« AnteriorContinuar »
founded in grace, every one must see the inconsistency of a law requiring sinless obedience in order to happi
Suchi a law, it appears to me, would imply, in the highest degree an impropriety in the moral government of God.
Whatever an objector may say respecting the law of nature, yet in the Bible no law can be found which requires sinless obedience in order to obtain the favour of God and eternal life. My object now is to search the Scriptures and see whether any such law can be found.
1. And in the first place let us inquire concerning the “aw of faith.” And does this divine law require sinless obedience of sinners in order to salvation? According to the law of faith we find a command of God upoa sinners to repent and believe the Gospel; to beJieve the record which God hath given of bis Son. Hence the Apostle Paul taught publickly and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."* The faith and repentance, which Paul preached, are qualifications absolutely necessary to salvation. It is a revealed law of God, that “all men every where should repent.” And if this command be not obeyed, no man can be saved. Eternal death will as certainly come upon all sinners remaining impenitent, as spiritual death came upon our first parents for their first transgression. Equally important is the command to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; "for he that believeth shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”. This is the law of faith, as found in the volume of divine revelation. But it is not like the law of Paradise; it doth not threaten death for the first offence. The penitent believer, as you may see by looking into the volume of the law of faith, is entitled to eternal life, although he has been guilty of many offences. Accordingly, it is not necessary, to escape the wrath and curse of God and to come into possession of eternal life, that our re
* Acts xx, 21,
pentance and faith be sinless. Will any say that there must be no sin accompanying faith and repentance? Must repentance be perfect without the least degree of impenitence? I do not mean to ask whether the repentance must be perfect repentance? but whether the repentance must be such as to imply no sin in the person repenting? In this sense must the faith be perfect without any mixture of unbelief? that is without any sin or unbelief, at any time, in the believing person? Or in other words, must the penitent be a sinless penitent and the believer a sinless believer in order to salvation? These interrogations are easily answered by those who have the Bible in their hands, the volume, which contains the law of faith and repentance. You will find in this Book that the law of faith and repentance, does not require sinless obedience in order to obtain the favour of God. Will not every true and sincere penitent, all who sorrow after a godly sort, obtain future and eternal happiness? And does the law of repentance suppose that the person sorrowing after a godly sort, is a subject of sioless obedience? Does a sinner as soon as he begins to repent, keep the law of repentance during life perfectly? Does he, when he begins to repent, repent of all his sins at once, and never through life have another sin to repent of?
And, after he begins to exercise faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ, does he continue therein so as to keep the law of faith perfectly? Is he a sinless believ, er? This surely was not the case with Peter. He sinned greatly after he became a true believer in Christ; and he offended grievously by denying his Lord and Master after his conversion. And Paul says after he was a true penitent and a most cordial believer in Je. sus Christ, - wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? For when I would do good evil is present.” Notwithstanding these things, who will dispute the future and eternal happiness of Peter and Paul? It is therefore manifest that it is not necessary that "the obedience of faith” be sinless in order to salvation. And therefore though it be declared in the word of God that "The soul that sinneth, it shall die;" and “The wages of sin is death;"? yet, the soul of the penitent believer shall live; shall live eternally with God in glory. For, “On such the second death hath no power.”
Salvation is of grace, “through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. But if there were no salvation for men without sinless obedience, both grace and salvation would be eternally excluded from the whole race of the children of men: The situation of fallen man would be precisely the same with that of apostate angels: We should remain eternally in that state of spiritual death, which came upon Adam and his whole posterity, in consequence of the first transgression, concerning which God said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely DIE."
II. The law of love, “The royal law, the perfect law of liberty," doth not require sinless obedience in order to happiness.
Every divine law requires sinless obedience: The law given Adam in Paradise required sinless obedience. And all divine laws since the apostasy require sinless obedience. Every divine law must be like its Author, holy; and it would not be consistent for God who is perfectly holy, to give a law to man which required any thing short of perfect holiness or sinless obedience. But because it is essential to every law of God, which respects the moral conduct of men, that it require sinless obedience; it doth not hence follow, that God has revealed any law which requires sinless obedience, in order to happiness. If God is “a God ready to pardon,” he can save sinners, even if their obedience falls short of perfection. Though our offences be many, yet we may be saved, because salvation is of grace. It is consistent, therefore, that a divine law require perfect obedience, and yet that God should save the sinner for the sake of Him who was "set forth a propitiation through faith in his blood, although his faith or obedience be not sinless. We may do well so far as to be accepted of God and yet not be sinless. Hence, "It
ye fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.” He who loveth his neighbour as himself hath fulfilled the Jaw. ""Owe no man any thing but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law He who loveth his neighbour as himself hath fulfilled the royal law, the law of love, because the same benevolent spirit, which is the Spirit of Christ, will love God and keep all his commandments. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” He who doeth these commandments hath an heart friendly to God; and such an heart is in harmony with every divine law, or with the whole law of love. He, therefore, who fulfils the law in one point, fulfils the whole law. He who loves God as required will love his neighbour. And he who loves his neighbour as himself will love God. And if he have this love, he has that love which is required in every part of the word of God: for, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
This view of the law of love, the perfect law of lib. erty teaches us how to explain this declaration of Saint James, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point is guilty of all.” If we do not already see its meaning, the next verse makes it perfectly plain. For he that, or, as it is in the Greek text, “That law which said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now, if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law." Hence it doth not mean that he who is guilty of lying is guilty of stealing also; but the liar is a transgressor of the same law which saith "Thou shalt not steal.” The meaning is, he who is an enemy to God, or, who saith in his heart, there is no God, is an enemy to all the commandments of God. He is guilty of all. It doth not mean that because his obedience is not sinless, that, therefore, he is an enemy of God, and so guilty of all. A person's obedience may not be sinless, and yet he may be a cordial friend to God. Abraham was not perfectly free from sin, and yet he was the friend of God. And his friendship to God led him to believe in God. If Abraham had not been a friend of God he never would have believed in God. If Abrahain's faith had been destitute of love, or if it had not implicit love in its very essence, it never would have been imputed to him for righteousness.
The apostle Paul says, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran-atha," that is, let him be accursed when Christ shall come to judgment. Is it not equally certain on the other hand, that if any man love the Lord Jesus Christ he shall be blessed, when the Redeemer comes for our salvation? And, if any man love God, if it be but in a small degree, it cannot be said that he does not love him. Love, although it does not amount to sinless obedience is the fulfilling of the law. Therefore the law of love does not require sinless obedience in order to happiness, or that we may obtain the favour and approbation of God.
The least degree of holy love unites the soul to Christ. “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.” Similar to this are the words of our Lord, "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him and manifest my. self to him.” The manifestation of Christ to the soul, together with his love, and the love of the Father, surely, is salvation. And cannot a person love Christ and yet not be sinless? Did not Peter love Christ? and was Peter sinless? Therefore the law of love which is the law of Christ, does not require sinless obedience in order to salvation.
III. The law which will regulate the judgment of the great day, does not require sinless obedience in the present state, in order to be admitted into the kingdom of God, and to be happy forever in the future state.