The Relation Of The Law To The Constitution, The Privileges, And The Calling Of The Christian Church.
HOW Christ, in His mediatorial work, stood related to the law, and how He bore Himself in respect to it, we have already seen; and we have now a similar inquiry to prosecute in connection with the Christian church. This line of inquiry, in its more essential features, can be nothing more than the continuation of the one already pursued. For whatever distinctively belongs to the Christian church—whether as regards her light, her privileges, her obligations, or her prospects—it springs from Christ as its living ground; it is entirely the result of what He Himself is and accomplished on earth; and whatever room there might be, when He left the earth, for more explicit statements or fuller illustrations of the truth regarding it, in principle all was already there, and only required, through apostolic agency, to be fitly expounded and applied, in relation to the souls of men and the circumstances of the newly constituted society. But situated as matters then were, with prejudices and opinions of an adverse nature so deeply rooted in the minds of men, and long hallowed associations and practices that had to be broken up, it was no easy task to get the truth in its completeness wrought into men’s convictions; and only gradually, and through repeated struggles with error and opposition did the apostles of our Lord succeed in gaining for the principles of the Gospel a just appreciation and a firm establishment.
Keeping to the general outline observed in the preceding discussion, we shall, in this fresh line of inquiry, consider, first, how the Christian scheme of doctrine and duty was adjusted, under the hand of the apostles, with reference to things of a ceremonial nature to a law of ordinances? and, secondly, what relation it bore to the great revelation of moral law?
I. As regards the former of these relations, the way had been made, so far at least, comparatively plain by Christ Himself: the law of ordinances, as connected with the old covenant, now ceased to have any binding authority. The hour had come when the Temple-worship, with every ceremonial institution depending on it, should pass away, having reached their destined end in the death and resurrection of Christ. Not immediately, however, did this truth find its way into the minds even of the apostles, nor could it obtain a footing in the church without express and stringent legislation. From the first, the disciples of our Lord preached in His name the free and full remission of sins to the penitent and believing, but still only to such as stood within the bond of the Sinaitic covenant—the Gospel being viewed, not as properly superseding the ancient law of ordinances, but rather as giving due effect to it—supplying what it was incompetent to provide. Of what use, then, any more such a law? Why still continue to observe it? This question, evidently, did not for a time present itself for consideration to the apostles—their immediate work lying among their own countrymen in Judea. But it could not be long kept in abeyance; and such a direction was soon given to affairs by their Divine head as left them no alternative in the matter. The new wine of the kingdom began here to burst the old bottles first in Stephen and those who suffered in his persecution—although as to the mode, perhaps, somewhat prematurely, and with too much vehemence to reach a settled result. But shortly after wards there came the remarkable success of the Gospel in Samaria, with gifts from the Holy Ghost attesting and sealing the work; and following upon that, the super natural vision granted to Peter of the sheet let down from heaven with all manner of beasts, unclean and clean alike, immediately explained and exemplified, under the special guidance of the Spirit, by the reception into the Christian church of the heathen family of Cornelius. These things forced on a crisis in spite of earlier predilections; and by conclusive facts of Divine ordination shewed, that now Jew and Gentile were on a footing as regards the blessings of Christ’s salvation; that, as a matter of course, the observances of the ancient ritual had ceased in God’s sight to be of any practical avail. The discovery fell as a shock on the minds of Jewish believers. They did not hesitate to charge Peter with irregularity or unfaithfulness for the part he had acted in it; and though the objectors were for the time silenced by the decisive proofs he was able to adduce of Divine warrant and approval, yet the legal spirit still lived and again broke forth, especially when it was seen how the Gentile converts increased in number, and the church at Antioch, chiefly composed of such converts, was becoming a kind of second centre of Christian influence, and of itself sending forth mission-agencies to plant and organize churches in other regions of heathendom. (Acts 13, 14.) It hence became necessary to give forth a formal decision on the matter; and a council of the apostles and elders was held for the explicit purpose of determining whether, along with faith in Christ, it was necessary in order to salvation that men should be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. (Acts 15.) It is not needful here to go into the details of this council; but the judgment of the assembly as to the main point at issue was clear and peremptory—namely, that the legal observances were no longer binding, and that Gentile believers should only be enjoined so far to respect the feelings and usages of their Jewish brethren, as to abstain, not merely from the open licentiousness which custom had made allowable in heathendom, but also from liberties in food which those trained under the law could not regard otherwise than as dangerous or improper. Notwithstanding this decision, however, so tenaciously did the old leaven cleave to the Jewish mind, that the ancient observances retained their place in Jerusalem till the city and temple were laid in ruins; and the Judaizing spirit even insinuated itself into some of the Gentile churches, those especially of Galatia. But it only led to a more vigorous exposure and firm denunciation of the error through the apostle to the Gentiles—who affirmed, that now neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availed any thing for salvation, but faith, or the regeneration which comes through faith; that if men betook to circumcision and the Jewish yoke to secure their spiritual good, Christ should profit them nothing; that the teaching which led to the imposition of such a yoke was really another gospel, not to be encouraged, but anathematized by all who knew the mind of Christ. (Gal_1:6; Gal_1:9; Gal_2:14, etc.) And the cycle of Christian instruction on the subject was completed by the explanation given in the epistle to the Hebrews of the general nature and design of the Old Testament ritual, as at once fulfilled and abolished in Christ. So that there was here on the negative side, a very full revelation and authoritative deliverance of the will of God. (The considerations adduced in the text plainly shew that the apostles, in the later period of their agency, were of one mind as to the cessation of the ceremonial law in its binding form even upon Jewish Christians; while still they continued, especially when resident in Jerusalem, to observe its provisions and take part in its more peculiar services. They did so, of course, from no feeling of necessity, but partly from custom, and partly also, apparently indeed still more, from regard to the strong prejudices of their less enlightened brethren. Of these there were multitudes, as James intimated to Paul (Act_21:20), who were zealous of the law, and actuated by strong jealousy toward Paul himself because of the freedom maintained alike in his teaching and his example from the legal observances. They were in the position of those described by our Lord in Luk_5:39—like persons who, having been accustomed to old wine, did not straightway desire new, although in this case the new was really better. But the apostles felt that it was necessary to deal tenderly with them, lest, by a too sudden wrench from their old associations, their faith in the Gospel might sustain too great a shock. They therefore pursued a conciliatory policy, doubtless waiting and looking for the time when the Lord Himself would interpose, and, by the prostration of the Temple and the scattering of the Jewish nation, would formally take the Old Covenant institutions out of the way, and render their observance in great measure impossible. The history of the early church but too clearly proves how necessary this solemn dispensation was for the Christian church itself, and how dangerous an element even the partial observance of the old law to some sections of the Jewish believers after the destruction of the Temple, became to the purity of their faith in Christ.)
This result, however, not unnaturally gives rise to another question. If the new state and spiritual life of Christians was thus expressly dissociated from the old law of ordinances, was it not directly linked to another taking its place? The answer to this may be variously given, according to the sense in which it is understood. We have no law of ordinances in the New Testament writings at all corresponding to that which is contained in the Old. There was a fulness and precision formerly in the ceremonials of worship, because these belonged to a provisional and typical economy, and required to be adjusted with Divine skill to the coming realities for which they were intended to prepare. But the realities themselves having come, there is no longer any need for such carefully adjusted observances. Hence, neither by our Lord Himself, nor by His apostles, have any definite appointments been made to things which were of great importance under the law—to the kind of place, for example, in which the members of the Christian community were to meet for worship—or the form of service they were to observe when they met—or the officials who were to conduct it, and whether any particular mode of consecration were required to fit them for doing so. Even in those ordinances of the new dispensation, which in character approached most nearly to the old—the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—while no doubt is left as to the permanent place they were to occupy in the Christian church, how widely different is the manner of their appointment from that of the somewhat corresponding ordinances of Circumcision and the Passover? In Circumcision, the precise thing to be done is prescribed, and the precise day also on which it must be done; and in the Passover, the kind of sacrifice to be provided, the time when, and the place where it was to be killed, the modes of using the blood and of preparing the food, the manner also in which the feast was to be partaken, and even the disposal that was to be made of the fragments. In the Christian sacraments, on the other hand, the substance alone is brought into view—the kind of elements to be employed, and the general purport and design with which they are to be given and received; all, besides, as to the time, the place, the subordinate acts, the ministerial agency, is left entirely unnoticed, as but of secondary moment, or capable of being readily inferred from the nature of the ordinances. The converts on the day of Pentecost were baptized—so the inspired record distinctly testifies; but where, how, or by whom, is not indicated. The Ethiopian eunuch was both converted and baptized by Philip, one of the seven, who, so far as ordination was concerned, were ordained merely to ‘serve tables;’ and the person who baptized Paul is simply designated ‘a certain disciple at Damascus.’ When the Spirit had manifestly descended on Cornelius and his household, Peter ‘commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord;’ but the statement implies that the brethren accompanying Peter, rather than Peter himself, administered the rite. Paul, even when claiming to have founded the church at Corinth, expressly disclaims the administration of baptism to more than a very few—this being not what he had specially received his apostolic mission to perform: ‘Christ sent him not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.’ (1Co_1:17.) He even thanks God he had baptized but a few; could he possibly have done so, if, in his view, baptizing had been all one with regenerating? When he speaks of those whom he was the means of regenerating, he says they were ‘begotten through the Gospel.’ (1Co_4:15.) And in the pastoral instructions given by him through Timothy and Titus to the bishops or presbyters of the apostolic church, we read only of what they should be as men of Christian piety and worth, and how they should minister and apply the word; but not so much as a hint is dropt as to their exclusive right to dispense and give validity to the Christian sacraments. All shewing, as clearly as could well be done by the facts of history, that nothing absolutely essential in this respect depends upon circumstances of person, and mode, and time; and that whatever restrictions might then be observed, or after wards introduced, it could only be for the sake of order and general edification, not to give validity or impart saving efficacy to what were otherwise but empty symbols or unauthorised ceremonies.
Nor does it appear to have been materially otherwise with the ordinance of the Supper. The original institution merely represents our Lord, at the close of the paschal feast, as taking bread and wine, and, after giving thanks, presenting them to the disciples, the one to be eaten the other to be drunk in the character of His body and blood, and in remembrance of Him. This is all; and when the church fairly entered on its new career, the record of its proceedings merely states, with reference to this part of its observances, that the disciples ‘continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread;’ that ‘they continued in breaking bread from house to house,’ and were wont to ‘come together on the first day of the week to break bread.’ (Act_2:42; Act_2:46; Act_20:7; Act_20:11.) St Paul, too, while rebuking certain flagrant abuses which had crept into the church at Corinth in the celebration of the ordinance, and rehearsing what he says he had received from the Lord concerning it, maintains a profound silence as to every thing of a ritualistic description: he mentions only a Lord’s table with its bread and cup, and the action of giving and receiving, after the offering of thanks, in commemoration of Christ; but says nothing of the particular kinds of bread and wine, of the status, dress, or actions of the administrator, or the proper terms of celebration, or the attitude of the people when partaking, whether sitting, reclining, or kneeling. These, plainly, in the apostle’s account, were the non-essentials, the mere circumstantial adjuncts, which it was left to the church to regulate—not arbitrarily indeed, and assuredly not so as to change a simply commemorative and sealing ordinance into a propitiatory sacrifice and a stupendous mystery, but with a suitable adaptation to the nature of the feast and the circumstances of place and time. This reserve, too, was the more remarkable, since the apostle did occasionally speak of Christian gifts and services in sacrificial language; only never in connection with the ordinance of the Supper. He spake of the sacrifice of praise, but explains Himself by calling it the fruit of the lips, (Heb_13:15.) and a sacrifice to be offered, not by a priest on earth, but by the one High Priest, Christ. Charitable contributions to the poor, or to the service of the Gospel, are in like manner designated sacrifices well-pleasing to God; also the presentations of the persons of believers to God’s service, and His own presentation of converted heathen before the heavenly throne; (Heb_13:16; Php_4:18; Rom_12:1; Rom_15:16.) but not in one passage is the commemoration of our Lord’s death in the Supper so represented, or any expression employed which might seem to point in that direction. (Desperate efforts have been made by Roman Catholic writers to give another version to the whole matter, and even to find in the words of institution direct sacrificial language. Professedly Protestant writers are now treading to the full in their footsteps, and applying (we may say, perverting) the simple words of the original to a sense altogether foreign to them. They call the address of Christ, ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ a sacrificial word; and one paraphrases the words after the sense which he says the words (τοῦτο ποιεῖτε) ‘bear in the Septuagint, Offer this as my memorial’ (‘The Church and the World,’ pp. 499, 564). It is enough to give the substance of the comment made on these extraordinary statements by the learned editor of the Contemporary Review, No. 21, who says, ‘The words which our Lord employed nowhere bear a sacrificial sense in the Septuagint. In not one place does such an expression as ποιεῖν τοῦτο occur in a sacrificial sense; it would have been absurd, and even impossible, that it should, unless τοῦτο referred to some concrete thing then and there represented and designated—as, for example, Lev_9:10—προσήνεγκε τὸ ὁλοκαύτωμα, καὶ ἐποίησεν αὐτο ὡς καθήκει. To this, perhaps, the superficial ritualist will reply, that such a concrete object is present in the bread, of which it had just been said by our Lord, This is my body. If he committed himself so far, we should have to take him back to his school-days, and to remind him that the demonstrative pronoun, when applied to a concrete object, designates that and that alone, as distinguished from all others: so that if τοῦτο ποιεῖτε signified, “Offer this,” then, in order to obey it, that very bread must have been reserved to have been offered continually. We are driven, then, to the abstract reference, “this which I am doing;” and this will rule the meaning of the verb to be “do,” and not “offer.” Such, indeed, is the only sense of the phrase τοῦτο ποιεῖν wherever it occurs (see Gen_3:13-14; Gen_12:18; Gen_20:5, etc.; Luk_7:8; Luk_10:28; Luk_12:18; Act_16:18, etc.; Rom_7:15-16; Rom_7:20; Rom_12:20; 1Co_9:23). Is it conceivable that two authors (Luke and Paul), accustomed to the use of the phrase in its simple everyday meaning, should use it once only, and that once, on its most solemn occurrence, in a sense altogether unprecedented, and therefore certain not to be apprehended by their readers? The reviewer goes on further to state that the historical evidence is also wholly against it: the church has, as a rule, understood the ‘Do this’ to mean doing, as he did, namely, taking the bread, breaking, and distributing it; and adds, ‘Can anything be plainer than that, but for the requirements of the sacrificial theory of the Eucharist, such an interpretation would never have been heard of? And even with all the warping which men’s philology gets from their peculiar opinions, can, even now, a single Greek or Hellenistic scholar be found who would, as a scholar, venture to uphold it?’ It is not too much to say, that the whole that is written respecting the original observance of the sacraments, the whole also that St Paul says respecting his own peculiar calling as an ambassador of Christ, and what he wrote for the instruction of others on the pastoral office, is a virtual protest against the priestly character of the ministry of the New Testament; and the one must be ignored before the other can be accepted by sound believers.)
This, however, is a conclusion which many refuse to acquiesce in. They think that the indeterminateness spoken of must somehow have been supplied; and that if the needed materials are not furnished by Scripture, they must be sought in some collateral source adequate to meet the deficiency. Hence the Romish theory of unwritten traditions, eking out and often superseding the teaching of Scripture; the theory of development, claiming for the church the inherent right and power to supplement and authoritatively impose what was originally defective in her ordinances; and the theory of the apostolic succession and the impressed character. It were out of place here, where we have to do merely with the revelation of law in God’s kingdom, to go into an examination of such theories, as none of them, except by an abuse of terms, can be brought within that description. The things for which those theories are intended to account, have no distinct place in the expressed mind of our Lord and His apostles; and so, even if allowable, cannot be deemed of essential moment. If it is asked—as Dodwell, for example, asked (Paraenesis, 34),—‘Cannot God justly oblige men, in order to obtain the benefits which it is His good pleasure to bestow, to employ the means which His good pleasure has instituted?’ We reply, if He had seen reason to institute them in such a sense as to render them in any way essential to salvation, the same reason which led Him to provide salvation would doubtless also have led Him to make His pleasure in this respect known—nay, to have inscribed it, in the most conspicuous manner on the foundations of the Christian faith; which assuredly has not been done. Undoubtedly, the form and mode (as has been further alleged) may be, and sometimes have been, of indispensable moment: ‘God was not pleased to cleanse Naaman the Syrian from his leprosy by the water of any other river than the Jordan; so that, had Naaman used the rivers of Syria for this purpose, he would have had no title to expect a cure.’ Certainly; but on this very account God made His meaning perfectly explicit: He hung the cure of the Syrian leper on the condition, not of a sevenfold dipping in water merely, but of such a dipping in the waters of the Jordan; these particular waters entered as an essential element into the method of recovery. And so, doubtless, would have been the points referred to in connection with the Christian sacraments, if the same relative place had belonged to them; they would have been noted and prescribed, in a manner not to be mistaken, in the fundamental records of the Christian faith; and since they are awanting there, to introduce and press them in the character of essentials to salvation, is virtually to disparage those records, and to do so in a way that runs counter to the whole genius of Christianity, which exalts the spiritual in comparison with the outward and formal—retains, we may say, the minimum of symbolism because it exhibits the maximum of reality.
But while we thus contend against any law of ordinances in the Christian church of the circumstantial and specific kind which existed under the old economy, the two sacraments undoubtedly have the place of ordinances; their observance has been prescribed with legislative sanction and authority; and there can be no question as to the duty of observing them among the genuine disciples of Christ; the only, or at least, the main question is, in what relation do they stand to their possession of the Spirit and of the life that is in Christ Jesus? Do they aim at originating, or rather at establishing and nourishing, the Divine life in the soul? That it is this latter in the case of the Lord’s Supper admits of no doubt; the very name implies that the participants are contemplated as having Spirit and life, since no one thinks of presenting a feast to the dead. The same also is implied in the formal design of its appointment, to keep alive the remembrance of Jesus and of His great redemptive act in the minds of those who own Him as their Lord and Saviour—presupposing, therefore, the existence of a living bond between their souls and Him. Hence, the one essential pre-requisite to a right and profitable participation in the ordinance indicated by the apostle is the possession and exercise of the life of faith: ‘Let a man examine himself (viz., as to his state and interest in Christ), and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.’ (1Co_11:28.) Not, then, to convert or quicken, but to nourish and strengthen the life already implanted in the soul, by bringing it into fresh contact and communion with the one source of all life and blessing to sinful men, is the direct good to be sought in the ordinance of the Supper. And though the other sacrament, Baptism, has to do with the commencement of a Christian state, not its progressive advancement, and is hence termed initiatory, it is so, according to the representations of Scripture, only in a qualified sense; that is, not as being absolutely originative, or of itself conditioning and producing the first rise of life in the soul, but associated with this early stage, and bringing it forth into distinct and formal connection with the service and kingdom of Christ. Such, certainly, is the relation in which the two stand to each other in the command of Christ, and the ministry of His immediate representatives—‘Go and teach all nations, baptizing them,’ etc.; ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.’ Not, therefore, baptized in order to believing, but believing in order to be baptized; so that, ideally or doctrinally considered, baptism presupposes faith, and sets the Divine seal on its blessings and prospects. And so we never find the evangelists and apostles thrusting baptismal services into the foreground, as if through such ministrations they expected the vital change to be produced, but first preaching the Gospel, and then, when this had come with power into the heart, recognising and confirming the result by the administration of the ordinance. So did Peter, for example, on the day of Pentecost; he made proclamation of the truth concerning Christ and His salvation; and only when this appeared to have wrought with convincing power and energy on the people, he pressed the matter home by urging them to ‘repent and be baptized every one in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.’ It was a call to see that they had every thing involved in a sound conversion; for the kind of repentance spoken of is the metanoia, the change of mind which has its root in faith, and implies a spiritual acquaintance with Christ and the things of His salvation. At a later period, Peter justifies himself for receiving, through baptism, the household of Cornelius, on the ground that they had ‘heard of the Gospel and believed,’ or, as he again puts it, that ‘God purified their hearts by faith.’ (Act_15:7-9.) Such was the process also with the Ethiopian eunuch, with Lydia, with the jailer at Philippi; so that baptism was administered by the apostles, not for the purpose of creating a relation between the individual and Christ, but of accrediting and completing a relation already formed. And if baptism also is said to save, and is specially associated with the work of regeneration—as it undoubtedly is (Rom_6:4-5; Tit_3:5; 1Pe_3:21.)—it can only be because baptism is viewed, in the case of the adult believer, as the proper consummation and embodiment of faith’s actings in the reception of Christ. For, constituting in such a case the solemn response of a believing soul and a purged conscience to the Gospel call, it fitly represents the whole process, marks by a significant action the passing of the boundary-line between nature and grace, and a formal entrance on the state and privileges of the redeemed. But apart from this spiritual change presupposed and implied, nothing is effected by the outward administration; and to be regenerated in the language of Scripture and the estimation of the apostles, is not to find admission merely into the Christian church; it is to become a new creature, and enjoy that witness of the Spirit which is the pledge and foretaste of eternal life. What is said of regeneration, is equally said of faith in Christ (Joh_3:18-36; 2Co_5:17, etc.). (See Litton on ‘The Church of Christ,’ p. 291, seq., where this subject is fully handled.)
A certain accommodation, it will be understood, requires to be made in applying this Scriptural view to the baptism of infants much as in the Old Testament rite of circumcision, which took its beginning with Abraham in advanced life, and, as so begun, had its proper significance and bearing determined for all time, (Rom_4:10-12.) though appointed also to embrace the children of the patriarch. Our object is merely to indicate the general purport and place of baptism, as also of the Lord’s Supper, in relation to the spiritual life of the believer in Christ; and to shew that, in this respect, their place is not primary, but secondary, seeing that they presuppose a relation of the individual to Christ, a spiritual life already begun through faith in the word of Christ, which it is their design to confirm and build up. They themselves rest upon that word, and derive from it their meaning and use. Apart from the Gospel of Christ and an intelligent belief in its contents, they become, no matter by whom administered or with what punctuality received, but formal observances, without life and power. So that the grand ordinance, if we may so use the term, which has to do with the formation of Christ in the soul, or the actual participation of the life that is in Him, is this word of the kingdom the Gospel, as the apostle calls it, of Christ’s glory (2Co_4:4.)—by the faith of which, through the Spirit, we are begotten as of incorruptible seed, are justified from sin, and have Christ Himself dwelling in us. (Jas_1:18; 1Pe_1:23; Rom_5:1; Eph_3:17.) To abide in the doctrine of Christ and keep His word, is to have Him revealed in our experience for fellowship with that undying life which is hid with Him in God; it is to have both the Father and the Son; as, on the other hand, to be without His word abiding in the soul, is to be in a state of estrangement from Him, spiritually dead. (Joh_8:31; Joh_8:37; Joh_8:51; Joh_15:7; Col_3:3; 2Jn_1:9.) The position, therefore, which we are called to maintain toward Christ, rests more immediately upon the presentation of His person and work through the word; it has its most decisive touch stone in the relation in which, as to spirit and behaviour, we stand to this word. And as the word comes into the heart, and abides in the heart through faith, so, of necessity, faith is the peculiar organ of spiritual life, since it is that whereby we humbly receive and appropriate what is freely given us in Christ—‘whereby we trust in Him, instead of trusting in ourselves—whereby, when sinking under the consciousness of our blindness and helplessness, the effect of our habitual sins, we take God’s word for our rule, God’s strength for our trust, God’s mercy and grace for the sole ground of peace and comfort and hope.’ (Hare’s ‘Victory of Faith,’ p. 78.)
It is of incalculable moment for the interests of vital Christianity, that these things should be well understood and borne in mind; for with the position now assigned to the word, as connected with the life of Christ, and the apprehension of that word by a reliant faith, is bound up the doctrine of a salvation by grace, as contradistinguished from that of salvation by works; or, as we may otherwise put it, the attainment of a state of peace and blessing by fallen man, in a way that is practicable, as contrasted with a striving after one which is utterly impracticable. For whatever does not spring freshly and livingly from faith, can neither be well-pleasing in the eyes of God, nor can it secure that imperishable boon of eternal life in God’s kingdom, which comes to sinners only as His free and sovereign gift. And precisely as this is lost sight of, whether in the. case of individuals, or in the church at large, is there sure to discover itself, if not a total carelessness and insensibility about spiritual things, then the resuscitation of a law of ordinances, an excessive regard to outward forms and ceremonial observances, as if these were the things of paramount importance, and there could be no salvation without them; for these are things which the natural man can do, and, by taking pains to do them, may readily fancy himself to be something before God.
It is true that, in a certain aspect, this relation of the believer to the word, the salvation, and the life of Christ, may be regarded as coming within the domain of law; for in every thing that concerns it—both the provision of grace and blessing in Christ, and the way in which this comes to be realized in the experience of men—there is a revelation of the will of God, which necessarily carries with it an obligation to obedience—has the essence and the force of law. Men ought to receive the Gospel of Christ, and enter into the fellowship of His death and resurrection: they are commanded to do so, and in doing it they are said to be obedient to the Gospel, or to the truth therein exhibited. (Joh_3:23; Act_16:31; Rom_10:16; 1Pe_1:14.) It is even set forth as pre-eminently the work which God calls or enjoins us in our fallen condition to do, to believe on Him whom He hath sent, and the refusing to do this work, and thereby rejecting the grace of God provided and offered in Christ, is the crowning sin of those to whom the Gospel comes in vain. (Joh_6:29; Joh_15:22; Joh_16:9; Luk_19:27.) The more special and distinctive acts, also, of the new life which is given to those who yield themselves to the calls of the Gospel, are occasionally pressed on them as duties to be discharged—such as seeking from the Lord the gifts of grace, being converted to His love and service, or transformed into the image of Christ, by putting off the old man and putting on the new. (Mat_7:7; Act_3:19; Rom_12:2; Eph_4:22-24.) And so, speaking from this point of view, the Apostle Paul does not hesitate, even while striving to exclude the idea of merit, or of salvation as attainable by obedience to any law of works, to represent the whole as proceeding in conformity to law—‘the law of faith;’ and the individuals themselves are described as, in consequence of their believing reception of the Gospel, ‘children of obedience,’ or such as have become obedient to the faith. (Rom_1:5; Rom_3:27; 1Pe_1:14; Acts 6:17.) Undoubtedly the matter admits of being so represented. It is a mode of representation grounded in the essential nature of things, since by the very constitution of their being, men are bound to render account of the light they enjoy and the advantages placed within their reach; are responsible to God for what with His help they can attain of good, as well as for what they are expressly commanded to do. It is, too, a mode of representation which may justly be pressed when the object is to arouse men’s dormant energies, and bring them to consider what solemn issues depend on the treatment they personally give to the claims and Gospel of Christ. But it still were a grievous mistake to suppose, that this is either the only or the principal light, in which our relation to the grace and truth of the Gospel ought to be contemplated. It is not that in which the Gospel formally presents itself, or is fitted to produce its happiest results; and on the ground of such a mode of representation, only incidentally, and for purposes of moral suasion introduced, to do what Luther had too much reason for saying many great and excellent men had done—that they not only ‘knew not how to preach Moses rightly, but sought to make a Moses out of Christ, out of the Gospel a law-book, out of the word works,’—is the most effectual method to render Gospel and law alike of no avail for salvation. The direct and immediate aspect under which Christ is made known to us in the Gospel is unquestionably that of a bestower of blessing, not a master of laws and services; a gracious and merciful Redeemer, who has at infinite cost wrought out the plan of our salvation, and laid freely open to our acceptance the whole treasury of its unsearchable riches. It is, therefore, with invitation and promise, rather than with any thing bearing the aspect of law, that the genuine disciple of Jesus will ever find that he has immediately to do: his part is to receive, in the use of Gospel privileges and the exercise of a living faith, the gifts so freely tendered to him; and endeavour increasingly to apprehend that for which he is apprehended of Christ, so as to grow up unto a close and living fellowship with his Divine Head in all that is His.
II. But leaving now this branch of the subject, we turn to the other—to consider the relation in which, as exhibited in the apostolic writings, the church of the New Testament stands to the moral law—the law as summarily comprised in the precepts of the Decalogue, or in the two great commandments of love to God and man.
Here, we must not forget, the prime requisite for a right perception of the truth is a proper personal relation to the truth. We must start from the position just described—that, namely, of a believing appropriation of the word of Christ, and the consequent possession of the Spirit of life which flows from Christ to the members of His spiritual body. It is from this elevated point of view that the matter is contemplated in the doctrinal portions of New Testament Scripture; and hence statements are sometimes made concerning it, which, while entirely consonant with the experience of those who have received with some degree of fulness the powers of that higher life, cannot be more than imperfectly understood, and may even be regarded as inconsistent, by such as either stand altogether without the spiritual sphere, or have but partially imbibed its spirit. It was so in a measure under the law, the statements regarding which, in the recorded experience of Old Testament believers—as to its excellence, its depth and spirituality of meaning, their delight in its precepts yet tremblings of soul under its searching and condemning power, their desire to be conformed to its teaching yet perpetual declining from the way of its commandments—could not appear otherwise than strange and enigmatical to persons who, not having come practically under the dominion of the law, necessarily possessed but a superficial knowledge of it. And the same may justly be expected in a still higher degree now, amid the complicated and delicate relations as between Moses and Christ, law and grace, through which the experience of believers may be said to lie. There is here very peculiarly needed the spiritual discernment which belongs only to those who are living in the Spirit; and if it may be affirmed of such that, having a mind to do the will of God, they shall know of the doctrine that it is of God, (Joh_7:17.) with equal confidence may it be affirmed of others not thus spiritually minded, that they cannot adequately know it, because wanting the proper frame and temper of soul for justly appreciating it.
The most distinguishing characteristic of the Gospel dispensation undoubtedly is its prominent exhibition of grace, as connected with the mediatorial work of Christ. The great salvation has come; and, in consequence, sins are not merely pretermitted to believers, as in former times, through the forbearance of God, but fully pardoned through the blood of the Lamb, (Rom_3:25, where the πάρεσις of the past stands in a kind of contrast to the ἄφεσις of the present.) freedom of access is gained for them into the presence of God, and the gift of the Spirit to abide with them, and work in them much more copiously than had been done before. But there is a gradation only, not a contrast; and as under the Old Covenant the law-giving, was also the loving God, so under the New, the loving God is also the law-giving. (See Wuttke, ‘Handbuch der Sitt.,’ chap. ii. sec. 208.) We have seen how much it was so, as represented in the personal ministry and work of Christ—how completely He appropriated for Himself and His followers the perfect law of God, and how also He continually issued precepts for their observance, in conformity with its tenor, though in form bearing the impress of His own mind and mission. The apostles, after the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the formal entrance of the new economy, pursued substantially the same course. Thus James, whose style of thought and expression approaches nearest to those of Old Testament Scripture, designates the law of brotherly love the royal law—as that which, in a manner, governs and controls every other in the sphere of common life—and tells the Christians that they would do well if they fulfilled it. (Jas_2:8.) St Peter, though he specifies no particular precept of the law, yet points to an injunction in the book of the law, which is comprehensive of all its righteousness, ‘Be ye holy in all manner of conversation; for it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy.’ (1Pe_1:16.) St John also speaks freely in his epistles of the Lord’s commandments, and of the necessity of keeping them, especially of the great commandment of love; he speaks of the law as of the well-known definite rule of righteousness, and of sin as the transgression of the law, to live in which is to abide in death. (1Jn_2:7-8; 1Jn_3:7-8; 1Jn_3:23-24; 1Jn_5:2-3; 2Jn_1:5-6.) And St Paul, who in a very peculiar manner was the representative and herald of the grace that is in Christ, is, if possible, still more express: ‘Ye have been called to liberty,’ says he to the Galatians, ‘only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another; for all the law is fulfilled in one word—in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,’ (Gal_5:13-14.)—plainly identifying the love binding upon Christians with the love enjoined in the law. The same use is made by him of the fifth commandment of the Decalogue, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, (Eph_6:1-3.) when urging the duty of obedience to parents. And in the Epistle to the Romans, when the course of thought has brought him to the enforcement of vital godliness and the duties of a Christian life, the reference made to the perfection and abiding authority of the written law is even more full and explicit; for he gives it as the characteristic of the spiritual mind, that it assents to the law as ‘holy and just and good,’ and ‘serves it;’ (Rom_7:12; Rom_7:25.) while of the carnal mind he says, ‘it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ (Rom_8:7.) And when speaking of Christian obligation in its varied manifestations of kindness between man and man, he sums up the whole, first in the specific precepts of the Decalogue, and then in the all-embracing precept of loving one’s neighbour as one’s-self. (Rom_13:8-10.)
I should reckon it next to impossible for any one of unbiassed mind—with no peculiar theory to support—with no desire of any kind, but that of giving a fair and natural interpretation to the teaching of Scripture—to weigh calmly the series of statements now adduced, and to derive from them any other impression than this—that the moral law, as revealed in the Old Testament, had with the apostles of our Lord a recognised place in the Christian church, and was plainly set forth by them as the grand test of excellence, and the authoritative rule of life. They recognised and appealed to it thus simply as it stood in the written revelation of God, and because so written;—knowing nothing, apparently, of the refined explanations of modern thought, which would hold the morality of the law, indeed, to be binding on Christians, but not as commanded in the law—that while the substance or principles of the law may be said to be still living, in its outward and commanding form it is dead—or that, as formally expressed law, it is no longer obligatory, whether with reference to justification, or as a rule of life. (See the references in Lec. I.) And yet, unquestionably, there is something in the apostolic mode of contemplating the law which gives a certain colour to these representations. A marked distinction is made in various places between the position which Israel occupied toward the law, and that now occupied by believers in Christ; such, that there is a sense in which Israel was placed under it, and in which Christians are not; that it had a purpose to serve till the fulfilment of the covenant of promise in Christ, for which it is no longer specifically required; (Gal_3:19-25; Gal_4:1-6.) that somehow it is done away or abolished, (2Co_3:11; Eph_2:15; Col_2:14.) or, as it is again put, that we are done away from it, that is, set free, in regard to its right to lord it over us; (Rom_7:6.) that we are even dead to it, or are no longer under it; (Rom_6:14; Rom_7:4.) and that the scope or end for which the law was given is accomplished, and alone can be accomplished, in Christ for those who are spiritually united to Him. (Rom_8:3-4; Rom_10:4.)
These are certainly very strong, at first sight even startling statements, and if looked at superficially, or taken up and pressed in an isolated manner, might easily be made to teach a doctrine which would conflict with the passages previously quoted, or with the use of the law actually made in them with reference to the Christian life. That there must be a mode of harmonizing them, we may rest perfectly assured—though it can only be satisfactorily made out by a careful examination of the particular passages, viewed in their proper connection, and with due regard to the feelings and practices of the time. For the present, a general outline is all that can be given; the detailed exegesis on which it leans must be reserved for another place. Very commonly, indeed, a comparatively brief method of explanation has been adopted by divines, according to which Christians are held to be, not under the law as a covenant, but under it as a rule of life. Doctrinally, this gives the substance of the matter, but with a twofold disadvantage: it leaves one point regarding it unexplained, and in form also it is theological rather than Scriptural. In respect to form, Scripture no doubt represents the covenant of law, the old covenant, as in some sense done away, or abolished; but then not exactly in the sense understood by the expression in the theological statement just noticed. That covenant of law, as actually proposed and settled by God, did not stand opposed to grace, but in subordination to grace, as revealed in a prior covenant, whose spiritual ends it was designed to promote; therefore, though made to take the form of a covenant, its object still was not to give, but to guide life; (Gal_3:21.) in other words, to shew distinctly to the people, and take them bound to consider, how it behoved them to act toward God, and toward each other as an elect generation, God’s seed of blessing in the earth. But this, in the language of theology, does not materially differ from the use of the law as a rule of life; whereas to be under the law as a covenant, means in theology to be bound by it as a covenant of works, to make good, through obedience to its precepts, a title to life. In such a sense the Israelites were not placed under it any more than our selves; and hence Witsius was disposed to regard it as not possessing for them the form of a covenant properly so called, but as presenting merely the rule of duty. (De Œcon. Foed, L. iv. chap. 4. sec. 56.) That, however, were only to abandon a Scriptural for a theological mode of expression, for undoubtedly it is called a covenant in Scripture. But apart from the question of form, the manner of statement under consideration is, in one point of view, defective; for it does not indicate any difference between the relation of Israel and the relation of Christians to the law, while still it is clear, from several of the passages referred to, that there is some considerable difference: the law had a function to perform for Israel, and through them for the world, which is not needed in the same manner or to the same extent now. Wherein does this difference lie? There is here evidently room for more careful and discriminating explanations. And, in endeavouring to make them, we must distinguish between what was common to Israel with the people of God generally, and what was peculiar to them as belonging to a particular stage in the Divine plan, riving under a still imperfectly developed form of the Divine dispensations.
Viewed in the former of these aspects, the Israelites were strictly a representative people; they were chosen from among mankind, as in the name of mankind, to hear that law of God, which revealed His righteousness for their direction and obedience; and though this came in connection with another revelation, a covenant of promise through which life and blessing were to be obtained, yet, considered by itself, it brought out before them, and charged upon their consciences, the sum of all moral obligation—whatever is due from men as men, as moral and responsible beings, to God Himself, and to their fellow-men. In this the law demanded only what was right and good—what therefore should have been willingly rendered by all to whom it came—what, the more it was considered, men could not but the more feel must be rendered, if matters were to be put on a solid footing between them and God, and they were to have a free access to His presence and glory. But the law could only demand the right, could not secure the performance of it; it could condemn sin, but not prevent its commission, which, by reason of the weakness of flesh, and the heart’s innate tendency to alienation from God, continued still to proceed in the face of the commands and threatenings of law:—so that the law, in its practical working, necessarily came to stand over against men as a righteous creditor with claims of justice which had not been satisfied, and deserved retributions of judgment which were ready to be executed. In this respect, it had to be taken out of the way, got rid of or abolished, in a manner consistent with the moral government of God—its curse for committed sin borne—and its right to lord it over men to condemnation and death brought to an end. It is this great question—a question which only primarily concerned the Jews, as having been the direct recipients of the revelation of law, but in which all men as sinners were alike really interested—that the apostle chiefly treats in the larger proportion of the passages recently referred to. It is of the law in this point of view, that he speaks of it as a minister of death—of believers being no longer married to it or under it—yea, of their being dead to it, dead through the law itself to the law—and of the law being consequently removed as a barrier between them and the favour and blessing of God. And he was led to do so the rather because of the deep-rooted and prevailing tendency of the time to look at the law by itself—apart from the covenant of promise—and to find in obedience to its commands a title to life and blessing. This, the apostle argues, is utterly to mistake its meaning and pervert its design. Taken so, the law works wrath, not peace; instead of delivering from sin, it is itself the very sting of sin; hence brings not blessing, but a curse; not life, but condemnation; and never till men renounce confidence in their deeds of law, and lay hold of the hope set before them in Him who for sinners has satisfied its just demands, and made reconciliation for iniquity, can they obtain deliverance from fear and guilt, and enter into life. Thus Christ becomes ‘the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth:’ (Rom_10:4.) in Him alone it reaches its proper aim as regards the interests of righteousness, for He has perfectly fulfilled its commands, in death as well as life has honoured its claims: and this not for Himself properly, but for those who through faith join themselves to Him, and become partakers, both in the work of righteousness He has accomplished, and the spirit of righteousness He puts into their hearts.
Such, briefly, is the import of that class of statements in St Paul’s writings; and in this sense only do they warrant us to speak of the moral law being done away, or of our having been set free from it—a sense which really enhances the importance of the law, most strikingly exhibits its eternal validity, because shewing us to be delivered from it, only that we may be brought into conformity to its spirit and requirements. And, in this respect, as we have said, there is no difference between the believer under the old covenant, and the believer under the new—except that what was little more than hope before is realization now, what was then but dimly apprehended, and received only as by way of provisional forestalments, is now disclosed in all its fulness, and made the common heritage of believers in Christ. But there was another respect in which the position of Israel is to be considered, one in which it was peculiar, since, according to it, they occupied a particular, and that a comparatively early, place in the history of the Divine dispensations. In this respect, the revelation of law had a prominence given to it which was also peculiar, which was adapted only to the immature stage to which it be longed, and was destined to undergo a change when the more perfect state of things had come. Considered in this point of view, the law must be taken in its entire compass, with the Decalogue, indeed, as its basis, yet with this not in its naked elements and standing alone, but, for the sake of greater prominence and stringency, made the terms of a covenant; and not only so, but, even while linked to a prior covenant of grace, associated with pains and penalties which, in the case of deliberate transgression, admitted of no suspension or repeal—associated, moreover, with a complicated system of rites and ordinances which were partly designed to teach and enforce upon men’s minds its great principles and obligations of moral duty, and partly to provide the means of escape from the guilt incurred by their imperfect fulfilment or their occasional violation. It was in this complex form that the law was imposed upon Israel, and interwoven with the economical arrangements under which, as a people, they were placed. It is in that form that it was appointed to serve the design of an educational or pedagogical institute, preparatory to the introduction of Gospel times; and in the same form only that St Paul, in various places—especially in the Epistle to the Galatians, also in Eph_2:14-17; Col_2:14-23—contended for its having been displaced or taken out of the way by the work of Christ. In all the passages the moral law is certainly included in the system of enactment spoken of, but still always in the connection now mentioned—as part and parcel of a disciplinary yoke, a pedagogy suited only to the season of comparative childhood, therefore falling into abeyance with the arrival of a manhood condition. And the necessity of this change, it will be observed, he presses with special reference, not to the strictly moral part of the law, but to the subsidiary rules and observances with which it was associated—the value of which, as to their original design, ceased with the introduction of the Gospel. His view was, not that men were disposed to make more of the Decalogue, or of the two great commandments of love, than he thought altogether proper—precisely the reverse: it was, because they were allowing the mere temporary adjuncts, and ritualistic accompaniments of these fundamental requirements, to overshadow their importance, and pave the way for substituting a formal and fictitious pietism for true godliness and virtue. And hence to prevent, as far as possible, any misunderstanding of his meaning, he does not close the epistles in question without pointing in the most explicit terms to the simply moral demands of the law as now, not less than formerly, binding on the consciences of men. (Gal_5:13-22; Eph_6:1-9; Col_3:14, seq.)
In short, the question handled by the apostle in this part of his writings upon the law, was not whether the holiness and love it enjoined were to be practised, but how the practice was to be secured. The utterance of the law’s precepts in the most peremptory and solemn form could not do it. The converting of those precepts into the terms of a covenant, and taking men bound under the weightiest penalties to observe them, could not do it. Nor could it be done by a regulated machinery of means of instruction and ordinances of service, intended to minister subsidiary help and encouragement to such as were willing to follow the course of obedience. All these had been tried, but never with more than partial success—not because the holiness required was defective, but because the moral power was wanting to have it realized. And now there came the more excellent way of the Gospel—the revelation of that love which is the fulfilling of the law, in the person of the New Head of humanity, the Lord from heaven—the revelation of it in full-orbed completeness, even rising to the highest point of sacrifice, and making provision for as many as would in faith receive it, that the spirit of this noble, pure, self-sacrificing love should dwell as a new life, an absorbing and controlling power, also in their bosom. So that, ‘what the law could not do in that, it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.’ He who is replenished with this spirit of life and love, no longer has the law standing over him, but, as with Christ in His work on earth, it lives in him, and he lives in it; the work of the law is written on his heart, and its spirit is transfused into his life. ‘The man (it has been justly said) who is truly possessor of “the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” cannot have any other gods but his Father in heaven; cannot commit adultery; cannot bear false witness; cannot kill; cannot steal. Such a man comes down upon all the exercises and avocations of life from a high altitude of wise and loving homage to the Son of God, and expounds practically the saying of the apostle, “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not, but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” .... Christ’s cross, then, delivers Christians from what may be termed moral drudgery; they are not oppressed and pined serfs, but freemen and fellow-heirs, serving the Lord Christ with all gladness of heart. It magnifies the law and makes it honourable, yet delivers those who accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour from the bondage of the letter. Instead of throwing the commandments into contempt, it gave them a higher moral status, and even Sinai itself becomes shorn of its greatest terrors when viewed from the elevation of the cross. Love was really the reason of the law, though the law looked like an expression of anger. We see this, now that we love more; love is the best interpreter of God, for God is love.’ (‘Ecce Deus,’ chap. xvi.)
Thus it is that the Gospel secures liberty, and, at the same time, guards against licentiousness. To look only, or even principally, to the demands of law, constituted as human nature now is, cramps and deadens the energies of the soul, generates a spirit of bondage, which, ever vacillating between the fear of doing too little, and the desire of not doing more than is strictly required, can know nothing of the higher walks of excellence and worth. On the other hand, to look to the grace and liberty of the Gospel away from the law of eternal rectitude, with which they stand inseparably connected, is to give a perilous licence to the desires and emotions of the heart, nurses a spirit of individualism, which, spurning the restraints of authority, is apt to become the victim of its own caprice, or the pliant slave of vanity and lust; for true liberty, in the spiritual as well as in the civil sphere, is a regulated freedom; it moves within the bonds of law, in a spirit of rational obedience; and the moment these are set aside, self-will rises to the ascendant, bringing with it the witchery and dominion of sin. (Rom_6:16.) It is only, therefore, the combined operation of the two which can secure the proper result; and with whom is that to be found except with those who have received the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus? To be replenished with this Spirit, is to be brought within the sphere of Divine love, which, so far from recoiling from the law’s demands, can give expression even to its noblest enthusiasm in a cordial response to the obligations they impose, and a faithful obedience to the course of action they prescribe. (So in the most emphatic moments of our Lord’s life, as at Mat_11:26; Mat_26:39; Joh_10:18. Nor is a certain correspondence wanting in the finer exemplifications of the good in civil life—as in Lord Nelson with his famous watchword, ‘England expects every man to do his duty’—patriotism at its highest stretch being deemed capable of no loftier aspiration or more glorious service than to give honourable satisfaction to the calls of duty. Statements are often made by religious writers respecting service done with a special regard to such calls, which is not strictly correct; as when it is said, ‘Duty is the very lowest conception of our relation to God—privilege is a higher—honoura higher—happiness and delight a higher still’ (Irving’s Works, Vol. I. p. 23). Doubtless, in certain states of mind it is so; and he who does a service merely because he deems it a duty, feeling himself dragged to it as by a chain, will be universally regarded as in a low moral condition. But this is by no means necessary. A sense of the dutiful may be felt, may even be most intensely realized, when it is associated with the purest feelings and emotions; and in the higher spheres of spiritual light and excellence—with the elect angels in heaven, or even the more advanced saints on earth, in their seasons of deepest moral earnestness—a supreme regard to the dutiful, to the will of God as the absolutely right and good, we may not hesitate to say, is the profoundest sentiment in the bosom. All else, with such nobler spirits, is lost sight of in the completeness of their surrender to the mind and will of the Eternal.)
Besides, by thus calling into play the higher elements of a Divine life, there is necessarily set to work a spring or principle of goodness in the heart, which in aim is one with the law, but which in its modes of operation no law can exactly define. Experience shews, that in the complicated affairs of human life, it is impossible to prescribe a set measure to the exercise of any of the Christian graces, not even to justice, which in its own nature is the most determinate of them all. Numberless instances will arise in which, after all our attempts at precision, principle alone will need to guide our course, and not any definite landmarks previously set up on the right hand or the left. But especially is this the case with love, which of all the graces is the most free and elastic in its movements, and, if strong and fervent, adapts itself with a kind of sacred instinct to existing wants and opportunities. There still is, in every variety of state and circumstances, a right and a wrong—a bad course to be shunned, a good course to be followed, and possibly a better course still, a higher and nobler development of love, which it might be practicable to adopt, were there but grace and strength adequate to the occasion. But the proper path cannot be marked out beforehand by formulated rules and legal precedents. Love must in many respects be a law to itself, though still under law to God; and the more its flame has been kindled at the altar of Heaven, and it has caught the spirit of that Divine philanthropy, which, with the greatness of its gifts and sacrifices, triumphs over human enmity and corruption, the more always will it be disposed to do and sacrifice in return.
In this sense it may be said of Christianity, that it is more characterized by spirit than by law; that it does ‘not prescribe any system of rules,’ as was connected with the Old Covenant, that ‘instead of precise rules it rather furnishes sublime principles of conduct.’ (Whately, ‘Essay on Abol. of Law.’) But such general statements have their limitations; and if understood in an absolute sense, with reference either to the past or the present, they will only serve to mislead. It was characteristic of the Old Covenant that it had a system of rules, dealt in exact and definite prescriptions; but these, it ought to be remembered, were far from def