The Seed of Abraham and The Old Covenant
(With Corollaries)

by Albertus Pieters

Minister of the Word of God and Emeritus Dosker-Hulswit Professor of Bible and Missions at Western Theological Seminary of the Reformed Church in America

Baptist Reformation Review: First Quarter 1979
Number 1 - Volume 8

The Seed of Abraham and The Old Covenant (With Corollaries)




[Editor's Note - This material from Albertus Pieters' The Seed of Abraham (Eerdmans, 1950, 161 pages) should stimulate to further think through the relationship of law to the Old and New Covenants. The following excerpts are taken from pages 26-40 and 115-121 of this book, and are printed with the kind permission of the late Dr. Pieters' daughters.

In the context of these excerpts, Pieters made this observation:

The establishment of this Old Covenant at Mt. Sinai was an event of the first magnitude in the history of the people of God . . . but it has not caught the attention of the ordinary Bible reader because its importance has been over-looked in reverence for the Ten Commandments, which form a part of the story. The glory of a part has in this case dimmed the glory of the whole (p.25).

He then goes on to trace "the chief steps in the process of instituting this Sinaitic Covenant" (p.26).]

Accompanied by very terrifying manifestations of earthquake, fire and smoke, God then announced, in an audible voice, in the hearing of all the people, the ten great fundamental requirements of the covenant. That these were really spoken so that the people heard and understood what was said, is so repeatedly and emphatically stated, and forms so essential a part of the story, that it must be accepted by every one who retains respect for the record as a trustworthy account of what took place. There is no room here for any figurative or symbolical interpretation. Afterwards Moses ascended the mountain and received the Ten Commandments in written form, but their original proclamation was oral, not by Moses but by God Himself.

The people, greatly terrified by thus hearing God speak to them, approached Moses and begged that he should intercede with the Lord, that this should take place no more (Exod. 20:19; Deut 5:23-29). This request received the divine approval, and hence we read nothing further of any direct voice from heaven until it occurs three times in the life of our Lord.

In accordance with the request of the people, all further regulations with regard to the covenant were communicated through Moses. They were written in a book called, "The Book of the Covenant" (Exod 24:4-7; Deut 31:24-26).

As recorded in Exodus 24, this book was then consecrated and confirmed by a solemn sacrifice, the blood of the victims being sprinkled both on the altar and on the people, when they formally gave their consent to the covenant. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says that Moses sprinkled the blood also upon the book; but where he got that information we do not know. No such thing is found in the Exodus account (Heb 8:29).

Finally, the establishment of the covenant was celebrated by a formal congratulatory dinner, at which God was the host and the representatives of the people were the guests (Exod 24:9-11). We find it difficult to conceive exactly what took place, especially in view of the statement that they saw God (John 1:18), but in all probability there was some sort of theophany, similar to those in Abraham's day, which made the presence of God palpable and impressive to the assembled elders.

All of this, of course, was a pedagogical method, in which God condescended to the mental and moral state of the people. Whether we understand the details or not, the central significance of the transaction is crystal clear to us, as it was to the people of Israel at that time. It means that God was making with the seed of Abraham a new contract of the highest importance, by which their life was henceforth to be regulated.

To the original Book of the Covenant other laws and regulations were added from time to time. Strictly speaking, these were not part of the Old Covenant, but they were given to Israel as now organized under this Sinaitic Covenant, and by virtue of it. Dr. John D. Davis, in his "Dictionary of the Bible," aptly says that the Ten Commandments were the constitution of the theocracy and the other laws were the bylaws. All of these regulations and ordinances together constituted the Mosaic Law, called in Hebrew the "Torah"; which term later came to be applied to the entire Pentateuch.

Eight Observations Concerning The Mosaic Covenant

1. That it contained laws in regard to the moral life, to the manner of religious worship, to civil relations, and to the personal life in matters not readily classified as moral, liturgical or civil in the ordinary sense of these terms. The rules in the last four classes are those [such as] planting a field with two kinds of seed, or wearing a garment woven from two kinds of yarn (Lev 19:19), to food permitted or forbidden, to personal habits, etc. For some of the regulations we can now perceive reasons of hygiene, for others no reasons at all. The chief purpose of their enactment was probably to make the Israelites a disciplined people, a people conscious almost every hour of their lives of the distinction between right and wrong, clean and unclean, things permitted and things forbidden; so that those who took themselves seriously must be continually relating their conduct in its most minute details to the will of God. This made them a supremely God-conscious people.

It also continually gave them the feeling that they were not like other nations, who stood in no such covenant relation to God; and this was, no doubt, the second very important purpose of all these regulations. They hedged in the Israelites so that it was difficult for them to mingle in social relations with other races. Ultimately it was their destiny, under the Abrahamic Covenant, to be a blessing to the whole world, but that time had not yet come. For the present, the less intercourse the better. Therefore, Paul calls these ordinances a "middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:14-15). . . .

It is neither necessary nor impossible, in this discussion, to enter deeply into the nature of the liturgical and civil laws belonging to the Sinaitic Covenant. The ... civil laws especially have awakened the admiration of students of ancient law. They were not absolutely new. Archaeological research has thrown great light upon this subject, and has taught us that these Mosaic laws were based upon the legal principles and practices of the Semitic peoples, with significant modifications and additions. Particularly noteworthy are the provisions for the protection of the poor, the criminal, the slave, and the resident alien. Human rights are given precedence over property rights in may cases, in a manner unknown to other ancient law, or even to European law down to comparatively recent times. Moses was not guilty of the least exaggeration when he said to the people:

What great nation is there that has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? (Deut 4:8).

2. We further observe that among all these laws the Moral Law stands distinctly first and supreme. The civil, liturgical and personal regulations all belonged to the Covenant in a subsidiary sense, but the Decalogue, having to do primarily, and almost exclusively, with the moral life, was The Covenant itself.

As this identification of the Sinaitic Covenant with the Ten Commandments is not immediately self-evident and has been often overlooked, let us pay attention to the Scriptural proof of it. In Exod. 34:28 we read:

And He [God] wrote upon the tables of the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments (cf. Deut 4:13, 9:9, 9:15).

We may learn the same thing by comparison of two passages in 1 Kings 8. In the 9th verse we read the following statement, occurring in the story of the dedication of the temple:

There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when Jehovah made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt.

In the 21st verse of the same chapter Solomon says:

And there have I set a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of Jehovah, which He made with our fathers, when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.

The second verse of these two texts is repeated in 2 Chron 6:11.

From the above Scripture passages we see clearly that while the civil, liturgical and personal regulations rest upon the Sinaitic Covenant, yet they are not the covenant itself: that supreme position belongs to the Ten Commandments. Because they constituted the covenant, therefore the golden casket in which they were deposited was called "the ark of the covenant" (Num 10:33; Jer 3:16, et al.).

Sinaitic Covenant Made Only With Israel

3. Having seen that the Sinaitic Covenant is identical with the Decalogue, we must also see clearly the following fact: This Sinaitic Covenant was made by God with the Seed of Abraham, the children of Israel, and with them only. No part of it was directed to or intended for those who were outside the Abrahamic Covenant; nor was any commandment in it, from the least to the greatest of them, addressed by God to anyone but the Seed of Abraham alone.

This is so evident from the circumstances of the case that it seems almost absurd to present an argument to prove it: and yet this is not superfluous, for it has been widely and insistently taught that the Ten Commandments are the law of God for all men everywhere and in all ages, the immutable, proclaimed at Sinai for the government of the whole human race.

It is not difficult to see how such a misunderstanding arose, for obviously all, or at least almost all of the duties required in the Decalogue do belong to the universal and immutable Moral Law, and yet thus to identify the two is truly a misunderstanding, and we shall fall into grave errors unless we recognize it as such. The duties of the Ten Commandments did not then for the first time become moral obligations to the Israelites when God proclaimed them from Mt. Sinai; except the prohibition of the images and the duty of observing the Sabbath upon the seventh day of the week. We have only to ask whether adultery and murder were not wrong in the days of Abraham.

Similarly, the ordinary moral duties required in the Decalogue have been recognized as moral obligations by the rest of mankind from the beginning, entirely without reference to the Ten Commandments. This is not true, of course, of the religious duties, which are dependent upon the monotheistic faith. For the rest, even where the Ten Commandments have never been heard of, men know, and always have known, that they ought to do what is commanded in them. The Chinese, for example, have not the Decalogue, but are outstanding in their devotion to what is required in the Fifth Commandment.

All this is clear from the facts, and is tersely stated for us by the apostle Paul in the following words:

When the Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things in the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves, in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts (Rom 2:14-15).

The Relationship of Duty To The Decalogue

Hence, this is the way we must think of the matter:

Whatever in the Decalogue is a duty for us or for all mankind, is such a duty, not at all because the Ten Commandments make it our duty, but because it was a duty before they were given, and would have equally been the duty of all men, even if they had never been given.

This is the same as saying that no moral duty for us arises out of the Ten Commandments. They were not addressed to us and impose no obligation upon us. They were for the Seed of Abraham under the Sinaitic Covenant, and for them alone. There were no others present and addressed nor do we find in the Bible any command to make them known to other nations; nor are other nations ever blamed for any violation of them. They constituted a covenant by virtue of which God made Israel to be a peculiar people for His own possession. Now the very essence of being peculiar is to be different. The law, therefore, or covenant, which was intended to make Israel a peculiar people, by that very fact is seen to be something in which other peoples had no share.

The wording agrees with this state of affairs. Listen to the prologue:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

This is like the address of a letter. If by accident a letter falls into my hands addressed to someone else, I know at once that it is not intended for me. So it is here. In the Fifth Commandment we read: "That your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you." What land is that? The land of Canaan, of course, It is not the United States of America. Read the reason for observing the Sabbath given in the Deuteronomy form of the Decalogue, and the same thing is clear.

The Crucial Difference Between "Profitable for Instruction" and "Legally Binding"

Now, do not misunderstand me. This insistence of mine that the Ten Commandments were given to the Seed of Abraham only, and not to the rest of mankind, is not intended to disparage this grand law, or to discourage the reading of it in our churches and the use of it for religious instruction. Not at all. The apostle says:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).

If this is true of the whole Old Testament, manifestly it is true in the highest degree of the Decalogue, and so has been found to be in use; but this being "profitable for instruction" is not the same as being directly and legally binding. The general civil laws of Israel are very much worth studying, and thus are "profitable for instruction," but no one imagines that they are of legal force for us.

The Right Use of the Ten Commandments

What, then, is the right use of the Ten Commandments? It is to look upon their contents as, for the most part, a limited and temporary formulation of universal moral principles, together with some things applicable to Israel alone. In themselves, and as they stand, they were intended for Israel only and but for a time. Since they constitute the covenant made at Sinai, they lost their legal force with the passing away of that covenant; but the moral principles contained therein are universal and immutable.

We have said that the Ten Commandments contain universal moral principles "together with some things applicable to Israel alone." One of those things is the prohibition of making images or pictures....

Another such thing is the position assigned to the wife in the Tenth Commandment, as a part of her husband's property, together with his slaves, his ox and his ass.

A third thing is the commandment to observe the seventh day of the week, which we shall discuss later.

To some people the distinction made above between the Ten Commandments themselves and the moral principles which they embody will no doubt seem vague and unimportant, something little better than theological hair-splitting; but this is far from being the case. If a man recognizes certain moral principles as binding upon him, without an express commandment, he is free to work out the application of such principles for himself; but if he believes that a certain divine commandment is addressed to him, he has no such liberty, but must obey it exactly as given. To be guided by moral principles is therefore the state of a moral adult; to be told by way of commandment what he has to do, is the state of a servant or a child, as St. Paul points out in Gal 4:1-3.

The Example of the Sabbath Commandment

Let us take the Fourth Commandment as an illustration of these principles. Say that this commandment embodies something of universal and permanent value, namely that the welfare of men and the public worship of God require a weekly day of rest, and our Sunday is as good an observance of it as the seventh-day Sabbath. Call that a commandment, on the other hand, a divine order addressed to us, and there is no excuse for substituting another day of the week. Upon that basis the Sabbatarian position of the Seventh-Day Baptists and Adventists is, in my judgment, impregnable; but their premise is wrong. They rest their whole case upon the contention that the Ten Commandments, in manner and form as given, are permanent and are God's law for the whole world, not understanding that they are identical with the Old Covenant, made with Israel only, and that this covenant has been done away in Christ. . . .

The Mosaic Covenant Not Opposed To The Abrahamic Covenant

4. This Sinaitic Covenant, being given to the Seed of Abraham, did not in any way alter the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant, under which they already were, nor did it supersede or annul that covenant. For this we have the word of the apostle Paul:

Now this I say, a covenant confirmed beforehand by God the law, which came 430 years after, does not disannul, to make the promise of none effect (Gal 3:17).

The statement of the Scofield Reference Bible, already referred to, that by their acceptance of the Sinaitic Covenant the people of Israel "exchanged grace for law," is directly contrary to this apostolic doctrine. Whatever grace they enjoyed before the institution of the Sinaitic Covenant was their portion unaltered after that had taken place.

5. The next point to be remembered is this: As the covenant at Mt. Sinai was made with the Seed of Abraham only, and with no one else, so it was made with all the Seed of Abraham. No one under the Abrahamic Covenant could refuse to accept this new supplementary contract without losing his standing as a member of the Abrahamic group.

The Sign of the Mosaic Covenant Was The Sabbath

6. Our next observation concerning the Sinaitic Covenant is that it had a sign, and that this sign was the seventh-day Sabbath. As the covenant with Noah had a sign - the rainbow; and as the Abrahamic Covenant had a sign - circumcision; so the Sinaitic Covenant also had its sign, and it was the observance of the Sabbath according to the Fourth Commandment. This is another thing that is commonly overlooked, but it is definitely stated in the Holy Scriptures. We read as follows:

Verily you shall keep my sabbaths, for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am Jehovah who sanctifies you (Exod 31:13; cf Exod 31:16; Ezek 20:11-12; 20:19-20).

What is a sign, or badge? Is it not a mark of some kind to distinguish people who have the right to wear it from others who have not? No one but a soldier has the right to wear the uniform of a soldier, for it is a sign that he is a soldier. No one but a policeman has the right to wear a policeman's badge. No one but a member of a certain fraternal order has the right to display the badge or distinguishing sign of that order.

So it is here. The Sabbath of the Fourth Commandment was a sign of the Sinaitic Covenant, and it was definitely intended, not for the world, but to be the distinguishing mark of the Seed of Abraham under the Old Covenant, to be observed by them and not by others, so long as that covenant lasted. Hence we see that Calvin was absolutely right, after having spoken of the creation Sabbath, in saying:

Afterwards, in the Law, a new precept concerning the Sabbath was given, which should be peculiar to the Jews, and but for a season (Commentary on the Book of Genesis, chapter 2:1. Trans. by the Rev. John King. Published by the Calvin Translation Society, Edinburgh, 1847, Vol. I., p. 106. Republished by Eerdmans, 1948).

Not only is no one under any obligation to observe the Fourth Commandment who is not an Old Covenant Israelite; no one else has the right to observe it. It is the sign, the distinguishing badge, of that covenant.

The Distinction Between "Moral," "Ceremonial," and "Civil" Laws Is Not Valid As Used By Most Theologians

7. The entire Mosaic legislation, being all included under the Sinaitic Covenant, is one body of law, and every part of it rests upon the same divine authority. It has been very commonly divided into three codes: the Moral Law, the Ceremonial Law, and the Civil Law. To this there can be no objection if it is thereby meant that there are moral, civil and ceremonial elements in the Mosaic legislation. Certainly there are. They may be found side by side in almost every part of it; but if it is intended to affirm that these are three separate codes, the Moral Law, by which is meant the Decalogue, the Civil Law, which was applicable to the civil life of Israel, and the Ceremonial Law, by which their public worship was regulated, it is not correct. Such a division is then made the basis for holding that the civil law, of course, became obsolete when the Israelites lost their civil independence, and that the ceremonial law passed away in Christ, but that the Moral Law, the Decalogue, remains in force and is binding upon us today.

Now the trouble with this line of reasoning is that there is absolutely no Scriptural basis for it. No such division into three distinct codes can be discovered in the text. The three element lie side by side, all having the same origin and the same authority. The 19th chapter of Leviticus will be found to be an interesting example of such a commingling of these elements. Moreover, in the New Testament the indivisibility of the law is strongly insisted upon. St. James says:

He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if you do not commit adultery but kill, you are become a transgressor of The Law (James 2:11).

Similarly, St. Paul says to those who wished to be circumcised:

Yes, I testify to every man who receives circumcision that he is a debtor to do the whole law (Gal 5:3).

That is to say: Place yourself under the law at one point, and the indivisibility of the law forces you to accept the whole. Quite so, the argument is unimpeachably sound. Therefore, we may with equal right say: "He that said, Do not commit adultery also said, You shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shall you mar the corners of your beard" (Lev 19:27). It is all commanded by the same God, with one and the same authority. The reason for this untenable and artificial division of the Mosaic legislation into the Moral Law, the Civil Law, and the Ceremonial Law is the misunderstanding of the Ten Commandments and the over-estimate of their significance to which reference has already been made. This distinction then seems to justify the teaching that the civil and ceremonial laws, to be sure, have passed away and need not be observed by us, but that the Decalogue abides as God's law for us. The underlying idea is substantially right, but it cannot be justified by this kind of reasoning. All of the Mosaic legislation stands or falls together, and the Decalogue is the center of it. If the permanence and the universal authority of the Moral Law is to be maintained, it must be done, not by identifying it with the Ten Commandments, but by distinguishing it from them, which were only temporary and elementary moral precepts for the Seed of Abraham under the Old Covenant.

The Elementary Morality In The Decalogue

It may surprise some to have me call the Decalogue elementary morality, but I have good authority for it. When the Lord Jesus was asked, "What is the greatest commandment of the Law?," He did not reply by quoting any one of the Ten Commandments, but by taking one passage from Deuteronomy 6:4 and another from Leviticus 19:17. "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." These two commandments overtop the Decalogue as the Rocky Mountains overtop the foot-hills.

Often it is said that these great commandments are a summary of the Decalogue, and possibly the idea is taken from Rom 13:9:

For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

The apostle does not say that to love your neighbor is the sum of all the commandments, but that they are summed up in it, that is to say, are included in the scope of it. The two great commandments are much more than a summary of the Ten, and this is evident, for a summary is always derived from the document that is summarized, is of less authority than it, and can never contain anything that is not included in it; where as the two great commandments quoted by Christ far exceed the Decalogue in every way. You might as well say that the Pacific Ocean is a summary of San Francisco Bay as to say that the two great commandments . . . are a summary of the Ten given at Mt. Sinai.

The Old Covenant Temporary

8. One more observation: The Sinaitic Covenant, while it was a grand work of God for a high and holy purpose, namely to train for Himself a people in whom and through whom He might carry on His redemptive enterprise for the whole world, was in its nature and purpose temporary, to be superseded when its work had been accomplished. This bold statement I should not dare to make on my own authority. It is made for me in the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31ff., where it was announced that a new covenant should be made, not after the manner of the covenant made at the exodus . . . . it belongs to a complete discussion of the Sinaitic Covenant to point out its temporary as well as its strictly national character.


In mathematics a corollary is a proposition that is obviously and certainly true if the main proposition, to which it is attached, is itself true. In this chapter we desire to point our certain corollaries of our main proposition.

We have found that God established, through His covenant with Abraham, a certain visible community, consisting of men, women and children, to be known as His own people. Also, that, six hundred years later, He made with that community a second contract, or covenant, imposing upon them numerous ordinances to regulate their lives. Further, that He made in Christ with the same group still a third contract, known as the New Covenant, in which that made at Sinai was abolished: which New Covenant community is now commonly known as The Christian Church.

We have now to see what follows if this main doctrine, as outlined, is accepted to be true.


Because of the abrogation of the Old Covenant, nothing in the Old Testament Scriptures has any legal authority in the Christian life.

This has already to some extent been pointed out, especially with regard to the Decalogue . . . . but it belongs here also, as a corollary of the doctrine set forth. There is much in the Old Testament that is profitable to the Christian for instruction (2 Tim 3:16), but nothing that is legally binding as a command of God to Him. It will be understood that we speak now of regulative ordinances, not of the fundamental moralities that belong to human life as such. These do not depend for their validity upon any kind of covenant law, but are written in the nature of man and are acknowledged as such by all mankind (Rom 2:14-15). Becoming a Christian makes a man more sensitive to these fundamental moral obligations, not less so. "Is Christ a minister of sin? God forbid!" The reference is to the things commanded in the Mosaic law that have nothing to do with morality as such, but were instituted in the time of spiritual childhood, for disciplinary training: such things as what foods might be eaten, what kind of clothes might be worn, regulations about bathing, fasts and feasts, the cleansing of houses, various washings of pots and pans, the use of animals in work, the sowing of different kinds of seed in one field, the reaping and threshing of grain, the giving of tithes, the observance of the Sabbath, the offering of sacrifices, relationships within which marriage is permitted or forbidden. . . .

All such regulations, whether found in the Decalogue or elsewhere, must be regarded as having lost their legal force as commandments to be kept, when the Old Covenant was done away in Christ. This is very distinctly taught in the New Testament. Christ did away with the "middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile, "having abolished in His flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances" (Eph 2:14-15; Col 2:14). In Gal 4:1-11, Paul, with the utmost clearness and earnestness, draws a contrast between conditions under the Old Covenant and the New, by the figure of the position occupied by a child or servant, as compared with that of an adult man. The child and the servant are told what to do and must do as they are told; while the adult son decides for himself how to please the father. It is not that the son is less eager to do the will of the father - he is more so - but that he must decide for himself what course of action this requires.

The Doctrine of Christian Liberty

This is that great doctrine of Christian liberty which is so prominent a feature of the New Testament, which the early Christians prized so highly, which has been so abused and perverted by the antinomians, which was lost in the Roman Catholic Church, and recovered (although partially and imperfectly) by the Reformation, and which is still so poorly understood by the majority of Christian people.

That the early church did prize it highly is evident. It was the thing at stake at the Council of Jerusalem, and St. Peter there called the law of the Old Covenant "a yoke, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear." St. James is equally conscious of the new state of affairs, for he says:

So speak, and so do, as men who are to be judged by a law of liberty (James 2:12).

What is this strange thing, "a law of liberty," according to which men are to be judged? It is the obligation to right conduct coupled with the duty of judging one's self, in existing circumstances, what the obligation to right conduct demands.

St. Paul will have nothing to do with regulations made to govern the life of a Christian.

If you died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances: handle not, nor taste, nor touch? (Col 2:20-21; cf. Col 2:16; Gal 5:1, 4:13-14).

In Romans 14, the apostle argues elaborately for the right and duty of private judgment. Some Christians think it wrong to eat meat, others do it; some think it a religious duty to observe certain days, other think God is to be served equally on all days. St. Paul does not say that these things are "adiaphora," matter of no moral significance. Had he so ruled, he would have decided the dispute, which he pointedly refuses to do. Every such problem must be decided by the individual Christian for himself, because he is a renewed creature, and therefore, if he seeks it, will be given wisdom "to prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom 12:2). . . .

This is not doctrine tending towards loose living, but to very careful and godly living. It is a very high ideal, yet without any regulative external ordinance. This is Christian Liberty, not license to do right and wrong indiscriminately, but liberty to decide for one's self in the presence of God what is right and wrong.

An Example of Confusion Brought About By A Misunderstanding of "Law"

That Christian men have often not understood this, and that many do not understand it today, is evident from the wrong use of the Old Testament that is constantly made by devout and earnest men. A good illustration of this is an incident that occurred in pioneer days in the Classis (Presbytery) of Holland. A man had died, leaving a young wife, one or two children, and an unmarried brother. His brother proposed to marry the widow, which was an excellent way of providing for her and her children, under the circumstances; but the question was raised whether this was lawful. Upon the basis of Lev 18:16, the Classis decided that it was not. The man did it anyhow, and was excommunicated. No one thought to inquire whether all the ordinances of the Mosaic law are still binding upon Christians, and if not all of them, why this one? The Classis evidently proceeded upon the theory that the Old Testament as well as the New remains authoritative in detail for the Christian community. It was in the Bible, therefore it must be the law of God for us!

The Seventh-Day Adventist Church, with its insistence upon observing the seventh day of the week and its demand that people pay tithes, is of the same order, but by no means the only offender. To use the Old Testament ordinances as "profitable for instruction" and as inspiring examples, or to discern in them permanently valid moral principles is one thing; to insist upon them as regulative ordinances governing the life of the child of God, is quite another. Of those who do this, we make bold to say in the language of the Bible that although they desire to be teachers of the law, they understand neither what they say nor whereof they confidently affirm (1 Tim 1:7). And also: "Do they not therefore err, because they know not the Scriptures?" (Mark 12:24).


As the ordinances that governed the life of the Seed of Abraham under the Old Covenant are abrogated; and as God has neither imposed new ordinances of that kind nor appointed any one else to make them, every attempt by church assemblies, bishops or Pope to establish such ordinances, binding upon the conscience, is usurping, and ought to be resisted

The Roman Catholic Church has not offended against the first corollary, as has the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, but is has offended greatly against the second. It recognizes fully the abrogation of the Mosaic law; but it has arrogated to itself the right to make other laws, more burdensome that those of the Old Testament, and to bind them upon the conscience by the most awful sanctions. . . .

Other churches, however, have done the same thing in lesser measure. Frequently Protestant churches have made rules forbidding card playing, dancing, attendance upon the theatre, Sabbath desecration, the wearing of jewelry, smoking tobacco, drinking alcoholic liquor, membership in secret societies, etc., etc., and have made these tests of church membership, as if the church had the right to decide moral questions for the individual. Church discipline there must be, certainly, when the fundamental moralities are outraged by scandalous conduct, and on such points there is no difference of opinion among Christians, but for the church - any church - to make rules for the private Christian life is usurpation, and ought to be resisted. To make rules for the transaction of its own affairs is the right of every such body, of course, and so long as a person is a member of such a body ought to respect and observe such rules; but it is not within the authority of any church to decide what is right or wrong in personal conduct. I have never smoked tobacco, and do not desire to smoke, but if my church should be so ill-advised as to forbid it, I should make a bee line to a tobacconist and turn myself into a smoke stack, as do others, in indignant protest against such an invasion of Christian Liberty.

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