THE EXTENT AND EXCELLENCY OF THE MORAL LAW
Deuteronomy 27:26. Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them: And all the people shall say, Amen.
THE law here spoken of is the moral law [Note: Several particulars of the moral law are enumerated from ver. 15 to the end; and here it is mentioned summarily, as comprehending the whole.]. This every person is bound to keep in its utmost extent. The curse of God is denounced against every violation of it. This sanction, tremendous as it is, should be universally approved. Hence God commanded his people to express their approbation of it. “Amen” in Scripture signifies an affirmation [Note: John 3:3.], or a wish [Note: Matthew 6:13.]. The adding of “Amen” to the doctrine of the text implies,
I. An assent to its truth—
The doctrine is, that the law of God curses us for one offence. This is often, through ignorance of the Scriptures, denied; but it may be established by a cloud of witnesses.
[Death is declared to be the necessary fruit of sin [Note: James 1:15.]. Every deviation from the line of duty subjects us to God’s wrath [Note: Romans 1:18.]. An idle word is sufficient to condemn us [Note: Matthew 12:36.]. The most secret thought is punishable by our Judge [Note: Ecclesiastes 12:14.]. Omissions of duty will entail on us the same judgments [Note: Matthew 25:30.]. A violation of the law in one point ensures condemnation as truly, though not as severely, as a rejection of the whole [Note: James 2:10.]. One single transgression brought misery on the whole world [Note: Romans 5:12; Romans 5:18-19.]; and this was agreeable to the terms of the Adamic covenant [Note: Genesis 2:17.]. St. Paul speaks of this penalty as still in force [Note: Romans 6:23. It is not said that death is the wages of much or heinous sin, but of sin, i.e. of any and every sin.]. He even cites the very words of the text in proof of the doctrine which we deduce from them [Note: Galatians 3:10.]. Hence the law is called “a ministration of death.”]
None, however, will cordially assent to the truth of this doctrine till they see ground for,
II. A confession of its reasonableness—
The law, both in its extent and sanctions, is highly reasonable [Note: We would not be understood to make the doctrine depend on its reasonableness, and much less on our statement of its reasonableness: we only wish to vindicate it from the objections which unhumbled reason would bring against it. If we were not able to urge one reason in its defence, it were quite sufficient to say, ‘God has revealed it, and therefore it must be reasonable;’ for nothing can be unreasonable which proceeds from him.]. That one sin may reasonably subject us to condemnation appears,
[Offences in civil society are rated according to the dignity of the person against whom they are committed [Note: Should we strike an inferior, an equal, a superior, a benefactor, a parent, a sovereign, the offence would proportionally rise; so that, what in one case might be expiated by a small fine, in another would be counted worthy of death.]. Now sin is committed against an infinitely great and good God. Hence it contracts an inexpressible malignity. Moreover one act of treason is punished with death. Nor is this judged unreasonable in human governments. Why then may not the death of the soul be annexed to every instance of rebellion against God [Note: Is not God’s majesty to be regarded as well as man’s? and his government to be supported as well as man’s?]?]
From the nature of sin—
[Sin dishonours God, takes part with Satan, and unfits for heaven. Are these such light evils, that they not only may, but must be overlooked? Is God forced to honour those who dishonour him? Has not He as much right to be our enemy, as we have to be his? When he sees us destitute of any love to him, is he bound to renew our hearts that we may be capable of enjoying him? Is he unjust if he leave us to eat the fruit of our own way [Note: Is it unreasonable that God should vindicate his own honour? Are we at liberty to insult him, and he not to punish us? May we be his enemies, and must he treat us as friends? When our first parents sinned, was God obliged to remedy the evil they bad brought upon themselves? Might he not have left them, as he had already left the fallen angels? Was there any necessity that God should assume the human nature, and offer himself a sacrifice for his creatures’ sin? If so, they, even after their fall, might have disdained to ask for heaven as a gift; they might still have demanded it as a debt. Then God is under a law, and we are free from a law; we are free to live as we please: and he is under a necessity to save us at all events. The absurdity of such positions is obvious.]?
But an extorted confession of its reasonableness is not sufficient—
God requires of us further,
III. An acknowledgment of its excellency—
The law thus sanctioned is truly excellent: any other would have been less worthy of the great Lawgiver—
[Had it required less than perfect obedience, or had the penalty of transgressing it been no more than a temporary punishment, neither his holiness nor his justice had been so conspicuous.]
Any other would have been more ruinous to man—
[A permission to violate that law in ever so small a degree would have been a licence to make ourselves miserable. Had death been annexed to many transgressions, and not to one, we should have been at a loss to know our state. We should have been with more difficulty drawn from seeking righteousness by our obedience to the law. We should have seen less evil in transgressing it. We should have been less anxious to obtain an interest in Christ. Thus, though mercy is provided, we should have been less likely to obtain it, or to secure its continuance.]
Any other would have been less honourable to Christ—
[He would have endured less suffering for us. His inter-position for us had been less needed; it would have discovered far less love. The obligations conferred by it would have been comparatively small. He would have been less honoured by all. Some would have been saved without his aid. Many would, to eternity, have ascribed the honour of their salvation to themselves.]
In this view “the ministration of death was glorious [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:7; 2 Corinthians 3:9-11.]”—
Such a discovery of its excellency will immediately produce,
IV. An approbation of it with respect to our own particular case—
A person taught of God will cordially approve of this law: he will love it as the means of humbling him in the dust—
[It discovers to him, as in a glass, his manifold transgressions. It convinces him of his desert of punishment. It shews him the impossibility of making reparation to God. It constrains him to cry, “Save, Lord, or I perish!” And thus it brings him to the state he most desires [Note: Luke 18:13.].]
He will delight in it as endearing Christ to his soul—
[The depth of his disorder makes him value the Physician. He sees his need of one to “bear the iniquity of his holy things [Note: Exodus 28:38.].” He finds that Christ is set forth for this very purpose [Note: Romans 10:4.]. Hence he rejoices in Christ as his Almighty Saviour.]
Such an approbation of it was expressed by Jeremiah [Note: Jeremiah 11:3; Jeremiah 11:5.]. St. Paul also highly commends it in this view [Note: Romans 7:12.]; and every true Christian can adopt his words [Note: Romans 7:22.].
[Let us study this law as a covenant. Let us acknowledge our condemnation by it. Let it serve as a “schoolmaster to bring us to Christ [Note: Galatians 3:24.].” Let that declaration be the ground of our hope [Note: Galatians 3:13.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 27". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany