The Nature of the Law
Galatians 3:19
Why then serves the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made…

I. In the first place, I will endeavour to define WHAT IS MEANT BY THE LAW OF GOD IS THE ABSTRACT. The simple sense of the term law, and the most general sense, is this — it is that mode by which an agent proceeds. The mode by which the government of a country proceeds to rule its subjects, is called the law of that government. The term will be found to have the same signification when applied to the very highest class of objects — I mean, the government of God: the constant procedure of the Divine will, with respect to any object in any part of His dominions, is called the law of God, in respect of that particular object. While we are upon the nature of the law, let it be observed, chat these modes by which the Divine Being governs either the moral or the natural "world, are not merely arbitrary regulations imposed upon its objects solely with a design to exercise His authority; but, that they are the necessary perceptions of the Divine mind, as to what is proper or benevolent, in regard to each of the objects to which they relate. Whence it follows, that the law of God, in relation to any class of beings in His government (but, in relation to man, pre-eminently) is the result of infinite wisdom and infinite goodness, the Lawgiver Himself being infinitely wise and good. One more remark may be added, which is, that the law of God, being the transcript of His own benevolence and wisdom, proposes and accomplishes the best possible results; promotes happiness to the utmost extent of which the object may be capable. This law may be expressed and promulgated by different modes. God has impressed His laws upon all nature below man. He did not render the obedience of man a matter of mechanical certainty; but the result of free choice.

II. This leads me, secondly, to consider THE MODES WHEREBY GOD HATH PROMULGATED HIS LAWS. These are two. He wrote the law originally upon the mind of Adam in the garden of Eden; and when it was effaced in a great measure by his apostasy, and almost obliterated from the mind of man, through the love of sin, he republished it to the world in the form of the Decalogue on Mount Sinai.

III. Thirdly, to remark on THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF THE LAW, which we must distinguish in perusing the Holy Scriptures. Although all that was republished on Sinai to the Jews, and at all other times, goes under the general term of the law of God; yet, upon close inspection, this law will be found to consist of three kinds, which are clearly distinct from one another. These three kinds of law are, the judicial law, or the state law of the Jews; the ceremonial law, that is to say, that law which prescribed the religious rites and services of the Jews under the Old Testament dispensation; and the moral law, which prescribed their conduct, and our conduct, as men. It has been inferred that the moral law was intended to be perpetual from the very mode of its promulgation. Let not this be dismissed as trifling. Everything in the promulgation of the law was the effect of premeditation on the part of the Divine mind, who doeth nothing in vain. Every part of it had a signification attached to it. The judicial part of the law, and the ceremonial part, were delivered to Moses privately, during the forty days in which he was on the Mount; but the moral law was delivered from the mouth of God Himself, in the presence of the whole assembled camp. The ceremonial part of the law was written in a perishable book; the moral part of the law was written by the finger of God upon two tables of stone, the emblem of perpetuity; and after wards, when the first tables of the law were destroyed by the zeal of Moses, they were restored by the same finger upon two other similar tables. Now, we must be persuaded that every particular in that solemn event of giving the law was the result of design: and that the moral part of the law was intended to be perpetual, seems the most probable meaning of the distinction made in the mode of promulgating the ceremonial and the moral law. But we have conclusive argument to prove the universal obligation and perpetuity of the law. That it is intended to be universal is most evident, because it was only the republication of the law which was imprinted on the mind of Adam in Eden, and which was effaced from his mind by his disobedience. But, as Adam was the head and father of all, and as all that had been prescribed to him first was intended to be taught to all his posterity, we infer that the moral law was intended to be perpetual and universally binding. Again, it is one great requisition of the gospel, that it should be preached to every creature; and that its object should be to testify toward Jews and Greeks, repentance toward God. But, if repentance be required of every creature, it follows that every creature is a sinner. Yet, every creature cannot be a sinner by disobedience to the judicial law, which was only for the Jews as a nation, nor by disobedience to the ceremonial law, which was to cease at Christ's coming. But, by the disobedience of law, mankind became sinners, and consequently, the subject of the gospel must be the moral law; therefore, the moral law is universal. The precepts of the moral law have all of them respect only to the moral character of man, properly so called. They relate not to outward observances — not to the things which go into a man, but to the things which come out of him, namely, the thoughts and intents of his heart. Our Lord said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 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." This could not be the judicial law, which was to cease with the existence of the Jews as a nation. It could not mean the ceremonial law, which was done away by Christ. This declaration refers to the moral law, and there is ample reason for believing that his assertion should be true.

(J. P. Denham, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

WEB: What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise has been made. It was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator.

The Law, Then, was Given for These Two Purposes
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