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ROMANs, iii. 31.-Do we then make void the law through faith? God
forbid ; yea, we establish the law..
The sentiment that the obligations of the law are removed, or at least lowered by the gospel, is directly adapted to destroy the influence of truth and bring the Christian system into contempt. It would seem to be a dictate of common sense, that any overtures from God could never annihilate or lessen obligations on the part of men, which grow out of relations that in their nature are immutable. Indeed it is difficult to see how it would be just or right to release men from such obligations. But absurd and irrational as this sentiment is, there is no error more common. What numbers are resting in sin with apparent contentment in the hope of salvation suspended solely on the fact that Christ has died for sinners ? Either from an unwillingness to look at the subject seriously, or from an anxiety to obtain countenance in their sinful course, they embrace a sentiment which the apostle in these words rejects with indignation. To expose the absurdity of this sentiment is to guard sinners against one of the most fatal snares laid for their destruction. The consequences of a scheme that holds up the mercy of God at the expense of his other attributes cannot be otherwise than fearful. The text, viewed in its connexion, justifies the following doctrine :
SUCH AS EMBRACE THE GOSPEL WITH CORRECT VIEWS MUST BELIEVE IN THL UNCEASING OBLIGATIONS OF THE LAW.
I. This, as appears from the context, was evidently the fact with the apostle. In the 19th verse of the chapter containing the text he says, “ Now 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.” “ All the world” could not be guilty before God unless the obligations of the law were still in force. It is not only plain that the law of which the apostle is speaking in this passage is not the Jewish system of rites and ceremonies, as some suppose; but that its obligations will never cease, at least till the day of final retribution. In the conclu. sion to which he is brought at the close of the chapter, he is perfectly
explicit. It would seem that he had been accused, from the views whichi he had given of the atonement, of denying his obligations any longer to obey the law; and viewing it as designed to have directly the opposite effect, and feeling that he had sufficiently shown it by his reasoning, he replied to the accusation with spirit, “ God forbid ; yea, we establish the law.”
II. The truth of our doctrine will be manisest if we consider the nature of the law. The obligations of the law, like the relations out of which they grow, are in their nature imperishable. The relations which we sustain to God, such as that we are dependent on him for existence, will continue unimpaired by change or circumstances, and of course the obligations which grow out of them must be equally perpetual.
The principles imbodied in the law are those of universal equity and justice. In the opinion of some the law is arbitrary, and had no existence till it was proclaimed from Sinai. To such there appears no evidence of its equity only that it was given by a just God. But it will be seen, from the conduct it demands, to acknowledge and secure the rights of every being in the universe. The demand that we should love God with all the heart, and our neighbor as ourselves, admits the principle that every being is to be regarded according to his worth or importance in the scale of existence. Every command or prohibition proclaimed previous to the giving of the decalogue involved the same principle as the law. The substance of all the other revelations concerning the duty of man are imbodied in the law in the briefest form. The scenes which were witnessed on Mount Sinai were well calculated to show the holiness and importance of these principles; and the fact that they were engraven upon stone seems equally fitted to indicate their durability.
These principles need only to be obeyed to produce universal peace and hurmony. All occasions for contention would be for ever prevented. There is nothing in these principles that is local, or that has any peculiar adaptation to this world. If the planets are inhabited, their population must sustain the same relation to their Creator as ourselves; and conformity to these principles will produce results as important for them as for us.
The law is such as to exhibit much of the character of God. Men who are at the head of earthly governments are sometimes compelled to announce laws with which themselves are not pleased. They are under the necessity of doing this frequently in order to be popular, and sometimes when they are monarchs only in name and not in authority. But the great Jehovah needs no power but his own to maintain his government. Infinitely above every thing like human policy, his laws are the free and unrestrained expression of his will. We see in the equity and justice of these principles the moral character of his heart. They give us also a perfect standard by which we may determine the character of our own. It takes notice of the feelings, and of every thing sustaining moral character. Other laws can have reference only to the external conduct, for this plain reason, that those who make them know nothing of the heart only as it is seen in the external conduct; but the law of God extends its demands to the heart, and is of itself evidence that he is acquainted with all its feelings and desires. We may cherish designs the most iniquitous, unknown to our fellow-creatures, and unregarded by human laws; but however secret the workings of the heart may be, they are all known to God, and approved or condemned by his law.