Love in the Schooling of the Law
Galatians 3:24
Why the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

A written law of God being given to man, what is its further office? The fulfulling of that law is in one word, love; for God is its Author, and God is love. Can the will of man, by itself and unaided, fulfil that law? And hero observe two things. First, this is not a question of much or little — can man's will half fulfil the law, or nearly fulfil it, or quite fulfil it? — but it is an absolute question, which must be answered, yea or nay, from the very nature of man's will and of the law. It is not, "Can man's will fulfil this or that part of it?" but "Can it ever fulfil it at all, any single command of it?" What is man's will? A will diverted, in the fall, from its central object; a selfish will; a will which recognizes not, follows not, the law of love as its guide; and in this wandering away from love and from God, leads with it man's whole nature. Now you see our question is this, "Can such a will again renew itself into love?" Manifestly not. It is powerless to give itself a new direction. What we want, then, is not a law to obey, but a Redeemer to set us free. Next, we may remark, that this question of the ability of man by his own will to keep God's law, must not be confused, by being mixed up with the entirely distinct question of the relation of God's absolute foreknowledge and foreordination to the free will of man. That relation did not begin with the fall of man at all; it would have subsisted just as much if he had never fallen: it subsists with regard to the holy angels in heaven, who have never sinned; it is an universal law of all created being. The incapacity of man's will of which we here speak, is not in consequence of any fettering of it by God's sovereign decrees, but in consequence of its own act and deed, by which it left God and the law of love in our first parent, and became subject to those lower desires and faculties which it was created to rule and guide. Now let me not be mistaken as to my present position. In saying that the will of fallen man is incapable of fulfilling God's law, let me be thoroughly understood. I am drawing no wild, exaggerated picture of depravity, but wish to keep to the strict letter of fact, and to build on it important consequences. There is much that the human will can do. It can choose between the outward objects which are presented to us in life — the objects of thought, of speech, of action. Nay, more; over all mere outward obedience to God's law the will has power. But the will has not power over the desires and affections; in other words, over the superior faculties, of which it is a servant. It can produce good deeds to a certain extent, but it cannot produce good tendencies. And so by the law it has been proved, that redemption is necessary for man. And more; it has been brought about that man should be receptive of redemption, prepared to welcome it, eager to avail himself of it. His very demonstrated helplessness has shown that he must be helped from above. The law was God's great instrument to prepare man for redemption by Christ. He used it in this way on a large scale in the history of the world. The Jewish people, who were placed under it, were by it not rendered a people acceptable to God, but proved incapable of pleasing Him. Its lower requirements became to them a substitute for its first and great commandment; and no restoration to the law of love was effected by it in them. In the course of history its threatenings were executed on them, its promises, and more than its promises, fulfilled to them as a people; and when the Redeemer came, they were for the most part a nation of hardened hypocrites. All its power was power to convict and find guilty — not power to save even by that conviction: — for man's depraved conscience might quench and annul the conviction. And He has ever made the same use of His law in the hearts of individuals. And now I would ask you to mark the wonderful course and progress of Divine love towards us. In mankind at large, as in individual men, there must be produced this knowledge and feeling of their own unworthiness and incapacity to save themselves; not indeed so as to make them universally cry out for the gospel, but so as to make them, when the gospel has come, on looking over the page of history, confess that God has manifested beyond a doubt the sinfulness of man. For the first many ages after the fall, the unwritten law took its course. The conscience became darkened — the earth full of violence — till the vengeance of God was drawn down upon it in the Flood. Again, the true knowledge and fear of him, in the family of Noah, was assumed as a starting-point for the new world; again, even from this more definite covenant did the nations of the world go astray as widely as ever. Out of them God selected Abraham, and entered into special covenant with him and his seed. And while in them was proved the powerlessness of His revealed law to renew or to save, among the Gentile nations a lesson not less remarkable was being taught to mankind. Of them God suffered some to advance to the very highest pitch of art, and science, and acuteness of the human intellect. Their philosophy has set the pattern for the world; their oratory, their poetry, have been since unrivalled. And that nothing might be wanting to the full trial of man, another people found its employment and pride in civil arts; in taming the nations, in sparing and consolidating by exquisite polity the states subjected to its sway; in laying the foundation of public right and justice for the latest age of mankind. And thus both by these, and in other parts of the inhabited world by other nations, the powers of man for good were fully and maturely tried. Every facility was given him which belonged to his fallen state. And the result of all was this: that neither by wisdom, nor by imagination, nor by individual or social power for good, nor by the revelation of God's will in the law, could man put himself back again into the path of love which he had left. O you who read ancient history, whether sacred or profane, read it to trace it in this design of God, to prepare the world for Christ; for this is the master-key to its secrets.

(Dean Alford.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

WEB: So that the law has become our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

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