Civil Modesty Law How Does Clothing Pertain to Civil Magistrates

April 11, 2016


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I have come to a very carefully thought out conclusion. It is my first large theology change in a year or so. It happens to deal with the issue of modesty but in more respect to the role of civil government with it. All of the Reformers, Puritans and Covenanters all held that the government had a role in outlawing immodesty and they even passed laws within their societies to deal with the issue of lewdness and immodesty.

Such examples of Puritan modesty laws of New England were such as the following,

“In 1639, the General Court made another order prohibiting the wearing upon garments ‘any manner of lace’, and in the same order it was provided ‘that hereafter no garment shall be made with short sleeves, whereby the nakedness of the arm may be discovered in the wearing thereof and such as have garments already made with short sleeves shall not hereafter wear the same, unless they cover their arms to the wrist with linen or otherwise’.”88 Daniel Wait Howe. The Puritan republic of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. (Indianapolis: Bowen – Merrill, 1899), 98.

But up to this week I have not been convinced from Scripture that the government has a role within this issue. I just could not see it The Scripture definitely speaks to the issue of modesty and what is permitted and what is not permitted. It even defines explicitly and implicitly the details of gender distinctions. But where does it give authority for the civil magistrate (an ordained minister of God) to punish such vices? Where does it spell out the just punishment for the infraction of this wickedness?

Of course, the Social Theocrats would say well it doesn’t but the magistrate is to punish all sin and wickedness that it discovers. Of course that is an argument that I cannot buy. It is rift with issues and massively prone to abuse that can dive quickly into tyranny.

Of course the Recon RPG (Regulative Principle of Civil Government) is also incorrect. We do not need for everything a strict explicit command for the magistrate to punish wrath against the evil doers. We may also go by implicit examples in scripture as well as inference. I call this a Covenanter RPG. I sort of straddle the middle of the two extremes.

Even so, up to this week I could not derived an implicit example or even inference from Holy Scripture for the role of the civil magistrate to punish the wicked and abominable act of immodesty.

That has all been changed. I have taken a week to go deep into this subject and I believe I have the only proper and correct way to derive the principle that the civil magistrate is to punish immodesty. As a friend told me this week, if it is not in that passage then there is no where else to go in Scripture.

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§Leviticus 18

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the Lord your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord.”

Here in the beginning of this chapter we are told speak unto the children of Israel, DO NOT do after the heathen nations around you. We are not to adopt their way, practices, even their clothing. This verse alone throws out the oft repeated mistake that we are to fit in with our culture and that we must adopt the clothing from the culture and be cultural relevant. No we are to be distinct from the heathens even if that means looking like the strangest person in the world. We are to keep these ordinances as well as the judgments (civil law) and walk after them and live in them.

“None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the Lord. The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness. The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover. The nakedness of thy son’s daughter, or of thy daughter’s daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness. The nakedness of thy father’s wife’s daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s sister: she is thy father’s near kinswoman. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister: for she is thy mother’s near kinswoman. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son’s wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son’s daughter, or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness. Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.”


Now we are given a list of people we are not to present our nakedness to. But wait? Doesn’t this entail incest? I thought we were talking about Modesty Laws? Yes, it does include incest but it is not limited to incest.

This chapter is dealing with generality of nakedness. We are not to come before these people with a three-fold view of particular prohibitions.

Here is what Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says,

“This verse contains a general summary of all the particular prohibitions; and the forbidden intercourse is pointed out by the phrase, “to approach to.” In the specified prohibitions that follow, all of which are included in this general summary, the prohibited familiarity is indicated by the phrases, to “uncover the nakedness” [Le 18:12-17], to “take” [Le 18:17, 18], and to “lie with” [Le 18:22, 23].”

The law prohibits 1. Uncover Nakedness, i.e. Nudity, 2. Take and 3. to Lie with. So it is not just dealing with Incest. Another chapter deals explicitly with incest which I will explain in a minute.

Nakedness translated in the passage is the Hebrew word ‘ervah’. In addition to the standard knowing of sexual incest there it also includes the following, “nakedness, nudity, shame, pudenda, pudenda (implying shameful exposure) nakedness of a thing, indecency, exposed”.

So this is dealing with modesty in addition to incest.

One will quickly ask, “But these are dealing with particulars of family members and not general public? Well first there is a Synecdoche, more is meant then just the bare reading. But more to the point if you are dressing immodesty in your home before you come out into public you will be before your mother, father, brother, sister, etc within your house. Even before you walk out that front door you will be interacting with family members. Everybody has a mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, an uncle and various other family members. It is very unavoidable to go out in public before coming before one of your relatives which is expressively prohibited here. Doing so in private or public would be off limits and therefore punishable by the civil magistrates with what is prescribed in these passages, added to this the Westminster Larger Catechism places modest apparel in the Seventh Commandment, a type of sexual sin…

I was reading John Calvin on this chapter and right in the middle of his diatribe he also recognized that there is a modesty component here. In this is discusses veils for women.

“Paul, on a very trifling point, sets before our eyes the law of nature; for, when he teaches that it is shameful and indecorous for women to appear in public without veils, he desires them to consider, whether it would be decent for them to present themselves publicly with their heads shorn; and finally adds, that nature itself does not permit it. ”

Someone will then ask, “Okay, what is nakedness? How do we determine what we can dress?” I am not planning on tackling that particular nuance within this article. I don’t want to get bogged down with specifics at this time. Let us discuss and come to agreement on the general application here before diving into specifics of what is permitted and what is not permitted and what is punishable by the magistrate and what is not punishable by the magistrate… I will cover that subject in the future (No pun intended).

§Just Recompense Punishment

Finally someone will ask, “So what is the punishment for immodest in the civil realm?”

“For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.”

Does that mean that death is required for immodesty? Oh, I can hear the name calling now.. Taliban, Islamic, ISIS who cut off heads or pinch off large hunks of skin for immodesty. I am not a stranger to being called such names as Tartan Taliban, Christian Ayatollah, etc. People will do what people do. Such name calling does not fear me or even bother me. haha

Thankfully it does not mean the death penalty.

According to John Gill, Cut off from the people doesn’t mean death but excommunication from church, removal of citizenship from the state and perhaps banishment from the land if they are habitual…

“shall be cut off from among the people; be removed from their church state, and deprived of ecclesiastical privileges, and from their civil state, and reckoned no more of the commonwealth of Israel; and if known and convicted, to be punished by the civil magistrate, and if not, by the immediate hand of God.” – John Gill

Death is prescribed for some of the acts in this chapter especially for incest. But this chapter does not determine that and not all of them are requiring of death.

Ellicot Commentary says,

“Shall be cut off.—That is, in case the transgression escapes the ken of the tribunal, God himself will inflict the punishment upon the criminals, since some of the crimes specified in this chapter are, according to Leviticus 20, to be visited with death by the hand of man”

So some are by death and other not.. the death would be depended on Lev. 20 and what it prescribes for explicit “lie with”.

§Differences between Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20

See the difference between Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20 is Leviticus 18 uses the term “nakedness” which is a general term for various acts and sub acts while Leviticus 20 uses the term “Lie with” which is more explicit for incest and the actual action and not other things such as nakedness.

Leviticus 20 proscribes death for certain acts of lying which is different then cut off from the people…

It is also possible for ringleaders and habitual modesty breakers that the following make apply as per the courts decision as per what George Gillespie argues in Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty, 1644,

“If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.” Deuteronomy 25: 1-3


All in all I think this is one of the best argumentation for civil modesty laws and if it is not found here there is nowhere else it can be derived. But I believe it is a pretty convincing argument although I know many people will disagree. Many by emotionalism, fear and a plain ‘I don’t want to’. This was not an easy topic to cover nor some of the outcomes and logical conclusions. But I think it makes the best case from Scripture and the Reformed Faith.

People need guidance and they need rules and laws. Seeing what we see in our culture today as well as the many arguments I have been into online, I am convicted ever so strong that people are sheeples and need guidance and laws and even punishments to deter even in these areas.


Why I Would Abstain From Grape Juice in the Eucharist

March 29, 2016



I was recently asked, Why I would abstain from Grape Juice if it was given in the Eucharistic Meal. I started to write up a response and it turned out it was too long to post in a Facebook Comment so I decided to turn it into a Blog Article. The Following is my reponse.

Fruit of the Vine

Fruit of the Vines does not mean grape juice. It was a specific Jewish Liturgical phrase that only ever meant Fermented Wine.

With regards to the “Fruit of the Vine” I am going to quote from “Given for You” by Keith Mathison and foreworded by R.C. Sproul…..

“Having examined what scripture teaches about wine in general, we must next examine what it says about the use of wine in the Lord’s Supper. As we have already seen, the institution of the Lord’s Supper is recorded in all three of the Synoptic Gospels. In each of these accounts, Jesus identifies the contents of the cup as the “fruit of the vine”. Because the Lord’s Supper was instituted during a Passover Meal, it can hardly be denied that this “fruit of the vine” was the same wine that was used at the Passover. And, as Joachim Jeremias notes, “to genema tes ampelou (‘the fruit of the vine’) for ‘wine’ is in the Judaism of the time of Jesus a set liturgical formula at the blessing of the cup, both before and after the meal.” In other words, when the historical and grammatical context is taken into account, there are simply no grounds to conclude that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with anything other than the same wine that was used in the Passover meal.”

It is entirely irrelevant to point out that grape juice comes from the fruit of the vine and is therefore also permissible. Many fruits and berries grow on vines. Why limit ourselves to the juice of grapes?

I believed that Christ did tell us to use fermented wine by the phrase “Fruit of the Vine”. Because the phrase Fruit of the Vine was a special Jewish liturgical usage of the phrase fruit of the vine. The Jews only knew that term for fermented wine and nothing else. It was only used for fermented wine… So that is our key passage of Christ telling us directly… When Christ instituted the Holy Supper everyone present knew exactly what fruit of the vine meant… It meant fermented wine…

Fermentation Changes the Nature of the Beast

Fermentation changes the entire product of grape juice. It is a completely different beast. It is no longer chemically Grape Juice but Wine.

Grape and Yeast: Wine is not just grapes but it is grapes and yeast. it is 2 products. The yeast is naturally on the outside of the grape. thus when you smash it it immediately starts to become wine which gives a gladdening effect that is suppose to be part of the supper. Pasteurization is the process to remove yeast and make sure it is only one produce. Thus grape juice is never wine. Therefore grape juice was never given for communion.

The following process is a description that is taken from a Winery…

“After the harvest, the grapes are crushed and allowed to ferment. Red wine is made from the must (pulp) of red or black grapes that undergo fermentation together with the grape skins, while white wine is usually made by fermenting juice pressed from white grapes, but can also be made from must extracted from red grapes with minimal contact with the grapes’ skins. Rosé wines are made from red grapes where the juice is allowed to stay in contact with the dark skins long enough to pick up a pinkish color, but little of the tannins contained in the skins.

During this primary fermentation, which often takes between one and two weeks, yeast converts most of the sugars in the grape juice into ethanol (alcohol). After the primary fermentation, the liquid is transferred to vessels for the secondary fermentation. Here, the remaining sugars are slowly converted into alcohol and the wine becomes clear. Some wine is then allowed to age in oak barrels before bottling, which add extra aromas to the wine, while others are bottled directly. The time from harvest to drinking can vary from a few months for Beaujolais nouveau wines to over twenty years for top wines. However, only about 10% of all red and 5% of white wine will taste better after 5 years, compared to after one year.”

The juice is no longer Grape Juice but a Fermented Wine which has added a molecular composition of CnH2n+1OH

Grapes have the unique quality of having a natural yeast fungi on their skin, which is a leaven that causes the grape juice to ferment. Natural. grape juice, be it fresh or cooked, has this leaven in it. The only way to totally free grape juice of it’s leaven, is to allow it to completely ferment. In the process of fermentation, the leaven or other impurities of grape juice, are separated, as wine is produced. Impurities settle to the bottom, and the wine (pure) can be drawn off.

Pasteurization removes the yeast from the juice thereby preventing the fermentation of the product into Wine. Thereby Grape Juice is Grape Juice and Wine is Wine and are two completely different beasts.

Gladdening the Heart

I believe that the gladdening effect of Wine is suppose to be and required to be part of the Cup of the Lord and of the Eucharist.

John Gill wrote,

“the Cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? 1 Cor iv. 6 and it is a symbol of it, not as in his veins, but as shed from the various parts of his body, particularly his hands, feet, and side, when pierced; and as wine is squeezed out of the grape in the wine-press, so the blood of Christ was pressed from him, when it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and when he trod the wine-press of divine wrath; and as wine cheers the heart of man, so the blood of Christ, applied by the Spirit, speaks peace and pardon to guilty minds, and puts joy and gladness into broken hearts and wounded spirits”

So first we see the squeezing of the grape which represents the squeezing of his blood from His body. But we also see a gladdening an as wine cheers the heart of man so the blood of Christ and it puts joy and gladness into our hearts.

It is the perfect way to understand wine, as how it affects the human body, and relating that to the same affects of the blood of Christ. You just can’t make that association with other beverages, especially since the sacraments are meant to be sensory, so that we can see them, touch them, and in the case of wine in the Supper, taste it, and sense the warming, nourishment, the refreshment, etal. With little thimbles of grape juice, you can taste it, but there is no warmth, no nourishment, no gladdening of the heart. You just wet your whistle and taste the sweet.

The Psalmist states, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that God gave wine to men as a gift to make their hearts glad (Ps. 104:15). Why leave the “gladdening” element of alcohol out of wine if it is a divinely given gift and part of the gladdening aspect of the Supper of the Lord?

Marion Lovett wrote,

“What better analogies and illustrations could the Lord have used for His own blood than wine? Wine has the color of blood. By the virtue of the alcohol in it, wine has power in it. The blood of Jesus which cleanses His people from our sins has power in it (Romans 1:16). Wine gladdens the hearts of man. For this reason, wine is used for feasting and joyous occasions. His blood gladdens the hearts of His people, and is the occasion for our feasting and celebration. Such an occasion is observed at every communion.

When the Lord instituted baptism, He did so with water. Water is the essential element in a biblical baptism. It symbolizes washing and cleansing from sin. The Scripture says, “ . . . arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16). The sign must be correct in order to accurately signify the grace which is communicated. Therefore, it is not biblical to baptize with any substance other than water.

The same principle is held forth in the Lord’s Supper. Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper with bread and wine. Therefore, the symbols must be biblical in order to accurately signify the grace which is communicated. When Christ observed the Lord’s Supper in the upper room with His disciples at Passover time, he used real fermented wine, not grape juice or de-alcoholized wine. ”

Means of Grace

Within the Sacrament like other elements there is a means of grace.

“The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.” Shorter Catechism answer 88

How in the world are we suppose to receive the Means of Grace by Grape Juice if what Christ instituted as the Means of Grace was Fermented Wine?

If you just drink Grape Juice then you really are NOT receiving the Means of Grace. Only the proper elements that Christ instituted convey the Means of Grace. Drinking Grape Juice is nothing more then drinking Grape Juice and conveys nothing. Fermented Wine is what conveys the Means of Grace. In addition drinking Grape Juice at the Supper is a break in the Regulative Principle of Worship and therefore an act of disobedience. That is reason enough to abstain from drinking Grape Juice and Crackers for the Eucharistic meal. So not only do you not receive the Means of Grace, you are also acting in disobedience to the Second Commandment.

The Bread and the Fermented Wine are the Substance of the Elements of the Eucharist. These are extremely vital to the Element itself and the lack of these will change the Eucharist Element to nothing.

Now some people will ask? What about the Common Cup? What about the Common Table? These are breaks in the Regulative Principle, so should we abstain from the Eucharist if the Congregation does not have these things?

I totally agree it is a break in the Regulative Principle of Worship. But these are Forms of the Eucharist and does not alter or change the Element or Substance of the Eucharist. So it is still the Eucharistic Meal but done in bad Form. It is my belief that though these are breaks in the Regulative Principle and need to be corrected and Reformed it does not invalidate the Eucharistic Meal as if the Substance of the Elements were changed.

So I cannot agree to take Grape Juice in the Eucharistic Meal and I would abstain from the Eucharist if I was placed in such a circumstance.

Martin Luther said,

“When somebody inquired whether, when a sick person wished to have the sacrament but could not tolerate wine on account of nausea, something else should be given in place of the wine, the doctor [Martin Luther] replied, “This question has often been put to me and I have always given this answer: One shouldn’t use anything else than wine. If a person can’t tolerate wine, omit it [the sacrament] altogether in order that no innovation may be made or introduced.” Luther, M. (1999, c1967). Vol. 54: Luther’s works, vol. 54 : Table Talk (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (54:438). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

The Covenanter’s Personal Run-in with George Washington

March 18, 2016


In 1777, David Reed who was born in 1747, his brother John Reed, brother-in-law Samuel McBride (husband of David Reed’s sister Lydia) and several other Covenanters, moved from Lancaster County to what later became Washington County, Pennsylvania, to take possession of land that they believed to have purchased lawfully from a Colonel George Croghan. Colonel George Croghan had established an early British American trading post here during the French and Indian War. Calling themselves the Covenanters, they identified themselves with the Scotsmen who in the 1640s had opposed King Charles I’ efforts to tax and rule them without their consent.

But apparently there was a problem. In September 1784, Washington traveled into western Pennsylvania to survey the 2,813 acres the British government had awarded him for his service in the French and Indian War. But already there, the Covenanter families had already settled on the lands since they bought it from George Croghan in 1777 and when these Covenanters had arrived in the early 1770s, the area was a trackless forest, still considered by many to be part of the sprawling colony of Virginia. These frontier families had cleared the land; built fences, log cabins and barns; and endured the risk of Indian attacks. They had grown their own corn and wheat, raised cows and other farm animals, and hunted wild game.

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George Washington was not happy to say the least, the general feared that the loss of even a single parcel to squatters would have a cascading effect, and that he and other legitimate investors might lose hundreds of thousands of acres. Washington had hoped to attract settlers to western Pennsylvania as part of a tremendously ambitious plan for development of the new nation. The retired general was planning a grandiose scheme of canals and roads that would link Lake Erie to the Ohio River to the Potomac River to the Atlantic Ocean, a system that would carry the wealth of the nation’s interior to himself and his home state of Virginia.

These Covenanters, now, years later, were being confronted by an absentee landlord who they believed was not the true owner of the land they had purchased. But Washington had kept track of every acre he owned and calculated every shilling of rent that he believed was due.

The Covenanters operating on the assumption that those who improved the land had stronger legal and moral claim to ownership than someone who simply possessed a paper title, they refused to grant Washington occupancy and were unimpressed by his revolutionary war credentials.

Washington was convinced that the squatters had taken advantage of him, penalizing him for the years he had led his country’s army in its fight for independence.

“Indeed, comparatively speaking I possess very little land on the Western Waters,” he wrote to his attorney. “To attempt therefore to deprive me of the little I have, is, considering the circumstances under which I have been and the inability of attending to my own affairs, not only unjust, but pitifully mean.” He had little sympathy for this “grazing multitude,” who “set forth their pretensions” to his land, and attempted to “discover all the flaws they could in my Deed.”

Washington was intent on enforcing his legal rights to collect back rent. Attempts were made to arrive at a peaceful solution. On September 14, 1784, Washington met with the squatters met at his gristmill near present-day Venice. On September 20, 1784, a second meeting was held between Washington, Reed and a group 13 of other squatters (Washington’s term for these Covenanters). The efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

The meeting was recorded in Washington’s journal thusly:

“September 20, 1784 dined at David Reed’s, after which Mr. James Scott and Squire Reed began to enquire whether I would part with the land, and upon what terms; adding that, though they did not conceive they could be dispossessed, yet, to avoid contention, they would buy if my terms were moderate. I told them I had no inclination to sell; however, after hearing a great deal of their hardships, their religious principles which had brought them together as a society … and unwillingness to separate or remove, I told them I would make them a last offer and this was The whole tract at 25 shillings per acre. The money to be paid in three annual payments with interest or to become tenants upon leases of 999 years at the annual rental of 10 pounds per C per annum, etc.”

These were stiff terms. None of the thirteen squatters was interested in the lease. When they asked Washington if he would sell the land at his asking price over a much longer period of time and without any interest, he refused, at which point they formally declared that they did not recognize his ownership.

George Washington decided to proceed with a law suit. The ensuing lawsuit dragged on for two years. In October 1786, a trial on the issue was held in Washington, Pennsylvania, with Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Thomas McKean riding circuit as the presiding judge.

When the jury came back with a verdict in favor of the general, he became the proprietor of thirteen separate plantations. Washington won the suit.

Abandoning the homes they had built over many years, they all moved away. Several obtained warrants for land adjacent to or near Washington’s land, cleared it, and built new plantations. The Reed brothers acquired farms in Cecil township in Washington County. Samuel McBride settled on a farm in what later became Lawrence County, Pennsylvania.












What happened to the land? Washington would keep his grip on the land for another decade. In 1796, with western land speculation in full collapse, he sold the entire tract to a local agent for the modest sum of $12,000. When the agent defaulted on the mortgage, the general then retained the land until his death.

George Washington was being extremely unfair. These Covenanters purchased the land lawfully and settled it. They also had the moral high ground by which they had improved the land for more then a decade and Washington was absent and not present. Washington was apparently gifted this land by the British Government of which no longer had any claims in the territory. The Covenanters were willing to compromise and buy the land of which they already owned but Washington demanded far too stiff of terms. Thus was the run in of Covenanters with America’s First President.

Holiness and Holiness Standards Among Reformed Covenanters

March 18, 2016

walking in holiness


Do Reformed Covenanters have Holiness Standards? Well maybe not so much today (this is an issue and spiritual matter we must recover). But historically Covenanters have had Holiness Standards. “Gasp! Someone may say, blah such legalism” but Holiness and Holiness Standards are not optional for a true believer nor is it legalism. Reformed Christians have always believe in the continuing force of God’s moral law, not for Justification but Sanctification, as a rule of life.

Nor is having Scriptural derived standards, legalistic. We are not adding to the law of God. So whether it is a holiness matter that deals with worship, or the holiness of the Sabbath to even the lesser matters of the law, modesty, sobriety, moderation, head veiling, makeup, tattoos, hair length and other matters of the law. We believe we must strive for holiness and to pursue holiness, “Be Holy For I am Holy”. We are required to live a separated life.

Some may even think this is unique to Pentecostalism. It is not! It is rooted in the Reformed Faith since the beginning of the First Reformation and way before the modern Pentecostal movement begin.

Practical or outward holiness for believers do involve certain ‘holiness standards’ that dictate, among other things as modest apparel and gender distinction. We Covenanters believe wholeheartedly in dressing modesty (not by cultural standards or norms) with restraints and limits as well as moderation which requires avoiding excesses..

Covenanter Rev. Prof. R.J George, D.D. wrote in 1898,

“In our Church Covenant the requirements of the separated life are set forth in a most solemn vow of surrender of the life to God and consecration to holy living. Aiming to live for the glory of God as our chief end we will in reliance upon God’s grace and feeling our inability to perform any spiritual duty in our own strength diligently attend to searching the Scriptures religious conversation the duties of the closet the household the fellowship meetings and the sanctuary and seek in them to worship God in spirit and in truth. We do solemnly promise to depart from iniquity and to live soberly righteously and in this present world commending and encouraging by our example temperance charity and godliness.

All through her history the Church of the Covenanters has given expression to her doctrine of separated life by certain beautiful and forms in connection with the observance of Lord’s Supper which are in a good degree peculiar to herself. The first is on the Saturday the Sacrament is observed there is an official exhibition of the terms of her ecclesiastical fellowship and an authoritative distribution of tokens of admission to the Lord’s table by the Session constituted in the name of Christ. The other immediately preceded the of communicants to the holy table of the Lord was called by our fathers ‘Fencing the tables’.

The doctrine underlying these Covenanter is the doctrine of the separated life as expressed.

The Scripture,

“A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.”

“Open ye the gates that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.”

“Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit, thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.”

The charge has often been made by the enemies of the martyrs of the Covenant that their devotion was simply to the externals of religion, while they lacked the real separated life which consists in consecration to holy living and complete surrender to the will of God. Those who make this charge either have little acquaintance with the lives of these godly men and women, whom they thus reproach, or they have little regard for truth.

From a great cloud of witnesses I can only give the testimony of two of the most noted, namely Donald Cargill, The author of the Queensferry Paper and of the Torwood Excommunication; and James Renwick, the organizer of the Society People and the last of Scotland’s martyrs.

In his dying testimony Cargill said: I have followed holiness; I have taught truth; and I have been most in the main things; not that I thought the things concerning our times little, but that I thought none could do anything to purpose in God’s great and public matters till they were right in their own conditions.

What a testimony to the need of holiness in order to service. The words might well be inscribed over the doors of a theological seminary– “No one can do anything to purpose in God’s great and public matters till they are right in their own conditions.”

Renwick bore testimony to the excellence of holy living. And after speaking of the trials through which the persecuted remnant had passed, and the still greater trials awaiting them, he adds: “What is for us this day, but that we make Christ sure for ourselves, and spend our days here below in admiring the loveliness and condescension of our Beloved, and our happiness in enjoying such a portion. But this is a great work. Time is not equal for it, therefore we shall get eternity for it. O let us study the increase of the beauty of holiness, for happiness is inferior unto it. It is by holiness we are made like unto God; and is not this true nobility? O what is like unto it! If we knew more of this study and attainment desertion would be less of our exercise, and we should enjoy more of the smilings of His sweet countenance and the breathings of His spirit.”

Now listen to Renwick’s appeal for a life wholly consecrated to God:

“Oh, who would not choose Him?” he says, “Who would not give away themselves to Him” Let man look through heaven and earth, and seek a portion where he will, he will not find the like of Christ. O, then, let us be altogether His and nothing our own. Our time, let it be His; our understanding let it be His; our will let it be His; our affections, let them be His; the travail of our souls, let it be His; our strength, let it be His; our names, our lives and enjoyments, let them all be His. Let us be fully surrendered and entirely consecrated unto Him.”

Again, I say the words might well be inscribed over the doors of a theological seminary. And what can be more sublime than his message from Holland to the Societies:

“My longings and earnest desires to be in that land and with the pleasant remnant are very great. I cannot tell what may be in it, but I hope that either the Lord has some great work to work, or else is minded to call for a testimony at my hand. If He give me frame and furniture I desire to be ready for either.”

Noble words! Work or martyrdom! They recall that ancient seal which had for its symbol an ox standing between a pIow and an altar, and underneath the legend– Ready for EITHER. If the modern doctrine of a ‘separated life’ comprehends anything beyond that in the way of full consecration and entire surrender of the life to God, I know not what it is.

While, for the purpose of exhibiting the scope of the dominant principles of our Church, I have presented the subject under three heads, yet true it is, that they all may be comprehended under one, for the second and third, are correlates of the first, and the one grand imperial principle the Church of the Covenanters, from which she had her birth, which reappears at every crisis in her history, and which moulds and controls her government, worship, discipline and service, is the preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Rev. J. M’C Cromie, in his address before the Glasgow Convention in 1896, on Reformed Presbyterian Literature, said:

“The monuments and literature of ancient Egypt teach us that the men who produced them were under the dominion of one idea; they believed the one real business of life was preparation for death.

Upon the whole literature of the Covenanters is graven, with a pen of iron, one idea: the Supreme Headship of Lord Jesus Christ in all matters sacred and civil. In fact, the whole literature of the Covenants is simply the expansion of one idea– ‘The World for Christ’”

-Covenanter Rev. Prof. R.J George, D.D. in Christian Nation: Righteousness Exalts a Nation, 1898, Vol. 29

So Be Holy and live a separated life.


holiness 3



Long tailed boat

A Call To A New Reformation and A Return to the Primacy of Pure Worship

March 14, 2016

a call to reformation 2


We are in a desperate need of a new Reformation. There are areas that the First and Second Reformations did not fully tackle. Areas that need to be further expounded or even clarified. Subject areas that might have slightly been mentioned but need to be further Reformed according to the Word of God. The First Reformation was largely a Reformation of the Church and of it’s worship and the Second Reformation was largely a Reformation of the State but there are other subject areas that need to be Reformed.

But like I wrote in my article ‘Semper Reformata’ @,

“The Reformed Faith wanted to reform everything to the Word of God. Not by novelty, creativity or by any human whim are we to determine for our doctrine, worship or lives.

‘Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda Secundum Verbum Dei’ is often abused by liberal churches but it can also be abused by conservative churches who want to encourage a broader definition of the Reformed Faith. It is usually invoked as a way of expressing dissatisfaction with Reformed theology as received and expressed in the Reformed confessions and the Historic Reformed Faith.

One thing that is extremely important though is that confessional Reformed churches must also beware of not forgetting that our doctrinal standards are subordinate authorities but still authorities.”

In addition I wrote,

“The phrase “The church is reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the Word of God.” The verb is passive: the church is not “always reforming,” but is “always being reformed” by the Spirit of God through the Word. Also it is done corporately and not individually. The phrase was never intended to become a license for corrupting the Reformed faith.”

So in calling for a new Reformation I am not calling for a corruption of the Reformed Faith or what is already established and considered Reformed Orthodoxy but to strengthen, Reformed Orthodoxy, Further Reform what has not been Reformed or touched in previous Reformations.

But in addition to further Reform what has not been Reformed according to Scripture we must first return through Reformation what we have already Reformed.

We have lost much attainment of our previous Reformations and have much declension. We must return to the old paths of our forefathers and start a new Reformation by regaining our previous attainments.

That first must with absolute necessity begin with worship. Contrary to what others may supposed think, worship is of primary importance. This is not some secondary issue. It is vital, absolutely vital. We need to reaffirm the regulative principle of worship but we must also reaffirm the primacy of pure worship.

Often what people tend to forget is that the First Reformation as well as the Scottish aspect of the First Reformation was predominately a Reformation of WORSHIP. So importance is the primacy of worship that John Calvin himself placed the ‘how we worship’ as the most important doctrine of the church, even above Justification by Faith Alone.

By why did John Calvin place ‘how we worship’ above Justification by Faith alone?

In The Necessity of Reforming the Church, 1543, John Calvin wrote,

“If it be inquired, then, by what things chiefly the Christian religion has a standing existence amongst us, and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity: that is, a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshipped; and, secondly, of the source from which salvation is to be obtained. When these are kept out of view, though we may glory in the name of Christians, our profession is empty and vain.”

The first reason is that it is because Justification is not our chief end. Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever which is worship, Justification is merely a vehicle to get us to our chief end. So how we worship God is of primary import. It is our sole reason of existence to give God worship and we will be doing so for all eternity. How we are saved is the means by which we reach our chief end which is to glory God and enjoy Him forever. And failure to have correct worship and to keep this out of view, no matter how much we may glory God, our profession is empty and vain.

How we worship God and the source from which salvation is to be obtained is the whole substance of Christianity.

Secondly, It is because God alone has the pejorative and right to determine how he is to be worshipped and how man before and after the fall can approach a just and holy God.

So let me finish off with a wonderful quote by Kevin Reed which nicely sums up what I have been saying.

Kevin Reed wrote in Worship in the Presence of God, chapter John Knox and the Reformation of Worship in the Scottish Reformation,

“The example of Knox stands as a sharp reprimand to Christians in the present day. It points to our need to think about worship. We need to contemplate the grounds of our religious activities. Many areas of contemporary worship need to come under the scrutiny of the Word of God.

The Church needs to reaffirm the regulative principle of worship. Nothing should be admitted into the worship of God, unless it possesses a clear Scriptural warrant. This principle is merely an extension of the sola scriptura perspective of Protestant theology, as applied to the realm of worship. Anything less is a violation of the demands of the living God, who says, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deut. 4:2; 12:32).

It follows from this principle that the Church has some serious housecleaning to do. Protestant Churches are presently full of un-Scriptural devices which have corrupted the worship of God. The struggle between the Bride of Christ and Antichrist has never ceased; there are many Papal institutions which have sough entrance into Protestant Churches. Away with such baggage from Rome! Let’s get specific we should rid the Church of all graven images, including those ‘pictures of Christ’ which are found in the foyer and children’s Sunday School literature. …

In addition to the corruptions of Rome, Protestant have added a few of their own over the past two or three centuries. For example, a neglect of the proper use of the sacraments has given rise to a number of ‘false sacraments’- that is, to many practices which have come to serve as ‘sealing ordinances,’ but which have no warrant from the Word of God.

The altar call constitutes such a false sacrament; it serves to confirm religious professions of faith, and it is used to provide assurance to the adherents of modern ‘evangelicalism.’ Its function is quite similar to the false sacraments of Roman Catholicism; and in each case, the false practices are reflective of Pelagian notions of salvation. May we work for the elimination of altar calls, and other manipulative techniques which have no Scriptural sanction. …

These are merely suggestions of some places to begin. There are multitudes of other things which have inappropriately found a place in the Church. May we pledge ourselves, before God, to unceasing labor, until we have cleansed the temple of God from all the modern monuments of idolatry.

In this vein, the officers of the Church have a special duty to carry out the work of Reformation. We may not live to see idolatry entirely eradicated from our society; but it can be removed from within the walls of the Church. It is the province of Church officers to perform this task in all matters under their jurisdiction. Church officers awaken to your responsibilities. One day you must render an account for how well you have discharged your responsibilities. …

Finally, it is important to realize the primacy of pure worship. On the individual level, there is nothing more important.

Knox saw that human innovation in worship is the very seed of idolatry, He took it very seriously because idolatry “separateth man altogether from God” A pastoral concern for the souls of men fueled Knox’s opposition to corrupt worship.

In the modern pluralistic age, the Church has lost a sense of immorality of false worship. False religious opinions and practices are not simply academic differences; they are a form of moral corruption which destroys the souls of men. This truth should provide the Church with a sense of urgency as it confronts men in their false worship.

The primacy of worship also has tremendous ramifications on the corporate level. Today in America, there are many cries for a ‘new Reformation.’ Yet, these calls often come from groups which have no conception of the priority of worship.

A new Reformation cannot be based upon an attempt to preserve a social structure or a cultural way of life. The Scottish Reformation was preeminently a struggle over worship. Certainly, it had social and political ramifications; and those who seek to divorce religion from social and political life are being naive. But, likewise, it is folly to seek to ‘reform’ America without a primary emphasis on worship.

Frequently, the new social reformers join hands with Papists, Pelagians, Mormons, and others, in an attempt to save our nation. Yet, God’s blessings are to be found when His people seek refuge in Him- not when they can construct a coalition from among the various factions of religious idolaters in the land. To think otherwise is to miss the main point of the Scottish Reformation.

While Knox would share the abhorrence for the general lawlessness in our society, it is doubtful he would approve of the selective emphases of the modern social reformers. These contemporary cultural reformers wax eloquent in their denunciation of certain forms of lawlessness: homosexuality, adultery, government theft by taxation, and federal intrusions into family life. It is very popular to denounce these practices. Yet, our modern social critics are strangely silent when it comes to violators of the first table of God’s law, such as idolaters (including Papist, Pelagians, Mormons, etc) and Sabbath-breakers.

Say Knox,

“But vain it is to crave reformation in manners, where the religion is corrupted. For like as a man cannot do the office of a man, except first he have a being or a life, so to work works pleasant in the sigh of God the Father can no man do without the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, which doth not abide in the hearts of Idolaters.”

In closing, let us hear the words of John Knox, who calls us to that preeminent concern for true worship:

“The matter is not of so small importance, as some suppose. The question is, whether God or man ought to be obeyed in matters of religion? In mouth, all do confess that God is only worthy of sovereignty. But after that many– by instigation of the devil, and by the presumptuous arrogance of carnal wisdom, and worldly policy– have defaced God’s holy ordinance, men fear not to follow what laws and common consent (mother to all mischief, and nurse most favorable to superstition) hath established and commanded. But thus continually I can do nothing but hold, and affirm all things polluted, yeah execrable and accursed, which God by his word hath not sanctified in his religion. God grant you his Holy Spirit rightly to judge.””

So may God grand us a new Third Reformation and may we repent of our sins and return to our previous attainments which is primary the reaffirming the primacy of pure worship and we must have a Third Reformation and Reaffirming the primacy of Pure Worship by  not walking hand in hand with idolaters.

May Yahovah be Merciful to Us

Tripartite Division of the Law of God: A Patristic and Reformed Orthodox View

March 8, 2016



It would seem that the Reformed view of the Tripartite division of the law of God is always getting slammed attacked. Whether by Reconstructionist or by those who do not hold to the Historic Covenant Theology such as those who hold to New Covenant Theology. There also seems to be much misunderstanding both in terms of the history of the Tripartite division of the Law as well as how it is derived from the Scriptures.

§History of the Tripartite Division of the Law – A Cloud of Witnesses

Many believe that Thomas Aquinas was the first to invent the term of Moral, Ceremonial and Judicial categories and thus it is a very late invention within church history. But this is not true.


The early second-century Barnabas, recognised that there is a distinction within God’s law. He notes that sacrifices, burnt offerings and oblations have been abolished and replaced by ‘the new law of our Lord Jesus Christ’, as has circumcision. However, he is clear that believers must ‘utterly flee from all the works of lawlessness’, and in spelling out ‘The Way of Light’ which Christians must walk in contrast with ‘The Way of the Black One’, he quotes most of the ten commandments and insists, ‘You shall not desert the commandments of the Lord.’ Barnabas, at this early stage of Christian theological development, was already seeing the distinctions within the law of God.

Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew distinguishes three types of material in the Law, ‘one which was ordained for piety and the practice of righteousness’, and another which was instituted ‘either to be a mystery of the Messiah or because of the hardness of heart of your people’

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus

Tertullian distinguishes what he terms ‘the primordial law’ or ‘the natural law’ from ‘the sacerdotal law’ or ‘the Levitical law’.

Tertullian also recognises the difference between what would later come to be known as the moral and civil parts of the law when he distinguishes the ‘prime counsels of innocence, chastity, and justice, and piety’ from the ‘prescriptions of humanity’


In the mid-second century Ptolemaeus found three sections to God’s law. Ptolemaeus distinguishes between the Pure Law which is summarized in the Ten Commandments, the Mosaic Law which Jesus came to fulfill and the third being the ceremonial law which Christ spiritualized but also did not abrogate.

Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis

Augustine held “that in the Old Law there are ‘precepts concerning the life we have to lead, and precepts regarding the life that is foreshadowed.’

In AD 400 Augustine wrote a reply to a Manichaean attack on the Old Testament. In the course of this

work Augustine introduces a distinction between the moral and the symbolical precepts of the law:

For example, ‘Thou shalt not covet’ is a moral precept; ‘Thou shalt circumcise every male on the eighth day’ is a symbolical precept.6

By ‘symbolical’ precepts Augustine means what would later become known as the ceremonial law.

John Calvin refers to ‘the ancients who adopted this division’ and it is clear that he was referring to these Patristic theologians and not later in the game Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas Aquinas

We finally get to Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas who related these precepts to moral, ceremonial, and judicial principles by arguing that both moral and judicial principles fall under the “life we have to lead” category. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica FS.Q99.A4. It was around 1270 that Aquinas wrote:

“We must therefore distinguish three kinds of precept in the Old Law; viz. ‘moral’ precepts, which are dictated by the natural law; ‘ceremonial’ precepts, which are determinations of the Divine worship; and ‘judicial’ precepts, which are determinations of the justice to be maintained among men.”

John Calvin refers to it as a “well-known division” (Institutes 4.20.14):

“We must attend to the well-known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law, and we must attend to each of these parts, in order to understand how far they do, or do not, pertain to us. “

Herman Witsius in The Economy of the Covenants, Vol. 2, p. 167:
“And this very learned author himself [Theodore Beza] has elsewhere observed, that the words, {Heb.}, law, statutes, and judgments, are often synonymous; but whenever they are thus joined together, they are distinguished from each other by a peculiar signification; and that by {Heb.} is understood the moral law; by {Heb.}, the ceremonial, and by {Heb.} the forensic law.”
Witsius goes on (pp. 168-169) to commend and quote John Lightfoot’s summary of the tripartite division of the law,

John Lightfoot, Erubhin, or, Miscellanies, Chap. 59, in Works, Vol. 4, p. 79:

“The ceremonial law, that concerned only the Jews, was given to Moses in private, in the tabernacle; and fell with the tabernacle, when the veil rent in twain. The moral law concerns the whole world; and it was given in sight of the whole world, on the top of a mountain; and must endure as long, as any mountain standeth. The judicial law (which is more indifferent, and may stand or fall, as seems best for the good of a commonwealth) was given, neither so public as the one, nor so private as the other; but in a mean between both.”

Dutch Annotations:

“Gen. 26.5 – my Commandments…my precepts, my institutions, (or statutes) and my laws [These four several terms are held to be thus distinguished; the first of all to be the general term, signifying whatsoever God commanded and ordained; and the latter three to respect things particular; as the precepts of the moral law; the institutions or statutes on the Ceremonial law, the laws on the doctrine of what we are obliged to believe, &c. Elsewhere there are added unto these, the rights, whereby are understood the Civil or Political Laws, Deut. 11.1.]”

“Deut. 5.31 – all the Commandements, and the Statutes, and the Judgments; [Concerning these three words immediately following each other; (according to the opinion of most Interpreters) the first of them signifieth the Moral Law, the second, the Ceremonial Laws, and the third the Judicial or Civil Laws]”

Henry Ainsworth, Annotations on the Pentateuch and the Psalms, Vol. 1, p. 136 (Gen. 26.5):

“[Charge] Heb. keeping, or observation: that is, ‘ordinances to be kept.’ So in Lev. viii. 35 xxii. 9 Deut. xi. 1. Laws,] For this word, elsewhere the scriptures saith, ‘judgments,’ Deut. xi. 1 v. 1, 31. vi. 1, 20. vii. 11. viii. 11, &c. and under these three particulars, the whole ‘charge’ or ‘custody’ forespoken of, is comprehended; as afterward by Moses God gave the ten ‘commandments,’ or moral precepts, Exod. xx. ‘Judgments,’ or judicial laws for punishing transgressors, Exod. xxi, &c. ‘and statutes,’ or ‘rules, ordinances,’ and ‘decrees,’ for the service of God, Lev. iii. 17. vi. 18, 22. Exod. xii. 24. xxvii. 31. xxix. 9. xxx. 31. All which Abraham observed, and is commended of God therefore.”

Matthew Poole, Synopsis Criticorum, Vol. 3, pp. 78-79 (Gen. 26.5):

“[And he kept my precepts, etc….] My observances…This is the name of a genus, of which three species follow (Ainsworth, Malvenda). [Heb.]/precepts are appointed to have respect to the moral law (Ainsworth, Dutch): {Heb.}/statutes, either the ceremonial law (Dutch, Malvenda), or natural law; for example, thou shalt worship one God (Ibn Ezra in Munster): {Heb.}/laws, either they look toward the doctrine which we are held to believe (Dutch), or unto ceremonies (Ibn Ezra in Munster). To these elsewhere are added {Heb.}/judgments, that is, political laws (Dutch).”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 2, pp. 145-146:

“Twenty-Fourth Question: The Ceremonial Law What was the end and the use of the ceremonial law under the Old Testament?

The Mosaic law threefold: moral, ceremonial, forensic.

I. The law given by Moses is usually distinguished into three species: moral (treating of morals or of perpetual duties towards God and our neighbor); ceremonial (of the ceremonies or rites about the sacred things to be observed under the Old Testament); and civil, constituting the civil government of the Israelite people. The first is the foundation upon which rests the obligation of the others and these are its appendices and determinations. Ceremonial has respect to the first table determining its circumstances, especially as to external worship. Civil has respect to the second table in judicial things, although it lays down punishments for crimes committed against the firs table.

Foundation of the distinction.

II. The truth of this distinction appears from the diversity of the names by which it is designated in the Scriptures. The moral law is for the most part expressed by mtsvth (“precepts”), the ceremonial by chqym (“statutes”) and the judicial by mshptym (“judgments”), which the Septuagint renders by entolas, dikaiomata and krimata. “I will speak unto thee all the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them” (Dt. 5:31); so also in 6:1, 20; 7:11; and Lev. 26:46. Sometimes however these words are synonymous and used promiscuously (Ezk. 5:6; 20:11, 16, 18). But the distinction appears principally from the nature of the thing and the office of the law (whose it is to settle the order according to which man is joined to God and his neighbor). Now man is joined to God first by a certain internal and external likeness — in love and justice, holiness and truth, whose rule the moral law delivers. Again by the external signification and testification of those acts of divine worship (marks and symbols being employed) whose use the ceremonial law prescribes. Finally, what duty man owes to man, the civil law (applied more distinctly to the Israelites) explains. The moral law regards the Israelite people as men; the ceremonial as the church of the Old Testament expecting the promised Messiah; the civil regards them as a peculiar people who in the land of Canaan ought to have a republic suiting their genius and disposition.

Difference between the moral law and others.

III. Hence arises a manifold difference between the moral law and others both in origin (because the moral is founded upon natural right and on this account is known by nature; but the others upon positive right and on this account are from free revelation) and in duration. The former is immutable and eternal; the latter mutable and temporary. In regard to object, the one is universal embracing all; the others particular applying only to the Jews (the civil, indeed, inasmuch as it regarded them as a distinct state dedicated to God; the ceremonial, however, referring to their ecclesiastical state and state of minority and infancy). In regard to use, the moral is the end of the others, while the others are subservient to the moral. Thus far we have spoken of the moral; now we must discuss the ceremonial.”

§The Scriptural Case

“Now this is the commandment [mitsvâh], and these are the statutes [chôq] and judgments [mishpât] which the Lord your God has commanded [tsâvâh] to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you . . . all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. ” (Deuteronomy 6:1-3)

The Older Testament uses various names to refer to different parts of God’s law.

Leviticus 26:46 These are the statutes and ordinances and laws which the LORD established between Himself and the sons of Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai.

Numbers 36:13 These are the commandments and the ordinances which the LORD commanded to the sons of Israel through Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho.

Deuteronomy 4:45 these are the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances which Moses spoke to the sons of Israel, when they came out from Egypt,

Deuteronomy 5:31 ‘But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess.’

Deuteronomy 6:1 “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it,

Deuteronomy 6:20 “When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the LORD our God commanded you?’

Deuteronomy 12:1 “These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth.

2 Chronicles 33:8 and I will not again remove the foot of Israel from the land which I have appointed for your fathers, if only they will observe to do all that I have commanded them according to all the law, the statutes and the ordinances given through Moses.”

A Triadic Expression was very common in Hebrew culture and is compared to our exclamation mark.

But there are two kinds of Triadic Expressions.. One that defines the emphasizes in exact detail such as the holiness of God, “Holy, Holy, Holy” but there is also a Triadic Expression that is an emphasis with slight different nuisances.. In this kind the three-fold expression is more than emphasis. The Bible contains many examples of these triadic expression. For example: Exodus 34:7—“iniquity and transgression and sin”; Deuteronomy 5:31 and 6:1—“commandments and statutes and judgments”; Matthew 22:37—“with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (cf. Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27); Acts 2:22—“miracles and wonders and signs”..

“Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs” is Triadic Expression of the second form. All three refer to the same thing, the book of Psalms but there are slight nuisances within each category that are found in the Psalter, different Psalms are called by the slight different category, One a Psalm, One a Song, One a Hymn, one a Hymn and a Song”…

The same applies the Commandments, Statues and Judgments.. They are all part of the one law but they give slight nuisances within the One law of God with different emphasis. These categories are the direct reason why the Reformers divided the law into the three categories.

The commandments, statues, and judgments are similar, but they do add a unique content to the overall concept of the emphasis showing forth their categorical distinctions.

And this is the exact reason why the Reformed Faith has always upheld the Threefold Division of the Laws of God. They understood that even in the Old Testament that the Law of God was divided into three parts mitsvâh, chôq and mishpât which all correspond to Commandments, Statues and Judgements.

And this is so clearly seen in their quotes on the subject such as Witsius who quotes himself Beza,

“And this very learned author himself [Theodore Beza] has elsewhere observed, that the words, {Heb.}, law, statutes, and judgments, are often synonymous; but whenever they are thus joined together, they are distinguished from each other by a peculiar signification; and that by {Heb.} is understood the moral law; by {Heb.}, the ceremonial, and by {Heb.} the forensic law.”

So Yes it is Scriptural and YES there is prima facie evidence (even if not the precise terminology) has a longer pedigree to the very first century of the Church. So there is both Scriptural and Historical Testimony to back up this extremely important Reformed Doctrine, otherwise you will be getting into all sorts of trouble.

So remember the number:

number three white.jpg

Custos Utriusque Tabulæ – Keeper of Both Tables of the Law

March 6, 2016

two tables of the law


The magistrate is ‘Custos Utriusque Tabulæ’, the keeper of both Tables of the law as George Gillespie and many other Reformed theologians have declared. Civil magistrates are ordained vice-gerents of God to enforce both tables of the law including open blasphemy, idolatry, heresy, etc. The State is to protect the church and be a nursing father to it.

There is a new growing danger afoot within the Reconstructionist movement that removes the magistrates ability to enforce the First Table of the Law. It is a form of Libertarianism and has been within the Reconstructionist camp in small ways but now that Dr. Joel McDurmon of American Vision has written a book on the subject and has come out as such a Libertarian this movement is going to grow by the mile. We must keep in mind that this idea and theory is not orthodox and is contrary to the Reformed Confessions of Faith and it must be fully rejected. It is my deepest prayer that this man will come to see that his view is in major error and repents of his ways and come back to the Orthodox position.

§Custos Utriusque Tabulæ in Reformed Thought

John Calvin (1509 – 1564)

“Of the duty of Magistrates. Their first care the preservation of the Christian religion and true piety.

This proved. The duty of magistrates, its nature, as described by the word of God, and the things in which it consists, I will here indicate in passing. That it extends to both tables of the law, did Scripture not teach, we might learn from profane writers; for no man has discoursed of the duty of magistrates, the enacting of laws, and the common weal, without beginning with religion and divine worship. Thus all have confessed that no polity can be successfully established unless piety be its first care, and that those laws are absurd which disregard the rights of God, and consult only for men. Seeing then that among philosophers religion holds the first place, and that the same thing has always been observed with the universal consent of nations, Christian princes and magistrates may be ashamed of their heartlessness if they make it not their care. We have already shown that this office is specially assigned them by God, and indeed it is right that they exert themselves in asserting and defending the honour of him whose vicegerents they are, and by whose favour they rule. Hence in Scripture holy kings are especially praised for restoring the worship of God when corrupted or overthrown, or for taking care that religion flourished under them in purity and safety. On the other hand, the sacred history sets down anarchy among the vices, when it states that there was no king in Israel, and, therefore, every one did as he pleased (Judges 21:25). This rebukes the folly of those who would neglect the care of divine things, and devote themselves merely to the administration of justice among men; as if God had appointed rulers in his own name to decide earthly controversies, and omitted what was of far greater moment, his own pure worship as prescribed by his law. Such views are adopted by turbulent men, who, in their eagerness to make all kinds of innovations with impunity, would fain get rid of all the vindicators of violated piety. In regard to the second table of the law, Jeremiah addresses rulers, “Thus saith the Lord, Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood” (Jer. 22:3). To the same effect is the exhortation in the Psalm, “Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; rid them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3, 4). Moses also declared to the princes whom he had substituted for himself, “Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great: ye shall not be afraid of the face of man, for the judgment is God’s” (Deut. 1:16). I say nothing as to such passages as these, “He shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt;” “neither shall he multiply wives to himself; neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold;” “he shall write him a copy of this law in a book;” “and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God;” “that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren” (Deut. 17:16-20). In here explaining the duties of magistrates, my exposition is intended not so much for the instruction of magistrates themselves, as to teach others why there are magistrates, and to what end they have been appointed by God. We say, therefore, that they are the ordained guardians and vindicators of public innocence, modesty, honour, and tranquillity, so that it should be their only study to provide for the common peace and safety. Of these things David declares that he will set an example when he shall have ascended the throne. “A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me” (Psalm 101:4-6). But as rulers cannot do this unless they protect the good against the injuries of the bad, and give aid and protection to the oppressed, they are armed with power to curb manifest evil-doers and criminals, by whose misconduct the public tranquillity is disturbed or harassed. For we have full experience of the truth of Solon’s saying, that all public matters depend on reward and punishment; that where these are wanting, the whole discipline of states totters and falls to pieces. For in the minds of many the love of equity and justice grows cold, if due honour be not paid to virtue, and the licentiousness of the wicked cannot be restrained, without strict discipline and the infliction of punishment. The two things are comprehended by the prophet when he enjoins kings and other rulers to execute “judgment and righteousness” (Jer. 21:12; 22:3). It is righteousness (justice) to take charge of the innocent, to defend and avenge them, and set them free: it is judgment to withstand the audacity of the wicked, to repress their violence, and punish their faults. -Institutes of the Christian Religion 4.20.9

Theodore Beza (1519-1605)

“Therefore, in regard to this very subject of which we here treat, since we have the clear word and command of God, by which magistrates are ordered to punish blasphemy. And in addition this is particularly the duty of the Magistrate, to take care that sins against the first Table are avenged” -Theodore Beza

John Knox (1514-1572)

“No man denies, but that the sword is committed to the magistrate, to the end that he should punish vice and maintain virtue. To punish vice, I say: not only that which troubles the tranquillity and quiet estate of the commonwealth (by adultery, theft, or murder committed), but also such vices as openly impugn the glory of God, as idolatry, blasphemy, and manifest heresy, taught and obstinately maintained, as the histories and notable acts of Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat, and Josiah do plainly teach us; whose study and care was not only to glorify God in their own life and conversation, but also they unfeignedly did travail to bring their subjects to the true worshipping and honoring of God; and did destroy all monuments of idolatry, did punish to death the teachers of it, and removed from office and honors such as were maintainers of those abominations. Whereby, I suppose, that it is evident, that the office of the king, or supreme magistrate, has respect to the moral law, and to the conservation of both the tables.” – John Knox, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment [government] of Women (1558).

John Knox on the Magistrates Duty in the reformation of religion,

“But the facts of Hezekiah, and of Josiah, do more clearly prove the power and duty of the civil magistrate in the reformation of religion. Before the reign of Hezekiah, so corrupt was the religion that the doors of the house of the Lord were shut up, the lamps were extinguished, no orderly sacrifice was made. But in the first year of his reign, the first month of the same, did the king open the doors of the temple, bring in the priests and the Levites, and assembling them together, did speak unto them as follows: “Hear me, O ye Levites, and be sanctified now, and sanctify also the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth from the sanctuary all filthiness”­ he means all monuments and vessels of idolatry (1 Chron. 29). “For our fathers have transgressed, and have committed wickedness in the eyes of the Eternal, our God; they have left him, and have turned their faces from the tabernacle of the Lord, and therefore is the wrath of the Lord come upon Judah and Jerusalem. Behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, our sons, daughters, and wives are led in captivity. But now have I purposed in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that he may turn the wrath of his fury from us. And therefore, my sons” ‘he sweetly exhorts’ “be not faint: for the Lord hath chosen you to stand in his presence, and to serve him.”

Such as be not more than blind, clearly may perceive that the king does acknowledge, that it appertained to his charge to reform the religion, to appoint the Levites to their charges, and to admonish them of their duty and office, which thing he more evidently declares, writing his letters to all Israel, to Ephraim, and Manasseh, and sent the same by the hands of messengers, having this tenor: “You sons of Israel, return to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he shall return to the residue that resteth from the hands of Assyria. Be not as your fathers, and as your brethren were, who have transgressed against the Lord God of their fathers, who hath made them desolate, as you see. Hold not your heart therefore, but give your hand unto the Lord; return unto his sanctuary; serve him and he shall show mercy unto you, to your sons, and daughters, that be in bondage: for he is pitiful and easy to be entreated” (2 Chron. 30:6-9).

Thus far did Hezekiah by letters and messengers provoke the people declined from God to repentance, not only in Judah where he reigned lawful king, but also in Israel, subject to another king. And albeit that by some wicked men his messengers were mocked, yet as they lacked not their just punishment (for within six years after Samaria was destroyed and Israel led captive by Shalmanesar), so did not the zealous King Hezekiah desist to prosecute his duty in restoring the religion to God’s perfect ordinance, removing all abominations.

The same is to be read of Josiah, who did not only restore the religion, but did further destroy all monuments of idolatry, which of long time had remained (2 Chron. 34). For it is written of him, that after the book of the law was found, and that he had asked counsel at the prophetess Huldah, he sent and gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem; and standing in the temple of the Lord, he made a covenant that all the people, from the great to the small, should walk after the Lord, should observe his law, statutes, and testimonies, with all their heart and all their soul, and that they should ratify and confirm whatsoever was written in the book of God. He further commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the inferior order, that they should carry forth of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made to Baal, which he burnt, and did carry their powder to Bethel. He did further destroy all monuments of idolatry, yea, even those that had remained from the days of Solomon. He did burn them, stamp them to powder; whereof one part he scattered in the brook Kidron, and the other upon the sepulchres and graves of the idolaters, whose bones he did burn upon the altars, where before they made sacrifice, not only in Judah, but also in Bethel, where Jeroboam had erected his idolatry (2 Kings 23). Yea, he further proceeded, and did kill the priests of the high places, who were idolaters and had deceived the people; he did kill them, I say, and did burn their bones upon their own altars, and so returned to Jerusalem. This reformation made Josiah, and for the same obtained this testimony of the Holy Ghost, that neither before him, neither after him, was there any such king, who returned to God with his whole soul, and with all his strength, according to the law of Moses. ” -John Knox, The Appellation, 1558

Thomas Cranmer (1489 – 1556)

“Your majesty is God’s vicegerent, and Christ’s vicar within your own dominions, and to see, with your predecessor Josiah, God truly worshipped, and idolatry destroyed; the tyranny of the bishops of Rome banished from your subjects, and images removed. These acts are signs of a second Josiah, who reformed the church of God in his days. You are to reward virtue, to revenge sin, to justify the innocent, to relieve the poor, to procure peace, to repress violence, and to execute justice throughout your realms. For precedents on those kings who performed not these things, the old law shows how the Lord revenged his quarrel; and on those kings who fulfilled these things, he poured forth his blessings in abundance. For example, it is written of Josiah, in the book of the Kings, thus: ‘[And] Like unto him there was no king [before him], that turned to the Lord with all his heart, [and with all his soul, and with all his might,] according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.’ This was to that prince a perpetual fame of dignity, to remain to the end of days.” Unknown author, Writings of Edward the Sixth, William Hugh, Queen Catherine Parr, Anne Askew, Lady Jane Grey, Hamilton, and Balnaves: Volume 3: of British reformers (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1836), 5, 6.

Henry Bullinger (1504 -1575)

Writing to John Calvin on the execution of Michael Servetus

“I know that many have wished that you had not defended this principle; but many also thank you, and among others our church. Urbanus Regius has long ago proved, in a work of his own, and all the ministers of Luneberg agree with him, that heretics, when they are blasphemers, ought to be punished. There are also many other pious men who think the same, and consider that such offenders ought not only to be silenced, but to be put to death. Do not repent therefore of what you have done: the Lord will uphold your righteous efforts. I know that your disposition is not cruel, and that you will favour no barbarity. Who knows not, that a boundary must be set to things of this kind? But how it could be possible to spare such a man as Servetus, that serpent of all heresies, that most obdurate of men, I see not.” Cited in Paul Henry, The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer: Volume II, trans. Henry Stebbing (London: Whittaker and Co., 1849), 234.

Wilhelmus A’ Brakel (1636- 1711)

“It is the duty of the civil government to uphold not only the second table of the law, but also the first. It must see to it that God is honored. It may not tolerate any idolatry, worship of images, or any false religion within her jurisdiction, but must rather eradicate these. It must prevent the vain use of God’s Name practiced by cursing, swearing, and blasphemy. It must prevent the desecration of the Sabbath, punish violators of this commandment, and see to it that the gospel is proclaimed everywhere within its jurisdiction. It must see to it that the church as the darling of the Lord Jesus is protected and preserved and that neither internal dissension no any external oppression disturb or destroy the church, but that instead she be safely preserved in the use of the privileges and liberties which her King Jesus has given her.” -From Vol. 2, Chapter 29, page 179

Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647

“God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, has ordained civil magistrates, to be, under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, has armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers. … Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; yet he has authority, and it is his duty, to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordainances of God duly settled, administrated, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he has power to call synods, to be present at them and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.”

George Gillespie (1613 – 1648)

“Now that the Christian Magistrate is bound to observe these Judicial laws of Moses which appoint the punishments of sins against the Moral law, .. by these reasons.1. If it were not so, then it is free and arbitrary to the Magistrate to appoint what punishments himself pleaseth. But this is not arbitrary to him, for he is the Minister of God, Rom. 13.4. and the judgment is the Lord’s, Deut. 1.7; 2 Chron. 19.6. And if the Magistrate be Keeper of both Tables, he must keep them in such manner as God hath delivered them to him. ” -Wholesome Severity Reconciled, George Gillespie

“ that appertains to the civil Magistrate to punish, who is for this cause called Custos utriusque Tabulæ, the keeper of both Tables: for this he citeth Rom. 13.3,4, and addeth: So as we see here what is the object of civil power, to wit, actions good or bad, not bare opinions, not thoughts, not conscience, but actions.” -George Gillespie, Wholesome Severity Reconciled With Christian Liberty, 1644

Overture in Synod, 1834 by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America

“We cannot comprehend, why the magistrate should be allowed to restrain men from violating the second table of the decalogue; and that it should be considered an outrage upon conscience and the liberties of men, that they be restrained as it respects the first table of the decalogue: the moral power which the magistrate possesses to enforce obedience to the former, gives him a right to enforce obedience to the latter. If his power of restraint in the one be invalidated, it will be impossible to defend him in the possession of the other. Holding, as we do, that “all power is of God,” we hold also, that the civil magistrate is bound by the law of God to maintain its integrity by punishing all known violations of it, as it respects the first, as well as the second table.” -Argument for Jury Law, Published in Overture in Synod, 1834 by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA)

Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, 1839

“All the subjects of Jehovah’s moral government, in their relations to each other, are bound to act according to the will of God. In the first four of the Ten Commandments, or in the first table of the law, God has ordained what duties men shall perform to himself; and in the other six, or second table, those which they shall perform to one another. The social, as well as the personal actings of men are equally to be regulated by the law of God. The rectitude or the sinfulness of every individual and of every social act, is determined by its conformity or disconformity to the will of the supreme lawgiver. “He that doeth righteousness is righteous.” 1 John 3.7. “Whosoever committeth sin, transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3.4. The actions of civil rulers and of subjects are good, when they accord with the law of God, and evil, when they violate its provisions. This maxim is agreeable to the common conscience of men in all nations, that know and acknowledge the being of a God. Were it not so, conscience would impose no restraint on the evil propensities of magistrates or subjects; conscience could neither accuse nor excuse them as to their civil actions; for that faculty exercises the office of a judge in applying the law of God. Hence all legitimate civil rule is from God, as Creator, and in its constitution and administration must be conformed to the will of its Author. To maintain that it was instituted of God, and then left entirely to the will of the creature, is no better than the doctrine of Epicurus, that God having created the universe, at once and forever abandoned all care of it as to its sustentation or government. Indeed, many of the popular maxims of civil government are neither more nor less than a partial revival of that Epicurean tenet. “They say unto God, depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty that we should serve him?” Job 21.14,15. All such notions are essentially atheistical, offering the highest indignity to the Lawgiver, and doing violence to the natural conscience.” -Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, 1839

§First Table Importance Versus Second Table Importance

Another scary theory that is attached to such false theory above is the idea that the Second Table of the Law is much more important then the First Table of the Law. Sometimes this is explicit in someones mind and sometimes it is implicit.

It amazes me how man-centered we are in modern christianity. We are horrified by murder including fetus murder, sodomy, and a whole host of second table of the law issues (and rightfully so) but when it comes to the first table of the law issues we just wink at it! In fact we just do not wink at it but many professing christians will violate the second, third and fourth commandments. Where is God’s glory? Christ declared the first table of the law the most important followed by the second table of the law. I am not trying to lessen the issues with the second table of the law (we should stand for them) but we must also do the same with the first table of the law!

The glory of God is way more important then the honor of man. That is not to belittle the Second Table of the Law. But the Honor and Glory of God must come first above all else. Even the Westminster Larger Catechism tells us there are more heinous and less heinous sins and not all sins are equal (contrary to the modern Evangelical view of it).

People tend to freak out more on the Second Table issues. Why? Because we have gone so far in our humanism and the importance of man in our culture as well as our Church Culture. That is why the majority of the American church is predominately man-centered and not God centered and on the Sovereignty of God. BUT I have seen others (Covenanters) over the years (including myself) who have posted about the honor and glory of the First Table above the Second Table and how we have a distorted view. We yelp and wail against Abortion, Sodomy, etc, but we barely say anything about Sabbath breaking or heresy.. We aren’t saying we shouldn’t yelp about abortion, Sodomy, etc.. We absolutely should but not at the stake of the First Table of the Law commandments or in place of them.

Overture in Synod, 1834 by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America

“We cannot comprehend, why the magistrate should be allowed to restrain men from violating the second table of the decalogue; and that it should be considered an outrage upon conscience and the liberties of men, that they be restrained as it respects the first table of the decalogue: the moral power which the magistrate possesses to enforce obedience to the former, gives him a right to enforce obedience to the latter. If his power of restraint in the one be invalidated, it will be impossible to defend him in the possession of the other. Holding, as we do, that “all power is of God,” we hold also, that the civil magistrate is bound by the law of God to maintain its integrity by punishing all known violations of it, as it respects the first, as well as the second table.” -Argument for Jury Law, Published in Overture in Synod, 1834 by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA)

Sanctification of the Christian Synagogue: The Historic Reformed View

March 4, 2016

Calvins geneva pulpit.jpg

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.”

There is a massive misunderstanding today that has crept into the Reformed Church from the Evangelical world that the Church building does not matter. That it is only a building and there is nothing important about it. Therefore we allow all sorts of profane activities to be done within the building. From concerts to business. We have no respect to the building itself. We have literally allowed the money changers that Christ threw out to come back into the worship building of God’s people. We have introduced the Tavern shows into the Christian Synagogue. But all of this is foreign to the Reformed Faith.

A common reaction that many will give is that the church is not the building it is the people of God. And that much is very much true. The word Church comes from Greek word ‘Ecclesia’ which is properly translated as Congregation and it gives a better understanding of the Greek word. The Geneva bible consistently uses the word Congregation in place of the word church. But does that mean that the building does not matter? That the building is not to be sanctified? Far from it! The building of the people of God is properly called a Synagogue (James 2:2) and it is the place where the people of God come to worship the Truine God.

Note: The Historic Reformed Faith follows the Synagogue Model for the Church.
Another reaction is that God is no more present in the Synagogue in anywhere else and that this is not holy ground. Again far from it! This place of worship is to be set apart and sanctified for the Worship of God. And it is Holy ground when we come to worship Him. The Sabbath Day worship is a time when God promises a special presence of Himself among His people. We actually and really sit in the heavenlies when we worship Him on His holy day. This is seen in so many passages but take for example that “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.”

Covenanter David Clarkson wrote in Publick Worship to be preferred to Private Worship,

“The Lord is more glorified by public worship than private. God is then glorified by us when we acknowledge that he is glorious. And he is most glorified when this acknowledgment is most public. This is obvious. A public acknowledgment of the worth and excellency of any one tends more to his honour than that which is private or secret. It was more for David’s honour that the multitude did celebrate his victory, 1 Sam. xviii. 7, than if a particular person had acknowledged it only in private. Hence the psalmist, when he would have the glory of God most amply declared, contents not himself with a private acknowledgment, but summons all the earth to praise him, Ps. xcvi. 1-3. Then is the Lord most glorified, when his glory is most declared, and then it is most declared when it is declared by most, by a multitude. David shews the way whereby God may be most glorified, Ps. xxii. 22, 23, 25. Then he appears all glorious when publicly magnified, when he is praised in the great congregation. Then he is most glorified when a multitude speaks of and to his glory: Ps. xxix. 9, ‘In his temple does every one speak of his glory.’ The Lord complains as if he had no honour from his people, when his public worship is despised, neglected: Mal. i. 6, ‘If I be a father, where is mine honour? If I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord God of hosts unto you, O priests that despise my name.’ By name of God here is meant his worship and ordinances, as plainly appears by what follows, ver. 7, 8, 11. And he here expostulates with them as tendering him no honour, because they despised his worship and ordinances. Then shall Christ be most glorified, when he shall be admired in all them that believe, in that great assembly at the last day, 2 Thess. i. 10. And it holds in proportion now; the more there are who join together in praising, admiring, and worshipping him, the more he is glorified: and therefore more in public than in private. There is more of the Lord’s presence in public worship than in private. He is present with his people in the use of public ordinances in a more especial manner, more effectually, constantly, intimately. For the first, see Exod. xx. 24. After he had given instructions for his public worship, he adds, ‘In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.’ Where I am publicly worshipped, for the name of God is frequently put for the worship of God, I will come; and not empty-handed, I will bless thee: a comprehensive word, including all that is desirable, all that tends to the happiness of those that worship him. Here is the efficacy.”

God is specially present with His people on the Sabbath Day and it truly and really become Holy ground. But even then the Christian Synagogue or worship building is to be set apart and sanctified from all Common use even on other days of the week. It is a place to be set apart for the sole purpose of God and His worship.

Reformer Martin Bucer wrote in De Regno Christi, 1551,

“Chapter X: Reforming the Churches Ceremonies: First, The Hallowing of Church Buildings

Now let us see how the discipline of ceremonies should be reformed in the churches. These, indeed, are the necessary and common ceremonies of all Christians: the blessing of places in which the Christian religion is publicly administered, the sanctifying of seasons, in which the people grow in the Lord and take time for religion; a certain regulation of the ministry of the word, the sacraments, discipline; sacred offerings, and their distribution to the poor.
It is first necessary for Christians to have places appointed for sacred gatherings and forms of worship delivered to them by Christ the Lord, which should be open to no other usages, unless extreme necessity compels this. The Lord taught us this with profound earnestness when he drove from the Temple those who had merely set up the selling of victims in it in order to provide a supply for all the sacrifices, and when he overturned the tables of the money changers, by whom pilgrims were likewise helped to make sacrifices and to offer gifts partly commanded, partly recommended in the law of God (Matt. 21:12-13). But “he did not allow any vessel to be carried through the temple” (Mark 11:16).

On this account the early churches were always kept closed when there was no public worship going on in them unless some necessity of the Christian people demanded otherwise. They went so far as to establish a holy order of clergy, the porters, for this practice, of which the papists retain only the name and the impious mockery of an ordination. For it was their function when worship was publicly going on to be on guard that no unworthy person should mingle in the sacred gathering and that no one should do anything out of harmony with the Christian religion in the holy assembly. After the public presentation of the teaching of the gospel and before the service of the Lord’s Supper began, these men led from the church those ordered by the deacon to depart, first the catechumens, then the penitents; and they kept the service closed while the mysteries were going on. We read such testimonials, partly in the exhortation of bishops to porters at their ordination, partly in Saint Chrysostom’s eighteenth and twenty-fourth Homilies on Matthew,54 his eighteenth on Second Corinthians,55 and many other places.

Whoever, therefore, is responsible for having Christ’s Kingdom and religion truly repaired and flourishing among them should ponder the fact that the buildings consecrated for church assemblies and Christian worship are called in the Scriptures “house of God” and “house of prayer” (Matt. 12:4; Luke 19:46) and hence they should acknowledge what horrible blasphemy they are guilty of against the Divine Majesty, when they treat the Lord’s churches as walkways and places so profane that they can talk and chatter about all sorts of impure and profane things with others who are like them, sometimes even while services are going on in the churches.56

But what private person, not to speak of a prince or king, would tolerate anyone who wanted to wander around his own home whimsically and libidinously before his very eyes, especially if such a person were chatting and making small talk by saying things ungrateful and unworthy of the man of the house? This is certainly such a great contempt of the divine presence that it alone would merit for us complete extermination from the earth, and that by most cruel torments. This great insult to Christ has been permitted for many centuries, and not only do princes and magistrates and prelates of the churches overlook it, but by their example they for the most part even teach and strengthen this practice.

Hence those who wish to be of Christ and wish not to be numbered among those who renounce him (“We do not want this man to reign over us,” Luke 19:14) must surely, each according to his vocation and ability, make the effort and also make it happen that with all such great insults against God far removed, churches should not be open to any secular business but only for religious services unless extreme human necessity demands otherwise, as I said before.

For whoever are of Christ, in them Christ lives, and he does not only say words, but really proves the saying, “The zeal of your house has eaten me up” (Ps. 69:9; John 2:17). With that zeal, therefore, and through his own (in a manner appropriate to the vocation of each), Christ drives from his churches whoever attempts to transact alien business there, and consecrates and dedicates them solely to the ministry of his word and sacraments and to holy prayer.

Chapter XI: The Third Law: The Sanctification of the Churches

We have shown previously to some extent (Book One, Ch. X) with what holy respect places consescrated to the worship of God must be made accessible to just this one thing and kept sacrosanct.

But the horrible profanation of these places has been commonly prevalent: Not heeding the reverence due the divine presence, people walk around in them according to their fancy, as if they were in any common field or street that would have no religious association, and they chat about all kinds of impure affairs and about matters displeasing to God. So it is necessary to remove this scandalous offense against the Divine Majesty, not only by the teaching of the word of God and pious exhortations but also by severe laws of pious kings and princes, and by the prompt and consistent enforcement of these laws. Thus it may be brought about that the holy churches of God are open for no other activities except those for which they were sanctified to the Lord and that no one can with impunity fail to adapt himself to the atmosphere of religious worship there.

The salvation of your people, therefore, demands of Your Majesty that he establish a law which will forbid the use of churches consecrated to the Most High for any other activities except those for which they were consecrated by the Lord, namely, only for the reading and explanation of the Sacred Scriptures, the administration of the sacraments, prayers and thanksgivings, and the exercise of ecclesiastical discipline. This law should also guard against anyone’s doing any other actions than these in church.

Thus Your Royal Majesty will cause the words of the psalm to be fulfilled, “In his Temple all will declare his majesty” (Ps. 29:9); likewise, “We meditate upon and await your goodness, O God, in the midst of your Temple” (Ps. 48:10); and this: “But I, depending on your great kindness, shall enter your Temple; I shall adore at your holy Temple in fear of you” (Ps. 5:7).”

Additionally our architecture of the Christian Synagogue should be reflective of our theology. These places were meant to last. They should have a theological underpinning of majesty of God and the Omnipotence of God, showing forth His glory and power showing forth our reverence of God. Such as having an elevated Pulpit and many other aspects of building design. As a good friend of mine Benjamin Olivas, just recently said “I see multigenerational faithfulness in the architecture that raised the eye to heaven.”

We have allowed Evangelicalism to influence us way to far. It is time to recover the Historic Reformed Faith and set apart from Christian Synagogue for the sole worship of God. It is time to overthrow the money changers again, it is time to remove the concerts, the non set apart meetings, even the business meeting like gatherings and truly set apart the worship building to God. Let us remove the tavern shows and love songs, the dancing and the sensual instruments of music! We should be more reverent as we step our foot in the house of God and watch and guard our tongue and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools. We should have a holy silence on our lips and a fear in our hearts. As Puritan Jeremiah Burrough said, We should have a gospel fear as we come into the worship of God and a fear and tremble as we read the Word of God (Isaiah 66:5).

ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. … Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”

Patristic Scholarship on Images of Christ and the Second Commandment

February 29, 2016

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What is the historical testimony of the Patristic regarding images of Christ? How does the Reformed view compare to the Patristic? Is the Reformed view a novelty?

The answer is that the Reformed view is faithful to the Patristic testimony and is not a novelty or something made up in the 16th century. At the end of all the quotes are two additional quotes by early church fathers regarding when and why images came into the Christian faith..

What Lactantius said in the 3rd century is still equally true today, “Wherefore there is no doubt, but that no religion is in that place wheresoever any image is”

Justin Martyr (A.D. 100- 165)

“And often out of vessels of dishonour, by merely changing the form, and making an image of the requisite shape, they make what they call a god; which we consider not only senseless, but to be even insulting to God, who, having ineffable glory and form, thus gets His name attached to things that are corruptible”

Marcus Minucius Felix (A.D. 197 – 250)

“I must tell you that we neither adore crosses nor desire them. You it is, ye Pagans, who worship wooden gods, who are the most likely people to adore wooden crosses, as being part of the same substance with your deities. For what else are your ensigns, flags, and standards, but crosses, gilt and beautiful. ” -(Octavius of Marcus Minucius Felix, chapter XXIX). 197 A.D, Jerome’s De Viris Illustribus #58 speaks of him as “Romae insignis causidicus” [one of Rome’s notable solicitors]

Titus Flavius Clemens also known as Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150 – 215)

“It is with a different kind of spell that art deludes you…. It leads you to pay religious honor and worship to images and pictures.”

“Ages before, Moses expressly commanded that neither a carved, nor molten, nor molded, nor painted likeness should be made. This was so that we would not cling to things of sense, but pass to spiritual objects. For familiarity with the sense of sight disparages the reverence of what is divine”

Irenaeus Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (A.D. 130 – 202)

“They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world that is to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest. They have also other modes of honouring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles.” -Against Heresies

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus (A.D. 160 – 225)

“All things, therefore, does human error worship, except the Founder of all Himself. The images of those things are idols; the consecration of the images is idolatry.”

“Tertullian, a most ancient Writer and Doctor of the Church, who lived about one hundred and threescore years after the death of our Saviour Christ, both in sundry other places of his works, and specially in his book written against the manner of crowning (Contra corandi morem.), and in another little treatise entitled, Of the soldier’s crown or garland, doth most sharply and vehemently write and inveigh against images or idols. And upon St. John’s words, the first Epistle and fifth Chapter, saith thus, St. John (saith he) deeply considering the matter, saith: My little children, keep yourselves from images or idols. He saith not now, keep yourselves from idolatry, as it were from the service and worshipping of them: but from the images or idols themselves, that is, from the shape and likeness of them. Four it were an unworthy thing, that the image of the living God should become the image of a dead idol. Do you not think those persons which place images and idols in Churches and Temples, yea shrine them even over the Lords table, even as it were of purpose to the worshipping and honouring of them, take good heed to either of St. John’s counsel, or Tertullian’s? Four so to place images and idols is it to keep themselves from them, or else to receive and embrace them.” Quoted in the Anglican Book of Homilies

Origen Adamántios (A.D. 184 – 253)

“Christian men and Jews, when they hear these words of the Law (Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt not make any image) do not only abhor the Temples, Altars, and Images of the gods, but if need be, will rather die then they should defile themselves with any impiety.”

“In the common wealth of the Jews, the carver of idols and image maker, was cast far off and forbidden, lest they should have any occasion to make images, which might pluck certain foolish persons from God, and turn the eyes of their souls to the contemplation of earthly things.”

And in another place of the same book: “It is not only (saith he) a mad and frantic part to worship images, but also once to dissemble or wink at it. And a man may know God and his only son, and those which have had such honour given them by God, that they be called gods: But it is not possible that any should by worshipping of images get any knowledge of God.” Against Celsus

Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus (A.D. 200 – 258)

“Believers, and men who claim for themselves the authority of the Christian name, are not ashamed—are not, I repeat, ashamed to find a defence in the heavenly Scriptures for the vain superstitions associated with the public exhibitions of the heathens, and thus to attribute divine authority to idolatry. For how is it, that what is done by the heathens in honour of any idol is resorted to in a public show by faithful Christians, and the heathen idolatry is maintained, and the true and divine religion is trampled upon in contempt of God?”

Athanásios Alexandrías (A.D. 297 – 373)

“Nor have they escaped prophetic censure; for there also is their refutation, where the Spirit says , “they shall be ashamed that have formed a god, and carved all of them that which is vain: and all by whom they were made are dried up: and let the deaf ones among men all assemble and stand up together, and let them be confounded and put to shame together..” While those who profess to give still deeper and more philosophical reasons than these say, that the reason of idols being prepared and fashioned is for the invocation and manifestation of divine angels and powers, that appearing by these means they may teach men concerning the knowledge of God; and that they serve as letters for men, by referring to which they may learn to apprehend God… Such then is their mythology,—for far be it from us to call it a theology.”

“Let them tell, I pray you, how God may be known by an image. If it be by the matter of an image, then there needeth no shape or form, seeing that God hath appeared in all material creatures which do testify his glory. Now if they say he is known by the form or fashion: Is he not better to be known by the living things themselves, whose fashions the images express? Four of surety, the glory of God should be more evidently known, if it were declared by reasonable and living creatures, rather then by dead and unmoveable images. Therefore when ye do grave or paint images, to the end to know God thereby, surely ye do an unworthy and unfit thing. And in another place of the same book he saith, The invention of images came of no good, but of evil, and whatsoever hath an evil beginning, can never in any thing be judged good, seeing it is altogether naught.” -Against the Gentiles

Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius (A.D. 240 – 320)

“But the image of the ever-living God ought to be living and endued with perception. But if it received this name from resemblance, how can it be supposed that these images resemble God, which have neither perception nor motion? Therefore the image of God is not that which is fashioned by the fingers of men out of stone, or bronze, or other material, but man himself, since he has both perception and motion, and performs many and great actions.” Divine Institutes Book 2 (Origin of Error) Ch.2. (The work is an extended examination of the folly of idolatry.)

“Thus they delude the credulity of men by lying divination, because it is not expedient for them to lay open the truth. These are they who taught men to make images and statues; who, in order that they might turn away the minds of men from the worship of the true God…” Divine Institutes Book 2 (Origin of Error) Ch.17

“God is above man, and is not placed beneath, but is to be sought in the highest region. Wherefore there is no doubt, but that no religion is in that place wheresoever any image is: Four if religion stand in godly things, (and there is no godliness but in heavenly things) then be images without religion.” Divine Institutes Book 2 (Origin of Error) Ch.19

Hippolytus (A.D. 170 – 235) Hippolytus charges Simon with,

“And they have an image of Simon (fashioned) into the figure of Jupiter, and (an image) of Helen in the form of Minerva; and they pay adoration to these.” But they call the one Lord and the other Lady. And if any one amongst them, on seeing the images of either Simon or Helen, would call them by name, he is cast off, as being ignorant of the mysteries. (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies (Book VI, Chapters XIV, XV)’

Epiphanius Bishop of Salamine in Cyprus (A.D. 310 – 403)

“I entered (saith Epiphanius ) into a certain Church to pray: I found there a linen cloth hanging in the Church door, painted, and having in it the image of Christ, as it were, or of some other Saint, (I remember not well whose image it was) therefore when I did see the image of a man hanging in the Church of Christ, contrary to the authority of the Scriptures, I did tear it, and gave counsel to the keepers of the Church, that they should wind a poor man that was dead in the said cloth, and to bury him.” -Letter to John Patriarch of Jerusalem

“I pray you will the Elders of that place to receive this cloth which I have sent by this bearer, and command them that from henceforth no such painted clothes contrary to our religion, be hanged in the Church of Christ . For it becommeth your goodness rather to have this care, that you take away such scrupulosity, which is unfitting for the Church of Christ, and offensive to the people committed to your charge. And this Epistle, as worthy to be read of many, did St. Jerome himself translate in to the Latin tongue.” -Second Letter to John Patriarch of Jerusalem with second cloth

Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus commonly known as Jerome (A.D. 347 – 420) on Epiphanius and Augustine,

“We also assert that the blessed bishop Epiphanius did right when, finding on the doors of a church a veil on which was painted a picture supposedly of Christ or some saint, he ripped it down and took it away, because to see a picture of a man hanging in the Church of Christ was contrary to the authority of Scripture. Wherefore he charged that from henceforth no such veils, which were contrary to our religion, should be hung in the Church of Christ, and that rather such questionable things, unworthy of the Church of Christ and the faithful people, should be removed. Moreover, we approve of this opinion of St. Augustine concerning true religion: “Let not the worship of the works of men be a religion for us. For the artists themselves who make such things are better; yet we ought not to worship them”” (De Vera Religione, cap. 55).

“Thou hast (saith Jerome) Pope Epiphanius, which doth openly in his letters call thee an heretic. Surely thou art not to be preferred before him, neither for age nor learning, nor godliness of life, nor by the testimony of the whole world. And shortly after in the same treatise saith St. Jerome: Bishop Epiphanius was ever of so great veneration and estimation, that Valens the Emperor, who was a great persecutor, did not once touch him. Four heretics, being princes, thought it their shame if they should persecute such a notable man. And in the tripartite Ecclesiastical history, the ninth book and xlviii. Chapter, is testified, that Epiphanius being yet alive did work miracles, and that after his death devils, being expelled at his grave or tomb, did roar. Thus you see what authority St. Jerome and that most ancient history give unto the holy and learned Bishop Epiphanius, whose judgement of images in Churches and Temples, then beginning by stealth to creep in, is worthy to be noted” Treatise against the errors of John Bishop of Jerusalem Book 9 chapter 48.

Cyrillus Hierosolymitanus (A.D. 313 – 386)

“Many have left the creator, and have worshipped the creature, neither have they been abashed to say unto a stock: Thou art my father, and unto a stone, Thou begottest me. Four many, yea, almost all (alas for sorrow) are fallen unto such folly, that they have given the glory of deity or Godhead, to things without sense or feeling.” – upon the Gospel of Saint John (quoted in the Anglican Book of Homilies)

Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis (A.D. 354 – 430)

“Thus, they erred, who sought Christ and his apostles not in the sacred writings, but on painted walls.”

“know thou that none of the dead, nor any thing that is made of God, is worshipped as God of the Catholic Christians, of whom there is a Church also in your Town.“ – 44th Epistle to Maximus

“religion is most pure without images” -Lib. de civi. dei chapter 43

“images be of more force to crooken an unhappy soul, then to teach and instruct it” -Lib. de civi. dei chapter 43

“Every child, yea every beast knoweth that it is not God that they see. Wherefore then doeth the holy Ghost so often admonish us of that which all men know?” Commentary on the Psalms, In Psal. 36. & 113

Augustine’s judgment of Images in Churches; that by and by they breed error and idolatry.

Synod of Elvira (A.D. 300 -303)

The 36th canon of the Synod of Elvira prohibited images.

Council of Elibertine of A.D. 366

“Pictures ought not to be in churches, nor any object of adoration or praise be painted on the walls.” -Council of Elibertine

Seventh Ecumenical Council of A.D. 754 also known as Epitome of the Definition of the Iconoclastic Conciliabulum held in Constantinople

“The Definition of the Holy, Great, and Ecumenical Seventh Synod.

The holy and Ecumenical synod, which by the grace of God and most pious command of the God-beloved and orthodox Emperors, Constantine and Leo, now assembled in the imperial residence city, in the temple of the holy and inviolate Mother of God and Virgin Mary, surnamed in Blachernæ, have decreed as follows.

Satan misguided men, so that they worshipped the creature instead of the Creator. The Mosaic law and the prophets cooperated to undo this ruin; but in order to save mankind thoroughly, God sent his own Son, who turned us away from error and the worshipping of idols, and taught us the worshipping of God in spirit and in truth. As messengers of his saving doctrine, he left us his Apostles and disciples, and these adorned the Church, his Bride, with his glorious doctrines. This ornament of the Church the holy Fathers and the six Ecumenical Councils have preserved inviolate. But the before-mentioned demi-urgos of wickedness could not endure the sight of this adornment, and gradually brought back idolatry under the appearance of Christianity. As then Christ armed his Apostles against the ancient idolatry with the power of the Holy Spirit, and sent them out into all the world, so has he awakened against the new idolatry his servants our faithful Emperors, and endowed them with the same wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Impelled by the Holy Spirit they could no longer be witnesses of the Church being laid waste by the deception of demons, and summoned the sanctified assembly of the God-beloved bishops, that they might institute at a synod a scriptural examination into the deceitful colouring of the pictures (ὁμοιωμάτων) which draws down the spirit of man from the lofty adoration (λατρείας) of God to the low and material adoration (λατρείαν) of the creature, and that they, under divine guidance, might express their view on the subject.

Our holy synod therefore assembled, and we, its 338 members, follow the older synodal decrees, and accept and proclaim joyfully the dogmas handed down, principally those of the six holy Ecumenical Synods. In the first place the holy and ecumenical great synod assembled at Nice, etc.

After we had carefully examined their decrees under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we found that the unlawful art of painting living creatures blasphemed the fundamental doctrine of our salvation—namely, the Incarnation of Christ, and contradicted the six holy synods. These condemned Nestorius because he divided the one Son and Word of God into two sons, and on the other side, Arius, Dioscorus, Eutyches, and Severus, because they maintained a mingling of the two natures of the one Christ.

Wherefore we thought it right, to shew forth with all accuracy, in our present definition the error of such as make and venerate these, for it is the unanimous doctrine of all the holy Fathers and of the six Ecumenical Synods, that no one may imagine any kind of separation or mingling in opposition to the unsearchable, unspeakable, and incomprehensible union of the two natures in the one hypostasis or person. What avails, then, the folly of the painter, who from sinful love of gain depicts that which should not be depicted—that is, with his polluted hands he tries to fashion that which should only be believed in the heart and confessed with the mouth? He makes an image and calls it Christ. The name Christ signifies God and man. Consequently it is an image of God and man, and consequently he has in his foolish mind, in his representation of the created flesh, depicted the Godhead which cannot be represented, and thus mingled what should not be mingled. Thus he is guilty of a double blasphemy—the one in making an image of the Godhead, and the other by mingling the Godhead and manhood. Those fall into the same blasphemy who venerate 544the image, and the same woe rests upon both, because they err with Arius, Dioscorus, and Eutyches, and with the heresy of the Acephali. When, however, they are blamed for undertaking to depict the divine nature of Christ, which should not be depicted, they take refuge in the excuse: We represent only the flesh of Christ which we have seen and handled. But that is a Nestorian error. For it should be considered that that flesh was also the flesh of God the Word, without any separation, perfectly assumed by the divine nature and made wholly divine. How could it now be separated and represented apart? So is it with the human soul of Christ which mediates between the Godhead of the Son and the dulness of the flesh. As the human flesh is at the same time flesh of God the Word, so is the human soul also soul of God the Word, and both at the same time, the soul being deified as well as the body, and the Godhead remained undivided even in the separation of the soul from the body in his voluntary passion. For where the soul of Christ is, there is also his Godhead; and where the body of Christ is, there too is his Godhead. If then in his passion the divinity remained inseparable from these, how do the fools venture to separate the flesh from the Godhead, and represent it by itself as the image of a mere man? They fall into the abyss of impiety, since they separate the flesh from the Godhead, ascribe to it a subsistence of its own, a personality of its own, which they depict, and thus introduce a fourth person into the Trinity. Moreover, they represent as not being made divine, that which has been made divine by being assumed by the Godhead. Whoever, then, makes an image of Christ, either depicts the Godhead which cannot be depicted, and mingles it with the manhood (like the Monophysites), or he represents the body of Christ as not made divine and separate and as a person apart, like the Nestorians.

The only admissible figure of the humanity of Christ, however, is bread and wine in the holy Supper. This and no other form, this and no other type, has he chosen to represent his incarnation. Bread he ordered to be brought, but not a representation of the human form, so that idolatry might not arise. And as the body of Christ is made divine, so also this figure of the body of Christ, the bread, is made divine by the descent of the Holy Spirit; it becomes the divine body of Christ by the mediation of the priest who, separating the oblation from that which is common, sanctifies it.

The evil custom of assigning names to the images does not come down from Christ and the Apostles and the holy Fathers; nor have these left behind them any prayer by which an image should be hallowed or made anything else than ordinary matter.

If, however, some say, we might be right in regard to the images of Christ, on account of the mysterious union of the two natures, but it is not right for us to forbid also the images of the altogether spotless and ever-glorious Mother of God, of the prophets, apostles, and martyrs, who were mere men and did not consist of two natures; we may reply, first of all: If those fall away, there is no longer need of these. But we will also consider what may be said against these in particular. Christianity has rejected the whole of heathenism, and so not merely heathen sacrifices, but also the heathen worship of images. The Saints live on eternally with God, although they have died. If anyone thinks to call them back again to life by a dead art, discovered by the heathen, he makes himself guilty of blasphemy. Who dares attempt with heathenish art to paint the Mother of God, who is exalted above all heavens and the Saints? It is not permitted to Christians, who have the hope of the resurrection, to imitate the customs of demon-worshippers, and to insult the Saints, who shine in so great glory, by common dead matter.

Moreover, we can prove our view by Holy Scripture and the Fathers. In the former it is said: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth;” and: “Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath;” on which account God spoke to the Israelites on the Mount, from the midst of the fire, but showed them no image. Further: “They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man,…and served the creature more than the Creator.” [Several other passages, even less to the point, are cited.]

The same is taught also by the holy Fathers. [The Synod appeals to a passage from Epiphanius and to one inserted into the writings of Theodotus of Ancyra, a friend of St. Cyril’s; to utterances—in no way striking—of Gregory of Nazianzum, of SS. Chrysostom, Basil, Athanasius of Amphilochius and of Eusebius Pamphili, from his Letter to the Empress Constantia, who had asked him for a picture of Christ.]

Supported by the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers, we declare unanimously, in the name of the Holy Trinity, that there shall be rejected and removed and cursed out of the Christian Church every likeness which is made out of any material and colour whatever by the evil art of painters.

Whoever in future dares to make such a thing, or to venerate it, or set it up in a church, or in a private house, or possesses it in secret, shall, if bishop, presbyter, or deacon, be deposed; if monk or layman, be anathematised, and become liable to be tried by the secular laws as an adversary of God and an enemy of the doctrines handed down by the Fathers. At the same time we ordain that no incumbent of a church shall venture, under pretext of destroying the error in regard to images, to lay his hands on the holy vessels in order to have them altered, because they are adorned with figures. The same is provided in regard to the vestments of churches, cloths, and all that is dedicated to divine service. If, however, the incumbent of a church wishes to have such church vessels and vestments altered, he must do this only with the assent of the holy Ecumenical patriarch and at the bidding of our pious Emperors. So also no prince or secular official shall rob the churches, as some have done in former times, under the pretext of destroying images. All this we ordain, believing that we speak as doth the Apostle, for we also believe that we have the spirit of Christ; and as our predecessors who believed the same thing spake what they had synodically defined, so we believe and therefore do we speak, and set forth a definition of what has seemed good to us following and in accordance with the definitions of our Fathers.

(1) If anyone shall not confess, according to the tradition of the Apostles and Fathers, in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost one godhead, nature and substance, will and operation, virtue and dominion, kingdom and power in three subsistences, that is in their most glorious Persons, let him be anathema.

(2) If anyone does not confess that one of the Trinity was made flesh, let him be anathema.

(3) If anyone does not confess that the holy Virgin is truly the Mother of God, etc.

(4) If anyone does not confess one Christ both God and man, etc.

(5) If anyone does not confess that the flesh of the Lord is life-giving because it is the flesh of the Word of God, etc.

(6) If anyone does not confess two natures in Christ, etc.

(7) If anyone does not confess that Christ is seated with God the Father in body and soul, and so will come to judge, and that he will remain God forever without any grossness, etc.

(8) If anyone ventures to represent the divine image (χαρακτήρ) of the Word after the Incarnation with material colours, let him be anathema!

(9) If anyone ventures to represent in human figures, by means of material colours, by reason of the incarnation, the substance or person (ousia or hypostasis) of the Word, which cannot be depicted, and does not rather confess that even after the Incarnation he [i.e., the Word] cannot be depicted, let him be anathema!

(10) If anyone ventures to represent the hypostatic union of the two natures in a picture, and calls it Christ, and thus falsely represents a union of the two natures, etc.!

(11) If anyone separates the flesh united with the person of the Word from it, and endeavours to represent it separately in a picture, etc.!

(12) If anyone separates the one Christ into two persons, and endeavours to represent Him who was born of the Virgin separately, and thus accepts only a relative (σχετική) union of the natures, etc.

(13) If anyone represents in a picture the flesh deified by its union with the Word, and thus separates it from the Godhead, etc.

(14) If anyone endeavours to represent by material colours, God the Word as a mere man, who, although bearing the form of God, yet has assumed the form of a servant in his own person, and thus endeavours to separate him from his inseparable Godhead, so that he thereby introduces a quaternity into the Holy Trinity, etc.

(15) If anyone shall not confess the holy ever-virgin Mary, truly and properly the Mother of God, to be higher than every creature whether visible or invisible, and does not with sincere faith seek her intercessions as of one having confidence in her access to our God, since she bare him, etc.

(16) If anyone shall endeavour to represent the forms of the Saints in lifeless pictures with material colours which are of no value (for this notion is vain and introduced by the devil), and does not rather represent their virtues as living images in himself, etc.

(17) If anyone denies the profit of the invocation of Saints, etc.

(18) If anyone denies the resurrection of the dead, and the judgment, and the condign retribution to everyone, endless torment and endless bliss, etc.

(19) If anyone does not accept this our Holy and Ecumenical Seventh Synod, let him be anathema from the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and from the seven holy Ecumenical Synods!

[Then follows the prohibition of the making or teaching any other faith, and the penalties for disobedience. After this follow the acclamations.]

The divine Kings Constantine and Leo said: Let the holy and ecumenical synod say, if with the consent of all the most holy bishops the definition just read has been set forth.

The holy synod cried out: Thus we all believe, we all are of the same mind. We have all with one voice and voluntarily subscribed. This is the faith of the Apostles. Many years to the Emperors! They are the light of orthodoxy! Many years to the orthodox Emperors! God preserve your Empire! You have now more firmly proclaimed the inseparability of the two natures of Christ! You have banished all idolatry! You have destroyed the heresies of Germanus [of Constantinople], George and Mansur [μανσουρ, John Damascene]. Anathema to Germanus, the double-minded, and worshipper of wood! Anathema to George, his associate, to the falsifier of the doctrine of the Fathers! Anathema to Mansur, who has an evil name and Saracen opinions! To the betrayer of Christ and the enemy of the Empire, to the teacher of impiety, the perverter of Scripture, Mansur, anathema! The Trinity has deposed these three!”

When did Images start to come into the Christian Faith…

Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus commonly known as Jerome (A.D. 347 – 420)

“that the errors of Images hath come in and passed to the Christians from the Gentiles, by an Heathenish use and custom.“ -upon the tenth Chapter of the Prophet Jeremiah

Eusebius Pamphili (A.D. 260 – 339)

“ It is no marvel if they which being Gentiles before, and did believe, seemed to offer this, as a gift to our Saviour, for the benefits which they had received of him, Yea and we do see now that Images of Peter and Paul, and of our Saviour himself be made, and tables to be painted, which me think to have been observed and kept indifferently by an Heathenish custom. Four the Heathen are wont so to honour them whom they judged honour worthy, for that some tokens of old men should be kept. Four the remembrance of posterity is a token of their honour that were before, and the love of those that come after.” -Seventh Book of his history Ecclesiastical, the 14th Chapter

Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda Secundum Verbum Dei -The Abuse!

February 26, 2016



Do you know the history of Semper Reformanda? Do you know what it really means?

The truth is the Reformers never actually used the phrase. The phrase was actually started in the Second Dutch Reformation and was used in 1674 by Jodocus van Lodenstein. According to these theologians, the Reformation reformed the doctrine of the church, but the lives and practices of God’s people always need further reformation. So it did not really have to do with doctrine and Orthodoxy but with Orthopraxy, with how we live our lives as well as our practices of God’s people. Lodenstein and other Second Dutch Reformation theologians were committed to the teaching of the Reformed confession and catechism; they did not believe that they were in error, they simply wanted to see that teaching become more thoroughly applied as well as understood. It is also true that that the Second Dutch Reformation theologians saw that further Reformation was needed that was not touched or barely touched in the First Reformation. Those things had to do with the Civil Magistracy and it’s proper roles to guard not only the Second Table of the Law but also the First Table of the Law, Preceptive Civil Magistrates, How to properly deal with Tyrants as well as matters of the Church Calendar such as Christmas, Easter, etc.

The phrase “The church is reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the Word of God.” The verb is passive: the church is not “always reforming,” but is “always being reformed” by the Spirit of God through the Word. Also it is done corporately and not individually. The phrase was never intended to become a license for corrupting the Reformed faith.

The Confessions, Creeds, Testimonies confess the faith that we all share across a multitude of cultures and eras. It is one Faith, One Baptism, One Church, One Spirit. “the faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The Reformed standards summarize what Reformed Christians believe to be the clear teaching of God’s Word. They are systematic summaries of what we believe the Scriptures teaches. They are the work and fruits of the Spirit of God upon the Church.

The Reformed Faith wanted to reform everything to the Word of God. Not by novelty, creativity or by any human whim are we to determine for our doctrine, worship or lives.

‘Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda Secundum Verbum Dei’ is often abused by liberal churches but it can also be abused by conservative churches who want to encourage a broader definition of the Reformed Faith. It is usually invoked as a way of expressing dissatisfaction with Reformed theology as received and expressed in the Reformed confessions and the Historic Reformed Faith.

One thing that is extremely important though is that confessional Reformed churches must also beware of not forgetting that our doctrinal standards are subordinate authorities but still authorities.

As I stated earlier, They are the fruits of that great work of the Spirit as it continues to guide us through our confessions and catechisms corporately as the Church.

Should we change our doctrine if found in error? Sure but it should be done through the Courts of the Lord as He has given to us through Presbyteries and Synods. But as Dr. R. Scott Clark has said, “we should not, under cover of this late-seventeenth-century slogan, subvert what Scripture teaches for a continuing, never-ending Reformation that leads us away from the heart and soul of what we confess.Ÿ”

So the next time someone falsely uses Semper Reformanda, I will say Balderdash! And PoppyCock!

**Quoting R. Scott Clark is no endorsement of him for all things, just on this issue.