Page images
PDF
EPUB

gressions "): First, as a rule of life answer be given, not only with our lips, and additional sanction ci duty; but in our lives, &c. Christ made the

law of Moses unnecessary by furnishing secondly, as a sacramental means

us with stronger motives of hope and fear of grace, whereby the former

gene- to the practice of the law of nature,” &c. rations of faithful Israelites might pp. 102, 103. be partakers of that salvation, This is not a new opinion, and which, in after times, the Almighty the bishop has supported it (as purposed to raise up to their chile might be anticipated from his welldren; thirdly, as å looking.glass known talent) with great ability. wherein our human nature might But if his view of the moral law be see reflected its own weakness and correct, then is our church in madeformity. After proving each of terial error, the great majority of these points very satisfactorily, he Christians are walking by an unadvances to the second fact, that authorised and defective standard “ this law was only called for until of duty, and a way is opened for the coming of Christ," and con- overturning some of our most sacred cludes that the entire law, both institutions. That this view stands moral and ceremonial, was set aside opposed to the standard of the faith by the Christian dispensation. “All and formularies of our church is these ends,” says he, “ which the most' evident. The Seventh Article law so excellently answered, were is decisive on this point:" Although temporary only, and lasted no longer the law given from God, by Moses, than till the Seed should come to as touching ceremonies and rites, whom the promise was made, do not benefit Christian men, nor that in Him all the nations of the the civil precepts thereof ought of earth should be blessed. The as- necessity to be received into any surance," he adds, “and certainty of commonwealth; yet, notwithstanda future judgment, &c. are a far more ing, no Christian man whatsoever is powerful sanction to the law of free from the obedience of the comnature and conscience; and the mandments which are called moral.” purity of Christ's example, is a far Conformably with this statement, more perfect rule of life, than any the initiatory sacrament of baptism which were supplied by the law of requires a solemn pledge of sponMoses” (p. 101). And subsequently, sors, in behalf of the infants whom he assumes that “the law of Moses they represent, that they will“ obehas no weight with us, to the prac. diently keep God's holy will and tice of moral and religious duties” commandments, and walk in the (p. 102).

same all the days of their life;" and “ If, then, we are asked,” says the bishop, children are reminded of this pledge in conclusion, “why the law of Moses was in the Catechism, where moral duty given by God? The answer will be, ' It is resolved into the Decalogue, and was added

because of transgressions, until they are required to repeat, to the Seed should come to whom the mise was made. If we are asked, whe. divide, and explain the Ten Comther we are bound to keep that law, we mandments in our Lord's ample should reply, that it was not given to us nor to our fathers, and that we live under and then to "pray to God for his

and practical interpretation of them, a better covenant, and have, in the exam. ple of Christ, a better rule of life before special grace," to enable them to us. If it should be further inquired, why, obey them; and, with a view still then, do we read the Scriptures of the further to recognize and sanction Old Testament? We may answer, that this rule of duty, we read them to confirm our faith in

" the Order of Christ, by learning all that wonderful Confirmation " requires “ that none chain of prophecy, &c.; that we read it hereafter shall be confirmed, but to increase cur thoughtfulness, &c. If, such as lastly, the inquirer should ask, wbat obli

can say,” among other gation we have, since the law of Moses things, “the Ten Commandments.” has no weight with us, to the practice Nay, so essential does our church of moral and religious duties? Let our deem a strict observance of these

[ocr errors]

laws, that every Lord's day they and, also, that the Holy Spirit, by are repeated at large by the cler- his constant influence and suggesgyman; the congregation, at the tions, sanctifies their hearts, and end of each, praying for pardon of keeps them from sin ; so that the deeach particular violation, and grace fect of a standard of duty is, in their to keep the command, beseeching ideas, remedied by a new and internal God to write them all upon their sense, and the secret motions of the hearts. And, in addition to all this, Divine Spirit. The dangerous conthe eighty-second canon requires, clusions to which opinions like these that in every church “the Ten naturally lead, no person would Commandments shall be set up on have more easily detected, or cauthe east end, where the people may tiously guarded against, than Bishop best see and read the same. Con- Heber; and therefore nothing of sidering the prominency thus given this kind is suggested by him. to the moral law, and the import. What, then, it may still be asked, ance attached to obedience to it, has he substituted for the moral by our church, it occasioned us law, of which he has deprived us? some surprise that so eminent a It is the law of nature and of conbishop, and so great an ornament science, and the example of Christ. of that church, should write a ser- « The assurance and certainty," mon to impugn its moral obligation; says the bishop, “ of everlasting and to shew that, under the Chris- life, and of a just and equal judgtian dispensation, it is not to be ment after death, are a far more considered even as a rule of life. powerful sanetion to the law of

Nor is it a consideration of slight nature and conscience, and the importance that, if this opinion be purity of Christ's example is a far correct, then the members of the more perfect rule of life, than any Established Church, as well as al- which were supplied by the law most all classes of those who dissent of Moses ” (p. 101). Again; “We from it, are making that a criterion have in the example of Christ a of morality which has no Divine better rule of life before us” (p. 102). sanction, and regulating their lives And again ; “Christ made the law by a rule which is not merely de- of Moses unnecessary, by furnishing fective, but totally annulled. It us with stronger motives of hope might also occasion doubt whether and fear to the practice of the law repentance, resulting from a con- of nature” (p. 103). The law, then, viction of offences against this law, of nature and of conscience, and would be necessary or proper; and the example of Christ, are to be the whether the conclusion thence de- standard of duty under the Chrisduced, of the need of a Saviour to tian dispensation. But does not release from the penalty supposed the important question immediately to be connected with the violation suggest itself, What is this law of of a non-existing law, be well our nature and conscience? Where founded.

is it defined ? Of what does it conIt may, also, justly excite anxiety sist? Who are agreed upon it ? among those who are desirous of To what definite, invariable, and walking by a right rule to discover beneficial results does it lead ? If in what that rule really consists. these questions admit of no satisMany persons who disclaim the factory answer, then it may be moral law as a standard of duty asked, How is it possible for a holy and rule of conduct, attempt to and consistent life to result from supply the deficiency by alleging what is vague, uncertain, and doubtthat the new principle infused ful? Nor shall we find the other rule into the soul by regeneration, of life suggested by the bishop directs them to what is right, and answerable to the exigency. We guards them against what is wrong; know, indeed, that “Christ has left us an example, that we should Bishop Heber assigns it as a walk in his steps." We should reason for the first introduction of be humble, meek, patient, sub- the law of Moses, that the law of missive, and resigned as he was; nature and of conscience was not a we must be crucified to the world, sufficient security against transgresheavenly in our affections, devoted sions. and zealous in our obedience. But “ Except,” says his lordship, “ in two all this is general, and relates rather instances; that of eating the blood of living

animals, and that of murder of their own to the spirit and temper of our con

species ; no rule that we know of was duct, than to specific and definite given for their conduct in life, except the actions; but it is chiefly in reference law of nature; that moral sense of right to these that we want information, and wrong, that inward voice of conand need a law. Nay, as it regards then are even now, as St. Paul expresses

science and of reason by which the heaspecific actions, the example of it, a law unto themselves." But that Jesus Christ often affords us no both the revelations which God had made rule at all : and to imitate it would of his own nature, and the feelings which sometimes be absurd, sometimes

he had implanted in the bosom of man

were insufficient to subdue the unruly impious, and sometimes even blas- will and affections of our species is cerphemous. Who, then, is to deter- tain.” pp. 96, 97. mine what part of his example is With a view to remedy this evil, intended as a copy? Who shall the bishop proceeds to state, that decide, in every case, what belong. this very law of Moses, the moral ed to the Divine nature of Christ, parts of which were evidently dewhat was peculiar to his mission, signed to correct what was defecwhat was specially required by time, tive in moral conduct, was introplace, and circumstances, and which duced by the Divine Legislator. would have been improper in any Strange, then, must it seem, that other case ? And how, in the midst the remedy is again to be relinof all this doubt and uncertainty, quished, and the original law of should the plain and undiscrimi. nature and of conscience, ineffi nating Christian know how to act? cient as experience had proved it So that, surpassingly great as is the to be, again to be replaced in its advantage of having many specific stead. parts of our duty, and the spirit But we must observe still further, and temper in which every part that the abrogation of the moral should be performed, set forth and law, as a rule of duty, strikes at the illustrated by the example of Christ, root of our most sacred institutions. it cannot supersede the necessity of We have no sufficient sanction for having some fixed and determinate the particular appropriation of one law, some code of precepts like day in seven to the service of God those of which this system would but in the Decalogue; for, predeprive us, plain, distinct, num- viously to the giving of the law by bered, classified, to which every Moses, Bishop Heber states that, man may have easy and ready except the law of nature and conaccess,

and

may determine, at the science, there were only two rules exigency of the moment, how he laid down for the conduct of life, ought to act. The law of love, one of which related to the eating under which the Christian lives, is of the blood of living animals, and a motive and stimulus, but not the other to the taking away of the always a guide. The most affec- life of a fellow-creature by murder. tionate child may not always know Now, as no law has been laid down without specific direction what is under the Christian dispensation his parent's wish. The law of love for observing the Sabbath, if the inclines the heart while the law of law of Moses, in reference to it, is command regulates the understand- annulled, there remains no Divine ing.

sanction whatever for its obser.

vance.

The only authority on a law must be, on the nature of which it rests, is political ; and this things, that is, correctly speaking, may at any time be set aside by an on the immutable will of God, may act of parliament. But if this be be superseded or annulled. This, , the case, we are also destitute of we think, impossible, without anni. any Divine authority for stated times hilating the nature and fitness of of religious worship; we have nothings themselves. We may not be longer any

hold on the consciences able, by unassisted reason, to disof men to assemble together for cover all the laws and principles the purpose

of hearing the word of which are inherent in the constitution God read, explained, and enforced ; of a moral government; but when nor is any certain and definite they are brought to light, nothing can season appointed for perpetuating ever change their nature, or release the remembrance of the death of us from their obligation : from that Christ by the holy sacrament. True time they became a law of our nait is, that Christians may, at their ture, and are as fixed and immutable own discretion, fix times and seasons as that nature itself. If, therefore, for these purposes ; and doubtless, the laws of the Decalogue be moral where pious and holy men are found, and this, with a few circumstantial they will do so. But there have limitations, is on all hands admitted), been times when piety has suffered they must still be binding and etergreat decay, and such characters nal. We think, also, that nothing were rarely to be found ; and should recorded in the history of our Lord these occur again, the only means or his Apostles can fairly lead to of reviving the dying spark would the conclusion that it was ever debe wanting; and, without a niracle, signed to make any alteration in the the very existence of Christianity obligation of the moral law; nay, would be endangered. On the so far from it, that it is ratified and subject of the Sabbath, we wish our confirmed by that history. Every limits would permit us to enlarge. thing conspires to shew that it is There is none in which the vital "holy, just, and good," and, for that interests of our holy religion are reason, never to be annulled. Our more deeply involved, and none Lord, in his Sermon on the Mount, which has been handled, of late, by corrected some of the abuses of this some of the professed advocates of law, and placed it upon its original Christianity, with greater laxity of footing, and, in doing so, gave his principle, or treated with so much sanction to it; for correction, while disrespect by the mass of the com- it reproves the abuse, supposes an munity, or trampled upon with approbation of the thing in its purity. such insolence by the infidel and The very resolving of that law into openly profane. But we must, for the imperishable principle of love the present, forbear.

to God and to man, as our Saviour If, then, such would be the in- has done, and as, in fact, was done evitable results of abrogating the by the Jews, both before and in his moral law, as a rule of duty, we time, establishes its unchangeable may be sure that Christianity is character. In many instances our not chargeable with this suicidal Lord unfolded and dwelt upon the act, and that some error must have spiritual extent of that law, and took found its way into Bishop Heber's occasion, from this enlarged view reasoning from his text. Nor do of it, to fasten guilt upon the conwe think it difficult to shew in what sciences of his hearers, and to lead that error consists. We conceive, them to repentance ; which surely then, in the first place, that the he never would have done, if he had whole discussion proceeds on

intended to abrogate it as a rule of untenable assumption. It supposes duty. Even with regard to the that a moral law, founded, as such strict observance of the Sabbath,

an

Own

which may have something of a and thus, falling at once into the ceremonial character in a few of Antinomian scheme, the death of its circumstantials, it is observable, Christ would release us from all that in no instance does he violate, moral obligation of whatever kind. or vindicate the violation of, any No; this cannot be.

Christ rething which intrinsically belongs deems us from the penal conseto it; and whenever the Pharisees quences of transgression of every charged him or his disciples with moral law, whether of patural conso doing, he always vindicated both science or of Divine revelation; them and himself, by appealing to the very fact of such redemption their own law and principles. We establishes, in full force, and for think, moreover, that his ever, the moral obligation of such positive declaration, if carefully laws; and they thus become an considered in connexion with his immutable standard of duty, and future sufferings and atoning sacris rule of life. fice, places the matter beyond all It is precisely in this point, that doubt : « Think not that I came to we think Bishop Heber has missed destroy the Law and the Prophets: the meaning of his text. He conI came not to destroy, but to fulfil,” cludes, that because the law of &c. (Matt. v. 17.) The passage Moses in all its extent, was added on may require more explanation than account of transgression, until the we have room to give it; but it promised Seed should come, and appears, on the face of it, that the because the typical law could not whole of that law, both moral and possibly be extended, and never was ceremonial, was to be fulfilled by intended to be extended, beyond Christ : the moral, as a rule of duty, the coming of the Messial, thereand an essential qualification for his fore both the moral and ceremofulfilling the ceremonial. This he

This he nial law terminate together ; not fulfilled as the antitype to the type; considering that the moral law that as being the inflexible and im- was introduced to mark the namutable law of our moral nature : ture of sin, and to shew the nethe former, when fulfilled, in the cessity of an atonement, and that nature of it, could never be repeated: therefore only so much of the law the latter, when fulfilled also, in the could, or was intended to be, set very nature of it, must ever be re- aside, as was essentially connect. peated. The ceremonial was fulfilled ed with the sacrifice of Christ; when he made an atoning sacrifice whilst that part of the law which for the violation of the moral; and rendered such a sacrifice necessary we think that the very fact that that must be handed down to future sacrifice was eventually offered for generations, if for no other purpose, sins against the moral law, as laid to shew their need also of an atondown by Moses, must of itself for ing sacrifice for their violations of ever establish the immutability and the rule of life and the standard of eternal obligation of that law. The conduct. Without moral transJews had no idea of sin but as the gression, there would be no necestransgression of their law, and their sity for a sacrifice; and to make daily and yearly sacrifices were such a sacrifice at all times necesoffered as atonements for their sins sary, there must at all times be the against it. Strange, then, would it same moral cause,-a violation of be, if the very Sacrifice which was the rule of life. offered for sins should abolish the The sixth is an excellent practical law of which those sins were a vio- discourse on “the Faith and Fear lation. As reasonable would it be of a Christian," from Isaiah li. 12, to say that the same sacrifice de- 13. The bishop expresses a more livers us from all obligation to obey favourable hope of the Christian the law of nature and of conscience, state of the world, than we think

« PreviousContinue »