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all men may easily know, as the apostle declares, Rom. vi. 16.
T'he third inquiry handled, viz. What is the assurance given us, and what
are the grounds thereof, that sin shall not have dominion over us? The ground of this assurance is, that we are not under the law but grace.
The force of this reason shewed, viz. How the law doth not destroy the dominion of sin, and how grace dethrones sin and gives dominion
And thus much hath been spoken unto the second thing proposed at the entrance of this discourse; namely, an inquiry, Whether sin have the dominion in any of us or no? I proceed unto that which offers itself from the words in the third place; What is the assurance given us, and what are the grounds of it, that sin shall not have dominion over us? which lies in this, that we are not under the law, but under grace.'
Where men are engaged in a constant conflict against sin; where they look upon it and judge it their chiefest enemy, which contends with them for their souls, and their eternal ruin ; where they have experience of its power and deceit, and through the efficacy of them have been often shaken in their peace and comfort; where they have been ready to despond, and say, they shall one day perish under their powers : it is a gospel word, a word of good tidings that gives them assurance, that it shall never have dominion over them.
The ground of this assurance is, that believers are not under the law, but under grace. And the force of this reason we may manifest in some few instances.
First, The law giveth no strength against sin unto them that are under it; but
doth. Sin will neither be cast nor kept out of its throne, but by a spiritual power and strength in the soul to oppose, conquer, and dethrone it. Where it is not conquered it will reign; and conquered it will not be, without a mighty prevailing power : this the law will not, cannot give.
The law is taken two ways. 1. For the whole revelaneed that so it should do. It was not the ordinance of God to administer new or more grace unto man, but to rule and govern him according to what he had perceived. And this it continueth to do for ever. It claims
tion of the mind and will of God in the Old Testament. In this sense it had grace in it, and so did give both life, and light, and strength against sin, as the psalmist declares, Psal. xix. 7-9. In that sense it contained not only the law of precepts, but the promise also, and the covenant which was the means of conveying spiritual life and strength unto the church ; in this sense it is not here spoken of; nor is any where opposed unto grace. 2. For the covenant rule of perfect obedience ; .Do this and live.' In this sense men are said to be under it in opposition unto being under grace. They are under its power, rule, conditions, and authority, as a covenant ; and in this sense all men are under it, who are not instated in the new covenant through faith in Christ Jesus, who sets up in them and over them the rule of grace. For all men must be one way or other under the rule of God; and he rules only by the law, or by grace: and none can be under both at the same time.
In this sense the law was never ordained of God, to convey grace or spiritual strength unto the souls of men: had it been so, the promise and the gospel had been needless. • If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law ;' Gal. iii. 21. If it could have given life or strength, it would have produced righteousness; we should have been justified by it. It discovers sin and condemns it, but gives no strength to oppose it. It is not God's ordinance for the dethroning of sin, nor for the destruction of its dominion.
This law falls under a double consideration ; but in neither of them was designed to give power or strength against sin.
1. As it was given unto mankind in the state of innocency. And it did then absolutely and exactly declare the whole duty of man, whatever God in his wisdom and holiness did require of us. It was God's ruling of man according to the principle of the righteousness wherein he was created. But it gave no new aids against sin; nor was there any
and continues a rule over all men, according to what they had, and what they have. But it never had power to bar the entrance of sin, or to cast it out when it is once enthroned.
2. As it was renewed and enjoined unto the church of Israel on Mount Sinai, and with them unto all that would join themselves unto the Lord out of the nations of the world. Yet neither was it then, nor as such, designed unto any such end, as to destroy or dethrone sin, by an administration of spiritual strength and grace. It had some new ends given then unto it, which it had not in its original constitution. The principal whereof was to drive men to the promise and Christ therein. And this it doth by all the acts and powers of it on the souls of men. As it discovers sin, as it irritates and provokes it by its severity, as it judgeth and condemneth it, as it denounceth a curse on sinners, it drives unto this end. For this was added of grace in the renovation of it; this new end was given unto it; in itself it hath nothing to do with sinners, but to judge, curse, and condemn them.
There is therefore no help to be expected against the dominion of sin from the law. It was never ordained of God unto that end ; nor doth it contain, nor is it communicative of the grace necessary unto that end, Rom. viii. 3.
Wherefore, those who are under the law, are under the dominion of sin. The law is holy, but it cannot make them holy who have made themselves unholy: it is just, but it cannot make them so; it cannot justify them whom it doth condemn: it is good, but can do them no good, as unto their deliverance from the power of sin ; God hath not appointed it unto that end. Sin will never be dethroned by it; it will not give place unto the law; neither in its title, nor its power.
Those who are under the law, will at some seasons endeavour to shake off the yoke of sin, and resolve to be no longer under its power. As,
1. When the law presseth on their consciences, perplexing and disquieting of them. The commandment comes home unto them, sin reviveth, and they die, Rom. vii. 9, 10. That is, it gives power to sin to slay the hopes of the sinner, and to distress him with the apprehension of guilt and death. For 'the strength of sin is the law,' 1 Cor. xy.56. The power it hath to disquiet and condemn sinners, is in and by the law. When it is thus with sinners, when the law presseth them with a sense of the guilt of sin, and deprives them of all rest and peace in their minds; they will resolve to cast off the yoke of sin, to relinquish its service, that they may be freed from the urgency of the law on their consciences. And they will endeavour it in some instances of duty, and abstinence from sin,
2. They will do the same under surprisals with sickness, pain, dangers, or death itself. Then they will cry, and pray, and promise to reform, and set about it as they suppose, in good earnest. This case is fully exemplified, Psal. lxxviii. 33–37. And it is manifest in daily experience amongst multitudes. There are few who are so seared and profligate, but at such seasons they will think of returning to God, of relinquishing the service of sin, and vindicating themselves from under its dominion. And in some it worketh a lasting change, though no real conversion doth ensue. But with the most, this 'goodness is as the morning cloud, and as the early dew, so passeth it away.'
3. The same effect is produced in many by the preaching of the word. Some arrow of conviction is fastened in their minds, whéreon their former ways displease them; and they judge it is better for them to change the course of their lives, and to relinquish the service of sin : these resolutions for the most part abide with them, according to the society which they have or fall into. Good society may much help them in their resolves for a time; when by that which is evil and corrupt they are presently extinguished.
4. Sometimes merciful endearing providences will have the same effect on the minds of men, not obdurate in sin. Such are deliverances from imminent dangers, sparing the lives of near relations and the like.
In such seasons men under the law will attend unto their convictions, and endeavour for awhile to shake off the yoke of sin. They will attend unto what the law saith, under whose power they are, and endeavour a compliance therewith ; many duties shall be performed, and many evils abstained from, in order to the quitting themselves of sin's dominion. But alas! the law cannot enable them hereunto;
it cannot give them life and strength to go through with what their convictions press them unto; therefore, after awhile, they begin to faint and wax weary in their progress, and at length give quite over. It may be they may break off from some great sins in particular; but shake off the whole dominion of sin they cannot.
It is otherwise with them that are under shall not have dominion over them ; strength shall be administered unto them to dethrone it.
Grace is a word of various acceptations in the Scripture. As we are here said to be under it, and as it is opposed unto the law, it is used or taken for the gospel, as it is the instrument of God for the communication of himself, and his grace by Jesus Christ unto those that do believe, with that state of acceptation with himself, which they are brought into thereby, Rom. v. 1, 2. Wherefore, to be under grace is to have an interest in the gospel covenant and state, with a right unto all the privileges and benefits thereof, to be brought under the administration of grace by Jesus Christ, to be a true believer.
But the inquiry hereon is, how it follows from hence, that sin shall not have dominion over us; that sin cannot extend its territories and rule into that state; and in what sense this is affirmed.
1. Is it that there shall be no sin in them any more? Even this is true in some sense. Sin, as unto its condemning power, hath no place in this state, Rom. viii. 1. All the sins of them that believe are expiated or done away, as to the guilt of them in the blood of Christ, Heb. i. 2. 1 John i. 7. This branch of the dominion of sin, which consists in its condemning power, is utterly cast out of this state. But sin, as unto its being and operation doth still continue in believers, whilst they are in this world : they are all sensible of it. Those who deceive themselves with a contrary apprehension, are most of all under the power of it, 1 John i. 8. Wherefore, to be freed from the dominion of sin, is not to be freed absolutely from all sin; so as that it should in no sense abide in us any more. This is not to be under grace, but to be in glory
2. Is it that sin though it abides, yet it shall not fight nor contend for dominion in us? That this is otherwise