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Abraham to be His servant, and separated him from the rest of the world for this purpose, He was pleased to reveal to him the way of justification and acceptance in His sight, through a Divine Redeemer, who was to descend from his loins, or to be of his posterity. This promise of a Redeemer had been made in the first instance to our first parents, and had afterwards been confirmed to Noah. But it was subsequently limited to the posterity of Abraham, who was called, The friend of God.59
The apostle refers to this limitation of the promise, in order to show that, as the covenant in which it was made was entered into several centuries before the promulgation of the law from Mount Sinai, it could not be abrogated or annulled by the Mosaical dispensation. And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. It was a covenant that had a promise in it respecting the coming of Christ to be the Saviour of the world; and the justification of all those who should believe in His name throughout the whole world, and in all ages, whether before or after the time of His being manifest in the flesh. The promise contained in this covenant could not therefore be made of no effect, by a dispensation which was designed to subsist only in the interval that was to occur before the appearing of the Surety of this covenant. For if it were set aside, there would be an entire change manifested in the purposes of God. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise, but God gave
it to Abraham by promise; or, as it is said in the epistle to the Romans, If they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect. But that this is not the case, he argues, Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, before Him whom he believed, even God. The promise having been made to Abraham in a covenant which was antecedent to the giving of the law, and was in force during the Mosaic dispensation as well as before it, those only who embraced the promise, or who, under that dispensation, had faith in the Messiah to come, were accounted the children of God, and made partakers of the heavenly inheritance.
As however it might be objected, that in this case the law was of no use, or might have been dispensed with altogether, the apostle puts the question, Wherefore then serveth the law? What was the object proposed by it; for what purpose was it given, when salvation might be obtained through the belief of the promise before, as well as during, the Mosaical dispensation ?
plies, It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; that the need in which mankind stood of a Divine Redeemer, might be manifested more plainly; because the law worketh wrath, for where no law is, there is no transgression. By means of the moral law, those to whom it was made known were informed of their duty toward God, and their duty toward their neighbour; and as they failed in their obedience to it, they were led, by means of the ceremonial law, to see their desert, as transgressors, of the death to which the victim was put; and to look forward through the appointed expiations and purifications, which were a shadow of good things to come, 61 to the one offering of the Lamb of God, who by the sacrifice of Himself should take away the sin of the world.
This law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. St. Stephen upbraided his countrymen, because having received the law by the disposition of angels, they had not kept it; and he said of Moses, This is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spoke to him in the Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, who received the lively oracles to give unto us.62 St. Paul also calls the law, The word spoken by angels. We may
understand then that Moses received the law from the angels of God, who were commissioned to deliver it to him in Mount Sinai. But the particular object of this statement appears to be an intimation, that in all the services appointed by the ceremonial law, a mediator was necessary. It was first promulgated by means of a mediator; and no sacrifice was accepted but that which was offered up through the mediation of the priest whom God ordained to intercede with Him for the people. This mediator was necessary,
60 Rom. iv, 14, 16.
61 Heb. x. 1; ii, 2.
62 Acts vii. 53, 38.
because the ceremonial law was appointed for the benefit of transgressors, who in consequence of sin were cut off from communion with God. These persons could not come into the Divine presence otherwise than through a mediator Divinely appointed to offer up the sacrifices which were ordained to be made for sin. This mediator was, like the dispensation to which he belonged, a temporary one; and his mediation was to come to an end, when the promise should be fulfilled of which the Mosaic dispensation was designed to keep up the remembrance; when the great Mediator between God and men63 should make His appearance in the world. To point out this seems to be the design of the apostle in saying, Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one, which means, I conceive, that a mediator was not required under one dispensation only, but in both; because He who was the Author of both the dispensations, is unchangeably one and the same, yesterday and to-day and for ever. 64 The object proposed by the Mosaic dispensation was the same as that of the covenant made with Abraham. It was appointed to keep up the remembrance of the Divine promise respecting the coming of Christ, and was therefore not intended to last longer than the time when that promise should be accomplished. It was not appointed in consequence of any change in the mind of God; for with Him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning 65 There is therefore no disagreement between the law and the promises of God, the one is not contrary to the other.
The apostle asks the question for the purpose of answering it, Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid. Instead of being opposed to each other, the Christian dispensation is the completion of the Mosaical. For if there had been a law which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. The law was not intended to give life.
It merely showed to man what was contrary to the mind and will of God, and forbade him to act in opposition to the will of his Creator. It was not able to quicken any from a death in trespasses and sins. It pointed out to mankind their guilt and danger as transgressors. It could not give spiritual life. It could not give justification before God. But as it is observed in the text, The scripture hath
63 1 Timothy ii. 5.
64 Hebrews xiii. 8.
65 James i. 17.