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The Law and the Testimony.


The Law and the Testimony.

James Dodson

“He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel.”—Psalm 78:5.

All men are familiar with the distinction between LAW and TESTIMONY in courts of judicature, and no one is in any danger of confounding them. Who could imagine, for a moment, that the statement of law from the bench and the facts given as a testimony by the witness in court, are the same thing? No one. But in the “things pertaining to the kingdom of heaven”—the affairs of the visible church—this plain and necessary distinction is not always perceived; or, if so, is generally disregarded. Hence, most Christian denominations not only have no judicial testimony, but are utterly opposed to such an instrumentality in defending and propagating the Gospel. And even those who still retain the inspired term TESTIMONY in the symbols of a public profession, have wholly lost sight of its scriptural significance. [Witness the “Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.”] In that symbol of their profession styled “Testimony,” everything is carefully excluded which might be viewed as EVIDENCE, leaving merely an abstract of doctrinal declaration!

The great example which the church is bound to imitate is Jesus Christ—1 Peter 2:21; and especially in testimony bearing is she to “arm herself with the same mind.” Unless the witnesses of Christ “consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, they will become wearied and faint in their minds.”—Heb. 12:3. He is the faithful and true Witness.—Rev. 3:14. And in a sense infinitely higher than that of the Socinian [i.e., anyone who, admitting the humanity of Jesus, rejects his divinity] interpretation, our Saviour answered Pilate: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.”—John 18:37.

The “man of sin” is the rival of Jesus Christ, and Judas-like, is also the son of perdition.—2 Thess. 2:3. He opposeth Christ personal and mystical [i.e., the body of Christ—the Church] by EXALTING HIMSELF—putting forth blasphemous claims to universal supremacy both in the civil and ecclesiastical relations of men; and for more than a thousand years his usurpation has been successful.—Rev. 13:4; 17:17. But the “song of Moses” (Ex. 15) is destined to coalesce and identify with that of the Lamb, (Rev. 14:3), when mystical Babylon shall have fallen to rise no more at all.—Rev. 19:1-3.

In the words of inspiration prefixed to this article there are two inquiries suggested:—When did God establish a testimony in Jacob and appoint a law in Israel? and what is the specific difference between the testimony and the law? Other inquiries may be profitably made, such as: Who among the Persons of the Godhead gave these? To whom were they given? What obligation accompanies the transaction? &c.

Our attention at present is directed to the first two inquiries in order:

FIRST. The transaction referred to by the Psalmist, and incorporated with the high praises of the ransomed of the Lord, took place at Mount Sinai, where the twelve tribes lately emancipated from Egyptian bondage were taken into covenant with God as HIS FREEMEN. The demand pressed by Moses upon Pharaoh, and reiterated in Jehovah’s name, was: “Let my people go that they may serve me.” They were abridged in their civil and ecclesiastical liberties, and robbed of their rights, natural and acquired, by the haughty despot of Egypt. And if the children of Israel, while in their wilderness journey to the promised land, could not serve the Lord as they were required to do in Canaan, (Deut. 12:8), much less could they obey the law of God while compelled to serve other masters “with rigor.”—Ex. 1:13,14. That “no man can serve two masters” is the declaration of our Lord; and it is natural that he who is redeemed from bondage should declare allegiance to his deliverer. The Psalmist was very familiar with the force of this argument.—“Truly I am thy servant; thou hast loosed my bonds.”—Ps. 116:16. The same is the only source of Gospel motives influencing the believer to cheerful and acceptable obedience. Did the Lord God of Israel testify a fact—a HISTORICAL TRUTH—when he said, “I have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage?” Yes, their eyes saw, their ears heard the testimony which he established in Jacob. That fact, then, the great fact of emancipation by divine power and in divine love and compassion, constitutes the external part of the testimony established in Jacob; and to Israel at Sinai, was the strongest possible evidence, OF THAT KIND, that the “Lord was their God.”

Even so it is now, by analogy and just proportion—for the reasoning of faith is the same—“The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge that if one died for all, (for the redemption of all God’s chosen from sin, satan, death, &c.), they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.”—2 Cor. 5:14,15. But as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses in Egypt—Amalekites, Moabites, &c., afterwards, so do others, their successors in our days, resist the truth of Christ’s testimony.

SECOND. The LAW as distinguished from the TESTIMONY, is the authoritative rule directing human conduct, especially the conduct of the redeemed of the Lord. This law was “appointed in Israel” cotemporaneously with the testimony; and BOTH are “written out in our sight” in the 20th chapter of Exodus. Then and there, when Israel stood before the Lord at Horeb, he deposited his testimony and his law among them; and with united voice they said, “All that the Lord, OUR GOD, hath commanded us will we do.” We hear of no dissenters from this public pledge. If there were any among them who were so ignorant of the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of their own hearts as to refrain from joining in the solemn public act of covenanting on the plea of inability to perform obedience to all God’s commandments, they appear to have been more prudent or politic than those of our day who oppose public covenanting. God, we see, has connected his testimony and his law, and has given BOTH to the church;—to her have been committed the oracles of God, including both. It is at her peril if she attempt to put asunder what God has joined together. Of this all are guilty who oppose public, social covenanting; for their opposition, whether individually or socially, in civil or ecclesiastical relations, resolves itself into this:—“The holy, just and good law of God is so spiritual and exceeding broad that I, a sinner—we, sinners, are not able to obey it, and it would be rash and unwarrantable in us to promise or engage to do what we know ourselves unable to perform.” This is the most frequent, popular and plausible sophism ever brought against this precious ordinance of God. It is full of LEGALISM in the heart or in the head, or in both, for it assumes that some moral ability remaining in man after “Adam’s transgression,” which would enable him to obey, provided only the law were a little modified and suited to his capability. But let such know that the Lawgiver has said, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.”—Matt. 5:18. To hesitate in promising to keep the law betrays ignorance of the testimony of God. It tacitly assumes that the individual can redeem himself from a worse bondage than that of Egypt; that he is in SOME MEASURE ABLE to keep the commandments of God, and thus practically and actually reject both the law and testimony of God. This sophism does also palpably contradict the plain testimony of the faithful Witness himself.—“Without me ye can do nothing”—a saying eternally true both in its moral and physical sense.

Sparta, July 12th, 1860.

David Steele.