"THE LAW WAS GIVEN BY MOSES; BUT GRACE
AND TRUTH CAME BY JESUS CHRIST."
TO suppose this text to mean that there was no divine law governing heaven and earth, previous to the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai at the hand of Moses, would be as unreasonable as to suppose that neither grace nor truth were known throughout the universe until our Lord's first advent.
On the contrary, we may say that, so surely as it is true that God himself had no beginning, so true it is that truth had no beginning and that law had no beginning; for God's righteous will has always been the law incumbent upon all his creatures. There was a beginning to falsehood, and Satan is credited with being "the father of lies;" but since God is the Father of truth, it had no beginning even as he was never untrue. So there was a beginning, to lawlessness or sin, and Satan is credited with being the first transgressor; but, since God's will or law is the standard of righteousness, it follows that it, like him, has been from eternity past and will extend to eternity future.
In the creation of angels God had given them such intelligence as could distinguish right from wrong. Their minds were so properly balanced that right always appeared as right, and wrong never could be mistaken for right. This capability of discernment, on the part of the creature, is said to be God's "image," which, when possessed, obviates the necessity of any written law. Adam, the first of the human race, was also created in God's likeness, and had this law of God written in the construction of his being, or, as it is sometimes said, written upon his heart.
The law given by Moses would have been entirely out of place in heaven, or in Eden before sin entered. With the law of God (briefly comprehended in one word, loveto God and all his creatures in fellowship with him) written in their very beings, how strange it would have seemed to the angels if God had set up in heaven the Mosaic law tables or copies of them. Of what service could such a statement of the law of God be to such beings, who already had a much higher conception of it? And such a presentation to Adam in Eden before his fall would have been similarly useless; and it was not done.
But why was the Law given by Moses? Why about 2500 years after the fall of Adam into sin and death? Why at Mt. Sinai? Why to the nation of Israel, and not to all nations or any other nation? Why was it written upon stones? Why that departure from the previous method of expressing it?
Father Adam, having violated the law of Godwritten in his beinghad passed under its sentencedeath. And this death-sentence had affected him mentally and morally, as well as physically: and thus began the effacement from his heart of that power of discerning or intuitively knowing right from wrong. The fallen conditions favored the cultivation of selfishness, and exalted selfishness to be the rule of life, instead of love, as in God's original creation.
The more selfishness came in and gained control, the more the law of love was erased from Adam's heart. And the fall continued naturally from parent to child as years rolled on, until, in Moses' day, it is safe to say that, with the majority of the race, the original law was almost gone. A general picture of the race aside from Israel is given by the Apostle with an account of just what led to such a dreadful condition.See Rom. 1:21-32.
God chose or elected to give the law on tables of stone to the descendants of his "friend," Abraham, according to a promise made to him, that he would specially use and bless his posterity. But, as though to insure men that the Hebrews were not naturally superior to other men, God permitted them to go for centuries into slavery to the Egyptians, then the greatest nation of earth.
From this we conclude that the Law given at Sinai was given because the original law, expressed in Adam's nature twenty-five centuries previous, had become almost extinct and unintelligible. It was given to a chosen people, at the hands of a specially chosen leader.
It could not have been re-written upon their hearts, because that would have implied the restoration of that nation to Edenic perfection; and that was impossible because the penalty under which that perfection was lost was death, and it still rested upon Israel and upon all men, and would continue until a ransom could be found, for Adam,and hence for all who lost life in him.
The best way to express the law of love to those who do not possess the spirit of love, or mental likeness of God, is as God indicated it in the ten commandments written in stone,Thou shalt, and Thou shalt not.
This brings us to the question, Why did God give the law on tables of stone? Why did he not wait until the due time to send his Son to be our ransom -price, and then, after he had redeemed or purchased all from the sentence of death, begin the work of "restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21)the re -writing of the original law in the human heart?
The Apostle answers this important question. He tells us that when God told Abraham that he would bless all nations through his seed, he referred not to all of his offspring, but to Christ [R1724 : page 340] Jesus, who, according to the flesh, would be born of Abraham's descendants; and that for Christ he would select a "bride" or companion, of many members, but all of one spirit with him,to be joined with him in the sufferings incidental to sympathy and obedience and, when complete, to be perfected with him in glory and to share with him the work of blessing all the families of earth. (Gal. 3:16,29; 1 Pet. 1:11; Rom. 8:17,18.) He tells us that the due time for Christ to come and redeem the world must be before the selection of his "bride;" because she must be redeemed before she could be called or chosen. But as a long interval lay between the promise to Abraham and the "due time" for God to send his Son to redeem men, God purposed a work with Abraham's natural children, which would fill the interim between then and the coming of Christ Jesus, the real "seed of Abraham" according to the divine intention.
This covenant which the Lord proposed with Israel, Abraham's natural children, would do them great good, even though they might thereby pass through some very severe experiences; it would not only keep them from sinking lower into degradation and losing the image of God as completely as some other nations; but in a few cases it might even make the original law more discernible. And not only so, but this Law given to Israel would be to some extent a standard before the world; and [R1724 : page 341] thus Abraham's natural seed might lift up a standard to the people and to a slight extent bless all nations, by calling a halt in the downward course and by reviving in all to some degree the dying influence of the original law of conscience.
Of this covenant the Apostle declares, The Law "was added [to the Abrahamic Covenant] because of transgressions [because sin was spreading and men were degrading very rapidly], till the [promised] Seed should come [until Christ came (not only Christ Jesus, the Head, but also the Church his body) to do the real work, the time for which had come] to whom the [Abrahamic Covenant] promise was made." "For the Law made nothing perfect:" and, moreover, "the Law which was [given] 430 years after [the Covenant made with Abraham] can not disannul [or in any manner change the terms and conditions of that covenant], that it should make the promise of none effect."Gal. 3:19,17; Heb. 7:19.
But this covenant which God made with Israel was something more than even they could realize. His dealings with them were typical of his dealings future from their day. Their Sin-offerings, for instance, typically took away their sins, and brought reconciliation to God for a year at a time to the nation; but, as the Apostle says, those sacrifices could not really cancel sin."The blood [death] of bulls and goats can never take away sin." It was man that had sinned, and man that had been sentenced to death, and the death of the animal could at most only typify the death of the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all. (Heb. 10:1-10; 1 Tim. 2:5,6.) And not only their sacrifices, but God's every dealing with that nation, seems to have a typical lesson, the reality of which reaches down either to the Gospel age or beyond into the Millennial age. From what we have shown foregoing respecting the divine law, which establishes the lines of right and wrong upon every question, and which, like its Author, is from everlasting to everlasting the same unalterable law, we trust that our readers see clearly that the giving of the Law at Sinai had a special, peculiar significance of its own, incidental to the people to whom it was given.
There was more done at Mt. Sinai than is generally supposed. Not only was a Law written upon tables of stone given there, but a Covenant based upon that Law was there entered into between God on the one part, represented by that Law, and Israel on the other part,Moses being the Mediator of the Law Covenant.
The Covenant was the important thing! God, who had recognized their father Abraham and made a covenant with him, for the fulfilment of which they had waited for centuries, had finally recognized them as Abraham's children, had brought them out of Egyptian bondage with wonderful evidences of his favor, and had now brought them in their journeys by a special leading to Mt. Sinai, and made a covenant with them.
It was with hearts leaping with the joy of great anticipation that Israel accepted the proposal to become God's covenant people. It does not seem to have occurred to them, however, that theirs was a different covenant from the one made with Abraham.
Great confusion of thought has resulted from a failure to notice the point just made,namely, that the transaction at Sinai was important, not because God began there to have a law over his creatures, for we have seen that God's empire never was without a law; but it was important because there God made a covenant with Israel according to the terms of which they were no longer to be treated as sinners, but to be accepted as God's servants, if faithful to the requirements of that covenant. And the Law written upon tables of stone represented that covenant, because every blessing under that covenant was made dependent upon absolute obedience to that Law.Exod. 19:7,8; 34:28.
Hence in speaking of their covenant it became customary to think and speak of the Law upon which everything depended. Thus throughout the New Testament, when speaking of that covenant, the Apostle often calls it "the Law," leaving the word "covenant" to be understood. Yet in every instance a glance at the language and the context shows unquestionably that the Law Covenant is meant and not merely the written law. For instance, the expression, "The Law [R1724 : page 342] made nothing perfect," could not refer to the law alone; for laws never make anything perfect: they merely show the perfect requirements. The Law on tables of stone showed Israel God's requirements, but it remained for the covenant to try to make the people perfect by promising blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience of the law. And this the Law Covenant failed to do: it made nothing perfect. It did serve to restrain sin and to show men some of their shortcomings, but it could not lift any out of the mire of sin and out of the horrible pit of death. It could not give life: it merely left Israel under sentence of death, as they were before it was given, but additionally bounden by it as a national contract. However, it was only a typical covenant and its mediator was only a type of the one mediator between God and men; and the blood of that covenant merely typified the blood of the New Covenant.
God's covenant with Abraham was not hampered with a law. It applied as soon as Abraham entered Canaan,"In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." The seed was promised and was sure, and so was the blessing. But not so the Law Covenant, made four centuries afterward with the fleshly seed of Abraham. The blessing which it promised was conditioned on obedience to a code of laws then given them. It said, "The man that doeth these things shall live by them."Rom. 10:5; Lev. 18:5.
Nor did it seem to occur to Israel that they might be unable to obey the Law, perfectly. They promptly accepted the terms of the covenant (Exod. 19:8; Deut. 27:11-26), little realizing that it was a covenant "unto death" (Rom. 7:10), and not unto life, because of their inability to perfectly obey its just requirements. Its promise of life was on terms easy enough for perfect men, but impossible for fallen men; but, having agreed to the terms, they were bound to them. Thus the Law Covenant "slew them," or took from them the very hope of life it had helped to enkindle. (Rom. 7:9-11.) Nevertheless, it served them well as a servant to bring them to Christ. When Christ came and magnified it and made it honorable,* it began to be manifest that none before him had ever fully appreciated or obeyed it; and, thus convinced of their own inability to secure eternal life by the terms of the Mt. Sinai Covenant, the proffered righteousness of Christ under a New Covenant of which Christ became the Mediator, and which New Covenant he sealed or made binding by his own blood [death], began to be seen by those of teachable mind as the only hope of life everlasting. So the Law Covenant made nothing perfect. (Heb. 7:19.) In the fullest sense, no one ever kept it but the perfect man, Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:23); for it is the full measure of a perfect man's ability.
The mind is cleared of much difficulty when it is discovered that statements that Christ had blotted out the Law, "nailing it to his cross" (Col. 2:14), and that "Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4), and similar passages, do not mean that the divine law of the universe, forbidding sin, ceased at the cross. That law has been over men and angels and all others of God's intelligent creatures since they came into existence, and it will never cease. All is plain when in every text the word covenant is supplied, as it was evidently understood by those addressed.
That the Ten Commandments were the basis of the covenant made with Israel at Sinai is clearly attested by Scripture. "And he [Moses] was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments." (Exod. 34:28.) "And he declared unto you his covenant which he commanded you to perform, even the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them upon two tables of stone."Deut. 4:13,14; 9:9,11,15.
It has escaped the attention of many, that while Israelites had many advantages every way under their Law Covenant (Rom. 3:1,2), yet each one who failed to meet all the requirements of that Law Covenant came under a curse, or sentence, not upon others. Thus it is written, "Cursed is every one [every Israelite] that continueth not in all the words of the Law [Covenant] [R1725 : page 343] to do them."Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26.
The Apostle shows that this curse was only upon those under that covenant, saying, "Whatsoever the Law [Covenant] saith, it saith to them that are under the Law [Covenant]." (Rom. 3:19.) Moses also declared the same. (See Deut. 5:2,3.) And, indeed, no other arrangement would have been just; for the blessings of that covenant and its promises of life were only to the one nation. (Rom. 9:4.) How, then, could its curse extend beyond the nation which enjoyed its favors and privileges?
The blessings of that Law Covenant were earthly, and such also were its curses: with one exception, noted below, neither related to the everlasting future. The future had already been settled for them and for all the race of Adam, in the death-sentence. Nothing short of the ransom -price,the corresponding price, which our Lord Jesus gave long afterward,could settle that original sentence and secure a complete release from the sentence of death. The sin-offerings of Israel's Day of Atonement were not of permanent value, but only for a year in advance, and were therefore repeated yearly. These blessings and curses of the Law Covenant were very particularly explained to Israel.Deut. 28:1-14,15-33-45-58-64-67.
This Covenant included every member of the nation of Israel, so that they shared in common the blessings or the curses. There was one provision, however, for an individual, namely, that the man who would fully obey all of the requirements of the Law should live,be guaranteed lasting life. However Israel may have imagined it possible for all or for many of the nation to thus gain life everlasting, we can see that God never had such expectations concerning them. He knew from the beginning, what he has taught us by experience, as well as by the inspired words of the Apostles, that, "By the deeds of the Law shall no flesh [i.e., none of the fallen race, needing justification] be justified in God's sight."Rom. 3:20.
"The man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5), who obeyed the Law absolutely, was the one in the divine purpose for whom the provision was made, that "He that doeth these things shall live." He consequently had a right to life everlasting, and therefore might have asked for, and might have had, more than twelve legions of angels to defend him from those who sought his life. But he laid down his life. But the one death, begun at Jordan and "finished" three and a half years after at Calvary, accomplished two things,one for Israel only, the other for the whole world.
Since the Children of Israel, as well as the other nations, were Adam's posterity, they, as well as others, shared his sentence of death, and were redeemed by our Lord's offering of himself a sin-offering and corresponding price for Adam and those who lost life in Adam. (Rom. 5:12,18.) But since Israel alone, and no other nation or family or people of earth, had been brought under the terms of the Law Covenant made with them at Mt. Sinai, therefore, only Israelites required to be "redeemed from the curse of the Law [Covenant]."Gal. 3:13.
That the "one man," Christ Jesus, could justly redeem our race is stated by the Apostle, and is clearly evident when we see that all men were sentenced in the one man Adam; but how could one man redeem the multitudinous nation of Israel from the curse of their Law Covenant?
We answer that there is a point in connection with Israel's covenant that few have noticed. It is that God dealt with only one man in connection with the making of that Law Covenant; and that man was Moses, who stood in the position of a father to the whole nation, the nation being regarded and treated as children under age. (Num. 11:11-15.) The Lord talked with Moses in the mount. The Lord gave the tables of the Law to Moses. And Moses spake to the people and gave them the Law and bound them by the terms of the Law Covenant.
"Moses alone shall come near the Lord."Exod. 24:2.
"As the Lord spake to Moses, so did the children of Israel."Num. 5:4.
"The people cried to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord."Num. 11:2.
"God sent Moses his servant."Psa. 105:26.
"They envied Moses also in the camp."Psa. 106:16.
God said "he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach."Psa. 106:23.
"Remember ye the Law of Moses my servant."Mal. 4:4.
"Moses hath in every city them that preach him."Acts 15:21.
"Did not Moses give you the Law?"Christ, Jno. 7:19.
"What did Moses command you?"Christ, Mark 10:3.
"One accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust."Christ, Jno. 5:45.
All Israel were "baptised unto [into] Moses, in the cloud and in the sea."1 Cor. 10:2.
"He that despised Moses' Law died without mercy."Heb. 10:28.
"The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."John 1:17.
So thoroughly was the one man Moses, the representative and typical father of the nation of Israel, that God could and did propose its destruction and the fulfilment of all his engagements with Moses' family instead. (Exod. 32:10,31,32.) It was thus, as God's representative on the one hand, and as Israel's representative on the other, that Moses could be and was the Mediator of the Law Covenant between God and that nation.
When the man Christ Jesus, by full obedience to the Law Covenant, became entitled to life everlasting under its provisions, he had the right to "Moses' seat," the right to supersede Moses as the Lawgiver and representative of that nation. Of him Moses bore witness, saying: "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you like unto me. Him shall ye hear in all things." By fulfilling the requirements of the Law Covenant and by his obedience even unto death, Christ became the heir of its promise of life, and the Mediator of the New Covenant, based upon that better and everlasting sacrifice for sins, which therefore needed not to be repeated yearly, and was effective, not for Israel only, but for all the families of earth;for "this man," "the man Christ Jesus, gave himself a ransom for all." Hence, this gospel of the New Covenant was for the Jew first and also for the Greek (or Gentile). Thus the one work finished at Calvary did a special work for Israel, and also a general work of redemption for the world, including Israel, which sealed the New Covenant and made it operative for all mankind.
Thus seen, the expression, "Christ is the end [fulfillment] of the Law [Covenant] for righteousness [justification] to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4), can apply only to Jews who by faith have accepted Christ and the New Covenant. It cannot apply to othersneither to those who never were Jews and who consequently were never under that Covenant, nor to those who still trust in Moses' Covenant and who are still vainly seeking life by obedience to its provisions, law, etc.
Israel as a nation is still bound by that covenant which they at first supposed would bring life, but which experience proved could bring them only death, because of the weakness of their flesh and their inability to fulfill its requirements expressed in its Law of Ten Commandments. There is only one door of escape from it; viz., Christ and the New Covenant which he mediated. God shut them up to this one and only hope (Gal. 3:23), and he promises that by and by, when the Gospel Church, the body of Christ, has been selected, he will open their blind eyes and cause them to see Christ in his true characteras their Redeemer from sin and their deliverer from death and their Covenant of death.Rom. 11:25-27-29.
Christ "came unto his own [people, the house of servants, under the bondage of the Law Covenant, offering the worthy ones favor and liberty under the New Covenant], and his own [people] received him not; but as many as received him, to them gave he liberty [privilege] to become the sons of God [under the New Covenantwith all the proper privileges or liberties of sons], even to them that believe on his name."John 1:11,12.
No wonder, then, that the Apostle so earnestly sought to guard the new Gentile converts from becoming Jews and seeking life under the Law Covenant; by which neither he nor his nation had been able to profit. No wonder he exhorted them to stand fast in the liberty of Christ and his gracious arrangements under the New Covenant.
It was in view of this danger of their losing faith in Christ's finished work and trusting for salvation to their own efforts to keep the Law [R1725 : page 345] Covenant by works, that Paul even prohibited the circumcision of Gentile converts, although he approved of it for Hebrews, to whom it was given as a symbol and rite long before the Law Covenant was made. Hence the remark that "the gospel to the circumcision" was specially supervised by Peter, while the gospel to the uncircumcised, the Gentiles, was specially Paul's mission. (Gal. 2:7,8,14-16.) It will [R1726 : page 345] be quite a help in the study of the Scriptures to observe that the Apostles often refer to themselves as having been under the Law Covenant and subsequently freed from its bondage, and to Gentile converts as not having passed through such an experience.See Gal. 2:17; 3:3,13,14; 5:5,6,8-10; Eph. 2:11-19.
The ransom was given FOR ALL mankind, but its benefits are applicable only to those who believe. Thus far the believers are only a few compared with the mass of mankind. These have escaped from all condemnation of all broken laws, while, of the remainder, the world in general still continues under the original condemnation, and Israelites who have not come to Christ and his New Covenant are still condemned by Moses' Law Covenant. "He that believeth is passed [reckonedly] from death unto life" (John 5:24), while "he that believeth not is condemned already." (John 3:18.) He was condemned six thousand years ago, and, if a Jew, he was additionally bounden by the Law Covenant, and has not escaped the condemnation that is on the world. (Rom. 5:16.) The only ones who have escaped this condemnation, so long upon all, are referred to by the Apostle Paul (Rom. 8:1): "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit."
These are the free ones: free from all laws and all penaltiesfree indeed. "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."John 8:36.
But can it be that God has released these entirely from both the Law given in Eden and that given at Sinai? Just so: being justified by the death of Christ, and released from their former condemnation, and having received his spirit, of love for God and obedience to God, so long as they are in Christ they are free: free to abide in him, by continued submission to his will, the essence of which is LOVE (to God and to man). All who come into Christ submit themselves to his will and voluntarily make it their law; and those who willingly violate this law thereby cease to "abide in him" and will be "cast forth" (John 15:6) as dead branches. Through him our best endeavors to do his will are acceptable, and we have thus passed out of condemnation to death into justification to life so long as we abide under the blood of the New Covenant. In no other way could any be accepted by God; for the law given in Eden was one that required absolutely perfect obedience, and that given at Sinai demanded the same. And since we know that God could not give an imperfect law (Jas. 3:11), and we could not fully obey a perfect one, we see the necessity for our being freed from all law and accepted in the merit of our belovedChrist.
Hence we conclude that those in Christ, whether they were Jews or Gentiles, are in no sense under the Law given at Sinai, graven upon stones, termed the "Ten Commandments,"neither to the ceremonial attachments relating to typical feasts, sacrifices and services.Heb. 9:1.
The sanctified IN CHRIST JESUS need no such commands. Love to God and men, laid down by our Lord and the apostles, is the only rule under which the new creature in Christ is placed; and it is the very essence of his new mindthe spirit or mind of Christ.
II. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor the likeness of any form that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them nor serve them; for I...am a jealous God, visiting [R1726 : page 346] the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments." For whom is such a law needful? Surely not to the saints, who love the Lord with all their heart, soul and strength, and who are laying down life itself in his service!
III. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." Again we remark, Surely none of the saints will have any desire to blaspheme or profane* their Father's name, but the reverse: they are laying down their lives to glorify his name.
V. "Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." This is distinctly an earthly promise of the land, while the promise to the saints is not long life here but hereafter. Those who sacrifice life, lands, etc., become, in Christ, heirs to the heavenly promises. Having the spirit of Christ, they also delight to honor their earthly parents, but especially to do the will of their Father in heaven.
VI. "Thou shalt do no murder." Do not the saints delight to bless others and to do good, even to those who despitefully use them and persecute them? If so, where would be the propriety in telling them that they must not murdermust not do the thing farthest from their desires? It would be a useless command to say the least.
VIII. "Thou shalt not steal." Do the saints desire to steal? Do they desire to defraud others? Is it not rather their spirit to "labor, working with their hands the thing which is good, that they may have, to give unto the needy?"
IX. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." How could one of the sanctified in Christ thus injure his neighbor? It would be entirely foreign to the spirit of Christthe spirit of truth, and would prove that the one who knowingly and willingly bore such false testimony had not the spirit of Christ and was none of his.Rom. 8:9.
X. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's." Covetousness is wholly foreign to the spirit of Christ; and to the extent that the spirit of Christ dwells richly in his members they will be free from covetousness. The spirit of sacrifice having in the saints taken the place of self-love, covetousness is forestalled.
The preface in Exod. 20:2 shows that these Ten Commandments were given only to Israel after the flesh: "I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." So, too, in repeating them again, Moses declares (Deut. 5:1-5): "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears THIS DAY, that ye may learn them and observe to do them. The Lord our God made not this covenant with our fathers, but with US, even us who are all of us here alive this day. The Lord spake with you face to facesaying," etc., etc.See also Ezek. 20:10-13; Neh. 9:12-14.
All these commands were proper and suitable enough for Israel. (Deut. 5:2,3,5-21.) They would have been suitable for any fallen man, but are surely inappropriate to any new creature in Christ, whose very nature, as a new creature, is to do right, yet who, because of the weakness of the flesh, cannot do perfectly though he desire and endeavor to do so. But though we can easily keep the outward letter of this Law, yet under our Lord's teachings we see that to keep it in full really means more than its surface indicates: that he who hates a "brother" has the murder spirit, and is a murderer; he that desires to commit adultery, lacking only the opportunity, is in heart an adulterer (Matt. 5:28); and he who loves and serves money and spends time and talent for it, more than in God's service, is an idolater. Our Redeemer's teaching regarding the obligations implied by the Law is"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, all thy mind, all thy soul and all thy strength, and thou shalt [R1726 : page 347] love thy neighbor as thyself." From this we see that even we who are in Christ, with all our holy desires and aims, could not keep perfectly the spirit of that Law, according to this our Master's interpretation of it; because our new mind is hindered by the weakness of the sin-degraded and marred earthen vesselthe flesh. We find it impossible to rid ourselves entirely of inherited selfishness, so as to be able to love our neighbor as ourselves, or even to love and serve God with all our hearts and talents, much as our new minds might choose and seek to obey this, the spirit of the Law. It is only because we are dealt with by God according to the conditions of the New Covenant of grace in Christ that the Apostle could say, our best heart-endeavors to fulfill this law of love are accepted as a perfect fulfilment; and all we lack is continually compensated for out of the fulness of Christ, which is imputed to us. "Ye are not under the Law, but under grace"favor. (Rom. 6:14.) You are not acceptable with God because there is no fault in you, but because favor covers your unwilling imperfections of thought, word and deed.
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six [R1727 : page 347] days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it."
This command merely enjoins idleness on the seventh day of each week. It does not say to cease from ordinary work and engage in religious work, as many of its advocates seem to suppose; but, on the contrary, it prohibits all kinds of work. Many who think themselves bound by this command neither rest on the seventh day nor on the first day of the week, which, without orders, they make an effort to keep instead of the seventh day, which the Law appointed for those under it. On the contrary, to very many the first day is as busy a day as any. The ruling under the Law was that any one who even picked up sticks or kindled a fire was a violator of this command, and must be put to death. (Num. 15:32-36.) How many of those who claim to keep this commandment do far more work in the way of cooking, etc.they, their sons, and their daughters, their men-servants and maid-servants? (See Exod. 35:3.) If that law is now in force and has by any means extended beyond the Israelites (on whom alone it was put), so as to cover Christians, then every Christian violates it repeatedly, and is deserving of death for each offense; for "they that violated Moses' Law died without mercy."Heb. 10:20.
But though our views on this subject differ widely from those of most Christian people, we are very glad that one day of each week is set apart for rest from business, without regard to which of the seven days is thus observed, or by what law or lawgiver it was originally appointed. We greatly enjoy the day, and think it not only a blessing to those who use it for worship and study, but also for those who use it merely as a day of rest and recreation from toil, to enjoy the beauties of nature, or to visit with their friends and families as they cannot do on other days. And we are specially pleased that the day set apart by the government under which we live is the First Day of the week, because of the same blessed memories and associations which gave that day a special sacredness to the Church in the days of the apostles.
But for two reasons we totally dissent from the idea of the Sabbath common to the majority of Christian people. First, Because if their claim that we are under the Law of which the Sabbath day observance was a part be true, the day they keep as a Sabbath is not the day mentioned in that command. They observe the first day of the week, while the command designated the seventh day. If the Fourth Commandment be binding at all, it, as well as the other commandments, is binding as stated, and cannot be changed; and Second, If bound to the Law, the keeping of the Sabbath in any other than the strict way in which its keeping was therein prescribed is inconsistent. If the command be binding upon us, the manner of its observance, in its every minutia, is no less binding [R1727 : page 348] If the strict significance of it has passed away, surely whatever destroyed its strict interpretation destroyed the command entirely. Therefore, if observed at all, it should be observed with all its former strictness, and it should be observed on the day then prescribed and observed. The only proper reason for the less strict observance of the day, or for the substitution of another day than the one originally designated, would be an order from God himself to that effect. Men have no right to alter or in anywise amend God's laws: no, not if an angel from heaven sanction the change.
But God did not change that Law. It stands exactly as it was given, and applies only to those to whom it was given. If, as it is claimed by some, it was altered in any degree, or made applicable to any other people than the people of Israel, the evidence should be no less clear and positive than that of its original giving at Mt. Sinai; but no such evidence of its change to another day, or to another people, or of any relaxation of its original severity, exists.
Neither did our Lord or the apostles ever authorize any such change; they declared that the Jewish Law (which included the command relative to the seventh day) was superseded by the new and more comprehensive law of the New Covenant thereafter in operation toward all who accepted Christ. The apostles used the seventh day as a time for preaching Christ, as they used every day in the week, and especially because on that day the Jews, their most hopeful hearers, met for worship and study. But the apostles nowhere recognized the seventh-day Sabbath as a day of rest, as the Jewish Law Covenant had enforced it. On the contrary, they taught (Rom. 14:5-8) that any and all days are acceptable for good works done in the service of God and for the benefit of fellow men.Matt. 12:10,12.
Some claim that the (first day) Christian Sabbath was introduced by an edict of one of the popes. But this is a mistake: it had its start in the fact that it was on the first day of the week that our Lord arose from the dead; and that upon that day and evening he met with his disciples, and expounded unto them the Scriptures, until their hearts burned within them. What wonder that, without any command to do so, they thereafter loved to meet together frequently on that day, to repeat the simple meal, the giving of thanks and the breaking of bread; recounting one to the other the gracious promises of God through the prophets, and the explanations of some of these which the Lord had given in person, and seeking yet fuller understanding of the same under the leading of the holy Spirit (Christ's representative), their guide into all truth as it became due.
For a time both days were observed by Christians, the seventh day from Jewish custom (and because it furnished the best opportunity for reaching devout Hebrews, the class most likely to be interested in the gospel) and the first day in commemoration of our Lord's resurrection. Ignatius, A.D. 75, in his writings mentions some approvingly as "no longer Sabbathizing, but living in observance of the Lord's-day, on which also our life sprang up again."
The earliest record found in Scripture of the use of the name "Lord's-day" for the first day of the week is in Rev. 1:10 (A.D. 96). And, says The Encyclopaedia Britannica (first-class authority), "by that name it is almost invariably referred to by all writers of the century immediately succeeding apostolic times....The first writer who mentions the name of Sunday is Justin Martyr: this designation of the first day of the week, which is of heathen origin, had come into general use in the Roman world shortly before Justin wrote. [Second century A.D.]...As long as the Jewish-Christian element continued to have any prominence or influence in the Church a tendency more or less strong to observe Sabbath as well as Sunday would of course prevail....The earliest recognition of the observance of Sunday as a legal duty is a Constitution of (the Emperor) Constantine, 321 A.D., enacting that all courts of justice, inhabitants of towns and workshops were to be at rest on Sunday, with an exception in favor of those engaged in agricultural labor."
It is, therefore, a misstatement to say that Pope Gregory or any other Pope first by decree instituted Sunday or the Lord's-day as taking the place of the Jewish seventh-day Sabbath. The Decretals of Gregory do enjoin Sunday-keeping, saying, "We decree that all [R1727 : page 349] Sundays be observed, from vespers to vespers, and that all unlawful work be abstained from, so that in them trading or legal proceedings be not carried on." But it will be noted that the Emperor Constantine's decree was in 321 A.D., while Gregory did not become a pope until 590 A.D. And Gregory refers to the fact that the work prohibited was already unlawful: hence his decree is merely confirmatory of the laws of Constantine and other civil rulers preceding him.
The Roman Catholic church does not now, and, so far as we know, never did insist upon a strict observance of Sunday. In Catholic countries to-day both priests and people attend service in the forenoon, and give up the afternoon to various forms of pleasurein beer gardens, parks, etc.
Many Christians do not realize the conditions which existed in the Church in the beginning of the Gospel age. The Jews as a nation had been typically justified by typical sacrifices, from the Adamic curse, or condemnation, and put under the Law given at Sinai, as a covenant under which, if obedient, they were to have life. But the Law proved valueless to them so far as giving them the hoped-for life was concerned, though it taught them some good lessons. All the other nations, known as Gentiles (heathens), were still under the original condemnation of Eden. Consequently, when our Lord came, both Jews and Gentiles were under condemnation to death,the Jew by the Law from which he had expected so much, but with which he was unable to comply, because of the flesh; and the Gentile by the original sentence upon father Adam, from which he had in no sense escaped, not even typically as the Jew had. But the Redeemer whom God provided was sufficient for both; for in the one sacrifice of himself he accomplished the redemption of both, and reconciled both unto God in one body by the cross.Eph. 2:16.
The Jewish converts (and they composed the majority of the early Church) could scarcely realize the greatness of the change from the Law Covenant to the New Covenant in Christ, and were continually adding Christ's teachings and his law of love to their Mosaic Law, thus adding to their already heavy burden, instead of accepting the sacrificial death of Christ as the atonement for their sins under the Law, and as the end of the condemnation of that Law Covenant. (Rom. 10:4; 3:20,28.) It is not surprising when we remember their early prejudices [R1728 : page 349] in favor of the Law, that the spirit of truth was able to guide them but slowly into the full truth on the subject. Even the Apostles were slow to learn, and we find Peter so slow to follow the lead of the spirit, that he had to be taught by a special vision that Gentiles needed no longer to become Jews and to conform to the Law of Moses before they could share divine favor, but that they had access to God through Christ and the "New Covenant in [instituted by reason of] his blood" (Luke 22:20), regardless of the Law Covenant.
Some complained to the other apostles and brethren about Paul's recognition of Gentiles, and this brought the question before them all, and led to an investigation of God's dealings in the matter. "When they heard these things they held their peace and glorified God, saying: Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."Acts 11:18.
Paul, most easily led of the spirit, got clear views on the subjects earliest, and had to oppose others among the apostles less strong and less spiritually clear-sighted. (Gal. 2:11.) Jerusalem was long considered the center of the Christian religion, the largest number and oldest believers and apostles living there; and as Paul's views of the changed condition of things became clearer and clearer, and he did not hesitate to preach boldly what he saw to be dispensational truth, some prejudiced ones desired to know whether the brethren at Jerusalem would concur in the advanced views; and Paul and Barnabas and others went up to Jerusalem to lay the matter before them and to bring back a report. A great debate and examination of the question on all sides followed. Peter and James, finally agreeing with Paul, influenced the entire council. Peter reminded them of God's wonderful dealing with Cornelius, [R1728 : page 350] who was justified and made acceptable to God through faith in Christ, and not through keeping the Law, and urged, "Now, therefore, why tempt ye God, to put a yoke [Moses' Law] upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" James said, "My sentence is that we trouble not them which from among the Gentiles are turned to God." Then the council so decided, and sent a written message to the confused Gentile believers, saying:
"We have heard that certain ones who went out from us [here] have troubled you with words subverting your souls [destroying your faith], saying, 'Be circumcised and keep the Law'to whom we gave no such commandment. ...It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication." (Acts 15:9-29.) And even these suggestions were given as advice, and not as so much of the Mosaic Law, with penalties attached.
The Apostle Paul's epistle to the Galatians (who had been Gentiles) was written expressly to counteract the influence of the Judaizing teachers who mingled with the believers of Galatia and endeavored to subvert the true faith in Christ by pointing them away from the cross of Christ, to a hope of acceptance with God by keeping the Law of Moses in connection with faith in Christ: thus making the New Covenant merely an addition to the Law Covenant and not instead of it. This he calls "another gospel," yet really not another, for there can be but one; hence it was a perversion of the real gospel. (Gal. 1:7-9.) And here Paul indicates that he knew that the apostles at Jerusalem had at first only a mixed gospel, and that he went up to see them on the occasion mentioned in Acts 15:4, by revelation, to communicate to them that fuller, purer, unmixed gospel, which he already had been able to receive, and which he had been teaching; and, he says, he communicated it to them privately, lest their reputation should hinder them from receiving the truthand even then some false brethren, spies, sought to compel Titus (a Greek) to be circumcised. Gal. 2:2-5.
It is further along in this same epistle that Paul tells of Peter's vacillation on the question of the Law (chap. 2:11-16) and his words of reproof to PeterWe who are Jews by nature, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but on account of faith in Christ, even we have believed in Christ that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by obedience to the Law. Why, then, should we attempt to fetter others, or longer bind ourselves, by that which has served its purpose, in bringing us to Christ and the New Covenant?
O foolish Galatians! who has deluded you? As many as are trusting to obedience to the Law are under its condemnation or curse. "Christ hath redeemed us [Israelites] from the curse of the Law, that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, and that we [Israelites] might receive the promise of the spirit through faith." And surely God's Covenant with Abraham, made four hundred and thirty years before the Law was given, cannot be annulled by that Law.Gal. 3:1,10,13,17.
Next, the Apostle answers a supposed inquiry as to what was the object of the Law, and why it was given, if not necessary to the attainment of the Abrahamic promises. He says the Law was added because of sin, to manifest sin in its true lightthat sin might be seen to be a great and deep-seated malady. The law was a pedagogue or servant, to bring to Christ all Israelites who desired to learn the true way of life.Gal. 3:24; Matt. 11:28-30.
As children are under nursery laws and subject to teachers until an appointed time, so were we (Israelites) under the Law, and treated as servants rather than as sons. We were kept under restraints, though we were the heirs through whom, according to the promise, others were to be blessed. But in the fulness of time God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law that we (Israelites), being liberated, might receive the adoption of sons. And so also, [R1728 : page 351] "because ye [who were not under the Law, but were Gentiles or heathens] are [also now] sons, [therefore] God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts." We were sons under tutelage, and you were aliens, foreigners and strangers, but now you and we, who are accepted of God in Christ, are fully received into sonship and heirship, and neither of us is subject to the Law.Gal. 4:1-7.
Tell me, you that desire to be under the Law Covenant, Do you not understand what it is? It is a bondage, as allegorically shown in Abraham's two sons. Abraham, here, is a figure of God; and Sarah, the real wife, is a figure of the real covenant of blessing, out of which the Christ should come as heir of all, to bless the world. For a long time Sarah was barren; so, too, for a long time the original Covenant of God (made with Abraham: In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed) brought forth no fruituntil Christ Jesus. Hagar, the servant of Sarah, in the meantime was treated as Sarah's representative, and her son as the representative of Sarah's son. Hagar represented the Law Covenant, and fleshly Israel was represented by her child, Ishmael. For the time they represented the true Covenant and the true seed of blessing, though they were always really servantschild, as well as mother. When the true son of the real wife, the heir, was born, it was manifest that the son of the bondwoman was not the heir of promise. And to show typically that the Law Covenant was not to have any rule over the spiritual sons of God, Hagar was not allowed to become the governess of Isaac, but in his interest was dismissed entirely.Gal. 4:21-31; Gen. 21:10.
The Apostle's argument, based on this allegory, is, that we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the seed to whom the promise was made; we are not children of the bondwoman, the Law Covenant, but children of the original, Abrahamic Covenant, born free from the slavery and conditions of the Law Covenant. And not only so born, but the Law is entirely put away from us, and has nothing whatever to do with us. "Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage"the Law Covenant. "If ye be led of the spirit, ye are not under the Law [Covenant]."Gal. 5:1,18.
But Paul asks"Shall we continue in sin [wilfully], because we are not under the Law [Covenant]?" (Rom. 6:15.) Shall we take advantage of our liberty to break away into more sinbecause we are sons and heirs, and no longer commanded as servants.Thou shalt, and thou shalt not? No, no; as sons, begotten of the spirit, partakers of the spirit of holiness, the spirit of the truth, we delight to do our Father's will; and the law of obedience to his will is deeply engraven upon our hearts. (Heb. 8:10; 10:15,16.) We gladly sacrifice our all, even our lives, in opposing sin and error, and in forwarding righteousness and truth; hence we answer emphatically, "God forbid." We will not take advantage of our liberty from the Jewish Law Covenant, to commit sin. But if any man should think to do so, let him remember that only those led by the spirit of God are the sons of God.Rom. 8:14.
We are not under the Law Covenant, but under divine favor expressed in the New Covenant, sealed by Christ's blood (Rom. 6:14); and not only so, but being justified and reconciled to God under the New Covenant, we have gone further and accepted the "high calling," the "heavenly calling," and consecrated our justified lives"even unto death,"and been accepted as members of the body of Christ and are thus heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant. (Gal. 3:29.) Hence, so far from desiring to use our liberty to indulge in sin, we, having God's spirit, detest sin and love righteousness and delight ourselves in the "law of Christ"love. Christ's word is our lawnot a law of bondage, but of liberty. Whoso looketh into the perfect [R1729 : page 351] law of liberty and continueth therein [free], being not a forgetful hearer, but one who exercises his liberty, this man shall be truly blessed thereby. Such fulfil the royal law of the New Covenant, the law of love.Jas. 1:25.
If we have proved that the Ten Commandments were given to Israel, and to Israel only, and that as the basis of a Covenant made only [R1729 : page 352] with that nation,and if we have shown that the other nations of the world have been left by God without any law except such traces as yet remain of the original law, written in the nature of the first perfect man, who was created in God's image,and that to the Church of the New Covenant our Lord gave the Law of Love as the basis of that New Covenant, then we have proved that the Ten Commandments should not be recognized by the Gospel Church, the Church of the New Covenant, except as they are in harmony with the Law of the New CovenantLove.
The Mediator of the New Covenant has a standard for all who accept him, as Moses, the Mediator of the Law Covenant, had ten commands for a standard. The Law of God is the standard of the New Covenant. It is the same law that was expressed in the ten commandments, but a more refined and more comprehensive statement of that law, designed for a more advanced class. The people put under the Law Covenant and baptised unto Moses were a household of servants, while the people of the New Covenant are a household of God's sons. Thus we read, "Moses verily was faithful as a servant over all his house [of servants], but Christ [was faithful] as a son over his own house [of sons], whose house are we, if...."Heb. 3:6.
The expression of the divine law given at Sinai was exactly suited to the house of servants to whom it was given: it was a series of instructions,Thou shalt, and Thou shalt not. The expression of the law of the New Covenant is very different, and implies much more liberty. It simply tells those who are God's sons, and who therefore are begotten of his spirit, You may do or say anything in harmony with love. Pure love for God will lead not only to obedience to his will, but to the study of his will, in his Word. Pure love governing our conduct toward our fellow-men and the lower animals will seldom work to their injury. It will come more and more under the guidance of the Lord's Word, and thus we will be perfected in love. But from the first it is a safe law: it is a "law of liberty," in that it requires us merely to act out, according to our own judgments, that which we voluntarily consecrate ourselves to do, our own wishes as new creatures.
Since this New Covenant is made only with those whose desires are changed, who no longer love sin but are seeking escape from it as well as from its penalty, who now love God and his righteousness,it would be manifestly improper to give these "sons of God" the statement of God's Law or will in the same form that it was expressed to the house of "servants." The sons are granted a law of liberty, the servants a law of bondage. The servants were told what they might and might not do; because they were servants, not sons, not begotten of the Father's spirit; hence they needed positive commands, restraints and penalties. This is forcibly expressed by the Apostle in his exposition of this very subject in Galatians 3.
How strange you would think it if we were to say, We feel it our duty to tell the readers of this journal who are saints, that they should not make or worship images, that they should not blaspheme God's name, that they should not steal from their neighbors, that they should not murder their neighbors, nor slander them, nor bear false witness against them. The intelligent and consecrated reader would feel offended, and that justly. He would say, The Editor has a very low opinion of his readers, or he would not so address them.
Just so it would be strange indeed if God or Christ had given the Ten Commandments to the Gospel Church as the basis of the New Covenant. And the truly consecrated and spirit-of-love-begotten ones, would have been justified in questioning the wisdom and love of putting them under an expression of the divine law so far below their nature and wish and covenant as to be almost an insult.
But the law of love, while it is a law of liberty and an "easy yoke" to such as have the Lord's spirit, is nevertheless a most searching lawdiscerning, scrutinizing, judging the very thoughts and intents of our heartsas well as our actions and words. In that one word, Love, is expressed the very essence of the divine law. Love to God implies full obedience, full recognition of divine characterwisdom, love, justice and power: full harmony with and service of God, and the exercise of those qualities of character in all our thoughts, words and deeds.
This law of love to God and our fellowmen, which we delight to obey to the extent of our ability, not of compulsion, but of a willing mind as partakers of the spirit of Christ, is the only law with which we have to do. While it entirely ignores the Mosaic Law, its "thou shalt," and "thou shalt not," it really accomplishes far more than the Mosaic Law; for, with his heart ruled by love for God and man, who would desire to dishonor God or to injure his fellowman?
But as of the Mosaic Law it was true that its utterances were only to those under itIsraelitesfor "whatsoever the Law saith it saith to them who are under the law" (Rom. 3:19), so it is true of the Law of Love, the law of the New Covenant: it speaks only to those who are under it, and these are only the consecrated believers in Christ. It is a law of liberty, in that all who are under it are under it from choice. They came under it voluntarily, and may leave it when they please. In this it differs greatly from the Law put upon fleshly Israel as a nation, in which they had no individual liberty or choice, being born under bondage to that Law Covenant. Our Law is the Royal Law; because the "little flock" developed under this law of liberty and love is the royal familythe divine family, selected under their Lord and Head to be heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ, partakers of the divine nature.
Those now being selected as members for the body of Christ, are only such as delight to do God's will, sons of God and "brethren of Christ," having this likeness to Christ. And at the close of the Millennial age, when the rod of iron shall have broken the proud hearts, and shall have caused the stiff knees to bend in obedience, and when the obstinate are cut off as incorrigible, wilful sinners, then the law of love and liberty will again be virtually in force over all God's creatures. All who shall be permitted to enter upon that grand age of perfection following the Millennial reign of Christ will first have been tested, and will have given abundant proof that they delight to do God's will and that his righteous law is continually their hearts' desire.
In his letter to the Romans (chapter 7), the Apostle reasons to Jewish converts to Christianity; "For," he says, "I speak to them that know the Law."
He then represents the Law Covenant as a husband, and Israelites bound by it as a wife to a husband. He shows that as it would be a sin for the woman to unite with another man while her husband lives, so it would be wrong for Israel to leave Moses and his Covenant of the Law, and to unite with Christ and his New Covenant of grace, unless released by death;either the death of the Law Covenant or their death to the Law Covenant.
It is a common mistake to suppose the Scriptures to teach that the Law Covenant died, or was destroyed by our Lord. It still lives; and all the children of Jacob are still bound by it, unless they have died to it. Only those who realize that they could not gain everlasting life through their union with Moses (the Law Covenant) are ready to abandon all hope of saving their life by that union with Moses, to become dead to all such expectations, and to accept the death of Christ, the ransom for Adam and all his race, as the basis of a new hope of a new life. Hence, only such Israelites as by faith reckoned themselves hopelessly dead under the Law Covenant, and as risen with Christ to a new life secured by his sacrifice, and who in will are dead to sin,only such could be united to Christ as the new husband, under his New Covenant. Thus, according to the Apostle's reasoning, the thought of blending the two covenants, and being united to both Moses and Christ, was wholly out of the question.Compare Rom. 6:2.
The text, "Christ is the end [or fulfilment] of the Law [Covenant] for righteousness to everyone [under it] that believeth" (Rom. 10:4), does not conflict with the above, because only believers are specified. (Compare Rom. 3:31; Gal. 2:19.) Eph. 2:15 should be read: "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity of the law of commandments contained in ordinances," [R1729 : page 354] etc. Col. 2:13,14 refers to "quickened" Jewish believers for whom the handwriting of ordinances is blotted out. Verse 20 refers to the Gentile converts who had to become dead to the "rudiments of the world," before entering the New Covenant, even as the Jews must become dead to the rudiments of their Law Covenant.
That the Law Covenant with Israel is still binding upon that nation is further evident from the fact that upon their national rejection of Christ, they were nationally blinded until the end of the Gospel age (Rom. 11:7,25), and that God declares that he has "not cast away his people" of that Covenant, but that under that Covenant he will yet open their eyes to see Christ as the only door of hope, and that of a new life purchased with his own. (Rom. 11:2,27,29; compare Deut. 30:1-9.) [R1730 : page 354] Meanwhile, we have the evidence that their Covenant continues in force in the fact that, as a nation, they have for centuries been receiving the very "curses" specified under their Covenant.See Deut. 28:15-67. Verses 49-53 describe the Roman siege, etc.; verses 64-67 describe the condition of Israel since. (Isa. 59:21.) As heretofore shown*, the Lord in Leviticus (26:18-34-45) declared the symbolical "seven times," 2520 years, of Israel's subjection to the Gentiles; and their deliveranceA.D. 1914. Thus their present experience was foretold as a part of their covenant.
Rom. 7:6 is not out of harmony with this explanation (that the Israelite who would unite with Christ must die to his nation's Covenant, and that the Law Covenant is not yet dead); for, properly rendered,+ it reads, "But now we are delivered from the Law [Covenant], being dead to that wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit [with our minds, our wills]," and not [be required to serve] the very letter of the old, Law Covenant, which has passed away.
Because, previous to receiving the Law, Israelites were like the remainder of the worlddead in trespasses and sins; and, being already under sentence of death, we were like the remainder, unrecognized of God, and without any special commands; and hence we could not disobey or increase our sin by disobedience, until the Law Covenant began to command us.
But, notwithstanding that death sentence under which we and all the world rested, we Israelites were "alive" before the Law Covenant came, because God had promised our father Abraham that somehow and at some time he would bless his seed, and through it all the families of earth. Thus, in God's promise to Abraham, a future life was assured to us all, before the Mosaic Covenant was made; but just as soon as that Law Covenant went into force, and required that we must obey its every command, in order to secure life, that soon we found that we could not absolutely control our poor, fallen bodies, however much we willed to do so with our minds. And, as sin developed, we diedour hopes of life expired, because we could not keep that Law Covenant. I speak for, or as representing, our whole nation. Thus we found that the Law Covenant, promising life to the obedient, really sentenced us to death, because we could not obey its requirements.
Thus we acknowledge that the Law and the Covenant were good in themselves, but not helpful to us, because we were fallen beings. But God intended that it should show us how imperfect we really are. (Verse 13.) For the Law is adapted to all who are in full harmony with God's spiritperfect beingsand this we Israelites were not; we were and are by nature carnal, depraved, even as others. And if our hearts be right, we can and will admit that we are unable to obey God's perfect law and that perfection is not to be found in our fallen flesh, even though in our mind we approve God's law and would gladly obey it.
This is the wretched condition in which we find ourselves (verse 24), wanting to obey God's Law, and to have his favor and the everlasting life promised to them that love and obey him, and yet unable to do so because of [R1730 : page 355] our dead bodiesfallen and sentenced through Adam's transgression. Oh! How can we get release from this, our difficulty? We cannot obey God's law, and God cannot give us an imperfect Law to suit our fallen condition. Oh, wretched hopeless condition!
But no, brethren, there is hope in Christ! Not a hope of our fulfilling the Law Covenantno hope of doing those things commanded, and living as a result; nor any hope of saving anything out of the wreck of Adam's fall and sentence. That must all be abandoned. We Israelites must die under the Law Covenant, as unsaved by it as we were before it was made, as unsaved as the Gentiles who never had a share in it. But as we realize ourselves dead under the terms of the Law Covenant, we see that Christ has died for Adam's sin, paid his penalty and thus redeemed him and alllost through his disobedienceJew and Gentile, bond and free, male and female. And this relieves us Jews, because Christ was a Jew, "born under the Law" Covenant, that he might redeem those who were under it. (Gal. 4:4,5.) In consequence, therefore, God can be just and accept all who serve his law in their minds and wills, and whose only hindrance from perfect obedience is the weakness of the fallen flesh.
Thanks be unto God for this unspeakable gift; a new life, purchased by the precious blood. This we can obtain under the terms of the New Covenant, even though we could never justify the Adamic life by obedience to any law that God could give.
We do not cite these as of authority on the question, for the words of our Lord and the apostles are the only authorities we recognize; yet it is worthy of note that as the eyes of the early reformers, Luther, Calvin and others, opened to the truths of this Gospel dispensation due in their day, they saw at once that the Law Covenant was not given to the Gospel Church. They saw what every casual reader should observe, that the Apostle Paul contrasts the righteousness or justification which comes by faith in the real sacrifice, Christ, with that which was reckoned to Israel by reason of the blood of bulls and goats (Heb. 10:1-10), and which needed to be renewed yearly. The leaders in the Reformation all recognized the difference between Moses the prophet and Moses the law-giver, maintaining that as law-giver his authority extended only to Israel. They therefore denied that the Ten Commandments were laws for Christians, though they recognized them as valuable indications or interpretations of principles, to all time and to all people.
Said Luther: "The Ten Commandments do not apply to us, Gentiles and Christians, but only to the Jews. If a preacher wishes to force you back to Moses, ask him if you were brought by Moses out of Egypt."
Calvin was no less explicit. He declared that "the Sabbath is abrogated," and denied "that the moral part of it, that is, the observance of one day in seven, still remains;" while he added, "It is still customary among us to assemble on stated days for hearing the Word, breaking the mystic bread and for public prayers; and also to allow servants and laborers a remission from their labor."
"If ye love me, keep my Commandments."John 14:15.
When the young man came to our Lord, saying, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" our Lord replied, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments," and then enumerated the ten commandments of the Law. Our Lord could not and did not ignore the Law Covenant, neither in his own conduct nor in his teaching; but, on the contrary, he testified that not one jot or tittle of the Law could fail or be ignored until all be accomplished, and therefore any one violating or teaching others to violate one of the least of them, would (if he got into the Kingdom at all, Matt. 5:20) be of a lower grade; and whoever would practice and teach those commandments would be great in the Kingdom. Our Lord himself was the only being under that Law Covenant who ever kept or taught it perfectly and He [R1730 : page 356] is the greatest in the Kingdom: he inherited all of its blessings and promises.Matt. 5:19.
Our Lord knew that neither the young man who inquired, nor any of the fallen race, could keep those commandments. He therefore said, If thou desirest life, do this,and then, in view of his soon fulfilment of the Law Covenant, and the subsequent divine acceptance of truly consecrated ones under the New Covenant, at Pentecost, he added: "Come, follow me." Had the young man obeyed, he would have been one of those accepted of the Father at Pentecost, an heir of life under the New Covenant and its law of love and liberty.
But while our Master was obeying and fulfilling the commandments of the Jewish Law Covenant, he was giving "a New Commandment," not to the world, but to his followers, the letter, substance and spirit of which was LOVE. In various ways he illustrated and amplified this, his one command, which thus was made to summarize all his commandmentsin honor to give each other preference, to forgive one another until seventy times seven times, to follow his example in sacrificing their lives for each other's and the truth's sakes, to love even their enemies and feed them if hungry, to pray for even those who persecuted them. To obey all these commands was the requirement of the new command, Love, which was the substance also of all the commandments given to Israel.
"Blessed are they that do his commandments."Rev. 22:14.
"And hereby we do know that we have known him: if we keep his commandments."1 John 2:3.
"Whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. [The Jewish Law cannot here be referred to, because, [R1731 : page 356] "By the deeds of the Law [Covenant] shall no flesh be justified in his sight." And so we read in the next verse following, that the commands which we keep are not those given at Sinai, but "This is his Commandment [to us, under the New Covenant], that we should believe on the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him; and hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us."
These commandments, under which we are placed, are not grievous and impossible to obey as were those of the Jewish Law Covenant to those under it; for Christ's yoke is easy, and his burden is light, to all who have his Spirit; and "if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
The fact, however, that we are not under the Jewish Law Covenant, and not dependent on it for life, but are hoping for life as a favor, or gift from God (through him who fulfilled the Law Covenant and canceled all claims against all who come into him, both Jews and Gentiles), does not hinder God's free children, justified through faith in Christ's redemption, and not by the Law, from using the Jewish Law and every other expression, fact, figure and type, at their command, whether from nature or Scripture, in determining what would be acceptable and pleasing to their Heavenly Father. Thus, for instance, Paul, who repudiated over and over again the dominion of the Law Covenant over any in Christ, quotes one of the Commandments as an evidence to Christian parents of what God's will is with reference to their government of their children. (Eph. 6:1-4.) But mark that he does not in any wise present it to them as a command. It never was a command to parents, but to children. The Apostle's admonition is to parents concerning their conduct towards their children. Nor does the Apostle intimate justification as a reward; for he writes to those children who are already justified, not by deeds of obedience to the Law Covenant, but by faith in their Redeemer,"Children obey your parents in the Lord."
(1). The Sabbath-day was observed before the Law was given at Sinai.Exod. 16:23-30.
Answer. Yes; but the Law Covenant was really in force from the time Israel left Egypt. The Passover was a prominent feature of the Law, and it was instituted the night before their exodus began. Moses had already been appointed of God, and, as we have seen, God's dealings were only with him, as the typical father or representative of that nation. In accepting and obeying Moses, Israel had already made the covenant to obey the laws he would give. The demonstration at Sinai was a formal ratification and acknowledgment of their covenant.
The Sabbath-day was instituted about two weeks before the formal giving of the Law on tables of stone at Sinai; viz., at the giving of the manna in the wildernessa most favorable opportunity for giving them an object lesson in the double supply of manna on the sixth day, and none on the seventh. (Exod. 16:22-30.) It was inaugurated as a memorial of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, in which they had no rest from their task-masters. This is clearly stated in Deut. 5:15"Remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm; therefore, the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day." The Law Covenant is continually referred to as dating from that time"When I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt."Heb. 8:9; Jer. 31:32; Ezek. 20:5,6,12,20.
Answer. This is a mistake. The account does say that God rested upon the seventh creative day, but not one word is said about the seventh day having been commanded or ordained, until it was given to Israel. On the contrary, there is no mention made of the Sabbath during the entire period of two thousand years preceding Israel's exodus from Egypt, and then we are told, as above quoted, that it was ordained for that nation and as a memorial of their deliverance.
From the entire account it is evident that it was something new to the Israelites. Its explanation to them (Exod. 16:20-30), as well as Moses' uncertainty in the case of the first transgression of this law (Num. 15:32-36), proves that it was new, that it had not been previously known among them or their fathers.
We should remember, too, that the account in Genesis was written by Moses, and that he very appropriately called attention to the fact that the seventh-day Sabbath commanded in his law was not without a precedent.
But while God's resting on the seventh day of his week was properly noticed as a precedent for Israel's observance of a seventh-day Sabbath, it does not at all follow that God's rest-day was a twenty-four hour day; nor that God rested in the same manner that the Israelites were commanded to rest.
The Apostle (Heb. 4:3,4,9-11) explains that Israel did not enter into the real rest or Sabbath,although they zealously observed the seventh day. He says that the reason was, that they did not exercise the faith by which alone the real rest can be enjoyed. "We that believe do enter into rest [and thus have a perpetual Sabbath]." "For he that is entered into his rest [the rest of heart, in faith, given by Christ], he also hath ceased from his own works [from attempting self-justifying works], as God did from his [worksi.e., as God left the work of redemption and recovery for Christ to do, so we also accept Christ's finished work, and rest in faith therein, with all the obedience possible]." Those who trust in the Law Covenant or who blend its requirements with those of the New Covenant cannot fully enjoy this rest, which is for the New Covenant keepers only.
God's rest day, instead of being a twenty-four-hour day, is a day seven thousand years long. It began as soon as sin brought God's curse upon Adam. Instead of undertaking Adam's recovery out of sin and death, God rested from any further works on behalf of man and earth, and let things take their natural course, purposing in himself that Christ should have full charge of man's redemption and restitution. God gave promises and types and shadows in the Law, but he did not work toward [R1731 : page 358] man's recovery. The first work for man's recovery was the ransom paid by our Lord Jesus for Adam and his race.
The Heavenly Father has therefore already rested six thousand years; and he will similarly rest during the Millennium of Christ's reign,until its very close, when Christ shall deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father.*
*Thus we find the key to the period of creation; for if the seventh day be a period of seven thousand years, as we think we have proved, then each of the preceding days were doubtless of similar length. This period agrees well with the results of scientific research, and gives ample time for the gradual development of vegetable and animal life up to the time of man's creation; and at some other time we purpose showing the full agreement of the account of creation given in Genesis with the record of the rocks,Geology.
Thus considered, the period from the beginning of the ordering of creation on the Earth down to the surrender of it perfect to the Father, at the close of the Millennium, is a period of seven times seven thousand years, or a total of forty-nine thousand years; and the grand epoch then to begin will be the fiftieth thousand, or a great Jubilee, on a grand scale,not the Jubilee of Israel, nor the Jubilee of general restitution, but the Jubilee of Earth.
Answer. We have already shown that God had a law before the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses and Israel; that it was graven in man's nature in Adam; and that it was a perfect expression of the mind of God on all questions of obligation to God and to man,much more so than that written upon the tables of stone. Hence, the moral precepts of the Decalogue, a secondary statement of the divine law, are not to be ranked as the only moral standard, nor the superior one, when we know that a new standard was chosen for the New Covenant and remember that the original standard is promised for the future.Jer. 31:31.
The fourth of the Ten Commandments is not at first seen to have any parallel in the law of Love, the law or standard of the New Covenant. It enjoins a rest every seventh day. However, its parallel in the law of the New Covenant is brought to our attention by the Apostle's words in Hebrews 4:1-11. The word Sabbath signifies rest; and the Apostle here teaches that our rest by faith in Christ, our realization that we are "accepted in the Beloved," is the refreshing antitype of the literal rest-day commanded to Israel under their Law Covenant. Seven is the symbol for completeness, and hence the seventh day foreshadowed the more desirable and complete rest of the true Israel of God. And only those who thus rest by faith in Christ can continue under the blessed provisions of the New Covenant; for it is specially a covenant based upon faith, and "without faith it is impossible to please God;" and the true faith cannot be exercised without rest of heart, the true Sabbath-keeping.
The poor Jew never could experience such a rest, but on the contrary had such experiences as the Apostle describes when personating them, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver [R1732 : page 358] me?" The nearest approach to the real rest of heart was the typical one given them in the Fourth Commandment of their Law Covenant.
Answer. There is no Scriptural authority for such a division. On the contrary, there was but one law,its ceremonial features providing typically for the cleansing away of sins resulting from the violation of its moral precepts. If it could be seen as the Covenant mediated by Moses, it would be evident that all of its parts must stand or fall together. But after comparing Exod. 34:28; Deut. 4:13,14; and Heb. 8:6-8, there should be no question on the part of any one that the Ten Commandments were a part of the Covenant which was supplanted by the New Covenant sealed with the blood [death] of Christ, its mediator.
When the Apostles wrote to the new Gentile converts respecting the Lawdetermined not to put upon them the yoke of the Law which they as Jews had been unable to keepand contradicting certain teachers who had said that they "must be circumcised and keep the Law," James remarked incidentally that the law of Moses to which they referred was that "read in the synagogue every Sabbath day."Acts 15:9-11,24,28,29,19-21.
(5). We Seventh-day keepers claim that God's commands are, that we labor six days and rest on the seventh; and many of us have gone to prison because of our conviction that it is our duty to labor on the first day and on all days except the seventh. And we believe that the time [R1732 : page 359] is coming when the keeping of Sunday will be a yet more severe test, and bring further suffering upon us.
Answer. We have nothing to do with the making of the social laws which prohibit labor on the first day of the week; but we obey them as civil laws, as commanded in the Scriptures (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13); and we find it to be to our profit as well as to our pleasure. We sincerely sympathize with the poor people who are deluded by such an argument, and suffer therefor; and we admire their willingness to suffer for what they consider to be the truth. But they are mistaken. The laws of this land do not compel any man to violate his conscience by working on the seventh day or any other day.
And it is not sound reasoning to claim that a man must labor during the other six days. If so, are those days of twenty-four hours, or of how many hours? In such a case, for a man to be sick, or to go on a journey or on a visit, would be to violate the Law, and fall under its curse. What nonsense! False reasoning has surely blinded whoever cannot see that the Fourth Commandment of Moses' Law means, "[Within] six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work!"
As for future persecution on these lines, it is probable; not because of any opposition to Seventh-day-keeping but because, according to the Scriptures, there will ere long be a federation or union of religious systems which, giving increased prestige and honor, will make the demands of popular religionists more arrogantsupposedly in the interest of peace and the cause of Christ.
(6). We Seventh Day Adventists claim, that as the Mosaic Covenant had a tabernacle, with a holy place in which the high priest offered for the sins of the people during the entire year, and a Most Holy in which he finished that work on the last day of the year, so there is a Holy and Most Holy in Heaven; and that Christ has officiated for the sins of his people in the Holy during the Gospel age, and will for a short time before its close officiate in the Most Holy. This we understand to be the "cleansing of the Sanctuary." We consequently used to teach that all probation ended about 1845, when Christ (we believe) went from the Holy into the Most Holy. We hold, therefore, that the judgment is all over, and that naught remains except for Christ to come forth and receive us Seventh Day Adventists, and to destroy all the remainder of mankind.
We hold, too, that we Seventh Day Adventists are fulfilling the "Third Angel's Message" of Rev. 14:9-12. In the expression, "Fear God and keep his commandments," we place the stress upon the Fourth Commandment.
Answer. You err respecting the antitypes of the Jewish Atonement Day and Tabernacle. The antitypical Holy and Most Holy are "heavenly," in the sense of being higher (such is the meaning of the word heavenly). In Israel's typical service these were places: in the antitype they are conditions. All of the antitypical or "royal priesthood" have access to the Holy condition as soon as they consecrate themselves or present their bodies living sacrifices to God's service. (Heb. 9:6.) They at once have access to the antitypical "shewbread" (Lev. 24:9), "meat to eat that the world knoweth not of." They at once have the light of divine revelation, represented by the "golden candlestick," which the natural man perceiveth not. (1 Cor. 2:5,7,9-12.) They at once have access to the Incense Altar, and their prayers and services are acceptable to God through Christ as sweet incense. Thus the first apartment of the Tabernacle represents the present condition of the Church while still in the flesh. Thus we are now blest with Christ Jesus "in heavenly places [higher conditions]."Eph. 1:3.
But the vail (death) still separates between us and the perfect spiritual conditionthe divine nature into which Christ has entered, and into which he has promised to conduct all his faithful joint-sacrificers and joint-heirs at the close of the Antitypical Day of Atonement.
You err also in supposing that Israel's typical Day of Atonement was at the end of the year, to atone for past sins. It was, on the contrary, for the nation, and at the beginning of their year, to make atonement for the whole nation and to bring the whole nation into God's favor for the year following it. And the thank-offerings, peace-offerings and trespass-offerings, offered by individuals during the year following, were acceptable upon the basis of that Atonement Day offering. At the close of the year, for which the Atonement Day sacrifices applied, the people were again as defiled as the residue of Adam's race, and required a new Day of Atonement as a basis for another year's acceptance with God as a typically justified nation.
You err also in supposing that the coming out of the Great High Priest at the close of the Day of Atonement will be for the blessing of seventh-day keepers. He comes out to bless, first, the "royal priesthood"they that have made a covenant with him by sacrifice. (Psa. 50:5.) "They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels." (Mal. 3:17.) But, as in the type, not priests only were blessed, but "all the people," so in the antitype all the families of the earth shall be blessed at the revelation of Christ Jesus, when he shall come to be "glorified in his saints, and [R1732 : page 360] to be admired in all them that believe in that [Millennial] day" (2 Thes. 1:10.) The sacrifices and offerings subsequent to the typical Day of Atonement will find their antitypes in the Millennial age, when all those who desire fellowship with God will come to him through the Royal Priesthood, who will offer their sacrifices for them.*
As to the Third Angel's message: Suppose we were to admit your claim, that you are fulfilling Rev. 14:9-12. That would prove nothing as to the truth or untruth of your message. The Book of Revelation is a symbolic prophecy,a history written in advance. What is occurring and what will occur are faithfully relatedoften without comment;just as the old Testament prophecies relate evil things as well as good things, and often without comment. For instance, Daniel 7:8 tells about the Papal horn "speaking great things," but does not say whether they are great truths or great untruths. So, too, in Revelation, Papacy is described and its language quoted without adverse criticism.
(7). Christ said that he came not to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfil them.Matt. 5:17.
Answer. Yes, that is just what we hold: he fulfilled the Law Covenantmet all of its requirements, and obtained its reward, Life. That fulfilled it, for that was the end for which it was intended and given.
(8). Christ said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27.) We understand this to mean that the Sabbath was made for all mankind.
Answer. Your inference is not reasonable. If the Sabbath were meant for all mankind, the fact should and would have been clearly stated to all mankind. But the facts are that it was commanded only of one nation, and that Christ and the Apostles did not so command. In this text our Lord is showing to the Jews, to whom the command was given, that they were putting an extreme construction upon the command when they refused to do good on that dayto a fellow creature, as well as to an ox or an ass. The Sabbath was intended for the blessing of the men who were commanded to keep it: they were not created nor called as a nation simply to serve the day.
(9). In Isa. 66:23, the Sabbath is mentioned in connection with the new heavens and new earthwhich to us means that it will be a perpetual institutionthroughout eternity.
Answer. It is possible that in the beginning of the Millennial age the Lord's dealing with the world of mankind, then in process of restitution and trial, will resemble his dealing with the house [R1733 : page 360] of servantsIsrael. He may restore laws respecting the Sabbath and various festivals, and even sacrifices, to teach the world by these as object lessons. Some scriptures seem so to hint. (Jer. 33:18; Ezek. 46:19-24; 47:12; 48:10,11.) We must remember that the liberty of sons of God, now granted to us, is in view of our being spirit-begotten, new creatures. However, we may be assured that the Law Covenant will never be placed over the world as it was over typical Israel; for it made nothing perfect; and righteousness could not come by the Law Covenant to others any more than to Israel. The New Covenant will remain open all through the Millennial age, for all who desire to flee from sin and to return to full harmony with God. But by that time, the "seed" of Abraham having been completed, none will then have the privilege to become joint-heirs of that promise, but can come under the blessings which will flow from that Seed.
The expression, from new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, to a Jew would merely mean, from month to month, and from week to week; and would not of necessity relate to any special observance of the days.
The Seventh-day Adventists are surely doing a world-wide work, and, whether right or wrong, might not improperly be mentioned in the prophecy of Revelation. It does seem, however, rather preposterous to claim that their advocacy of the Fourth Commandment of Israel's Decalogue constitutes them alone the champions of God's commandments and the faith of Jesus. God's commandment to the Gospel Church of the New Covenant is, "This is my beloved Son. Hear ye him!" And neither he nor any whom he sent forth as his special ambassadors and representatives ever said one word in favor of the observance of the seventh day.
Answer. The Church of Rome is quick to turn any point to her own favor; and this is one which furnishes a specially good opportunity. It is nothing to admit that Sunday is not commanded in the New Testament (but neither is the seventh-day Sabbath), and it furnishes an excellent chance to emphasize Roman Catholic doctrine,that tradition is equally authoritative with God's Word.
But this boast that Papacy changed the seventh-day Sabbath to the first-day Sunday amounts to nothing. Where is the proof of it? Nowhere. The facts are that the New Covenant provides no day for rest, but a rest for every day; and the early Church met on either or both days according to convenience or advantage. The custom of meeting on the first day came down and gradually crystallized into a habit, and, later, a supposed duty. But Papacy cannot point back to any date and show by the decisions of any Council that she changed the Jewish Sabbath into the Christian Sunday.
A Catechism, entitled "The Catholic Christian Instructed," in answer to the question, "What are the days which the Church commands to be kept holy?" says, "(I). The Sunday, or our Lord's day, which we observe, by Apostolic tradition, instead of the Sabbath." Thus Romanists do not claim to have changed the day.
Answer. Some great infidel may have been named Robert or Thomas, but this would not make an infidel of you if you had been given his name. So the propriety of worshiping God on the first day of the week or on any other day is not governed by its common or general name. We have no special choice of nameLord's-day, Sabbath or Sunday would any of them serve our purpose, and we could worship God in spirit and in truth on that day as well under one name as another. Sabbath is a good name, and reminds us of our rest by faith in Christ's sacrifice and New Covenant. Lord's-day is also good, and reminds us that the first day of the week marks the greatest token of divine favor ever manifestedthe resurrection of our Lord. Sunday reminds us of the Sun of Righteousnessour resurrected Lord, and all the blessings present and prospective that we and the whole world may anticipate through him. If the heart be right, any of these names will become fragrant with precious memories of God's grace through Christ.
(2). Any rest-day might therefore with propriety be called a Sabbath-day. Indeed, this was a custom with the Jews. All of their feast-days they called rest-days or Sabbathsas, for instance, the first and last days of the Passover were called Sabbaths, no matter upon what day of the week they occurred.
(3). The Sabbath-day commanded in the two tables of stone, delivered by God to Israel by the hand of Moses at Mt. Sinai, was the seventh day of the week, not the first day; nor was it merely one day in seven; this was particularly indicated by the extra supply of manna on the sixth day.
(4). While any day of the week would have suited equally well, so far as Israel was concerned, God evidently had a choice. The seventh day, chosen by him, was evidently typical, as were all of God's arrangements for and with that typical people. We understand that it typified the rest experienced by spiritual Israel, and referred to by the Apostle in Hebrews 4:9.
(5). The fourth commandment was as binding as the others of the Decalogue, and hence if the others continue in force against fleshly Israel, to whom they all were given, so does this one. But neither the fourth nor any other of the ten commandments was ever given to, or made a law for, any other nation than Israel. None could come under its provisions except by becoming Israelites, and practicing circumcision.
(6). The Decalogue was the foundation of the covenant between God and Israel, called the Law Covenant.Deut. 4:13.
(7). Since the death of Christ the arrangement between God and those whom he acknowledges as his children is called the New Covenantsealed or made of force by Christ's death,by the precious blood of Christ. Its provisions or benefits are not for one race or family of mankind merely, but are open for all people,through faith in Christ.
The Jews, and, for that matter, some among the Gentiles also, who sought communion and fellowship with God, were continually striving to do something which would atone for their sins and open communion and harmony with God; but the most earnest were "weary and heavy laden" and almost discouraged with their failure. It is to such that our Lord addressed himself, saying, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest."Matt. 11:28.
(8). As the Law Covenant had the Ten Commandments for its foundation, so the New Covenant has a new law for its foundationthe law of Love. "A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another." The new command was not one added to the ten of the old Covenant,not an eleventh,but was instead of the ten of the Law Covenant, and much more comprehensive. [R1733 : page 362] Love is the only command of the New Covenant, and bears only upon those who have accepted the New Covenant. The world in general has nothing to do with the New Covenant, its privileges, its blessings and its law, even as it had nothing to do with the Law Covenant and its decalogue, etc. Only those under the Law Covenant were bound by it or helped by it; and only those under the New Covenant are recognized by it.
(9). The people of the world in general are not recognized by God; they are called "the children of this world," "children of the devil," "children of wrath," etc.; and we are told that they have not "escaped the condemnation that is upon the world," through "one man's disobedience," that they cannot escape except through the provisions of the New Covenant, and that hence "the whole world [God's covenanted people being exceptions] lieth in that wicked one."
The world once had a law from God, but they have lost it, or most of it, and are now strangers and foreigners unrecognized by God. (Rom. 1:21; Eph. 2:19.) The original law was not written upon tables of stone, but was incorporated in man's very character, so that when perfect in God's image, he knew right and wrong instinctivelyhis conscience was a safe and accurate guide. But six thousand years of degradation, as slaves of Sin and Death under Satan, have almost effaced that original law from man's hearthave warped his judgment and conscience, and made his will the plaything of his animal propensities and hopes and fears.
Provision was made that these might, if they chose, become Israelites, and by circumcision and the observance of the Law Covenant be joint-heirs with Israel to all the favors and typical privileges granted to that nation. But they were not under either the blessings or the curses of that Covenant unless they voluntarily accepted it. So now, under the New Covenant, arrangement is made for the world to come in under its provisionsunder its justification or forgiveness of sins, and under its law of love. But only those who have put themselves under it are sharers of either its blessings or its responsibilities.
But there was no provision made for any Sabbath-day under the New Covenantevery day was to be a Sabbath or day of faith-rest in Christ, to all under the New Covenant, and to no others. And the Apostle was careful to guard the early Church against the esteem of [R1734 : page 362] one day above another as more holy. (Rom. 14:5-8.) Our Lord's ministry was under the Law Covenant, and hence he observed the seventh-day Sabbath even while he assured the people that he was "Lord also of the Sabbath-day." But neither he nor any of the Apostles ever commanded or even suggested the observance of any special day as a Sabbath. And one of these Apostles declared that he had "not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God;"thus proving that the observance of a Sabbath day was no part of God's counsel to sons of the New Covenant.
(10). There was no authorization of a change from the seventh day to the first day as a Sabbath or rest day. The early Church was composed chiefly of those who had been God's servants under the typical Law Covenant, and it required time for them to appreciate the fact that the Law Covenant had ended and a New Covenant had been introduced; and they were warned frequently by the Apostles against Judaizing tendencies and teachers, and a tendency to mix the New Covenant and its law of love and liberty with the Law of the old Covenant. Naturally, they still observed the seventh day from custom and convenience, and because in Palestine it was the civil law, and also because on that day they could most successfully reach with the Gospel of Christ the most hopeful class of hearers.
Our Lord's resurrection on the first day of the week, and his subsequent showing of himself to them upon that day, seems to have started in the early Church the custom of meeting together on every first day, and having a simple meal, and recounting with prayer and praise the Lord's mercies, and remembering their risen Redeemer and how his words burned in their hearts when first on that day he had explained to them redemption through his blood, how it was necessary for Christ to die and to rise, etc.
(11). This pleasant custom grew upon the Church, but without any law, for the Apostles assured them that there is no law but love to them that are in Christ Jesus. It was merely a privilege which they prized and used profitably. It was not until centuries had passed, and Papacy had arisen with the false idea that its mission was to convert the world, by force, if necessary, that laws were made respecting the first day of the week as the Lord's day or Sunday. Having gathered into the Church multitudes of "tares," who did not appreciate the liberty or the love of the New Covenant, and who really were as much as ever "children of the devil," some laws or regulations were made for their restraint.
(12). The New Covenant law controls only "believers""the faithful in Christ Jesus"and leaves these entirely free to do or observe whatever love might dictate; for it is lawful to do goodto do anything that godly love would dictate or approveon any day; and it is improper to violate the dictates of love upon any day.
Mankind has laws upon the subject, however, and it is God's command to his people that they be subject to civil rulers in all matters not in violation of their consciences respecting his wishes. On whatever day or however frequently the civil law commands rest from secular labor, it becomes our duty to obey. We can rejoice that we are at liberty to worship how and whom we please, and should gladly use every opportunity wisely, nor forsaking the assembling of ourselves for spiritual refreshment. We are glad, too, and thankful that the day specially set aside as a Sabbath by civil governments is the very one of all others that we prefer, because it memorializes the beginning of the new order of things,begun by the resurrection of our dear Redeemer. Hence, in outward conduct we conform to the laws of men on the subject, while in our hearts, having fullest freedom toward God, we delight to use the first day of the week specially to his pleasement and praise, in doing good to others, particularly to the household of faith.
We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.Rom. 15:1.
Our liberty in Christ, under the terms of the New Covenant, must take care that others are not injured by our use of liberty; for this would be condemned by our law of Love. The Apostle clearly emphasizes this in his letter to the Romans.Chap. 14:1 to 15:7.
He there points out that all are not alike strong in the faith. Some, weak in the faith, can see that Christ is our Redeemer, but cannot as yet realize the liberty we have in Christ; for one realizes his liberty to eat whatever agrees with him, while another one, who is weak (in bondage), eats vegetables only, lest he should violate some law under which he thinks himself. Each should learn to grant the other full liberty of conscience: the stronger should not despise the weaker, nor should the weaker judge others by himself. It should be sufficient to know that God accepts even the weakest ones. So it is also with reference to the observance of days: One man esteems one day above another, while another esteems all days alike. Let each carry out fully the conviction of his own mind.
The Apostle does not here teach, as so many suppose from the common translation, that each should make up his mind and stick to it, whether right or wrong; nor does he teach that one is as right as the other. On the contrary, he urges growth into the full liberty of Christ, but counsels patience and consideration on the part of the stronger for the weaker. He approves the stronger, and plainly states that the brother who thinks himself under a bondage regarding meat, or Sabbath days, fast days, etc., is the weak brother. But he urges that if such a weak brother observes such a bondage, not as an attempt to "keep the Law" and to justify himself before God, ignoring Christ's redemption sacrifice, but because he thinks that our Redeemer wishes him to be bound by such ordinances, then the stronger ones should not rail at, or make light of, his conscientious weakness, but rather receive him fully as a brother, trusting that discipline and experience and growth in grace and knowledge will gradually bring him to the liberty which others reach more quickly.
And those strong ones who enter fully into the spirit of the Apostle's remark, "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak," and deny themselves what their own consciences permit, have the greater blessing. They can realize in an additional degree that they are following in the Master's steps; for "Even Christ pleased not himself."Rom. 14:21; 15:2,3.
For if the stronger brethren by sarcasm and influence were to force the weaker ones to use a liberty they did not realize, it would be forcing them into sin; for any violation of conscience is sin. (Rom. 14:23.) Therefore the weaker brethren should be left to the liberty of their consciences. They should be received as brethren, the influences of love and truth alone being brought to bear upon them, in the hope of gradually educating them to an appreciation of their full privileges as free men in Christ. Thus the body may be full of charity and unity, each one carrying out the convictions of his own mind as to the Lord's will, and each seeking to grow in grace and knowledge, out of childhood's weakness into manhood's strength, as rapidly as possible; being developed as he feeds upon God's Word.
The Apostle again refers specially to the observance of days as a sign of weakness, childishness and lack of development, saying (Gal. 4:10,11): [R1734 : page 364] "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am anxious on your behalf, lest my labor for you has been in vain." He here addresses those who had once known the liberty of the sons of God, but who were now getting into bondage through false teaching. He recognized by these weaknesses for the things commanded by the Law Covenant, an evidence that they were not growing into the liberty of sons of God, but going backward toward the servant condition (see verses 6-9; 19-31); and he was even fearful that this weakness and failure to maintain the liberty of sonship, and this subservience to the Law Covenant might lead them to reject the true gospel, that Christ gave himself for our sins, and accept as a gospel a hopeless substitutethat Christ would save them if they kept the Law.Gal. 1:4-8; 5:2.
In Col. 2:14-17, the Apostle declares the same truth with reference to the liberty of all who are in Christ, in respect to the Law: especially singling out the festivals, new moons and Sabbaths. He pointedly declares (verse 13) that those believers who had been Gentiles were pardoned fully and freely from all condemnation, while concerning those who had been Jews he says (verse 14), Christ blotted out the written Law which was against us [believing Israelites], removed it from our way, nailing it to his cross; having stripped away from the original [law] and its authorities [all obscurities], he made a public illustration of them [in his life of obedience to them], triumphing over them by it [in obedience even unto death, even the death of the cross]. "Therefore," reasons the apostle, because our Lord has made both you Gentiles and us Jews free, "permit no man to judge you in meat or drink, or in respect to a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbaths, which are shadows of future things, the substance [or antitypes] of which appertain to the Anointed [Head and Body]."
Glorious is the liberty of the sons of God! Let us stand fast in it! And let us enjoy to the full our rest of faith; for we can rest (enjoy Sabbath) whether the world has a Sabbath or not: whether any day or no day is commanded by human law, our rest abides. It lasts seven days in each week and twenty-four hours in each day, and is not broken by physical labor, nor is it dependent [R1735 : page 364] on physical ease. It is a deep and lasting rest, and can be broken only by doubtby a rejection of the basis on which it must abide, the ransom,or by living after the flesh, and thus disturbing conscience and our relationship toward God.
How blessed is the state of all in Christ, as mature sons of God under favor, not servants nor infants under Laws! (John 15:15; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:1-6.) How blessed to us is the true rest of faith in Christ's finished work, which rest neither the world nor the Law could give, and which, from us that are free, they cannot take away. We realize that Israel's Sabbath (not only their weekly Sabbath, but also their yearly Sabbath and their Jubilee*) was as far inferior to the real as was their Passover inferior to our Passover, and their sacrifices to our sacrifices, and their altar and candle-stick and table of shew-bread to ours. The realities, in all these, are a thousand times grander than their shadows.