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discriminate falsehood from truth, or rectitude from obliquity? My brethren, I speak with profound reverence, but I affirm that even the blessed God-"the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords" himself, is not above this law! It is its benevolence that constitutes his goodness; its righteousness that constitutes his justice; and his full and everlasting observance of it that constitutes his equity. In other words, the law is an image of his principles; an exhibition of his holy nature; a transcript of his moral and incorruptible perfections, which "are the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." The Lord Jesus Christ embodied all these divine and immutable qualities; and He was, as one has quaintly expressed it, "the law alive." It was, therefore, a most striking and comprehensive truth, which he uttered to Philip, in these words,-"He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father."* And also to the Jews, when he told them, "He that seeth me, seeth him that sent me."+ In his life, the law of God, which shows us as in a glass, "the Holy One," was perfectly developed; and it is an idle and unworthy subterfuge to speak of taking Him for an example, while we feel no obligation to obey its precepts; for as he "magnified it and made it honourable,” — his holy and unblemished life, and this law, are both the same in point of perfection. And we are under just as much obligation, and possess quite as much moral strength, to reach the elevation of one standard as the other.
III. OBSERVE THE WORK FOR WHICH HE IS COME, IN RELATION TO IT.
"I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." That is, "I am not come to dissolve or unloose you from the obligation
of the law and the prophets: No; I shall neither do this by my example, or my preaching. I shall, on the contrary, confirm the claims of that law on the attention of my disciples and friends; and by my own conduct show both its perpetuity and its excellence." The serious consideration of his life and precepts will shew us that this was not a mere pretence; but that He personally "fulfilled all righteousness" by the perfection of his obedience, and explained and established the spiritual design of the law by his ministry. After his ascension to heaven, it was likewise remarked by St. Peter, in reference to the decease of the Saviour, and the glory that shall follow: "But those things which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.*" And again; "Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days."+ Thus, we have, in few words, the confirmation of the fact attested, that He "came not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil them."
It is desirable, however, sometimes to illustrate truths which are generally believed. I shall, therefore, request your attention a little longer to this branch of the present subject. You are aware that the Jews charged the Messiah with the violation of many of the precepts contained in the law, particularly as it respected the Sabbath-day. They insinuated more than once that his moral character was equivocal, because He would, in that hallowed portion of sacred time, "have mercy and not sacrifice." When, therefore, his disciples gathered a few ears of corn, as they grew in the field, on that day, to sustain the wants of their humanity, they were charged with sinful rebellion against the divine precept.
But out of their own law, and by their own conduct, He puts them to silence, and shows that such acts of necessity and compassion are in perfect accordance with the revealed will of the God of love: "But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbathday."* I do not say too much, when I affirm, that it seems impossible to conceive of a more triumphant vindication, or a more rational and satisfactory explanation, than this passage contains.
"In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established." This was a maxim of the statute law of Moses, and with which the Jews were well acquainted. Let us apply it to the testimony which was borne to the innocence of Jesus Christ, even by strangers and enemies. Pilate, his judge, declared that he "found no fault at all in him." His wife, warned of God in a dream, wrote on the very morning of his condemnation to her husband, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him."+ Even Judas, his betrayer, that awful man, "when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priest and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have
betrayed the innocent blood."* Here are three witnesses, who, without any conference with each other, and under most solemn circumstances, concur to own their deep and decided conviction of his innocence of the charges brought against him. And besides all this, by the uncontradicted testimony of the historians, the Scribes and Pharisees had "suborned false witnesses" to accuse him of high treason, "But neither so did their witnesses agree together."+ Yet on this testimony-the testimony of perjured villains, conflicting as it was, they would find some pretext for putting him to death! They would, likewise, rather that not imbrue their hands in his blood, acknowledge a judicial authority which they never acknowledged before, and have recourse to the jurisdiction of a Roman governor, whom they had, up to this moment, regarded as an usurper of political power! So pitiful are the subterfuges of wicked men, when they wish to put some colouring on the face of a diabolic transaction.
Hitherto our illustrations have been rather on the negative, than the positive, side of this great question. How, then, did the Saviour fulfil, or confirm, as the word imports, "the law and the prophets?" I reply, He established it, and satisfied it, by his life; honoured and exalted it by his death; sanctioned and enforced it by his doctrines. And, even as far as the ceremonial law was spiritual in the duties it enjoined, and the acts of devotion it required, He "came not to destroy but to fulfil." The Jewish garb and dress He did indeed throw off, and put aside for ever; but the substance He most distinctly and fervently enforced. Thus, the circumcision of the flesh was designed to denote the spiritual and holy consecration of the heart unto the love and fear of God; and the rest of the Sabbath, the eternal repose which "remaineth" to all his people. Hence,
the apostle describes this law, not only as "holy, just, and good," but also "spiritual."* Now, in this sense, and in these respects, the Saviour came not to dissolve men from obligation to these duties; but to fulfil, confirm, and perfect them, by changing him that was "a Jew outwardly, to one "inwardly;" and "the circumcision of the flesh," to the "circumcision of the heart;" that we might be "the true circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." The same positive confirmation may be alleged as to "the prophets." What prediction did they utter, which was not fulfilled in Him? Was it his birth,—the place of his parentage,-and the lowliness of his natal appearance? They said that He should be born in Bethlehem; and his historian informs us that this was the case. They said that He should "grow up as a root out of a dry ground,"§ sapless and withered; and who does not know that the family from which He came had fallen into decay, and that the meanness of his parents and kindred were often adduced to justify his rejection? They said that He should be "despised and rejected of men;" and the "beloved disciple" informs us that "he came to his own, and his own received him not." || They said, that "as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so would he not open his mouth, when he was oppressed;" and it was brought against him as a sin that he answered nothing" to the unfounded calumnies of his bitter accusers, when he stood at the bar of Pilate. But the time would fail me to pursue the parallel through all the events of his life,-events which were as clearly foretold as if they were either then present to the eye of the prophets, or had already transpired. It would be
• Rom. vii. 12, 14.
+ Phil. iii. 3.
+ Micah v. ?.