This document was scanned from: The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, Symposium on Puritanism and Law Vol. V., Winter, 1978-79, No 2. pp. 17-48, Gary North, Editor. On-line version (c) Ed Walsh, with permission of the author. James B. Jordan, who retains the rights to this document. The Journal may be purchased from, The Chalcedon Foundation, P.O. Box 158, Vallecito, CA 95251


I asked Mr. Jordan if he wanted to add a short introduction to clarify his present position on this subject. He said simply,

"I'd appreciate your noting at the outset that I hold a somewhat different view of "theonomy" today, though the overall historical argument for Biblical theocracy is valid, and in fact others have added to the data over the last couple of decades."
_jbj 8/4/1999

Mr. Jordan gives us some additional information in a reply to the CRT-L discussion group. [go] Keep in mind that the nature of e-mail discourse is similar to back 'n forth verbal conversation, and not always a thorough, carefully reflected, statement -- and a single quote like this one is necessarily out of context. _ew

Calvinism and "The Judicial Law of Moses"

An Historical Survey

JAMES B. JORDAN

THE problem of relating the Christian faith to vital social and political issues is very much before the evangelical and Reformed communities today. The Christian capital laid up by former generations has just about been used up as the 1980's draw near. The left wing, with its optimistic view of human nature, offers little to the Christian thinker, while the negativism and rootlessness of the American right wing prevent it from articulating a clear-cut alternative.

Into this milieu has come the suggestion that the Christian finds a political philosophy laid out in the specific social laws of Scripture. These laws, it is contended, exemplify Christian principles in socio-political affairs, for they express God's unchanging standard of justice. Thus, they should be studied as guidelines for Christian thought today. To the extent that these laws, given comprehensively through Moses, address abiding social problems, such as adultery or theft, their dictates are binding. The remaining laws should still be consulted, and the wisdom gained from meditating upon them should be applied to latter-day affairs.

Recent writers defending this basic view include most prominently R. J. Rushdoony and Greg L. Bahnsen. [1] Others have proven sympathetic to this thesis, and the reasons are not far to seek. As John Frame has noted in his review of Bahnsen's book, "It might turn out that our search will lead us after all to a closer imitation of the old covenant order, not out of Biblico-theological necessity, but out of a general Christian political wisdom; for 'what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you [Israel] this day?' (Deut. 4:8)" [2]

The thesis that the whole law of God-including details addressing social and political morality-is valid today must, of course, be attacked or defended on the basis of Scripture alone. As of the date of this essay, no Scriptural argument against the whole-law position has been issued, either into print or into the many discussions the present writer has engaged in. A variety of questionable arguments have been presented at various times to the present writer, and since these arguments apparently do circulate in conversations regarding the whole-law position, it may be well to deal with them at this point as a debris-clearing operation before moving to the matter at hand.

Criticisms of Theonomic Ethics

1. It has been contended that the laws of the Bible are harsh and unreasonable . Indeed, some have engaged in ridicule of them. [3] What are we to make of this argument? Marcion, the early church heretic, argued the same way, maintaining that the God of the Older Testament was harsh and cruel, but that the God of the New Testament is kind and loving. This is an ancient heresy. Christianity has always maintained that when men accuse God of being "harsh," it is only because they want an excuse for sin. Is God's law really harsh, however? The law states, for instance, that homosexual acts should be punished by death, on the testimony of two or three eyewitnesses. What is the effect of this law? It can be seen right away that few if any homosexuals would ever be executed under this law, since it would be very difficult to procure two eyewitnesses to such an act. The effect of this law would be to drive homosexuality far, far underground. It would help to protect young persons from homosexual solicitation. It would be an incentive to those of homosexual tendencies to prevent them from turning to a life of depravity. It would help to protect society at large from the judgment God visited on Sodom and Gomorrah. It would help to protect society from the rampant moral decay seen in the history of the Roman Empire. Is this "harsh"?

2. It has been contended that we today are not living in a "theocracy," but are living under " pluralism." What does this mean? Surely every Christian desires Christ to be King in some sense, and thus in some sense desires a "theocracy." Moreover, even if we are not living today in a theocracy, is this not just the issue at stake? To argue that our present government is pagan is simply to admit the need for a Christian theocracy. Theocracy, after all, means "the rule of God" or "the authority of God." Common use of the term has equated it with "the rule of churchmen," but ecclesiocracy has always been denied by Reformed Protestants, especially those in the Puritan tradition.

The modern concept of "pluralism" is to the political order what polytheism is to the religious order. Surely "pluralism" is the devil's own lie, that society can be neutral, neither for nor against God. In reality, no zone of life is neutral, and "pluralism" is heresy. That some modern Calvinists believe that total religious pluralism is the proper goal of Christian politics simply illustrates the poverty into which such "Calvinism" has sunk.

3. It has been contended that the Older Testament does not actually set forth a series of judicial or civil laws. With this criticism we may agree. A simple reading of Exodus or Deuteronomy will show that there is no place where a set of laws constituting a legal civil code is to be found. Rather, social, personal, civil, familial, and "ceremonial" laws are found all mixed up together. This shows that the law of God all stands or falls together. It would be improper to maintain, as some of the Fifth Monarchy Men did, that we find in the Bible a full-blown legal system. Rather, what we find is the basis for a Christian legal system. The laws of the Bible are case laws, and it is the duty of the Christian ruler to extend the equity of these cases to cover the details he finds in his own society.

To return to the case we discussed above, the Bible prescribes death for a man who lies with another man in the way a man lies with a woman (i.e., for homosexual acts). This case does not explicitly condemn lesbian acts, and we do not find a parallel case law forbidding a woman to lie with a woman. If the Bible intended to set forth a comprehensive legal code, we should expect to find such an anti-lesbian law. It is rather the case that the Bible expects us to extend the equity of the anti-homosexual law so as to cover lesbian activities, pornography, solicitation, and so forth. We are not free, however, to change the case law so as, for instance, to punish homosexuality with prison rather than with death. [4]

This criticism does, however, raise a difficult point. In the literature of Protestantism, it is assumed that the law of God comes in three categories: moral, judicial, and ceremonial. The criticism rightly shows that this category scheme is erroneous . What has been termed "judicial law" is not in fact a legal code, but rather is a set of explanations of the moral law . These explanations have judicial aspects and judicial implications, but are not a judicial code.

What this means is that it cannot be argued that "the judicial law of Moses" has been dropped out in the New Testament era, because there is no such thing in Scripture as "the judicial law of Moses ." What the opponent of theocracy must argue is this: that the judicial implications of the moral law have dropped out in the New Covenant era. This argument, however, proves too much, for virtually nobody wants to maintain that our legal code should be totally divorced from moral considerations.

It would seem that there is greater wisdom in humbly and gratefully receiving from the hand of God whatever explanations of the moral law He sees fit to reveal, whether such explanations be personal, familial, or civil.

4. It has been contended that this position does not do justice to " common grace " -- whatever that extraordinarily ambiguous term means. However the term is used, it is not apparent how "common grace" removes the revealed laws of God from operation. Did not "common grace" operate in ancient Israel? Did God not give sunshine and rain to the reprobate in Israel? Did God not restrain the sin of reprobates in the Older Testament era? If it is contended that "common grace" has been increased in the New Covenant, so that the Older Testament laws have dropped away, where is the textual, Scriptural evidence for this? Moreover, such a contention assumes a "law versus grace antagonism," which is anathema to the Reformed faith. [5]

5. It has been contended that this position does not do justice to the " flow of redemptive history ." This contention, however, is not an argument, but only the form of an argument. It is necessary for the opponent to come forth with texts which demonstrate that the "flow of redemptive history" has removed from operation God's own explanations of His moral law. Bahnsen's book has shown at great length that, despite very real and great changes in economy from the Older to the New Covenant, the laws of God are not among the changes. [6]

6. A similar contention has been that the theonomic-theocratic position is against the " tenor" of the New Testament. [7] Like the preceding argument, this is only the form of an argument, not the substance of one. If there be such a thing as a "tenor" of a book, [8] such a "tenor" or "feel" would have to be built up from the text of the book.

7. It has been contended that whatever is not repeated in the New Testament has been dropped from the Older . No argument is offered in defense of this slogan, except the assertion that the Older and New Covenants are wholly disparate. Against this dispensationalistic argument is (a) the fact that Matthew 5:17-19 asserts that nothing of the Older Testament has been dropped, and (b) the fact that the weekly Sabbath is usually admitted to be nowhere explicitly repeated in the New Testament, yet Calvinists continue to observe it.

8. It has been contended that the theocratic position fails to interpret the Older Testament in the light of the New , but reverses the order. Those arguing in this fashion reveal that they have read neither Rushdoony nor Bahnsen, both of whom rigorously argue from the New to the Older.

The fact that such arbitrary, sloganizing, and prejudicial arguments are seriously advanced calls into question the theological competency of those advancing them. These "arguments" have weight only for those who already agree with them. They are embarrassingly light-weight arguments.

9. An emotionally more cogent and persuasive argument has been that the Reformed tradition has always maintained that "the judicial laws of Moses" no longer bind the New Covenant community, and that the Westminster Confession of Faith, at section 19:4, stands against theonomy. If this were truly the case, it would not settle the matter once and for all, since creeds and councils can err. Moreover, the Protestant principle is not to test new ideas by tradition, but by Scripture.

Traditionalism, however, does hold sway unofficially in modern Reformed circles. Thus, it is the purpose of this essay to take up this argument from history. Our purpose is not to try to prove that historic Calvinism has always held to the whole-law position, or even that a majority of Calvinists have held to it. Rather, our purpose is to demonstrate that many within the Reformed fold, especially during the first one hundred years of its existence, highly favored "the judicial laws of Moses" as a model for the civil magistrate, and thus that there is no valid historical argument against the position advanced by Rushdoony and Bahnsen.

At the outset, however, it should be noted that the phrase "the judicial Law of Moses" is problematic. We saw above, under argument 3, that the Mosaic Law does not set forth a civil code, and thus that the phrase "judicial law of Moses" is theologically erroneous. Moreover, the phrase is ambiguous, in that the social or case laws in the Older Testament address much more than only judicial or civil penalties. There are laws for the family, for the individual, for ecology, and for many other areas of life. The only "civil laws," properly speaking, are those which have civil penalties attached to them. Thus, even if we were to try to break down the law of God into categories -- and it would be a reductionistic error to attempt it -- we would find far more than the three categories of moral, civil, and ceremonial. We would also find ecological, familial, marital, and other kinds of laws as well. Because of this, we can expect to find much confusion and ambiguity in any discussion of "the judicial laws of Moses." And this is what we do in fact find. Many writers state that "the judicial laws of Moses" no longer bind Christians, and then turn around and cite the Mosaic prescriptions as if they were binding. Martin Bucer is a perfect example of this. [9] One is left wondering precisely what the author had in mind when he used the term "judicial law," and it is usually impossible to find out, since few writers actually discussed the matter at any length.

John Calvin and Martin Bucer

In researching historical documents, the student can easily be fooled if he fails to take into account historical context. John Calvin can serve as a case in point. At first glance, Calvin's hostility to the modern use of the Mosaic judicials could hardly be more marked:

For there are some who deny that a commonwealth is duly framed which neglects the political system of Moses, and is ruled by the common law of nations. Let other men consider how perilous and seditious this notion is; it will be enough for me to have proved it false and foolish. [10]

What could be clearer? Yet in fact what Calvin calls the "common law of nations" included much that was derived from Moses, via Justinian and other sources. This "common law of nations" is no longer available, in our era of relativism on the one hand and Communist totalitarianism on the other, for twentieth-century Calvinists to appeal to. What would Calvin have written had he faced today's naked choices?

Although the quotation cited above seems completely clear in indicating a radical hostility toward the Mosaic judicials on Calvin's part, there are several reasons against taking it as such. Firstly, Calvin uses the Mosaic judicials in arguing for the death penalty for adultery. Commenting on Deuteronomy 22:22, he writes:

Nay, by the universal law of the Gentiles, the punishment of death is always awarded to adultery; wherefore it is all the baser and more shameful in Christians not to imitate at least the heathen. Adultery is punished no less severely by the Julian law than by that of God; whilst those who boast themselves of the Christian name are so tender and remiss, that they visit this execrable offence with a very light reproof. [11]

Note that the punishment is said to be that of the law "of God," not more restrictedly the Law of Moses. It is clear that Calvin is commending the Mosaic penalty here, yet an element of confusion still remains in the text. Whatever this "universal law of the Gentiles" may have been, it operates no longer in the twentieth century.

Secondly, Calvin writes in his defense of the execution of Servetus:

Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt. This is not laid down on human authority; it is God who speaks and prescribes a perpetual rule for his Church . It is not in vain that he banishes all those human affectations which soften our hearts; that he commands paternal love and all the benevolent feelings between brothers, relations, and friends to cease; in a word, that be almost deprives men of their nature in order that nothing may hinder their holy zeal. Why is so implacable a severity exacted but that we may know that God is defrauded of his honor, unless the piety that is due to him be preferred to all human duties, and that when his glory is to be asserted, humanity must be almost obliterated from our memories. [12]

Philip Schaff's comment is important:

Calvin's plea for the right and duty of the Christian magistrate to punish heresy by death, stands or falls with his theocratic theory and the binding authority of the Mosaic code. His arguments are chiefly drawn from the Jewish laws against idolatry and blasphemy, and from the examples of the pious kings of Israel. [13]

Thus, Schaff considers that Calvin held a high respect for the Mosaic judicials.

Thirdly, Calvin was a close friend and, in his earlier years, a disciple of the first-generation Reformer Martin Bucer. Bucer plainly held that the penal sanctions of the Older Testament were the best ever devised, being authored by God Himself, and thus should be enacted in all Christian states. [14] Calvin's high regard for Bucer may be seen in the following statement by Calvin:

Martin Bucer, a most faithful doctor of the Church of Christ, besides his rare learning and copious knowledge of many things, besides his clearness of wit, much reading and other many and various virtues (wherein he is almost by none now living excelled, has few equals, and excels most), has this praise peculiar to himself, that none in this age has used exacter diligence in the exposition of Scripture. [15]

This statement is important in two respects. First, it shows the very great respect Calvin had for Bucer. Second, it shows in particular that Calvin regarded Bucer as a master exegete. It must be remembered that even today Calvin himself is regarded as the greatest expositor of Scripture of the Reformation era, and his works are still cited in Bible commentaries written today. Thus, if Calvin held Bucer's use and exegesis of Scripture in high regard, this is no faint praise.

Also, Bucer's personal friendship and influence on Calvin must be considered. Pauck notes:

There was a deep affinity between Bucer and Calvin, not only because their outlook, especially on the needs of the Church, was similar . . . but chiefly because Calvin's mind was profoundly shaped by what he learned and took over from Bucer, particularly during the years (1538-1541) when they were associated in common work in Strassburg. [16]

When Bucer died, Calvin told a friend he felt as lonesome as an orphan, so close and personal was the relationship between the two men. [17]

Bucer placed a tremendous emphasis on the love of the brethren and the communion of the saints. Thus, he ever worked for the uniting of the Lutheran, Reformed, and Roman churches. When Bullinger attacked Bucer for compromising too much in this direction, Calvin, though sometimes having sentiments similar to Bullinger's, nevertheless defended Bucer. Because of his emphasis on love and community, Bucer stressed church discipline and the rule of discipline, the law of God. [18] As a result, Bucer readily turned to the social legislation recorded in the books of Moses, and held that modern Christian states should conform to them.

Bucer distinguished between the state "sanctified to God" [19] and the nonChristian civil order. With respect to the latter, he was anti-revolutionary.

It is agreed by all who determine the Kingdom, and offices of Christ by the Holy Scriptures, as all godly men ought to do, that our Saviour upon the earth took not on him either to give new laws in civil affairs, or to change the old, but [commanded] his own, in respect to civil life, to be subject themselves to the laws of the commonwealth in which they might live. [20]

The Christian civil order was different. While Christians are not bound to the Mosaic legislation in terms of circumstances peculiar to the Older Testament era, yet,

whoever does not reckon that such commandment's are to be conscientiously observed is certainly not attributing to God either supreme wisdom or a righteous care for our salvation. [21]

Bucer's position thus is this: In a Christian state, the Mosaic legislation has a binding force; but Christians in a pagan state should submit to the powers that be, until a time of reformation.

Now, the issue at hand is whether or not it is reasonable to think that Calvin's attack on those advocating the Mosaic judicials has application to his close friend Martin Bucer. Is it likely that Calvin would term Bucer's position "perilous, seditious, false, and foolish"? Moreover, is it in fact the case that Bucer's position is seditious? The answer to these questions is clearly "no." Bucer is not advocating sedition.

Is there, then, some other person or group to whom Calvin might be referring? There is indeed: the Anabaptists. Calvin's hostility to the Anabaptists is well known. That be regarded them as seditious is clear from many parts of the Institutes. Some of the Anabaptists did advocate the Mosaic judicials, and did so in a revolutionary manner.

In 1534 the Anabaptists of Münster drew up a legal code which restored the capital offences of the Bible, such as blasphemy, adultery and disobedience to parents, as well as imposing death for theft, begging, and even greed. The radical German reformers Müntzer and Carlstadt were in favor of restoring the judicial laws. [22]

The Anabaptists did indeed recommend the Mosaic judicials, but they also recommended civil disobedience and revolution. Calvin is attacking a position that is "perilous and seditious." There can be no question but that he has in mind not Bucer but the Anabaptists.

The final question, then, is this: does the modern theonomic-theocratic position advocated by Rushdoony, Bahnsen, et al ., stand in line with Bucer or with the Anabaptists? Rushdoony's and Bahnsen's writings make it more than plain that they are not sympathetic to the use of violence as a means to institute the Mosaic judicials. Thus, the modern theonomic position is a descendent of Bucer, and is not condemned by Calvin .

While Calvin did not himself advocate the Mosaic judicials, he regarded some of them at least as permanently binding, and did not condemn those such as Bucer (and Rushdoony, and Bahnsen) who sought their implementation in a peaceful manner.

The Sixteenth Century

The Belgic Confession of 1561 actually makes no remarks on our subject one way or another. Of interest, however, is the fact that one entire chapter (Article 25) is given over to "Of the Abolishing of the Ceremonial Law," while there is no equivalent statement regarding the judicial laws. Also, Article 36 states that it is the duty of the civil magistrate to "remove and prevent all idolatry and false worship," indicating a rather more favorable view of the Older Testament "legislation" than we meet with in some today. [23]

The Second Helvetic Confession, of 1566, was almost entirely the work of Heinrich Bullinger of Zurich, one of the great second-generation Reformers, who lived from 1504 to 1575. In an earlier work, Antiquissima Fides et vera Religio, translated by Miles Coverdale (1488-1568) as The Old Faith, Bullinger had written regarding the judicial law:

Whereas, besides the ceremonies, there is much written also in the law concerning civil polity, ordinance, judgment, to live peaceable and well in city and land; of buying and selling, of war and peace, of inheritance and properties, of laws matrimonial, of the punishment of the wicked, of the judgment and council, of lending and borrowing, etc.; it is no news at all, and serveth altogether for the declaration of the six commandments of the second table....

Such laws and rules to live in peace, in a civil order and virtue, have also the holy fathers had from the beginning of the world written in their hearts by God himself. Now hath God also caused all to be comprehended in writing by Moses, to the intent that the world might have all more clearly and perfectly, and that no man might excuse himself of ignorance. [24]

Bullinger's Second Helvetic Confession does not, any more than the Belgic Confession, state that the judicial law of Moses has expired. Chapter 27 clearly states that the ceremonial was abolished. In chapter 12, "Of the Law of God," we read.

For plainness' sake we divide it into the moral law, which is contained in the commandments, or the two tables expounded in the books of Moses; into the ceremonial, which does appoint ceremonies and the worship of God; and into the judicial, which is occupied about political and domestic affairs.

We believe that the whole will of God, and all necessary precepts, for every part of this life, are fully delivered in this law. For otherwise the Lord would not have forbidden that "anything should be either added or taken away from this law" (Dt. 4:2, 12:32); neither would he have commanded us to go straight forward in this, and "not to decline out of the way, either to the right hand or to the left" (Josh. 1:7). [25]

The second paragraph cited above certainly reads as if Bullinger intended us to keep all of the Mosaic law. The same is the case in chapter 30, "Of the Magistracy":

In like manner, let him govern the people, committed to him of God, with good laws, made according to the Word of God in his hands, and look that nothing be taught contrary thereto.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Therefore let him draw forth this sword of God against all malefactors, seditious persons, thieves, murderers, oppressors, blasphemers, perjured persons, and all those whom God has commanded him to punish or even to execute. Let him suppress stubborn heretics (who are heretics indeed), who cease not to blaspheme the majesty of God, and to trouble the Church, yea, and finally to destroy it. [26]

Noteworthy is the statement that the laws of nations are framed according to the word of God, and that additionally the state is to ensure that nothing be taught contrary to the Bible. Of further note is the phrase "and all those whom God has commanded him to punish or even to execute." Apparently God has commanded the magistrate to execute some criminals. These commands are found nowhere but in Scripture, so that penal sanctions of Scripture must of necessity be what is referred to here. This statement, as it stands in and of itself, can only mean that those things which were civil offenses in the Older Testament economy continue to be civil offenses in the New Testament era (these offenses are listed), and also that the specific punishment ordered by God for some crimes (execution) is still mandated.

In the Decades, however, Bullinger firmly insists upon the abrogation of the Mosaic judicials. [27] No nation is bound to receive them as its laws. Nonetheless, "the substance of God's judicial laws is not taken away or abolished, but . . . the ordering and limitation of them is placed in the arbitrement of good Christian princes . . . ." [28] Bullinger also argues that the good laws of the ancient world (Calvin's "common law of nations") trace back to Moses, [29] so that one reason Moses' specifics are no longer binding is that the laws of the nations so closely approximate them. [30] Thus, in a concrete sense, Bullinger's rejection of the letter of the Mosaic judicials is related to the fact that he saw their continuation in spirit in his own culture.

Bucer and Bullinger have a number of things in common. It would be well to summarize these, for we shall find them commonly occurring in Calvinistic writings of this century and the next.

  1. Both state categorically that the Mosaic judicial laws were designed for ancient Israel and no longer bind modern Christian nations.
  2. Both turn around and invoke the penal sanctions of the Mosaic laws as if they were fully binding on modern magistrates.
  3. Both hold that even though the Mosaic judicials are not binding, yet they are also not abolished or removed.
  4. Both hold that the Mosaic judicials must inform the thinking of good Christian princes, who nonetheless have the right to alter them somewhat.
  5. Both seem to believe that the Mosaic judicials cannot be improved upon.

How are we to understand this? We should like to suggest that the following is what is meant by these men. The civil aspects of the unchanging moral law of God were phrased in case law, dealing with cases common and sometimes peculiar to the ancient, agrarian Israelite economy. Some, perhaps many, of these cases no longer exist in the modern world. Nonetheless, the basic principles contained in the case laws can be and must be applied to the modern civil order, Some cases, such as murder, adultery, blasphemy, and sabbath breaking, remain the same; and thus the civil laws regarding these also remain the same from age to age, As will appear later on, the English Puritans used the term "equity" to denote this phenomenon of basic principles and common cases still being binding in the New Testament era.

Turning, then, to the English Reformers, we must examine the views of Hooper, Latimer, and Becon. Bishop John Hooper died a martyr of the Reform in 1555. His work is useful in showing that the biblical death penalty was commonly received in his day. "It sufficeth us loyallement and with good faith to hear this commandment, 'Commit no adultery'; which forbiddeth not only to abstain from another man's wife, the which both God's laws and man's laws, Christians' and gentiles', punisheth with death, Dt. 22, Lev. 24. . . ." [31]

Hugh Latimer (1485-1555) was also a bishop and martyr. The following quotation demonstrates a high regard for the civil use of the law of Moses:

There is no king, emperor, magistrate, and ruler, of what state soever they be, but are bound to obey this God, and to give credence unto his holy word, in directing their steps ordinately according to the same word. Yea, truly, they are not only bound to obey God's book, but also the minister of the same, "for the word's sake," so far as he speaketh "sitting in Moses' chair": that is, if his [the preacher's-J.B.J.] doctrine be taken out of Moses' law. For in this world God hath two swords, the one is a temporal sword, the other a spiritual. The temporal sword resteth in the hands of kings, magistrates, and rulers, under him; whereunto all subjects, as well the clergy as the laity, be subject, and punishable for any offence contrary to the same book. [32]

In short, the preacher explains the law of Moses to the civil magistrate, who then enforces the relevant sections of it with the sword. Latimer also declared, "I would wish that Moses's law were restored for punishment of lechery." [33]

Thomas Becon (1512-1567) studied under Latimer. He was a chaplain to Archbishop Cranmer, and his Catechism was written during the reign of Edward the Sixth, during the period of Bucer's influence in England. Becon cites the penal laws of Moses as examples to civil magistrates of every age. [34] He emphasizes that if wrongs against man are to be punished the second table of the law-how much more should wrongs against God be punished. [35] He adds: "But we have ... an expressed commandment to kill and put out of the way all idolaters and false prophets ...." [36],

This evidence from the mid-sixteenth century, while not always evidence of a rigorously consistent approach to the matter, surely does serve to indicate a deep respect for the civil implications of the law of Moses.

The Rise of Puritanism

The term "Puritan" is very difficult to define closely, and we need not enter the controversy over exactly what it denotes. For our purposes, Puritanism reflected an attitude regarding God and man which stressed the sinfulness and the duty of man, and the sovereignty and law of God. As to doctrine, the Puritans were strongly predestinarian. As to law, they believed that the Bible sets forth the specific pattern for church government, though they were not all in agreement regarding exactly what that pattern is. With regard to society, they were not retreatist, but maintained the old Christian and medieval notion of a Christian social order, of "Christendom." In terms of this, they had a high regard for the judicial laws of Moses. [37]

There was a long legal tradition favoring the Mosaic judicials, which fed into Puritanism. B. S. Capp has noted that the Lollards were strongly influenced in their social programs by the laws of Moses.

Wyclif attacked the profiteering lawyers and argued that men were not bound to obey laws not based on scripture. He condemned the view that "sinful men's laws, full of error, be more needful than the gospel." William Swynderby condemned the imprisonment of debtors. Walter Brute, preaching in 1392, declared it was "to be wondered at, why thieves are, among Christians, for theft put to death, when after the law of Moses they were not put to death. Christians suffer adulterers to live, Sodomites, and they who curse father and mother, and many other horrible sinners; ... So we neither keep the law of righteousness given by God, nor the law of mercy taught by Christ." This sermon was printed by Foxe, and was thus readily available in the seventeenth century. The chronicler, Henry of Knighton, claimed that the cry "Legem dei, Goddis lawe," was the watchword of the Lollard movement. [38]

Another source of Puritanism was John Knox. Thomas M'Crie comments on Knox's view in a passing remark while discussing Knox's debate with Maitland: ". . . both parties held that idolatry might justly be punished by death. Into this sentiment they were led in consequence of their having adopted the untenable opinion, that the judicial laws given to the Jewish nation were binding upon Christian nations, as to all offenses against the moral law." [39]

Thomas Cartwright was among the most highly respected Puritan leaders of English Presbyterianism. He lived from 1535 to 1603. In a lengthy interchange with Archbishop Whitgift, his Second Reply included the following remarkable statement:

And, as for the judicial law, forasmuch as there are some of them made in regard of the region where they were given, and of the people to whom they were given, the prince and magistrate, keeping the substance and equity of them (as it were the marrow), may change the circumstance of them, as the times and places and manners of the people shall require. But to say that any Magistrate can save the life of blasphemers, contemptuous and stubborn idolaters, murderers, adulterers, incestuous persons, and such like, which God by his judicial law hath commanded to be put to death, I do utterly deny, and am ready to prove, if that pertained to this question. [40]

Archbishop Whitgift complained in 1574 that "it is now disputed at every table, whether the magistrate be of necessity bound to the judicials of Moses, so that he may not punish otherwise than is there prescribed . . . ; which is most absurd . . . and . . . seditious." [41] Whitgift, ever a determined foe of Puritanism, was happy to be able to apply Calvin's adjective "seditious" to them, for it was the Puritans who advocated the Mosaic judicials.

William Perkins (1558-1602) argued in the same vein. Perkins was one of the formative thinkers of the Puritan movement. Perkins' discussion of witchcraft brings out his view of the Mosaic judicials. Thomas Pickering, a contemporary of Perkins, summarized his view thusly: "That the witch truly convicted is to be punished with death, the highest degree of punishment, and that by the law of Moses, the equity whereof is perpetual." [42] Perkins specifically noted that not only evil witches but also good witches were to be executed under Moses' law, because the essence of the antisorcery law was not directed against those who harm others but against those in pact with Satan. [43]

It should not escape notice that Cartwright and Perkins were two of the greatest and most influential of the early Puritans. Note that both use the term equity, which is used in the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 19:4. This will be explained further below. Note also that Cartwright is "ready to prove" the continuing validity of the Mosaic judicials. This is no mild view, but a very confident and assured one. Note finally that, according to Whitgift, the subject was under constant discussion at the end of the sixteenth century. It was a live issue in British Calvinism.

On the separatist side of Puritanism, Henry Barrow (d. 1593) was one of the principal leaders. His Discovery of the False Church (1590) included the following:

But the statutes and judgments of God which are delivered and expounded unto us by his holy prophets, endure for ever; the pure wisdom, the upright justice, the true exposition and faithful execution of his moral law: which laws were not made for the Jews' state only (as Mr. Calvin hath taught) but for all mankind, especially for all the Israel of God, from which laws it is not lawful in judgment to vary or decline either to the one hand or to the other. [44]

Barrow is quite straightforward: the judicial law ("statutes and judgments") is "the true exposition and faithful execution of God's moral law."

Philip Stubbs (c. 1555-1610?), a Puritan pamphleteer, composed An Anatomie of Abuses in 1583. Very popular, it ran through three editions in two years, and was reprinted a fourth time in 1595. [45] His views. was as follows:

S. What kind of punishment would you have appointed for these notorious bloody swearers?

P. I would wish (if it pleased God) that it were made death: For we read in the law of God, that whosoever blasphemeth the Lord, was presently stoned to death without all remorce. Which law judicial standeth in force to the world's end. [46]

We have seen that the early leaders of Puritanism in England frequently espoused the normativity of the judicial law of Moses, insofar as that law addressed abiding circumstances. This is important as background to the Westminster Assembly, especially the use of the term equity. The question may well be asked, however: Did the Puritan movement retain this emphasis in its full bloom? The answer has to be an unequivocal "yes," for precisely when the Puritans had opportunity to begin de novo with a new society, in New England, they turned to Moses' law as their own social code.

The Era of the Westminster Assembly

Chapter 19:4 of the Westminster Confession of Faith reads as follows:

To them [Israel] also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

What precisely does this mean? How are we to understand the phrase "general equity"? This will be the substance of our discussion in this section. In order to discover what this statement intends to set forth, we shall examine opinions from several contemporary quarters: the Continent, the Scottish Presbyterians, the English Congregationalists, and the New World colonists. Representatives from each of these groups will prove to have taken a very high view of the Mosaic judicials, and this will demonstrate that the Westminster Confession does not militate against such a view, but may well assume it.

A. The Continent

Johannes Wollebius (1586-1629), a theologian at Basel, published in 1626 a Compendium Theologia Christianae . According to Beardslee, Wollebius provides us here with "the best brief summary of Reformed dogmatics available from the period"-the period being the first third of the seventeenth century. [47] Beardslee further informs us that Wollebius' work was very popular on the Continent, and circulated widely. In chapter 14, "The Ceremonial and Political Law," section 6 reads as follows:

So much for the ceremonial law. The political law dealt with the civil constitution of the Jews.

Propositions

  1. As the ceremonial law was concerned with God, the political was concerned with the neighbor.

  2. In these matters on which it is in harmony with the moral law and with ordinary justice, it is binding on us.

  3. In those matters which were peculiar to that law and were prescribed for the promised land or the situation of the Jewish state, it has no more force for us than the laws of foreign commonwealths. [48]

Notice that according to Wollebius all of the judicial law is permanently binding except what is unique to the geography of Palestine or deals with the formal construction of the state. As will be seen in the sequel, these same provisions were made by the New England Puritans.

B. Scotland

Turning to Scotland, we have an interesting and detailed series of remarks on this subject by George Gillespie, one of the Scottish commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. Gillespie's full remarks on the relation between church and state consume a very large volume and cannot be treated of here. He does, however, identify his sympathies immediately in Aaron's Rod Blossoming (1646), where in 1:1 he writes:

I know some divines hold that the judicial law of Moses, so far as concerneth the punishments of sins against the moral law, idolatry, blasphemy, Sabbath-breaking, adultery, theft, etc., ought to be a rule to the Christian magistrate; and, for my part, I wish more respect were had to it, and that it were more consulted with.

Gillespie goes on to distinguish between the roles of state and church in civil matters. A clearer statement is found in his CXI Propositions Concerning the Ministry and Government of the Church (1644), where he states:

47. It is one thing to govern the commonwealth, and to make political and civil laws; another thing to interpret the word of God, and out of it to show the magistrate his duty, to wit, how he ought to govern the commonwealth, and in what manner he ought to use the sword. The former is proper and peculiar to the magistrate (neither doth the ministry intermeddle or entangle itself into such businesses), but the latter is contained within the office of the ministers.

48. For to that end also is the holy Scripture profitable, to show which is the best manner of governing a commonwealth, and that the magistrate, as being God's minister, may by this guiding star be so directed, as that he may execute the parts of his office according to the will of God, and may perfectly be instructed in every good work....

Note that Gillespie states that the Bible instructs the magistrate on how to use the sword, i.e., on penal sanctions. Gillespie saw the magistrate bound to rule according to the Scriptures, and especially according to the judicial laws of Moses. Gillespie's testimony is highly significant, since it addresses the issue directly, and in that Gillespie was very influential at the Westminster Assembly. [49]

C. England

John Owen (1616-1683) wanted Oliver Cromwell to rule by the Mosaic judicials. In a sermon, "Christ's Kingdom and the Magistrate's Power," preached before Parliament on October 13, 1652, the great congregationalist leader said:

Although the institutions and examples of the Old Testament, of the duty of magistrates in the things and about the worship of God, are not; in their whole latitude and extent, to be drawn into rules that should be obligatory to all magistrates now, under the administration of the gospel,-and that because the magistrate was "custos, vindex, et administrator legis judicialis, et politiae Mosaicae," from which, as most think, we are freed-,- yet, doubtless, there is something moral in those institutions, which, being unclothed of their Judaical form, is still binding to all in the like kind, as to some analogy and proportion. Subduct from those administrations what was proper to, and lies upon the account of, the church and nation of the Jews, and what remains upon the general notion of a church and nation must be everlastingly binding .[50]

We must not miss the force of the last sentence. What Owen is saying is that whatever can be applied must be applied. Notice the parallel with the Westminster Confession statement: some laws applied to the Jews as a national entity, and bad to do with their structures and institutions. These have passed away. Other laws, however, are equally applicable to all nations, and these are binding. In the language of Westminster, "further than the general equity thereof may require."

Thomas Gilbert was chaplain of Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1656 to 1660. In the Whitehall debates of December, 1648, he argued that insofar as the judicial law "was a fence and outwork to the Moral law, it stands with the Moral law, and that still binds upon men.... So ... the Judicial law . . . is still the duty of Magistrates." [51]

D. New England

The Puritan experiments in the New World clearly reveal what their conceptions were. Whatever ambiguity may have afflicted them in England, given the opportunity to start from scratch they turned unanimously to the judicials of Moses for their civil order. We shall look briefly at three of their leaders, and then examine the laws of three colonies, in order to confirm this point.

John Cotton (1584-1652) was one of the most prominent of the Puritan pastors in Massachusetts Bay. He was an unabashed theocrat. Like all Puritan thinkers, he did not interpret theocracy to entail the unification of church and state, but rather saw both institutions as under the one rule of Christ. Greg L. Bahnsen has reprinted Cotton's most succinct theocratic work, An Abstract of the Laws of New England, as They are Now Established (1641), which is (apparently) the same work as Cotton's Moses His Judicials (1636).[52] This work consists largely of verbatim quotations from the law of Moses. Although it was not adopted by Massachusetts, it greatly influenced the Bible-based code which was adopted, Nathaniel Ward's Body of Liberties (1641). The Body of Liberties influenced the Massachusetts Code (1648), and this in turn influenced the constitutions of all the colonial states.

Cotton distinguished between the permanent judicials, which were appendages to the moral law, and temporary judicials, which were appendages to the ceremonial law. Some examples of temporary laws, peculiar to the Israelite state, were:

  1. the Levirate,
  2. some aspects of the Jubilee,
  3. Spirit-inspired Judges and the hereditary monarchy,
  4. putting away heathen wives,
  5. the inalienability of family property,
  6. prohibition on mixed cloth,
  7. prohibition on yoking ox and ass,
  8. prohibition on rounding beard,
  9. the Levitical requirement to drain blood from meat (though the prohibition on drinking fresh blood is permanent). [53]

Another prominent pastor was Thomas Shepard (1605-1649), who ministered at Newtown, Massachusetts, from 1636 until 1649. Shepard provides us with an extended comment on the permanent aspects of the Mosaic judicials:

Thesis 42: The judicial laws, some of them being hedges and fences to safeguard both moral and ceremonial precepts, their binding power was therefore mixed and various, for those which did safeguard any moral law, (which is perpetual,) whether by just punishments or otherwise, do still morally bind all nations; ... and hence God would have all nations preserve their fences forever, as he would have that law preserved forever which these safeguard. . . . As, on the contrary, the morals abiding, why should not their judicials and fences remain? The learned generally doubt not to affirm that Moses' judicials bind all nations, so far forth as they contain any moral equity in them, which moral equity doth appear not only in respect of the end of the law, when it is ordered for common and universal good, but chiefly in respect of the law which they safeguard and fence, which if it be moral, it is most just and equal, that either the same or like judicial fence (according to some fit proportion) should preserve it still, because it is but just and equal that a moral and universal law should be universally preserved . . . . [54]

Several aspects of this quotation are noteworthy. First is Shepard's assertion that the "just punishments" or something proportionately like them are included in the permanently binding aspects of the Mosaic judicials. Second is his statement that the educated thinkers of his day were in agreement that insofar as the Mosaic judicials contained equity, they were binding on all nations.

Third, Shepard contends that the equity is not contained in the purpose of the moral law, but in the moral law itself. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "equity" is here used in the sense of a recourse to a general principle of justice. To be precise, "Equity of a statute according to its reason and spirit so as to make it apply to cases for which it does not expressly provide." [55] Thus, what Shepard is saying is that the case laws of the Mosaic system reflect perfectly, in their particular applications, the universal justice of the moral law. Though some of these cases do not apply directly today, they do show concretely how the general principles are to be worked out in particular situations.

Some cases apply directly to all times, such as death for adultery, since adultery is the same in all times and places. Other cases, such as the requirement that a fence be put on the roofs of newly constructed houses, have little relevance to us today as they stand, since our roofs are not flat and we do not use them for social gatherings. There are, however, similar situations and equivalent circumstances in the modern world (such as high porches), and by studying the Mosaic legislation, we can discern how properly to apply the moral law equitably to our modern situation.

It is very important that this concept of equity be understood, for it is this very concept which is employed by the Westminster Confession of Faith in section 19:4. The equity of the Mosaic judicials is permanently binding, even though some of the cases or particular illustrations in the Mosaic law do not appear today.

Shepard also is helpful in delimiting the use of the law of the Older Testament in another way. In A Wholesome Caveat (1648), he notes that there were various forms of government authorized by God in the Older Testament. [56] Thus, as regards the precise form of government, as distinct from its legal matter, none is legislated by Scripture. The other work cited above was published in 1649. These works, written and issued in the same decade as the Westminster Assembly, give us a good idea of what the consensus must have been among the stricter Calvinists at that august assemblage.

More rigorous in his views was John Eliot, the apostle to the Indians. Eliot was one of the most remarkable missionaries of all time, in that he not only brought the good news of personal salvation to his Indian hearers, but also sought to reorganize completely their societies in order to make them prosperous, productive, and happy. His labors, which were ceaseless, ran until his death in 1690 at the age of 86. In a remarkable book, The Christian Commonwealth (1659), he argued from Exodus chapter 18 that society should be organized by households, with elders over groups of ten, of 50, of 100, and so forth. He noted that Jesus operated on this principle in the New Testament (Mark 6:40). Eliot worked out this surprising scheme in great detail, going into relatively fine points regarding at which level in the pyramid capital crimes should be tried, and so forth. [57] If this seems innocuous to us today, it was regarded as "full of seditious principles and notions" by the Governor and Council of Massachusetts when they took it up on March 18, 1660. This extreme denunciation reflects the fact that Charles II had ascended the throne in Britain, and all Puritan thought was suspect. [58] Eliot was required to renounce it, and with wise discretion (Matt. 5:41) he did so. [59] Still in all, his little work shows us to what lengths the careful Puritans were ready to go in order to follow the dictates of God. We must note, then, that if Eliot was to the right of the consensus of his times, that consensus must have been well to the right of what is popular in Reformed circles today.

We turn now to consider the legislation of three of the New England settlements. Revisions were made in English law under the Cromwellian administration, as might be expected. Capp notes that "The Rump [Parliament] actually passed measures establishing the death penalty for adultery, incest, and blasphemy, and severe penalties for swearing and for profanation of the Sabbath." [60] Despite this, the Calvinistic experiment did not have full opportunity to do things its own way except in the New World, where there were no traditions to overcome, no unbelieving power bloc to contend with, and little social inertia from within the ranks, the New England breed being by and large the stricter sort. In America they had a chance to start from scratch, and it is surely significant that they turned directly to the Mosaic judicials in doing so. We have noted already John Cotton's input in this, but let us now briefly examine the legal records themselves.

The Records of the New Haven Colony include the following entry, which speaks for itself.

March 2, 1641/2: And according to the fundamental agreement, made, and published by full and general consent, when the plantation began and government was settled, that the judicial law of God given by Moses and expounded in other parts of scripture, so far as it is a hedge and a fence to the moral law, and neither ceremonial nor typical nor had any reference to Canaan, hath an everlasting equity in it, and should be the rule of their proceedings. [61]

Note that the judicial law is that of God, not that of Moses. Note also the recurrence of "equity," which is here said to be "everlasting."

Thomas Hutchinson summarizes the laws of Massachusetts Bay Colony. As regards the 1648 Code, referred to above in our discussion of John Cotton, Hutchinson notes that, in common with English law, it penalized with death: murder, sodomy, witchcraft, arson, and the rape of a child under ten years of age. Added to these were: idolatry, blasphemy, kidnapping, adultery (several were executed under this law), willful perjury designed to do another to death, unprovoked cursing or striking of parents by children over 16 years of age. Additionally, many lesser crimes were capital if repeated twice or thrice. Since high treason against the king and rape of an unengaged girl were not capital crimes in the Biblical system, neither were they capital in Massachusetts. [62] Hutchinson also gives an interesting case of the application of Biblical restitution laws: "Josias Plaistowe, for stealing four baskets of corn from the Indians, was ordered to return them eight baskets . . . ." [63] Wertenbaker adds that, according to an order of the General Court on November 4, 1646, incorrigibly delinquent teenagers were to be put to death. This also was according to the Biblical judicials. No Massachusetts teenager was ever actually executed under this law -- It seems to have bad its intended sobering influence. [64]

At Plymouth Colony the same situation prevailed. Hutchinson remarks, "Cartwright, who had a chief hand in reducing puritanism to a system, held, that the magistrate was bound to adhere to the judicial law of Moses, and might not punish or pardon otherwise than they prescribed, and him the Massachusetts people followed." [65] Hutchinson here is speaking specifically of the Plymouth settlement, which was of a slightly different theological stripe than the Massachusetts Bay settlement, but was Puritan all the same.

E. The Westminster Standards

We have now spiraled in upon the actual Westminster Assembly and Standards themselves. In that influential Continental, Scottish, Congregational, Puritan, and colonial divines of the period highly favored the civil use of the Mosaic judicials, and many maintained that their use was not optional for a Christian state, we may be certain that the Westminster Standards were not intended to exclude their views . Summarizing our case to this point, we have found in the background and milieu of the Westminster Assembly the following factors:

  1. The Wycliffite background of the English Reformation favored the continued use of the Mosaic judicials.
  2. The influential Bucer insisted that the Mosaic judicials could not be improved upon.
  3. The influential Bullinger was more ambiguous, but generally favored the Mosaic judicials.
  4. The English Reformers, Hooper, Latimer, and Becon, were favorable to the Mosaic judicials.
  5. John Knox held to the binding nature of the Mosaic judicials.
  6. Thomas Cartwright, the father of Puritanism, held rigorously to the Mosaic judicials, and was ready to debate the point.
  7. Archbishop Whitgift, the opponent of Puritanism, complained that the Mosaic judicials were being advocated and debated everywhere.
  8. Wollebius held that the Mosaic judicials were still binding.
  9. Gillespie noted that many were advocating the Mosaic judicials at the time of the Westminster Assembly, and expressed his partiality to their view.
  10. John Owen advocated the Mosaic judicials.
  11. The New England colonies implemented the Mosaic judicials. It is important to note that many books written in New England were printed and distributed in England, at precisely the time during which the Westminster Assembly was meeting. It is also important to remember that the most brilliant and influential theologians of Puritanism were among those who migrated to New England. Their opinions were highly respected by their contemporaries. (For instance, John Owen was converted to Congregationalism by John Cotton.)

If the Westminster Standards do not contradict the whole-law position, how favorable are they to it? Or are the Standards ambiguous? An examination of the evidence will show that the Standards are ambiguous regarding the Mosaic judicials, but mildly favorable to them . Given the consensus of the time, this is what we should expect to find.

The ambiguity is clear in Confession section 19:4, which reads in such a way as almost to contradict itself.

To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people. . . .

We have noted that the Confession is in error at this point in assuming that the Mosaic case laws were designed as a civil code for any nation. Rather were they explanations of the moral law, and thus form a foundation for civil codes. Howbeit, this statement of the Confession seems clearly to state that the Mosaic case laws no longer bind the Christian community. The second half of the statement, however, gives back with the right hand what was removed with the left:

. . . not obliging any other now, further than the general equity may require (emphasis added).

Modern readers will interpret this statement to mean that there is a "spirit of fairness" in the laws which ought to be emulated by modern states. This, however, is not the meaning of the term "equity" in its historical context. As noted above, the Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning of "equity" as follows: "Equity of a statute according to its reason and spirit so as to make it apply to cases for which it does not expressly provide." In other words, the Confession is saying that though the precise cases addressed by the case law may no longer be found in modern society, there are parallel cases to which they do apply, and where these parallel cases are found, the case laws are binding ("require").

The prooftexts of this paragraph reveal some of the same ambiguity. The pattern of the proofs in the Standards is that each phrase or term is footnoted with texts. Thus, we should expect that prooftexts would be given at three points in this paragraph: after "sundry judicial laws," after "of that people," and after "equity thereof may require." This, however, is not the case. Rather, the whole paragraph is given one footnote. The texts given do point to the various phrases of the paragraph, however. Exodus 21 and 22 are cited as being the laws in question. Genesis 49: 10, I Peter 2:13f., and Matthew 5:17+38f. are cited apparently to show changes or expirations in the law. Finally, I Corinthians 9:8ff. is cited to show the permanent equity of the law. What are we to make of this? It is clear that the framers of the Standards felt that there was both continuity and discontinuity in the law of God . God had given to ancient Israel a civil code, which was designed for that people at that time. This code, in the strict sense, was not designed for other nations particularly, and thus expired. Jesus was free to make some changes in this law. At the same time, this civil code was based on eternal moral principles, and these moral principles could clearly be seen in the laws themselves, so that these laws should form the basis of all Christian civil codes, according as the "general equity thereof may require." Thus, these laws could not be ignored or overlooked. Christians are not free to take them or leave them. They must be consulted for their "equity."

What the Standards do not do is spell out to what extent and how these laws are binding and to what extent and how they have been loosed. This is doubtless because this was an open question, much debated at the time. Some held, as we have seen, that whatever could be applied from these laws had to be applied, without any alteration. Others held more lax views regarding their binding nature. The Standards do not settle this issue in full. If, however, we make a careful examination of the Standards, we will be able to see at some points how the framers regarded the binding nature of the judicial aspects of the law of God, and to this we now turn.

In Confession 1:2, the Confession affirms that all of the books of Scripture, not just the New Testament, are given by God "to be the rule of faith and life.

In 1:6 we are told that everything man needs for his life is "either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be derived from Scripture." Since civil life is not optional but needful for man, the Confession implies that to some degree, at least, the ordering of civil life is found in Scripture. This is an implicitly anti-pluralistic declaration.

In 20: 1, discussing liberty of conscience, the Confession states:

But, under the new testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church was subjected, and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of (emphasis added).

Mark that in noting the New Testament's improvements over the Older Covenant, nothing whatever is mentioned by the Confession regarding the abrogation of the judicial laws. This is, granted, an argument from silence, but it is a significant silence in context. Most modern writers would surely have added the judicial laws' abrogation as an enlargement of Christian liberty. That the Standards do not do so indicates that at the very least the framers as a group had no settled opinions on the matter.

In 20:4, the Confession affirms that the magistrate must punish those who teach against Christianity or against the church . The prooftexts begin with Deuteronomy 13:6-12, which requires death for those who advocate false religions. Also cited are Nehemiah 13:15-25 on the enforcement of the Sabbath, II Kings 23:5-21 and several other passages in Kings and Chronicles wherein a godly ruler executed the priests of false religions, and Zechariah 13:2-3, which makes the same point as Deuteronomy 13.

In 22:3, the case law of Numbers 5:19ff. is cited as still binding with respect to oaths and vows, as is Exodus 22:7-11. In 22:7, the case law provisions of Numbers 30:5-13 are invoked as still regulative with respect to oaths and vows.

In 23:3, the civil ruler is directed to suppress all "blasphemies and heresies." The prooftexts include Leviticus 24:16 and Deuteronomy 13:5, which order death for blasphemers and heretics respectively.

In 24:4, the Older Testament laws regarding degrees of consanguinity and affinity in marriage are cited as binding (Lev. 18; 20). In 24:6, the case law of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is cited as procedurally binding in cases of divorce.

Larger Catechism question 28 tells us that the blessings and curses of the Covenant operate under the New Covenant in the same way as under the Older Covenant, citing Deuteronomy 28:15ff.

In Q. 99:7 the Catechism directs "that what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places." This statement is wholly anti-pluralistic, in that it requires those in positions of authority to enforce the law of God on unbelievers . Cited is Exodus 20: 10, the law of the Sabbath .

In Q. 108 we are directed to remove false religions, according to our position in life (Deut. 7:5), and

In Q. 109 we are told that "tolerating a false religion" is a sin (Deut. 13:6-12; Zech. 13:1-3). According to the Catechism, thus, pluralism is wicked and evil.

In Q. 128, Exodus 21:15 and Deuteronomy 21:18ff. are cited, which require the death penalty for striking parents and for rebellion .

In Q. 136, Numbers 35:31 is cited in defense of capital punishment, and Numbers 35:16-21 and Exodus 21:18ff. are cited "concerning the laws for smiters, for an hurt by chance, for an ox that goreth, and for him that is an occasion of harm." Apparently the permanent equity of these laws was regarded as binding by the Assembly. These laws, it would seem, are not among those that "expired together with-the State of that people."

In Q. 139 the Catechism cites Leviticus 20:15f., which requires death for bestiality .

In Q. 141 restitution is required for theft. Leviticus 6:2-5 is cited, and the command to add a fifth part in making voluntary restitution is italicized, showing that the concept of 120 percent restitution was embraced by the Assembly. Also cited are the case laws concerning helpfulness: Leviticus 25:35, Deuteronomy 21:1-4, and Exodus 23:4f.

In Q. 142 the sins forbidden include the removing of landmarks, citing Deuteronomy 19:4.

In Q. 145 the sins include concealing the truth (Lev. 5:1; Deut. 13:8), failure to reprove sin (Lev. 19:17), lying (Lev. 19:11), talebearing (Lev. 19:16), and raising false rumors (Ex. 23:1).

Finally, in Q. 151:3, Deuteronomy 22:22, 28f. are cited as binding exemplars of differing degrees of sin .

Much of the preceding argument has been taken from the prooftexts appended to the Confession and Catechisms, and of course these original prooftexts are not considered as having creedal status. Modern Presbyterian denominations have often replaced these prooftexts with new sets of texts. Our concern, however, is to locate the thinking of the framers of the Standards, and for this purpose a consultation of their original prooftexts is helpful.

It is also often noted that the Assembly did not originally attach prooftexts, and was reluctant to do so when so ordered by Parliament. This reluctance is probably overdrawn by modern observers, in that the delegates to the Assembly had been removed from their families for several years already by this time. Even if they did have principled objections to prooftexting, and were reluctant for this reason, the fact remains that their thinking had been so shaped by Older Testament laws that they instinctively wrote the content of these into the Standards, and thus had to cite the Mosaic judicials when they added in the prooftexts. Thus, the prooftexts are indeed of value in indicating the thinking of the delegates to the Westminster Assembly.

In summary, then, these citations serve to highlight the ambiguity of the Standards' position, and demonstrate that modern opponents of the whole-law theonomic-theocratic position cannot appeal to the Westminster Standards to back up their views. Particularly as regards the suppression of heresy and idolatry, the Standards are thoroughly theocratic and wholly anti-pluralistic.

The Later Colonial Period in America

Samuel Willard (1640-1707) was for many years the pastor at Boston's Old South Church. His Compleat Body of Divinity, when published after his death in 1726, was at that time the largest volume ever issued from the presses in America. It was close to 1,000 folio pages. Because several printing presses were used, some page numbers were repeated. The second time page 622 is encountered, we read:

With respect to the Judicial Laws, we must observe, that these were Appendices, partly of the Moral, partly of the Ceremonial Law: Now such as, or so far as they are related to the Ceremonial, they are doubtless Abolished with it. As, and as far as they bear respect to the Moral Law, they do, eo Nomine, require Obedience perpetual, and are therefore reducible to Moral Precepts . . . . [66]

Willard goes on to distinguish, within the penal laws, those which are permanent and those which are not:

Some indeed were Moral, as the Death of a Murderer, and without any Ransom; and some also suppose that the making Adultery a Capital Crime belongs hither: But others were proper only to the Time and State of that People, as the Law about Profaning the Sabbath, Numb. 15:33, etc. [67]

Unfortunately, that is as far as Willard takes us. We do not discover precisely where he draws the line because his principle of differentiating the moral judicials from the ceremonial judicials is not made explicit. His view does, however, place him squarely in the Puritan tradition.

Samuel Sewell in his famous diary gives the best picture of New England life at the time of Willard's pastorate. The two men were close friends. In his entry for April 2, 1674, Sewell records that "Benjamin Gourd of Roxbury (being about 17 years of age) was executed for committing Bestiality with a Mare . . . . " [68] The recent editor of Sewell's diary, M. Halsey Thomas, notes that by the Province Laws of 1697, 23 years after this incident, the death penalty was still on the books for rape and bestiality, and atheism and blasphemy were also legislated against. [69] The Puritan legal system was being modified, but was still highly influential.

In closing, let us look at the thought of John Witherspoon (1723-1794), president of Princeton University. Witherspoon would have liked for the lex talionis to be incorporated into American legislation:

I make one particular remark, that though many things are copied from the law of Moses into the laws of modern nations, yet so far as I know none of them have introduced the lex talionis in the case of injuries, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, etc. and yet perhaps there are many instances in which it would be very proper. [70]

This again demonstrates a rather high view of the Mosaic judicials, and that by a man very influential in the thought of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, a man who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Later English Writers

Two authors come before our view in this section: Thomas Ridgeley and Thomas Scott. Both continued the earlier tradition of taking a high view of the judicial law. Ridgeley provides a list of seven kinds of judicial laws that expired with the coming of the New Testament era: [71]

  1. The levitate and the inalienability of property.
  2. The jubilee.
  3. The six-year limit on slavery.
  4. The sabbatical year.
  5. The usury prohibitions.
  6. The annual festivals.
  7. The cities of refuge and the avenger of blood.

By inference, all other laws were binding. (It should be noted that Rushdoony and Bahnsen maintain the permanence of the six-year limitation on slavery and of the usury legislation, as well as at least some aspects of the jubilee and sabbatical year.) Ridgeley (c. 1667-1734) was an English Independent. His Body of Divinity, one of the few commentaries on the Westminster Larger Catechism, was published between 1731 and 1733. Later editions (the work was highly regarded and reissued several times) included notes from the hand of John Wilson, who comments in connection with Ridgeley's views:

Dr. Ridgeley is of the class who appeal to the enactments of the judicial law; and he even seems to maintain that these enactments, just in the state in which they were made for the Israelites, are still in force. He does not anywhere say, in as many words, that the judicial law is permanently and universally binding; but, in several instances, when expounding the decalogue, and especially when teaching the results of transgression in the present life, he quotes its provisions in the same manner, and with the same drift, as if they were precepts of the moral law. [72]

Thomas Scott (1747-1821) was an Anglican minister who had been converted under John Newton. His extremely popular Holy Bible with Notes was issued in sections between 1788 and 1792. The following two statements were read in many households across Britain and America during the ensuing years.

Making some allowance for the circumstances varying in different ages and nations, there is a spirit of equity in these laws, which is well worthy of being transfused into those of any state. [73]

. . . a full investigation of the subject would evince, that the laws enacted by him [Moses] were uniformly more wise, equitable, humane, mild, and salutary in their tendency, than the complex body of laws, even of the most civilized nations, nay of those where Christianity has most flourished. For the former bear the evident stamp of a divine original; the latter are tarnished by the infirmities and passions of our fallen nature. [74]

It is inconceivable that a man would have this view of the worth of the judicial law of God, and not want it to be enacted in his own homeland.

Southern Presbyterian Writers

We turn in conclusion to the thought of the two most excellent theologians of Southern Presbyterianism: James H. Thornwell and Robert L. Dabney. When the Confederate States of America were formed, in response to a perceived economic and atheistic threat from the Northern States, it was widely hoped that the new nation would be explicitly Christian. A petition was sent to the Congress of the CSA from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the CSA, authored by Thornwell, to that end. The proposed amendment to the CSA Constitution, to be added to the section providing for liberty of conscience, read:

Nevertheless we, the people of these Confederate States, directly acknowledge our responsibility to God, and the supremacy of His Son, Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords; and hereby ordain that no law shall be passed by the Congress of these Confederate States inconsistent with the will of God, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. [75]

Thornwell argued that though "the will of God, as revealed in the Scriptures, is not a positive Constitution for the State," [76] yet the State must believe the Scriptures "to be true, and regulate its own conduct and legislation in conformity with their teachings." [77] (Note that this is the position of Bahnsen and Rushdoony.) Beyond these general statements Thornwell does not go, yet his emphasis that modern civil law should be tied to and regulated by Scripture makes it hard to believe he could have held the kind of negative opinion regarding the Mosaic judicials that is sometimes encountered today. He was surely no "pluralist." [78]

Robert L. Dabney, like Ridgeley, nowhere in his works explicitly states that the judicial law of God is binding, yet seems to assume it as a principle in his writings. In his Lectures in Systematic Theology he cites the Older Testament capital punishments for murder, striking parents, adultery, and religious imposture, without any hint that he thought these had ceased to bind nations. [79] With respect to adultery, his statement is explicit:

The law of Moses, therefore, very properly made adultery a capital crime; nor does our Saviour, in the incident of the woman taken in adultery, repeal that statute, or disallow its justice. The legislation of modern, nominally Christian nations, is drawn rather from the grossness of Pagan sources than from Bible principles. [80]

This statement, especially its reference to "nominally Christian nations," makes it evident that, in Dabney's view, a genuinely Christian nation would draw its legislation from the law of God, including the penal particulars, rather than from pagan sources. Dabney here explicitly disagrees with Calvin's notion of a "common law of nations." Pagan sources are contrasted with Biblical law.

Dabney's view is further elaborated and brought into sharper focus in his discussion of the lex talionis .

The application of the lex talionis made by Moses against false witnesses was the most appropriate and equitable ever invented. Whatever pain or penalty the false swearing would have brought on the innocent man maligned had the law followed the false witness unprotected, that penalty must be visited on the perjurer maligning him.

Let the student compare the admirable symmetry of Moses' provision with the bungling operation of our statute against perjury. He discriminates the different grades of guilt with exact justice. We punish the perjurer who swears away his neighbor's cow with imprisonment, and the perjurer who swears away his neighbor's honor and life, still with imprisonment. [81]

Conclusion

Three matters of interest to modern Calvinists have emerged from this study. The first is that the apparent condemnation of the whole-law position by Calvin in his Institutes almost certainly does not apply to modern theonomists, who stand with Bucer, not with the Anabaptists. The second is that the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms do not condemn the whole-law position, but to a considerable degree presuppose it. The third is that during the period of Calvinism's greatest strength there were many, and often the most notable theologians were among them, who advocated the same position taken by Rushdoony and Bahnsen today.

This demonstrates that the theonomic-theocratic position is not "outside the Reformed tradition," as some have charged.

Earlier editions of this study have circulated here and there, and one verbal response has been made to it which requires attention at this point. It has been contended that, whereas these earlier Calvinists stressed that the "Mosaic judicials" could not be improved upon and thus should be followed, Bahnsen and Rushdoony argue from Matthew 5:17-19 that every jot and tittle of the Older Testament law is binding on Christians, save for the "ceremonial" laws, which the New Covenant altered. Bucer's argument, it is contended, is based on reason, while Bahnsen's is based on exegesis.

In reply we simply note that there is no conflict between these two routes, both of which lead to an identical conclusion, Both Bucer and Bahnsen (to continue to use these men as examples) hold that the judicial aspect of God's law is a revelation of His eternal standards. Both hold that these laws are binding on modern magistrates. The fact that Bahnsen's arguments are primarily exegetical while Bucer's are primarily rational only demonstrates what Christians have always maintained, that there is no conflict between Scripture and reason. One can divide Bucer from Bahnsen only by pitting reason against revelation.

Additionally, it should be noted that the whole-law position asserts that the judicial aspects of the law of God are part of the moral law, and thus are written on the hearts of all men (Rom. 1:32). Upon conversion, men stop suppressing the law written on their hearts, and the more men grow in grace, under the Spirit's influence, the more responsive to that law they become. The Reformation was a great movement of the Spirit. The fact that during the period after the Reformation, when Christianity was at a height, the judicial aspects of the law of God were widely regarded as binding is thus very significant. It indicates that there is moral equity in these laws, and serves as a general and indirect substantiation of the theonomic or whole-law position.

The fact that discussions of this subject in the past have not been as clear as today's discussion is becoming, only demonstrates the validity of the remark by William Cunningham, the eminent church historian, regarding the nature of theological controversy.

It holds almost universally in the history of the church, that until a doctrine has been fully discussed in a controversial way by men of talent and learning taking opposite sides, men's opinions regarding it are generally obscure and indefinite, and their language vague and confused, if not contradictory. [82]


Mr Jordan's comment from the CRT-L discussion group, 8/4/1999: [return]

I was invited to join this list and at least clarify things as regards me.

I stopped using the term "theonomy" to describe my thinking well over a decade ago. I also stopped using "Christian Reconstruction" shortly thereafter, because all of the public leading lights of CR were continuing to promote Bahnsenian theonomy.

As to the issue at hand: It is impossible for any human being or institution to be "neutral" as regards moral issues. The civil magistrate will either call good evil and evil good, or he will call good good and evil evil, and he will act in terms of these standards. Now, man hates God more than he hates anything else, and thus men hate other men because other men are images of God -- and people hate themselves because when they look in the mirror they see the image of God. Accordingly, all civil government is simply organized sadomasochism, until changed by the gospel.

If you think "common grace" restrains this sadism to any significant degree, you are really, really, really, really, really ignorant about the real world. It is really amazing how Christians living in the comforts of the USA dispense this "common grace" idiocy to the rest of the world. Go there and live under their governments, and then tell us all about the wonders of "common grace"! God does restrain men, but it does not amount to much.

Ah, the wonders of common grace!! Let's see. Millions of wives forced to immolate themselves on the funereal pyres of their husbands. Millions of babies put in baskets to be eaten alive by ants as an act of worship. Child prostitution as national industries. You gotta love it! Why would anyone want Biblical law when you can have common grace?

God tells us in His Word what evil and good are. Theonomists are way too naive in how they read the Bible and seek to understand what God has to say, but that does not change the fact that the gospel includes the wonderful benefit of a Christian legal order. Ask any of the tribes of early modern Europe, who joyously embraced the faith and instantly adopted Biblical law as their deliverance from anarchy and horror.

Finally, just because the heart of the Kingdom is the Church, and thus the first application of Biblical principles is in the Church, does not mean that the Kingdom has no wider dimensions. You'd have to be blind as a bat not to see that the God of the Bible is concerned with all of life, and with the reformation/transformation of all of life. Biblical principles will be applied first in the worshipping community, but then outward to all spheres of life. That's my view, and since his name came up, Leithart's as well.

Discipling the nations means extending the theocratic rule of Christ from the one nation of the Old Creation, to all the 70 nations of the world. What else would a first century Jew have understood by the command? Some kind of Baptistic individualistic person-by-person evangelism? Gimmeabreak. Genesis 10 gives us the 70 nations (which are now a lot more!), and then God selects one nation to theocratize. Now that theocratization is to be extended to all.

I cannot imagine NOT wanting King Jesus and His wonderful laws as the ruler of my nation!

James B. Jordan 8/4/1999 [return]


[1] Rousas J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, N. J.: Craig Press, 1974); Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics (Nutley, N. J.: Craig Press, 1977).

[2] In The Presbyterian Journal, Aug. 31, 1977, p. 18.

[3] A treatment that borders on ridicule is G. Aiken Taylor, "Theonomy and Christian behavior," in The Presbyterian Journal , Sept. 13, 1978, pp. 9ff.

[4] Cf. note 1 above.

[5] These notions are set forth in germinal form in Meredith Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972). Kline's theology is a neo-dispensationalism as rigorous as anything generated from the Scofieldian camp.

[6] Cf. note 1 above.

[7] No one has yet argued that it is against the "soprano" of the New Testament.

[8] Caruso's biography would be an exception, of course.

[9] Cf. Bucer, De Regno Christi, bk. 2, chap. 60, reprinted elsewhere in this issue.

[10] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford L. Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 4:20:14.

[11] John Calvin, Commentaries, trans. C. W. Bingham (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950), ad Deut. 22-22.

[12] Cited in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950), 8:791f., emphasis added. Calvin is referring throughout to Deuteronomy 13:6-10.

[13] Ibid., p. 792.

[14] Cf. Bucer, De Regno Christi, bk. 2, chap. 60, reprinted elsewhere in this issue, as well as J. W. Sawyer's introduction thereto.

[15] From Bucer, Scripta Anglicana, ed. Conrad Hubertus (Basle, 1577); trans. John Milton in The Judgment of Martin Bucer Concerning Divorce (1644). Cf. Complete Prose Works of John Milton (New Haven, Yale, 1959), II, 422. Spelling and punctuation modernized and emphasis added. Further praise of Bucer by Calvin can be found in Calvin's prefaces to his own commentaries on Romans, Psalms, and the Gospels.

[16] Wilhelm Pauck, "Editor's Introduction to Bucer's De Regno Christi, " in Melanchthon and Bucer, Library of Christian Classics XIX (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959), p. 157.

[17] Wilhelm Pauck, "Butzer and Calvin," in The Heritage of the Reformation, 1st ed. (Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1950), p. 88.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Bucer, De Regno Christi , bk. 2, chap. 60, second paragraph.

[20] Ibid., bk. 2, chap. 28; trans. Milton. Cf. note 15. In Milton's Prose Works, II,456.

[21] Ibid., bk. 2, chap. 60, first paragraph, trans. Pauck. Cf. note 16.

[22] B. S. Capp, The Fifth Monarchy Men (Totowa, N. J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1972), pp. 169f.

[23] Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1966), III, 412f., 432.

[24] Miles Coverdale, The Old Faith, Parker Society edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, [1541] 1844), pp. 47f.

[25] Schaff, III, 855.

[26] Ibid ., III, 907f.

[27] Parker Society edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1850), Decade 3, p. 280.

[28] Ibid., p. 282.

[29] Ibid., p. 218.

[30] Ibid., pp. 280f.

[31] John Hooper, "A Declaration of the Ten Commandments," in Early Writings of Bishop John Hooper, Parker Society edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1843), p. 376.

[32] Hugh Latimer, Sermons, Parker Society edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1844), p. 85. The quotation is taken from a sermon preached before Edward VI on March 8, 1549

[33] J. W. Blench, Preaching in England in the Late Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (Oxford, 1964), p. 274.

[34] Thomas Becon, Catechism, Parker Society edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1844), p. 310.

[35] Ibid., p. 311

[36] Ibid., p. 312.

[37] For a summary of Puritan attitudes toward the law of God, cf. Bahnsen, Theonomy, Appendix 3.

[38] Capp, Fifth Monarchy Men , pp. 168f.

[39] Thomas M'Crie, Life of John Knox (Glasgow: Free Presbyterian Pub., [1811] 1976), p. 216.

[40] Thomas Cartwright, Second Reply [1575], cited in Works of John Whitgift, Parker Society edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1851), 1, 270, emphasis added.

[41] Cited in Capp, p. 169.

[42] Rossell H. Robbins, Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology (New York: Crown, 1959), p. 382, emphasis added.

[43] William Perkins, A Discourse on the Damned Art of Witchcraft, in John Chandos, ed., In God's Name (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 197 1), p. 13 5.

[44] Cf. Thomas Rogers, Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, Parker Society edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1854), p. 90.

[45] Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 1968), XIX, 120.

[46] Cf. Rogers, Exposition, p. 91.

[47] Reformed Dogmatics, trans. and ed. John W. Beardslee III (New York: Oxford, 1965), p. 10.

[48] Ibid., p. 84.

[49] For a discussion of the views of Samuel Rutherford, the reader is directed to the essay by Richard Flinn, elsewhere in this issue.

[50] John Owen, Works (London: Banner of Truth, 1967), VIII, 394, emphasis added. The Latin phrase means, "guardian, vindicator, and manager of the judicial law, and of the constitution of Moses."

[51] Cited in Capp, p. 171.

[52] Cf. Bahnsen, Theonomy, Appendix 3, consisting of an introduction by Bahnsen to Cotton's work, and of the text of Cotton's Abstract. These have also been reprinted elsewhere in this issue. For a corroboration of Bahnsen's opinion that the Abstract is really a later edition of Moses His Judicials, cf. Worthington C. Ford's discussion in the Transactions of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Second Series, XVI (October, 1902):274-280.

[53] "How far Moses Judicials bind Mass[achusetts]," Transactions of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Second Series, XVI (October, 1902):280-284.

[54] Thomas Shepard, The Morality of the Sabbath, in Works (Boston: Doctrinal Tract and Book Society, 1853), III, 53f.

[55] Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford, 1971), 1, 888.

[56] Shepard, III, 289, 340.

[57] John Eliot, The Christian Commonwealth (New York: Arno Press, 1972).

[58] Convers Francis, Life of John Eliot (Boston: Hillard, Gray, and Co., 1836), p. 210.

[59] The office of tithingman, established in 1675, divided Massachusetts into groups of ten families for certain governmental purposes. Cf. Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Family (New York: Harper, 1966), pp. 148f.

[60] Capp, 167f.

[61] Charles Hoadly, ed., Records of the Colony and Plantation of New Haven from 1638 to 1649 (Hartford: for the Editor, 1857), p. 69.

[62] Thomas Hutchinson, The History of the Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay, ed. Lawrence S. Mayo (New York: Kraus reprint, 1970 [1836-18641), 1, 371ff.

[63] Ibid., I, 367.

[64] Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, The Puritan Oligarchy (New York: Scribners, 1947), p. 166.

[65] Hutchinson, II, 354.

[66] (New York: Johnson reprint, 1969).

[67] Idem.

[68] Samuel Sewell, Diary, ed. M. Halsey Thomas (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1973), p. 4.

[69] Ibid., p. 380.

[70] John Witherspoon, Works (Philadelphia: Woodward, 1800), III, 356f.

[71] Thomas Ridgeley, A Body of Divinity (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1855), II, 307f.

[72] Ibid., II, 386ff.

[73] Thomas Scoff, Holy Bible with Notes (Philadelphia: Woodward, 1807), at "Notes on Ex. 21:1." Emphasis added.

[74] Ibid ., at "Practical Observations on Ex. 22:1-15. (Emphasis added.)

[75] James H. Thornwell, "Relation of the State to Christ," in Collected Writings (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974), IV, 549ff.

[76] Ibid ., p. 553.

[77] Ibid., p. 552.

[78] On the supposedly Thornwellian concept of the "Spirituality of the Church," as well as on Southern Presbyterian theocratic views in general, cf. Jack P. Maddex, "From Theocracy to Spirituality: The Southern Presbyterian Reversal on Church and State," Journal of Presbyterian History 54 (1976):438-457.

[79] Robert L. Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, [1898] 1972), pp. 402f.

[80] Ibid., pp. 407f. See also his The Practical Philosophy (Mexico, Mo.: Crescent Book House, 1896), pp. 362f.

[81] The Practical Philosophy, p. 513f.

[82] William Cunningham, Historical Theology (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1969), 1, 179.


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