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Question 115. Why will God then have the ten commands so strictly preached, since no man in this life can keep them?

Answer. First, that all our lifetime, we may learn more and .more to know our sinful nature, and thus become the more earnest in seeking the remission of sin, and righteousness in Christ; likewise, that we constantly endeavour and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God, until we arrive at the perfection proposed to us, in a life to come.  



When we enquire concerning the use of the divine law, it is necessary that we should keep in view the differences of each part of the law.

The use of the ceremonial laws of Moses was,

  1. That it might serve as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ and his kingdom. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24.)

  2. That it might distinguish the Jewish church from all other nations.

  3. That it might be an exercise of piety, and a declaration of obedience to the moral law.

  4. A confirmation of faith. There were among the ceremonial laws certain sacraments, or signs of the covenant, and seals of grace; as circumcision, and the Passover, which declared what benefits God would give to the faithful by the Messiah which was to come.

The use of the judicial, or civil laws, was,

  1. That they might contribute to the preservation of the Mosaic polity.

  2. That they might be types of the government of the church in the kingdom of Christ, inasmuch as the princes and kings of the Jewish nation were no less, than the priests a type of Christ, the High Priest and King of the Church. These uses, together with the laws themselves, were done away with when the ceremonies of the former dispensation were fulfilled and abrogated by the coming of Christ, and the Mosaic polity overthrown y the Romans.

The uses of the moral law are different according to man s four-fold state.

I. In nature uncorrupted, or not as yet depraved by sin, as our nature was before the fall, there are two  principal uses of the divine law:

  1. The entire and perfect conformity of man with God. The mind of man before the fall possessed a perfect knowledge of the law, which produced a conformity and correspondence of all the inclinations and actions with the will of God.

  2. A good conscience, or a consciousness of the divine favor, and certain hope of eternal life. The law, according to the order of divine justice, promises life to those who render a perfect obedience to its requirements. “Which if a man do, he shall live in them.” (Lev. 18:5.) 

II. In nature corrupted, and not as yet renewed by the Holy Spirit, there are also two uses of the law:

  1. The preservation of discipline and external propriety in the church and world. The law being engraven upon the minds and hearts of all men by God himself, and speaking by the voice of ministers and magistrates, curbs and restrains even the unregenerate, so that they shun those flagrant and open forms of wickedness, which are in opposition to the judgment of sound reason as it utters itself even in persons unrenewed by the Spirit of God, and which must be removed before regeneration. “When the Gen tiles, which have not the law, do by nature, the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another.” (Rom. 2:14, 15.)

  2. The knowledge of sin. The law accuses, convinces, and condemns all those who are not regenerated, because they are unrighteous before God, and subject to eternal condemnation. “We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.  Therefore by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” “I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt “not covet. (Rom. 3:19, 20; 7:7.) This use of the law, which consists in a knowledge of sin, and of the judgment of God against sin, produces in itself in the unregenerate hatred of God, and an increase of sin, and if they are reprobate it drives them into despair, as it is said, “The law worketh wrath.” “Sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.” (Rom. 4:15; 7:8.) This knowledge of sin, however, is by an accident a preparation to conversion as it respects the elect, seeing that God by this means leads and constrains them to acknowledge their unrighteousness, to despair of any help in themselves, and to seek by faith righteousness and life in Christ the mediator. “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Gal. 3:21, 22.)

III. In nature restored by Christ, or as it resects the regenerate, there are many uses of the law.

  1. The preservation of discipline and outward obedience to the law. For although this use has respect chiefly to the unregenerate, as we have already shown, who do not refrain from sin from love to God and righteousness, but only from a fear and dread of punishment and shame, as the Poet says,

    Oderunt peccare mali formedine pćnć:

    They hate to sin from a dread of punishment;

    yet it in like manner has its use in relation to the godly, because on account of the weakness and corruption of the flesh, it is useful and necessary, even to them, that the threatenings of the law, and the examples of punishment set before them, may keep them in the faithful discharge of their duty. For God threatens severe punishment even to the saints, if they become guilty of sins of a shameful and grievous nature. “When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall die in his sins.” (Ez. 18:24.)

  1. A knowledge of sin. This use of the law, although it likewise has reference chiefly to the unregenerate, nevertheless, belongs to the godly also. For the law is to the regenerate as a mirror, in which they may see the defects and imperfection of their own nature, and also leads them to true humility before God, that so they may continually advance in true conversion and faith; and that whilst the renewing of their nature is going forward, they may become more earnest in prayer and supplication, that they may become more and more conformed to God and the divine law.  “I delight in the law of God, after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members. wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? “(Rom.  23:22, 23, 24.) The declaration of the Apostle Paul, that the law is our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ, must be understood of both these uses of the law of which we have just spoken, and that in the elect still unregenerate, as well as in those who are already regenerated. To the former it is a preparation to conversion; whilst to the latter it is the carrying forward, or increase of conversion, since faith cannot be kindled, or remain in the heart, unless open and grievous offences, and such as wound the conscience, be hated and shunned. “Let no man deceive you; he that committeth sin is of the devil.” (I John 3:7.)

  2. Another use of the moral law is, that it may be a rule of divine worship and of a Christian life. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and cause you to walk in my statutes.” (Ps. 119:105.  Jer. 31:33. Ez. 36:26.) This use of the law is peculiar to the re generate. For although the law be also a rule of life to the unregenerate before their conversion, yet it is not to them a rule of worship and gratitude to God, as in the case of the regenerate.

  3. That the exposition of the law delivered to the church may teach that God is, and what he is.

  4. The voice of the law sounding in the church is an evident testimony, teaching what the true church is, and in what true religion consists. It is in the church alone that the law is delivered and taught in its purity, and rightly understood; for all other systems of religion have manifestly corrupted it in different ways, by approving of manifest errors and heresies which they have mingled more or less with it.

  5. It admonishes us of the image of God in man; or, we may say it is a testimony of the excellency of human nature before the fall, and of the original righteousness which was in Adam, and is again restored in us by Christ.

  6. It is a testimony of eternal life, still future, in which we shall perfectly fulfill the law. The law was given, to be observed by man. But it is not observed in this life. Therefore there is another life remaining,, in which we shall yield a perfect obedience to the law.

IV. In nature perfectly restored and glorified after this life, the law will also have its use; for although the preaching of it, and the whole ministry of the church, shall then cease, yet there will still remain in the elect a knowledge of the law, whilst perfect obedience to all its demands, and full conformity with God, will be wrought in them. The law will, there fore, accomplish the same ends in the life to come, when we shall be fully transformed in the image of God, that it did in our nature before the fall.  

The principal arguments of the Antinomian, Libertines, and other profane heretics of a similar cast, who affirm that the law is not to be taught in the church of Christ.

Obj. 1. That which cannot be kept, is taught to no purpose. The law cannot be kept. Therefore it is to no purpose that it is taught in the church of Christ. Ans. There is here a fallacy in urging that as a cause, which is no sufficient reason; for the mere fact that it is impossible for us to render perfect obedience to the law in this infirm state of our being, is not of itself a sufficient reason why the preaching of the law should be regarded as useless in the church, since there may be, and indeed are, other reasons why it is not only useful, but even necessary, to teach and enforce the law; for we have already shown that the law accomplishes many objects, even in respect to the regenerate. It is not necessary, therefore, that when one end or use of the law is removed, that the others should likewise be removed. If it cannot be perfectly obeyed, it should at least be taught and enforced, that we may be led to acknowledge this imperfection and defect, in order that we may the more ardently desire and seek the remission of our sins, and that righteousness which is in Christ, and may the more earnestly strive to reach and attain the mark set before us even our perfection in Christ. We may also reply to this objection, that it is of no force, inasmuch as it assumes that to be true generally which is true only in part; for the law may, to a certain extent, be kept by the regenerate, as we have just shown. Hence, the minor proposition, if it be understood generally,” is not true.

Obj. 2. He who commands impossibilities, commands things which are not profitable. God commands impossibilities in his law. Therefore he commands things which are useless, and so by consequence the law itself is of no use. Ans. This argument is nearly the same as the one we have just answered. We reply, however, to the major proposition, That he commands things unprofitable, who commands impossibilities:1. If the things enjoined be absolutely impossible. 2. If they be always impossible. 3. If the command have no other objects than that the things which are enjoined be perfectly complied with. But there are many ends on account of which God commands and enforces the law, and requires that it be taught in the church, as may be seen from the remarks which we have already made upon this subject. There is also here the same error which we noticed in the former objection, in regarding that as a cause which is no sufficient reason.

Obj. 3. We ought not to desire that which God does not Desire to give us in this life, and which we cannot obtain. But God does not desire to give us perfect obedience to the law in this life. Therefore it is in vain that we desire it, and strive for it by the doctrine of the law. Ans. We ought not to desire that which God does not desire to give us, unless he commands us to desire it, and there be weighty reasons why we should seek to obtain it. But God commands us to seek and to desire the perfect fulfillment of the law in this life, and that:1. Because he purposes at length to accomplish it in those who desire it, and to grant it to us after this life, if we here truly and heartily desire it. 2. That we may here make progress in true piety, and that the desire to conform our lives to the requirements of the divine law be daily more and more kindled and con firmed in us. 3. That God may, by this desire of fulfilling the law, exercise in us repentance and obedience.

Obj. 4. Christ is not the lawgiver. Therefore his ministers should not teach and enforce the law. Ans. Christ is not the lawgiver, as it respects the principal office of the mediator; but he was and is lawgiver:1. In as far as he is God and the author of the law, together with the Father. 2. In as far as it belonged to the mediator to free the law from the errors with which it had been corrupted, and to restore its true sense, not indeed chiefly, but that he might be able to accomplish the principal parts of his office, which are comprehended in the reconciliation and salvation of the human race. We may give the same answer to the objection as it relates to the ministers of the gospel, inasmuch as they are to teach and expound no other doctrine to the church than that which Christ himself delivered.  Obj. 5. He who makes satisfaction to the law by punishment, is not bound to obedience according to the rule, The law binds to obedience or punishment, but not to both at the same time. We now make satisfaction to the law by the punishment of Christ. Therefore we are no longer bound to obey the law. Ans. We must make a distinction in reference to the major proposition: He who makes satisfaction by punishment, is not bound to obedience; that is, he is not bound to render the same obedience, for the omission of which he suffered punishment; but after it is made, he is bound to yield obedience anew to the law, or to suffer new punishment in case he disobey the law. Again: he who makes satisfaction to the law by punishment which is not his own, but another s, and is received into favor by God without his own satisfaction, ought still to render obedience to the law, even though it be not to make satisfaction for his sins, but that he may in this way show his gratitude to his redeemer. We ought, therefore, since Christ has satisfied for our sins by his death, to feel ourselves bound to render obedience, not indeed for the time past, but for the time to come; and this, too, for the purpose of showing our gratitude for the benefit of our deliverance. “He that is dead is freed from sin.” “We thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead, and that he died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (Rom. 6:7. 2 Cor. 5:14, 15.)

Obj. 6. Christians are not governed by the Jaw, but by the Spirit of regeneration, according as it is said, “The law is not made for a righteous man.” (1 Tim. 1:9.) Therefore, the law ought not to be taught among Christians. Ans. Christians are, indeed, not governed by the law; or in other words, they are not constrained and driven to such a course of conduct as is right and becoming by the law, and by fear of punishment as the ungodly are; yet they are, nevertheless, ruled in this sense by the law, that it teaches them what worship is pleasing to God; and the Holy Ghost, likewise, uses the doctrine of the law, for the purpose of inclining them to true and cheerful obedience. The doctrine, therefore, that we are bound to give obedience to the law remains, although there is no condemnation or constraint, as far as Christians are concerned. For to this we are bound, that our obedience be most free and cheerful. We are debtors not to the flesh to live after the flesh, but to the Spirit. The law is not given for a righteous man, that is, to constrain and bind him. (Rom. 8:12. 1 Tim.  I:9.)

Obj. 7. “Ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14.) Therefore, the law does not bind us. Ans. This, however, is to misunderstand the words of the Apostle; for the expression, Not to be un der the law, does not mean, that we are not to yield obedience to the law, but that we are freed from the curse and constraint of the law; just as, To be under grace, is to be justified and regenerated by the grace of Christ.  But say our opponents: Those who are bound to obey the law, and yet do not comply with its demands, are subject to condemnation. But we are not exposed to condemnation; for “there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1.) Therefore, we are not bound to obey the law. We reply that the major of this syllogism is true, 1. In case he who is bound to yield obedience to the law, be bound to yield it in his own person; but we are bound to yield obedience and do yield it, not in ourselves, but in Christ. 2. In case he be bound to obey the law in himself always, or at all times perfectly; but we are not bound in ourselves to yield perfect obedience to the law in this life, but only to begin this obedience according to all the commandments of God. In eternal life we shall be bound to a perfect conformity to the law.

Obj. 8. The law is the letter which killeth, and is the ministration of death and condemnation. (2 Cor. 3:6, 7.) But there is no condemnation to Christians. Therefore, the law does not have respect to christians who are in Christ Jesus. Ans. There is here a fallacy of accident; for the law is not in itself the letter which killeth; since this comes to pass by the fault of men, who, the more clearly they perceive the difference between themselves and the law, the more fully do they give themselves over to despair in reference to their salvation, and are therefore slain by the law. Again, the law alone, without the gospel, is the letter, that is, it is the doctrine which merely teaches, demands obedience, denounces the wrath of God and death to such as are disobedient, without producing the spiritual obedience which it requires. But when it is joined with the gospel, which is the Spirit, it also commences to become the Spirit, which is effectual in the godly, inasmuch as those who are regenerated commence willingly and cheerfully to yield obedience to the law. The law, therefore, is the letter, 1. By itself and without the gospel. 2. In respect to those who are unregenerated.  On the other hand, the gospel is the Spirit; that is, it is the ministration and means through which the Holy Ghost, which works spiritual obedience in us, is given; not indeed as though all who hear, would receive the Holy- Ghost and be regenerated, but because faith, by which our hearts are quickened, so that they begin to yield obedience to the law, is received by it.

It does not follow, therefore, that the law is no longer to be taught in the church; for Christ himself says: “I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.” (Matt. 5:17.) And Paul also says, that we establish the law through faith. (Rom. 3:31.) Christ fulfilled the law in two respects: by obedience and suffering. He was just and holy in himself and did not violate the law in a single instance, but partly performed in our behalf” those things which he was not bound to do, and partly sustained the punishment of the law. He also fulfills the law in us in two ways, by teaching it and granting unto us his Spirit, that so we may commence obedience to it, as we proved when speaking of the abrogation of the law.  Obj. 9. That is not to be taught in the church which increases sin.

The law increases sin. (Rom. 7:8.) Therefore, it is not to be taught.  Ans. There is here a fallacy of accident in the minor proposition. The law increases sin by an accident, or on account of the corruption of man, and that in two ways. first, because the nature of man is so depraved and alienated from God, that men do not perform what they know to be pleasing to God; and, on the other hand, what they know to be prohibited by God, that they desire, and do with the greatest willingness. Secondly, because it works wrath, when men fret and murmur against God, hate and turn away from him, and rush into despair according as the law reveals to them a knowledge of their sins, and the -punishment which they deserve in con sequence thereof. The law in itself produces righteousness, conformity with God, love to God, &c. The law also in itself increases sin, if we understand the word increase in a different sense, viz., that it shows unto us, and brings it to pass that we acknowledge the greatness and magnitude of our sins; but not that it so increases sin as that that which in itself is small is made greater and more aggravated. There are, therefore, four terms in this syllogism, in consequence of the ambiguity of the word in- crease in the minor proposition.

Obj. 10. The law is not necessary to salvation. Therefore, it should not be taught in the church. Ans. But even though the doctrine of the law is not necessary in order that we may be saved by obedience to it, yet it is, nevertheless, necessary on account of other causes, as has been already proven.

Obj. 11. We have all things in Christ according to what is said: “And of his fullness have all we received.” “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” “And ye are complete in him.” (John 1:16. Col. 2:3, 10.) Therefore, we must not go back from Christ to Moses, nor is there any need of the law in the church of Christ. Ans.  There is here a fallacy of the consequent, which proceeds from a statement of the whole to a denial of a part. The whole wisdom and knowledge, or doctrine which has been delivered unto us by Christ, is sufficient and necessary for the church. But the moral law is also a part of this doctrine, because Christ does not only command that faith, but that repentance also should be preached in his name. Hence, the doctrine of the law is not excluded from the perfect wisdom which we have in Christ, but is rather included in it.

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