Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Are we what the Law requires of us?

William Swan Plumer
Thy commandment is exceeding broad. — Psal. cxix. 96.

In the text God's commandment means God's law, that holy, just, and good law, which he gave on Mount Sinai. It is more fully explained in other  parts of Scripture. The text says that this commandment is broad. The meaning is that it covers a great deal of ground. It covers our whole case.

1 . It enjoins all duties — all duties which we owe  to God, to our neighbour, or to ourselves. It claims to control our thoughts, our feelings, our desires, our words, and our acts. No thought can pass in our minds, no wish spring up in our hearts, no word escape our lips, but this law notices it and pronounces it good or evil.

2. It forbids all sins. Men have been very cunning in finding out ways of doing wickedly, but they have found out no way of sinning that is not forbidden by the law of God. We have something like a hundred words in our language to denote wicked conduct. But the law comprehends all these forms of sinning. It is absolutely universal. Men make laws to govern a state. They pile statute upon statute. When a law works badly, they repeal it or  try to amend it, and then they amend the amendment. But here is a law which in ten short precepts does in spirit forbid all sin and require all duty.

3. God's law is one, and not many. It is a chain. If you break any link in it, you break the chain. He that offends in one point is guilty of all. The whole law is fulfilled in one word; and that word is Love.

4. This law is unbending. It can be broken, but it cannot be bent. It will not conform to us. We must conform to it.

5. It requires obedience to be rendered to God. We are not to keep it merely from accident, or for convenience, or for a reward of merit, or from a spirit of servility. Our obedience must be hearty, cheerful, affectionate. God's law must be within us. We must delight to do his will. His statutes must be the rejoicings of our hearts. If we could be as precise as Pharisees, it would do us no good. We must love God supremely and our neighbour as ourselves.

6. In this obedience we must persevere. "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" Gal. iii. 10. Past obedience was due; present obedience is due : and future obedience will be due for ever. This is right. A man may keep all the laws for fifty years. If he then commits murder, he is justly punished. A man may steal but once, yet that one act makes him a thief.

7. The law requires prompt, unhesitating obedience. When God commands and we know what he means, we must not linger, but go right forward.  When Abraham was required to sacrifice Isaac, and knew what God's will was, he arose very early the next morning, and started on the commanded journey. David says, " I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments," Ps. cxix. 60. Some children and servants, when required to do a thing and know what their duty is, ask questions, find fault, and even murmur. Their conduct is wicked. It is still more wicked to stand finding fault with God.

8. The obedience we owe to God is supreme. We must put his will above our own or that of any man or number of men. We owe great honour to our father and mother ; but if they call on us to do anything contrary to the law of God, we may not do it. Sometimes States and Kings make wicked laws, contrary to the known will of the Most High. In all such cases we must obey God rather than men. Sometimes churches make wicked rules, and wickedly enforce them. In such cases, we must bear expulsion from the church rather than sin against God. We owe him all. He is in all and through all and above all and over all.

9. God's law requires obedience perfect in all respects. The least failure is a sin; and against every sin God sets his face. He says, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." And he is right, and has a right to require all this. To give a license to sin once, or in the least, would be bringing sin into the world. It was for one sin that angels were hurled out of heaven. It was for one sin that Adam was driven from Paradise.

If these things are so, how stands your case with God? Do you take him to be the only living and
true God, and your God? Do you love anything more than you love God ? Are you more distressed when God is dishonoured than when you are reproached? Do you put anything above God's favour? Do you tempt God? Are you lukewarm or dead in the things of God ? Do you make any man or set of men the lords of your faith and conscience ? Do you slight the Saviour ? Do you resist or grieve God's Spirit ? Do you delight yourself in the Lord ? Do you worship God with a pure heart ? Do you pay your vows ? Do you honour God with your lips when your heart is far from him ? Do you speak of God's name, or word, or worship in a vain or profane manner? Do you ever jest with sacred things ? Do you ever oppose God's truth or grace or ways? Do you love the Sabbath-day and keep it holy? Or are you weary of its duties? Do you omit any honour or love due to your parents, teachers, guardians, or rulers ? Do you indulge envy, scorn, or malice towards them ? Do you pray for them ? Are you careful of your own life and the life of others ? Do you indulge excessive passions and needless cares ? Do you strike, or wound, or quarrel, or oppress ? Are you cruel to brutes ? Do you cherish all chaste and pure thoughts, looks, and words ? Is your behaviour light or impudent? Are you guilty of excess in eating, drinking, or sleeping? Have you made a covenant with your eyes and your ears ? Do you steal from rich or poor ? Do you beg when you might earn your bread ? Do you borrow when you could do without the things borrowed? Do you always speak the truth in your heart ? As far as you can, do you speak well of all men ? Do you hate lying, slander, backbiting, talebearing, whispering, flattery, scoffing, reviling, vain boasting ? Do you listen to false reports ? Do you patiently hear a just defence ? Are you not sometimes silent when you ought to speak ? Do you not sometimes speak when you ought to be silent ? Are you a brawler ? Do you keep your word? Is your promise as good as your bond ? Are you contented with your lot ?
Do you envy your more prosperous neighbour ? Are you glad when others have good success ? Can you truly say, I hate every false way, but I love thy law, God?


1 . How many kinds of sins there are ! Some are secret, and some are open. Some are on the spur of the moment, and some have long been thought over before they are committed. Some are against ourselves, some against our neighbours, and all against God. If God would contend with us, we cannot answer him for one of a thousand of our sins. Job ix. 3. All good men count their sins by the thousand, or else say that they are like a thick cloud, that they are innumerable, that they are like the great mountains.

2. How vain is the pretence of men to sinless perfection. The Bible is clear that " there is no man that liveth and sinneth not," 1 Kings viii. 46; 2 Chron. vi. 36. Yea more, " there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not," Ecc.vii. 20. The whole verse from which the text is taken reads ; " I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad."

3. It is very foolish in us to expect to be justified by the deeds of the law. The law justifies only sinless creatures, and we are all sinful creatures. By the law is the knowledge of sin, not the pardon of sin. The law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, not to bring us to God. Christ must bring us before his holy majesty. The law pours only curses on sinners. It has no mercy, because it is law, and unbending.

4. How kind and glorious is the gospel. It brings help to the needy, mercy to the guilty, salvation to the lost. One of my friends, with a company of travellers, was crossing the Alps, when there came up a great snow-storm. The clouds were very heavy. The paths soon became covered. The snow fell fast. They could see but a little way before them. By-and-by their guide sadly said to them, " I know not where we are." It was very cold. The prospect before them was very dismal. The guide went a little way to the one side, and there he found one of the guide-boards, which were in the shape of a cross; and he returned with great joy in his countenance, shouting, " The cross, the cross ! " Their hearts were indeed glad. They soon took the road, and went on their way rejoicing. So we are all lost. We are out of the way. We know not how to come before the Almighty. We are in a perishing condition. Our only hope is the cross of Christ — not the wood on which he hung, nor an image of it ; but Christ's death which he there suffered, Christ's blood which he there shed. Will you not say, — " My faith, would lay her hand On that dear head of thine ; While like a penitent I stand, And there confess my sin."

No man needs any sacrifice but that of Calvary, any atonement but that of Christ. His work is perfect. His death is all-sufficient. O look to him — to him alone.