January 8, 2015

The Judicial Law of Israel has Expired: Sherman Isbell on the Nature of “General Equity.”

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

Sherman Isbell writes on the nature of the Westminster Confession’s use of the phrase “general equity” and quotes Calvin in consideration of the nature of the Judicial Law’s applicability to a context outside of the original Covenant of Moses. Also in the essay, he interacts with the theonomist’s reinterpretation of general equity. If interested, please read the whole essay, linked at the bottom.


Calvin (1509-64), writing in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, gives the following definition of what belongs to equity in the judicial laws: “The judicial law, given to them for civil government, imparted certain formulas of equity and justice, by which they might live together blamelessly and peaceably. . . . . The form of their judicial laws, although it had no other intent than how best to preserve that very love which is enjoined by God’s eternal law, had something distinct from that precept of love. Therefore, as ceremonial laws could be abrogated while piety remained safe and unharmed, so too, when these judicial laws were taken away, the perpetual duties and precepts of love could still remain.

“But if this is true, surely every nation is left free to make such laws as it foresees to be profitable for itself. Yet these must be in conformity to that perpetual rule of love, so that they indeed vary in form but have the same purpose. . . . .

“What I have said will become plain if in all laws we examine, as we should, these two things: the constitution of the law, and the equity on which its constitution is itself founded and rests. Equity, because it is natural, cannot but be the same for all, and therefore, this same purpose ought to apply to all laws, whatever their object. Constitutions have certain circumstances upon which they in part depend. It therefore does not matter that they are different, provided all equally press toward the same goal of equity.

“It is a fact that the law of God which we call the moral law is nothing else than a testimony of natural law and of that conscience which God has engraved upon the minds of men. Consequently, the entire scheme of this equity of which we are now speaking has been prescribed in it. Hence, this equity alone must be the goal and rule and limit of all laws.

“Whatever laws shall be framed to that rule, directed to that goal, bound by that limit, there is no reason why we should disapprove of them, howsoever they may differ from the Jewish law, or among themselves.”

http://www.westminsterconfession.org/a-godly-society/the-divine-law-of-political-israel-expired-general-equity.php

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com
  • Bobby Crenshaw

    This is a fantastic presentation. Thanks for this summary.