be accompanied with power from on high. Let me then entreat you, for your own sake, and for your people’s sake, to study the law; and to make the use of it which God has especially ordained, even to drive them, like the pursuer of blood, to the refuge that is set before them in the Gospel.

If there be amongst us any who yet cannot understand this subject, let me next, address them, and entreat that they will not too hastily dismiss it from their minds: for verily, it demands from every child of man the most attentive consideration. I know that prejudices do exist, even as they have in all ages existed, against both the Law and the Gospel; against the Law as severe, and against the Gospel as licentious. But, to every one of you I must say, Take heed to this subject: for “it is your life:” and, in unfolding it to you, I have, with all possible fidelity, “set life and death before you.” Let the law, I pray you, have its first work in convincing you of sin. Let it then operate effectually to bring you to Christ. And, lastly, let it serve you as a rule, to which your whole life shall be conformed. Set not yourselves against it in any one of these views: set not yourselves against it, as too harsh in its covenant form, or too lax in its abrogated state, or too strict in its requirements as a rule: but improve it for all the ends for which it has been given; so shall it work its whole work within you, and bring you in safety to God, to holiness, to glory.

But I trust there are amongst us not a few who really “know the law,” and approve of it in all its uses. And to them, lastly, I would address myself. To them, in particular, I would say, Be sure that you unreservedly give yourselves up to God. Those who enter not into your views, will judge both of you and of your principles by the holiness of your lives. Let them see in you what the tendency of the Gospel really is: let them see, that “the grace of God, which brings salvation to you, teaches you to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, and soberly, and godly, in this present world.” You will forgive me, if I feel a more than ordinary anxiety about you. On you the honour of God and his Gospel pre-eminently depends: and I am earnestly desirous that you should “walk worthy of your high calling; yea, and worthy of the Lord himself also, unto all pleasing.” I would that there should not be a duty either to God or man in which you should be found remiss. Whatever your situation particularly requires, that should be an object of your most diligent attention; that, if a comparison be instituted between you and those who make no profession of religion, you may at least be found to stand on equality with the best amongst them; and be able to say, “Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they exemplary in the whole of their deportment? so am I.” It must never be forgotten, that the duties of the second table are as necessary to be observed as those of the first: and if there be one amongst you who would set the two at variance, I must declare my testimony against him, as greatly dishonouring the Gospel of Christ. But of the great mass of religious characters amongst you, “I am persuaded better things, though I thus speak.” Go on then, I entreat you, and abound more and more in every thing that is excellent and praiseworthy: and, in reference to every duty that is required of you, let it be seen that you are “under the law to Christ.” This is expected at your hands, and may well be expected: for if you are remiss in these things, who will be attentive to them? Remember, it is “by well-doing that you are to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:” and never forget, that there is no other way of proving yourselves Christ’s disciples indeed, but by doing his will, and keeping his Commandments [Note: John 14:15. 1 Corinthians 7:19. 1 John 2:3-4.].” [Note: The reader, after reading these on The Law, is recommended to read those on The Gospel, on 1 Timothy 1:11.]


Verse 19

DISCOURSE: 2067
THE THIRD USE OF THE LAW, AS A RULE OF LIFE

Galatians 3:19. Wherefore then serveth the law?

THE last use of the law being now to be contemplated, we shall set before you the law as a rule to govern us, when we have embraced the new covenant. And it is with peculiar pleasure that I enter upon this subject, because there exists at this day, precisely as there did in the apostolic age, a jealousy upon the subject of good works, and a fear lest the free salvation of the Gospel should render men indifferent to them. You will remember, that St. Paul’s statements gave occasion to men to ask, “Shall we, then, continue in sin, that grace may abound [Note: Romans 6:1.]?” And the same thoughts may possibly have arisen in your minds, whilst I have with all the clearness in my power, shewn, that we are not, in any degree whatever, to seek justification by the works of the law, but solely and exclusively by faith in Christ. I did, indeed, endeavour to guard against such thoughts, by intimating, in the very first instance, that there was a third end and use of the law, namely, to be a rule of life to the believer: but had I been less guarded in this respect, and left this point to be developed afterwards, without any previous intimation of my purpose, I fear that the same objections, as were urged against the Apostle’s statements, would have greatly enervated mine, and prevented that favourable reception which I hope, through the tender mercy of God, they have met with in your minds. But I have longed for the present occasion, that I might vindicate the Gospel from the charge of licentiousness; and prove, to the satisfaction of you all, that it is indeed, what the Apostle calls it, “a doctrine according to godliness.”

St. Paul was at all times most anxious to guard against a misconception of his sentiments and conduct on account of his neglect of the ceremonial law. The one great object of his ministry was, to win souls to Christ. For the advancement of this end, he conformed, in all matters of indifference, to the views of those amongst whom he ministered; “to the Jews, becoming a Jew; to those who were under the law, as under the law; and to those who were without law, as without law.” But, fearing lest these compliances of his might be construed as a contempt of the divine authority, he took care to remove all ground for such an idea, by declaring, that he still considered himself as much bound to obey God as ever; or, rather, that he felt himself under additional obligations to fulfil all the divine commands, in consideration of the unbounded mercy that had been vouchsafed to him through Jesus Christ. He had, it is true, neglected the observances of the law: but it had not been from any disrespect to God’s commands, but because that law was in fact abrogated; whereas the moral law was as much in force as ever: and to the latest hour of his life he should look upon himself as “under that law to Christ [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:21.].”

This acknowledgment of his comes fully to our point. It shews, that he still regarded the law as a rule of life; and it gives me a fair opportunity,
1st, To establish the perpetuity of the law, as a rule of life; and,
2dly, To enforce its obligations.
I. In order to establish the perpetuity of the law as a rule of life, let it be remembered, that the law is a perfect transcript of the mind and will of God. It arises necessarily out of the relation which we bear to him and to each other. It did not depend on any arbitrary appointment of the Deity, (except, indeed, so far as the Sabbath is concerned,) but would have been equally in force whether it had been the subject of a particular revelation or not. Allowance, indeed, will, as St. Paul informs us, be made for those, who, for want of a revelation, have but very imperfect conceptions respecting the Divine will [Note: Romans 2:14-15.]: but, wherever that is known, it must be a rule of conduct to man, and will be a rule of judgment to God. No change of circumstances whatever can alter its demands. In whatever situation we be, it must be our duty to love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves: nor can this law by any means be dispensed with. In truth, God cannot dispense with any part of this law; for if he did, he would authorize men to despoil themselves of his image, and to rob him of his glory.

That the law is still a rule of duty to the people of God, appears from that injunction of St. Paul, in the thirteenth chapter to the Romans: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Then, specifying the duties contained in the second table of the law as essential constituents of true love, he adds, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law [Note: Romans 13:8-10.].” Consequently, if it is our duty to exercise love, it is our duty to fulfil the law, which is in all respects identified with love.

But to insist on this is needless: for, instead of the law being superseded by the Lord Jesus Christ, it is in his hand more imperative than ever, and comes to us with tenfold obligations to obey it: and this is the point to which I mean to call your particular attention. To say that “we are not without law to God,” is comparatively a small matter: the point I am to establish is, that “we are under the law to Christ.”
In confirmation of this, I assert, that our obedience to the law was contemplated by God himself: first, in all that Christ did and suffered for us; next, in his liberating of us from the law as a covenant of works; and, lastly, in his admission of us into a new covenant, the covenant of grace.
First, I say, our obedience to the law was one great object which our Lord and Saviour had in view, in all that he did and suffered for us. It was not from death only that he came to save us, but from sin. Indeed, he was on that very account “named Jesus, because he was to save his people from their sins [Note: Matthew 1:21.].” Hear how plainly this was declared concerning him, even before he came into the world: “Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, when filled with the Holy Ghost, prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us..…to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life [Note: Luke 1:67-75.].” This clearly shews, that, instead of “making void the law, Christ has established” its authority to the very end of time. And to this agrees the testimony of St. Paul: “He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” And again, expressly adverting to the government which Jesus still maintains over his people, he says, “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself: for whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s: for to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living [Note: Romans 14:7-8.].”

Next I say, that our obedience to the law was a most important end, for which we are liberated from the law as a covenant of works. This is repeatedly asserted by St. Paul. In the eighth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, he says, “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death:” (that is, the Gospel hath freed me from the law:) “for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, hath condemned sin in the flesh:” (and now observe for what end)—“that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [Note: Romans 8:2-4.].” The law could neither justify nor sanctify us: the Gospel does both: and the very end for which Christ has liberated us from the law, was, that both these ends might be accomplished in us.

To this I will add a passage, which needs no explanation: it is so clear, so precise, so full to the point, that it leaves no doubt upon the subject. St. Paul, speaking of his own experience, says, “I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God [Note: Galatians 2:19.].”Here you perceive that it was the law itself which made him dead to the law. It was so rigorous in its demands, and so awful in its sanctions, that he utterly despaired of obtaining salvation by it; and, in this view, became wholly dead to it. But did he therefore neglect it as a rule of life? Quite the reverse: “Through the law, he was dead to the law, that he might live unto God,” and serve him in newness of life.

But there is an illustration of this matter given us by the Apostle, which places it in a still clearer point of view; in a view at once peculiarly beautiful, and unquestionably just. In the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans he compares the law to a man to whom the Church is united, as it were, in the bonds of marriage. He then observes, that, as a wife is bound to her husband by the nuptial contract as long as he lives, and would be justly called an adulteress if she were to connect herself with another man during his life, so are we united in the closest bonds of the law. But, by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his satisfying all the demands of that law for us, its power over us is annulled, and it becomes, from the very moment of our believing in him, dead with respect to us; so that we are at liberty to be united to Christ, and to enter into a new covenant with him. This benefit, he observes, we derive from Christ. But for what end? That our obligations to holiness may be vacated? No; by no means; but the very reverse: he conveys this benefit, in order that, in our new-covenant state, we may bring forth that fruit, which we never did, nor could, bring forth in connexion with our former husband. Hear his own words: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,)” (I beg you to pay particular attention to thin, because it is addressed to those especially who know the law,) “Know ye not how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman who hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but, if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ” (that is, through the sufferings of Christ, the power of the law over you is cancelled), “that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God [Note: Romans 7:1-4.].” If there were no other passage in all the Scriptures than this, it would be quite sufficient, not only to establish the point in hand, but to silence, for ever, all jealousies respecting the practical intent and tendency of the Gospel.

But I must go on yet further to observe, in the last place, that our obedience to the law is one of the chief blessings conferred upon us by the new covenant, the covenant of grace. You will remember, that the first covenant merely says, “Do this, and live.” It condemns for disobedience; but never does any thing towards enabling us to obey. But what says God to us in. the new covenant? “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my law into their mind, and write it in their hearts [Note: Hebrews 8:10.].” And again, “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh: and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and to keep my judgments and do them [Note: Ezekiel 36:26-27.].” Here, by the very terms of the new covenant, is obedience to the law infallibly secured; because God himself undertakes to work it in us by the influences of his good Spirit. His assured promise to every one that embraces the new covenant is, “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace [Note: Romans 6:14.].”

Hence, then, you see the perpetuity of the law fully established. It is only in its covenant form that it is cancelled: as a rule of duty, it is, as I have before observed, altogether unchangeable: and its authority, instead of being invalidated by the Gospel, is confirmed and strengthened by it: since our obedience to it was, as I have distinctly shewn, first, the end for which Christ came into the world; next, the end for which he delivered us from the law as a covenant of works; and, lastly, the end for which he has brought us into the new covenant, the covenant of grace. In answer, therefore, to every one who doubts the practical tendency of the Gospel, we are prepared to say, with the Apostle Paul, “Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid [Note: Romans 6:15.].”

Having thus endeavoured, with the utmost plainness, to shew that we are still under the law to Christ, I come,
In the II. place, to enforce its obligations.
Is the law designed to be a rule to govern us after we have laid hold on the covenant of grace? Let us use it for that end, without attempting to lower any one of its demands, and with the utmost cheerfulness and zeal. Let us, first, use it for that end. Doubtless, its primary uses must be carefully kept in remembrance. We must never forget, that its first office is, to convince us of sin, and to shew us our undone state, according to the covenant of works. In this view it must produce in us the deepest humiliation, and an utter renunciation of all dependence on our own works, either in whole or in part, for justification before God. Its next use must be, to drive us to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may obtain salvation through his meritorious death and passion. There is no righteousness but his, that is commensurate with its demands; and there is no other in which we can ever stand accepted before God. These things, I say, we must ever bear in remembrance; and be careful never to make, in any degree, our obedience to the law a ground of our hope. But, having this well settled in our minds, we must address ourselves to a diligent performance of all that the law enjoins. It is by this that we are to shew ourselves to have experienced a work of grace in our souls: for “we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” If we profess to hope that we have been “chosen of God” and “predestinated unto life,” shall we make these mysterious truths an occasion of remissness in the path of duty? God forbid: on the contrary, we must ever bear in mind, that, if we have been chosen of God at all, “we have been chosen that we may be holy, and without blame before him in love;” and if we have been predestinated by God at all, we have been predestinated “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” And if we glory in the finished work of Christ (for you will take notice that I am following the Antinomian into all his strong-holds), we must remember what his end was in accomplishing salvation for us: “We have been bought with a price, that we may glorify him with our body and our spirit, which are his.” There are two great errors from which we must keep equally remote; namely, from legal dependence on our own obedience to the law, and, at the same time, from an Antinomian contempt of its commands. We must distinguish between the motives and principles by which we are actuated, and which determine the true quality of our actions. Whatever we do, in order to earn salvation by it, will be rejected of God, and will disappoint our hopes: but, whatever we do from a sense of duty to God, and with a view to honour the Saviour and evince the sincerity of our love to him, will be accepted for his sake, and will receive a proportionable reward of grace. Only take cave that your obedience be from faith and love, and not from a vain hope to purchase the Divine favour; and then will you answer the true ends of your deliverance from the law as a covenant of works, and of your subjection to it as a rule of life.

In enforcing the obligations of the law, I would next say, Attempt not in any thing to lower its demands. We have before shewn, that, as a covenant, it recedes not from its commands of perfect obedience; no, not in one jot or tittle of its requirements. And, as a rule, its requirements are of equal extent. It enjoins us to love God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves: and no lower standard must we propose to ourselves for our daily walk. We must not be satisfied with the world’s standard: we must not be contented with a round of duties, and the performance of a few kind and charitable acts. “We must die unto sin altogether, and live unto righteousness.” We must seek to have “the whole body of sin crucified within us;” and must “delight ourselves in the law after our inward man,” and strive to “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” Nothing must satisfy us, but the attainment of “God’s perfect image in righteousness and true holiness.” If the law is our rule, Christ himself must be our pattern: we must endeavour to “walk in all things as he walked,” and to “purify ourselves even as he is pure.” Nothing short of absolute perfection should satisfy our minds: we should strive to be “holy, as God himself is holy,” and to be “perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Now, need I say that these efforts are very rarely seen? and that, when seen, they are almost universally discountenanced and discouraged? Cautions in plenty are given, “not to be righteous over-much:” but who ever hears the friendly caution, to “be righteous enough?” If we are outwardly decent and moral, we may be as regardless of the state of our souls before God as we please, and no one will warn us of our danger: but, if the love of Christ constrain us to devote ourselves altogether unto him, there is a general alarm respecting us; and nothing is heard but cautions and warnings on every side.

Let it not be imagined that I would recommend any thing that savours of real enthusiasm or fanaticism: so far from it, I would discourage these evils to the utmost of my power: but, if love to God and love to man be, by common consent, as it were, branded with these names, I say, let not any man be deterred from the performance of his duty by any opprobrious names whatever; but let every one aspire after universal holiness, and seek to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Colossians 4:12.].”

One thing more would I say; namely this: In your obedience to the law, be willing servants. We are not to serve the Lord “grudgingly, or of necessity,” but “with a willing mind.” What St. Paul has spoken on this head deserves peculiar attention. He says, “now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held: that we should serve God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter [Note: Romans 7:6.].” Here he refers to the same image as before, the dissolution of marriage by the death of our husband; and the consequent termination of those restraints, in which, during his life, we were held. But what is to be the effect of this liberty? an abandonment of ourselves to sin? No: but an obeying of our new husband, not in the servile way to which we have been accustomed, but with real pleasure and delight, panting after the highest possible perfection both of heart and life. This service we are to account perfect freedom: and we are to live altogether for him, “running the way of his commandments with enlarged hearts.” Now, “whereever the Spirit is, there is this liberty [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:17.].” But, alas! how little of this liberty is seen in the Christian world! Instead of panting to attain “the full measure of the stature of Christ,” we are satisfied with our own stinted growth; so that, in the course of several years, scarcely any improvement is visible in us. The little we do for the Lord, is rather “from constraint, than willingly.” Our defects create in us no real humiliation: our weakness stimulates us not to earnest cries for help: our inability to fulfil our duty leads us not to exult and glory in the work of Christ, or to clothe ourselves from day to day with his perfect righteousness. No: of these feelings, respecting which I spoke largely in my first discourse, the generality are wholly destitute; and therefore destitute, because they understand not the law either in its condemning or its commanding power. Ignorant of the law, they are of necessity ignorant of the Gospel also; and, consequently, are strangers to all those high and holy feelings which the Gospel inspires. Be it however remembered, that if, “through the knowledge of the law, we be, as we must be, dead to the law,” we shall account it our first duty, and our truest happiness, to “live unto our God.”

Before I close my subject, I think you will not deem me presumptuous if I venture to address a few words to my brethren who either are already in the ministry, or are preparing to engage in that sacred office. I think it must strike you, that this subject has by no means that prominence in our public addresses which its importance demands. If it be true, that without the knowledge of the law we cannot understand the Gospel, the neglect of opening the law is most injurious to the souls of men. I know, indeed, that God may, by convincing men of sin, supply that defect; and lead them to a simple reliance on the Saviour, even whilst they are ignorant of the spirituality of the law, and of the uses for which it was promulgated: but still they cannot be truly enlightened Christians; nor can their faith be so firm as it would be, if they had more enlarged views of the Gospel. But how can we hope that this work of conviction should prevail amongst our hearers, when we withhold from them God’s appointed means of producing it in their souls? In truth, this accounts, in a great measure, for the inefficiency of our ministrations. In numberless places, during a whole course of years, not so much as a single instance is found of a sinner being “pricked to the heart, and crying out, What must I do to be saved?” or, if such an instance occur, it is found only in some one who is condemned by the mere letter of the law. But it would not be so, if the law were preached by us in all its spirituality and extent, and the Gospel were represented as God’s only remedy for the salvation of men. A simple exhibition of these truths would reach the heart, and would be accompanied with power from on high. Let me then entreat you, for your own sake, and for your people’s sake, to study the law; and to make the use of it which God has especially ordained, even to drive them, like the pursuer of blood, to the refuge that is set before them in the Gospel.

If there be amongst us any who yet cannot understand this subject, let me next, address them, and entreat that they will not too hastily dismiss it from their minds: for verily, it demands from every child of man the most attentive consideration. I know that prejudices do exist, even as they have in all ages existed, against both the Law and the Gospel; against the Law as severe, and against the Gospel as licentious. But, to every one of you I must say, Take heed to this subject: for “it is your life:” and, in unfolding it to you, I have, with all possible fidelity, “set life and death before you.” Let the law, I pray you, have its first work in convincing you of sin. Let it then operate effectually to bring you to Christ. And, lastly, let it serve you as a rule, to which your whole life shall be conformed. Set not yourselves against it in any one of these views: set not yourselves against it, as too harsh in its covenant form, or too lax in its abrogated state, or too strict in its requirements as a rule: but improve it for all the ends for which it has been given; so shall it work its whole work within you, and bring you in safety to God, to holiness, to glory.

But I trust there are amongst us not a few who really “know the law,” and approve of it in all its uses. And to them, lastly, I would address myself. To them, in particular, I would say, Be sure that you unreservedly give yourselves up to God. Those who enter not into your views, will judge both of you and of your principles by the holiness of your lives. Let them see in you what the tendency of the Gospel really is: let them see, that “the grace of God, which brings salvation to you, teaches you to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, and soberly, and godly, in this present world.” You will forgive me, if I feel a more than ordinary anxiety about you. On you the honour of God and his Gospel pre-eminently depends: and I am earnestly desirous that you should “walk worthy of your high calling; yea, and worthy of the Lord himself also, unto all pleasing.” I would that there should not be a duty either to God or man in which you should be found remiss. Whatever your situation particularly requires, that should be an object of your most diligent attention; that, if a comparison be instituted between you and those who make no profession of religion, you may at least be found to stand on equality with the best amongst them; and be able to say, “Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they exemplary in the whole of their deportment? so am I.” It must never be forgotten, that the duties of the second table are as necessary to be observed as those of the first: and if there be one amongst you who would set the two at variance, I must declare my testimony against him, as greatly dishonouring the Gospel of Christ. But of the great mass of religious characters amongst you, “I am persuaded better things, though I thus speak.” Go on then, I entreat you, and abound more and more in every thing that is excellent and praiseworthy: and, in reference to every duty that is required of you, let it be seen that you are “under the law to Christ.” This is expected at your hands, and may well be expected: for if you are remiss in these things, who will be attentive to them? Remember, it is “by well-doing that you are to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:” and never forget, that there is no other way of proving yourselves Christ’s disciples indeed, but by doing his will, and keeping his Commandments [Note: John 14:15. 1 Corinthians 7:19. 1 John 2:3-4.].” [Note: The reader, after reading these on The Law, is recommended to read those on The Gospel, on 1 Timothy 1:11.]


Verse 19

DISCOURSE: 2067
THE THIRD USE OF THE LAW, AS A RULE OF LIFE

Galatians 3:19. Wherefore then serveth the law?

THE last use of the law being now to be contemplated, we shall set before you the law as a rule to govern us, when we have embraced the new covenant. And it is with peculiar pleasure that I enter upon this subject, because there exists at this day, precisely as there did in the apostolic age, a jealousy upon the subject of good works, and a fear lest the free salvation of the Gospel should render men indifferent to them. You will remember, that St. Paul’s statements gave occasion to men to ask, “Shall we, then, continue in sin, that grace may abound [Note: Romans 6:1.]?” And the same thoughts may possibly have arisen in your minds, whilst I have with all the clearness in my power, shewn, that we are not, in any degree whatever, to seek justification by the works of the law, but solely and exclusively by faith in Christ. I did, indeed, endeavour to guard against such thoughts, by intimating, in the very first instance, that there was a third end and use of the law, namely, to be a rule of life to the believer: but had I been less guarded in this respect, and left this point to be developed afterwards, without any previous intimation of my purpose, I fear that the same objections, as were urged against the Apostle’s statements, would have greatly enervated mine, and prevented that favourable reception which I hope, through the tender mercy of God, they have met with in your minds. But I have longed for the present occasion, that I might vindicate the Gospel from the charge of licentiousness; and prove, to the satisfaction of you all, that it is indeed, what the Apostle calls it, “a doctrine according to godliness.”

St. Paul was at all times most anxious to guard against a misconception of his sentiments and conduct on account of his neglect of the ceremonial law. The one great object of his ministry was, to win souls to Christ. For the advancement of this end, he conformed, in all matters of indifference, to the views of those amongst whom he ministered; “to the Jews, becoming a Jew; to those who were under the law, as under the law; and to those who were without law, as without law.” But, fearing lest these compliances of his might be construed as a contempt of the divine authority, he took care to remove all ground for such an idea, by declaring, that he still considered himself as much bound to obey God as ever; or, rather, that he felt himself under additional obligations to fulfil all the divine commands, in consideration of the unbounded mercy that had been vouchsafed to him through Jesus Christ. He had, it is true, neglected the observances of the law: but it had not been from any disrespect to God’s commands, but because that law was in fact abrogated; whereas the moral law was as much in force as ever: and to the latest hour of his life he should look upon himself as “under that law to Christ [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:21.].”

This acknowledgment of his comes fully to our point. It shews, that he still regarded the law as a rule of life; and it gives me a fair opportunity,
1st, To establish the perpetuity of the law, as a rule of life; and,
2dly, To enforce its obligations.
I. In order to establish the perpetuity of the law as a rule of life, let it be remembered, that the law is a perfect transcript of the mind and will of God. It arises necessarily out of the relation which we bear to him and to each other. It did not depend on any arbitrary appointment of the Deity, (except, indeed, so far as the Sabbath is concerned,) but would have been equally in force whether it had been the subject of a particular revelation or not. Allowance, indeed, will, as St. Paul informs us, be made for those, who, for want of a revelation, have but very imperfect conceptions respecting the Divine will [Note: Romans 2:14-15.]: but, wherever that is known, it must be a rule of conduct to man, and will be a rule of judgment to God. No change of circumstances whatever can alter its demands. In whatever situation we be, it must be our duty to love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves: nor can this law by any means be dispensed with. In truth, God cannot dispense with any part of this law; for if he did, he would authorize men to despoil themselves of his image, and to rob him of his glory.

That the law is still a rule of duty to the people of God, appears from that injunction of St. Paul, in the thirteenth chapter to the Romans: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Then, specifying the duties contained in the second table of the law as essential constituents of true love, he adds, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law [Note: Romans 13:8-10.].” Consequently, if it is our duty to exercise love, it is our duty to fulfil the law, which is in all respects identified with love.

But to insist on this is needless: for, instead of the law being superseded by the Lord Jesus Christ, it is in his hand more imperative than ever, and comes to us with tenfold obligations to obey it: and this is the point to which I mean to call your particular attention. To say that “we are not without law to God,” is comparatively a small matter: the point I am to establish is, that “we are under the law to Christ.”
In confirmation of this, I assert, that our obedience to the law was contemplated by God himself: first, in all that Christ did and suffered for us; next, in his liberating of us from the law as a covenant of works; and, lastly, in his admission of us into a new covenant, the covenant of grace.
First, I say, our obedience to the law was one great object which our Lord and Saviour had in view, in all that he did and suffered for us. It was not from death only that he came to save us, but from sin. Indeed, he was on that very account “named Jesus, because he was to save his people from their sins [Note: Matthew 1:21.].” Hear how plainly this was declared concerning him, even before he came into the world: “Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, when filled with the Holy Ghost, prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us..…to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life [Note: Luke 1:67-75.].” This clearly shews, that, instead of “making void the law, Christ has established” its authority to the very end of time. And to this agrees the testimony of St. Paul: “He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” And again, expressly adverting to the government which Jesus still maintains over his people, he says, “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself: for whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s: for to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living [Note: Romans 14:7-8.].”

Next I say, that our obedience to the law was a most important end, for which we are liberated from the law as a covenant of works. This is repeatedly asserted by St. Paul. In the eighth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, he says, “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death:” (that is, the Gospel hath freed me from the law:) “for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, hath condemned sin in the flesh:” (and now observe for what end)—“that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [Note: Romans 8:2-4.].” The law could neither justify nor sanctify us: the Gospel does both: and the very end for which Christ has liberated us from the law, was, that both these ends might be accomplished in us.

To this I will add a passage, which needs no explanation: it is so clear, so precise, so full to the point, that it leaves no doubt upon the subject. St. Paul, speaking of his own experience, says, “I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God [Note: Galatians 2:19.].”Here you perceive that it was the law itself which made him dead to the law. It was so rigorous in its demands, and so awful in its sanctions, that he utterly despaired of obtaining salvation by it; and, in this view, became wholly dead to it. But did he therefore neglect it as a rule of life? Quite the reverse: “Through the law, he was dead to the law, that he might live unto God,” and serve him in newness of life.

But there is an illustration of this matter given us by the Apostle, which places it in a still clearer point of view; in a view at once peculiarly beautiful, and unquestionably just. In the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans he compares the law to a man to whom the Church is united, as it were, in the bonds of marriage. He then observes, that, as a wife is bound to her husband by the nuptial contract as long as he lives, and would be justly called an adulteress if she were to connect herself with another man during his life, so are we united in the closest bonds of the law. But, by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his satisfying all the demands of that law for us, its power over us is annulled, and it becomes, from the very moment of our believing in him, dead with respect to us; so that we are at liberty to be united to Christ, and to enter into a new covenant with him. This benefit, he observes, we derive from Christ. But for what end? That our obligations to holiness may be vacated? No; by no means; but the very reverse: he conveys this benefit, in order that, in our new-covenant state, we may bring forth that fruit, which we never did, nor could, bring forth in connexion with our former husband. Hear his own words: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,)” (I beg you to pay particular attention to thin, because it is addressed to those especially who know the law,) “Know ye not how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman who hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but, if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ” (that is, through the sufferings of Christ, the power of the law over you is cancelled), “that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God [Note: Romans 7:1-4.].” If there were no other passage in all the Scriptures than this, it would be quite sufficient, not only to establish the point in hand, but to silence, for ever, all jealousies respecting the practical intent and tendency of the Gospel.

But I must go on yet further to observe, in the last place, that our obedience to the law is one of the chief blessings conferred upon us by the new covenant, the covenant of grace. You will remember, that the first covenant merely says, “Do this, and live.” It condemns for disobedience; but never does any thing towards enabling us to obey. But what says God to us in. the new covenant? “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my law into their mind, and write it in their hearts [Note: Hebrews 8:10.].” And again, “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh: and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and to keep my judgments and do them [Note: Ezekiel 36:26-27.].” Here, by the very terms of the new covenant, is obedience to the law infallibly secured; because God himself undertakes to work it in us by the influences of his good Spirit. His assured promise to every one that embraces the new covenant is, “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace [Note: Romans 6:14.].”

Hence, then, you see the perpetuity of the law fully established. It is only in its covenant form that it is cancelled: as a rule of duty, it is, as I have before observed, altogether unchangeable: and its authority, instead of being invalidated by the Gospel, is confirmed and strengthened by it: since our obedience to it was, as I have distinctly shewn, first, the end for which Christ came into the world; next, the end for which he delivered us from the law as a covenant of works; and, lastly, the end for which he has brought us into the new covenant, the covenant of grace. In answer, therefore, to every one who doubts the practical tendency of the Gospel, we are prepared to say, with the Apostle Paul, “Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid [Note: Romans 6:15.].”

Having thus endeavoured, with the utmost plainness, to shew that we are still under the law to Christ, I come,
In the II. place, to enforce its obligations.
Is the law designed to be a rule to govern us after we have laid hold on the covenant of grace? Let us use it for that end, without attempting to lower any one of its demands, and with the utmost cheerfulness and zeal. Let us, first, use it for that end. Doubtless, its primary uses must be carefully kept in remembrance. We must never forget, that its first office is, to convince us of sin, and to shew us our undone state, according to the covenant of works. In this view it must produce in us the deepest humiliation, and an utter renunciation of all dependence on our own works, either in whole or in part, for justification before God. Its next use must be, to drive us to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may obtain salvation through his meritorious death and passion. There is no righteousness but his, that is commensurate with its demands; and there is no other in which we can ever stand accepted before God. These things, I say, we must ever bear in remembrance; and be careful never to make, in any degree, our obedience to the law a ground of our hope. But, having this well settled in our minds, we must address ourselves to a diligent performance of all that the law enjoins. It is by this that we are to shew ourselves to have experienced a work of grace in our souls: for “we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” If we profess to hope that we have been “chosen of God” and “predestinated unto life,” shall we make these mysterious truths an occasion of remissness in the path of duty? God forbid: on the contrary, we must ever bear in mind, that, if we have been chosen of God at all, “we have been chosen that we may be holy, and without blame before him in love;” and if we have been predestinated by God at all, we have been predestinated “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” And if we glory in the finished work of Christ (for you will take notice that I am following the Antinomian into all his strong-holds), we must remember what his end was in accomplishing salvation for us: “We have been bought with a price, that we may glorify him with our body and our spirit, which are his.” There are two great errors from which we must keep equally remote; namely, from legal dependence on our own obedience to the law, and, at the same time, from an Antinomian contempt of its commands. We must distinguish between the motives and principles by which we are actuated, and which determine the true quality of our actions. Whatever we do, in order to earn salvation by it, will be rejected of God, and will disappoint our hopes: but, whatever we do from a sense of duty to God, and with a view to honour the Saviour and evince the sincerity of our love to him, will be accepted for his sake, and will receive a proportionable reward of grace. Only take cave that your obedience be from faith and love, and not from a vain hope to purchase the Divine favour; and then will you answer the true ends of your deliverance from the law as a covenant of works, and of your subjection to it as a rule of life.

In enforcing the obligations of the law, I would next say, Attempt not in any thing to lower its demands. We have before shewn, that, as a covenant, it recedes not from its commands of perfect obedience; no, not in one jot or tittle of its requirements. And, as a rule, its requirements are of equal extent. It enjoins us to love God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves: and no lower standard must we propose to ourselves for our daily walk. We must not be satisfied with the world’s standard: we must not be contented with a round of duties, and the performance of a few kind and charitable acts. “We must die unto sin altogether, and live unto righteousness.” We must seek to have “the whole body of sin crucified within us;” and must “delight ourselves in the law after our inward man,” and strive to “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” Nothing must satisfy us, but the attainment of “God’s perfect image in righteousness and true holiness.” If the law is our rule, Christ himself must be our pattern: we must endeavour to “walk in all things as he walked,” and to “purify ourselves even as he is pure.” Nothing short of absolute perfection should satisfy our minds: we should strive to be “holy, as God himself is holy,” and to be “perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Now, need I say that these efforts are very rarely seen? and that, when seen, they are almost universally discountenanced and discouraged? Cautions in plenty are given, “not to be righteous over-much:” but who ever hears the friendly caution, to “be righteous enough?” If we are outwardly decent and moral, we may be as regardless of the state of our souls before God as we please, and no one will warn us of our danger: but, if the love of Christ constrain us to devote ourselves altogether unto him, there is a general alarm respecting us; and nothing is heard but cautions and warnings on every side.

Let it not be imagined that I would recommend any thing that savours of real enthusiasm or fanaticism: so far from it, I would discourage these evils to the utmost of my power: but, if love to God and love to man be, by common consent, as it were, branded with these names, I say, let not any man be deterred from the performance of his duty by any opprobrious names whatever; but let every one aspire after universal holiness, and seek to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Colossians 4:12.].”

One thing more would I say; namely this: In your obedience to the law, be willing servants. We are not to serve the Lord “grudgingly, or of necessity,” but “with a willing mind.” What St. Paul has spoken on this head deserves peculiar attention. He says, “now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held: that we should serve God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter [Note: Romans 7:6.].” Here he refers to the same image as before, the dissolution of marriage by the death of our husband; and the consequent termination of those restraints, in which, during his life, we were held. But what is to be the effect of this liberty? an abandonment of ourselves to sin? No: but an obeying of our new husband, not in the servile way to which we have been accustomed, but with real pleasure and delight, panting after the highest possible perfection both of heart and life. This service we are to account perfect freedom: and we are to live altogether for him, “running the way of his commandments with enlarged hearts.” Now, “whereever the Spirit is, there is this liberty [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:17.].” But, alas! how little of this liberty is seen in the Christian world! Instead of panting to attain “the full measure of the stature of Christ,” we are satisfied with our own stinted growth; so that, in the course of several years, scarcely any improvement is visible in us. The little we do for the Lord, is rather “from constraint, than willingly.” Our defects create in us no real humiliation: our weakness stimulates us not to earnest cries for help: our inability to fulfil our duty leads us not to exult and glory in the work of Christ, or to clothe ourselves from day to day with his perfect righteousness. No: of these feelings, respecting which I spoke largely in my first discourse, the generality are wholly destitute; and therefore destitute, because they understand not the law either in its condemning or its commanding power. Ignorant of the law, they are of necessity ignorant of the Gospel also; and, consequently, are strangers to all those high and holy feelings which the Gospel inspires. Be it however remembered, that if, “through the knowledge of the law, we be, as we must be, dead to the law,” we shall account it our first duty, and our truest happiness, to “live unto our God.”

Before I close my subject, I think you will not deem me presumptuous if I venture to address a few words to my brethren who either are already in the ministry, or are preparing to engage in that sacred office. I think it must strike you, that this subject has by no means that prominence in our public addresses which its importance demands. If it be true, that without the knowledge of the law we cannot understand the Gospel, the neglect of opening the law is most injurious to the souls of men. I know, indeed, that God may, by convincing men of sin, supply that defect; and lead them to a simple reliance on the Saviour, even whilst they are ignorant of the spirituality of the law, and of the uses for which it was promulgated: but still they cannot be truly enlightened Christians; nor can their faith be so firm as it would be, if they had more enlarged views of the Gospel. But how can we hope that this work of conviction should prevail amongst our hearers, when we withhold from them God’s appointed means of producing it in their souls? In truth, this accounts, in a great measure, for the inefficiency of our ministrations. In numberless places, during a whole course of years, not so much as a single instance is found of a sinner being “pricked to the heart, and crying out, What must I do to be saved?” or, if such an instance occur, it is found only in some one who is condemned by the mere letter of the law. But it would not be so, if the law were preached by us in all its spirituality and extent, and the Gospel were represented as God’s only remedy for the salvation of men. A simple exhibition of these truths would reach the heart, and would be accompanied with power from on high. Let me then entreat you, for your own sake, and for your people’s sake, to study the law; and to make the use of it which God has especially ordained, even to drive them, like the pursuer of blood, to the refuge that is set before them in the Gospel.

If there be amongst us any who yet cannot understand this subject, let me next, address them, and entreat that they will not too hastily dismiss it from their minds: for verily, it demands from every child of man the most attentive consideration. I know that prejudices do exist, even as they have in all ages existed, against both the Law and the Gospel; against the Law as severe, and against the Gospel as licentious. But, to every one of you I must say, Take heed to this subject: for “it is your life:” and, in unfolding it to you, I have, with all possible fidelity, “set life and death before you.” Let the law, I pray you, have its first work in convincing you of sin. Let it then operate effectually to bring you to Christ. And, lastly, let it serve you as a rule, to which your whole life shall be conformed. Set not yourselves against it in any one of these views: set not yourselves against it, as too harsh in its covenant form, or too lax in its abrogated state, or too strict in its requirements as a rule: but improve it for all the ends for which it has been given; so shall it work its whole work within you, and bring you in safety to God, to holiness, to glory.

But I trust there are amongst us not a few who really “know the law,” and approve of it in all its uses. And to them, lastly, I would address myself. To them, in particular, I would say, Be sure that you unreservedly give yourselves up to God. Those who enter not into your views, will judge both of you and of your principles by the holiness of your lives. Let them see in you what the tendency of the Gospel really is: let them see, that “the grace of God, which brings salvation to you, teaches you to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, and soberly, and godly, in this present world.” You will forgive me, if I feel a more than ordinary anxiety about you. On you the honour of God and his Gospel pre-eminently depends: and I am earnestly desirous that you should “walk worthy of your high calling; yea, and worthy of the Lord himself also, unto all pleasing.” I would that there should not be a duty either to God or man in which you should be found remiss. Whatever your situation particularly requires, that should be an object of your most diligent attention; that, if a comparison be instituted between you and those who make no profession of religion, you may at least be found to stand on equality with the best amongst them; and be able to say, “Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they exemplary in the whole of their deportment? so am I.” It must never be forgotten, that the duties of the second table are as necessary to be observed as those of the first: and if there be one amongst you who would set the two at variance, I must declare my testimony against him, as greatly dishonouring the Gospel of Christ. But of the great mass of religious characters amongst you, “I am persuaded better things, though I thus speak.” Go on then, I entreat you, and abound more and more in every thing that is excellent and praiseworthy: and, in reference to every duty that is required of you, let it be seen that you are “under the law to Christ.” This is expected at your hands, and may well be expected: for if you are remiss in these things, who will be attentive to them? Remember, it is “by well-doing that you are to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:” and never forget, that there is no other way of proving yourselves Christ’s disciples indeed, but by doing his will, and keeping his Commandments [Note: John 14:15. 1 Corinthians 7:19. 1 John 2:3-4.].” [Note: The reader, after reading these on The Law, is recommended to read those on The Gospel, on 1 Timothy 1:11.]


Verse 19

DISCOURSE: 2067
THE THIRD USE OF THE LAW, AS A RULE OF LIFE

Galatians 3:19. Wherefore then serveth the law?

THE last use of the law being now to be contemplated, we shall set before you the law as a rule to govern us, when we have embraced the new covenant. And it is with peculiar pleasure that I enter upon this subject, because there exists at this day, precisely as there did in the apostolic age, a jealousy upon the subject of good works, and a fear lest the free salvation of the Gospel should render men indifferent to them. You will remember, that St. Paul’s statements gave occasion to men to ask, “Shall we, then, continue in sin, that grace may abound [Note: Romans 6:1.]?” And the same thoughts may possibly have arisen in your minds, whilst I have with all the clearness in my power, shewn, that we are not, in any degree whatever, to seek justification by the works of the law, but solely and exclusively by faith in Christ. I did, indeed, endeavour to guard against such thoughts, by intimating, in the very first instance, that there was a third end and use of the law, namely, to be a rule of life to the believer: but had I been less guarded in this respect, and left this point to be developed afterwards, without any previous intimation of my purpose, I fear that the same objections, as were urged against the Apostle’s statements, would have greatly enervated mine, and prevented that favourable reception which I hope, through the tender mercy of God, they have met with in your minds. But I have longed for the present occasion, that I might vindicate the Gospel from the charge of licentiousness; and prove, to the satisfaction of you all, that it is indeed, what the Apostle calls it, “a doctrine according to godliness.”

St. Paul was at all times most anxious to guard against a misconception of his sentiments and conduct on account of his neglect of the ceremonial law. The one great object of his ministry was, to win souls to Christ. For the advancement of this end, he conformed, in all matters of indifference, to the views of those amongst whom he ministered; “to the Jews, becoming a Jew; to those who were under the law, as under the law; and to those who were without law, as without law.” But, fearing lest these compliances of his might be construed as a contempt of the divine authority, he took care to remove all ground for such an idea, by declaring, that he still considered himself as much bound to obey God as ever; or, rather, that he felt himself under additional obligations to fulfil all the divine commands, in consideration of the unbounded mercy that had been vouchsafed to him through Jesus Christ. He had, it is true, neglected the observances of the law: but it had not been from any disrespect to God’s commands, but because that law was in fact abrogated; whereas the moral law was as much in force as ever: and to the latest hour of his life he should look upon himself as “under that law to Christ [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:21.].”

This acknowledgment of his comes fully to our point. It shews, that he still regarded the law as a rule of life; and it gives me a fair opportunity,
1st, To establish the perpetuity of the law, as a rule of life; and,
2dly, To enforce its obligations.
I. In order to establish the perpetuity of the law as a rule of life, let it be remembered, that the law is a perfect transcript of the mind and will of God. It arises necessarily out of the relation which we bear to him and to each other. It did not depend on any arbitrary appointment of the Deity, (except, indeed, so far as the Sabbath is concerned,) but would have been equally in force whether it had been the subject of a particular revelation or not. Allowance, indeed, will, as St. Paul informs us, be made for those, who, for want of a revelation, have but very imperfect conceptions respecting the Divine will [Note: Romans 2:14-15.]: but, wherever that is known, it must be a rule of conduct to man, and will be a rule of judgment to God. No change of circumstances whatever can alter its demands. In whatever situation we be, it must be our duty to love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves: nor can this law by any means be dispensed with. In truth, God cannot dispense with any part of this law; for if he did, he would authorize men to despoil themselves of his image, and to rob him of his glory.

That the law is still a rule of duty to the people of God, appears from that injunction of St. Paul, in the thirteenth chapter to the Romans: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Then, specifying the duties contained in the second table of the law as essential constituents of true love, he adds, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law [Note: Romans 13:8-10.].” Consequently, if it is our duty to exercise love, it is our duty to fulfil the law, which is in all respects identified with love.

But to insist on this is needless: for, instead of the law being superseded by the Lord Jesus Christ, it is in his hand more imperative than ever, and comes to us with tenfold obligations to obey it: and this is the point to which I mean to call your particular attention. To say that “we are not without law to God,” is comparatively a small matter: the point I am to establish is, that “we are under the law to Christ.”
In confirmation of this, I assert, that our obedience to the law was contemplated by God himself: first, in all that Christ did and suffered for us; next, in his liberating of us from the law as a covenant of works; and, lastly, in his admission of us into a new covenant, the covenant of grace.
First, I say, our obedience to the law was one great object which our Lord and Saviour had in view, in all that he did and suffered for us. It was not from death only that he came to save us, but from sin. Indeed, he was on that very account “named Jesus, because he was to save his people from their sins [Note: Matthew 1:21.].” Hear how plainly this was declared concerning him, even before he came into the world: “Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, when filled with the Holy Ghost, prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us..…to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life [Note: Luke 1:67-75.].” This clearly shews, that, instead of “making void the law, Christ has established” its authority to the very end of time. And to this agrees the testimony of St. Paul: “He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” And again, expressly adverting to the government which Jesus still maintains over his people, he says, “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself: for whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s: for to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living [Note: Romans 14:7-8.].”

Next I say, that our obedience to the law was a most important end, for which we are liberated from the law as a covenant of works. This is repeatedly asserted by St. Paul. In the eighth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, he says, “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death:” (that is, the Gospel hath freed me from the law:) “for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, hath condemned sin in the flesh:” (and now observe for what end)—“that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [Note: Romans 8:2-4.].” The law could neither justify nor sanctify us: the Gospel does both: and the very end for which Christ has liberated us from the law, was, that both these ends might be accomplished in us.

To this I will add a passage, which needs no explanation: it is so clear, so precise, so full to the point, that it leaves no doubt upon the subject. St. Paul, speaking of his own experience, says, “I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God [Note: Galatians 2:19.].”Here you perceive that it was the law itself which made him dead to the law. It was so rigorous in its demands, and so awful in its sanctions, that he utterly despaired of obtaining salvation by it; and, in this view, became wholly dead to it. But did he therefore neglect it as a rule of life? Quite the reverse: “Through the law, he was dead to the law, that he might live unto God,” and serve him in newness of life.

But there is an illustration of this matter given us by the Apostle, which places it in a still clearer point of view; in a view at once peculiarly beautiful, and unquestionably just. In the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans he compares the law to a man to whom the Church is united, as it were, in the bonds of marriage. He then observes, that, as a wife is bound to her husband by the nuptial contract as long as he lives, and would be justly called an adulteress if she were to connect herself with another man during his life, so are we united in the closest bonds of the law. But, by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his satisfying all the demands of that law for us, its power over us is annulled, and it becomes, from the very moment of our believing in him, dead with respect to us; so that we are at liberty to be united to Christ, and to enter into a new covenant with him. This benefit, he observes, we derive from Christ. But for what end? That our obligations to holiness may be vacated? No; by no means; but the very reverse: he conveys this benefit, in order that, in our new-covenant state, we may bring forth that fruit, which we never did, nor could, bring forth in connexion with our former husband. Hear his own words: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,)” (I beg you to pay particular attention to thin, because it is addressed to those especially who know the law,) “Know ye not how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman who hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but, if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ” (that is, through the sufferings of Christ, the power of the law over you is cancelled), “that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God [Note: Romans 7:1-4.].” If there were no other passage in all the Scriptures than this, it would be quite sufficient, not only to establish the point in hand, but to silence, for ever, all jealousies respecting the practical intent and tendency of the Gospel.

But I must go on yet further to observe, in the last place, that our obedience to the law is one of the chief blessings conferred upon us by the new covenant, the covenant of grace. You will remember, that the first covenant merely says, “Do this, and live.” It condemns for disobedience; but never does any thing towards enabling us to obey. But what says God to us in. the new covenant? “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my law into their mind, and write it in their hearts [Note: Hebrews 8:10.].” And again, “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh: and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and to keep my judgments and do them [Note: Ezekiel 36:26-27.].” Here, by the very terms of the new covenant, is obedience to the law infallibly secured; because God himself undertakes to work it in us by the influences of his good Spirit. His assured promise to every one that embraces the new covenant is, “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace [Note: Romans 6:14.].”

Hence, then, you see the perpetuity of the law fully established. It is only in its covenant form that it is cancelled: as a rule of duty, it is, as I have before observed, altogether unchangeable: and its authority, instead of being invalidated by the Gospel, is confirmed and strengthened by it: since our obedience to it was, as I have distinctly shewn, first, the end for which Christ came into the world; next, the end for which he delivered us from the law as a covenant of works; and, lastly, the end for which he has brought us into the new covenant, the covenant of grace. In answer, therefore, to every one who doubts the practical tendency of the Gospel, we are prepared to say, with the Apostle Paul, “Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid [Note: Romans 6:15.].”

Having thus endeavoured, with the utmost plainness, to shew that we are still under the law to Christ, I come,
In the II. place, to enforce its obligations.
Is the law designed to be a rule to govern us after we have laid hold on the covenant of grace? Let us use it for that end, without attempting to lower any one of its demands, and with the utmost cheerfulness and zeal. Let us, first, use it for that end. Doubtless, its primary uses must be carefully kept in remembrance. We must never forget, that its first office is, to convince us of sin, and to shew us our undone state, according to the covenant of works. In this view it must produce in us the deepest humiliation, and an utter renunciation of all dependence on our own works, either in whole or in part, for justification before God. Its next use must be, to drive us to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may obtain salvation through his meritorious death and passion. There is no righteousness but his, that is commensurate with its demands; and there is no other in which we can ever stand accepted before God. These things, I say, we must ever bear in remembrance; and be careful never to make, in any degree, our obedience to the law a ground of our hope. But, having this well settled in our minds, we must address ourselves to a diligent performance of all that the law enjoins. It is by this that we are to shew ourselves to have experienced a work of grace in our souls: for “we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” If we profess to hope that we have been “chosen of God” and “predestinated unto life,” shall we make these mysterious truths an occasion of remissness in the path of duty? God forbid: on the contrary, we must ever bear in mind, that, if we have been chosen of God at all, “we have been chosen that we may be holy, and without blame before him in love;” and if we have been predestinated by God at all, we have been predestinated “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” And if we glory in the finished work of Christ (for you will take notice that I am following the Antinomian into all his strong-holds), we must remember what his end was in accomplishing salvation for us: “We have been bought with a price, that we may glorify him with our body and our spirit, which are his.” There are two great errors from which we must keep equally remote; namely, from legal dependence on our own obedience to the law, and, at the same time, from an Antinomian contempt of its commands. We must distinguish between the motives and principles by which we are actuated, and which determine the true quality of our actions. Whatever we do, in order to earn salvation by it, will be rejected of God, and will disappoint our hopes: but, whatever we do from a sense of duty to God, and with a view to honour the Saviour and evince the sincerity of our love to him, will be accepted for his sake, and will receive a proportionable reward of grace. Only take cave that your obedience be from faith and love, and not from a vain hope to purchase the Divine favour; and then will you answer the true ends of your deliverance from the law as a covenant of works, and of your subjection to it as a rule of life.

In enforcing the obligations of the law, I would next say, Attempt not in any thing to lower its demands. We have before shewn, that, as a covenant, it recedes not from its commands of perfect obedience; no, not in one jot or tittle of its requirements. And, as a rule, its requirements are of equal extent. It enjoins us to love God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves: and no lower standard must we propose to ourselves for our daily walk. We must not be satisfied with the world’s standard: we must not be contented with a round of duties, and the performance of a few kind and charitable acts. “We must die unto sin altogether, and live unto righteousness.” We must seek to have “the whole body of sin crucified within us;” and must “delight ourselves in the law after our inward man,” and strive to “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” Nothing must satisfy us, but the attainment of “God’s perfect image in righteousness and true holiness.” If the law is our rule, Christ himself must be our pattern: we must endeavour to “walk in all things as he walked,” and to “purify ourselves even as he is pure.” Nothing short of absolute perfection should satisfy our minds: we should strive to be “holy, as God himself is holy,” and to be “perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Now, need I say that these efforts are very rarely seen? and that, when seen, they are almost universally discountenanced and discouraged? Cautions in plenty are given, “not to be righteous over-much:” but who ever hears the friendly caution, to “be righteous enough?” If we are outwardly decent and moral, we may be as regardless of the state of our souls before God as we please, and no one will warn us of our danger: but, if the love of Christ constrain us to devote ourselves altogether unto him, there is a general alarm respecting us; and nothing is heard but cautions and warnings on every side.

Let it not be imagined that I would recommend any thing that savours of real enthusiasm or fanaticism: so far from it, I would discourage these evils to the utmost of my power: but, if love to God and love to man be, by common consent, as it were, branded with these names, I say, let not any man be deterred from the performance of his duty by any opprobrious names whatever; but let every one aspire after universal holiness, and seek to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Colossians 4:12.].”

One thing more would I say; namely this: In your obedience to the law, be willing servants. We are not to serve the Lord “grudgingly, or of necessity,” but “with a willing mind.” What St. Paul has spoken on this head deserves peculiar attention. He says, “now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held: that we should serve God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter [Note: Romans 7:6.].” Here he refers to the same image as before, the dissolution of marriage by the death of our husband; and the consequent termination of those restraints, in which, during his life, we were held. But what is to be the effect of this liberty? an abandonment of ourselves to sin? No: but an obeying of our new husband, not in the servile way to which we have been accustomed, but with real pleasure and delight, panting after the highest possible perfection both of heart and life. This service we are to account perfect freedom: and we are to live altogether for him, “running the way of his commandments with enlarged hearts.” Now, “whereever the Spirit is, there is this liberty [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:17.].” But, alas! how little of this liberty is seen in the Christian world! Instead of panting to attain “the full measure of the stature of Christ,” we are satisfied with our own stinted growth; so that, in the course of several years, scarcely any improvement is visible in us. The little we do for the Lord, is rather “from constraint, than willingly.” Our defects create in us no real humiliation: our weakness stimulates us not to earnest cries for help: our inability to fulfil our duty leads us not to exult and glory in the work of Christ, or to clothe ourselves from day to day with his perfect righteousness. No: of these feelings, respecting which I spoke largely in my first discourse, the generality are wholly destitute; and therefore destitute, because they understand not the law either in its condemning or its commanding power. Ignorant of the law, they are of necessity ignorant of the Gospel also; and, consequently, are strangers to all those high and holy feelings which the Gospel inspires. Be it however remembered, that if, “through the knowledge of the law, we be, as we must be, dead to the law,” we shall account it our first duty, and our truest happiness, to “live unto our God.”

Before I close my subject, I think you will not deem me presumptuous if I venture to address a few words to my brethren who either are already in the ministry, or are preparing to engage in that sacred office. I think it must strike you, that this subject has by no means that prominence in our public addresses which its importance demands. If it be true, that without the knowledge of the law we cannot understand the Gospel, the neglect of opening the law is most injurious to the souls of men. I know, indeed, that God may, by convincing men of sin, supply that defect; and lead them to a simple reliance on the Saviour, even whilst they are ignorant of the spirituality of the law, and of the uses for which it was promulgated: but still they cannot be truly enlightened Christians; nor can their faith be so firm as it would be, if they had more enlarged views of the Gospel. But how can we hope that this work of conviction should prevail amongst our hearers, when we withhold from them God’s appointed means of producing it in their souls? In truth, this accounts, in a great measure, for the inefficiency of our ministrations. In numberless places, during a whole course of years, not so much as a single instance is found of a sinner being “pricked to the heart, and crying out, What must I do to be saved?” or, if such an instance occur, it is found only in some one who is condemned by the mere letter of the law. But it would not be so, if the law were preached by us in all its spirituality and extent, and the Gospel were represented as God’s only remedy for the salvation of men. A simple exhibition of these truths would reach the heart, and would be accompanied with power from on high. Let me then entreat you, for your own sake, and for your people’s sake, to study the law; and to make the use of it which God has especially ordained, even to drive them, like the pursuer of blood, to the refuge that is set before them in the Gospel.

If there be amongst us any who yet cannot understand this subject, let me next, address them, and entreat that they will not too hastily dismiss it from their minds: for verily, it demands from every child of man the most attentive consideration. I know that prejudices do exist, even as they have in all ages existed, against both the Law and the Gospel; against the Law as severe, and against the Gospel as licentious. But, to every one of you I must say, Take heed to this subject: for “it is your life:” and, in unfolding it to you, I have, with all possible fidelity, “set life and death before you.” Let the law, I pray you, have its first work in convincing you of sin. Let it then operate effectually to bring you to Christ. And, lastly, let it serve you as a rule, to which your whole life shall be conformed. Set not yourselves against it in any one of these views: set not yourselves against it, as too harsh in its covenant form, or too lax in its abrogated state, or too strict in its requirements as a rule: but improve it for all the ends for which it has been given; so shall it work its whole work within you, and bring you in safety to God, to holiness, to glory.

But I trust there are amongst us not a few who really “know the law,” and approve of it in all its uses. And to them, lastly, I would address myself. To them, in particular, I would say, Be sure that you unreservedly give yourselves up to God. Those who enter not into your views, will judge both of you and of your principles by the holiness of your lives. Let them see in you what the tendency of the Gospel really is: let them see, that “the grace of God, which brings salvation to you, teaches you to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, and soberly, and godly, in this present world.” You will forgive me, if I feel a more than ordinary anxiety about you. On you the honour of God and his Gospel pre-eminently depends: and I am earnestly desirous that you should “walk worthy of your high calling; yea, and worthy of the Lord himself also, unto all pleasing.” I would that there should not be a duty either to God or man in which you should be found remiss. Whatever your situation particularly requires, that should be an object of your most diligent attention; that, if a comparison be instituted between you and those who make no profession of religion, you may at least be found to stand on equality with the best amongst them; and be able to say, “Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they exemplary in the whole of their deportment? so am I.” It must never be forgotten, that the duties of the second table are as necessary to be observed as those of the first: and if there be one amongst you who would set the two at variance, I must declare my testimony against him, as greatly dishonouring the Gospel of Christ. But of the great mass of religious characters amongst you, “I am persuaded better things, though I thus speak.” Go on then, I entreat you, and abound more and more in every thing that is excellent and praiseworthy: and, in reference to every duty that is required of you, let it be seen that you are “under the law to Christ.” This is expected at your hands, and may well be expected: for if you are remiss in these things, who will be attentive to them? Remember, it is “by well-doing that you are to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:” and never forget, that there is no other way of proving yourselves Christ’s disciples indeed, but by doing his will, and keeping his Commandments [Note: John 14:15. 1 Corinthians 7:19. 1 John 2:3-4.].” [Note: The reader, after reading these on The Law, is recommended to read those on The Gospel, on 1 Timothy 1:11.]


Verse 19

DISCOURSE: 2067
THE THIRD USE OF THE LAW, AS A RULE OF LIFE

Galatians 3:19. Wherefore then serveth the law?

THE last use of the law being now to be contemplated, we shall set before you the law as a rule to govern us, when we have embraced the new covenant. And it is with peculiar pleasure that I enter upon this subject, because there exists at this day, precisely as there did in the apostolic age, a jealousy upon the subject of good works, and a fear lest the free salvation of the Gospel should render men indifferent to them. You will remember, that St. Paul’s statements gave occasion to men to ask, “Shall we, then, continue in sin, that grace may abound [Note: Romans 6:1.]?” And the same thoughts may possibly have arisen in your minds, whilst I have with all the clearness in my power, shewn, that we are not, in any degree whatever, to seek justification by the works of the law, but solely and exclusively by faith in Christ. I did, indeed, endeavour to guard against such thoughts, by intimating, in the very first instance, that there was a third end and use of the law, namely, to be a rule of life to the believer: but had I been less guarded in this respect, and left this point to be developed afterwards, without any previous intimation of my purpose, I fear that the same objections, as were urged against the Apostle’s statements, would have greatly enervated mine, and prevented that favourable reception which I hope, through the tender mercy of God, they have met with in your minds. But I have longed for the present occasion, that I might vindicate the Gospel from the charge of licentiousness; and prove, to the satisfaction of you all, that it is indeed, what the Apostle calls it, “a doctrine according to godliness.”

St. Paul was at all times most anxious to guard against a misconception of his sentiments and conduct on account of his neglect of the ceremonial law. The one great object of his ministry was, to win souls to Christ. For the advancement of this end, he conformed, in all matters of indifference, to the views of those amongst whom he ministered; “to the Jews, becoming a Jew; to those who were under the law, as under the law; and to those who were without law, as without law.” But, fearing lest these compliances of his might be construed as a contempt of the divine authority, he took care to remove all ground for such an idea, by declaring, that he still considered himself as much bound to obey God as ever; or, rather, that he felt himself under additional obligations to fulfil all the divine commands, in consideration of the unbounded mercy that had been vouchsafed to him through Jesus Christ. He had, it is true, neglected the observances of the law: but it had not been from any disrespect to God’s commands, but because that law was in fact abrogated; whereas the moral law was as much in force as ever: and to the latest hour of his life he should look upon himself as “under that law to Christ [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:21.].”

This acknowledgment of his comes fully to our point. It shews, that he still regarded the law as a rule of life; and it gives me a fair opportunity,
1st, To establish the perpetuity of the law, as a rule of life; and,
2dly, To enforce its obligations.
I. In order to establish the perpetuity of the law as a rule of life, let it be remembered, that the law is a perfect transcript of the mind and will of God. It arises necessarily out of the relation which we bear to him and to each other. It did not depend on any arbitrary appointment of the Deity, (except, indeed, so far as the Sabbath is concerned,) but would have been equally in force whether it had been the subject of a particular revelation or not. Allowance, indeed, will, as St. Paul informs us, be made for those, who, for want of a revelation, have but very imperfect conceptions respecting the Divine will [Note: Romans 2:14-15.]: but, wherever that is known, it must be a rule of conduct to man, and will be a rule of judgment to God. No change of circumstances whatever can alter its demands. In whatever situation we be, it must be our duty to love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves: nor can this law by any means be dispensed with. In truth, God cannot dispense with any part of this law; for if he did, he would authorize men to despoil themselves of his image, and to rob him of his glory.

That the law is still a rule of duty to the people of God, appears from that injunction of St. Paul, in the thirteenth chapter to the Romans: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Then, specifying the duties contained in the second table of the law as essential constituents of true love, he adds, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law [Note: Romans 13:8-10.].” Consequently, if it is our duty to exercise love, it is our duty to fulfil the law, which is in all respects identified with love.

But to insist on this is needless: for, instead of the law being superseded by the Lord Jesus Christ, it is in his hand more imperative than ever, and comes to us with tenfold obligations to obey it: and this is the point to which I mean to call your particular attention. To say that “we are not without law to God,” is comparatively a small matter: the point I am to establish is, that “we are under the law to Christ.”
In confirmation of this, I assert, that our obedience to the law was contemplated by God himself: first, in all that Christ did and suffered for us; next, in his liberating of us from the law as a covenant of works; and, lastly, in his admission of us into a new covenant, the covenant of grace.
First, I say, our obedience to the law was one great object which our Lord and Saviour had in view, in all that he did and suffered for us. It was not from death only that he came to save us, but from sin. Indeed, he was on that very account “named Jesus, because he was to save his people from their sins [Note: Matthew 1:21.].” Hear how plainly this was declared concerning him, even before he came into the world: “Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, when filled with the Holy Ghost, prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us..…to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life [Note: Luke 1:67-75.].” This clearly shews, that, instead of “making void the law, Christ has established” its authority to the very end of time. And to this agrees the testimony of St. Paul: “He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” And again, expressly adverting to the government which Jesus still maintains over his people, he says, “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself: for whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s: for to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living [Note: Romans 14:7-8.].”

Next I say, that our obedience to the law was a most important end, for which we are liberated from the law as a covenant of works. This is repeatedly asserted by St. Paul. In the eighth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, he says, “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death:” (that is, the Gospel hath freed me from the law:) “for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, hath condemned sin in the flesh:” (and now observe for what end)—“that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [Note: Romans 8:2-4.].” The law could neither justify nor sanctify us: the Gospel does both: and the very end for which Christ has liberated us from the law, was, that both these ends might be accomplished in us.

To this I will add a passage, which needs no explanation: it is so clear, so precise, so full to the point, that it leaves no doubt upon the subject. St. Paul, speaking of his own experience, says, “I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God [Note: Galatians 2:19.].”Here you perceive that it was the law itself which made him dead to the law. It was so rigorous in its demands, and so awful in its sanctions, that he utterly despaired of obtaining salvation by it; and, in this view, became wholly dead to it. But did he therefore neglect it as a rule of life? Quite the reverse: “Through the law, he was dead to the law, that he might live unto God,” and serve him in newness of life.

But there is an illustration of this matter given us by the Apostle, which places it in a still clearer point of view; in a view at once peculiarly beautiful, and unquestionably just. In the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans he compares the law to a man to whom the Church is united, as it were, in the bonds of marriage. He then observes, that, as a wife is bound to her husband by the nuptial contract as long as he lives, and would be justly called an adulteress if she were to connect herself with another man during his life, so are we united in the closest bonds of the law. But, by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and his satisfying all the demands of that law for us, its power over us is annulled, and it becomes, from the very moment of our believing in him, dead with respect to us; so that we are at liberty to be united to Christ, and to enter into a new covenant with him. This benefit, he observes, we derive from Christ. But for what end? That our obligations to holiness may be vacated? No; by no means; but the very reverse: he conveys this benefit, in order that, in our new-covenant state, we may bring forth that fruit, which we never did, nor could, bring forth in connexion with our former husband. Hear his own words: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,)” (I beg you to pay particular attention to thin, because it is addressed to those especially who know the law,) “Know ye not how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman who hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but, if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ” (that is, through the sufferings of Christ, the power of the law over you is cancelled), “that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God [Note: Romans 7:1-4.].” If there were no other passage in all the Scriptures than this, it would be quite sufficient, not only to establish the point in hand, but to silence, for ever, all jealousies respecting the practical intent and tendency of the Gospel.

But I must go on yet further to observe, in the last place, that our obedience to the law is one of the chief blessings conferred upon us by the new covenant, the covenant of grace. You will remember, that the first covenant merely says, “Do this, and live.” It condemns for disobedience; but never does any thing towards enabling us to obey. But what says God to us in. the new covenant? “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my law into their mind, and write it in their hearts [Note: Hebrews 8:10.].” And again, “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh: and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and to keep my judgments and do them [Note: Ezekiel 36:26-27.].” Here, by the very terms of the new covenant, is obedience to the law infallibly secured; because God himself undertakes to work it in us by the influences of his good Spirit. His assured promise to every one that embraces the new covenant is, “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace [Note: Romans 6:14.].”

Hence, then, you see the perpetuity of the law fully established. It is only in its covenant form that it is cancelled: as a rule of duty, it is, as I have before observed, altogether unchangeable: and its authority, instead of being invalidated by the Gospel, is confirmed and strengthened by it: since our obedience to it was, as I have distinctly shewn, first, the end for which Christ came into the world; next, the end for which he delivered us from the law as a covenant of works; and, lastly, the end for which he has brought us into the new covenant, the covenant of grace. In answer, therefore, to every one who doubts the practical tendency of the Gospel, we are prepared to say, with the Apostle Paul, “Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid [Note: Romans 6:15.].”

Having thus endeavoured, with the utmost plainness, to shew that we are still under the law to Christ, I come,
In the II. place, to enforce its obligations.
Is the law designed to be a rule to govern us after we have laid hold on the covenant of grace? Let us use it for that end, without attempting to lower any one of its demands, and with the utmost cheerfulness and zeal. Let us, first, use it for that end. Doubtless, its primary uses must be carefully kept in remembrance. We must never forget, that its first office is, to convince us of sin, and to shew us our undone state, according to the covenant of works. In this view it must produce in us the deepest humiliation, and an utter renunciation of all dependence on our own works, either in whole or in part, for justification before God. Its next use must be, to drive us to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may obtain salvation through his meritorious death and passion. There is no righteousness but his, that is commensurate with its demands; and there is no other in which we can ever stand accepted before God. These things, I say, we must ever bear in remembrance; and be careful never to make, in any degree, our obedience to the law a ground of our hope. But, having this well settled in our minds, we must address ourselves to a diligent performance of all that the law enjoins. It is by this that we are to shew ourselves to have experienced a work of grace in our souls: for “we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” If we profess to hope that we have been “chosen of God” and “predestinated unto life,” shall we make these mysterious truths an occasion of remissness in the path of duty? God forbid: on the contrary, we must ever bear in mind, that, if we have been chosen of God at all, “we have been chosen that we may be holy, and without blame before him in love;” and if we have been predestinated by God at all, we have been predestinated “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” And if we glory in the finished work of Christ (for you will take notice that I am following the Antinomian into all his strong-holds), we must remember what his end was in accomplishing salvation for us: “We have been bought with a price, that we may glorify him with our body and our spirit, which are his.” There are two great errors from which we must keep equally remote; namely, from legal dependence on our own obedience to the law, and, at the same time, from an Antinomian contempt of its commands. We must distinguish between the motives and principles by which we are actuated, and which determine the true quality of our actions. Whatever we do, in order to earn salvation by it, will be rejected of God, and will disappoint our hopes: but, whatever we do from a sense of duty to God, and with a view to honour the Saviour and evince the sincerity of our love to him, will be accepted for his sake, and will receive a proportionable reward of grace. Only take cave that your obedience be from faith and love, and not from a vain hope to purchase the Divine favour; and then will you answer the true ends of your deliverance from the law as a covenant of works, and of your subjection to it as a rule of life.

In enforcing the obligations of the law, I would next say, Attempt not in any thing to lower its demands. We have before shewn, that, as a covenant, it recedes not from its commands of perfect obedience; no, not in one jot or tittle of its requirements. And, as a rule, its requirements are of equal extent. It enjoins us to love God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves: and no lower standard must we propose to ourselves for our daily walk. We must not be satisfied with the world’s standard: we must not be contented with a round of duties, and the performance of a few kind and charitable acts. “We must die unto sin altogether, and live unto righteousness.” We must seek to have “the whole body of sin crucified within us;” and must “delight ourselves in the law after our inward man,” and strive to “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” Nothing must satisfy us, but the attainment of “God’s perfect image in righteousness and true holiness.” If the law is our rule, Christ himself must be our pattern: we must endeavour to “walk in all things as he walked,” and to “purify ourselves even as he is pure.” Nothing short of absolute perfection should satisfy our minds: we should strive to be “holy, as God himself is holy,” and to be “perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Now, need I say that these efforts are very rarely seen? and that, when seen, they are almost universally discountenanced and discouraged? Cautions in plenty are given, “not to be righteous over-much:” but who ever hears the friendly caution, to “be righteous enough?” If we are outwardly decent and moral, we may be as regardless of the state of our souls before God as we please, and no one will warn us of our danger: but, if the love of Christ constrain us to devote ourselves altogether unto him, there is a general alarm respecting us; and nothing is heard but cautions and warnings on every side.

Let it not be imagined that I would recommend any thing that savours of real enthusiasm or fanaticism: so far from it, I would discourage these evils to the utmost of my power: but, if love to God and love to man be, by common consent, as it were, branded with these names, I say, let not any man be deterred from the performance of his duty by any opprobrious names whatever; but let every one aspire after universal holiness, and seek to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Colossians 4:12.].”

One thing more would I say; namely this: In your obedience to the law, be willing servants. We are not to serve the Lord “grudgingly, or of necessity,” but “with a willing mind.” What St. Paul has spoken on this head deserves peculiar attention. He says, “now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held: that we should serve God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter [Note: Romans 7:6.].” Here he refers to the same image as before, the dissolution of marriage by the death of our husband; and the consequent termination of those restraints, in which, during his life, we were held. But what is to be the effect of this liberty? an abandonment of ourselves to sin? No: but an obeying of our new husband, not in the servile way to which we have been accustomed, but with real pleasure and delight, panting after the highest possible perfection both of heart and life. This service we are to account perfect freedom: and we are to live altogether for him, “running the way of his commandments with enlarged hearts.” Now, “whereever the Spirit is, there is this liberty [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:17.].” But, alas! how little of this liberty is seen in the Christian world! Instead of panting to attain “the full measure of the stature of Christ,” we are satisfied with our own stinted growth; so that, in the course of several years, scarcely any improvement is visible in us. The little we do for the Lord, is rather “from constraint, than willingly.” Our defects create in us no real humiliation: our weakness stimulates us not to earnest cries for help: our inability to fulfil our duty leads us not to exult and glory in the work of Christ, or to clothe ourselves from day to day with his perfect righteousness. No: of these feelings, respecting which I spoke largely in my first discourse, the generality are wholly destitute; and therefore destitute, because they understand not the law either in its condemning or its commanding power. Ignorant of the law, they are of necessity ignorant of the Gospel also; and, consequently, are strangers to all those high and holy feelings which the Gospel inspires. Be it however remembered, that if, “through the knowledge of the law, we be, as we must be, dead to the law,” we shall account it our first duty, and our truest happiness, to “live unto our God.”

Before I close my subject, I think you will not deem me presumptuous if I venture to address a few words to my brethren who either are already in the ministry, or are preparing to engage in that sacred office. I think it must strike you, that this subject has by no means that prominence in our public addresses which its importance demands. If it be true, that without the knowledge of the law we cannot understand the Gospel, the neglect of opening the law is most injurious to the souls of men. I know, indeed, that God may, by convincing men of sin, supply that defect; and lead them to a simple reliance on the Saviour, even whilst they are ignorant of the spirituality of the law, and of the uses for which it was promulgated: but still they cannot be truly enlightened Christians; nor can their faith be so firm as it would be, if they had more enlarged views of the Gospel. But how can we hope that this work of conviction should prevail amongst our hearers, when we withhold from them God’s appointed means of producing it in their souls? In truth, this accounts, in a great measure, for the inefficiency of our ministrations. In numberless places, during a whole course of years, not so much as a single instance is found of a sinner being “pricked to the heart, and crying out, What must I do to be saved?” or, if such an instance occur, it is found only in some one who is condemned by the mere letter of the law. But it would not be so, if the law were preached by us in all its spirituality and extent, and the Gospel were represented as God’s only remedy for the salvation of men. A simple exhibition of these truths would reach the heart, and would be accompanied with power from on high. Let me then entreat you, for your own sake, and for your people’s sake, to study the law; and to make the use of it which God has especially ordained, even to drive them, like the pursuer of blood, to the refuge that is set before them in the Gospel.

If there be amongst us any who yet cannot understand this subject, let me next, address them, and entreat that they will not too hastily dismiss it from their minds: for verily, it demands from every child of man the most attentive consideration. I know that prejudices do exist, even as they have in all ages existed, against both the Law and the Gospel; against the Law as severe, and against the Gospel as licentious. But, to every one of you I must say, Take heed to this subject: for “it is your life:” and, in unfolding it to you, I have, with all possible fidelity, “set life and death before you.” Let the law, I pray you, have its first work in convincing you of sin. Let it then operate effectually to bring you to Christ. And, lastly, let it serve you as a rule, to which your whole life shall be conformed. Set not yourselves against it in any one of these views: set not yourselves against it, as too harsh in its covenant form, or too lax in its abrogated state, or too strict in its requirements as a rule: but improve it for all the ends for which it has been given; so shall it work its whole work within you, and bring you in safety to God, to holiness, to glory.

But I trust there are amongst us not a few who really “know the law,” and approve of it in all its uses. And to them, lastly, I would address myself. To them, in particular, I would say, Be sure that you unreservedly give yourselves up to God. Those who enter not into your views, will judge both of you and of your principles by the holiness of your lives. Let them see in you what the tendency of the Gospel really is: let them see, that “the grace of God, which brings salvation to you, teaches you to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, and soberly, and godly, in this present world.” You will forgive me, if I feel a more than ordinary anxiety about you. On you the honour of God and his Gospel pre-eminently depends: and I am earnestly desirous that you should “walk worthy of your high calling; yea, and worthy of the Lord himself also, unto all pleasing.” I would that there should not be a duty either to God or man in which you should be found remiss. Whatever your situation particularly requires, that should be an object of your most diligent attention; that, if a comparison be instituted between you and those who make no profession of religion, you may at least be found to stand on equality with the best amongst them; and be able to say, “Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they exemplary in the whole of their deportment? so am I.” It must never be forgotten, that the duties of the second table are as necessary to be observed as those of the first: and if there be one amongst you who would set the two at variance, I must declare my testimony against him, as greatly dishonouring the Gospel of Christ. But of the great mass of religious characters amongst you, “I am persuaded better things, though I thus speak.” Go on then, I entreat you, and abound more and more in every thing that is excellent and praiseworthy: and, in reference to every duty that is required of you, let it be seen that you are “under the law to Christ.” This is expected at your hands, and may well be expected: for if you are remiss in these things, who will be attentive to them? Remember, it is “by well-doing that you are to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:” and never forget, that there is no other way of proving yourselves Christ’s disciples indeed, but by doing his will, and keeping his Commandments [Note: John 14:15. 1 Corinthians 7:19. 1 John 2:3-4.].” [Note: The reader, after reading these on The Law, is recommended to read those on The Gospel, on 1 Timothy 1:11.]


Verses 21-26

DISCOURSE: 2068
THE TRUE USE OF THE LAW

Galatians 3:21-26. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might he given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But, after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

THE true nature and intent of the moral law is by no means generally understood: and, if the question put by the Apostle into the mouth of an objector, “Wherefore then serveth the law?” were addressed to the great mass even of considerate Christians, very few among them would know what answer to return to it. Hence it is that such opposition is everywhere made to the free offers of the Gospel. We have continually the very same contest to maintain against the generality of Christians, as the Apostle had against the Jews. The Apostle preached, that the Messiah, the Seed in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, was come: and that all were now to be justified by faith in him, precisely as Abraham had been two thousand years before. The Jews maintained, that this could not be the true way of salvation; for that God had given a law to Moses; and that law was of perpetual obligation; and, if we were now to be justified by faith alone, the law would be made void, and had in reality been given to no purpose. To this the Apostle answers, that the law, which was given to the Jews alone, could not invalidate the promise which had many ages before been given to Abraham and all his believing seed, whether among the circumcised Jews, or the uncircumcised Gentiles; and that there was no such opposition between the two as the Jews imagined; the law being in fact designed to introduce the Gospel with more effect, and to endear it to all, when it should come to be more fully revealed. This was the state of the question between the Apostle and his opponents; to whom a complete answer is given in the words before us. The question simply was, ‘Is there any real opposition between the law as given to Moses, and the promises as given to Abraham?’ No; says the Apostle: there is a subserviency of the one to the other; and both the one and the other proclaim to us, in fact, the same salvation—salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and by faith alone.
To make this clear to the comprehension of all, I will distinctly mark what he says respecting,

I.

The use of the law—

The law, when originally given to Adam in Paradise, “was ordained to life [Note: Romans 7:10.],” and would, if perfectly fulfilled by him, have given him a title to eternal life: but, having been once broken, it is no longer capable of giving a title to life, and is only “a ministration of condemnation and death [Note: 2Co 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:9.].” Had it been possible to have given a law which should have rendered the salvation of fallen man consistent with the Divine attributes, God would never have given his only-begotten Son to take our nature and die for us: the publication of a new law would have been so obvious and so easy, that he would undoubtedly have preferred that [Note: ver. 21.]. But no such law could be given: for, if it required the same as the original law did, namely perfect and perpetual obedience, it was impossible that that should ever be rendered to it by fallen man [Note: Romans 8:3.]: and, if it required less, it would dispense with obligations, which of necessity exist between the creature and the Creator, and would, in fact, give a license to sin: which it is impossible for a holy God to do. The law then, as given to Moses, was not intended for any such purpose as this: it was intended,

1.

To prepare men for the Gospel—

[The Gospel is a revelation of mercy through the incarnation and sufferings of the Son of God: and that mercy is freely offered to all who will believe in Christ. Previously to the coming of Christ, this mystery was but very imperfectly understood: but the law as published on Mount Sinai was well calculated to prepare the minds of men for the fuller manifestation of it. For it made known to men the true extent of their duty: it shewed that we were bound to love God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength: and to love our neighbour in all respects as ourselves. Nothing less than this was to be paid by us from the earliest moment of our existence to our latest breath, Revealing this, it further shewed to men the inconceivable depth of their guilt. By this standard are we to be tried every moment: yet in no one moment of our lives have we acted up to it, either towards God or man. On the contrary, we have been at an infinite distance from it, having been altogether engrossed by self, and caring nothing either for God or man, any farther than the interests of self might he promoted by them. Thus, not to speak of any particular actions, the whole state and habit of our minds, every day, every hour, every moment, has been as contrary to the law as darkness to light, and hell to heaven. Hence the law proceeds still further to shew men their infinite desert of wrath and condemnation. For every single deviation from this perfect standard, the wrath of God is denounced against us; agreeably to that sentence of the law, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” Consider then our duty as ramified in all its extent, and in one single day our sins against it are more numerous than the stars of heaven, or the sands upon the sea-shore; and of course, a proportionable weight of wrath and condemnation is entailed upon us.

Such is the light which the law reflects on our state before God: and does it not endear to us the offer of a free and full salvation? Doubtless it does: and for this end it was given, that we might the more thankfully accept the promises made to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.]

2.

To shut men up to the Gospel—

[Men naturally go to the law, having no idea of obtaining salvation in any other way than by obedience to its commands. Hence the sinner, when once awakened to a concern about his soul, and sensible that he has not obeyed the law in its full extent, hopes to make a composition, as it were, and to he accepted on paying a part for the whole. But the law thunders in his ears, ‘Thou must obey me in all things.’ He then hopes, that the law will accept his repentance for past transgressions, and sincere obedience for the time to come. But the law replies, ‘I know nothing of repentance, or of sincere obedience: thou must pay me my lull demands, and “continue obedient in all things” from first to last: I have stated the extent of your duty; and I have said, “Do this, and thou shalt live.” These are the only terms on which I can offer thee any thing: if thou canst not bring perfect obedience with thee, it is in vain to come to me: thou must seek a remedy elsewhere: for I can afford thee none.’ Thus the law, being inflexible in its demands, and inexorable in its denunciations, compels the sinner to look out for some other way of escape from the wrath to come, and “shuts him up” to that which is revealed in the Gospel: it declares to him, that, as long as he continues to found his hopes on the law, he is, and must be, under its curse: and, just as at the first promulgation of the law, the people, trembling with apprehensions of immediate death, entreated that God would give them a mediator, through whom they might venture to approach him; so now the terrors of Mount Sinai constrain men to look for mercy solely through the mediation and intercession of the Lord Jesus [Note: Deuteronomy 5:23-28.]. In this view “the law was to be a schoolmaster to us, to bring us to Christ:” it was by instruction to inform us, and by discipline to constrain us; that so the promises made to us in the Gospel might become available for their destined end.]

The law thus viewed, opens to us in all its grandeur,

II.

The benefit of the Gospel—

“Before faith came,” and whilst the way of salvation through a crucified Redeemer was but darkly and partially disclosed, the law kept men in a state of bondage, like prisoners shut up, and looking forward to a future deliverance: but, “when faith did come,” and the Gospel was fully revealed, then it appeared what unspeakable mercy God had kept in store for the sinners of mankind: for by the Gospel,

1.

We are liberated from the law—

[The very instant we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and lay hold on the covenant of grace, we cease to be any longer under the covenant of works. The law, as a covenant, has no longer any power either to command, or to condemn: it is abrogated with respect to us; yea, it is dead: and has no more power over us, or connexion with us, than a man who is dead has with the widow whom he has left behind him. This is not only affirmed by the Apostle, but is illustrated also by this very image. “If,” says he, “her husband is dead, the woman is loosed from the law of her husband: so we are become dead to the law and the law is become dead to us, by the body of Christ; yea, we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held [Note: Romans 7:1-6.].” And this effect is produced by the law itself; as he also tells us in the chapter preceding our text: “I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God [Note: Galatians 2:19.]:” that is, the law so utterly condemns me, that I can have no hope from it whatever, and am forced, whether I will or not, to renounce all dependence upon it, and to live no longer as one who hopes to earn life for himself, but as one who seeks only to honour and glorify his Redeemer. Hear the account which St. Paul gives of this matter in another epistle. Speaking to those who had believed in Christ, he says, “Ye are not come unto the Mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of the trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard, entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: but ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel [Note: Hebrews 12:18-24.].” In a word, the moment we believe in Christ, “we are no longer under a schoolmaster,” or, as it is elsewhere said, “we are no longer under the law, but under grace [Note: Romans 6:14.].”]

2.

We are brought into possession of all spiritual and eternal blessings—

[“We are justified by faith [Note: ver. 24.];” we are “justified freely from all things, from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses [Note: Acts 13:39.]:” Our “sins, whatever they may have been, are put as far from us as the east is from the west [Note: Psalms 103:12.]:” “nor shall they ever more be remembered against us [Note: Hebrews 8:12; Hebrews 10:17.].” Nor is this all: we are brought into the very family of God, and “made the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus [Note: ver. 26.].” Nor are we children only, but children of full age, who are “no longer under tutors and governors,” but already admitted to the most intimate communion with our God, and enjoying, as far as in this world we can enjoy, the inheritance prepared for us [Note: Galatians 4:1-7.].

And here we cannot but call your attention in a more especial manner to the means by which all these blessings are secured. It is again and again said, that they become ours “by faith in Christ Jesus.” There is no other way: it is simply and solely by faith: there is no mixture of works: works, so far from augmenting our title to these things, or contributing to the acquisition of them, will, if wrought for this end, cut us off from all hope of ever coming to the possession of them. So inconsistent with each other are the covenants of grace and of works, that the smallest portion of works utterly excludes grace [Note: Romans 11:6.]; and the slightest imaginable dependence on them invalidates all that Christ has done and suffered for us. The instant we blend any thing with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we make “the promise of no effect,” and “Christ,” with respect to us, “has died in vain [Note: Galatians 2:21; Galatians 5:2-4.].”]

And now, in conclusion, let us inquire,

1.

Whence is it that there is so much occasion to insist on these truths?

[Is it that there is any difficulty in them? No; in all personal matters we find it easy enough to distinguish between a gift and a debt. We are at no loss to make this distinction, if a man, who has never done one thing for us in all his life, claim a reward at our hands. It is to little purpose that he compliments us with an appeal to our generosity: the single circumstance of his founding his hope, though in a small degree, on services which he professes to have rendered us, especially if, instead of having done us any service, he has all his days been adverse to our will and hostile to our interests, is quite sufficient to cut him off from all hope of receiving the benefits he expects. And much more may this be the case when a sinner presumes to prefer a claim of merit before his God. For what is this but the most abominable pride? Take an illustration, which will serve to place the matter in its true point of view. A prince offers pardon to his rebellious subjects, provided they will sue for it through the mediation of his son, to whom he has committed the whole government of his kingdom. Some apply in the appointed way, and are pardoned: but others say, ‘We will not accept of pardon on the terms he offers it: if the king will levy a fine upon us, we will pay it; or, if he will appoint us a service, be it never so difficult, we will perform it: but to stoop to the method which he has prescribed, namely, that of asking pardon through the mediation of his son, is a humiliation to which we will not submit.’ Who does not see, that pride is the principle by which these persons are actuated; and that, if they perish as rebels, it is altogether through their own fault? Know then, that it is pride, and pride alone, that keeps any from seeing the excellency of the Gospel salvation. It is pride that makes any so averse to be saved entirely by faith without the works of the law: and, till the proud hearts of men be humbled, the Gospel will always be to them a stumbling-block, and rock of offence. But be it known to you, that, how desirous soever you may be “to establish a righteousness of your own,” you can never do it, but “must submit to the righteousness of God [Note: Romans 10:3.].”]

2.

Why are we so earnest in enforcing them?

[If the present life only were concerned, we might be content to let you go on your own way. But on your acceptance or rejection of the Gospel salvation depends your happiness both in this world and the world to come. This accounts for St. Paul insisting so much on this doctrine in his Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians; and for his declaring so repeatedly, that, if they did any work whatever with a view to recommend them to Christ for justification, “Christ himself should profit them nothing.” See what he says on this subject respecting his Jewish brethren. He tells us, “that the Gentiles, who had not followed after righteousness, had attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith: but that Israel, who had followed after the law of righteousness, had not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? (says he:) Because they sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law: for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone [Note: Romans 9:30-32.].” So it will be with all who will not submit to the righteousness of faith. If they would “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, they should never be ashamed:” but if, through an ignorant zeal for the law, they will not embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as their only hope, they must inevitably and eternally perish. This is the reason that, in going through this epistle, we bring the matter before you in such various points of view, and with such an earnest desire to fasten a conviction of it on your minds: and we entreat all to bear in remembrance the importance of the subject, and not to give sleep to their eyes or slumber to their eye-lids, till they have embraced the Lord Jesus Christ with their whole hearts, and made him “all their salvation and all their desire.”]

3.

Are the promises any more against the law, than the law is against the promises?

[The law, as has been shewn you, is subservient to the promises, and was given on purpose to make us more earnest in apprehending them, and more simple in relying on them. So the promises in return secure obedience to the law; as St. Paul has said, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law [Note: Romans 3:31.].” To this truth the whole Scriptures bear witness. “The grace of God which brings salvation, teaches us obedience [Note: Titus 2:11-12.];” and the faith that apprehends that salvation, secures it; for it “works by love,” and “purifies the heart,” and “overcomes the world.” The state into which we are brought by the promises, precludes a possibility of our living in any wilful sin [Note: Romans 6:1-7.]: it would be contrary to the very idea of our being servants of Christ, to render service to that which he so abhors. A spiritual man cannot endure the thought of so grievous an inconsistency [Note: Romans 6:15-16.]. On the contrary, the promises afford him encouragement to aspire after universal holiness, because, whilst they set him free from all slavish fears, they assure him of a constant supply of grace and strength proportioned to his necessities [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.]. Hence, apprehending and living upon the promises, he will “cleanse himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].” Let this then appear in all our lives: so shall it be seen beyond all contradiction, that, though we build not on our works, we diligently perform them; and that the doctrine we profess is in truth “a doctrine according to godliness.”]


Verses 27-29

DISCOURSE: 2069
BENEFITS AND OBLIGATIONS OF BAPTISM

Galatians 3:27-29. As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

TO enter fully into these words, the whole scope of the Apostle’s argument should be duly considered. He has been insisting upon justification by faith alone, without the deeds of the law. This, to a Jew, was a most unpalatable doctrine, because it set aside the observance of all those ceremonies which had been ordained of God under the Mosaic dispensation. Hence many, after they had embraced the faith of Christ, were still zealous for the law; and desirous of blending the law with the Gospel, as a joint-ground of their hope before God. Persons of this stamp had come among the Galatian converts, and had perverted the minds of many. Hence the Apostle, in this Epistle to the Galatians, expostulates with those who had been drawn aside, as having acted a most foolish and unreasonable part. “O foolish Galatians! who hath bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” He then proceeds to reason with them: ‘Have you not had amongst yourselves an evident proof and demonstration that the Gospel which I preached to you is true? The Holy Spirit set his seal to the truth of it, by his miraculous operations: but did he ever, in one instance, so confirm the doctrines opposed to it [Note: ver. 2–5.]! Besides, with my doctrine agree the declarations of God himself; who says, that as Abraham was justified by faith, so by the same faith the whole heathen world shall be justified [Note: ver. 6–9]. But to the law no power of justifying is ever ascribed. That can do nothing but condemn: and it is only by pleading what Christ has done and suffered to deliver us from its curse, that any one of us can ever escape its curse, and obtain the blessings which are accorded to us by the Abrahamic covenant [Note: ver. 10–14.].’

To make this matter clear, he illustrates it by a well-known fact. ‘If,’ says he, ‘a covenant be made between men, it cannot be disannulled, except by the consent of both the parties that are interested in it. But Abraham, and all his believing seed throughout the whole world and to the very end of time, were interested in the covenant made with Abraham; whereas, in the covenant made four hundred and thirty years afterwards on Mount Sinai, none but Abraham’s natural descendants, and a very small portion even of them, were interested: and therefore this latter covenant can never supersede the former, or in any degree change its gracious provisions [Note: ver. 15–18.]. In truth, the Mosaic covenant, so far from superseding that which had been made with Abraham, was intended rather to be subservient to it, and as a schoolmaster, to educate persons for it, and to bring them to a participation of its blessings [Note: ver. 19–24.]. Consequently Christ, with whom, as well as with Abraham, the covenant of grace was made [Note: ver. 16.], having now come, and fulfilled in our behalf all that was required by that covenant, we, of whatever nation we be, have nothing to do but to believe in him; and then all the blessings of the covenant will become ours. Being united to him by faith, we shall be regarded as one with him; and be made partakers of all the benefits which he, as our Great Surety, has purchased for us [Note: ver. 25–29.].

This is, in few words, the general scope of the Apostle’s argument in the chapter before us. But, for the more particular elucidation of the words of my text, I will shew,

I.

What, in the judgment of charity, we possess, the very instant that we profess ourselves to be Christ’s—

The covenant of grace made with Abraham and his seed is that under which we live: and we are admitted to a participation of its blessings now by baptism, as, previously to the coming of Christ, men were by circumcision. To be “baptized into Christ,” is to be baptized in the name of Christ; and by baptism, to be initiated into his religion. As the Jews were “baptized unto Moses” by passing through the sea and being sprinkled with its spray, and so became his disciples; so do we, by descending into the water in baptism, or by being sprinkled with it in the name of Christ, become the followers of Christ [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:2. See the Greek, which is precisely the same as in my text, and determines, with exactness, the meaning of my text.]. Now, respecting persons baptized into the religion of Christ [Note: Compare Mat 28:19 and Mark 16:15-16.], the Apostle says, “They have put on Christ.” And what are we to understand by this? I conceive it refers, not to any change of garments which was made by persons at their baptism; for we hear of no such custom in the apostolic age: but it refers to the change of garments which was made by Aaron, and all succeeding priests, at the time of their consecration to the priesthood. The persons consecrated to the priesthood were first washed with water, and then had the coat, and the robe, and the ephod, and the breast-plate, put upon them; and were girded with the curious girdle of the ephod; and the mitre, with the holy crown upon it, was put upon their head. “Thus were the priests of old consecrated unto God [Note: Exodus 29:4-9.]:” and thus are we, in our baptism, made “a holy priesthood” to the Lord [Note: 1 Peter 2:9. Revelation 1:6.]. But, though this gives us a general idea of what is meant by putting on Christ, it falls very far short of the full import of the expression, as used in my text. In another place, the expression is used to signify the putting on the moral character of Christ [Note: Romans 13:14.]: but here it signifies the putting on of his complete and entire character; so that God may view us altogether as in him, clothed with his righteousness from head to foot, and transformed into his image in righteousness and true holiness [Note: Ephesians 4:23-24.].

Now, this the Apostle represents as taking place at our baptism. And, not content with so representing it in some cases, or in many, or in most, or generally in all, he speaks as if this change were absolutely universal, without any exception: “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” Here is, if I may so express myself, a distributive individuality; by means of which he comprehends every baptized person separately, and without any exception. Yet, in this very epistle, he speaks of some of whom “he stood in doubt [Note: Galatians 4:20.].” How, then, are we to understand this? The Apostle here spoke according to the judgment of charity; even as he does in many other places, where he addresses whole collective bodies, and Churches, as “saints, and faithful in the Lord [Note: Colossians 1:2.].” And I cannot but think, that in this passage we have a complete justification of the language used by our reformers in the baptismal service. After having baptized any child, we are there taught to return thanks to God in these words: “We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church.” Now this strikes many as too strong; and they scarcely know how to utter it before God. I grant it is strong: but is it stronger than the Apostle’s language in my text? No, not in the least: and if it be said that the prayer in our Liturgy refers to each individual separately; I answer, so does the Apostle’s language also: for it is equivalent to saying to every individual of the Christian Church, ‘Have you been baptized? then you have put on Christ: for as many as have had the sacrament of baptism administered to them, have been made partakers of this benefit.’

But, strong as this language is, the Apostle is not content: for he goes on to say, that, in the attainment of these exalted privileges, there is no distinction of persons whatsoever; none arising from nation, or rank, or sex; as there was, to a great degree, under the legal dispensation: “There is neither Jew nor Greek,” says he; “there is neither bond nor free; there is neither male nor female: but ye are all one in Christ Jesus:” so that, inasmuch as all, without exception, are baptized into one body in Christ; all, without exception, enjoy the benefits conferred by that ordinance.

Let me not, however, be mistaken. I do not mean to say that the Apostle’s words are to be taken strictly in this unlimited extent: but I mean to say, that he spoke thus, according to the judgment of charity, respecting those who had been consecrated to God in baptism; and that our reformers studiously-followed the Apostle, both in his spirit and language: and that, if we do not complain of the Apostle, or refuse to read his words, neither ought we to complain of our reformers, or refuse to use their words; when their only fault has been, if fault it may be called, in adhering so closely to the example and the language of an inspired Apostle.

I make not these observations wantonly, to provoke controversy; but in a spirit of love, with a view to satisfy the minds of any, if such there be amongst us, who have been stumbled in any respect at the expressions referred to in our baptismal service. And I shall think my pains well bestowed, if I may-produce in any scrupulous mind the peaceful conviction which the foregoing thoughts have imparted to my own bosom [Note: In this passage, precisely as we in our Baptismal Service, the Apostle uses distributive individuality. [If a person wish to prosecute this subject further, he may compare the first answer in our Catechism with Romans 9:4; where the Apostle’s language is the evident ground-work of that which our Reformers have used.]].

If it be thought that the foregoing observations are liable to abuse, they will be found effectually guarded by the Apostle himself, who proceeds to shew,

II.

What in reality we possess, when once we become really Christ’s—

“If we be Christ’s, then are we Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Now, let us, for a moment, return to the Apostle’s argument. He shews, that Christ being the Seed to whom the promises in the Abrahamic covenant were made, all who are in Christ must, of necessity, inherit those promises: and that, as Abraham partook of those promises simply by faith, whilst yet he was in an uncircumcised state, so all his believing posterity also are entitled to a participation of them simply by faith, without any legal observance whatsoever. Now, by believing in Christ, we become perfectly one with Christ—
[This is affirmed in my text: “We are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is also frequently declared in other places. I will specify one, where the union which is formed with Christ in baptism is represented as equivalent to that which subsists between the head and members of the same body; so that the persons baptized are actually called by his very name, as being altogether identified with him: “As the body is one, and hath many members; and all the members of that body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ;” that is, so also is the Church of Christ. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free”..…“We are indeed many members, yet are we but one body [Note: 1 Corinthians 12:12-13.].” Thus it appears, that, inasmuch as we become one with Christ by faith in him, we become in and with him the seed of Abraham, and heirs of all the promises that were made to him.]

And being united unto Christ by faith, we need nothing to be superadded to us by the works of the law—
[The natural descendants of Abraham, as such, have no title to these benefits: for “all are not Israel who are of Israel; neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children;” for it was said to him, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called: that is, they which are the children of the flesh are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed [Note: Romans 9:6-8.].” Now, by union with Christ we become the children of promise, and consequently heirs of all that God has promised. But how is this union effected? It is effected simply by faith. No work of the law can contribute to it. Even if we were of Abraham’s natural posterity, it would avail us nothing: nor, if we were to keep the whole law, would it avail us any thing. We must believe in Christ, and by faith be made one with him; and then the benefits are ours: nor shall all the powers of darkness prevail to rob us of them. Only let these two things be remembered, and our whole argument will be clear. First, no want of external privileges can deprive us of these benefits; and next, no observances whatever can augment our title to them, if only we believe in Christ: for “if we be Christ’s, then are we Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”]

Now let me address myself,

1.

To those who are Christ’s in profession only

[You perceive, that, as “baptized into Christ,” you profess to have “put on Christ.” Now, then, permit me to ask, have you ever felt your need of Christ? Have you ever been conscious of the nakedness of your soul by reason of sin; and of the utter insufficiency of the fig-leaves of your own righteousness to cover your nakedness; and of the indispensable necessity of your being clothed in Christ’s righteousness, in order to your acceptance before God? Have you, under a deep sense of your need of his righteousness, gone to him, and apprehended him, and put him on by faith? and does all your hope of happiness in the eternal world arise from this thought, that God views you, not as you are in yourselves, but as you are in Christ, clothed from head to foot with his unspotted robe, and therefore standing without spot or blemish in the sight of the heart-searching God? Let but conscience return a candid answer to these inquiries, and you will have a perfect insight into your real state before God. You will then see, that, though baptized into Christ, you have never really availed yourselves of your privilege to “put him on.” You are in the state of a widow, who, though entitled to a certain portion of the estate of her deceased husband, neglects to take out administration according to law: she cannot turn any part of the estate to her own account; and must perish with hunger, even as if she had no title whatever to the estate, if she continue to neglect the appointed means of coming to the possession of it. And so must you perish under the guilt of all your sins, if you neglect to put on Christ by faith, and to cover yourselves with the robe of his unspotted righteousness. You may be as observant of the law as ever Paul was in his unconverted state: but yet will you perish for ever, as he also would have done, if you apply not to Christ, that you may “be found in him, not having your own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in him.” As for your baptism, it will avail you nothing without this: for he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God [Note: Romans 2:28-29.].” On the other hand, let me say, that if only you will believe in Christ, though you were the most ignorant of Gentiles or the most abandoned of sinners, you should be accepted in him, and be made partakers of all his blessings, both of grace and glory.]

2.

To those who are Christ’s in reality and truth

[I trust there are many such among you. And what shall I say to you? what but this? Survey the covenant which was made with Abraham, and all the promises contained in it; and say, ‘All these are mine.’ Survey all that Abraham ever possessed, or possesses at this moment at the right hand of God; and then say, ‘As Abraham’s seed, and Abraham’s heir, I am entitled to all of this.’ Go further still, and survey all that Christ himself ever enjoyed, or at this moment enjoys, as the promised Seed of Abraham, and the great Heir of all; and then say, ‘All this also, so far as I am capable of enjoying it, is mine: God is my God, even as he is Christ’s [Note: Genesis 17:7. with John 20:17.]; and Christ’s throne is my throne: Christ’s kingdom is my kingdom; Christ’s glory, my glory; for “the glory which God has given him, he has given me [Note: Revelation 3:21. Joh 17:22.].” ’

What then shall I do, to shew my sense of the benefits conferred upon me? This will I do, to the utmost of my power: I will “put on Christ:” I will put him on daily; so that God shall never see me but as I am in him, covered with the robe of his righteousness; nor shall my fellow-creatures ever see me but as possessing “the very mind which was in Christ [Note: Philippians 2:5.].” I will “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” even as a man puts on his garments [Note: This is the precise import of Rom 13:14 and refers to the moral image of Christ.]; so that all who see me shall say that I resemble him. I will, God helping me, be “a living epistle of Christ, that shall be known and read of all men [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:2-3.];” so that all may know how he walked when on earth, and how he wills that we should walk [Note: 1 John 2:6.].

This, my beloved brethren, is the true way to prove yourselves Christ’s believing people; and this will bring down to you a heaven upon earth.]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Galatians 3". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/galatians-3.html. 1832.