Henry Mahan

Dear Brother:

I appreciate your note received this morning. It was good to hear from you, and I am pleased that the conference was a blessing to you and to your wife. I enjoyed being there very much and enjoyed the messages!

In regard to your question about the ten commandments in reference to the believer, there is one thing of which I am certain – I do not and cannot speak for anyone else or for the sovereign grace movement as a whole. I do not claim to know the position which all of our brethren take, but I certainly can fill you in on my position in regard to some of these matters. The word law in the Scriptures sometimes refers to all of the Word of God, sometimes to the ten commandments, sometimes to the ceremonial laws given to Moses concerning the holy days, feast days, sacrifices, types, symbols, et cetera, and even to the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ. For example, fulfilling the law of Christ is fulfilling His law that we love one another. But I think your question has to do with whether or not the ten commandments are a sufficient motivation for producing sanctification and holiness in the life of a believer, and before I comment I would like to say this. The ten commandments are holy, just and true. They have not been repealed, nor does any believer wish to violate them or minimize their greatness and glory. If anyone were to ask me "Are the ten commandments in effect today?", I would reply, "Which of them can you violate and not be held guilty before God?"

There are two principles in the world that are supposed to promote holiness. The one is the principle of law and duty. The other is the principle of grace, love and faith. It is a popular notion with some preachers that you can tell men what they ought to do, prove to them the authority of the Law-giver and show them the penalty for violation and this will enlighten their judgment and give them proper inclination and motivation for holiness. The history of mankind shows that this pretext is without proof. Those who are under the law are always under sin! Such is our nature. The law, instead of promoting holiness, does not promote it; and even the terrible penalties of hell have failed to inspire fear or promote holiness in the lives of men. There is another principle and it is believed by some of us to be fruitful in every good word and work, a main instigator and promoter of righteousness and true holiness. It is the principle of grace on the part of God and operates by faith and love in the hearts of men. Grace does not say to a believer, "You must do this or you will be punished;" But it says, "God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven you all your sins. You are saved; you are a child of God; heaven is yours. Now, for the love you bear to God Who has done this for you, what will you do for Him?" If God so loved us, we ought to love one another. If Christ gave Himself for us, we ought to give ourselves to Him. If God has forgiven us, we ought to forgive one another. Be ye kind, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. This is a constraining power, a motivating power, stronger than death, and has succeeded in consecrating and sanctifying the lives of those who felt it and experienced it! Who would take better care of a sick child, a nurse who is paid for her services and required to fulfill certain obligations, or a mother who loves that child more than she loves her own life?

Christ used the spiritual requirements of the law to expose the sin of the Pharisees who boasted that they kept the law. Paul was made to realize his lust by revelation of the law "Thou shall not covet." And we are ministers not only of the gospel but of the law as well, but we do not go to calvary for justification and to Sinai for sanctification! Christ is our redemption and our sanctification. I like the verse of the hymn that goes like this,

"Now for the love I bear His name,
What was my gain I count my loss.
My former pride I call my shame,
And nail my glory to His cross."

Love makes a man do for you what mere duty never could. The law can never make as good a servant as grace and love. The motive of true love is always the strongest. What Paul is saying in Romans 6:14 is this Christ fulfilled the law for you. It has been kept. You owe it no obedience as a matter of mere justice. You have been delivered from that; and, being now under the law of love and not under the law of force and duty, sin never shall have dominion over you.

I hope that these few words have been of some help in this matter. I appreciate your taking the time to write to me.

Most sincerely yours,
Henry Mahan

Henry Mahan, Pastor
Thirteenth Street Baptist Church
Ashland, Ky.

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