The Larger Catechism and Usury

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Puritanboard Clerk
This struck me the other day and I realized I've never heard anyone draw attention to it:

Q. 142. What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery... usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits, unjust enclosures and depredation; engrossing commodities to enhance the price; unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor what belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them; envying at the prosperity of others; as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God hath given us.

What is the difference between usury and interest on a loan? Should ministers who believe in usury take an exception at this point?


Staff member
In their individual writings some Westminster divines like Rutherford was of the mind of Calvin that some usury was lawful, and the Assembly generally would have been familiar with Ussher, but certainly some of that time seem to condemn it completely like Trapp. While it cannot be taken as the mind of the Assembly, it would be interesting to see what the Westminster Annotations have to say at Psalm 15:5, which is the proof text, and other places.
Certainly just a few generations later, some form of it is defended. Here is Fisher's explanation.
Q. 9. How many ways may persons be said to steal from others, or unjustly hinder their neighbour's wealth or outward estate?

A. Several ways; particularly, by theft, robbery, resetting, defrauding, monopolising, and taking unlawful usury.

Q. 32. What is it to take USURY, according to the proper signification of the word?
A. It is to take gain, profit, or interest, for the loan of money.
Q. 33. What kind of usury or interest is lawful?
A. That which is moderate, easy, and no way oppressive, Deut. 23:20, compared with Ex. 22:21.
Q. 34. How do you prove that moderate usury is lawful?
A. From the very light of nature, which teaches, that since the borrower proposes to gain by the loan, the lender should have a reasonable share of his profit, as a recompense for the use of his money, which he might otherwise have disposed of to his own advantage, 2 Cor. 8:13.
Q. 35. What is the usury condemned in scripture, and by right reason?
A. It is the exacting of more interest or gain for the loan of money, than is settled by universal consent, and the laws of the land, Prov. 28:8 -- "He that by usury, and unjust gain, increaseth his substance, shall gather it for him that will pity the poor."
Q. 36. How do you prove from scripture, that moderate usury, or common interest, is not oppression in itself?
A. From the express command laid upon the Israelites not to "oppress a stranger," Ex. 23:9; and yet their being allowed to take usury from him, Deut. 23:20; which they would not have been permitted to do, if there had been an intrinsic evil in the thing itself.
Q. 37. Is it warrantable to take interest from the poor?
A. By no means; for, if such as are honest, and in needy circumstances, borrow a small sum towards a livelihood, and repay it in due time, it is all that can be expected of them; and therefore the demanding of any profit or interest, or even taking any of their necessaries of life in pledge, for the sum, seems to be plainly contrary to the law of charity, Ex. 22:25-28; Psalm 15:5.
Q. 38. Were not the Israelites forbidden to take usury from their brethren, whether poor or rich? Deut. 23:19 -- "Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother."
A. This text is to be restricted to their poor brethren, as it is explained, Ex. 22:25, and Lev. 25:25, 35; or, if it respects the Israelites indifferently, then it is one of the judicial laws peculiar to that people, and of no binding force now.
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