The Gospel In Galatians
The Gospel In Galatians
Judgment Hour Publishing Company
309 Chevallum Road
Palmwoods, Qld 4555
Publication date 16th November 1977
This letter was written at the date indicated, but for certain reasons it was thought best to delay sending it out. Chief among these reasons was the fear of seeming to act precipitately in the matter, and the desire to counsel with others of larger experience. The delay of nearly two years has given ample time to carefully review the subject again and again, and to avoid any appearance of heated controversy. It is thought best, even at this late day, to send the matter out in the form of a letter, as originally written. It will be understood, of course, that this does not purport to be an explanation of the book of Galatians; that would require a book many times the size of this. I have here endeavored merely to correct some erroneous views, so that those who read may be prepared to study the epistle to the Galatians with more profit than heretofore.
It should also be stated that this little book is not published for general circulation. It is designed only for those in whose hands Elder Butler's pamphlet on Galatians was placed, and perhaps a few others whose minds have been specially exercised on the subject. No one can be more anxious than the writer, to avoid everything of a controversial nature in matters intended for the general public.
That this letter may tend to allay controversy, to help to bring the household of God into the unity of the faith as it is in Christ Jesus, and to hasten the time when the servants of God shall see eye to eye, is the only desire of the writer.
The Gospel In Galatians
OAKLAND, Cal., February 10, 1887.
ELDER GEO. I. BUTLER, Battle Creek, Mich.—Dear Brother: The matter of the law in Galatians which received some attention at the late General Conference, has been upon my mind a good deal, and doubtless many have thought of it since then more than before. I very much regretted that every moment of time was so occupied that we could have no conversation upon the subject. It is true the matter was discussed to a very limited extent in the meetings of the Theological Committee, but of course the little that could be said under the circumstances was not sufficient to give any satisfaction to any party concerned. I know that you are at all times exceedingly busy, and I myself have no time to squander; but this matter is of very great importance, and has received so much attention that it cannot by any possibility be ignored now. You remember that I stated that there were some points in your pamphlet which seemed to me to indicate that you had misunderstood my position. I therefore wish to note a few of them. Before taking up any of the details, I wish to say first, that, as I assured you when in Battle Creek, I have not the slightest personal feeling in this matter. What I have written in the Signs has been with the sole design of doing good, by conveying instruction on an important Bible subject. I have not written in a controversial manner, but have particularly avoided anything of that nature. It has been my aim on this subject, as well as on others, to write in such a way as not to arouse combativeness in any, but to present simple Bible truth, so that the objections would be taken out of the way before the person could make them. Second, it is not possible that in noting a few of the points in your pamphlet I could properly present my own position. To do that I should want to take up the book of Galatians without any reference to what anybody else had said upon it. In my articles in the Signs I have mentioned only a few points that might seem to be objections to the law, and which are often quoted as showing its abolition, to show that they are really the strongest arguments for the perpetuity of the law.
I wish to say also that I think great injustice has been done in the allusions that have been made to the Instructor lessons. If it were simply injustice to me, it would be a matter of small consequence. But discredit was thrown upon the lessons, which would materially weaken the influence of the important subject upon which they treated, and this too when not a text used in the lessons was given a different application from that which has been held by those at least of our people who have written upon the same subject. Every position taken in those lessons is perfectly in harmony with works published by our people, and may be read there from. This was proved before the committee. And I have no knowledge that any different view on any text used in those lessons was ever printed by our people before the appearance of your pamphlet. This being the case, I honestly think that justice demands that on this subject at least the impressions conveyed in your pamphlet should be as publicly corrected.
As to the propriety of publishing the matter in the Signs when I did, I have nothing to say. Whatever censure is due on that score, I willingly take, as I already have. But I wish to say that nothing that has been said or written has in the least degree shaken my confidence in the truthfulness of what I published in the Signs. Those positions I hold to and rejoice in to-day more strongly than ever. I wish also most earnestly to protest against the accusation that I have made the Signs, much less the Instructor, a medium for taking an unfair advantage of any of our people. Quotations that will appear further on, will show that I am not the one who has departed from the standard works of our people.
I will now proceed to notice a few points in the pamphlet, taking them up in the order in which they come. On page 8 you say:—
"The Lord chose Abraham and his descendants to be His peculiar people. They were such till the cross. He gave them the rite of circumcision—a circle cut in the flesh—as a sign of their separation from the rest of the human family."
This seeming misapprehension of the nature of circumcision appears throughout your pamphlet. It seems strange that it should be so, when the apostle Paul speaks so plainly concerning it. In Romans 4:11 I read of Abraham: "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also."
The fitness of this rite as a sign of righteousness will readily appear to anybody who understands the physical evils against which circumcision is a guard. At the present time it is often performed by physicians as a preventive of physical impurity. It was practiced for this purpose by many nations of antiquity. Herodotus () says of the Egyptians: "They practice circumcision for the sake of cleanliness, considering it better to be cleanly than comely." Professor Von Orelli, of Basel, says in the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia: "The custom is also found among nations which have no traceable connection with any form of ancientcivilization; as for instance, among the Congo negroes and Caffrarians in Africa, the Salivas Indians in South America, the inhabitants of Otaheite and the Fiji Islands, etc." He adds: "The Arabs of to-day call - - the operation tutur tahir, purification."
I think that among the Jews as a class the rite exists to-day only as a preventive of physical impurity. I was present when it was performed by an eminent rabbi of San Francisco, and he said that that was all it was for. In this, as in everything else, the Jews have lost all knowledge of the spiritual meaning of their ceremonies. The veil still remains over their hearts. But that cutting off of the cause of physical impurity signified the putting off of the impurity of the heart, which was accomplished by faith in Christ. See Deuteronomy , and many other texts, for proof that circumcision had from the beginning this deeper meaning.
The question will naturally arise, If circumcision was practiced by other people, why did everybody despise the Jews because of it? I answer that the hatred was due, not to the mere fact of circumcision, but to that which it signified among the pious Jews. "The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth." Psalm 37:12. "All they that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." And this is true of all time. As proof that the uncircumcised heathen hated the Jews solely on account of their righteousness, and not on account of their circumcision, we have only to note how ready they were to mingle with the Jews, whenever they could seduce them into idolatry. If the Jews would relax their strictness of living, would depart from God, and serve other gods, the heathen had no objections to mingling with them, and intermarrying with them.
And this leads to the main point, namely, that the mere act of circumcision never made the Jews God's peculiar people. They were His peculiar people only when they had that of which circumcision was the sign, namely, righteousness. When they did not have that, they were just the same as though they had never been circumcised (Romans -29; Philippians 3:3), and were cut off without mercy as readily as were the heathen. Circumcision was only a sign of the possession of righteousness; and when righteousness was wanting the circumcision amounted to nothing. On page 10, I read of the Jews:
"Then came the cross, when all their special privileges, with circumcision as their representative and sign, were swept away. They had forfeited them by disobedience and rebellion."
On page 11 I also read of the Jew:—
"He greatly disliked to be reckoned a common sinner with the hated Gentile. He strenuously contended also for circumcision and its attendant privileges."
But on page 37 I read:—
"The law of rites had an immense amount of these, so that they constituted a 'yoke of bondage' grievous to be borne, which Paul claimed had passed away."
I cannot harmonize this last quotation with the first two. How can a "yoke of bondage" be considered as "special privileges"? And why should the Jew strenuously contend for "circumcision and its attendant privileges," if he felt it to be a "yoke of bondage grievous to be borne"? This is a minor matter, but consistency should appear in the details of truth. I will not at present take time to give my view of the yoke of bondage, but will consider it later. On page 12, concerning the books of Romans and Galatians, I read:—
"We cannot agree with some who claim that the design, scheme, or argument in the two epistles are substantially the same. We freely admit that there are expressions alike in both; but we believe that the main line of argument and the ultimate object in view are widely different, and that many of the similar expressions used are to be understood in a different sense, because the argument of the apostle demands it.
"In the other epistles of Paul these facts are adverted to; but in none of them is the argument anywhere near so fully developed. It does not look reasonable on
the face of it, that the apostle would have principally the same object in view in two different epistles. These were written by direct inspiration of God, to be the special guidance of the Christian church. He was bringing out the great principles which should serve as the governing influence of the church for all future ages. We therefore believe it to be an unreasonable view that both have the same design."
You say that it does not look reasonable that the apostle would have principally the same object in view in two different epistles. This is not an argument, but an opinion, and an opinion which I do not share. It does not seem any less reasonable to me that Paul should have principally the same object in view in two different epistles, than that the Spirit of God should inspire four men to write four different books with principally the same object in view, as is the case in the four Gospels. It seems fully as reasonable as that the prophets Daniel and John should have written two books with principally the same object in view, namely, to enlighten the church in regard to things to take place in the last days; or that the books of First and Second Chronicles should cover the ground covered in the books of Samuel and Kings; or that Paul's epistle to Titus should contain so much that is in the epistles to Timothy; or that the book of Jude should be an almost exact reproduction, in brief, of the Second Epistle of Peter. Instead of Paul not having the same general object in view in two epistles, I find the same points brought out in Ephesians and Colossians, though not to the extent that they are in Romans and Galatians. To me it seems very reasonable that the same things should be presented from different points of view, especially when addressed to different people, and under different circumstances. I find that things that are dwelt upon at considerable length in one of the "Testimonies for the Church," are repeated and emphasized in others; and it seems to me very fitting and necessary that this should be done, although these are addressed to the same churches, and not to different ones. This is in accordance with the Bible rule of line upon line, precept upon precept.
You say that similar terms, and even identical terms, need not necessarily have the same meaning. This may be true provided they are used with reference to different subjects. But if the same subject is under consideration in two different places, and the same or similar terms are used in each place, then we are bound to admit that they have the same meaning. If we do not do this, we cannot interpret the Bible at all. It is on this basis alone that we can understand the prophecies. If you will turn to the comments on the thirteenth chapter of Daniel, in "Thoughts on the Book of Daniel and the Revelation," you will find that similarity of statement is all that is depended on to prove that the leopard beast is identical with the little horn of Daniel 7. No one has ever thought of questioning the argument in that place, and no one has any right to.
Now let us look for a moment at the subject of the two books,—Romans and Galatians. The leading thought in the book of Romans is justification by faith. The apostle shows the depraved condition of the heathen world; then he shows that the Jews are no better, but that human nature is the same in all. All have sinned, and all are guilty before God, and the only way that any can escape final condemnation is by faith in the blood of Christ. All who believe on Him are justified freely by the grace of God, and His righteousness is imputed to them although they have violated the law. This truth, which is brought out so clearly in the third chapter of Romans, is repeated and emphasized in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters. And in the eighth chapter the apostle concludes that there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. He has before shown that all sinners are under, or condemned by, the law, but when we come to God through faith in Christ, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, we are no longer under the law, but are under grace. This condition is represented in various places as "dead to the law by the body of Christ," "delivered from the law," etc. Everywhere faith in Christ and justification by faith are made prominent. So we may say that justification by faith is the key-note of the book of Romans. Now how about the book of Galatians? There is no question in the mind of any but that the Galatians were being induced to submit to circumcision. Were they submitting to the demands of the Jews that they should be circumcised, because they thought it a great privilege to be circumcised?
Not by any means, but because certain Jews were teaching them that if they were not circumcised they could not be saved. See Acts 15:1. They were therefore looking to circumcision as a means of justification. But since there is none other name under heaven except that of Christ whereby we can be saved, it follows that to depend on anything except Christ for justification is a rejection of Christ. It was this which called out Paul's letter to them. Now since the Galatians were being led to trust in circumcision for justification from sin, what else could be the burden of a letter designed to correct this error, but justification by faith in Christ?
That this is the burden of the epistle is seen from Galatians 2:16-21; 3:6-8, 10-14, 22, 24, 26, 27; 4:4-7; 5:5, 6; 6:14, 15, and other passages. In the book of Romans the apostle develops his argument on justification by faith in a general way, building up a general treatise; but when he wrote to the Galatians he had a special object in view, and he adapted his epistle to the necessities of the case. It is the most natural thing in the world that he should write on justification by faith to the Galatians, when they were in danger of losing their faith, even if his treatise on that subject to the Romans had been already written. The truth is, however, that the book of Galatians was written first. In the book of Romans he expanded the book of Galatians into a general treatise.
On page 13 of your pamphlet I find a paragraph which must necessarily be misleading to those who have not read my articles. You say: —
"What was the change in them of which he complains so strongly? Was it that they had kept the moral law so well— had observed the Sabbath, refrained from idolatry, blasphemy, murder, lying, stealing, etc.—that they felt they were justified by their good works, and therefore needed no faith in a crucified Savior? or was it that they had accepted circumcision, with all it implied and symbolized, the laws and services which served as a wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles, and the ordinances of the typical remedial system? We unhesitatingly affirm it was the latter. In indorsing the former remedial system of types and shadows, they virtually denied that Christ, the substance to which all these types pointed, had come. Hence their error was a fundamental one in doctrine, though they might not realize it. This was why Paul spoke so forcibly, and pointed out their error with such strength of language. Their error involved practices which were subversive of the principles of the gospel. They were not merely errors of opinion."
Anyone who had not read my articles would naturally conclude on reading the above, that I had claimed that the Galatians were most strict in their observance of the Ten Commandments, and that by this means they expected to be justified from past transgression. That is the very opposite of what I taught. I made it as clear as I knew how, that the Galatians were accepting "circumcision with all it implied and symbolized," and were accepting the Jewish error that circumcision was the only means of justification. We cannot suppose that the Jews who were thus seeking to turn the Galatians away from the faith, taught them to ignore the Ten Commandments, but we do know that they did not teach them to rely solely upon their observance of the moral law as a means of justification. The true gospel is to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. The perverted gospel which the Galatians were being taught, was to keep the commandments of God, and circumcision. But since circumcision is nothing, and there is in the universe no means of justification outside of Christ, it follows that they were practically relying upon their good works for salvation. But Christ says, "Without Me ye can do nothing;" that is, the man who rejects Christ, by accepting some other mode of justification, cannot possibly keep the commandments, "for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
So we find that the Galatians, although they had once accepted Christ and known God, were now insensibly turning away from God, and of course going back to the heathen practices which came so naturally to them. This is shown by several expressions: First, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel, which is not another." Galatians 1:6,7. This shows that they were being removed from God, for God is the one who calls people unto the fellowship of His Son. 1 Corinthians 1:9. Again we read, "After that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements?" Galatians 4:9. This shows that they were turning from God. Once more we read, "Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?" Galatians 5:7. These passages clearly show that that which made the case so urgent was the fact that the Galatians were leaving the truth of God, and going into idolatry. This was not because the Jews were teaching them to break the commandments, but because they were putting their trust in something besides Christ, and the man who does that cannot keep from sin, no matter how hard he tries. See Romans 8:7-10; Galatians 5:17. Those who attempt to build their house on anything except the rock Christ Jesus, are building for destruction. And so I believe as firmly as you can that their error was fundamental and a grave one.
I must go back to the tenth page, and notice an expression which I find concerning the relative position of the Jews and Gentiles after the passing away of the ceremonial law:—
"There was no propriety, therefore, in still keeping up the wall of separation between them and others. They all stood now upon the same level in the sight of God. All must approach Him through the Messiah who had come into the world; through Him alone man could be saved."
Do you mean to intimate by this that there was ever a time when any people could approach God except through Christ? If not, the language means nothing. Your words seem to imply that before the first advent men approached God by means of the ceremonial law, and that after that they approached Him through the Messiah; but we shall have to go outside the Bible to find any support for the idea that anybody could ever approach God except through Christ. Amos 5:22; Micah 6:6-8, and many other texts show conclusively that the ceremonial law alone could never enable people to come to God. These points will come in again later.
I pass on to your consideration of the second chapter. I do not think there is anyone whose opinion is worth considering, who will question for a moment your statement that the visit referred to in the first verse in this chapter is the same as the one of which we have an account in Acts 15. I certainly agree with you there. If you will notice, I made a distinct point on this in my articles; in fact, I insisted upon it as a necessary foundation of my argument. I repeated several times, what I have already stated in this letter, that the epistle to the Galatians was called out by the very same thing which the certain men who came down to Antioch were teaching, namely, "Except ye be circumcised ye cannot be saved." I agree with you that "the very same question precisely which came before the council is the main subject of the apostle's letter to this church." But I do not agree with you in all that you say in the words immediately following, which I find on page 25 of your pamphlet:—
"Will any Seventh-day Adventist claim that the moral law was the subject considered by that council? Was it the moral law which Peter characterizes as 'a yoke . . . which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear'? Were the moral and ceremonial laws all mixed up and confounded in the council? Did the decision of that body set aside the laws against stealing, lying, Sabbath-breaking, and murder? We all know better. The council took no cognizance whatever of the Ten Commandments."
Do you really believe that the council took no cognizance of the Ten Commandments? If so, can you tell me of what law fornication is the transgression? Fornication is one of the four things forbidden by the council. Now I have a very distinct recollection of some plain talk which you gave on this subject at the General Conference, and of some still plainer testimony from Sister White, all of which I thought was very pertinent. You proved from Scripture that the Seventh Commandment may be broken by even a look, or a desire of the heart. And yet you claim that the council which forbade fornication took no cognizance whatever of the Ten Commandments. How you can make such a statement after reading the fifteenth chapter of Acts, is beyond my comprehension.
Again, another thing which was forbidden by the council was "pollutions of idols." That certainly must have some connection with the first and second commandments, to say nothing of other commandments that were broken in idolatrous feasts. I should be extremely sorry to have people get the idea that we do not regard pollutions of idols, or fornication, as violations of the moral law. You claim that it is the ceremonial law alone that was under consideration in that council. Will you please cite me to that portion of the ceremonial law which forbids fornication and idolatry?
This is an important matter, and right here your whole argument falls to the ground. You very properly connect the book of Galatians with the fifteenth chapter of Acts. You justly claim that in Galatians Paul pursues the same line of argument which was pursued in the council. And you depend on the assumption that the council took no cognizance of the moral law, in order to prove that the moral law does not come into the account in Galatians. But a simple reading of the report of the council shows that the moral law did come in there; and therefore, according to your own argument, the moral law must be considered' in the book of Galatians.
Take for a moment the supposition that the ceremonial law alone was considered by the council; then it necessarily follows, as is plainly stated in the "Two Laws," page 31, that the council decided that four points of the ceremonial law were declared to be binding on Christians. Now let me ask: 1. Is the decision of that council as binding on us as it was on the primitive Christians? If so then the ceremonial law was not taken away at the cross, and we are still subject to it. 2. If the ceremonial law was a yoke of bondage, and that council decreed that a part of it was to be observed by Christians, did they not thereby deliberately place Christians under a yoke of bondage, in spite of Peter's emphatic protest against putting a yoke upon them? 3. If those "four necessary things" were part of the ceremonial law, and were binding twenty-one years after the crucifixion, when, if ever, did they cease to be in force? We have no record those four necessary things ever ceased to be necessary' things; and therefore, according to the theory that the ceremonial law was a yoke of bondage, it is impossible for Christians ever to be perfectly free. This one thing is certain, if the ceremonial law was nailed to the cross, then the apostles, acting in harmony with the leadings of the Spirit of God, would not declare a part of it to be "necessary things.” And whoever claims that the "four necessary things" enjoined by the council at Jerusalem were a part of the ceremonial law, thereby denies that the ceremonial law ceased at the cross. I cannot think that you would have taken the position which you have, if you had taken time to carefully consider this matter.
Now let me state, in brief, what I regard as the truth concerning the council at Jerusalem. Certain ones came down to Antioch and taught' the brethren that if they were not circumcised they could not be saved. These persons, or others of the same class, had greatly troubled all the churches that Paul had raised up, the Galatians among the rest. These men who taught thus were not Christians indeed, but were "false brethren;" see Galatians 2:4. As a consequence of this teaching, many were being turned away from the gospel. In trusting to circumcision for justification, they were leaning on a broken reed which could profit them nothing. Instead of gaining righteousness by it, they were insensibly being led into wicked practices, for without faith in Christ no man can live a righteous life. Suppose now that the council had confirmed the teachings of these false brethren, and had decreed that circumcision was necessary to justification; what would have been the result? Just this; they would have turned the disciples away from Christ; for the only object in coming to Christ is to receive justification or pardon, and if people can get it without coming to Christ, of course they have no need of Him. But whatever the apostles might have decreed, it would still have remained a fact that circumcision is nothing, and that the disciples could no more be justified by it than they could by snapping their fingers. Therefore, if they had been led to put their trust in circumcision, they would have rested satisfied in their sins; and to lead them to do that would indeed have been to put a yoke upon them. Sin is a bondage, and to teach men to put their trust in a false hope, which will cause them to rest satisfied in their sins, thinking that they are free from them, is simply to fasten them in bondage.
Peter said, "Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Now the fathers had the ceremonial law, and did bear it; they practiced it, and throve under it, as David said: “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing."-Psalm 92:13,14. Anyone who reads the Psalms will see that David did not regard the ceremonial law as a burdensome yoke, nor think it grievous bondage to carry out its ordinances. It was a delight to him to offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving, because by it he showed faith in Christ. Faith in Christ was the soul and life of his service. Without that his worship would have been a meaningless form. But if he had be so ill-informed as to suppose that the simple mechanical performance of the ceremonial law would cleanse him from sin, then indeed he would have been in a grievous. There are two yokes, -- the yoke of sin (Satan’s yoke), and the yoke of Christ. The yoke of sin is hard to bear, -- Satan is a hard master; but the yoke of Christ is easy, and His burden is light. He sets us free from sin, that we may serve Him by bearing His mild yoke. Matthew 11:29, 30.
Now what was the reason that only four things were enjoined upon these troubled converts. It was because these four things covered the danger. Compliance with Jewish ceremonies, as a means of justification, separated them from Christ, and naturally led them to look with favor upon heathen ceremonies. They were told that no Jewish ceremonies whatever were required of them, and then were cautioned against the four things in which there was the greatest danger for them. If the converts from among the Gentiles should begin to backslide, fornication and the eating of blood would be the first things they would take up, because those were so common among the Gentiles that they were not considered sinful at all.
Thus we see that while in the council at Jerusalem the ceremonial law was under consideration, and the question was whether or not Christians should observe it, the only importance that attached to it, and the only reason why those who taught circumcision were reproved, was because such teaching necessarily led to the violation of the moral law; and this is the sum of the teaching in the book of Galatians. Paul emphatically warns the Galatians against being circumcised; not because circumcision was in itself so heinous a thing, for he himself had circumcised Timothy (and that, too, after the council at Jerusalem) but because they were trusting in circumcision for justification, thus cutting loose from Christ, and relapsing into idolatry.
I pass to page 33, to your closing remarks on the second chapter, where you say:—
"We have had here nearly two entire chapters in this letter, about one-third of the whole epistle, and hitherto we have not had a single reference to the moral law; but through it all constant reference is made to the other law, that of Moses."
I think you could not have had in mind the nineteenth verse of the second chapter when you wrote the above. That verse reads, "For through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." The ceremonial law never had power to slay anyone. But even allowing that it did once have that power, it had itself died, having been nailed to the cross at least three years before Paul was converted. Now I ask, How could Paul be slain by a law that for three years had had no existence? This verse shows upon the face of it that the moral law is referred to. It is the same law to which Paul refers when he says, "I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death." Romans 7:9, 10. The limits of a brief review do not allow me to give an exposition of these references to the law in the second chapter of Galatians, as I hope to do sometime, but it needs very little space to show that the moral law, and no other law, is referred to in Galatians 2:19.
I see you apply Galatians 3:10 to the ceremonial law. In so doing you certainly are taking a new position. I think I have read every book published by Seventh-day Adventists, and I never read that position in any of them. On the contrary, everyone who has written upon this subject has applied this to the moral law, and I do not see how there is any chance to apply it anywhere else. I do not question the statement that "the book of the law" included both the moral law and the ceremonial law. I am glad that you admit as much, for many who have talked or written on this subject have seemed to claim that "the book of the law" refers exclusively to the ceremonial law. You will notice, however, that the book of Deuteronomy is devoted almost entirely to moral precepts, and has only one or two references to the ceremonial law, and those references are to the three annual feasts, the antitype of one of which is still in the future. That the moral law occupies the chief place in the book of Deuteronomy must be patent to everyone who carefully reads that book. See chapter 4:5-13; 5; 6; (ch. is universally used by Seventh-day Adventists concerning the moral law); 11:8, 18-28; 13; and many others than these which I have selected at random. Deuteronomy 29:29 certainly applies to the moral law, and the expression there used (in the last clause) implies that the moral law is the prominent law under consideration in the book. And in Deuteronomy 27, where the curses are found, the twenty-sixth verse of which is quoted in Galatians 3:10, only the moral law is referred to.
But while it is doubtless true that the ceremonial law was included in the "book of the law," I have yet to find Scripture proof for the statement that there was any curse pronounced for non-performance of the ceremonial law as an independent law. I will try to make clear what I mean. There can be no moral obligation to perform anything not required by the moral law. That is simply another way of saying that sin is the transgression of the law. Now, if at any time sin can be imputed for the performance or non-performance of any act not forbidden or enjoined in the moral law, then it necessarily follows that the moral law is not a perfect rule of action. But the moral law is a perfect law. It embodies all righteousness, even the righteousness of God, and nothing more can be required of any man than perfect obedience to it. That law is so broad that it covers every act and every thought, so that it is utterly impossible for a person to conceive of a sin which is not forbidden by the moral law. I do not see how this position can be questioned by one who believes in the divine origin and the perpetuity of the law; yet your position does virtually deny that the moral law is a perfect rule of conduct; for you say that the curse attaches both to the ceremonial law and to the moral law.
That the curse of the law is death, I do not suppose you will deny, and therefore will not stop here to offer extended proof, yet a few words may not be out of place. I simply note the following points: 1. The curse of the law is what Christ bore for us. See Galatians 3:13. 2. This curse consisted in being hanged on a tree. See last part of same verse. 3. This being hanged on a tree was the crucifixion of Christ, for at no other time was He ever hanged on a tree; and Peter said to the wicked Jews: "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye, slew and hanged on a tree." Acts Therefore death is the curse which Christ bore for us. There is no other law that has any curse attached to it. Certain it is that no curse is or can be pronounced except for sin; therefore if the curse be pronounced for failure to comply with the rites of the ceremonial law, then such failure must be in itself sin, and therefore the ceremonial law is also a standard of righteousness. I do not see how from your position you can avoid the conclusion that the moral law is not, or at least was not, in the Jewish age, of itself a perfect standard of righteousness. The great fault which I find with the position you hold is that it depreciates the moral law, and correspondingly depreciates the gospel.
Let me repeat the argument: If the curse attaches to the ceremonial law, then violation of the ceremonial law is sin; and if violation of the ceremonial law is sin, then there is sin not forbidden by the Ten Commandments; and then the Ten Commandments are not a perfect rule of action; moreover, since the ceremonial law is done away, it follows that the standard of righteousness is not so perfect now as it was in the days of Moses. If this is not a legitimate conclusion from your premises, I must confess my ignorance of logic. Another point: No sin can remove itself, neither can it be atoned for by any subsequent good deed. So then there must be some scheme of atonement for sin. Now if sin were imputed for neglect of the ceremonial law, what remedy was provided for that sin? The ceremonial law was simply the ordinances of the gospel. If condemned sinners were still further condemned by the very remedy provided for their salvation, then indeed it must have been a yoke. A man is in a truly pitiable condition when the remedy given him for a sore disease only aggravates that disease.
But you will say, and correctly too, that those who refused to comply with the requirements of the ceremonial law were put to death. Why was this, if the curse did not attach to the ceremonial law? I will answer. The violator of the moral law justly merited death, but God had provided pardon for all who would accept it.
Now if a man repented of his sins, and had faith in Christ, he would manifest it, and would receive the pardon; and then of course the penalty would not be inflicted upon him. But if he had no faith in Christ, he would not comply with the conditions of pardon, and then of course the penalty for sin would be inflicted. The penalty was not for failure to carry out the rites of the ceremonial law, but for the sin which might have been remitted had he manifested faith. I think anybody can see the truthfulness of this position. Let us illustrate it. Here is a man who has committed a murder, and is under sentence of death. He is told that the Governor will pardon him if he will acknowledge his guilt, repent of his sin, and make an application for pardon; but this he refuses to do, and the law is allowed to take its course, and he is hanged. Now why is he hanged? Is it because he refuses to make the application for pardon? Not by any means. He is hanged for the murder. No particle whatever of the penalty is inflicted because he refused to sue for pardon, and yet if he had sued for pardon every particle of the penalty would have been remitted. So it is with the sinner in his relation to the law of God. If he despises the offer of pardon, and shows his disregard by a refusal to take the steps necessary to receive the pardon, then the curse of the law, death, is allowed to fall upon him. But refusing to receive pardon is not a sin. God invites men to receive pardon, but He has no law to compel them to be pardoned. The murderer who has been offered pardon and has rejected it, is no more guilty than another man who has committed the same crime but who has not been offered a pardon. I do not know as this can be made any clearer; I cannot see that it needs to be. The sum of it all is simply this: Sin is the transgression of the moral law, and the violation of no other law; for the moral law covers all duty. There is a curse attached to the violation of the law, and that curse is death; "for the wages of sin is death." But there is provision for the pardon of those who exercise faith in Christ. And this faith is indicated by a performance of certain rites. Before Christ, it was by the offering of sacrifices; since Christ it is by baptism and the Lord's Supper. Those who have real faith will indicate it in the prescribed manner, and will escape the penalty. Those who have not faith will receive the penalty. This is exactly what Christ meant when He Himself said to Nicodemus: "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:17, 18.
I marvel how you can read Galatians , 12, and imagine that the word law in those verses has the slightest reference to the ceremonial law. I quote them: "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident; for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith; but, The man that doeth them shall live in them." It does not seem as though any comment could make more evident the truth that the moral law alone is here referred to. You cannot escape this conclusion by saying that the statement that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God, applies with equal force to any law, and that therefore this may apply to the ceremonial law as well as to the moral. The question is not what law may be referred to, but what law is referred to? The law here referred to is a law of which it is said, "The man that doeth them shall live in them." Now this is emphatically true of the moral law. It is equivalent to Romans 2:13: "The doers of the law shall be justified." The sad fact that there are no doers of the law does not destroy the truth that the doers of the law shall be justified. Perfect compliance with the moral law alone is all that God can possibly require of any creature. Such service would necessarily give eternal life. But a man might perform every item of the ceremonial law with the most rigid scrupulousness and yet be condemned. The Pharisees were strict observers of the ceremonial law, yet they were cursed; therefore this text cannot have the slightest reference to the ceremonial law.
Again, the text says, "And the law is not of faith." But the ceremonial law was of nothing else but faith; it was a matter of faith from beginning to end. It was faith that constituted all the difference between the offering of Abel and that of Cain. See Hebrews 11:4. It was faith alone that gave to that system all the force it ever had. And this again is positive evidence that the ceremonial law is not referred to. It does not seem possible that argument is needed to show that Galatians 3:11-13 has reference to the moral law, and to the moral law exclusively. Until the publication of your pamphlet, a contrary view was never put forth by Seventh-day Adventists. I really cannot believe that you would deliberately deny that the moral law is there under consideration. The limits of this review will not allow me to take up every occurrence of the word "law" in the book of Galatians, and show its application, but I wish to ask one question: Is it reasonable to suppose that the apostle would use the words, "the law," in one place, and then a few verses later, without any change in his subject, or anything to indicate a change, use the same words again, and in the two places have reference to two entirely distinct laws? You yourself say that it is not. If it were true that the apostle wrote in so indefinite a manner as that, using the term "the law" in one verse with reference to the moral law, and in the next verse with reference to the ceremonial law, then nobody could understand his writings unless he had the same degree of inspiration that the apostle had.
I turn again to your book, page 39, and read the following:—
"If these Galatians were going to re-establish the whole Jewish system, which would be the logical result of their action in adopting circumcision, they must thereby bring themselves under a curse."
In the same paragraph you say that the statement, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them," applies to the ceremonial law, and that the Galatians were bringing themselves under this curse because they were going to re-establish the whole Jewish system! I cannot see logic in that. If it were true, it would be a case of "You'll be damned if you do, and you'll be damned if you don't."
I pass to your argument on Galatians 3:17-19. On this you say:—
"This law was given four hundred and