The Accepted Man: Part 2

2 Corinthians 3  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 6
The infidel owns Christ's moral beauty, and selfishness can take pleasure in unselfishness; but the Christian is to “put on Christ.” He went about doing good all the day long. There was not a moment but He was ready as the servant in grace of the need of others. And do not let us suppose that this cost Him nothing. He had not where to lay His head; He hungered and was wearied; and when He sat down, where was it? Under the scorching sun, or at the well's mouth, whilst His disciples went into the city to buy bread. And what then? He was as ready for the poor, vile sinner who came to Him, as if He had not hungered, neither was faint and weary (John 4). He was never at ease. He was in all the trials and troubles that man is in as the consequences of sin, and see how He walked! He made bread for others; but He would not touch a stone to turn it into bread for Himself. As to the moral motives of the soul, the man of the world has no one principle in common with Christ. If then the world is to read in a Christian the character of Christ, it is evident the world cannot read it in him who is not a Christian; he is not in the road to heaven at all, and every step he takes only conducts him farther and farther from the object in view. When a man is in a wrong road, the farther he goes in it the more he is astray.
There is another terrible thing: we find men agreeing to take the commandments of God as their rule and guide, as Christ took them. “We take His directions,” they say, “all that God says about what we ought to be, and what we ought to do; we are not going our own way.” Well, granted; but you must take the law, such as it is, and with its consequences. If man says, “I accept the law to be judged by, I take this as my guide,” he makes himself the responsible party, that is, he has to answer for himself. And mark how God began with the law. What does the law say about him? It says he is “cursed” already. This law that he is taking to get to heaven by is the very thing that pronounces judgment against him “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:1010For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (Galatians 3:10)). Suppose I bring a right and true measure to a man who is in the habit of using a wrong measure, what is it done for? Not to make him honest, but to prove his dishonesty. It is in vain for him to say, “I will change my character;” the thing is already done. The question is, Has he a character? and he is proved to be a dishonest man. Now the law was given “that the offense might abound” (Rom. 5:2020Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: (Romans 5:20)). The right, perfect, holy law of God was given as a rule; but if that rule be given to a sinner who cannot keep it, and if it be applied with all the searching power of the holiness of God, he is a judged person, and brought in under its curse. He hopes perhaps to be better; he has some vague thoughts about the mercy of God; but it is no use to talk about what he will be: judgment is already pronounced against him.
But more than this, as a matter of fact the law tells man not so much what he is to do, as what he is not to do. If we look at the ten commandments, we shall find that they do not tell him to do anything, except to remember the sabbath day &c., and to honor his father and his mother. These are the only positive precepts. All the rest are, “Thou shalt not do this, and thou shalt not do that.” How comes it then that such a form is employed? This of itself is a sufficient proof of evil tendencies in those addressed. Men care not to make laws for a country to prohibit that which nobody thinks of doing. Just so God's law forbids people to do certain things because they have a tendency to do those very things; it touches the motives and dispositions of men's hearts as they are known by God.
The law is given most surely as a rule; but it is given to a sinner who already needs amendment. The first thing it does therefore is to prove sin, condemning the inward disposition as well as the outward evil. Paul's experience of it (Rom. 7) is proof enough of this. He could say he was pure so far as concerned outward compliance with its requirements, “touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:66Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:6)). “Alive without the law once,” “when the commandment came, sin revived,” and he died. “I had not known sin,” he says, “but by the law, for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet (lust); but sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence; for without the law sin was dead.” “When the commandment came,” he found he was a condemned sinner. The law, being the righteous demand of God from man, and applying itself to those who are already sinners, must necessarily work condemnation and death. It is “the ministration of death” (ver. 7), and of “condemnation” (ver. 9).
But, again, there are not only wrong motives in man, but a very strong independent will. Man likes to have his own way. Now what is the effect of putting anything in the way of a person who wants to go his own road? That he will push it out of the way if he can. Thus the will of man, if the man be resting on the law as such, and yet liking to have his own way in a single thing, proves him to be a breaker of all the commandments. The will of the man, being contrary to God, if opposed, would push aside the whole law. This is what is meant by “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all,” &c. (James 2:10, 1110For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. (James 2:10‑11)). The authority of God is attached to His law; and therefore, if, when the authority of God meets the lusts of man, he is guilty of the breach of that law in one thing, he has overthrown the claim of the authority of God, and thus broken the whole law. If he commit not adultery, yet if he kill, he sets aside the authority of Him who made the law that says “Thou shalt not commit adultery;” for He that said, “Do not commit adultery,” said also, “Do not kill.” Suppose you had forbidden your child to do three things, and he was not disposed to do two of the three, or lacked the opportunity, would his not having done two of these three things make you hold him guiltless? No; you would say that he was not disposed to do them, or he would have done them had he found the occasion. Having set aside your authority in the one instance, your authority was not his restraint.
People have taken heaven out of the scriptures, and then they have taken their own way to it. But they are trying to go to heaven by the very thing God has given as the ministration of death and condemnation; and they expect to get there by the very thing which God says pronounces them “cursed!”