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Let, then, the words of our Saviour be ever present on our minds : “ Take my yoke upon you,” said he, “and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
ROMANS VI. 15.
“ Shall we sin, because we are not under the Law, but
under Grace? God forbid !!
A supreme devotedness to our moral and religious duties, is absolutely necessary to secure our happiness as rational and accountable creatures, This is a self-evident truth, common alike to natural and revealed Religion. Yet this conviction, which must be strongly impressed upon the mind of every reflecting being, has, like every other principle of moral duty, been subject to the evasions of sinful ingenuity. From the time of Adam's transgression to the present day, sophistical delusions have not been wanting to silence the clamors of faithful conscience. No sooner had he sinned, than he attempted to make that the cause of his fall which was intended as a blessing: thereby indirectly charging God himself with his crime, for having bestowed upon liim, for the promotion of his happiness, an object, which, by his own abuse, had proved his ruin. This same disposition has since prevailed, both amongst Jews and Christians. Both have sought to justify the neglect of one duty by their adherence to another: both have sought for the palliation of offences upon grounds as fallacious as they were vain and unauthorised. The strict observance of the ceremonial law has been considered as comprising within it all that was necessary in Religion ; while a rigid attention to the moral duties of life, has, by others, been deemed sufficient to atone for the neglect of those which they conceived to be merely hieroglyphical and allegorical in their nature. So faith and obedience, amongst Christians, have been made to assume the places of each other; alternately constituting, each to the exclusion of the other, grounds upon which to build hopes of future salvation. Metaphysical distinctions, moral feelings, external conformity, have all, at different times, in the vain imaginations of men, separately borne the palm of triumph, as laying the foundation of immortal hopes. Thus driven by the winds of caprice, and the tide of custom, men have often exposed themselves to danger, by seeking for rest, where neither rest nor safety was to be found. The delusions of the imagination have been substituted for truth, and appearance has been taken for reality.
To some such error, not less fatal in its nature, the Apostle appears to have referred in the words of our text. His Epistle was addressed to the Christians at Rome; who consisted, as it would seem, of converts both from amongst Jews and Gentiles. After telling them, that by the law is the knowledge of sin; that the law entered, in order that the offence might abound ; that where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound, in order that as sin had reigned unto death, even so might Grace reign, through righteousness, unto eternal life: that sin should not have dominion over them; for that they were not under the Law, but under Grace. After speaking thus of the different consequences of the Law and of Grace ; lest it should appear that the Grace of the Gospel would excuse that, for which no provision had been made in the Law,
he emphatically exclaims, “ What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the Law, but under Grace? God forbid !” adds he. Thus did he, indirectly, but forcibly, confirm that solemn maxim, both of reason and of religion, that without holiness—without a supreme devotion, both of our affections and conduct, to the principles of truth-our happiness cannot be secure : we cannot see God in
peace. But, in order to bring the subject of our text more completely to view, and to give to the object of the Apostle that importance which it demands, and which, my brethren, is as necessary to us as to the primitive Christians of Rome, I would direct your attention to three considerations :
First, What is meant by being under the
Secondly, What is to be understood by being under Grace; and,
Thirdly, Urge the necessity of holiness, or pious obedience, as absolutely necessary to the Christian character. “ What then?” says the Apostle, “ shall we sin, because we are not under the Law, but under Grace? God forbid !”
I. First, What is meant by being under the Law ?
The term Law frequently occurs in Scripture, and most generally implies either the principles of moral obligation collectively considered, or the religious ceremonies of the Jews. It will be readily admitted, that to one of these definitions the expression in our text must be confined.
That being under the Law, does not here mean a subjection to the principles of moral obligation, is manifest. The requisitions of the moral law, necessarily growing out of the relation in which we stand to the Almighty, as his rational and accountable creatures, must continue in force so long as this relation exists. Were it possible for this to terminate, then would these be annihilated also. But since we never can cease to be dependant, so must our obligations to love and obedience forever continue. They must exist commonsurate with the relation in which we stand. But the Apostle speaks of a law, not of petual obligation; a rule to which they, or some of them, had been subject, but to which they did not then owe allegiance. “ We are not under the Law,” says he; consequently, this Law could make no demands
them. Its precepts were not addressed to them, and, of course, however applicable they may be in