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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 31
Verse 31. Do we then make void the law. Do we render it vain and useless; do we destroy its moral obligation; and do we prevent obedience to it, by the doctrine of justification by faith ? This was an objection which would naturally be made; and which has thousands of times been since made, that the doctrine of justification by faith tends to licentiousness. The word law here, I understand as referring to the moral law, and not merely to the Old Testament. This is evident from Ro 3:20,21, where the apostle shows that no man could be justified by deeds of law, by conformity with the moral law. See Note.
This is an explicit denial of any such tendency.
Yea, we establish the law. That is, by the doctrine of justification by faith; by this scheme of treating men as righteous, the moral law is confirmed, its obligation is enforced, obedience to it is secured. This is done in the following manner:
(1.) God showed respect to it, in being unwilling to pardon sinners without an atonement. He showed that it could not be violated with impunity; that he was resolved to fulfil its threatenings.
(2.) Jesus Christ came to magnify it, and to make it honourable. He showed respect to it in his life; and he died to show that God was determined to inflict its penalty.
(3.) The plan of justification by faith leads to an observance of the law. The sinner sees the evil of transgression. He sees the respect which God has shown to the law. He gives his heart to God, and yields himself to obey his law. All the sentiments that arise from the conviction of sin; that flow from gratitude for mercies; that spring from love to God; all his views of the sacredness of the law, prompt him to yield obedience to it. The fact that Christ endured such sufferings to show the evil of violating the law, is one of the strongest motives prompting to obedience. We do not easily and readily repeat that which overwhelms our best friends in calamity; and we are brought to hate that which inflicted such woes on the Saviour's soul. The sentiment recorded by Watts is as true as it is beautiful :— \-
'"Twas for my sins my dearest Lord
Hung on the cursed tree,
And groan'd away his dying life
For thee, my soul, for thee.
"Oh, how I hate those lusts of mine
That crucified my Lord;
Those sins that pierc'd and nail'd his flesh
Fast to'the fatal wood.
"Yes, my Redeemer, they shall die,
My heart hath so decreed,
Nor will I spare the guilty things
That made my Saviour bleed."
This is an advantage in moral influence which no cold, abstract law ever has over the human mind. And one of the chief glories of the plan of salvation is, that while it justifies the sinner, it brings a new set of influences from heaven, more tender and mighty than can be drawn from any other source, to produce obedience to the law of God.
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