Perpetuity of the Law

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“Perpetuity of the Law”

The Signs of the Times 12, 9.

E. J. Waggoner

It is impossible to discuss one branch of this great subject of the law without touching more or less upon every other branch.

So in considering the nature of the law and its relation to the gospel, we have necessarily shown that it must endure forever. We shall now take up this branch more in detail.

The law of God is the righteousness of God.

It may not be amiss to review the proof on this point. David, in these words, bears witness to the fact that the commandments are themselves righteousness:

Perpetuity of the Law“My tongue shall speak of thy word; for all thy commandments are righteousness.” Ps. 119:172.

Since there is no righteousness but that of God, the commandments must be His righteousness; but we have still more direct evidence. The prophet Isaiah thus contrasts the things of earth with the righteousness of God:

“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be forever; and my righteousness shall not be abolished.” Isa. 51:6.

In the next verse, he proceeds to tell what this righteousness is:

“Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law.”

Because the law is the righteousness of God, it enables those who are instructed in it to “give judgment upon good or evil.”

The text says, “My righteousness shall not be abolished.”

Since there can be no question but that “righteousness” is here used with reference to the law of God, we may properly substitute “law” for “righteousness,” thus: “The earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be forever, and my law shall not be abolished.”

This gives the exact meaning, and is no more positive than we shall find stated elsewhere. God is from everlasting to everlasting. Ps. 90:2. As he cannot exist separate from His nature, or, in other words, separate from Himself, and the law is the transcript of His nature, it necessarily follows that the law exists from everlasting to everlasting. And since created beings, who are all subjects of God’s Government, cannot obey an abstract principle, but must have that principle clearly defined, we know that at least from the time that God created intelligent beings as subjects of his Government, the law must have existed in written form or must have been expressed in definite language. And from the beginning of His creation to everlasting ages, it must continue so to exist.

This is exactly what we are taught by the words of Christ in the sermon on the mount.

Said he:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill (to ratify, establish, or teach). For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matt. 5:17, 18.

Here two things are mentioned, the law and the prophets. Christ did not come to destroy either one. He came in fulfillment of prophecy, and also to teach the law, which He did in the sermon on the mount. He did not, however, fulfill all the prophecy; for some of it reaches far beyond His first advent.

For instance in Ps. 89:20-29 we read the following prophecy concerning the kingdom of David, over which Christ, as the Son of David:-

“I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him; with whom my hand shall be established; mine arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him. And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him. But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him; and in my name shall his horn be exalted. I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers. He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.”

In verses 35-37 we read further:-

“Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven.”

Here is a prophecy that will be in process of fulfillment as long as the sun and moon endure, even to all the days of Heaven. Now the words of Christ are, that “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.”

Till all what be fulfilled? Evidently, till all the prophets be fulfilled, for He is speaking of the prophets, in connection with the law.

Then, in view of the prophecy that we just read, we know that not the slightest change can be made in the law so long as Christ reigns on the throne of David; and that will be throughout eternity. Nothing can add to the force of this testimony.

Perpetuity of the LawWe may quote other texts, as, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail” (Luke 16:17), or, “The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness” (Ps. 111:7, 8), but, strong as they are, they do not go beyond what has already been presented.

To give all the texts which show the enduring nature of the law, would be to quote a large portion of the Bible. In our consideration of other points connected with this subject, many additional proofs will necessarily be brought in. But right here we wish to introduce a few quotations from eminent authors of different denominations, to show that they have used just as strong language as we have to set forth the holiness and perpetuity of the law.

Bishop E. O. Haven said:-

“Not only is every one of the Ten Commandments binding upon all men, [but] every one is often broken by persons who have received Christian instruction. The decalogue is God’s grand compendium of moral philosophy. Whoever obeys it in letter and spirit is a perfect man.”-“Pillars of Truth,” p. 7.

Again the same author says:-

“This decalogue can never become obsolete. It was designed for all men, and, obeyed, would render all men noble, and worthy of immortal blessedness. It is a kind of concentration of the moral teachings of the Bible.”-“Pillars of truth,” p. 235.

The “Speaker’s Commentary,” on Matt. 12:8 says:-

“On what principle of legislation can it be maintained that, because laws are imposed by the ruler for the benefit of the subject, therefore they may be dispensed with at his own convenience? This is utterly untenable as regards the laws of man, still more so as regards the laws of God.”

Rev. S. P. Sprecher, pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church San Francisco, in a sermon delivered Feb. 18, 1883, and reported in the Occident of Feb. 21, 1883, said:-

“When God gave the Ten Commandments on Sinai, He did not propose that men should obey them if they commended themselves to the natural heart; but that they should obey because they were the voice of God. Truth is not always seen and appreciated at first. It generally requires a certain favorable state of the heart.”

On the words of our Lord in Matt. 5:17, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill,” we find the following comment by Wesley, in the first volume of his works, sermon 25:-

“Some have conceived our Lord to mean: I am come to fulfill this by my entire and perfect obedience to it. And it cannot be doubted but He did, in this sense, fulfill every part of it. But this does not appear to be what He intends here, being foreign to the scope of His present discourse. Without question, His meaning in that place is (consistently with all that goes before and follows after), I am come to establish it in its fullness, in spite of all the glosses of men; I am come to declare the true and full import of every part of it; to show the length and breadth, the entire extent, of every commandment contained therein, and the height and depth, the inconceivable purity and spirituality of it in all its branches.”

Rev. W. A. Jarrel (Baptist), in “Old Testament Ethics Vindicated,” pp. 25-27, speaks as follows concerning the law of God:-

“The divine will must be what the divine nature is. That the will must be what the nature is, is one of the fundamental truths of all true moral philosophy. . . . While the law is not the nature of God, it is the effect and likeness of that nature; it is the perfect reflection of His infinite holiness and wisdom. It must, therefore, be as unchangeable as the infinite holiness of the divine nature. Law is the positive enactment of this nature; it is the expression of God’s will.” “Law, then, being the expression of the holiness of the immutable, divine nature, it can never be relaxed or changed. As God’s nature must forever will only moral right, His law can never be other than the expression of moral right.”

This will suffice for quotations from religious authors. These quotations show that the idea here presented are no new thing, so that no one need fear to accept them, lest he should be straying from the old paths. They help to confirm the argument that the Ten Commandments are the “old paths,” into which God calls all men to turn their steps.

They are the way of holiness, the eternal way of peace; and human tongue or human pen can never adequately express their purity and their unchanging nature. E. J. W.

Download this edition of the Signs of the Times 1886.


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