Without a distinct knowledge of the moral law we can have no just sentiments respecting God and His perfection, or Christ and His offices, or the Holy Spirit and His operations.
The holiness of the Deity is, and must be, marked in the law. The law He has given for the government of His rational creation.
If we suppose that law to be a perfect transcript of God’s mind and will. We will suppose it to extend to every action, word, and thought.
Then we consider it to require that in the habit of our minds we shall retain all that purity in which we were originally created, and preserve to our latest hour God’s perfect image upon our souls.
If the law admits not the slightest possible deviation or defect, no, not even through ignorance or inadvertence. If the law promises nothing to us but after a spotless adherence to its utmost demands from first to last.
Then it will be seen that God is a holy Being who cannot look upon iniquity without the utmost abhorrence.
But if we suppose His law to require anything less than this, and to admit of anything short of absolute perfection.
Then we must necessarily conceive Him as less abhorrent of sin, in proportion to the degree in which He lowers His own demands, and in which He leaves us at liberty to depart from this high standard which He proposed to man in Paradise. The standards which He still ordains for the angels that are around His throne.
If we suppose that the sanctions with which God enforces His law are strong and awful. We must consider that they involve nothing less than the everlasting happiness or misery of every child of man.
If we suppose that one single defect, of whatever kind, forfeits all title to happiness, and involves the soul in irremediable guilt and misery. It follows that these sanctions can never be set aside, never mitigated, never cease to operate through all eternity.
Then we shall necessarily have a high idea of God’s justice. His justice will never relax the smallest atom of its demand. Not in reference to the obedience of man or the execution of the judgment denounced against him.
But if we have an idea that God will overlook some slighter imperfections, or punish them only for a time. And punish them in a way which we might find supportable, we lower our ideas of divine justice and accommodate our views of it to the standard of human imperfection.
If we suppose the guilt that man has contracted to be beyond all measure and conception, and the judgments to which he is exposed to be commensurate with his deviations from God’s perfect law.
If we suppose his sins to be more in number that the sands upon the seashore. And every one of those sins is deserving of God’s eternal wrath and indignation.
Then we shall indeed stand amazed at the mercy of God, who, instead of executing His vengeance, has provided a remedy for the whole world.
A remedy suited for our wants, and sufficient for our necessities. A remedy whereby He may restore them to His favor.
Not only without compromising the honor of His other perfections, but to the everlasting advancement of them all.
With such views of His law we shall magnify His mercy. The mercy that can pardon so much guilt, and relive so much misery, and exalt to glory such unworthy creatures.
But if we suppose man’s offences to have been comparatively few, and his punishment to be comparative light. Who does not see that we reduce almost to nothing the mercy of our God?
His mercy shall be so little needed, and the deliverance is not anymore so inconsiderable.
Christ as Savior
Without a clear knowledge of the law we can have no just views of Christ and His offices.
From where rises the need for a Savior?
Is it not because we are condemned by the law? And incapable either of atoning for our past sins, or of restoring ourselves to the Divine image?
Suppose our guilt to have been exceeding great. And that every deviation from God’s perfect law brought upon us a curse, an everlasting curse.
Our sins have brought us under the wrath of Almighty God.
Let’s further suppose that the demands of law and justice could never be satisfied without the punishment of the offender. Either in our own person or in the person of an adequate surety.
If we believe this, then in exact proportion as we magnify our guilt and misery, we magnify the Savior. He who by His sacrifice has restored us to the divine favor.
And in proportion as you diminish your necessities, you depreciate the value of His atonement.
Conceive of the law as never satisfied without a perfect obedience to its commands. As requiring every soul to possess, either in himself or in his surety, a righteousness commensurate with its highest demands.
Then will Christ be proportionately exalted. For He has wrought out righteousness for all who shall believe in Him. And through His righteousness, a way of salvation is opened for us.
But reduce the righteousness to any lower standard, like a sincere but imperfect obedience. Then your need of Christ is proportionately reduced, and your obligation to Him almost altogether cancelled.
Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King
Take a larger view of Christ’s offices. Conceive Him as a Prophet, who is to instruct us. A Priest who is to atone for us. A King who is to rule over us.
What need is there of His instructions if a defective knowledge of His faith will suffice?
What need of His sacrifice if repentance and reformation can restore us to God’s favor?
What need of His government if so little is to be effected in our behalf either in a way of deliverance from sin, or in a way of effective renovation?
The less that is required of man himself, the less necessarily must be required of His Surety. And consequently, the whole work of Christ, whether for us or in us, is reduced in proportion as we reduce the demands of the law, and the necessities of man.
The Holy Spirit
The less is required from us, the less there is for Him to within us. And hence it is, that many deny the necessity of His influences altogether.
He won’t be necessary for us neither for the illumination of our minds, or the sanctification of our souls.
The truth is that the whole doctrine of the Trinity and all the doctrines depend on the law. The doctrine of the atonement, of imputed righteousness, and of divine influences must be traced to this source.
Men feel not their need of a Divine Savior. They feel not the need of an Almighty Agent to work in them the whole work of God.
The principles of theology are brought down to the low standard of philosophy, and one religion among many.
But let a person obtain a thorough insight into the spirituality of law, and he will see that these meager systems can never supply our needs, never afford a remedy suited to our necessities.
If any one less than God Himself undertake to affect our salvation, we shall see that we must inevitably perish. If we have none but a creature to depend on, we would be glad to be permitted to take our portion under rocks and mountains.
The truth stands. Without knowledge of law we can have no just sentiments.