Comparing the CoW with Adam with the Mosaic Covenant.

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Puritan Board Doctor
I'd prepared this reply to Warren on another thread which was closed.

Quote from Warren
If the CoW prior to the Fall had as its stipulations the Moral Law, then a reiteration of obedience to these stipulations, predicated on the maintenance of tenure in the Land (in seeming parallelism to Adam's probationary status), would be a republication of the CoW, would it not?

Not really. When the CoW with holy Adam is compared with the Sinatic Covenant with sinful, CoWorks breaking Israel, it is just confusing at best to call Sinai a RoCoW.

Even those who espouse the RoCoW at Sinai, like Michael Horton, say that Israel didn't have to keep the law perfectly to remain in the Land. That's a very different animal to the CoW made with Adam, in which he had to keep the law perfectly to remain in Eden, and was keeping the law on behalf of his descendants.

What Horton et al. is calling a RoCoW is just another typological teaching aid to tell the babyhood Church about God's wrath against sin. God will eventually put you "outside" His Kingdom in Hell if you don't (collectively) show faith and repentance as a result of grace.

Also, God graciously didn't want to put Adam and Eve (and Mankind) immediately into Hell when they sinned so he gave them a little taster by cursing the Earth and casting them "outside" of Eden.

In the New Covenant administration, God doesn't want to cast us immediately into Hell when we sin, so through His officers he puts us "outside" by Church sanctions.

With the New Covenant Israel, from a collective point of view, Christ can also "remove the lampstand" from a congregation or denomination.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.(Rev 2:5, ESV)

The CoW with Adam was given in God's bountiful goodness to someone who, while he did not merit such bountiful goodness, had not demerited such bountiful goodness.

The Mosaic Covenant was graciously given to a group of sinners, who had demerited God's goodness, and thus was a product of God's grace to sinners.

Since Adam hadn't sinned, he was capable of keeping the CoW.

The Israelites had already broken the CoW in Adam. They were incapable of keeping the Mosaic Covenant without grace to sinners. Saving grace and/or common grace. If they'd remained in the Land it would have all been of grace.

The two covenants, one with holy Adam and one with sinful Israelites, are like chalk and cheese.
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Puritan Board Junior
"Like chalk and cheese" is one good way to put it. The Venema quotes supplied by Rev. McAtee from the other thread demonstrate the same indicting point, that modern day Klinean republicationists confuse the COW and the COG.

This excerpt from Thomas Boston on the Mosaic covenant is helpful:

"1. What covenant is this ? It is the covenant whereby he was Israel's God before the giving of the law on Sinai; for this plainly relates to a former relation betwixt them, by virtue of which they were brought out of Egypt. This was then no other but the covenant with Abraham and his seed, Gen. xvii. 7. and xv. 18. and by virtue of the covenant-promise to Abraham, it was, that they were delivered out of Egypt, Gen. xv. 13, 14, &c. That was not the covenant of works, for it is still opposed to the law, Rom. iv. therefore it is the covenant of grace.

Under this covenant with Abraham all Israel according to the flesh were in an external manner, whereby God had a more special right over them than the rest of the world; and so is it with all who are within the visible church at this day. But Israel according to the Spirit, the elect of God, and believers, the spiritual seed of Abraham, were and are most properly under this covenant, and that in a saving manner. Rom. iv. 11, 12, 13. So that this reason is not general to all the world, but peculiar to the church.


The ten commandments were not given to the Israelites as a covenant of works, but in the way of the covenant of grace, and under that covert. Ye saw it was Jesus the Mediator that spoke these, Heb. xii. 24, 26.—Amongst all the reasons there is not one of terror ; but the sweet savour of gospel-grace*.
{Vol. 2 of Works of Thomas Boston, “On the Preface to the 10 commandments}.


Puritan Board Freshman
I think it was on another thread that mvdm expressed wariness in equating "Law" with the "Covenant of Works." Thomas Boston seems to be of another opinion, expressing agreement with some writers of his time:

The Ten Commandments as a Covenant of Works: I adduce only the testimonies of three late learned writers, 'That God made such a covenant (viz: the covenant of works) with our first parents, is confirmed by several parts of Scripture,' Hos 6:7, Gal. 4:24 (Willison's Sacr. Cat. p.3). The words of the last text quoted are these: 'For these are the two covenants, the one from the Mount Sinai which gendereth to bondage.' Hence it appears, that in the judgment of this author, the covenant from Mount Sinai was the covenant of works, otherwise there is no shadow of reason from this text for what it is adduced to prove. The Rev. Messrs. Flint and M'Claren, in their elaborate and seasonable treatise...speak to the same purpose. The former having adduced the fore-cited text (Gal. 4:24), says...'Now here are two covenants mentioned, the first the legal one, by sin rendered ineffectual, entered into which Adam, and now again promulgate.'...And afterwards, speaking of the law of works, he adds...'And this is that covenant promulgate on Mount Sinai, which is called one of the covenants,' Gal 4:24...The words of the latter, speaking of the covenant of works are these, 'Yea, it is expressly called a covenant' (Hos. 6, Gal. 4). And Mr. Gillespie proves strongly that Galatians 4 is understoodof the covenant of works and grace. — The Marrow of Modern Divinity (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 2009), 75-76.

Now, Boston does not repudiate the idea of the republication of the Covenant of Works. In fact he states,

But that the covenant of works was also, for special ends, repeated and delivered to the Israelites on Mount Sinai, I cannot refuse...Wherefore I conceive the two covenants to have been both delivered on Mount Sinai to the Israelites. — ibid., 76.

In the area of ultimate salvation, the Covenant of Grace is operative:

First, the covenant of grace made with Abraham, contained in the preface, repeated and promulgated there unto Israel,to be believed and embraced by faith, that they might be saved. — ibid., 77.

In the realm of penultimate salvation, i.e. a righteousness that is tied up to the maintenance of Israel as a geopolitical entity, with the Law as the rule of righteousness, the Covenant of Works is active:

Secondly, the covenant of works made with Adam, contained in the same ten commands, delivered with thunderings and lightnings, the meaning of which was afterwards cleared by Moses, describing the righteousness of the law and sanction thereof, repeated and promulgated to the Israelites there, as the original perfect rule of righteousness, to be obeyed. — ibid., 77

If Israel was a type of Christ, then like Christ who obeyed the Covenant of Works perfectly for the attainment of the heavenly land for His people, Israel must itself have been subject to a Covenant of Works with respect to its maintenance in the temporal land for the typology to stick.


Puritan Board Doctor
If Israel was a type of Christ, then like Christ who obeyed the Covenant of Works perfectly for the attainment of the heavenly land for His people, Israel must itself have been subject to a Covenant of Works with respect to its maintenance in the temporal land for the typology to stick.

Yes, but if the Mosaic Covenant was typical in this respect,or had this graciously-given typological teaching aid attached, it partook of the imperfection and shadowiness of all the types.

Here's how imperfect it was:

(a) Adam and Christ were morally perfect and could thus absolutely merit God's favour during a period of probation.

Israel was morally praved and had already broken the archetypal CoW in Adam. Therefore if God was to accept a standard of righteousness from them so that they remained in the Land, and since in an absolute sense they merited nothing but Hell from God, any such acceptance of a "typological merit" would have to be by the grace of God to sinners.

(b) Adam was an individual representing himself and his offspring. Christ was an individual representing Himself and His elect.

Israel was a collection of individuals not representing anyone but themselves and their nation collectively.

(c) Adam and Christ not being sinners didn't have to look to God for saving grace to fulfil their probations.

Israel - being sinners - were dependant on God's common and saving grace to reach and maintain a certain level of negative and positive righteousness and remain in the Land.

(d) Adam and Christ were carrying out their probations to inherit eternal life for themselves and their people.

Israel was carrying out its probation in order to maintain secure tenure in the Land.

(e) Adam's and Christ's probations weren't open ended but had an end and a goal.

Israel's probation was open-ended as they would always be under probation as long as the Mosaic Covenant stood.

(f) The standard of righteousness for Adam and Christ was moral perfection.

The standard of righteousness for sinful Israel was a vaguely-defined (?) level of negative and positive righteousness that fell far short of moral perfection and was produced by common and saving grace in the hearts of sinners that had broken the CoW in Adam.

For these are the two covenants, the one from the Mount Sinai which gendereth to bondage.(Gal 4:24)

But did the Old Covenant "gender to bondage" for those Israelites that ignored it and went after idols?

Or did it "gender to bondage" for Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, David, Asaph, Elijah, Elisha, Solomon, Daniel, Simeon, Nathanael, John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth?

It gendered to bondage for those Jews, notably the Pharisees, who turned it from being a CoG, into a CoW. And in the Apostle Paul's context the Old Covenant gendered to bondage for those Christians who mistakenly believed that they had to cling to the shadows plus Christ for salvation, now that the reality had come.

Even those typological teaching elements like the tenure in the Land were meant to be - and could only be - achieved by common and saving grace, not by "good works" produced without grace.

The New Covenant can also "gender to bondage" if it is turned into a CoW by sinful man.

Which theologian came up with the terminology "Republication of the Covenant of Works"?

Was it one of the great covenant theologians of the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries?

It seems on closer analysis to be highly simplistic and thus misleading.


Puritan Board Freshman
Richard, would you say that you disagree with Thomas Boston then?

He does seem to support the idea of RCoW, though perhaps not using the exact phraseology.


Puritan Board Doctor
I haven't read much Boston, but I did notice in the "Marrow of Modern Divinity", which I read recently, that he subscribed to some kind of version of RoCoW - which may indeed be significantly different to Dr Horton's - as you have noticed.

Whatever may or may not be "going on" with conditional elements in the Mosaic Covenant or "Covenants" they should not be referred to as a Republication of the Covenant of Works for the above reasons. At best it is theological inexactitude at worst it is theologically and spiritually misleading.

The Mosaic Covenant was given in God's great grace to the Israelites - along with any conditional elements, or hypothetical presentations of works as a way of salvation to get them to embrace grace.

If the Israelites were to fulfil any conditions of righteousness to stay in the Land they had to do it by grace, common grace for those among them that didn't have saving faith, but primarily by seeking great effusions of saving grace.

We don't call the New Covenant a RoCoW because it has certain conditions attached. E.g. even if you are a true believer and are in the administration of the New Covenant you can be subject to chastisement from God (even to physical death?) for sin. God can withdraw His felt presence if you sin. The Kirk Session can discipline you if you sin at a certain level of flagrancy and grossness.

But just because the New Covenant has this legal cast, we don't misleadingly call it a Republication of the Covenant of Works, do we?

It is also true that preachers in the New Covenant era can and should follow our Lord's example with the Rich Young Ruler, and present the law hypothetically as a CoW in order to encourage people to flee to the Gospel.

But a hypothetical presentation of the law as a CoW - either under the Old Covenant or the New Covenant - is not a real RoCoW, and therefore should not be called a RoCoW.

If God had really made a RoCoW with the Israelites he'd have been asking them to seek personal salvation in their own strength or seek tenure in the Land in their own strength, without grace.

It's just theological confusion because the Covenant with Adam (or with Christ) is just too different to talk about a RoCoW.

You could talk about a typological legal cast which was a pale shadow of the real CoW with Adam, and later with Christ, which taught the Israelites about God's wrath against sin.

It applied to individuals as well as the nation. e.g. you could be temporarily "cut off" from the Land by temporary exile for certain sins. For the grossest sins against the 10C, and with a high level of evidence, you could be denied a sacrifice and excommunicated by execution and thus permanently removed from the Land.

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
It is also true that preachers in the New Covenant era can and should follow our Lord's example with the Rich Young Ruler, and present the law hypothetically as a CoW in order to encourage people to flee to the Gospel.

But a hypothetical presentation of the law as a CoW - either under the Old Covenant or the New Covenant - is not a real RoCoW, and therefore should not be called a RoCoW.

Hypothetically? Could you explain what you mean by both statements here?


Puritan Board Doctor
The law as a Covenant of Works can be presented to the sinner to help him to understand more clearly that salvation in that way is now closed because by nature we will try to get right with God via the broken CoW rather than through the CoG:

And a ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'"
And he said, "All these I have kept from my youth." When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. (Luke 18:18-23, ESV)

So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. (Exodus 19:7-8)

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, "Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him (Ex 32:1)

And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses' anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. (Ex 32:19)

The people are given a typological lesson involving their own sinfulness of the impossibility of them - sinful Israelites, who have broken the CoW in Adam - keeping the law as a CoW and so being reconciled to God in that way.

They must seek salvation by grace in the Old Covenant administration of the Covenant of Grace. If they seek God in His gracious provision for sin under the Old Covenant they will produce negative and positive righteousness as a nation, which will be the demonstration of their faith, and which will be rewarded by God's grace by secure tenure in the Land.

Sinners - even saved sinners - do not absolutely merit rewards from God. But God in His grace agrees to reward the good works of saved sinners produced to His glory in Christ. This is on top of the justification they receive through exercising faith in Him.

The idea that the Israelites could absolutely merit God's favour to them in remaining in the Land and being blessed in the Land, which would have been a real RoCoW, is ridiculous. God would have been graciously rewarding the evidence of His grace working in them, if they had produced the goods by His grace.

The more genuine believers that there were among the Israelites/Jews, the more the nation would be demonstrating the negative and positive righteousness that God was looking for in His people. This would lead to Him graciously rewarding His people (typologically) in the Land, rather than expressing His anger (typologically).

Neither Moses nor Christ were really presenting the law as a Republication of the CoW. Otherwise they would want us to try to get reconciled to God through the CoW which we had already broken. But this is sinful. Therefore neither God, Moses or Christ are presenting a real Republication of the Covenant of Works. Therefore they are not presenting a Republication of the Covenant of Works.

But there may sometimes be an element of presenting the law as a CoW hypothetically for salvation, to encourage people to seek salvation by grace through faith. It's just for arguement's sake and not really meant.
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Puritan Board Freshman
More quotes from Venema's Critique of "The Law is NOT of Faith," revealing that the republication theory as held by Escondido is detestable error.

“Gordon’s attack upon John Murray in his chapter seems to exceed the bounds of propriety for an academic essay in biblical theology. For example, he asserts that Murray not only could not have made any sense of Paul’s argument in Galatians, but also that whatever he would have written would be ‘obfuscatory in the highest degree’ [253]. And, as if that were not enough, he adds, ‘I like to think that he [i.e. - Murray] was aware that he was entirely flummoxed by Paul’s reasoning, and that he therefore determined not to write anything about the matter until he could make some sense of it.’ In actual fact, Murray does address the matter directly in his commentary on the book of Romans, which includes an appendix on Paul’s appeal to Leviticus 18:5, that we will consider in what follows. Furthermore, Gordon neglects to note that Murray addresses the interpretation of Galatians 3 in his Redemption Accomplished and Applied … and that his lectures on Galatians at Westminster Theological Seminary are available to the public …”

Now, the reason this observation is so damaging (i.e. – “injurious")is that Murray is one of the Theologians that R2K is seeking to take down in terms of his understanding of the Covenant. Now, if R2K authors are this imprecise in their dealing with that which they are contending against how precise are they going to be in building a new model? Given Dr. Venema’s earlier observations regarding Fesko’s “confusing inconsistency” on the matter of Israel’s typology, and since, according to Venema, Estelle “seems to contradict himself” on the issue of nature and significance of the ‘works principle’ in the Mosaic economy one can only conclude that Dr. Venema’s critique has been most damaging (i.e. “injurious) to the R2K paradigm. If Gordon can’t get Murray right in his analysis in overturning Murray and if Fesko has a “confusing inconsistency” on the matter of Israel’s typology, and if Estelle “seems to contradict himself” on the issue of nature and significance of the ‘works principle’ in the Mosaic economy, then Dr. Venema has gone a long way towards damaging (i.e. – being “injurious” unto) the R2K thesis.

Venema quoting O. Palmer Robertson approvingly,

“Kline’s view of the Mosaic economy as a ‘covenant of works’ is fundamentally flawed at several points. He bases his case on the assumption that in God’s redemptive covenants a distinction can be made between the basis of temporal benefits and salvific benefits. But in Scripture these two aspects of redemption are both matters of grace. He must also assume that a difference in the basis for operation may be made between the typological experience of Israel and the redemptive experience. But Vos effectively makes the point that the typological can communicate in its essence nothing different than the symbolized reality it portrays (Biblical Theology, 145-146). Kline’s definition of the Mosaic covenant as a covenant of meritorious works is also flawed by its effort to make a radical distinction between the basic nature of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants in comparison with the Mosaic covenant. The same typological images present in the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants may be found in the Mosaic, and the same type of law condition in relation to promise is found in all three covenants. David admonishes his son / successor Solomon to ‘keep [God’s] decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the law of Moses, so that … the Covenant Lord may keep his promise to me.’ (I Kings 2:3-4 NIV). David obviously saw his covenant relation to the Lord as an extension of the Mosaic covenant and had no problem joining commandments to promises.”

This is damaging (i.e. –"injurious") because it overturns the whole R2K approach to covenant and gives chapter and verse as to why it cannot be sustained.

“The Theological problem posed by the republication thesis can be stated rather simply. If what belongs to the substance of the covenant of works does not belong to the substance of the covenant of grace in any of its administrations, it is semantically and theologically problematic to denominate the Mosaic administration as in any sense a covenant of works.”

Now, Dr. Venema is being polite here by using the word “problematic” but what he has done in this quote is he has located the Rhino in the living room of R2K covenant understanding by pointing out a huge contradiction. A contradiction that unless it is resolved is completely damaging (i.e. – “injurious") to the R2K cause.

“When the fundamental and substantial differences between the covenant of works and covenant of grace are acknowledged, it is difficult to see how the Mosaic administration could be in any sense a republication of the covenant of works.”

Damaging (i.e. – “injurious") because Dr. Venema clearly says, after a long and detailed review of R2K covenantal aspirations … “It just can’t be.”

“In my estimation the failure of the authors of The Law is Not of Faith to affirm vigorously the positive function of the law as a rule of gratitude in the Mosaic economy is not accidental. Because the authors of The Law is Not of Faith view the moral law of God to express necessarily the ‘works principle’ of the covenant of works, they do not have a stable theological basis for affirming the abiding validity of the moral law as a rule of gratitude.”

This is damaging (i.e. – “injurious") because if this is a accurate analysis the truth of it overturns the whole structure of the Heidelberg Catechism.

Now, Dr. Venema’s critique was over 80 pages long. I have only given a Whitman’s sampler of his work. I have done so in order to reveal that Venema’s work can’t just be pushed to the side with a oblique … “It’s not so damaging” (i.e. – “injurious") observation. It is damaging (i.e. – “injurious") to the R2K cause. Indeed, it is every bit as damaging (i.e. – “injurious") as the Kerux review was when in was published. The only substantial difference between those two reviews was style. The Kerux piece was far more bad cop while Venema’s piece is far more “good cop.”
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