It seems strange to us when natural reason is in exercise, how such a wonderful revolution could lake place in God’s dealings with his people under the gospel, from that of his dealings with them under the law, without God himself changing. But when faith is in exercise we understand. The old covenant was not made over, nor does it still remain with the gospel added, but an entirely new covenant and kingdom have been established. “Behold, I make all things new.” – Rev. xxi. 5. The same King reigns in righteousness that reigned in the old covenant and kingdom, which was natural, and only a pattern of the spiritual kingdom, but no part of it whatever. The new covenant has better promises, an ever abiding Priesthood, commandments written in the heart, spiritual repentance and forgiveness of sins by the blood of Jesus Christ, rest that remains to the people of God, spiritual love and fellowship. It is a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. But God is the same yesterday, today and forever, without variableness or shadow of change, but an entirely now government is seen and felt. Under the law God dealt with Israel upon legal principles. The law said they should do certain things, and also said they should not do certain other things, and prescribed punishment for every transgression. It was the punishment inflicted upon Israel that caused them to turn from their wickedness. There was no such thing as gospel (spiritual) repentance under the law, no such thing as godly sorrow for sin. Law and gospel are as separate and distinct as night and day, therefore we should always endeavor to rightly divide the word of truth. Good and evil, life and death, were ever kept before Israel; the prophets were continually telling them to turn away from idolatry and other wickedness, and said, If ye do well ye shall be blessed, but if ye do wickedly ye shall be killed by the sword, go into captivity, serpents shall be sent into your camps, &c. Thus we see the legal principle of government. The words repent and repented as they appear in the Old Testament should not be thought of in the same sense as used in the gospel. There is a vast difference between turning away from sin because of punishment, and yet have the same love for it, and in turning from it because we hate it, and because of love to God and his righteous law. While, Israel did repent from time to time, it was not because of hatred of sin and idolatry, they loved those things as much as ever, and did return to them, thus manifesting their love for them rather than love to God. There was no heart work, but rather sorrow because they could not continue in those things. We are not justifiable in saying that repentance under the law was the gift of God, or of grace. The judgments of the law caused Israel to repent, and not the Spirit of God, or the gift of grace. They were a carnal people, their blessings were temporal, the commandments given them were carnal, their sanctuary was worldly, and the afflictions of the law were felt externally. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Legal repentance and legal obedience belonged to the old covenant, and were rendered for reward, and from fear of punishment. Grace did not come until the manifestation of Christ in the flesh. Under Moses it was the law that demanded service, and all service was according to the law. But under Christ, our spiritual Law-giver, grace reigns, and the service of spiritual Israel is according to grace; God working in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure. We do not understand the apostle to mean (even though our bodies be the temple of the Holy Ghost) that it is God, in the man, doing the works, but that he works their works in them, as it is said in another place, “He hath wrought all our works in us.” The command to repent that came by John the Baptist when he preached in the wilderness of Judea, was different from any word of the prophets, who said repent, because the law demands it. John said, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus also preached, not saying, Repent and obey the law, but, Repent and believe the gospel. John speaks of the kingdom of heaven, and Jesus speaks of the gospel; these are found together, and Mark tells us this preaching was “the beginning of the gospel of the Son of God.” “Of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace.” In him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily, therefore of his fullness have we received, for by the Father we received natural and spiritual creation, blessed with all temporal and spiritual blessings, by the Son we received redemption and everlasting justification, by the Holy Ghost we receive teaching and guidance into all truth. Grace therefore is given by which God is served in this gospel (gracious) dispensation, as the writer of Hebrews says, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” The worship under the law consisted in ordinances, forms and ceremonies, and “never could make the comers thereunto perfect.” Under the gospel those rites, forms and ceremonies are not observed or enjoined upon spiritual Israel, “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.” – Acts xv. 25. No longer is the Lord worshiped in the mountain of Samaria or at Jerusalem; “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” God is not served by his redeemed people today for reward nor from fear of punishment in this life, or in the world to come. The very moment we think of serving for reward, or from fear of punishment, we manifest the legal idea of God and of worship. Such service in the gospel kingdom cannot be rendered, because it is not acceptable to God, the legal day having passed away. But, says one, did not Paul say, “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live”! Yes, but is Paul presenting a reward service, and telling us that we can exercise the Spirit? or is he showing the nature of man to live after the flesh, and the work of God in causing men to walk after the Spirit? because the next verse reads, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Does Paul mean here to contradict his statement made concerning himself in the same letter, chapter seven, verse eighteen, when he said, “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not”? Would he tell the brethren at Rome to perform good works by exercising the Spirit, when he says of himself, “how to perform that which is good I find not”? Does not this prove conclusively that the mortifying of the deeds of the body is because of the leading of the Spirit of God? Is not this blessedness instead of reward, and is not such service rendered in love and praise to God, rather than for reward or from fear of punishment here or hereafter? God “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Can any service we may render (even though our works be wrought in us) add one blessing to those already bestowed upon us in Christ before the world began ‘? On the other hand, can the lack of service (when not led by the Spirit) make the blessings less in number, or in joy? If we say yes, that very moment we present the law, because when Israel rendered the required service they were blessed, but when they did not, blessings were withheld, and punishment inflicted. Their blessings were bestowed because of service, but our blessings come because of the riches of God’s grace, through Christ. Will not the Spirit of God cause his children to do his will? Is God deceived in man? Is God mistaken in his works? Are there more blessings than man will receive? Has a manifested heir of God more ability to perform good works than our blessed Savior bad when in the flesh? Remember that he said, “I can of mine own self do nothing’, but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” Did he not give praise to the Father for all the works he did? Is he not our example in all things? All good works are of God, and men walk in them because of God’s ordination that they should, being led by the Spirit, rather than by the power or will of man. Repentance in the gospel dispensation is not wrought by judgments, such as the sword, fiery serpents, captivity in Babylon, &c., but by the purging of the conscience by the blood of Jesus Christ from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb. ix. 1-1.) Repentance under the gospel is a gift of God, through Christ, gently turning spiritual Israel individually and collectively away from the law, from all hope of justification by its deeds, from the life and righteousness that we thought were in it; also turning us away from sin and the love of it; not only from the overt acts of ungodliness, but from the thoughts of sin which proceed from our depraved heart. Spiritual repentance is the hating of our own life because of indwelling sin; this hatred is turning away from it; also it causes us to desire to shun or turn away from the very appearance of evil. What a blessing is godly sorrow for sin, and a desire to present our bodies, through the Spirit, a living sacrifice, (a living death) holy, acceptable to God. Under the law if Israel did not actually steal, kill, lie, commit adultery, worship idols, &c., they were not transgressors. This was the understanding of “Saul of Tarsus “(Paul) of the matter, therefore he said, “As touching the righteousness which is in the law I was blameless.” – Phil. iii. 6. But when the commandment came in the Spirit, “Thou shalt not covet,” he knew that he was a sinner within. It is by the law, spiritually applied, that we, like Paul, have the knowledge of sin, but by its carnal deeds “shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God.” In the gospel, Christ tells us, as Paul was taught, that to desire and think evil is sin. How many more are the transgressions of the child of God with the carnal mind than by the deeds of his hands or the words of his mouth. We are just as dependent upon God for repentance or the turning away from acts of sin, as we are for repentance from our wicked and depraved thoughts. We must be “kept by the power of God.” “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
“Once by the law I vainly thought
Salvation to obtain,
Till under Sinai’s thunder bronchi.
And there my hopes were slain.
I saw the law the strength of sin,
Which filled my soul with fear;
The legal works I trusted in,
Mont wretched did appear.
My tattered rags aside I threw,
That linsey-woolsey dress,
For that best robe forever new,
The Savior’s righteousness.”
This at his hands did I receive,
Which angels never wore:
A God-like spotless vest, and weave
The spider’s web no more.’’
We feel willing to submit the thoughts presented in this article for the consideration, and we hope comfort of the household of faith.
H. C. KER.
MIDDLETOWN, N. Y.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 72, No. 16.
AUGUST 15, 1904.