Puritan Board Junior
Is it right thinking to say that the whole of the Moral Law is summarized in the Ten Commandments?
The Westminster Divines took great care when they defined the Moral Law. They defined it as the "law given to Adam...which....bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact and perpetual obedience ...and...this law after his fall...was delivered by God upon mount Sinai in ten commandments."
This statement is generally held to define the entire moral law as the ten commandments: no more and no less.
It is sometimes argued from WLC Q 98's use of "summarily comprehended" to describe the moral law that the summary of the moral law provided by the decalogue is somehow incomplete and that to understand the full moral law, we must include, as well as the decalogue, stipulations drawn from Moses but not within the decalogue itself. Usually it is argued that these stipulations are what are usually called civil laws.
Unfortunately for this argument, the words chosen by the Divines make it impossible. The contemporary (17th century) definitions of both summarily and comprehended do not allow for incompleteness in the the subject summarized or comprehended: completeness in the subject summarized or comprehended is a given.
Here are the definitions of the words involved from the Oxford English dictionary 17th century usages.
“Summarily” - “in a summary or compendious manner; chiefly of statement, in few words, compendiously, briefly.”
“compendiously” then meant: “containing the substance within small compass, concise, succinct, summary; comprehensive though brief; esp. of literary works; also of their authors.”
“comprehended”: To grasp with the mind, conceive fully or adequately, understand, ‘take in’. (App. the earliest sense in English.) ….To lay hold of all the points of (any thing) and include them within the compass of a description or expression; to embrace or describe summarily; summarize; sum up.... To include or comprise in a treatise or discourse: now more usually said of the book, etc.... To include in the same category....To enclose or include in or within limits...To enclose or have within it; to contain; to lie around.
Webster's helpfully adds this: "understood" or "included" as in "education comprehends the training of many kinds of ability from the Latin comprehendere," (a meaning well known to the Divines who had all received their University instruction in Latin).