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which our nature is so liable. It shall be our business now to inquire, whether this has not been the case from the very beginning of things; and whether it shall not, according to the Scriptures, continue to be so to the end of time; and lastly, to offer some remarks on the value of this consideration, and on the suitableness of the system thus originated and perpetuated for our instruction and advantage.
The first of these, then, or what is usually termed the Moral Law, stands thus in the pages of the first revelation : “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”* Again, at a period somewhat later, it is said : “ But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall
ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man.”+ Here, then, we have laws formally promulgated, and the consequences of transgression expressly stated ; these partake of the character of all other laws, and like them admit of no relaxation, and make no provision for pardon. Of this character too are all the other statutes and commandments published in the Bible, whether they originate with the Patriarchs, Moses, the Prophets, our Lord, or his Apostles. They are laws, from the observance of which there is no appeal, and from the permanency of which nothing can in the least degree derogate. Heaven and earth we are told shall pass away, but not so much as a jot or a tittle of the law shall, until all shall have been fulfilled. I
Another consideration, tending to shew the perpetuity of the Moral Law, may be deduced from the fact that a very large proportion of the morality taught in the New Testament is
* Gen. ii. 17.
+ Gen. ix. 4–6.
cited from the Old, and urged purely on its prior authority : the only difference discernible in the two cases is, that in the New Testament the reader is more particularly guarded against mistaking the letter for the spirit of the precept. St. John tells us, for example, that the man who hates his brother is a murderer ;* and our Lord, that he who looks upon a woman lustfully, is already guilty in spirit of the act of adultery.t Whence it should seem, that to abolish the Moral Law, could never have entered into the mind of any of the writers or teachers under either dispensation.
The nature of the case, moreover, makes it impossible that the Moral Law can ever be abrogated. For, first, the declarations of the Gospel, as such, however excellent and necessary they may be, were not given either to teach, or immediately to enforce, morality. Constituted as we are, it must ever be necessary, that the distinctions between good and bad, virtue and vice, be distinctly and authoritatively kept up; but this it is not the province of the Gospel to do. Its declarations go to the questions, as to how the grace of God has been made known, how it may be secured in order to insure pardon, and how the blessings thus had in view ought to be sought, applied, and appreciated. I And the consequence almost universally witnessed is, that those who lose sight of the Moral Law, and endeavour to live in the enjoyment of the Gospel only, gradually relax in watchfulness and selfexamination, and imperceptibly become sullen, morose, conceited, and overbearing; believing too, at the same time, that they are enjoying nothing but heaven within, and exhibiting nothing but heavenly-mindedness without. And thus, while they have no doubt they are making their calling and election sure, they are neglecting both in theory and in practice to
* 1 John, iii. 15.
+ Matt. v. 28. | This, according to my notions, is the peculiar province of the Gospel. That moral precepts are found in the New Testament there can be no doubt; but these, I argue, form no part of the Gospel, strictly speaking; they are, on the contrary, a part of the Moral Law.
cultivate the spirit of Christ, without which, we are positively taught, all must be reprobates.
But further, it is the Moral Law and that alone, which must first reduce, and then keep in subjection, the fallen mind of
To its hard and stony surface, the voice of reason, and indeed of grace,
* will be applied in vain ; and to nothing short of that sword of the Spirit which is quick and powerful, will its labyrinths of error and deception give way, and stand revealed in all their hideousness of deformity, and turpitude of character; or bring the sinner to exclaim, "Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”The truth is, every thing else has hitherto failed; and, if we may judge of the future from the past, every thing else for ever must fail. But this is not all: the subjugation must continually be carried on; the heart must not only be prostrated for once, but it must be kept down for ever: and this the Moral Law alone can do. Precept must here, as the Prophet has truly said, be laid upon precept, and line upon line : # and this must be incessantly repeated, where we have to deal with an agent, above all things deceitful and desperately wicked. The wily monster will rise again and again, and in every new effort to resume its primitive ascendency, will take a shape and a colour more alluring and deceptive than the last. These the law of God alone can detect and expose; and, when detected, the Spirit of God as afforded only by the Gospel, can cope with and overcome : so that he alone who is furnished and complete in all the panoply of heaven, can ever hope to be more than a conqueror in this warfare.
Let us now consider, in what the system of the Gospel
* It is no uncommon thing to hear grace spoken of as being omnipotent in its character and effects. Facts, however, speak a different language; it is, in a large portion of society, constantly and effectually resisted : besides, the Scriptures speak of it only as the result of mercy, not of power.
+ Rom. vii. 24; see the context here.
§ Jer. xvii. 9.
consisted, how it was made known, and how it was reduced to practice, under the first dispensation. This system, then, which has very properly been termed the covenant of grace, went first to the point of revealing the gracious and merciful character of God; and thence to assure man, as an infirm and sinful creature, that pardon should, under certain circumstances, be extended to his transgressions. The most common declarations of this kind are, that The Lord is gracious and merciful, and pardoneth iniquity, transgression, and sin.* In other cases it is said : “ I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”+ It will not be necessary to multiply examples ; these are sufficient to shew, that the requirements of the Moral Law, as well as merit on the part of man, are here perfectly out of the question; and that mercy is proposed solely on the ground of grace or favour in the Almighty. The first instance, however, which we have of this mercy revealed on the part of God, is that mentioned immediately after the fall, and at the time when it was first wanted : “ I will put enmity.... between thy seed and her seed. He shall bruise thy head; and thou shalt bruise his heel.”ł Here, I say, we have the mercy of God, interposed for the support and consolation of the first pair, at a time and under circumstances, which not only preclude every idea of merit to be urged on their part, but exhibit directly the contrary; nor could the Moral Law, which they had received, make any provision for this; the facts of the case sufficiently proving, that its infraction had now made a revelation of grace necessary. It will be idle and unnecessary to attempt to shew precisely, to what extent this promise was then understood ; it will be enough for us to affirm, that it must have been understood as containing a promise ; and that, given as it was, upon the forfeiture of the first privileges and the sentence of death, if understood at all,
• Exod. xxii. 27. xxxiii. 19. xxxiv. 6, &c.
Gen. iii. 15.
it must have been taken in the sense of providing, in some way or other, for the loss sustained, and that both its revelation and favours resulted purely from the grace of God.
That this promise must have been known to Noah, there can be no reasonable doubt; but, to what extent it was understood, we neither can nor need say. That he was a preacher of righteousness we are informed by St. Peter ; and, that he received a covenant from the Almighty, we are also informed in the book of Genesis.t Of what particular character the righteousness mentioned by St. Peter was, we have not the means of knowing ; but, it is most probable that the object it had in view was, the regulation of society ; and if so, it must, in order to its being authoritative, have been accompanied by the Divine sanctions, and, consequently, must have been revealed. Nor will the righteousness mentioned here admit of a lower interpretation. The covenant spoken of, however, is more specific; this could have been none but a covenant of grace, because its object was to assure the Patriarch and his family, that the world should be cut off in their sins no more by the waters of a deluge ; but that day and night, summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, should uninterruptedly continue to recur in their appointed seasons.
There is, however, another circumstance recorded in the life of Noah, which well deserves attention ; it is that of his offering sacrifices immediately after his egress from the ark, and on that occasion sacrificing none but clean animals; which seem to have been provided in pairs consisting of sevens, for that purpose. But for what end, it might be asked, could the distinction of clean and unclean be made at that day? Not for the purpose of eating the flesh, for this they had not yet been allowed to do; nor is the distinction particularly specified in our Bibles, earlier than the times of Moses. That it was made, however, we are certain ; and
* 2 Ep. ii. 5.
+ Chap. ix.
| Gen. vii. 2. viii. 20 --- 22.