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§ 53. Christ’s Observance of the Jewish Worship and Law.

No question can arise as to Christ’s intention to extend his kingdom abroad among the pagan nations; the Messianic predictions of the Old Testament had already intimated the general diffusion of the worship of Jehovah; and John the Baptist had hinted at the possible transfer of the kingdom of God from the Jews to the heathen, in case the former should prove to be unworthy of it. And what was afterward novel to the apostles was, not that the pagans should be converted and received into the fellowship of the Messiah, but that they should be received without accepting the Mosaic law. It was against the latter view, and not the former, that even the strictest Judaizers objected. It was to refute this that the Ebionites appealed to Christ’s strict observance of the law, and to his saying, in the Sermon on the Mount, that he “came not to destroy, but to fufil the law,” and that “not one jot or tittle of the law should pass away.”

We must not oppose this doctrine by quoting Christ’s declarations that the essence of religion must be found in the soul, and that outward things could neither cleanse nor sanctify mankind;134134   Such as Matt., xv., 11; Mark, vii., 15. for even in the light of the Old Testament it was known that piety of heart was indispensable to a true fulfilment of the law. Christ himself appealed to a passage in the Old Testament (Hos., vi., 6) in proof of this; and even the well-disposed scribe (Mark, xii., 33) admitted it. Still, the necessity of an outward observance of the law might be maintained by those who deemed inward purity essential to its value.135135   Even Philo, from the stand-point of his religious idealism, held the necessity of a strict observance of the ritual law, believing that it facilitated the understanding of the spiritual sense of the law. He asserted this against the idealists, who adhered absolutely to the letter, in his treatise “De Migratione Abraami.”

Viewing the relation of Christ’s doctrine to the legal stand-point only 89on this side, we might conceive it to have stood as follows: Directing his attention only to the necessity of proper dispositions in order to piety, he held, as of fundamental importance, that nothing in religion not springing from genuinely pious feelings could be of any avail; and, holding fast to this, did not investigate further the question of the continued authority of the ceremonial law. Satisfied with saving what was most essential, he permitted the other to stand as inviolable in its Divine authority. Such a course would have been eminently proper in Christ, if we regard him as nothing more than a genuine reformer Every attempt at true reformation must have, not a negative, but a positive point of departure; must start with some truth which it fully and necessarily recognizes.

The view which we have just set forth is not invalidated by Christ’s denunciations of the Pharisees for their arbitrary statutes and burdensome additions to the law.Matt., xxiii. In all these he contrasted the law, rightly and spiritually understood, with their false traditions and interpretations. As for actual violation of the law, he could never be justly accused of it; even Paul, who so strenuously resisted the continued obligation of the law, declares that Christ submitted to it.136136   Gal., iv., 4.


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