Ursinus Opposed Theonomy And Taught Natural Law

To what extent has Christ abrogated the Law, and to what extent is it still in force?

The ordinary and correct answer to this question is, that the ceremonial and judicial law, as given by Moses, has been abrogated in as far as it relates to obedience; and that the moral law has also been abrogated as it respects the curse, but not as it respects obedience. That the ceremonial and judicial laws have been so abrogated by the coming of Christ, that they no longer bind any to obedience, and that they have not the appearance and force of laws in respect to the present time, is proven, 1. From the fact that the prophets even declared and foretold this abrogation in the Old Testament. “Christ shall confirm the covenant with many for one week, and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedek. (Dan. 9:27. Ps. 110:4.) 2. Christ and his Apostles, in different places in the New Testament, expressly assert this abrogation. (See Acts 7:8. Heb. 7:11–18; 8:8–13.) Instead of adducing a number of testimonies in confirmation of this point, we shall merely cite the decree passed by the Apostles when assembled in Jerusalem: “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us to lay upon you no greater burden, than these necessary things,” etc. (Acts 15:28, 29.) 3. When certain causes are once changed, the laws which are based upon these causes are also changed. One cause now of the ceremonial and judicial law was that the form of worship and civil polity which existed among the Jews, from whom the Messiah was to be born, might distinguish them from all other nations until the Messiah would come. Another cause was that they might be types of the Messiah and of his benefits. These causes now since the coming of the Messiah, have been done away with: for the Apostle declares that the middle wall of partition between the Jews and other nations has been broken down: “He is our Peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us,” “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. (Eph. 2:14. Gal. 6:15.) It is also every where taught in the New Testament Scriptures that the rites and ceremonies of the old dispensation have been fulfilled in Christ. “The Holy Spirit, this signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while the first tabernacle was yet standing.” “The law and the prophets were until John.” “Let no man judge you in meat or in drink,” etc. (Heb. 9:8. Luke 10:16. Col. 2:16.)

Objection 3: The best and most wholesome form of government is always to be retained. The form of government established among the Jews was the best and most wholesome, for the reason that it was instituted by God. Therefore it is to be retained.

Answer: There is here a fallacy in taking that to be absolutely true, which is true only in a certain respect. The form of government established among the Jews was the best, not absolutely, but only for that time, that country and nation: for there were many things in it adapted to the state and condition of that nation, country, time, and ceremonial worship, the observance of which would now neither be proper nor profitable, because the causes on account of which those laws were given to the Jews are now changed or removed; as giving a writing or bill of divorcement, marrying the widow of one’s kindred, etc. God did not, for this reason, institute this form of government that all nations and ages might be bound by it; but only that his own people might, by this discipline, be separated for a time from the surrounding nations.

If any one should object and say, that if Christians are permitted to observe and conform to the laws of other nations, such as the Greeks or Romans, etc., much more ought we to observe those which were given by Moses, the servant of God; we readily grant the argument, if this observance is rendered without attaching to it the idea of necessity; or if these laws are observed, not because Moses commanded and enjoined them upon the Jewish nation, but because there are good reasons why we should now comply with them; and if these reasons should be changed, to retain the liberty of changing these enactments by public authority.

Zacharias Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, 492—95.


Resources On Theonomy And Reconstructionism

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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