Perspicuity: Law and Gospel (Vermigli)

The perspicuity of Scripture is a Reformation way to say that God’s Word is clear when it comes to the main points of the Christian faith and salvation. Peter Vermigil put it this way: “In such things as are incident to salvation, the scriptures want [lack] no plainness nor perspicuity” (see also WCF 1.7). One of the clear teachings of Scripture has to do with the law and the gospel. In Vermigli’s words,

“Whatsoever is contained in the holy scriptures should be referred to these two chief points; I mean the law and the gospel. For everywhere, either God’s commandments to live well are set forth unto us; or else when we are found to swerve from them either of weakness, or of some certain maliciousness, the gospel is shewed, whereby through Christ we are pardoned of our trespasses, and are promised the power and strength of the Holy Spirit, to restore us again to the image of Christ which we have lost. These two things may be seen in all the books of Moses, in the histories, in the prophets, in the books of wisdom, and throughout the whole testament, old and new. Surely they are not separated from one another by books and leaves; but by that way, which we have now declared.”

Or in the words of Richard Muller (citing Benedict Pictet),

“…In a multitude of places, Scripture declares itself to us as plain and simple in meaning, ‘both in regard to the law and to the gospel.'”

This is related to the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  As the OT and NT teach, a person is not justified by works, but by faith only.  Paul even said that truth is “clear” or “evident” as he referenced the OT: “Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith’” (Gal. 3:11 NIV).

These quotes can be found in volume 2 of Muller’s Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, pages 323 & 329.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI


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