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BY REV. W. THISTLETHWAITE, M.A.
Exodus xix. 16 — 18. And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, thai there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick clovd upon the mount , and the voice of the trumpet ^exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. Israel was a people exceedingly honoored and favoured by the Lord. We have already seen many striking proofs of tbis; but we are now come to their most important blessing. ow we are to see them expressly taken into covenant with God^ and to hear the giving of his law unto them ; privileges which had never been before possessed by any other nation ; their own special distinctions as thus enumerated by the Apostle,
THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. 319 " To whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory^ and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises." I. In considering the circumstanees of the giving of the law, I will, in the first place, notice the preparation of the people for this solemn and interesting transaction. They were then in the Wilderness of Sinai, and were encamped before its mount, and there God directed Moses to inform them of his gracious intentions towards them, and to propose the receiving of them into special favour. He was to say from the Lord, " If ye will obey my voice indeed^ and keep my
covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me abave all people : for all the earth is mine : and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." Moses went and *^ called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together and said. All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." Perhaps, Christian brethren, it
320 THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. may render this subject more interesting to you^ and secure jour greater attention, if you will remember that these very privileges, here first proposed to the Israelites, are described by the Apostle Peter (1 Pet. ii. 9, 10) as being now yours. He says to you, (if you do not " disallow" the Lord Jesus, if you are not of those who ^' stumble at the word, being disobedient,") " Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." God's intention having being thus announced to them, and they having professed that they would do all which he required, Moses was directed to sanctify the people both that day and the following, that is, they were to abstain from every thing which might render their persons unclean, and were also to wash even their clothes. They were about to approach to a holy God, a God of infinite purity, who cannot bear any unclean thing in his presence, and therefore they were to take care that no defilement was upon them.
THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. 321 And surely this will remind you of similar
internal and spiritual duties which^ under similar circumstances, are enjoined upon you : for example, " Having therefore these promises," — ^namely, '* I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God^ and they shall be my people." — " Having these promises, dearly beloved," the Apostle says, " Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." We notice another preparatory circumstance. Moses was commanded to set bounds about the mount, that the people might not approach too near. This was the order, " Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount or touch the border of it : whosoever toucheth the mount shall surely be put to death: there shall not a hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through ; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live." They were to be impressed with a sense of his greatness and majesty as well as of his holiness and purity. There was to be no impertinent p5
322 THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. familiarity or presumptuous curiosity. They were not to break through and gaze, bat to wait in deep-struck awe and solemn rcTerence the appearance of the Lord. So the Psalmist tells us that " God is greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him." And so the Apostle to the Hebrews, commenting upon these very circumstances under which the law was given, observes, " Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear."
II. Having thus set before you the preparation of the Israelites for this important transaction, I now proceed, in the second place, to notice the awful appearances with which the Law was given, and which also indicated its nature. With respect then to these appearances thus we read : " And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet
THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. 323 exceeding loud^ so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire : and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly." So in Deuteronomy, " The mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness." These tremendous appearances were calculated to strike terror into the hearts of the Israelites, and to represent God Unto them as a God of vengeance, able and ready to destroy all who should incur his wrath, by not fulfilling his covenant or by breaWng his law. ow this was characteristic of the nature of the law. It is the foundation of the covenant of works. " The man that doeth these things shall live by them." But all these things must be done. The law requires perfect obedience, and condemns for the transgression of any one of its precepts. Let this be carefully observed j the law must be kept perfectly^ or else it will not be
324 THE GIVI G OF THE LAW.
fulfilled on man's part. This is a point most worthy of notice; for the errors in which multitudes lie respecting this part of the nature of the law are deeply to be deplored, as being most fatal. I repeat therefore that the condition of salvation by the covenant of works is this, that the whole law must be fulfilled, and not one single commandment of it broken. This is laid down in the most decisive manner by two of the Apostles. St. Paul says, in his Epistle to the Galatians, the third chapter and tenth verse, '^ As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse ; for it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them/' The Apostle refers, when he says, " It is written," to the last verse of the twenty-seventh chapter of Deuteronomy, where we read, " Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall answer Amen.'' By that answer the people acknowledged that the curse attached to any transgression of the law was a just and
THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. 325 righteous penalty. This statement of St. Paul is confirmed by St. James in equally decisive terms. He says, in his second chapter and tenth verse, " Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." Here again we see that the law, as a covenant, is broken wholly, if it be broken in one point. The transgression of any one of its statutes necessarily brings us under condemnation. And this must necessarily be the case, because the whole is sanctioned by the authority of the same lawgiver. " For," as the Apostle adds, ^^ he that said. Do not commit adultery, said also, do not kill. ow if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art be-
come a transgressor of the law." And in like manner, if we serve any other God but the Lord, if we worship an image, if we take the Lord's name in vain, if we break the Sabbath, if we honour not our father and mother, if we steal, if we bear false witness against our neighbour, or if we covet, we transgress some part of God's law. We therefore lose all right in the covenant, we
326 THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. have.no claim on its promise j on the craLtrary> we stand condemned by the law, and sabject to its penalties. III. 1 will next, in the third place, set before jou the effects which it produces. The law, when it is understood by scriptural explanation, shews us what is our real condition before God. It shews us that we are sinners. As St. James says, in the verse preceding those which I have just quoted, ^' Ye are convinced of the law as transgressors." So also says St. Paul in several passages, as in this, ^^By the law is the knowledge of sin," and again in this, " I had not known sin, but by the law : for I had not known lust, exc^t the law had said, thou shalt not covet." The sum of the whole matter is this, " there is none righteous, no not one;" "by the deeds of the law can no flesh be justified;" all have sinned against it, all are condemned by it. They who depend upon their works must necessarily fail ; they who go about to establish their own righteousness, never can attain to righteousness ; " as many as
THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. 327 are of the works of the law are under its
curse." ow this must necessarily inspire alarm. As the law was first promulged with the terrors of Mount Sinai, so it comes into the conscience with the dr^ad of God's wrath. As the mountain shook, as the people trembled, as Moses himself said, " I exceedingly fear and quake," so the soul of man, when it becomes convinced of sin, is filled with dismay : " fearfulness and trembling come upon it, and a horrible dread overwhelms it :" it is shaken with violent apprehensions of God's anger, and is ready to look for instant destruction. Such is the necessary consequence. When a man obtains a right view of the nature of the law, and feels that he has broken it, not in one point, but in numberless instances j when moreover he sees that the law is spiritual, and feels that he is carnal, sold under sin ; when he perceives that he is condemned, and feels himself exposed every instant to its tremendous curse ; he cannot but experience as much fear of the divine wrath, from the inward emotions
328 THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. and perturbations of his own soul, as ever the Israelites felt when they saw the fires of Mount Sinai, heard its thunders, and felt its shaking. Transgressors of the law, and you who are seeking your salvation from it by your own works, this is such a necessary and such a salutary fear that I cannot but pray God that you may experience it, in order that you may flee from the wrath to come, yea that you may flee " for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before you." IV. I now proceed, in the fourth place, which I also intend as my application of this sermon, to institute a comparison between the law and the Gospel.
1. See the preparation made for the introduction of the Gospel. This was done by the ministry of John the Baptist. He was sent to " Go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways," and his voice cried in the wilderness, " Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." He came therefore preaching the doctrine of Repentance. The law knew nothing of repentance. It held out no mercy on repentance. It had
THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. 329 only said, " Do this, and thou shalt live." The consequence followed, without any proposal of relief, transgress, and thou must die. But the messenger of Christ " preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." And repentance, brethren, is that emotion in the soul which prepares it for the reception of the Gospel. The same forerunner of Jesus pointed him out as '' the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world;" and the repentance which the Baptist preached puts the soul into a right frame for thankfully embracing the mercy and grace contained in the covenant made with and through the Saviour. God grant then that you may feel, in the inmost recesses of your soul, this tiTie '' repentance towards God," that you may be led to " faith in our Lord Jesus Christ ;" for God '' is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance," and " to the acknowledging of the truth as it is in Jesus." 2. ow consider the appearances with which the Gospel was introduced into the
330 THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. world. We have seen that its author was
announced under the mild character of a Lamb, and for the merciful purpose of taking away the sin of the world. Hence at his birth there were no thunderings and lightnings and earthquakes, but the elements of creation were hushed as the sweet sleep of an infant, and the world itself was reposing in profound peace. The merciful purpose of his coming was even indicated by the name which was given to him before his birth, the Angel of God thus directing his reputed Father, ^'Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." Suitably therefore was his birth announced to the shepherds by the same or a similar angel as a matter of universal rejoicing, " Behdd I bring you glad tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people, for unto you is bom this day, in the city of David> a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord :" and instead of the appalling sights at Mount Sinai, and the loud sound of the instrument of war, " there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying. Glory
THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. 331 to God in the highest, arid on earth peace, good will towards men." Then again the mild radiance of a single star appearing in the heavens guided men to the place of his hirth: and there he was found a meek and innocent habe, born in the lowliest circumstances. Take only orie more look. Behold the appearances at his baptism, when he was about to enter upon his public introduction of the gospel. Then the Spirit of God descended upon him ** like a Dove/' the emblem of innocence and love, and " lo a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Thus * all was mercy, all was mild,' when Jesus came down to bring the gospel of peace, and to proclaim and seal his own new covenant for the redemption of the world.
3. ext consider the nature of the gospel as contrasted with the law. This. has already in some measure appeared. Therefore only now observe that while the law was a dispensation of duty and reward, the gospel is a dispensation of mercy and grace. The latv wrought wrath ; but the gospel brings peace.
332 THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. The law was the ministration of condemnation and death, but the gospel is the ministration of righteousness and life. The law condemned if it was broken in one point; but the gospel gives the remission of all sins. The law threw its curse upon us without possibility of escape ; but Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse in our stead. Bless God for the gospel, and for all its mercy, grace, and peace. Receive it in gratitude and love, seek to be justified only through it, and henceforth let your whole conversation be such as becometh it. 4. I have yet another brief observation to make. Consider the difference in the distance at which men stand from God under the law and the gospel. When God descended on Mount Sinai to give his law, the people must not come near; they must not touch the mount ; they must keep away from it in fear. But in the gospel we are invited to " come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." " We have not received the
THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. 333 spirit of bondage again to fear ; but we have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." We are not required to
look upotL God as a stem and inflexible judge ; but we are taught to address him as " our Father which is in heaven." We are told that we have access to a communion with himself and his son, and the blessed inhabitants and privileges of his kingdom above : " we are not come to the mount which might be touched," that is, to a material mount, (though the Israelites were forbidden to come near even to it) "and which burned with fire, nor unto blackness and darkness and tempest ; but we are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-bom, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." Oh ! avail yourselves of this nearness of
334 THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. access, ye children of God in Christ, and come nigh to jonr heavenly Father on his mercy seat, in prayer and praise, with filial confidence and love. 5. Finally, consider the two mediatars of the law and the gospel. '^ The law was given by Moses, bnt grace and tmth came by Jesus Christ." Moses was a servant, faithfiil indeed in all things ; bat Jesas was the Son, the only begotten Son. Moses was a man, of like passions and infirmities and mortal as the Israelites themselves; bnt Jesus is the mighty God, the eternal Word, one with the everlasting Father. The law was " ordained by Angels'' in the hands of its mediator ; but the mediator of the goi^l is accompanied by the Divine Spirit, who gives it ^cacy and life in the souls of his followers. The mediator of the old covenant died ; but
the mediator of the new covenant, though he died unto sin once, yet lives for ever to administer its affairs, and make intercession for his people. Thus is Jesus a better mediator than Moses, the mediator also ^* of a better covenant, established upon better promises."
THE GIVI G OF THE LAW. 335 Oh ! then, ** see that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven." And if '^ he that despised Moses' law died without mercy, of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace."
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