SANCTIFICATION BY FAITH.
Do are then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea,we establish the law. Romans 3:31.
The apostle had been proving that all mankind, both Jews andGentiles, were in their sins, and refuting the doctrine so generallyentertained by the Jews, that they were a holy people and savedby their works. He showed that justification can never be by works,but by faith. He then anticipates an objection like this, "Arewe to understand you as teaching that the law of God is abrogatedand set aside by this plan of justification?" "By nomeans," says the apostle, "we rather establish the law."In treating of this subject, I design to pursue the followingorder:
I. Show that the gospel method of justification does not setaside or repeal the law. II. That it rather establishes the law,by producing true obedience to it, and as the only means thatdoes this.
The greatest objection to the doctrine of Justification byFaith has always been, that it is inconsistent with good morals,conniving at sin, and opening the flood-gates of iniquity. Ithas been said, that to maintain that men are not to depend ontheir own good behavior for salvation, but; are to be saved byfaith in another, is calculated to make men regardless of goodmorals, and to encourage them to live in sin, depending on Christto justify them. By others, it has been maintained that the gospeldoes in fact release from obligation to obey the moral law, sothat a more lax morality is permitted under the gospel than wasallowed under the law.
I. I am to show that the gospel method of justifications doesnot set aside the moral law.
1. It cannot be that this method of justification sets asidethe moral law, because the gospel everywhere enforces obedienceto the law, and lays down the same standard of holiness.
Jesus Christ adopted the very words of the moral law, "Thoushalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thysoul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thyneighbor as thyself."
2. The conditions of the gospel are designed to sustain themoral law.
The gospel requires repentance as the condition of salvation.What is repentance? The renunciation of sin. The man must repentof his breaches of the law of God, and return to obedience tothe law. This is tantamount to a requirement of obedience.
3. The gospel maintains that the law is right.
If it did not maintain the law to its full extent, it mightbe said that Christ is the minister of sin.
4. By the gospel plan, the sanctions of the gospel are addedto the sanctions of the law, to enforce obedience to the law.
The apostle says, "He that despised Moses' law, died withoutmercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment,suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant,wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despiteunto the spirit of grace?"
Thus adding the awful sanctions of the gospel to those of thelaw, to enforce obedience to the precepts of the law.
II. I am to show that the doctrine of justification by faithproduces sanctification, by producing the only true obedienceto the law.
By this I mean, that when the mind understands this plan, andexercises faith in it, it naturally produces sanctification. Sanctificationis holiness, and holiness is nothing but obedience to the law,consisting in love to God and love to man.
In support of the proposition that justification by faith producestrue obedience to the law of God, my first position is, that sanctificationnever can be produced among selfish or wicked beings, by the lawitself, separate from the considerations of the gospel, or themotives connected with justification by faith.
The motives of the law did not restrain those beings from committingsin, and it is absurd to suppose the same motives can "reclaim"them from sin, when they have fallen under the power of selfishness,and when sin is a confirmed habit. The motives of the law losea part of their influence, when a being is once fallen. They evenexert an opposite influence. The motives of the law, as viewedby a selfish mind, have a tendency to cause sin to abound. Thisis the experience of every sinner. When he sees the spiritualityof the law, and does not see the incentives of the gospel, itraises the pride of his heart, and hardens him in his rebellion.The case of the devil is an exhibition of what the law can do,with all its principles and sanctions, upon a wicked heart. Heunderstands the law, sees its reasonableness, has experiencedthe blessedness of obedience, and knows full well that to returnto obedience would restore his peace of mind. This he knows betterthan any sinner of our race, who never was holy, can know it,and yet it presents to his mind no such motives as reclaim him,but on the contrary, drive him to a returnless distance from obedience.
When obedience to the law is held forth to the sinner as thecondition of life, immediately it sets him upon making self-righteousefforts. In almost every instance, the first effort of the awakenedsinner is to obey the law. He thinks he must first make himselfbetter, in some way, before he may embrace the gospel. He hasno idea of the simplicity of the gospel plan of salvation by faith,offering eternal life as a mere gratuitous gift. Alarm the sinnerwith the penalty of the law, and he naturally, and by the verylaws of his mind, sets himself to do better, to amend his life,and in some self-righteous manner obtain eternal life, under theinfluence of slavish fear. And the more the law presses him, thegreater are his pharisaical efforts, while hope is left to him,that if he obeys he may be accepted. What else could you expectof him? He is purely selfish, and though he ought to submit atonce to God, yet, as he does not understand the gospel terms ofsalvation, and his mind is of course first turned to the objectof getting away from the danger of the penalty, he tries to getup to heaven some other way. I do not believe there is an instancein history, of a man who has submitted to God, until he has seenthat salvation must be by faith, and that his own self-righteousstrivings have no tendency to save him.
Again; if you undertake to produce holiness by legal motives,the very fear of failure has the effect to divert attention fromthe objects of love, from God and Christ. The sinner is all thewhile compassing Mount Sinai, and taking heed to his footsteps,to see how near he comes to obedience; and how can he get intothe spirit of heaven?
Again; the penalty of the law has no tendency to produce lovein the first instance. It may increase love in those who alreadyhave it, when they contemplate it as an exhibition of God's infiniteholiness. The angels in heaven, and good men on earth, contemplateits propriety and fitness, and see in it the expression of thegood will of God to his creatures, and it appears amiable andlovely, and increases their delight in God and their confidencetoward him. But it is right the reverse with the selfish man.He sees the penalty hanging over his own head, and no way of escape,and it is not in mind to become enamored with the Being that holdsthe thunderbolt over his devoted head. From the nature of mind,he will flee from him, not to him. It seems never to have beendreamed of, by the inspired writers, that the law could sanctifymen. The law is given rather to slay than to make alive, to cutoff men's self-righteous hopes for ever, and compel them to fleeto Christ.
Again; Sinners, under the naked law, and irrespective of thegospel I say, sinners, naturally and necessarily, and of right,under such circumstances, view God as an irreconcilable enemy.They are wholly selfish; and apart from the considerations ofthe gospel, they view God just as the devil views him. No motivein the law can be exhibited to a selfish mind that will begetlove. Can the influence of penalty do it?
A strange plan of reformation this, to send men to hell toreform them! Let them go on in sin and rebellion to the end oflife, and then be punished until he becomes holy. I wonder thedevil has not become holy! He has suffered long enough, he hasbeen in hell these thousands of years, and he is no better thanhe was. The reason is, there is no gospel there, and no Holy Spiritto apply the truth, and the penalty only confirms his rebellion.
Again: The doctrine of justification can relieve these difficulties.It can produce, and has produced, real obedience to the preceptof the law. Justification by faith does not set aside the lawas a rule of duty, but only sets aside the penalty of the law.And the preaching of justification as a mere gratuity, bestowedon the simple act of faith, is the only way in which obedienceto the law is ever brought about. This I shall now show from thefollowing considerations:
1. It relieves the mind from the pressure of those considerationsthat naturally tend to confirm selfishness.
While the mind is looking only at the law, it only feels theinfluence of hope and fear, perpetuating purely selfish efforts.But justification by faith annihilates this spirit of bondage.The apostle says, "We have not received the spirit of bondageagain to fear." This plan of salvation begets love and gratitudeto God, and leads the souls to taste the sweets of holiness.
2. It relieves the mind also from the necessity of making itsown salvation its supreme object.
The believer in the gospel plan of salvation finds salvation,full and complete, including both sanctification and eternal life,already prepared; and instead of being driven to the life of aPharisee in religion, of laborious and exhausting effort, he receivesit as a free gift, a mere gratuity, and is now left free to exercisedisinterested benevolence, and to live and labor for the salvationof others, leaving his own soul unreservedly to Christ.
3. The fact that God has provided and given him salvation asa gratuity, is calculated to awaken in the believer a concernfor others, when he sees them dying for the want of this salvation,that they may be brought to the knowledge of the truth and besaved. How far from every selfish motive are those influences.It exhibits God, not as the law exhibits him, as an irreconcilableenemy, but as a grieved and offended Father, willing to be reconciled,nay, very desirous that his subjects should become reconciled,to him and live.
This is calculated to beget love. It exhibits God as makingthe greatest sacrifice to reconcile sinners to himself; and fromno other motive than a pure and disinterested regard to theirhappiness. Try this in your own family. The law represents Godas armed with wrath, and determined to punish the sinner, withouthope or help. The gospel represents him as offended, indeed, butyet so anxious they should return to him, that he has made thegreatest conceivable sacrifices, out of pure disinterested loveto his wandering children.
I once heard a father say, that he had tried in his familyto imitate the government of God, and when his child did wronghe reasoned with him and showed him his faults; and when he wasfully convinced and confounded and condemned, so that he had nota word to say, then the father asked him, Do you deserve to bepunished? Yes, sir. I know it, and now if I were to let you go,what influence would it have over the other children? Rather thando that, I will take the punishment myself. So he laid the feruleon himself, and it had the most astonishing effect on the mindof the child. He had never tried anything so perfectly subduingto the mind as this. And from the laws of mind, it must be so.If affects the mind in a manner entirely different from the nakedlaw.
4. It brings the mind under an entire new set of influences,and leaves it free to weigh the reasons for holiness, and decideaccordingly.
Under the law, none but motives of hope and fear can operateon the sinner's mind. But under the gospel, the influence of hopeand fear are set aside, and a new set of considerations presented,with a view of God's entire character, in all the attractionshe can command. It gives the most heart-breaking, sin-subduingviews of God. It presents him to the senses in human nature. Itexhibits his disinterestedness. The way Satan prevailed againstour first parents was by leading them to doubt God's disinterestedness.The gospel demonstrates the truth, and corrects this lie.
The law represents God as the inexorable enemy of the sinner,as securing happiness to all who perfectly obey, but thunderingdown wrath on all who disobey. The gospel reveals new featuresin God's character, not known before. Doubtless the gospel increasesthe love of all holy beings, and gives greater joy to the angelsin heaven, greatly increasing their love, and confidence, andadmiration, when they see God's amazing pity and forbearance towardsthe guilty. The law drove the devils to hell, and it drove Adamand Eve from Paradise. But when the blessed spirits see the sameholy God waiting on rebels, nay opening his own bosom, and givinghis beloved Son for them, and taking such unwearied pains forthousands of years to save sinners, do you think it has no influencein strengthening the motives in their minds to obedience and love?
The devil, who is a purely selfish being, is always accusingothers of being selfish. He accused Job of this: "Doth Jobfear God for naught?" He accused God to our first parents,of being selfish, and that the only reason for his forbiddingthem to eat of the tree of knowledge was the fear that they mightcome to know as much as himself. The gospel shows what God is.If he were selfish, he would not take such pains to save thosewhom he might, with perfect ease, crush to hell. Nothing is socalculated to make selfish persons ashamed of their selfishness,as to see disinterested benevolence in others. Hence the wickedare always trying to appear disinterested. Let the selfish individualwho has any heart, see true benevolence in others, and it is likecoals of fire on his head. The wise men understood this, whenhe said, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst,give him drink; for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fireon his head." Nothing is so calculated to cut down an enemy,and win him over, and make him a friend.
This is what the gospel does to sinners. It shows that notwithstandingall that they have done to God, God still exercises towardthemdisinterested love. When he sees God stooping from heaven to savehim, and understands that it is indeed true, oh, how it meltsand breaks down the heart, strikes a death-blow to selfishness,and wins him over to unbounded confidence and holy love. God hasso constituted the mind, that it must necessarily do homage tovirtue. It must do this, as long as it retains the powers of moralagency. This is as true in hell as in heaven. The devil feelsthis. When an individual sees that God has no interested motivesto condemn him, when he sees that God offers salvation as a meregratuity, through faith, he cannot but feel admiration of God'sbenevolence. His selfishness is crushed, the law has done itswork, he sees that all his selfish endeavors have done no good;and the next step is for his heart to go out in disinterestedlove.
Suppose a man was under sentence of death for rebel lion, andhad tried many expedients to recommend himself to the government,but failed, because they were all hollow hearted and selfish.He sees that the government understands his motives, and thathe is not really reconciled. He knows himself that they were allhypocritical and selfish, moved by the hope of favor or the fearof wrath, and that the government is more and more incensed athis hypocrisy. Just now let a paper be brought to him from thegovernment, offering him a free pardon on the simple conditionthat he would receive it as mere gratuity, making no account ofhis own works what influence will it have on his mind? The momenthe finds the penalty set aside, and that he has no need to goto work by any self-righteous efforts, his mind is filled withadmiration. Now, let it appear that the government has made thegreatest sacrifices to procure this; his selfishness is slain,and he melts down like a child at his sovereign's feet, readyto obey the law because he loves his sovereign.
5. All true obedience turns on faith. It secures all the requisiteinfluences to produce sanctification. It gives the doctrines ofeternity access to the mind and a hold on the heart. In this worldthe motives of time are addressed to the senses. The motives thatinfluence the spirits of the just in heaven do not reach us throughthe senses. But when faith is exercised, the wall is broken down,and the vast realities of eternity act on the mind here with thesame kind of influence that they have in eternity. Mind is mind,every where. And were it not for the darkness of unbelief, menwould live here just as they do in the eternal world. Sinnershere would rage and blaspheme, just as they do in hell; and saintswould love and obey and praise, just as they do in heaven. Now,faith makes all these things realities, it swings the mind loosefrom the clogs of the world, and he beholds God, and apprehendshis law and his love. In no other way can these motives take holdon the mind. What a mighty action must it have on the mind, whenit takes hold of the love of Christ! What a life-giving power,when the pure motives of the gospel crowd into the mind and stirit up with energy divine! Every Christian knows, that in proportionto the strength of his faith, his mind is buoyant and active,and when his faiths flags, his soul is dark and listless. It isfaith alone that places the things of time and eternity in theirtrue comparison, and sets down the things of time and sense attheir real value. It breaks up the delusions of the mind, thesoul shakes itself from its errors and clogs, and it rises upin communion with God.
I. It is as unphilosophical as it is unscriptural to attemptto convert and sanctify the minds of sinners without the motivesof the gospel.
You may press the sinner with the law, and make him see hisown character, the greatness and justice of God, and his ruinedcondition. But hide the motives of the gospel from his mind, andit is all in vain. II. It is absurd to think that the offers ofthe gospel are calculated to beget a selfish hope.
Some are afraid to throw out upon the sinner's mind all thecharacter of God; and they try to make him submit to God, by castinghim down in despair. This is not only against the gospel, butit is absurd in itself. It is absurd to think that, in order todestroy the selfishness of a sinner, you must hide from him theknowledge of how much God loves and pities him, and how greatsacrifices he has made to save him.
III. So far is it from being true that sinners are in dangerof getting false hopes if they are allowed to know the real compassionof God, while you hide this, it is impossible to give him anyother than a false hope. Withholding from the sinner who is writhingunder conviction, the fact that God has provided salvation asa mere gratuity, is the very way to confirm his selfishness; andif he gets any hope, it must be a false one. To press him to submissionby the law alone, is to set him to build a self-righteous foundation.
IV. So far as we can see, salvation by grace, not bestowedin any degree for our own works, is the only possible way of reclaimingselfish beings.
Suppose salvation was not altogether gratuitous, but that somedegree of good works was taken into the account, and for thosegood works in part we were justified just so far as this considerationis in the mind, just so far there is a stimulus to selfishness.You must bring the sinner to see that he is entirely dependenton free grace, and that a full and complete justification is bestowed,on the first act of faith, as a mere gratuity, and no part ofit as an equivalent for any thing he is to do. This alone dissolvesthe influence of selfishness, and secures holy action.
V. If all this is true, sinners should be put in the fullestpossible possession, and in the speediest manner, of the wholeplan of salvation.
They should be made to see the law, and their own guilt, andthat they have no way to save themselves; and then, the more fullythe whole length and breadth, and height, and depth of the loveof God should be opened, the more effectually will you crush hisselfishness, and subdue his soul in love to God. Do not be afraid,in conversing with sinners, to show the whole plan of salvation,and give the fullest possible exhibition of the infinite compassionof God. Show him that, notwithstanding his guilt, the Son of Godis knocking at the door and beseeching him to be reconciled toGod.
VI. You see why so many convicted sinners continue so longcompassing Mount Sinai, with self-righteous efforts to save themselvesby their own works.
How often you find sinners trying to get more feeling, or waitingtill they have made more prayers and made greater efforts, andexpectingto recommend themselves to God in this way. Why is all this? Thesinner needs to be driven off from this, and made to see thathe is all the while looking for salvation under the law. He mustbe made to see that all this is superseded by the gospel offeringhim all he wants as a mere gratuity. He must hear Jesus saying,"Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life:
O, no, you are willing to pray, and go to meeting, and readthe Bible, or anything, but come unto me. Sinner, this is theroad; I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comethto the Father but by me. I am the resurrection and the life. Iam the light of the world. Here, sinner, is what you want.
Instead of trying your self-righteous prayers and efforts,here is what you are looking for, only believe and you shall besaved."
VII. You see why so many professors of religion are alwaysin the dark.
They are looking at their sins, confining their observationsto themselves, and losing sight of the fact, that there have onlyto take right hold of Jesus Christ, and throw themselves uponhim, and all is well.
VIII. The law is useful to convict men; but, as a matter offact, it never breaks the heart. The Gospel alone does that. Thedegree in which a convert is broken hearted, is in proportionto the degree of clearness with which he apprehends the gospel.
IX. Converts, if you call them so, who entertain a hope underlegal preaching, may have an intellectual approbation of the law,and a sort of dry zeal, but never make mellow, broken heartedChristians. If they have not seen God in the attitude in whichhe is exhibited in the gospel, they are not such Christians asyou will see sometimes, with the tear trembling in their eye,and their frames shaking with emotion, at the name of Jesus.
X. Sinners under conviction, and professors in darkness, mustbe led right to Christ, and made to take hold of the plan of salvationby faith. You cannot do them good in any other way.
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