Samuel Rutherford: “The Whole Bulk Of The Judicial Laws…Is Expired”

That this Author saith, God commanded those that transgressed his holy Law with an high hand, and presumptuously to be killed, lest they should live and profane his holy things; I defend not: But sure Erastus erreth, who will have all such to be killed by the Magistrate under the New Testament, because they were killed in the Old: Then are we to stone men that gathereth sticks on the Lord’s Day; the child that is stubborn to his Parents, the Virgins, daughters of Ministers that committeth fornication are to be put to death. Why, but then the whole judicial Law of God shall oblige us Christians as Carolosladius and others teach? I humbly conceive that the putting of some to death in the Old Testament, as it was a punishment to them, so it was mysterious teach of us, how God hated such and such sins, and mysteries of that kind are gone with the other shadows. But we read not (saith Erastus) where Christ hath changed those Laws in the New Testament. It is true, Christ hath not said in particular, I abolish the debarring of the leper seven days, and he that is thus and thus unclean shall be separated until the evening; nor hath he said particularly of every carnal Ordinance and judicial Law, it is abolished. Be we conceive, the whole bulk of the judicial Law, as judicial, and as it concerned the Republick of the Jews only, is abolished, though the moral equity of all those be not abolished; also some punishments were merely symbolical, to teach the detestation of such a vice, as the boaring with an aul the ear of him that loved his Master, and desired still to serve him, and the making of him his perpetual servant. I should think the punishing with death the man that gathered sticks on the Sabbath was such; and in all this, the punishing of a sin against the Moral Law by the Magistrate, is Moral and perpetual; but the punishing of every sin against the Moral Law, tali modo, so and so, with death, which spitting on the face: I much doubt if these punishments in particular, and in their positive determination to the people of the Jews, be moral and perpetual: As he that would marry a captive woman of another Religion, is to cause her first pare her nails, and wash herself, and give her a month, or less time to lament the death of her Parents, which was a Judicial, not a Ceremonial Law; that this should be perpetual, because Christ in particular hath not abolished it, to me seems most unjust; for as Paul saith, He that is Circumcised becomes a debtor to the whole Law, sure to all the Ceremonies of Moses his Law: So I argue, à pari, from the like, He that will keep one judicial Law, because judicial and given by Moses, becometh debtor to keep the whole judicial Law, under pain of God’s eternal wrath.

Samuel Rutherford, The Divine Right of Church-Government and Excommunication… (London : John Field for Christopher Meredith, 1646), 493–94. (HT: Purely Presbyterian)


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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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  1. Thank you. I have read Rutherford’s _Lex Rex_, _Admonition to Parliament_, and _Joshua Redivivus_. And. of course, the Westminster Standards, since Rutherford was one of the Scots commissioners to the Assembly.

  2. To claim that the ceremonial and judicial aspects of the Mosaic law are still in effect is tantamount to denying that Christ has come and the new covenant has replaced the old covenant, because these were part of the temporary old covenant. I think this is central to the message of Hebrews.

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