Before Easter I was reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Romans 3v19, now I hit the same text in the writings of Jonathan Edwards, in his Discourse IV: The Justice of God in the damnation of sinners which isn't the kind of title I've seen on any Christian book in recent times.
Edwards picks up Romans 3v19 "That every mouth may be stopped". Paul has argued in this great letter that all peoples are guilty before God. He appeals to human conscience, and that proves guilt. And he appeals to God's revealed commands, and again guilt is revealed.
Edwards notes clearly that we love to boast or justifying ourselves before God. We try to excuse ourselves of wrong doing or stack up good deeds in our favour. God however would have us be silent.
Our attempts to defend ourselves are futile. Our offense is against God who is of infinite worth, and deserving of infinite adoration. Therefore our sin is infinitely bad.
God's good news first acts to silence us. To stop our mouths from speaking. And then, as Paul writes in Romans 3, God can tell us that nonetheless his anger can be turned away. Away from us and onto God's Son Jesus. One who lived the perfect life and then died under the wrath we deserve. What hope and what good news!
Edwards' argument is long, detailed and compelling. Along the way he observes that everyone would love to avoid eternal misery. But it is not enough to want to avoid God's judgement. We must also love the excellency of Christ. Yet we do not.
We have no grounds in ourselves to be rescued by God. God is not obliged to save me. Justice alone is enough to condemn me. And therefore only God's free gift of grace will save us, bringing us to see that excellency that is found only in the one who is my salvation, Jesus himself! God's grace has found me.
In conclusion Edwards observes that there is one ground for re-opening the human mouth. When God's free grace is recieved then the mouth opens again. This time not to boast nor to justify self. Rather, our mouths must open wide in praise and delight in Christ. Abundantly so.
I'm not sure that these things are what Tim Hughes had in mind when he wrote: "when hope is lost, I'll call you Saviour... when silence falls, you'll be the song in my heart". Those two lines catch the impact of the gospel upon my mouth. First to silence my boasts, and then to release me to boast only in Christ.