Moral vs. Modern Use of the Judicial Law in the Confession of Faith

Moral vs. Modern Use of the Judicial Law in the Confession of Faith

This is a public service announcement:

If you’re reading the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith and in 19.4 of your copy it says that the general equity of the Israelite judicial laws are of “modern” use, then you’re probably reading an edition copied from Charles Spurgeon’s 1855 reprint (found commonly in places like this). Putting aside the reasons for the change, you should know that “modern” is not the original reading. It should read “moral” instead of “modern.”

Like this:

2LCF 19.4

You should also know that the following editions of the confession have “moral” in 19.4, not “modern”: 1677, 1688, 1699, 1719, 1720, 1743 (two different printings), 1765, 1773, 1774, 1790, 1794, 1798, 1809, 1818, 1829, 1850 (2LCF is copying the Savoy Declaration here, btw). To my knowledge and research, Spurgeon’s reprint is the first to make this change.

So if you’re going to make an argument from that wording, then appeal to Spurgeon and his reprint (if anything), but not any of the 17 (at least) editions of the confession that precede his.

***Update***: Judicious and impartial readers have pointed out that in places like this it is claimed that a 1742 edition of the confession used the word “modern” instead of moral. As I understand it, there are a few problems with this.

1. The confession was adopted by the Philadelphia association in 1742, but not published by them until 1743.

2LCF 1743 Title Page

Every time you look at a hundred dollar bill, remember that the guy on it printed the confession of faith. For most of us, that won’t be very often.

2. The 1743 edition uses “moral,” just like the editions before and after it.


3. The 1743 edition calls itself “the sixth edition” following the “fifth edition” of 1720 (and the 4th edition of 1719 before it and on backward).

2LCF 1720 Title Page

4. And the 1743 “sixth edition” is followed by the “seventh edition” in 1773.

2LCF 1773 Title Page

5. So, if there is a 1742 copy of the Philadelphia confession that is not on ECCO or anywhere else, and if it reads “modern” instead of “moral” in 19.4, then it would be a significant surprise to me. Not only would this copy break the consecutive chain of specifically labeled editions (second, third, fourth, etc), but it would also be strange that only one year later in 1743 the Philadelphia association reprinted the confession and reverted the wording to its original reading. Did Spurgeon make the change in 1855 for the first time, or is there a copy of the confession out there that reads “modern” in 19.4? It’s possible there is a copy I have missed. But even if that’s the case, you still have to deal with the copies listed above, which are original scans, not second-hand website copies. They all read “moral” as previously asserted.

6. Dear well-beloved Spurgeon,


For a certain time, the judicial law stood in force…

For a certain time, the judicial law stood in force…

“Thus far concerning God’s perpetual law (the moral law): now concerning the law of God for a certain time.

The law of God for a certain time, is that which was only for a certain time prescribed to the people of Israel, and is abrogated by the coming of the Messiah.
And that law is either ceremonial or judicial.

The ceremonial law, is that law which gave commandment concerning ceremonies to be observed in the public worship of God, which did serve to instruct the people of Israel, of the manner of their eternal salvation, by Christ to come.

The judicial law, is a law, which gives commandment concerning the political government of the Jews, that is to say, of the order and offices of magistrates, judgments, punishments, contracts, of the distinguishing of governments given and published for this end, that justice, and public peace might be of force among citizens, and the laws of God might be delivered from contempt.”

“The proper freedom of the faithful under the new testament, is specially called by some Christian Liberty, because it belongs to the faithful alone under the new testament, who in the strict signification of the name, are called Christians, for difference of the ancient believers commonly called Jews.

And that is twofold, freedom from the laws of Moses, ceremonial and judicial, and freedom in indifferent things.

Freedom from the law of Moses ceremonial and judicial, is that by Which Christians are loosed from the observation of these laws, namely, so far forth as they only pertain to the law of Moses, and the tutorship of the ancient people, Act. 15. I Cor. 9.19. 2 Cor. 3.17. Heb. 9.10.

For such laws as belong to the law of nature, and which have bound all nations, are not abrogated.”

From Amandus Polanus’ (1561-1610) “The Substance of Christian Religion” in latin “Syntagma Theologiae Christianae.” The English version is a summarized form of the Latin work.

Spelling has been updated.

Don’t be brain sick. Just say no to anti-bacon laws.

Don’t be brain sick. Just say no to anti-bacon laws.

“Therefore the judicial law was positive, and therefore Christians are not compelled to govern their commonwealths in the same manner, in which the Israelites’ commonwealth was governed, but it is lawful for them to vie [i.e. match one thing with another] the political laws of their nations, which agree with the laws of nature, and the Ten Commandments, according to the commandment, Rom. 13.1. Let every soul be subject to the higher power.

What opinions do oppose this doctrine of the law?

7. Of those brain-sick heads, who will have Christian commonwealths to be governed only by the political laws of the Jews.”

From William Bucanus’ A Body of Divinity.