A Concise Statement Regarding the Relationship between the Law and the Gospel.

Taken from, Luther’s Table Talk
Written by Martin Luther
Edited for thought and sense


It is no small matter that we should rightly understand what the law is, what it serves, and what is its proper work and office.

We do not reject the law and the works thereof, but we confirm and erect the same, and do teach that we ought to do good works; and we also affirm that the law is very good and profitable, yet so far, that we give him his right, and suffer him to remain within his bounds, that is, by his own proper work and office; namely,

First, that thereby outward sins be withstood and hindered.

Secondly, that inward and spiritual sins may be discovered, confessed, and acknowledged.

Therefore the law is a light which lights everything, it opens and makes everything visible, –but not God’s grace and mercy, nor does it display unto us the imputed righteousness whereby we obtain everlasting life and salvation: oh, no! In no wise: but the law opens and displays unto us our sins, our weakness, death, God’s wrath and judgment.

But the light of the Gospel is far another manner of light; the same enlightens the affrighted, broken, sorrowful, and contrite hearts; it revives, comforts, and refreshes them. For it declares, that God is merciful to unworthy condemned sinners for the sake of Christ, and that a blessing thereby is presented unto them that believe; that is, grace, remission of sins, righteousness, and everlasting life. When seen in this way we distinguish the law and the Gospel, and then we attribute and give to each his right work and offices.

Therefore, I pray and truly admonish all the lovers of godliness and pure religion (especially those who in time are to be teachers of others), that with highest diligence they would learn this message, which I much fear, after our time, ‘will be darkened again, if not altogether extinguished.

We must also respond with the Ten Commandments in due time and place. The ungodly out of the Gospel do suck only carnal freedom, and become worse thereby; therefore not the Gospel, but the law belongs to them. Even as when my little son Hans offends, if then I should not whip him, but call him to the table, and give him sugar and plums; thereby indeed I should make him worse, yea, should quite spoil him.

The Gospel is like a fresh, mild, and cool air in the extreme heat of summer, that is, it is a solace. But we must also realize that as the heat proceeds from the rays of the sun, so likewise a terrified conscience must proceed from the preaching of the law, so that we may understand and know that we have offended against the laws of God.

And when our minds are refreshed again by the cool air of the Gospel, do not be idle, do not lie down and spiritually sleep; even though our consciences are settled in peace, and are quieted and comforted through God’s Spirit, no, this is the time that we must show and prove our faith by such good works as to that which God has commanded.

The Demands of the Law, and the Great Concerns of Salvation

Taken from, The Great Concerns of Salvation
Written by, Thomas Halyburton (1674 – 1712),  one of the ejected ministers


The great concern of man is suggested by three important inquiries; What have I done? What shall I do to be saved? What shall I render to the Lord?

To the question, What have we done? The Bible answers, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” If it be asked, What shall we do to be saved ? the answer is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” And if it be asked, ” What shall we render to the Lord for all his mercies?” We may reply in the words of the Psalmist, “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord;” or in the language of the prophet, “He hath showed thee O man, what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

Ministers of the Gospel are principally concerned with the second inquiry. They are to persuade men to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. But as they come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, the foundation must be laid in a correct view of man’s natural state. Before we offer Christ, we must show your need of him; before we present the offers of mercy, we must describe your misery; before we call you to repentance, we must show your guilt.

On this account your attention is now invited to the words of the apostle, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” This passage contains a general assertion, in which all stand convicted of sin. All, rich and poor, high and low, Jew and Gentile, have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. It is not asserted, that they may sin; and if tempted, may fall; but that they are already involved in guilt.

The original word rendered come short, is emphatic; it properly signifies to fall short of the mark aimed at, or to fall behind in a race, so as to lose the prize. Man, in his first state, had a fair prospect for glory. He had power to run the race ; and the enemy had no ability to prevent his winning the prize. But though man had originally no encumbrances to retard his progress, yet he fell short of the glory of God. He lost the peculiar enjoyment of the Divine favor, of which he had so fair a prospect; and the image of God, which was his glory, together with the advantages by which it was to be attended. The text of Scripture,” All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” expresses the sentiment, That all, who have descended from Adam in the ordinary way, have sinned, and thereby come short of the glory of God. A few propositions will prepare the way for a consideration of this momentous truth.

First. God is the absolute and independent sovereign of the world.

“The Lord Most High is terrible; he is a great king over all the earth,” and he alone is able to manage the affairs of so great a province; for there is none like him, neither are there any works like his works. The excellence of his nature gives him alone a claim to absolute sovereignty,” Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O Lord; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? For to thee doth it appertain, forasmuch as there is none like unto thee.” His right to rule is also founded upon his being the Creator of all things, “The Lord is a great King above all gods. The sea is his own, he made it.” “O Jacob and Israel, thou art my servant; I have formed thee, thou art my servant, O Israel.” In short, his preserving all things, and his manifold mercies to his creatures, give him the best of all claims to absolute dominion. And his infinite wisdom, power, holiness, and justice, not only render him a perfect ruler, but make entire obedience to his authority desirable to all who know their best interests.

Second. God has given laws to all his creatures, by which he governs them.

Not to mention those for the control of the inanimate creation; he has prescribed to men their work. “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.” “For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King.” We are not in any thing left to our own arbitrary choice. He who has said to the sea, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther,” has likewise so dealt with man. But the holy laws by which on every hand he has limited man, are not like those set to the waves of the sea; for God deals with us in a manner suited to our nature. Reason is given to man; and his limits he cannot pass, without abandoning his highest interest.

Third. The great Lawgiver has annexed rewards and punishments to his laws.

The authority of God cannot be disregarded with impunity. His glory he will not give to another; and therefore his laws are guarded with suitable rewards and punishments.  He was under no obligation to give any reward for obedience, beyond that which flows from obedience.

And this is sufficient; for in keeping his commandments “there is great reward.” But such was his goodness, that he promised to reward obedience with eternal life. Now this reward is greater than obedience deserved, and suited only to the bounty of the giver. On the other hand, a dreadful penalty is annexed to disobedience. God has not made it impossible for us to break his laws, if we choose to do it; –but if we do, the curse is inevitable, “Cursed is every one that continues not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.”

Fourth. These laws have a fourfold property.

“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good.” “We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” The law is holy. It is an exact transcript of the holy will of God. There is nothing in it unworthy of Him, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. The law is just. It is given as the rule of justice among men. It renders to God his due, as well as to man. Man has no title to anything, but from this law. Beyond what this grants, nothing can be justly claimed. The law is good. It was made with regard to the welfare of those who live under it; and not to gratify the lusts of the wicked. And with this regard to our good in time and eternity,our duty and interest are made inseparable; and disobedience and punishment are alike inseparable. The law is spiritual. It is not like human laws, which extend only to outward actions; but it is spiritual, reaching to all the thoughts and intents of the heart.

This made the Psalmist exclaim, “I have seen an end of all perfection, but thy commandment is exceeding broad.”

PART 6. The Law Is Not Incompatible with Grace!

Taken and adapted from, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom
Written by Samuel Bolton

The next part of our query will prove at once to vindicate the law…

…and overthrow the many erroneous opinions that are in conflict with it. Our proposition is that there was no end or use for which the law was given which was incompatible with grace and which was not serviceable to the advancement of the covenant of grace. This I hope to make good, and then it will be seen how the Gospel is in the law; also that the law is not that which some men make it out to be, that is, opposite to the Gospel and to grace; for I shall show that it may run along with grace, and be serviceable to the advancement of grace.

In the prosecution of this matter we shall follow this method:

(1) We shall first explain the chief and principal ends for which the law was promulgated or given;
(2) We shall explain how those ends are consistent with grace and serviceable to the advancement of the covenant of grace; and therefore that they may continue under grace;
(3) We shall answer such objections as may be raised against this doctrine;
(4) We shall sum up the matter in few words and make a brief application.

Seven Purposes For Which The Law Was Given

There are two main ends to be observed, one was political, the other theological or divine. The political use is hinted at by the apostle in 1 Tim. 1. 8-9: ‘Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for man-slayers’, etc; that is, it was made for them in such fashion that, if it were not their rule, it should be their punishment. Such is the political use of the law.

Its second great purpose was divine, or theological; and this is two-fold, as seen in those who are not justified, and as seen in those who are justified. In those who are not justified, the law first reveals their sin to them, humbles them for sin, and so drives them to Christ. In those who are justified it acts first of all as a doctrine to drive them to duty, next as a glass to reveal their defects so that they may be kept humble and may fly to Christ, next as a restrainer and corrector of sin, and then again as a reprover of sin (2 Tim. 3. 16).

The principal and chief ends for which the law was promulgated:

(1) To restrain transgression; to set bounds and banks to the cursed nature of fallen man, not only by revealing sin, but also the wrath of God against sin: ‘tribulation and anguish to every soul of man that doeth evil’ (Rom. 2. 8-9). We read in Gal. 3. 19 that ‘the law was added because of transgressions’. This Scripture Jerome and Chrysostom understand to refer to the restraining of transgressions. The law may restrain sinners, though it cannot renew sinners; it may hold in and bridle sin, though it cannot heal and cure it. Before God gave the law, sin had a more perfect reign. By reason of the darkness of men’s understandings, and the security of their hearts (Rom. 5. 13-14), death reigned, and so sin, from Adam to Moses, as the apostle shows. Therefore God might give them the law to show them, not only that they sinned in such courses as they walked in, but to show them also that heavy wrath of God which they drew upon themselves by their sin, the effect of which might be to restrain them in their course of sin, and to hinder sin so that it could not now have so complete and uncontrolled a dominion and reign in the soul. Though it continued to reign – for restraining grace does not conquer sin, though it suppresses and keeps it down – yet it could not have full dominion. The sinners would be in fear, and that would serve to restrain them in their ways of sin, though not to renew them.

If God had not given a severe and terrible law against sin, such is the vileness of men’s spirits, they would have acted all villainy. The Devil would not only have reigned, but raged in all the sons of men. And therefore, as we do with wild beasts, wolves, lions, and others, binding them in chains that they may be kept from doing the mischief which their inclinations carry them to, so the law chains up the wickedness of the hearts of men, that they dare not fulfil those lustful inclinations which are found in their hearts.

Blessed be God that there is this fear upon the spirits of wicked men; otherwise we could not well live in the world. One man would be a devil to another. Every man would be a Cain to his brother, an Amnon to his sister, an Absalom to his father, a Saul to himself, a Judas to his master; for what one man does, all men would do, were it not for a restraint upon their spirits. Naturally, sin is oblivious to sense and shame too. There would be no stay, no bank, no bounds to sin, without the law. Therefore we have cause to bless God that he has given a law to restrain transgression, that if men will not be so good as they should be, yet, being restrained, they become not so bad as they would be. Were it not for this, and for the awe that God has cast upon the spirits of wicked men by means of it, there would be no safety.

The fields, the streets, your houses, your beds, would have been filled with blood, uncleanness, murder, rapes, incests, adulteries, and all manner of mischief. If there were no law, saying, Thou shalt do no murder’, men would make every rising of passion a stab. If there were no law saying, ‘Thou shalt not steal’, men would think theft, deception, cheating, and oppression good policy, and the best life would be ‘ex rapto vivere’ (living by robbery), living by other men’s sweat. If there were no law saying, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’, men would defile their neighbour’s bed, and commit all manner of wickedness.

For these reasons God has given a law to set bounds and banks to defend us against the incursions and breaches that sin would make upon us. He that sets bounds and banks to the raging sea, which otherwise would overflow the land, also sets bounds and banks to men’s sins and sinful affections. It is no less wonder that the deluge of lust and corruption in men does not break forth to the overflowing of all banks, than that the sea does not break forth upon us, but He that sets bounds to the one, also binds and restrains the other. This, then, is one purpose God has in giving the law.

(2) Secondly, the law was given to uncover and reveal transgression, and this, I conceive, is the true meaning of the apostle’s words in Gal. 3. 19: The law was added because of transgressions’, that is, chiefly, that the law might be ‘instar speculi’ (like a glass) to reveal and discover sin. Therefore says the apostle: ‘Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, 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). The apostle seems to say the same thing in Rom. 5. 20: The law entered that the offence might abound’, that is, that sin might appear exceedingly sinful. And this is another end God had in giving the law, to open, to reveal, to convince the soul of sin. And this was with reference to the promise of grace and mercy.

It was for this reason God gave the law after the promise, to reveal sin and to awaken the conscience, and to drive men out of themselves, and bring them over to Christ. Before He gave the law, men were secure and careless. They did not esteem the promise and the salvation which the promise offered. They did not see the necessity for it. Therefore God gave the law to discover sin, and by that to reveal our need of the promise, that in this way the promise and grace might be advanced. In giving the law, God did but pursue the purpose of mercy He had in giving the promise, by taking a course to make His Gospel worthy of all acceptation, that when we were convinced of sin, we might look out for and prize a Saviour; when we were stung by the fiery serpent, we might look up to the brazen serpent – in all this, I say, God was but pursuing the design of His own grace.

(3) Thirdly, the law was given to humble men for sin, and this is a fruit of the former, as we have it in Rom. 3. 19-20:, Now 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 become guilty before God’, that is, sensible of their own guilt. We were no less guilty before, but now by the law men are made sensible of their own guilt, for, says the apostle, By the law is the knowledge of sin’. It is also written, Where there is no law, there is no transgression’ (Rom. 4. 15), that is to say, no transgression appears where there is no law to discover it, or no transgression is charged upon the conscience where there is no law to discover sin. This seems to be excellently set out in Rom. 5. 13-14:, Until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses’, etc. The meaning is, there was no less sin, or guilt and death, before the law than after; sin reigned, and death reigned over all the sons of men, and it reigned the more because it reigned in the dark; there was no law given by which sin was discovered and revealed to them, and to help to charge sin upon them. And so the apostle says, ‘Sin is not imputed when there is no law’, that is, though sin and death did reign, yet men were secure and careless, and having no law to discover sin to them, they did not charge their own hearts with sin; they did not impute sin to themselves. Therefore God renewed the law, promulgating it from Sinai, to discover and impute sin to men, to charge them with sin. I will explain the matter by means of a similitude.

Suppose a debtor to owe a great sum of money to a creditor, and the creditor out of mere mercy promises to forgive him all the debt, yet afterwards sends forth officers to arrest and lay hold of him; it would be concluded that the man was acting contrary to himself and had repented of his former promises, when actually he had not changed at all and had repented of nothing, his only desire being that his mercy might be the more conspicuous and evident in the thoughts of the debtor; therefore he allows him to be brought to these extremities that he may become the more thankful. The case is the same between God and us. We are deeply indebted to God. To Abraham, and to us in him, God made a promise of mercy, but men were careless and secure, and though they were guilty of sin, and therefore liable to death, yet, being without a law to evidence sin and death to their consciences, they could not see the greatness of the mercy which granted them a pardon. Thereupon God published by Moses a severe and terrible law, to reveal sin, to accuse men of sin, and to condemn men for sin. Not that God intended that the sentence should take hold of the sinner, for then God would be acting contrary to Himself, but in order that thereby guilt might be made evident, men’s mouths stopped, and that they might fall down and acknowledge the greatness and riches of free grace and mercy. Thus it was in Job, as is shown fully in Job 33. 16-31. And again: ‘The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe’ (Gal. 3. 22).

(4) The law was given for a direction of life, a rule of walking to believers. This I showed at large formerly: that though the law as a burden to the conscience is removed, yet it is not removed for purposes of obedience. If it were needful, I might pursue this matter further, to strengthen believers. The moral law is certainly perpetual and immutable. It is an everlasting truth that the creature is bound to worship and obey his Creator, and so much the more bound as he has received great benefits. This is a truth which is as clear as the light, and, surely, to be free from obedience is to be servants unto sin, as already showed.

(5) The law was given, not only as a director of duties, but as a glass to reveal the imperfections in our performance of duties, that so we might be kept humble and vile in our own eyes, and that we might live more out of ourselves and more in Christ. It was given so that we might fly to Christ upon all occasions, as a defiled man flees to the fountain to be washed and cleansed, for in Christ there is mercy to cover, and grace to cure all our infirmities.

(6) The law was also given as a reprover and corrector for sin, even to the saints; I say, to discipline them, and to reprove them for sin. ‘All Scripture… is profitable for doctrine and reproof (2 Tim. 3. 16), and this part of Scripture especially for these ends, to be ‘instar verberis’ (like a scourge), to correct and chastise wantonness, and correct a believer for sin. As says Calvin: ‘The law by teaching, warning, admonishing, correcting, prepares us for every good work. ‘

(7) The law was given to be a spur to quicken us to duties. The flesh is sluggish, and the law is ‘instar stimuli’ (of the nature of a spur or goad) to quicken us in the ways of obedience. Thus much, then, for the ends for which the law was given.

Five Reasons Why the Law Is Not Incompatible With Grace

I am next to show that there was no end for which the law was given which was incompatible with grace and which might not be serviceable to the covenant of grace; therefore the law may remain in force to be serviceable under grace.

1. The law was given to restrain transgressions, and it is of the same use now. It restrains wicked men from sin, though it has no power to renew and thus change them. Fear may restrain, though it cannot renew men. Fear may suppress sin, though faith alone conquers and overcomes sin. The law may chain up the wolf, but it is the Gospel that changes the wolfish nature; the one stops the streams, the other heals the fountain; the one restrains the practices, the other renews the principles. And who does not see that this is the ordinary fruit of the law of God now? It was the speech of a holy man that Cain, in our days, has not killed his brother Abel; that our Amnon has not defiled his sister Tamar, that our Reuben has not gone up to his father’s couch; that our Absalom has not conspired the death of his father. It is because God restrains them. For this reason was the law added, and for this purpose it continues, to restrain wicked men, to set bounds and banks to the rage of men’s lustful hearts.

2. Secondly, the law was given to discover and reveal transgressions, and this is not inconsistent with grace; nay, it serves to advance it, and it still continues for this end, even to discover and reveal transgressions in believers, to make sin and misery appear, and by that means to awaken the conscience to fly to Christ. Hence the apostle says: ‘Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made’ (Gal. 3. 19). Some take ‘seed’ here to mean the saints of God, and make this the meaning, that so long as there are any to be brought to Christ, so long will there be the use of the law to reveal sin both in the unregenerate, that they may fly to Christ, and in the renewed, that they may learn to direct all their faith, hope, and expectation on Christ still. Whether this interpretation holds good or not, yet this is firm truth, that the law remains with us for this purpose, to reveal sin to us., Where no law is, there is no transgression’ (Rom. 4. 15), that is, no sin is discovered; where there is no law to perform this work, sin does not appear. But ‘the law entered that the offence might abound’ (Rom. 5. 20), not only to bring sin to light, but to make it appear exceedingly sinful. The words of the apostle put this beyond all question, I had not known sin but by the law’ (Rom. 7. 7). The law was the revealer of sin to him. He says in verse 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. ‘

It is clear, therefore, that the law still retains this use; it discovers sin in us. T had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet (Rom. 7. 7); and similarly with all sins. This it does, after grace has come, as well as before grace; that which was sin before is sin now; grace does not alter the nature of sin, though it does set the believer free from the fruits and condemnation of it.

3. Thirdly, the law was added to humble us for sin. This also agrees with grace, and its usefulness in this respect still remains, though some would deny it. Sin is the great reason for humiliation, and that which is a glass to discover sin, must needs upon the discovery of it, humble the soul for it. In respect of this, read Rom. 3. 19-20 and Gal. 3. 22. In this regard it may be said that the law is not against the promises of God (Gal. 3. 21), ‘but the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe’. The apostle says that the law is not against the promises. The affirmative interrogations which he employs are the strongest negations. And he shows why the law is not against the promise, because it is subservient to the promise.

‘The law serves the cause of the Gospel’, says Chamier, because, convicting men of their works of condemnation, it prepares them to seek the grace which is found in the Gospel.‘

The law concludes men under sin; it humbles them, convinces them of sin, that so the promise might be given. Hence it is said in Gal. 3. 24: ‘Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.’ He speaks of the same law as is mentioned earlier in the chapter, which seems (by verse 22) to be the moral law. And how is this the schoolmaster, but by lashing us, humbling us for sin, and driving us to Christ? Or if it is argued that it was the ceremonial law which is meant by the schoolmaster, yet the moral law was the rod. The master does little without the rod, nor the ceremonial law without the moral law. It is the moral law which drives men to the ceremonial law, which was in former days Christ in figure, as it does now drive us to Christ in truth.

Thus the law remains, an instrument in the hand of the Spirit, to discover sin to us, and to humble us for it, that so we might come over to Christ. If the avenger of blood had not followed the murderer, he would never have gone to the city of refuge, and if God does not humble us we would never go to Christ. An offer of Christ and of pardon before men are humbled is unavailing. Men do by this as those did who were invited to the supper; they made light of it. Just so, men make light of a pardon, and of the blood of Christ. But when once God has discovered sin to them; when the law has come to them, as it came to Paul, with an accusing, convincing, humbling, killing power. Oh then, Christ is precious, the promise is precious, the blood of Christ is precious. I conceive that this was the main end for which God gave the law after the promise, to cause sinners to value the promise. Men would not have known the sweetness of Christ if they had not first tasted of the bitterness of sin.

4. Fourthly, the law was given for a direction of life, and so it does still remain and serve, as I have already fully proved. Though we are sons, and are willing to obey, yet we must learn how to direct this willing disposition. I say, though we are sons and are guided by the Spirit, and though in our love to God we are ready for all service, yet we need the Word of God to be a light unto our feet and a lantern to our paths. God has made us sons and he has given us an inheritance; and now He gives us a rule to walk by, that we may express our thankfulness to Him for His rich mercy. Our obedience is not the cause and ground of His act of adoption, but the expression of our thankfulness and of the duty we owe to God who has adopted us. God therefore did not give the rule, and afterwards the promise; but first the promise, and then the rule, to show that our obedience was not the ground of our acceptance, but a declaration of our gratitude to the God who has accepted us. Thus it remains our rule of walking, yet in Christ. It must be our rule in Christ; we must obey by the strength of Christ. Obedience begins from Christ, not that we work for an interest in Christ, but we get such an interest that we may work.

The law, say some of our divines, was given with evangelical purposes, that is, with purposes subservient to the Gospel. And I say it must be obeyed from evangelical principles, principles rooted in Christ. The law shows us what is good, but gives us no power to do it. It is ‘lex spiritualis’ (a spiritual law), holy, just and good; but it is not ‘lex spiritus’ (the law of the spirit); this is alone in Christ, as the apostle speaks in Rom. 8. 2: ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’. The law shows us what is holy, but cannot make us holy, as long as it is a rule outside of us. It cannot make us holy, for that necessitates a rule within us.

The law is a principle within us first, and then a pattern without us. We are not made holy by imitation, but by implantation. But that principle found within sends us to the law as to the rule without, after which we are to conform our lives without. When the law is once our principle, it then becomes our pattern.

5. Fifthly, the law was given us as a glass to reveal our imperfections in duty, and for this purpose the law remains with us. Through it we perceive the imperfections of our duties, our graces, and our obedience. By this means we are kept close to Christ and kept humble. The law takes us away from reliance on ourselves and casts us upon Christ and the promises.

Thus have we seen God’s purposes and ends in introducing the law; we have also seen how these ends are not only consistent with grace, but also serviceable to the advancement of the work of grace. 

Righteousness by the Law ?

Written by Robert Trail.
Adapted from  6 Sermons on Galatians 
Edited for thought and sense.

tenCommandmentsB“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.   But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—…”  Romans 3:19-21 ESV

He that seeks righteousness by the law, is a man that never saw his need of grace…

…and you may be well assured that man will frustrate the grace of God, who never saw his utter need of it. He was never so far emptied, but he expects and imagines that he shall be able to work out a righteousness for himself, and so is not brought under any conviction of his utter need of the grace of God; whereas he that is for the grace of God in Christ alone, is a man that hath a great need of the grace of God, and sees himself undone without it.

This self-righteous man sees no glory in the grace of God shining through the righteousness of Christ…

…there is no excellency in it to him. Every natural man is in this mind; he sees a great deal of glory in his own doings: in a beautiful conversation, in brave gifts, and in a shining walk before men; he sees a great deal of beauty and glory here. Every natural man thinks there is a great deal of glory in his own performances. The self-righteous Pharisee came boasting in his own performances; “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican: I fast twice a week, and I give tithes of all that I possess,” (Luke 18:11, 12). These were great things in the man’s esteem, and so they are in the eyes of every natural man. But for that righteousness that is lodged in Christ, that is wrought out by a man without him, by one that came down from heaven, and is gone up thither again; that hath all this righteousness seated in him, and gives it forth to us by mere grace; no natural man thinks any thing of this. But the believer is a man that hath a high esteem of the righteousness of Christ. How doth the apostle Paul speak of this? “I count all things but dung, that I may win Christ; and be found in him, not having on mine own righteousness,” (Phil. 3:8, 9).

Every natural man is averse from the grace of God…

…and therefore he must needs frustrate the grace of God. He is averse from it: but every believer is just of another mind. Sirs, if all men’s hearts were known to us, as they are to God, here is one thing that would determine every man’s state, What way do you best like to go to heaven in? “I would gladly be very holy,” saith the poor man, “that I may be very happy when I die.” Saith the believer, “I would gladly be clothed with Christ’s righteousness, and get eternal life as the gift of his grace; and I know that by being in Christ I shall be sanctified.”

But no believer seeks sanctification as his righteousness, and title to glory…

…it is a preparation for glory, and the way that leads to glory, to all them that are saved according to that blessed method, “Whom he justified, them he also glorified,” (Rom. 8:30); and by glorification there, both sanctification and eternal life are well understood by most.


Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Robert Trail (1642–1716), Presbyterian divine, was born at Elie in Fifeshire in 1642. His father, Robert (1603–1678), was son of Colonel James Trail of Killcleary in Ireland, and grandson of Trail of Blebo in Fifeshire. He became chaplain to Archibald Campbell, first marquis of Argyll [q.v.], and in 1639 was presented to Elie. He was translated to the Greyfriars church, Edinburgh, in 1648, and became a zealous Covenanter. In 1644 he was a chaplain with the Scottish army in England, and was present at the battle of Marston Moor. He was one of the ministers who visited the Marquis of Montrose in prison and attended him on the scaffold. He afterwards joined the protesters, and was one of the party who reminded Charles II at the Restoration of his obligation to keep the covenants, for which he was banished for life. He sailed for Holland in March 1662–3, but returned to Edinburgh, where he died on 12 July 1678. A portrait of him is given in Smith’s ‘Iconographia Scoticana’ (Hew Scott, Fasti, i. 40–1, and authorities there cited). He left an autobiography in manuscript. He married, on 23 Dec. 1639, Jean Annand, daughter of the laird of Auctor-Ellon, Aberdeenshire. She was imprisoned in June 1665 for corresponding with her exiled husband.
Robert Trail’s early education was carefully superintended by his father, and at the university of Edinburgh he distinguished himself both in the literary and theological classes. At the age of nineteen he stood beside James Guthrie, his father’s friend, on the scaffold. He was for some time tutor or chaplain in the family of Scot of Scotstarvet, and was afterwards much with John Welch, the minister of Irongray, who was the first to hold ‘armed conventicles.’ In a proclamation of 1667 he was denounced as a ‘Pentland rebel’ and excepted from the act of indemnity. It is uncertain whether he was present at that engagement or not; but he fled to Holland, where he joined his father and other Scottish exiles. There he continued his theological studies, and assisted Nethenius, professor at Utrecht, in preparing for the press S. Rutherford’s ‘Examen Arminianismi.’ In 1669 he was in London, and in 1670 was ordained to a presbyterian charge at Cranbrook in Kent. He visited Edinburgh in 1677, when he was arrested by the privy council and charged with breaking the law. He admitted that he had preached in private houses, but, refusing to purge himself by oath from the charge of taking part in holding conventicles, he was sent as a prisoner to the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. Having given a promise which satisfied the government, he was liberated a few months afterwards and returned to his charge in Kent. He afterwards migrated to a Scots church in London, where he spent the rest of his life.
In 1682 he published a sermon, ‘By what means can ministers best win souls?’ and in 1692 a letter to a minister in the country—supposed to be his eldest brother, William (1640–1714), minister of Borthwick, Midlothian—entitled ‘A Vindication of the Protestant Doctrine concerning Justification and of its Preachers and Professors from the unjust Charge of Antinomianism.’ This ‘angry letter,’ as Dr. Calamy calls it, was occasioned by the violent controversy which broke out among the dissenting ministers of London after the republication in 1690 of the works of Dr. Tobias Crisp. Charges of Antinomianism were made on the one side and of Arminianism on the other, and Trail was distinguished for his zeal against Arminianism. A somewhat similar controversy followed in Scotland, and as Boston of Ettrick and others took the same side as Trail, his works became very popular among them and their adherents. He afterwards published ‘Sermons on the Throne of Grace from Heb. 4:16Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)’ (3rd edit. 1731), and ‘Sermons on the Prayer of Our Saviour, John 17:24Open in Logos Bible Software (if available).’ These works were devout, plain, and edifying, and were in great favour with those who were attached to evangelical religion.
Trail died unmarried on 16 May 1716 at the age of seventy-four. His brother William, the minister of Borthwick, has had many clerical descendants of note, both in the church of Scotland and in the church of Ireland—among the latter James, bishop of Down and Connor (Hew Scott, Fasti, i. 266).

Character excerpts from Wikipedia

The Leap of Faith

A boy at sea…

sailing-ships-17…who was very fond of climbing to the mast-head, one day climbed to the top lookout, and could not get down. The sea was very rough, and it was seen that in a little while the boy would fall on the deck, and be dashed to pieces. His father saw but one way of saving his life. Seizing a speaking trumpet, he cried out, “Boy, the next time the ship lurches, you fall into the sea.” The next time the ship lurched the boy looked down, and, not much liking the idea of throwing himself into the sea, still held to the mast.

The father, who saw that the boy’s strength would soon fail him, took a gun in his hand, and cried out, “Boy, if you do not drop into the sea the next time the ship lurches, I’ll shoot you!” The boy knew his father meant it, and the next time the ship lurched he leaped into the sea.

It seemed like certain destruction, but out went a dozen brawny arms, and he was saved.

The sinner, in the midst of the storm, thinks he must cling to the mast of his good works, and so be saved.

Says the gospel,” Let go your good works, and drop into the ocean of God’s love.” “No,” says the sinner, “it is a long way between me and God’s love; I must perish if I trust to that; I must have some other reliance.”

“If you have any other reliance than that, you are lost.”

Then comes the thundering law, and declares to the sinner, that unless he gives up every dependence, he will be lost.

And then comes the happy moment, when the sinner says, “Dear Lord, I give up all my dependence, and cast myself on thee; I take thee, Jesus, to be my one object in life, my only trust, the refuge, the only refuge I have, for my soul.”

“The Leap of Faith”  Written by C. H. Spurgeon.


Thoughts and Contrasts in Obedience (Or, you want to obey, but it hurts!)

 by Thomas Brooks

First, one type of obedience is legal…

obey-god-forked-path…when all is done which God requires; and all is done as God requires, when there is one path of duty, but we do walk in it perfectly and continually. However, no man on earth does or can walk in all God’s statutes, or fully do what he commands. “We all stumble in many ways,” James 3:2. Just so, Eccl. 7:20, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” 1 Kings 8:46, “For there is no man who sins not.” Prov. 20:9, “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” Job 14:4, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” 1 Jn. 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Secondly, another type of obedience is evangelical.

…such as walking in all the statutes of God, and such as keeping of all the commands of God through Christ, which is accepted of, and accounted of by God-as if we did keep them all. This walking in all God’s statutes, and keeping of all his commandments, and doing of them all, is not only possible-but it is also actual in every believer, in every sincere Christian. Evangelical obedience consists in these particulars-

Evangelical obedience consists in the approbation of all the statutes and commandments of God.

Consider Rom. 7:12, “The commandment is holy, and just, and good.” Ver. 16, “I consent unto the law that it is good.” There is both assent and consent. Psalms 119:128, “I esteem all your precepts concerning all things to be right.” A sincere Christian approves of all divine commands, though he cannot perfectly keep all divine commands. 

But, evangelical obedience consists in a conscientious submission unto the authority of all the statutes of God.

Every command of God has an authority within his heart, and over his heart. Psalms 119:161, “My heart stands in awe of your word.” A sincere Christian stands in awe of every known command of God, and has a spiritual regard unto them all. Psalms 119:6, “I have respect unto all your commandments.” 

Obedience to God - The Stewardship SentinelBut, evangelical obedience consists in a cordial willingness and a cordial desire to walk in all the statutes of God, and to obey all the commands of God.

Consider also Rom. 7:18, “For to will is present with me.” Psalms 119:5, “O that my ways were directed to keep your statutes!” Ver. 8, “I will keep your statutes.” 

But, evangelical obedience consists in a sweet delight in all God’s commands.

Psalms 119:47, “I delight in your commands because I love them.” Rom. 7:22, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” 

But, he who obeys sincerely-obeys universally.

Though not in regard of practice, which is impossible-yet in regard of affection, he loves all the commands of God, yes, he dearly loves those very commands of God which he cannot obey, by reason of the infirmity of the flesh, by reason of that body of sin and death which he carries about with him. Ponder upon Psalms 119:97, “O how I love your law!” Such a pang of love he felt, as could not otherwise be vented-but by this heartfelt exclamation, “O how I love your law,” verse. 113, 163, 127, 159, 167. Ponder upon all these verses. 

But, a sincere Christian obeys all the commands of God

He is universal in his obedience, in respect of valuation or esteem. He highly values all the commands of God; he highly prizes all the commands of God; as you may clearly see by comparing these scriptures together, Psalm 119:72, 127, Psalms 119:128, Psalm 119:19:8-11; Job 23:12. 

But, a sincere Christian is universal in his obedience, in respect of his purpose and resolution

He purposes and resolves, by divine assistance, to obey all, to keep all. Psa_119:106, “I have sworn, and will perform it, that I will keep your righteous judgments.” Psalm 17:3, “I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.”

 But, a sincere Christian is universal in his obedience, in respect of his inclination

He has an habitual inclination in him to keep all the commands of God, 1 Kings 8:57-58; 2 Chron. 30:17-20; Psalm 119:112, “I have inclined my heart to perform your statutes always, even to the end.” 

But,evangelical keeping of all the commands of God, consists in a sincere endeavor to keep them all

They put out themselves in all the ways and parts of obedience; they do not willingly and wittingly slight or neglect any commandment-but are striving to conform themselves thereunto. As a dutiful son does all his father’s commands, at least in point of endeavor; just so, sincere Christians make conscience of keeping all the commands of God in respect of endeavors. Psalm 119:59, “I turned my feet unto your testimonies.”

178838750_640God esteems of evangelical obedience as perfect obedience

Zacharias had his failings, he did hesitate through unbelief, for which he was struck dumb-yet the text tells you, “That he walked in all the commandments of the Lord blameless,” Luke 1:6, because he did cordially desire and endeavor to obey God in all things. Evangelical obedience is true for the essence, though not perfect for the degree. A child of God obeys all the commands of God-in respect of all his sincere desires, purposes, resolutions, and endeavors; and this God accepts in Christ for perfect and complete obedience. This is the glory of the covenant of grace, that God accepts and esteems of sincere obedience as perfect obedience. Such who sincerely endeavor to keep the whole law of God-they do keep the whole law of God in an evangelical sense, though not in a legal sense. A sincere Christian is for the first table as well as the second, and the second as well as the first. He does not adhere to the first and neglect the second, as hypocrites do; neither does he adhere to the second and despise the first, as profane men do.

prodigal-sonO Christians, for your support and comfort, know that when your desires and endeavors are to do the will of God entirely, as well in one thing as in another, God will graciously pardon your failings, and pass by your imperfections.

“He will spare you as a man spares his son who serves him,” Mal. 3:17. Though a father sees his son to fail, and come short in many things which he enjoins him to do-yet knowing that his desires and endeavors are to serve him, and please him to the full, he will not be rigid and severe with him-but will be indulgent to him, and will spare him, and pity him, and show all love and kindness to him. The application is easy, etc.

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: 
Thomas Brooks (1608–1680) was an English non-conformist Puritan preacher and author.  Much of what is known about Thomas Brooks has been ascertained from his writings. Born, likely to well-to-do parents, in 1608, Brooks entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1625, where he was preceded by such men as Thomas Hooker, John Cotton, and Thomas Shepard. He was licensed as a preacher of the Gospel by 1640. Before that date, he appears to have spent a number of years at sea, probably as a chaplain with the fleet.

After the conclusion of the First English Civil War, Thomas Brooks became minister at Thomas Apostle’s, London, and was sufficiently renowned to be chosen as preacher before the House of Commons on December 26, 1648. His sermon was afterwards published under the title, ‘God’s Delight in the Progress of the Upright’, the text being Psalm 44:18: ‘Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from Thy way’. Three or four years afterwards, he transferred to St. Margaret’s, Fish-street Hill, London.

As a writer C. H. Spurgeon said of him, ‘Brooks scatters stars with both hands, with an eagle eye of faith as well as the eagle eye of imagination’.  In 1662, he fell victim to the notorious Act of Uniformity, but he appears to have remained in his parish and to have preached as opportunity arose. Treatises continued to flow from his pen