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When the third, the solemn day was come, early the dreadful thunders began to roar, the lightnings to flash, and the trump of God to sound louder and louder. The tribes are summoned to attend, trembling seizes all the camp, and Moses their leader, man of God as he was, cries out, I exceedingly fear and quake, Exod. xix. 16. Heb. xii. 21. Inanimate nature discerns her Maker's approach, and Sinai is alto. gether on a smoke at the Almighty's touch. The mountain and the multitude, all, all are trembling at the presence of the Law-giver. Death is written as on every face, and the cry of Beth-shemesh, « Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?” is heard at Horeb. Orders are given a second time to prohibit the people's gaze, lest many of them perish. The priests and the people must not break through to come up unto the Lord, lest he break forth upon them, Exod. xix. 21—24. If they come nigh, it is at their peril. How unlike, how opposite, was all this to the glorious liberty of the sons of God? What bondage of spirit did it gender among all the thousands of Israel? When they perceived the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they removed and stood afar off. In their representatives, they came near to Moses, and besought him to go near to that God whose presence they durst not approach, and whose words they trembled to hear. Speak thou with us, said they, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. This great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die, Exod. xx. 19. Deut. iv. 23—27. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God! -Strange, to die with terror at the voice of their own God! Were not his first words full of grace? I am the Lord thy God. Yes. But the awful circumstances attending this proclamation, made them in effect forget every thing but their own danger. The thunder, the earthquake, the fire, the smoke, and the trumpet made deeper impressions on them than the words of grace. As law may be preached evangelically, so here the gospel was given amidst legal terrors. The one covenant was given together with the other.
And the smoke of the fiery law, was ready to obscure the precious words of gospel-grace. Thus the very manner in which the Sinai covenant was given, gendereth to bondage. It brought saints themselves into a kind of comparative bondage, from which we are now happily delivered under the New Testament. Of this the apostle puts the Hebrews in mind, chap. xii. 18, 19, 20, 21. Ye are not come unto the mount that was touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words, which voice they that heard, intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more. But I observe,
2dly. The Sinaitic transaction subjected the Old Testament church to the galling yoke of ceremonies. We have seen already that the ceremonies had a double relation, legal and evangelic. By that they stood related to the covenant of works, by this to the covenant of grace. Both these relations are intimated by the apostle, Heb. x. 1, 3. The law had a shadow of good things to come, viz. inasmuch as it was typical of Christ the body, and so as it was related to the covenant of grace. But in those sacrificestherewasa remembrance of sins. In them, as related to the broken covenant of works, there was a remembrance of sin, of sin as not yet expiated. They contained a hand-writing that was against us, that was contrary to us, (Col. ii. 14.) and which therefore did not belong to the covenant of grace, every article whereof is for us. In them there was a remembrance of sin, not only in the conscience of the offerer, but as by God himself. I do not say a remembrance of it, as still inputing it to such as believed in the promised Seed. No, no: but as not being yet expiated by the blood of his Son. As often as the sacrifices were offered, that God, on whose altar they lay, said, My justice is not yet satisfied. Thus he remembered sin. Whereas now under the New
Testament he, in this sense remembers it no more, Heb. x. 16, 17, 18. There is no more offering for sin, no ceremonial sacrifices to upbraid the saints with the remembrance of their guilt as not yet expiated.
Though Old Testament saints were subjected to the ceremonies, and these ceremonies were related to the broken covenant of works, it will not follow that they were under the curse of that covenant. This they escaped by faith in him who was to come. Only they were held in a comparative kind of bondage, being every now and then obliged to acknowledge, as with their own hand-writing, in the blood of the sacrifices, that the broken covenant of works was not yet fulfilled. With this yoke their necks were galled, Acts xv. 10. And therefore it was very different from that which Christ puts upon us under the New Testament, Matt. xi. 29, 30. In their sacrifices there was a remembrance of sin. In our sacraments, especially that of the Supper, there is a remembrance of the Saviour, who has put away_sin by the sacrifice of himself, i Cor. xi. 24, 25. Heb. ix. 26. In them there was an acknowledging of the debt: in this there is a shewing of the discharge, a shewing forth the death of the Lord. Thus while the Sinaitic dispensation of the covenant of works remained, the church was under a kind of bondage, from which she is now delivered. So our apostle teacheth, Gal. iv. 3, 4, 5. When we were children, we were in bondage under the elements of the world, but when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons: to redeem us not only from the curse, but from the ceremonies of the law. To blot out the hand-writing of ordinances, and to take it out of the way, nailing it to his triumphant cross, as part of the glorious spoil, Col. ii. 14. This, this is now part of that liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. The law can no more produce the handwriting against us. Before it can, it must draw that
nail which Christ did drive as to the head, and undo what he has done.
These things premised concerning the Sinaitic transaction in general, I now go on to show in a few particulars, how the Sinai covenant gendereth to bondage. And in the
1st Place, It gendereth to bondage, inasmuch as all who are under it, are subjected to the wrath and curse of God.
The children of that covenant are thereby the children of wrath, Eph. ii. 3. thereby, for it being now a broken covenant, it cannot but adjudge all
that are under it to the deserved The curse however justly deserved by those who are in Christ, for their sins committed after union with him, does not hang over them: and that be. cause they are not under the law, but under grace. Their sins have aggravations which cannot attend those of others: and therefore the true reason why the one class of offenders are exposed to the curse, and the other not, does not arise from the inequality of their sins, but from the very different tenour of the covenants whose children they are.
The one covenant saith, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them, Gal. iii. 10. Hence we read of the curses of the covenant, Deut. xxix. 21. The other covenant speaketh a very different language, Psalm lxxxix. 30--37. In the first covenant, a curse is denounced for every breach of the law. Such as are under the second, shall not be accursed for any, though chastised they will be. To be under the covenant of works, and not to be under the curse of God is impossible. Before that can be, either it must cease to accurse its transgressors, or they, though still abiding under it, must find a way to evade its curse.
2dly. The Sinaitic covenant gendereth to bondage, inasmuch as all who are under it are subjected to the dominion of sin. The children of that covenant arc to a man children of wickedness: slaves of sin. This we learn from that solemn saying of the apostle, Ron. vi. 24. Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Here we are taught that the true reason why sin does not reign over a man, is because he is not under the law. And if so, then certainly all who are under it, are enslaved to sin. In this case the law has a double influence: the one proper, the other accidental: the one in respect of its curse, the other in respect of its irritation. By its curse it is a bar preventing the communications of sanctifying grace. Its great curse, comprehensive of every other, was death: death in being separated from God the sole source of life. A death not only for sin, in being tormented by his hand, but a death in sin, being deprived of his image. This, no less than the other, is part of the wages of the first sin. All there. fore who are under the curse, must in virtue thereof, continue under the power of sin too. The quickening, the purifying streams of the sanctuary do not run within the boundaries of the curse: at least the moment a deadl 'sinner is quickened, he gets from under it. The law saith, Let him that is filthy be filthy still. And so indeed every sinner would remain, did not grace prevail against the law, and mercy rejoice over
judgment. The law not only prevents the commimication of grace so long as its curse stands in fuil force, but it also irritates corruption. Its prohibitions have no other effect on the carnal heart than to stir up its corrupt lusts. Hearing what it forbids, sinners rusl the more greedily into all manner of sin. Such the corruption of man, that the very forbidding of sin, is by him made a motive to commit it. When we were in the flesh, says the apostle, the motions of sin were by the law, Rom. vii. 5. Sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence: for without the law sin was dead: but when the commandment came, sin revived, verse 3, 9. The law is the strength of sin, i Cor. xv. 56. It not only gives it strength to expose the sinner to wrath, but also to reign over him, that he may commit it more grecdily.