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SERMON CIV.

Christianity doth not deftroy, but perfect the law of Mofes.

MATTH. V. 17.

Think not that I am come to deftroy the law or the Prophets. I am not come to deftroy, but to fulfil

The firft fermon on this text.

T

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Here is no faying in the whole gospel, which the Jews did fo frequently object to the Chri ftians as this of our bleffed Saviour, as if his words and actions were plainly repugnant, and contrary to one another for when it is evident, fay they, that he took away fo many ceremonies, purifications, diftinctions of meats, facrifices, judicial laws, and many other things; yet he fays, he came not to deftroy the law or the Prophets; fo that it is plain, that he did throw down the law of Mofes, and in fo doing contradicted his own faying, that he did not intend to destroy the law. To clear our Saviour's words of this objection, it will be requifite to confider the fcope and defign of his difcourfe in this chapter; by which we fhall fully understand the fenfe and meaning of these words in the text.

Our Saviour in this fermon, (which contains the fum and fubftance of his religion) doth earneftly recommend to his difciples and followers, and ftrictly enjoins the perfect practice of all goodnefs and virtue, declaring to them, that he came to bring in and eftablish that righteoufnefs, which the Jewish religion indeed aimed at, but through the weakness and imperfection of that difpenfation, was not able to effect and accomplish. And to take away all fufpicion of a defign to contradict the former revelations of

God,

God, made to the Jews by Mofes and the Prophets, or to deftroy their divine authority, by carrying on a defign contrary to them, I fay, to prevent any imagination of this kind, he does here in the text exprefly declare the contrary: Think not, &c. intimating that fome either did, or at least might be apt to fufpect, that his defign was to destroy the obligation of the law, and to undermine the authority of Mofes and the Prophets; to free them from this jealoufy, he declares plainly, that he had no fuch thought and intention, it was far from him.

I am not come to deftroy, naτañvoal, to abrogate, or diffolve the law, to encourage men to the breach and violation of it; for the word is of the fame fenfe with aus, at the 19th ver. Whosoever shall break one of thefe leaft commandments; and with narapynaι, Rom, iii. 31 νομον ἦν καταργοῦμεν ; do we then make void the law by faith? Which is the fame queftion with that of the fame Apostle, Gal. iii. 21. Is the law then against the promises of God? that is, are the law and the gospel contrary? do they contradict one another? So that the meaning of our Saviour's declaration is this, that he was not come to dif folve, and abrogate, and make void the law, or to encourage men to the breach of it; that the precepts of his religion were in no wife contrary to thofe of the law and the Prophets, did not thwart and oppofe them, or any ways contradict the main defign and intention of the law and the Prophets; that is, of the Jewish religion; for fo the law and the Prophets do frequently fignify, Matt. vii. 12. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even fo to them; for this is the law and the Prophets; that is, this is the main fcope and intention of what your religion contained in the law and the Prophets teacheth, concerning your duty to one another. So likewife, Matt. xxii. 40. On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets; that is, this is the fum of all the duties of religion; to thefe two laws, all that the Jewish religion teacheth may be referred. I am not come to deftroy, but to fulfil; to carry on the fame defign which was in

tended

tended by the Jewish religion, and to perfect and accomplish it; to fupply all the defects and weakneffes and imperfections of that difpenfation: This is the plain meaning of this caution and declaration of our Saviour's, Think not, &c.

For the clearing of this matter, viz. That the defign of our Saviour's doctrine and religion is not contrary to thofe former revelations, which God made to the Jews by Mofes and the Prophets; this will evidently appear, whether we confider the prophecies and predictions of the Old Teftament, or the laws and precepts therein contained.

First, The prophecies and predictions of the Old Teftament, our Saviour came not to contradict and overthrow thefe; but to fulfil them. The chief predictions of the law and the Prophets were concerning the Meffias, and his fpiritual kingdom. In the law it was foretold, that God would raise to them a Prophet like unto Mofes, whom they ought to hear and obey; and to him all the Prophets of the Old Teftament gave witness, foretelling the time of his coming, his extraction, the manner and circumftances of his birth, the purity and efficacy of his doArine, the actions and miracles of his life, his paffion, death and burial, with the particular circumstances of them, his resurrection from the dead, and his afcenfion into heaven, and exaltation at the right hand of God; fo that this part of the law and the Prophets he did accomplish and fulfil in a moft eminent and remarkable manner; all things that the Prophets had foretold concerning the Meffias, were puntually made good in the perfon, and actions, and fufferings of our Saviour.

Secondly, As to the laws and precepts of the Jewish religion, the doctrine and the laws of Christianity did not clash with them; nor properly abrogate them, and make them void, efpecially as to the moral precepts, which were the very life and fpirit, the ultimate scope and defign of that religion; nay, so far was it from doing fo, that the main and proper intention of Christianity, was to clear, and establish that which was the main defign of the law and the Pro

phets,

phets, to perfect the law in this part, and to raise and advance morality to its highest pitch, to fupply all the defects and imperfections of the Jewish religion, and to make men much better than that weak and imperfect inftitution was able to do. This was the great defign of Christianity; and it is very probable that our Saviour had a principal, if not a fole refpect to the precepts of the moral law, when he here fays, that he came not to destroy the law and the Prophets, but to perfect and fulfil them; as I fhall have occafion by and by to fhew more at large.

But that we may give a full answer to the objection of the Jews against this faying of our Saviour's, I fhall fhew that he did not come to thwart and contradict, and properly to abrogate and make void the Jewish law in any part of it, neither the civil and judicial, nor the ritual and ceremonial, much less the moral and natural precepts of it. This is more than I think to be abfolutely neceffary, to reconcile this faying of our Saviour with the reft of his doctrine and actions; for though he had properly abrogated the ceremonial law, and in no fenfe fulfilled it; yet, notwithstanding this, it may be true, that he came not to deftroy the law and the Prophets; that is, to deftroy the obligation of moral duties, which he speaks of in this chapter, and elsewhere declares to be the ultimate fcope, the fum and fubftance of the law and the Prophets. For if the ceremonial law was not defigned by God to be perpetual, but to give way to a more perfect difpenfation; then our Saviour did no way thwart and contradict the law and the Prophets, by abrogating the ceremonial law, at that time, when God defigned that a period fhould be put to it. But yet for the fuller fatisfaction to this objection, I fhall fhew that our Saviour did not properly abrogate any part of the Jewish law, no, not the ritual and ceremonial part of it; but did fulfil it.

Firft, Not their civil and judicial laws. These in the original intention of them, were not laws defigned for mankind, but fuited and fitted to the difpofition and temper, the condition and circumstances of a particular people and nation; to these our Sa

viour taught obedience, and paid it himself, and never did any thing contrary to them, nor in the leaft weaken the obligation of them; but they continued in full force, till that nation and commonwealth was diffolved. So that thefe laws were no way impeached or abrogated by the Chriftian religion; but they fell for want of a fubject to exercife their power upon, and because the people that were to be govern ed by them were deftroyed or diffipated; and though they neither are, nor ever were obligatory to other nations, as given by Mofes, and as they were the pe culiar laws of a particular nation; yet the natural reafon and equity of them, fo far as it concerned mankind, is duly confidered and regarded by us, and many of thefe laws are adopted into the laws of most Christian nations. It is plain then, that this part of the Jewish law received no prejudice by Chritianity, but continued in full force, fo long as that nation and commonwealth lafted, which was to be governed by it.

Secondly, As to the ritual and ceremonial part of the Jewish law, which confifted in circumcifion and purifications, and facrifices, in diftinction of meats and times, and innumerable other rites and obfervances; this was not properly abrogated and made void by the coming of Chrift, but fulfilled and made good by him. The rites and ceremonies of the law, were the types and fhadows of thofe future good things which were promifed under the gofpel, a kind of rude draught of a better and more perfect inftitution, which was defigned, and at last finished and perfected by the Chriftian religion. This account the Apostle gives of the legal rites and obfervances, Col. ii. 16, 17. Let no man judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of a boly-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath-days, which are a fhadow of things to come, but the body is of Chrift; that is, he is the fubftance and reality of all thofe things, which were fhadowed and figured by those legal obfervances. And fo the Apostle to the Hebrews calls the Priests and facrifices of the law, the examples and fhadows of heavenly things, chap. viii VOL. V. Z 5. and

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