ITS NATURE AND EFFECTS.
THE law is the chief and most pure resemblance of the justice and holiness of the heavenly Majesty, and doth hold forth to all men the sharpness and keenness of his wrath.
This is the rule and line and plummet whereby every act of every man shall be measured; and he whose righteousness is not found every way answerable to this law, which all will fall short of but they that have the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ, he must perish.
The law is spiritual, I am carnal. Therefore every requirement is rejected and rebelled against. Strike a steel against a flint, and the fire flies about you. Strike the law against a carnal heart, and sin appears, sin multiplies, sin rageth, sin is strengthened.
Sin seen in the glass of the law is a terrible thing; no man can behold it and live. |When the commandment came, sin revived and I died;| when it came from God to my conscience, as managed by an almighty arm, then it slew me. And now is the time to confess sin, because now a soul knows what it is, and sees what it is, both in the nature and consequence of it.
He that is under the law is under the edge of the axe.
The proper work of the law is to slay the soul, and leave it dead, in a helpless state.
The law has laid all men for dead as they come into the world; but all men do not see themselves dead, until they see the law that struck them dead striking in their souls and having struck them that fatal blow. As a man that is fast asleep in a house, and that on fire about his ears, and he not knowing it because he is asleep; even so because poor souls are asleep in sin, though the wrath of God, the curse of his law, and the flames of hell have beset them round about, yet they do not believe it because they are asleep in sin. Now, as he that is awakened and sees this, sees that through this he is a dead man, even so they that see their state by nature, being such a sad condition, do also see themselves by that law to be dead men naturally.
Take heed of fleshly wisdom. Reasoning suiteth much with the law: |I thought verily that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus,| and so to have sought for life by the law. For thus reason will say, Here is a righteous law, the rule of life and death; besides, what can be better than to love God, and my neighbor as myself? Again, God has thus commanded, and his commands are just and good; therefore, doubtless, life must come by the law. Further, to love God and keep the law, are better than to sin and break it; and seeing men lost heaven by sin, how should they get it again but by working righteousness? Besides, God is righteous, and will therefore bless the righteous. O the holiness of the law! It mightily swayeth with reason when a man addicts himself to religion. The light of nature teaches that sin is not the way to heaven; and seeing no word doth more condemn sin, than the words of the ten commandments, it must needs be therefore the most perfect rule for holiness. Wherefore, says reason, the safest way to life and glory is to keep myself close to the law. But though the law indeed be holy, yet the mistake as to the matter in hand is as wide as the east from the west; for therefore the law can do thee no good, because it is holy and just; for what can he that has sinned expect from a law that is holy and just? Naught but condemnation. |There is one that accuseth you, even. Moses in whom ye trust.|
Here is the poison; to set this law in the. room of a Mediator, as those do who seek to stand just before God thereby. And then nothing is so dishonorable to Christ, nor of so soul-destroying a nature as the law; for that, thus placed, has not only power when souls are deluded, but power to delude by its real holiness, the understanding, conscience, and reason of a man; and by giving the soul a semblance of heaven, to cause it to throw away Christ, grace, and faith.
Alas, he who boasteth himself in the works of the law, he doth not hear the law. When that speaks, it shakes mount Sinai, and writeth death upon all faces, and makes the church itself cry out, A Mediator! else we die.
The law out of Christ is terrible as a lion; the law in him is meek as a lamb.
FAITHFUL. |So I went on my way up the hill. Now when I had got about half-way up, I looked behind me and saw one coming after me swift as the wind; so he overtook me just about the place where the settle stands.
|So soon as the man overtook me, he was but a word and a blow; for down he knocked me, and laid me for dead. But when I was a little come to myself again, I asked him wherefore he served me so. He said, 'Because of thy secret inclination to Adam the first;' and with that he struck me another deadly blow on the breast, and beat me down backwards; so I lay at his foot as dead as before. When I came to myself again, I cried to him for mercy; but he said, 'I know not how to show mercy;' and with that knocked me down again. He had doubtless made an end of me, but that one came by and bid him forbear.|
CHRISTIAN. |Who was it that bid him forbear?|
FAITHFUL. |I did not know him at first, but as he went by I perceived the holes in his hands and his side; then I concluded that he was our Lord. So I went up the hill.|
CHRISTIAN. |The man that overtook you was Moses. He spareth none, neither knoweth he how to show mercy to those that transgress his law.|
FAITHFUL. |I know it very well; it was not the first time that he has met with me. It was he that came to me when I dwelt securely at home, and that told me he would burn my house over my head if I staid there.|
This ungodly fear of God, is that which will put men upon adding to the revealed will of God their own inventions and their own performances of them, as a means to pacify the anger of God. For the truth is, where this ungodly fear reigneth, there is no end of law and duty. When those that you read of in the hook of Kings, 2 Kings, 17: 26, were destroyed by the lions because they had set up idolatry in the land of Israel, they sent for a priest from Babylon that might teach them the manner of the God of the land; but behold, when they knew it, being taught it by the priest, yet their fear would not suffer them to be content with that worship only. |They feared the Lord,| saith the text, |and served their own gods.| And again, |So these nations feared the Lord, and served their graven images.| It was this fear also that put the Pharisees upon inventing so many traditions; as the washing of cups, and beds, and tables, and basins, with abundance of such other gear. Mark 7: 4. None knows the many dangers that an ungodly fear of God will drive a man into.
How has it racked and tortured the papists for hundreds of years together! for what else is the cause but this ungodly fear, at least in the most simple and harmless of them, of their penances -- as creeping to the cross, going barefoot on pilgrimage, whipping themselves, wearing of sackcloth, saying so many pater-nosters, so many Ave-Marias, making so many confessions to the priest, giving so much money for pardons, and abundance of other the like -- -but this ungodly fear of God? For could they be brought to believe this doctrine, that Christ was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification, and to apply it by faith with godly boldness to their own souls, this fear Would vanish, and so consequently all those things with which they so needlessly and unprofitably afflict themselves, offend God, and grieve his people.
THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL.
Thou must have salvation either at the door of the law or at the door of grace. |But,| sayest thou, |I am for having it at the hands of both. I will trust solely to neither. I love to have two strings to my bow. If one of them, as you think, can help me by itself, my reason tells me that both can help me better; therefore will I be righteous and good, and will seek by my goodness to be commended to the mercy of God; for surely he that hath something of his own to ingratiate himself into the favor of his prince withal, shall sooner obtain his mercy and favor than one that comes to him stripped of all good.|
I answer, |But there are not two ways to heaven: there is but one 'new and living way which Christ hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;' and besides that one, there is no more. Heb.10: 19-24. Why then dost thou talk of two strings to thy bow?|
Mercy then is to be found alone in Jesus Christ. Again, the righteousness of the law is to be obtained only by faith of Jesus Christ; that is, in the Son of God is the righteousness of the law to be found; for he, by his obedience to his Father, is become the end of the law for righteousness. And for the sake of his legal righteousness -- -which is also called the righteousness of God, because it was God in the flesh of the Lord Jesus that did accomplish it -- -are mercy and grace from God extended to whomsoever dependeth by faith upon God, by this righteousness of Jesus, for them.
He that is dark as touching the scope, intents, and nature of the law, is also dark as to the scope, nature, and glory of the gospel.
I must confess it is a wonderful mysterious thing, and he had need have a wiser spirit than his own that can rightly set these two covenants in their right places, that when he speaks of the one he doth not jostle the other out of its place. O, to be so well enlightened as to speak of the one, that is the law, for to magnify the gospel -- -and also to speak of the gospel so as to establish and yet not to idolize the law, nor any particulars thereof -- -it is rare; and to be heard and found but in very few men's breasts.
A man may appeal from the law to the throne, from Moses to Christ -- -from him that spoke on earth to him that speaks from heaven; but from heaven to earth, from Christ to Moses, none can appeal. Acts 3: 22, 23.
Tell me, you that desire to mingle the law and the gospel together, and to make of both one and the same gospel of Christ, did you ever see yourselves undone and lost, unless the righteousness, blood, death, resurrection, and intercession of that man Christ Jesus in his own person, were imputed to you; and until you could by faith own it as done for you, and counted yours by imputation? Yea, or no? Nay, rather, have you not set up your consciences and the law, and counted your obedience to them better and of more value than the obedience of the Son of Mary without you to be imputed to you? And if so, it is because you have not been savingly convinced by the Spirit of Christ of the sin of unbelief.
I would riot be mistaken; I do not say that the Spirit of Christ gives the least liberty to sin; God forbid; but its convictions are of a more saving and refreshing nature than the convictions of the law, and do more constrain the soul to holiness than that: the law saying, Work for life; the Spirit saying, Now to him that worketh not (for life,) but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. As thus: if I should owe to two creditors ten thousand talents, the one should say unto me, |Thou owest me five thousand talents, pay that thou owest;| the other should say, |Thou owest me five thousand talents, and I frankly and freely forgive thee all.|
Now, these expressions are contrary one to another; even so is the end of the convictions of the law not according to the end of the convictions of the Spirit of Christ: the one saying, |Pay me that thou owest;| the other saying, |Thou art frankly and freely forgiven all.|
Then the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a very large parlor that was full of dust, because never swept; the which, after he had reviewed it a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now, when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, |Bring hither water and sprinkle the room;| the which, when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.
Then said Christian, |What means this?|
The Interpreter answered, |This parlor is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the gospel; the dust is his, original sin and inward corruptions that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first is the law; but she that brought water and did sprinkle it, is the gospel. Now whereas thou sawest that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith: this is to show thee that the law, instead of cleansing the heart by its working, from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it; for it doth not give power to subdue it. Rom.5: 20; 7:11; 1 Cor.15:56.|
Again, as thou sawest the damsel sprinkle the room with, water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure this is to show thee that when the gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then, I say, even as thou sawest the damsel lay the dust fry sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of glory to inhabit. John 14: 21-23; 15:3; Acts 15:9; Rom.16: 25, 26; Eph.5:26.
When Christ dwells in my heart by faith and the moral law dwells in my members, the one to keep up peace with God, the other to keep my conversation in a good decorum, then am I right, and not till then.
But this will not be done without much experience, diligence, and delight in Christ. For there is nothing that Satan more desires, than that the law may abide in the conscience of an awakened Christian, and there take up the place of Christ and faith; for he knows if this may be obtained, the veil is presently drawn over the face of the soul, and the heart darkened as to the knowledge of Christ; and being darkened, the man is driven into despair of mercy, or is put upon it to work for life. There is therefore much diligence required of him that will keep these two in their places assigned them of God; much diligent study of the word, diligent prayer, with diligence to walk with God in the world.
When this law with its thundering threatenings doth attempt to lay hold on thy conscience, shut it out with a promise of grace: cry, The inn is taken up already; the Lord Jesus is here entertained, and here is no room for the law. Indeed, if it will be content with being my informer, and so lovingly leave off to judge me, I will be content; it shall be in iny sight, I will also delight therein: but otherwise, I being now made upright without it, and that too with that righteousness which this law speaks well of and approveth, I may not, will not, cannot, dare not make it my saviour and judge, nor suffer it to set up its government in my conscience; for by so doing I fall from grace, and Christ Jesus doth profit me nothing.
The sum then of what hath been said is this: the Christian hath now nothing to do with the law as it thundereth and burneth on Sinai, or as it bindeth the conscience to wrath and the displeasure of God for sin; for from its thus appearing he is freed by faith in Christ. Yet he is to have regard thereto, and is to count it holy, just, and good; which that he may do, he is always, whenever he seeth or regards it, to remember that he who giveth it to us is MERCIFUL, GRACIOUS, LONG-SUFFERING, and ABUNDANT IN GOODNESS AND TRUTH.
Here thou mayst say, O law, thou mayst roar against sin, but thou canst not reach me; thou mayst curse and condemn, but not MY SOUL; for I have a righteous Jesus, a holy Jesus, a soul-saving Jesus, and he hath delivered me from thy threats, thy curses, thy condemnations; I am out of thy reach and out of thy bounds; I am brought into another covenant, under better promises of life and salvation, free promises to comfort me without my merit, even through the blood of Jesus, the satisfaction given to God for me by him.
The law is that which standeth at the entrance of the paradise of God, as a flaming sword, turning every way to keep out those that are not righteous with the righteousness of God -- that have not skill to come to the throne of grace by that new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. For though this law, I say, be taken away by Christ Jesus for all that truly and savingly believe, yet it remains in full force and power in every tittle of it against every soul of man that now shall be found in his tabernacle, that is in himself and out of the Lord Jesus; it lie'th, I say, like a lion rampant at the gates of heaven, and will roar upon every unconverted soul, fiercely accusing every one that new would gladly enter in through the gates into this city. So then, he that can answer all its most perfect and legal commands, and that can live in the midst of devouring fire and there enjoy God and solace himself, he shall dwell on high and shall not be hurt by this law. His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks; bread shall be given him, and his waters shall he sure; thine eyes shall behold the King in his beauty, they shall see the land that is very far off.
THE LAW A RULE OF LIFE.
The law is cast behind the back of many, when it should be carried in the hand and heart that we might do it, to the end the gospel which we profess might he glorified in the world. Let then the law be with thee to love it, and do it in the spirit of the gospel, that thou be not unfruitful in thy life. Let the law, I say, be with thee, not as it comes from Moses, but from Christ; for though thou art set free from the law as a covenant for life, yet thou still art under the law to Christ; and it is to be received by thee, as out of his hand, to be a rule for thy conversation in the world.