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The truth is, that the sabbatarians of that day had not a more exalted veneration for the sabbatical law, than some of our philosophical divines of the two last centuries had for the moral law, or law of nature. It was the idol they set up in the place of the infallible interpreter of the Church of Rome, and exalted as the expounder and judge of the laws of God. But it is out of fashion, it is obsolete, it has lost its influence; and thanks be to “ The True Light,” we now acknowledge no law superior to God's word, to admit or reject, sort or class, extend or limit, the divine commands.
I have, in a former section, endeavoured to give the true meaning of the above sentence spoken by our Lord, by which he explained the true nature of the sabbath.
And now, having stated what Warburton has endeavoured to prove on this subject, I wish to state some necessary steps, which neither he nor those who take the same course of argument, have attempted to prove; and, as his Grace the Archbishop adopts the same opinions and course of argumentation, I propose the deficient steps to his Grace in the form of queries, humbly begging of him to supply these desiderata, without which neither his nor their argument can stand.
1. Where in Scripture is the distinction made between positive and moral laws ? 2. What test or criterion is given, by which to distinguish between them? 3. Where is any distinction made between the obligation and duration of these different kinds of laws ? 4. Where does he find the moral law and law of nature in the writings of those who knew not revelation ? 5. How does he prove that such law is an adequate criterion for judging of the laws of God? 6. How does he prove that if we cannot, by the light of nature, discover any visible connexion between a divine law and the moral conduct of man, therefore none exists, or can exist?
Warburton hints, in the above arguments, that a moral law admits of no dispensation ; but that a positive law does. But I could in this way prove many laws, confessedly moral, to be positive. Thus, children were ordered to disobey idolatrous parents, and parents to stone disobedient or blasphemous children,—therefore the fifth commandment may be dispensed with, therefore it is not moral, but positive. Thus, also, the sixth was dispensed with, when Abraham was ordered to put his son to death, and did so, as far as the intention went. It was also dispensed with when the Israelites were commanded to slay woman and child, infant and suckling; and the eighth, when the Israelites were ordered to borrow from their neighbours, and spoil the Egyptians.
One more argument he adduces as follows.
63. The primitive Christians, on the authority of this plain declaration of their blessed Master, treated the sabbath as a positive law, by changing the day dedicated to the service of religion from the seventh to the first, and thus abolished one positive law, the sabbath, instituted in memory of the creation, and, by the authority of the church, erected another, properly called the Lord's-day, in memory of the redemption.'
I have already shown that the sabbath was not abolished by the change. I have also sufficiently directed the reader's attention to the question of positive laws. I have also shown that the day was neither properly nor improperly called “the Lord's-day' for a length of time after the change. In the Greek, which was then the universal language, it continued for a length of time to be called by a name, which we translate “ the first day of the week,” but which literally signified the first of the sabbaths.' So that although the day was changed, the name was not changed. Once, and once only, in the New Testament, the name of the Lord's-day occurs. After the death of all the apostles,
and after the destruction of Jerusalem, probably sixty years after our Saviour's death, St. John, in the Revelation, superadds the name of the Lord's-day..
The question may be asked, whether our Lord sanctioned and affirmed all the commandments of the decalogue to the same extent as they existed under the Mosaic dispensation ? And to this question I think we may return an affirmative answer.
There were three occasions upon which our Lord gave opinions on the decalogue.
The first was in answer to a question proposed by a scribe or lawyer, (a person learned in the law of Moses, and whose duty it was to instruct the people.) This is recorded in Matt. xxii. 35—40, and Mark xii. 28–33. In this case our Lord answered the question himself.
The second is recorded in Luke x. 25–28, upon a question proposed also by a lawyer, which our Lord makes the proposer answer for himself.
The third occurs in Matt. xix. 16–22, Mark x. 17—22, Luke xviii. 18-23, upon a question proposed by a rich young man, a ruler of the Jews. The reader will be so good as to look at the passages quoted, and then we will consider each case separately.
The question proposed on the first occasion was, “ Which is the first commandment of all ?” (Mark;) or, “ Which is the great commandment in the law ?” (Matthew.*) Our
* The reader will please to observe the different modes of expression used by Mark, who wrote for the Gentiles, and by Malthew, who wrote for the Jews.
Lord, as a direct answer to the question, gives the substance of the first table, and says, “ This is the first and great commandment.” He also gives the substance of the second table, about which no inquiry was made, and adds, “ There is none other commandment greater than these.” And although the scribe had called his attention to the law alone, he tells his hearers that “ on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
And on the second occasion, when the lawyer, tempting him, asked him, “ What he should do to inherit eternal life ? ” he makes him, as a learned scribe, answer the question himself; and the scribe gives the very same summary which our Lord himself had given on the other occasion.
Now these two summaries, as given by our Lord and the scribe, perfectly agree not only with one another, but also with that given by Moses. It appears also from Mark xii. 32, &c., that the scribe perfectly approved of our Lord's summary, and that our Lord also approved of the scribe's comment on the same. Our Lord also approves of the summary given by the lawyer in Luke x. 25, &c., saying, that he had “ answered right.” Therefore as the question was about the commandments, and they all agreed as to the summary and substance; and, as it is certain that Moses and the scribes in their summaries referred to the whole decalogue, it follows that our Lord, by adopting the same summary and substance, must be supposed to have adopted the same commandments, which he knew to be intended both by the scribes with whom he conversed, and Moses from whom he quoted.
Our Lord gives these commandments the preference beyond all others; “ There is none other commandment greater than these.” But he does not stop here. Lest any person might suppose that he spoke only of the Mosaic dispensation, he takes particular care to show that he in
cluded also the Christian dispensation. The scribe had asked, “ Which is the great commandment in the law ?” Our Lord gives him both commandments, that is, summaries of both tables; and adds these most important words, “ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." The meaning of which cannot be other than this: “On these two commandments, or summaries of the two tables, upon which we are all agreed, depend not only the law, or Mosaic dispensation about which you inquire, but also the prophets, or that dispensation which is to come, which is the subject of their prophecies."
Our Lord says in another place, (Matt. v. 17,) “ Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." If then the law and the prophets, in their incomplete and unfulfilled state, depended upon these commandments, how much more in their complete, and finished, and fulfilled state? For we must recollect, that it was after he had established that principle,—that he came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil them,—that he affirmed that both law and prophets hung upon the commandments.
In connexion with this subject, I earnestly recommend to the attention, and conscientious consideration of the opponents of the sabbath and the fourth commandment, the words of our Lord immediately following the last cited quotation. “Wherefore, whosoever shall break the least one of these commandments, and shall teach men so; he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: But whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
The third occasion was when a certain rich young man, who was also a ruler, asked him, “what good thing he should do that he might have eternal life?”
As his question regarded the obedience by which he