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taken: “ Wherefore, the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”
4. In order to explain and enforce these deep words, so little regarded, because so little understood, I shall endeavour to show, First, The Original of this Law: Secondly, The Nature thereof: Thirdly, the Properties; that it is holy, and just, and good : and, Fourthly, The (ses of it.
1. 1. I shall First cndeavour to show the Original of the Moral Law, often called “The Lawr,” by way of eminence. Now this is not, as some may hare possibly imagined, of so late an institution as the time of Moses. Noah declared it to men long before that time, and Enoch before him.
But we may trace its original higher still, even beyond the foundation of the world, to that period, unknown indeed to men, but doubtless enrolled in the annals of eternity, when “the morning stars [first] sang together," being newly called into existence. It pleased the great Creator to make these, his firstborn sons, intelligent beings, that they might know Him that Created them. For this end he endued them with understanding, to discern truth from falschood, good from evil; and, as a necessary result of this, with liberty,—a capacity of choosing the one and refusing the other. By this they were, likewise, enabled to offer him a free and willing service; a service rewardable in itself, as well as most acceptable to their gracious Master.
2. To employ all the faculties which he had given them, particularly their understanding and liberty, he gave them a Law, a complete model of all Truth, so far as is intelligible lo a finite being; and of all Good, so far as angclic minds were capable of embracing it. It was also the design of their beneficent Governor herein to make way for a continual increasc of their happiness ; seeing every instance of obedience to that law, would both add to the perfection of their nature, and entitle them to an higher reward, which the righteous Judge would give in its season.
3. In like manner, when God, in his appointed time, had created a new order of intelligent beings, when he had raised man from the dust of the earthi, breathed into him the breath of life, and caused him to become a living soul, endued with power to choose good or evil; he gave to this free, intelligent creature, the same Lair as to his first-born children;—not wrote indeed upon tables of stone, or any corruptible substance, but engraven on his heart by the finger of God; wrote in the inmost spirit both of men and of angels; to the interit it
might never be far off, never hard to be understood, but always at hand, and always shining with clear light, eren as the sun in the midst of heaven,
4. Such was the original of the law of God. Witb regard to man it was coeval with his nature; but with regard to the elder sons of God, it shone in its full splendour, “or ever the mountains were brought forth, or the earth and the round world were made.” But it was not long before man rebelled against God, and, by breaking this glorious law, well nigh effaced it out of his heart; the eyes of his understanding being darkened, in the same measure as his soul was “alienated from the life of God.” And yet God did not despise the work of his own hands; but being reconciled to man through the Son of his Love, he, in some measure, re-inscribed the Law on the heart of his dark, sinful creature. “He (again) showed thee, O man, what is good, (although not as in the beginning,] even to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”
5. And this he showed, not only to our first parents, but likewise to all their posterity, by “ that true light which enlightens every man that cometh into the world.” But, notwithstanding this light, all fiesh had, in process of time, “ corrupted their way before him ;” till he chose out of mankind a peculiar people, to whom he gave a more perfect knowledge of his law: and the heads of this, because they were slow of understanding, he wrote on two tables of stone; which he commanded the fathers to teach their children, through all succeeding generations.
6. And thus it is, that the law of God is now made known to them that know not God. They hear, with the hearing of the ear, the things that were written aforetime for our instruetion. But this does not suffice : They cannot, by this means, comprehend the height, and depth, and length, and breadth thereof. God alone can reveal this by his Spirit. And so he does to all that truly believe, in consequence of that gracious promise made to all the Israel of God: “ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel. And this shall be the covenant that I will make; I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer. xxxi. 31, &c.)
II. 1. The Nature of that Law which was originally given to angels in heaven and man in paradise, and which God has so mercifully promised to write afresh in the hearts of all true be
lievers, was the Second thing I proposed to show. In order to which I would first observe, that although the “ Law" and the “ Commandment” are sometimes differently taken, (the commandment meaning but a part of the law,) yet, in the text, they are used as equivalent terms, implying one and the same thing. But we cannot understand here, either by one or the other, the Ceremonial Law. It is not the ceremonial law, whereof the Apostle says, in the words above recited, “I had not known sin but by the law :" this is too plain to need a proof. Neither is it the ceremonial law which saith, in the words immediately subjoined, “ Thou shalt not covet.” Therefore the ceremonial law has no place in the present question.
2. Neither can we understand by the Lair mentioned in the text, the Mosaic Dispensation. It is true, the word is sometimes so understood : as when the Apostle says, speaking to the Galatians, (chap. iii. 17,) “ The covenant that was confirmed before;” namely, with Abraham, the father of the faithful; “the law," i.e. the Mosaic dispensation,-“which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul.” But it cannot be so understood in the text; for the Apostle nerer bestows so high commendations as these upon that imperfect and shadowy dispensation. He no where affirms the Mosaic to be a spiritual law; or, that it is boly, and just, and good. Neither is it true, that God will write that law in the hearts of them whose iniquities he remembers no more. It remains, that the Law, eminently so termed, is no other than the Moral Law.
3. Now this law is an incorruptible picture of the High and Holy Oss that inhabiteth eternity. It is He, whom, in his essence, no man hath seen or can see, made visible to men and angels. It is the face of God mpveiled; God manifested to his creatures as they are able to bear it; manifested to give, and not to destroy life,--that they may see God and live. It is the heart of (od disclosed to man. Yea, in some sense, we may apply to this law, what the Apostle says of his Son, it is απαύγασμα της δόξης, και
χας ακτηρ της υποςασεως αυτ8,-the strouming forth (or out-beuming] of his glory, the express image of his person.
4. “ If virtue," said the ancient licathen, “ could assume sich a shape as that the could behold her with our cyes, what wonderful love would she excite in us !” If virtue could do this! It is done already. The law of God is all virtues in one, in sul shape, as to be beheld with open face, by all those whose eyes God hath enlightened. What is the Law but divine virtue áud wisdon, assuining a visible form? What is it but the original ideas of truth and good, which were lodged in the uncreated mind from eternity, now drawn forth and clothed with such a vehicle, as to appear even to human understanding ?
5. If we survey the Law of God in another point of view, it is supreme, unchangeable Reason; it is unalterable rectitude; it is the everlasting fitness of all things that are or ever were created. I am sensible, what a shortness, and even impropriety, there is, in these and all other human expressions, when we endeavour by these faint pictnres to shadow out the deep things of God. Nevertheless, we have no better, indeed no other way, during this, our infant state of existence. As we now know but “in part," so we are constrained to "prophesy,” i. e, speak of the things of God, " in part” also. “We cannot order our speech by reason of darkness," while we are in this house of clay. While I am a child, I must "speak as a child :” but I shall soon put away childish things : for “ when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away."
6. But to return. The law of God, (speaking after the manner of men,) is a copy of the eternal Mind, a transcript of the Divine Naturc : yea, it is the fairest offspring of the everlasting Father, the brightest efflux of his essential wisdom, the visible beauty of the Most High. It is the delight and wonder of Cherubim and Seraphim, and all the company of heaven, and the glory and joy of every wise believer, every well-instructed child of God upon earth.
Ill. 1. Such is the nature of the ever-blessed law of God. I am, in the Third place, to show the Properties of it :-not all; for that would exceed the wisdom of an angel; but those only which are mentioned in the text. These are three: It is Holy, Just, and Good. And first, The Law is Holy.
2. In this expression the Apostle does not appear to speak of its effects, but rather of its nature: as St. James, speaking of the same thing under another name, says, “ The Wisdom from above" (which is no other than this law, written in our heart,)“ is first pure;” (chap. iii. 17;) ayme-chaste, spotless; eternally and essentially holy. And consequently when it is transcribed into the life, as well as the soul, it is (as the same Apostle terms it, chap. i.27,) Iponoxel xaS1ox xml au&VTOS, pure Religion, and undefiled ; or, the purc, clean, unpolluter worship of God.
3. It is, indeed, in the highest degree, pure, cluste, leon, boly. Otherwise it could not be the immediate offspring, and much less the express resemblance, of God, who is essential holiness. It is pure from all sin, clean and unspotted from any touch of evil. It is a chaste virgin, incapable of any detilement, of any mixture with that which is unclean or unboly. It has no fellowship with sin of any kind: For " what communion hath light with darkness ? " As sin is, in its very nature, enmity to God, so his law is enmity to sin.
4. Therefore it is that the Apostle rejects with such abhorrence that blasphemous supposition, that the law of God is either sin itself, or the cause of sin. God forbid that we should STEPS it is the cause of sin, because it is the discoverer of it ; because it detects the hidden things of darkness, and drags them out into open day. It is true, by this means, (as the
Apostle observes, ver. 13,) “Sin appears to be sin.” All its disguises are torn away, and it appears in its native deformity. It is true likewise, that “sin, by the commandment, becomes exceeding sinful: " Being now committed against light and knowledge, being stripped even of the poor plea of ignorance, it loses its excuse, as well as disguise, and beconies far more odious both to God and map. Yea, and it is true, that “sin worketh death by that which is good ;” which in itself is pure and holy. When it is dragged out to light, it rages the more: when it is restrained, it bursts out with greater violence. Thus the Aposile, (speaking in the person of one who was convinced of sin, but not yet delivered from it,) “Sin taking occasion by the commandment," detecting and endeavouring to restrain it, disdained the restraint, and so much the more, “wrought in me all manner of concupiscence;” (ver. 8;) all manner of foolish and hurtful desire, which that commandment sought 10 l'estrail. Thus, or when the commandment came, sin revived : " (ver. 9:) It fretted and raged the more.
But this is Do stain on the commandment. Though it is abused, it cannot be defilel. This only proves, that “the heart of man is desperately wicked.” But the law of God is holy still.
5. And it is, secondly, Just. It renders to all their due. It pl’escribes esactly what is right, precisely what ought to be done, said, or thought, both with regard to the Author of our being, with regard to ourselves, and with regard to every creature which he has made. It is adapted, in all respects, to the nature of things, of the whole universe, and every individual. It is suited to all the circumstances of each, and to all their mutmal relations, whether such as have existed from the beginning, of stich is commenced in any following period,