Lawful and Unlawful Use of the Law (Newton)

Very helpful words on how the Christian is to view the law of God.

The Reformed Reader

John Newton (d. 1807) wrote a helpful letter which is now called “On the Right Use of the Law.”  It is basically Newton’s theological commentary on 1 Timothy 1:8.  After discussing the law/gospel distinction, natural laws, and moral laws, he gives some ways the law is used lawfully and some ways in which it is used unlawfully.  Here they are in abbreviated form:

1) It is not a lawful use of the law to seek justification and acceptance with God by our obedience to it; because it is not appointed for this end, or capable of answering it in our circumstances.  The very attempt is a daring impeachment of the wisdom of God – for if righteousness could come by the law, then Christ has died in vain (Gal. 2:21; 3:21).  Therefore, such a hope is not only groundless, but sinful; and, when persisted in under the light of the…

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