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IV. The uses of the moral law are various, according to the different conditions of man.
(1.) The primary use, and that which was of itself intended by God according to his love for righteousness and for his creatures, was, that man by it might be quickened or made alive, that is, that he might perform it, and by its performance might be justified, and might “of debt” receive the reward which was promised through it. (Rom. ii, 13; x, 5; iv, 4.) And this use was accommodated to the primitive state of man, when sin had not yet entered into the world.
(2.) The first use in order of the moral law, under a state of sin, is AGAINST man as a sinner, not only that it may accuse him of transgression and guilt, and may subject him to the wrath of God and condemnation; (Rom. iii, 19, 20;) but that it may likewise convince him of his utter inability to resist sin and to subject himself to the law. (Rom. 7.) Since God has been pleased mercifully and graciously to treat with sinful man, the next use of the law TOWARDS the sinner is, that it may compel him who is thus convicted and subjected to condemnation, to desire and seek the grace of God, and that it may force him to flee to Christ either as the promised or as the imparted deliverer. (Gal. ii, 16, 17.) Besides, in this state of sin, the moral law is serviceable, not only to God, that, by the dread of punishment and the promise of temporal rewards, he may restrain men under its guidance at least from the outward work of sin and from flagrant crimes; (1 Tim. i, 9, 10;) but it is also serviceable to Sin, when dwelling and reigning in a carnal man who is under the law, that it may inflame the desire of sin, may increase sin, and may “work within him all manner of concupiscence.” (Rom. vi, 12-14; vii, 5, 8, 11, 13.) In the former case, God employs the law through his goodness and his love for civil and social intercourse among mankind. In the latter case, it is employed through the malice of sin which reigns and has the dominion.
(3.) The third use of the moral law is towards a man, as now born again by the Spirit of God and of Christ, and is agreeable to the state of grace, that it may be a perpetual rule for directing his life in a godly and spiritual manner: (Tit. iii, 8; James ii, 8.) Not that man may be justified; because for this purpose it is rendered “weak through the flesh” and useless, even if man had committed only a single sin: (Rom. viii, 3.) But that he may render thanks to God for his gracious redemption and sanctification, (Psalm cxvi, 12, 13,) that he may preserve a good conscience, (1 Tim. i, 19,) that he may make his calling and election sure, (2 Pet. i, 10,) that he may by his example win over other persons to Christ, (1 Pet. iii, 1,) that he may confound the devil, (Job 1 & 2,) that he may condemn the ungodly world, (Heb. xi, 7,) and that through the path of good works he may march towards the heavenly inheritance and glory, (Rom. ii, 7,) and that he may not only himself glorify God, (1 Cor. vi, 20,) but may also furnish occasion and matter to others for glorifying his Father who is in Heaven. (Matt. v, 16.)
VI. From these uses it is easy to collect how far the moral law obtains among believers and those who are placed under the grace of Christ, and how far it is abrogated.
(1.) It is abrogated with regard to its power and use in justifying: “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by that law.” (Gal. iii, 21.) The reason why “it cannot give life,” is, “because it is weak through the flesh:” (Rom. viii, 3) God, therefore, willing to deal graciously with men, gave the promise and Christ himself, that the inheritance through the promise and by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But the law which came after the promise, could neither “make the latter of none effect,” (for it was sanctioned by authority,) nor could it be joined or super- added to the promise, that out of this union righteousness and life might be given. (Gal. iii, 16-18, 22.)
(2.) It is abrogated with regard to the curse and condemnation: For “Christ, being made a curse for us, hath redeemed us from the curse of the law;” (Gal. iii, 10-13;) and thus the law is taken away from sin, lest its “strength” should be to condemn. (1 Cor. xv, 55, 56.)
(3.) The law is abrogated and taken away from sin, so far as “sin, having taken occasion by the law, works all manner of concupiscence” in the carnal man, over whom sin exercises dominion. (Rom. vii, 4-8.)
(4.) It is abrogated, with regard to the guidance by which it urged man to do good and to refrain from evil, through a fear of punishment and a hope of temporal reward. (1 Tim. i, 9, 10; Gal. iv, 18.) For believers and regenerate persons “are become dead to the law by the body of Christ,” that they may be the property of another, even of Christ; by whose Spirit they are led and excited in newness of life, according to love and the royal law of liberty. (1 John v, 3, 4; James ii, 8.) Whence it appears, that the law is not abrogated with respect to the obedience which must be rendered to God; for though obedience be required under the grace of Christ and of the Gospel, it is required according to clemency, and not according to strict [legal] rigor. (1 John iii, 1, 2.)
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