RPM, Volume 19, Number 46 November 12 to November 18, 2017

The Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism

By Dr. Zacharias Ursinus


Question 113. What doth the tenth commandment require of us?

Answer. That even the smallest inclination, or thought, contrary to any of God t commands, never rise in our hearts; but that at all times we hate sin with our whole hearts, and delight in all righteousness.


That this commandment, which has respect to lust, or concupiscence, is one, and not two, is evident --

1. From the fact that Moses repeats it in a different order in Ex. 20:17, and Deut. 5:21, as we have already shown.

2. From the fact that Moses comprehends it in one verse in both of the places to which we have just referred.

3. From the interpretation of Paul, who comprises in one commandment all that Moses says in relation to this subject, when he says, “I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” (Rom. 7:7.)

4. From the fact that the Papists and others are accustomed, in their expositions of this part of the Decalogue, to join together the coveting of our neighbor’s house and wife; because they, without doubt, perceived that the coveting of our neighbor’s wife, house, and all other things which belong to our neighbor, are here forbidden, for one and the same reason. It follows, therefore, either that there is but one precept touching concupiscence, or that there must be as many commandments enumerated, as there are things belonging to our neighbor which we are forbidden to covet.

5. From the authority of the best ancient writers, both among the Jews and Christians, to whom we have referred in our remarks upon the division of the Decalogue.

The design and end of this commandment is the internal obedience and regulation of all our affections towards God, and our neighbor and his goods, which must also be included in all the other commandments. Should someone object and say, Therefore this commandment is superfluous, Inasmuch as it requires nothing new, or which has not been expressed in the foregoing precepts; we reply, that it is not superfluous, seeing that it is added to the other commandments, as a general rule and interpretation, according to which the internal obedience of all the other commandments must be understood, because this is spoken of the whole Decalogue generally. This commandment, therefore, enjoins original righteousness towards God and our neighbor, which consists in a true knowledge of God in the mind, with an inclination in the will to obey the will of God as known. It also forbids concupiscence, which is an inordinate desire or corrupt inclination, coveting those things which God has forbidden. It properly, however, commands original righteousness towards our neighbor, which is a desire and inclination to perform towards our neighbor all the duties which are required from us, and to preserve and defend his safety. There are two extremes of this original righteousness here forbidden: 1. Original sin towards our neighbor, which is called concupiscence, which consists in desiring and wishing those things, which would be an injury to our neighbor; 2. An inordinate love of our neighbor, which leads to the neglect of God for his sake.

There are some who hold that concupiscence and original sin are one and the same thing; but they differ in the same way in which an effect differs from a cause, or as a part of a thing differs from the whole. Concupiscence is a propensity to those things which are prohibited by the divine law. Original sin is the state of condemnation in which the whole human race has become involved by the fall, and a want of the knowledge and will of God.

We must here observe, that not only are corrupt and disordered inclinations sins, but that thinking of evil, in as far as it is connected with an inclination and propensity to pursue it, or with a desire to practice it, is sin. Concupiscence, although it is without doubt born in us, is both an evil and sin; for we are not to judge according to nature, but according to the law whether a thing be sin or not. Whatever is opposed to the law is sin, whether it be born in us, or not.

The Pelagians denied that concupiscence is sin. The law, on the contrary, declares, Thou shalt not covet. And Paul says, “I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” (Rom. 7:7.) The Pelagians were condemned in many councils, which were called together on account of the errors of Pelagius and Celestius, about the year of our Lord 420, and subsequently.

The principal Arguments of the Pelagians.

Obj. 1. Natural things are not sins. Concupiscence is natural. Therefore it is no sin.

Ans. There is here a fallacy of the accident in the minor proposition; for inordinate concupiscence was not before the fall, but became joined to our nature after the fall. It is therefore not natural in itself, but is by an accident, inasmuch as it is now, since the fall, born with us; or it is natural in this sense, that it is an evil accident connecting itself inseparably with a nature good in itself. Or we may reply to the objection thus: there are four terms in this syllogism arising from the ambiguity of the word natural. In the major it signifies a thing created good by God naturally; viz., a natural desire of man before the fall, which was not contrary to the will of God. But in the minor it signifies a thing which does not properly belong to us by creation, but which we have brought upon ourselves by the fall.

To this it is objected: a natural desire or inclination which works those things which contribute to the preservation of man, and avoids those which are injurious, is not sinful, even though it belongs to a corrupt nature, because it is created by God, and is a desire good in itself. Such, now, is concupiscence. Therefore, it is no sin. Ans. We reply to the major proposition, that appetites and desires are good in themselves, in as far as they are mere desires. It is different, however, with those desires which are inordinate, and which are directed upon objects prohibited by God, as is the case with all the appetites and desires of our corrupt nature; because, they are either not directed upon such objects as they ought, or not in the manner and with the design with which they should be, so that they are all corrupt and sinful. “An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” (Matt. 7:18.) To desire the fruit of a tree was natural; but to desire it contrary to the express command of God, as Eve did, was in its own nature wicked and sinful.

Obj. 2. That which it is impossible for us to produce in ourselves, or to prevent, is no sin. Concupiscence, now, is in us in such a way that we can neither throw it off, nor produce it in ourselves. Therefore, it is no sin. Ans. The major proposition is false: for sin is not to be estimated by any liberty or necessity of our nature, but by the law and will of God. Whatever is in opposition to the law is sin, whether men have power to avoid it or not. Nor does God do any injustice to us by requiring from us that which we cannot perform; because he demanded these things of us when they were possible, and gave us the power to perform them. And although we have now lost this power, yet God has not lost his right to demand what he committed to our trust. For further remarks upon this subject, we would refer the reader to what has been said in the exposition of the ninth Question of the Catechism.

Obj. 3. Sin renders man obnoxious to the eternal wrath of God. Concupiscence does not expose those who are regenerated to the wrath of God: for there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1.) Therefore, concupiscence is no sin, at least not in the regenerate. Ans. There is a fallacy of accident in the minor proposition; for that concupiscence does not condemn the regenerate, comes to pass by an accident, which is the grace of God, which does not impute it to the faithful. This, however, does not occur in this way, as though concupiscence were no sin; for other sins in like manner do not condemn the regenerate, not because they are no sins, but because they have obtained the pardon of them through Christ.

Obj. 4. Original sin is removed in baptism. Therefore, concupiscence is no sin in those who are baptized. We reply to the antecedent, that original sin is not simply and wholly removed in baptism; but merely as it respects its guilt. Corruption and an inclination to sin remain still in those who are baptized. This is what the Schoolmen mean, when they say, The formal part of sin is removed, but the material remains. Should anyone reply, that where the formal part of sin is removed, there the thing itself is removed, inasmuch as the form gives being to the thing; so that original sin itself must be removed in baptism; we answer, that there is here an error in understanding that to be spoken generally, which is true only in a certain respect. The formal part of sin is removed, not simply, but in respect to the guilt of sin; for the formal part of sin is two-fold, and includes, 1. Opposition to the law, and an inclination to sin. 2. Guilt, or desert of punishment. The guilt of sin is removed, but the inclination remains. “I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind.” (Rom. 7:23).

Question 114. But can those who are converted to God, perfectly keep these commands?

Answer. No; but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only small beginnings of this obedience, yet so, that with a sincere resolution, they begin to live, not only according to some, but all the commands of God.


The Question which here claims our attention is, How is obedience to the law possible, and can those who are regenerated keep the law perfectly? which is the seventh division proposed under the general subject of the law of God. That this Question may be the better understood, we shall distinguish the nature of man as it was when it first came from the hands of God, pure and holy -- as fallen, and as regenerated.

Perfect obedience to the whole law, was possible to the nature of man before it was corrupted by sin, and that as it respects every part and degree of obedience, as it is to the angels; for man was created good, and after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness. The nature of man in its corrupt state since the fall, is entirely unable to fulfill what the law demands; yea, it cannot so much as commence acceptable obedience to God, according to the following declarations of Scripture: “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil.” “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” “Ye were dead in trespasses and sins; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others.” “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” (Gen. 8:21. Jer. 13:23. Matt. 7:18. Rom. 4:23. Eph. 2:13. 2 Cor. 3:5.) The obedience of the law is possible in the regenerate, 1. As touching external propriety and discipline. 2. As it respects the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, or by the benefit of justification and regeneration, which we obtain by faith. 3. As it respects the commencement of internal and external obedience in this life. “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:3.) He that boasts that he knows and worships God, without the commencement of obedience, or regeneration, is a liar.

But the law is impossible to the regenerate in respect to God, or the perfect internal and external obedience which it requires. “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” (Ps. 143:2.) 1. Because the regenerate do not fulfill the law perfectly, but do many things in opposition to it. 2. Because even those things which they do according to the law, are imperfect; for there are still many sins remaining in the regenerate, as original sin, and many actual sins or neglects, omissions and infirmities, which sins the godly acknowledge and bewail in themselves. “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (Is. 64:6.)

There is, however, a great difference between the regenerate and the unregenerate when they sin. 1. God has a purpose to save the regenerate. 2. There is a certain final repentance on the part of the regenerate. 3. Even with the sins of the regenerate there is always remaining some beginning, or seed of true faith and conversion. It is different, however, as it respects the unregenerate; for in regard to them God has no purpose as in the case of the godly, neither is there any certain final repentance in their case, nor any beginning of new obedience; but they sin willingly and persist in their opposition to God, and at length perish, unless they are converted.

Objections against the imperfection of works in the regenerate.

Obj. 1. The works of the Holy Spirit cannot be imperfect. The good works of the regenerate are the works of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it must needs be that they are perfect, considered even in themselves. Ans. There is here an error in regarding that to be absolutely true which is true only in a certain respect. Those works which are wrought simply by the Holy Spirit must needs be pure and perfect. But the good works of the regenerate are of the Holy Spirit, not absolutely, but in such a way that they are at the same time the works of the regenerate themselves. Hence this is all that follows, that the works of the saints are pure in as far as they are suggested and wrought by the Holy Spirit, but in as far as they are also of men, who are as yet imperfect and fallible, they are works accompanied with many defects and with much that is evil.

Obj. 2. The works of those who are conformed to the image of Christ cannot be imperfect. The saints are in this life conformed to Christ by their regeneration and adoption into the family of God. Therefore their works cannot be imperfect. Ans. There is here the same error which we noticed in replying to the former objection. The major proposition is spoken in reference to those who are perfectly conformed to the image of Christ, whilst the saints, of whom the minor proposition speaks, are conformed to Christ only in part as long as they continue on earth. For as our knowledge is, so is our love and conformity with Christ. But here we know only in part, and prophesy only in part, as the Apostle says. Hence our conformity with Christ is not perfect.

Obj. 3. There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1.) The saints are in Christ. Therefore their works are perfectly good, considered even in themselves. Ans. There is here a fallacy in regarding that as a cause which is none; for it is not the perfection of the works of the regenerate, but the satisfaction of Christ imputed to them by faith, which is the cause on account of which there is no condemnation to them. Hence this is all that follows, that the works of the regenerate are perfect, either in themselves or in respect to the satisfaction of Christ imputed to them, and not condemned as impure in the judgment of God.

Obj. 4. The severity of divine justice does not render good according to works which are not perfectly good. But Christ in the final judgment will render to everyone, and so to the saints also, according to their works Therefore the works of the saints are so perfect that they will in themselves stand in the judgment of God. Ans. There are here four terms; because the major must be understood of a legal reward of works, whilst the minor must be understood of a reward that is evangelical; or to express it differently, we may say that the justice of God does not render good according to works which are imperfect, if he judges according to the covenant of perfect obedience to the law. But Christ, in rewarding the works of the saints, will not judge according to the covenant of perfect works, but according to the covenant of faith, or of his own righteousness imputed and applied to them by faith; and yet he will judge them according to their works, as according to the evidences of their faith, from which their works have proceeded, and which they, as the fruits of this faith, declare to be in them.

Obj. 5. The Scriptures attribute perfection to the works of the saints. “Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.” “With my whole heart have I sought thee.” “Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” “The heart of Asa was perfect all his days.” (Ps. 119:1, 10. Gen. 6:9. 2 Chron. 15:17.) Testimonies of a similar character are found in every part of the Scriptures. Therefore the works of the saints are perfect. Ans. These and similar declarations of Scripture speak of that perfection which consists in parts, of true sincerity as opposed to hypocrisy, and a feigning of piety, and not of that perfection which consists in the degrees of obedience which the saints ought to render to God. For the saints do not in this life attain to that degree of perfect obedience which the law requires; yet they, nevertheless, have the commencement of perfect obedience to the divine law, and of subjection to God, according to all his commandments. And although there is much hypocrisy and sin still remaining even in the most holy, as it is said, let every man be a liar (Rom. 3:4), yet there is notwithstanding a great difference between those who are altogether hypocrites, whose hypocrisy is pleasing to themselves, having no commencement or sense of true piety in their hearts, and those who, acknowledging and lamenting the remains of hypocrisy in themselves, have at the same time the commencement of true faith and conversion to God. The former are condemned of God, whilst the latter are received into favor, not on account of this commencement of obedience which is in them, but on account of the perfect obedience of Christ imputed unto them. We must therefore add, that those who are converted are perfect in the sight of God, not only as it respects the parts of true piety which are all begun in them, but also in the degrees of the true and perfect righteousness of Christ imputed unto them, as it is said, “Ye are complete in him.” “Christ is made unto us of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” (Col. 2:10. 1 Cor. 1:30.)

But, say our opponents, the Scriptures also attribute the perfection of degrees to the saints, as when it is said, “We speak wisdom among them that are perfect.” “Be not children in understanding.” “Till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Cor. 2:6; 14:20. Eph. 4:13.) But these and similar declarations of Scripture, do not mean by the term perfect, such as are absolutely or wholly conformable to the law, but such as have more knowledge, assurance and readiness (confirmed by exercise) to obey God, resist carnal desires, and to bear the cross, than others who are not so fully confirmed and established in. the principles of piety. For so this perfection is elsewhere explained, where it is said, “That we be no more children tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine.” “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after, that I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” “To will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not.” (Eph. 4:13. Phil. 3:12. Rom. 7:18.) Hence this perfection is relative, having respect, not to the divine law, but to such as are weaker and less confirmed in the faith of the gospel.

It is also proper that we should here refer to the passage found in 1 John 4:17, 18, which our adversaries are wont to bring forward against what we have just said: “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” But John does not mean that our love to God, but his love to us, is perfect, that is, fully expressed and made known unto us by the effects or benefits which God has bestowed upon us in Christ; as Paul declares in the fifth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, that the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us, is the cause why we look for the day of judgment without fear and with assurance; and that we are assured of this love and mercy of God by this sign or testimony, because we are in this life conformed to his image by the Holy Spirit. For we are assured of our justification by our regeneration, not as by the cause of the effect, but as by the effect of the cause. And although regeneration is not perfect in this life, yet, if it be indeed begun, it is sufficient to confirm the truth of our faith to our consciences. And indeed that which John adds, when he says, Love casteth out fear, is a proof that love is not as yet perfect in us, because we are not in this life perfectly delivered from fear of the wrath and judgment of God, and of eternal punishment. For the fear and love of God, which are contrary to each other, are here in small degrees in the saints at the same time, their fear decreasing, and their love and comfort or joy in God increasing, until joy gains a complete triumph, and perfectly casts out all agitation and fear in the life to come, when God shall wipe away every tear.

Obj. 6. David says, “I have not declined from, thy law.” “I have kept thy law.” “I have done judgment and justice.” “Judge me according to my righteousness.” (Ps. 119:50, 51, 121; 7:8.) Therefore the regenerate may declare their good works in the judgment, as being perfectly conformable to the divine law. Ans. These and similar declarations do not claim for the saints absolute conformity to the law in this life, or else they would contradict those passages which speak of the imperfection of the righteous already referred to, but of the righteousness of a good conscience without which faith cannot stand, just as a good conscience cannot be without faith, as it is said: “That thou by them mightest war a good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience; which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck.” (1 Tim. 1:18, 19.) The saints now do not dread to come before the tribunal of God, and comfort themselves with a consciousness of having acted correctly, not, indeed, because they would oppose this to the judgment of God, or because they are conscious of no sin, (for they exclaim in view of their sins, “Lord enter not into judgment with thy servant: if thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities who shall stand”) but because they have a sincere, and not a hypocritical, desire to obey God, and have the full assurance that their sins are covered and washed away by the blood of Christ, and that the obedience which is begun in them is pleasing to God for Christ’s sake, and that they shall be graciously rewarded by Christ according to the promises of the gospel.

Obj. 7. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9.) Therefore new obedience in the saints is perfect and without sin. Ans. But this is to misunderstand the figure of speech which is here used. Not to commit sin, is not, according to John, to be without sin, (for this he had taught in the first and second chapters of this same Epistle, does not take place, even in the most holy) but it is not to have reigning sin, nor to persevere in it, which is not inconsistent with true faith and piety in the saints.

Question 115. Why will God then have the ten commands so strictly preached, since no man in this life can keep them?

Answer. First, that all our lifetime, we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and thus become the more earnest in seeking the remission of sin, and righteousness in Christ; likewise, that we constantly endeavor and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God, until we arrive at the perfection proposed to us, in a life to come.


When we enquire concerning the use of the divine law, it is necessary that we should keep in view the differences of each part of the law.

The use of the ceremonial laws of Moses was,
1. That it might serve as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ and his kingdom. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24.)
2. That it might distinguish the Jewish church from all other nations.
3. That it might be an exercise of piety, and a declaration of obedience to the moral law.
A confirmation of faith. There were among the ceremonial laws certain sacraments, or signs of the covenant, and seals of grace; as circumcision, and the Passover, which declared what benefits God would give to the faithful by the Messiah which was to come.

The use of the judicial, or civil laws, was,
1. That they might contribute to the preservation of the Mosaic polity.
2. That they might be types of the government of the church in the kingdom of Christ, inasmuch as the princes and kings of the Jewish nation were no less, than the priests a type of Christ, the High Priest and King of the Church. These uses, together with the laws themselves, were done away with when the ceremonies of the former dispensation were fulfilled and abrogated by the coming of Christ, and the Mosaic polity overthrown by the Romans.

The uses of the moral law are different according to man’s four-fold state.

I. In nature uncorrupted, or not as yet depraved by sin, as our nature was before the fall, there are two principal uses of the divine law:

1. The entire and perfect conformity of man with God. The mind of man before the fall possessed a perfect knowledge of the law, which produced a conformity and correspondence of all the inclinations and actions with the will of God.

2. A good conscience, or a consciousness of the divine favor, and certain hope of eternal life. The law, according to the order of divine justice, promises life to those who render a perfect obedience to its requirements. “Which if a man do, he shall live in them.” (Lev. 18:5.)

II. In nature corrupted, and not as yet renewed by the Holy Spirit, there are also two uses of the law:

1. The preservation of discipline and external propriety in the church and world. The law being engraven upon the minds and hearts of all men by God himself, and speaking by the voice of ministers and magistrates, curbs and restrains even the unregenerate, so that they shun those flagrant and open forms of wickedness, which are in opposition to the judgment of sound reason as it utters itself even in persons unrenewed by the Spirit of God, and which must be removed before regeneration. “When the Gen tiles, which have not the law, do by nature, the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another.” (Rom. 2:14, 15.)

2. The knowledge of sin. The law accuses, convinces, and condemns all those who are not regenerated, because they are unrighteous before God, and subject to eternal condemnation. “We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” “I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt “not covet. (Rom. 3:19, 20; 7:7.) This use of the law, which consists in a knowledge of sin, and of the judgment of God against sin, produces in itself in the unregenerate hatred of God, and an increase of sin, and if they are reprobate it drives them into despair, as it is said, “The law worketh wrath.” “Sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.” (Rom. 4:15; 7:8.) This knowledge of sin, however, is by an accident a preparation to conversion as it respects the elect, seeing that God by this means leads and constrains them to acknowledge their unrighteousness, to despair of any help in themselves, and to seek by faith righteousness and life in Christ the mediator. “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Gal. 3:21, 22.)

III. In nature restored by Christ, or as it respects the regenerate, there are many uses of the law.

1. The preservation of discipline and outward obedience to the law. For although this use has respect chiefly to the unregenerate, as we have already shown, who do not refrain from sin from love to God and righteousness, but only from a fear and dread of punishment and shame, as the Poet says,

Oderunt peccare mali formedine pænæ:
They hate to sin from a dread of punishment;

yet it in like manner has its use in relation to the godly, because on account of the weakness and corruption of the flesh, it is useful and necessary, even to them, that the threatenings of the law, and the examples of punishment set before them, may keep them in the faithful discharge of their duty. For God threatens severe punishment even to the saints, if they become guilty of sins of a shameful and grievous nature. “When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall die in his sins.” (Ez. 18:24.)

2. A knowledge of sin. This use of the law, although it likewise has reference chiefly to the unregenerate, nevertheless, belongs to the godly also. For the law is to the regenerate as a mirror, in which they may see the defects and imperfection of their own nature, and also leads them to true humility before God, that so they may continually advance in true conversion and faith; and that whilst the renewing of their nature is going forward, they may become more earnest in prayer and supplication, that they may become more and more conformed to God and the divine law. “I delight in the law of God, after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members. wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? “(Rom. 23:22, 23, 24.) The declaration of the Apostle Paul, that the law is our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ, must be understood of both these uses of the law of which we have just spoken, and that in the elect still unregenerate, as well as in those who are already regenerated. To the former it is a preparation to conversion; whilst to the latter it is the carrying forward, or increase of conversion, since faith cannot be kindled, or remain in the heart, unless open and grievous offenses, and such as wound the conscience, be hated and shunned. “Let no man deceive you; he that committeth sin is of the devil.” (I John 3:7.)

3. Another use of the moral law is, that it may be a rule of divine worship and of a Christian life. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and cause you to walk in my statutes.” (Ps. 119:105. Jer. 31:33. Ez. 36:26.) This use of the law is peculiar to the regenerate. For although the law be also a rule of life to the unregenerate before their conversion, yet it is not to them a rule of worship and gratitude to God, as in the case of the regenerate.

4. That the exposition of the law delivered to the church may teach that God is, and what he is.

5. The voice of the law sounding in the church is an evident testimony, teaching what the true church is, and in what true religion consists. It is in the church alone that the law is delivered and taught in its purity, and rightly understood; for all other systems of religion have manifestly corrupted it in different ways, by approving of manifest errors and heresies which they have mingled more or less with it.

6. It admonishes us of the image of God in man; or, we may say it is a testimony of the excellency of human nature before the fall, and of the original righteousness which was in Adam, and is again restored in us by Christ.

7. It is a testimony of eternal life, still future, in which we shall perfectly fulfill the law. The law was given, to be observed by man. But it is not observed in this life. Therefore there is another life remaining, in which we shall yield a perfect obedience to the law.

IV. In nature perfectly restored and glorified after this life, the law will also have its use; for although the preaching of it, and the whole ministry of the church, shall then cease, yet there will still remain in the elect a knowledge of the law, whilst perfect obedience to all its demands, and full conformity with God, will be wrought in them. The law will, therefore, accomplish the same ends in the life to come, when we shall be fully transformed in the image of God, that it did in our nature before the fall.

The principal arguments of the Antinomian, Libertines, and other profane heretics of a similar cast, who affirm that the law is not to be taught in the church of Christ.

Obj. 1. That which cannot be kept, is taught to no purpose. The law cannot be kept. Therefore it is to no purpose that it is taught in the church of Christ. Ans. There is here a fallacy in urging that as a cause, which is no sufficient reason; for the mere fact that it is impossible for us to render perfect obedience to the law in this infirm state of our being, is not of itself a sufficient reason why the preaching of the law should be regarded as useless in the church, since there may be, and indeed are, other reasons why it is not only useful, but even necessary, to teach and enforce the law; for we have already shown that the law accomplishes many objects, even in respect to the regenerate. It is not necessary, therefore, that when one end or use of the law is removed, that the others should likewise be removed. If it cannot be perfectly obeyed, it should at least be taught and enforced, that we may be led to acknowledge this imperfection and defect, in order that we may the more ardently desire and seek the remission of our sins, and that righteousness which is in Christ, and may the more earnestly strive to reach and attain the mark set before us -- even our perfection in Christ. We may also reply to this objection, that it is of no force, inasmuch as it assumes that to be true generally which is true only in part; for the law may, to a certain extent, be kept by the regenerate, as we have just shown. Hence, the minor proposition, if it be understood generally,” is not true.

Obj. 2. He who commands impossibilities, commands things which are not profitable. God commands impossibilities in his law. Therefore he commands things which are useless, and so by consequence the law itself is of no use. Ans. This argument is nearly the same as the one we have just answered. We reply, however, to the major proposition, That he commands things unprofitable, who commands impossibilities: 1. If the things enjoined be absolutely impossible. 2. If they be always impossible. 3. If the command have no other objects than that the things which are enjoined be perfectly complied with. But there are many ends on account of which God commands and enforces the law, and requires that it be taught in the church, as may be seen from the remarks which we have already made upon this subject. There is also here the same error which we noticed in the former objection, in regarding that as a cause which is no sufficient reason.

Obj. 3. We ought not to desire that which God does not Desire to give us in this life, and which we cannot obtain. But God does not desire to give us perfect obedience to the law in this life. Therefore it is in vain that we desire it, and strive for it by the doctrine of the law. Ans. We ought not to desire that which God does not desire to give us, unless he commands us to desire it, and there be weighty reasons why we should seek to obtain it. But God commands us to seek and to desire the perfect fulfillment of the law in this life, and that: 1. Because he purposes at length to accomplish it in those who desire it, and to grant it to us after this life, if we here truly and heartily desire it. 2. That we may here make progress in true piety, and that the desire to conform our lives to the requirements of the divine law be daily more and more kindled and confirmed in us. 3. That God may, by this desire of fulfilling the law, exercise in us repentance and obedience.

Obj. 4. Christ is not the lawgiver. Therefore his ministers should not teach and enforce the law. Ans. Christ is not the lawgiver, as it respects the principal office of the mediator; but he was and is lawgiver: 1. In as far as he is God and the author of the law, together with the Father. 2. In as far as it belonged to the mediator to free the law from the errors with which it had been corrupted, and to restore its true sense, not indeed chiefly, but that he might be able to accomplish the principal parts of his office, which are comprehended in the reconciliation and salvation of the human race. We may give the same answer to the objection as it relates to the ministers of the gospel, inasmuch as they are to teach and expound no other doctrine to the church than that which Christ himself delivered.

Obj. 5. He who makes satisfaction to the law by punishment, is not bound to obedience according to the rule, The law binds to obedience or punishment, but not to both at the same time. We now make satisfaction to the law by the punishment of Christ. Therefore we are no longer bound to obey the law. Ans. We must make a distinction in reference to the major proposition: He who makes satisfaction by punishment, is not bound to obedience; that is, he is not bound to render the same obedience, for the omission of which he suffered punishment; but after it is made, he is bound to yield obedience anew to the law, or to suffer new punishment in case he disobey the law. Again: he who makes satisfaction to the law by punishment which is not his own, but another s, and is received into favor by God without his own satisfaction, ought still to render obedience to the law, even though it be not to make satisfaction for his sins, but that he may in this way show his gratitude to his redeemer. We ought, therefore, since Christ has satisfied for our sins by his death, to feel ourselves bound to render obedience, not indeed for the time past, but for the time to come; and this, too, for the purpose of showing our gratitude for the benefit of our deliverance. “He that is dead is freed from sin.” “We thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead, and that he died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (Rom. 6:7. 2 Cor. 5:14, 15.)

Obj. 6. Christians are not governed by the Jaw, but by the Spirit of regeneration, according as it is said, “The law is not made for a righteous man.” (1 Tim. 1:9.) Therefore, the law ought not to be taught among Christians. Ans. Christians are, indeed, not governed by the law; or in other words, they are not constrained and driven to such a course of conduct as is right and becoming by the law, and by fear of punishment as the ungodly are; yet they are, nevertheless, ruled in this sense by the law, that it teaches them what worship is pleasing to God; and the Holy Ghost, likewise, uses the doctrine of the law, for the purpose of inclining them to true and cheerful obedience. The doctrine, therefore, that we are bound to give obedience to the law remains, although there is no condemnation or constraint, as far as Christians are concerned. For to this we are bound, that our obedience be most free and cheerful. We are debtors not to the flesh to live after the flesh, but to the Spirit. The law is not given for a righteous man, that is, to constrain and bind him. (Rom. 8:12. 1 Tim. I:9.)

Obj. 7. “Ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14.) Therefore, the law does not bind us. Ans. This, however, is to misunderstand the words of the Apostle; for the expression, Not to be under the law, does not mean, that we are not to yield obedience to the law, but that we are freed from the curse and constraint of the law; just as, To be under grace, is to be justified and regenerated by the grace of Christ. But say our opponents: Those who are bound to obey the law, and yet do not comply with its demands, are subject to condemnation. But we are not exposed to condemnation; for “there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1.) Therefore, we are not bound to obey the law. We reply that the major of this syllogism is true, 1. In case he who is bound to yield obedience to the law, be bound to yield it in his own person; but we are bound to yield obedience and do yield it, not in ourselves, but in Christ. 2. In case he be bound to obey the law in himself always, or at all times perfectly; but we are not bound in ourselves to yield perfect obedience to the law in this life, but only to begin this obedience according to all the commandments of God. In eternal life we shall be bound to a perfect conformity to the law.

Obj. 8. The law is the letter which killeth, and is the ministration of death and condemnation. (2 Cor. 3:6, 7.) But there is no condemnation to Christians. Therefore, the law does not have respect to Christians who are in Christ Jesus. Ans. There is here a fallacy of accident; for the law is not in itself the letter which killeth; since this comes to pass by the fault of men, who, the more clearly they perceive the difference between themselves and the law, the more fully do they give themselves over to despair in reference to their salvation, and are therefore slain by the law. Again, the law alone, without the gospel, is the letter, that is, it is the doctrine which merely teaches, demands obedience, denounces the wrath of God and death to such as are disobedient, without producing the spiritual obedience which it requires. But when it is joined with the gospel, which is the Spirit, it also commences to become the Spirit, which is effectual in the godly, inasmuch as those who are regenerated commence willingly and cheerfully to yield obedience to the law. The law, therefore, is the letter, 1. By itself and without the gospel. 2. In respect to those who are unregenerated. On the other hand, the gospel is the Spirit; that is, it is the ministration and means through which the Holy Ghost, which works spiritual obedience in us, is given; not indeed as though all who hear, would receive the Holy Ghost and be regenerated, but because faith, by which our hearts are quickened, so that they begin to yield obedience to the law, is received by it. It does not follow, therefore, that the law is no longer to be taught in the church; for Christ himself says: “I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.” (Matt. 5:17.) And Paul also says, that we establish the law through faith. (Rom. 3:31.) Christ fulfilled the law in two respects: by obedience and suffering. He was just and holy in himself and did not violate the law in a single instance, but partly performed in our behalf” those things which he was not bound to do, and partly sustained the punishment of the law. He also fulfills the law in us in two ways, by teaching it and granting unto us his Spirit, that so we may commence obedience to it, as we proved when speaking of the abrogation of the law.

Obj. 9. That is not to be taught in the church which increases sin. The law increases sin. (Rom. 7:8.) Therefore, it is not to be taught. Ans. There is here a fallacy of accident in the minor proposition. The law increases sin by an accident, or on account of the corruption of man, and that in two ways. First, because the nature of man is so depraved and alienated from God, that men do not perform what they know to be pleasing to God; and, on the other hand, what they know to be prohibited by God, that they desire, and do with the greatest willingness. Secondly, because it works wrath, when men fret and murmur against God, hate and turn away from him, and rush into despair according as the law reveals to them a knowledge of their sins, and the punishment which they deserve in consequence thereof. The law in itself produces righteousness, conformity with God, love to God, &c. The law also in itself increases sin, if we understand the word increase in a different sense, viz., that it shows unto us, and brings it to pass that we acknowledge the greatness and magnitude of our sins; but not that it so increases sin as that that which in itself is small is made greater and more aggravated. There are, therefore, four terms in this syllogism, in consequence of the ambiguity of the word increase in the minor proposition.

Obj. 10. The law is not necessary to salvation. Therefore, it should not be taught in the church. Ans. But even though the doctrine of the law is not necessary in order that we may be saved by obedience to it, yet it is, nevertheless, necessary on account of other causes, as has been already proven.

Obj. 11. We have all things in Christ according to what is said: “And of his fullness have all we received.” “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” “And ye are complete in him.” (John 1:16. Col. 2:3, 10.) Therefore, we must not go back from Christ to Moses, nor is there any need of the law in the church of Christ. Ans. There is here a fallacy of the consequent, which proceeds from a statement of the whole to a denial of a part. The whole wisdom and knowledge, or doctrine which has been delivered unto us by Christ, is sufficient and necessary for the church. But the moral law is also a part of this doctrine, because Christ does not only command that faith, but that repentance also should be preached in his name. Hence, the doctrine of the law is not excluded from the perfect wisdom which we have in Christ, but is rather included in it.

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