R0MANS, vii, 1 - 5.
"Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth: but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man, wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."

THE apostle, in these verses, bethinks him of another illustration, on the subject of the new and the holy life that is incumbent on a believer - and one more addressed to his Jewish, even as the former was to his Gentle disciples. In the verses that we have already tried to expound in your hearing, he illustrates the transference that takes place at conversion, from the service of sin to the service of righteousness - by the transference of a bond-slave now made free from his old master, but whose services are still due to the present and the lawful superior under whom he now stands enrolled.

The apostle then, at the commencement of this chapter, turns him to those who know the law, and deduces from the obligations which attach to marriage, the same result which he had done before from the obligations which attach to servitude - that is, an abandonment on the part of the believer of those doings which have their fruit unto death, and a new service which has its fruit unto holiness or, as it is termed in this passage, its ‘fruit unto God’

The attentive reader will perceive, that there is a certain cast of obscurity over the whole of this passage; and arising from the apparent want of an entire and sustained analogy, between the illustration and the thing to be illustrated. It is true that the obligations of marriage are annulled by the death of either of the parties; but then he only supposes the death of one of the parties, and that is the husband.

Now the case to be elucidated by this supposition, is that of the now dissolved relationship which there is between the law and him who was the subject of the law. The law is evidently the husband in this relationship, and the subject is as evidently the wife. So that, to make good the resemblance - the law should be conceived dead, and the subject alive, and at liberty for being transferred into another relationship than that which he formerly occupied. Yet, in reading the first verse, one would suppose - that it was on the expiry of life by the subject, and not on the expiry of life by the law, that the connection between them was to be broken up and dissolved. It is true that the translation might have run thus, ‘How that the law hath dominion over a man so long as it liveth;’ and many, for the sake of preserving a more lucid and consistent analogy, have adopted this translation. But then this does not just suit so well with the fourth verse - where, instead of the law having become dead unto us, we are represented as having become dead unto the law; so that a certain degree of that sort of confusion, which arises from a mixed or traverse analogy appears unavoidable.

It so happens too, that either supposition, of the law being dead or of the subject being dead, stands linked with very important and unquestionable truth - so that by admitting both, you may exhibit this passage as the envelope of two meanings or two lessons, both of which are incontrovertibly sound and practically of very great consequence. This of course, would add very much to the draught that we make upon your attention; and altogether we fear that, unless there is a very pointed and strenuous forthputting of your own intelligence on these verses, we shall fail to render any explanation of them to you, which you will feel to be at all very vivid or very interesting. It is in the first place true, that the law may be regarded as dead; and that he our former husband, now taken out of the way, has left us free to enter upon that alliance with Christ considered as our new husband, which in many other parts of the New Testament is likened unto a marriage.

And it is true also, that the death of the law, which gave rise to the dissolution of its authority over us, took place at the death of Christ. It was then that, in the language addressed to the Colossians, it was then that our Saviour blotted out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross. It was then that the law lost its power to reckon with us, and its right as an offended lord to take vengeance of our trespasses against Him. You have read of certain venomous animals which expire, on the moment that they have deposited their sting and its mortal poison, in the body of their victim. And thus there ensues a double death - the death of the sufferer, and the death also of the assailant.

And certain it is, that on the cross of our Saviour, there was just such a catastrophe. Then did our Saviour pour out His soul, under the weight and agony of those inflictions that were laid upon Him by the law; but then also did the law expend all its power as a judge and an avenger, over those who believe in the Saviour. There is something in the consideration of the law alive and of the law dead, that should bear practically home upon the fears and the feelings of every enquirer. Without Christ the law is in living force against us; and were we rightly aware both of its claims and of our provocations - then should we feel as if in the hands of an enraged husband, who had us most thoroughly in his power; and who, incensed with jealousy and burning with the spirit of revenge, because of the way in which we had aggrieved and degraded him, - held us in the daily terror of a resentment, which no penitence could appease, and which he was ready to discharge upon us by some awful and overwhelming visitation. It is some such appalling imagination as this, that gives rise to what is familiarly known by a phrase which often occurs in our older authors - a law-work. it is a work which passes through the heart of him, who is conscience-stricken under the conviction of sin, and terror-stricken under the anticipation of a coming vengeance. The experience and degree of this state of emotion are exceedingly various; but at all times it is the state of one who feels himself still under the law, and liable to be reckoned with by him as an unrelenting creditor - who can allege such an amount of debt as never can be paid, and of deficiency that in his own person can never be atoned for.

Some are pursued with this thought, as if by an arrow sticking fast. Others, without such intense agony, are at least haunted by a restlessness, and a discomfort, and a general uneasy sensation that all is not right, which leads them to cast about for the peace and deliverance of some place of refuge, in which they fain would take shelter and hide themselves. All are in the state of the apostle who says of himself that, when the law came, sin revived and he died - or that, when a sense of the law and of its mighty demands visited his heart, there revived within him a sense of his own fearful deficiencies along with it; and he gave himself over to the despair of one, who had rightfully to suffer and rightfully to die. Men under earnestness, and who at the same time have not yet found their way to Christ, are in dealings with the law alive - stand related to him as the wife does to an outraged husband, breathing purposes of vindictiveness and resolute on the accomplishment of them. A state of appalling danger and darkness from which there is no relief, but in the death of that husband; and a state exemplifying perhaps the spiritual condition of some who now hear me, who know themselves to be sinners, and know the law wherewith they have to do as the unbending and implacable enemy of all who have offended him - who feel that with him there is no reprieve and no reconciliation - who have long perhaps wearied themselves in vain to find some door of escape, from this severe and stern and uncompromising exactor - and, as the bitter result of all their fatiguing but unfruitful endeavours, are now sitting down in heartless and hopeless despondency. And perhaps the illustration of our text, may open up for them a way of access to the relief which they aspire after.

It is just such a relief as would be afforded by the death of the first tyrannical husband, who, at the same time, had a right to wreak the full weight of his displeasure upon you; and by the substitution of another in his place, who had cast the veil of a deep and never-to-be-disturbed oblivion over the whole of your past history, and with whom you were admitted to no other fellowship than that of love and peace and confidence. It is thus, my brethren, that Christ would divorce you, as it were, from your old alliance with the law; and welcome you, instead, to a new and friendly alliance with Himself. He invites you to treat, in trust and in kindly fellowship with Him, as the alone party with whom you need to have to do; and as to the law, with whom you so long have carried on the distressful fellowship of accusation on the one side and of conscious guilt and fear upon the other, He bids you cease from the fellowship altogether - by having no other regard unto the law, than as unto a husband who is now dead and may be forgotten.

And to deliver this contemplation from any image so revolting as that of our rejoicing in the death of a former husband; and finding all the relief of heaven in the more kindred and affectionate society of another - You have to remember, that the law has become dead, so as to be divested of all power of reckoning with you - not by an act which has vilified the law or done it violence, but by an act which has magnified the law and made it honourable - not by a measure which has robbed the law of its due vindication, but by a measure which sets it forth to the world’s eye in the full pomp and emblazonment of its vindicated honours - not by the new husband having with assassin blow relieved you of the old, but by the one having done full homage to the rights and authority of the other; and rendered to him such a proud and precious satisfaction, as exalts him more than he could have been by all the fidelities of your most unbroken allegiance.
It is thus that Christ has negotiated the matter with the law; and now invites you to lay upon Him, the whole burden of its unsettled accounts, and of its fearful reckonings, and of its unappeased resentments - now invites you to break loose from the disquietudes of your old relationship, to emancipate yourselves from that heavy yoke under which you have become weary and heavy laden, to come unto Him and take His yoke upon you; and you shall have rest to your souls. It is thus that the law which is alive, and fiercely alive to all who are under it, becomes dead to the believer - now no longer under the law but under grace. To him the law is taken out of the way. It is the hand-writing of ordinances that was at one time against him, and contrary to him; but its hostility has become powerless, ever since it has been nailed to the cross of Christ. It was then, that it put forth all the right and power of condemnation which belonged to it; and therefore it was then, that its authority as a judge may be said to have expired. The law had power over every man, so long as it was alive; and its power went to the infliction of a grievous curse upon all, for all had broken it. But after it got its death-blow on the cross, this power ceased ; and we became free from it - just as the woman is free from all the terror and all the tyranny of that deceased husband, who wont to lord it, and perhaps with justice too, most oppressively over her.

And thus ought we to hold ourselves as free, from the whole might and menacing of that law, which has now spent its whole force as an executioner, on that body by which the whole chastisement of our peace has been borne. And we actually live beneath our offered privileges - we shut our hearts against that blessed tranquillity, to which by the whole style and tenor of the gospel we are made most abundantly welcome - If we cast not away the terror from our spirits, of an enemy who is now exhausted of all his strength; and resign not ourselves to the full charm of so great and precious a deliverance. When a sense of the law brings remorse or fearfulness into your heart transfer your thoughts from it as your now dead, to Christ as your now living husband. Make your escape from all the rueful apprehension which the one would excite, to the rest and the comfort and the able protection which are held out by the other. Instead of having to do as formerly with the law, have to do with Christ now standing in its place.

Thus will you flee to Him, in whom you will find strong consolation. Nor will you throw yourselves loose from the guidance of all rule and of all rectitude, by having thus swept the law entirely away from the field of your vision, and made an entire substitution of Christ in its place - for He is revealed not merely as a witness unto the people, but as a leader and a commander unto the people. But there is another way than through the death of the husband, by which the relationship of marriage may be dissolved; and that is by the death of the wife. And there is another way in which the relationship between the law and the subject may be dissolved, than by the death of the law; and that is by the death of the subject. The law has no more power over its dead subject, than the husband has over his dead wife, or than the tyrant has over his dead slave. And it is in this way, that the assertion of all power or authority over us, on the part of the law, seems to be represented in the fourth verse - when we are said to have become dead unto the law, and it is added by the body of Christ.

This brings us back to the conception that has been already so abundantly insisted on, that in Christ we all died - that we were dead in law; and, though Christ alone and in His own body died for our sins, yet that was tantamount to the legal infliction of the sentence of death upon ourselves - so that the law can have no further reckoning with us, having already had that reckoning with us to the full in the person of Him who was our surety and our representative: And just as the criminal law has done its utmost upon him whom it has brought to execution, and can do no more - so the law can do no more in the way of vengeance with us, having already done all with Him who was smitten for our iniquities, and who poured out His soul unto the death for us. After our old relationship with the law is thus put an end to, the vacancy is supplied, and in a way that is very interesting, by Him, who, after having removed the law through His death out of the station it had before occupied, then rose again and now stands in its place. And we utterly mistake the matter, if we think, that, because emancipated from the relation in which we formerly stood to the law - we are therefore emancipated from all service.

The wife owes a duty to her second husband, as well as her first. The one has his claims upon her obedience and her dutiful regards, as well as the other. It is true, that, with the former, the predominant feeling which prompted her services may have been that of obligation - mixed with great fearfulness, because of the deficiencies into which she was perpetually falling; and that, with the latter, the predominant feeling which prompts her services may be sweet and spontaneous affection to one, from whom she is ever sure to obtain the kindest indulgence. But, still it is evident that, under the second economy of matters, there will be service, possibly much greater in amount and certainly far worthier in principle, than all that was ever rendered under the first. And thus it is with the law on the one hand, and with Christ on the other. Under the law we were bidden to do and live; and the fear of a forfeiture, or the consciousness of having incurred a forfeiture, already infused the spirit of bondage into all our services. Under Christ, we are bidden to live and do. We are put into the secure possession of that which we before had to strive for; and the happy rejoicing creature comes forth at will, with the services of gratitude and of new obedience. Instead of life being given as a return for the work that we render, our work is given as a return for the life that we receive. And it will further be seen, that, whereas a slavish and creeping and jealous selfishness was the principle of all our diligence under the law, it is a free and affectionate generosity which forms the principle of all our diligence under the gospel. In working to the law, it is all for ourselves - even that we may earn a wage or a reward. In working to Christ it is all the freewill offering of love and thankfulness - not in the mercenary spirit of a hireling, but with the buoyant alacrity of an eternally-obliged and devoted friend - because we thus judge, that, as Christ died for all, then were all dead; and He died, that they who live should live no longer to themselves, but unto Him who died for them and who rose again.

And to the eye of the attentive reader, this may throw light on the difficult verse, which comes immediately after the quotation that we have now given. 'Christ upon earth so lived and so died in our stead, that we may be said to have been held‘ 2 Corinthians, v 16. In the body of Christ He was made subject to the law, in taking upon Him of our nature; and when He was in the world, we may be conceived with Him to have served the law, and with Him to have suffered under it. But the law hath dominion over a man only so long as he liveth; and thus, at the death of Christ, and our death along with Him, this dominion terminated. And now it is not with the law that we have to do, even as Christ had to do with it in the days of His mortal flesh. It is with Christ in His immortal and glorified body that we hold all our conversation; and thus, perhaps, will the more profoundly spiritual of our hearers feel a meaning in these words of the apostle, who, after he had said of Christians ‘that they should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto Him who died for them and rose again' - said further, that, ‘Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things have become new.’

We shall not have time for the exposition of any more verses at present; and shall therefore take up the remainder of this lecture with the enforcement of such practical lessons, as may be suggested from the passage that we already have endeavoured to illustrate. It must be quite distinct to you, in the first place, that, though released from the old relationship between you and the law on your becoming a disciple of Christ, you are not thereby thrown adrift from all restraint and from all regulation. The second husband has his claims as well as the first; and the wife is as much the subject of obligations to the one as to the other. The transition from nature to grace is here represented, by the dissolving of one marriage and the contracting of another. Had there been no second marriage after the breaking up of the first, then may it have been inferred, that the faith of the gospel led to a state of lawless and reckless abandonment. But there is such a marriage, which of course carries its duties and its obligations and its services along with it; and, accordingly, there is a very remarkable clause in the apostle’s writings that is commonly included in a parenthesis - when speaking of himself as without law he says - "Being not without law to God but under the law to Christ." I Cor. ix, 21.

Now this leads us in the second place to consider, what it is of the law that we have parted with by the death of the first husband; and what it is of the law that is retained, by our new alliance with the second. And perhaps this cannot be done better, than in the language of our older divines, who tell us, on the one hand, that the law is abolished as a covenant. We have ceased from the economy of ‘Do this and live.’ Our obedience to the law is no longer the purchase-money by which heaven is bought - no longer the righteousness by which the rewards of eternity are earned - no longer the title deed on which we can knock at the gate of paradise, and presenting it there, can demand our admittance among its felicities and its glories. If you choose to abide in the relationship of the first marriage, the law will be unto you a rigorous exactor - insisting on every article of the bond, and looking with an air of jealous and pointed stipulation to your every fulfillment; and, what is more, he will be unto you an offended lord, urging to performances which never can be reached, and reminding of deficiencies which under him never can be pardoned. If you will persist in looking upon heaven as the bargain of your services, then will you be dealt with according to the whole spirit of a bargain’s demands and of a bargain’s punctualities. Now it is in this respect that the law has ceased from his wonted capacity. The believer is rid of him, and of all his commandments, viewed in the light of so many terms, on the rendering of which eternal life is yours of challenged reward - yours of rightful and meritorious acquirement. All of you I trust are convinced, that on this footing eternal life were placed at an impracticable distance away from you. This was the old footing with the old husband; but, now that he is dead, it is a footing on which, to the great relief of a sinful and sinning species, it no longer stands; and it is thus that we view the matter, when we say of the law that it is abolished as a covenant.

But on the other hand, say our divines - while abolished as a covenant, it is not abolished as a rule of life. Though not under the economy of 'do and live', still you are under the economy of live and do. Your obedience to the law is no longer the purchase-money, by which heaven is bought; but still your obedience to the law is the preparation by which you are beautified and arrayed for heaven. It is no longer the righteousness, by which the rewards of eternity are earned; but still it is the righteousness, which fits us to enjoy the sacred rest, and the hallowed recreations of eternity. It is no longer that, by which you obtain such a title as qualifies you to challenge the glories and the felicities of paradise for your due; but still it is that, by which you obtain such a taste, as qualifies for partaking in the glories and the felicities of paradise for your best-loved enjoyment. To walk by rule is to walk on a particular and assigned way. And still, under the gospel as under the law, the way to heaven is the highway of holiness. Still is it as true in the present as in the former dispensation, that, without holiness no man shall see God; and if it be no longer the gold by which you buy the inheritance, still it is the garment that you must put on ere you are permitted to enter on the possession of it. The proprieties of the marriage state are substantially the same with the second husband, as they were with the first. But while the one would chide you, the other would charm you into the performance of them; and we may add, that, while the stern and authoritative precepts of the one never could have forced your compliance, because the will is not a subject for the treatment of force - the mild persuasions of the other, by his possession of this faculty, carry in them a power that is irresistible.

And it is thus that Christ, who loved the church and gave Himself for it, “sanctifies and cleanses it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Thus it was the will of the first husband, that you should keep the law, and still it is the will of the second also that you should keep the law. There is no distinction, in the matter of it, between the commandment of the one and the commandment of the other. What you ought to have done under the first economy, you still ought to do under the second. It were strange had it been otherwise. He who loveth righteousness, presented man with a draught of it on the tablet of the written law; and told him that, on his obedience thereto, He would reward him with a joyful immortality. This reward has been forfeited by sinners, but redeemed by the Saviour of sinners; and still God, unchangeable as He is in His love of righteousness, and who had before pictured it forth in that perfect code of morality which by man has been violated - will now have it to be pictured forth on the character of man: And, for this purpose, does He put the law in his heart and write it out upon his mind - and that virtue, which the first husband failed to enforce, does the second succeed in establishing - by engaging the gratitude and goodwill and affection of His disciples, on the side of it. That spiritual excellence which man could not find of himself, wherewith to purchase heaven - the Saviour finds for him, and spreads it out in goodly adornment upon his person, so as to prepare him for heaven. What the first husband would have exacted as a price, the other lays on as a preparation; and the very duties that were required by the unrelenting taskmaster, but not rendered to him - are also required by the kind and friendly benefactor, who at the same time gives both a hand of strength and a heart of alacrity for all His services.

The difference between the two cases, is somewhat like that which obtains between a family establishment, and an establishment of hirelings. Every workman in the one is under the law of sobriety and good conduct, which, if he violate, he will forfeit his situation. But, if instead of a servant he is a son, it is not on any bargain of that kind, that he is understood to retain the place of security and maintenance, that he enjoys under the roof of his father. Yet, though sobriety and good conduct are not laid upon him in the way of legalism - who does not see, that the whole drift and policy of the patriarchal government under which he sits, arc on the side of all that is virtuous and amiable, and praiseworthy on the part of its members? Who does not see, that the desire of a father may still, without any legal economy of do and live, be most earnestly set on all that is good and all that is graceful in the morality of his children ? And while the thought never enters his bosom of any thing else, than that he should aid and sustain and advance them to the uttermost - yet, next to the desire that they should live, is it the most earnest desire of his heart that they should live and do - do all that can purify or embellish their own character, do all that is honourable to the name they wear. And thus are we under Christ as our second husband, or under the new family government of heaven - no longer servants but relatives - admitted to all the privileges of life, under the paternal and protecting roof of Him, whose children we are in Christ Jesus. Still the conduct that as servants would not have been tolerated, as sons we are warned and chastised against; and the conduct that as servants would have been legally rewarded, as sons is most lovingly recommended to our strenuous and unceasing observation. And our heavenly Father loveth righteousness in us, and hateth iniquity in us; and that very law which He before enforced on the penalty of our eternal exclusion from His presence, He now engages us to choose and to follow as the eternal characteristic of all His family: And our business now is to put ourselves in training for the joys and the exercises of this great spiritual household; and for this purpose to cleave unto Christ as the Lord our Sanctifier - to betake ourselves to the aids of His grace, and resign our whole wills to the influence of that gratitude, which should lead us to love and to imitate and to obey Him. Thus shall we bring forth fruit unto God - even those fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto His praise and unto His glory.
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