Chapter VIII - Part II
THE LAW AND THE CHURCH
When Jesus our Lord began His public ministry as the great Prophet and Law-giver of His church, He said to His disciples, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:17). He came to fulfill all the types of the ceremonial law, and to accomplish all the predictions in the writings of Moses and the prophets respecting Himself, so that not the least iota or tittle of them was to pass away till all was completely accomplished in Him. He also came to satisfy all the demands of the moral law upon His guilty people by His own most perfect obedience unto death (Gal. 4:4,5; Heb. 10:5-7), whereby He has freed them from that law in respect of its curse, and as it is the condition of their acceptance to life. This He did not by abolishing it in these respects but by fulfilling, it in their stead (Gal. 3:13; Rom. 5:19), and so becoming the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom. 10:4). At His baptism He professed His undertaking to fulfi11 a11 righteousness, and that ordinance was a figure of the manner in which He was to do so, namely, by His death and resurrection from the dead (Matt. 3:15; Rom 6:3,4). Thus the 1aw stands eternally honored and magnified by the obedience of the Son of God, in which Jehovah declares himself well pleased (Isa. 42:21).
But as the holy law of God is the unalterable standard of righteousness and true holiness (Heb. 12: 14), so our Lord's words may probably import that He came not TO DISSOLVE the moral law as a. rule of life, or to relax the standard of holiness, as the Jewish doctors did by their corrupt glosses and traditions; but TO FILL UP or EXPLAIN IT FULLY in its highest sense, and. deliver it to His followers as the rule of their obedience and conformity to Him. At least this sense agrees well with the design of that admirable discourse and affords a clear reason for what He says in Matt. 5: 19, 20: "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these 1east commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5 : 19, 20). Here the moral law is established by the authority of the Lord and our Redeemer as the law of His kingdom, and none of the least of its precepts is permitted to be broken. Hence, we find His apostles through the whole of their writings teaching the disciples to observe this law, both in its general principle and particular precepts (Rom. 13:3-11; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Gal. 5:14; 1 Tim. 1:5-12). James terms it the ROYAL LAW, the PERFECT LAW OF LIBERTY, and exhorts Christians so to speak and do, as they that shall be judged by it (Jas. 1:25; 2:8-13).
The Law and the New Covenant
In the NEW COVENANT, this law is given in a more excellent manner than ever it was before, either to Adam in Paradise or to Israel at Sinai. It was delivered by Christ to His redeemed people under the cover of His own blood, as was prefigured by sprinkling the book of the law in the first covenant with the blood of the sacrifices (Heb. 9:19, 20, 23). Under the New Covenant, it is not written on tables of stone, but by the Spirit of the living God on the hearts of His subjects (2Cor. 3:3; Heb. 8:10). Recommended by the endearing example of Christ Himself (Matt. 11:29; 1 Pet. 2:21; 1 John 2:6), it is enforced by His redeeming love and the rewards and punishments of a future state (Jobn 15:9,10; Matt. 5:3;10,12,29,30; Rom. 6:16, 22,23). In this covenant it is a LAW OF LIBERTY no more binding them under the curse (Rom. 8:1), keeping them in bondage through fear of death Rom. 8:15; Heb. 2:15), or irritating the passions of sin (Rom. 7:5,6), but suited to their state of lioerty, as the children of God made free by the Son (Gal. 5:1; John 8:31-37), and influenced by the free-moving principle of love to keep His commandments (2Cor. 5:14; l John 5:2,3).
The Law and the Gospel
Under the gospel, the rule of duty is carried to a higher degree of spirituality and perfection than in any former revelation of the mind of God. It is accommodated to the kingdom of Christ, which is not of this world, and so contains a perfect system of non-conformity to the world, enjoining mortification, self-denial, and crucifixion to it in all its lusts and favorite pursuits (1 John 2: 15, 16). It is suited to the subjects of the kingdom of heaven, considered in the situation of strangers and pilgrims on earth as Christ was, and like Him, sustaining the opposition and hatred of the world. In keeping with this, it enjoins poorness of spirit, humility, meekness, patience, non-resistance of evil, forgiveness of injuries, love of enemies, etc.; its great and leading design being their conformity to Christ in this world, that they may share with Him in His glory when He appears (John· 12:25,26; Rom. 8:17,18; 1 Peter 4:12,13). Our Lord says to His disciples, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5 :20). The scribes and Pharisees were the strictest sect among the Jews; yet their righteousness at best was but the righteousness of the outward letter of the law as adapted to that earthly of the nation. The righteousness which Christ requires of His disciples is conformity to the. spirit of it, as explained by His sayings and exemplified in His life (Matthew 5-7). The Philadelphia Confession of.Faith, Chapter 19, paragraphs 5,6,7 sum this up thus:
"The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as
others, to the obedience thereof, and that not only in regard to the
matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God
the Creator who gave it (Jas. 2:8,10,11; Rom, 3:l9). Neither does
Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but strengthen this obligation
(Mat. 5:18,19; Rom. 3:31).
''Although true believers be not "under the law as a covenant of
works, to be thereby justified or condemned (Acts 13:39), yet is it
of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, in-
forming them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds
them to walk accordingly (Rom. 7:12, 22, 25; Psa. 119:5; 1 Cor.
7:19; Gal. 5:14, 18-23); discovering also the sinful pollutioris of
their natures, hearts, and lives, so as examining themselves thereby,
they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred
against sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of
Christ, and the perfection of His obedience (Gal. 3:24; Rom. 8:3,
4; 7:24, 25). It is likewise of use to the regenerate to restrain their
corruptions, in that it forbids sin (Jas. 2:11; Psa. 119:123); and the
threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve, and
what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed
from the curse and unallayed rigor thereof (Exra 9:13, 14: Psa.
89:30-34). These promises of it likewise show that God's appro-
bation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the
performance thereof (Psa. 37: 111; 19:11; Lev. 26:1-14; 2 Cor. 6:16;
Eph. 6:2; Matt. 5:5), though not as due to them by the law as a
covenant of works (Gal. 2:16; Luke 17:10); so as a man's doing good
and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and
deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and
not under grace (Rom. 6:12, 14; Heb. 12:28, 29; 1 Pet. 3:8-12; Psa.
"Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace
of the gospel, but do the sweetly comply with it (Gal. 3:21; Titus
2:11-14), the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man
to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God, revealed in the
law, requireth to be done (Ezekiel 36:27; Heb. 8:10; Jeremiah 31:33)."
Professor George Smeaton in his excellent volume "Our Lord's Doctrine of the Atonernent" says:
"The special difference between the two covenants, distinguished
into old and new, was, that the Sinaitic covenant did not effectually
provide for personal forgiveness; and that it was, besides, rather
national and Jewish than universal, -- rather mundane and external
in its blessings and promises than spiritual and transforming... At
the erection of the old covenant there was a manifold and repeated
sprinkling of blood, -- first the paschal blood, and then the blood of
bulls and goats at Sinai; and besides all this, the annual pouring out
and sprinkling of blood upon the great day of atonement as well as
in the daily sacrifice. But the new covenant has but one blood of
atonement, or one sacrifice, perfect and complete for ever, by which
the covenant is at once founded, maintained, and perpetuated."
Thus the New Covenant is based uoon reconciliation involving inward renovation of the nature, or the writing of the law upon the heart.