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When our blessed Lord was upon earth, though he set aside the Jewish traditions, condemning them in the strongest terms, he declared that he came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it, Matt. v. 18. To the moral law therefore all may be referred, as expressed by our Saviour in these words, Mark xii. 29–33 : “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength;" thus comprehending the first four commandments, or the first table, and adding, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;" thus including the second table, or the last six.
The moral law was not only given to the Israelites from Mount Sinai, but it was repeated to their children thirtyeight years later, in the plains of Jordan, when about to enter the promised land. On this latter occasion, it was sanctioned by a solemn recapitulation of all the mercies they had experienced in the wilderness. Some variations were made, but none of material import. The fourth command, for the observance of the sabbath, is enforced by an additional motive, their redemption from Egypt, Deut. v. 15, which was typical of the believer's redemption by Christ, and therefore furnished to Christians, as well as to the ancient Jew, an additional motive for the duty and privilege of the observance of the holy day, as well as an additional consideration for allowing to servants the needful sabbath rest, of which many without thought, and others with atheistic indifference, deprive them. To the fifth command is also added a motive, “ As the Lord thy God hath commanded thee,” and an additional promise, “ that it may go well with thee,” Deut. v. 16. To this St. Paul refers, Eph. vi. 3.
Now, all these commands are holy, just, and good. Their observance tends to promote the glory of God and the happiness of men. If mankind were guided by the principles here plainly laid down, the world would present a widely different scene from that which at present it displays. But though the way of holiness and happiness is plainly set before men, yet they will not walk therein, unless renewed in the spirit of their minds, being born again by the Holy Spirit, as our Lord fully showed to Nicodemus. Even the renewed man is continually prone to depart from the ways of peace, and to forget his main principles of action. It is the great regret of the believer, that his corrupt nature still hinders him from keeping the law, Romans vii. 23.
He that offends in one point is guilty of all, and therefore the most exalted Christian daily needs to throw himself on the
of God in Christ. Thus the law is our schoolmaster, Gal. iii. 24. And while these spiritual benefits flow from the Divine law, even on earthly principles there is great reward in keeping the commands of God. Here the experience of all classes of persons might be referred to, as showing that there is no peace to the wicked, who oppose these laws. Men need not only the general precept addressed to all, and also the voice of conscience speaking within each individual, but alas ! the former is continually lost sight of, and the latter often silenced. Thus there is need for permanent and public directions to communities at large, upon which they may be required to act, so that rulers
be terror" to the evil doer, and give praise to those that do well. These are statute laws; express directions and full explanations of what is right and wrong. The need of these clearly appears; for the Lord, after giving the ten commandments, immediately followed them by statutes and judgments, and instituted a regular official administration for their establishment and enforcement.
In conformity with this example, in later ages, under the changed and changing circumstances of the nation, additional laws and regulations were made; and, in like manner, in other nations, a continual succession of enactments is requisite; yet all should be in conformity to the two great principles of the moral law. The Pharisees departed grievously from this perfect rule, consequently our blessed Lord charges them with making void the law of God, and denounces a woe upon them as rulers, for laying burdens upon others which they would not themselves bear, thus at once refusing to do unto others as they would themselves desire to be done unto. Let us then remember the great principles of the moral law, as the standard by which every minor and more detached rule should be tried. It was in the neglect of these that Israel sinned and fell.
“ Their glory faded, and their race dispersed,
The last of nations now, though once the first ;
Keep wisdom,-or meet vengeance in your turn.”
his paths are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. “ Ye have seen,” he said, “what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself,” Exod. xix. 4. This comparison would probably remind the Israelites of scenes that they had witnessed in the deserts of Arabia. It is more fully alluded to by Moses in Deut. xxxii. 11, 12, , and has been thus spiritualized in verse:
“The eagle fond her charge awakes,
Where in the nest they doze,
The way to fly she shows.
Before their own they try,
And soars above the sky.
When Christ his Spirit shed;
And hover'd o'er my head.
He spread his wings abroad,
To seek the face of God.
“ The object of his kindest care
He never yet forsook,
And all my burden took.
On wings of heavenly love,
To these bright realms above.” Thus Jesus, the Lawgiver, has now left his people an example in his own fulfilment of all righteousness, and his concern for them is repeatedly described under similar figures ; Isa. xlvi. 3, 4; Heb. xii. 1, 2,
A late writer has remarked, that the actions of our blessed Lord when upon earth, may be divided into three distinct classes : 1. The things which he did, as God, in which it would be presumption to think of imitating him. 2. Those which had reference to the climate and customs of the country in which he was, and which would be unsuitable for general imitation; and, 3. Those in which he left us an example that we should follow his steps, as showing our duty both towards God and man. So the same distinctions have also been applied to the moral regulations by which
the Jewish state was to be governed. Here are, 1. Laws connected with the Theocracy, or the immediate government of God, by which they were distinguished from other nations, and which it would be presumption to apply elsewhere; and, 2. Laws referring to the time and place in which they were enacted, which would be unsuitable elsewhere. 3. There are also laws connected with the general principles of morality and religion, which are binding on all mankind; and from considering them, much instruction may be derived, that is suitable for every age and every climate.
It is pleasing to observe, that the lately christianized islanders of the South Seas have frequently referred to the rules and principles of Scripture in the formation of their own laws. Thus it is related that, in 1832, the queen of Raiatea, when consulted by the representatives of her subjects, as to whether the introduction and sale of ardent spirits should be allowed in her dominions, sent to them a copy of the New Testament, with a message, “ Let the principles contained in that book, be the foundation of all
your proceedings,” and the result was, the prohibition of intoxicating liquors. Might it not be said that this
queen of the south shall rise up in judgment” with many who have had greater advantages, yet do not show the same regard to the injunctions of Scripture, by using endeavours to deter those under their influence from
6 The road that leads from competence and peace
Shakes her encumber'd lap and casts them out.” And it is impossible to state the benefits which have been derived even from the outward observance of the laws given by God to man, or the sin and danger of those who slight and reject these benefits, and turn after things that cannot profit, saying like Israel of old, We will be as the heathen families of the countries, that serve wood and stone, Ezek. xx. 32. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil ; for every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light lest his deeds should be reproved, John iii. 19, 20. How fearful is the responsibility of those who thus slight the privileges they enjoy, as the words of St. Paul in Romans ii. most plainly testify.
The MORAL LAW, WRITTEN ON Two TABLES, CONTAINING THE
The Political Laws of the Israelites are referred to both the Tables, and
are to be reduced to the several precepts of the Moral Law.
Laws referred to the First Table,
namely, 1. to the First and Second
2. To the third commandment, viz. Of blasphemies....
3. To the fourth commandment, viz. Of breaking the sabbath...
22. 23. 24.
22. 23. 34.
13. 17. 7. 12.
16. 17. 23.
POLITICAL Laws referred to the Se
1. To the fifth commandment, viz. Of magistrates and their authority. Of the power of fathers ....
2. To the sixth commandment, viz.
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19. 21, 22.
25. 20. 23.