A Westminster Divine on the Law (Moral, Ceremonial & Judicial)

I’ve nearly finished working through Obadiah Sedgwick for my thesis.  I have a few others to write up (Manton & Rutherford being the main two) and then that will be the final chapter complete (still a few months off).  There is so much of Sedgwick that is relevant for the Church today that is not relevant for my thesis that I may spend some time posting extracts from his works.  Here is Sedgwick discussing the law of God and its relation to the believer today:

First, concerning the law of God, you know there are some of them:

1. Ceremonial, which consisted in Rites, and Ordinances, and Shadows, typifying Jesus Christ in his sufferings, unto which there was a full period put by the death of Christ.
2. Judicial, which respecteth the Jews as a peculiar Nation and Commonwealth, being made and fitted for them, as in such a particular polity: And all those judicial Laws (especially these de jure particulari) are ceased by the cessation of that Nation and polity.
3. Moral, which are set down in the Decalogue, and are called the ten words (or Commandments) which God spake and delivered.  Of the ten commandments (which we call the Moral Law) is the question to be understood, whether believers, or people in the New Covenant are bound by them.

Secondly this Moral Law may be considered either 1. In the substance of it; or only 2. in the circumstances of it.  If you consider the Moral Law as to the substance of it, so it is:
1. An eternal manifestation of the mind and will of God, declaring what is good, and what is evil; what we are to do, and what we are not to do; what duties we owe to God, and what duties we do owe to our neighbours; what worship God requires, and what worship God forbids: In this consideration the Moral Law never ceaseth in respect of any person whatsoever.
2. It discovers sin: For, Rom. 3:9, By the Law cometh the knowledge of sin: And the Apostle in Rom. 7:7, I had not known sin but by the Law; for I had not known lust except the Law had said, Thou shalt not covet.  In this respect likewise, the Law is still in force even unto the people of God; it is the glass which shows them unto themselves, and the light which manifests the hidden things and the works of darkness in them.
3. The rule of life: For as the Gospel is the rule of faith, teaching us what to believe; so the Moral Law is the rule of manners, teaching us how to live; and as to this directing power, it is still of force and use unto believers: Ps. 119:105, Thy word is a light unto my feet, and a lamp unto my path. Ver. 133, Order my steps in thy word.

But then secondly, the Law may be considered in respect of its circumstances, not as a Rule of obedience, but as it is a condition of life, and thus as considered:
1. It requires a perfect and perpetual obedience, and that under a curse: Gal. 3:10, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all that is written to do it: Here now it ceaseth unto the people of God, the cursing and condemning power is abrogated; Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, Gal. 3:13.
2. It requires an exact obedience as a reason of Justification: Do this and live.  Here likewise the people of God are freed from it; who (as Luther well speaks) shall not be damned for their evil works, nor yet shall be justified for their good works: but are justified by faith in Christ…

Thus you see in what respects the people of God are freed from, and in what respects they are still obliged by the Law: The Law hath not power to condemn or justify them, yet it hath a power to direct and instruct them.

Obadiah Sedgwick, The Bowels of Tender Mercy Sealed in the Everlasting Covenant, 646-6.

Updated: to remove glaring typo – “Rights” amended to “Rites”.

Advertisements

8 Responses to “A Westminster Divine on the Law (Moral, Ceremonial & Judicial)”

  1. A Westminster Divine on the Threefold Distinction in the Law « Heidelblog Says:

    […] 1. Ceremonial, which consisted in Rights, and Ordinances, and Shadows, typifying Jesus Christ in his sufferings, unto which there was a full period put by the death of Christ. 2. Judicial, which respecteth the Jews as a peculiar Nation and Commonwealth, being made and fitted for them, as in such a particular polity: And all those judicial Laws (especially these de jure particulari) are ceased by the cessation of that Nation and polity. 3. Moral, which are set down in the Decalogue, and are called the ten words (or Commandments) which God spake and delivered. Of the ten commandments (which we call the Moral Law) is the question to be understood, whether believers, or people in the New Covenant are bound by them.” Read more» […]

  2. watchblack Says:

    What is your thesis?

    • Donald John MacLean Says:

      It is a PhD (began as an MPhil) at the University of Wales/Wales Evangelical School of Theology on:

      James Durham (1622-1658) and the Free Offer of the Gospel: A Case Study on the Meaning of the Westminster Confession of Faith VII:III, “He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved”

      I may broaden this out a bit to “The Free Offer of the Gospel in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries with Special Reference to James Durham and the WCoF” but we will see. It largely depends how my supervisor wants the final form of the dissertation to look!

  3. Bob Mothershed Says:

    The typo may be in the original also, but I still wanted to note it because we recently had some confusion with a brother over the difference between a “Right” and a “Rite”. The former being something that is within the allowable scope of freedom given to us, and the latter being an act of worship discerned through typification.
    Also, is this the main difference in re-constructionism in your opinion; They hold that the 2nd distinction of the Law, (Judicial), did not cease with the cessation of Israel as a nation, and that it is not soley fitted for their position and polity, but was intended for the larger world?
    I know that is a long question, but I’m trying to distinguish between the general equity principle of the judicial law and the WCF’s understanding of it.
    Thanks, Bob

  4. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Hi Bob

    Thanks for spotting the typo, yes, it should read rites! I have updated the post.

    Yes, that is the main divergence of re-constructionism/theonomy from standard Reformed theology. A failure to recognise that the judicial laws “expired” with the death of Christ. Of course they are, as all of Scripture, still “profitable” but they are not binding on magistrates.

    Thanks
    Donald

  5. Andrew Myers Says:

    Donald, I look forward to your thesis very much. Keep up the good work, brother!

  6. Charlie J. Ray Says:

    Actually, the judicial laws of the nation of Israel passed away with that nation:

    Article 7 of the 39 Articles of Religion

    Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 19.4

    IV. To them 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.g

    g Exod. 21; Exod. 22:1-28; Gen 49:10; with I Pet. 2:13-14; Matt. 5:17; with Matt. 5:38-39; I Cor. 9:8-10.

  7. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Andrew

    Thanks for the encouragement. I hope the thesis will be a blessing when it, DV, sees the light of day.

    Charlie

    thanks, yes, I agree, and so does Sedgwick who above says “and all those judicial Laws (especially these de jure particulari) are ceased by the cessation of that Nation and polity.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: