""Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.""


2 Corinthians Chapter iii.

To what does this verse refer? Evidently to the workings of the law. Then according to this the letter of the law runs through the writings of the New Testament; which forces the questions, What is the New Testament? Where does it begin? and where does it end? The line of demarcation between the Old and New Testaments is not established by books, but by condition. The gospel was preached in the days of Esaias, therefore the gospel cannot be considered a distinguishing feature between the two, inasmuch as it is preached in both. If, therefore, any line of demarcation exists, it must relate to the condition concerning the law. The letter of the law, which is a governing feature in the Old Testament, according to the text, killeth. How is it that it killeth? It killeth in that by it no flesh can be justified; the function of the law being to transmit iniquity together with the penalty.

By the law of Moses evil is defined and known, which law is subservient to and consequential of the great law. The law of Moses does not create sin because it defines and makes it known: for the man who sins through ignorance sins nevertheless: hence it follows that the law which transmits iniquity must be cognizant of iniquity, or it would be empty and meaningless. Man fails in the fulfilment of the law where it is made known, and, therefore, the letter of the law killeth. The law was positively given from the first, "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat."

What is the Mosaic law but a knowledge of good and evil? It is the same law, only it is more definitely manifested. Is this the whole law? Not at all; but it was decreed, "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." But is this the whole law? No: for the decree stands by special proclamation, which must be active from the first, "Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation."

Thus it will be seen that all are included under sin, and that the letter of the law killeth. But the spirit of the law giveth life: for by the transmission of the iniquity it is possible for one to come in the flesh, bear the iniquity according to the law, and lay down his life, thus fulfilling the requirements of the law. The spirit of the law, therefore, also ordains to life, even though the letter thereof killeth.

By the law man cannot redeem himself. How, then, can one come in the flesh and redeem him? By all the light which is given in the Scriptures, there seems to be no other way than that God himself should come and pay the penalty, thereby relieving man. "Where can another be found? There is none, or sin could redeem sin. Did God really come down from heaven and take upon himself the form of man that man might be redeemed? He undoubtedly did come down, and took upon himself the seed of Abraham, in the days of Abraham, and Abraham rejoiced to see his day; and he saw it, and was glad. If God came down from heaven to redeem man, and laid down his life for man, it is perfectly evident that he must possess the power of taking it up again, or the fruits of his labor would be lost. That Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did lay down his life, and did rise again from the dead, is the record of many witnesses, among whom are the Apostles Paul and St. John the Divine. If the light which they shed upon the records of the Old Testament through the lifting of the vail be accepted, is there any sound reason why their witness of the death and resurrection of the Saviour Jesus Christ should not be accepted also? There is none. The New Testament, therefore, is the condition concerning the law, brought about by the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God: for through his death, for through his body, man is made dead to the law by the fulfilment of the law: consequently the spirit of the law giveth life.

The Old Testament contains the promise, the New Testament the fulfilment of the promise, and now by faith in Jesus Christ is justification, and "in him all the families of the earth shall be blessed:" for faith is counted for righteousness.

The text continues, "But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away;

"How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?

"For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

"For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.

"For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious."

Why should the ministration of death be glorious? It is glorious in this, that through it a highway is prepared whereby all hosts may be justified through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God. The ministration of death, therefore, is exceedingly glorious on account of its great aims and purposes; and, if it is exceedingly glorious on this account, then the fruit which shall arise from its fulfilment is a glory which by far excelleth. To what does the ministration of death lead? To those which believe, eternal life; but to those which believe not, destruction.

Paul continues, "Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:

"And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:

"But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ.

"But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.

"Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away."

Paul, it will be seen from this, looks to the end of the ministration of death, and beyond this glory he sees another of exceeding excellency and greatness. Because of the vail this succeeding glory was not perceived by the children of Israel, and, therefore, only the first glory, which was partially opened to their view, remained with them. If, therefore, the children of Israel did not behold unto the end the glory which was manifested unto them, then it becomes evident that they must fill out that which remained, or was unseen by them, from these our records. That this vail exists throughout the Old Testament cannot be doubted, but it is done away in Christ: for Christ fulfilled the law, or the ministration of death, which is the letter of the law, the records of the Old Testament showing conclusively that Christ should come at the time he did come, both in the days of Abraham and in the days when he was manifest to man as God. The vail which applies to the children of Israel applies to all who fail to perceive that Jesus is the Lord; but to those who believe, Paul says, "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." Therefore the vail is not a condemnation of the children of Israel, but it is established for a wise purpose. "Nevertheless," the text states, "when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away."

What an exceedingly great crown awaits the Israelites when they shall turn to the Lord! Paul said in a previous epistle, "For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

"Who are Israelites: to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

"Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen."

It seems scarcely possible for a crown of greater brilliancy to exist with which to decorate man. Let the light shine upon it, and every jewel will sparkle in its setting with unspeakable splendor. Chapter v. Paul says, "Behold, all things are become new.

"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."