THE ATURE AD CODEMATIO OF SI.

BY REV. CHARLES P. McILVAIE,
1 John iii. 4.
" Sin is the transgression of the law."
The essential foundation of all right appreciation of the
Gospel of our salvation, is a right view of that from
which it is our deliverance ^5m; its nature, its evil,
its condemnation. To think of understanding what
Christ has done to save us, without first learning what
sin has done to ruin us; to think of estimating aright the
exceeding preciousness of the redemption, before our
eyes have been opened to see the cntireness of our con-
demnation, is the sure way to come short in all our hopes
of the grace of God, as revealed in the person and offices
of Jesus Christ,
We propose, at this time, a consideration of sin, as the
basis of the knowledge of the Saviour. To ears listening
for such attractions of discourse as are independent of the
vital seriousness of the subject, we can promise but little.
To hearers who hear for spiritual profit, and whose interest
is proportioned to the importance of the subject, we could
not propose one more calculated to fasten their closest at--
tention. May the Spirit of the Lord be our guide, teaching
me so to speak, and you so to hear, that all of us may
THE ATUBE AD CODEMATIO OF BI. 125
be accounted before God as good stewards of the manifold
riches of his grace.
1. What is sin? The text answers in one of the
plainest and most concise statements that words could
furnish — ^' Sin is the transgression of the law^ Suppose
you were inquiring concerning sin in general — ^not merely
against Ood^ but against any human government — ^the
same answer serves universally. Sin or crime, any where,
before any tribunal, is neither more nor less than the
transgression of the law. As law is the only measure of
obedience, its transgression is the only measure of disobe-
dience. As its fulfilment is innocence, its violation is
guilt. If there be no law, there can be no transgression,
and consequently no sin. By the law, therefore, is the
only knowledge of sin. othing else but law can be
admitted to take part in the determination of what is sin.
These elementary truths are equally applicable to all laws,
human and divine.
Returning then to the nature of sin against God, as
defined to be the transgression of God's law, you will see
at once that all depends on what that law is. Here we
have no diflficulfy. The plain answer is, the revealed will
of God. If he hath not made known to us his will — if
he hath not written it, either on the tables of our con-
science, or in his visible works, or in his scriptures, so that
if we will, we may know it, it is not law for us. But if
he have so revealed it, then, though by our negligence and
indifierence we may be ignorant of it, it is law for us, and
sin is its transgression.
It matters not how the will of God is made known to
us — ^whether by the voice of natural conscience or by the
126
8EBM0 VI.
written word — ^whether in the brief compendium called
the ten commandments, or as they are expanded and ap-
plied in any precept of the scriptures — ^whether you find
it formally declared, or only informally indicated —
whether the thunders of Sinai or the mercies of Calvary
be our teachers — a chapter of Moses or a sermon of Je-
sus: whatever, in any way, we learn, or may learn, to be
God^s will for us, that is the law. Thus, a promise of the
Gospel is law, because it essentially implies the duty of
embracing it. Thus all the love of God in Christ is the
giving of his law, because it publishes and seeks to write
on our hearts the obligation of love, and gratitude, and
obedience, in return. Thus, in an important sense, the
Gospel is all law, and the very strongest publication of
the law ; because not only does it confirm and establish
it, but declares it under additional sanctions ; makes its
violation the more guilty, and enlarges our knowledge of
the divine will in all things. The injunction to believe in
the Lord Jesus Christ is law, and the exhortation to re-
pent is law, and to embrace every promise made to
penitent sinners in Christ, and to set our hearts upon the
blessedness of his kingdom — all this is as truly God's law
to us, as the ten commandments of Sinai.
2. ^^The law of God is perfeety It extends to the
whole of man; it leaves no part of him, no faculty of body
or mind, no thought, no affection, no deed, no moment, un-
embraced. Human laws are necessarily exceedingly im-
perfect; they must leave out the government of the whole
inner man, and all the secret springs of man. But God
looks upon the heart, and therefore legislates for the
heart; and as the fountains out of which are the issues
THE ATURE AD CODEMATIO OF SI. 127
of life dwell there, it is there, where no other law can
reach, that his will is heard in its most solemn and
searching requirements. God's law is perfect; nothing
in us or by us is too minute or secret to escape its pro-
visions. These truths are elementary and self-evident.
To suppose that there is any thing in us to which his law
does not extend, is to suppose that man, in something, is
not under God's government; in other words, is indepen-
dent of the will of his Maker.
3. Another self-evident truth: God's law requires
of all a p&rfecl obedience. What else can it require?
Was there ever a law of any sort that did not require the
same? To say that a law requires but a partial obedi-
ence, is to say that only part of it is really law. In that
part in which it does not require perfect obedience, or in
that degree in which disobedience may be tolerated, it
may be advice, but it cannot be law. To say that God
does not require us to come up to the fullness of a certain
commandment, is to say that in its fullness it is not his
commandment. Whatever is law, must by its nature re-
quire complete obedience. Its transgression must be
sin.
Here, then, the question comes again, What is sin?
We are prepared with the answer, because we have ascer-
tained the law. Whatever falls short of, whatever trans-
gresses, in outward deed, or inward thought, or affection,
any, the least part of that will or law of God, from the
earliest moment of your accountableness to the latest, is
sin. What! replies some hearer, am I marked in God's
remembrance, with such awful strictness ? Can I fail in
nothing, in not even a thought, or a moment of perfect
128 SERMO VI.
fulfilment, but it is sin; and sin to be brought into judg-
ment ? You can answer for yourself if you will repeat
the necessary definition of sin — " the transgression of the
lawJ*^ Is it not the same under all governments ? Can
you come short in any thing of the law of this land,
without being guilty before it ? The government may be
too imperfect to take cognizance of your guilt, but that
does not make you the less guilty. It may be able to
prove nothing against you, because its eye is not in everj^
place beholding the evil and the good; but your guilt is
all the same. And now let us advance one step further.
There is a passage in St. James' Epistle which reads
thus: "Whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet oflFend
in one point, he is guilty of all."* It sounds unrea-
sonable, but we will show you that it is nothing peculiar
to the divine law. The meaning is, that every single sin is
the hrealcing of the whole law. The mind of James was
probably led to the utterance of this principle, by one of
those traditionary notions whereby the Jews, in his day,
made void the law.
The Scribes taught that by the strict observance of
some one requirement of the law, a man would secure the
favor of God, though he neglected all others. The
Pharisees, therefore, used to select some prominent duty,
such as the keeping of the Sabbath day, or paying the
tenth ; and then, with whatever their traditions added to
them, be exceedingly scrupulous and exact in those par-
ticulars, however negligent in every thing else. The idea
was that of compensation. It was imagined that by a
measure of strictness not required, they would make up
•James, ii. 10.
THE ATUBB AD CODEMATIO OF SI. 129
for, in any one point, the neglect of what was required in
other points. This singular notion, we apprehend, has a
wider habitation than the minds of the Jewish Phari-
sees. It is a form of self-righteous delusion, which,
however unreasonable, has been the hope of thousands
who have enjoyed the light of the Gospel. What else is
the idea practically so prevalent, and that comforts so
many, now-a-days, that if you do well in one line of duty,
you will not be condemned if you neglect another; if
you attend to one table of the law, you may be at ease
though the other have been forgotten; if you have led a
moral life it will answer, though you have not led a reli-
gious life — good works towards man will suffice, though
you have been habitually disobedient towards God. It
was this idea of compensation, as if we could ever compen-
sate for disobedience to God, that gave rise to all that
system of will-worship, the divers fastings and vain repe-
titions of prayers, and minute scrupulousness in certain
self-imposed outward forms, or penances, while the whole
spirit of true obedience was wanting, on which the Saviour
so often and so solemnly pronounced those words — ^^wo
unto ffouy ScriheSy PhariseeSy Hypocrites.^^ Exactly the
same, though in a Christian dress, is that which in the
Romish Church, under the traditions of Popery, making
equally void the Gospel, produces corresponding fruits
among nominal Christians. The man who cannot be
persuaded to eat meat on Friday, can easily profane the
name of God every day and be comforted. Be very
exact in keeping certain days, repeating certain prayers,
and doing certain penances, and visiting certain shrines,
and attending mass, and confessing to a priest, and all
will be well.
9
130 BERMO VI.
Against all this, whatever shape it may assume, accord-
ing as it may appear among Jews, or Romanists, or Pro-
testants, (for the human heart will produce it in some
shape among all,) stands the declaration of St. James,
"whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet oiFend in one
point, is guilty of all." The meaning is not, that to
violate any one precept of the law, is to violate every
precept, or is as guilty as if every other were violated.
Certainly the commission of one sin cannot necessarily
involve the commission, or the guilt, of all sins. But the
law of God is one. It contains various precepts, but it is
one law. Sin is the transgression of the law in its oneness,
its integrity. To break it anywhere, breaks it entirely;
all its authority is resisted, all its honor is injured, all
its condemnation is incurred. It is a chain of many links.
One link broken, the chain is as perfectly broken as if
many links were broken. One sin makes you as truly a
violator of the whole law of God; brings you as really^
under its verdict of guilty, forfeits as entirely your inno-
cence or righteousness at its bar, as any number of sins.
But is there anything new in this ? Is it not just what
you are all familiar with under the laws of the land ? Let
us suppose a covenant or contract between man and man.
It may have its several articles, but it is all one covenant.
ow, should one of the parties keep the whole, except
that he fails in a single article, will not the law decide
that, in the failure of that one article, the whole covenant
is broken, and the other party entirely released, and the
penalty, whatever it be, all incurred ? And if the failure
be in two or more articles, instead of one, you know that
the covenant is no more entirely, though it may be much
THE ATUBE AD COBEBCATIO OF SI. 131
more flagrantly broken. And you well know that before
the law of the land, it would avail nothing to save the
party in default from the penalty or forfeiture resulting
from a broken covenant, should he plead that he had ful-
filled it in every thing but one single article. The law of
the land would consider that the keeping of all but one
is no justification for failure in that one. It would an-
swer: the covenant is all broken; you have forfeited all
that you were to get by it; your claim on the other party
is all lost; he has a perfect right to exact from you the
whole penalty; justice cannot help you ; law has nothing
for you but its condemnation. The clemency of the other
party is all you have to look to.
ow that represents precisely the state of a transgressos-
of God's law. God has been pleased to enter into cove^
nant with us. He might have said simply ^^Do thiB^^ with"
out annexing any promise of eternal life ; and tbeo' it
would not have been a covenant, but simply a law. But
he has been pleased to say, Do this and Uve^ annexiig the
promise of life eternal to the keeping of his law. And
he has annexed the penalty; that is, the loss of life eternal,
to every violation of that covenant. "Cursed is he, (in
other words, condemned is he to the penalty of the law)
who continueth not in all things written in the book of the
law to do them.'' You observe, the condition^ of the cove-
nant is continuance in oil things to do them ; not merely
during part of life, but all of life; not in some things,
but in aU things. ow, you are a transgressor of the law.
It is of no importance at present to ask how often, or
under what aggravating circumstances, you have trans-
gressed. It is enough that you have transgressed. The
132 BBRMO VL
covenant thus is all broken. God is perfectly released
from his promise of life. You have forfeited all that you
were to gain by obedience. He can exact from you all
the penalty of a law entirely broken. It will avail noth-
ing in point of law and justice to plead that you have
kept the covenant in other particulars. The breach
remains in that one particular, and cannot be healed. To
be innocent, or righteous, in the sight of the law, by your
own obedience, is now forever impossible. Add another
transgression or a thousand — ^you will thereby increase
your guilt and your punishment; but the covenant is no
more entirely, though it is certainly more flagrantly viola-
ted. All this we showed you is just the parallel of wliat
takes place under all human law. And thus the principte
announced by St James, is a general principle of law^
whether human or divine : ^^ Whosoever shall Jceq^ the whob
lawy and yet offend in one point j he is gvilty of altV^
4. And now we are prepared for another step. It is
essentially involved in the great but perfectly simple and
obvious principles of law and obedience of which we
have spoken, that the condemnation of a sinner before
God, essentially and necessarily takes place immediately
upon the transgression of his will. In other words, the
sinner is ^^ condemned already^'*
One of the most common misapprehensions, and one
which exercises the strongest influence in keeping men
insensible to the awfulness of their state before God, as
sinners impenitent and unpardoned, is an idea, directly
the contrary of what I have thus declared. It is a very
common thought, that the condition of sinners on earth
who continue impenitent, is neither one of positive wrath
THE ATURE AD CODEMATIO OF SI. 133
or peace; not of condemnation; assuredly not of accep-
tance ; but a condition, the decision upon which is deferred
to a day of trial hereafter, in the future world. Mean*
while they imagine they are contributing to make that fu-
ture decision favorable, or unfavorable, according as, by
evil deeds or good deeds, they are running up an account on
one side or the other, in the book of God's remembrance.
ow, I can imagine no reason why this thought should
be entertained, except it be the supposition that God,
however he be the All-seeing Witness of every sin, to
whom ^^the darkness and the light are both alike," does
not so notice sin as soon as it is committed, as in his own
mind to decide upon what it is and what it deserves. Men
have a vague idea of the day of judgment. They know
that in human affiiirs, there can be no condemnation till
the formal trial, because till then, since the human judge
ascertains transgression only by examination of witnesses,
the truth cannot be determined : and so they imagine the
day of judgment is to ascertain guilt; to enable the Judge
of all the earth to decide upon the merits of each case, as
if God were not himself always witness and always judge,
always perfectly knowing, always perfectly measuring and
deciding upon every transgression. o, brethren, the
day of God's judgment is not to assist the knowledge or
counsels of him who knoweth all things. It is not to
anveil any thing in us that is not now all marked and open
to him who searches the secrets of all hearts. It is not
that God may ih^nform a decision as to us, which he had
not formed before ; but to declare, and vindicate, and exe-
cute before the assembled angels of heaven, and the
assembled generations of all mankind, the condemnation
134 SERMO VI.
or the justification already passed upon all before we died.
The essential judgment, except as to the infliction of the
penalty, is going on all our life-time. We are at each
moment perfectly known and weighed in the balance of
the law of God. ^' He that planted the ear, shall he not
hear ? He that formed the eye, shall he not see ? He
that teacheth man knowledge, doth not he know ? " You
see, in a moment, that it cannot be possible but that as
God is witness to every sin, and the law is simply his own
will, so he must judge every sin immediately by that law,
and the sinner must at once stand before him instantly as
he sins, in his true position, as a convicted transgressor,
condemned already. Such would be the case under human
laws, were it not for the great imperfections which neces-
sarily belong to their administration in the hands of men.
But what saith the Lord upon this point? " He that beUeveth
an the San af Gad is not candemned.^^ o, he is delivered
from condemnation, because he has taken refuge in Christ
But proceeds the verse: '^ffe that beUeveth nat is candemn-
ed already^'** What gives these declarations a special
impressiveness is, that they come from Him who is to be
the Judge, and to pronounce the sentence of the last day.
It is upon this actual condition of sinners in the pres-
ent life, that all the structure of the Gospel is erected.
It brings salvation to every one that beUeveth; but in so
doing it pronounces all of us lost till we embrace it Jesus,
our Saviour, ^* came to seek and save that which was foaf."
If we are not now already lost^ we are not those whom he
came to save. He came " to preach deliverance to the
captive, and the opening of the prison doors to them that
*JoIiii iii. 18.
THE ATURE AIXD CODEMATIO OF SI. 135
are bound." If any of you are not already condemned
before God for your sins^ tben his law has not laid hand
upon you ; you are not captives under its arrest ; you are
not bound; its prison doors have not been shut upon you.
You are therefore not among those to whom the mes-
sage of the Saviour's grace is addressed. He came to give
salvation, not to those who may be lost, under a judgment
not yet given, but who are lost already; to give deliverance,
not to those who are in danger of condemnation, but to those
who are condemned already. Hence it is written : " There
is now, therefore, no condemnation to them that are in
Christ Jesus."* They are nowy in this present life, deliv-
ered from condemnation, because they are in that refuge ;
they have become believers in, and thus partakers of
Christ Jesus. Of course it follows, that to all who are not
in Christ Jesus, there is now the condemnation of God.
And here, if you ask me what then is the difference
isx regard to condemnation between your state in the pre-
sent life and what it will be in the world to come, in case
it continues as it now is unto death, I see but one answer,
and I feel that it is an awful answer, and I would that it
were deeply felt as an awful thing to be true of any body.
There is no diiference but in one particular. The sinner
who has not availed himself of the salvation that is in
Christ Jesus, is not/na%, irrevemblt/, condemned. Your
(lay of grace and long suiTering is not ended yet You
have still an accepted time and a day of salvation. The
condemnation is perfect, but the prison door is not forever
barred. You are bound, but your bonds may be loosed.
You may yet be persuaded to listen to Him who preaches
*Rom. viii. 1.
136 SERMO VI.
deliverance to the captive. But your time to die may
come before your repentance. Then the door is fast for-
ever. Then the voice of a Saviour's grace is heard no
more. Your condemnation abideth without end; the
same precisely that abideth now, only then a condemna-
tion sealed up forever.
5. We proceed to one more position, which, though
it has been included in what has been already said, we
wish to make more distinct and pronainent. It is this :
A single transgression of the law of God makes you liable
to its whole penalty. "The wages of sin is death.'' The
declaration is not, that death is the wages of sins of a cer-
tain number, but of sin — any sin. This is but a figura-
tive form of the original declaration, " In the day that
thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Adam in-
curred that penalty by a single transgression. And again,
another form of the same thing : " Cursed is every one
that continueth not in all things written in the book of
the law to do them." If the continuance of perfect obe-
dience be not unbroken, if it be not in every hour and
moment, if it be not in all things required by the will of
God, the law is transgressed, and the wages of sin are due.
It is one thing to speak of penalty being equally due
to one sin as to many, and a very different thing to speak
of it as being due in an equal degree of severity. Death
is universally the wages of sin, without reference to this
or that sin, few sins or many; death of the body in the
loss of its soul till the resurrection, death of the soul in
the loss of that favor of God which is life, and that loving
kindness of God which is better than life — death spiritual
in everlasting banishment from God. But that eternal
THB ATUBB AD CO]!a>ElfATIO OF SI. 137
banishment from God, and loss of all spiritual life and
hope, will be accompanied with more or less of the posi-
tive infliction of the pains of hell, according as you have
accumulated sin upon sin ; according as you have done
80 in the midst of the light of the Gospel, or in compara-
tiye darkness ; according as your privileges, and mercies,
and opportunities have abounded, and you have resisted
convictions, trifled with serious impressions, and quenched
the influences of the Spirit of God that would have per-
suaded you to repentance.
I need not further show the proof of our present posi-
tion, that a single transgression of the law of God makes
you liable to the law's penalty. You perfectly well know
that such is the case under all laws. One murder incurs
the penalty of death as fully as twenty; one theft as fully
as a hundred. Who ever heard of the law delivering a
criminal from the whole penalty of murder, on the ground
that he had committed the crime but once ? And how
strange it would seem, to see a fellow creature, with the
blood of his neighbor on his hands, and the fear of the
law before him, administering consolation to his trembling
heart by saying, " I never took life before, therefore I
cannot be condemned to die for this."
But, my brethren, is not this precisely the sort of peace
which they who neglect the salvation of God are contin-
ually ministering to their souls ? That they have very
often transgressed the divine law, they freely own. But
that therefore they have forfeited all title to God's favor —
lost all reason to hope for eternal life on the ground of
their own merits — ^incurred a positive condemnation, and
are now. abiding under it, and have nothing to look for
but the wrath of God, after death, unless they flee to a
138 SERMO VI.
better hope and righteousness than any within them-
selves — they cannot admit. And why ? The only reason
given is that, though sinners indeed, they have not sinned
to this or that extent. We beg to remind them, that to
what extent they have sinned is not now the question.
" Sin is the transgression of the laWy'^ whether one or a
thousand; and condemnation necessarily follows upon sin,
whether it be once committed or a thousand times. The
law of God and the law of man are in principle exactly
alike in this respect. The question of the extent to
which you have sinned is necessary to the determination
of the amount of your guilt, but enters in no wise into
the question of the fact that you are guilty. Besides,
the amount of your sins is a subject of inquiry to which
you are not equal, except to see that it is broader than
the sea, deeper than the sea, enough to make you hide
your face in the dust, and seek the mercy of God with a
broken and contrite heart. When all the history of your
whole life can be read by you, all the movements of
thought, all the working of affection, and desire, and mo-
tive, all moments, all things done within as well as without,
all things left undone within and without — ^when you are
competent to read that whole history in all its connections,
each moment, with your circumstances, your light, your
privileges, your opportunities, all those things which will
make it more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the
judgment than for the impenitent of this day and this land;
yea, when you are competent to read all this history in
such comparison with the law of God that you shall see its
sins as they are seen by him, before whose holiness even
the heavens are unclean, then you may attempt to justify
THE ATURE AD CODEMATIO OF SI. 139
yourselves by measuriDg the extent of your transgressions.
Meanwhile, it is very easy so to read that history as to
see that you have sinned enough to be brought in guilty
before God, and therefore under condemnation and wrath,
till you shall be found in Christ Jesus, rescued in that
ark.
And now, having gone over the ground thus finished, I
am very conscious that I have been bestowing much at-
tention upon principles not only exceeding plain, but very
familiarly known and recognized among all descriptions of
men; and the question occurs, how is it that principles
80 easily understood and acknowledged in ordinary mat-
ters of human jurisprudence, should need so much expli-
cation when applied to divine? For example, when
we speak of the single transgression of a human law
being enough to incur its condemnation, we speak what
every body knows. one think of charging the law with
undue severity. It must be so, in the very nature of
law. But as soon as the same is asserted of transgres-
sion of the law of God, immediately there is a revolt. It
cannot be. It is incredible that the Judge of all men
should be so severe. And this, too, will arise in the
breasts of men who, as judges in the land, are in the
practice of administering judgment on precisely the same
principle. How is this to be accounted for ?
I apprehend the answer is not difficult. Men realize
that they have a deep interest in the principles of crimi-
nal law between man and man, and they therefore think
of them enough to understand them, at least in the ele-
ments of which we have spoken. The subject is earthly;
but the whole matter of the law of God is unearthly — it
140 8EBM0 VL
does not force itself upon daily thought. It is easy not to
realize that you have any thing of great moment depend-
ing on it, and therefore its interest, its nature, and its appli-
cation, are not considered, except in the most dreamy way.
Again, in human affairs, men are compelled to feel the
absolute necessity of a wise and strictly administered
government of law. But it is precisely here that they
allow themselves^ for want of consideration, to realize
nothing as to the relations between them and God.
othing do they practically believe in so little, whatever
speculatively they may acknowledge, as God's moral law
reaching to the thoughts and intents of the heart,
strictly administered on ther essential principles of all law,
and having its final assize and sentence, when ^^ God will
bring all things into judgment, with every secret thing."
Again, there is nothing to warp our views when consider-
ing the proper process of things under human tribunals.
We are not the accused. We feel that our interests are
identified with the strict execution of the law. The true
principles seem self-evident, because our eye is single.
But before God we are all the guilty ones. Impenitent
men feel that all their hope out of Christ is in trusting
that God's law will prove to be some such law, in its prin-
ciples and decisions, as no law can be. Thus their eye is
perverted, and when they think at all on the subject, it is
to deceive themselves with expectations which a candid
consideration would teach them can end only in the bit-
terest disappointment
But again, in human jurisprudence we easily distin-
guish between the judge, to condemn according to law,
and the ruler, to pardon according to dictates of mercy.
THE ATURE AD CODEUATIO OF 815. 141
We see those offices in different hands, and well compre-
hend that it is the duty of the one to sentence to death the
veiy man to whom the other may grant a pardon. But
in God those offices are united. He only can bind and
loose, condemn and forgive; and because thus united in
God, those two offices become confounded in men's
thoughts, till that of the Judge, administering the law, is
lost sight of, and nothing remains upon the judgment seat
bat a Being of boundless compassion, to pardon the trans-
gressor. They know perfectly well that a wise human
ruler will exercise his power to pardon only when the
great interests and sanctions of the law are not thereby
impaired. But they do not ask whether the law of God
must not be treated with equal respect Thus they care-
lessly take refuge in the certainty that God is plenteous in
mercy, not inquiring whether there be not some one only
way of administering his mercy, some certain conditions
on which alone, out of regard to the guilt of sin and the
honor of his law, his mercy shall be dispensed, which they
have utterly neglected.
There is an injunction of St Paul of the greatest con-
sequence to all safe conclusions, as to what you may
expect under the law of God. ^'Behold (saith he) the
goodness and severity of God^* The Apostle had in his
mind the severity of God in casting off and punishing
the Jews for their unbelief and rejection of the gospel,
and his goodness in admitting the Gentiles to its bless-
ings. We have now in view, in the just application of
the Apostle's words, the severity of God in holding as
guilty, and in condemning to eternal misery, all trans-
•Rom. zi. 22.
142 SEBMO YI.
gressors of his law ; and on the other hand, his goodness
in mercifully providing, through the atoning sacrifice of
his own Son, Jesus Christ, such plenteous redemption
that every penitent sinner, coming unto Jesus, shall have
everlasting life. We must behold the character and ways
of God in both these aspects, or we cannot know him.
The goodness is no more his character, no more essential
or honorable to his nature, than the severity. The red,
as well as the violet of the rainbow, is essential to the
pure white light of the solar ray. God, as Judge, must
be ''a consuming fire'' to the wicked and impenitent, for
the same reason that, as a merciful Father, he is eternal
life to the penitent sinner coming unto him through the
atonement of Christ The terrible retribution that he
brought on the Jews, for their unbelief, and with which he
still visits them, is a chapter in the history of his gov-
ernment, to teach us its character, as much as any book
of his goodness to the children of men. What the Apos-
tle calls "the terrors of the Lord," are as essential to our
right knowledge of him as his mercies — the sentence of
the law condemning the sinner, as the grace of the gospel
justifying the believer in Jesus — ^Sinai as much as Calvary.
They are parts of his ways, neither of which can be right-
ly known as setting forth his dealings with man, without
the other. The same indeed must we say of all govern-
ments. Wherever a wise law is wisely executed, there is
both a goodness and a severity to be beheld, if we would
appreciate its character. Seventy^ in this application,
means not hardness, but strictness. The goodness of a
ruler to pardon the offender is weakness, if there be not
also a strictness to punish iniquity. The judge of your
THE ATUEE AD CODEMATIO OF SI. 143
criminal court shows a righteous severitffy when he so ad-
ministers the law that crime shall be sure of his sentence
in the strict execution of the law. The Judge of all the
earth is righteously severe, when he holds every trans-
gressor of his law strictly subject to its penalty, and will
admit to the enjoyment of his saving grace none but those
who seek it in the way of his own appointment — ^the ato-
ning sacrifice and all prevailing mediation of our Lord
Jesus Christ. I must behold that severity, that strictr
ness, that certainty that the law of God will not clear the
guilty, that if I appear at that bar in no righteousness but
my own I must be condemned and lost, or I cannot take
a right view of the wonderful grace and mercy of God, in
providing eternal redemption for us by the sacrifice of his
only begotten Son; nor can I see my absolute need of my
fleeing for refuge to the hope that is there set before me.
"By the law is the knowledge of sin." The only way to
know ourselves as sinners, is to measure ourselves by the
will of God. The only way to know what we have to fear
as sinners, is to behold the severity of God in enforcing
the penalty of the violation of his will, as exhibited in
his word, and in all his dealings with mankind. The
only way to get a right sense of our need of the ark of
salvation provided in Christ Jesus for all that will flee to
it, is to behold and see in what hopeless ruin the flood of
the wrath of God, which is coming upon all unrighteous-
ness of men, must overwhelm us, unless we are found in
that refuge. Thus, by the law is the knowledge of the
gospel, as it is the essential lesson whereby we learn the
need of the gospel. And thus, in the words of St. Paul,
it is "our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we may
144 SERMO VI.
be justified by faith" — a schoolmaster that teaches a
very humiliating lesson indeed, and teaches it veiy stern-
ly and inflexibly, and by many inflictions of the rod upon
our consciences and wills, which are so slow to learn in
such a school, but whose lesson, nevertheless, is the begin-
ning of wisdom, the voice of one that prepareth the way
of the Lord.
And now what, my brethren, has been our object in all
this discussion of the law of God? Let me answer the
question plainly. It has been that we might, by the bless-
ing of the Holy Spirit, accomplish one most needful, most
precious, most kind, bnt most painful work in the minds
of a large class of this congregation. But, to make myself
better understood. You, my hearer, let me suppose, have
not sought the Lord. You ha^re^no reason to believe that
if death should overtake you ap you now are, it would
find you in Christ, having fled thither from condem-
nation, trusting there, and sheltered there, as under the
curtains of the Lord's sanctuary. ow the object of all
this discourse has been one which I know that no mere
reasoning of mine, without the sealing power of God's
Spirit, can effect: to lead you to feel that you have no hope
of salvation. It is to take away from you all thought that
in such a state as yours there is any such thing as salva-
tion for you ; it is to lead you up to the bar of God,
nowy before the final trial comes, and induce you to judge
your case in the presence of his law, and see what must
be the certain issue, if, hereafter, when the books shall be
opened, you come before it in your present state. I
could not attempt a kinder office. To make you hopeless,
that you may seek that only hope which will not make
THE ATUEE AD CODEMATIO OF SI. 145
yoa ashamed^ is the greatest kindness. Then where are
you now"} Under the Gospel? o. Under its revela-
tions, its invitations, its responsibilities, you certainly are.
It is proposed to you. But have you accepted it? o.
You have lived to this day in the rejection of all its offers
of salvation. You have been constantly called to its em-
brace, and have constantly refosed; so that under the
Gospel, as in any sense a hope or a protection, you are not
Then where are you? Of course under the law; the
strict, unmitigated, inflexible, holy, heart-searching, heart-
requiring law of God, every transgression of which is sin
and condemnation. To that law exclusively must you
look for justification. K it have nothing against you, you
have hope. But mark, your case all hangs on that one
condition. You are sJiut up unto the law for hope. Light
can come upon your prospect for eternity but from that
one quarter. If you have not transgressed the law, it
will justify you ; if you have, it will condemn you. " The
goodness of God" in pardoning sinners, you cannot behold
for any comfort or hope, because that is revealed only to
those who seek it by embracing the mediation of Christ.
It is only ^^the s&oerity of God,"as a just and holy Judge,
most strictly enforcing and maintaining his law, that you
are permitted to behold from your present position. ow
what is your verdict upon your case, arraigned for your
own decision at that bar? What does your whole life tes-
tify? What witnesses stand up against you, from all
your thoughts, and affections, and words, and deeds? Be-
hold that great cloud of witnesses coming into court to
appear against you, brought from all the mercies, and priv-
ileges, and talents, which you have not improved in God's
10
146 SERMO VI.
service. See how sternly Conscience demands to be heard,
and testifies that you have always loved the world, to the
exclusion of its Maker, and sought your happiness in its
service, to the exclusion of the service of God. But
alas ! what witness is this that now comes in, claiming that
none else need be heard. Meek, and gentle, and loving,
but decided and fixed. It is the Gospel. It comes with
all its offers of peace, all its invitations and promises, all
its love and grace. It holds up the blood of Jesus Christ
which was shed for you, and cries, "These all hath he re-
jected. I called continually, but he refiised. I stretched
out my hands, but he did not regard. He despised all
my counsel, and would none of my reproof." Oh! poor
sinner, what answer can you make to such testimony?
What can you say to escape the certain condemnation of
God? Whither \fill you flee? o where can you flee, if
all this shall take place with you ader this present day of
grace is over. But I tell you where now you can. flee.
That rejected blood of Christ still cries, come. The door
of access to the mercy of God, through Christ, is still
open, and over it is written still, come. There is bound-
less mercy in God for you, if only in that way, Jesus
Christ, you will seek it. And will you heap sin upon sin,
judgment upon judgment, by refusing to come? God for-
bid! God, in mercy to your soul, persuade you to come,
and be found holding on to the cross of Jesus, pleading
his blood, abiding in him as the ark of God, in that day
when you shall be called, with all of us, to appear at his
judgment! Amen.
1. 68 FREE BOOKS
http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
2. ALL WRITIGS
http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful