“Christ drives us back into the inner chambers of our consciousness, where God and we are alone, and good an evil assume a proportion and significance never dreamt of before. The law in the hands of Jesus becomes alive with God’s own personality. Majestic and authoritative, he is present in every commandment, so absolute in his demands, so observant of our conduct, so intent upon the outcome, that the thought of giving him less than heart and soul and mind and strength in the product of our moral life ceases to be tolerable to ourselves.” – from a collection of sermons by Vos titled Grace and Glory. Sermon title: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness – Matthew 5:6
This is exactly it. The Law finds a continued use for the believer because it drives us to Christ, ALWAYS!. We find our moral life intolerable and beg the Saviour, not only save us from hell, but save us from our sins.
C.F.W. Walther believed the most important doctrine for a Christian to understand is justification by faith and the second most important was the proper distinction between the Law and Gospel. I really enjoyed this work and have picked away at it online over the years so without further introduction I present Walther’s work in epub format.
Some questions from Pink’s work on the Doctrine of Sanctification for you to toss around in your mind. A. W. makes good use of the Law to drive us to Christ in faith and to help us come to a better understanding of how vile our sin really is before God and His holiness. These questions are useful and often penetrating, they would be excellent as review before attend at the Lord’s Supper.
A. W. Pink tells us to “Honestly apply to yourself the following tests.”
First, in seasons of retirement from the noise and business of the world, or during the sacred hours of the Sabbath, or in your secret devotions, what are your thoughts, what is the real temper of your mind?
Do you know God, commune with and delight in Him?
Is His Word precious, is prayer a welcome exercise?
Do you delight in God’s perfections and esteem Him for His absolute supremacy and sovereignty?
Do you feel and lament your remaining blindness and ignorance; do you mourn over your lack of conformity to God’s Law and your natural contrariety to it, and hate yourself for it?
Not indeed as you should, but do you really and sincerely do so at all?
Second, what are the grounds of your love to God? from what motives are you influenced to love Him?
Because you believe He loves you? or because He appears infinitely great and glorious in Himself?
Are you glad that He is infinitely holy, that He knows and sees all things, that He possesses all power?
Does it suit your heart that God governs the world, and requires that all creatures should bow in the dust before Him, that He alone may be exalted?
Does it appear perfectly reasonable that you should love God with all your heart, and do you loathe and resist everything contrary to Him?
Do you feel yourself to be wholly to blame for not being altogether such as the Law requires?
Third, is there being formed within you a disposition to love your neighbor as yourself, so that you wish and seek only his good?
and do you hate and mourn over any contrary spirit within you?
Honest answers to these questions should enable you to ascertain your real spiritual state.
“For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” 1 Corinthians 11:31-32
“Then is a Christian under obligations to keep this law? Is the law binding on you not to kill, not to lie, not to steal, not to commit adultery? We certainly would be extreme antinomians if we were to say that as an obligation that does not rest on us. It does rest on us, but it does not rest on us as a way to eternal life. You see the distinction? The time never will come when it will be right for a man to kill, to steal, to commit adultery, to covet, and no matter who does any one of these things, whether saint or sinner, it is sin. But the keeping of the Decalogue is an obligation upon the Christian because it is in the nature of his being as when it was spoken at Sinai, yet that is not the Christian’s way to obtain eternal life.”— An Interpretation of the English Bible, Vol. II, p. 126.
“Now, you know, or ought to know, the difference between a positive enactment and a moral enactment. A positive enactment has only one reason: that is, that God has commanded. A moral commandment is one which has a reason for it; to be seen by an intelligent mind and calling forth a decision. The commandment to be baptized is a positive ordinance; ‘thou shalt not kill,’ is a moral commandment. Wherever in any commandment a reason is given for the commandment, that is proof of the moral character of the commandment.”— An Interpretation of the English Bible, Vol. II, p. 130.
Few authors can speak from the school of divine experience better then J.C. Philpot and Silas Durand.
“For I know that my Redeemer liveth.”
Here is that faith which distinguishes the saints from the world and sustains them through every possible trial and temptation, and by which they live the life that they now live in the flesh (Galatians 2:20). Job has described his suffering condition as the most pitiable that we can imagine a poor soul to be in; not only forsaken of all earthly friends, deprived of all earthly comfort, suffering the most excruciating anguish of body and mind, and full of corruption, but with the great and holy God, whom he feared and delighted to serve, apparently turned to be his enemy, and justly bearing him down with his great anger into the awful chasm of nothingness. Yet, in the midst of all this accumulation of horrors, in the midst of this great darkness and desolation of soul, he gives utterance to these words of strong confidence, that rise from the darkness like a great gleam of unfading light–words that can spring only from “the faith of the Son of God,” of Him who went without fear into the awful darkness and great deeps of death, knowing that he should be brought up again by the glory of the Father and be raised up on high. That faith is in all the saints, but is not known by the natural mind. It looks to things far beyond the reach of mortal sight, enters into that within the veil, lays hold upon the unfading inheritance, and dwells in the glorious light that falls from the throne of God. By that faith Abel saw the glorious work of redemption all complete, saw the word of God for ever settled in heaven, and received the joys of salvation, as all this shall be presented to the faith of the last saint that shall be gathered in.
Job in this place speaks for every child of God in all ages, for it is the same faith that is in them all. He may be regarded as representing in an especial manner the Church under the legal dispensation – not the Jewish Church or nation of Israel, but the true Israelites among that people who stood by faith. This faith is the same, and grasps the same perfection in Christ, whether in those who lived before he came in the flesh or in those who are on the earth now; and so, while we regard Job as especially representing those under the legal dispensation who truly hoped in the Redeemer, and who looked forward to the time when, according to promise, he should stand in the latter day upon the earth, yet we who live in the latter day can answer to all his struggles and to the triumphs of his faith.
How well his condition represents that of those who have been thoroughly measured by the law and found wanting, which. is the case with all the people of God experimentally! No righteousness that can answer its just demands; no strength to work its holy requirements; no wisdom to direct according to its perfect rule; no offering to make as an atonement for the violence we have done its infinitely holy and just and good provisions; but feeble, helpless, foolish, vile, and full of corruption, we lie under its curse, with all earthly comfort and satisfaction taken from us, all the sweetness even of earth’s pleasures turned to bitterness in our taste–our glory gone like a dream, our hope removed like a tree. Yet from this lowest place of darkness, when all earthly confidence has failed, and when all human wisdom would fail to see any possible ground for hope in that desperate condition, faith rises in sublime confidence and strength and lifts up her glorious words on high – I know that my Redeemer liveth.
From whom was this glorious knowledge received? For it is not within the grasp of mortal powers, and therefore could not be taught by man. Flesh and blood hath not revealed this, but the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is in heaven (Matthew 16:17). Now, as fully as before our Redeemer came in the flesh, is this heavenly knowledge hidden from the natural mind, but God hath revealed it unto us by his Spirit (I Corinthians 2:10). That faith which is the gift of God beheld the Redeemer of his people before he came in the flesh. How that redemption should be effected, and what the great joys were it should bring, were not for the saints yet to know. Should the full joys of salvation be now bestowed upon us in this mortal state, what should we have to look forward to? “What a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it (Romans 8:25).” Here is the patience of Job. “Here is the patience and the faith of the saints,” that in the midst of all their sorrows, notwithstanding all their vileness, with all appearances against them, they will still hope; they must still hope; earth and hell cannot prevent their hopefully looking up and saying by faith, even in the midst of most painful doubts and fears with which the world, the flesh and the devil harass them “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” They must mourn yet, and suffer and complain under a sense of sins and errors, and have their frequent wanderings opposed by Satan to their hope; but they shall be preserved through all, and in their patience shall possess their souls, and finally rise triumphant over all, to the shame and everlasting contempt of their enemy, and to the glory of Him “who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Trial of Job
“The question might here be raised why it is that the Law leads men into the horrible sin of despair. That is merely an accidental feature of its operation. In and by itself the Law, too, is good.
Let me follow this up with a passage from Luther’s Commentary on Galatians. On Gal. 2, 3. 4 Luther says: “Accordingly, when your conscience is terrified by the Law, and you are wrestling with God, the Judge, do not consult your reason or the Law, but take your stand alone on the grace of God and His word of consolation. Cling to this and act as if you had never heard a word of the Law. Enter into that darkness (Ex. 20, 21) where neither the Law nor human reason gives its light, but only the dark word of faith. The believer relies with a certainty on being saved in Christ, without the Law and regardless of it. Thus the gospel, without, and regardless of, the light of the Law and reason, leads us into the darkness of faith, where the Law and reason exercise no authority. We must, indeed, hear the Law also, yet in its proper place and at the proper time. When he has come down from the mountain, he is a legislator and governs the people with the Law. In this manner our conscience is to be exempt from the Law, but ours is to obey the Law. … Hence, any person who understands well how to distinguish the Gospel from the Law may thank God and know that he is a theologian. In times of tribulation, indeed, I do not know how to do this as efficiently as I should. Both teachings are to be distinguished in such a manner that you place the Gospel in heaven, the Law on earth; that you call the righteousness which the Gospel proclaims a heavenly and divine righteousness, the righteousness which the Law proclaims an earthly and human righteousness; and that you are as careful to distinguish the righteousness of the Gospel from the righteousness of the Law as God with great care has separated heaven from earth, light from darkness, day from night. One of these doctrines shall be the light of day, the other the darkness of night. Would to God that we could put them still farther apart!
“Therefore, when we are speaking of faith and are ministering to men’s consciences, the Law is to be utterly excluded; it must remain on earth. When you treat of what men are to do, light the night-lamp of works, or of the righteousness that is by way of the Law. Thus the sun and the unmeasured light of the Gospel and of grace is to shine during the day; the lamp of the Law, however, at night. A conscience, then, that has been thrown into terror by feeling its sin should argue thus: I am now engaged in earthly tasks. Here let the donkey labor, slave, and carry the burden that is laid upon him. That is to say, Let the body with its members be subject to the Law, But when you ascend to heaven, leave the donkey with its burden on earth. For the conscience of a believer in Christ has nothing to do with the Law and its works and the righteousness of this earth. Thus the donkey stays in the valley, while the conscience, with Isaac, goes up into the mountain, ignores the Law and its works, and keeps its eye only on the forgiveness of sin, on nothing but that righteousness which is exhibited and given to us in Christ. … This point of doctrine, vis., the distinction between the Law and the Gospel, we must needs know because it contains the sum of all Christian teaching. Let every one who is zealous to be godly strive, then, with the greatest care to learn how to make this distinction, that is, in his heart and conscience. The distinction is made easily enough in words. But in affliction you will realize that the Gospel is a rare guest in men’s consciences, while the Law is their daily and familiar companion For human reason has by nature the knowledge of the Law. Therefore, when the conscience is terrified by sin, which the Law points out and magnifies, you are to speak thus: There is a time to die, and there is a time to live; there is a time for acting as if you were ignorant of the Gospel. At this moment let the Law begone, and let the Gospel come; for now is not the time to hear the Law, but the Gospel. But how about this? You have not done any good; on the contrary, you have committed grievous sins. I admit that, but I have the forgiveness of sins through Christ, for whose sake all my sins have been remitted. However, while the conscience is not engaged in this conflict, while you are obliged to discharge the ordinary functions of your office, at a time when you must act as a minister of the Word, a magistrate, a husband, a teacher, a pupil, etc., it is not in season to hear the Gospel, but the Law. At such a time you are to perform the duties of your profession,” [source]
Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
We have many ideas about what a person has to do to get to heaven. Some believe we must follow the “Golden Rule,” and do good deeds which will eventually outweigh the bad we have done, tipping the scales in our favour….after all, we are all basically good people…right?
If we assume we are good people we are also assuming a standard for what we consider good. Since we assume there is an absolute standard for what is good there must be an absolute standard giver. The Bible repeatedly states that God has given mankind a holy, universal Law, that is written on our hearts and our conscience bears witness to this Law. This Law is revealed and summarized in the Ten Commandments. When we look at God’s Law, we must understand that we have all sinned in some way or another; remember, you don’t have to break all Ten to be guilty of breaking the Law. The Bible warns, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”
“… it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” Hebrews 9:27
Let’s look at a few of the Commandments and see how we fare:
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Have you ever taken God’s name in vain? If you have, you are a blasphemer and can not enter the Kingdom of God.
“Honour your father and mother.” Have you always honoured your parents in a respectful manner? In a way that God would consider honouring?
“You shall not steal.” Have you ever taken something that didn’t belong to you (irrespective of its value)? What do you call someone who takes something that doesn’t belong to them? A thief – You cannot enter God’s Kingdom.
“You shall not bear false witness.” Have you ever told a lie? Just one? What do you call someone who told a lie? A liar. The Bible warns that all liars will have their part in the Lake of Fire.
You and I are guilty of sinning against God by breaking His Law, and because we have a conscience, we have sinned “with knowledge.” Isn’t it true that when you steal, lie, etc. you know that it’s wrong? Does the fact that you have sinned against God bother you? The punishment for breaking God’s Law is Hell. Eternal Death.
“Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail.”
WHAT MUST YOU DO TO BE SAVED FROM THE PENALTY OF BREAKING GOD’S LAW?
There is good news, there is a GOSPEL. God the Father has given us a mediator in Jesus Christ who is the incarnation of God. Jesus took upon Himself man’s nature, becoming subject to the Law of God, and perfectly obeying the Law in thought and deed for His entire lifetime on earth. While on earth Christ took the sins of His people upon Himself, and suffering the punishment due to all their sins paid the penalty by dying on the Cross, “…for the wages of sin is death.”
By dying in place of His people Jesus Christ became the mediator between God and man and revived in His people the righteousness, holiness and true knowledge lost as a consequence of sin.
As we find ourselves before a holy God we are convicted for breaking His righteous Law. The Holy Spirit moves in the soul to bring us to acknowledge our guilt and brokenness before God and His righteousness. We come to hate sin and find Jesus Christ precious. The Holy Spirit convinces the broken sinner of the shamefulness of sin and then brings the offender to a place where they can, “repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
If you feel the weight of sin on your heart and have come to see the blackness of your soul in the light of God’s Law…if you have been brought to a place where you dread the judgement of the trice holy God, BELIEVE THE GOSPEL! If you believe that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins the Bible assures us that, “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
 quote taken from a sermon by Jonathan Edwards titled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
John Warburton, “If there be a sinner, who has just got his eyes opened to see his lost and ruined state, who feels that he cannot pray, nor knows how to utter a word before the great Jehovah who is so infinite in holiness and justice, while he is such a vile and polluted sinner who is so infinite in wisdom, while he is such an ignorant fool if, dear soul, you have not many words to utter, can you from the bottom of your heart say, “God be merciful to me a sinner?” That is the best prayer for you and me. God will not despise it; “He will regard the prayer of the destitute.” (Ps. 102:17) And He says, in the words of the text, for your comfort and encouragement, “thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.” Blessings on His name, you shall find Him to be a God, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” In His own time, He will enrich your soul with a sweet and blessed enjoyment of His undertaking.
I believe the greatest number of God’s children are cast down in their minds, and grievously perplexed at times respecting the reality of their repentance and faith, and the genuineness of their religion before God. One reason why I draw this inference is because there are many “fear nots” in the word of God; they come from God’s mouth, and are not spoken at an uncertainty. There are some professors to whom the “fear nots” in God’s word have no manner of use; for they never feel the bonds and fetters that the Lord’s people do; neither do they appear to have any afflictions or bitters in their cup; consequently, as they have nothing to try and cast them down, so they need not these encouraging “fear nots” from God’s blessed word.
There may be some here tonight, who are questioning whether the Lord has ever picked them up, and began the good work of grace in their souls, or whether their religion is only of the flesh, through the workings of natural conscience; so that they are full of anxiety to know whether they belong to the Lord’s quickened family. I never find empty professors of religion, those great and high-flown six feet gentlemen who are full of their own wisdom and fleshly confidence, ever in anxiety to know whether the good work of grace was ever begun in their hearts. But, wherever the good seed of the word is sown, it is always in the heart that has been ploughed and harrowed. When the good seed is dropped into good ground, then there is honesty in that soul, and it is honest before God; so that he cannot come and grasp the promises as he please; he is not able to take hold of this and that passage and claim it as a child’s portion. No, no; the poor soul wants God to claim him as His child and His portion; and he will come begging and crying to the Lord to give him some testimony of His favour, and speak home some promise with power, to satisfy the desires of his soul. There is true heart-work going on in such a sinner as this. He will say, ‘Lord, give me a token to satisfy me I am not a hypocrite; give me to feel that Thou art mine, and I am Thine!” What, be a hypocrite, and yet have the good work of grace in the soul! Depend upon it, no hypocrite can ever come here! If you search all through the word of God you will not find any but the living family who come into this spot. Never, never.” [source]
Before bed last night I picked up Personal Declension (again) by Octavius Winslow. The work deals with backsliding. He, like J.C. Philpot, offer the church experimental help in understanding the spiritual life of the Christian.
A few selections from chapter one follow:
When a professing man can proceed with his accustomed religious duties, strictly, regularly, formally, and yet experience no enjoyment of God in them, no filial nearness, no brokenness and tenderness, and no consciousness of sweet return, he may suspect that his soul is in a state of secret and incipient backsliding from God. Satisfying and feeding his soul – if feeding it may be called – with a lifeless form; what stronger symptom needs he of his real state? A healthy, growing state of religion in the soul demands more for its nourishment and support than this. A believer panting for God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, grace thriving, the heart deeply engaged in spiritual duties, lively, prayerful, humble, and tender, ascending in its frame and desires, – a state marked by these features cannot be tied down to a lifeless, spiritless form of religious duties. These were but husks to a healthy state of the life of God in the soul. It wants more. It will hunger and thirst, and this spiritual longing must be met. And nothing can satisfy and satiate it but living upon Christ, the bread and the water of life. “I am the bread of life.” “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” “My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” The professing man that goes all his days without this nourishment, thus starving his soul, may well exclaim, “My leanness, my leanness!” Oh, how solemn to such are the words of our Lord, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you (Jn 6:53).”
Essentially connected with the discovery and the confession, there must be the entire mortification and abandonment of the cause of the soul’s secret declension. Apart from this, there can be no true revival of the work of Divine grace in the heart. The true spiritual mortification of indwelling sin, and the entire forsaking of the known cause, whatever it is found to be, of the heart’s declension, constitute the true elements of a believer’s restoration to the joys of God’s salvation. And when we speak of the mortification of sin, let not the nature of this sacred work be misunderstood. It has been in the case of many, why may it not in yours? There may exist all the surface-marks of mortification, and still the heart remain a stranger to the work. An awakening sermon, an alarming providence, or a startling truth, may for a moment arrest and agitate the backsliding soul. There may be an opening of the eyelid, a convulsive movement of the spiritual frame, which, to a superficial observer, may wear the appearance of a real return to consciousness, of a true waking up to new life and vigour of the slumbering soul, and yet these may be but the transient and fitful impulses of a sickly and a drowsy spirit. The means of grace, too, may be returned to – the secret declension felt, deplored and acknowledged, but the hidden cause remaining unmortified and unremoved, all appearance of recovery quickly and painfully subsides. It was but a transient, momentary shock, and all was still; the heavy eyelid but feebly opened, and closed again; the “goodness” that promised so fair, was but as the morning cloud and the early dew. And the reason is found in the fact, that there was no true mortification of sin. And so I may repair to a plant withering and drooping in my garden; I may employ every external means for its revival; I may loosen the earth about it, water, and place it in the warm sunbeam; but if the while I had not discovered and removed the hidden cause of its decay – if I had not know that a worm was secretly feeding at the root, and, in ignorance of this, had proceeded with my surface-work of restoration, what marvel, though the morning sunbeam, and the evening dew, and the loosened earth, had produced a momentary freshness and life, that yet my plant had ceased to exist, had withered and died? Thus may it be with a declining believer. The external means of revival may be sedulously employed, means of grace diligently used and even multiplied, but all to no real and permanent effect, while a worm secretly feeds at the root; and until the hidden cause of decay be mortified, removed, and utterly extirpated, the surface revival does but end in a profounder sleep, and a more fearful deception of the soul.
Commence at the beginning; go as a sinner to Jesus; seek the quickening, healing, sanctifying influence of the Spirit; and let this be your prayer, presented, and urged until answered, at the footstool of mercy: “O Lord, revive thy work! Quicken me, O Lord! Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation!” In answer to thy petition, “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth;” and thy song shall be that of the church, “My Beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”