These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.
1. It may be rightly said that true religion is essentially the same everywhere and at all times. Whithersoever and whensoever we look, we shall find the same cardinal elements - the fear of God, the love of God, respect for our own spiritual nature, regard for the rights and claims of others, abstinence from that which is immoral, kindness and helpfulness, etc.
2. It may also be truly said that in the Law there was much more than many have supposed of those elements which are prominent in the gospel: more of spiritual freedom, of joy in God, of happy and sacred fellowship than we are apt to associate with "Mount Sinai," and "the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses." When, therefore, we draw a distinction between the Law and the gospel, it must be remembered that it is not without important qualifications; that the Law had, in most cases, an aspect which was essentially Christian; and that, similarly, the gospel in most cases has an aspect which is legal. With this in mind, we may draw the contrast -
I. THAT THE LAW WAS PREPARATORY AND PROPHETIC; the gospel is final and in fulfillment of that which had been anticipated. This, especially, in regard to sacrifice and offering.
II. THAT THE LAW WAS PRECEPTIVE; the gospel is suggestive. The one supplied a multitude of rules for the regulation of worship and of daily life, the other has few "commandments." Its positive precepts are small in number, but it lays down those principles and implants that spirit by which the right and the wrong course are suggested, to be pursued or shunned by the obedient heart.
III. THAT THE LAW WAS PROHIBITIVE; the gospel is inspiring. Not wholly, but strikingly, in each case. The Law continually said imperatively, "Thou shalt not;" the gospel says encouragingly, "Wilt not thou?" The Law interdicted very many things, and an Israelite was obedient very much according to his conscientious avoidance of that which was forbidden. The gospel incites to feelings, words, actions of goodness, wisdom, grace, helpfulness; and a Christian man is obedient and acceptable in proportion as he opens his heart to heavenly inspiration, and is stirred to be and do that which is noble and Christ-like.
IV. THAT THE LAW MADE ITS APPEAL TO HUMAN EAR; the gospel to human love. Jehovah was, indeed, presented often to the Hebrew as his Redeemer from bondage; but, upon the whole, he was so revealed as, above everything, to strike the soul with profoundest reverence and awe. The Jew never ceased to hear the thunderings and see the lightnings of Sinai. The motto of the devout Israelite was this - "I fear God." In the gospel God is manifested in Jesus Christ, our Saviour, our Friend, our sympathizing High Priest; and, while not without deepest reverence, we feel that "the love of God in Christ Jesus" is the spring and the strength of our devotion; it is the key to which the sacred music of our life is set.
V. THAT THE LAW HAD RESPECT TO EARTHLY LIFE; the gospel to the farthest future. The Law said, "Do this, and thou shalt live long in the land;" "do this, and the rains shall fall and the vines shall bear and the barns be full;" but the gospel says, "Do this - repent, believe, follow Christ; and while there shall be sufficiency of present food for present need, there shall be abounding grace in the heart, fruitfulness in the life, peace in death, and a long eternity of sinless service and unclouded joy in the presence of the King, in the home of God. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.