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never have known death. Well therefore may sin be said to be the sting, since it is the cause of death.
But sin is not only the cause of death; it is. that which clothes it with all its terrors. The pains which death occasions the body; the agonies attending the separation of the soul from her mortal tabernacle are indeed severe. But these do not constitute the bitterness of death. These could be borne with composure, even with triumph, were it not that the soul is wounded by sin. If the conscience were at peace; if there were no transgressions for which an account must be rendered at the tribunal of her judge; if the soul were pure from the stains of sin, and fitted to enjoy the presence of her Maker; if she could contemplate only joy and bliss awaiting her in the new state of being on which she was to enter; what would be death, but a translation to scenes of more exalted enjoyment. How little, then should we regard those pains and agonies, soon terminating in joys that would know no end, in the perfection both of body and soul for ever. But, ah! brethren, when the pangs of death are to be borne by a wounded spirit, and to be encountered by a conscience oppressed with guilt; then it is that death is terrible. When in the midst of the agonies that attend the rending of the soul from the body, the sinner. calls to mind his iniquities, looks back on a long
series of transgressions, looks forward to the righteous tribunal of the God whom he has offended; beholds divine wrath impending over him; and that bottomless pit where the smoke of their torment ascendeth for ever and ever, opening to receive him; then it is that death is terrible; then it is that, to escape this second death, he would call on the rocks and mountains to cover him. It is sin which occasions these terrors; which excites in the conscience fearful apprehension of the wrath of God; and which quickens "the worm that never dies, and kindles the fire that never shall be quenched." The agonies of death could be borne but for those terrors with which sin has armed him. The sting of death is sin.
II. And what gives sin this tremendous power? We are answered in the words of the text, "The strength of sin is the Law." The law may be considered in a two-fold signification; of the moral law, to which men are universally subject, and of the law imposed by God upon the nation of Israel. In both these significations it may be said that "the law is the strength of sin."
1. The moral law is the strength of sin. For by the law is the knowledge of sin. The principle upon which this assertion is founded is obvious, "where there is no law, there can be no transgression"." "Without the law, sin is dead." The
moral law, to which all men are subject, requires perfect obedience; an obedience which in no instance falls short of the demands of the law; which in no instance omits the duties which it enjoins, or practises the things which it prohibits. Perfect unsinning obedience is required by the very nature of law. To suppose that a law permits its injunctions to be disregarded, would be contradictory and absurd. By the very nature then of the moral law, perfect obedience to all its injunctions is required of man. This obedience is also exacted by the lawgiver. He is God over all, the fountain of being and felicity, holy and just, infinite in goodness as supreme in power. He possesses therefore an immutable claim to the perfect homage and obedience of man. His power enables him to demand this homage and obedience. His holiness and goodness give him a right to do so. The distinction between good and evil is as essential and eternal as his own nature; and it is not possible that he can view with favour any of his intelligent creatures who disregard this distinction. God is holy, and man must be holy, or he cannot be acceptable to a holy God. Both the nature of the moral law then, and the perfections and authority of the lawgiver, exact perfect obedience to its injunctions. And what are these injunctions?-To love God supremely, to fear him constantly, to glorify him with our bodies and our 'spirits that
are his; to practise, universally and strictly, those virtues of justice, fidelity, sobriety and purity, which are required by the infinite perfection of his nature, and necessary to the perfection of our own. What then is the situation of man? Reason, conscience, teach him that he is subject to a law which requires unsinning obedience. And yet there is not a moment of his life when he does not fall short of its claims-in which he does not, in many things, offend; and offending, become obnoxious to punishment. "The law then is the strength of sin." It enjoins duties, which through the frailty, of our nature we are unable to perform; it prohibits offences, which we are constantly committing; it subjects us to punishment, to the awful displeasure of that holy and just Being whom we are bound supremely to serve. Will we cherish the hope of pardon? Shall we trust that a merciful God, commiserating the frailty of our nature, will not be strict to mark our offences? Admit-' ting that this hope is reasonable in respect to the sins of infirmity, to the imperfection of our services, it will not apply to our wilful transgressions; and of such we are guilty. But whence do we derive this hope of pardon? Not from the moral law; for it is the very nature of law to know no mercy; to follow the offence with the penalty. Do we derive it from the perfections of the lawgiver?
Alas! when we are seeking a
refuge in the mercy of our Heavenly Father, justice interposes and demands our punishment; the holiness and authority of God enforce her claims; and, in the moment when certainty only could afford us consolation, we are overwhelmed with the distressing doubt, how God can be just and justify the sinner.
The moral law then is the strength of sin. It gives man the knowledge of sin. Requiring a perfect obedience, which man, through the frailty of his nature, is unable to render, it subjets him to the power, and to the consequent punishment of sin. And it provides no means of escape from either the power or the punishment. The assurance, and the means of pardon, must arise from an express revelation of the Almighty Lawgiver.
And, perhaps, this assurance is contained, these means are provided, in the revelation which God made of his will by his servant Moses. Perhaps man, condemned by the moral law, will find mercy in that proclaimed to the people of Israel. Alas! this law established all the precepts of the moral law. This do, and thou shalt live," is its injunction. Perfect obedience is still required. And it confirmed the penalty of disobedience. "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them"." By adding to the precepts of the moral law a number of positive institutions, and ritual ob