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Adam Clarke on the Usage of the Law in Evangelism

“Wherefore then serveth the law?” Of what real use can it be in the economy of salvation? I answer, it serves the most important purposes: 1. Its purity and strictness show us its origin:– it came from God. All religious institutions, merely human, though pretended from heaven, show their origin by extravagant demands in some cases, and by sinful concessions in others. In the law of God nothing of this appears, and therefore we see it a transcript of the divine nature. 2. It shows us the perfection of the original state of man; for as that law was suited to his state, and the law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good, so was his nature: it is, therefore, a comment on those words, “God made man in his own image, and in his own likeness.” 3. It serves to show the nature of sin: the real obliquity of a crooked line can only be ascertained by laying a straight one to it. Thus, the fall of man, and the depth of that fall, are ascertained by the law. 4. It serves to convict man of sin, righteousness, and judgment: it shows him the deplorable state into which he is fallen, and the great danger to which he is exposed. 5. It serves as a schoolmaster, (or leader of children to school,) to convince us of the absolute necessity and value of the gospel; for that pure and moral law must be written upon the hearts of believers; and its precepts, both in letter and spirit, become the rule of their lives.

By the law is the knowledge of sin; for how can the finer deviations from a straight line be ascertained without the application of a known straight edge? Without this rule of right, sin can only be known in a sort of general way; the innumerable deviations from positive rectitude can only be known by the application of the righteous statutes of which the law is composed. And it was necessary that this law should be given, that the true nature of sin might be seen, and that men might be the better prepared to receive the gospel; finding that this law worketh only wrath, that is, denounces punishment, forasmuch as all have sinned. Now, it is wisely ordered of God, that wherever the gospel goes, there the law goes also; entering everywhere, that sin may be seen to abound, and that men may be led to despair of salvation in any other way, or on any other terms, than those proposed in the gospel of Christ. Thus the sinner becomes a true penitent, and is glad, seeing the curse of the law hanging over his soul, to flee for refuge to the hope set before him in the gospel.

Law is only the means of disclosing this sinful propensity, not of producing it; as a bright beam of the sun introduced into a room shows millions of motes which appear to be dancing in it in all directions. But these were not introduced by the light, they were there before, only there was not light enough to make them manifest; so the evil propensity was there before, but there was not light sufficient to discover it.

It was one design of the law to show the abominable and destructive nature of sin, as well as to be a rule of life. It would be almost impossible for a man to have that just notion of the demerit of sin, so as to produce repentance, or to see the nature and necessity of the death of Christ, if the law were not applied to his conscience by the light of the Holy Spirit; it is then alone that he sees himself to be carnal and sold under sin; and that the law and the commandment are holy, just, and good. And let it be observed that the law did not answer this end merely among the Jews in the days of the apostle; it is just as necessary to the Gentiles to the present hour. Nor do we find that true repentance takes place where the moral law is not preached and enforced. Those who preach only the gospel to sinners, at best, only heal the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly. The law, therefore, is the grand instrument in the hands of a faithful minister to alarm and awaken sinners; and he may safely show that every sinner is under the law, and consequently under the curse, who has not fled for refuge to the hope held out by the gospel: for in this sense also “Jesus Christ is the end of the law for justification to them that believe.”

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/20/2012 at 4:49 PM

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