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XIY.

LAW AND GOSPEL.

2 CORINTH. iii. 9. “If the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.”

THE Epistle for this Sunday is beyond all doubt one of the most difficult to be understood of any of those extracts from the writings of St. Paul, or of the other apostles, which are read as Epistles in the Communion Service. And yet it is an Epistle the meaning of which should be understood by us Christians, for its teaching is no other than this: to put before us in very strong, though in somewhat figurative language, the essential difference between the Old and the New Testament.

And surely, if there be a difference between the leading thought, or idea, or principle, of these two dispensations, we of the Church ought to understand it, for we are instructed in the Old Testament almost as much as in the New. In fact, our knowledge of the Old Testament is to a great extent the foundation of our instruction in the New. Our earliest lessons are about Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. Of the chapters read in God's word in daily morning, or evening prayer, or of the more select lessons on Sunday, one is always out of the Old Testament. Even in the Communion Service a reading out of the prophets is not unfrequently substituted for an epistle, and the Ten Commandments are always recited as they are written in the twentieth chapter of Exodus. Besides this, there is scarcely a chapter of the New Testamentscarcely a discourse of our Lord, in which there is not some reference to the history of God's people under the Old Testament, or to some utterance of their God-inspired prophets.

If there be an essential difference between the two covenants, or dispensations, or testaments (and the text which calls the one the ministration of condemnation, the other the ministration of righteousness, asserts that there is the widest difference conceivable), it is essential that we should understand what it is, or we may confound what is “Law” with what is

Gospel,” what is past with what is present-and though by God's mercy in having made the Gospel so clear and plain we may be preserved from any serious mistakes, yet still we may lose many of the lessons which the Old Testament is really designed to teach us.

And I believe that a vast many good persons who attend Church do lose these lessons. They sit in their places, and they hear about Elijah calling down fire from heaven to consume the ene

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mies of God; and they hear about St. Stephen praying for his enemies, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,” and they think it is all

Because it is all in the Bible, and because the Bible is all bound together in one volume, they think that there is no difference between part and part; whereas, according to St. Paul in the Epistle for to-day, the one is the “ ministration of condemnation” and the other the “ministration of righteousness." Do not, however, misunderstand me—the whole Bible, Old Testament and New, is all the word of God. All of it, as St. Paul says, is “given by inspiration of God.” God, we may be sure, has exercised a superintending providence of the strictest and most watchful character over the whole, so that no book, or books, or parts of books, have been inserted into the number of the inspired writings contrary to His will. All is “ profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,” but in very different ways. The New Testament teaches us directly; we can have no difficulty about it if, that is, we understand the words and the reasoning. All its examples we may and we must copy. We must have the mind of Christ. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus;" and St. Paul could confidently say, “Mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.' But it would be impossible so to cite the ex

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amples of Gideon, or of Sampson, or even of David. Again, what is more important for the Christian than the doctrine of Atonement, that God in some inscrutable way

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upon Saviour Christ the iniquity of us all? Now we learn from the New Testament all that is needful for our reconciliation and peace, about atonement, directly, and with the utmost plainness. When St. Peter says, “ Christ Himself bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” we have nothing to do, if we have repented and turned to God, but to receive the saying, and trust and believe that it is as the Apostle has said, and pray to God that we may believe it in our heart of hearts. But we also learn the need of atonement from the Old Testament, but in a very different way, because in a much more indirect way. When we read in the Old Testament that a Jew had to bring his bullock or his calf and slay it “ before the Lord,” and pour out its blood, and by so doing be restored to the standing and the privileges of those who acceptably worshipped the God of Abraham, we learn from all this that the justice of God cannot forgive men in general, or us in particular, on our mere repentance, or promise of doing better, without an atonement; and that if the blood of such a thing as a lamb or calf restored in some inferior sense the worshipper to the earthly sanctuary and its privileges, how very perfectly must the Blood of Jesus, God and

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man, restore the worshipper who pleads it to the heavenly sanctuary and its privileges.

What then is at the root of this great difference between the two dispensations, seeing that they both came from the same God, and both bare witness to the same Saviour, and the books which contained the accounts of them were inspired by the same Spirit ? The Epistle, or rather the Holy Ghost speaking by the Apostle in this Epistle, teaches us. The one, He says, is “ the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones,” the other, “ the ministration of the Spirit;" the one is “ the ministration of condemnation," the other, “the ministration of righteousness.” Let us see what is taught by these contrasts. That which was most emphatically the law of Moses was, in its essence, so many hard precepts without any corresponding promises. For instance, it commanded a man not to commit adultery and not to covet; but it contained no promise that the man should, if he prayed, have internal strength given him to resist temptations to these evil things. There were most express promises that God would on some future day write His laws in men's hearts, but the fulfilment of these promises was in the far distance. The essential difference between the two dispensations was most emphatically set forth in the different materials on which they were first given. The law was given on tables of stone, that is, on the hardest

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