Rutherford on the Judicial Law

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Puritan Board Graduate
Thank you again, Travis. I think this is one of the most misunderstood articles of our Confession. Old light on the subject is sorely needed.

Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Freshman
I just fully read through Halbrook's article where he takes a modified-Theonomy view of WCF 19.4, which I am afraid is probably quite popular among the crowd.

He takes 'sundry', not to mean what it obviously means: 'various' kinds of judicial laws; but as 'some'. Thus the judicials that expire are only some of them, namely the 'non-moral judicial laws'.

However, this is quite ingenious, because God did not simply give some judicials (a subset) to Israel, but He gave all the judicials to Israel: hence all the judicials expired.

For Halbrook, this means that the 'moral judicials' are not even mentioned in that section of the Confession, so he finds them referred to in the sections of the Confession that speak of the Moral Law (even though the sections don't mention any judicials).

For whatever historical points that may have some measure of substance to them in his article, his interpretation of the Confession is plainly false and against the grammar thereof (which Matthew Winzer briefly noticed in his article on the subject).

I might write a fuller response contra Halbrook on this point in the future, if time permits, but more pressing things call.

Blessings Tyler. Give my friendly greetings to the rest of the saints in Atlanta.


Puritan Board Graduate
Will do, Travis.

Thanks for dealing with Gillespie, in particular, on the page. It seems that most theonomists are content to just throw Gillespie's name at the issue and think that the confessional problem is resolved. You mention on the page that Gillespie may not have written Wholesome Severity. Do you have any resources on that?


Staff member
The evidence is conclusive as far a close family member ascribing it to him and the internal evidence is also interesting; which I explore in various pieces on the topic including the final form in the introduction to all of Gillespie's anonymous (known) tracts.
You mention on the page that Gillespie may not have written Wholesome Severity. Do you have any resources on that?


Puritanboard Amanuensis
Chris has done excellent work in tracing the tract back to Gillespie. Also it is not necessary to call it in question as if it contradicted Gillespie's teaching. The "theonomic" reading of Gillespie fails to recognise Gillespie's important teaching that a "Christian" taking up the position of the magistrate is under super-added obligation as a result of being a Christian, and the discussion in Wholesome Severity is concerned with a "Christian magistrate." The tract overtly claims to be reconciling wholesome severity with "Christian" liberty, and allows for relaxations of the penal laws in certain cases, which would not be possible if the penal laws were entirely "moral" as showing forth the unchanging and eternal nature of God.

Travis, thankyou for the great summary of Rutherford on judicial law. A companion piece on the nature of the civil magistrate and Christian magistrate would give it even more value.
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