THE BELIEVER’S OBEDIENCE
Extracts from The Walk of Faith by William Romaine (1714-1795)
It cannot be too often repeated, that the true beliver is not under the law as a covenant of works – bound to keep the precept for life, or liable to the penalty of death. He is not under the law in this respect, but under grace. He is one with Christ, who kept the precept, and suffered the penalty for him, as his surety, and in his stead. He has put in his plea, and taken the benefit of Christ’s suretyship. His plea has been admitted; and therefore he is in a state of perfect acceptance. He stands in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made him free. Grace reigns in him, and over him, and renders his obedience perfect freedom. He obeys; but it is all in faith. He works; but it is from a sense of the Father’s love to him in his Son. Gratitude taught by the Holy Spirit influences his heart and life. His heart has the love of God written upon it, and his life manifests it. He serves God with a thankful mind, and without fear, and cheerfully does all the good he can to man for God’s sake.
The believer will never get on in the way of duty, unless he learns to obey upon these gospel principles. He will stand in need of their assistance at every step: for he will meet with constant opposition to them. The flesh will not come under grace. The carnal mind is always legal. The old man of sin knows nothing but working for life, and will not submit to any other way. Our sinful nature is altogether for the covenant of works: Jews, Turks, heathens, and nominal Christians, are all upon one plan: they expect God will be merciful to them for their doings. And the children of God are exercised with this self-righteous spirit, more or less, all their days. Is it not, O my soul, thy grief and burden? Art thou not daily plagued with it in thy duties? And though thy principles be very evangelical, yet they too often fail thee in practice. O beg of God then, earnestly and often, that thou mayst be cast into the mould of the gospel, quite evangelized in thy mind, and mayst perform all duties upon such motives as He Himself requires and approves.
Duty is a debt owing to God – due from the creature to the Creator. The obligation to it arises from the absolute dependence of the one upon the other: and it consists in acknowledging this in the appointed way by a perfect and continual service of every faculty – the creature being entirely subject to the will of the Creator, and living in a never-failing conformity to it: for the will of God doth bind all men on earth, and angels and glorified spirits in heaven. It is an unchangeable law, obliging for ever all creatures to obedience, not only on account of the matter contained in it, but also with respect to the sovereign authority of the almighty lawgiver. And this obligation Christ in the gospel has not in the least dissolved, but on all occasions has confirmed and strengthened. How decisive are these words! “Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil:” to fulfil the law in Mine own Person, as the Surety for My people, and to put the love of it into their hearts, and to engage them and to enable them to practise in their lives; though not for the same end for which I fulfilled it.
Duty is always one and the same – a debt always due to God. But the debt of obedience being withheld, and the death of suffering being incurred, the believer is taught to plead his discharge in the suffering of Christ, and his fulfilling of obedience in the righteousness of Christ. With this faith he has a delightful prospect of duty. God is now at peace with him. God loves him in His Son. It is his high privilege to enjoy the sense of those distinguishing favours. For this end he is admitted to walk with his God. What an honour is this! Having received the adoption of sons, he is blessed with his Father’s love, and is taken into near fellowship with Him. What a happiness is this? “Son, all that I have is thine: it is freely given to thee in Jesus, and thou art now called upon to enjoy me and mine in thy holy walk.” Here duty becomes his privilege. It is exalted and spiritualized into a gospel grace. He is bound to it, but it is by the cords of love. The pleasing bonds of gratitude tie his heart to obedience, to a free, holy, evangelical obedience. He obeys, not as a slave, but as a son – not for fear, but because Christ has set him at liberty – not that God may accept, pardon, and justify him, but because God has done all for him, and will do all in him – not that he
may have heaven for his obedience, but because heaven is reserved for him, and he for it. He therefore looks at duty, as greatly refined by the gospel. Every act of it, done in faith, is an act of fellowship with the Father and with the Son; and by the grace of the Spirit every act brings the Father’s love through the Son’s salvation into experience. He has communion with his God in all he does. This ennobles duty. It is hereby raised to a divine honour for it is hereby made, to them who are in Christ, the highest privilege they can have on this side of heaven.
When the Holy Spirit writes the law upon the heart, He then teaches this obedience of faith. He does not abolish duty, but He enforces it upon right motives, and directs it to a right end. The same duties remain in the gospel, but not upon the same obligation. Law duties, as conditions of life, cannot be fulfilled. The Judge Himself has decreed that by the works of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: therefore the law as a covenant of works does not enter into the believer’s obedience. He obeys, because he is freed from this covenant-not freed from doing the same duties which this covenant required, but freed from doing them upon law motives, neither expecting the promised life on account of keeping the precepts, nor fearing the threatened penalty on account of not keeping them. It is his privilege to obey, because he is saved. He works from a free spirit, and with a thankful heart. He does all his duties in faith. He is spiritual in them, acting upon the endearing motive of God’s love to him in Christ, as it has been revealed to his heart by the Holy Spirit. He hopes for the acceptance of them only through the intercession of Christ: and, after he has done them ever so well, he desires grace from Christ, to return
Him all His glory. Thus in every duty he aims at fellowship with God in Christ through the Spirit, and seeks to present an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.
Whatever thou art required to do, remember, O my soul, that thou art under grace, and it is thy privilege to do it in faith. View the two tables in the hand of thy Saviour, and receive the ten commandments from His mouth. Happy for thee, Jesus is thy lawgiver. His spirit will gospelize thine obedience. He will bring thine heart into it. He will set thee in the chariot of love, and thou shalt ride on prosperously. He will oil the wheels of duty, and they shall run easy and pleasant. Thou shall be carried sweetly through duty, thy Beloved being present and conversing with thee in it: yea thy faith, working by love to Him, will render fellowship with God, in all thou doest, the joy of thy heart and the glory of thy life.
Oh beg of thy divine Teacher thus to spiritualize thine obedience! From Him only canst thou learn the two great commandments, which are the sum and substance of the will of thy God. In the first. His nature is revealed, and then His worship. He is the Lord thy God, Father, Son, and Spirit, partakers of the same self-existence, and divine glory, without any difference or inequality. There can be no true religion without the true object of worship; and He cannot be worshipped unless He be known: therefore it is an indispensable duty to know the Lord God. But how shall fallen man attain to this knowledge? He lost it by sin, and he cannot, by any reasoning faculty or power of his own, recover it. It is a matter of fact, that no man did ever by searching find out God; and attested by infallible authority, that the world by its wisdom knew not God. There is no true description of the Godhead but what is revealed in scripture; and it is altogether from the teaching of the Holy Spirit that any one savingly understands what is revealed. He, the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, opens the eyes of the mind, sets the object before them, and gives a clear idea of it. He takes of the things of God, and shows them to His disciples. He does not lead them into abstracted reasonings about the divine nature, or what the absolute Godhead is; but His lessons are useful and practical. He teaches the knowledge of the persons in Jehovah as they are related to sinners in the covenant of grace. Through Him the Father is made known: “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, by which we cry, Abba, Father,” Rom. 8.15. Through Him the Son is believed in: for no man can say, that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. He discovers the Father’s love in the Son with its rich graces and abundant blessings, as it is written: “We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” He makes known the Giver, and the gifts; and He is received for that very purpose. He shines into the heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ. And this is saving acquaintance with the Father and with the Son; for hereby the understanding is restored to the image of God, and the new man is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.
Oh what a mercy is this! What can call for greater praise? And this mercy, O my soul, is thine. Unspeakably gracious has the Lord been to thee. He has given thee the knowledge of Himself. His image is upon thine understanding. His light is shining upon it. Certainly, it is as great an act as when He first commanded the light to shine out of darkness: for hereby I believe in Him, I know him to be my FATHER. Oh precious name! The love of His heart, and it is infinite; the blessings of His love, and they are numberless; He has called me to enjoy, freely, of mere grace, of His own sovereign good will – called me to the adoption of sons, to the noblest dignity, yea to everlasting honour, to be a son of the most high God – God is my Father – my new birth is from Him – that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and has fellowship with the Father of spirits. Behold what manner of love this is! No parent ever loved or can love a child as my Father which is in heaven loves me. And I desire in the sense of this to love Him, to cleave to Him with full purpose of heart, and gratefully to devote all I have and am to His service and to His glory. O thou divine Revealer of this love, enlighten mine understanding and influence my affections, that I may grow in the knowledge of my Father in Jesus!