IN his Epistle to the Romans, Paul writes |For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous. Moreover, the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.|
Moses was the representative of the law. You remember that he led the children of Israel through the wilderness, and brought them to Jordan; but there he left them. He could take them up to the river, which is a type of death and judgment; but Joshua (which means Jesus -- Saviour) led them right through death and judgment -- through the Jordan into the Promised Land. Here we have the difference between Law and Grace; between the Law and the Gospel.
Take another illustration. John the Baptist was the last prophet of the old dispensation -- the last prophet under the law. You remember that before Christ made His appearance at the Jordan, the cry of John, day by day was, |Repent: for the kingdom of God is at hand!| He thundered out the law. He took his hearers down to the Jordan and baptized them. He put them in the place of death; and that was as far as he could take them. But there was One coming after him who could take them into the Promised Land. As Joshua led the people through the Jordan into Canaan, -- so Christ went down into the Jordan of death, through death and judgment, on to resurrection ground.
If you run all through Scripture you will find that the law brings to death. |Sin reigned unto death.| A friend was telling me lately that an acquaintance of his, a minister, was once called upon to officiate at a funeral, in the place of a chaplain of one of Her Majesty's prisons, who was absent. He noticed that only one solitary man followed the body of the criminal to the grave. When the grave had been covered, this man told the minister that he was an officer of the law whose duty it was to watch the body of the culprit until it was buried out of sight; that was |the end| of the British law.
And that is what the law of God does to the sinner; it brings him right to death, and leaves him there. I pity deep down in my heart those who are trying to save themselves by the law. It never has; it never will; and it never can -- save the soul. When people say they are going to try and do their best, and so save themselves by the law, I like to take them on their own ground. Have they, ever done their very best? granting that there might be a chance for them if they had, was there ever a time when they could not have done a little better? If a man wants to do his best, let him accept the grace of God; that is the best thing that any man or woman can possibly do.
But you will ask, What is the law given for? It may sound rather strange, but it is given that it may stop every man's mouth. |We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.| The law shuts my mouth; grace opens it. The law locks up my heart; grace opens it -- and then the fountain of love begins to flow out. When men get their eyes opened to see this glorious truth, they will cease their constant struggle. They will give up trying to work their way into the kingdom of God by the deeds of the law. They will give themselves up for lost, and take salvation as a free gift.
Life never came through the law. As some one has observed: When the law was given, three thousand men lost life; but when grace and truth came at Pentecost, three thousand obtained life. Under the law, if a man became a drunkard the magistrates would take him out and stone him to death. When the prodigal came home, grace met him and embraced him. Law says, Stone him! -- grace says, Embrace him! Law says, Smite him! -- grace says, Kiss him! Law went after him, and bound him; grace said, loose him and let him go! Law tells me how crooked I am; grace comes and makes me straight.
I pity those who are always hanging around Sinai, hoping to get life there. I have an old friend in Chicago who is always lingering at Sinai. He is a very good man; but I think he will have a different story to tell when he gets home to heaven. He thinks I preach free grace too much; and I must confess I do like to speak of the free grace of God. This friend of mine feels as though he has a kind of mission to follow me; and whenever he gets a chance he comes in with the thunders of Sinai. I never yet met him but he was thundering away from Horeb. The last time I was in Chicago, I said to him, |Are you still lingering around Sinai?| |Yes,| said he, |I believe in the law.| I have made inquiries, and I never heard of any one being converted under his preaching: the effects have always dwindled and died out. If the law is the door to heaven, there is no hope for any of us. A perfect God can only have a perfect standard. He that offends in one point is guilty of all: so |all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.|
Paul says to the Galatians: |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 be 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 Jesus Christ.|
THE SOFTENING POWER OF GRACE.
So we see that the law cannot give life; all it can do is to bring us to Him who is the life. The law is said to be |a schoolmaster.| Perhaps some of you do not know what a schoolmaster is. If you had been under the same schoolmaster as I was when a boy you would have known. He had a good cane and it was frequently in use. In the little country district where I went to school, there were two parties: for the sake of illustration we may call the one the |law| party and the other the |grace| party. The law party said that boys could not possibly be controlled without the cane: and they kept a schoolmaster there who acted on their plan. The struggle went on, and at last, on one election day, the law party was put out, and the grace party ruled in their stead. I happened to be at the school at that time; and I remember we said to each other that we were going to have a grand time that winter. There would be no more corporal punishment, and we were going to be ruled by love.
I was one of the first to break the rules of the school. We had a lady teacher, and she asked me to stay behind. I thought the cane was coming out again; and I was going to protest against it. I was quite in a fighting mood. She took me alone. She sat down and began to talk to me kindly. I thought that was worse than the cane; I did not like it. I saw that she had not got any cane. She said: |I have made up my mind that if I cannot control the school by love, I will give it up. I will have no punishment; and if you love me, try and keep the rules of the school.| I felt something right here in my throat. I was not one to shed many tears; but they would come -- I could not keep them back. I said to her, |You will have no more trouble with me;| and she did not. I learned more that winter than in the other three put together.
That was the difference between law and grace. Christ says, |If you love Me, keep My commandments.| He takes us out from under the law, and puts us under grace. Grace will break the hardest heart. It was the love of God that prompted Him to send His only-begotten Son into the world that He might save it. I suppose the thief had gone through his trial unsoftened. Probably the law had hardened his heart. But on the cross no doubt that touching prayer of the Saviour, |Father, forgive them!| broke his heart, so that he cried, |Lord, remember me!| He was brought to ask for mercy. I believe there is no man so far gone but the grace of God will melt his heart.
It is told of Isaac T. Hopper, the Quaker, that he once encountered a profane colored man, named Cain, in Philadelphia, and took him before a magistrate, who fined him for blasphemy. Twenty years after, Hopper met Cain, whose appearance was much changed for the worse. This touched the Friend's heart. He stepped up, spoke kindly, and shook hands with the forlorn being. |Dost thou remember me,| said the Quaker, |how I had thee fined for swearing?|
|Yes, indeed, I do: I remember what I paid as well as if it was yesterday.|
|Well, did it do thee any good?|
|No, never a bit: it made me mad to have my money taken from me.|
Hopper invited Cain to reckon up the interest on the fine, and paid him principal and interest too. |I meant it for thy good, Cain; and I am sorry I did thee any harm.|
Cain's countenance changed; the tears rolled down his cheeks. He took the money with many thanks, became a quiet man, and was not heard to swear again.
PEACE, GRACE AND GLORY.
So there is a great deal of difference between law and grace. |Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.| There are three precious things here: peace for the past; grace for the present; and glory for the future. There is no peace until we see the finished work of Jesus Christ -- until we can look back and see the Cross of Christ between us and our sins. When we see that Jesus was |the end of the law for righteousness;| that He |tasted death for every man;| that He |suffered the Just for the unjust| -- then comes peace. Then there is |the grace wherein we now stand.| There is plenty of grace for us as we need it day by day, and hour by hour.
Then there is glory for the time to come. A great many people seem to forget that the best is before us. Dr. Bonar says that everything before the true believer is |glorious.| This thought took hold of my soul; and I began to look the matter up, and see what I could find in Scripture that was glorious hereafter. I found that the kingdom we are going to inherit is glorious: our crown is to be a |crown of glory;| the city we are going to inhabit is the city of the glorified; the songs we are to sing are the songs of the glorified; we are to wear garments of |glory and beauty;| our society will be the society of the glorified; our rest is to be |glorious;| the country to which we are going is to be full of |the glory of God and of the Lamb.| There are many who are always looking on the backward path, and mourning over the troubles through which they have passed; they keep lugging up the cares and anxieties they have been called on to bear, and are forever looking at them. Why should we go reeling and staggering under the burdens and cares of life when we have such prospects before us?
If there is nothing but glory beyond, our faces ought to shine brightly all the time. If a skeptic were to come up here and watch the countenances of the audience he would find many of you looking as though there was anything but glory before you. Many a time it seems to me as if I were at a funeral, people look so sad and downcast. They do not appear to know much of the joy of the Lord. Surely if we were looking right on to the glory that awaits us, our faces would be continually lit up with the light of the upper world. We can preach by our countenances if we will. The nearer we draw to that glory-land, where we shall be with Christ -- the more peace, and joy, and rest we ought to have. If we will but come to the throne of grace, we shall have strength to bear all our troubles and trials. If you were to take all the afflictions that flesh is heir to and put them right on any one of us, God has grace enough to carry us right through without faltering.
Some one has compiled the following, which beautifully describes the contrast between law and grace:
The Law was given by Moses.
Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
The Law says -- This do, and thou shalt live.
Grace says -- Live, and then thou shalt do.
The Law says -- Pay me that thou owest.
Grace says -- I frankly forgive thee all.
The Law says -- The wages of sin is death.
GRACE says -- The gift of God is eternal life.
The Law says -- The soul that sinneth, it shall die.
Grace says -- Whosoever believeth in Jesus, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Him shall never die.
The Law pronounces -- Condemnation and death.
Grace proclaims -- Justification and life.
The Law says -- Make you a new heart and a new spirit.
Grace says -- A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.
The Law says -- Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Grace says -- Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sin is covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute iniquity.
The Law says -- Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.
Grace says -- Herein is love: not that we love God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
The Law speaks of what man must do for God.
Grace tells of what Christ has done for man.
The Law addresses man as part of the old creation.
Grace makes a man a member of the new creation.
The Law bears on a nature prone to disobedience.
Grace creates a nature inclined to obedience.
The Law demands obedience by the terror of the Lord.
Grace beseeches men by the mercies of God.
The Law demands holiness.
Grace gives holiness.
The Law says -- Condemn him.
Grace says -- Embrace him.
The Law speaks of priestly sacrifices offered year by year continually, which could never make the comers thereunto perfect.
Grace says -- But this Man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever . . . by one offering hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.
The Law declares -- That as many as have sinned in the Law, shall be judged by the Law.
Grace brings eternal peace to the troubled soul of every child of God, and proclaims God's salvation in defiance of the accusations of the adversary. |He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment (condemnation), but is passed from death unto life.|
|Whence to me this tranquil spirit --
Me all sinful as I am?
Is it thus descends the merit
Of the sin-atoning Lamb?
Grace, all power to deliver,
Gift of a Creative Giver,
Like a full, refreshing river,
Over all my course of sinning
Spread its waters without bound,
Cleansing, fertilizing, winning
For the Lord the barren ground.
Lavish from the heavenly treasure,
Fountains of a Father's pleasure,
All the marks of human measure
Not my virtue or repenting
Earned the precious boon for me.
Thine, my Saviour, the relenting,
Thine the pangs which set me free --
Gift of grace beyond all knowing,
From the heart of Jesus flowing,
Ever flowing, overflowing,