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of the lame are not equal!

A second objection to denominating the ten precepts "the moral
law," presents itself to the reflecting mind, from the consideration that
all morality is not contained in them. When it is said that the ten
commandments are "the moral law," does not this definite phrase
imply that all morality is contained in them; or, what is the same
in effect, that all immorality is prohibited in them? But, is this the
fact? Are the immoralities called drunkenness, fornication, polygamy,


divorces oa trifling accounts, retaliation, etc., prohibited in the ten
precepts? This question must be answered in the negative. If it had
been asked, is all immorality prohibited in this saying, "Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself"? — we would readily answer, yes; — but
it is the so-called moral law we are speaking of. We affirm, then, that
the above immoralities are not prohibited in the Decalogue, according
to the most obvious construction of the words. We are aware that
large volumes have been written to show how much is comprehended
in the ten precepts. But, methinks, the voluminous works of some
learned men on this subject, too much resemble the writings of Peter
D'Alva, who wrote forty-eight huge folio volumes to explain the mys-
teries of the conception of the Messiah in the womb of the Virgin Mary!
And what shall we think of the genius who discovered that singing
hymns and spiritual songs was prohibited, and the office of the ruling
elder pointed out, in the second commandment? that dancing and stage
plays were prohibited in the seventh; and supporting the clergy
enjoined in the eighth! I According to this latitude of interpretation,
a genius may arise and show us that law and gospel are contained
in the first commandment, and of course all the others are superfluous.
But this way of enlarging on the Decalogue defeats the division of
the law of Moses, which these Doctors have made. For instance, they
tell us that witchcraft is prohibited in the first commandment — incest
and sodomy in the seventh. Now they afterwards place these vices,
with the laws respecting them, in their judicial law; if then their moral
law includes their judicial law, they make a distinction without a

There remains another objection to this division of the law. It sets
itself in opposition to the skill of an Apostle, and ultimately deters
us from speaking of the ten precepts as he did. Paul, according to
the wisdom given unto him, denominated the ten precepts the "min-
istration of condemnation and of death" (II. Cor. iii. 7, 14). This we
call the moral law. Whether he or we are to be esteemed the most
able ministers of Christ, it remains for you, my friends, to say. Paul
having called the ten precepts the ministration of death, next affirms
that it was to be done away — and that it was done away. Now the
calling the ten precepts "the moral law," is not only a violation of|
the use of words; is not only inconsistent in itself and contradictory
to truth, but greatly obscures the doctrine taught by the Apostle in
II. Cor. iii., and in similar passages, so as to render it almost, if not
altogether, unintelligible to us. To use the same language of the
moral law as he used in respect to the ministration of condemnation
and death, is shocking to many devout ears. When we say the moral
law is done away, the religious world is alarmed; but when we declare
the ministration of condemnation is done away, they hear us patiently,


not knowing what we mean! To give new names to ancient things,
and speak of them according to their ancient names, is perplexing
indeed. Suppose, for example, I would call the English law which
governed these states when colonies, the constitution of the United
States, and then affirm that the constitution of the United States is
done away, or abolished, who would believe me? But if the people
were informed that what I called the constitution of these states was
the obsolete British law, they would assent to my statement. Who
would not discover that the giving of a wrong name was the sole cause
of such a misunderstanding? Hence it is, that modern teachers, by
their innovations concerning law, have perplexed the student of the
Bible, and caused many a fruitless controversy, as unnecessary as that
relating to the mark set on Cain. It does not militate with this state-
ment to grant that some of the precepts of the Decalogue have been
re-promulgated by Jesus Christ, any more than the re-promulgation
of some of the British laws does not prevent us from affirming that
the laws under which the colonies existed are done away to the citizens
of the United States. But of this, more afterwards.

To what has been said, it may be added, that the modern division
of the law tends very much to perplex any person who wishes to under-
stand the Epistles to the Romans, Galatians and Hebrews; insomuch,
that while the hearer keeps this distinction in mind, he is continually
at a loss to know whether the moral, ceremonial, or judicial law is

Before dismissing this part of the subject, we would observe, that
there are two principles, commandments, or laws, that are never
included in our observations respecting the law of Moses, nor are they
ever in holy writ called the law of Moses: — These are, "Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength;
and thy neighbor as thyself." These, our Great Prophet teaches us,
are the basis of the law of Moses, and of the Prophets. "On these
two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Indeed the
Sinai law, and all Jewish law, is but a modification of them. These
are of universal and immutable obligation. Angels and men, good and
bad, are for ever under them. God, as our Creator, can not require
less; nor can we, as creatures and fellow-creatures, propose or expect
less, as the standard of duty and perfection. These are coeval with
angels and men. They are engraven with more or less clearness on
every human heart. These are the ground work or basis of the law,
written in the heart of heathens, which constitute their conscience, or
knowledge of right and wrong. By these their thoughts mutually
accuse or else excuse one another. By these they shall be judged, or
at least all who have never seen or heard a written law, or revelation.
But for these principles there had never been either law or gospel.


Let it then be remembered, that iu the Scriptures, these precepts are
considered the basis of all law and prophecy; consequently when we
speak of the law of Moses, we uo not include these commandments,
but that whole modification of them sometimes called the legal dis
pensation. It must also be observed, that the Apostles sometimes speak
of the law, when it is obvious that a certain part only is intended.
But this, so far from clashing with the preceding observations, fully
corroborates them. For if the Apostle refers to any particular part
of the law, under the general terms, the law, and speaks of the whole
dispensation in the same terms, without any additional definition;
then, doubtless, the phrase, the law, denotes the whole legal dispensa-
tion; and not any particular law, or new distinction, to which we may
affix the words, the law.

2d. We shall now attempt to point out those things which the law
could not accomplish.

In the first place, it could not give righteousness and life. Right-
eousness and eternal life are inseparably connected. Where the former
is not, the latter can not be enjoyed. Whatever means put us in the
possession of the one, puts us in the possession of the other. But
this the law could not do. "For if there had been a law given, which
could have given life, verily, righteousness should have been by
the law" (Gal. iii. 21). "If righteousness come by the law, then
Christ is dead in vain. These testimonies of the Apostle, with the
whole scope of divine truth, teach us that no man is justified by
the law, that righteousness and eternal life can not be received
through it.

Here we must regret that our translators, by an injudicious supple-
ment, should have made the Apostle apparently contradict himself. I
allude to the supplement in the 10th verse of Romans vii. From the
seventh verse of this chapter, the Apostle narrates his experience as
a Jew, under the law, and then his experience as a Christian, under
the gospel, freed from the law. The scope of the 10th verse, and its
context, is to show what the Apostle once thought of the law, and
how his mistakes were corrected. If any supplement be necessary in
this verse, we apprehend it should be similar to what follows: — "And
the commandment [which I thought would give me] life, I found [to
lead] to death." This doubtless corresponds with the scope of the con-
text, and does not, like the present supplement, clash with Gal. iii. 21.
Indeed the law, so far from being "ordained to give life," was merely
"added to the promise of life, till the seed should come to whom th«»
promise was made" — "Moreover the law entered that the offense might
abound" — "For by the law was the knowledge of sin." For these
reasons we conclude that justification, righteousness and eternal life,
can not by any means be obtained by tlie law.


2. In the second place, the law could not exhibit the malignity or
demerit of sin. It taught those that were under it, that certain actions
were sinful — to these sinful actions it gave descriptive names — one is
called theft, a second murder, a third adultery. It showed that these
actions were offensive to God, hurtful to men, and deserved death.
But how extensive their malignity, and vast their demerit, the law could
not exhibit. This remained for later times and other means to develop.

3. In the third place, the law could not be a suitable rule of life
to mankind in this imperfect state. It could not to all mankind, as
it was given to, and designed only for a part. It was given to the
Jewish nation, and to none else. As the inscription on a letter identifies
to whom it belongs; as the preamble to a proclamation distinguishes
who is addressed, so the preface to the law points out and determines
to whom it was given. It points out a people brought from the land
of Egypt, and released from the house of bondage, as the subjects of it.
To extend it farther than its own preface, is to violate the rules of
criticism and propriety. How unjust and improper would it be to
convey the contents of a letter to a person to whom it was not directed
—how inconsistent to enjoin the items of a proclamation made by the
President of these United States, on the subjects of the French govern-
ment. As inconsistent would it be to extend the law of Moses beyond
the limits of the Jewish nation. Do we not know with Paul, that
what things soever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the
law? But even to the Jews it was not the most suitable rule of life.
'Tis universally agreed that example, as a rule of life, is more influ-
ential than precept. Now the whole Mosaic law wanted a model or
example of living perfection. The most exemplary characters under
the law had their notable imperfections. And as long as polygamy
divorces, slavery, revenge, etc., were winked at under that law, so long
must the lives of its best subjects be stained with glaring imperfec-
tions. But when we illustrate how God has remedied the defects oC
the law, the ideas presented in this particular shall be more fully

But we hasten to the third thing proposed in our method, which
is to demonstrate the reason why the law could not "accomplish these

The Apostle in our text briefly informs us that it was owing to
human weakness that the law failed to accomplish these things — "In
that it was weak through the flesh." The defects of the law are of
a relative kind. It is not in itself weak or sinful — some part of it
was holy, just and good — other parts of it were elementary, shadowy,
representations of good things to come. But that part of it written
and engraven on tables of stone, which was holy, just and good, failed
in that it was too high, sublime, and spiritual, to regulate so weak a


mortal as fallen man. And even when its oblations and sacrifices were
presented, there was something too vast and sublime, for such weak
means, such carnal commandments— such beggarly elements— such per-
ishable and insignificant blood, to effect. So that the Apostle saith.
the law made nothing perfect, it merely introduced a bettor hope. If
the law had been faultless, no place should have been found for the
gospel. We may then fairly conclude that the spirituality, holiness,
justice and goodness of one part of the law, rendered it too high; and
the carnal, weak and beggarly elements of another part, rendered it
too low; and both together became weak through the flesh. Viewing
the law in this light, we can suitably apply the words of the Spirit
uttered by Ezek. xx. 25, in relation to its incompetence— "I gave them,"
says he, "statutes which were not good, and judgments whereby they
should not live."

We have now arrived at the fourth head of our discourse, in which
we proposed to illustrate the means by which God has remedied the
relative defects of the law.

All those defects the Eternal Father remedies, by sending his own
Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemns .sin in the
flesh. "That the whole righteousness which the law required, might
be fulfilled in us, who shall walk not after the flesh, but after the

The primary deficiency of the law which we noticed was, that it
could not give righteousness and eternal life. Now, the Son of God,
the Only Begotten of the Father, in the likeness of sinful flesh, makes
an end of sin. makes reconciliation for iniquity, finishes transgression,
brings in an everlasting righteousness, and completes eternal redemp-
tion for sinners. He magnifies the law. and makes it honorable. All
this he achieves by his obedience unto death. He finished the work
which the Father gave him to do; so that in him all believers, all the
spiritual seed of Abraham, find righteousness and eternal life; not by
legal works or observances, in whole or in part, but through the abun-
dance of grace, and the gift of righteousness, which is by him;— "For
the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." This
righteousness, and its concomitant, eternal life, are revealed from faith
to faith— the information or report of it comes in the divine word to
our ears, and receiving the report of it, or believing the divine testi-
mony concerning it. brings us into the enfoyment of its blessings.
Hence it is that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to
every one that believeth. Nor is he on this account the minister of
sin— for thus the righteousness, the perfect righteousness of the law.
is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit
Do we then make void the law or destroy the righteousness of it by
faith? God forbid: we establish the law.


A second thing which we observed the law could not do, was to give
a full exhibition of the demerit of sin. It is acknowledged that the
demerit of sin was partially developed in the law, and before the law.
Sin was condemned in the deluge, in the confusion of human speech,
in turning to ashes the cities of the plain, in the thousands that fell
in the wilderness. But these, and a thousand similar monuments
beside, fall vastly short of giving a full exhibition of sin in its malig-
nant nature and destructive consequences. But a full discovery of its
nature and demerits is given us in the person of Jesus Christ. God
condemned sin in him — God spared not his own Son, but delivered
him up — It pleased the Lord to bruise him, to pour out his soul an
offering for sin. When we view the Son of the Eternal suspended on
the cursed tree — when we see him in the' garden, and hear his petitions
— when we hear him exclaim, "My God, My God, why hast thou for-
saken me!" in a word, when we see him expiring in blood, and laid
in the tomb, we have a monument of the demerit of sin, which no law
could give, which no temporal calamity could exhibit.

We sometimes in the vanity of our minds talk lightly of the demerit
of sin, and irreverently of the atonement. In this age of novelty, it
is said, "that the sufferings of Christ were so great as to atone for
the sins of worlds on worlds," or at least for the sins of the damned
as well as the saved — that "one drop of his blood is sufficient to atone
for the sins of the whole world." That is, in other words, the sufferings
of Christ so transcended the demerit of the sins of his people, as to
be sufficient to save all that shall eternally perish. These assertions
are as unreasonable as unscriptural. In our zeal to exalt the merits
of the atonement — I say, in the warmth of our passions, and in the
fullness of our hearts, let us be cautious lest we impeach the Divine
wisdom and prudence. Doubtless, if the merits of his sufferings tran-
scend the demerit of his people's sins, then some of his sufferings were
in vain, and some of his merit unrewarded. To avoid this conclusion,
some have affirmed that all shall be saved, and none perish, contrary
to the express word of God. Indeed, the transition from these incon-
sistent views of the atonement, to what is called Universalism, is short
and easy. But I would humbly propose a few inquiries on this subject.
Why do the Evangelists inform us that Christ died so soon after his
suspension on the cross? Why so much marvel expressed that he was
so soon dead? — so much sooner than the malefactors that were cruci-
fied with him? It might be presumed Tiis last words solve these dif-
ficulties — "It is finished, and he gave up the ghost." From these and
similar premises, it would seem that his life and sufferings were pro-
longed just so long as was necessary to complete the redemption of
his people. We are accustomed, on all subjects that admit of it, to
distinguish between quantity and quality. In the common concerns of


human intoiTOurse, sometimes the quality of a thing is acceptable when
the quantity is not; at other times the quantity is acceptable when the
quality is not. If a thousand slaves were to be redeemed and emanci-
pated by means of gold, the person in whose custody they were could
not demand any more precious metal than gold — when one piece of
gold was presented to him, he might object to the quantity as deficient,
though the quality is unobjectionable. In respect of the means of our
redemption, it must be allowed that the sufferings of Christ were they.
These sufferings, then, were the sufferings of a divine person — such
doubtless was their quality. And a life and sufferings of any other
quality could avail nothing in effecting redemption for transgressors.
It but one of Adam's race should be saved, a life and sufferings of such
a quality would have been indispensably requisite to accomplish such
a deliverance. Again, if more were to have been saved than what
will eventually be saved, the quantity and not the quality of his suffer-
ings would have been augmented. The only sentiment respecting the
atonement that will bear the test of Scripture, truth, or sober reason,
is, that the life and sufferings of Christ in quality, and in length of
quantity, were such as sufficed to make reconciliation for all the sin3
of his chosen race; or for all them in every age or nation that shall
believe in him. There was nothing deficient, nothing superfluous; else
he shall never see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; which
would be the reverse of his Father's promise, and his own expectation.
When the life and sufferings of Christ are viewed in this light, the
demerit of sin appears in its true colors — all inconsistencies vanish,
and all the testimonies of sacred truth, of patriarchs, prophets, and
apostles, harmoniously correspond. But if we suppose that the suffer-
ings of Christ transcended the demerit of the sins of "his people," then
we shall have no full exhibition of the demerit of sin. Nor are "his
people" under any more obligation of love or gratitude to him than
they who eternally perish.

That which remains on this head is to show how the failure of the
law in not being a suitable rule of life, has been remedied.

We noticed that example is a more powerful teacher than precept.
Now Jesus Christ has afforded us an example of human perfection never
witnessed before. He gave a living form to every moral and religious
precept which they had never before possessed. In this respect he was
the distinguished Prophet to whom Moses and all the inferior propheta
referred. In entering on this prophetic oflice, he taught with a peculi-
arity unexampled by all his predecessors — "He spake as never man
spake." The highest commendation he gave of Moses was that he wroto
of him, and that he was a faithful servant In Christ's house. From
the beginning of his ministry to the end of his life, he claimed the
honor of being the only person that could instruct men in the knowl-


edge of God or of his will. He claimed tlie honor of being the author
and finisher of the only perfect form of religion; the Eternal Father
attested all his claims and honored all his pretensions. Respecting the
ancient rules of life, the law and the prophets, he taught his disciples
they had lived their day — he taught them they were given only for a
limited time. "The law and the prophets prophesied until John" —
then they gave place to a greater Prophet, and a more glorious law.
Malachi, the last of the ancient prophets, informed Israel that they
should strictly observe Moses' law, until a person should come in the
spirit and power of Blias. Jesus taught us that John the Baptist was
he, and that the law and prophets terminated at his entrance upon his
ministry; for since that time the kingdom of God is preached and all
men press into it. To attest his character, and to convince the church
of his being the great Prophet, to whom all Christians should exclu-
sively hearken as their teacher; to weaken the attachments of his dis-
ciples to Moses and the prophets, it pleased God to send down Moses
and Elias from heaven; the one the lawgiver, and the other the law-
restorer, to resign their prophetic honors at the feet of the Messiah,
in presence of select witnesses. "Jesus took with him Peter, James,
and John into a high mountain, and was transfigured before them, and
his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as snow, and
behold there appeared Moses and Elias talking with him." Peter,
enraptured with these heavenly visitants, proposes erecting three taber-
nacles — one for Christ, one for Moses, and one for Elias. But while
he was thus proposing to associate Christ, the Prophet, with Moses and
Elias, inferior prophets, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice
out of the cloud, an indirect reply to Peter's motion — "This is my
beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him.'' Thus when
these ancient and venerable prophets were recalled to heaven, Christ
alone is left as the great teacher, to whom, by a commandment from
the excellent glory, the throne of the Eternal, we are obliged to hearken.
That this transaction was significant of the doctrine above stated, must
be manifest, when we take into view all circumstances. Might it not
be asked, "Why did not Abel, Abraham, or Enoch appear on this occa-
sion?" The reason is plain — the disciples of Christ had no hurtful
respect for them. Moses and Elias, the reputed oracles of the Jewish
nation, were the two, and the only two, in respect of whom this solemn
and significant revocation was needful. The plain language of the
whole occurrence was this — Moses and Elias were excellent men — they
were now glorified in heaven — they had lived their day — the limited
time they were to flourish as teachers of the will of Heaven was now
come to an end. The morning star had arisen — nay, was almost set,
and the Sun of Righteousness was arising with salutiferous rays. Let
us, then, walk in the noon-day light — let us hearken to Jesus as tho


Prophet aud Legislator, Priest and King. He shall reign over all the

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 50 of 70)