The law says, “Do This, and Live”; But to Whom Does it Speak?

Excerpt taken and adapted from, “The Doctrine of the Two Covenants Wherein the Nature of Original Sin is at Large Explained: St. Paul and St. James Reconciled in the Great Article of Justification.”
Written by Ezekiel Hopkins, published in 1799, London.

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“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”  

–Romans 3:20 (ESV)

Could you perfectly obey, and in your own persons meritoriously suffer, yet still there would be a flaw in your title; for still there would be original sin, which would keep you from obtaining a legal righteousness.

It is true, the law saith, “do this, and live”; but to whom doth it speak?

Not to fallen, but to innocent, upright man. It is not only a “you do this” can save you; but the law requires a “be this”, too.  Now, can you pluck down the old building, and cast out all the ruins and rubbish? Can you, in the very casting and molding of your beings, stamp upon them the image of God’s purity and holiness? If these impossibilities may be achieved, then justification by a covenant of works were not a thing altogether desperate. But, whilst we have original corruption, which will cause defects in our obedience; whilst we have defects in our obedience, which will expose us to divine justice; whilst we are utterly unable to satisfy that justice; so long we may conclude it altogether impossible to be justified by a covenant of works. Instead of finding life by it, we shall meet with nothing but death and the curse.

This, therefore, might endear to us the unspeakable love of God, in the inestimable gift of his Son Jesus Christ; by whom both this covenant is fulfilled, and a better ratified for us.  Either obligation of the law was too much for us, we could neither obey nor suffer, but He hath performed both; fulfilling the precept, and conquering the penalty; and both, by a free and gracious imputation, are reckoned to our justification, and the obtaining of eternal life.

This declares the desperate and remediless estate of those who, by unbelief, refuse Jesus Christ, and the redemption he hath purchased: for they are still under the covenant of works; and shall have sentence pass upon them, according to the tenor of that covenant.

 

Posted on March 6, 2015, by Paul D., Posted in “The Dead Puritan Society”