Sermons on the Sabbath and the Law



“What advantage has the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” Romans 3:1, 2. SOSL 31.1

THE entrance of the law is that grand event which, according to Romans 5, took place in the days of Moses. But Paul takes great care to show that this entrance of the law was not the commencement of its existence, nor the beginning of Man’s obligation to obey it. He teaches us that the existence of death is proof that sin exists in the world. And he further instructs us that sin cannot be imputed to men, nor even exist itself, unless the law of God also exist. And thus the order of their existence is this: first, the law, as God’s rule of right; second, sin, which is the transgression of that law; and third, death, which is the consequence of forfeiting life by sin. The existence of death from the time of Adam proves that sin has existed for that whole period; and the existence of sin from the fall of Adam shows that the law of God did exist prior to that event. And what is more, the universal prevalence of death, not only from Abraham till Moses, but from thence to the time when death itself shall cease in the lake of fire, is absolute proof, 1. That sin has existed with all mankind in all ages. 2. That during all this time the law of God has been in full force, and all mankind have been under obligation to govern their lives by it. SOSL 31.2

The entrance of the law, then, was not the beginning of its existence. It was rather the entrance of the Lawgiver to assert his rightful authority, and to proclaim in person the precepts of his just law. It was the most majestic, grand, and awfully solemn, event in the annals of mankind. The God of Heaven descended with the thousands of his angels. The sight of his glory was like devouring fire; the trump of God sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, and then the Almighty spoke the ten precepts of his law. Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17; Exodus 19:11, 16-19; 24:17; 20:1-18. Nothing can ever equal this event until the Son of God shall descend in the glory of his Father, and the same trump of God be heard again by the inhabitants of the earth. Matthew 16:27; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8; 1 Corinthians 15:52. SOSL 31.3

Such was the entrance of the law. Yet such was not and could not be the beginning of its authority. It is a law founded in the nature of things. It is simply an expression of the principles of right. It is the law of nature as written upon man’s heart. Romans 2:13-15. Each duty enjoined in the law of God existed in man’s uprightness, and in fact his uprightness consisted in his perfect conformity to these principles. Ecclesiastes 7:29; 12:13. But whatever may be said of the other nine precepts, the fourth commandment traces itself back to the creation of the heavens and the earth, and asserts its sacredness by reasons that are as old as the world. Exodus 20:11. SOSL 32.1

The law of God is older than sin, its deadly antagonist. It is as extensive in its jurisdiction as the race of mankind in whose hearts it exists by nature, written by their Creator. But when the law of God entered in such majesty by the solemn proclamation of its great Author, it came directly to one people only. The voice of the trumpet must have been heard by other nations, perhaps by all mankind; the revelation of the Almighty in flaming fire must have been witnessed also by the nations of the world. Yet the voice of God was directly addressed to that people which he had delivered from Egyptian bondage by an outstretched hand. The Hebrew people were made the honored recipients of his perfect law. And this one fact has been urged against the law of God as though it were fatal to its authority. The law was given to the people of Israel; therefore it related only to them. The Sabbath of the fourth commandment was given to Israel, therefore the Sabbath is only a Jewish institution. Such is the reasoning of many persons at the present day. Yet neither the law nor the Sabbath have in their nature one element of a Jewish character. The law defines with precision the duties man owes to God, and to his fellow-men. And these pertain, not to one nation, nor to one age, but to all mankind in every age of the world. The Sabbath, of right, pertains to all who owe their existence to the six days’ work of creation. SOSL 32.2

But why came the law of God to one nation of mankind? The answer is short, direct and explicit. There was barely one nation that was loyal to the God of Heaven. All other nations had forgotten God, and were idolaters or atheists. The law of God entered to that nation alone which was loyal to him, while all others were left to their own blindness and folly. SOSL 33.1

The knowledge of the Sabbath and of the law of God is clearly traceable from Adam, the head of the human family, to Abraham, the friend of God, as in a former discourse has been clearly shown. When we reach the time of Abraham we find circumcision first instituted by God. Genesis 17:9-14; John 7:22. One principal design of this institution was to form a separating line between the family of Abraham and all the rest of the world. And why did God thus elect a single family, and give up all the rest of mankind? Was it because that he was the God of the Jews only, and not of the Gentiles also? Was he an Abrahamic, or Hebraic, or Jewish, God? It is certain that God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God of the Hebrews, or Israel. See Exodus 3:6, 18; 24:10. What occasioned this relation? A correct answer will really solve the question under consideration in this discourse. God gave himself to one family; viz., that of Abraham. Now it was either because no other family of mankind owed allegiance to God, or else because that this family alone rendered obedience to him while all others worshiped false Gods. But nothing is more certain than that all nations were under solemn obligation to worship the God of Abraham and of the Hebrews. The jurisdiction of the Almighty, of right, extended over all men; but that jurisdiction was acknowledged only by the family of Abraham. If this great fact be borne in mind we shall not find it difficult to understand why the oracles of God, and the Sabbath itself, were committed to this one people. The oracles of God are holy, spiritual, just and good. In their very nature they pertain to the whole family of man, for they define exactly the relations which exist between God and man; and man and his fellow-man. And so of the Sabbath institution. It is something designed of God to commemorate the creation of the heavens and the earth, and does, therefore, like every other part of God’s law, pertain of right to all mankind. For the same reason that God gave himself to the Hebrew people, he gave them his law and his Sabbath. SOSL 33.2

But if all mankind needed the true God as much as the Hebrews, and if his law was the rule of right for the Gentiles as well as for the Israelites, and if the Sabbath was made for mankind at the beginning of our world, had God a right to confer such gifts upon one people and to leave all the rest of mankind to their own ways? Undoubtedly he had. There certainly is no injustice with God. But can his ways in this be justified at the bar of human reason? Let us see. It appears that twice God had attempted to maintain his worship with the human family as a whole. First, with the family of Adam; second, with the family of Noah. Each time the attempt ended in disastrous failure. The family of Adam were, during the antediluvian period, favored with wonderful blessings from God. Yet, at the end of that period, only eight persons remained his devout worshipers, who were saved in the ark, while all the others were drowned by the flood. Then God took the family of Noah as his heritage. But even the terrible lesson of the flood was, in a brief period, forgotten; and when we reach the time of Abraham, in the fourth century after that event, we find scarcely a righteous man, with the single exception of Abraham and those directly connected with him. There remained, therefore, only one of two things for the God of Heaven to do: either to suffer righteousness to be extinguished in the earth, or to take this one family and separate it from the rest of mankind, and make them the depositaries of his law and his Sabbath, and take them to himself as his peculiar treasure. SOSL 34.1

This latter is exactly what he did. He therefore ordained circumcision to last during the period that the family of Abraham should remain as the sole depositaries of his law; and having thus set apart the family of Abraham, his friend, he gave to them his oracles. “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” Romans 3:1, 2. God knew Abraham, that he would command his children and his household after him; and that they would keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. Genesis 18:19. The wisdom of God and the justice of God stand alike approved in the choice of Abraham’s family to be the depositaries of his oracles, the guardians of his Sabbath, and the servants of his cause. It was not because these were the only people who ought to worship the Creator of the heaven and the earth, and to reverence his Sabbath, and to obey his oracles. Far from this. These duties rest upon reasons which make them incumbent upon all the human race. But God committed this treasure of divine truth to the family of Abraham because they alone were loyal to him. It was not to the dishonor of the truth, as though it were fit only for one small nation of earth, that it was given to the Hebrews. Rather it was to the shame of the idolatrous and atheistic nations of earth, that they were all passed by as unworthy of the sacred treasure which God gave to the people of his choice. The Hebrew people were honored with great honor in the divine treasure committed to them; but that sacred deposit was not rendered Jewish by their guardianship over it, nor proved thereby to be of no importance to the Gentile world. Thus much concerning the law of God in the hands of the Hebrew people. Let us now consider, in conclusion, the bearing of the law of God upon the sin of Adam and the death of Christ. SOSL 35.1

“Moreover the law entered, that THE OFFENSE might abound.” Romans 5:20. What is meant by this term, “the offense”? It is plain that Adam’s sin is intended. See the language of the previous verses: SOSL 36.1

Verse 12: “Wherefore as by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world.” SOSL 36.2

Verse 14: “Not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. SOSL 36.3

Verse 15: “But not as the offense [of Adam], so also is the free gift. SOSL 36.4

Verse 15: “For if through the offense of one [Adam] many be dead.” SOSL 36.5

Verse 16: “And not as it was by one [Adam] that sinned.” SOSL 36.6

Verse 16: “For the judgment was by one [Adam] to condemnation.” SOSL 36.7

Verse 17: “For if by one man’s offense,” i.e., Adam’s. SOSL 36.8

Verse 17: “Death reigned by one,” Adam. SOSL 36.9

Verse 18: “By the offense of one,” Adam. SOSL 36.10

Verse 19: “By one man’s disobedience,” i.e., that of Adam. SOSL 36.11

Verse 20: “The law entered, that the offense [of Adam] might abound.” SOSL 36.12

“The offense” spoken of in these verses is thus seen to be the transgression of Adam, which made sinners of all the human race. Before the second Adam comes to die, the law must enter, to show the greatness of the first Adam’s transgression. SOSL 36.13

What is meant by the term, “that the offense might abound”? Did God send the law, in order that there might be more sin in the world? or that the awful guilt of sin might be revealed? Plainly he did not send his law to increase sin among men; for sin is that abominable thing which God hates. This is not the manner of causing the offense to abound. He caused the law to enter in order to reveal the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Let us compare several texts: SOSL 36.14

Romans 3:20: “For by the law is the knowledge of sin.” SOSL 37.1

5:20: “Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound.” SOSL 37.2

7:7: “I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” SOSL 37.3

7:13: “That sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” SOSL 37.4

These texts show the office of the law not to be the creation of sin, but the discovery of sin. It is not designed to increase the amount of sin, but to reveal the exceeding sinfulness of sin already existing. But how does the entrance of the law of God show the enormity of Adam’s transgression? SOSL 37.5

1. It makes plain the fact that Adam sinned against the principles of the moral law. Its first great precept is the supreme love of God. Matthew 22:36-38. And this kind of love is but another name for perfect obedience from the heart. 1 John 5:3. This greatest of all the commandments, Adam certainly violated. The first of the ten lesser precepts of the law is the prohibition of other gods before the Lord. But the very motive set before Eve in the temptation was, that they themselves should be elevated to the rank of gods. It was, therefore, a most wicked revolt from their allegiance to God. If Adam had no hope of such a result from this sin, he certainly did violate this same precept in this very act of transgression; for he preferred the favor of his wife to the approbation of God. It was base ingratitude to God on the part of both. God was Adam’s only father. Yet Adam dishonored this exalted Father by breaking his express command for the sake of Eve, his wife. Certainly it was a plain case of violating the eighth commandment. It is possible for a man to rob God. Malachi 3:8, 9. God gave to Adam every tree of the garden but one. This, by express command, God reserved to himself. Adam dared to take of this which he knew was withheld from him by the express precept of its rightful owner, who was also his own Creator. With Eve, certainly, and probably with Adam also, there was a palpable violation of the precept, “Thou shalt not covet.” She longed for the fruit as something “good for food,” pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise.” Genesis 3:6. Our first parents rebelled against God. They lost their own innocence, and became possessed of a sinful nature, so that all who spring from them are of necessity by nature sinful beings. They brought death upon themselves and upon all their posterity. Surely, in all this, the law of God reveals the greatness of that first transgression. To use the expressive language of Paul, “The law entered, that the offense might abound.” SOSL 37.6

2. The entrance of the law makes the greatness of that first offense to appear also in the fact that it discovers the universal existence of the carnal mind, which is due solely to the fall of Adam. Romans 8. SOSL 38.1

3. And finally, the entrance of the law reveals the magnitude or Adam’s transgression, in that it furnishes a perfect mirror to discover every kind of sin, and shows all to originate in that evil nature which Adam, by his offense, entailed upon his whole posterity. SOSL 38.2

Such was the work of the law. It revealed man’s lost condition. It showed the greatness of Adam’s offense, and the exceeding sinfulness of sin as everywhere existing among men. But as Paul lays such great stress on what one man, viz., the first Adam, did in introducing sin and death into the world, so does he also lay equal stress upon what one other man, viz., Adam the second, has done to bring righteousness and life to the wretched sons of men. Observe what he says of this other Adam: SOSL 38.3

Romans 5:15: “The gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” SOSL 39.1

Verse 17: “They which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” SOSL 39.2

Verse 18: “By the righteousness of one [Christ] the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” SOSL 39.3

Verse 19: “By the obedience of one [Christ] shall be made righteous.” SOSL 39.4

Such is the wonderful series of antitheses between Adam and Christ, presented in Romans 5. The first Adam, by his transgression, brought sin and death upon all his race. The second Adam, by his obedience and his death, brings righteousness and life to all who obey him. Hebrews 5:9. SOSL 39.5

It is certain that the sin of Adam was in reality the valuation of the moral law; and that the death of Christ is for the purpose of making such sin-offering as that law can accept. If the law of God entered in awful majesty to show the greatness of that one offense which brought death and all our woes into the world, then it is undeniable that in reality that law has been the rule of right from the beginning; and that sin is the same thing in all ages of the world. The law could not show the true character of Adam’s transgression if its principles were not obligatory in the days of Adam. The entrance of the law was to show the extent of the transgression of mankind. Adam’s sin was the trunk of the grand tree of iniquity, and the sins of his posterity the branches of that tree. The entrance of the law showed the awful wickedness of man, and revealed, in the clearest light, the purity of God’s character. It also revealed the immensity of the task undertaken by the Son of God, the second Adam, to save men from their sins, and yet to preserve untarnished the justice and the veracity of God as revealed in his law. And this he wrought in such a manner that though the law caused sin to abound by revealing it in all its length and breadth, the grace of God did much more abound in the great sacrificial offering of the Son of God in tasting death for every man. The law of God caused the death of the first Adam because he became its transgressor; it caused the death of the second Adam because he took upon himself the sin of the world. Beyond all dispute, the law of God extends from Adam the first to Adam the second. SOSL 39.6

The law under which Adam was placed, and which was transgressed by him, has never been repealed, and, further than this, has not expired by limitation. No one, perhaps, will attempt to show where it has been repealed; but probably most persons suppose that it ran out by limitation in the days of Adam’s and that we have nothing to do with it; yet we have the most palpable proof that that law still exists. Adam’s transgression of that law caused the forfeiture of his life and that of his posterity. And, in consequence, the sentence of the law has been inexorably carried out upon every generation of mankind, and is now being executed every day throughout the wide world. SOSL 40.1

That this is true reasoning, and that this law under which the lives of men have been forfeited, is what Paul calls the law of God, shall now be proved from his own words: SOSL 40.2

1 Corinthians 15:56: “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” SOSL 40.3

Death is here personified, as if it were a living monster engaged in the destruction of our race. The sting with which it inflicts the deadly blow, is sin. The strength of sin to destroy is derived from the law of God. In other words, death is inflicted upon men because their lives have been by sin forfeited to the law of God. The existence of death proves the prior existence of sin. The existence of sin proves that the law of God did previously exist. And finally, the entrance of death in consequence of the sin of Adam, shows that the law of God existed from the beginning; and that it is by its just sentence that death has thus far cut down all our race. SOSL 40.4