Account Login

Sign In  |  Register
You are here: Home  > Reviews | Law and Grace

Reviews | Law and Grace

Law and Grace

W. F. Barling

Hardback or e-book (ePub)

208 pages

Law and Grace

The Christadelphian review (from November 1952)

Law and Grace

IMMEDIATELY before his death in 1898, bro. Robert Roberts wrote his book The Law of Moses, a study which has been a standard work among Christadelphians from the day it was published. Naturally—inevitably, one might almost say—a good deal of emphasis was put in that work on the appointments of the Law regarded as detailed types of Christ and his redeeming work. The sacrifices were expounded from that point of view, though not always with complete consistency. The details of the Tabernacle were likewise interpreted from the standpoint of one for whom Christ in his sufferings and glory is the central theme, the only theme almost, of divine revelation.

This was only as it should be. Yet, nevertheless, it remains a matter of reproach against us that so many years have been allowed to roll by before approach was made to the Law from a different angle. This has now been attempted and very satisfactorily accomplished.

During the past few winters, a number of enthusiasts for Bible study amongst the London ecclesias have very wisely insisted that the known industry and ability of bro. Fred Barling be harnessed for the benefit of more than the comparative handful of his own ecclesia. This devotional study of the Law of Moses is the fruit of one of those sessions, now happily made available to a wider circle.

From the start our author works under self-imposed limitations, plainly set forth in his introduction:

“The scope of this study is strictly limited. First and foremost, its aim is devotional. While it is intended to give some attention to all aspects of the Mosaic Law, yet the examination of each will be subordinated to one overriding purpose. The main endeavour throughout will be to abstract from the Law those eternal principles of righteousness which today must still be our guide and inspiration, long after the Law itself has waxed old and vanished away.”

Thus the detailed significance of the types as foreshadowing the Lord’s Christ is excluded from the very first. Some will complain at this and be inclined to gird at the writer as one who looks for wood and cannot see it for trees. But patience! If there be disappointment of a kind (for some), there is also more than ample reward for all who read this book with care and reflection.

Grave difficulties lie in the path of all who set themselves to write on the Law of Moses. It is no easy matter to avoid dry-as-dust technicalities or explanations which themselves call for explanations or the temptation to repetitiveness. Yet none of these indictments is valid here. Bro. Barling writes with a readable lucidity which many will envy, the reviewer more than any. Fundamental abstract principles are educed and expounded with both ease and force.

The writer propounds certain “working rules” to be followed in the course of his exposition:

  1. The idiom of the Law is rational and self-consistent, i.e., the same thing—whether incense, leaven or washing with water—has always the same kind of meaning.
  2. No interpretation shall be accepted merely because it “sounds right”. (The captious critic might be inclined to complain that our author is himself not altogether free from fault here!)
  3. The Law shall be its own interpreter.

The dominant (and absolutely sound) idea amongst us that the allusions to the Law in the New Testament are the finest of all indications of correct interpretation is not being despised here. The aim is rather to study the Law with the eyes and mind of an Israelite in the wilderness with Moses or in the Land with Joshua. In what principles of religion and true living was God seeking to educate His people by means of the Law? What meaning had the Mosaic allegories for those who actually enacted them?

Consequently, until the last superb chapter is reached—“Christ the End of the Law”—there is hardly a reference to the rest of Scripture, though there is no lack of allusion to Genesis where the main principles of godliness and redemption have already been enunciated.

The Law is studied, not chapter by chapter, but theme by theme. The Covenant as the basis underlying all Israel’s relationships with God; the lessons of the Tabernacle; the principles of sacrifice, and the significance of the various offerings; the Feasts; the civil code; all of these are handled with sympathetic understanding and sureness of perception. And so satisfying are both methods and results that there will be few readers who are not led to self-castigation for a spiritual obtuseness in the reading of the Law which here finds its rebuke and its cure.

The Editor has imposed exasperating limits on the length of this review, or there would be appended here at least half-a-dozen choice paragraphs to illustrate how convincingly our author handles his materials. Nowhere is the satisfying nature of this book more evident than in the chapter on “What the Law could not do: the Law’s own witness to its insufficiency”. It is intriguing to speculate what effect this chapter—and indeed the entire volume—would have on a devout orthodox Jew. Will somebody make the experiment? The effect on more than one devout, orthodox Christadelphian is already known.

It is the custom in many ecclesial Bible Classes to have systematic reading of some Christadelphian classic. To such a practice the present writer owes his introduction to Eureka, The Law of Moses, The Ways of Providence, and others. Any such Bible Class looking for further suitable material could not do better than use this latest publication of the C.M.P.A. With the exception of the first half of the chapter on the offerings, which is necessarily a catalogue, all is magnificently readable, lucid, instructive and uplifting.

One result is bound to follow from the publication of this book. For some years now there has been going on a steady drift from the older generation’s enthusiasm for the typology of Scripture. This book, by its very excellence, will encourage that drift—which is a great pity. Nevertheless, there will be great gain.

H. A. WHITTAKER

Privacy |  Terms & Conditions |  Site Map |  Site by Quick By Design
Registered Address
The Christadelphian, 404 Shaftmoor Lane, Hall Green, Birmingham, B28 8SZ
Registered charity in England and Wales (No. 240090)
A charitable company limited by guarantee
(Company No. 329186 - England and Wales)
Tel: +44 (0)121 777 6328
Fax: +44 (0)121 778 5024
loading loading...