Law at Sinai Not New | Galatians 3:19

“Wherefore then serves the law? It was added because of transgressions.” From the evidences presented in last week’s study in Galatians, it is perfectly plain that the law of God, the Ten Commandments, in written form, both in tables of stone and as drawn out in its principles in the statutes and judgments of the additional directions given to Moses,” was spoken, was given, was added, because of the transgressions of men. As men went further into darkness, the Lord followed them with added efforts, and with further details to bring them to the light. Indeed, they went so far into transgressions and darkness that the Lord actually followed them so far as to give them “statutes that were not good.” The whole story is told in the following passage: —

The law of God existed before man was created. The angels were governed by it. Satan fell because he transgressed the principles of God’s government. After Adam and Eve were created, God made known to them his law. It was not then written, but was rehearsed to them by Jehovah.

The Sabbath of the fourth commandment was instituted in Eden. After God had made the world and created man upon the earth, he made the Sabbath for man. After Adam’s sin and fall, nothing was taken from the law of God. The principles of the Ten Commandments existed before the fall, and were of a character suited to the condition of a holy order of beings. After the fall, the principles of those precepts were not changed, but additional precepts were given to meet man in his fallen state . . ..

Adam taught his descendants the law of God which law was handed down to the faithful through successive generations. The continual transgression of God’s law called for a flood of waters upon the earth. Noah and his family preserved the law. Noah taught his descendants the Ten Commandments. The Lord preserved a people for himself from Adam down, in whose hearts was his law. He says of Abraham, He “obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, my laws” (Gen. 26:5).

If the descendants of Abraham had kept separate from other nations, they would not have been seduced into idolatry . . .. 
There were but a few families that first went down into Egypt. These increased to a great multitude. Some were careful to instruct their children in the law of God; but many of the Israelites had witnessed so much idolatry that they had confused ideas of God’s law . . .. 

To leave them without excuse, the Lord himself condescended to come down upon Sinai enshrouded in glory, and surrounded by his angels, and in a most sublime and awful manner made known his law of Ten Commandments. He did not trust them to be taught by any one, not even his angels, but spoke his law with an audible voice in the hearing of all the people. He did not, even then, trust them to the short memory of a people who were prone to forget his requirements, but wrote them with this own holy finger upon tables of stone. He would remove from them all possibility of mingling with his holy precepts any tradition, or of confusing his requirements with the practices of men.

He then came still closer to his people, who were so readily led astray, and would not leave them with merely the ten precepts of the Decalogue. He commanded Moses to write, as he should bid him, judgments and laws, giving minute directions in regard to what he required them to perform, and thereby guarded the ten precepts which he had engraved upon the tables of stone. These specific directions and requirements were given to draw erring man to the obedience of the moral law, which he is so prone to transgress.

If man had kept the law of God, as given to Adam after his fall, preserved in the ark by Noah, and observed by Abraham, there would have been no necessity for the ordinance of circumcision. And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant, of which circumcision was a token of pledge, they would never have gone into idolatry, nor been suffered to go down into Egypt; and there would have been no necessity of God’s proclaiming his law from Sinai, and engraving it upon tables of stone, and guarding it by definite directions in the judgments and statutes given to Moses.

Moses wrote these judgments and statutes from the mouth of God while he was with him in the mount. If the people of God had obeyed the principles of the Ten Commandments, there would have been no need of the specific directions given to Moses, which he wrote in a book, relative to their duty to God and to one another. The definite directions, which the Lord gave to Moses in regard to the duty of his people to one another, and to the stranger, are the principles of the Ten Commandments simplified and given in definite manner, that they need not err.

The Lord said of the children of Israel, “Because they had not executed my judgments but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my Sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers idols. Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live” (Ezek. 20:25). Because of continual disobedience, the Lord annexed penalties to the transgression of his law, which were not good for the transgressor, or whereby he should not live in his rebellion.
By transgressing the law which God had given in such majesty, and amid glory which was unapproachable, the people showed open contempt of the great Lawgiver, and death was the penalty” (“Spirit of Prophecy,” Vol. 1. pages 261-265). (See also “Patriarchs and Prophets,” chap. 32, pars. 1-4).

It is true that the sacrificial system was also given, added, because of transgressions. This is true as to the sacrifices originally, with Adam and Abraham: it is also true of the Levitical system given to Israel in the wilderness. This is also stated in a passage quoted in previous studies, as follows: —

“A system was then [“after the fall”] established requiring the sacrificing of beasts, to keep before fallen man that which the serpent made Eve disbelieve, that the penalty of disobedience is death. The transgression of God’s law made it necessary for Christ to die a sacrifice, and thus make a way possible for man to escape the penalty, and yet the honor of God’s law be preserved” (“Spirit of Prophecy,” Vol. 1, page 261)

“The sacrificial system, committed to Adam, was also perverted by his descendants. Superstition, idolatry, cruelty, and licentiousness corrupted the simple and significant service that God had appointed. Through long intercourse with idolaters, the people of Israel had mingled many heathen customs with their worship; therefore the Lord gave them at Sinai definite instruction concerning the sacrificial service. After the completion of the tabernacle, he communicated with Moses from the cloud of glory above the mercy seat, and gave full directions concerning the system of offerings, and forms of worship to be maintained in the sanctuary. The ceremonial law was thus given to Moses, and by him written in a book. But the law of Ten Commandments spoken from Sinai had been written by God himself of the tables of stone, and was sacredly preserved in the ark” (“Patriarchs and Prophets,” pages 364, 365).

Thus, of either the moral law or the ceremonial law it is true that it was given, added, because of transgressions. The question then is, “Which one is the law pre-eminently referred to in this clause in Gal. 3:19?” And from the specifications already noticed, as to this law having been “ordained . . . in the hand of a mediator,” and the direct association of this text with the speaking of the law of God in Heb. 12:20 and Deut. 5:22, it certainly must be the truth that the law which in this passage is pre-eminently intended, is the law of God, the Ten Commandments, in written form on tables of stone and in the Bible.

[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | February 27, 1900]