A Conservative Reformer Matthew 5:17

Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. - Matthew 5:17

Christ, the new Prophet and Teacher, has gone up upon the Mount and is about to speak to the people. He is sitting down to preach. The villages will be empty soon, for the news has gone abroad and great excitement has seized the people. What new thing will He tell them? What daring message is this Revolutionary about to give them? They throng the slopes; they hang upon His words; there is the silence of a great expectation upon the multitude. And Christ begins to preach. What is His subject? What is He saying?

Not a syllable about what they called religion, law, and Sabbath, and temple worship, and fasts; simply the Beatitudes, the inner virtues of the heart, the duty to show light. He moves the conscience of the people by bringing them straight into the presence of their Father. He recalls them to the consciousness of God, whom they are forgetting. His words move them as nothing had ever moved them before. They feel for an instant the pressure and the nearness of God Himself. At such a moment, in presence of a higher religion, what to them were law, and ceremonial, and priest? The murmur goes round that old things have passed away; it is a new world; away with remnants of exploded superstition and bygone forms of worship! It is to meet this inarticulate thought that Christ stops and says, "Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil." There is to be entire continuity with the past.

With absolute decisiveness He states the purpose of His coming. He knows the meaning of His own work, which so few of us do, and it is safe to take His own account of what He intends, as we so seldom do. His opening declaration is singularly composed of blended humility and majesty. Its humility lies in His placing Himself, as it were, in line with previous messengers, and representing Himself as carrying on the sequence of Divine revelation. It would not have been humble for anybody but Him to say that, but it was so for Him. Its majesty lies in His claim to "fulfil" all former utterances from God.

My love of, and trust in, our Lord, after I had seen Him in a vision, began to grow, for my converse with Him was so continual. I saw that, though He was God, He was man also; that He is not surprised at the frailties of men, that He understands our miserable nature, liable to fall continually, because of the first sin, for the reparation of which He had come. I could speak to Him as to a friend, though He is my Lord.… O my Lord! O my King! who can describe Thy Majesty? It is impossible not to see that Thou art Thyself the great Ruler of all, that the beholding of Thy Majesty fills men with awe. But I am filled with greater awe, O my Lord, when I consider Thy humility, and the love Thou hast for such as I am. We can converse and speak with Thee about everything whenever we will; and when we lose our first fear and awe at the vision of Thy Majesty, we have a greater dread of offending Thee, - not arising out of the fear of punishment, O my Lord, for that is as nothing in comparison with the loss of Thee!1 [Note: The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus (trans. by D. Lewis), 367.] 

to be continued