Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Consider now the general nature of a law. A law points Out certain duties to be performed ; promises protection, perhaps reward, to those who fulfil its demands; and denounces wrath and punishment against all who shall in any point be guilty of disobedience. It is thus that the law of God deals with mankind. It enjoins on men the performance of all those duties, which are necessary to constitute perfect holiness; duties, many of which are disclosed to every man by the light of conscience, and all of them are clearly stated in the law itself. It promises life to every person, who shall fully perform the whole of that holiness towards God, and towards man, which it exacts from all mankind. The man, it faith, that doeth them, shall live by them (I). But what if a man falls short in some particular? He loses the benefit of the promise; and must submit to the consequences of his transgression. Cursed, faith the scripture, Cursed is every one that continuetb not in all things -which are written in the book of the law to do them {m). The law of God requires perfect obedience. To perfect obedience it promises the reward of life. Against those who transgress in any point it denounces the punishment of eternal death. Sin is the trans*

(I) Gal. iii. 12. («) Gak iii, 10.

Vox.. I. D gresfion

gre£io?i of the law: and the wages of fin is death(n). i Observe^ then the situation in which you, and I, and all men stand' by nature with respect to the law of God. He has placed before us a law of perfect holiness; and has commanded us to obey it. We have not only fallen short of perfect obedience; but have become in numberless respects miserable siqc ners, laden with iniquity, transgressing daily in thought, in word, and in deed. We have become thus sinful, not necessarily, but wilfully: not necessarily; for St. Paul .declares that even the Gentiles, who had not the written word of God in their hands, were altogether inexcusable for their transgressions, because they listened not to the law of God written in their consciences (o). We have become thus sinful wilfully : having possessed not only the light of conscience, but the book of God; having knowingly difbbeyed his law; having yielded with open eyes to the instigation of our depraved nature, and the artifices of our spiritual foe. We have failed', lamentably failed, as to that perfect obedience, to which alone the law promised the reward of life. We have continually committed, and are continually repeating, offences against the law; for

{a), i JohD, iii. 4 Roia. vi. 23. (0) Rom. i. 19—2;. 32

every one of which the law denounces the penalty of eternal death.

The law promised reward to perfect obedience: but it promised not pardon to transgression. Man, ever inclined to presumptuous murmuring against God, is ready to exclaim that the law was rigorous and cruel. Rigorous and cruel, because it did not hold forth pardon to those who should wilfully break it! Do human laws hold forth pardon to those who wilfully break them? Is it consistent with the nature of a law to hold forth pardon to transgressors? Would a law which promised pardon to those who should break it be likely to procure obedience? Would a wise legislator among men enact such a law ? Could you expect a wise and holy God to promulgate such a law? The law of God denounces vengeance against all who break it: and you and I and all men have broken it. If we entertain any hopes of pardon, we must look for it from some other quarter. We must look for it, if we look for it at all, from the undeserved mercy of the Legislator: but in the law itself, it is unreasonable and impossible to expect to sind forgiveness.

But you complain that a single transgression

mould entail the forfeiture of all the blessings

which might otherwise have been derived

D 2 under under the law! The fact with which you are dissatisfied is unquestionable: a single transgression entails a complete forfeiture. And how stands the fact in the case of human laws? He who transgresses against a single clause of a single act of parliament; is he not punished, and justly punished, for disobeying that clause, even though he may have punctually regarded every other clause of that particular statute, and every clause of every other statute? If death itself be the penalty denounced against all, who should violate that statute; is he not justly punished with death? Do you complain then, because God, in delivering for your observance his holy law, has adopted a principle, the equity of which, when adopted by the law of your country, you recognise every day? Do you complain, because God has established the divine law on that foundation, which the universal consent of mankind acknowledges as the only basis, on which any human law can efficaciously be rested? Whosoever Jhall keep the whole laivy and yet offend in one point, he is guilty ofall(p). Whosoever offends against any one precept of the divine law, offends against the whole law, of which that precept is a constituent part j and against the sovereignty of the Legits') James, ii. lo, '»i;'

lator. lator, who has enjoined the uniform observance of every part of his law: and deservedly forfeits all the blessings which were annexed only to the faithful observance of the whole. He who sins against any one branch of any one statute, sins against the whole legislative authority of his country, from which every statute derives its obligatory power. By despising that authority in any one of its injunctions, he proves himself devoid of the dispositions of a good subject: he loses all title to the protection of his country, and falls under the severity of her justice. And he who wilfully violates in any one instance the law of that Legislator, who, when he said, "Do not commit adultery," said also, " Do not kill;" who, when he commanded the observance of his law in one point, equally commanded the observance of it in all: sins against the supreme Majesty of Heaven; shews himself destitute of the temper of a true Christian; justly forfeits the favour, and incurs the vengeance of his God.

But you reply that, in some cases, if the unhappy man who, by offending against one honian law, has rendered himself obnoxious tOr punishment, shall have been assiduous ia bk;observance of . the rest of the laws of the land, he is discharged from punishment. .'«*!.- .'; D3 Dis

« AnteriorContinuar »