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and will relative to these matters in the scriptures, has prescribed the rule and declared the sanction, "To the word therefore, and the testimony."
The Apostle, in the epistle from which the words in the text are taken, is writing to the church of the Galatians, on a matter then greatly controverted; namely, "whether it was necessary for the Gentile converts to be circumcised, and to keep the law of Moses ?" (Acts xv. 1—6.) The Judaizing teachers among them had sapped the very foundation of the believer's hope, by setting up the law as a covenant of life, and pleading for obedience to it as the intitling ground of their acceptance with God: whilst St. Paul in every place resolutely set himself to oppose an opinion so dishonourable to his Master, so contradictory to the gospel, and so destructive to men's souls. In this epistle and another to the Romans, he expressly and formally enters into the question, and confutes the pretences of his adversaries, from the consideration of the spirituality, extent and perfection of the law; the impossibility in the present state of human nature of satisfying its demands, and the design and end of it, both as moral and ceremonial; whieh was not to furnish any with a title to life, but "to lead all to Christ, that they might be justified by faith." (Gal. iii. 24.)
So far therefore from being capable of saving, it served only to condemn as many as trusted to it; since "as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse; as it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.' (Gal. iii. 10.)
And this reasoning of the apostle with the people of that day is left on record "for our admonition," that we like them might not "be turned
aside from the hope of the gospel," to depend on any broken reed which can only run into and pierce the hand that leans upon it. And it is with this view, that I purpose to open the words read to you, that when we see the perfections of obedience which God's law, the rule of our duty, indispensibly requires, and the tremendous curse which it denounces against every transgression we may be the more solicitous to "fly from the sword of the avenger to the city of refuge," the cross of him "who hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for us. (Gal. iii. 13.) In speaking to the words read at present, I shall endeavour to shew the following particulars:
I. What law the Apostle here refers to.
II. What the demands of that law contain. III. The impossibility of our compliance therewith.
I. The law the Apostle here refers to, is peculiarly the moral law. He declares it to be that law" which concluded Jews and Gentiles both under sin:" (Rom. iii. 9.) that law, by which all the world was found guilty and stood condemned before God: (Rom. iii. 19.) that law the offence against which produced death before Moses' days; (Rom. v. 14.) and that law, by obedience to which, wherever it could be found, life would be certainly attained. (Gal. iii. 21.) These are characters which alone suit the moral law.
Some indeed refer all that the apostle says to the ceremonial law, or at least to that dispensation under which the Jews were, considered purely as it was Judaical; and thereby make it a private controversy in which the world at present is no ways concerned. But it is evident that the mat
ter in dispute touches the very nerves of the gospel; namely, whether faith or works justify us before God; and we have full as much concern in it as the Galatians themselves. There was a law from the beginning which man was bound to obey. It was like its author perfect; coming from God it could not but be so: and it was to be suitably observed, he can receive from his creatures no service but such as becomes their dependence upon him; and this must be absolute and intire. This is the eternal and unalterable
rule of duty. The traces of this obligation through man's corruptions were become grievously obscured, yet in the worst times "God was not without a witness" in the conscience. Men at all times and in all places knew that they who did things contrary to that law were worthy of death. (Rom. 1. 32,) The Jews had one advantage over others: God committed to them his lively oracles. He wrote with his own finger on tables of stone this eternal law of obedience: and in typical institutions of his own appointment shewed them deliverance from its condemnation. It never was designed to save them. It was given that "sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful;" (Rom. vii. 13.) that it might be "a schoolniaster to them;" (Gal. iii. 24.) that they might turn their eyes from this law of works to a gospel of grace, continually held forth in every bleeding victim. The moral law delivered to Moses on mount Sinai was not a new law, peculiarly framed for and appropriated to them; it was the old commandment which had been from the beginning; a law by which all mankind was to be judged, and be justified or condemned, according to their obedience to or transgression of it. The peculiar advantages they enjoyed by the law, were a
clearer and deeper conviction of their impotency. to keep it, and their misery under the failure; and fuller discoveries of God's gracious desigus of relief from it in the promised seed.
When therefore the law is spoken of, we must not conceive that the mosaical law, contained in the ten commandments, is another law distinct from the moral, by which Jews or Gentiles were otherwise equally bound. There never was but one moral law from God: there cannot be it is unalterable. However, in, sundry times and divers manners the promulgation of it may be made. All men are and must be under it to the end of the world. God must cease to be, before his law can vary or cease to bind men's consciences.
II. The demands of this law come next to be considered. And these are obedience in every view and instance absolute and compleat; doing God's will on earth as it is done in heaven. continuance in all things written in the book of the law." Our rule of duty is perfect and intire; nor may one jot or tittle of it be broken. " Give me thine heart" (Prov. xxiii. 26.) in the utmost simplicity and sincerity, is its first injunction ; for "God requireth truth in the inward parts." (Psal. li. 6.) The principle must be pure. This is essential to all obedience. It is the rectitude of the temper which constitutes the acceptableness of the service. The extent too of our obedience must be as large as our rule. All God's commandments, the least as well as the greatest of them, demand our submission: and this with the highest: intenseness of affection. "Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might, and with thy strength." (Matt. xxii. 37.) Imperfection is transgression. If the least measure of love be wanting, the obedience under the law is
not absolutely perfect. God will have an intire service or none. One defect as effectually de
stroys all title to life by the law as a thousand transgressions: and the whole must be perpetual; continuance in all these things to do them being the unalterable prescription. The longest course of obedience, once interrupted, ceases directly to be a legal righteousness. The curse enters the moment that sin enters. A life of a thousand years, spent like an angel of God, would, according to the covenant of works, lose all its reward, if but in the dying moments a vain thought or an idle word escaped us. The law is inexorable: "The man that doth those things, he and he only shall live by them." (Rom.x.5.) It makes no provision for failure: "The wages of sin, of every sin, is death." (Rom. vi. 23.) Now" if there had been a law which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by this law. (Ğal. iii. 21.) Such obedience as this would have given a legal claim to life: we should have stood before God "righteous, as he is righteous." The favour of God, not by grace but by right, would have been necessarily connected with this: God must have been delighted with his own image. But,
III. No man hath ever thus conformed to the rule of duty. "The scripture hath concluded all under sin." The law could not be fulfilled through the weakness of the flesh: "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."” (Rom. iii. 23. ) The moment any person truly begins to consider his state, and to bring forth his heart and life before the law of this holy Lord God, conviction must seal up his lips in silence. Many indeed there are, whose ignorance and unhumbled pride lead them to claim the reward of obedience: and many more hope to deserve it before they die,