Pristine Grace

Dead to the Law by the Body of Christ
by William Huntington
Dead to the Law by the Body of Christ

"Know ye not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law), how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead she is loosed from the law of her husband, so then if while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband be dead she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." (Rom. 7:14).

     If Paul has any meaning I think it amounts to this, that the law has the same dominion over the sinner, that expects life or help from it by his own obedience to the rules of it, as the husband has over his wife by the law of marriage; and the law communicates bondage to the soul; which the soul naturally genders to, until the soul be pregnant with horror, despair, and misery, just as a man communicates seed to a wife, who brings forth a still-born or dead child, which is the worst of labours without any heir to satisfy the husband, as Paul aims to prove. "For, when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin, which: were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death, Rom. 7:5. But when God tells the poor sinner, who is so fond of being Moses' disciple, that "Moses my servant is dead;" and the soul is quickened to feel and enlightened to see that the law is a killing letter, the law of death, and ministration of condemnation; and that the soul can bring forth no fruit to God under its gendering bondage, no fruit but fruit unto death or dead works; the soul seeing a dead husband, and a dead law, that cannot give life, the soul is loosed from that law; nor is it an adulteress, nor an Antinomian, though it be married to another man. For that law has no more power over such a soul than the corpse of Anna's husband had over her, who had been a widow upwards of forty years, and had lived with an husband but seven years from her virginity, and was then waiting to be married to the consolation of Israel. (Luke 2:36)

     The way that the soul gets released from that law is by the body of Christ. The soul that sees that the law cursed the Savior as well as the sinner, and that the Lord died under the law; that it was the law of death to the Savior as well as to the sinner; and, finding Christ raised from the dead, it goes after him and unites with Him, and is begotten to a lively hope by His resurrection from the dead; and Christ formed in the soul the hope of glory is an incorruptible seed indeed, a precious fruit. Such are no adulteresses though they be married to another man. Nor do they deserve the name of licentious Antinomians, seeing the Holy Ghost affirmeth that this is done that they may bring forth fruit unto God, Rom. 7:4; namely, the fruits of the Spirit. If the rigorous husband of a poor simple woman be dead, according to Paul's doctrine, one would think that he could command her person, and beat her back no more; and that the other man whom she had married had got the sole and whole command of her; I am sure he has by the laws of God, and by the covenant of wedlock, or else I know not who would marry a widow to have her hunted with the commands of a ghost.

     However, if the killing commandments of the dead husband be the believer's rule of life, who is espoused to Christ by faith, this is the case; Moses, the Lord's servant, has still the command and dominion over the bride the Lamb's wife, Rev. 21:3. And notwithstanding his being dead, as God affirms, yet he must manage the household of faith, and give the only rule of life to the queen, although she be exalted to stand at the right hand of the king in gold of Ophir, Psa. 45:9. If she be at the right hand of the king, they do her much wrong who place her at the foot of a servant; one would think that, as he was not permitted to go into the promised land, though he fain would, which was but a faith type of heaven, he could never have such power over the house or church of Christ, which is so often emphatically called heaven.

     We are under the law as the rule of life, say some; then the law of liberty is far from being perfect. One would think that souls espoused to Christ, and married to Him, that they should bring forth fruit unto God, were under no law but that of the husband; or, as Paul says, under the law to Christ. And I am sure it is so with souls wedded to Moses, he has the whole command of them, for they are without the spiritual law of life altogether: and surely the second husband has as much right as the first; if we allow this man to be worthy of as much, Paul says, he is counted worthy of more glory than Moses. inasmuch as he who hath builded the house, as Jacob built the house of Israel by Rachel and Leah, Ruth 4:11, is worthy of more honour than the house. (Heb. 3:3)

     It is clear that all the fruit brought forth under Moses was but dead works, or fruit unto death; therefore he built no house or household but that of the bond woman, who is affirmed to be desolate; and with respect to God, she is said to have no husband, Gal. 4:27; and therefore all her offspring are a bastard race of dead children, dead in trespasses and sins, which are sunk into the synagogue of Satan instead of a righteous nation, called the living, that are to rise up and praise Christ. (Isa. 38:19) Hence we learn that souls under the law wedded to Moses are not God's wife; they bring forth fruit unto death, not unto God; they are free from righteousness. God says, I am not their husband; Moses has full command of them, though he accuses them day and night; and Christ Himself always sends such souls to the law, that they may not marry another while the first husband lives. But when an accusing Moses, and his killing law, have executed their sentence of death on the soul, it is then dead; and if Christ quickens it and enlightens it, and it flies, as Ruth did, to His skirt, if He spreads His skirt over it, it is a time of love, and if He enters into a marriage covenant with such a soul, it becomes His own, Ezek. 16:8. He has the whole command of such, and the full possession of them; He has married the soul that was in a state of widowhood, and says thy Maker is thy Husband; thou shalt remember the reproach of thy widowhood no more. Thus He marries the widow, discharges her debts, redeems the mortgaged inheritance, raises up the name of the dead upon it and does worthily in Ephratah, and is famous in Bethlehem, Ruth 4:11.

     Paul tells us that he was dead to the law; "I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." He tells us that when the commandment came sin revived, and he dies; that sin took occasion by the commandment, deceived him, and by it slew him, Rom 7:11. One would think that, when a law has apprehended a transgressor, arraigned him, tried him, cast him, condemned him, executed him, and buried him, he was got out of the reach of that rule of life. Paul says the law came to him, it apprehended him, sin revived, he would be found guilty; it took an occasion by the law to expose him to death, deceived him, with respect to all hopes in it, and slew him by the sentence of it; that he was dead and buried with Christ, or planted together with Him in the likeness of His death. If so, one would have thought that it had done with him.

     But according to some, this killing letter, or moral law, has never done with the believer; they would make it like the Popish law, which makes a believer in Christ a heretic; condemns him, curses him with bell, book, and candle, and burns him to ashes, and yet pursues him still; if he goes to purgatory, it follows him; if to heaven, it holds the keys of that; and at the judgment day there can be no favour or mercy without Popish absolution. So some handle the law of Moses; though it kills a man and he is crucified, dead, buried, and risen again through the operation of God; yet the commandment that came, which deceived and slew him is still his only rule of life; it is still binding, and if he goes into heaven itself it pursues him, for the very angels round the throne are governed by it, as some affirm which is strange, as God's voice, whether in the law or in the gospel, is declared to be to the sons of men. (Prov. 8:4)

     It has been a puzzling matter to me to find out what this is that appears in Moses' ministry, with respect to success, that makes people so eager to copy after him. "He fed the people forty years in the wilderness it is true, but he was so far from exceeding the apostles and evangelists in success, with respect to conversion work, that he declares "the Lord has not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear unto this day," Deut. 294; and calls them a perverse generation, a nation void of counsel, and children in whom is no faith, Deut. 32:20. And we know that their carcasses fell in unbelief twenty thousand together. Yea, and the Jews for rejecting of Christ and cleaving to Moses were destroyed by infinite numbers, and with an infinite destruction; and a Pharisee, who is the greatest advocate for the law, is farther from the kingdom of God than publicans and harlots; and if Moses be but read the vail is upon their hearts, nor can it be taken away till they turn to the Lord.

     No fruits are brought forth under the law but wild grapes, wild figs, untimely fruits, dead works, mercenary and eye service, and fruits unto death; and all spring from the base principles of slavish fear; done to get a name or to be seen of men, to merit heaven, and bring God in debt to them; their works spring from the fear of a condemned criminal, which is the worst of roots, and are directed to self, the worst of ends; hence Israel is said to be an empty vine, not united to Christ the true Vine, therefore He brings forth fruit to himself (Hos. 10:8); and instead of bringing forth fruit to himself he must deny himself daily.