Ursinus: The Law Is The Rule Of Worship

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.

—Zacharias Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, trans. G. W. Williard (Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company, 1888), 614.

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  1. ‘I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and cause you to walk in my statutes.’ This law was to be inborn under the Aegis of the New covenant, of which, Jeremiah was prophesying. The writer to the Hebrews who were so enamoured of Moses, and thus suspicious of a High-priest from the tribe of Judah, insists that the New Covenant not only has a changed priesthood, but necessarily, a changed law (Heb. 7:12). That law, which must then inform New Covenant worship, is love of the brethren.

    • Allan,

      The law that changed was not the moral law, which reflects God’s character, but the ceremonial and civil laws, which were distinctively Mosaic. This is clear from Hebrews and from the rest of the New Testament, which repeatedly invokes the moral law and teaches its abiding validity.

      To suggest that the moral law has been abrogated is the Marcionite heresy, rejected by the ancient church and the church of all times and places. It is antinomianism. What is to be written on our hearts in the new covenant, according to Jeremiah? The moral law. How do we know how to love? The moral law. What defines love? The moral law. In that way the moral law is the charter of Christian liberty. It keeps you from imposing your opinions on me and vice versa.

    • Allan, Christ never said His New Commandment was to replace the Ten Commandments, only to emphasize that brethren in Christ can and are to love one another in ways that they cannot those outside the Faith. Love for God and thy neighbour was not abrogated by the New Commandment, though there are sects that behave as though it were.

  2. Thank you so much for this, Dr Clark – I was going to say it crystallizes the issue in a nutshell, but I would be exaggerating the container dimensions if I did.

  3. When did I ever say the moral law was abrogated?! That’s putting words into my mouth. I used the word changed, as does Hebrews 7. As the prophets had promised, the law was changed. Changed from outward to inward, from on stone, to in flesh (Jesus being the ultimate personification of this). Paul dealt with this in 2 Cor 3, and Jesus and also John spoke of love being the whole keeping of it, and they certainly were not speaking of the ceremonial law! I was simply saying what Jesus said, that love is the keeping of the moral Law, and informs all our life before God, and thus must our worship also. But it’s curious that in the Church Age, the age of the indwelling Spirit, we so quickly forget the Lord’s and the apostles’ doctrine, with which to inform our discipleship, apparently preferring the administration which had the fading glory.

    • The moral law has not changed.

      The argument that the writer to the Hebrews is making is that the Hebrew Christians, some of whom were tempted to try to go back to Moses, cannot go back because that system rested on the priesthood.

      The law to which he refers here is not the moral law, which did not originate with Moses or under Moses. The moral law was given to Adam, known by Noah and Abraham. Paul says that it is revealed in nature and known universally.

      It was revealed at Sinai with some temporary typological features (E.g. the Saturday sabbath and the land promise) but otherwise the moral law has not changed. That is why it is still the basis of the regulative principal (“the rule of worship”). It is not as if God’s law governs worship under Moses but now it no longer governs it. It is not as if God has changed. It is not as if the rule of worship has changed: we may do only that which God has commanded. That was the rule of love before the incarnation and it is the rule of law of now.

    • Does the Fourth Commandment, as given in the Ten, unambiguously identify the seventh day of the week as being the sabbath? As I read it, that identification, occurring elsewhere in the Pentateuch, can be dispensed with, and, for those with healthy consciences, was indeed dispensed with by Christ, in favour, generally speaking, of the first.

      • John,

        The Decalogue does not itself say “Saturday” but, in that context, where the “seventh day” was Saturday, the implication seems reasonably clear. There’s never been much doubt among orthodox Jews or Christians (see the discussion in RRC) that the Mosaic Sabbath was Saturday and that the Christian Sabbath was Sunday. What unites the two is the principle of one day in seven. The Jewish Sabbath signified the completion of creation. The Christian Sabbath signifies the inauguration of the new creation, in the resurrection of Christ.

    • Is the Decalogue a statement of the universal moral law, or merely of the Mosaic?

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