On Article 7 – From the Vault of the Australian Church Record, November 10 1955
There are three important declarations in Article Seven. (1) The Old Testament is not contrary to the New. (2) The Fathers looked for more than transitory promises. (3) The moral injunctions in the Commandments of Moses are binding on all Christian men.
Popularly, at present, the first opinion condemned, viz.: “The Old Testament is contrary to the New” finds expression in the oft-repeated declaration “That belongs to the Old Dispensation.” There is often an underlying suggestion that a change of dispensation involved somehow a change in God’s revelation. We need to be on our guard against such popular misrepresentations. In the excitement of the Reformation period old errors reared their heads again. Rogers in his work on The Articles refers to “the new Libertines” who are identified with the Anabaptists. Bollinger tells us that the Anabaptists reject the Old Testament and do not receive the testimonies which are adduced from it either for the confirmation of Christian faith or the refutation of errors and false dogmas, as they say the Old Testament is abrogated.
The Article rejects the idea that in the Old Testament we have “a covenant of works,” while in the New Testament we have “a covenant of grace.” Salvation in the time of Abraham and Moses was entirely of grace just as it is in the new revelation in fullness of Jesus Christ our Lord. St. Paul emphasises this in the Epistle to the Romans. “Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness (iv:3) “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (iv:5).
One Way of Salvation.
It is true that the full revelation concerning the exact method of God’s pardon is reserved for the time of the coming of Christ in the flesh. But as Paul again puts it, God, in setting forth Christ as a propitiation, declares His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past (Rom. iii: 25). No man was saved by obedience to the law. Where there was transgression, the Lord could only put away sin, as Nathan said to David (ii Sam. xii: 13). The sacrificial system bore eloquent witness to the need of atonement. It is true that the man who continueth in all things written in the hook of the law could thereby obtain eternal life. But as “all have sinned” that road is closed to men. Both in the Old and New Testament God’s pardon is freely bestowed. Both in the Old and the New Testament such pardon demands a sacrifice. Hence our Lord Jesus Christ is witnessed to alike by the law and the prophets.
The idea that the ancient Fathers looked only for transitory promises was developed in Warburton’s “Divine Legation of Moses,” a book which displays remarkable erudition and ingenuity. Allowance must be made for the re-action to the Deism which he sought to combat. But it is remarkable that a Bishop should so confidently assail an opinion which is avowed in our Articles. The story of the translation of Enoch, the death of Moses, and Jacob’s dying words, “I have waited for Thy salvation, 0 Lord” indicates clearly what the Epistle to the Hebrews assures us “(They) looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. xi:iv). Warburton is compelled to place the Book of Job in the period of the return from Babylon because of its assertion of a life after death. This opinion is not now widely held.
Permanent Moral Obligation.
The last emphatic assertion has regard to the permanent moral obligation of the Ten Commandments. It is admitted that much of the Mosaic law is temporary. The ceremonies and rites have their fulfillment in Christ our Lord. The principles of Civil-Government related to the wanderings in the desert and the occupancy of the land of Canaan. It is perhaps worth noticing that what we may call the rough law of hygiene in the distinction of clean and unclean animals finds remarkable confirmation in experience. Many fish that lack scales, for example, are poisonous.
But behind these transitory items of legislation God’s law remains as an imperative. Our Lord confirms this. He said to the inquiring lawyer when he gave in answer the Jewish summary of the Ten Commandments, “This do and thou shalt live” (Luke x:28). The fact that we cannot keep God’s law does not relieve us from obligations but sets us on the inquiry as to the possibility of pardon. The popular phrase “We are not under law but under grace” while it embodies a true scriptural assertion often perverts it to a wholly wrong meaning. We have obligations to God’s law and hence we are enemies. Did the law disappear, sin would disappear with it. But inasmuch as we have broken our obligations we must come under a new principle if we are to obtain life. That principle is “the grace of God which bringeth salvation.” The law is not abrogated as the Anabaptists taught. The law is met. “Him Who knew no sin He hath made to be sin for us.”
7: OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.
This article from the ACR Vault is part of our Articulate series, listening to T.C. Hammond unpack the 39 Articles one by one.