The Law, Justification, and the Gospel (Hodge)

In chapter five of his book, The Way of Life, Charles Hodge discussed the great topic of justification. This chapter is split into three sections: 1) Importance of the doctrine / Explanation of the Scriptural terms relating to it / Justification is not by works; 2) The demands of the Law are satisfied by what Christ has done; 3) The righteousness of Christ the true ground of our Justification / the practical effects of this doctrine. It’s a good book and the fifth chapter is an excellent chapter! Below is an excerpt from the second section of the fifth chapter:

It is then clearly the doctrine of the Bible that believers are freed from the law as prescribing the conditions of their acceptance with God; it is no longer incumbent upon them, in order to justification, to fulfil its demand of perfect obedience, or to satisfy its penal exactions. But how is this deliverance effected? How is it that rational and accountable beings are exempted from the obligations of that holy and just law, which was originally imposed upon their race as the rule of justification?

The answer to this question includes the fourth great truth respecting the way of salvation taught in the Scriptures. It is not by the abrogation of the law, either as to its precepts or penalty; it is not by lowering its demands, and accommodating them to the altered capacities or inclinations of men. We have seen how constantly the apostle teaches that the law still demands perfect obedience, and that they are debtors to do the whole law who seek justification at its hands. He no less clearly teaches that death is as much the wages of sin in our case, as it was in that of Adam.

If it is neither by abrogation nor relaxation that we are freed from the demands of the law, how has this deliverance been effected? By the mystery of vicarious obedience and suffering. This is the gospel of the grace of God. This is what was a scandal to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks, but, to those that are called, the power of God and the wisdom of God….

Charles Hodge, The Way of Life (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1841), 155–156.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015