Page images
[ocr errors]

authority for the belief that the obeyer, the most perfectly obedient man under the law, was necessarily under the curse, whilst all things written in the whole volume of the book were not accomplished. See Gal. iii. 10.....13. To be of the works of the law, and yet not be under the curse, is a distinction of which our apostle could not conceive. His whole argument, refered to above, rests upon its impossibility. The law itself, as held up every where in the scriptures, is the ministration of death.

14. The law of the ten commandments existed. in substauce, in the earliest ages of the world. Obedience thereunto had been urged from the beginning, by all the promises and threatenings of God; under which influence, some of every generation had obeyed, and shown the most genuine fruits of love to God and love to men; and had given the most undeniable proofs that this law of love was even written in their hearts. This therefore, could not be that law which is ever spoken of, as having come by Moses.

To surmount this objection, some have said, that though the moral code had existed, for substance, from the beginning, and its duties had been binding upon all intelligent creatures; yet it had not been written, and explicitly promul gated, until the time of Moses; and that this form of promulgation is all that is meant by its bearing the date of Moses. This supposition, however, is not made with much plausibility; for a new form of promulgating a law that had existed, and been extensively used for ages, is by no means a circumstance that ought to govern and abridge its date. Besides, of all laws that have existed, the moral is the least capable of being affected by circumstances of promulgation. But this supposition, were it otherwise unexceptionable, is wholly set aside by the pre

cise date given to the law. The Apostle to the Hebrews says, Chap. vii. ver. 11. The law was received under the Levitical priesthood; which priesthood was not instituted when all the words of the ten commandments were spoken, written and delivered to the people.

It appears, therefore, by superabundant evidence, that the moral code is not the subject intended by the law given at Mount Sinai; and that it was no peculiarity of that dispensation. The law was so extensive, and of such a peculiar nature, that it formed a distinct world, which, with propriety, may be called the Jewish world. It consisted of a system of ordinances that respected the people, the beasts, and the whole land with its fruits; which, for enforcement, were put into the hands of ministers possessing powers that may properly be considered as angelic. The peculiar frame of this world answered expressly to that of the sanctuary, or middle court of the house of God; every thing was embraced in a round of services, beginning with a solemn separation and ending at the altar of sacrifice; and the whole together was calculated to be a vehicle for the exhibition of Christ as in his mediate state. Some, who have been sensible of the error of considering this law as being particularly of a moral nature, have termed it a ceremonial law. This consideration is also very exceptionable; it is at best but a faint view of the subject; the term is too weak and indefinite to express the infinite extent and power of that fiery law, commissioned from the right hand of Jehovah, to go forth, and to act like the sun upon the whole creation, particularly upon the wild plant of nature; and so, by ripening and bringing forth its mortal fruits, to give the knowledge of sin, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God; and which

will not fail in its flaming course, until all men be laid prostrate before it in the dust of death; and even the heaven and the earth be dissolved, and made as ashes of the altar. The nature of the law cannot be expressed by better terms than those used by the apostle, viz. The ministration of death.

How different from all this is the subject of moral obligation, commonly called the moral law? Moral obligation cannot admit of mediatorial intervention; it is in its nature immediately and inseparably connected with the capacities and relations of intelligent agents. It is not an authority which, for any proper reason, may be covered by a veil, or shrouded in a cloud; or which could raise walls of partition to keep a trembling world at an humble distance from its awful seat. It does not bear a commission of death; the death warrant is not in the decalogue; a man may hear every moral precept, openly and immediately, and he may live. Whatever be our weakness or incompetency, perfect good will discharges our moral obligation; but, under the law, the altar must be fed, the fire must be kept burning, and the man for this service must be able bodied; a broken foot or a broken hand was a total disability; though to will were present with him, yet a man who had a blemish must not tread on sanctuary ground. The law was a yoke under which the whole nation of Israel groaned, and which they were not able to bear; but moral obligation was no more a yoke under that dispensation than it is under the present...... The law extended to the earth and waters, and to the beasts of the field. All nature was subject to its authority. The preacher smote with his hand, and stamped with his foot, and cried with a voice like a trumpet, saying, Earth! earth! earth! hear the word of the Lord; but moral

[ocr errors]

obligation can extend only to the rational mind. The whole matter of moral duty consists in the integrity of the creature, and may be found in his deeds; but it is manifest, that the divine law looked to the integrity, or oneness, of the divine nature, and that it can be answered only by deeds wrought in God. We are taught that the law is fulfilled, and its works are finished, and that wo are not under the law; but, in the nature of things, we must for ever remain under moral obligation. Duties of this nature must necessarily run parallel with our rational existence. The law commenced in the world, under the Levitical priesthood; but moral obligation commenced with the intelligent creation. Enough, I trust, has been said, to clear this important distinction.

The good moral preacher, when his text is the law, will hold up love to God and love to men, repentance and faith, and the whole system of moral duties; and when it is the gospel, his sermon is the same. And in this way, he forms two beautiful wax-work figures, which he calls Law and Gospel; which, on account of their resemblance of features, would not be known apart, but for their names; and which are as destitute of reality and life, as are our Franklin and Washington in the museum.

[ocr errors]

But there are other mistakes concerning the law which must be noticed. Whence came the idea that the curse was added to the law of works, as a penalty for its transgression? The doctrine of the Bible is plainly this, that the law, necessarily involving the curse, was added to the ordinances of faith; or to the covenant of life and grace, because of the foregoing transgressions. See Gal. iii. 19. Heb. ix. 15. And the law being added, the whole formed one system of divine dispensation. What God joins together, none but God can put asunder. Hence, from the time of

Moses, all that went before, and all that came by him, is summed up together in the so often. repeated words of statutes, ordinances, judgments, &c. And as the services of the sanctuary took the lead in this economy, and the ministers of the altar were ordinarily the first heads of the of the people, the dispensation was particularly characterized from what was added, and the whole went under the general appellation of the. law.

But though the services of the first tabernacle, called the sanctuary, were now joined to the ordinances of faith, or such as related to the promises; and the whole dispensation took the name, and its subjects received, generally, the spirit of the law, still they were things of a very different nature, and ought ever to be viewed very distinctly. The nature of the duties of the sanctuary may be contemplated in the services. appointed to Aaron and his sons, within that holy place. These adimitted of no variations in any case; they required ministers to be able bodied men, without any defect; for a certain work must be performed, and the will could not be accepted for the deed. But the services of the people without; admitted of any variations consistent with good will to the work of the sanctuary. Children and invalids might perform them, for proper expressions of love were all that was there required. Whilst, therefore, the men of the sanctuary were engaged in the most laborious services, under the incessant blaze of a burning altar, the people, in their place, performed their duty by standing merely in a believing posture; hoping, praying, and waiting for the glorious result, which was the blessingout of the most holy place.

[ocr errors]

Before the dispensation of the law, the divine ordinances were inforced merely by promises

« PreviousContinue »