Posted by: William | March 14, 2008

Condemnation & the Law

I was reading in Samuel Bolton’s True Bounds of Christian Freedom today and there was about a page of thought that I really wanted to share. Then, the very next two paragraphs I also wanted to share. However, instead of bombarding you with tons of puritan thought, I decided I’d share the first part today and you could look foreword to the second part tomorrow.


Bolton compiles a list of five reasons why the law cannot condemn believers anymore. Here they are:


All this the apostle puts plainly: ‘Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died’ (Rom. 8:34). He sets the death of Christ against all the charges that can be brought. It is evident that the court of the law cannot condemn the believer:


(1)because that court is itself condemned; its curses, judgments, and sentences are made invalid. As men that are condemned have a tongue but no voice, so the law in this case has still a tongue to accuse, but not the power to condemn. It cannot fasten condemnation on the believer.


(2)Because he is not under it as a court. He is not under the law as a covenant of life and death. As he is in Christ, he is under the covenant of grace.


(3)Because he is not subject to its condemnation. He is under its guidance but not its curses, under its precepts (though not on the legal condition of ‘Do this and live’), but not under its penalties.


(4)Because Christ, in his place and stead, was condemned by it that he might be freed: ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us’ (Gal. 3:13). It may condemn sin in us, but cannot condemn us for sin.


(5)Because he has appealed from it. We see this in the case of the publican, who was arrested, dragged into the court of justice, sentenced and condemned. But this has not force because he makes his appeal, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ (Luke 18:13). He flies to Christ, and says the text, ‘He went down to his house justified’. So the court of the law (provided that your appeal is just) cannot condemn, because you have appealed to the court of mercy.”


Tomorrows post expands on Bolton’s fifth point. Namely, what constitutes a “just appeal”.



  1. Two thoughts have I in response to yesterday’s writings on your blog:
    1) I think that most of Bolton’s words were lost on me. The whole post went largely over my head… I guess I should read more Puritans.
    2) From what I could understand, Bolton’s thoughts seem to put justice and mercy at odds with one another. As if justice (an aspect of God) wants only to condemn us but mercy (another aspect of God) steps in the way to save us. I have qualms with this because I don’t think that God is ever in anything but total unity at all times; He is One.
    My understanding is that once Christ had completed His act of mercy, justice now says that we must live . So that mercy and justice are still in perfect harmony, both satisfied at once, neither impeding on the other. The moment of Christ’s death on the cross was the truest display of both mercy and justice that the universe has ever seen, or will ever again.

    Maybe that’s really what your post was saying all along and I just missed it… I guess I should read more Puritans. 🙂

  2. I understand what you mean, but I think that they are in a sense at odds with each other as suggested by Romans 3:25. They’re two equally existent and righteous aspects of God, but I’m not sure they’re necessarily directly complimentary.

  3. Jordan – you’re touching on what’s at the heart of mankind…this conundrum of trying to make sense of God. I think you are correct in asserting that justice and mercy must consistently work together; we just don’t have a good handle on that because it doesn’t make sense in human terms. Bill – you’re right too that they are at odds with each other – like a paradox, or a holy Catch-22.

    We deserve justice…we are given mercy.

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