The Right Understanding of the Law
     by Thomas Watson

'Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.' Exod 20: 3.

    Before I come to the commandments, I shall answer questions, and lay down rules respecting the moral law.

What is the difference between the moral laud and the gospel?

    (1) The law requires that we worship God as our Creator; the gospel, that we worship him in and through Christ. God in Christ is propitious; out of him we may see God's power, justice, and holiness: in him we see his mercy displayed.

    (2) The moral law requires obedience, but gives no strength (as Pharaoh required brick, but gave no straw), but the gospel gives strength; it bestows faith on the elect; it sweetens the law; it makes us serve God with delight.

Of what use is the moral law to us?

    It is a glass to show us our sins, that, seeing our pollution and misery, we may be forced to flee to Christ to satisfy for former guilt, and to save from future wrath. 'The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ. Gal 3: 24.

    But is the moral law still in force to believers; is it not abolished to them?

    In some sense it is abolished to believers.
    (1) In respect of justification. They are not justified by their obedience to the moral law. Believers are to make great use of the moral law, but they must trust only to Christ's righteousness for justification; as Noah's dove made use of her wings to fly, but trusted to the ark for safety. If the moral law could justify, what need was there of Christ's dying?

    (2) The moral law is abolished to believers, in respect of its curse. They are freed from its curse and condemnatory power. 'Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.' Gal 3: Is.

How was Christ made a curse for us?

    Considered as the Son of God, he was not made a curse, but as our pledge and surety, he was made a curse for us. Heb 7: 22. This curse was not upon his Godhead, but upon his manhood. It was the wrath of God lying upon him; and thus he took away from believers the curse of the law, by being made a curse for them. But though the moral law be thus far abolished, it remains as a perpetual rule to believers. Though it be not their Saviour, it is their guide. Though it be not foedus, a covenant of life; yet it is norma, a rule of life. Every Christian is bound to conform to it; and to write, as exactly as he can, after this copy. 'Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid.' Rom 3: 31. Though a Christian is not under the condemning power of the law, yet he is under its commanding power. To love God, to reverence and obey him, is a law which always binds and will bind in heaven. This I urge against the Antinomians, who say the moral law is abrogated to believers; which, as it contradicts Scripture, so it is a key to open the door to all licentiousness. They who will not have the law to rule them, shall never have the gospel to save them.

    Having answered these questions, I shall in the next place, lay down some general rules for the right understanding of the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments. These may serve to give us some light into the sense and meaning of the commandments.

Chapter V  (The First Commandment)

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