The use of the Law.
Whereas it has been frequently shewn that no man is justified by the law, the question may be put: what is the use of it? St. Paul furnishes us with the answer: ‘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, 7, 7 — and v. 13— ‘But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.’ This shews that we would not discover our depravity, without the law; and without this discovery, we should not know the necessity of a Saviour; and without that, we should never believe: hence the apostle properly concludes, that the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Gal. 3, 24. This is the use of the law, before a man is justified.
The scriptures teach that ‘after faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster’—Gal. 3, 25 —that ‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.’ Rom. 10, 4. See also ch. 7,1-6, Thus at the first view it might appear, as if the law had nothing to do with the believer, as if it were of no use to him. It is evident that the believer is not under the law; so that it can be the least bondage to him; it has lost its power to condemn him; he does not live by it, and it cannot reign with an absolute sway in his conscience. Thus Christ is the end of the law for righteousness: i.e. as it respects righteousness and life, the law is at an end: for Christ is the believer’s perfect righteousness. But as by the gospel the Holy Spirit is brought into the heart, the law again is established : i.e. the law is written upon the heart; ‘For this is the covenant thatI will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people,’ Heb. 8, 10. See Rom 8, 4. Gal. 3, 21. The sinner before he was justified had the same law, but he could not write it into his heart: i.e. he could have no free will to love it; hence he must have been in bondage. But after he is justified, the law by the Lord himself, is written into his heart: i.e. he now delights in it; hence in him, it is a living, moving rule of his life, and conversation: and if it were not for his flesh, he would never transgress it. All the moral precepts of the law, concentrate in Love; hence it is morally impossible for any creature to be released from its obligations. Hence as the believer for Christ’s sake is justified, and viewed innocent, he is only under the law, like a creature of God, that never had transgressed. Now there is a very great difference, between being under the law as an innocent creature, and being under it as guilty. The innocent creature does not fear the law; whilst the guilty is in the most servile bondage, Christ did not by the work of his redemption destroy the relation, which creatures have towards their creator; but that which sinners sustained towards God, as a judge. A man before and after his justification is God’s creature, and as such, his relation towards God, is not altered by the redemption of Christ. But a man’s relation towards God, as a sinner, is such as to be under condemnation by the law. This relation is destroyed, when he is justified, and the condemning office of the law ceases; because it must view the sinner as an innocent creature; notwithstanding the many imperfections, which are occasioned by the flesh, because Jesus remains his advocate.
There is also a civil use of the law. It is to bridle the unruly, &c. See 1 Tim, 1, 8-10.