For the last 23 years we have lived in a farmhouse in rural Lincolnshire. The original house was built about 1780, and when our extension was being built some years ago, and one of the old original ceilings was taken down, we found a silver coin dating from the reign of George III. An interestingmomento! Our house is situated along a narrow farm road, originally called Langham Row, leading to Wesley House. This was named after John Wesley who used to visit on horseback during the years 1779 – 1788. They constructed a wooden pulpit in the farmyard for his use, and this was still standing until some years ago, when it finally rotted away. In Wesley’s journal he wrote that he preached to a “congregation gathered from many miles around.” A particular entry for Sunday 18th June 1780 refers to his journey from Wainfleet to Louth, as follows, “We now passed into Marshland, a fruitful and pleasant part of the county. Such is Langham Row in particular, the abode of honest John Robinson and his fourteen children. Although it was a lone house, yet such a multitude of people flocked together that I was obliged to preach abroad. It blew a storm, and we had several showers of rain, but no one went away. I do not wonder that this Society is the largest, as well as the liveliest, in these parts of Lincolnshire.” By the time Wesley came on Tuesday 1st July 1788 Mr Robinson had doubled the size of the meeting house, and yet so many came to hear him that it overflowed.
The reason for reporting this little snatch of history is as follows. From other parts of Wesley’s journal he tells of his standard method in preaching to various rural localities in Lincolnshire. He sent on in advance certain stalwarts of the faith, to teach the local people the Ten Commandments, so that by the time he arrived to preach, there was a clear message to be spelled out, namely that they were all in default at one point or another, and the knowledge of their sin had become manifest to them. He was then able to lead them to a knowledge of salvation via repentance and accepting Christ as Saviour.
Many other famous preachers of the Gospel have used the same method, as may be found by reading the biographies of men such as Charles Finney, and Dwight L. Moody in America, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon in Britain. The Ten Commandments formed the basis of the Old Covenant, but some are now speaking of this Covenant in detrimental terms. However, it must be remembered that it was God’s Covenant, and it was not faulty because it drove men to realise their need of God’s mercy. It was a Covenant of Death because all men are sinners, but without the Law, without the declaration of God’s standards, personal knowledge of sin would of necessity be extremely partial.
The New Covenant is mentioned in Jeremiah 31. God said that He would write His laws in men’s hearts, not just on tablets of stone. The New Covenant is therefore not an abolition of law, but God’s own answer – a covenant between Jesus and His Father which He kept perfectly for us. So as we become part of Christ we, enabled by His Spirit, can walk righteously before God. Paul declared that the law is holy and righteous and good, but he bewailed the fact that he was born under sin. The law drove him to Christ to be saved. The Psalmist (119) said, “Great peace have they who love Thy law, and they shall have no stumblingblock.” To do away with God’s Moral Code is to court disaster. It was God’s vehicle to bring men to repentance and faith in Christ. Even in O.T. days, this lesson was known and respected by many, as the 11th chapter of Hebrews is witness. That is why we read in the O.T. about circumcising the heart, not just the flesh. Men were expected to honour the Law, and “keep” it. The word “keep” means to treasure it, rather than to fulfil it. They would very soon learn that they could never fulfil it in the flesh, but to “keep” it was to respect the Law and God who gave it, and realise why He instituted it. The Law was and is intended to be the Absolute standard against which we all fall so that we recognise our need of a Saviour. Then after we have believed and are in Christ, it remains as that standard which convicts and causes us to throw ourselves on our knees before our Saviour. “The battle against sin is obligatory for believers in Christ. . . . Only as we strive to put to death the desires of our sinful natures do we become truly conscious of how great our gratitude for Christ’s work should be, and how dependent we are on the power of the Holy Spirit. . . . As Christians, then, we are to submit to God’s law because the law tells us what is pleasing to God, it tells us what the things of the Spirit are, and it tells us what it means practically to walk in the Spirit. Paul is not speaking about justification, he is referring to how we as justified Christians are to live each day. (Quote from Ranald Macaulay and Jerram Barrsin their book, “Being Human.”)
If we speak disparagingly of the Great Moral Code of the Ten Commandments, then we treat the Old Covenant as something that was faulty, having to be corrected by Jesus when He came to earth. Anyone who holds such a perverted view should think again, and repent. The escalating scene of violence and perversion in the world is directly related to the way in which “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” have been replaced by the “Gods of the Market Place,” to quote Kipling. One may trace the modern growth of lawlessness, starting from the end of the second world war, to the abolition of time-honoured laws. In one way it is not surprising to find the world doing this, but when so many Christians are also speaking the language of lawlessness, where on earth can man find the place of repentance any longer? Sin is endemic to man. The Moral Law in both Testaments is given to help man recognise that fact. To despise the Law is to prevent man from being driven to Christ for salvation. That is a cunning device of the Devil.