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for the divine forgiveness and blessing, and though some few may “ gnaw their tongues for pain, and blaspheme the God of heaven, and repent not of their deeds,” yet there would be “joy in heaven" over great multitudes repenting; and soon would it be echoed with thanksgiving from every land, “ Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
In hastening this blest consummation, all have yet a part to act. Do you exult in the consciousness of being wholly freed from the unclean thing? Then think of the millions still contaminated ; and reflect, “ Such were some of you;
ye are washed”-ye are rescued from the pollution. God “ hath made you to differ." Now then his injunction is, “ When thou art converted, strengther thy brethren." Strengthen those few who are pouring out their breath or spending their treasure in this cause. Every man can do this to some extent, and every Christian surely must feel constrained by gratitude to God, as well as love to men, freely to extend the means of reformation. And in so doing, there is no loss, but infinite gain. For “whosoever shall give to drink, unto one of these little ones, a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in nowise lose his reward."
Finally, Christian Brethren, “ be sober, be vigilant, be of one mind ;” for “your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about.” I tremble lest possibly through apathy, or discord, or indiscretion, or treason in the church, “Satan should yet get an advantage," and turn our fair morning into a heavier night of darkness, and tempest, and war. But wo to that man, who, at this crisis of the reformation, shall knowingly encourage the exciting cause of such evils. And heaviest wo to him who shall avail himself o. a standing in the church for this purpose. I hear for such a loud remonstrance from millions yet unborn ; and a louder still from the throne of eternal Judgment: and if they heed not the warning, I see for them “the wine of the wrath of Almighty God poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation."
But “ though we thus speak,” we hope and expect better things from the decided followers of the Lamb of every name ;—" things which make for peace; things wherewith one may edify another ; and things which accompany salvation" to a dying world.
Rom. vii. 19. I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment
came, sin revived, and I died. THERE have been but two ways ever revealed, in which man may obtain eternal life-the law and the gospel—the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. By the first mode, Adam, had he remained innocent, might have secured everlasting felicity. But, on his apostacy, this way to heaven was barred for ever; and, to show the impossibility of being thus saved, cherubim and a fiery flaming sword guarded all access to the tree of life. To fallen man there is no hope, except through the sovereign grace of God, by the Redeemer revealed in the gospel ; there is no hope till, sensible of his deep guilt, and trembling at the curse of the broken law, he penitently betakes himself to that Savior who is “ the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Yet
many who acknowledge these fundamental truths are careless and unconcerned, while they have no interest in the Redeemer; are hoping for heaven, though they have never fled to the Savior, and accepted his righteousness for justification.
Let all such listen to the text, in which the apostle gives not only his own experience, but that of all true believers : “ I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”
These words will lead us to consider,
I. The character and sentiments of the unregenerate." I was alive without the law.”
II. The nature of those convictions which sweep away false hopes, and make the Redeemer precious.--" Sin revived, and I died.”.
III. The instrumental cause of this change of feeling and character.-
“ I was alive without the law.”
Three inquiries here arise-What is that law of which the apostle speaks? How was he without it? And what is implied in his having been alive?
1. The law to which St. Paul refers is evidently the moral law; that law which was impressed upon the heart of man at his creation, and which was published with such solemnity from Sinai. It consists of a system of precepts, and of a sanction for their enforcement. The sum of its precepts is perfect obedience to the divine Lawgiver. Its sanction is an assurance of eternal life to the obedient, and of death to those who “ continue not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.”
2. How was the apostle “ without the law ?" Not that he was under no obligation to it. From its very nature it must always be in force. It was binding upon Paul ; it is obligatory upon every child of Adam; since it is founded in the perfections of God and the relations he sustains to us. While these perfections and relations continue, the law cannot be abrogated ; Jehovah can no more free us from its obligation than he can renounce his Godhead.
When the apostle is said to be “ without the law,” it does not imply that he was unacquainted with its letter. A clear speculative knowledge of it he no doubt possessed; for he was brought up at the feet of the celebrated Gamaliel; there studied it; there made in it the greatest proficiency.
Neither does it imply that he paid no regard to it in his external life. He himself tells us that he outwardly complied with its precepts ; that touching the law,” that is, the formal and external observance of it, he was “ blameless."
But to be without the law” implies an ignorance of its extent, spirituality, and purity; implies that the apostle had no proper sense of its commanding authority, or of its condemning power.
3. In what sense was Paul, before his conversion, “ alive ?" Not in the estimation of God and angels; they beheld him “ dead in trespasses and sins.” But he was alive in his own estimation ; he thought himself upright and holy, and entitled, by virtue of these qualifications, to life eternal. He entertained the strongest confidence of his high standing in the favor of God. He “verily thought he was doing God service," and advancing toward heaven. This case is common with the unregenerate. They are “ without the law;" without any knowledge of its strictness and purity; without any sense of its dignity and perfection. While thus ignorant, as the apostle once was, like him they are “ alive ;” alive in their feelings, unapprehensive of danger, unconcerned about the terrors of the Almighty.
Some of the grounds of this security in sin are natural ignorance, abuse of the Savior's grace, false evidence of the love of God, incorrect views of the privileges of the church, and the hope of a long and protracted life. These are so many springs to feed and maintain this life of delusion in the unregenerate.
II. To consider the nature of true conviction. “ Sin revived,” adds the apostle,
66 and I died,"
A clear and lively sense of sin impressed his soul; he saw himself chargeable with aggravated guilt; in consequence of which his vain conceit fled, and his presumptuous hopes expired. This is the experience of all who have had true conviction of sin. They see the depth of their guilt; they behold themselves lost; they acknowledge that they are justly liable to eternal death.
There are few, if any, in a gospel land who have not occasional convictions, some misgivings of heart, some apprehensions that all is not right, some purposes of amendment, some fears of hell, some desires for heaven; impressions produced by the faithful preaching of the word, or by the alarming providences of God. But we must distinguish between these occasional fears and those genuine convictions which end in conversion. The former generally arise from the apprehension of God's power and justice; the latter from a sense of his goodness, love, and infinite hatred to sin. The former endure but for a season, the latter are permanent. In the former there is a view only of the penalty of the law; in the latter of the propriety of this penalty. The sinner .who is truly convinced perceives the odious nature as well as the awful consequences of sin. He feels his own sins, and sees the punishment they merit; he feels some drops of the Divine wrath falling upon his soul; he feels, what he never before felt, that if sovereign grace interpose not quickly, he must be lost for ever. Earthly concerns, sensual pleasures, which once gave him rest, are now painful and irksome. Now his great inquiry is, “ How shall I escape the wrath to come? How shall I be reconciled to God? How shall I save my poor, neglected, perishing soul ?” Ah! he knows what Paul meant when he exclaimed, “ sin revived.” Sins that had been utterly forgotten, which had long ceased to disturb his conscience, which he once regarded as slight and venial, now rush upon his mind with all their aggravations. He sees the intimate connection between them and misery, and trembles at the anticipation of the just judgments of the Almighty.
III. In the next place, consider the cause of this conviction.
66 The commandment came;" shining in its purity, and operating with power. In this manner only can the sinner be effectually convinced; by the law sent home to his heart, not in the deadness of the letter,” but in all the energy of the Spirit.
The moral law insists upon an obedience that is perfect—perfect in its principle, perfect in its parts, perfect in every degree--and denounces condemnation
the least violation. When it is thus revealed to the sinner, in its wide extent, in its high demands, in its rigorous sanctions, it must convict and humble him before God. It convinces him of the nature of sin, shows what a righteous law it violates, what an awful majesty it affronts, what infinite purity it opposes, what rich mercy it abuses. It has also an
awakening influence upon his conscience, and brings him to deep and feeling apprehension. He was before easy and secure, but when “ the commandment comes," he is roused from his slumbers--startled by the view which it presents of the impurity of his heart, and the sinfulness of his life.
There is another intention of the law equally useful; it “ reveals the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Having set before the sinner his innumerable offences and enormous guilt, it denounces the doom which he deserves ; it unsheaths the sword of justice, and threatens him with “ everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” And then, when his heart is wounded, and when he looks around for some deliverer from “ the wrath to come,” he learns that the law can give him no salvation ; it only thunders in his ear the dreadful sentence, “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”
But let us remember that this power which the law has is not inherent, but is derived solely from the Spirit of God. Without his influence it never did, and never can savingly convince the soul. It is the sword that pierces the heart, but the Holy Spirit must wield it. When the sinner is enlightened by that Spirit, then “the law enters, that the offence may abound;" that he may perceive the multitude of his iniquities, the impurity of his heart, the utter imperfection of his best services. Thus “ the commandment comes,” to accuse, to convict, and to condemn; to prepare him for the reception of the Mediator's righteousness; to drive him to the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. • By the law,” saith the apostle, “ is the knowledge of sin.” * I, through the law," saith the same apostle, “ am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.”
In applying this subject to practical purposes, I remark,
1. It teaches us that we may live in this world without apprehensions and fears, and yet perish for ever. Is not this the case with the generality of men? Their conduct evinces that they have no sense of God upon their souls, no preparation for death and eternity, and yet they are careless and gay; they indulge in pleasure and mirth ; they confidently expect everlasting felicity. Do you ask, “why is this?" Not because they have no ground of alarm ; " the wrath of God abideth on them;" the bottomless pit is open beneath them; and death is continually lurking in ambush to cut them down. The true reason is, they are “ without the law.” They never reflect upon its nature, its requirements, its sanctions ; they never hear the awful curse which it denounces; they never listen to the threatenings of an incensed God; they see not the tempest of divine vengeance, ready to burst upon their heads : or, if they do reflect upon the divine law, they consider it as regarding only their external conduct, and not reaching to the motives, the temper, the sentiments of the soul. For this reason they think