Lutheran / Reformed differences recognized during the time of the Westminster Divines


Anthony Burgess on the difference between Lutheran and Reformed views of the covenant and law/gospel:

“We have confuted (proven to be incorrect) the false differences, and now come to lay down the truth, between the law and the Gospel taken in a larger sense.  

And, first, you must know that the difference is not essential, or substantial, but accidental: so that the division of the Testament, or Covenant into the Old, and New, is not a division of the Genus (classification) into its opposite Species; but of the subject, according to its several accidental administrations, both on Gods part, and on mans. It is true, the Lutheran Divines, they do expressly oppose the Calvinists herein, maintaining the Covenant given by Moses, to be a Covenant of Works, and so directly contrary to the Covenant of Grace. Indeed, they acknowledge that the Fathers were justified by Christ, and had the same way of salvation with us; only they make that Covenant of Moses to be a superadded thing to the Promise, holding forth a condition of perfect righteousness unto the Jews, that they might be convinced of their own folly in their self-righteousness.” (Vindication of the Morall Law,  Lecture 26  p.251)

I so need to get a copy of this book.  I know Reformation Heritage books has it.  Thanks ole buddy Mark Van Der Molen for bringing this small tidbit to life.

Book can be downloaded here.

I am sorry but it has dawned on me that this might be hard to grasp and understand on one level because Aristotelian terminology is being used above.  I am speaking about the terms essential, substantial, and accidental in the quote above.  It is Aristotelian thought.  Accidental is non essential property of the substance.  It is a part of it but it is not essential.  That doesn’t mean it is randomly thrown in or unnecessary when we consider God’s providential working. It is unnecessary for the substantial to exist.  As an example most people have legs. It is not necessary for you to have a leg to exist and survive but God did put it there for a reason and purpose. The term accidental should not be read as a modern day American would read it and think of a mishap or car wreck.  I am not sure I am explaining it well but the language above has a context and I hope I have helped out a bit.  Historical context and understanding are very important here. I hope that helps out a little.

To help further explain the above situation, one of the differences between Lutheran and the Westminsterian understanding is that Lutherans believe that the substance of the Mosaic and New Covenant differ.  The position of the Westminster Confession of Faith is that the Substance of the New Covenant and Mosaic Covenant is the same.  Some Modern Day Reformed Thinkers do not believe that to be the case as Lutherans described back in Anthony Burgess’ day didn’t either.  Meredith Kline in his later years departed from the biblical and confessional understanding of the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Doctors Michael Horton, R. Scott Clark, and I believe Darryl G. Hart and David Van Drunnen depart from it also.  This has lead to the unbiblical way they dichotomize law and grace instead of proving the proper distinctions between them.    It is also leading to various views concerning Natural Law and Kingdom Theology that some theologians are having problems with today.

Just for reference let me link to a few blog posts to help us understand what I am communicating.

What is Republication of the Covenant of Works?

(What is the Gospel?) Depraved Christianity might be Antinomian Christianity pt. 3

‘Modern Day Reformed Thought’ and Two Kingdoms

The Mosaic Covenant, same in substance as the New?

Possible Misconceptions about Galatians. Law and Gospel are opposed?

Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 19. The Law and the Covenant of Works.

The Mosaic Covenant and the Modern Day Justification and Sanctification Controversy

That should be enough to help you get started in understanding this discussion now.