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By this means, their obedience to him becomes pure in its intention, and in its extent reaches to every commandment....a service, not from sons of the bond woman, but of the free....not paid for wages to a master, but from affection to a beloved father. Not as compelled by that awful threat, "Do this and live, offend and perish ;” but from a heart devoted to his service, and penetrated with a sense of his high and holy authority.
ON THE NECESSITY OF PREACHING THE LAW.
THIS doctrine of the redemption of the church from the curse of the law, through the death and righteousness of Christ, proves it is a great mistakes to suppose the law is not to be preached to Christians.
“ If any man speak, ought he not to speak as the oracles of God ?” But they insist on the special grand design of the law. They tell us it was given to make sin abound, and appear exceeding sinful....to shut up as prisoners all under sin, and thus render the news of salvation by the Lord, transporting to our hearts. The oracles of God do peremptorily assert, that the Holy Ghost, the giver of life, strength and comfort. to the soul, is received, “ not by the works of the law,” (the doctrine of acceptance with God, by personal obedience) “ but by the hearing of faith ;” of salvation through faith. They pronounce those to be in the way to perdition, who seek righteousness, as it were, by the works of the law, even though they have a zeal for God. They divide mankind, not only into moral and immoral, religious and profane, as philosophers and pharisees are wont to do, but into two classes unknown to either of them....those who are of the works of the law, and therefore cursed; and those who are of faith, and therefore blessed with faithful Abraham.
From these passages (and many of like import might be cited) you may see how fully the oracles of God treat of the law. What marvel then, if upon ceasing to preach the law, preaching loses its usefulness ! When the law is not explained, it is impossible that sermons, however moral, or seri. ous, should ever teach scriptural ideas of the evil of sin, or the nature of pure obedience to God; or of the necessity of redemption by Christ.
On the contrary, open the nature, use and design of the law, it will soon prove itself an engine of divine appointment, and admirable efficacy. By laying “judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet,” it sweeps away the refuge of lies, under which sinners, of every sort, take shelter. It brings all who hear what the law saith, into a salutary despair of ever escaping the wrath to come by personal obedience, and so makes the Horn of Salvation always appear the same necessary defence, and glorious blessing, which the scripture affirms he actually is.
Those who omit preaching the law, suppose themselves justified in doing so, by limiting what is said on this great subject, to the Jewish ceremonial law. A
A grosser mistake, ignorance itself scarcely ever made, though many great names have long pleaded in its behalf. For can you call the ceremonial law, the law written, and engraven on two tables of stone? Can you call it spiritual, or apply it to bring in the whole world guilty before God? Yet these are the specific qualities belonging to that law, of which the apostle treats. Or can you think, that when he says, “the law is good if a man use it lawfully," immediately naming the many immoral offenders which it condemns, that he had any respect at all to the ceremonial law?
I am not ignorant, that it is urged also by those eminent preachers, who never apply the law as the ministration of death, to the consciences of their hearers, that Christians are now under a milder dispensation, which requires sincere not sinless obedience. But in this assertion there is much fallacy. For by Christians must be meant either nominal, or real ones....if only nominal, they are under the law, seeking to enter into life by keeping the commandments, and depending upon their own obedience in conjunction with the merits of Christ, to save them. They are therefore of the works of the law. To rescue them from this delusion, the perfect standard of duty, with its sanction, must be set before them. They must be weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, and be convinced how much they are found wanting; and he who does this most faithfully, to destroy all their false confidence, will prove their kindest friend.
But if by christians under a milder dispensation than the law, are meant real ones, who in the nervous phrase of scripture, have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the “hope set before them ;” they are not only under a milder dispensation, but under grace itself.. Yet before they had access into that grace, wherein they now stand, they were every one of hem, with the great apostle, “slain by
the commandment,” or they would not have fled to Christ for refuge ; through the law they became dead to the law, and are the very persons who prove, to demonstration, both the necessity and success of applying it to the conscience.
The increasing desertion of our churches, beyond the example of former ages, is confessed, and is indeed alarming.* Should not then all those teachers, who from Sunday to Sunday see no increase of their hearers, or good effect of their instructions, change their doctrine? Should they not at least make the experiment, however strange it may appear, whether proving that all men are condemned for sin, without a possibi. lity of being ever accounted just before God, through their own virtue, will not be attend ed with better success? Whether rich and poor will not be more affected, by full proof that they are absolutely lost, unless the Horn of Salvation delivers them, than by leaving
* This desertion of our churches is imputed to the increase of Methodism, as it is called. But without cause, since it is most observable in places where there are no Methodist teachers. On the contrary, in every parish where the law is scripturally taught, both an increase in the number and attention of the hearers is evident beyond dispute.