LAW HAS BECOME A DIRTY WORD IN THE society in which we live. Man has grown used to its disrespect. He tends to keep to a set of laws of his own making, rather than those of God’s giving. He looks upon the Old Testament as a document of historic value only. He refers to ‘the Law of Moses’, or to ‘the Jewish laws’, without realising that they were God’s own laws, written by His own hand upon tablets of stone, forming the basis of a divine covenant with a chosen people. They were only ‘the Mosaic law’ insofar as God chose Moses as His instrument in the giving of them, and they were only ‘the Israelite (not Jewish) laws’ because Israel was the name given to the people of God’s choice.
What has happened? Why does the church of today pour such scorn on God’s laws? What is the origin of this besmirching of the great commandments of God? Why in particular does the evangelical and charismatic branch of the church find the law so unappetising? Where did all this begin? We have decided to reprint an article from an old Bible Encyclopaedia, of over 100 years ago, to help us in answering these questions. If we ourselves were to make statements of belief, then some would write to us and say that our thesis was out of order, and that we were leading our readers into bondage. But this article, now a century old, has a certain grandeur about it which is most refreshing to read, and most instructive to all who would give but a quiet half hour in meditation on it. Perhaps after so doing, you will be surprised to find what ordinary conservative Biblical scholars believed in those days.
Gone are the days when children of most families were sent to Sunday School, and when even at day school the Ten Commandments were learned off by heart as surely as the number tables. With horror we find that even the number tables are now no longer taught in many primary schools. Children are growing up unable to add and subtract, unable to check their change when purchasing goods, and quite unable to grapple with sums of medium difficulty. However much we may be alarmed at such tendencies, their seriousness is in no way to be matched to that of the demise of the law.
There used to be a time when the Ten Commandments were recited in Anglican churches with commendable frequency but sadly, no longer. Go to any reasonably large church with a flourishing congregation and find out how many members would be able to state even the contents of the Decalogue, let alone recite the whole law. It is doubtful that even one person could be found. We just do not know what God’s laws are any more. For the most part we have not discarded them as one might dispose of refuse, but our lack of concern for them is tantamount to the same thing in God’s sight. Our neglect is a barometer of the value we place upon them. Brethren, we are not saying this to be contentious or condemnatory, for we ourselves are just as much to blame as anyone else. Until very recently we were in the same boat. We knew not the laws, and we had not taught our children the laws. And so we speak as those who have suddenly become aware of this great vacuum in our Christian lives. God has spoken to us very clearly in recent days, (and by that we mean during 1987) and has shown us just where we stand in His sight in respect to His laws, and we had to admit that we were ignorant of them.
Some may object at this point and say that surely the Holy Spirit of God had etched the laws indelibly upon our hearts since the day we joined the household of faith. This is true enough. By walking ‘in the spirit’ we have been enabled to ‘put to death the works of the flesh’ in varying measure as the days have progressed. But in the O.T. God made great emphasis to His people on the need to read, learn, and inwardly digest the written laws He had given His people. If today we are the people of God, then surely we need to do likewise. We are now shocked by the degree to which the whole church has neglected to do this vital thing, a thing which our fathers did quite meticulously only 100 years ago.
Why has this change taken place? We have in our study a copy of “Harper’s Bible Dictionary”, a massive volume of 1178 pages, which was published in 1985, exactly 100 years after the one we have copied here in this article. It is sickening to read, and shows where the disrespect comes from. Much of it has grown out of the rising tide of modernism, or higher-criticism, as it has been called. There is nothing ‘higher’ about it. It comes from the pit, the lowest place. But another obvious influence is that of EVOLUTION, which was popularised by Darwin in the last four decades of last century. These two influences have pervaded all forms of society today, whether in the churches or in secularised society. Man is now considered to be an evolved being, gradually ‘improving’ as time proceeds, and therefore the divine oracles of God must have been written (they would say) by very primitive men who were grappling with ‘ideas’ about God. That in a nutshell is the basis of most of the theology in modern Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopaedias. This is sad but it is true.
Behind all this movement away from the faith of our fathers is an insidious movement of LAWLESSNESS, which has been so cunningly devised that it has deleted all mention of itself in the Authorised Version of the Bible. Let one take a copy of say Young’s Concordance and turn up the word ‘lawless’, and it will be found just once, in 1 Tim.1:9, there being no mention at all in the 0.T. But the truth of the matter is that a Hebrew word exists (RASHA) which means lawless, and what is more it occurs over 250 times in the O.T. and is mostly translated WICKED. In the N.T. the equivalent words are ANOMOS & ANOMIA and they appear in the Greek Bible 24 times. We shall have to deal with the importance of this great omission in an article devoted to the MAN OF LAWLESSNESS, because he, the very Antichrist himself, the one who is given this title in 2 Thess. 2, has been responsible for these omissions. The result is that Christians now believe that we still await the Antichrist whereas in truth he has been heavily at work far nearly 200 years! The following article has been taken from
THE ENGLISHMAN’S CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY
Rev. A.R.FAUSSET, M.A. 1885 pages 423 – 427
Law. The whole history of the Jews is a riddle if Moses’ narrative be not authentic. If authentic he was inspired to give the Law; for he asserts God’s immediate commission. Its recognised inspiration alone can account for the Israelites’ acquiescence in a burdensome ritual, and for their intense attachment to the Scriptures which condemn them as astiffnecked people. A small isolated people, no way distinguished for science or art, possessed the most spiritual religion the world has over seen: this cannot have been of themselves, it must be of God. No Israelite writer hints at the possibility of fraud. The consentient belief of the rival kingdoms northern Israel and Judah, the agreement in all essential parts between the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Pentateuch of the Jews who excommunicated the Samaritans as schismatics, accords with the Divine origination of the Mosaic law.
Even Israel’s frequent apostasies magnify the Divine power and wisdom which by such seemingly inadequate instrumentseffected His purpose of preserving true religion and morality, when all the philosophic and celebrated nations sank deeper and deeper into idolatry and profligacy. Had Egypt with its learning aud wisdom, Greece with its philosophy and refinement, or Rome with its political sagacity, been the medium of revelation, its origination would be attributed to man’s intellect. As it is, the Mosaic law derived little of its influence from men of mere human genius, and it was actually opposed to the sensual and idolatrous inclinations of the mass of the people.
Nothing short of its origin being Divine, and its continuance effected by Divine interposition account for the fact, that it was only in their prosperity the law was neglected; when adversity awakened them to reflection they always cried unto God and returned to His law, and invariably found deliverance. Unlike the surrounding nations, the Jews have their history almost solely in the written word. No museum possesses sculptured figures of Jewish antiquities, such as are brought from Egypt.,Nineveh, Babylon, Persopolis, Greece, and Rome. The basis of Israel’s polity was the Decalogue, the compendium of the moral law which therefore was proclaimed first, then the other religious and civil ordinances. The end of Israel’s call by the holy God was that they should be “a holy nation” (Lev. xix. 2), a mediatorial kingdom between God and the nations, witnessing for Him to them (Isa. xliii. 10-12), and between them and Him, performing those sacrificial ordinances through the divinely constituted Aaronic priests, which were to prefigure the one coming Sacrifice, through whom all the Gentile nations were to be blessed.
Thus Israel was to be “a kingdom of Priests,” each subject a priest (though their exercise of the sacrificial functions wasdelegated to one family as their representative), and God was at once civil and spiritual king; therefore all the theocratic ordinances of the Sinaitic legislation were designed to minister toward holiness, which is His supreme law. Hence the religious ordinances had a civil and judicial sanction annexed, and the civil enactments had a religious bearing. Both had a typical and spiritual aspect also, in relation to the kingdom of God yet to come. Whilst minute details are of temporary and local application their fundamental principle is eternal, the promotion of God’s glory and man’s good. It is because of this principle pervading more or less all the ordinances, civil and ceremonial alike, that it is not always easy to draw a line between them.
Even the moral law is not severed from but intimately bound up with both. The moral precepts are eternally obligatory, because based on God’s own unchangeable character, which is reflected in the enlightened conscience; their positiveenactment is only to clear away the mist which sin has spread over even the conscience. The positive precepts are obligatory only because of enactment, and so long as the Divine Legislator appointed them to remain in force. This is illustrated in Hos. vi. 6, “I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” God did desire “sacrifices” (for He instituted them), but moral obedience more; for this is the end for which positive ordinances, as sacrifices, were instituted; i.e., sacrifices and positive ordinances, as the Sabbath, were to be observed, but not made the plea for setting aside the moral duties, justice, love, truth, obedience, which are eternally obligatory. Comp. 1 Sam. xv. 22; Ps. 1. 8, 9, li. 16, 17; Isa.i.11-12; Mic. vi. 6-8; Matt. xxiii. 23, ix. 13, xii. 7.
Torah, “law,” means strictly a directory. Authoritative enactment is implied. The elements of the law already existed, but scattered and much obscured amidst incongruous usages which men’s passions had created. The law “was added because of the transgressions” of it, i.e., not to remove all transgressions, for the law rather stimulates the corrupt heart to disobedience (Rom. vii. 13), but to bring them out into clearer view (Gal. iii. 19; Rom. iii. 20 end, iv. 15, v. 13, vii. 7-9), to make men more conscious of their sins as being transgressions of the law, so to make them feel need and longing for the promised Saviour (Gal. iii. 17-24), “the law was our schoolmaster (paidagogos, rather guardian servant leading us to school), to bring us to Christ.” The law is closely connected with the promise to Abraham, “in thy seed shah all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. xii. 3). It witnessed to the evil in all men, from which the promised Seed should deliver men, amid its provisions on the other hand were the chief fence by which Israel was kept separate from surrounding heathendom, the repository of Divine revelation for the future good of the world, when the fullness of the time should come.
The giving of the law marked the transition of Israel from nonage to full national life. The law formally sanctioned, and grouped together, many of the fragmentary ordinances of God which existed before. The Sabbath, marriage, sacrifices (Gen. ii., iv.; Exod. xvi. 23-29), distinction of clean and unclean (Gen. vii. 2), time shedding of blood for blood (ix. 6), circumcision (xvii.), the penalty for fornication, and the Levirate usage (a brother being bound to marry and raise up seed by a deceased brother’s widow, xxxviii. 8, 24) were some of the patriarchal customs which were adopted with modifications by the Mosaic code.
In some eases, as divorce, it corrected rather than sanctioned objectionable existing usages, suffering their existence at all only because of the hardness of their hearts (Matt. xix. 7, 8). So in the case of a disobedient son Deut. xxi. 18-21), severe as is the penalty, it is an improvement upon existing custom, substituting a judicial appeal to the community for arbitrary parental power of life and death. The Levirate law limited rather than approved of existing custom. The law of the avenger of involuntarily-shed blood (Deut. xix. 1-13, Num. xxxv.) mercifully restrained the usage which was too universally recognised to admit of any but gradual abolition. It withdrew the involuntary homicide from before the eyes of the incensed relatives of time deceased. No satisfaction was allowed for murder; the murderer had no asylum, but could be dragged from the altar (Exod. xxi. 14, 1 Kings ii. 28-31). The comparative smallness of that portion of the Sinaitic law which concerns the political constitution harmonizes with the alleged time of its promulgation, when as yet the form of government was not permanently settled. The existing patriarchal authorities in the family and tribe are recognised, whilst the priests and Levites are appointed to take wholly the sacred functions and in part also the judicial ones.
The contingency of a kingly government is provided for in general directions (Deut. xvii. 14-20). The outline of the law is given Exod. xx.-xxiii.; the outline of the ceremonial xxv.-xxxi.
The Decalogue (a term first found in Clemens Alexandr. Pedag. iii. 12) is the heart of the whole, and therefore was laid up in time ark of the covenant beneath the mercy seat or propitiatory (hilasterion), intimating that it is only as covered over by Divine atoning mercy that the law could be the centre of the (Rom. iii. 25, 26) covenant of God with us. The law is the reflection of the holy character of the God of the covenant, the embodiment of the inner spirit of the Mosaic code. “The ten commandments” (Heb. words, Exod. xxxiv. 28) are frequently called “the testimony,” viz. of Jehovah against all who should transgress (Deut. xxxi. 26, 27). By the law came “the knowledge of sin” (Rom. iii. 20, vii. 7). Conscience, without the law, caused only a vague discomfort to the sinner. But the law of the Decalogue, when expressed dcfinitely, convicted of sin, and was therefore “a ministration of condemnation” and “of death, written and engraven on stones” (2 Cor. iii. 7, 9). Its pre-eminence is marked by its being the first part revealed ; not like the rest of the code through Moses, but by Jehovah himself, with attendant angels (Deut.. xxxiii. 2, Acts vii. 53, Gal. iii. 19, Heb. ii. 2); written by God’s finger, and on stone tables to mark its permanence. The number ten expresses completeness, perfection (Ps. xix. 7, Exod. xxvii. 12, 1 Kings vii. 27. Matt. xxv. 1).They were “the tables of the covenant,” and the ark, because containing them, was called “the ark of the covenant” (Deut. iv. 13, Josh. iii. 11).
The record in Deut. v. 6-21 is a slight variation of Exod. xx. 2-17. The fourth commandment begins with “keep” instead of “remember,” the reason for its observance in Deuteronomy is Israel’s deliverance from Egypt instead of God’s resting from creation. Deuteronomy is an inspired free repetition of the original in Exodus, suited to Moses’ purpose of exhortation; hence he refers to the original, in the fifth commandment adding “as the Lord thy God commanded thee.” “And” is inserted as suited to the narrative style which Deuteronomy combines with the legislative. “Desire” is substituted for “covet” in the tenth.
None but Moses himself would have ventured to alter an iota of what Moses had ascribcd to God in Exodus. The special reason for the fourth, applying to the Israelites, does not interfere with the earlier and more universal reason in Exodus, but is an additional motive for their observing the ordinance already resting on the worldwide basis. Coveting the house in Exodus precedes, hut in Deuteronomy succeeds, coveting the wife; evidently all kinds of coveting are comprised in the onetenth commandment. As the seventh and eighth forbid acts of adultery and theft, so the tenth forbids the desire and so seals the inner spirituality of all the commandments of the second table. The claims of God stand first. The love of God is the true spring of the love of our fellow men. Josephus (c. Apion ii. 17) says: “Moses did not (as other legislators) make religion part of virtue, but all other virtues parts of religion.” The order of the ten indicates the Divine hand; God’s being, unity, exclusive deity, “have no other gods before My face” (Heb. iv. 13); His worship as a Spirit without idol symbol; His name; His day; His earthly representatives, parents, to be honoured; then regard for one neighbour’s life; for his second self, his wife; his property; character; bridling the desires, the fence of duty to one’s neighbour and one’s self.
As deed is fenced by the sixth, seventh, and eighth, so speech, by the ninth, and the heart by the tenth. It begins with God, ends with the heart. The fourth and fifth have a positive form, the rest negative. It is a witness against man’s sin rather than a. giver of holiness. Philo and Josephus (Ant. iii. 6, § 5) comprise the first five in the first table, the last five in the second. Augustine, to bring out the Trinity, made our first and second one, and divided our tenth into coveting the wife and coveting the rest; thus three in the first table, seven in the second.
But the command to have only one God is quite distinct from the prohibition to worship Him by an image, and coveting the wife and the other objects falls under one category of unlawful desire. Love to God is expressly taught in the second commandment, “mercy to thousands in them that love Me and keep` My commandments.” The five and five division is the best. Five implies imperfection.; our duty to God being imperfect if divorced from duty to our neighbour. Five and tenpredominate in the proportions of the tabernacle. Piety towards the earthly father is closely joined to piety towards the heavenly (Heb. xii. 9, 1 Tim. v, 4, Mark vii. 11). Special sanctions are attached to the second, third, fourth, and fifth commandments. Paul (Rom. xiii. 8, 9) makes the second table, or duty to our neighbour comprise the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth, but not tho fifth commandment.
Spiritual Jews penetrated beneath the surface, and so found in the law peace and purity viewed in connection with the promised Redeemer (Ps. i.2, xix., cxix., xv., xxiv.; Isa. 1. 10-18; Rom. ii. 28, 29). As (1) the Decalogue gave the moral tone to all the rest of the law, so (2) the ceremonial part taught symbolically purity, as required by all true subjects of the kingdomof God. It declared the touch of the dead defiling, to remind men that sin’s wages is death. It distinguished clean from unclean foods, to teach men to choose moral good and reject evil. The sacrificial part (3) taught the hope of propitiation, and thus represented the original covenant of promise, and pointed on to Messiah, through whom the sense of guilt, awakened by the moral law which only condemns men through their own inability to keep it, is taken away, and peace with God is realized.
Two particulars are noticeable: (1) Moses does not inculcate as sanctions of his laws the rewards and punishments of a future life; (2) he does use as a sanction God’s declaration that He “visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him, and shows mercy unto thousands (to the thousandth generation) of them that love Him and keep his commandments” (Exod. xx. 5, 6). The only way we can account for the omission of a future sanction, which all other ancient lawgivers deemed indispensable (Warburton, Div. Legation), is the fact established on independent proofs, viz, that Israel’s government was administered by an extraordinary providence, distributing reward and punishment according to obedience or disobedience severally. But whilst not sanctioning his law by future rewards or punishments, Moses shows both that he believed in them himself, and sets forth such proofs of them as would suggest themselves to every thoughtful and devout Israelite, though less clearly than they were revealed subsequently under David, Solomon, and the prophets, when they became matter of general belief. Christ shows that in the very title, “the God of Abraham,” etc, in the Pentateuch the promise of the resurrection is by implication contained (Matt. xxii. 31, 82).
Scripture (Heb. iv. 2, Gal. iii. 8) affirms the gospel was preached unto Abraham and to Israel in the wilderness, as well as unto us. The Sinai law in its sacrifices was the bud, the gospel the flower and ripened fruit. The law was the gospel in miniature, which Jesus the Sun of righteousness expanded. So David (Ps. xxxii, Rom. iv. 6). On the hope of a future life being held by those under the law see Numb. xxiii. 10; Ps. xvi 8-11, xvii. 15, xxi. 4, lxxiii. 21, xlix. 1.1, 15; Isa. xxv; 19, xxv. 8,lvii. 1, 2; Dan. vii. 9, 10, 13, 14, xii. 2. The sense of Ps.. cxxxix. 24 is “see if thcro be any way of idolatry in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” promised to David and his seed in Messiah (comp. 1 John v. 21; Prov. viii. 35, xii. 28, xiv. 32, xxi. 16, xxiv. 11; Eccles. viii. 11, 12, xi. 9, xii. 7, 13, 14; 2 Kings ii. 11, 12, xiii. 21; Ezek. xxxvii.; Hos. xiii. 14, vi. 2; Joel ii. 82; Job xix. 23-27). Life in man is in Gen. i. 26, 27, ii. 7, distinguished from life in brutes: ”Jehovah Elohim breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” ; “God created man in His own image”
It is not immateriality which distinguishes man’s life from the brutes’ life, for the vital principle is immaterial in the brute as in man; it can only be the continuance of life after death of the body, conscience, spirit, and sense of moral responsibility, as well as power of abstract reasoning. Acts xxiv. 14, 15, 25 shows the prevalent belief in St. Paul’s day as to the resurrection and judgment to come. Christ asserts that by searching the O.T. scriptures eternal life and the promise of Messiah was to be found (John v. 39).
The barrenness of Judæa has been made an objection by Voltaire against Scripture truth, which represents it as “flowing with milk an& honey.” But the very barrenness is the accomplishment of Scripture prophecies, and powerfully confirms the 0. T. The structure of the Mosaic history confirms the reality of the miracles on which the truth of the extraordinary providence rests. Common events are joined with the miraculous so closely that the acknowledged history of this singular people would become unaccountable, unless the MIRACLES with which it is inseparably joined be admitted. The miracles could not have been credited by the contemporary generation, nor introduced subsequently into the national records and the national religion, if they had not been real and Divine. The Jewish ritual and the singular constitution of the tribe of Levi commemorated them perpetua1ly, and rested on their truth. The political constitution and civil laws presuppose an extraordinary providence limiting the legislative and executive authorities. So also the distribution and tenure of land, the sabbatic and jubilee years, the three great feasts requiring all males to meet at the central sanctuary thrice each year.
Present, rather than invisible and future, sanctions were best fitted at that time to establish the superiority of the true God before Israel and heathendom. The low intellectual and moral state of most Israelites incapacitated them from rising above the desires of the present world to look forward to future retributions, which their spiritual dullness would make them feel doubtful of, until first a present special providence visibly proved His claim on their faith and obedience, and prepared them to believe that the same Divine justice which had heretofore visibly governed the youth of Israel’s existence would in a future state reward or punish according to men’s deserts, when the present extraordinary providence should be withdrawn. Moreover, national obedience or transgression could as such be recompensed only by temporal prosperity or adversity (for nations have their existence only in the present time). These therefore the Divine King of the theocracy dispensed with an immediate and visible execution, which only partially appears in His present more invisible, though not less real, government of all nations. Offences against the state and individuals were punished, as also offences against God its head. In Israel’s history a visible specimen was given of what is true in all ages and nations, though less immediately seen now when our calling is to believe and wait, that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. xiv. 34).
The distinction of clean and unclean animals relates to sacrifices. Some animals by filthy, wild, and noxious natures suggest the presence of evil in nature, and therefore give the feeling of unfitness for being offered as symbols of atonement or thanks. giving before the holy God. Others, tame, docile, useful to man, of the flock and herd, seem suitable for offering, as sheep, goats, cows, doves, and the like. Those that both chew the cud and divide the hoof men generally have taken for food by a common instinct. So fishes with fins and scales, but not shellfish as less digestible; insects leaping upon the earth, raised above the crawling slimy brood. Other animals, etc., as swine, dogs, etc., offered by idolaters, are called “abominations.” The aim of the distinction was ethical, to symbolise separation from moral defilement, and to teach to the true Israel self cleansing from all pollutions of flesh and spirit (2 Cor. vii. 1). The lesson in Acts x. is that whereas God granted sanctification of spirit to the Gentiles, as He had to Cornelius, the outward symbol of separation between them and the Jews, viz, the distinction of clean and unclean meats, was needless (Matt. xv. 11, 1 Tim. iv. 4, Rom. xiv. 17).
So the impurity contracted by childbirth (Lev. xii., xv.), requiring the mother’s purification, points to the taint of birth sin (Ps. Ii. 5). The uncleanness alter a female birth lasted 66 days, after a male 33, to mark the fall as coming through the woman first (1 Tim. ii. 14, 15). In the penal code idolatry is the capital crime, treason against the Head of the state and its fundamental constitution. One was bound not to spare the dearest relative, if guilty of tempting to it; any city apostatising to it was to be destroyed with its spoil and inhabitants (Deut. xiii. 6). Human sacrifices burnt to Moloch were especially marked for judgment on all who took part in them (Lev. xx. 1-5). The wizard, witch, and their consulters violated the allegiance due to Jehovah, who alone reveals His will to His people (Num. ix. 7, 8, xxvii. 21; Josh. ix. 14; Jud. i. 1; 2 Sam. v. 23) and controls future events, and were therefore to die (1 Chron. x. 13, Lev. xx. 27). So the blasphemer, presumptuous sabbath breaker, and false prophet (Lev. xxiv. 11-16; Num. xv. 30-. 86; Deut. xvii. 12, xviii. 20). So the violator of the command to rest from work on the day of atonement (Lev. xxiv. 29, 30), of the Passover (Exod. xii. 15, 19); the wilful defiler of the sanctuary (Num. xix. 13, Lev. Xxii. 3); the perpetrator of unnatural crimes (xviii., xx.).
The prohibitions of rounding the hair and beard, of wearing a garment of wool and linen mixed, of sowing a field with divers seeds, of women using men’s garments (besides tending to preserve feminine modesty and purity), were directed against existing idolatrous usages in the worship of Baal and Ashteroth (xix. 19, 27; Deut. xxii. 5). The ordeal by the water of jealousy depended on an extraordinary providence (Num. v. 11). It could injure the guilty only by miracle, the innocent not at all; whereas in the ordeals of the Middle Ages the innocent could scarcely escape but by miracle. Prohibitions such as human tribunals could hardly take cognisance of were sanctioned by penalties which God undertook to execute. He as Sovereign reserved exclusively to Himself the right of legislation.
Sins of impurity, next to idolatry, were punished with peculiar severity (Lev. xviii.; the adulterer and adulteress, xx. 10; Deut. xxii. 22-30, xxvii. 20-26). Mildness and exact equity pervaded the code so far as was compatible with the state of the people and the age. Interest or “usury” was not to be taken from an Israelite, and only in strict equity from the foreigner. The poor should be relieved liberally (Deut. xv. 7-11). The hired labourer’s wages were to be paid at once (xxiv. 14, 15). Intrusion into a neighbour’s house to recover a loan was forbidden, not to hurt his feelings. The pledged raiment was to be restored, so as not to leave him without a coverlet at night (ver. 10- 13). Other characteristic precepts of the law are: reverence to the old; tenderness toward those having bodily infirmity (ver. 19-21); gleanings to be left for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow (Lev. xix. 14-32); faithfulness in rebuking a neighbour’s sin; the dispersion of the Levites, the ministers of religion, forming a sacred tie among all the tribes; studied opposition to all the usages of idolaters, as the heathen historian Tacitus notices : “all we hold sacred are with them profane: they offer the ram in contempt of Ammon – . . and an ox, which the Egyptians worship as Apis (Hist. v. 4); the Jews deem those profane who form any images of the gods – the Divinity they conceive as one, and only to be understood by the mind; with images they would not honour Caesars or flatter kings.”
Personal violence was punished retributively in kind, “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” The false witness had to suffer what he thought to inflict on another (Deut. xix. 16-21; Exod. xxi. 24; Lev. xxiv. 18-21). This did not sanction individual retaliation, but it was to regulate the magistrate’s award of damages, viz. the worth in money of the bodily power lost by the injured person. It was to protect the community, not to regulate the believer, who when he penetrated beneath the letter into the spirit of the law, which the gospel afterward brought to light, felt constrained to love his enemy and not do to him the injury the latter had done or intended to do. Our Lord quoted the form of the law (Matt. v. 38) in order to contrast the pharisaic view, which looked only to the letter, with the true view which looks to the spirit.
A striking feature of the penal code, in which it was superior to most codes, was that no crime against mere property incurred death. Bond service till the sabbatic year was the extreme penalty; restitution and fine were the ordinary penalty. The slave’s life was guarded as carefully as the master’s. If the master caused even the loss of a tooth the servant was to be set free. The chastity of female slaves was strictly protected. No Jew could be kept in bondage more than seven years, and then was to be seat away with. liberal gifts (Exod. xxi. 7-26, Deut.. xv. 13-15). In fact Israelite bond service was only a going into service for a term of years, that the creditor might reap the benefit. The creditor could not imprison nor scourge so as to injure the bond debtor, but in Rome the creditor could imprison and even kill him according to the old law. Men stealers were to be put to death. What a contrast to the cruel oppression of slaves in other nations, the Spartans butchering the helots, the Romans torturing their slaves for trifles and goading them to servile rebellions which cost some of Rome’s bravest blood, and enacting that where a master was murdered all the slaves in the house, or within hearing of it, should be killed! In Israelthe public peace was never threatened by such a cause.
Trials were public, in the city gates. The judges, the elders, and Levitical ministers and officers, as our jurors, were taken from the people. No torture before conviction, no cruelty after it, was permitted. Forty stripes were the extreme limit of bodily punishment (Deut. xxv. 3). Capital convictions could only be by the agreeing testimony of two witnesses (xvii. 6).
The even distribution of lands, the non-alienation of them from the family and tribe (Num. xxvii., xxxvi.), admirably guarded against those agrarian disturbances and intestine discords which in other states and in all ages have flowed from an uneven distribution and an uncertain tenure of property.
Love to God, love to one’s neighbour and even to enemies, benevolence to strangers, the poor, the fatherless and widows, repentance and restitution for injuries, sincere worship of the heart and obedience of the life required to accompany outward ceremonial worship, all these are characteristics of the law, such as never originated from the nation itself, long enslaved, and not remarkable for high intellectual and moral capacity, and such as did not then exist in the code of any other nation. The Originator can have only been, as Scripture says, God Himself. Besides, whatever doubts may be raised respecting the inspiration or authorship, the fact remains and is indisputable, that it was given and was in force ages before Lycurgus orMinos or other noted legislators lived, and that it has retained its influence upon legislation from the time of its promulgation until now, the British and all other codes of civilized nations being based upon it. This is one of those facts which neither evolution, nor revolution, can overthrow.
The letter and outward ordinances were the casket, the spirit as brought out by the gospel was the jewel. The sacrifices gave present relief to awakened consciences by the hope of forgiveness through God’s mercy, resting on the promise of the Redeemer. The law could not give life, that was reserved for the gospel (Gal. iii. 21, 22; iv. 6). Spiritual Jews, as David, when convicted by the law of failure in obedience, fell back on the earlier covenant of promise, the covenant of grace, as distinguished from the law the covenant of works (which required perfect obedience as the condition of life, and cursed all who disobeyed in the least point: iii. 6-18; Lev. xviii. 5), and by the Spirit cried for a clean heart (Ps. li. 10, 11). So they could love the law, not as an outward yoke, but as the law of God’s will cherished in the heart (xxxvii. 31), such as it was in Him who should come (xl. 8). In most Jews, because of the nonconformity between their inward state and the law’s requirements as a rule from without, its tendency was “to gender to bondage” (Gal. ii. 4; iv. 3, 9, 24, 25; v. 1).
Inclination rebelled against it. They either burst its bond for open heathenism; or, as in post captivity times, scrupulously held the letter, but had none of its spirit, “love, the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. xiii. 8-10; Lev. xix. 18; 1 Tim. i. 5; Gal. v. 14; Matt. vii. 12, xxii. 37-40; Jas. ii. 8). Hence the prophets looked on to gospel times when God would write the law by His Spirit in the heart (Jer. xxxi. 31-433, 39; Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27, xi. 19, 20).
In one respect the law continues, in another it is superseded (Matt. v. 17, 18). In its antitypical realization in Jesus, it is all being fulfilled or has been so. In its spirit, “holy, just and good,” it is of everlasting obligation as it reflects the mind of God. In its 0. T. form it gives place to its fully developed perfection in the N. T. The temporary and successional Aaronic priesthood gives place to the abiding and intransmissible Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus, the sacrificial types to the one antitypical sacrifice, never to be repeated (Heb. v., vii., viii., ix., x.). So believers, in so far as they are under the gospel law of Christ (Gal. vi. 2), which is the law of love in the heart, are no longer under the law, as an outward letter ordinance. Through Christ’s death they are dead to the law, as a law of condemnation, and have the Spirit enabling them to “serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter “ (Rom. ii. 29, vii. 1-6; 2 Cor. iii. 6). “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness (both justification and sanctification) to every one that believeth” (Rom. x. 4, viii. 1-3). He gave not so much new laws of morality as new motives for observing the old law.
As a covenant of works, and a provisional mode of discipline, and a typical representation of atonement, the law is no more. As the revelation of God’s righteousness it is everlasting. Free from the letter, the believer fulfils the spirit and end of the law, conformity to God’s will. Moses, in foretelling the rise of the “Prophet like unto himself” and God’s rejection of all who should reject Him (Deut. xviii. 15, etc.), by the Spirit intimates that the law was to give place to the gospel of Jesus. Moses anticipates also by the Spirit the evils which actually befell them, their being besieged, their captivity, dispersion, and restoration (Lev. xxvi., D eut. xxxii.). The words in xxxiv. 10-12 (comp. Num. xii. 1-8) prove that no other prophet or succession of prophets can exhaustively fulfil the prophecy. Both Peter and Stephen authoritatively decide that Messiah is“the Prophet” (Acts iii. 22, vii. 37). The gospel attracted and detached from the Jewish nation almost every pure and pious soul, sifting the chaff from the wheat. The destruction of the temple with which Judaism and the ceremonial law were inseparably connected was God’s explicit setting of them aside. The danger to the church from judaizing Christians, which was among its first trials (Acts xi., xv., Gal. iii. 5), was thereby diminished, and “the fall of the Jews is the riches of the world” in this as in other respects (Rom. xi. 12).