LESSON 71.

THE MOSAIC LEGISLATION WAS NOT IDEAL.

562.     Many stumble at the Mosaic legislation because of its imperfections. Others will not admit but that everything the law of Moses allowed is allowed to Christians today. Often when we make clear the will of God touching moral conduct at some point, we are apt to question: "But why was this not embodied in the law of Moses? If it be true of these enactments, as is declared, that God 'spake unto Moses', then how can they express less than the full will of God?"

563.      Concerning the subjects we have recently discussed, someone may say, "The Mosaic law makes no provision for female kinship; it would surely have done so, had that kinship been God's will. It is worth our while, therefore, to consider this matter, and the province of legislative enactments for the control of human conduct. The Mosaic statutes were not perfect; otherwise there would have been no room for their amendment,for Jesus Christ to say, as He did, in the Sermon on the Mount, "Ye know that it was said to [not "by," see R. V.] them of old. . . But I [Jesus Christ] say unto you," etc., Matthew 5:21-27, etc.,each time making the rule stricter.

564.     St. Paul, before us, trod this perplexing path of learning the province of "the law. In youth, he set about the task of establishing his own righteousness (Romans 10:13, Philippians 3:4-6) by means of the law; and discovered that he did not attain to the law of righteousness (Romans 9:31). Afterwards, he learned that "The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did," Hebrews 7:19. Late in life, Paul wrote to Timothy: "The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient;" and he enumerates the various classes of offenders for whom the law was made, 1 Timothy 1:9-10).

565.     The lesson is this: Law is not an elevating force; it is a mere check. Paul did not find that its observance elevated him; it only temporarily acted in a limited way as a preventive of further degradation. Like a man who has fallen over the edge of a precipice; the bush at which he has caught may keep him from going to the bottom to be dashed to pieces, until help comes, and he is rescued. That bush cannot put him on his feet again at the top.

566.      Nothing is more prominent in Paul's teachings than his warnings against trusting in "the law" for our elevation. There is need today for this warning, for still man is led on by the delusion which so long controlled Paul's life. And people of our day are continually trusting in some new law to improve social and political morals. When Paul talks of "the law," he in general means legislative enactments by which the Jewish commonwealth was governed. Some of these enactments are to be found in the Old Testament; some belonged to the Temple ritual; some were mere rabbinical deductions, based on rabbinical interpretations of the Scriptures.

567.     "The law" to him was much what our legislative enactments are to us. Three classes of people can be found today in mistaken attitude towards human legislation. (1) Those who imagine that almost any degree of moral elevation may be accomplished in a people by means of good laws, efficiently enforced. We pronounce this an entire mistake, on the authority of the Bible, particularly Paul's teachings. (2) Those who believe that since "we cannot make men moral by Act of Parliament," therefore the state of our moral laws is a matter of small moment. These are as mistaken as the former class. (3) Those who believe that all human legislation should be abolished; these are anarchists; their doctrine is horrible.

568.     It is a matter of moment, then, for us to understand clearly what is the real province of human legislation as it relates to moral conduct. This is becoming a burning question for women, for they are not to be long outside the legislative body. Many Christian women are seriously questioning already whether they should or should not have a part in the political questions of the day. Whether, in fact, a Christian woman, at least, ought not to refrain from political tasks, as something unsuitable, and not in keeping with the higher ideals of the Christian life. Since human legislative measures so often fall short of the Christian standard, just as the Mosaic law does, have women any right to advocate anything but the very highest ideals? Do they not lower themselves by having anything to do with human legislation? Again they are perplexed by the question:  Why did not Moses legislate more justly for women?

569.     Let us show the province of legislation by the aid of a homely illustration: A heavily loaded cart is being dragged, laboriously, by a man, up a hill. That cart will represent human progress. The man pulling, will represent moral and religious instruction, including such means of grace as God has put forth for our help,such as conversion, etc. Only one step is gained at a time, and there are many pauses,in other words, the progress of the human race has interruptions. Now human legislation, as aid to human progress, may be compared to a stone, which is being used by a boy (the body of legislators), as a brake, so that when the pull ceases the cart will not run backward down hill again. At each pause in front, the boy pushes his stone close up against the wheel behind, and so he greatly helps the man in front.

570.     It requires some skill on the part of the boy, in order to give the utmost help to the man in front. So the genius of the statesman consists, largely, in his gift of divining public moral opinion,in other words, in knowing the precise moment when, and the precise point at which, to apply legislation. The stone will do no good if placed too far behind the cart; in fact, it will do some mischief, for when the cart pauses, its action will be reversed for the want of a stay, and the cart will run backwards, and perhaps gain such momentum as to over-ride the stone entirely, and plunge to destruction. This is the sort of mischief which results from lax laws. Good laws may not make men good; but bad laws certainly demoralize men. A legislative enactment is "good," not necessarily because it is idealit may be far from idealbut when it precisely meets the need of a brake, and prevents a nation from backsliding. And that law keeps "good" only as it keeps pace with the progress of the nation.

571.     We scarcely need make further applications. Those who imagine that moral elevation can be accomplished by means of ideal legislation, may be likened to a boy thinking that his stone brake alone is sufficient to push the cart to the top of the hill. Those who advocate "no law" are generally hoping to see the cart plunge to the bottom. And those who imagine that our legislative measures should always correspond to the ideal set forth in the N. T. might put the brake high up the hill, far ahead of the cart. Moses' legislation was precisely suited to a people just emerging from slavery. It is not altogether suited to our needs. Yet, that slave people must have had some excellent traits, since some of Moses' statutes are in advance of our own progress. At any rate, we can now see that the pull at the front of the cart does not meet all our needs; the brake at the back is also necessary; and those Christianswhether men or womendo well who take an active interest in the making of laws that are "good" because precisely fitted to the progress of the people.

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