4.28.2009

FOXE on LAW & GOSPEL

I recently acquired a 1641 folio set of John Foxe's Acts and Monuments of the Christian Church--first published in 1563. You probably know this as Foxe's Book of Martyrs. The volume you find in the Christian bookstore is around 6% of the original--a pathetic representation of what originally came in three massive folios. Every major Reformed theologian read Foxe in the late 16th and throughout the 17th centuries. Next to Calvin's Institutes, it was the most influential work of the 16th century. In the same vein as Perkins, here is Foxe on Law and Gospel. Keep in mind this was written around 1560 demonstrating that the law/gospel distinction, with clarity, was alive and well in early Reformed theology.

"As there is nothing more necessary and comfortable for troubled consciences than to be well instructed in the difference between the law and the gospel; so is the church of Rome much to blame in this behalf, because it confounds together those two, being in nature so divers and contrary one from another: as threatenings with promises, things temporal with things eternal, sorrowful things with glad things, death with life, bondage with freedom; teaching the people, that whatsoever the law says, the gospel confirms; and whatsoever the gospel says, the same is agreeable to the law, and so make they no difference between Moses and Christ; save only that Moses (they say) was the giver of the old law, Christ the giver of the new, and a more perfect law. And thus they imagine the gospel to be nothing else but a new law given by Christ, binding to the promises thereof the condition of our doings and deservings, no otherwise than to the old law. And so divide they the whole law after this disctinction; into three parts, to wit, the law of nature, the law of Moses, and the law of Christ. And as for the gospel (they say), it is revealed for no other cause but to show the world more perfect precepts, and counsels, than were in the old law; to the fulfilling whereof they attribute justification. And so they leave the poor consciences of men in perpetual doubt, and induce other manifold errors; bringing people a false opinion of Christ as though he were no a remedy against the law, but came as another Moses to give a new law to the world."

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