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Christianity doth not destroy, but perfect the law os Moses.
Mattb, v. 17. Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the Prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
The first sermon on this text.
THere is no saying in the whole gospel, which the Jews did so frequently object to the Christians as this of our blessed Saviour, as if his words and actions were plainly repugnant, and contrary to one another : for when it is evident, fay they, that he took away so many ceremonies, purifications, distinctions of meats, sacrifices, judicial laws, and many other things ; yet he fays, he came not tt destroy the law or the Prophets ; so that it is plain, that he did throw down the law of Moses, and in so doing contradicted his own saying, that he did not intend to destroy the law. To clear our Saviour's words of this objection, it will be requisite to consider the scope and design of his discourse in this chapter; by which we shall fully understand the sense and meaning of these words in the text.
Our Saviour in this sermon, (which contains the sum and substance of his religion) doth earnestly recommend to his disciples and followers, and strictly enjoins the perfect practice of all goodness and virtue, declaring to them, that he came to bring in and establish that righteousness, which the Jewish religion indeed aimed at, but through the weakness and imperfection of that dispensation, was not able to effect and accomplish. And to take away all suspicion of a design to contradict the former revelations of God, made to the Jews by Moses and the Prophets, or to destroy their divine authority, by carrying on a design contrary to them, I say, to prevent any imagination of this kind, he does here in the text expreily declare the contrary: Think not, &c. intimating that some either did, or at least might be apt to suspect, that his design was to destroy the obligation of the law, and to undermine the authority of Moses and the Prophets ; to free them from this jealousy, he declares plainly, that he had no such thought and intention, it was far from him.
I am not come to destroy, KtiTttXvetti, to abrogate, or dissolve the law, to encourage men to the breach and violation of it ; for the word is of the fame fense with hvnv, at the 19th ver. Whosoever shall break one es these least commandments ; and with Ka.T<toynTct.i, Rom, iii. 31 yo/Acv *v KVtttfyoSjyu»; do we then make void the law by faith? Whkh is the fame question with that of the fame Apostle, Gal. iii. 21. Is the law then against the promises of God T that is, are the law and the gospel contrary t do they contra, did one another ? So that the meaning of our Saviour's declaration is this, that he was not come to dissolve, and abrogate, and make void the law, or to encourage men to the breach of it; that the precepts of his religion were in no wife contrary to those of the law and the Prophets, did not thwart and oppose them, or any ways contradict the main design and intention ot the law and the Prophets ; that is, of the Jewish religion ; for so the law and the Prophets do frequently signify, Matt. vii. 12. Therefore all things .whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them ; for this is the law and the Prophets ; that is, this is the main scope and intention of what your religion contained in the law and the Prophets teacheth, concerning your duty to one another. So likewise, Matt. xxii. 40. On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets ; that is, this is the sum of all the duties of religion ; to these two laws, all that the Jewish religion teachethmay be referred. / am not come to destroy, but to fulfil j to carry on the fame design which was intended tended by the Jewish religion, and to perfect: and accomplish it; to supply all the defects and weaknesses and imperfections of that dispensation: This is the plain meaning of this caution and declaration of our Saviour's, Think not, &c. .
For the clearing of this matter, viz. That the design of our Saviour's doctrine and religibn is not contrary to those former revelations, which God made to the Jews by Moses and the Prophets; this will evidently appear, whether we consider the prophecies and predictions of the Old Testament, or the laws and precepts therein contained.
First; The prophecies and predictions of the Old Testament, our Saviour came not to contradict and overthrow these; but to fulfil them. The chief predictions of the law and the Prophets were concerning the Mestias, and his spiritual kingdom. In the law it was foretold, that God would raise to them a Prophet like unto Moses, whom they ought to hear and obey; and to him all the Prophets of the Old Testament gave witness, foretelling the time of his coming, his extraction, the manner and circumstances of his birth, the purity and efficacy of his doctrine, the actions and miracles of his life, his passion, death and burial, with the particular circumstances of them, his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, and exaltation at the right hand of God; so that this part of the law and the Prophets he did accomplish and fulfil in a most eminent and remarkable manner; all things that the Prophets had foretold concerning thaMemas, were punctually made good in the person, and actions, and sufferings of our Saviour.
Secondly, As to the laws and precepts of the Jewish religion, the doctrine and the laws of Christianity did not clash with them; nor properly abrogate them, and make them void, especially as to the moral precepts, which were the very life and spirit, the ultimate scope and design of that religion; nay, so far was it from doing so, that the main and proper intention of Christianity, was to clear, and establish that which was the main design of the law and the Prophets, phets, to perseB the law in this part, and to raise and advance morality to its highest pitch, to supply all the defects and imperfections of the Jewish religion, and to make men much better than that weak and imperfect institution was able to do. This was the great design of Christianity; and it is very probable that our Saviour had a principal, if not a sole respect to the precepts of the moral law, when he here lays, that he came not to destroy the law and the Prophets, but to perfect and fulfil them; as I Ihall have occasion by and by to shew more at large.
But that we may give a full answer to the objection of the Jews against this saying of our Saviour's, I shall shew that he did not come to thwart and contradict, and properly to abrogate and make void the Jewish law in any part of it, neither the civil and judicial, nor the ritual and ceremonial, much less the moral and natural precepts of it. This is more than I think to be absolutely necessary, to reconcile this faying of our Saviour. with the rest of his doctrine and actions; for though he had properly abrogated the ceremonial law, and in no fense fulfilled it; yet, notwithstanding this, it may be true, that he came not to destroy the law and the Prophets; that is, to destroy the obligation ofmoral duties, which hefpeaks of in this chapter, and elsewhere declares to be the ultimate scope, the sum and substance of the law and the Prophets. For if the ceremonial law was not designed by God to be perpetual, but to give way to a more perfect dispensation ; then our Saviour did no way thwart and contradict the law and the Prophets, by abrogating the ceremonial law, at that time, when God designed that a period should be put to it. But yet for the fuller satisfaction to this objection, I shall shew that our Saviour did not properly abrogate any part os the Jewish law, no, not the ritual and ceremonial part of it; but did fulfil it.
First, Not their civil and judicial laws. These in the original intention osthem.were not laws designed for mankind, but suited and fitted to me disposition and temper, the condition and circumstances of a particular people and nation; to these our Sa
viour taught obedience, and paid it himself, and never did any thing contrary to them, nor in the least weaken the obligation of them; but they continued in full force, till that nation and commonwealth was dissolved. So that these laws were no way impeached or abrogated by the Christian religion; but they fell for want of a subject to exercise their power upon, and because the people that were to be governed by them were destroyed or dissipated; and though they neither are, nor ever were obligatory to other nations, as given by Moses, and as they were thepe« culiar laws of a particular nation; yet the natural reason and equity of them, so far as it concerned mankind, is duly considered and regarded by us, and many of these laws are adopted into the laws of most Christian nations. It is plain then, that this part of the Jewish law received no prejudice by Christianity, but continued in full force, so long as that nation and commonwealth lasted, which was to b« governed by it.
. Secondly, As to the ritual and ceremonial part of the Jewish law, which consisted in circumcision and purifications, and sacrifices, in distinction of meats and times, and innumerable other rites and observances; this was not properly abrogated and made void by the coming of Christ, but fulfilled and made good by him. The rites and ceremonies of the law, were the types and shadows of those future good things which were promised under the gospel, a kind of rude draught of a better and more perfect institution, which was designed, and at last finished and perfected by the Christian religion. This account the Apostle gives of the legal rites and observances, Col. ii. 16, 17. Let no man judge you in meat or in drink, or in re/peel of a holy-day, or of the new moon,-or of the Jabbath-days, which are & shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ; that is, he is the substance and reality of all those things, which were shadowed and figured by those legal observances. And so the Apostle to the Hebrews calls the Priests and sacrifices of the law, the txamples and shadows of heavenly things, chap. viii»
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