“X. Harmony of the Law and Gospel. That the law of God is the eternal and unchangable rule of his moral government; that it is holy, just and good; and that the inability which the scriptures ascribe to fallen men to fulfill its precepts, arises entirely from their love of sin: to deliver them from which, and to restore them through a Mediator to unfeigned. obedience to the holy law, is one great end of the gospel, and of the means of grace connected with the establishment of the visible church.”
That the law of God is holy, just and good, is demonstrated by the express declaration of an inspired apostle; and that it is, as a standard of right, inflexible, immutable and everlasting, will scarcely be denied by any; but that the inability which the scriptures ascribe to fallen men to fulfill its precepts, arises entirely from their love of sin, is not quite so clear. If this position were correct, the very moment a quickened sinner is made to loathe sin, he would find himself released from all inability; a thing which all christians know is not true. “The carnal mind is enmity against God, it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Not simply because he loves sin, but because the law is spiritual, and the sinner is carnal, sold under sin. In this article, the writer and the holders of the doctrine betray a very confused idea of both the law and the gospel. They mistake the nature of the gospel, in supposing that one great end of it is to qualify mankind to keep the law. This certainly is not the case; for the gospel is glad tidings of great joy to those who are prepared by the quickening operation of the Holy Ghost to receive it; but it was never designed to enable us to personally meet and fulfill the requisitions of the law of God. If the design or end of the gospel was to remove from man kind their inability to keep the law, we must unavoidably come to one of the two following conclusions, viz.: first, that the gospel has failed to accomplish that great object for which Infinite Wisdom designed it; or, second, that all man kind are now able to render a perfect and perpetual obedience to its exceedingly broad commandments. Either of these conclusions would involve the most degrading and blasphemous reflections upon the being and attributes of Jehovah. If in relation to the first, God is disappointed in what he designed should result from the law or gospel, his wisdom is impeached. That cannot be infinite wisdom which would look for effects without providing an adequate cause to produce them; and if the wisdom of God did not, with infallible certainty, comprehend all things, the end from the beginning, it must be susceptible of improvement by the experiment of passing events; and if the wisdom of God can undergo any variation, either for better or for worse, his immutability is also involved; and as one of the perfections of God cannot be impaired without effecting all of them, the moment we take the position that either the law or gospel has failed to secure all that was contemplated in the mind and wisdom of God, we virtually say, with the fool, “There is no God.” Nor scarcely shall ye find less difficulty in taking the other horn of the dilemma; for if we assume that the gospel has removed the impediment to our perfect obedience to the law of God, destroyed the love of sin which, this article says, embodies all the inability of man, we shall thereby impeach the veracity of God, who has certainly denounced, at least, a portion of the human family as “Cursed children, that can not cease to sin.” And as God has said that the carnal mind cannot be subject to his law, even since the gospel, no man can assert that the inability of mankind, or of any man, to render perfect obedience to the law of God is removed by the gospel, without charging God with falsehood.
“To deliver fallen men from the love of sin, and restore them through a Mediator to unfeigned obedience of the holy law, is one great end of the gospel, and of the means of grace connected with the establishment of the visible church.” Now if this complicated jargon of sounds were true, instead of one great object (if we can count) there would be at least two, viz.: first, to deliver from the love of sin; and second, to bring into a state of unfeigned law obedience; but neither of these objects are presented in divine testimony, in a way harmonious with the doctrine of this article.
There are no provisions in either the law or the gospel to deliver fallen sinners, in the general sense expressed, from the love of sin. It is true that God has made ample and certain provisions in the purpose of his grace, to destroy, in his children, (the election of grace) the love of sin; and it is also true that a proclamation of such provision to the heirs of promise is one important announcement of the gospel. But it is well known by every heaven-born soul, that the love of sin is destroyed in the children of God by the regenerating power and grace of the Holy Ghost; and by nothing short of the Holy Spirit can this be effected, much less by that “another gospel” contemplated in the heterogeneous article under consideration: a gospel connected with what is called “means of grace, a cant phrase of arminians, but never found in the vocabulary of those who are experimentally taught of God.
But the work of the Spirit, in destroying, in renewed souls, the love of sin, is not, as asserted in the article, to enable them to obey the law of God. Christians, of all men on earth, are the most sensible of their utter inability and complete helplessness. But that Spirit by whom they are made alive, after destroying in them the love of sin, shows them the perfect righteousness of their Redeemer, Jesus Christ, as, not only commensurate with all the requisitions of law and justice, but also sufficient to elevate them above what they were or could possibly be as they stood in Adam, even in primeval rectitude. Instead of teaching them that they are now able to keep the law, it teaches the very opposite lesson; they are slain to the law, dead to the law, redeemed from under the law, and brought under law to Christ, whose yoke they find to be easy, and his burden light. But the “harmony of the law and gospel,” which the writer of this article seems desirous to establish, is something like the following: That man having fallen into sin, the law was given for his restoration; but finding that men would not or could not avail themselves of salvation by the deeds of the law, the gospel was added, as a second experiment, to aid man in saving himself by the deeds of the law, and thus both law and gospel, having the same end in view, are in harmony. Such delusive notions have their bearing to make graceless arminians preach a mongrel system, a workmongrel gospel; but our natural bodies could as well be fattened on winter fog, as the children of God could be made to grow and thrive on such a system of doctrine. But we will pass on to article –
“XIII. Of the Christian Sabbath. That the first day of the week is the Lord’s Day, or Christian Sabbath, and is to be kept sacred to religious purposes, by abstaining from all secular labor and recreations; by the devout observance of all the means of grace, both private and public; and by preparation for that rest which remaineth for the people of God.”
The anti-typical or christian Sabbath is not by any divine authority confined to the first or any other day or days of the week. It commenced with the gospel dispensation, and will terminate on earth with the dissolution of the world. The obligation of christians to appropriate a portion of their time to the social worship of God, is not predicated upon the supposed perpetuity of the Jewish Sabbaths, or a continuation of the Abrahamic covenant. The authors of this creed do not attempt to give any references to scriptural authority for their professed faith; and they find themselves as greatly puzzled to find any, as their pædo brethren are in proving that their infant sprinkling system was embraced in the covenant of circumcision. It is nowhere in the bible said that “the first day of the week is the Lord’s Day, or Christian Sabbath;” but it is expressly said, Let no man therefore judge you in meats, nor in drink, nor in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath; which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. Those who have never been slain to the law, who regard the gospel only as an assistant to help us to keel) the law, are for ever grasping after shadows and always miss the substance. Their constrained service at the worldly sanctuary is tiresome; their language is, “When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? And the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?” – Amos viii. 5, 6. One day in seven is as many as such people can well afford to be religious in; and even that is devoted mostly to worldly business, such as school teaching, tract peddling, dunning and collecting money, selling sermons and prayers at a stipulated price, and wiping their mouths and saying they have not sinned. But such as the Son has made free from the bondage of the legal dispensation, have entered into that rest which remaineth for the people of God; Christ is their Sun, the light of his countenance constitutes their day, and all the days and hours of their sojourn on earth are not too much to be devoted to his praise. It is not a weariness to them, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light. They are not like the workmongers laboring to prepare themselves for that rest which remaineth, but they have already entered into it, and have ceased from their own works as God ceased from the works of creation and rested on the seventh day, and as Christ ceased from the work of redemption when he had obtained eternal redemption for his people, and entered into rest. But the wicked are like the troubled sea that cannot rest, for they continually cast up mire and dirt.
We have before observed that there are other objectionable things embraced in this “confession of faith;” we have, in accordance with brother Buckleys request, pointed out what we consider most objectionable. And as the items which we have dwelt upon are of general interest, we hope the brethren in other parts of our land may be led to examine this matter. For ourself, we are getting more out of favor with written creeds, confessions of faith, &c. Brethren cannot too well understand each other in regard to their doctrine and practice; but who shall dare to say that the New Testament is not a sufficient standard of faith and practice? We have received several confessions from Old School brethren and churches for publication, some of which have appeared in our columns; but with none of them are we so well pleased as with the book which God has given us, and the heavenly Interpreter, whose office it is to lead the children of God into all truth. May all who love the Lord be ever under his salutary influence, and feel in their hearts that they are not their own, that they are bought with a price, and that it is their privilege to glorify God in their bodies arid spirits which are his.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
April 15, 1844
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 419 – 425