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ASECOND thing to be spoken to is this: to show what it is to be under the law as it is a Covenant of Works; to which I shall speak, and that thus — To beUNDER THE LAW AS IT IS ACOVENANT OF WORKS, is to be bound, upon pain of eternal damnation, to fulfill, and that completely and continually, every particular point of the Ten Commandments, by doing them — Do this, and then thou shalt live; otherwise, “cursed is every one that continueth not in all,” in every particular thing or “things which are written in the book for the law to do them” ( Galatians 3:10). That man that is under the first covenant stands thus, and only thus, as he is under that covenant, or law. Poor souls, through ignorance of the nature of that Covenant of Works, the law that they are under, they do not think their state to be half so bad as it is; when, alas! there is none in the world in such a sad condition again besides themselves; for, indeed, they do not understand these things. He that is under the law, as it is a Covenant of Works, is like the man that is bound by the law of his king, upon pain of banishment, or of being hanged, drawn, and quartered, not to transgress any of the commandments of the king; so here, they that are under the Covenant of Works, they are bound, upon pain of eternal banishment and condemnation, to keep within the compass of the law of the God of Heaven. The Covenant of Works may, in this case, be compared to the laws of the Medes and Persians, which being once made, cannot be altered. Daniel 6:8. You find that when there was a law made and given forth that none should ask a petition of any, God or man, but of the king only; this law being established by the king ( Daniel 6:9). Daniel breaking of it, let all do whatever they can, Daniel must go into the lions’ den ( Daniel 6:16). So here, I say, there being a law given, and sealed with the Truth and the Word of God, — how that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” ( Ezekiel 18:4). Whosoever doth abide under this covenant, and dieth under the same, they must and shall go into the lion’s den; yea, worse than that, for they shall be thrown into Hell, to the very devils.
But to speak in a few particulars for thy better understanding herein, know, First. That the Law of God, or Covenant of Works, doth not contain itself in one particular branch of the law, but doth extend itself into many, even into all the Ten Commandments, and those ten into very many more, as might be showed; so that the danger doth not lie in the breaking of one or two of these ten only, but it doth lie even in the transgression of any one of them. As you know, if a king should give forth ten particular commands to be obeyed by his subjects upon pain of death; now if any man doth transgress against any one of these ten, he doth commit treason, as if he had broke them all, and lieth liable to have the sentence of the law as certainly passed on him as if he had broken every particular of them. Second. Again; you know that the laws being given forth by the king, which if a man keep and obey for a long time, yet if at the last he slips and breaks those laws, he is presently apprehended, and condemned by that law. These things are clear as touching the Law of God, as it is a Covenant of Works. If a man doth fulfill nine of the Commandments, and yet breaketh but one, that being broken will as surely destroy him and shut him out from the joys of Heaven as if he had actually transgressed against them all; for indeed, in effect, so he hath. There is a notable Scripture for this in the Epistle of James, Second Chapter, at the tenth verse ( James 2:10), that runs thus: — “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all,” — that is, he hath in effect broken them all, and shall have the voice of them all cry out against him.
And it must needs be so, saith James, because “He that said,” or that law which said, “Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now, if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law” ( James 2:11).
As thus; it may be thou didst never make to thyself a god of stone or wood, or at least not to worship them so greatly and so openly as the heathen do, yet if thou hast stolen, born false witness, or lusted after a woman in thy heart ( Matthew 5:28) thou hast transgressed the law, and must for certain, living and dying under that covenant, perish for ever by the law; for the law hath resolved on that before-hand, saying, “Cursed is every one that continueth not inALL things;” mark, I pray you, “in all things;” that is the Word, and that seals the doctrine. Third. Again; though a man doth not covet, steal, murder, worship gods of wood and stone, etc., yet if he do take the Lord’s name in vain, he is for ever gone, living and dying under that covenant. “Thou shalt not take the name of theLORD thy God in vain;” there is the command. But how if we do? Then he saith, “theLORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.” No; though thou live as holy as ever thou canst, and walk as circumspectly as ever any did, yet if thou dost take the Lord’s name in vain, thou art gone by that covenant: “For I will not,” mark “I will not,” let him be in never so much danger, “I will not hold him guiltless that taketh My name in vain” ( Exodus 20:7).
And so likewise for any other of the ten, do but break them, and thy state is irrecoverable, if thou live and die under that covenant. Fourth. Though thou shouldest fulfill this covenant, or law, even all of it, for a long time, ten, twenty, forty, fifty, or threescore years, yet if thou do chance to slip and break one of them but once before thou die, thou art also gone and lost by that covenant; for mark, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things,” that continueth not inALL things, mark that, “which are written in the book of the law to do them.” But if a man doth keep all the Law of God his whole lifetime, and only sin one time before he dies, that one sin is a breach of the law, and he hath not continued in doing the things contained therein. For, so to continue, according to the sense of this Scripture, is to hold on without any failing, either in thought, word, or deed; therefore, I say, though a man doth walk up to the law all his lifetime, but only at the very last sin one time before he die, he is sure to perish for ever, dying under that covenant. For, my friends, you must understand that the Law of God is “yea,” as well as the Gospel; and as they that are under the Covenant of Grace shall surely be saved by it, so, even so, they that are under the Covenant of Works and the law, they shall surely be damned by it, if continuing there. This is the Covenant of Works and the nature of it — namely, not to abate anything, no, not a mite, to him that lives and dies under it: “I tell thee,” saith Christ, “thou shalt not depart thence,” that is, from under the curse, “till thou hast paid the very last mite” ( Luke 12:59). Fifth. Again; you must consider that this law doth not only condemn words and actions, as I said before, but it hath authority to condemn the most secret thoughts of the heart, being evil; so that if thou do not speak any word that is evil, as swearing, lying, jesting, dissembling, or any other word that tendeth to, or savoreth of sin, yet if there should chance to pass but one vain thought through thy heart but once in all thy lifetime, the law taketh hold of it, accuseth, and also will condemn thee for it. You may see one instance for all in ( Matthew 5:27,28) where Christ saith, that though a man doth not lie with a woman carnally, yet if he doth but look on her, and in his heart lust after her, he is counted by the law, being rightly expounded, such an one that hath committed the sin, and thereby hath laid himself under the condemnation of the law. And so likewise of all the rest of the commands; if there be any thought that is evil do but pass through thy heart, whether it be against God or against man in the least measure, though possibly not discerned of thee, or by thee, yet the law takes hold of thee therefore, and doth by its authority, both cast, condemn, and execute thee for thy so doing. “The thought of foolishness is sin” ( Proverbs 24:9). Sixth. Again; the law is of that nature and severity, that it doth not only inquire into the generality of thy life as touching several things, whether thou art upright there or no; but the law doth also follow thee into all thy holy duties, and watcheth over thee there, to see whether thou dost do all things aright there — that is to say, whether when thou dost pray thy heart hath no wandering thoughts in it; whether thou do every holy duty thou doest perfectly without the least mixture of sin; and if it do find thee to slip, or in the least measure to fail in any holy duty that thou dost perform, the law taketh hold on that, and findeth fault with that, so as to render all the holy duties that ever thou didst unavailable because of that. I say, if, when thou art a hearing, there is but one vain thought, or in praying, but one vain thought, or in any other thing whatsoever, let it be civil or spiritual, one vain thought once in all thy lifetime will cause the law to take such hold on it, that for that one thing it doth even set open all the floodgates of God’s wrath against thee, and irrecoverably by that covenant it doth bring eternal vengeance upon thee; so that, I say, look which ways thou wilt, and fail wherein thou wilt, and do it as seldom as ever thou canst, either in civil or spiritual things, as aforesaid — that is, either in the service of God, or in thy employments in the world, as thy trade or calling, either in buying or selling any way, in anything whatsoever; I say, if in any particular it find thee tardy, or in the least measure guilty, it calleth thee an offender, it accuseth thee to God, it puts a stop to all the promises thereof that are joined to the law, and leaves thee there as a cursed transgressor against God, and a destroyer of thy own soul. F5 Here I would have thee, by the way, for to take notice, that it is not my intent at this time to enlarge on the several commands in particular — for that would be very tedious both for me to write and thee to read; only thus much I would have thee to do at the reading hereof — make a pause, and sit still one quarter of an hour, and muse a little in thy mind thus with thyself, and say, Did I ever break the law; yea or no? Had I ever, in all my lifetime, one sinful thought passed through my heart since I was born; yea or no? And if thou findest thyself guilty, as I am sure thou canst not otherwise choose but do, unless thou shut thy eyes against thy every day’s practice, then, I say, conclude thyself guilty of the breach of the first covenant. And when that this is done, be sure, in the next place, thou do not straightway forget it and put it out of thy mind, that thou art condemned by the same covenant; and then do not content thyself until thou do find that God hath sent thee a pardon from Heaven through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, the mediator of the second covenant. And if God shall but give thee a heart to take this my counsel, I do make no question but these words spoken by me, will prove an instrument for the directing of thy heart to the right remedy for the salvation of thy soul.
Thus much now touching the law, and the severity of it upon the person that is found under it, having offended or broken any particular of it, either in thought, word, or action; and now, before I do proceed to the next thing, I shall answer four objections that do lie in my way, and also, such as do stumble most part of the world. [FOUR OBJECTIONS.] Objection. First. But you will say, Methinks you speak very harsh; it is enough to daunt a body. Set the case, therefore, that a man, after he hath sinned and broken the law, repenteth of his wickedness and promiseth to do so no more, will not God have mercy then, and save a poor sinner then? Answer. I told you before, that the covenant, once broken, will execute upon the offender that which it doth threaten to lay upon him; and as for your supposing that your repenting and promising to do so no more may help well, and put you in a condition to attain the mercy of God by the law, these thoughts do flow from gross ignorance both of the nature of sin, and also of the nature of the justice of God. And if I were to give you a description of one in a lost condition for the present, I would brand him out with such a mark of ignorance as this is. Answer. 2. [The first answer is expounded by the second]. The law, as it is a Covenant of Works, doth not allow of any repentance unto life to those that live and die under it; for the law being once broken by thee, never speaks good unto thee, neither doth God at all regard thee, if thou be under that covenant, notwithstanding all thy repenting and also promises to do so no more. No, saith the law, thou hast sinned, therefore I must curse thee; for it is My nature to curse, even, and nothing else but curse, every one that doth in any point transgress against Me ( Galatians 3:10).
They brake My covenant “and I regarded them not, saith the Lord” ( Hebrews 8:9). Let them cry, I will not regard them; let them repent, I will not regard them; they have broken My covenant, and done that in which I delighted not; therefore, by that covenant I do curse, and not bless; damn, and not save; frown, and not smile; reject, and not embrace; charge sin and not forgive it. They brake My covenant “and I regarded them not;” so that I say, if thou break the law, the first covenant, and thou being found there, God looking on thee through that, He hath no regard on thee, no pity for thee, no delight in thee. Objection. Second. But hath not the law promises as well as threatenings? saying, “The man which doeth these things shall live,” mark, he shall live, “by them,” or in them ( Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12). Answer. 1. To break the Commandments is not to keep or fulfill the same; but thou hast broken them, therefore the promise doth not belong to thee by that covenant. 2. The promises that are of the law are conditional, and so not performed unless there be a full and continual obedience to every particular of it, and that without the least sin. “Do this” — mark, do this — and afterwards thou shalt live; but if thou break one point of it once in all thy life, thou hast not done the law; therefore the promises following the law do not belong unto thee if one sin hath been committed by thee. As thus, I will give you a plain instance — “Set the case, there be a law made by the king, that if any man speak a word against him he must be put to death, and this must not be revoked, but must for certain be executed on the offender; though there be a promise made to them that do not speak a word against him, that they should have great love from him; yet this promise is nothing to the offender; he is like to have no share in it, or to be ever the better for it; but contrariwise, the law that he hath offended must be executed on him; for his sin shutteth him out from a share of, or in, the promises.” So it is here, there is a promise made indeed, but to whom? Why, it is to none but those that live without sinning against the law; but if thou, I say, sin one time against it in all thy lifetime, thou art gone, and not one promise belongs to thee if thou continue under this covenant.
Methinks the prisoners at the bar, having offended the law, and the charge of a just judge towards them, do much hold forth the law, as it is a Covenant of Works, and how it deals with them that are under it.
The prisoner having offended, cries out for mercy; Good, my lord, mercy, saith he, pray, my lord, pity me. The judge saith, What canst thou say for thyself that sentence of death should not be passed upon thee? Why, nothing but this, I pray my lord be merciful. But he answers again, Friend, the law must take place, the law must not be broken. The prisoner saith, Good, my lord, spare me, and I will never do so any more. The judge, notwithstanding the man’s outcries and sad condition, must, according to the tenor of the law, pass judgment upon him, and the sentence of condemnation must be read to the prisoner, though it makes him fall down dead to hear it, if he executes the law as he ought to do. And just thus it is concerning the Law of God. Objection. Third. Ay, but sometimes, for all your haste, the judge doth also give some pardons, and forgives some offenders, notwithstanding their offences, though he be a judge. Answer. It is not because the law is merciful, but because there is manifested the love of the judge, not the love of the law. I beseech you to mark this distinction; for if a man that hath deserved death by the law be, notwithstanding this, forgiven his offence, it is not because the law saith, “spare him;” but it is the love of the judge or chief magistrate that doth set the man free from the condemnation of the law. But mark; here the law of men and the Law of God do differ; the law of man is not so irrevocable; but if the Supreme please he may sometimes grant a pardon without satisfaction given for the offence; but the Law of God is of this nature, that if a man be found under it, and a transgressor, or one that hath transgressed against it, before that prisoner can be released there must be a full and complete satisfaction given to it, either by the man’s own life or by the blood of some other man; for “without shedding of blood is no remission” ( Hebrews 9:22); that is, there is no deliverance from under the curse of the Law of God; and therefore, however the law of man may be made of none effect sometimes by showing mercy without giving of a full satisfaction, yet the Law of God cannot be so contented, nor at the least give way, that the person offending that should escape the curse and not be damned, except some one do give a full and complete satisfaction to it for him, and bring the prisoner into another covenant — to wit, the Covenant of Grace, which is more easy, and soul-refreshing, and sin-pardoning.
I say, therefore, you must understand that if there be a law made that reaches the life, to take it away for the offence given by the offender against it, then it is clear that if the man be spared and saved, it is not the law that doth give the man this advantage, but it is the mere mercy of the king, either because he hath a ransom or satisfaction some other way, or being provoked thereto out of his own love to the person whom he saveth.
Now, thou also having transgressed and broken the Law of God, if the law be not executed upon thee, it is not because the law is merciful, or can pass by the least offence done by thee, but thy deliverance comes another way; therefore, I say, however it be by the laws of men where they be corrupted and perverted, yet the Law of God is of that nature, that if it hath not thy own blood or the blood of some other man — for it calls for no less, for to ransom thee from the curse of it, being due to thee for thy transgression, and to satisfy the cries, the doleful cries, thereof, and ever for to present thee pure and spotless before God, notwithstanding this fiery law — thou art gone if thou hadst a thousand souls; for “without shedding of blood there is no remission” ( Hebrews 9:22); no forgiveness of the least sin against the law. Objection. Fourth. But, you will say, “I do not only repent me of my former life, and also promise to do so no more, but now I do Labor to be righteous, and to live a holy life; and now, instead of being a breaker of the law, I do Labor to fulfill the same. What say you to that?” Answer. Set the case, thou couldst walk like an angel of God; set the case, thou couldst fulfill the whole law, and live from this day to thy life’s end without sinning in thought, word, or deed, which is impossible; but, I say, set the case it should be so, why, thy state is as bad, if thou be under the first covenant, as ever it was. For, first, I know thou darest not say but thou hast at one time or other sinned; and if so, then the law hath condemned thee; and if so, then I am sure that thou, with all thy actions and works of righteousness, canst not remove the dreadful and irresistible curse that is already laid upon thee by that law which thou art under, and which thou hast sinned against; though thou livest the holiest life that any man can live in this world, being under the law of works, and so not under the Covenant of Grace, thou must be cut off without remedy; for thou hast sinned, though afterwards thou live never so well.
The reasons for this that hath been spoken are these — First, The nature of God’s justice calls for it — that is, it calls for irrecoverable ruin on them that transgress against this law; for justice gave it, and justice looks to have it completely and continually obeyed, or else justice is resolved to take place, and execute its office, which is to punish the transgressor against it. You must understand that the justice of God is as unchangeable as His love; His justice cannot change its nature; justice it is, if it be pleased; and justice it is, if it be displeased. The justice of God in this case may be compared to fire; there is a great fire made in some place; if thou do keep out of it, it is fire; if thou do fall into it, thou wilt find it fire; and therefore the Apostle useth this as an argument to stir up the Hebrews to stick close to Jesus Christ, lest they fall under the justice of God by these words, “For our God is a consuming fire” ( Hebrews 12:29); into which, if thou fall, it is not for thee to get out again, as it is with some that fall into a material fire; no, but he that falls into this, he must lie there for ever; as it is clear where he saith, “Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings, and with devouring fire?” ( Isaiah 33:14).
For justice once offended knoweth not how to show any pity or compassion to the offender, but runs on him like a lion, takes him by the throat, throws him into prison, and there he is sure to lie, and that to all eternity, unless infinite satisfaction be given to it, which is impossible to be given by any of us the sons of Adam. Secondly, The faithfulness of God calls for irrecoverable ruin to be poured out on those that shall live and die under this covenant. If thou, having sinned but one sin against this covenant, and shouldst afterwards escape damning, God must be unfaithful to Himself and to His Word, which both agree as one. First, he would be unfaithful to Himself; to Himself, that is, to His justice, holiness, righteousness, wisdom, and power, if He should offer to stop the running out of His justice for the damning of them that have offended it. And secondly, He would be unfaithful to His Word, His written Word, and disown, deny, and break that, of which He hath said, “It is easier for Heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail,” or be made of none effect ( Luke 16:17). Now, if He should not, according to His certain declarations therein, take vengeance on those that fall and die within the threat and sad curses denounced, in that His Word could not be fulfilled. Thirdly, Because otherwise he would disown the sayings of His Prophets, and gratify the sayings of His enemies; His Prophets say He will take vengeance; His enemies say He will not; His Prophets say He will remember their iniquities, and recompense them into their bosom; but His enemies say they should do well, and they shall have peace, though they walk after the imaginations of their own hearts, and be not so strict as the Word commands, and do not as it saith ( Deuteronomy 29:19,20). But let me tell thee, hadst thou a thousand souls, and each of them was worth a thousand worlds, God would set them all on a light by fire, if they fall within the condemnings of His Word, and thou die without a Jesus, even the right Jesus; “for the Scriptures cannot be broken.” What! dost thou think that God, Christ, Prophets, and Scriptures, will all lie for thee? and falsify their words for thee? It will be but ill venturing thy soul upon that.
And the reasons for it are these: — First, Because God is God; and secondly, Because man is man. First, Because God is perfectly just and eternally just, perfectly holy and eternally holy, perfectly faithful and eternally faithful; that is, without any variableness or shadow of turning, but perfectly continueth the same, and cannot as well cease to be God as to alter or change the nature of His Godhead. As He is thus the perfection of all perfections, He gave out His Law to be obeyed; but if any offend it, then they fall into the hands of this His eternal justice, and so must drink of His irrevocable wrath, which is the execution of the same justice. I say, this being thus, the law being broken, justice takes place, and so faithfulness followeth to see that execution be done, and also to testify that He is true, and doth denounce His unspeakable, insupportable, and unchangeable vengeance on the party offending. Secondly, Because thou art not as infinite as God, but a poor created weed, that is here today and gone tomorrow, and not able to answer God in His essence, being, and attributes; thou art bound to fall under Him, for thy soul or body can do nothing that is infinite in such a way as to satisfy this God, which is an infinite God in all His attributes. [MISERY OF MAN BY THIS LAW.] But to declare unto you the misery of man by this law to purpose, I do beseech you to take notice of these following particulars, besides what has been already spoken: — First, I shall show the danger of them by reason of the law, as they come from Adam; Second, as they are in their own persons particularly under it. First, As they come from Adam, they are in a sad condition: — 1. Because he left them a broken covenant. Or take it thus: because they, while they were in him, did with him break that covenant. O! this was the treasure that Adam left to his posterity; it was a broken covenant, insomuch that death reigned over all his children, and doth still to this day, as they come from him, both natural and eternal death ( Romans 5). It may be, drunkard, swearer, liar, thief, thou dost not think of this. 2. He did not only leave them a broken covenant, but also made them himself sinners against it. He [Adam] made them sinners — “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” ( Romans 5:19).
And this is worse than the first. 3. Not only so, but he did deprive them of their strength, by which at first they were enabled to stand, and left them no more than dead men. O helpless state! O how beggarly and miserable are the sons of Adam! 4. Not only so, but also before he left them he was the conduit pipe through which the devil did convey off his poisoned spawn and venom nature into the hearts of Adam’s sons and daughters, by which they are at this day so strongly and so violently carried away, that they fly as fast to Hell, and the devil, by reason of sin, as chaff before a mighty wind. 5. In a word, Adam led them out of their paradise, that is one more; and put out their eyes, that is another; and left them to the leading of the devil.
O sad! Canst thou hear this, and not have thy ears to tingle and burn on thy head? Canst thou read this, and not feel thy conscience begin to throb and dag? If so, surely it is because thou art either possessed with the devil, or besides thyself. [Second. ] But I pass this, and come to the second thing, which is, the cause of their being in a sad condition, which is by reason of their being in their particular persons under it. 1. Therefore, they that are under the law, they are in a sad condition, because they are under that which is more ready, through our infirmity, to curse than to bless; they are under that called the ministration of condemnation, that is, they are under that dispensation, or administration, whose proper work is to curse and condemn, and nothing else ( <470301> Corinthians 3). 2. Their condition is sad who are under the law, because they are not only under that ministration that doth condemn, but also that which doth wait an opportunity to condemn; the law doth not wait that it might be gracious, but it doth wait to curse and condemn; it came on purpose to discover sin, “The law entered,” saith the Apostle, “that the offence might abound” ( Romans 5:20) or appear indeed to be that which God doth hate, and also to curse for that which hath been committed; as he saith, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” ( Galatians 3:10). 3. They are in a sad condition, because that administration they are under that are under the law doth always find fault with the sinner’s obedience as well as his disobedience, if it be not done in a right spirit, which they that are under that covenant cannot do, by reason of their being destitute of faith; therefore, I say, it doth control them, saying, “This was not well done, this was done by the halves, this was not done freely, and that was not done perfectly, and out of love to God.” And hence it is that some men, notwithstanding they Labor to live as holy as ever they can according to the law, yet they do not live a peaceable life, but are full of condemnings, full of guilt and torment of conscience, finding themselves to fail here, and to fall short there, omitting this good which the law commands, and doing that evil which the law forbids, but never giveth them one good word for all their pains. 4. They that are under the law are in a sad condition, because they are under that administration that will never be contented with what is done by the sinner. If thou be under this covenant, work as hard as thou canst, the law will never say, “Well done;” never say, “My good servant;” no; but always it will be driving thee faster, hastening of thee harder, giving thee fresh commands, which thou must do, and upon pain of damnation not to be left undone. Nay, it is such a master that will curse thee, not only for thy sins, but also because thy good works were not so well done as they ought to be. 5. They that are under this covenant or law, their state is very sad, because this law doth command impossible things of him that is under it; and yet doth but right in it, seeing man at the first had in Adam strength to stand, if he would have used it, and the law was given them, as I said before, when man was in his full strength; and therefore no inequality if it commands the same still, seeing God that gave thee strength did not take it away. I will give you a similitude for the clearing of it. Set the case that I give to my servant ten pounds, with this charge, Lay it out for my best advantage, that I may have my own again with profit; now if my servant, contrary to my command, goeth and spends my money in a disobedient way, is it any inequality in me to demand of my servant what I gave him at first? Nay, and though he have nothing to pay, I may lawfully cast him into prison, and keep him there until I have satisfaction. So here; the law was delivered to man at the first when he was in a possibility to have fulfilled it; now, then, though man have lost his strength, yet God is just in commanding the same work to be done. Ay, and if they do not do the same things, I say, that are impossible for them to do, it is just with God to damn them, seeing it was they themselves that brought themselves into this condition; therefore, saith the Apostle, “What things soever the law (or commands) saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” ( Romans 3:19).
But if any should object, and say, But the law doth not command impossible things of natural man, — I should answer in this case as the Apostle did in another very much like unto it, saying, “Understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” For doth not the law command thee to love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, with all they strength, with all thy might, etc., and can the natural man do this? How can those that are accustomed to do evil, do that which is commanded in this particular? “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” ( Jeremiah 12:23).
Doth the law command thee to do good, and nothing but good, and that with all thy soul, heart, and delight? which the law as a Covenant of Works calleth for; and canst thou, being carnal, do that? But there is no man that hath understanding, if he should hear thee say so, but would say that thou wast either bewitched or stark mad. 6. They that are under the law are in a sad condition, because that though they follow the law, or Covenant of Works; I say, though they follow it, it will not lead them to Heaven; no, but contrariwise, it will lead them under the curse. It is not possible, saith Paul, that any should be justified by the law, or by our following of it; for by that “is the knowledge of sin,” and by it we are condemned for the same, which is far from leading us to life, being the ministration of death ( 2 Corinthians 3). And again; “Israel, which followeth after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but by the law, and by the works thereof” ( Romans 9:30-32). 7. They that are under the law are in a sad condition, because they do not know whether ever they shall have any wages for their work or no; they have no assurance of the pardon of their sins, neither any hopes of eternal life; but poor hearts as they are, they work for they do not know what, even like a poor horse that works hard all day, and at night hath a dirty stable for his pains; so thou mayest work hard all the days of thy life, and at the day of death, instead of having a glorious rest in the Kingdom of Heaven, thou mayest, nay, thou shalt, have for thy sins the damnation of thy soul and body in Hell to all eternity; forasmuch, as I said before, that the law, if thou sinnest, it doth not take notice of any good work done by thee, but takes its advantage to destroy and cut off thy soul for the sin thou hast committed. 8. They that are under the law are in a sad condition, because they are under that administration; upon whose souls God doth not smile, they dying there; for the administration that God doth smile upon His children through, is the Covenant of Grace, they being in Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and consolation; but contrariwise to those that are under the law; for they have His frowns, His rebukes, His threatenings, and with much severity they must be dealt withal — “For they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord” ( Hebrews 8:9). 9. They are in a sad condition, because they are out of the faith of Christ; they that are under the law have not the faith of Christ in them; for that dispensation which they are under is not the administration of faith. The law is not of faith, saith the Apostle ( Galatians 3:12). 10. Because they have not received the Spirit; for that is received by the hearing of faith, and not by the law, nor the works thereof ( Galatians 3:2). 11. In a word, if thou live and die under that covenant, Jesus Christ will neither pray for thee, neither let thee have one drop of His blood to wash away thy sins, neither shalt thou be so much as one of the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; for all these privileges come to souls under another covenant, as the Apostle saith — “For such are not under the law, but under grace” — that is, such as have a share in the benefits of Jesus Christ, or such as are brought from under the first covenant into the second; or from under the law into the grace of Christ’s Gospel, without which Covenant of Grace, and being found in that, there is no soul can have the least hope of eternal life, no joy in the Holy Ghost, no share in the privileges of saints, because they are tied up from them by the limits and bonds of the Covenant of Works. For you must understand that these two covenants have their several bounds and limitations, for the ruling and keeping in subjection, or giving of freedom, to the parties under the said covenants. Now they that are under the law are within the compass and the jurisdiction of that, and are bound to be in subjection to that; and living and dying under that, they must stand and fall to that, as Paul saith, “To his own master he standeth or falleth.” The Covenant of Grace doth admit to those that are under it also liberty and freedom, together with commanding of subjection to the things contained in it, which I shall speak to further hereafter.
But now, that the former things may be further made to appear — that is, what the sad condition of all them that are under the law is, as I have shown you something of the nature of the law, so also shall I show that the law was added and given for this purpose, that it might be so with those that are out of the Covenant of Grace. First, God did give the law that sin might abound, not that it should take away sin in any, but to discover the sin which is already begotten, or that may be hereafter begotten, by lust and Satan ( Romans 5:20). I say, this is one proper work of the law, to make manifest sin; it is sent to find fault with the sinner, and it doth also watch that it may do so, and it doth take all advantages for the accomplishing of its work in them that give ear thereto, or do not give ear, if it have the rule over them. I say, it is like a man that is sent by his lord to see and pry into the Labors and works of other men, taking every advantage to discover their infirmities and failings, and to chide them? yea, to throw them out of the Lord’s favor for the same. Second. Another great end why the Lord did add or give the law, it was that no man might have anything to lay to the charge of the Lord for His condemning of them that do transgress against the same. You know that if a man should be had before an officer or judge, and there be condemned, and yet by no law, he that condemns him might be very well reprehended or reproved for passing the judgment; yea, the party himself might have better ground to plead for his liberty than the other to plead for the condemning of him; but this shall not be so in the judgment-day, but contrariwise; for then every man shall be forced to lay his hand on his mouth, and hold his tongue at the judgment of God when it is passed upon them; therefore saith the Apostle, “What things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law;” that is, all the commands, all the cursings and threatenings that are spoken by it, are spoken, saith he, “that every mouth may be stopped;” mark, I beseech you, “it saith,” saith he, “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” ( Romans 3:19). So that now, in case any in the judgmentday should object against the judgment of God, as those in the 25th of Matthew do, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee thus and thus? and why dost Thou pass such a sad sentence of condemnation upon us? surely this is injustice, and not equity: now for the preventing of this the law was given; ay, and that it might prevent thee to purpose, God gave it betimes, before either thy first father had sinned, or thou wast born. So that again, if there should be these objections offered against the proceedings of the Lord in justice and judgment, saying, Lord, why am I thus condemned, I did not know it was sin? Now against these two was the law given and that betimes, so that both these are answered. If the first come in and say, Why am I judged? why am I damned? then will the law come in, even all the Ten Commandments, with every one of their cries against thy soul; the First saying, He hath sinned against Me, damn him; the Second saying also, He hath transgressed against Me, damn him; the Third also saying the same, together with the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth; even all of them will discharge themselves against thy soul if thou die under the first covenant, saying, He or they have transgressed against us, damn them, damn them: and I tell thee also, that these ten great guns, the Ten Commandments, will, with discharging themselves in justice against thy soul, so rattle in thy conscience, that thou wilt in spite of thy teeth be immediately put to silence, and have thy mouth stopped. And let me tell thee further, that if thou shalt appear before God to have the Ten Commandments discharge themselves against thee, thou hadst better be tied to a tree, and have ten, yea, ten thousand of the biggest pieces of ordnance in the world to be shot off against thee; for these could go no further but only to kill the body; but they, both body and soul, to be tormented in Hell with the devil to all eternity. Third, Again; if the second thing should be objected, saying, But Lord, I did not think this had been sin, or the other had been sin, for nobody told me so; then also will the giving of the law take off that, saying, Nay, But I was given to thy father Adam before he had sinned, or before thou wast born, and have ever since been in thy soul to convince thee of thy sins, and to control thee for doing the thing that was not right. Did not I secretly tell thee at such a time, in such a place, when thou wast doing of such a thing, with such an one, or when thou was all alone, that this was a sin, and that God did forbid it, therefore if thou didst commit it, God would be displeased with thee for it: and when thou was thinking to do such a thing at such a time, did not I say, Forbear, do not so? God will smite thee, and punish thee for it if thou dost do it. And besides, God did so order it that you had me in your houses, in your Bibles, and also you could speak and talk of me; thus pleading the truth, thou shalt be forced to confess it is so; nay, it shall be so in some sort with the very Gentiles and barbarous people that fall far short of that light we have in these parts of the world; for, saith the Apostle, “The Gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law,” that is, not written as we have, yet they “are a law unto themselves: which show the works of the law written in their hearts” ( Romans 2:14,15). That is, they have the law of works in them by nature, and therefore they shall be left without excuse; for their own consciences shall stand up for the truth of this where he saith, “Their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another.” Ay, but when? Why, “in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel” ( Romans 2:15,16). So this, I say, is another end for which the Lord did give the law — namely, that God might pass a sentence in righteousness, without being charged with any injustice by those that shall fall under it in the judgment. Fourth, A fourth end why the Lord did give the law it was, because they that die out of Jesus Christ might not only have their mouths stopped, but also that their persons “might become guilty before God” ( Romans 3:19).
And indeed this will be the ground of silencing, as I said before, they finding themselves guilty, their consciences backing the truth of the judgment of God passed upon them, “they shall become guilty” — that is, they shall be fit vessels for the wrath of God to be poured out into, being filled with guilt by reason of transgressions against the commandments; thus, therefore, shall the parties under the first covenant be “fitted to destruction” ( Romans 9:22) even as wood or straw, being well dried, is fitted for the fire; and the law was added and given, and speaks to this very end, that sins might be shown, mouths might be stopped from quarreling, and that “all the world,” mark, “the world may become guilty before God,” and so be in justice for ever and ever overthrown because of their sins.
And this will be so for these reasons — 1. Because God hath a time to magnify His justice and holiness, as well as to show His forbearance and mercy. We read in Scripture that His eyes are too pure to behold iniquity, and then we shall find it true ( Habakkuk 1:13). We read in Scripture that He will magnify the law, and make it honorable, and then He will do it indeed. Now, because the Lord doth not strike so soon as He is provoked by sin, therefore poor souls will not know nor regard the justice of God, neither do they consider the time in which it must be advanced, which will be when men drop under the wrath of God as fast as hail in a mighty storm ( 2 Peter 3:9; Psalm 50:21,22). Now, therefore, look to it all you that count the long-suffering and forbearance of God slackness; and because for the present He keepeth silence, therefore to think that He is like unto yourselves. No, no; but know that God hath His set time for every purpose of His, and in its time it shall be advanced most marvelously, to the everlasting astonishment and overthrow of that soul that shall be dealt withal by justice and the law. O! how will God advance His justice! O! how will God advance His holiness!
First, by showing men that He in justice cannot, will not regard them, because they have sinned; and, secondly, in that His holiness will not give way for such unclean wretches to abide in His sight, His eyes are so pure. 2. Because God will make it appear that He will be as good as His Word to sinners. Sinners must not look to escape always, though they may escape awhile, yet they shall not go far all adoe unpunished; no, but they shall have their due to a farthing, when every threatening and curse shall be accomplished and fulfilled on the head of the transgressor. Friend, there is never an idle word that thou speakest but God will account with thee for it; there is never a lie thou tellest, but God will reckon with thee for it; nay, there shall not pass so much as one passage in all thy lifetime but God, the righteous God, will have it in the trial by His law, if thou die under it, in the judgment-day.