The Law Kills; The Gospel Gives Life

Charles Hodge, Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3:6,

“The law, in every form, moral or Mosaic, natural or revealed, kills. In demanding works as the condition of salvation, it must condemn all sinners. But the gospel, whether as revealed in the promise to Adam after his fall, or in the promise to Abraham, or in the writings of Moses, or in its full clearness in the New Testament, gives life. As the old covenant revealed both the law and the gospel, it either killed or gave life, according to the light in which it was viewed. And therefore Paul sometimes says it does the one, and sometimes the other. But the spirit giveth life. The spirit, or the gospel, gives life in a sense correlative to that in which the letter (i.e. the law) kills. 1. By revealing a righteousness adequate to our justification, and thus delivering us from the sentence of death. 2. By producing the assurance of God’s love and the hope of his glory in the place of a dread of his wrath. 3. By becoming, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, an inward principle or power transforming us into the image of God; instead of a mere outward command.”

Source:, Comment 51

One Common Salvation

Hugh Binning, Works, pp. 286-287:

There is one “common salvation” (Jude, ver 3), as well as “common faith,” Tit. 1:4; and it is common to apostles, to pastors, to people, to “as many as shall believe in his name;” so that the poorest and meanest creature is not excluded from the highest privileges of apostles. We have that to glory into, in which Paul gloried, – that is, the cross of Christ. We have the same access by the same Spirit, unto the Father; we have the same Advocate to plead for us, the same blood to cry for us, the same hope of the same inheritance. In a word, “we are baptized into one body;” and for the essentials and chief substantials of privilege and comfort, the Head equally respects all the members. Yea, the apostles, though they had some peculiar gifts and privileges beyond others, yet they were forbidden to rejoice in these, but rather in those which were common to them with other saints. “Rejoice not,” saith Christ, “that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven,” Luke 10:20. The height and depth of this drown all other differences.

Source:, Comment 1

He Would Excommunicate Such Ministers

Ralph Erskine, Sermons 2:325:

“The Baxterian scheme is also opposite to this gospel-doctrine: they tell us, that God hath made a new law with mankind; and obedience to that new law and to its commands, is our righteousness; and this obedience gives us a title to heaven, and gives us a title to Christ’s blood, and to pardon: And the act of faith is our righteousness, not as it accepts of Christ’s righteousness, but as it is an obedience to that new law; the very act and work of faith is, according to them, the righteousness itself: And this faith takes in all kind of works, namely, repentance, love, obedience, and ten or twelve duties of that sort; and all these together are our righteousness for justification. Really (as one says upon this very head) if the apostle Paul were alive, he would excommunicate such ministers.”

Source:, Comment 50

True Belief is More Than Mere Speculative Assent

Edwards, True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils:

A Doctrine of Most Pernicious Tendency

Ebenezer Erskine, Works, 1:426-427:

“Use third of this doctrine may be of confutation to Papists, Arminians, Pelagians, Baxterians, and others, who make the gospel a new preceptive or commanding law, requiring faith, repentance, sincere obedience, and the like, which they say were never required in the moral law from Sinai, whereby they destroy one of the main differences between the law and the gospel; for as I said already, the law is a system of precepts, the gospel a system of promises, or acts of grace strictly considered; and to bring in new commands into the gospel, which were never contained in the moral law, has been, and is, a doctrine of a most pernicious tendency, in regard it derogates from the perfection of the moral law, as if under the gospel there were sins which it doth not forbid, and duties which it doth not require. They who assert that faith and repentance are not enjoined, and that unbelief and impenitency are not forbidden, even in the first commandment of the moral law, contradict our received standards of doctrine, particularly the Larger Catechism explaining the first command; they must needs assert another righteousness than the righteousness of Christ to fulfil the new gospel law, seeing Christ was not made under it, but under the moral law, as a covenant, to redeem us who are under it. When we sinned in Adam we did not break the new gospel law, but the old moral law of the ten commandments; and if Adam never broke that new gospel law they speak of, his posterity cannot be blamed if they want power to repent and believe; and if faith and repentance be enjoined by a new law, it is equitable that a new fund of strength be given in order to our obeying it: and thus the Pelagian universal grace bestowed on every man that hears the gospel is introduced. Many other things might be said on this head, but I do not insist.”

Source:, Comment 49

Justification in the Early Church

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A Puritan’s Mind:

“It is important in our day and age to stand steadfast upon old paths. Old paths, in this case, are trodden and packed by the constant footsteps of travelers along the road of salvation. God has the same idea in mind when He says through the prophet Jeremiah in 6:16, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” In walking along these old paths, in fact in asking for them, justification by faith alone is among the most endangered doctrine of today’s modern church in much the same way it was eclipsed during the time just prior to the Reformation. The church would rather “experience” God than recall their justification declared about them by God. In this way, feeling and experience have moved aside the central truths of the Gospel.”…

Read more:

A Gospel Law

Archibald Hall, A Treatise on the Faith and Influence of the Gospel, pp. 104-105:

“It is a capital mistake in this opinion, that the gospel is blended with the law; and upon the ruins of both the law and the gospel, a new mode of divine administration is contrived, under the name of gospel laws. The law and the gospel are entirely distinct from one another, and ought never to be confounded together. A gospel law is a contradiction in terms; for the works of the law and the grace of the gospel stand opposed to one another in the great concerns of our justification before God. To compound the sincere endeavours of men with the grace of God, is to destroy the perfection of the law, and to subvert the sovereignty of saving grace, at one bold stroke. If such a scheme be once admitted, the divine law will no longer exhibit the perfection of beauty that is essential to the eternal God; and the glorious gospel will no longer reveal the riches of his sovereign grace, whereby he has mercy on whom he will have mercy. This dangerous innovation sets aside the necessity of knowing and believing the truths of God, by resting the whole of a man’s salvation upon the sincerity of his intentions to please his Maker, whatever his principles may be; and it opens the door to licentiousness of practice, by representing the Lawgiver as demanding only that which is upright, not that which is perfect. Upon the whole, this doctrine concerning a new law is a gross perversion of Christianity.”

Source:, Comment 48