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The Law given, not to confine the ancient People to itself, but to encourage their Hope of Salvation in Christ, till the Time of his Coming.
FROM the deduction we have made, it may easily be inferred, that the law was superadded about four hundred years after the death of Abraham, not to draw away the attention of the chosen people from Christ, but rather to keep their minds waiting for his advent, to inflame their desires and confirm their expectations, that they might not be discouraged by so long a delay. By the word law, I intend, not only the decalogue, which prescribes the rule of a pious and righteous life, but the form of religion delivered from God by the hands of Moses. For Moses was not made a legislator to abolish the blessing promised to the seed of Abraham; on the contrary, we see him on every occasion reminding the Jews of that gracious covenant made with their fathers, to which they were heirs; as though the object of his mission had been to renew it. It was very clearly manifested in the ceremonies. For what could be more vain or frivolous than for men to offer the fetid stench arising from the fat of cattle, in order to reconcile themselves to God? or to resort to any aspersion of water or of blood, to cleanse themselves from pollution? In short, the whole legal worship, if it be considered in itself, and contain no shadows and figures of correspondent truths, will appear perfectly ridiculous. Wherefore it is not without reason, that both in the sermon of Stephen and in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that passage is so carefully stated, in which God commands Moses to make all things pertaining to the tabernacle "according to the pattern shewed to him in the mount." (m) For unless there had been some spiritual design, to which they were directed, the Jews would have laboured to no purpose in these observances, as the Gentiles did in their mummeries. Profane men, who have
(to) Acts yii. 44. Heb. viii. 5. Ex. Xxt. 40. *
never seriously devoted themselves to the pursuit of piety, have not patience to hear of such various rites: they not only wonder, why God should weary his ancient people with such a mass of ceremonies, but they even despise and deride them as puerile and ludicrous. This arises from inattention to the end of the legal figures, from which if those figures be separated, they must be condemned as vain and useless. But the "pattern," which is mentioned, shews that God commanded the sacrifices, not with a design to occupy his worshippers in terrestrial exercises, but rather that he might elevate their minds to sublimer objects. This may be likewise evinced by his nature; for as he is a Spirit, /he is pleased with none but spiritual worship. Testimonies of this truth may be found in the numerous passages of the prophets, in which they reprove the stupidity of the Jews for supposing that sacrifices possess any real value in the sight of God. Do they mean to derogate from the law? Not at all; but being true interpreters of it, they designed by this method to direct the eyes of the people to that point, from which the multitude were wandering. Now, from the grace offered to the Jews, it is inferred as a certain truth, that the law was not irrespective of Christ: for Moses mentioned to them this end of their adoption, that they might "be unto God a kingdom of priests:" (n) which could not be attained without a greater and more excellent reconciliation than could arise from the blood of beasts. For what is more improbable than that the sons of Adam, who by hereditary contagion are all bom the slaves of sin, should be exalted to regal dignity, and thus become partakers of the glory of God, unless such an eminent blessing should proceed from some other source than themselves? How also could the right of the priesthood remain among them, the pollution of whose crimes rendered them abominable to God, unless they had been consecrated in a holy head? Wherefore Peter makes an elegant application of this observation of Moses, suggesting that the plenitude of that grace, of which the Jews enjoyed a taste under the law, is exhibited in Christ. "Ye are," says he, "a chosen
(n) Exoil. xix. 6.
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generation, a royal priesthood." (0) This application of the words tends to shew, that they, to whom Christ has appeared under the Gospel, have obtained more than their forefathers; because they are all invested with sacerdotal and regal honours, that in a dependence on their Mediator they may venture to come boldly into the presence of God.
II. And here it must be remarked, by the way, that the kingdom, which at length was erected in the family of David, is a part of the law, and comprised under the ministry of Moses: whence it follows, that both in the posterity of David and in the whole Levitical tribe, as in a twofold mirror, Christ was exhibited to the view of his ancient people. For, as I have just observed, it was otherwise impossible that in the Divine view they should be kings and priests, who were the slaves of sin and death, and polluted by their own corruptions. Hence appears the truth of the assertion of Paul, that the Jews were subject as it were to the authority of a schoolmaster, till the advent of that Seed, for whose sake the promise was given. (p) For Christ being not yet familiarly discovered, they were like children, whose imbecility could not yet bear the full knowledge of heavenly things. But how they were led to Christ by the ceremonies, has been already stated, and may be better learned from the testimonies of the prophets. For although they were obliged every day to approach God with new sacrifices in order to appease him, yet Isaiah promises them the expiation of all their transgressions by a single sacrifice: (y) which is confirmed by Daniel, (r) The priests, chosen from the tribe of Levi, used to enter into the sanctuary; but concerning that one priest it was once said, that he was divinely chosen with an oath, to be "a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." (s) There was then an unction of visible oil; but Daniel from his vision foretels an unction of a different kind. But not to insist on many proofs, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, from the fourth chapter to the eleventh, demonstrates in a manner sufficiently copious and clear, that, irrespective of Christ, all the ceremonies of the law are worthless and vain. And in regard to the decalogue, we
(o) 1 Peter ii. 9. (/>) Gal. iii. 24. (y) Isaiah liii. 5, &c.
(r) Dan. ix. 26, &c. (t) Psalm ex. 4.
should attend to the declaration of Paul, that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that be lieveth;" (r) and also that Christ is "the Spirit," who "giveth life" to the otherwise dead letter. (u) For in the former passage he signifies that righteousness is taught in vain by the precepts, till Christ bestows it both by a gratuitous imputation, and by the Spirit of regeneration. Wherefore he justly denominates Christ the completion, or end of the law: for we should derive no benefit from a knowledge of what God requires of us, unless we were succoured by Christ when labouring and oppressed under its yoke and intolerable burden. In another place, he states that "the law was added because of transgressions," (if) that is to humble men, by convicting them of being the causes of their own condemnation. Now this being the true and only preparation for seeking Christ, the various declarations which he makes are in perfect unison with each other. But as he was then engaged in a controversy with erroneous teachers, who pretended that we merit righteousness by the works of^he law; in order to refute their error, he was sometimes obliged to use the term law in a more restricted sense, as merely preceptive, although it was otherwise connected with the covenant of gratuitous adoption.
III. But it is worthy of a little inquiry, how we are rendered more inexcusable by the instructions of the moral law, in order that a sense of our guilt may excite us to supplicate for pardon? If it be true that the law displays a perfection of righteousness, it also follows that the complete observation of it is in the sight of God a perfect righteousness, in which a man would be esteemed and reputed righteous at the tribunal of heaven. Wherefore Moses, when he had promulgated the law, hesitated not to "call heaven and earth to record" (x) that he had proposed to the Israelites life and death, good and evil. Nor can we deny that the reward of eternal life awaits a righteous obedience to the law, according to the Divine promise. But on the other hand it is proper to examine whether we perform that obedience, the merit of which can warrant our confident expectation of that reward? For how
(0 Rom. x. 4. (*>) 2 Cor. iii. 17.
(«) Gal. iii. 19. (x) Deut. xxx. 15, 19.
unimportant is it to discover that the reward of eternal life depends on the observance of the law, unless we also ascertain whether it be possible for us to arrive at eternal life in that way! But in this point the weakness of the law is manifest. For as none of us are fotfnd to observe the law, we are excluded from the promises of life, and fall entirely under the curse. I am now shewing, not only what does happen, but what necessarily must happen. For the doctrine of the law being far above human ability, man may view the promises indeed from a distance, but cannot gather any fruit from them. It only remains for him, from their goodness to form a truer estimate of his own misery, while he reflects that all hope of salvation is cut off, and that he is in imminent danger of death. On the other hand, we are urged with terrible sanctions, which bind, not a few of us, but every individual of mankind: they urge, I say, and pursue us with inexorable rigour, so that in the law we see nothing but present death.
IV. Therefore if we direct our views exclusively to the law, the effects upon our minds wilfconly be despondency, confusion, and despair, since it condemns and curses us all, and keeps us far from that blessedness which it proposes to them who observe it. Does the Lord then, you will say, in this case do nothing but mock us? For how little does it differ from mockery, to exhibit a hope of felicity, to invite and exhort to it, to declare that it is ready for our reception, whilst the.way to it is closed and inaccessible? I reply, although the promises of the law, being conditional, depend on a perfect obedience to the law, which can no where be found; yet they have not been given in vain. For when we have learned that they will be vain and inefficacious to us, unless God embrace us with his gratuitous goodness, without any regard to our works, and unless we have also embraced by faith that goodness, as exhibited to us in the Gospel; then these promises are not without their use, even with "he condition annexed to them. For then he gratuitously confers every thing upon us, so that he adds this also to the number of his favours, that not rejecting our imperfect obedience, but pardoning its deficiencies, he gives us to enjoy the benefit of the legal promises, just as if we had fulfilled the condition our.