John Calvin on Civil Government and Law.

Institutes of the Christian Religion
Book 4


14. In states, the thing next in importance to the magistrates is laws, the strongest sinews of government, or, as Cicero calls them after Plato, the soul, without which, the office of the magistrate cannot exist; just as, on the other hand, laws have no vigour without the magistrate. Hence nothing could be said more truly than that the law is a dumb magistrate, the magistrate a living law. As I have undertaken to describe the laws by which Christian polity is to be governed, there is no reason to expect from me a long discussion on the best kind of laws. The subject is of vast extent, and belongs not to this place. I will only briefly observe, in passing, what the laws are which may be piously used with reference to God, and duly administered among men. This I would rather have passed in silence, were I not aware that many dangerous errors are here committed. For there are some who deny that any commonwealth is rightly framed which neglects the law of Moses, and is ruled by the common law of nations. How perilous and seditious these views are, let others see: for me it is enough to demonstrate that they are stupid and false. We must attend to the well known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law, and we must attend to each of these parts, in order to understand how far they do, or do not, pertain to us. Meanwhile, let no one be moved by the thought that the judicial and ceremonial laws relate to morals. For the ancients who adopted this division, though they were not unaware that the two latter classes had to do with morals, did not give them the name of moral, because they might be changed and abrogated without affecting morals. They give this name specially to the first class, without which, true holiness of life and an immutable rule of conduct cannot exist.

15. The moral law, then (to begin with it), being contained under two heads, the one of which simply enjoins us to worship God with pure faith and piety, the other to embrace men with sincere affection, is the true and eternal rule of righteousness prescribed to the men of all nations and of all times, who would frame their life agreeably to the will of God. For his eternal and immutable will is, that we are all to worship him and mutually love one another. The ceremonial law of the Jews was a tutelage by which the Lord was pleased to exercise, as it were, the childhood of that people, until the fulness of the time should come when he was fully to manifest his wisdom to the world, and exhibit the reality of those things which were then adumbrated by figures (Gal. 3:24; 4:4). The judicial law, given them as a kind of polity, delivered certain forms of equity and justice, by which they might live together innocently and quietly. And as that exercise in ceremonies properly pertained to the doctrine of piety, inasmuch as it kept the Jewish Church in the worship and religion of God, yet was still distinguishable from piety itself, so the judicial form, though it looked only to the best method of preserving that charity which is enjoined by the eternal law of God, was still something distinct from the precept of love itself. Therefore, as ceremonies might be abrogated without at all interfering with piety, so, also, when these judicial arrangements are removed, the duties and precepts of charity can still remain perpetual. But if it is true that each nation has been left at liberty to enact the laws which it judges to be beneficial, still these are always to be tested by the rule of charity, so that while they vary in form, they must proceed on the same principle. Those barbarous and savage laws, for instance, which conferred honour on thieves, allowed the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, and other things even fouler and more absurd, I do not think entitled to be considered as laws, since they are not only altogether abhorrent to justice, but to humanity and civilised life.

16. What I have said will become plain if we attend, as we ought, to two things connected with all laws—viz. the enactment of the law, and the equity on which the enactment is founded and rests. Equity, as it is natural, cannot be the same in all, and therefore ought to be proposed by all laws, according to the nature of the thing enacted. As constitutions have some circumstances on which they partly depend, there is nothing to prevent their diversity, provided they all alike aim at equity as their end. Now, as it is evident that the law of God which we call moral, is nothing else than the testimony of natural law, and of that conscience which God has engraven on the minds of men, the whole of this equity of which we now speak is prescribed in it. Hence it alone ought to be the aim, the rule, and the end of all laws. Wherever laws are formed after this rule, directed to this aim, and restricted to this end, there is no reason why they should be disapproved by us, however much they may differ from the Jewish law, or from each other (August. de Civit. Dei, Lib. 19 c. 17). . . .

Some Reformed Baptists on the Sabbath Concerning Colossians and Hebrews


The London Baptist Confession of Faith 
Chapter 22

7. As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished.
( Exodus 20:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10 )

8. The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.
( Isaiah 58:13; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Matthew 12:1-13 )

Here is part of a study of the triad mentioned in Colosians (holydays, new moon, and Sabbaths) that a friend Richard Barcellos pointed out in one of his books which I gained much benefit from. I quote a portion of it below and part of an article on Hebrews 4:9 by Robert Martin taken from the Reformed Baptist Theological Review.

I am posting it here for an examination of Colossians 2:16 and the triad phrase that is used in this passage along next to the Old Testament passage in Hosea 2:11.

(Col 2:16) Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

(Hos 2:11) I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.

A lot of Baptist and non-sabbattarians like to quote Colossians 2:16 as a passage that declares we need not keep a weekly Sabbath day to the Lord. Richard Barcellos is the author. Please forgive my inept mistakes in copying it from a pdf to here.

1. The Old Testament prophesies the abrogation and cessation of the Sabbath under the New Covenant.

The OT clearly prophesies the abrogation and cessation of ancient Israel‘s Sabbaths. It does so in Hos. 2:11, which says, ―I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her New Moons, her Sabbaths–all her appointed feasts.” We will make several observations that bear this out. First, Hosea‘s prophecy is dealing with the days of the New Covenant. The phrase ―in that day” (vv. 16, 18, 21) is used prophetically of New Covenant days in Is. 22:20. Revelation 3:7 quotes Is. 22:22 and applies it to Christ. The prophecy in Is. 22:20 mentions the Lord‘s servant, who is Christ. Isaiah 22:20-22 says:

Then it shall be in that day, that I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe and strengthen him with your belt; I will commit your responsibility into his hand. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open.

Revelation 3:7, quoting Is. 22:22, says:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ―These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.

The phrase, ―in that day,
‘ refers to the days of Christ–the days of the New Covenant. Paul references Hos. 1:10 and 2:23 in Rom. 9:25, applying them to Christians. ―As He says also in Hosea: ‗I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved‘” (Rom. 9:25). Peter references Hos. 1:9-10 and 2:23 in 1 Pet. 2:10 and applies them to Christians as well. He says, ―who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Pet. 2:10). Hosea is clearly speaking of New Covenant days. According to the NT usage of Hosea, he is speaking of the time in redemptive history when God will bring Gentiles into a saving relationship with Jews. Much of the NT deals with this very issue.

Second, Hos. 2:11 clearly prophesies the abrogation of Old Covenant Israel‘s Sabbaths, along with ―all her appointed feasts.” Hosea uses a triad of terms (―feast days, New Moons, Sabbaths”) that is used many places in the OT (1 Chron. 23:31; 2 Chron. 2:4; 31:3; Neh. 10:33; and Is. 1:13-14). Clearly, he is speaking of the abrogation of Old Covenant ceremonial laws. When the Old Covenant goes, Israel‘s feast days, New Moons, Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts go with it.

Third, the NT confirms this understanding of Hos. 2:11. It uses this triad of terms in Col. 2:16, which says, ―So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths.” In the context, Paul is combating those who were attempting to impose Old Covenant ceremonial law on New Covenant Christians. So Col. 2:16 is clear NT language that sees Hosea‘s prophecy as fulfilled. It is of interest to note that Paul uses the plural for Sabbath in Col. 2:16 (σάββατον). It is not too hard to assume that Paul had the OT triad in mind and Hosea‘s prophecy while penning these words. The NT announces the abrogation of the Old Covenant in many places. For instance, 2 Cor. 3:7-18; Gal. 3-4; Eph. 2:14-16; and Heb. 8-10 (cf. esp. 8:6-7, 13; 9:9-10, 15; 10:1, 15-18) are clear that the Old Covenant has been abrogated.

(Heb. 8:6-7)

But now He [Christ] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant [the New Covenant], which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant [the Old Covenant] had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.

(Heb. 8:13)

In that He says, ―A new covenant, He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

(Heb. 9:9-10)

It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience–concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

(Heb. 9:15)

And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

(Heb. 10:1)

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.

(Heb. 10:15-18)

But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, ―This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them, then He adds, ―Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

The Old Covenant and all its ceremonies are obsolete and have vanished away (Heb. 8:13). Taking these passages and Col. 2:16 together, they clearly teach that when the Old Covenant goes, the triad of Col. 2:16 goes as well.

2. The Old Testament prophesies the perpetuity and continuation of the Sabbath under the New Covenant.

Just as there is evidence from the OT that the Sabbath will be abolished under the New Covenant, so there is evidence that it will continue. At first glance this appears contradictory. But on further investigation, it is not contradictory and, in fact, fits the evidence provided thus far for the creation basis of the Sabbath and its unique place in the Decalogue in its function as moral law. Two passages deserve our attention at this point, Is. 56:1-8 and Jer. 31:33. Isaiah‘s prophecy of the Sabbath under the New Covenant is explicit and Jeremiah‘s is implicit.

Isaiah 56:1-8

(Isaiah 56:1-8)

Thus says the LORD: ―Keep justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who lays hold on it; who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil. Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD speak, saying, “The LORD has utterly separated me from His people; nor let the eunuch say, “Here I am, a dry tree. For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants–everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant–even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, ―Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.

Several observations will assist us in understanding how this passage prophesies explicitly the perpetuity and continuation of the Sabbath under the New Covenant. First, the section of the book of Isaiah starting at chapter 40 and ending with chapter 66 points forward to the days of Messiah and in some places to the eternal state. This section includes language pointing forward to the time primarily between the two comings of Christ, the interadvental days of the New Covenant. It is understood this way by the New Testament in several places (see Matt. 3:3; 8:16, 17; 12:15-21; and Acts 13:34).

Second, Is. 56:1-8 speaks prophetically of a day in redemptive history in which God will save Gentiles (cf., esp. vv. 7 and 8). The language of “all nations” in v. 7 reminds us of the promise given to Abraham concerning blessing all nations through his seed (see Gen. 12:3 and Gal. 3:8, 16). This Abrahamic promise is pursued by the great commission of Matt. 28:18-20. Isaiah is speaking about New Covenant days.

Third, in several New Testament texts, using the motif of fulfillment, the language of Is. 56:1-8 (and the broader context) is applied to the days between Christ‘s first and second comings (Matt. 21:12-13; Acts 8:26-40; Eph. 2:19; and 1 Tim. 3:15). Compare Matt. 21:13, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” with Is. 56:7, “For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” This anticipates the inclusion of Gentiles in the house of God, a common NT phenomenon. Compare Acts 8:26-40 (notice a eunuch was reading from Isaiah) with Is. 56:3-5, which says:

(Is. 56:3-5)

Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD Speak, saying, ―The LORD has utterly separated me from His people; nor let the eunuch say, ―Here I am, a dry tree. For thus says the LORD: ―To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

The Old Covenant placed restrictions on eunuchs. Deuteronomy 23:1 says, ―He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. Isaiah is prophesying about a day in redemptive history when those restrictions will no longer apply.

In Eph. 2:19 the church is called the “household of God” and in 1 Tim. 3:15 it is called “the house of God.”The context of 1 Tim. 3:15 includes 1 Tim. 2:1-7, where Paul outlines regulations for church prayer. Now consider Is. 56:7, which says:

(Is. 56:7)

Even them [i.e., the foreigners (Gentiles) of v. 6a] I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.

The NT sees Isaiah‘s prophecy as fulfilled under the New Covenant. However, the privileges, responsibilities, and the people of God foretold there (Is. 56) are transformed to fit the conditions brought in by the New Covenant. The people of God are transformed due to the New Covenant; the house of God is transformed due to the New Covenant; the burnt offerings, sacrifices, and altar are transformed due to the New Covenant; and the Sabbath is transformed due to the New Covenant (i.e., from the seventh to the first day). Isaiah, as with other OT prophets, accommodates his prophecy to the language of the Old Covenant people, but its NT fulfillment specifies exactly what his prophesy looks like when being fulfilled. Jeremiah does this with the promise of the New Covenant. What was promised to “the house of Israel” and “the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31), is fulfilled in the Jew-Gentile church, the New Covenant people of God, the transformed Israel of OT prophecy.

With these considerations before us, it seems not only plausible but compelling to conclude that between the two advents of Christ, when the Old Covenant law restricting eunuchs no longer restricts them, and when the nations (i.e., the Gentiles) are becoming the Lord‘s and frequenting his house, which is his Church, a Sabbath (see Is. 56:2, 4, 6) yet remains. Isaiah is speaking prophetically of Sabbath-keeping in New Covenant days. The English Puritan John Bunyan, commenting on Isaiah 56, said, “Also it follows from hence, that the sabbath that has a promise annexed to the keeping of it, is rather that which the Lord Jesus shall give to the churches of the Gentiles.”7

Again, the essence of the Sabbath transcends covenantal bounds. Its roots are in creation, not in the Old Covenant alone. It transcends covenants and cultures because the ethics of creation are trans-covenantal and trans-cultural. The Sabbath is part of God‘s moral law.

Also concerning the Hebrews 4:9 passage concerning a Sabbath rest…

(Heb 4:4-11)

For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Those guys who quote the Colossians and Hebrew verses need to know that there are legitimate discussions and commentaries that support a sabbatarian view. I read an article by Robert P. Martin in the Reformed Baptist Theological review were he spoke on these verses. I am going to leave a quote from this article here concerning the Hebrews passage and the terms used.

Reformed Baptist Theological Review
vl. 1.2 A Sabbath Remains.. The Place of Hebrews 4:9 in the New Testament’s Witness to the Lord’s Day by Robert P. Martin
(Heb 4:9) There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

In it he notes the Word used here is σαββατισμός and not κατάπαυσις


This is an obscure term evidently that is used in just a few other places outside of the scriptures but used only once in the New Testament. Robert Martin says,

“I think that it is of interest that “in each of these places the term [σαββατισμός] denotes the observance or celebration of the Sabbath,” i.e., not “a Sabbath rest” as a state that is entered into but “a Sabbath-keeping” as a practice that is observed. This, of course, corresponds to the word’s morphology, for the suffix -μός indicates an action and not just a state. see A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934), 151.
Reformed Baptist Theological Review Vl. 1;2 p.5

In other words there is still a 1 in 7 where we are still required to observe a Sabbath day.

Obviously the article consists of the surrounding verses but it is a good read and again, the essence of the Sabbath transcends covenantal bounds. Its roots are in creation, not in the Old Covenant alone. It transcends covenants and cultures because the ethics of creation are trans-covenantal and trans-cultural. The Sabbath is part of God‘s moral law.

Sundry Quotes from Solid Reformed Men on Law and Gospel



Thomas Boston, Works, 3:377:

The doctrines of the gospel believed with the heart, teach us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world. As Christ is the end of the law, so I may say, the law is the end of the gospel; for it is the great design of the gospel revelation, to bring back sinners to that righteousness and holiness which the law requires. The gospel never gains its end among a people, till a strain of piety and holiness run through their whole lives.


David Clarkson (Works 1:315):

The righteousness of Christ turns the law into gospel to a believer, and of a doctrine full of dread and terror, renders it the most acceptable message that ever was brought to the world. The law, which stands as the angel with a flaming sword, to bar all flesh out of paradise, when the righteousness of Christ is applied, it becomes an angel to carry every believer into Abraham’s bosom; Christ’s righteousness added, it loses its name, and we call it gospel. The way in both seems to be the same for substance; perfect obedience is requisite in both. They differ in the circumstances of the person performing this obedience. In the law it was to be personal, in the gospel his surety’s performance is sufficient.

However, if there be any terror, dread in the law, Christ’s righteousness removes it; if any grace, comfort in the gospel, Christ’s righteousness is the rise of it. Take away Christ’s righteousness, and the gospel can give no life; take it away, and the law speaks nothing but death; no life, no hope of life without it, either in law or gospel.

Thomas Goodwin (Works, 6:261):
As faith turns the commands of the law into gospel in a regenerate man’s heart, so conscience, in an unregenerate man, turns the gospel into law. As faith writes the law in the heart, and urgeth the duties of it upon evangelical grounds and motives—as the love of Christ, conformity to him, union with him, and the free grace of God—so in a man unregenerate, gospel duties are turned into legal, through the sway and influence of conscience, and that dominion which the covenant of works hath over him.

Samuel Rutherford (The Covenant of Life Opened, 198-199).

The obedience of faith, or Gospel-obedience, in the fourth place, hath less of the nature of obedience than that of Adam, or of the elect angels, or that of Christ’s. It’s true we are called obedient children, and they are called the commandments of Christ, and Christ hath taken the moral law and made use of it in an evangelic way, yet we are more (as it were) patients in obeying gospel-commands. Not that we are mere patients, as Libertines teach; for grace makes us willing, but we have both supernatural habits and influences of grace furnished to us from the grace of Christ, who hath merited both to us; and so in Gospel-obedience we offer more of the Lord’s own and less of our own because he both commands and gives us grace to obey. And so to the elect believer the Law is turned in Gospel, he by his grace fulfilling (as it were) the righteousness of the Law in us by begun new obedience, Rom. 8:4.

Westminster Confession of Faith, 19.6,

It [the moral law] is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and not under grace.

Walter Marshall (The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification Opened, p. 235, 1981 EP ed.).

Here you have holiness as a free gift received by faith, an act of the mind and soul. Whosoever will may come, take it and drink freely, and nothing is required but a willing mind (John 7:38; Isa. 55:1; Rev. 22:17). But the law is an intolerable burden (Matt. 23:4; Acts 15:10), if duty be laid on us by its terms. We are not left in this way to conquer lusts by our endeavours, which is a successless work, but what is duty is given, and the law is turned into promises (Heb. 8:6-13; Ezek. 36:25, 26; Jer. 31:33; 32:40). We have all now in Christ (Col. 3:11; 2:9, 10, 15, 17). This is a catholic medicine, instead of a thousand. How pleasant would this free gift, holiness, be to us, if we knew our own wants, inabilities and sinfulness? How ready are some to toil continually and macerate their bodies in a melancholy legal way to get holiness, rather than perish forever? And therefore, how ready should we be, when it is only, ‘Take, and have; believe, and be sanctified and saved?’ (2 Kings 5:13). Christ’s burden is light by His Spirit’s bearing it (Matt. 11:30). No weariness, but renewing of strength (Isa. 40:31).

Thomas Case (Puritan Sermons, 5:524, 525):

Hold fast the models of divine truth in your practice. – A practical memory is the best memory: to live the truths which we know, is the best way to hold them fast.

There are heretical manners as well as heretical doctrines. “Profane Christians live against the faith, whilst heterodox Christians dispute against the faith” [Augustine]. There be not a few that live antinomianism and libertinism, and atheism, and popery, whilst others preach it. Apostates are practical Arminians; a profane man is a practical atheist. Whilst others, therefore, live error, do you live the truth; whilst others deny the gospel, do you live the gospel: “As ye have received” the truth as it is in Jesus, “so walk ye” in it, to all well-pleasing (Col. 2:6; 1:10). Without this, a man forsakes the truth, while he doth profess it: “They profess that they know God, but in their works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).

Yea, to live the truths we hear, is the way, not to hold them only, but to hold them forth to others; as the apostle speaks, “Holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:16). It is a metaphor taken either from fire-lights upon the sea-coasts burning all night; the use whereof is to give notice to seamen of some neighbouring rocks and quicksands that may endanger their vessel: or else from torch-bearers in the night-time; who hold out their lights, that passengers may see their way in the dark. According to which metaphor our Saviour calls true, real Christians “the light of the world, a city set on a hill,” to enlighten the dark world with their beams of holiness (Matt. 5:14). It is a blessed thing when the conversations of Christians are practical models of gospel-truths, walking Bibles, holding forth “the graces” or “excellencies,” “of Him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

John Owen (Works 3:278-279):

There are two sorts of things declared in the gospel: —
1st. Such as are absolutely its own, that are proper and peculiar unto it, — such as have no footsteps in the law or in the light of nature, but are of pure revelation, peculiar to the gospel. Of this nature are all things concerning the love and will of God in Christ Jesus. The mystery of his incarnation, of his offices and whole mediation, of the dispensation of the Spirit, and our participation thereof, and our union with Christ thereby, our adoption, justification, and effectual sanctification, thence proceeding, in brief, everything that belongs unto the purchase and application of saving grace, is of this sort. These things are purely and properly evangelical, peculiar to the gospel alone…

2dly. There are such things declared and enjoined in the gospel as have their foundation in the law and light of nature. Such are all the moral duties which are taught therein. And two things may be observed concerning them:—
(1st.) That they are in some measure known unto men aliunde from other principles. The inbred concreated light of nature doth, though obscurely, teach and confirm them…
(2dly.) There is on all men an obligation unto obedience answerable to their light concerning these things. The same law and light which discovereth these things doth also enjoin their observance. Thus is it with all men antecedently unto the preaching of the gospel unto them. In this estate the gospel superadds two things unto the minds of men:—
(1st.) It directs us unto a right performance of these things, from a right principle, by a right rule, and to a right end and purpose; so that they, and we in them, may obtain acceptance with God. Hereby it gives them a new nature, and turns moral duties into evangelical obedience.
(2dly.) By a communication of that Spirit which is annexed unto its dispensation, it supplies us with strength for their performance in the manner it prescribes.

Ralph Erskine (Sermons 2:22):

The believer’s own obedience to the law, or his gospel-obedience, and conformity to the law, wrought in him, and done by him, through the help of the Spirit of grace; even this obedience of his, I say, hath not the legal promise of eternal life, as if it were the legal condition of his obtaining eternal life: no, his gospel-obedience hath indeed a gospel-promise, connecting it with eternal life, as it is an evidence of his union to Christ, in whom all the promises are Yea and Amen; and as it is a walking in the way to heaven, without which none shall ever come to the end; “For without holiness it is impossible to see God.” – But the legal promise of eternal life made to obedience, and which makes our personal obedience to be the cause and matter of our justification, and as the proper condition of salvation and eternal life, this is the promise of the law, or covenant of works; and this promise it is now wholly divested of, as to the believer in Jesus Christ, who hath taken his law-room, and yielded that perfect obedience, to which the promise of eternal life is now made: and the reason why, I say, the promise of eternal life is now made to Christ’s perfect obedience in our room and stead, is, Because, the law, or covenant of works, made no promise of life properly, but to man’s own personal obedience; it made no mention of a surety; but now, in sovereign mercy, this law-rigour is abated, and the Surety is accepted, to whose obedience life is promised.

Reverend Matthew Winzer

Dear reader,

Do you understand the promise of the gospel in relation to gospel obedience? When you perform moral duties are you looking to the promise of the gospel and trusting that this obedience is accepted for Christ’s sake, and thereupon blessed of God to be the way of walking to heaven? Or do you perform moral duties out of obedience to the law, and on the understanding that law-rigour condemns all your works as the most filthy unrighteousness, so that nothing you do can ever be acceptable? These are very important questions. If good works are not done by faith in Jesus Christ, they are not good works; they are condemned at the bar of God’s justice. But if good works are done by faith in Jesus Christ, God “is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 16.6).

I pray that God will enable you to see the important difference between serving the law and serving the gospel.
Reverend Matthew Winzer

Thomas Brooks’ Nine Strong Consolations – Point #8

“…Now remember that this imputed righteousness of Christ procures acceptance for our inherent righteousness. When a sincere Christian casts his eye upon the weaknesses, infirmities, and imperfections that daily attend his best services, he sighs and mourns. But if he looks upward to the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, it shall bring forth his infirm, weak, and sinful performances perfect, spotless, and sinless, and approved according to the tenor of the gospel. They become spiritual sacrifices, and he cannot but rejoice (1 Peter 2:5). For as there is an imputation of righteousness to the persons of believers, so there is also an imputation to their services and actions . . . so the imperfect good works that are done by believers are accounted righteousness, or as Calvin speaks, “are accounted for righteousness, they being dipped in the blood of Christ.” They are accounted righteous actions; and so sincere Christians shall be judged according to their good works though not saved for them (Revelation 11:18; 20:12; Matthew 25:34-37).

And it is observable in that famous process of the last judgment (Matthew 25:34-37), that the supreme Judge makes mention of the bounty and liberality of the saints, and so bestows the crown of life and the eternal inheritance upon them. Though the Lord’s faithful ones have eminent cause to be humbled and afflicted for the many weaknesses that cleave to their best duties, yet on the other hand, they have wonderful cause to rejoice and triumph that they are made perfect through Jesus Christ, and that the Lord looks at them through the righteousness of Christ as fruits of His own Spirit (Hebrews 13:20, 21; 1 Cor. 6:11). The saints’ prayers being perfumed with Christ’s odors are highly accepted in heaven (Revelation 8:3, 4). Upon this bottom of imputed righteousness, believers may have exceeding strong consolation and good hope through grace, that both their persons and services do find singular acceptation with God as having no spot or blemish at all in them. Surely righteousness imputed must be the top of our happiness and blessedness!…”

Richard Sibbes (Works, 5:187):

Question. Now, what is it to do all things evangelically? To clear that point.

Answer. To do all things evangelically is, first of all, for a man to know that he is in the same state of grace, and that he hath his sins pardoned, and that he is accepted in Christ to life and salvation. That is the ground of all evangelical obedience. He must know that he is in the covenant of grace; that he hath the forgiveness of sins, and a right to life everlasting in Christ. And then comes obedience answerable to that condition; that is, a desire to obey God in all things: a grief that he cannot do it so well as he would; a prayer that he might do it so; and an endeavour together with prayer that he may do so, and some strength likewise with endeavour. For a Christian, as I said before, he hath the Spirit of God, not only to set him to an endeavour, but to give him some strength. So there is a desire, and purpose, and prayer, and grief of heart, and endeavour, and likewise some strength in evangelical obedience.

A Christian then in the gospel can do all things when he hath his sins forgiven, and is accepted in Christ, when he can endeavour to do all, and desire to do all, and in some measure practise all duties in truth. For the gospel requires truth and not perfection. That is the perfection that brings us to heaven in Christ our Saviour. We have title to heaven; in him is the ground, because forgiveness of sins is in him. Now a Christian’s life is but to walk worthy of this, and to fit himself for that glorious condition that he hath title unto by Christ, to walk sincerely before God. Sincerity is the perfection of Christians. Let not Satan therefore abuse us. We do all things, when we endeavour to do all things, and purpose to do all things, and are grieved when we cannot do better. For mark, this goes with evangelical obedience always. God pardons that which is ill, for he is a Father. He hath bound himself to pardon, ‘I will pity you as a father pitieth his child,’ Ps. 103:18. From the very relation he hath took upon him, we may be assured he will pity and pardon us, and then he will accept of that which is good, because it is the work of his own Spirit, and will reward it. This in the covenant of grace he will do. A Christian can do all then; and wherein he fails, God will pardon him. What is good, God will accept and reward; and what is sick and weak in him, God will heal, till he have made him up in Christ.