Sin and its Sentence
James Smith, 1859
The law of God is the standard of duty. What it requires must be rendered—or what it threatens must be endured. That law requires that we should be holy in heart and life, and that our holiness should be manifested by LOVE.
Love to God. That is, that we should esteem him more highly, than all his creatures. Reverence him profoundly and solemnly. Prefer him to everything beside. Obey his commands with pleasure. Present ourselves before him as a sacrifice, surrender ourselves to him to be his servants, and consecrate ourselves entirely to his service and praise. The law of God requires that God be first in our thoughts, in our affections, and in our desires: and pronounces everything short of this, to be sin.
The law of God requires, also, love to our fellow men. Every man is to be respected, honored, esteemed. Every one is to be treated with courtesy, kindness, and affection. Our love to every one of God's intelligent creatures, is to be as great as the love we have for ourselves: and everything short of this, is sin.
Love to others, is to shine forth in our conduct towards them, as our Savior said, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Who then has not sinned? Who does not sin every day? And what is the desert of sin?
"The soul that sins—it shall die." Ezekiel 18:4. God is the fountain of life, and we only really live—as we are living in union and communion with him. Now sin separates from God, and cuts off all fellowship with him; every sinner therefore, is said to be dead, because he is in a state of separation from God. Being separated from God, the lost sinner's doom is to be banished from God forever. In a state of separation from God, the immortal soul, which proceeded from God, must be unhappy; and the degree of its unhappiness will be just in proportion to its realization of separation, and the impossibility of a re-union.
At present, the unbeliever has no realization of his separation from God, therefore he feels little or nothing about it; but in hell, that realization will be vivid and dreadful. Which leads me to observe, that death as the penalty of sin, is not merely a separation from God, and the breaking off of all communion with God—but it includes direct and positive punishment, inflicted by God. This is represented by "devouring fire, and everlasting burnings;" by being cast into a "lake of fire and brimstone;" by the gnawing of an immortal worm, by utter darkness, and being tormented by the devil and his demons. Every lost sinner is in danger of hell-fire, of being eternally tormented in its flames, of suffering all the consequences of an eternal separation from God, and association with all the most heinous, most degraded, and wicked of God's creatures. "Then He will say to those on his left: Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons!" Matthew 25:41
But must every sinner thus die? He must—if the law is allowed to take its course. For God as a lawgiver, only requires, promises to reward obedience—and threatens to punish disobedience with death. To command, convince, and condemn—is all the law can do. But what the law could not do, God as a sovereign, has made provision for; in that he sent his only begotten Son into the world, that he might render that obedience, which the law required; and offer such a sacrifice for sin, as would avail for the pardon, justification, and salvation—of all who believe on his name.
Thus, while according to the law, the sinner must die; according to the gospel, there is no necessity that the sinner should die. Dying under the law, the sentence of the law must be executed; but if by faith in Jesus, we are delivered from the law, and come under grace, then according to the gospel, we cannot die; for Jesus has said, "He who believes on me—has everlasting life." By believing, we accept of the Son of God as our substitute, and then all the merit of his life and death is placed to our account. His obedience unto death—becomes ours: and so, as by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners; so, by the obedience of one—many are made righteous. The Son of God was made sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. O the mystery of grace! The Son of God taking the sinners' place and responsibilities, that the sinner by faith in him, may be justified, and glorified.
Reader, you are a sinner, there can be no question about that; and as a sinner you deserve, and are doomed by the law, to suffer death. If you live and die under the law, you must perish—for the sentence of the law must be carried out, either in your own person, or in the person of another. There is no one who can be a substitute for you—but the Lord Jesus; and his substitution only avails for those who put their cause into his hands, commit their souls to his keeping, or which is the same thing—who believe on his name.
How important then the question becomes, "Do you believe on the Son of God?" To you it is of infinite importance. Let me therefore beseech you to examine yourself, whether you are in the faith—whether Christ is in you—whether you are one with Christ. If you believe on him, he is precious to you—you build on him alone for salvation —and expect acceptance in the sight of God, alone on the ground of what he has done and suffered.
In one word, if you are a believer, you take the perfect work of Christ or your righteousness—you look to the intercession of Christ, as the medium of all blessing—and you take the holy life of Christ for your pattern and example: Christ is your all. How is it then—have you faith—or no faith? Oh, how much depends on your answer to this question, for "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him!" John 3:36