To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,
There is a general impression that God does as He pleases without any reference to sanctions or immunities of ours. This, however, is far wide of the truth. God is never arbitrary.
I. One of our rights with respect to God is LIFE. This is a natural right. It is written that when God created man He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life so that he became a living soul. In this particular man was created in the Divine likeness. His life was like a spark thrown off from the infinite life of Deity. It is impossible, therefore, to think of annihilation or of "conditional immortality" in connection with him. Our life is the only created thing in the universe that has not in it the seed and certainty of death. An oak may resist the storms of a thousand years, but it falls at last. Our bodies are never free from disease; it is only a question of time when each shall return to the dust as it was. But the soul has in it no seeds of decay. Its eyes never grow dim, its blood does not stagnate, and whenever the query is propounded, "If a man die, shall he live again?" its answer is instant, "I shall live and not die!"
II. The second of our rights before God is FREEDOM. This again is a natural right. It belongs to us by virtue of the fact that God created us in his own likeness. In this again man is unique among all created things. The sun goes forth out of its chambers in the morning to run its race, and has no alternative. God speaks and it obeys. The sea rolls to and fro as He directs. But to you and me He says, "Thou shalt," and if I please I may make answer, "I will not." If would win me He must reason with me. If He would capture me He must draw me with the cords of a man. If, notwithstanding His goodness, we persist in sin, He can only suffer us to have our way. "Ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life."
III. We are entitled to THE FULL BENEFIT OF THE MORAL LAW. This also is a natural right. We are normal beings. As God Himself is the source and centre of law, so we, being made in His likeness, are made under law; and we may claim all the benefits and privileges of it. There is, however, little comfort in claiming these privileges of the moral law. For what is law? "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." And what is justice? Eternal separation from God and goodness. We are sinners, all alike under the penalty of death. To stand upon our rights just here is to court despair.
IV. Fortunately for us we have another right, not natural like the foregoing, but conferred, to wit, the right of APPEAL FROM LAW AND JUSTICE TO THE MERCY OF GOD. No one among us can presume to stand upon his merits. On Sir Henry Lawrence's tomb at Lucknow is this inscription: "Here lies a man who tried to do his duty. May God have mercy on his soul!" If he tried to do his duty why did he not ask for justice? Because, no matter how earnestly he had striven to live well, he had made a measurable failure of it. Mercy, therefore, was Sir Henry's only hope. He is a wise man who in like manner, after doing his best and being mindful of his shortcomings, casts himself with an utter abandon on the mercy of his God.
1. This right of appeal is a conferred right. It is purely of grace. But once conferred it is inalienable. "Him that cometh unto Me" — no matter how scarlet his sins — "I will in no wise cast out."
2. This right is the purchase of the Saviour's blood. But for His atoning work it could not, consistently with justice, have been conferred upon us.
3. This right is conditioned upon the exercise of faith in Jesus Christ. A man may do as he pleases about exercising this faith, but in default of it he lives obviously under the law and must take the consequences.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,