Sermons on The Moral Law;
elucidating the nature, extent and obligations of the various social and divine virtues, comprised in that summary of universal duty
–and on the connection of the moral law and the Gospel.
By David M’Clure,
Minister of the First Church in East-Windsor.
SERMON XXIV. The law satisfied by Jesus Christ, and sinners justified by the imputation of his righteousness. (Preached ? Published 1795)
ROMANS X, 4.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
ALL those who embrace the righteousness of Jesus Christ, are convinced of sin by the law. A discovery of the nature and demands of God’s perfect law, gives the soul a conviction of sin, and the certainty and justice of his condemnation. And thus the law leads and compels the sinner to the Saviour.
CHRIST is the end of the law, as the law was fulfilled in all its requirements by him. By his active obedience, he fulfilled all that the law required of man; and by his sufferings satisfied for offences. He is the end of the law for righteousness, as he finished a righteousness perfect in all its parts, and satisfactory to the justice, purity and perfection of the law, in all respects. And this righteousness, or the blessed benefits of the righteousness of Christ, are imputed to them that believe.
BOTH the ceremonial and moral law received their end and accomplishment in him. He was the innocent and holy sufferer, the lamb of God, to whom the various and costly sacrifices of the church pointed; who bore our sins, and endured the curse of the law. And in him alone was fulfilled the holy moral law, demanding supreme and perpetual love and obedience to God, and perfect benevolence to men, and every inward grace and virtue. In him was no sin. And such an high priest and mediator became us, holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. What is proposed is,
- To explain the import of the phrase, Christ is the end of the law, and
- THAT believers are justified from the condemnation of the law, by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.
THE (ter••)? law, is frequently used in the sacred writings, and in various senses; either for the whole revelation of the will of God to mankind, for the ten precepts of the decalogue (The ten commandments), for the writings of Moses, for the second table of the law, for the principles of natural reason, or for the moral and ceremonial law given at Sinai. In the words chosen for the theme of this discourse, the apostle uses the word in this last sense. Let us then see how Christ is the end of the ceremonial and the moral law. Christ is the end of the ceremonial law, as that law received its fulfillment in him. The ceremonial law was given to the ancient church at Sinai, and consisted of various typical rites & sacrifices, referring to Jesus Christ, & the dispensation of grace to be introduced into the world by him. The sacred services of the Jewish tabernacle and temple were designed to maintain the knowledge of the true God and to keep alive the expectation of the Saviour, who had been promised at the apostacy (Apostacy; refusing to follow, obey, or recognize God, MW; in this case the “fall of man,” Adam’s turning away from the Truth of God). When Christ came and finished the work of redemption, the special care and protection, which God had shewn to the people of Israel, ceased. Sacrifices were the most expensive and burdensome part of the ceremonial law: but they were no longer necessary after the promised Saviour had offered up himself, a sacrifice for the sins of men.
SACRIFICES of atonement were common among pagan nations; and the custom is a confirmation of the divinity of original revelation. They must have borrowed it from this source; because the principles of natural reason could not have discovered a connection between the death of an animal, and the pardon of sin. And it also that the doctrine of human depravity, and the necessity of atonement for sin, was the universal sense of mankind. The sacrifices of the law pointed out the certainty and the necessity of the death of Christ. It was certain, because God had promised; and it was necessary because the justice of the law demanded an adequate satisfaction. On the certainty of the death of Christ, the ancient patriarchs and saints were saved. Death and the curse came by the first Adam’s eating of the fruit of the interdicted tree; and life and immortality are given to believers, since Christ the second Adam bore death and the curse, on the tree of the cross. This manner of death is called in the law of Moses, an accursed death, probably referring to the death which Christ should endure, that he might remove from man, the curse due to sin.
THE epistle to the Hebrews is a commentary on the ritual of the ceremonial law, and shews how the sacrifices and services of that dispensation, received their full accomplishment in Christ. It was a figure of good things to come. The self righteous Jews rested their hopes of acceptance with God, and of eternal happiness, in their observance of that external law. Instead of attending to those sacrifices and services, as the way to lead them to Christ, they trusted in them, as the end of their duty. To the sensual & self righteous, they were as a veil that hid Christ from them, so that “they could not look steadfastly to the end;” but righteous men saw Christ thro’ the veil of ceremonies, and to them both the preceptive (Giving precepts or commands for the regulation of moral conduct WB 1828) and ceremonial laws, served as a schoolmaster to lead them to Christ. They contained the alphabet of the gospel, and taught the doctrine of grace thro’ a mediator. When Christ expired upon the cross, having made atonement for sin, the veil of the temple was rent asunder, to signify, that the ceremonial law & the levitical priesthood, were no more. The order of Aaron was at an end, the sceptre then departed from Judah; for Shiloh had come, and to him the people out of all nations, were soon to be gathered. As the ceremonial law of the ancient church received its end, design and accomplishment in Christ; let us now enquire how Christ is the end of the moral law. Christ is the end of the moral law in two respects, first, as he perfectly kept it, and secondly as by his obedience and suffering, a righteousness is finished, by which sinners, whom the law condemns, may be saved. He always did those things which pleased God, and so to do was the fulfillment of the law, for the moral law is the revealed will or pleasure of God. He loved God with all his heart, and mankind as himself, constantly and perfectly. Each particular precept of the moral law, was perfectly obeyed by Him. He desghted (desired?) to do the will of God. His whole life was filled up with obedience to God, and love to mankind. He fulfilled all righteousness in his obedience to the positive and moral laws of Jehovah. He gave the most illustrious evidence of obedience to God, and love to men, in his life and in his death. He shewed in the view of the intelligent universe, that the law which man was made to obey, was holy, just and good, by the obedience which he rendered to it. He magnified the law and made it honorable. And by obeying and suffering the penalty of the law, he has brought in everlasting righteousness; a righteousness by which, on the constitution of grace, the penitent believer in Jesus, is delivered from condemnation, and admitted to eternal life.
- BELIEVERS are justified from the condemnation of the law by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.
- MANKIND by the guilt of sin forfeited life and fell under the condemnation of the covenant of works.
The mercy of God has provided for them the milder dispensation of grace, by the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The tenor of the first covenant was, obey and thou shalt live. The tenor of the covenant of grace is believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. The unsearchable wisdom of the Deity devised this plan of grace, by which the law maintains its authority; for its precepts are obeyed, and its justice satisfied, by a divine surety, and life is given to the guilty. And God can now be just, and the justifier of the ungodly, and grace reigns, thro’ righteousness unto eternal life, towards them that believe. It is consistent with this wonderful grace, that the endless and blessed benefits of the righteousness of Christ, should be placed to the account of believers in him; and that as to them, the condemning sentence of the law should be repealed. Those who are interested in the righteousness of Jesus Christ are said to be justified. Let us inquire into the nature of justification, and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to believers. Justification is a term borrowed from the usage of civil courts, in which the person accused is acquitted on the law’s being satisfied, either by himself or his surety. Justification is opposed to condemnation. Such is the merciful tenor of the covenant of grace, that a surety is accepted on the sinner’s behalf, and the guilty are declared righteous on account of the righteousness of the divine saviour. To them there is no condemnation. The justified person was once under the condemnation of the law; but on his believing in Jesus Christ, his sins are pardoned, and he is accepted as a righteous person, on account of the righteousness of Christ, imputed. He is acquitted from the guilt of past sins, and from the deserved punishment. The law is satisfied, and the penitent believer is justified. Justification does not imply that a person is inherently or perfectly freed from all sin, or the possibility of sinning; but it is an act of grace, by which he is declared just with respect to the law which he has broken. Past sins are remitted, and for the merciful remission of all sins to which they are liable, by the force of temptations and depraved nature, for the time to come, believers have an advocate with the father, who ever liveth to make intercession for them, on their repentance and supplication.
- JUSTIFICATION is a sovran and gracious act of God in which he does not dispense with his law, nor acquit the sinner without the law receiving honorable satisfaction. It was sovran grace which provided the remedy. In this was manifested the love of God, that he gave his son to redeem us. As the general plan of the redemption of sinners, was an act of sovran grace, so also is the application of that redemption to individuals. He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy. And God justly leaves those who reject salvation, to the fatal consequences of their own choice. He will glorify his justice on the vessels of wrath, who by the love and practice of sin, have fitted themselves for destruction. Sufficient means of knowledge and conviction are given the impenitent to leave them inexcusable, self condemned, and proper objects of the awful curses of the broken law.
- THE divine spirit is the heavenly agent by whose powerful operation attending the instrumental means of grace, the sinner is brought to a state of justification. This he does by convincing of the nature and guilt of sin, of the necessity of a righteousness answerable to the law’s demands, and of the judgment which will be passed upon all who fall under its condemning sentence. By grace ye are saved, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.
- THE justified will not come into condemnation. Their stability is secured by their union to their spiritual head, the second Adam, the Lord from heaven. They are members of his body, and branches in him the living vine. And because he lives, they shall live also. Every sincere believer in Jesus, may with saint Paul, bid the heroic challenge, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. And who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?”
- THE believer is justified by a righteousness imputed. Unable to satisfy the demands of the law, it became necessary to man’s salvation, that a surety should satisfy for him. And help was laid on one mighty to save. The reason why man cannot satisfy the demands of the law, is that by his guilty apostacy, he has lost both the ability and the inclination to keep it. (Apostacy; refusing to follow, obey, or recognize God, MW) By nature the servant of sin and enemy of holiness, and when renewed by grace, his best obedience is weak and imperfect. And there is not a just man upon earth, who sinneth not. The holy angels could not satisfy the law for man. Their best and most perfect obedience, the law which they are under, demands from them constantly and forever. They have no surplusage of merit to place to man’s account. But the ability of the Lord Jesus Christ to accomplish a righteousness, by which the sinner can be justified, is manifest, inasmuch as he is a divine person, possessing the perfections of Deity, uncreated and independent. He was the son of God united to a perfect and innocent man, the second Adam. His merit is infinite. By his obedience and sufferings in the human nature, he finished a righteousness satisfactory to the justice of the law, and sufficient also for the purchase of eternal life for his disciples. The righteousness which Christ finished on earth was designed for the use and advantage of mankind. This, says the prophet, is the name by which he shall be called, the Lord our righteousness. The Lord laid on him the iniquities of us all. In the same sense in which our sins were imputed to Christ, his righteousness is imputed to us. As he felt the dreadful effects of sins which he had not committed, so believers enjoy the blessed benefits of a righteousness, which they themselves have not accomplished. The effects, or the punishment of sin were borne by Christ; and the rewards of his obedience are given to believers. As our sins deserved death, and death was inflicted on our surety, so his obedience merits life, and life is given to all who are pardoned and justified by his redemption.
- The subjects of justification are believers in Christ. Evangelical faith comprises knowledge and love; a knowledge of the divine character, and of the law as holy just and good. A knowledge of personal guilt and unworthiness, and of Jesus Christ, as a holy and almighty Saviour. These important doctrines the mind receives as divinely true, and embraces them with cordial approbation (cordial approbation; heart felt acceptance WB1828); and with humble gratitude reposes its immortal interests in the hands of the blessed mediator, and pleads his all perfect righteousness, as the only ground of hope and acceptance with God.
- To conclude, WE learn from the nature of the law, and from the design of the gospel, that man has not a righteousness of his own in which he can with safety appear; and that we fall under the dreadful condemnation of that law which gives us the knowledge of the guilt and desert of. Since, sirs, such is our unhappy condition, let us never cease to admire and adore, that wonderful wisdom and grace of God in our redemption, which makes it consistent with the rectitude and goodness of the divine government, to receive a satisfaction to justice rendered by our divine surety, and not exact it at our hands. Had it been demanded of us, alas, we must have been cast into the prison of eternal despair, there to have remained thro’ unceasing ages, since we could never have paid the uttermost farthing, of the immense debt which we owe to the divine justice.
- WE learn that salvation is not applied to men absolutely and unconditionally. It is by faith in Jesus Christ, we become intitled to the blessed benefits of a righteousness which satisfies the law’s demands, and purchases for us an eternity of happiness.
- We hence, INFER the duty of an immediate submission to the divine plan of grace revealed in the gospel. There the great and endless blessings of the finished righteousness of Christ are freely offered, and given to every penitent believer. There is salvation in no other name. Let us, sirs come to God thro’ him, for whose sake the father mercies heareth and accepteth sinners; pardons our numberless offences, saves us from the curses of the broken law and from the wrath to come, and will raise us to endless glory and felicity.
MAY we, my brethren, ardently aspire after that blessedness which is given to those, unto whom a merciful God imputeth righteousness, the righteousness of the divine Saviour; for blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered, and unto whom God imputeth righteousness. May we persevere in faith and love and holy obedience, and thro’ grace obtain admittance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; to whom be all the glory of our salvation.