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SERMON X V.
THE PRINCIPLE OF CONTINUITY BETWEEN THE
JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN CHURCHES.
Col. ii. 20–22.-—“ If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of
the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not, taste not, handle not, which all are to perish with the using ;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?”
The whole passage, of which these words form part, is often brought to show that any regard to outward religion is unchristian, and a mere remnant of Judaism St. Paul just before seems to condemn, or at least to set aside, observance of meats and drinks, of holy days, of Sabbaths, as being but a shadow of the good things which are given us in the Gospel, and perishable, or rather perished and dead ordinances, and of one family with those more dangerous and destructive superstitions which substituted Angels as the objects of our worship instead of the one Lord and Saviour. This, I say, is what is argued from this passage, that the Gospel is quite contrary to the Law in this respect, that it has no ritual, no regimen, no ordinances; and that to submit to any such, is to do injury to the simplicity of the Christian religion.
Now, so far from this being true, I think even the con
trary may be laid down; that the existence of a polity, a ceremonial, and a code of laws, under the Gospel, is the very point in which Christianity agrees with Judaism, and in consequence of which the Christian Church may be considered the continuation of the Jewish. And I think this very passage of St. Paul, which many consider to warrant them in the rejection of external religion, if it does not prove its obligation, as I consider it does, at least is quite consistent with it.
1. First, then, I observe, that certainly not all ordinances are done away under the Gospel, considering our Lord Himself instituted two Sacraments, and set up the Church as a city on a hill, and bade us hear her, and is frequent in laying down rules and directions as to what is to be done in indifferent matters. And further, St. Paul expressly says to the Corinthians, “I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you;'* and again, to the Thessalonians, “ Brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.”+ And we read in the Acts of the Apostles, that St. Paul and his brethren, “ as they went through the cities, delivered them the decrees,” or (as the same word is translated in the text) the ordinances, “ for to keep, that were ordained of the Apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.”+
It is quite certain, then, that St Paul did not mean to speak against all ritual ordinances and rules of discipline whatever, in the passage in which the text is found, because he himself enjoined and enforced certain such, at least on other occasions.
2. And in truth, a very little consideration will show, that the text does not at all speak against ordinances generally, but against those particular ordinances which did not
* 1 Cor. xi. 2.
+ 2 Thess. ii. 15.
I Acts xvi. 4.
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come from Christ. Let it be observed, that the Apostle expressly adds, “after the commandments and doctrines of men.” He does not forbid all ordinances, but mere human, unsanctioned, and therefore unchristian, ordinances. He ! does not say simply, “ Why are ye subject to ordinancès ?” but " why keep ye ordinances after the commandments of men ?" Nor can this be treated as an accidental addition,, bacause he uses the same language elsewhere. For instance, in the beginning of the chapter ; “Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” The fault of the tradition was, that it came, not from Christ, but from man. And so writing to the Galatians, “ I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man ; for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.'* And accordingly, when he enjoins Christian ordinances, he is very particular, as indeed in the passage just quoted, to say that they, on the other hand, come from Christ; “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ : now. I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” Again, “For I have received of the Lord that pute, in which also I delivered unto you.”+ And those ordinances which he published in the course of his apostolic journey, from whom did they come? Hear the Apostles's own .account of them : “ It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.”! Not to man merely, but to God; and therefore the ordinances put forth were not traditions of men, but traditions of God.
Our Saviour had made the same distinction in His own rices ministry. He had found fault with the Pharisees for their
septabei! av man up; n07 son, m that a
* Gal. i. 11, 12
+ 1 Cor. xi. 1, 2. 23. | Acts xv. 28. Vide also 1 Thess. iv. 8.
Aperte traditions; but why? because they were traditions of men, arines and such as obscured and resisted the tradition of God.
hume “Why do ye,” He says, “transgress the commandment of es. H God by your tradition ?!* and again, “ In vain they do wor
ship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” mentsAgain; “laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold addie the tradition of men ;''4 and again, “ Full well ye reject the
commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradizny ma tion;" and again, “ making the word of God of none effect, the train through your tradition which ye have delivered.” And then znot after he adds, “ Every plant, which My Heavenly Father hath
not planted, shall be rooted up.”I
3. Now let us turn back to the text, and the passage Ech w connected with it. Here, as elsewhere, the Apostle lays ceiredil down the great principle, that every thing, to be done acation of ceptably, must be done in Christ. “Other foundation can E Chile, no man lay.”'S Every plant, but the Cross, shall be rooted
up; no fruit is good but what its branches bear. No per-, son, no work of any kind will endure the judgment, but
what comes of Christ, and is quickened by His Spirit. ber me Every thing out of Him is dead. And as no virtue is real and therh virtue, nor service true service, nor work good work, if He ord tha! is not the life of it; so in like manner, no rite or ordinance inances · is good, unless as grafted into Him and sanctified by Him. ourney, St. Paul does not speak against ordinances in themselves, W1. but ordinances which are done beside or against Christ's
grace and will. Such were those of the Pharisees which Core the our Lord Ilimself denounced; such were those of the Gala
tians which St. Paul protested against; such were the ordinances of those Jews or Gnostics, or whoever they were,
the pas 1. come am of
whom, in the passage connected with the text, he has in or their view. These teachers of error refused to take Christ as their
* Matt. xv. 3. 9.
† Mark vii. 8, 9. 13.
Head, -"not holding the Head,” he says; they would not believe that Christ was all-gracious, all-powerful; so the Apostle reminded them, “ In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Again, “ Ye are complete in Him which is the Head of all principality and power.” Instead of remembering this, these false teachers made Angels their hope and their worship; “in a voluntary humility and worshipping of Angels.”
And in consequence, nothing they did, or said, or taught, or practised, was right. Their, services, their rites, their ordinances were all reprobate. How does this show that there are no ordinances in Christ? why must ordinances in Christ be unacceptable, because they are unacceptable out of Christ ? St. Paul says. “Let no man judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days.” Why? Because these were not of the body. You see, then there is a body; yes, but it is not the body of any angelic lord or teacher ; it is not the body of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though they are members of it; it is not the body of Moses, for Moses “ was faithful in all his house,” but “as a servant.” It is Christ, who is Lord over His own house ; it is Christ's, whose, and whose only, is the body. In Him only are we sanctified; in Him only are our works, our services, our ordinances sanctified ; but in Him we are sanctified; in Him our works, our rites, our forms, our observances, are sanctified. We are wrong, not when we have works, rites, and observances, but when they are not in Him. All these make up the body of Christ :—first of all in the body are our persons; next our order and polity; then our rites and ceremonies; lastly, our professions and works. All are parts, each in its own way, of Christ's Bedy, in which is life; or in the words of the Apostle, from Him, as the Head, “all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.”