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OF THE LAW OF NATURE, OR OF ALL MANKIND, AS IT IS
COMMANDED, DIGESTED, AND PERFECTED, BY OUR SUPREME LAWGIVER, JESUS CHRIST, VIZ. OF THE CHRISTIAN LAW, THE GREAT RULE OF CONSCIENCE.
When the Law of Jesus Christ was established, the Old Tes
tament, or the Law of Moses, did not longer oblige the Conscience.
The doctors a of the Jews say, that, at the command of a prophet, that is, of one that works miracles, it is lawful to break any commandment, that only excepted, which is concerning the worship of one God. Thus at the command of Joshua the children of Israel brake the precept of the sabbath at Jericho, and Samuele and Elijah d offered sacrifice in places otherwise than the law appointed, and the priests in the temple did kill beasts and laboured upon the sabbath, and yet were blameless : and circumcisio pellit sabbatum,' was their own proverb; on the sabbath they circumcised their infants, and the prophet Jeremy was author to the Jews.in secunda domo,' that is, after they were taken captive, that they should change their computation by months, and not begin with Nisan.
For God, being the supreme lawgiver, hath power over his own laws,-as, being a creator, he hath over his own creation; he that gave being, can take it away: and the law may be changed, though God cannot. For God is immutable in his attributes, but his works have variety, and can change every day; as light and darkness succeed each other, and summer and winter, and health and sickness, and life and death, and perfect, and imperfect; and he that commanded all men not to kill, might give a commandment to Abraham that he should kill his son; and when he had established the law of Moses, it was in his power, without any imputation or shadow of change, to give the world a new law, and a better.
. Talmud. tit. de Synedrio.
| Sam. vii. 10. & xiii. 8.
b Josh. vi. 15.
To this purpose our blessed Lord was endued with power from on high to give a new law; for he was a great prophet, and did many and mighty miracles, and advanced the spiritual worship of the only true God; and brought men from childish and imperfect usages, to the natural, spiritual, manly, and perfective manner of worshipping God; and therefore it was necessary that a change should be made: for in Moses' law the rites were troublesome and imperfect, chargeable and useless, not able to wash away sins, nor to perfect the spirits of the saints; it exhibited nothing substantial, but by shadows pointed at the substance to be revealed afterwards : it was fitted to the weakness of imperfect people, and in some very great instances was exceeded by the lives and piety of some excellent persons, as Moses and David, who by humility, meekness, forgiveness, and charity, did acts of piety beyond the precepts of the law, and many did not divorce their wives, and yet by their law, all were permitted to do it: for it might be said of Moses as by the lawgiver of whom Origen e speaks, who, being asked if he had given to his citizens the best laws, answered, ότι ου τους καθάπαξ καλλίστους, αλλ' ών εδύνατο τους καλλίστους: « not absolutely the best, but the best he could, considering the incapacity and averseness of his citizens:” so did Moses; he gave a better law than ever was before, and the best which that people and the state of things could then bear: but it was but for a time, and the very nature of the law required a better to succeed it, and therefore he that came and gave a better, was not to be rejected, because he disannulled the worse: ei dè OÚTO. προς τον κατά φύσιν λεγόμενον μέσον βίον αφορώντες, και απροσίoιντ' αν και οι πολλοί, οίς τα εκτός ως τα αγαθά ή κακά, και τα του σώματος ωσαύτως υπείληπται, νομοθετούσιν, τι τις τον τούτων παραφέρων νόμον dvatpéter Biov; “ if other lawgivers (saith Porphry') regarding that middle kind of life, which is said to be according to nature, and to those things of which men are capable, who esteem things good or evil by proportions of the body, have
* Adv. Cels. 3.
i Lib. i, de non esu anim.
given laws symbolical, yet what hurt does he, that brings in better ?”
1. For first it is certain, God himself did permit some things in Moses' law, which himself had no pleasure in: I instance in the matter of divorces, of which God, by the prophet, said, “ I hate putting away.”
2. The promises of Moses' law, in which the whole obedience was established, and for which it was exacted, were wholly temporal and related to this life; and when the prophets and holy men of the nation began to speak openly of resurrection from the dead, and a life to come, it was an open proclamation of the imperfection and change of that law, by which nothing of that was promised and nothing at all spoken of, by which mankind should, by obeying God, arrive to that felicity, which all wise men did suppose God did design to him.
3. Although good things for this life were promised by the law of Moses, yet toward the end and expiration of it, the nation suffered a new dispensation of things; and the godly men were often persecuted, and the whole nation continually baffled, and subdued by him that would; by the Assyrians and Chaldeans, by the Persians and by Antiochus, by the Syrians and the Romans, and therefore it was necessary they should expect some better covenant, which should be verified in the letter, and make recompense for the calamities which their best men here did suffer.
4. The laws of Moses were such, which were not of things naturally and originally good, but which did relate to time, and place, and person; but it was a law, without which many ages of the world did live, and after it was established, it did only bind that people; for neither did Moses persuade his father-in-law Jethro to receive that law,-neither did the prophet Jonas persuade it to the Ninevites,-nor the prophets ever reprove the not observing it, in the Assyrians, or Egyptians, the Idumeans and Moabites, the Tyrians and Sidonians, or any of their neighbours, whose vices they oftentimes reproved severely : and the best men of the first and second world, Abel and Enoch, Noah and Melchisedec, Shem and Job, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, knew nothing of it, and yet were dear to God: but if the law had consisted of essential, prime, and natural rectitudes, it had been always and every where; and if it consist not of such, it is not fit to be lasting, but itself calls for a change when all the body and digest of laws, excepting some few that were before that law and shall be for ever, either were experiments of their obedience, or significations of some moral duty implied in the external ritual, or compliances with a present necessity, and to draw them far from imitation of the vile customs of the nations, or were types and shadows of something to come thereafter.
5. The law of Moses was a covenant of works, and stipulated for exact obedience; which because no man could
perform, and yet for great crimes committed under Moses' law there was there no promise of pardon, no solemnity or perfect means of expiation,-by the nature of things and the necessity of the world, and the goodness of God, a change was to be expected.
6. That their law and covenant should be changed was foretold by the prophets; particularly by the prophet Jeremiah, I will make a new covenant with you
in those days, and in your minds will I write it:” and when God had often expressed h his dislike of sacrifices, in which yet the greatest part of the legal service was established, God does also declare what that is which he desires instead of it; even no other than the Christian law i, “ That we should give to every one their due, and walk humbly with God;" that they should obey him, and “ give him the sacrifice of a contrite and a broken heart:" and if this be not a sufficient indication of the will of God for the abolition of the Mosaic law, then let this be added which was prophesied by Daniel, 66 The Messias shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.”
7. It was prophesied k that, in the days of the Messias, the Gentiles also should be the people of God; but, therefore, they were to be governed by a new law; for Moses' law was given to one people, had in it rites of difference and separation of themselves from all the world, and related to solemnities which could not be performed but in a certain place, and a definite succession and family; which things being the wall of partition and separation, because Christ hath taken away or confounded in an inseparable mixture and confusion, God hath proclaimed to the Jews, that Moses' law is not that instance of obedience, in which he will be any longer glorified.
8 Jer. xxxi. 31, &c.
h Psal. l. and li. and xl.
From these premises the pretence of the Jews for the eternity of Moses' law will be easily answered. For whereas they say that God called it, an everlasting covenant:' it is certain that even amongst the Jews, the word “everlasting' did not always signify • infinitely, but to a certain definite period. For the law relating to the land of their possession, in which God promised to them an everlasting inheritance; as their possession of the land is everlasting, so is the covenant, and they expired together: for all the demonstrations of the Spirit of God, all the miracles of Christ and his apostles, all the sermons of the Gospel, all the arguments which were taken from their own books, could not persuade them to relinquish Moses' law and adhere to Christ: and, therefore, when all things else did fail, God was pleased to give them a demonstration which should not fail; he made it impossible for them to keep Moses' law; for he broke their law and their nation in pieces. But as to the word
everlasting' and “eternal it was usual with them to signify but to the end of a life, or of a family, and therefore much rather of a nation. The band of marriage is eternal, but it dies with either of the relatives : and the oath of allegiance is for ever, but that · for ever' is as mortal as the prince. Thus also in Moses'l law, “ The servant whose ear was bored, should serve for ever,” that was but till the year of jubilee : and Hannah carried up her son to the temple when he was weaned, “ that he might abide there for ever:” thus the priesthood of Phinehas was said to be for ever; but God who said that he “ and his posterity should walk before the Lord for ever,” did put a period unto it in Elin. But besides this, it is observable that the law and covenant of Moses, according to the manner of speaking of that and other nations, is used to distinguish it from the more temporary commands which God gave to persons and to families, and to the nation itself in the wilderness, which were to expire,
1 Exod. xxi. 6.
m 1 Sam. i. 22.
ni Sam. ii. 30.