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A purified conscience and the true service of the living God,1 constituted that genuine righteousness which the law, with its 'meats and drinks and divers washings and carnal ordinances,' could manifestly never reach. It was partly, if not wholly, on account of this defect, that the apostle, in another place, reminds the Hebrews that perfection did not come by the Levitical priesthood, under which the law was received, and that there was 'a disannulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For, the law made nothing perfect; but the bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw nigh unto God. 22 Again, he says to them, concerning the Mosaic rites, "The law, having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never, with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect. . . . . For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Wherefore, when he [Christ] cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me. In burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin, thou hast had no pleasure; then said I, Lo I come, (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God."3 And the apostle goes on to say that by this will we are sanctified; and that Christ by one offering hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.* It is evidently his object here to show that while the ministry of Christ cleansed the conscience and sanctified the heart, the services of the law were wholly inefficient to this purpose, because they were merely carnal ordinances. Everybody discovers, at once, that such ceremonies could not take away sin; they had no sanctifying influence.

It was to this material defect that St. Paul seems to have referred, on one occasion at least, when he so earnestly insisted that 'man is not justified by the works of the law :' meaning, as the context shows, the rituals of the law. We allude to the passage in his Epistle to the Galatians, where he gives an account of his reproving St. Peter at Antioch. The

With this suggestion compare Christ's words to the woman of Samaria: The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. . . But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him.'-John iv. 21-23. 3 Heb. x. 1-7. See verses 10, 14, 16, 22.

2 Heb. vii. 11-19.

circumstances were the following: When St. Peter visited the Gentile church in that city, he at first neglected the Mosaic ordinances, associating freely with the uncircumcised Gentiles, and eating with them; all contrary to the regulations of the law, had they been in force. But afterwards, some of the Jewish Christians arriving there from Jerusalem, he suddenly changed his practice, through fear of these circumcised and bigoted brethren. He separated himself from the uncircumcised believers, and with the rest of his Jewish associates, lived according to the law. St. Paul, who was present, could not endure this dissimulation, and said to him before them all, 'If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, [for so Peter himself had done,] and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou-[as he did, by his present example,] why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We, who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Here, the connexion of the argument determines what St. Paul meant by the works of the law they were those which St. Peter had at first properly neglected, but afterwards rigidly observed, out of servility to his circumcised brethren, and which he was thus, by his dissimulation, unjustly forcing upon the Gentile believers. They were not moral virtues; for these were indispensable in the case both of the circumcised and of the uncircumcised. They were, on the contrary, those observances which could not purify the conscience, and which were wholly useless, even with the Jews, since the abrogation of the Mosaic service.


These ceremonial ordinances, it is well known, formed the larger part of the law; and there can be no question that it was these only which were repealed under the gospel dispensation. Accordingly, whenever we read of the disannulling of the commandment,' 'blotting it out,'' taking it away,' &c. it is to these exclusively that we must refer the expressions, and not to any moral obligations, which can never be suspended. Thus, St. Paul says to the Colossians, who were Gentiles, 'You, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your

1 Gal. ii. 14-16; compare the preceding part of the chapter.

flesh, hath he [God] quickened together with him [Christ,] having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the hand writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.' What these written ordinances were, which had been thus blotted out, may be seen in the very next words, in which the apostle makes an application of his foregoing statement: Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the newmoon, or of the sabbath-days; which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.' And he adds, Wherefore, if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (-touch not, taste not, handle not, which all are to perish with the using,-) after the cominandments and doctrines of men?' These ordinances, abstractly considered, were worthless; and being repealed under the gospel, they stood at present on the authority, not of God, but of men. The practice of them therefore could neither constitute true righteousness, nor avail to divine acceptance.


We have now pointed out the first and to us the most palpable defect in the righteousness and works of the law, so called.


II. But, in the second place, it should be remembered that notwithstanding the law was composed, for the most part, of ceremonial prescriptions and civil institutes, which, be it observed, were the chief matters of attention among its followers, still it contained several commands which were purely moral and religious in the higher sense of this epithet. Now, with regard even to these latter and nobler requirements, St. Paul seems to have recognized another defect, arising from the very character of a written system of bare rules. There was an essential weakness, an impotence, in the law, on account of its being a mere code of duties, announcing rewards and pun

1 Colos. ii. 13-15.


2 So Christ represents: Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint, anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith.'-Matt. xxiii. 23. Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer.'-Verse 14. See also Luke xviii. 9-12.

ishments indeed, but supplying no living principle of righteousness in the heart, even when it enjoined piety and virtue. Holding forth those motives only which restrain the actions without purifying the affections, it left its votaries to a sort of mechanical performance of its precepts. To use a favorite expression of the apostle, it led them by the letter, and not by the spirit. Though it prescribed some spiritual duties, yet to its adherents it was still but a mere 'letter;' while, on the other hand, the doctrine of Christ was 'spirit and life.' Accordingly, St. Paul says, 'we are delivered from the law, that being dead, [or, being dead to that] wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." This distinction, which may at first seem a little too refined, will appear sufficiently important if we reflect how heartless would be the character of one who should take, say, the best code of civil law under heaven, and, studying it, act by act, make it the chief directory of his social life, governed by no higher principle, but striving to regulate his conduct merely by the written precept, and caring nothing for consequences so long as he adhered to the letter of the statute! Any collection whatsoever of bare precepts, in the form of written law, can avail but little towards constituting a good citizen: its use is, at the best, rather negative. As St. Paul says of the Mosaic law, it is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners.' 2 Accordingly, all duties performed merely after the letter of the law, were but dead works,' since they lacked the living principle which alone could render them valuable in a moral respect. It was probably on this account that the apostle says to the Galatians, that if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law :'3 meaning evidently that it was impossible for any such law to produce genuine righteousness. We must, however, understand him to confine this remark exclusively to written collections of mere precepts, such as was the Mosaic; for there is a law of a different kind, mentioned by him in other places, which does give life and righteousness: the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,' called again 'the law of the mind,' 5 'the law of faith,' and by St. James, the perfect law of lib


1 Rom. vii. 6. ♦ Rom. viii. 2.

* Gal. iii. 21.

21 Tim. i. 9; compare 4-9.
'Rom. vii. 23.
Rom. iii. 27.



erty.' This was, doubtless, that divine law which the gospel of Christ constituted in the mind of the believer; not only indicating the duties to be discharged, but, by means of its purifying doctrines, producing the very disposition necessary to their cordial performance. To this radical difference between the law of Moses and that of the gospel, between the first covenant and the second, St. Paul refers, when he tells the Hebrews, if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For, finding fault with them, he saith, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah : not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they con-tinued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people; and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord; for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.' 22 Here the apostle lays it down as one of the characteristics of the gospel, in contradistinction from those of the Mosaic covenant, that God would put his laws into the minds and write them in the hearts of the people. Of course, the legal dispensation was not calculated to produce that internal conformity, which alone is genuine righteousness. By some of its precepts it required holiness, which, however, it did not supply the means of attaining: it condemned sins, without taking them away, and by this inefficient check only exposed their malignity. On this defective operation of the written law, St. Paul seems to have founded the following remarks to the Romans: What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law, sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once; but when the


1 James i. 25.

2 Heb. viii. 7-12.

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