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they come unto me, and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God and his laws.”
It appears from Exod. xix. xx. that the Israelites had priests before the giving out of the law, therefore they must have had an established form of worship and a ritual.
Whatever laws had governed mankind before that time, they were repealed by the law on Sinai ; and as no one had any longer any concern with them, Moses does not mention them. He never condescends to gratify our curiosity, otherwise he would not have let the long period of time before the flood pass without recording a single fact.
Since we can see enough to suppose that there was a revelation before Moses, and laws constantly enacted and handed down, may we not conclude that the primeval law of paradise, the foundation and safeguard of all others, was preserved before the eyes and minds of men, and continually handed down from generation to generation.
DISTINCTION NECESSARY TO
OBSERVED BETWEEN DIF
FERENT CLASSES OF THE LAWS OF THE ISRAELITES.
It appears, from several passages of scripture, that a great difference is to be observed between some of the laws delivered to the Israelites, and others :-some are municipal and local ;--some typical and ceremonial, the concomitants and instruments of a preparatory and temporary dispensation, along with which they were to cease :-some penal, and added on account of transgression, to be remitted when the great atonement should be made : but, on the other hand, there were others, which were to be universal and permanenty--intended for all mankind, but lodged for the pre
sent with the only nation which acknowledged the true God,--to be preserved by them for the present, and disseminated by them thereafter.
This distinction appears clearly from Ezek. xx. 24, 25:-. “ Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers' idols: therefore I gave them, also, statutes which were not good, and judgments whereby they might not live.” Here is manifestly a distinction between two descriptions of laws, the latter much inferior, and called in comparison “not good ;"-given in consequence of the transgression of those of a superior kind among which was the law of the sabbath and the worship of the true God, which they gave up for idolatry. The inferior are manifestly the ritual and ceremonial observances.
The same distinction is kept up in Malachi iv. 4:-“ Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel ; with the statutes and judgments;" where the statutes and judgments, although given by Moses for the observance of the Israelites, are mentioned separately from the law given peculiarly for all Israel.
St. Peter, in Acts xv. 10, alludes to the ceremonial part, when the question was whether they were to keep the law of Moses :—" Now, therefore, why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear q”
Let us now compare with these expressions of “laws which were not good,” and “statutes by which they could not live,” and “ a yoke which they were not able to bear," the expressions of David, such as the following: (Ps. xix.) “ Statutes which are right, and rejoice the heart;— The law which is perfect, converting the soul, and making the simple wise ;—The commandment which is pure, enlightening the eyes ;-The fear of the Lord, enduring for ever ;
The judgments, which are true and righteous altogether, more to be desired than gold, yea than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey and the honey-comb, and in keeping of which there is great reward.” And Ps. cxix. :“ Make me to go in the path of thy commandments, for therein is my delight;—Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage;- it is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes ;– I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved; --the law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver ;-0 how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day ;- Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies; for they are ever with me; I have more understanding than all my teachers; for thy testimonies are my meditation ;- Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path ;—Thy testimonies have I taken as my heritage for ever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart :-Thy testimonies are wonderful, therefore doth my soul keep them ;-I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for thy commandments;—The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting; all thy commandments are truth;—Concerning thy testimonies I have known of old, that thou hast founded them for ever ;- Thy word is true from the beginning, and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever ;-Great peace have they that love thy law.”
David manifestly understood the commandments in their spiritual sense, and in their wide and extensive application; for he says, “ Thy commandment is exceeding broad;” and the spiritual view which was vouchsafed was in answer to prayer :-“ Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” It is manifest that he saw their connexion with the Redeemer's kingdom and the everlasting covenant, for he says, “Lord, I have hoped for thy
salvation ; I have done thy commandments ;-I have longed for thy salvation, O Lord; and thy law is my delight;-For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven ; thy faithfulness is unto all generations ;— Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth: they continue this day according to thine ordinance, for all are thy servants ;—Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth :—The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting."
I might multiply quotations of this kind. The reader knows how they abound in the 119th Psalm alone. But sufficient has been quoted to show that the revelation to the Israelites before the time of David consisted of laws of different descriptions, temporary and permanent. Can any person reading even the above short extracts doubt that there were laws amongst those given, which were to be permanent and everlasting, and for all nations ? If it be granted that there were any such laws, the question is proved, for the ten commandments must be at the head of that list. What stronger expressions could he have chosen to signify durability and permanency? Why, even the devoted admirers of the law of nature, and of the eternal fitness of things, will find expressions here commensurate with the eternity of their boasted unchangeable laws; for here we have laws “settled for ever in heaven."
In several parts of the 119th Psalm, the testimonies, commandments, &c. are called the truth. The critical reader of the Bible knows that in such phrases 5 truth” is not opposed to “error," but to figurative representations and ritual observances. Thus in St. John i. 17,_“The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ:" which means that the types and figures of the Christian dispensation were given by the law of Moses; but that the reality and substance, which those types and figures shadowed out, came by Jesus Christ. Therefore when David says, “all thy commandments are truth,” he does not understand the Jewish law, properly so called, consisting of ritual observances, but the commandments of perpetual duration.
The true state of the case, as I have before said, seems to be that the Israelites were to have been partakers of the full Abrahamic covenant, and to have had the nature of their Redeemer's kingdom gradually unfolded to them ; but in consequence of their rebellions, a veil and coverings of ceremonies and rites were drawn over the ark and the mercy-seat, of which, however, although hid from their view, they were still the depositories and the guardians. And in pursuance of that intention of making them the instruments of publishing the glad tidings of salvation, if they should have returned to obedience, many laws and commandments were also intrusted to them, which were to have been interwoven into the Christian scheme; and to have laid a preparatory foundation upon which the truth should afterwards be built ;--but I am trenching on the subject of the next section, and have a few words more to add in this to the subject of David's description of the commandments.
He evidently refers to laws which were to last under the Redeemer's kingdom, and were, by new sanctions and a spirit of grace breathed over them, to become instruments of salvation. “ Salvation is far from the wicked, for they seek not thy statutes." Therefore the statutes of which he speaks could lead to salvation; and yet Ezekiel says, that God had given the Israelites laws, by which they could not live." See also how he connects salvation and the commandments; for the critical admirers of Hebrew poetry know that the second member of a sentence is a repetition of the idea of the first in different language. “I