« PreviousContinue »
as it was typical, is necessarily abrogated by its antitypical accomplishment. This typical law, therefore, restricted for a time in its ceremonial and judicial character to the Jewish church and nation, has been repealed by the death of the Son of God in our nature. The question in the controversy on capital punishment, then, is properly made to turn upon, whether the law whereby the life of the murderer was forfeited, was the moral natural law, or the decalogue, which is still in force; or whether it belonged to the moral positive, or ceremonial law, which has been abrogated by the finished work of Christ? And without anticipating, at this stage, a formal and calm consideration of this vitally important question, we would invite attention to the comprehensive property of the moral law of God, or the law of the ten commandments.
The comprehensive property of this divine law to which we allude, is its Perfection. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul ; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clear, enduring for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. As this instructive variety of expression cannot in any proper sense apply to
the typical or ceremonial law of Moses, and as it must and can apply to the moral law alone; so every intelligent reader of Scripture will discover in it the comprehensive property of perfection, as essential to that law which has not been and which cannot be repealed.
Perfection is so natural and essential a property of the moral law of God, that it is not easy, if indeed it is possible, to conceive of any moral being, in the healthy and common exercise of his intellect, formally setting himself to question its truth. And any attempt, how ingenious soever, to evade its force, and any insinuation, how plausible soever, against the perfection of any one of its ten precepts, must be held as a species of dangerous gymnastics on the field of morals. All such morally debauching processes of ratiocination, although dignified with the high-sounding name of logic, and although recommended by the poetic wailings of those of the Thackeray type, cut a miserable figure in the light of the moral code of Him, whose essentially and necessarily immaculate nature is mirrored forth in His written law. And as this is the current phraseology of Scripture on this subject, so every attempt at diluting, adumbrating, or enervating it, partakes of rancid scepticism, and throws every inspired
utterance upon the dark territory of a helpless and a hopeless ambiguity. This increasingly popular talk not only ignores the first and regnant principle of the divine moral law, but, with one fell swoop, overthrows the whole volume of inspiration ; for an uncertain Bible is but an equivocal heathen oracle.
Were formal reasoning on the absolute perfection of the moral law required, we would refer to the divine nature of which it is an accurate transcript, to the infinite wisdom and goodness of its divine Author, and to the fact that, by a glorious necessity of His nature, the moral law must have been the best to meet the capacities, and to secure the best temporal and eternal interests of His moral creatures. Assuming, then, the perfection of the moral law in regard to its properties, its authority, and the ends it proposes to reach, we may state a few practical inferences which the subject suggests.
I. From its perfection, we infer the unchangeableness of the moral law, of the decalogue. As illustrative of the perpetuity of the law of the ten commandments, we would request the calmest consideration of the distinction betwixt moral natural and moral positive, to which we have already adverted. A change of the moral law, or decalogue, would clearly argue a defect in the law itself, a defect, too, attributable to imperfection in the Lawgiver. It would argue that the divine Lawgiver had been under some mistake at the time of its promulgation, and a mistake which unforeseen circumstances had discovered, and led Him to correct by change or repeal. And while such a conception is repugnant to our commonest apprehensions of the nature and character of deity, it is equivalent to a heinous and a most absurd charge against the sublime and glorious doctrine of the cross of Christ, the central and luminous doctrine of the volume of revelation. For if the moral law admitted of repeal or change, then the intensely exquisite sufferings and death of the personally pure and innocent Son of God cannot be viewed in any other light than a dark tragedy that would obliterate the essential goodness of God, and would involve the Eternal in an act of wanton and unparalleled cruelty. And this simplest but clearest of all illustrations and proofs would, we earnestly and kindly submit, go
far to reconcile the abolitionist to the combined righteousness and mercy of that principle of law which demands blood for blood. For although the cases are not, in their every minute circumstance and in their every adjunct, strictly parallel, yet we do think it must be conceded, that essentially the same principle of law and morality is at the bottom of and permeates both. To condemn the murderer's scaffold, and to defend Calvary's bloody tree, will prove not only an arduous task, but will transcend the highest efforts of created intellect.
While pointing to the perpetuity of the moral law, as obviously included in its perfection, we are by no means overlooking the somewhat favourite plea of the abolitionist, that the law of the ten commandments is not, in its every precept, still in force. Such a plea is incautious, while it exposes
the abolitionist who resorts to it to not a few gravelling objections. And without, especially at this stage, subjecting the plea to formal examination, it may serve the purpose of preliminary remark to put the question, Which of the precepts of the moral law is properly typical, and has been repealed by the death of Christ? When our Lord was expounding this law, and while His exposition holds a prominent place in the New Testament Scriptures, did He except any one of its ten precepts? Did He not, and did not His inspired apostles and disciples in copying His example, invariably speak of and expound the decalogue as one code of divine law ? Moreover, and as directly affecting this plea of the abolitionist, did not Christ and His apostles enumerate, and in order, all the precepts of this law? And did He on