The Law: We proposed in our last to notice some remarks of brother Tufts concerning the moral law, which are found on the first page of that number. Not however in a spirit of controversy, for we have been pleased and edified in the series of articles which he is now supplying on I John 1:6,7. But in his last article we confess, as did Peter in regard to the writing of Paul, were “some things which are hard to be understood;” especially by those who like ourself, are “dull of hearing.” Those points which are the most obscure to our mind were first, what is called the moral law, said to be created by the fingers of God, and to constitute a part of the nature of man, - begotten of Adam, and transmitted though him to his posterity; and still of binding power over believers who are under the law to Christ, etc. The terms moral and moral law, as they are not found in the scriptures, cannot be defined by any scriptural rule of interpretation. We must enquire of Webster, Buck, Paley or some other recognized lexicographer for the meaning, as used by theologians; but unhappily for the enquirer, these authors do not fully agree in their definitions, and if they did, their authority is not quite sufficient for Old School Baptists who are accustomed to appeal “to the law and to the testimony.” That man was created under law to God, and as a creature of God, subject to his authority, appears fully demonstrated by the fact that he sinned; and sin is a transgression of the law. But if the law which Adam transgressed was begotten of him, and constituted a part of himself, then his transgression, we would think was a sin against himself, and not against God. We will not contend that the law under which man was created was born of God; but we must, until otherwise instructed, contend that that law proceeded from God who alone possessed a law-making power; and so being God’s law or rule of government over man as his creature, the transgression of it was a sin against God; and subject to the penalty provided in that law for the transgression of it. If we have correctly understood the apostle, this law by which is the knowledge of sin, and the penalty of which is death, is called “the law of sin and death.” All mankind being in Adam, and as brother Tufts justly remarked, being Adam, were in the transgression. The very first transgression was that of all mankind. Hence, death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. We do not perceive how this law was begotten of Adam. It proceeded from the legislation of God himself. The Sinai covenant, or the laws of God dispensed to Israel, were not given to add anything to the force of the law which we in Adam had transgressed; for from Adam to Moses death already reigned. “The sting of death is sin.” “Sin is the transgression of the law.” “And the strength of sin is the law.” Hence it is written, “Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Death passed on all men, before the first son or daughter of Adam was born, even on them who are not yet born. The law which was given to Israel by Moses, was added, or entered that the offense might abound. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin taking occasion by the commandment, or law, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.”
Although this law of sin and death was not born of God as was the law of the spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus, yet the apostle says it was spiritual: “For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin (Romans 7:14).” Therefore if this is the law which our beloved brother calls the moral law, it was not begotten of man, who is carnal, because it is spiritual. And that which is carnal cannot beget that which is spiritual.
That God spake to Adam through this law, we will not dispute; but whether so or otherwise, God did talk with him in the garden in the cool of the day, we must so believe, for so it is expressly written.
That the spirituality of the law is concealed in its letter from the understanding of the carnal mind of man, we fully believe. But when the sinner is quickened by the law of the spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus, its spirituality appears. It comes then in its spirit, not merely in its letter. Paul says: “I was alive once without the law.” Not without the letter of it; for he was brought up under its letter, a Pharisee of the strictest sect. “But when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” “And the commandment which was ordained unto life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful (Romans 7:9-13).”
This law holds dominion over a man as long as he liveth, or until it slays him, as it did Paul; but its dominion can be extended no further. “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye shall be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we shall bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter (Romans 7:1-6).”
Christ has redeemed his people as well from the dominion as from the condemnation and wrath of the law, or it would not allow us to be one flesh with the risen Savior. That in which we were held in matrimonial bonds must be dead to us before we can be thus identified with him that is raised from the dead. Christ came under the law to redeem his people from the law. In doing this, “He took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” This seed of Abraham is the body which was prepared for him, as his own body in which he bare the sins of many, in which he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, abolished death and brought immortality to light. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye the seed of Abraham, and heirs according to promise. Ye are then “Buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).” “For the love of Christ constraineth us because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore, henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea though we have known Christ after the flesh,” (as under the law) “yet henceforth know we him no more. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (II Corinthians 5:14-17).” Thus married to, and one flesh with, the risen Jesus. Moses is dead, and Joshua leads. We are raised up together with our risen and living Husband, and made to set together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Crucified with him, dead with him, buried with him by baptism into death, quickened together with Christ, raised up together, living in his life. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus; who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).”
This law of the Spirit of life is born of God, it is spiritual for it is in Christ Jesus. It is a ruling, reigning and governing law, not written on tables of stone, but in the hearts of the saints, who are also in Christ Jesus, and born of God. Married to him that is risen from the dead, and they twain are one flesh. They are no more under the law, but under grace. Can the bride, the married wife of the Lamb, any longer transgress the authority of her old dead and buried husband? Must the living members of the risen Jesus still be circumcised and keep the law of Moses in order that they may be saved? Has she any desire to dig up and submit to the government of that former husband, who never had anything but bondage and curses for her, now that she is one with the living husband, who never curses but always blesses? Now can the believer who is cut off from the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, and known no more after the flesh, transgress a law that has no dominion or authority over him? “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith (Galatians 3:2)?” “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1).”
The reader will perceive that the greatest portion of this article is in harmony with the views of brother Tufts, but there are some points to which we desire to call his attention, that he may make them clear, if correct, and yield them if they cannot be sustained by the scriptures of truth; for we are sure he does not wish to contend for anything that will not bear the strictest scrutiny.
February 15, 1865.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 148 - 152