E.J. Waggoner in Debate with G.I.Butler



"The Gospel in the Book of Galatians"
by Ellet J. Waggoner (1888).




"The Law in the Book of Galatians"
by George I. Butler (1886), 



by E.J.Waggoner

Explanatory Note
Are Romans and Galatians Addressing the Same Situations
Faith, Commandments, or Circumcision
The Passing of the Ceremonial Law
The Two Laws
The Added Law
Till the Seed Shall Come
Ordained by Angels
Moses the Mediatory?
More--Gospel in Galatians


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. E. J. W



OAKLAND, Cal., February 10, 1887.
TO 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 therefrom. 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 (2:37) 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 ancient civilization; 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 today call the operation tutur tahir, purification.”

I think that among the Jews as a class the rite exists today 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 10:16, 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 2:25- 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 “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 Saviour? 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, then 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:

We have no record that 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 still 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 been 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 condition.

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 I 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. 6:25 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 nonperformance 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:

Therefore death is the curse which Christ bore for us; but death is the wages of sin, and sin is the violation of the moral law. Therefore Christ bore the curse of the moral law 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 a pardon for all who would accept it. This pardon was on condition of faith in Christ, and it was ordained that faith in Christ should be manifested through the rites of the ceremonial law.

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 3:11, 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 thirty years after the promise to Abraham. Could it, therefore, be the same as ‘My commandments, My statutes, and My laws’ which Abraham kept? Genesis 25:5. They were evidently the moral law; hence this is not.”— p. 43.

This is an argument that proves too much. It is a reversal of the Campbellite view that the moral law had no existence before it was given upon Mount Sinai. Your argument claims that the moral law was not given upon Mount Sinai,because it existed in the days of Abraham. But it is a fact that God spoke some law from Mount Sinai, and that this event was four hundred and thirty years after the promise to Abraham; therefore your statement that the law given four hundred and thirty years after the time of Abraham cannot be the moral law because Abraham kept the moral law, amounts to the assertion that the law given upon Mount Sinai was not the moral law. Your argument also, if valid, would prove that the law referred to is not the ceremonial law either, because Abraham had that in substance. He had circumcision, which you say stands for the whole ceremonial law, and he had sacrifices. I think that when you revise your book, that argument at least will have to be left out.

You next say:—

“This law was ‘added because of transgressions.’ The original word signifies ‘to pass by or over; to transgress or violate.’ This law, then, had been ‘added’ because some other law had been ‘passed by,’ ‘transgressed,’ or ‘violated.’ It was not ‘added’ to itself because itself had been ‘violated.’ This would be absurd if applied to the moral law; for none of us claim there was any more of the moral law really in existence after the ten commandments were spoken, than there had been before. They all existed before, though Israel may have been ignorant of portions of them.”

It seems as though your principal argument is a play upon words. It is not enough to say that a thing is absurd, in order to controvert it. Some things may seem absurd to one person which appear very reasonable to another. Paul says that the preaching of the cross is to some people foolishness, or absurd, and I have often heard people ridicule the idea that the death of one person could atone for the sins of another. They call such an idea absurd, yet to you and me it is perfectly consistent with reason. So when you say that it is absurd to apply the term “added” to the moral law, you should substantiate your assertion by proof, in order to have it of any value.

You say,

“It could not properly be said that the moral law was ‘appointed’ four hundred and thirty years after Abraham, when we see that it existed and he fully kept it at that time.” This argument has been noticed already, but I will note it a little further. If the law here referred to means the ceremonial law, and your argument just quoted is valid, then it precludes the possibility of there being any ceremonial law in the time of Abraham; but Abraham had the essential parts of the ceremonial law, although that law had not been formally given.

If you deny that Abraham had the ceremonial law, and insist that that law was not given until 430 years after his time, then I would like to ask what remedial system there was before the exodus? You say that the ceremonial law was added because of transgressions, that is, as a remedial system. Then why was it not added as soon as the transgression was committed, instead of 2,500 years later? I claim that the remedial system entered immediately after the fall, and for proof I cite you to the offering of Abel. Your argument would put off the remedial system until the exodus.

You may say that at that time the ceremonial law was given more formally and circumstantially than before; very good, but if that argument will apply to the ceremonial law, as it undeniably will, why will it not apply equally to the moral law? You cannot deny that the moral law was given at Sinai, although it had been known since the creation. Why was it given then? Because it had never been formally announced. So far as we know, no copy of it had ever been written, and the great mass of the people were almost totally ignorant in regard to it.

You, yourself, say that Israel may have been ignorant of portions of the moral law, and this is undoubtedly true. Then there is abundant reason why it should have been given at that time,—because of transgressions. If all the people had known and obeyed the law, there would have been no necessity for its promulgation on Sinai; but because they were ignorant of its requirements, and had transgressed it, it was necessary that it should then be given as it was.

But you say that it is not proper to apply the term “added” to the moral law. The Bible itself must decide that matter. In the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy Moses rehearses to the children of Israel the circumstances of the giving of the law. Verses 5-21 contain the substance of the ten commandments, and of these Moses says in the twenty-second verse:
“These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice; and He ADDED no more.”

The term “added,” in this verse, is in the Septuagint exactly the same as that rendered “added” in Galatians 3:19. The Hebrew word is the same that is rendered “add” in Genesis 30:24. That it has unmistakable reference in Deuteronomy 5:22 to the moral law, and to that alone, no one can deny. I care not whether you render it “added,” “spoken,” or “promulgated’‘—it makes no difference.

In Hebrews 12:18, 19 we have unmistakable reference to the voice of God speaking the law from Sinai, and the request of the people that God should not speak to them any more (Exodus 20:18, 19), in the words, “which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more.” Here the word rendered “spoken” is the same as that rendered “added” in Galatians 3:19 and Deuteronomy 5:22.

If we chose we might render it, “they entreated that the word should not be added to them any more,” and then we would have a uniform rendering. Or we might render it uniformly “spoken,” and then we would read in Deuteronomy that the Lord spoke all those words in the mount, out of the midst of the fire, etc., with a great voice, “and He spoke no more;” and this would be the exact truth and a good rendering. And likewise for uniformity we might justly render Galatians 5:19, “it was spoken because of transgressions.”

Or we might take the word in Deuteronomy 5:22 in the same sense in which it is used in Genesis 30:24, and the same idea would appear. When Rachel said, “God shall add to me another son,” it was the same as though she had said, “God will give me another son.” So the meaning in Deuteronomy 5:22 is that after the Lord had given them the commandments recorded in the preceding verses, He gave them no more. It seems to me very reasonable to apply the term “added” to the moral law; and whether it is reasonable or not I have certainly quoted two texts besides Galatians 3:19 which apply it so.

But you cannot find in the Bible a single instance of the use of the word “added,” as applied to the ceremonial law, to substantiate your view on Galatians 3:19. Deuteronomy 5:22 plainly says that the ten commandments were spoken by the Lord, and that nothing but the ten commandments was spoken, or given, or “added.”

Galatians 3:19 tells us why they were spoken. It was because of transgressions; that is, because people were largely ignorant, of the law. We may not play upon the word “added,” and use it in a mathematical sense, but must necessarily use it in the sense of declaring or speaking. There was no more moral law after God spoke it from Sinai than there was before, but it was certainly known a great deal better than it was before, and there was less excuse for sin than there was before.

In the preceding verses the apostle has spoken of the promise to Abraham, and the covenant made to him. The statement that that covenant was confirmed in Christ shows plainly that the covenant to Abraham confirmed the forgiveness of sins through Christ. But the forgiveness of sin necessarily implies a knowledge of sin. Only the righteous can be heirs of the promise, and a knowledge of sin and righteousness can only be obtained through the moral law. Therefore the giving of the law in a more specific manner than ever before was necessary, in order that the people might be partakers of the blessings promised to Abraham.

The very same thing is stated in Romans 5:20, “Moreover, the law entered that the offense might abound;” and I never knew any Seventhday Adventist to have any trouble in applying that to the moral law, yet it is certainly as difficult a text as Galatians 3:10. The word rendered “entered” is, literally, “came in.” The revised version has it, “came in beside.”

But the moral law existed before the days of Moses, as is evident from verses 13, 14 of the same chapter, and also from the expression in the same verse, “that the offense might abound,” showing that sin—the transgression of the law—existed before the law came in. Although the law existed in all its force before the exodus, yet it “came in,” “entered,” was spoken or given, or “added” at that time. And why? That the offense might abound, i.e., “that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful;” that what was sin before might the more plainly be seen to be sin. Thus it entered, or was added, “because of transgressions.” If it had not been for transgressions there would have been no necessity for the law to enter at Sinai. Why did it enter because of transgressions? “That the offense might abound;” in order to make sin seem greater than ever before, so that men might be driven to the super-abounding grace of God as manifested in Christ.

And so it became a school-master, pedagogue, to bring men to Christ, in order that they might be justified by faith, and be made the righteousness of God in Him. And so it is stated later that the law is not against the promises of God. It works in harmony with the promise, for without it the promise would be of no effect. And this most emphatically attests the perpetuity of the law.

I do not care for the opinions of commentators, except as they state in a clearer form that which has already been proved from the Bible; but as you in your pamphlet seem to have placed considerable reliance upon the opinion of commentators, it may not be profitless to quote a few here. I do it, however, not because I think they add anything to the argument, but simply as an offset to your quotations, and because they possibly state the case a little more clearly than I have done.

Professor Boise, in his “Critical Notes on the Greek text of Galatians,” says on this text:—

“Because of the transgressions indicates, therefore, this idea, to give a knowledge of transgressions, to make plainly clear and distinct what were actual transgressions of the divine requirements.” He also says:—
“In keeping with this idea, and perhaps implied, is the interpretation, to restrain transgressions.” And he cites Erasmus, Olshausen, Neander, DeWette, Ewald, Luther, Bengel, and others, as holding the same view. If the opinions of commentators are to decide this matter, I think that the moral law will come out ahead.

Dr Barnes says on the expression “because of transgressions:—

“On account of transgressions, or with reference to them. The meaning is, that the law was given to show the true nature of transgression, or to show what was sin. It was not to reveal a way of justification, but it was to disclose the true nature of sin; to deter men from committing it; to declare its penalty: to convince men of it, and thus to be ‘ancillary’ to, and preparatory to, the work of redemption through the Redeemer. This is the true account of the law of God as given to apostate men, and this use of the law still exists.”

And Dr. Clarke says:—

“It was given that we might know our sinfulness, and the need we stood in of the mercy of God. The law is the right line, the straight edge that determines the obliquity of our conduct. See the notes on Romans 4:15, and especially on Romans 5:20, where this subject is largely discussed and the figure explained.”

Your argument against the moral law being “added because of transgressions” will apply with equal force against the moral law having “entered that the offense might abound.” If you claim that Galatians 3:19 cannot apply to the moral law, then you must claim also that Romans 5:20 does not apply to that law.

I quote further from your pamphlet, from the paragraph ending at the top of page 44:—

“It would be absurd to suppose that this law was ‘added’ to itself. It does apply reasonably to another law, brought in because the one previously existing had been ‘violated.’ A law cannot be transgressed unless it exists; for ‘where no law is, there is no transgression.’”

I have already shown the force of the term, “added.” I have never claimed that any law was added to itself, or that any mathematical process is referred to by the word rendered, “added.”

What do you mean by saying a law cannot be transgressed until it exists? You seem to imply that the moral law did not exist so that it could be transgressed before it was given upon Mount Sinai.

I know you do not believe this, and yet in another paragraph it is implied still more plainly. I will again quote Romans 5:20: “Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” This law unmistakably is the moral law, yet you might say it is impossible that it should be the moral law, because offenses existed before the law here spoken of entered, and where no law is there is no transgression; and that therefore the law which here entered was some other law. But you would not argue that here. You would claim as I do, that the meaning of the text is that the law entered, or was given, in order that sin might appear in its true enormity.

As Paul elsewhere says, sin by the commandment became exceeding sinful. The moral law existed from creation, and long before. The patriarchs had a knowledge of it, and also all the antediluvians and the Sodomites, because they were counted sinners; yet it did not exist in written form, and those who were not in immediate connection with God could not have that perfect knowledge of the law which would show them the full heinousness of sin. They could know that the things which they committed were wrong, but they could not realize their full enormity; and especially was this the case when the Israelites came from Egyptian bondage.

But God had made a covenant with Abraham, and had promised wonderful things, but only on condition of perfect righteousness through Christ; and if men ever attain to this perfect righteousness, they must have the law in its fullest extent, and must know that many things were sinful, which they might previously have thought were harmless. So the law entered that the offense might abound; and because the offense abounded, and men saw their depravity, they found that grace super-abounded to cover their sins. The case is so plain, and the argument in Galatians 3:19 is so plainly parallel, that I marvel how anybody who has any just conception of the relation of the law and the gospel can question it for a moment.

Again on page 44 I read:—

“The moral law is referred to as the one transgressed. But the ‘added’ law, of which Paul is speaking, made provision for the forgiveness of these transgressions in figure, till the real Sacrifice should be offered.”

Your misapplication of the word “added” I have already sufficiently noticed, but there is an idea expressed in the quotation just made which I am sorry to see has of late been taught to some extent. And that is that in the so-called Jewish dispensation forgiveness of sins was only figurative. Your words plainly indicate that there was no real forgiveness of sins until Christ, the real Sacrifice, was offered. If that were so, I would like to inquire how Enoch and Elijah got to Heaven. Were they taken there with their sins unforgiven? Had they been in Heaven for two or three thousand years before their sins were forgiven? The very fact that they were taken to Heaven is sufficient evidence that their sins were really pardoned.

When David says, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered,” he means just what Paul did when he used the same words. David said to the Lord, “Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” That was no sham forgiveness. And it was expressly declared that if a soul should sin against any of the commandments of the Lord, he should offer his sacrifice and his sins should be forgiven him. Leviticus 4:2, 3, 20, 26, 31. There was no virtue in the sacrifice, which was typical, yet the pardon was as real as any that has ever been given since the crucifixion. How could this be? Simply because Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. That He should offer Himself as a sacrifice, was promised to our first parents in Eden, and confirmed to Abraham by an oath from God, and therefore, by virtue of that promise, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all who wished, could receive as much virtue from the blood of Christ as we can. That forgiveness was real is shown by the fact that Abel, by his offering, received witness that he was righteous. But there can be no righteousness that has not been preceded by forgiveness. If the pardon were figurative, then the righteousness must also have been figurative. But Abel and Noah and Abraham, and others, were really righteous; they had the perfect righteousness of faith; therefore they must have had actual forgiveness. This is further shown from the fact that forgiveness of sins must precede all righteousness. For there can be no righteousness without faith (Romans 6:23), and faith always brings pardon. Romans 3:24, 25; 5:l.


I quote the next paragraph of your pamphlet, page 44:—

“‘Till the seed should come,’ limits the duration of this remedial system, beyond all question. The word ‘till’ or ‘until,’ ever has that signification. The ‘added’ law, then, was to exist no longer than ‘till the seed should come.’ This the language unmistakably declares. Did the moral law extend no further than the full development of the Messiah? No Seventh-day Adventist will admit that. But this was precisely the case with the other law.”

You say that the added law was to exist no longer than till the seed should come, because the word “till,” or “until,” has ever the signification of a certain limited duration.

Let me quote you a few texts. In Ps. 112:8, I read of the good man: “His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.” Do you think that that implies that as soon as the good man has seen his desire upon his enemies he shall be afraid? Again I read of Christ in Isaiah 42:4, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth.” Do you think the word “till” in this instance limits the duration of the time that Christ should not be discouraged? and does it imply that as soon as He has set judgment in the earth, He shall fail and be discouraged? The question answers itself.

Once more, in Daniel 1:21, I read: “And Daniel continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus.” Does that mean that he did not live any longer? Not by any means, for in the tenth chapter we read of a vision which was given him in the third year of Cyrus. 1 Samuel 15:35 says that “Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death.” Do you think that he went to see him as soon as he died? These texts show that “till” does not necessarily limit the duration of the thing to which it is applied, and does not necessarily imply that the law ceases at the coming of the seed. The exact meaning of the term in this instance I reserve till later.


I quote again from your pamphlet:—

“The ‘added’ law was ‘ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.’ All agree that this ‘mediator’ was Moses, who went between God and the people. The original word for ‘ordained’ is rendered ‘promulgate’ by Greenfield, who cites this text as an illustration. Was it true that the ten commandments were ‘ordained,’ or ‘promulgated, ’ ‘by angels,’ ‘in’ or ‘by the hand of Moses’? God Himself spoke them with a voice that shook the earth, and wrote them with His own finger on the stone tablets. But the other law was given through angels, and written in a ‘book’ by the ‘hand of Moses.’ If the reader desires to see some of the instances where the same expression substantially is used when speaking of the ‘law of Moses,’ we refer him to Leviticus 2649; Numbers 4~37; 1522, 23, and especially Nehemiah 9:13, 14, where the distinction is clearly made between the laws which God spoke, and the ‘precepts, statutes, and laws’ given ‘by the hand of Moses.’”

There are several points in this paragraph, and we will note them in order. First, was the ceremonial law given by angels? Those who hold as you do, say that it was, and quote Galatians 3:19 as proof. But that is not competent testimony on this point, for it is the text under discussion; but, unfortunately for your theory, it is the only text that you can quote. And so the “proof” that the ceremonial law was given by angels is nothing but reasoning in a circle. Thus: You say that Galatians 3:19 refers to the ceremonial law, because it speaks of a law that was “ordained by angels;” then you “prove” that the ceremonial law was spoken by angels, by quoting Galatians 3:19, which you have already “proved” refers to the ceremonial law. This is not proving anything, but is simply begging the question. You started out to show that Galatians 3:19 has reference to the ceremonial law, because it speaks of a law ordained by angels. In order to make that good, you ought to cite at least one other text in the Bible where it is at least implied that the angels gave the ceremonial law; but this you cannot do.

Now, on the other hand, the connection of angels with the giving of the ten commandments from Sinai is most clearly marked. I first cite
Psalms 68:17: “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels; the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.”
Again, I refer to Deuteronomy 33:2: “The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shined forth from Mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of saints [holy ones,—angels]; from His right hand went a fiery law for them.”

These texts show plainly that the angels of God were on Sinai when the law was spoken. They were there evidently for a purpose, though we cannot tell what. But we have a still more emphatic testimony in Stephen’s address, Acts 7:51-53: “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers; who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”

The law which these wicked Jews had not kept was the moral law, which Stephen said was given “by the disposition of angels,”—the very same term that in Galatians 3:19 is rendered “ordained by angels.”

The word diatasso, rendered “ordain,” means, according to Liddell and Scott, “to range, ordain, establish, to set in order, draw up an army.” The word “disposition,” in Acts 7:53, is from diataxis, a noun derived from the preceding verb, and means, “disposition, arrangement, especially a drawing up of troops, order of battle.” These words have also the signification of “to decree,” to “will,” but the former signification seems to convey the idea of the words as used in the texts quoted.

The text under consideration does not say that the angels spoke the law, and we know very well that they did not speak either the moral or the ceremonial law. The Lord Himself spoke them both, the one directly to the people, and the other to Moses. But the angels were there, evidently in their regular order, as the armies of Heaven. Just what part they had to act no one can tell, for the Bible does not specify. All I claim is that the Scriptures speak of them as being intimately connected with the giving of the moral law; while there is not a text in the Bible which mentions them in connection with the giving of the ceremonial law; and the text in Acts, already quoted, plainly says of the moral law that it was given “by the disposition of angels.” The expression “ordained by angels,” is the one upon which those who argue for the ceremonial law in Galatians, have placed their principal reliance; but even that is against them.

Second, the distinction which is made between the moral and the ceremonial law, namely, that the moral law was spoken by the Lord, and the ceremonial law by Moses, will not hold. The very texts which you cite are against this distinction. I will take the first one, Leviticus 26:46. It reads: “These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the Lord made between Him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.” This is the last verse of the chapter. The first two verses of the chapter read thus: “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it; for I am the Lord your God. Ye shall keep My Sabbaths, and reverence My sanctuary; I am the Lord.” And then the chapter goes on with instructions to keep the commandments of the Lord, to walk in His statutes, tells what judgments shall come upon them if they break the commandments, especially the Sabbath, and closes with the words first quoted. But in all the chapter there is not a shadow of a reference to the ceremonial law.

Your next reference, Numbers 4:37, has no reference to either the moral or the ceremonial law. It simply states that Moses and Aaron numbered the families of the Kohathites, “according to the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses.”

Your third reference, Numbers 15:22, 23, has unmistakable reference to the moral law, and to that alone, as will be seen if the twenty-fourth, twenty-fifth, and twenty-sixth verses are read in connection. I will quote them: “And if ye have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which the Lord hath spoken unto Moses, even all that the Lord hath commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day that the Lord commanded Moses, and henceforward among your generations; then it shall be, if ought be committed by ignorance without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bullock for a burnt offering. … And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance; and they shall bring their offering, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord, and their sin-offering before the Lord, for their ignorance; and it shall be forgiven all the congregation of the children of Israel.” All this atoning sacrifice was to be made on account of sins against what the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses. But nothing is sin except violation of the ten commandments.

Your last reference, Nehemiah 9:13, 14, may have reference to both the moral and the ceremonial law. I will quote the verses: “Thou camest down also upon Mount Sinai, and spakest with them from Heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments; and madest known unto them Thy holy Sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses Thy servant.” This is the only text of all to which you have referred, which even by implication refers to the ceremonial law. And it is certainly a strained implication that limits “by the hand of Moses” to the last part of verse 14. All the other texts, at any rate, when they refer to any law at all, refer solely to the moral law, which is said to have been commanded “by the hand of Moses.”

You will perhaps say that I have broken down the distinction between the moral and the ceremonial law, and have opened the way for the enemies of the law to confuse the two. But I have not. I have simply quoted the texts to which you refer, and have shown their exact application. There is no chance for confusion concerning the two laws, for we have this plain distinction: The moral law was spoken by the Lord with an audible voice, from the fire and smoke of Sinai. The ten commandments are all that were given in this manner (Deuteronomy 5:22) and they alone were written on tables of stone by the finger of God. The ceremonial law was given in a more private manner. This certainly forbids any confusion. Both the moral and the ceremonial law, however, are, as we have seen in the texts quoted, said to have been given by the hand of Moses, and both were written in the book of the law.

But there is still this distinction, that the ceremonial law was written only in the book, while the moral law was written on the tables of stone, with the finger of God, and also in a book. That the term, “the law of Moses,” does sometimes refer to the ten commandments, will be evident to anyone who will carefully read Deuteronomy 4:44 to 5:22 and onward; Joshua 23:6, 7; 1 Kings 2:3, 4; 2 Kings 23:24, 25, etc. See also Great Controversy, vol. 2, pp. 217, 218, beginning with last paragraph on page 217. On the other hand, the term “the law of the Lord” is applied to the ceremonial ordinances. For instance, see Luke 2:23, 24. Thus the terms, “the law of Moses,” and “the law of the Lord,” are used interchangeably of both laws.


Third, you say of the latter part of Galatians 3:19, that all agree that this mediator was Moses. I do not agree; and I do not think that the text and the context warrant such an assumption.

The apostle continues in the next verse: “Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.” Now I turn to 1 Timothy 2:5, and read: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” God is one party in the transaction, and Christ is the mediator.

I suppose you will not question the statement that Christ was the One who spoke the ten commandments from Mount Sinai. In Great Controversy, vol. 2, page 217 (concerning the sermon on the mount), I read:

“The same voice that declared the moral and the ceremonial law, which was the foundation of the whole Jewish system, uttered the words of instruction on the mount.” And this is indicated in the text under consideration, and also in Acts 7:38, where Stephen says of Moses: “This is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the Mount Sina, and with our fathers.” That angel we all understand to be the one that spoke to Moses out of the bush, the one that went before the children of Israel, in whom was the name of God, being none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. If I thought it necessary I could give you plenty of Scripture testimony on this point.

And so the text under consideration, as I have proved in noting your points, teaches that the law was given upon Mount Sinai, because of transgression, that is, that the people might know what sin was, and might appreciate the pardon that was offered in the covenant to Abraham; and that it was thus given till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and the apostle shows the dignity and the value of the law, by the statement that it was disposed, or arranged, or ordained, by angels, in the hand of our great mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.

More--Gospel in Galatians

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