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.”