Sermon 1410. Believers Free from the Dominion of Sin
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, APRIL 21, 1878,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the Law, but under Grace." Romans 6:14.
OUR constant hearers will remember that a Sabbath or so ago we spoke upon, "Submit yourselves unto God." [#1408, The ReasonWhy Many Cannot Find Peace.] It is both the way to peace and the way of peace to submit one's whole self unto God. Nor isit an irksome task to a true Believer, but the desire of his heart, the pleasure of his life. He shudders at the idea of yieldinghis members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but according to the language of the verse which precedes our text,he yields himself unto God as one who has been made alive from the dead and his members as instruments of righteousness untoGod. Complete consecration of every faculty of mind and body unto the Lord is our soul's deepest wish. We can sing most sincerelythat sweet consecration hymn-
"Take my hands and let them move,
At the impulse of Your love.
Take my feet and let them be,
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King!
Take my lips and let them be,
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as You shall choose.
So that all my powers combine,
To adore Your Grace Divine,
Heart and soul a living flame,
Glorifying Your great name."
But, Beloved, we find another law in our members warring against the law of our mind. To the full yielding up of all our memberswe find a hindrance in the sin which dwells in us-that sin which finds its haunt and hiding place in our mortal body-in thedesires, passions and appetites of our animal nature. These within proper limits are right enough- it is right that we eatand drink, and so forth, but our natural instincts are apt to demand indulgence and so to become lusts. Our mortal body, inits natural desires, affords dens for the foxes of sin. The carnal mind, also, readily leans to the indulgence of the bodyand thus there is presented a powerful opposition to the work of Divine Grace. Every true child of God must be conscious ofthe presence of the rebellious power and principle of sin within him.
We strive to keep it under, to subdue and conquer it, and we hope to see it utterly exterminated at the last, for our caseis like that of Israel with the Canaanites and we long for the day when, "There shall no more be the Canaanite in the houseof the land." Sin is a domineering force. A man cannot sin up to a fixed point and then say to sin, "Up to here shall youcome, but no farther." It is an imperious power and where it dwells it is hungry for the mastery. Just as our Lord, when Heenters the soul, will never be content with a divided dominion, so is it with sin-it labors to bring our entire manhood undersubjection.
Therefore we are compelled to strive daily against this ambitious principle-according to the working of the Spirit of Godin us we wrestle against sin that it may not have dominion over us. It has unquestioned dominion over multitudes of humanhearts and in some it has set up its horrid throne on high and keeps its seat with force of arms so that its empire
is undisturbed. In others the throne is disputed, for conscience mutinies, but yet the tyrant is not dethroned. Over the wholeworld sin exercises a dreadful tyranny. It would hold us in the same bondage were it not for One who is stronger than sin,who has undertaken to deliver us out of its hand and will certainly perform the redeeming work! Here is the charter of ourliberty, the security of our safety-"Sin shall not have dominion over you." It reigns over those who abide in unbelief, butit shall not have dominion over you, "because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world."
The whole world lies in the Wicked One, but, "you are not of the world" and, therefore, "sin shall not have dominion overyou." If we are distressed by the fear that sin will ultimately get the mastery over us, let us be comforted by our text.Holy jealousy leads us to fear that though we have for many years been enabled to maintain a spotless character before men,we may in some unguarded hour make shipwreck of faith and end our life voyage as castaways upon the rocks of shame. The fleshis frail and our strength is perfect weakness and, therefore, we dread lest we should make some terrible fall and bring dishonorupon the holy name by which we are called. Under such feelings we may fly for comfort to the rich assurance of the text, "Sinshall not have dominion over you."
Three things will demand our consideration and afford us consolation this morning. The first is the peculiar position of Believers-"Youare not under the Law, but under Grace." Secondly, the special assurance made to them, "Sin shall not have dominion over you."And thirdly, the remarkable reason given for this statement, "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not underthe Law, but under Grace."
First, then, here is A PECULIAR POSITION-"You are not under the Law." All men are under the Law by nature and, consequently,they are condemned by it because they have broken its commandments and apart from our Lord Jesus men are only reprieved criminals,respited from day to day, but still under sentence and waiting for the appointed hour when the warrant shall be solemnly executedupon them. But Believers are regarded as having died in Christ and, by that death, they have escaped from under the Law-theyare clean delivered from the Law by the fact that their Redeemer endured the penalty of the Law on their behalf and, at thesame time, He honored the Law by rendering perfect obedience to it. Thus in a two-fold manner, He met all the Law's requirementsso that it has no more demands upon His people.
"Not under the Law," being interpreted, means that we are not trying to be saved by obedience to the Law. We do not pretendto earn eternal life by merit, nor hope to claim anything of the Lord as due to us for good works. The principle which rulesour life is not mercenary. We do not expect to earn a reward, neither are we flogged to duty by dread of punishment. We areunder Grace-that is to say, we are treated on the principle of mercy and love, and not on that of justice and desert. Freely,of His own undeserved favor, God has forgiven us for Christ's sake! He has regarded us with favor, not because we deservedit, but simply because He willed to do so, according to that ancient declaration, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."
The Lord did not choose us because of any goodness in us, but He has saved us and called us according to the purpose of Hisown will. Moreover, our continuance in a state of salvation depends upon the same Divine Grace which first placed us there.We do not stand or fall according to our personal merit, but because Jesus lives, we live. Because Jesus is accepted, we areaccepted. Because Jesus is beloved, we are beloved. In a word, our standing is not based upon merit, but upon mercy-not uponour changeable character, but upon the immutable mercy of God. Grace is the tenure upon which we hold our position beforethe Lord. "For by Grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."
"But that no man is justified by the Law in the sight of God, it is evident: for the just shall live by faith. And the Lawis not of faith: but, the man that does them shall live in them." Let us endeavor to recount the privileges of this positionby mentioning the evils from which it releases us. First, we no longer dread the curse of the Law. Those who are under theLaw may well be horribly afraid because of the penalties which are due through their many failures and transgressions. Theyhave broken the Law and are, therefore, in constant danger of judgment and condemnation. The careless try to shake off thethought as much as possible by putting off the evil day, by forgetting death and by pretending to disbelieve in judgment andeternal wrath. But still, more or less, this thought disturbs them-a dreadful sound is in their ears.
When men are once awakened, the dread of punishment for sin haunts them day and night and fills them with terror! And wellit may, for they are under the Law and the Law will soon cast them into its prison from which they will never
escape. Every transgression and disobedience must receive a just recompense of reward. Now, Believers have no fear as to thepunishment of their sin, for our sin was by the Lord, Himself, laid upon Jesus and the penalty was borne by Him- "The chastisementof our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we are healed." "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being madea curse for us: as it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree."
Substitution clears the Christian from all debt to justice and he dares to challenge the Law itself with the question- Whois he that condemns, since Christ has died? Yes, He goes further and challenges an accusation-Who shall lay anything to thecharge of God's elect, since God has justified? No penalty do we dread, for we are forgiven and God will not pardon and thenpunish! "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." Will God punish those fromwhom He has removed transgression, or cast those into Hell whose sins He has cast behind His back? Impossible!
Therefore, when we see the stern array of the Judgment Seat and hear the threats of vengeance, we who are Believers rejoiceto feel that these terrors have nothing to do with us. The Great Surety has secured His people from all risk of wrath. Theundying worm is not for them! The unquenchable fire is not for them! Neither shall the Pit shut her mouth upon them, for theyare not under the Law! Then the Believer no longer drudges in unwilling obedience, seeking to reach a certain point of merit.The man under the Law who is awakened and awakened very frequently, tries to keep the commands in order to attain, at anyrate, a fair measure of goodness. For this He labors very hard, as men who tug at the oar to escape from a tempest.
If he could but reach a certain degree of virtue he would feel safe. If he were equal to such an one he would be at rest.Alas, he has no power to attain even to his own ideal! He finds his resolutions written in water and his goodness vanisheslike the morning mist. His servile works are ill done and fail to yield him peace of mind. The Believer is under no such drudgery-Christhas fulfilled the Law for him and he rests in that finished work. He does not aim at high attainments in order to win thefavor of God-he has that favor-it has come to him freely and undeserved and he rejoices in it! A high ambition moves him,but it is not that of saving himself by his own works.
He obeys out of love. He delights in the Law after the inner man and confesses with Paul, "the Law is holy, and just, andgood." He wishes that he could live without sin, but he never dreams that even then he could make an atonement for the past,nor does he fancy that by his own merit he is to obtain salvation for the future. The work through which he is saved is complete-itis not his own work, but the work of Jesus-and, therefore, when he sees his own shortcomings and iniquities, he does not doubthis salvation, but continues to rest in Jesus. He is no longer a slave, flogged with the whip of fear and made to labor forhis very life and gather nothing for his pains. He is free from the principle of the Law and works from a principle of love-notto secure Divine favor-but because that favor has been freely manifested towards him.
The Christian man is now no longer uncertain as to the continuance of Divine Love. Under the Law, no man's standing can besecure, since by a single sin he may forfeit his position. If a legalist should be able to persuade himself that he has reacheda sufficient point of merit and is safe, yet he cannot be sure of continuing in his exalted position, for like the flowerof the grass all human comeliness withers away. However meritorious a man may conceive himself to be, yet he may fall shortof the standard even now. And if not, in the future he may spoil it all! The learned Bellarmine, one of the great antagonistsof Martin Luther, once gave utterance to language which I cannot verbally remember, but which was to the following effect.
Of course, being a Papist, he believed in justification by works, but yet he observed that, "nevertheless, seeing that evenin the best of men good works are usually marred by sin, and seeing that no man can know when he has performed quite enoughgood works to save him, it is upon the whole, safest to trust only in the merits of Jesus Christ." We agree with the cardinaland accept the safest way as good enough for us! Safest, indeed, it is to us, for it is the only way which we can tread, sinceall the good works we have ever done are defiled and polluted either in motive beforehand, or in the spirit in which theywere done, or by proud reflections afterwards! We dare not trust even in our prayers and devotions and almsgivings, or repentances-butmust rest only upon the merits of Christ.
The merits of Christ are always a constant and abiding quantity. If, therefore, we rest thereon, our foundation is as secureat one time as at another. The merits of Jesus will be throughout eternity sweet before God on our behalf. Is He not "thesame yesterday, today, and forever"? Therefore the confidence of the Believer rests upon a foundation which will
no more be shaken in the future than it is today. Glory be to God, He does not cast away His people whom He did foreknow!He does not love today and hate tomorrow-nor favor with His Grace the child whom He has adopted and afterwards disown him."If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be savedby His life."
We are free from the bondage of the Law since we are no longer under the Covenant of Works, but have come under the Covenantof Grace which is founded upon promises which nothing can disannul. In consequence of this, the Believer is no longer afraidof the Last Great Day. Shall all our sins be read and published before an assembled universe? "If so," says the man who isunder the Law, "it will go hard with me." Judgment is a terrible word to those who are hoping to save themselves, for if theirdoings are to be put into the balances, they will surely be found wanting. But judgment has no terror in it to a Believer!He can sing with our poet-
"Bold shall I stand in that great day, For who anything to my charge shall lay? While through Your blood absolved I am Fromsin's tremendous curse and shame."
Will the sins of Believers be published at the last day? If it is to the glory of forgiving love, let them be! Who among usneed be afraid since at the end of the whole list there shall be written, "and all these were blotted out for Jesus Christ'ssake." And if not published at all because all our sins were cast behind Jehovah's back-and if, instead thereof, the Judgeshall only proclaim the good works of His people and say, "I was hungry and you gave Me meat, I was thirsty and you gave Medrink; and inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, My brethren, you have done it unto Me," then we maywell welcome the last assize and cry, "Welcome, welcome, Son of God."
When the Book of Record shall be opened which might justly condemn us, yet it is written, "And another book was opened, whichwas the Book of Life." If our names are there we have nothing to fear! One word may be added here, namely, that the Believer,being no longer under the Law, has no slavish dread of God. As long as I am at enmity with God, guilty of breaking His Lawand liable to His righteous wrath, I dread His name and shrink from His Presence. The soul under the Law stands as the Israelitesdid-far off from the mountain-with a barrier set between themselves and the Glory of God. Distance and separation are thenatural condition of all who are under the Law.
"Run," cries the heart of man when it beholds God touching the hills so that they smoke! And when it hears the voice of Godlike a trumpet, waxing exceedingly loud and long, it pleads that it may not hear such words any more. Not so the Believer,for his heart and his flesh cry out for the Lord and he pants to come and appear before God! We have access with boldnessto the Throne of the heavenly Grace and we delight to avail ourselves of it. Through the Mediator we have fellowship withthe Father and with His Son Jesus Christ! The Holy Spirit has made us long to be brought nearer and nearer to our Divine Father.Our God is a consuming fire, but that consuming fire has no terror for us since it will only melt the alloy from the goldand remove the dross from the silver.
The Law could only say to us, "Depart, you cursed," but Grace says, "Come, you blessed." The Law said, "Draw not near here:put off your shoes from off your feet," but Grace cries with a voice of pity, "Whoever is thirsty, come and whoever will,let him come." We have accepted the call of Grace and now we know the Lord and love Him. Perfect love has cast out fear, forfear has torment. We are not under the Law, but we have "known and believed the love that God has to us."
Now I speak to you Christian people, even to you who believe in Christ, and I beg you to understand this freedom from theLaw and then to hold it fast. There are some of you who return, in a measure, to the legal yoke, whereas the Apostle says,"Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."Do you feel helpless, cold and heavy? Do you, therefore, conclude that you are not saved? Are you not coming under the Lawand measuring the power of the Grace of God by your own merits or excellencies? If you judge your standing before God by anythingexcept your faith in His promise, you will bring yourself into bondage!
You can walk by faith, but you will stumble if you try any other way. There is but one deliverance for me when I questionmy own state-and that is to fly to simple faith in Jesus. When Satan says, "You are no saint," do not argue with him, forhe is too subtle for a poor soul like you. Yield the point and say, "It may be I am no saint, nor are you either." "No," hesays, "you are deceived, you are a hypocrite." Reply to him, "If I am not a saint, I am a sinner. And being a sinner, I findit written that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I put myself in that list, O Satan,
and even you cannot deny that I am such! I believe in Jesus and, believing in Him I am justified before God by the righteousnessof my Lord-and I have peace with God through Jesus Christ."
Beloved, this is safe standing. If we are, indeed, saved by the righteousness of Another, why do we question the power ofthat righteousness to save us because of our own conscious feebleness? We are not saved by our own strength or feebleness,but by the power of the Lord Jesus! If we are standing with one foot on the rock of Christ's finished work and the other uponthe sand of our own doings, then we may well stand or totter according to which foot we are trusting at the moment! But ifwe set both feet upon the Rock, then we may stand fast though the sea roars and the floods sweep the sand away!
Mind you, do not try the double foundation, for it will never hold! Partly Christ and partly self will soon come to a failure.No, our great Redeemer cried, "It is finished," and it is finished! And those who rest on Him have a finished salvation, forthey are not under the Law, but under Grace.
II. Now, secondly, we come to THE SPECIAL ASSURANCE of the text-"Sin shall not have dominion over you." This is a very necessaryassurance, especially at times. Sin is a great working power and all around us we see its hideous operations-it is an evilas incessant in its activity as it is deadly in its results. As we look at its forcible work, we cry in alarm, "It will surelydrag me down one of these days!" But the dread fear is removed by the cheering voice of the Holy Spirit who assures us, "Sinshall not have dominion over you."
Alas, we not only see the evil working in others, but it assails ourselves-our eyes are drawn aside to look on vanity, ourears hearken to evil talk and our heart, itself, at times grows cold or wanders. Then we are apt to be cast down and to doubt.Here the sweet assurance cheers us-though you are tempted you shall not be led astray, for "sin shall not have dominion overyou." "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Stand in the strength of faith and in the power of the precious bloodand though you are beset with evil suggestions a thousand times a day, and every sense is assailed by the witcheries of evil,yet, "sin shall not have dominion over you."
Cheered by such a word as this we remain on our watchtower and are not overcome with evil. Sometimes sin forces its way intoour souls and rouses our inward evil to an awful degree so that the imagination sets fire to our lusts and the smoke of theconflagration blows in the eyes of the affections, almost choking the understanding. Yes, sin may invade your soul and, fora while, find a lodgment there, so as to be your plague and torment. It may even crush you down, rob you of your comfort,injure your Graces and create war to the detriment of your peace, but it shall not have dominion over you!
Those of you who are acquainted with John Bunyan's, "Holy War," will remember how wonderfully the glorious dreamer describesDiabolus besieging the town of Mansoul after it had been occupied by the Prince Immanuel. After many battles and cunning plots,the enemy entered into the city, filled all the streets with the yells of his followers and polluted the whole place withthe presence of his hosts. But yet he could not take the castle in the center of the town, which held out for Immanuel. Thatcastle was the heart and he could, by no means, secure a footing in it. He beat his big Hell drum almost day and night aroundthe walls, so that those who had fled to the castle had a very terrible time of it. And he set all his huge machinery to workto batter down the walls, but he could not enter.
No, sin may, for a while, seem to prevail in the Believer till he has no rest and is sorely beset, hearing nothing but thedevil's tattoo sounding in his ears-"Sin, sin, sin"-but nevertheless sin shall not have dominion over him! Sin may haunt yourbed and board and follow you down the streets in your walks. It may enter the very room into which you withdraw to pray-butyour inmost self shall still cry out against it, for, "sin shall not have dominion over you." Sin may vex you and thrust itselfupon you, but it cannot become your lord! The devil has great wrath and rages horribly for a while, knowing that his timeis short, but he shall be subdued and expelled, for the Lord our God gives us the victory through Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, alas, sin not only enters us, but prevails over us and we are forced, in deep anguish, to confess that we havefallen beneath its power. It is terrible that it should be so, even for a moment, and yet it would be idle to deny the mournfulfact. Who among us can say, "I am clean, I have not sinned"? Still, a temporary defeat is not sufficient to effect a totalsubjugation. Sin shall not have dominion over the Believer, for though he falls he shall rise again. The child of God, whenhe falls into the mire, is like the sheep which gets up and escapes from the ditch as quickly as possible. It is not his natureto lie there. The ungodly man is like the hog which rolls in the filth and wallows in it with delight. The mire
has dominion over the swine, but it has none over the sheep! With many bleatings and outcries the sheep seeks the shepherdagain, but not so the swine.
Every child of God weeps, mourns and bemoans his sin and he hates it even when, for a while, he has been overtaken by it-andthis is proof that sin has not dominion over him. It has an awful power, but it has not dominion-it casts us down, but itcannot make us take delight in its evil. There are times when the Believer greatly feels his danger. His feet have almostgone, his steps have well near slipped! Then how sweetly does this assurance come to the soul, "Sin shall not have dominionover you." The Lord is able to keep you from falling and you shall be preserved even to the end! This assurance secures usfrom a very great danger-from the danger of being under the absolute sway of sin.
What is meant by sin having dominion? Look and see. There are men who live in sin and yet they do not appear to know it. Sinhas dominion over them by spreading a veil over their hearts, so that their conscience is deadened. They are so enslaved asto be content in bondage. You shall not be so-you shall be enlightened and instructed so that when you sin you shall be wellaware of it. Self-excuse shall be impossible for you. Many men live in gross sin and are not ashamed. They are at ease init and all is quiet. But it shall not be so with you, in whom the life of God has been implanted. If you do wrong, you shallsmart for it and your nest shall be stuffed with thorns.
God has so changed your nature by His Grace that when you sin you shall be like a fish on dry land. You shall be out of yourelement and long to get into a right state again. You cannot sin, for you love God! The sinner may drink sin down as the oxdrinks down water, but to you it shall be as the brine of the sea. You may become so foolish as to try the pleasures of theworld, but they shall be no pleasures to you-you shall cry out with Solomon, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." That marvelousman tried the world at its best and was disappointed! And you may be quite sure that where he failed, you will not succeed.
If the Lord loves you, sin will never yield you satisfaction. In worldly company you shall be all the while like a man whosits upon thorns, or walks amid vipers and cobras. And in worldly amusement you shall feel as if the house would fall uponyou. An ungodly man under the dominion of sin loves sin, but that you shall never do. He wishes he could sin more, for hehas upon him the thirst of intoxication! But as for you, you shall never be made happy by evil, but shall groan under it ifyou ever yield to its power. You shall hate yourself to think you ever consented to its solicitations! You shall be wretchedand unhappy and shall find no rest till you return to your Lord. Your nature has been so changed that you cannot give a moment'sentertainment to sin without feeling like one who carries burning coals in his bosom, or thrusts thorns into his flesh.
No, Beloved, if you are, indeed, a Believer in Christ, you must fight with sin till you die! And, what is more, you must conquerit in the name of the Lord. You are sometimes afraid that it will vanquish you, but if you are of the true seed it cannotprevail. Like Samson, you shall break all its bands. You shall rise superior to habits which now enthrall you! You shall evenforget those strong impulses which now sweep you before them. Your inward Graces shall gather force, while the Holy Spiritshall help your infirmities and you shall be changed from glory to glory as by the Presence of the Lord. This assurance isconfirmed by the context-"Sin shall not have dominion over you," because you are dead to it by virtue of your union to Christ.
You died with Christ and you have been buried with Christ-how, then, shall sin have dominion over you? Besides, you live inChrist in newness of life by reason of His living in you! How can the new nature live in sin? How can that which is born ofGod live like that which is born of the devil? No, no, it cannot be! Christ has undertaken to save you from your sins andHe will do it-He will keep you watchful, prayerful, vigilant-He will instruct you in His Word. He will help you by His Spirit.He will perfect you in Himself. You are bound for victory and you shall have it! Thanks be unto God who gives it to you throughJesus Christ our Lord. "Sin shall not have dominion over you."
III. Now I come to my last head, which is THE REMARKABLE REASON that is given for sin's never having dominion: "For you arenot under the Law, but under Grace." "There, there," says many an unconverted man, "did you ever hear such doctrine as hehas been preaching to us this morning? Not under the Law?! Well, then, we may sin as we like." That is your logic. That isthe way in which an evil heart sours the sweet milk of the Word of God. But it is not the argument of a child of God.
Mark how Paul puts it-"What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the Law, but under Grace? God forbid!" He flingsaway the inference with horror and detestation, crying, "God forbid!" Let me just show you why
being under the Law is not helpful to holiness, while being under Grace is the great means of it. Those who are under theLaw will always be under the dominion of sin and it cannot be otherwise. First, because the Law puts a man under the dominionof sin by pronouncing sentence of condemnation upon him as soon as he has transgressed.
What does the Law say to him? "From this point on you are guilty and I condemn you. He that offends in one point is guiltyof all." Thus the Law shuts a man up to being a sinner and offers him no space for repentance. It accuses, condemns and sentences-butaffords no hope and offers no encouragement. It is not so with those who are under Grace! To them Grace says, "You are sinners,but you are freely forgiven. Your iniquity is pardoned, your transgression is put away! Go, and sin no more." Thus relieved,the penitent lifts up his head and cries, "Enable me to praise You and grant that I may be upheld by Grace in the way of uprightness."The amazing love of God, when shed abroad in the heart, creates a desire for better things and what the Law could not do,Grace accomplishes.
A man under the Law is, by the Law, driven to despair. "What?" he asks, "Am I to keep this Law in order to be saved? Alas,I have already broken it and if I had not, it is too high and holy for me to rise to its full height." Therefore he resolvesthat he will not attempt the task and he sinks into indifference or, in some cases, he thinks of the old proverb that youmay as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb and he resolves that he will take his fill of sin. Because there is no hope, hewill plunge into iniquity. He vows that if Hell must be his portion forever, he might as well enjoy the sweetness there isin sin while he may. So the Law, because of the evil heart it has to deal with, excites such a condition of heart that sinis confirmed in its dominion. Being threatened, the rebellious heart hardens itself and defies the Lord. And then, concludingthat peace is impossible, it continues more and more to fight against the Lord.
Not so the child of God! He says, "God, for Christ's sake, has cast my sins behind His back and I am saved. Now, for the loveI bear His name, I will serve Him with all my might, because of all that He has done for me." Thus the Grace of our Lord Jesus,by its freeness and richness, breaks the dominion of sin which the Law only served to establish and confirm. Not that theLaw is evil-God forbid! But because we are evil and rebel against the holy Law! A man under the Law does not escape from thedominion of sin because the Law wakes the opposition of the human heart. There are a great many things which people neverwish to do, nor think of doing till they are forbidden.
Lock up a closet in your house and say to your wife and children, "You must never enter that closet, nor even look into thekeyhole." Perhaps they have never wanted to look into the dingy old corner before, but now they pine to inspect it! A numberof bylaws have lately been posted up as to the use of Clapham-Common and I am half afraid to read them for fear I should wantto break them. I dare say that many things which I never desired to do are now strictly prohibited and I shall feel vexedwith the commissioners for lessening my liberty! I should not wonder but what numbers of persons who never visited the Common,will now become sinners against the new laws.
Law, by reason of our unruly nature, excites opposition and creates sin, for what a man may not do he immediately wants todo. He who is under the Law will never escape from the dominion of sin, for sin comes by the Law by reason of the iniquityof our hearts. But when we are not under the Law, but under Grace, we love God for His love to us and labor to please Himin all things. The Law, moreover. affords a man no actual help. All it does is to say, "You shall," and, "You shall not."It can do no more. But Grace gives us what the Law requires of us. The Law says, "make a new heart." Grace replies, "A newheart, also, will I give you, and a right spirit will I put within you." The Law says, "Keep My Commandments." And Grace answers,"You shall keep My Commandments and do them."
Grace brings the Holy Spirit into the soul to work in us holy affections and a hatred of sin and, therefore, what the Lawcould not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, Grace accomplishes for us by its own almighty power! Further, the Lawinspires no sentiment of love and love, after all, is the fulfilling of the Law. If you are told you shall and you shall not,there is nothing in this to inspire love to the Lawgiver-Law is hard and cold, like the two tables of Moses. Law does notchange the heart or remove enmity-it tends, rather, the other way. Law never excites enthusiasm for that which is right-itis too stern and chill to touch the heart.
Mere Law does not even raise in a man's heart a high ideal of what he ought to be! Look at the legalist, the man who hopesfor salvation by the Law-he looks upon religion as a task in which he has no delight. He is a bond slave and nothing more.He does as much or as little as he is forced to do, but his heart is not in it. The men who think they have kept the Law ofGod are evidently very far from understanding its meaning-they have a very poor idea of the mind of
God or they would not have thought that they had fulfilled the will of God with such a poor, miserable, hypocritical righteousnessas theirs!
The Pharisee thought he had kept the Law, for he fasted twice a week and paid tithes of all he possessed. And yet the sameman could go and swallow a widow's house behind the door and do all sorts of abominable things! It is clear that he had formeda shockingly low notion of true holiness. In fact, he had degraded the Law into a mere external ordinance which took noteof the outside of the cup and platter and left the inside full of filthiness. But see what Grace does-it fires a man withenthusiasm and sets before him a lofty idea of excellence. It causes him to love the Lord and then it gives him a high ideaof purity and holiness.
Though he rises many grades beyond the Pharisee, yet the Believer cries, "I am not what I should be!" And if he becomes themost zealous, consecrated man that ever lived, the Law is still beyond him and he still asks that he may be able to rise togreater heights of holiness and virtue. This Divine Grace does, but this the Law can never do. The most pleasing service inthe world is that which is done from motives of affection and not for wages. The servant who only does his work for his payis not valued like the old attached domestic who nursed you when you were a boy and waited on your father before you. No moneycan purchase such service as he renders-it is so thoroughly hearty and prompt. If you could not afford to pay his wages, hewould still stay with you. And if anything goes awry, he puts up with it because he loves you. You prize such a man aboverubies!
So it is with the child of God. The mere legalist does what he ought, or at least thinks he ought to do-but as for heartinessand zeal, he knows nothing of such things. The child of God, with all his feebleness and his blunders, is far more accepted,for he does all he can out of pure love and then cries, "I am an unprofitable servant! I have done no more than was my dutyto have done! Lord, help me to do more." God accepts heart service, but heart service the Law never did produce and neverwill. The only true heart service in the world comes from those who are not under the Law, but under Grace and, therefore,sin shall not have dominion over those who are not under the Law.
The spirit of the world is legal and its wise men tell us that we must preach to people that they must be virtuous or theywill go to Hell. They tell us that we must hold out Heaven as the reward of morality. They believe in the principle of chainand whip. But what comes of such doctrine? The more you preach it, the less virtue, the less obedience there is in the world!But when you preach love, the effect is very different-"Come," says God, "I forgive you freely. Trust My Son and I will saveyou outright, though in you there is nothing to merit My esteem. Accept My free favor and I will receive you graciously andlove you freely."
This looks, at first sight, as if it gave a license to sin, but how does it turn out? Why, this wondrous Grace taking possessionof the human heart breeds love in return, which love becomes the fountain of purity and holiness-and such as receive it endeavorto perfect holiness in the fear of God! Beloved, do not get under the Law! Do not yield to legal threats or legal hopes, butlive under the Free Grace Gospel. Let the note that peals on your ears be no longer the thunder of Sinai, "Do and live," butlet it be the sweet song of free Grace and dying love!
Ah, ring those charming bells from morn till eve! Let us hear their liquid music again and again! Live and do! Not do andlive-not work for salvation, but being saved, work! Being already delivered, go forth and prove, by your grateful affectionsand zealous actions, what the Grace of God has done for you! "Whoever believes in Jesus Christ has everlasting life." "Hethat believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be damned." Amen.