To attempt to study Scripture without studying its law is to deny it. To attempt to understand Western civilization apart from the impact of biblical law within it and upon it is to seek a fictitious history and to reject twenty centuries and their progress.
The Institutes of Biblical Law has as its purpose a reversal of the present trend. It is called "Institutes" in the older meaning of the word—fundamental principles, here of the law—because it is intended as a beginning, as an instituting consideration of the law which must govern society, and which shall govern society under God.
To understand biblical law, it is necessary to understand also certain basic characteristics of that law. In it, certain broad premises or principles are declared. These are declarations of basic law. The Ten Commandments give us such declarations.
A second characteristic of biblical law is that the major portion of God's law is case law—the illustration of the basic principles in the terms of specific cases. These specific cases are often illustrations of the extent of the application of the law; that is, by citing a minimal type of case, the necessary jurisdictions of the law are revealed.
The law, then, asserts principles and cites cases to develop the implications of those principles, with its purpose and direction the restitution of God's order.