For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.…
There are few men who would turn themselves to the commission of every crime; and if once it is imagined that the observance of one class of duties can make up for the neglect of another, there are scarcely any who will not delude themselves into the idea that they may find acceptance with God. There are two classes into which all who act with this delusion may be divided. The first consists of those who conceive that the discharge of the social and relative duties, makes up for the neglect of those higher duties we owe to the Author of existence; while the second is composed of those who satisfy themselves with the warmth of their zeal and the scrupulousness of their religious services, while they are without meekness, humility and charity.
1. The first of the prejudices to which we shall direct your attention, is that of those who conceive that if our good deeds overbalance our evil deeds, the Almighty will, in consideration of what is excellent in our conduct, overlook what is defective. The man who conceives that his sins are outnumbered by his virtues, overrates his own merits. But even admitting that any could aver that his virtues outnumbered his vices, it were erroneous to suppose that his sins must, therefore, be cancelled. His virtues are certainly deserving of the approbation of men, but never can atone for the habitual violation of any command of God. This is agreeable to those principles upon which we form our judgments of those around us. How completely our confidence in any person is destroyed, if a single dishonourable action is detected!
2. The next prejudice is nearly akin to what we have been considering, and indeed takes its rise from it. There are who maintain that their lives are chargeable with as few faults as the lives of those who make a profession of religion, and thence infer that their prospects must be equally favourable. They look at the outward act and see imperfection cleaving to the very best, from which they themselves may happen to be free; but they see nothing at all that takes place in the tuner man — nothing of the struggles between principle and passion, between grace and nature, and still less of the force of contrition, of fixed purposes of amendment. Here, then, is the difference between the two. The one sins, and hardens his heart to continue in sin; the other, when he sins, humbles himself in the dust before his God, and resolves, through His grace, to go no more astray. We see, then, the danger of satisfying ourselves with the idea that our lives are as irreproachable as those of others. The habit of measuring ourselves by others is, indeed, pernicious in another respect. It fosters a sensorious disposition, a tendency to underrate the good qualities of others. It creates a suspicion of the purity of their motives. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? In examining yourselves, look to the law by which you are to be tried. There are other prejudices to be found, to which we can only make a general illusion.
3. Some have imagined that what is revealed in Scripture does not apply to their peculiar case, and that the punishment will therefore not be inflicted. They judge of sin by its perceived consequences, and not by its own nature. One man violates the truth, but then this injures no one. Another indulges in sinful pleasure, but his excesses are hurtful to none but himself. But we are not thus to judge of sin. Independently of these consequences, God has declared from on high against all unrighteousness.
4. We now proceed to consider some of the prejudices which prevail among the class of individuals formerly referred to, those who, by the outward observance of the first table of the law, quiet their consciences for the violation of the second, and who, dashing the one table against the other, break the whole. The other mistake is that of those who conceive that the law is altogether superseded by the gospel, and that faith in Christ exempts from the performance of good works. We only remark that the believers are exempted from the curse of the law — they are not free from the obligation to obey God, as the rule of life. Nay, by the new motives Christ has given to obedience, the obligations to obedience are increased instead of diminished. There are one or two snares into which even sincere believers are in danger of falling, which I merely mention. One is, that the readiness they have experienced on the part of the Almighty to pardon them, is employed by Satan as an encouragement to sin, in the prospect of certain forgiveness. Another is, that the power of indwelling sin is never wholly overcome in the world, from which indolence takes occasion to flatter itself, as to the folly of its endeavours, as to the hopelessness of success, and the mercy of God, which is passively relied on, is made thus to increase our willingness to offend.
(D. Welsh, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.