From Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology pg. 292
In the Patriarchal period the gracious character of the Covenant [of Grace] stood out more prominently than in the later period. The promise was more in the foreground, Rom. 4:13, Gal 3:18. Yet even this should not be stressed unduly as if there were no legal burdens, both moral and ceremonial, before the time of Moses, and no gracious promises during the period of the law. The substance of the law was in force before Moses and sacrifices were already required and gracious promises are found in great abundance in the post-Mosiac writings. The only real point of difference is this: because the law constituted for Israel an explicit reminder of the demands of the covenant of works, there was a greater danger of mistaking the way of the law for the way of salvation. And the history of Israel teaches us that they did not escape the danger.
The Siniatic covenant included a service that contained a positive reminder of the strict demands of the covenant of works. The law was placed very much in the foreground, giving prominence once more to the earlier legal element. But the covenant of Sinai was not a renewal of the covenant of works; in it the law was made subservient to the covenant of grace. This is indicated already in the introduction to the ten commandments, Ex. 20:2, Deut 5:6, and further in Rom. 3:20, Gal 3:24. It is true that at Sinai a conditional element was added to the covenant, but it was not the salvation of the Israelite but his theocratic standing in the nation, and the enjoyment of external blessings that was made dependent on the keeping of the law, Deut 28:1-14. The law served a twofold purpose in connection with the covenant of grace. (1) to increase the consciousness of sin, Rom. 3:20, 4:15, Gal 3:19, and (2) to be a tutor unto Christ, Gal 3:24.
pg. 298-299 cont.
There have been several deviating opinions respecting the Siniatic covenant which deserve attention…
c. Still others are of the opinion that God established three covenants at Sinai, a national covenant, a covenant of works, and a covenant of grace. The first made with all the Israelites and was the continuation of the particularistic line which began with Abraham. In it God demands external obedience and promises temporal blessings. The second was a repetition of the covenant of works by the giving of the Decalogue. And the last a renewal of the covenant of grace as it was established with Abraham in the giving of the ceremonial law.
“The Gospel, strictly taken, differs from the Law, in that, 1. The Law considers us as God’s rational creatures and subjects, who were originally formed with sufficient abilities perfectly to obey it, and hence directs and binds us to have such abilities, and to exercise them in a proper manner towards God, ourselves, and our neighbours, as our duty (Matt 22:37-39); but the Gospel considers us as sinful and self-ruined men, graciously pitied by God and declares what He, according to His infinite mercy and grace, has done, prepared for, and offers to be, and do to us (Isa. 42:6-7, 49, 53-55, Ps. 22, 68, 146). Hence its offers and invitations continue to believers while their sinfulness remains, and no longer condemns.”
“IV. The Harmony of the Law and Gospel is their suitableness and subserviency to each other: the Gospel promises, offers, and gives to sinful men every thing which the Law, in any form, demands of them. It provides them with their righteousness of the Son of God, which answers and magnifies all the demands of the Law, as a broken covenant: and lays an effectual foundation of universal, and at last perfect obedience to it, as a rule. Nay, it promises preparation for, assistance in, and a gracious reward of every duty which the law, as a rule, requires…”
— John Brown of Haddington, Systematic Theology pg. 502
WHOLESOME SEVERITY RECONCILED
WITH CHRISTIAN LIBERTY
The true resolution of a present controversy concerning liberty of conscience.
I have endeavored in this following discourse to vindicate the lawful, yea necessary use of the coercive power of the Christian Magistrate in suppressing and punishing heretics and sectaries, according as the degree of their offense and of the Church’s danger shall require: Which when I had done, there came to my hands a book called The Storming of Antichrist.1 Indeed, “The Recruiting of Antichrist, and the Storming of Zion” (if so be that I may anabaptize an Anabaptist’s book). Take one passage for instance (p. 25): “And for Papists,” he says, “though they are least to be borne of all others, because of the uncertainty of their keeping faith with heretics, as they call us, and because they may be absolved of securements that can arise from the just solemn oaths, and because of their cruelty against the Protestants in diverse countries where they get the upper hand, and because they are professed idolaters, yet may they be born with (as I suppose with submission to better judgments) in Protestant government, in point of religion, because we have not command to root out any for conscience,” etc. Why then, is this to storm Antichrist? Or is it not rather a storming “of this party,” in the prevailing whereof “God will have far more glory than in the Popish and Prelatical party,” as [he] himself speaks (p. 34). And if he will storm, surely some of his ladders are too short. “If any one rail against Christ,” he says (p. 23), “or deny the Scriptures to be his word, or affirm the Epistles to be only letters written to particular churches, and no rule for us, and so unsettle our faith, this I take may be punished by the Magistrate, because all or most nations in the world do it.” That all the nations in the world do punish for these things, I am yet to learn: and those that do, do they not also punish men for other ways of unsettling the grounds of faith besides these? The declining of some of the Epistles as being letters written upon particular occasions, and no rule for us, is an error which has been pretensed to be no less conscientious than those errors which now he will have indulged. Lastly, if he would needs storm, why would he not make some new breach? I find no material arguments in him for liberty of conscience, but what I found before in The Bloody Tenet,2 The Compassionate Samaritan,3 and M.S. to A.S.,4 so that my ensuing answers to them shall serve his turn. And now reader, “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” Search for knowledge “as for hid treasures.” If you read with an unprejudiced mind, I dare promise you through God’s blessing a satisfied mind….
…I. Concerning this question there are three opinions: two extremes, and one in the middle. So it is resolved not only by Dr. Voetius, in his late disputations, De Libertate Conscientia, but long before by Calvin, in his refutation of the errors of Servetus, where he disputes this very question, whether Christian judges may lawfully punish heretics.
The first opinion is that of the Papists, who hold it to be not only no sin, but good service to God, to extirpate by fire and sword, all that are adversaries to, or opposers of the Church and the Catholic religion. Upon this ground, Gregory de Valentia tells us there were 180 of the Albigenses burnt under Pope Innocentius the third, and in the Council of Constance were burnt John Hus and Hieronse of Prague (2am 2ae disp. 1. quest. 11 punct. 3).
…The second opinion falls short, as far as the former exceeds: that is, that the Magistrate ought not to inflict any punishment, nor put forth any coercive power upon heretics or sectaries, but on the contrary grant them liberty and toleration. This was the opinion of the Donatists, against which Augustine has written both much and well, in diverse places: though himself was once in the same error, till he did take the matter into his second better thoughts, as is evident by his Retractions (lib. 2, cap. 2, and epist. 48). In the same error are the Socinians and Arminians (See Peltii Harmonia, Artic. 21; Nic. Bodecher, Sociniano. Remon-strantismus, cap. 25. See also Grotii Apologeticus, cap. 6, p. 130; Theoph. Nicolaid, Tractat. de Ecclesia, cap. 4, p. 33). The very same is maintained in some books printed amongst ourselves in this year of confusion: viz. The Bloody Tenet; Liberty of Conscience;5 The Compassionate Samaritan; John the Baptist;6 and by Mr. Goodwin in his Theomaxia,7 and his Innocencies Triumph.8 In which places he denies that the Magistrate, and particularly that the two Houses of Parliament, may impose anything pertaining to the service and worship of God under mulcts [fines] or penalties. So M.S. to A.S. (pp. 53-55, etc.), disputes against the coercive power of the Magistrate to suppress heresies and sects. This power the Presbyterians do ascribe to the Magistrate, as I shall show by and by. Therefore I still aver, that Mr. Goodwin in denying and opposing this power, herein (as in diverse other particulars) ascribes much less to the Magistrate than the Presbyterians do: which overthrows that insinuation of the five Apologists.9
The third opinion is that the Magistrate may and ought to exercise his coercive power, in suppressing and punishing heretics and sectaries, less or more, according as the nature and degree of the error, schism, obstinacy, and danger of seducing others, requires. This as it was the judgment of the orthodox ancients (vide Optati opera, edit. Al. Baspin, p. 204, 215), so it is followed by our soundest Protestant writers; most largely by Beza against Bellius and Monfortius, in a peculiar treatise, De Hareticis á Magistratu Puniendis. And though Gerhard, Brochmand,10 and other Lutheran writers, make a controversy where they need not, alleging that the Calvinists (so nicknamed) hold as the Papists do, that all heretics without distinction are to be put to death: the truth is, they themselves say as much as either Calvin or Beza, or any other whom they take for adversaries in this question, that is, that heretics are to be punished by mulcts [fines], imprisonments, banishments, and if they be gross idolaters or blasphemers, and seducers of others, then to be put to death. What is it else that Calvin teaches, when he distinguishes three kinds of errors: some to be tolerated with a spirit of meekness, and such as ought not to separate brethren; others not to be tolerated, but to be suppressed with a certain degree of severity; a third sort so abominable and pestiferous, that they are to be cut off by the highest punishment?
And lest it be thought that this is but the opinion of some few, that the magistrate ought thus by a strong hand, and by civil punishments suppress heretics and sectaries: let it be observed what is held forth and professed concerning this business, by the Reformed Churches in their public confessions of faith. In the latter Confession of Helvetia (cap. 30), it is said that the magistrate ought to “root out lies and all superstition, with all impiety and idolatry.” And after, “Let him suppress stubborn heretics.” In the French Confession (art. 39), “Therefore he hath also delivered the sword into the hands of Magistrates, to wit, that offenses may be repressed, not only those which are committed against the second table, but also against the first.” In the Belgic Confession (art. 36), “Therefore hath he armed the Magistrate with the sword for punishing them that do evil, and for defending such as do well. Moreover it is their duty not only to be careful and watchful for the preservation of the civil government, but also to defend the holy ministry, and to abolish and overthrow all idolatry, and counterfeit worship of God.” Beza (De Hareticis), tells us in the beginning, that the ministers of Helvetia had declared themselves to be of the same judgment, in a book published of that argument. And toward the end he cites the Saxon Confession, Luther, Melancthon, Brentius, Bucerus, Wolfgangus Capito, and Bullinger. The Synod of Dordt (ses. 138), in their sentence against the Remonstrants does not only interdict them of all their ecclesiastical and academical functions, but [does] also beseech the States General by their secular power to suppress and restrain them.
By Wilhelmus A Brakel
Law and gospel are frequently placed in contradistinction to each other. If in such a contradistinction the reference is to the ceremonial law, its purpose is to refer to Christ’s coming in the flesh, whose coming was typified by the ceremonies. The gospel of fulfillment, however, declares that Christ has come. In the matter itself there can be no contradistinction, since the gospel is comprehended in the ceremonies and proclaimed by them.
However, there is an essential difference between the moral law and the gospel. The law has first of all been given by God the Lord as the sovereign, majestic, and sole Lawgiver, and is pertinent to all mankind. The gospel, however, is the manifestation of God as being “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exo. 34:6), and does not pertain to all, but only to some. Secondly, the law can partially be known by nature (Rom. 2:15), but the gospel can only be known by revelation (Eph. 3:5). Thirdly, the law is a condition of the covenant of works which promised salvation upon the perfect keeping of the law and knows of no forgiveness (cf. Rom. 10:5; Matt. 19:17).
The gospel, however, is a declaration of the covenant of grace, promising believers forgiveness and salvation by Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:8-9). Fourthly, the law begets the knowledge of sin in the sinner (Rom. 3:20), confronts him with wrath (Rom. 4:15), and thus brings forth fear and trembling (Isa. 33:14). The gospel, however, is the precious administration of the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). This gospel is the means whereby God calls men unto salvation.
God could immediately and nonverbally reveal Christ to man, bring him to Christ, cause him to believe in Him, and thus lead him to salvation. It has pleased the Lord, however, in order that His manifold wisdom be revealed and His other attributes be glorified, to make man a partaker of this salvation by means of the word of the gospel, leading rational man in a rational way. The use of this means is referred to as calling, since all men are going astray on a way which is not good and which leads to destruction. God calls out to men who are going astray that the way upon which they are traversing will make them eternally miserable, and invites them to come to Christ as the only way unto salvation.
In yesterday’s post we looked at the purpose of the Law in the context of the New Covenant. These “three uses” as is intimated in Calvin’s Institutes are Conviction of Sin, Restraining of Evil, and Teaching Good Works. But what is it that makes up this moral law? This law that God uses in His Scripture to perform these uses? Well nearly all of us can agree that the Ten Commandments perform this function quite well. But what are these Ten? And is the moral law just these Ten? Does the Ten Commandments work as a summary of the Law or as the whole Law?
More to come…
O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the
earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! From the mouth of
infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your
adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. When I consider Your
heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have
ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You
care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him
with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You
have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of
the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes
through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in
all the earth! — Psalm 8
One of the pleasures and responsibilities of being a parent is the power given to us to name your children. My wife and I have spent hours in the past 6 months pilfering the baby name books, family trees, various web sites and other materials seeking for that perfect name for our unborn child. We have a special situation in our house since I am the last male left in the Glaser line however, because if our child is a boy we have to find a name that will not show preference to any side of the family. It must be a name in which all can find solace and none can find prejudice. You see names still mean something in my family and I am quite sure that is true for many of you. Not only can it can go a long way in endearing yourself to a rich uncle or an overbearing Grandmother, if you see it possible to slip in a Margaret or a Michael, but it can have lifelong effects on the child, you try not to give your child a name that can lead to easy teasing or can hinder their progress later in life. How many of you when you meet a Doctor for the first time and he has the name of let say Billy Bob wince a little? Names can mean quite a bit. The question before us today is if the mere naming of a child can be taken with such care and significance, how much more so should it matter how we address our God, our Creator?
We can without even thinking too hard name any number of instances where we see God’s name in our society being used superficially and with great offense. Whether it be politicians or music stars or athletes or ourselves it is not uncommon to hear the name of God nearly constantly being used in a derogatory and mocking manner. We live in an age today where we have become flippant about how we use God’s name and have placed humanity’s will and comfort above what God has commanded and demonstrated for us in his Word concerning his Holy name.
David in the Psalm we read this afternoon begins and ends his Psalm by using the proper name of God, the Trinitarian head of our Faith in a way that only someone who truly knows God can speak. It is vital we understand why it is that David does this and why it is important that we treasure the ability given to us by being children of God to use the name given by God to his people and do so with reverence and with awe. David writes in verse 1, “O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth…” We can hear David’s love and relationship in that one sentence, David is not saying, “Hey that God? Great Guy.” No David is confessing the splendor and the immeasurable greatness of our God. He goes on in Psalm 8 to lay out all the things that make our God not only the God of creation but the God who cares for the all that he has fashioned and seeks to empower the glory of his creation, humanity, though smaller and seemingly insignificant in its stature to the great universe above, though now fallen because of the sin of Adam, yet is still pre-eminent in the eyes of God so much so that David here speaks forth to the son of man, who is Jesus Christ, that will come and bring the glory and power of God to all the world. In knowing all this how do we ever come to the point where we take God’s name not only for granted but in vain?
The Third Commandment forbids us from taking the name of our Lord God in vain. Deuteronomy 5:11 says, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave them unpunished who takes His name in vain.” Moses here uses the same word that David uses in Psalm 8. The unspeakable name of God that the scribes were so afraid of using that they substituted the word adonai or Lord for it. I cannot press enough the point that the Jewish scribes and priests were rightly so afraid of misusing God’s name in vain that they would not even write it down in the Hebrew, instead using another word to signify its presence for the reader. We can recall in Judges 11: 31 the story of the General named Jephthah and his vow to the Lord that if he came back victorious from the battle he was waging that he would sacrifice the first thing which came running out of his house. And if you remember that story the first thing that came out of his house to greet him was, his daughter. Jephthah remembering his vow to God fell down in pain and anguish knowing what he had promised the Lord and did as he had promised because of the fear of breaking God’s Law. Yet we have become so careless with the way we come to God in prayer, in worship, and in our daily life. God has become just another epithet, meaning nothing more than any other word that we cry out so as to fit in with a Godless culture. Not only that but we have completely dismissed the last part of the Third commandment, do any of us really believe anymore that God punishes anyone? Have we become so blasé about God that we doubt his power and his right to do that which he has promised to do? Or do we go as far as to say that well since we are in a New Testament period that must mean that we no longer have to worry about all those outdated and silly claims made by the Mosaic Law that they no longer apply to us? Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-18 that, “I have come not to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Why do we then think we have a special dispensation to do otherwise? Why do we continue to take the Lord’s name in vain at nearly every opportunity? There is a great power to this name as David shows us in Psalm 8. We would be wise to use it as God has commanded us to.
Jesus gets himself in great trouble whenever he claims for himself the proper name of God to describe himself, and rightly so. If Jesus was not who he claimed to be then he was committing blasphemy by using the Lord’s name in vain, violating the very commandment that we have read today. For if Jesus is not God, if Jesus is not the Second person of the Trinity than he has committed a grievous sin and his death is pointless. We must recognize even this that Christ gave great care and trouble to making sure that the people of Palestine knew who he was and that he was God and is God incarnate and he did so by invoking the very name that David has given us in our Scripture lesson for this morning. As Jesus tells the elders, scribes, and Pharisees in Mark 14:62, “I am He.”
In closing, given these examples and God’s command to his people in His Word how should we come before our Holy and Almighty God but with reverence and awe with the power and the authority and the responsibility of using God’s proper name with care and foresight in our lives? The Scriptures give us stark examples of what happens to those who forsake and abandon the accountability they have been given as children of God. We would be wise today to remember the words of David.