That we may acceptably perform the duties of holiness and righteousness required in the law, our first work is to learn the powerful and effectual means by which we may attain to so great an end.Marshall begins by stating the purpose of the entire book which is,
"to teach you how you may attain to that practice and manner of life which we call holiness, righteousness, or godliness, obedience, true religion; and which God requireth of us in the law, particularly the moral law, summed up in the ten commandments, and more briefly in those two great commandments of love to God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:37, 39)"From this purpose it is clear that although the Gospel way of sanctification is not by the way of the Law, it is not "antinomian" or against the Law. So this avoids mistaking the ends for the means, but it does not neglect the ends, which is to bring us into conformity and obedience with those principle duties of loving God and loving each other. Of these Marshall writes:
"They are the chief works for which we were at first framed in the image of God, engraven upon man in the first creation, and for which that beautiful image is renewed upon us in our new creation and sanctification by Jesus Christ, and shall be perfected in our glorification."Now, the importance of knowing the proper means cannot be overstated. Many think that once you know your duty, all that is left is to go at it with gusto. Marshall cites the way that the Israelites responded to the commands of God "All that the LORD has spoken we will do!" (Ex. 19:8), as naive and ultimately disastrous. And so we must know the means by which we can do them, before we set off in our attempts.
Marshall is not concerned in this book to expound on the Law, citing that this has been done ably by many others before him. He only wants to underscore that when we talk about keeping the Law, we mean perfection, and not some lesser standard that we think we can attain on our own. He also notes that learning the true, biblical way of sanctification will take some time and effort in that it does not come as easily to us, nor resinate with us, as do the commandments of the Law. He explains this by reminding us that we know the Law from natural revelation, and therefore we are more accepting of it when we read it in the Word. On the other hand, sanctification is a revealed mystery, and therefore not as easily taken in by us.
In the end, his purpose and task is one of compassion and care for souls struggling under the weight of their sin and desiring to render true love to God and neighbor. He is concerned that if one does not learn the right way, one will ultimately become discouraged and just throw in the towel. He concludes this first chapter hoping that maybe:
God may bless my discovery of the powerful means of holiness so far as to save some one or other from killing themselves. And such a fruit as this would countervail my labour; though I hope God will enlarge the hearts of many by it to run with great cheerfulness, joy and thanksgiving in the ways of His commandments.So, we are on a mission to learn the powerful and effectual, biblical means whereby we can progress in holiness. There really is no more important study than this and therefore I hope that you will tune in for each direction, reading them and meditating upon them as we proceed. I hope that you are convinced at this point that if you are going to be able to walk in new obedience, you must learn the Gospel-way of doing so.