Office and Duties of the Christian Pastor by Patrick Fairbairn: 08. Lecture 7: The Relation Of The Law To The Mission And Work Of Christ...

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Office and Duties of the Christian Pastor by Patrick Fairbairn: 08. Lecture 7: The Relation Of The Law To The Mission And Work Of Christ...


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Lecture 7.

The Relation Of The Law To The Mission And Work Of Christ—The Symbolical And Ritual Finding In Him Its Termination, And The Moral Its Formal Appropriation And Perfect Fulfilment.

AS the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ for the work of our redemption was unspeakably the greatest era in the history of God’s dispensations toward men, we cannot doubt that every thing respecting it was arranged with infinite wisdom. It took place, as the apostle tells us, ‘in the fulness of the time’ (Gal_4:4). Many circumstances, both in the church and in the world, conspired to render it such; and among these may undoubtedly be placed the fact, that there was not only a general expectation throughout the world of some one going to arise in Judea, who should greatly change and renovate the state of things, but in Judea itself the more certain hope and longing desire of a select few, who, taught by the word of prophecy, were anxiously waiting ‘for the consolation of Israel.’ Yet even with them, as may be reasonably inferred from what afterwards transpired in Gospel history, the expectation, however sincere and earnest, was greatly wanting in discernment: it might justly be said ‘to see through a glass, darkly.’ The great problem which, according to Old Testament Scripture, had to find its solution in the brighter future of God’s kingdom, was not distinctly apprehended by any known section of the covenant-people; and in all the more prominent and active members of the community there were strong currents of opinion and deeply cherished convictions, which were utterly incompatible with the proper realization of the Divine plan. This condition of affairs immensely aggravated the difficulty of the under taking for Him, who came in this peculiar work to do the Father’s will; but it served, at the same time, more clearly to shew how entirely all was of God both the insight to understand what was needed to be done, and the wisdom, the resolution, the power to carry it into execution.

If, however, from the position of matters now noticed, it was necessary that our Lord should move in perfect independence as regards the religious parties of the time, it was not less necessary that He should exercise a close dependence on the religion which they professed in common to maintain. Coming as the Messiah promised to the Fathers, He entered, as a matter of course, into the heritage of all preceding revelations, and therefore could introduce nothing absolutely new—could only exhibit the proper growth and development of the old. And so, while isolating Himself from the Judaism of the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus lovingly embraced the Judaism of the law and the prophets; and, founding upon what had been already established, took it for His especial calling to unfold the germs of holy principle which were contained in the past revelations of God, and by word and deed ripen them into a system of truth and duty adapted to the mature stage which had now been reached of the Divine dispensations. It was only in part, indeed, that this could be done during the personal ministry of our Lord; for, as the light He was to introduce depended to a large extent on the work He had to accomplish for men, there were many things respecting it which could not be fully disclosed till the events of His marvellous history had run their course. It was the redeeming work of Christ which more than all besides was to give its tone and impress to the new dispensation; and much of the teaching on men’s relations to God, on their present calling and their future prospects as believers in Christ, had in consequence to be deferred till the work itself was finished. This our Lord Himself plainly intimated to His disciples near the close of His career, when pointing to certain things of which they could not even then bear the disclosure, but which the Spirit of truth would reveal to them after His departure, and qualify them for communicating to others. (Joh_16:12-15. See the point admirably exhibited in Bernard’s ‘Bampton Lecture,’ on ‘The Progress of Doctrine in the New Testament.’) Yet not only were the materials for all provided by Christ in His earthly ministry, but the way also was begun to be opened for their proper application and use; and what was after wards done in this respect by the hands of the apostles was merely the continuation and further unfolding of the line of instruction already commenced by their Divine Master.

I. Now, of one thing our Lord’s ministry left no room to doubt—and it is the more noticeable, as in this He differed from all around Him—He made a marked distinction between the symbolical or ritual things of the Old Covenant, and its strictly moral precepts. He regarded the former, as the legal economy itself did, in the light merely of appendages to the moral—temporary expedients, or provisional substitutes for better things to come, which had no inherent value in themselves, and were to give way before the great realities they foreshadowed.

Hence the reserve He manifested in regard to external rites and ceremonies. We read of no act of bodily lustration in His public history. He expressly repudiated the idea of washing having in itself any power to cleanse from spiritual defilement, or of true purification at all depending on the kind of food that might be partaken of. (Mat_15:1-20.) He was the true, the ideal Nazarite, yet undertook no Nazarene vow. Though combining in Himself all the functions of prophet, priest, and king, yet He entered on them by no outward anointing: He had the real consecrating of the Holy Spirit, visibly descending and abiding with Him. (Joh_1:32-34; Luk_3:22; Luk_4:18.) And though He did not abstain from the stated feasts of the Temple, when it was safe and practicable for Him to be present, yet we hear of no special offerings for Himself or His disciples on such occasions. Even as regards the ordinary services and offerings of the Temple, He claimed a rightful exemption, on the ground of His essentially Divine standing, from the tribute-money, the half-shekel contribution, by which they were maintained. (Mat_17:24-27.) He was Himself, as the Son of the Highest, the Lord of that Temple; it was the material symbol of what He is in His relation to His people; and on the occasion of His first public visit to its courts, He vindicated His right to order its affairs, by casting out the buyers and sellers; yea, and, identifying Himself with it, He declared that when He fell, as the Redeemer of the world, it too should virtually fall—the Great-Inhabitant should be gone—and hence forth, no more in one place than another, but in every place where the children of faith might meet together, there should true worship and acceptable service be presented to God. (Joh_2:13-22; Joh_4:21-24.) Utterances like these plainly rung the knell of the old ceremonialism. They bespoke a speedy removing of the external fabric of Judaism, yet such a removing as would leave greatly more than it took—instead of the imperfect and temporary shadow, the eternal substance. And if one might still speak, in the hallowed language of the sanctuary, of a temple, and a sacrifice, and a daily ministration, of a sanctity to be preserved and a pollution to be shunned, it must be as bound to no specific localities, or stereotyped forms, but as connected with the proper freedom and enlargement of God’s true children. (The nature of this part of our Lord’s work, and the substance of His teaching respecting it, was strikingly embodied in the first formal manifestation of His supernatural agency—the σημείον, which He performed as an appropriate and fitting commencement to the whole cycle of His miraculous working—namely, the turning of water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana (Joh_2:1-10). Considered as such a beginning, it certainly has, at first sight, a somewhat strange appearance; but, on closer examination, this aspect of strangeness gives way, and the Divine wisdom of the procedure discovers itself. The transaction, like the period to which it belonged, found a point of contact between the new and the old in God’s kingdom—it was indicative of the transition which was on the eve of taking place from the law to the Gospel. The water-vessels used for the occasion were those ordinarily employed for purposes of purification according to the law; they stood there as the representatives of the old economy—the remembrancers of sin and pollution even in the midst of festive mirth; and had they been associated merely with water, they could not have been made the bearer of any higher instruction. But when, after being filled with this, the water was turned into wine—wine of the finest quality—such as drew forth the spontaneous testimony, not that the old, but that the new was the better, they became the emblem of the now opening dispensation of grace, which, with its vivifying and refreshing influences, was soon to take the place of the legal purifications. Yet, in that supplanting of the one by the other, there was not the production of something absolutely new, but rather the old transformed, elevated, as in the transmutation of the simple and comparatively feeble element of water into the naturally powerful and active principle of wine. In the very act of changing the old into the new, our Lord, so far from ignoring or disparaging the old, served Himself of it; and it was, we may say, within the shell and framework of what had been, that the new and better power was made to come forth and develop itself in the world. Such, in its main features and leading import, was the sign here wrought by Jesus at the commencement of His public career. The occasion, too, on which it was done, fitly accorded with its character; for, just as in the Old Testament arrangements the feasts were linked to appropriate seasons in nature, so was it here with the initiatory work of Christ: like the economical change which the miracle symbolized, the time was one of hope and gladness. It was the commencing era of a new life to the persons more immediately concerned, and one that, not only in its natural aspect, had the sanction and countenance of Christ, but also, from the higher turn given to it by His miraculous working, made promise of the joy and blessing which was to result from His great undertaking. Nay, by entering into the bridegroom’s part, and ministering to the guests the materials of gladness, He foreshadowed how, as the Regenerator of the world, He should make Himself known us the kind and gracious Bridegroom of His church. And it seems as if the Baptist had but caught up the meaning couched under this significant action of our Lord, when, not long afterwards, he spoke of Jesus as the Bridegroom, whose voice he, as the Bridegroom’s friend, delighted to hear, and whose appearance should have been welcomed by all as the harbinger of life and blessing.)

II. Turning now to the moral part of the Old Testament legislation to the law strictly so called—we find our Lord acting in a quite different manner shewing the utmost solicitude to preserve intact the revelation at Sinai, and to have it made, through His teaching, both better understood, and with fresh sanctions enforced as the essential rule of righteousness in God’s kingdom—nay, Himself submitting to bow down to it as the yoke which, in His great work of obedience, He was to bear, and, by bearing, to glorify God and redeem man. Let us look at it first in more immediate connection with the teaching of Christ.

There was undoubtedly a difference—a difference of a quite perceptible kind, and one that will not be over looked by those who would deal wisely with the records of God’s dispensations, in respect to the place occupied by law in the economies headed respectively by Moses and Christ. It was in His memorable Sermon on the Mount that our Lord made the chief formal promulgation of the fundamental principles of His Kingdom, which, therefore, stood to the coming dispensation in somewhat of the same relation that the imposing promulgation of law from Sinai did to the ancient Theocracy; and, as if on purpose to link the two more distinctly and closely together, He makes to that earlier revelation very frequent and pointed reference in His discourse. But how strikingly different in mode and circumstance the one revelation from the other! The two dispensations have their distinctive characteristics imaged in the two historical occasions, exhibiting even to the outward eye the contrast expressed by the Evangelist John, when he said, ‘The law was given by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’

What a difference in the external scenery alone, in. the two mounts! Sinai is less properly a mountain, in the ordinary sense of the term, than a lofty and precipitous rock, in the midst of a wilderness of rocks of similar aspect and formation—combining, in a degree rarely equalled, the two features of grandeur and desolation; ‘The Alps unclothed,’ as they have been significantly called—the Alps stript of all verdure and vegetation, and cleft on every side into such deep hollows, or rising into such rugged eminences, as render them alike of sullen mien and of difficult access. There, amid the sterner scenery of nature, intensified by the supernatural elements brought into play for the occasion, the Lord descended as in a chariot of fire, and proclaimed with a voice of thunder those ten words which were to form the basis of Israel’s religion and polity. It was amid quite other scenes and aspects of nature, that the incarnate Redeemer met the assembled multitudes of Galilee, when He proceeded to disclose in their hearing the fundamental principles of the new and higher constitution He came to introduce. The exact locality in this case cannot, indeed, be determined with infallible certainty—though there is no reason to doubt its connection with the elevated table-land, rising prominently into view a few miles to the south of Capernaum, and jutting up into two little points called the ‘Horns of Hattin,’ to which tradition has assigned the name of ‘The mount of the Beatitudes.’ This elevated plain, we are informed, ‘is easily accessible from the Galilean lake, and from that plain to the summit [or points just mentioned] is but a few minutes’ walk. Its situation also is central both to the peasants of the Galilean hills, and the fisher men of the lake, between which it stands; and would, therefore, be a natural resort to Jesus and His disciples, when they retired for solitude from the shores of the sea.’ (Stanley’s ‘Sinai and Palestine,’ p. 368.) The prospect from the summit is described even now as pleasing, though rank weeds are growing around, and only occasional patches of corn meet the eye; (Robertson’s ‘Researches,’ III. p. 239.) but how much more must it have been so then, when Galilee was a well-cultivated and fertile region, and the rich fields which slope downwards to the lake were seen waving with their summer produce! It was on such an eminence, embosomed in so fair and pleasing an amphitheatre, and, as the multitudes assembled on the occasion seemed to betoken, under a bright sky and a serene atmosphere, that the blessed Redeemer chose to give forth this fresh utterance of Heaven’s mind and will; and Himself the while, not wrapt in thick darkness, not even assuming an attitude of imposing grandeur, but fresh from the benign work of healing, and seated in humble guise, as a man among his fellow-men, at the most as a teacher in the midst of His listening disciples. So did the Son of Man open His mouth and make known the things which concern His kingdom. What striking and appropriate indications of Divine grace and condescension! How well fitted to inspire confidence and hope! As compared with the scenes and transactions associated with the giving of the law from Sinai, it bespoke such an advance in the march of God’s dispensations, as is seen in the field of nature when it can be said, ‘The winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.’

The discourse which our Lord delivered on the occasion entirely corresponds with the new era which it marked in the history of God’s dispensations. The revelation from Sinai, though grafted on a covenant of grace, and uttered by God as the Redeemer of Israel, was emphatically a promulgation of law. Its direct and formal object was to raise aloft the claims of the Divine righteousness, and meet, with repressive and determined energy, the corrupt tendencies of human nature. The Sermon on the Mount, on the other hand, begins with blessing. It opens with a whole series of beatitudes, blessing after blessing pouring itself forth as from a full spring of beneficence, and seeking, with its varied and copious manifestations of goodness, to leave nothing un provided for in the deep wants and longing desires of men. Yet here also, as in other things, the difference between the New and the Old is relative only, not absolute. There are the same fundamental elements in both, but these differently adjusted, so as fitly to adapt them to the ends they had to serve, and the times to which they respectively belonged. In the revelation of law there was a substratum of grace, recognised in the words which prefaced the ten commandments, and promises of grace and blessing also intermingling with the stern prohibitions and injunctions of which they consist. And so, inversely, in the Sermon on the Mount, while it gives grace the priority and the prominence, it is far from excluding the severer aspect of God’s character and government. No sooner, indeed, has grace poured itself forth in a succession of beatitudes, than there appear the stern demands of righteousness and law—the very law proclaimed from Sinai—and that law so explained and enforced as to bring fully under its sway the intents of the heart, as well as the actions of the life, and by men’s relation to it determining their place and destinies in the Messiah’s kingdom.

Here, then, we have our Lord’s own testimony regarding His relation to the law of God. His first and most comprehensive declaration upon the subject—the one which may be said to rule all the others—is the utterance on the mount, ‘Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets, I came not to destroy (καταλῦσαι, to dissolve, abrogate, make void), but to fulfil (πληρῶσαι).’ (Mat_5:17.) This latter expression must be taken in its plain and natural sense; therefore, not as some would understand it, to confirm or ratify—which is not the import of the word, and also what the law and the prophets did not require. God’s word needs no ratification. Nor, as others, to fill up and complete their teaching for this were no proper contrast to the destroying or making void. No; it means simply to substantiate, by doing what they required, or making good what they announced. To fulfil a law (πληροῦν νόμον), was a quite common expression, in profane as well as sacred writings, and only in the sense now given. (Luk_24:44; Act_3:18; Rom_13:8; Gal_5:14. See, for example, Tholuck and Fritzsche on the words. Alford points to what he calls parallel instances for another meaning; but they are not parallel; for the question is not what πληροῦν by itself, but what πληροῦν νόμον signifies. The expression has but one ascertained meaning.) So we find Augustine confidently urging it against the Manichsean perverters of the truth in his day: ‘The law (says he) is fulfilled when the things are done which are commanded. . . . Christ came not to destroy the law but to fulfil it: not that things might be added to the law which were wanting, but that the things written in it might be done—which His own words confirm; for He does not say, “One jot or one tittle shall not pass from the law" till the things wanting are added to it, but” till all be done.”’ (Contra Faustum. L. xvii. sec. 6. I have given only what he says on the expression of our Lord; his mode of explaining the fulfilment, though not in correct, is somewhat partial and incomplete:—Ipsa lex cum impleta est, gratia et veritas facta est. Gratia pertinet ad charitatis plenitudinem, veritas ad proplietiarum impletionem.) And uttered as the declaration was when men’s minds were fermenting with all manner of opinions respecting the intentions of Jesus, it was plainly meant to assure them that He stood in a friendly relation to the law and the prophets, and could no more, in His teaching than in His working, do what would be subversive of their design. They must find in Him only their fulfilment. To render His meaning still more explicit, our Lord gives it the advantage of two specific illustrations, one hypothetical, the other actual. ‘Should any one, therefore (He says, in ver. 19), annul (not break, as in the English version, but put away, abrogate, annul, λύσῃ) one of these commandments—the least of them—and teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;’ such is the exact rendering, and it very expressly asserts the validity of what was found in preceding revelations, down even to their least commands, in the kingdom presently to be set up. There was to be no antagonism between the new and the old; so far from it, that any one who had failed to discern and appreciate the righteousness embodied in the smaller things of the law, and on that account would have them set aside—for so plainly must the words be understood—he should exhibit such a want of accordance with the spirit of the new economy, he should so imperfectly understand and sympathize with its claims of righteousness, that he might lay his account to be all but excluded from a place in the kingdom. But it was quite conceivable, that one might in a certain sense not except even to the least, and yet be so defective in the qualities of true righteousness, as to stand in an altogether false position toward the greater and more important. There were well-known parties in such a position at that particular time; and by a reference to what actually existed among them, our Lord furnishes another, and to His audience, doubtless, a more startling, illustration. ‘For I say unto you,’ He adds, ‘that except your righteousness should exceed (περισσεύσῃ go beyond, overpass) that of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ The question is now one of total unfitness and consequent exclusion. In the preceding and hypothetical statement, our Lord had declared how even a comparatively small antagonism to the righteousness of the law should inevitably lower one’s position in respect to the kingdom; and now, vindicating this stringency, as well as exemplifying and confirming it, He points to the mistaken and defective standard prevalent among the more conspicuous religionists of the time as utterly incompatible with any place whatever in the kingdom. The Scribes are joined with the Pharisees in upholding the righteousness in question—the one as representatives of its defective teaching, the other as examples of its inadequate doing. The Scribes understood and taught superficially, adhering to the mere letter of requirement, and hence unduly magnifying the little, relatively undervaluing or neglecting the great. The Pharisees, in like manner, practised superficially, intent mainly oil the proprieties of outward observance, doing the works of law only in so far as they seemed to be expressly enjoined, and doing them without love, without life—hence leaving its greater things in reality undone. A righteousness of this description fell altogether below what Jesus, as the Head of the new dispensation, would require of His followers, below also, it is implied, what was taught in the law and the prophets; for while He could place Himself in perfect accord with the one, He entirely repudiated any connection with the other: the kingdom, as to the righteousness recognised and expected in it, was to rise on the foundation of the law and the prophets; but for any one to stand on the plat form of the Scribes and Pharisees, was to belong to an essentially different sphere.

Now two conclusions seem plainly to flow from this part of our Lord’s teaching. One is, that He must have had chiefly in view the moral elements of the old economy, or the righteousness expressed in its enactments:—I do not say simply the ten commandments; for though these always occupied the foremost place in discourses on the law, did so also here (as appears from the examples presently referred to by our Lord), yet one can scarcely think of them when a ‘least’ is spoken of, as they one and all belonged to the fundamental statutes of the kingdom. Yet, as it is of the law, in connection with and subservient to righteousness, that our Lord speaks, primary respect must be had to the Decalogue, and, in so far as matters of a ceremonial and judicial nature were included, to these only as designed to inculcate and enforce the principles of holy living; that is, not as mere outward forms or civil regulations, but as the means and the measure of practical goodness. For, otherwise, our Lord’s teaching here would be at variance with what He taught elsewhere, and with the truth of things. What He said, for example, on the subject of defilement, that this does not depend upon corporeal conditions and questions of food, but simply on the state of the heart and the issues which proceed from it, formally considered, was undoubtedly an infringing upon the lesser things of the law; but not so really, for it was merely a penetrating through the shell into the kernel, and in direct terms pressing upon the conscience the lessons intended to be conveyed by the law’s carnal ordinances. If the letter fell away, it was only that the spirit might become more clear and prominent. And so in regard to all the ritual observances and factitious distinctions associated with the religion of the Old Covenant—while an entire change was hinted at by our Lord, and in His name was after wards introduced—the commands imposing them were by no means dishonoured, since the righteousness, for the sake of which these commands were given, was still cared for, and even more thoroughly secured than it could be by them. Rightly viewed, the change was more properly a fulfilling than an abrogating; an abrogating, indeed, formally, yet a fulfilling or establishing in reality.

Another conclusion which evidently flows from the statements made by our Lord respecting His own relation and that of His kingdom to the law and the prophets, is that the distinctions which He proceeds to draw, in the Sermon on the Mount, between what had been said in earlier times on several points of moral and religious duty, and what He now said, must have respect, not to the teaching, strictly speaking, of the law and the prophets, but to the views currently entertained of that teaching, or the false maxims founded on it. After so solemnly asserting His entire harmony with the law and the prophets, and His dependence on them, it would manifestly have been to lay Himself open to the charge of inconsistence, and actually to shift the ground which He professedly occupied in regard to them, if now He should go on to declare, that, in respect to the great landmarks of moral and religious duty, they said one thing, and He said another. This is utterly incredible; and we must assume, that in every instance where a precept of the law is quoted among the things said in former times, even though no improper addition is coupled with it (as at vers. 27 and 33), there still was an unwarrantable or quite inadequate view commonly taken of them, against which our Lord directs His authoritative deliverance, that He might point the way to the proper height of spiritual attainment. This view, which the very nature of the case may be said to demand, is also confirmed by the formula with which the sayings in question are introduced: Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time (τοῖς ἀρχαίοις, to the ancients). (Commentators are still divided on the construction here, whether the expression should be taken in the dative or the ablative sense—to the ancients, or by them. The general tendency of opinion, however, is decidedly in favour of the former; and though the sense does not materially differ whichever construction is adopted, yet various philological considerations determine for the dative. (1.) The verb (obsol. ῥέω) is used with great frequency in Matthew’s Gospel in the passive, but always (unless the cases in chap. 5 be exceptions) with a preposition, ὑπό or διά, when the parties by whom the things spoken are mentioned they were spoken by or through such an one. (2.) In the other passages of Scripture, in which precisely ἐῤῥεθη is used, followed as here by words in the dative without a preposition (Rom_9:12; Rom_9:26; Gal_3:16; Rev_6:11; Rev_9:4), it is beyond doubt the dative import that must be retained. (3.) If it were to be read by the ancients, then a special emphasis must rest upon the ancients; this will stand in formal contrast to the ‘I’ of our Lord. The collocation of the words, however, would in that case have been different; it would have been ὅτι τοῖς άρχαιοίς ἐῤῥεθη, not ὅτι εῤῥεθη τοῖς ἀρχαιοίς. Not only so, but in most of the repetitions of the formula, in Mat_5:27, according to what seems the best reading, and in Mat_5:31; Mat_5:38; Mat_5:43, according to the received text, the τοῖς ἀρχαιοίς is wholly omitted—shewing that it was on the saying of the things, not on the persons who said them, that the contrast mainly turns. (4.) It may certainly be regarded as a confirmation of this being, at least, the most natural and obvious construction (which itself is, in such a matter, of some moment), that it is the one adopted by all the leading Greek commentators—Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius. It is that also of the Syriac and Vulgate. Beza was the first, I believe, who formally proposed the rendering by them of old time, taking the simple τοῖς ἀρχαιοίς as equivalent to ὑπὸ τοῖς ἀρχ.)

It is a very general mode of expression, not such as we should have expected, if only the deliverances of Scripture were referred to, or the persons who at first hand received them from the messengers of Heaven. These were the honoured fathers of the covenant-people, not the ancients merely, who at some indefinite period in the past had heard and thought after some particular manner. Hence, while they all turn on certain precepts of the law, these, in two or three of the cases, are expressly coupled with later additions, indicative of the superficial view that was taken of them; (These are, Mat_5:21, after ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ ‘And whosoever shall kill shall be liable to the judgment;’ and Mat_5:33-36, in regard to several kinds of oaths; and Mat_5:43, after ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour,’ ‘Thou shalt hate thine enemy.’) and, throughout all the cases adduced, it is evident from our Lord’s mode of handling them, that it is not the law per se that is under consideration, but the law as understood and expounded according so the frigid style of Rabbinical interpretation—by persons who looked no further than its form of sound words, who thought that to kill had to do with nothing but actual murder, and that a neighbour could be only one dwelling in good fellowship beside us; who, in short, turned the law of God’s righteousness, which, like its Divine Author, must be pervasively spiritual, into a mere political code or ecclesiastical rubric. It is of the law, as thus unduly curtailed, evacuated of its proper meaning, treated by the Scribes or letter-men (γράμμα) as itself but a letter (γραμματεῖς), that Christ speaks, and, setting His profound and far-reaching view in opposition to theirs, proclaims, ‘But I say unto you.’ Never on any occasion did Jesus place Himself in such antagonism to Moses; and least of all could He do so here, immediately after having so emphatically repudiated the notion, that He had come to nullify the law and the prophets, or to cancel men’s obligation to any part of the righteousness they inculcated. It is to free this righteousness from the restrictive bonds that had been laid upon it, and bring it out in its proper breadth and fulness, that our Lord’s expositions are directed. And as if to guard against any wrong impressions being produced by what He now said—to shew that His views of righteousness were in strict agreement with what is written in the law and the prophets, and that the germ of all was already there, He distinctly connected with them, at a subsequent part of His discourse, His own enunciation of the law of brotherly love, in what has been called its finest form, ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets’ (Mat_7:12). (I am convinced the connection of our Lord’s discourse—the relation of the specific illustrations, given in Mat_5:21-48, to the fundamental positions which they were brought to illustrate, Mat_5:17-20—will admit of no other construction than the one now given. From early times, others have been adopted by the Manichæans, who sought to found on the illustrative expositions an absolute contrariety between Christ and Moses; and by the great body of the Greek and Romish theologians, followed in later times by the Socinian, Arminian, and rationalistic expositors, who understand them of a relative antagonism—namely, that the law as given by Moses was good as far as it went, but was carnal and imperfect, and so needed supplementing and enlarging by Christ. Christ, consequently, according to this view, placed His sayings in contrast with the law itself, as well as with the external legalisms of the Scribes and Pharisees; these, in fact, are regarded as in the main the true exponents of the Sinaitic law—contrary to the whole tenor of our Lord’s representations of them, and the position He took up with reference to them. The other, and what I take to be the correct view, began to be distinctly unfolded and firmly maintained by Augustine, in his contendings with the Manichæans. This is the sense expressed in the passage already quoted from his writings, at p. 224; and in the treatise there referred to, L. Mat_19:27, he brings out the same meaning at still greater length, illustrating as well as stating this to have been Christ’s object, either to give the explanation of the law that was needed, or to secure its better observance—omnia ex Hebraeorum lege commemoravit, ut quiquid ex persona sua insuper loqueretur vel ad expositionem requirendam valeret, si quid ilia obscure posuisset, vel ad tutius conservandum quod ilia voluisset. The Protestant church, generally, in its sounder representatives, took the same view,—Luther, Calvin, Chemnitz (who speaks of the whole passage being corrupted by those who think, Christum hanc suam explicationem opponere ipsi legi divinae), latterly, Stier, Meyer, Fritzsche, Olshausen, even De Wette, Bleek, Ewald, and others of a like stamp; so also Tholuck, who gives a lengthened review of opinions on the subject, and expresses his own view, and that of many other of the best expositors thus:—‘The object of the Saviour is twofold; on the one hand, He seeks to exhibit the Mosaic law in its deeper import as the moral norm of the righteousness of His kingdom; on the other hand, He aims at an exposure of the laxer Pharisaic righteousness of His contemporaries, shewing how inadequate it was to attain the high end in view.’ Neander, Hofmann, and several others of note, have espoused the other view. In our own country, Mr Liddon (Bampton Lecture for 1866, p. 252) presents it with rhetorical confidence; while Mr Plumptre (‘Christ and Christendom,’ 1866, p. 235), substantially concurs with the old Protestant interpretation, looking on our Lord’s discourse ‘as a protest against the popular ethics of the Scribes and Pharisees, professing to be based upon the law, but representing it most imperfectly.’ Alford would take a middle course, but fails to make his meaning quite intelligible. The contrast, he thinks, is ‘not between the law misunderstood, and the law rightly understood, but between the law and its ancient exposition, which in their letter, and as given, were vain, and the same as spiritualized by Christ; but the Divine law, when taken in its letter (that is, we presume, as a mere outward regimen), is misunderstood, for it never was meant to be so taken; psalmists and prophets, as well as Christ, protested against that view of it; and then the more spiritual a law is, if left simply as law, the more certain is it to be vain as to any saving results. The parts in our Lord’s sermon which have most the appearance of contrariety to the old law, are what is said about swearing (Mat_5:33-36), about the law of recompense (Mat_5:38-42); also, in a future discourse, what is said on the law of divorce (Mat_19:1-9). In regard to the first, however, the specific oaths of the Jews referred to by Christ, taken in connection with His later reference to them in Mat_23:16-22, shew clearly enough that it is a prevailing abuse and corruption of the law that was in view . And, as Harless remarks, ‘What the Lord, the Giver of the law, had commanded in the Old Covenant, namely, that one should swear in His name (Deu_6:13; Deu_6:18; Deu_6:20; Exo_22:11), that could not be forbidden in the new by the Lord, the Fulfiller of the law, without destroying instead of fulfilling it. Rather in this precisely consists the fulfil ment, that what the law commanded without being able properly to secure the fulfilment, that has now come in the Gospel, and, in consequence, the precept respecting swearing has also reached its fulfilment. It is just what Jeremiah intimated, when he predicted that Israel, after being converted, would swear in a true and holy manner (Jer_4:1-2). What is prohibited in the Gospel of Matthew are light and frivolous forms of swearing, without any religious feeling’ (Ethik, sec. 39). As to the law of recompense (not revenge), as meant by Moses, it is substantially in force still, and must be so in all well-regulated communities. (See in Lect. IV.) What our Lord taught in connection with it was, that men in their private relations, and as exponents of love, should not regard that judicial law as exhausting their duty: to do so was to misapply it. They should consider how, by forbearance and well-doing, they might benefit a brother, instead of always exacting of him their due. The case of divorce has certain difficulties connected with it, yet rather from what in the Old Testament was not enacted, permitted merely, than what was. But see in Lect. IV.)

At the same time, there is nothing in all this to prevent us from believing, as, indeed, it is next to impossible for any one to avoid feeling, that an advance was made by our Lord in His own wonderful exposition of the law—if only that advance is confined to the clearer light which is thrown on the meaning of its precepts, and the higher form which is given to their expression. The Decalogue itself, and the legislation growing out of it, were in their form adapted to a provisional state of things; they had to serve the end of a disciplinary institution, and as such had to assume more both of an external and a negative character, than could be regarded as ideally or absolutely the best. And it was only what might have been expected in the progress of things—when that which is perfect was come—that while the law in its great principles of moral obligation and its binding power upon the conscience remained, these should have had an exhibition given to them somewhat corresponding to the noon-day period of the church’s history, and the son-like freedom of her spiritual standing. Accordingly, our Lord does, in the Sermon on the Mount, and in other parts of His teaching, bring out in a manner never heretofore done, the spirituality of the law of God—shews how, just from being the revelation of His will who is Himself a Spirit, and, as such, necessarily has a predominant respect to spiritual states and acts, it reaches in all its precepts to the thoughts and intents of the heart, and only meets with the obedience it demands, when a pure, generous, self-sacrificing love regulates men’s desires and feelings, as well as their words and actions. Hence, things pertaining to the inner man have here relatively a larger place than of old; and, as a natural sequel, there is more of the positive, less of the negative in form; the mind is turned considerably more upon the good that should be done, and less upon the evil to be shunned. It is still but a difference in degree, and is often grossly exaggerated by those who have a particular theory of the life of Christ to make out—as by the author of ‘Ecce Homo,’ who represents the morality enjoined in the Pentateuch as adapted only to half-savage tribes of the desert, the morality even of Isaiah and the prophets as ‘narrow, antiquated, and insufficient for the needs’ of men in the Gospel age, while, in the teaching of Christ, all becomes changed ‘from a restraint to a motive. Those who listened to it passed from a region of passive into a region of active morality. The old legal formula began, “Thou shalt not;” the new begins with “Thou shalt,”’ etc. (‘Ecce Homo,’ ch. xvi.) That this style of representation, in its comparative estimate of the new and the old, goes to excess, it would not be difficult to shew; but the mere circumstance that Mr J. S. Mill charges the expounders of Christian morality with presenting an ideal essentially defective, because ‘negative rather than positive, passive rather than active, innocence rather than nobleness, abstinence from evil rather than energetic pursuit of good,’ is itself a proof that elements of this description cannot be wanting in the Christian system. (‘Essay on Liberty,’ p. 89. It is due, however, to Mr Mill to state that, while his language in the passage referred to is not free from objection, he yet distinguishes between the teaching of Christ in this respect, and what he designates ‘the so-called Christian morality’ of later times. The writer of ‘Ecce Deus,’ in his attack on Mill (p. 261), has not sufficiently attended to this distinction. In another treatise, Mr Mill appears to find, in the fundamental principles of the Gospel, all that he himself teaches in morals. ‘In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility. To do as one would be done by, and to love one’s neighbour as oneʼs-self, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality.’ ‘On Utilitarianism,’ p. 24.) In truth, in the New Testament as well as in the Old, the prohibitory is perpetually alternating with the hortatory, the shall not with the shall; even in the Sermon on the Mount the one is nearly of as frequent occurrence as the other, and must be so in every revelation of spiritual obligation and moral duty that is suited to men with corrupt natures, and compassed about with manifold temptations. It must lay a restraint upon their inclinations to evil, as well as direct and stimulate their efforts to what is good. And the difference between the discourses of Christ and the earlier Scriptures on this and the other point now under consideration, cannot be justly exhibited as more than a relative one—adapted to a more advanced period of the Divine dispensations. It is such, however, that no discerning mind can fail to perceive it; and when taken in connection with the altogether peculiar illustrations given of it in the facts of Gospel history, places the Christian on a much higher elevation than that possessed by ancient Israel as to a clear and comprehensive acquaintance with the obligations of moral duty. (The view now given is not, I think, materially different from that of Wuttke, who conceives something more to have been intended by Christ in His exposition of the law, than a mere repudiation of the false interpretations of the Pharisees, namely, such an elucidation and deepening of the import, as to constitute a further development, or spiritual enlargement (‘Christliche Sittenlehre,’ sec. 208). He still does not mean that anything absolutely new was introduced, or a sense put upon the law which was not contained in the Decalogue; for he had just declared the ‘law of the Old Covenant to be simply the moral law, valid for all men and times,’ comprehensive of all righteousness, so that he who should keep it in spirit and in truth would be altogether righteous before God (sec. 204). But in Christ’s discourse it got a clearer, profounder exposition, and was thrown also into a higher form. It is much the same also, apparently, that is meant by M tiller when he speaks of the Decalogue expressing the eternal principles of true morality, and, therefore, always fitted to bring about the knowledge of sin and repentance; while still a far more developed and deeper knowledge of the moral law is given to the Christian Church through the efficacy of the holy prototype of Christ and the Holy Spirit, than could have been communicated by Moses to the children of Israel (On ‘Sin,’ B. I. P. I. c. 1). For this includes, besides law strictly so called, all supplementary means and privileges.)

In perfect accordance with the views respecting the moral law exhibited in the Sermon on the Mount, and widely different from what He said of the ceremonial institutions, was the action of our Lord in regard to the Sabbatism enjoined in the fourth command of the Decalogue. He gives no hint whatever of its coming abolition, but, on the contrary, recognised its Divine ordination, and merely sought to establish a more wholesome and rational observance of it than was dreamt of or admitted by the slaves of the letter. On a variety of occasions He wrought cures on the Sabbath-day—so often, indeed, that the action must have been taken on purpose to convey what He deemed salutary and needful instruction for the time; and on one occasion He allowed His disciples to satisfy their hunger by plucking the ears of corn as they passed through a field. (Mat_12:1-14; Mar_1:23-24; Mar_3:1-5; Luk_6:1-10; Luk_13:10-16; John 5, 9.) His watchful adversaries were not slow in marking this procedure, and charged our Lord with profaning the sacred rest of the Sabbath. How does He meet their reproaches? Not by quarrelling with the Divine command, or seeking to relax its obligation; but by explaining its true purport and design, as never meant to interfere with such actions as He performed or sanctioned. In proof of this He chiefly appeals to precedents and practices which His adversaries themselves could not but allow, if their minds had been open to conviction—such as David being permitted in a time of extremity to eat the shew-bread, or themselves rescuing a sheep when it had fallen into a pit on the Sabbath—things necessary to the preservation and support of life; or things, again, of a sacred nature, such as circumcising children on the legal day, though it might happen to be a Sabbath, doing the work at the Temple connected with the appointed service, which in some respects was greater on the seventh than the other days of the week, yea, at times involved all the labour connected with the slaying and roasting of the Paschal lamb for tens of thousands of people. With such things the parties in question were quite familiar; and they should have understood from them, that the prescribed rest of the Sabbath was to be taken, not in an absolute, but in a relative sense—not as simply and in every case cessation from work, irrespective of the ends for which it might be done, but cessation from ordinary or servile work, in order that things of higher moment, things touching on the most important interests of men, might be cared for. Its sacred repose, therefore, must give way to the necessary demands of life, even of irrational life, and to whatever is required to bring relief from actual distress and trouble. It must give way also to that kind of work which is more peculiarly connected with the service of God and with men’s restored fellowship with the life and blessedness of Heaven; for to promote this was the more special design of the Sabbatical appointment. So, plainly, existing facts shewed even in Old Testament times, though the Pharisees, in their zeal for an abstract and imperious legalism missed the proper reading of them. Jesus grasped, as usual, the real spirit of the institution; for, we are to remember, He is explaining the law of the Sabbath as it then stood, not superseding it by another. He would have them to understand that, as it is not the simple abstraction of a man’s property (which may in certain circumstances be done lawfully, and for his own temporal good), that constitutes a violation of the eighth commandment, but a selfish and covetous appropriation of it by fraud or violence; so, in regard to the fourth, the prohibition of work had respect only to what was at variance with its holy and beneficent designs. ‘The Sabbath was made for man’—with a wise and gracious adaptation to the requirements of his complex nature, as apt to be wearied with the toils, and in his spirit dragged downward by the cares of life; ‘not man for the Sabbath,’ as if it were an absolute and independent authority, that must hold its own, however hardly in doing so it might bear on the wants and interests of those placed under its control. It has an aim, a high moral aim, for the real wellbeing of mankind; and by a conscientious regard to this must everything, in regard to its outward observance, be ruled.

Such is the view given by our Lord on the law of the Sabbath, speaking as from the ground of law, and doing the part merely of a correct expounder of its meaning; but a thought is introduced and variously expressed, as from His own higher elevation, in harmony with the spiritual aspect of the subject He had presented, and pointing to still further developments of it. The Temple, He had said, has claims of service, which it was no proper desecration of the Sabbath, but the reverse, to satisfy; and ‘a greater than the Temple was there.’ ‘The Temple yields to Christ, the Sabbath yields to the Temple, therefore the Sabbath yields to Christ’—so the sentiment is syllogistically expressed by Bengel; but yields, it must be observed, in both cases alike, only for the performance of works not antagonistic, but homogeneous, to its nature. Or, as it is again put, ‘The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’ Made, as the Sabbath was, for man, there necessarily belongs to man, within certain limits, a regulating power in respect to its observance, so as to render it more effectually subservient to its proper ends. But this power is supremely resident in Him, who is the Son of Man, in whom Humanity attains to its true ideal of goodness, whose will is in all things coincident with the will of God, and who, like the Father, works even while He rests. (Joh_5:17.) He is Lord of the Sabbath, and, as such, has a right to order everything concerning it, so as to make it, in the fullest sense, a day of blessing for man—a right, therefore, if He should see fit, to transfer its observance from the last day of the week to the first, that it might be associated with the consummation of His redemptive work, and to make it, in accordance with the impulsive life and energy thereby brought in, more than in the past, a day of active and hallowed employment for the good of men. So much was certainly implied in the claim of our Lord in reference to the Sabbath; but as regards the existence of such a day, its stated place in the ever-recurring weekly cycle, which in its origin was coeval with the beginning of the world, which as a law was inscribed among the fundamental precepts of the Decalogue, which renders it on the one side a memorial of the paradise that has been lost, and on the other a pledge of the paradise to be restored—in this respect nothing of a reactionary nature fell from our Lord, nor was any principle advanced which can justly be said to point in such a direction. (It needs scarcely to be said what an interval separates the sayings of our Lord in the Gospels respecting the Sabbath, from the story reported by Clement of Alexandria about Christ having seen a man working on the Sabbath, and saying to him, ‘If thou knowest what thou dost, then art thou blessed; but if thou knowest not, then art thou accursed.’ It was a story quite in accordance with the spirit of the school to which Clement belonged; but to call it, as Mr Plumptre does (‘Christ and Christendom,’ p. 237), a credible tradition of Christ’s ministry, would certainly require some other test of credibility than accordance with what is written in the Gospels; for nothing recorded there gives such a licence to the individual will for disregarding the Sabbath.)

The same spirit substantially discovers itself in the other occasional references made by our Lord to the moral law of the Old Covenant, as in those already noticed; that is, there appears in them the same profound regard to the authoritative teaching of the law, coupled with an insight into its depth and spirituality of meaning, which was little apprehended by the superficial teachers and formalists of the time. Such, for example, was the character of our Lord’s reference to the fifth command of the Decalogue, when, replying to the charge of the Pharisees against His disciples for disregarding the tradition of the elders about washing before meat, He retorted on them the greatly more serious charge of making void the law of God by their traditions—teaching that it was a higher duty for a son to devote his substance as an offering to God, than to apply it to the support of his parents thereby virtually dishonouring those whom God had commanded him, as a primary duty, to honour. (Mat_15:3-6.) The love and reverence due to parents was thus declared to be more than burnt-offering, and to have been so determined in the teaching of the law itself. The right principle of obedience was also brought out, but with a more general application, and the absolute perfection of the law announced, as given in one of its summaries in the Old Testament, when, near the close of His ministry, and in answer to a question by one of the better Scribes, Jesus said, ‘The first of all the commandments is, Hear, Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ Not only did our Lord affirm, that ‘on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,’ but that ‘there is none other commandment greater than these’ (Mat_22:40; Mar_12:31.)—evidently meaning that in them was comprised all moral obligation. And when the Scribe assented to what was said, and added, that to exercise such love was more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices, Christ expressed His concurrence, and even pronounced the person who had attained to such knowledge not far from the kingdom of God. So, too, on another and earlier occasion, when the rich young ruler came running to Him with the question, ‘What good thing he should do, that he might inherit eternal life?’ (Mat_19:16.) And on still another, when a certain lawyer stood up and asked, ‘What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ (Luk_10:25.) On both occasions alike, as the question was respecting things to be done, or righteousness to be attained, with the view of grounding a title thereon to eternal life,

Christ pointed the inquirers to the written law of God—in the one case more particularly to the precepts of the Decalogue, in the other to the two great comprehensive precepts of supreme love to God and brotherly love to man; and, in connection with each, affirmed that, if the commands were fulfilled, life in the highest sense, eternal life, would certainly be inherited. In other words, by fulfilling those commands, there would be that conformity to the pattern of Divine goodness, on which from the first all right to the possession of life in God’s kingdom has been suspended. At the same time, our Lord took occasion to shew, in both the cases, how far His inquirers were themselves from having reached this ideal excellence, or even from distinctly apprehending what was actually included in the attainment.

This surely is enough; for, touching as these declarations do on the great essentials of religion and morality, they must be understood in their plainest import; and anything like subtle ingenuity in dealing with them, or specious theorizings, would be entirely out of place. Manifestly, the revelation of law in the Old Testament was, in our Lord’s view, comprehensive of all righteousness—while still, in respect to form, it partook of the imperfection of the times, and of the provisional economy, with which it was more immediately connected; and for bringing clearly out the measure and extent of the obligations involved in it, we owe much—who can say how much?—to the Divine insight of Christ, and the truly celestial light reflected on it by His matchless teaching and spotless example. In that respect our Lord might with fullest propriety say, ‘A new commandment I give unto you, that ye may love one another; as I have loved you, that ye may so also love one another:’ (Joh_13:34.) new, however, not in regard to the command of love taken by itself, nor in regard to the degree of love, as if one were required now to love others, not merely as one’s-self, but above one’s-self—no, but new simply with reference to the peerless manifestation of love given in His own person, and the motive thence arising altogether peculiar in its force and efficacy—for His people to strive after conformity to His example. This, indeed, is the highest glory that can here be claimed for Jesus; and to contend with some, under the plea of glorifying His Messiahship, that He must have signalized His appearance on earth by the introduction of an essentially new and higher morality, were in effect to dishonour Him; for it would break at a vital point the continuity of the Divine dispensations, and stamp the revelation of law which, at an earlier period of His own mediatorial agency, had in reality come forth from Himself, as in its very nature faulty—wanting something which it should have had as a reflection of the character of God, and a rule of life for those who, as members of His kingdom, were called to love and honour Him.

II. We turn now from what Christ taught to what He did. And here, still more than in regard to His prophetical agency, He had a mission peculiarly His own to fulfil for the good of men, yet not the less one which was defined beforehand, and in a manner ruled, by the prescriptions of law. For the work of Christ as the Redeemer neither was, nor could be, anything else than the triumph of righteousness for man over man’s sin. And, accordingly, in the intimations that had gone before concerning Him, this characteristic (as formerly noticed) was made peculiarly prominent: He was to be girt about with righteousness, was to be known as the Lord’s righteons servant, His elect one, in whom His soul should delight; so that He might be called ‘The Lord our Righteousness,’ as well as ‘The Lord our Salvation,’ since in Him all that believed should be justified, or made righteous, and should glory. (Isa_11:5; Isa_42:1; Isa_53:11; Jer_23:6.) There have been those who questioned whether the reality corresponded with these predictions, or with the claims actually put forth in behalf of Jesus of Nazareth; but nothing has ever been alleged in support of such insinuations, except what has been found in mistaken ideas of His mission, or wrong interpretations put on certain actions of His life. Certainly, His enemies in the days of His flesh, who sought most diligently for grounds of moral accusation against Him, failed to discover them: He Himself boldly threw out before them the challenge, ‘Which of you convinceth me of sin?’ (Joh_8:46.) ‘The prince of this world,’ He again said—the great patron and representative of sin—‘cometh, and hath nothing in me.’ (Joh_14:30.) Higher still, He said to the Father, ‘I have glorified thee on earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do’ (Joh_17:4.)—no indication whatever of the slightest failure or shortcoming;—and this assertion of faultless excellence was re-echoed on the Father’s side, in the word once and again heard from Heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ (Mat_3:17; Mat_17:5.)

It was an altogether strange phenomenon in the world’s history. ‘What an impression,’ Dorner justly asks, (‘Ueber Jesu Sündlose Vollkommenheit,’ p. 34.) ‘must have been made upon the disciples by Jesus, whose spirit was full of peace and of an undisturbed serenity, who never shewed the slightest trace of having worked Himself into this peaceful state through hard effort and conflict with sin. There was a man in whom appeared no sign of repentance or of disquietude in regard to Himself; a man without solicitude for His soul’s salvation, for He is already possessed of eternal life; He lives as in heaven. No prayer is heard from Him for sin of His own, nor is any aversion shewn to enter into the company of publicans and sinners; in the most trying moments of His life, it becomes manifest that He is without consciousness of sin. This is an unquestionable fact of history, whatever explanation may be given of it. For that He set before Him as His life-purpose the deliverance and reconciliation of the world, that for the execution of this purpose He knew Himself to be committed to suffer, even to the cross, and that He actually expired in the consciousness of having at once executed the purpose and maintained undisturbed His fellowship with God—this no more admits of denial than that it would have been an utterly foolish and absurd idea to have thought of bringing in redemption for others, if He had been Himself conscious of needing redemption. . . . Jesus was conscious of no sin, just because He was no sinner. He was, though complete man, like God in sinless perfection; and though not, like God, incapable of being tempted, nor perfected from His birth, and so not in that sense holy, yet holy in the sense of preserving an innate purity and incorruptness, and through a quite normal development, in which the idea of a pure humanity comes at length to realization, and prevents the design of the world from remaining unaccomplished. The impression made by Him is that of the free, the true Son of Man—needing no new birth, but by nature the new-born man, and no remedial applications, but Himself consciously possessing the power fitted to render Him the physician of diseased humanity.’

Could such an One really be subject to the law? Was He not rather above it? So some have been disposed to maintain, with the avowed design of magnifying the name of Jesus: it has seemed to them as if they were claiming for Him a higher honour, when they represented Him as living above law, precisely as others have sought to do with respect to His teaching above law. But it is a kind of honour incompatible with the actual position and calling of Jesus. To have so lived would have been to place Himself beyond the sphere which properly belongs to humanity. He could no longer have been the representative of the morality which we are bound to cultivate; His standing in relation to spiritual excellence had been something exceptional, arbitrary; and wherever this enters, it is not a higher elevation that is reached, but rather a descent that is made—the sentimental or expedient then takes the place of the absolutely righteous and good. To be the Lord of the law, and yet in all things subject to the law’s demands—moving within the bounds of law, yet finding them to be no restraint; consenting to everything the law required as in itself altogether right, and of a free and ready mind doing it as a Son in the Father’s house, so that it might as well be said the law lived in Him, as that He lived in the law:—this is the highest glory which could be won in righteousness by the man Christ Jesus, and it is the glory which is ascribed to Him in Scripture. Never do we find Him there asserting for Himself as a right, or claim