Gal_3:10. As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
THE reason that Christianity is so little understood, is, that men are not aware of the occasion which there is for such a dispensation as the Gospel contains. They know not the state in which they are by nature; and therefore they cannot comprehend the provision made for their recovery from it by grace. If the generality of Christians were asked what God requires of them in his law, or what is now the proper use of the law, they would be able to give, at best, a very imperfect, and probably a very erroneous, account of these things. But it is of the utmost importance that we should understand the law: for, till we do, we can never understand the Gospel.
Now, in the words which we have read, we see,
The requirements of God’s law—
[The law is contained in the Ten Commandments: and the summary given of it by our Lord is, that we must love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves.
Now consider what is comprehended in these two commandments — — — and remember, the obedience to be paid to them must be perfect (“in all things”); personal (by “every one of us”); and perpetual (we must “continue in” it, from the first to the latest hour of our life). It is not sufficient that we wish to do them: we must “do them;” do them “all;” “every one of us;” and “continue” so to do, even to the end. This was written under the law [Note: Deu_27:26.]; and it is confirmed to us by tile Apostle’s citation of it under the Gospel. Now we must remember, that on our perfect obedience to it all its promises are suspended; and if, in any one instance, even in thought or desire, we fall short of it, we must then be considered as violators of the law. This is a point not sufficiently considered. St. Paul himself did not clearly understand it, previous to his conversion. He interpreted the law only in its literal sense; and could not conceive that such an one as he had ever violated its commands: but when he saw that it forbade an inordinate desire as much as an overt act, he then saw that he was condemned by it, and had forfeited all hope of acceptance by his obedience to it [Note: Rom_7:7; Rom_7:9.].]
But, to understand the law aright, we must know,
The sanctions with which it is enforced—
[It denounces a curse on every, the least, violation of its commands: “Cursed is every one,” &c. What this curse is, we may know from other passages of Holy Writ. It was said to Adam, in reference to the forbidden fruit, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Now, from the moment of his transgression he became mortal as to his body: (for “death entered by sin;” and never would have entered, if man had not sinned:) his soul, also, became spiritually dead to God; and he was doomed to “the second death,” in “the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.” To this the Apostle Paul bears testimony, when he says, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord [Note: Rom_6:23.].” Perhaps it may assist us more, if we consider what the penalty of transgression was to the fallen angels: they were cast out of heaven from the presence of their God; and were consigned to “a lake of fire prepared on purpose for them,” there to endure for ever the vengeance of their offended God. Thus man, on his fall, lost the favour and presence of God, and was subjected to his heavy and everlasting displeasure. Being a partaker with the angels in their offence, he became a partaker with them in their punishment.
Now let every one that has transgressed the law in ever so small a degree, though it may have been only once, consider what the law says to him: it says, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the hook of the law, to do them.”]
This, I say, is,
The tremendous inference that must be drawn in relation to every one of us—
[We all are under the law. The law was given to man in Paradise. It was written in his heart, when he came out of his Creator’s hands. We all, therefore, are under it; and, consequently, “every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God [Note: Rom_3:19].”
If this inference be not true, I would ask, which of the premises is erroneous?
Does the law require less than I have stated? If any one think so, let him tell me where God has dispensed with any one of its commandments? Where has he authorized us to alienate from him any measure of that love which he had required in his law? or where has he lowered the standard of our love to man; and permitted us to act otherwise towards him, than we, in a change of circumstances, should think it right that he should act towards us?
If the requirements of the law are not reduced, are its sanctions altered? Has God any where revoked them? Has he not, on the contrary, expressly said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die [Note: Eze_18:20.]?”
If its requirements are not altered, nor its sanctions revoked, can you say you are not under it? The whole race of mankind are under it: and must continue under it, till they lay hold on that better covenant which God has given us in his Gospel.
There is, then, no possibility of evading the inference that is here drawn; namely, that as many as arc under the law, and consequently the whole race of mankind, are under the curse. O! remember this, ye old; it curses you: ye young; it curses you: ye moral; it curses you. There is not a child of man to whom it does not say, “Thou art cursed.”]
Who, then, must not see,
The folly of seeking to be justified by the works of the law?
[If you had sinned but once, and then only in thought, you would be cursed, as a violator of God’s law; and, consequently, be without hope of obtaining salvation by it. For, if you would be saved by it, you must first atone for your offences against it; and then obey it perfectly in future. But which of these can ye do? If ye were to shed rivers of tears, they could never wash away one sin. The whole race of mankind would never be able to atone for one sin. And suppose your past offences forgiven; which of you, for a single clay or hour, could fulfil the law perfectly in future? Know that this would be an hopeless attempt; and that, consequently, “by the works of the law can no flesh living be justified [Note: Rom_3:20.].” St. Paul himself renounced all hope of acceptance with God by any righteousness of his own, and sought it solely by faith in Christ [Note: Php_3:9.]: and so must you, if ever you would obtain mercy at the hands of God [Note: Rom_9:31-32; Rom_10:3-4.].]
The happiness of those who have obtained an interest in Christ?
[They are dead to the law; and the law is dead to them [Note: Rom_7:1-4; Rom_2:19.]. To them is no condemnation [Note: Rom_8:1.]: on the contrary, they have, and ever shall possess, eternal life [Note: Joh_3:16; Joh_3:18.]. In all the book of God there cannot be found one curse denounced against them. To them belong nothing but blessings, even all the blessings of grace and glory. Say, beloved, Are not these happy? Seek ye, then, this happiness. Flee to Christ: believe in Christ: and then ye “shall never perish, but shall have eternal life.”]
The reasonableness of a life devoted to Christ?
[Contemplate the benefits you receive by faith in Christ; and say, whether any return that ye can make can ever be too great? To tell you, that, if you believe in Christ, you must obey him, is, I had almost said, to degrade human nature below the beasts. Does “the ox know its owner, and the ass his master’s crib;” and shall a believer not know, and love, and serve, his heavenly Benefactor? Shall the Lord Jesus Christ have “bought you with his blood, and you not desire to glorify him with your bodies and your spirits, which are his?” O! brethren, do not oblige me to say, you must obey him; but “be forward of yourselves,” and give yourselves wholly to him; and let the inquiry of your soul, every day and hour, be, “What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits conferred upon me?”]