There are two ways by which man might have been for ever blessed. The one was by works: ‘This do and thou shalt live; be obedient and receive the reward.’ The other plan was: ‘Receive grace and blessedness as the free gift of God; stand as a guilty sinner having no merit, and as a rebellious sinner deserving the very reverse of goodness, but stand there and receive all thy good things, simply, wholly, and alone of the free love and sovereign mercy of God.’ Now, the Lord has not chosen the system of works. The word ‘law’, as used twice in the text, is employed, it is believed by many commentators, out of compliment to the Jews, who were so fond of the word, that their antagonism might not be aroused; but it means here, as elsewhere in Scripture, plan, system, method. There were two plans, two systems, two methods, two spirits,—the plan of works and the plan of grace. God has once for all utterly refused the plan of merit and of works, and has chosen to bless men only, and entirely through the plan, or method, or law of faith. This indeed is the bottom of theology, and he who can understand this clearly, it seems to me, can never be very heterodox; orthodoxy must surely follow, and the right teaching of God must be understood when we once for all are able to discriminate with accuracy between that which is of man—works, and that which is of God—faith, and grace received by faith. Now the plan of salvation by works is impossible for us.
For meditation: There are still two basic ideas of salvation—God’s way of sending the Lord Jesus Christ down to earth to lift to heaven all who trust in his death on the cross (John 3:16); and man’s way of trying to climb heavenwards by some other route, even though the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way back to God (John 14:6). Which path are you on—the one called ‘God’s way’ or the one called ‘My way’? They lead to different places (Matthew 7:13–14).