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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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A rule of action; a precept or command coming from a superior authority, which an inferior is bound to obey. The manner in which God governs rational creatures is by a law, as the rule of their obedience to him, and which is what we call God's moral government of the world. He gave a law to angels, which some of them kept, and have been confirmed in a state of obedience to it; but which others broke, and thereby plunged themselves into destruction and misery. He gave, also, a law to Adam, and which was in the form of a covenant, and in which Adam stood as a covenant head to all his posterity, Romans 5:1-21 : Genesis 2:1-25 : But our first parents soon violated that law, and fell from a state of innocence to a state of sin and misery, Hosea 6:7 . Genesis 3:1-24 :

See FALL. Positive laws, are precepts which are not founded upon any reasons known to those to whom they are given. Thus in the state of innocence God gave the law of the Sabbath; or abstinence from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, &c. Law of nature is the will of God relating to human actions, grounded in the moral differences of things, and, because discoverable by natural light, obligatory upon all mankind, Romans 1:20 ; Romans 2:14-15 . This law is coeval with the human race, binding all over the globe, and at all times; yet, through the corruption of reason, it is insufficient to lead us to happiness, and utterly unable to acquaint us how sin is to be forgiven, without the assistance of revelation. Ceremonial law is that which prescribed the rites of worship used under the Old Testament.

These rites were typical of Christ, and were obligatory only till Christ had finished his work, and began to erect his Gospel church, Hebrews 7:9 ; Hebrews 7:11 . Hebrews 10:1 . Ephesians 2:16 . Colossians 2:14 . Galatians 5:2-3 . Judicial law was that which directed the policy of the Jewish nation, as under the peculiar dominion of God as their Supreme magistrate, and never, except in things relative to moral equity, was binding on any but the Hebrew nation. Moral law is that declaration of God's will which directs and binds all men, in every age and place, to their whole duty to him. It was most solemnly proclaimed by God himself at Sinai, to confirm the original law of nature, and correct men's mistakes concerning the demands of it. It is denominated perfect, Psalms 19:7 . perpetual, Matthew 5:17-18 . holy, Romans 7:12 . good, Romans 7:12 . spiritual, Romans 7:1-25 . exceeding broad, Psalms 119:96 . Some deny that it is a rule of conduct to believers under the Gospel dispensation; but it is easy to see the futility of such an idea; for as a transcript of the mind of God, it must be the criterion of moral good and evil. It is also given for that very purpose, that we may see our duty, and abstain from every thing derogatory to the divine glory. It affords us grand ideas of the holiness and purity of God: without attention to it, we can have no knowledge of sin.

Christ himself came not to destroy, but to fulfil it; and though we cannot do as he did, yet we are commanded to follow his example. Love to God is the end of the moral law, as well as the end of the Gospel. By the law, also, we are led to see the nature of holiness, and our own depravity, and learn to be humbled under a sense of our imperfection. We are not under it, however, as a covenant of works, Galatians 3:13 . or as a source of terror, Romans 8:1 . although we must abide by it, together with the whole preceptive word of God, as the rule of our conduct, Romans 3:31 Laws, directive, are laws without any punishment annexed to them. Laws, penal, such as have some penalty to enforce them. All the laws of God are and cannot but be penal, because every breach of his law is sin, and meritorious of punishment. Law of honour is a system of rules constructed by people of fashion, and calculated to facilitate their intercourse with one another, and for no other purpose. Consequently nothing is adverted to by the law of honour but what tends to incommode this intercourse. Hence this law only prescribes and regulates the duties betwixt equals, omitting such as relate to the Supreme Being, as well as those which we owe to our inferiors. In fact, this law of honour, in most instances, is favourable to the licentious indulgence of the natural passions.

Thus it allows of fornication, adultery, drunkenness, prodigality, duelling, and of revenge in the extreme, and lays no stress upon the virtues opposite to these. Laws, remedial, a fancied law, which some believe in, who hold that God, in mercy to mankind, has abolished that rigorous constitution or law that they were under originally, and instead of it has introduced a more mild constitution, and put us under a new law, which requires no more than imperfect sincere obedience, in compliance with our poor, infirm, impotent circumstances since the fall. I call this a fancied law, because it exists no where except in the imagination of those who hold it.

See NEONOMIANS, and JUSTIFICATION. Laws of nations, are those rules which by a tacit consent are agreed upon among all communities, at least among those who are reckoned the polite and humanized part of mankind. Gill's Body of Div. vol. 1: p. 454, oct. 425, vol. 3: ditto; Paley's Mor. Phil. vol. 1: p. 2; Cumberland's Law of Nature; Grove's Mor. Phil. vol. 2: p. 117. Booth's Death of Legal Hope; Inglish and Burder's Pieces on the Moral Law; Watts's Works, vol. 1: ser. 49. 8vo. edition, and vol. 2: p. 443. &c. Scott's Essays.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Law'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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