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The Prophet Isaiah, speaking of Christ, testifies, "The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness' sake; He will magnify the law, and make it honourable."* And never was the law of God so much honoured as it was by the spotless life and vicarious death of Him, who perfectly fulfilled all its requirements, and endured to the utmost all its righteous penalties. So that we may confidently assert that its unsullied purity, and inflexible justice, could not have been equally magnified by the sinless obedience of the whole of our race. But why was it thus honoured? Was it in order to its being done away as a thing of no further value? Surely such a thought is wholly inconsistent with all just conception of the wisdom and goodness of God, who would not have given a moral law to his creatures unworthy of His perfect holiness, and therefore needing to be repealed and superseded; nor have required His dear Son to die for the maintenance of its authority, if it were designed immediately afterwards to be superseded.
The Scriptures of the New Testament are clearly against such a supposition. Hear our blessed Lord's testimony in His sermon on the Mount. 'Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil;"† that is, to accomplish the types and prophecies, perfectly obey the law, establish its authority, and fully explain its meaning. He then proceeds to add, "Verily, I say unto you, Till heaven and earth shall pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." And lest any one should think that this refers exclusively to the letter of Scripture, the accomplishment of prophecy, or the shadows of the ceremonial law, our Saviour subjoins, "Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven;"§ that is, in the Church of Christ, His Gospel kingdom. And then, still further unfolding the character of His new dispensation, as a system of holy living, as well as a scheme of free salvation, he tells us most solemnly and plainly, that "except our righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, we shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."¶ The Pharisaical Jewish teachers of self-righteousness were very zealous indeed about the letter of the law, but they overlooked its spiritual character, as requiring inward purity, and regulating the affections of the heart. But our Lord here teaches us that his disciples must go much further than this, and also that He will enable them by His Spirit to do so; that is, not only to keep the law outwardly, but to cultivate a regard to its holy restraints and admonitions in the most secret thoughts and desires of the heart. After such an explicit testimony to the permanent authority of the law of God, can we venture to assert that the Decalogue, or even any one of the Ten Commandments, (the fourth for instance) has been done away, and is no longer binding upon Christians, or the world at large? Our Saviour expressly teaches the contrary; for while he expounds, more fully than had been done before, the third, sixth, and
*Isaiah xlii. 21. Matthew v. 17.
This last sense is borne out by what follows, (verses 21, 27, 33.) "Ye have heard that it was said by (margin 'to') them of old time," &c. The commandment given by Moses was the text, as it were; our Saviour's remarks are the comment upon it, unfolding its spiritual extent and signification.
v. 18. v. 19. ¶ v. 20.
seventh commandments, He virtually allows and confirms them all, and necessarily implies that they are still obligatory, and will continue to be 'till heaven and earth pass away. "'*
In conformity with this unerring rule, the Apostle Paul, that most strenuous assertor of Justification by Faith only, after fully establishing this doctrine in the case of both Jews and Gentiles, adds, in strict reference to our present purpose, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."† And, truly, whether we consider the new sanction which is given to the law of God by the obedience of Christ, the aggravated condemnation which is laid upon unbelieving sinners, or the fulfilment of the law's requirements, by the work of the Holy Spirit, in the hearts and lives of the Lord's believing and justified people: we must admit that the law of God was never more honoured, magnified, and established, than by the doctrine of the Cross of Christ. True, it is no longer able to condemn the believer in Jesus; but freed from its curse, he begins, with St. Paul, to “ delight in the law of God after the inward man;" and "consents unto it, as holy, just, and good." He feels that "the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in him" by a power not his own, and he rejoices in this testimony, that he is a child of God, in that he "loves God, and keeps his commandments."¶
In another place, having spoken of his endeavours "to please all men in all things," for their edification, he writes thus of himself: " To them that are without law, (the unconverted Gentiles) as (myself) without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law;"** that is, receiving the law from Christ as a rule of life, taught by him to love it, and bound by fresh motives to obey it. Indeed, so far is the sincere believer from wishing to be freed from the restraints of the Divine law, that it is "written in his heart," according to the promise of the new covenant; a covenant which, surely, we cannot confine to the believing Israelite; seeing "we are all one in Christ Jesus." It was the law which first convinced him of sin, when applied by the power of the Spirit, and shewed him his need of a Saviour. 66 The whole have no need of a physician," said our blessed Lord, "but they that are sick;"§§ that is, convinced of their spiritual maladies by the application of the law to their consciences, through the operation of the Holy Spirit. So says the Apostle, "I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, (that is, home to my heart,) sin revived, and I died;"|||| or, felt that I was dead before God. Thus, "by the law is the knowledge of sin,"¶¶ its guilt, heinousness, and condemnation, which otherwise had been unknown. He was led to see that, without Christ, he must perish for ever. law, indeed, could not save him, but it taught men to ask, "What must I do to be saved?"*** So, "through the law, he became dead to the law;" (not to its holiness, but its self-justifying righteousness,) "that he might live unto God,"+++ through faith in Jesus Christ. Such, then,
*Matt. v. 18, 21, 28, 33. † Rom. iii. 31. Rom. vii. 22.
§ Rom. vii. 12, 16. That the "law" here spoken of is the moral law, including the ten commandments, is manifest from the Apostle's reference to the last commandment, (v. 7.) "Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." Here is the very point we are now considering, set before us; the use of the law as a RULE, pointing out what is sinful, and teaching us to avoid it.
Rom. viii. 4. vii. 10. x. 16.
2 John v. 1, 2. **1 Cor. ix. 21.
*** Acts xvi. 30. + Gal.
†† Jer. xxxi. 33, com. Heb. Rom. 7, 9. ¶¶ Rom. iii. 20. ii. 19.
is St. Paul's account of the work of the law upon his soul, and its influence upon his renewed life. Let us see how practically he makes use of this doctrine of the obligation of the moral law as a rule of Christian conduct.
In the Epistle to the Galatians, where he speaks so fully and forcibly of the freedom of the believer from the law, or legal dispensation, its bondage' "* and "curse;" he yet reminds his disciples that the moral law is still in full force as a rule of life. All the law," says he, "is fulfilled in one word, (or command,) even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:" that is, the law of love does not supersede, but include the whole Decalogue. The same truth is taught by our Apostle in another place;§ also by St. James, in nearly the same words.|| Indeed, our blessed Lord himself had delivered the same instructive lesson in a somewhat different manner. Hence, we may conclude that since the law of love is an epitome of the ten commandments, being no new commandment," but existing" from the beginning, "** though re-enacted by Christ with new force and solemnity: therefore the moral law itself, as summed up in the ten commandments, is not done away. Indeed, as the word of the unchangeable Jehovah, it can never pass away, till its object is fully accomplished in the final and complete sanctification and salvation of all His elect people.
Again, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, when treating of the duty of children to their parents, the Apostle quotes the fifth commandment. "Honour thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." This, in an epistle to converted Heathen, is quite conclusive against the unscriptural notion that the Decalogue is not binding upon Christians; else why did the Apostle of the Gentiles refer to it, as if it were still in force?
Lastly, the Apostle James addresses the "brethren" in Christ as follows: "Speak not evil one of another. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law; (the ninth commandment;) but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge," &c.‡‡ This passage unequivocally teaches us that the brethren, disciples of Christ, are bound to "do the law," or, in other words, that the moral law is the believer's rule of duty, and that every word and action which dishonours the law of God, is an infringement of the authority of the Supreme Lawgiver and Judge.
It appears, then, from all the passages we have adduced, that the believer, though no longer under the condemning power of the law, is "led by the Spirit"§§ according to its precepts, and "walks in the law of the Lord" as a new creature, reconciled, accepted, and justified, through the atonement and perfect obedience of Christ. Though no longer under bondage to fear its threatenings, still he is indebted to it for direction in the path of duty; and whenever he goes astray from that path, it is his faithful monitor to warn him back again into the ways of holy obedience, peace, and safety.
But as for the unbeliever, he remains under the "curse of the law.'
§ Rom. xiii. 9, 10. || Jas. ii. 8, 12. + Eph. vi. 2, 3. Jas. v. 11. Psalm cxix. 1, ¶¶ Gal. iii. 13.
St. John again and again insists upon this point, that conformity to the law is the evidence of our adoption to be the sons of God;" ."* and that all habitual sin, which is "the transgression of the law," excludes us from that privilege; so that he who is not sanctified cannot be justified; he who keeps not the law is not reconciled to God. But since St. Paul declares that "where no law is, there is no transgression," it seems to follow necessarily, that if the moral law were abrogated, there would be no such thing as sin in the world. The law of love cannot supply its place to an unbeliever, except so far as it is co-incident with, and comprehensive of, the whole moral law. So that we seem on every side shut up to the conclusion, that the Ten Commandments are still binding upon all mankind, inasmuch as they are a brief summary of our duty to God and man, a directory to that "holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."§
God grant, by His Holy Spirit, that this view of the law of God may be doing its work as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ," and keep us walking with Christ in the ways of simple, child-like obedience, that we may be "justified by faith!"
PRAYER FOR THE TIMES.
WE regard with anxiety the present aspect of the times in connexion with religion, on many grounds; but more especially as respects the movement within the Church, which has drawn such general attention.
We believe that the essential character of the only true and saving religion may be traced in the presence of SPIRITUALITY connected with CHRIST: We consider that these two points must not only be primary in principle, but prominent in thought and action, in order to an acceptable course of religious life: and our anxiety respecting the movement within the Church arises from the apparent absence of this essential character, that marks all the shades and varieties under which that movement is kept up and carried forward; ritual religion being so treated in them all, as to have its spirituality taken for granted in every case, even in spite of the most unquestioned evidence of facts; and the prominence in thought and action, due only to the Lord Jesus Christ, being given to an idea called the Church—an idea not in strict conformity with the definition of "the visible Church of Christ," given in the 19th Article.
It has become sufficiently evident, that the tendency of the movement in question is towards the errors of the Romish doctrines, and the abominations of the Romish practices: the simple sincerity of some persons having led them to embrace both openly; while others place themselves in the doubtful position of openly concurring with them, without consistently following their example.
The danger is the more alarming, because there exists a large class of persons who still shut their eyes to the end to which their path is leading; and who resent the charge of tendency to Romanism, while they exert their * 1 John ii. 3, 4. iii. 3, 6, 10, &c. † 1 John iii. 4. Rom. iv. 15. v. 13. § Heb. xii 14. Il Gal. iii. 24. ¶ Rom. v. 1.
whole influence to forward the movement that is carrying those who join it to Rome. Being deceived as to the important principle at stake, they combine with those who substitute Rituality and the Church for Spirituality and Christ; and increase the danger to the true Church by practically advocating Sacramental religion, in the place of the religion of the Atonement by the blood of Jesus.
The movement in question is urged forward in this direction with the combined powers of learning and high influence, and the devices of subtle disputation, and earnest zeal in its advocates, with all the advantage of organized arrangement in its operations. While on the other hand, a conviction that the contrary course is that on which the blessing of God may be expected to rest, together with an inadequate conception of the progress already made by the ritualists, produces a mistaken feeling of security in the minds of many of the true people of the Lord; which renders it extremely difficult to procure any thing like such combination and concert for mutual benefit, as circumstances might place within their reach. But there is one means of defence and security for the spiritual children of God, which may be made more powerful than all the resources of the movement. The promises to faithful and earnest prayer are so many, and so great, that if a Spirit of grace and of supplications on this behalf be poured out from on high, the efforts to move the Church Romeward will have no other effect, than that of separating the chaff from the wheat. It is, however, to be feared, that the resources of the vast power of true prayer, have not yet been brought into full and faithful action. We believe that spiritual Christians may be encouraged with Scriptural hopes, that a combined agreement amongst themselves for prayer on certain subjects, has an especial promise of a blessing; and we believe that to obtain this promised blessing, a personal assembling of several, in order to join in the petitions expressed by one, is not absolutely necessary (as the ritualists think;) but that the promise may be pleaded, and will be fulfilled, when the agreed supplications of many persons have been offered up by each secretly in heart, though separately in person.
În order to obtain the comfort of this Scriptural encouragement in striving to exercise the power of prayer at this peculiar juncture, we strongly recommend to the Clergy to induce their respective flocks to approach the throne of grace in secret or social prayer upon the points hereafter stated: and it would be well if all would set apart a portion of each Sunday evening throughout this year for the purpose.
CONFESSION AND HUMILIATION.
I. Confession of personal failure and short-coming in manifesting the power of the Spirit of Christ among ourselves.
II. Confession of sin in the professing Church of Christ:
1. In tolerating worldliness, and withholding the plain declaration of the truth which condemns the worldly.
2. In affording any opportunity for the influence of rituality to overgrow the influence of spirituality amongst the people.
3. In remaining unmoved under the decay of vital godliness, and the decrease of godly discipline.