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'Tis liberty of heart, derived from Heaven,
It is no question of idle curiosity that will claim our attention in the present chapter. Its importance reduces all other questions to manifest insignificance. The solution of innumerable difficulties, with which reasoning mortals have been long perplexed, would be an acquisition of small value, compared with a satisfactory answer to the one question-How shall man be just with God? Our first object will be, to Explain the doctrine of justification as taught in scripture; we shall then notice certain important Inferences deducible from it.
I. The word justification is derived from proceedings in courts of judicature. It denotes the
acquittal of the innocent, as opposed to the condemnation of the guilty. It supposes A LAW, an ACCUSED PARTY, and A JUDge. The law supposed in this case, is that great rule of the divine government, which, the Apostle assures us, is not destroyed but established, by the intervention of the gospel. The accused party may be found in every child of Adam. The judge is Jehovah himself the sovereign of the universe.
In the first place, then, THERE IS A LAW IN FORCE WITH RESPECT TO US, THE NATURE OF WHICH SHOULD BE WELL UNDERSTOOD. The laws by which the universe is governed must all have proceeded from its Creator and Ruler. To determine what is proper to such a government, is reserved to his supreme wisdom; and to enforce it, is the province of his supreme power. Wherever he has bestowed a capableness of serving him, there a law or rule has been imparted, more or less immediately, for its guidance. By means of his will, as thus expressed, the whole of his intelligent creatures are divided into two classes-the obedient and the disobedient. The obedient dwell in heaven and are happy; the disobedient are on earth and in the regions of darkness, and are in a state the opposite of happiness, -some being sufferers to the extent of their sinfulness. This is the view of the divine government which occurs throughout the scriptures; and regarded thus generally, it commends itself to our ordinary notions of rectitude.
But the subject becomes much less acceptable to
the unrenewed mind when more closely examined. There is much in it to confound our boasted reason, and to humble our arrogant self-sufficiency. The law which the Almighty has imposed on his rational creatures consists of two parts; the first binding them to himself, the second binding them to each other. Something of the nature of this law we have explained in the preceding chapter. But it will be proper to repeat here, that what it requires, both with respect to God and to man, is not simply the utterance of right words, or the doing of right actions. This, indeed, it demands; but its authority extends beyond these, to the most secret thoughts and movements of the spirit. It enjoins an affectionate interest in the welfare of others, the equal of what we feel in our own; and it insists on a state of homage, both of the understanding and the heart, in reference to God, amounting to the full exercise of our mind, and soul, and strength. Were every outward indication of obedience never so punctually performed, and this state of the mind wanting, our condemnation by the divine law would be unavoidable. With the formation of a sinful purpose the law of God connects the guilt of an actual accomplishment. Jesus assures us, that he who looketh on a woman to lust after her, is already an adulterer, the sin being in his heart. It is the same with respect to every other trespass. The man who would commit it, is regarded as having done so. Thus the divine law is a rule, which not only determines what men should do or say,
but what they should think or feel,-what they should be.
It should be distinctly noticed, also, that what the law thus requires, it requires CONSTANTLY. The dawn of reason within us, is the dawn of its authority; and through every step of life, until the mind has performed its last office in connexion with the body, it follows, demanding the ceaseless exercise of that benevolence which excludes all regard to our own interest at the cost of the interests of others, and the continuous manifestation of that piety which consecrates every faculty and every possession to the honour of God. The law contemplates the obligations of men as infinite and unchangeable; and, accordingly, the obedience which it demands is a perfect and uninterrupted obedience.
It is to be added, that the law which is thus broad and ceaseless in its claims, is enforced by SANCTIONS which are IMMUTABLE and ETERNAL. Every law must have its penalties attached to it. Without these, a requisition can have nothing of the authority of law. It becomes mere counsel or advice. It is by such means only that the laws of men operate as a terror to evil-doers; and become a protection and a praise to those who do well. What then is the language of the divine law in this respect? It is, Do this and thou shalt live; the soul that sinneth shall die. Where it finds a perfect obedience, it confers life; and where it detects the guilty, it only knows them to proclaim its condemnation of them. It is written, Cursed is every one who abideth not in
all things written in the book of the law to do them. Beyond the grave there is no change. As the tree falls so it must lie. There will, indeed, be a general resurrection; but it will be a resurrection of men in the character with which they left the world :good or evil, according to the deeds done in the body. The habitations which will then open to receive them, will be according to their respective natures: the abodes of light or darkness-of ever-during light or ever-during darkness. Hence the words of Solomon,-Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest. Hence also the admonition of the Saviour,-The night cometh, when no man can work.
We now pass from this brief review of the law, to the case of those offending against it-THE ACCUSED PARTY. Justification, which supposes a formal trial, must also suppose that a charge has been preferred. It is accordingly written, that, Whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world become guilty before God. What, then, has man to plead in arrest of judgment? Is he not, beyond all question, guilty? Is there in him a single property of body or soul which sin has not tainted? Granting that it may not be said of some, with such manifest propriety as of others, that the poison of asps is under their lips, that their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, that their eyes