Saturday, August 21, 2010

John Gill and Theonomy

John Gill
In A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, the Reformed Baptist scholar John Gill writes,

"It may be inquired, whether the judicial laws, or the laws respecting the Jewish polity, are now in force or not, and to be observed or not; which may be resolved by distinguishing between them; there were some that were peculiar to the state of the Jews, their continuance in the land of Canaan, and while their polity lasted, and until the coming of the Messiah, when they were to cease, as is clear from (Gen. 49:10), such as related to inheritances, and the alienation of them by marriage or otherwise; the restoration of them when sold at the year of jubilee; the marrying of a brother’s wife when he died without issue, &c. the design of which was, to keep the tribes distinct until the Messiah came, that it might be clearly known from what tribe he sprung.

"And there were others that were peculiarly suited to the natural temper and disposition of that people, who were covetous, cruel, and oppressive of the poor, froward and perverse, jealous and revengeful; hence the laws concerning the manumission of servants sold, at the end of the sixth year; the release of debts, and letting the land rest from tillage every seventh year; concerning lending on interest; leaving a corner in the field for the poor, and the forgotten sheaf;--and others concerning divorces, and the trial of a suspected wife, and the cities of refuge to flee to from the avenger of blood: these, with others, ceased when the Jewish polity did, and are not binding on other nations.

"But then there were other judicial laws, which were founded on the light of nature, on reason, and on justice and equity, and these remain in full force; and they must be wise as well as righteous laws, which were made by God himself, their King and Legislator, as they are said to be (Deut. 4:6,8).

"And they are, certainly, the best constituted and regulated governments that come nearest to the commonwealth of Israel, and the civil laws of it, which are of the kind last described; and where they are acted up unto, there what is said by Wisdom is most truly verified, "By me kings reign, and princes decree judgment;" and if these laws were more strictly attended to, which respect the punishment of offences, especially capital ones, things would be put upon a better footing than they are in some governments; and judges, in passing sentences, would be able to do that part of their office with more certainty and safety, and with a better conscience.

"And whereas the commonwealth of Israel was governed by these laws for many hundreds of years, and needed no other in their civil polity, when, in such a course of time, every case that ordinarily happens, must arise, and be brought into a court of judicature; I cannot but be of opinion, that a digest of civil laws might be made out of the Bible, the law of the Lord that is perfect, either as lying in express words in it, or to be deduced by the analogy of things and cases, and by just consequence, as would be sufficient for the government of any nation: and then there would be no need of so many law books, nor of so many lawyers; and perhaps there would be fewer law suits.

"However, we Christians, under whatsoever government we are, are directed to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, and for conscience sake; even to everyone that is not contrary to common sense and reason, and to religion and conscience; (see Rom. 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13,14)."

John Gill, A Body of Doctrinal Divinity (Accessed at Providence Baptist Ministries)


von said...

"And there were others that were peculiarly suited to the natural temper and disposition of that people, who were covetous, cruel, and oppressive of the poor, froward and perverse, jealous and revengeful... and his point is what, exactly? Sounds like, well, pretty much every country *I* have ever heard of.

Steve C. Halbrook said...

Good point, Von. Of the laws Gill gives in that particular category, I would think the only ones that were peculiar to Israel were those pertaining to land rest and the cities of refuge.

von said...

I'm not even clear on why those would be peculiar to Israel.

Steve C. Halbrook said...

Brian Schwertley's analysis on the judicial law might be helpful:

Although I have wondered if some underlying moral principle behind city of refuge laws applies to all nations ...

von said...

Brian's analysis is based on a couple of assumptions that I do not share. In the end we have to remember that the law was perfect, and holy and just and good. So if we are claiming that those laws were abrogated, it must be because of some specific replacement. What would that be? Brian provides nothing that I can see to replace the importance of the land laws, the levirate law, etc.