Vindiciae Legis, or A Vindication of the Morall Law and the Covenants (PDF and HTML)

By Anthony Burgess.

Link to PDF file:

BURGESS, Anthony. A Vindication of the Moral Law and the Covenants, 1647 (PDF)

Link to HTML edition:

BURGESS, Anthony. A Vindication of the Morall Law and the Covenants, 1647 (HTML)

Link to Bibliographic information (The Westminster Assembly Project):

Anthony Burgess, “Vindiciae Legis” (Bibliographic information page)

Introductory note by Alejandro Moreno Morrison

The full subtitle of the original edition is: A Vindication of the Morall Law and the Covenants, From the Errours of Papists, Arminians, Socinians, and more especially, Antinomians. In XXX Lectures, preached at Laurence-Jury, London. This facsimile edition is taken from second edition, corrected and augmented (London: James Young, 1647), and published by Reformation Heritage Books (Grand Rapids, 2011).

On the crucial importance and unique significance of this book as a testimony of the true Reformed Christianity, and more particularly of the true Reformed Presbyterianism that is faithful to the Westminster Standards, Stephen J. Casselli writes the following in the third page of the “Introduction” to the facsimile edition shared above:

On January 25, 1645, [Anthony Burgess] was elected vicar of the Guildhall church of St. Lawrence Jewry, where his lectures on the law would eventually be delivered. The timing for the call and delivery of these lectures is significant. Burgess delivered these lectures in the midst of the Assembly’s discussion and debates regarding the law of God, and Vindiciae legis provides exegetical and theological rationale, consonant with the teaching of chapter XIX of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

In footnote 11, Casselli further elaborates:

The foreword preceding the title page of Vindiciae legis calling for the publication of Burgess’s lectures is dated June 11, 1646, and this is a significant clue to understanding its historical milieu. It is clear that the lectures were delivered some time in the months preceding June of 1646. This is important because we also know that on November 18, 1645, the writing of the section on the law for the Confession of Faith was referred to the third committee, of which Anthony Burgess was a member. A report on the law was then made to the plenary session by John Wincop on January 7, 9, 12, 13, 29, and February 2 and 9, 1646…

Casselli’s sources are Alex F. Mitchel & John Sturthers, eds., The Minutes of the Sessions of the Westminster Assembly of Divines (Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons, 1847; p. 178); and Benjamin B. Warfield, The Westminster Assembly and Its Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 1931; p. 112).

It is worth noting that the “Antinomian Errours” circulating in England around 1645-6 were connected to the moral scepticism and antinomianism that developed in Lutheran circles in the 17th century.  In his book Natural Law and Moral Philosophy: From Grotius to the Scottish Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996; pp. 25-6), Knud Haakonssen explains as follows the line of thought of such moral scepticism and antinomianism:

Nothing that a person can be or make of himself will justify him before God; only faith justifies, and that only by God’s grace. Our duty towards God is thus infinite, and we may view our temporal life as a network of unfulfillable duties, which natural law theory may put into systematic form and give such worldly justification as our limited understanding permits. On the other hand, if our duty is really infinite and unfulfillable, then it is hard to see it as a possible guide to action; it provides no criterion for what behaviour to choose. We therefore can live only by faith. This strongly antinomian line was adopted by a great many sects at the Reformation and later and must undoubtedly be regarded as a target no less important than moral scepticism for Protestant natural law theory.

Also in his Introduction to this facsimilar edition, Casselli explains that in Burgess’s lectures the:

…development of the doctrine of the law and the covenants was worked out by the careful exegesis of particular texts, including detailed attention to grammatical and lexical features of the text. [Also]…thoughtful dialogue with the catholic theology of the Western church, a sophisticated interaction with contemporary interpretive traditions, and eye to ecclesiastical concerns, and a sensitivity to the progress of revelation leading to its culmination in the person and work of Jesus Christ…

Full Knowledge or Perpetual Confusion?

By Alejandro Moreno Morrison.

I often wonder whether unbelievers will eventually realise (perhaps at the Last Judgment) how foolish they were in disregarding God, the Bible, or the gospel of salvation by grace alone.  Will unbelievers get enough knowledge, understanding and clarity of mind to realise how irrational, how foolish, was their unbelief?  I don’t know the answer for sure, and it is actually not that important to know.  Still I have thought about two possible scenarios.

I have to confess that more often than not, I want Christian believers to be vindicated in the eyes of those who disregard the gospel.  I want the unbeliever to know and understand, at some point at long last, that all along, while the Christian in his life held the truth, the unbeliever wilfully dismissed it and stubbornly committed to irrationality and lies.  Nevertheless, there seems to be no explicit support in Scripture for this scenario.

There is another possibility.  The Bible teaches that at the consummation of times, “when the perfect comes,” the redeemed ones will in some way “fully know as they were fully known” by God (1st Corinthians 13:9-12).  Therefore, knowing fully and in a superior way will be part of the glorification yet to come for the redeemed ones.  No more doubts, no more misunderstandings, no more ignorance, no more partial knowledge, no more guessing, no more confusion, but full clarity of mind, full assurance, full knowledge of what is true and full understanding of the truth.  That blissful situation will be, of course, yet another undeserved gift of God’s loving grace reserved exclusively for those redeemed by grace alone through saving faith in Christ alone.

Therefore, it seems that the unregenerate will never attain much beyond what they had in this life in terms of knowledge, understanding, and clarity of mind on spiritual and eternal matters.  Thus, in addition to total alienation from God and from the rest of the creation, the sufferings of eternal damnation will perhaps involve also staying forever in state of ignorance and confusion, alienated from truth, knowledge, understanding, and clarity of mind, with a thirst to know and understand what ever happened to them yet never being able to quench that thirst.

The mind that in this life congratulated himself for being so smart as to disregard God, the Bible or the gospel for not meeting his self-proclaimed standards of truth or relevance, will perhaps forever wonder, without ever being able to understand, how come his trust in his clever self went so horribly wrong.

AMM. The mind that in this life congratulated himself... will forever wonder

Which will you have at the end and forever, full knowledge or perpetual confusion?


Alejandro Moreno Morrison is a Mexican lawyer and Reformed theologian. He studied at Escuela Libre de Derecho (Mexico City), Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando, Florida) and the University of Oxford. At Reformed Theological Seminary he was teaching assistant of the Rev. Dr. Ronald H. Nash. He was also Spanish resources consultant for the Rev. Dr. Richard L. Pratt at Third Millennium Ministries. Alejandro has ministered as intern, teacher, or visiting preacher or teacher at churches and missions of several denominations including Iglesia Presbiteriana Reformada de México, Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana de México, Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana Conservadora de México, Iglesia Presbiteriana Ortodoxa Reformada, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, North America Synod. With the latter he was in charge of a mission congregation during 2014. He has also been guest lecturer on Systematic Theology, Ethics, Evangelism, and Apologetics at Seminario Teológico Reformado of Iglesia Presbiteriana Reformada de México, on Contemporary Political Systems at the Faculty of Law of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and on Corporate law at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologies (Global Startup Lab for Mexico). Since 2010 he is adjunct lecturer on Jurisprudence at Escuela Libre de Derecho.