Horton, the Mosaic Covenant, and the WCF

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G.Wetmore

Puritan Board Freshman
Mr. Myer,

You say:

Whatever, Gabe. You're not interacting with the material from Witsius and Hodge that I posted, nor my analysis of your position, and I don't feel like wasting my time arguing with you.

I actually did think I was interacting with your "analysis" of my position. That is, I was just pointing out that you unjustly misrepresented my position. You attributed things to me which I never said, and do not believe. And you threw in a little name calling, just for fun.

And all because I asked for Biblical warrant for your position.

I don't feel as though that is a very loving or fair response to have with a fellow Christian who disagrees with you.
 

Catechist

Puritan Board Freshman
Book IV, Chap IV, XLIX Witsius writes, "We are not, however, to imagine, that the doctrine of the covenant of works was repeated, in order to set up again such a covenant with the Israelites, in which they were to seek righteousness and salvation."

Though Witsius asserts repetition in some respects, it was not a repeating of the covenant of works which he clearly distinguishes.

For example, Book iv, Chap iv, LI Witsius writes, "the covenant made with Israel at mount Sinai was not formally the covenant of works, 1st. Because they cannot be renewed with the sinner, in such a sense as to say, if, for the future, thou shalt perfectly perform every instance of obedience, thou shalt be justified by that, according to the covenant of works. For, by this, the pardon of former sins would be presupposed, which the covenant of works excludes,. 2ndly. Because God did not require perfect obedience from Israel, as a condition of this covenant, as a cause of claiming the reward; but sincere obedience, as an evidence of reverence and gratitude. 3rdly. Because it did not conclude Israel under the curse, in the sense peculiar to the covenant of works, if they sinned but in the least instance."

The national covenant made with Israel was not the covenant of works. But as Witsius writes subsequently in LIV, "It was a national covenant between God and Israel..." I don't think Witsius would contradict what he just wrote, nor does he diminish his principle caveats when he states that the national covenant made with Israel is not the covenant of works; though through synecdoche, repetition is observed, in part, but not in kind or administration. The covenant of works before the fall was peculiar to Adam as he represented his posterity. Never again will the covenant of works be repeated in such kind or administration. When the attempted republication is made in kind or administration, we abuse the legitimate function of substitution.

What good can be done or practical application attained, asserting a republished covenant of works based upon the Adamic covenant of works. The covenant at Sinai is clearly a consequent, "both of the covenant of grace and of works; but was formally neither one or the other."

Perfect obedience is replaced by sincere obedience, which in turn, is grace, but not one and the same.

Overstating principles such that a repetition of the covenant of works equates to a repeating of the covenant of works, in the same sense, is an abuse of terms. It is against the nature of the covenant of works. See also Book 1, Chap. ix, XX.

For those who speak of the republished covenant of works, do you do so under the umbrella of repetition or of repeating? Too much of the language in the above posts, appears to mix the two to too great a degree, which is unfortunate.
__________________
Kevin Barrow
Lynden, WA
Worshipping @
URC Lynden WA
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Hi Kevin,

You make a good point. Witsius was making the same point as WCF 19 (which opens with a full restatement of the covenant of works! and closes with a denial that any sinner can obey this law unto justification after the fall).

Thus, Sinaitic law was a republication of the covenant of works in one sense and not in another. As a way of justification, for sinners, the law is abrogated. Nevertheless, the substance of the creational law (WCF 19) was re-stated with the first use in view, to drive the Israelites to Christ.

In that sense, there is little doubt that the Sinaitic law was a republication of the covenant of works. The antecedent of "this law" in WCF 19.2 is clearly the covenant of works in 19.1.

The question remains whether there was any sense in which the
covenant of works was republished to Israel as a national covenanted people relative to the land.

The principle of republication is widely attested in the earlier Reformed literature. In addition to the rough citations/quotations I've provided, I've also offered references to other primary texts. It is also found in Cartwright and Rollock (if I haven't cited them already).

The question is, what do we do with this thread in earlier Reformed theology? Do we conclude that it was mistaken or do we modify it and use it to try to address an unfinished element of Reformed theology?

I prefer the latter move.

We need to recognize that the republication occurred post lapsum and to those to whom the covenant of grace had been promulgated. So, no advocate of republication of whom I'm aware, thinks that the terms of the covenant of works in republication were identical to those ante lapsum.

I think it's helpful to consider republication relative to the pedagogical, civil, and moral uses of the law. The same law performs multiple functions simultaneously in the life of national Israel.

In favor of some idea of republication is the fact that Israel was ultimately expelled from Jerusalem and lost his status as the national covenanted people on the basis of his disobedience. This is an expression of the legal principle.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
NCT is a significant departure from confessional Reformed theology. Strictly speaking, it isn't "covenant theology" at all, since it adopts a fairly radical dispensational approach to interpreting the Bible.

On NCT principles, there is literally nothing in principle to be gained from the Old Testament. It is useful for one thing: historical data. It has as much relevance to a "New Covenant" believer as the Apocrypha. If all a "New Covenant" believer has is the New Testament, in fact if all he has is Acts and the letters, he has all the Bible he really needs. The gospels are significant for the facts of Jesus life and ministry, but the New Covenant only comes into effect once Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper, and is followed by the complex of events that was his death, burial, and resurrection (the necessary bloodletting for the creation of this covenant, and the confirmation of its acceptance by God by his raising Christ from the dead).

NCT's "theology of (biblical) law" is thoroughly erroneous. (BTW, just because someone manages consistency doesn't validate his position; a man may be consistently wrong). NCT's view of the relations between the historic covenant arrangements of redemptive history are quite dispensational. There is no appreciation for the unity of the Covenant of Grace, or the fact that we belong to one and the same covenant as Abraham.

I think that NCT is basically a reaction against Reformed Baptist confessionalism. R-Bs were those who basically accepted the Covenant Theology of the Reformation, so far as it taught a bi-covenant scheme (Covenant of Works/ Covenant of Grace), of course without the unity of the sign. Over time, Baptists in the US generally moved away from the covenant theology of the Reformation entirely (and in much of Baptistry, Reformed soteriology as well).

As time has progressed, there has been a serious effort on the part of Founders, etc., to regain some lost ground, and that move necessitates a return to a view of the unity of the Covenant of Grace. However, not everyone who has bought into Reformed soteriology (TULIP) has also been willing to become "whole Bible" Christians again. Hence, the rationale behind NCT.

I would call NCT the latest (radical) attempt to construct a version of the church that uses only the New Testament (New Covenant document) as the basis for understanding it. They wish to retain what they think previous Baptist theology has gotten right, i.e baptism for professors, TULIP, certain elements of dispensationalism. In other words,, they want to "purify" Baptist theology.

If you are Presbyterian or ContinentalReformed, NCT will not be helpful at all in answering our theological questions. If you are a Confessional Baptist, I don't think you will want to take this road away from your historic connections to the Reformation.
 

G.Wetmore

Puritan Board Freshman
In favor of some idea of republication is the fact that Israel was ultimately expelled from Jerusalem and lost his status as the national covenanted people on the basis of his disobedience. This is an expression of the legal principle.


Dr. Clark, I disagree with you. Israel did not lose his status as the covenant people because he failed to obey a covenant of works! The Jewish people were judged, and were cut out of the covenant because of unbelief! It was because they didn't have faith. Their sinful rebellion was simply indicative of their heart.

Notice again what Paul says of this in Romans. In speaking concerning Israel's being cut out of the covenant he says this:
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness, attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith:
Rom. 9:31 but Israel, following after a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.
Rom. 9:32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works. They stumbled at the stone of stumbling;
Rom. 9:33 even as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame.
Rom. 10:1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved.
Rom. 10:2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
Rom. 10:3 For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
Rom. 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth
.

The Jewish people were judged because they sought to establish their own righteousness. They tried to follow God's law as if it were by works, and not by faith. They tried to use God's law to establish their own righteousness, and refused to submit themselves to God's righteousness. In short, they were judged for unbelief.
 

G.Wetmore

Puritan Board Freshman
the substance of the creational law (WCF 19) was re-stated with the first use in view, to drive the Israelites to Christ.

In that sense, there is little doubt that the Sinaitic law was a republication of the covenant of works.

Dr. Clark,

With all due respect, I think you might want to repeal this argument. If that reasoning is followed, the new covenant is a republication of the covenant of works. The new covenant surely teaches the moral law, and drives us to Christ. According to your argument, that would therefore mean: "In that sense, there is little doubt that the New Covenant was a republication of the covenant of works.

Are you really sure you want to use this argument?
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Gabriel,

I don't accept the major premise of your criticism.

When Paul (2 Cor 3) and Hebrews (7-10) contrast the the Old and New Covenants they are contrasting that epoch that began with Moses with that which was inaugurated by Christ.

As I understand redemptive history, the distinctive aspect of the Old/Mosaic Covenant was the legal/typological/temporary/national element that was (Gal 3) superimposed upon the Abrahamic.

It was that legal/temporary/typological/national element that was repealed in the New Covenant.

The New Covenant is a re-articulation of the Abrahamic (and first Noahic) covenants without the typological elements inherent to them.

We cannot say that the Old (Mosaic) Covenant was legal relative to justification -- that would be dispensatiionalism!-- but it was clearly legal in some respects. WCF 19 recognizes all of the aspects that I've listed here. They are all abrogated.

What further complicates things is that the Israelites were also participants in the Abrahamic covenant of which Moses was ALSO necessarily an administration. This means that, to the degree the land promise/tenure was related to the Abrahamic as a type of salvation, it was also gracious. To the degree the land promise/tenure was related to the Mosaic typology, it was legal.

Thus we don't pit Israel's relation to the Abrahamic against his relation to the Mosaic. It was the latter that was abrogated, however. Thus the distinctly Mosaic aspects were temporary in a way that the Abrahamic were not.

rsc
 

A5pointer

Puritan Board Sophomore
Gabriel,

I don't accept the major premise of your criticism.

When Paul (2 Cor 3) and Hebrews (7-10) contrast the the Old and New Covenants they are contrasting that epoch that began with Moses with that which was inaugurated by Christ.

As I understand redemptive history, the distinctive aspect of the Old/Mosaic Covenant was the legal/typological/temporary/national element that was (Gal 3) superimposed upon the Abrahamic.

It was that legal/temporary/typological/national element that was repealed in the New Covenant.

The New Covenant is a re-articulation of the Abrahamic (and first Noahic) covenants without the typological elements inherent to them.

We cannot say that the Old (Mosaic) Covenant was legal relative to justification -- that would be dispensatiionalism!-- but it was clearly legal in some respects. WCF 19 recognizes all of the aspects that I've listed here. They are all abrogated.

What further complicates things is that the Israelites were also participants in the Abrahamic covenant of which Moses was ALSO necessarily an administration. This means that, to the degree the land promise/tenure was related to the Abrahamic as a type of salvation, it was also gracious. To the degree the land promise/tenure was related to the Mosaic typology, it was legal.

Thus we don't pit Israel's relation to the Abrahamic against his relation to the Mosaic. It was the latter that was abrogated, however. Thus the distinctly Mosaic aspects were temporary in a way that the Abrahamic were not.

rsc

:ditto: This is how I see it, NCT was just bashed here as being dispensational which is not true at all. Dr. Clark has stated in general the framework of NCT as I see it. I see the writer of Hebrews plainly showing appropriate discontinuity between the 2 covenants. I would like to have a covenentalist explain away the clear language in Hebrews.
 

Catechist

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi Prof. Clark,

"The principle of republication is widely attested in the earlier Reformed literature. In addition to the rough citations/quotations I've provided, I've also offered references to other primary texts. It is also found in Cartwright and Rollock (if I haven't cited them already).

The question is, what do we do with this thread in earlier Reformed theology? Do we conclude that it was mistaken or do we modify it and use it to try to address an unfinished element of Reformed theology?"

Prof. Clark, I would like to know how you understand the earlier Reformed literature in light of their practical application of national covenanting. I think their practice lends a great deal to the interpretation of their principles.

For Example, the National Covenant of Scotland comes in view as well as the Solemn League and Covenant. Robert Rollock being party to the first and the Westminster Divines also, from Scotland, who were instrumental in WCF ch.19.

These covenants were not a republication of the covenant of works but were National Covenants premised upon the covenant of grace, yet not formally the covenant of grace, for the participating nations. Do you believe these covenants were lawful national covenants?

Samuel Rutherford, writes, "Hence, the clear difference betwixt the external visible and national covenanting of the people of old, when they were brought out of the Land of Egypt; And the internal and personal (though it may be visible also) covenanting with God. This under the new testament is a new covenant, and all the old shadows are abolished: the former is old."

"Because he chose (with a covenant choice) the Jews and their seed, Deut. 4:37. Deut 10:15. Gen 17.7 then he must be the God of their seed. But he choseth with a covenant choice, and calling the nations, Isa 2:2,3. All the kindreds of the earth under the new testament, Psalm 22:27. All Egypt and Assyria under the New Testament. Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hand, Isa. 19:29. All the kingdoms of the world are the Lords, and his sons, and he reigns in them, by his word and gospel, as the seventh soundeth, Rev. 11:15. all the Gentiles are his, Isa 60: 1,2,3,4. Mal 1:11, All the ends of the earth, and heathen, Psal 2: 8,9. Psal 72:7,8,9,10."

Would you conclude that the WCF republishes the covenant of works in new testament times. I do not believe it is so, yet I do believe that the national covenanting which did exist, and will exist in the future, is basd upon promises of scripture as quoted above.

The application being, they extended the idea of national covenanting on the basis of the promise onto the Gentiles nations which stems from the original covenant made with Israel, not from the covenant of works, per se, which is abolished.

I like what you stated, when you spoke of an unfinished element of reformed theology, which is clearly in view, as far I understand the original intent of these earlier reformed writers, which comes to fruition under the New Testament, complete with the promises attached to the nations.
 

aleksanderpolo

Puritan Board Freshman
What further complicates things is that the Israelites were also participants in the Abrahamic covenant of which Moses was ALSO necessarily an administration. This means that, to the degree the land promise/tenure was related to the Abrahamic as a type of salvation, it was also gracious. To the degree the land promise/tenure was related to the Mosaic typology, it was legal.

Dr Clark,

If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that the land promise in the Abrahamic covenant was gracious in nature, while the land promise in the Mosaic covenant was legal in nature? Can you elaborate on that? What do you think of the typological element (earthly kingdom) in the Davidic covenant?

To me, it seems the land promise in the Mosaic covenant was an extension/fulfillment of the land promise in the Abrahamic covenant, I don't see a fundamental difference between the nature of the land promise in the two...

I don't think you are a NCT proponent, but it seems the "republication of CoW in typological sense" language has led to many misunderstanding, leading even to charges of dispensationalism. What do you think are the benefits of this view over the other view? Sorry for my imprecise language... :p

Blessings,
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
NCT was just bashed here as being dispensational which is not true at all. Dr. Clark has stated in general the framework of NCT as I see it. I see the writer of Hebrews plainly showing appropriate discontinuity between the 2 covenants. I would like to have a covenentalist explain away the clear language in Hebrews.

Please allow a response.
1) I did not say NCT is "dispensational", which is a term open to a range of definition; to quote myself "it adopts a fairly radical dispensational approach to interpreting the Bible;" and "wish to retain ...certain elements of dispensationalism." Honestly, I don't know how anyone can go to the site recommended above by A5pointer, and if one accepts the self-description offered, not affirm the basic truthfulness of my comments.

If I say that confessional Baptist theology has a "covenantalist approach to interpreting the Bible," I should not be construed as asserting that he is thereby a "covenant theologian" in everything, including its paedo-baptist hallmarks. There's a reason why they call their view "Baptist covenant-theology." AND there's a reason why "NEW covenant-theology" is called what it is.

Read that web-site. They DENY all application of the 10 commandments. Sure, they affirm that most of the commands are "repeated" in the NT, and therefore we obey the SIMILAR commands of the NT. But they DENY that the 4th commandment is both MORAL and binding. They DENY that there is any such thing as a 3-part division of the Mosaic legislation. They couldn't care less (about these "artificial, arbitrary" distinctions), except that they say attachment to the 10 commandments is a snare, that it binds the one respecting them to the rest of the Law.

Who are the principal critics of NCT? Presbyterians? No, confessional Baptists. Why? Because they recognize this is a mediating view between dispensationalism and confessional Baptist theology. If the confessionalists are correct, then the NCT half-way-house is NOT the solution to dispensationalism, and it can only detract from a throughgoing reformation of the Baptist arena.

So, say what you will, stating facts isn't bashing, unless you are uncomfortable with those facts.

2) Even if what Dr. Clark said was interpretable on NCT principles, it does not follow that what he means is the same thing that NCT teaches. I doubt sincerely that he would identify his view as substantially in agreement with NCT.

3) As for Hebrews and discontinutity, some argument needs to be set forth, or at least some textual reference to "clear language" (is there any part of Hebrews that ISN'T clear?) so that one can start interacting with it someplace, instead of guessing what is meant.
 

A5pointer

Puritan Board Sophomore
Please allow a response.
1) I did not say NCT is "dispensational", which is a term open to a range of definition; to quote myself "it adopts a fairly radical dispensational approach to interpreting the Bible;" and "wish to retain ...certain elements of dispensationalism." Honestly, I don't know how anyone can go to the site recommended above by A5pointer, and if one accepts the self-description offered, not affirm the basic truthfulness of my comments.

If I say that confessional Baptist theology has a "covenantalist approach to interpreting the Bible," I should not be construed as asserting that he is thereby a "covenant theologian" in everything, including its paedo-baptist hallmarks. There's a reason why they call their view "Baptist covenant-theology." AND there's a reason why "NEW covenant-theology" is called what it is.

Read that web-site. They DENY all application of the 10 commandments. Sure, they affirm that most of the commands are "repeated" in the NT, and therefore we obey the SIMILAR commands of the NT. But they DENY that the 4th commandment is both MORAL and binding. They DENY that there is any such thing as a 3-part division of the Mosaic legislation. They couldn't care less (about these "artificial, arbitrary" distinctions), except that they say attachment to the 10 commandments is a snare, that it binds the one respecting them to the rest of the Law.

Who are the principal critics of NCT? Presbyterians? No, confessional Baptists. Why? Because they recognize this is a mediating view between dispensationalism and confessional Baptist theology. If the confessionalists are correct, then the NCT half-way-house is NOT the solution to dispensationalism, and it can only detract from a throughgoing reformation of the Baptist arena.

So, say what you will, stating facts isn't bashing, unless you are uncomfortable with those facts.

2) Even if what Dr. Clark said was interpretable on NCT principles, it does not follow that what he means is the same thing that NCT teaches. I doubt sincerely that he would identify his view as substantially in agreement with NCT.

3) As for Hebrews and discontinutity, some argument needs to be set forth, or at least some textual reference to "clear language" (is there any part of Hebrews that ISN'T clear?) so that one can start interacting with it someplace, instead of guessing what is meant.



Read that web-site. They DENY all application of the 10 commandments. Sure, they affirm that most of the commands are "repeated" in the NT, and therefore we obey the SIMILAR commands of the NT. But they DENY that the 4th commandment is both MORAL and binding. They DENY that there is any such thing as a 3-part division of the Mosaic legislation. They couldn't care less (about these "artificial, arbitrary" distinctions), except that they say attachment to the 10 commandments is a snare, that it binds the one respecting them to the rest of the Law.

Good summary

2) Even if what Dr. Clark said was interpretable on NCT principles, it does not follow that what he means is the same thing that NCT teaches. I doubt sincerely that he would identify his view as substantially in agreement with NCT.
I will wait to hear from him, I am curious as to his answer

3) As for Hebrews and discontinutity, some argument needs to be set forth, or at least some textual reference to "clear language" (is there any part of Hebrews that ISN'T clear?) so that one can start interacting with it someplace, instead of guessing what is meant.

Sorry, I assumed you would know right where to look, bold for empasis, what I meant was you have some clear, straightforward language to exegete around to maintain the one covenant view.

A New Covenant
7For (P)if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
8For finding fault with them, He says,
"(Q)BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD,
WHEN I WILL EFFECT (R)A NEW COVENANT
WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH;
9(S)NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS
ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND
TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT;
FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT,
AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD.
10"(T)FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL
AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:
I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS,
AND I WILL WRITE THEM (U)ON THEIR HEARTS.
AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD,
AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
11"(V)AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN,
AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, 'KNOW THE LORD,'
FOR (W)ALL WILL KNOW ME,
FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.
12"(X)FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES,
(Y)AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE."

13When He said, "(Z)A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete (AA)But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Hello Bruce (from one Bruce to another),

Thanks for adding a passage with which to work.

The great distinction between the first/second-new, old-obsolete/new, covenant is the primary character of each: the old, or Siniatic, covenant was massively extrinsic, heavily typological, and prospective; whereas the new, or Christ-covenant is primarily intrinsic, fulfillment oriented, and eschatological.

There is a core to the old covenant--something that it has in common with the entire covenant-redemptive scheme begun in the Garden after the fall--which grows and develops right through to the new covenant: promise & fulfilment. Specifically, the promise to save his people from their sins. This promise isn't simply presented, then terminated at the end of each "covenant-era" and repristinated for a new era (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc.). it is the same promise.

So, clearly there is something NOT *new* about the new covenant. No one is saved in any other way than ever they were previously. Nor would it be proper to say that God himself changes, or ever changed. And since he does not change, neither do his moral requirements. E.g. murder was wrong in the Garden, it was wrong after the Garden in Cain's day, it was wrong before Sinai, it was wrong after Sinai, it's wrong today, it will be wrong tomorrow, and it will be wrong to all eternity. The 6th Commandment is eternally valid.

So, it is proper to say that in terms of ethical requirements of God's people, the new covenant changes nothing. God's holiness is still the standard of perfection. And since even in Moses' day, the Law was not for the purpose of justification (Rom. 10:4ff), we also do not have a change there--as if it once was for justification, but isn't any more.

The sober fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the people under the old covenant were not members of the elect according to grace (Rom. 9:27-29). Thus most of them were only in covenant with God in an outward, accidental sense, and not inwardly, substantively, by faith. The massive externals of the covenant both revealed truth to the faithful remnant, and blinded (or veiled, 2 Cor. 3:14) the minds of the faithless majority.

God declares to Jeremiah, even as the pitiful reality of human inability is put on display in the Exile, that a day is coming when there is going to be a difference--a big difference--in the effectiveness of God's covenant dealings. Why? Because he intends to remove the fault present in that majority ("them" Heb. 8:8) with whom he enters into covenant, he will be pouring out his Spirit in great abundance for much regeneration.

God has more elect in this age than in the previous age.

God has no more need of a national covenant (Rom. 9:4-5; 10:4), or massive, blinding/revealing rituals.

The Christ of the OT is no different from the Christ of the NT. The Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament has no essential difference to the Covenant of Grace in the New Testament. We have more of it, greater revelation and realization of it.


Anyway, that's the discontinuity--the stripping away of the massive externals, the transformation of certain aspects, the new retrospective on the once-for-all sacrifice, the pouring out of the Spirit. But there are things about God and about his covenant-redemptive plan that do not--that cannot--change.
 

A5pointer

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hello Bruce (from one Bruce to another),

Thanks for adding a passage with which to work.

The great distinction between the first/second-new, old-obsolete/new, covenant is the primary character of each: the old, or Siniatic, covenant was massively extrinsic, heavily typological, and prospective; whereas the new, or Christ-covenant is primarily intrinsic, fulfillment oriented, and eschatological.

There is a core to the old covenant--something that it has in common with the entire covenant-redemptive scheme begun in the Garden after the fall--which grows and develops right through to the new covenant: promise & fulfilment. Specifically, the promise to save his people from their sins. This promise isn't simply presented, then terminated at the end of each "covenant-era" and repristinated for a new era (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc.). it is the same promise.

So, clearly there is something NOT *new* about the new covenant. No one is saved in any other way than ever they were previously. Nor would it be proper to say that God himself changes, or ever changed. And since he does not change, neither do his moral requirements. E.g. murder was wrong in the Garden, it was wrong after the Garden in Cain's day, it was wrong before Sinai, it was wrong after Sinai, it's wrong today, it will be wrong tomorrow, and it will be wrong to all eternity. The 6th Commandment is eternally valid.

So, it is proper to say that in terms of ethical requirements of God's people, the new covenant changes nothing. God's holiness is still the standard of perfection. And since even in Moses' day, the Law was not for the purpose of justification (Rom. 10:4ff), we also do not have a change there--as if it once was for justification, but isn't any more.

The sober fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the people under the old covenant were not members of the elect according to grace (Rom. 9:27-29). Thus most of them were only in covenant with God in an outward, accidental sense, and not inwardly, substantively, by faith. The massive externals of the covenant both revealed truth to the faithful remnant, and blinded (or veiled, 2 Cor. 3:14) the minds of the faithless majority.

God declares to Jeremiah, even as the pitiful reality of human inability is put on display in the Exile, that a day is coming when there is going to be a difference--a big difference--in the effectiveness of God's covenant dealings. Why? Because he intends to remove the fault present in that majority ("them" Heb. 8:8) with whom he enters into covenant, he will be pouring out his Spirit in great abundance for much regeneration.

God has more elect in this age than in the previous age.

God has no more need of a national covenant (Rom. 9:4-5; 10:4), or massive, blinding/revealing rituals.

The Christ of the OT is no different from the Christ of the NT. The Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament has no essential difference to the Covenant of Grace in the New Testament. We have more of it, greater revelation and realization of it.


Anyway, that's the discontinuity--the stripping away of the massive externals, the transformation of certain aspects, the new retrospective on the once-for-all sacrifice, the pouring out of the Spirit. But there are things about God and about his covenant-redemptive plan that do not--that cannot--change.

Thank you for the thought ful reply. I will just suggest some conclusions I see in the texts and biblical theology, nothing fancy from me, I am a simple in my thinking.

1. The Mosaic Covenant had as its scope as to benefits/curses (1) God's special real presence with Israel in the land thus the comments to Moses to tell the people to go on without Him after their first breach (2) Blessings and Curses associated with that presence or lack of it (3) the blessings and curses were physical, temporal if you will and had nothing to do with Salvation Spiritually as we may call it. (4) This Mosaic covenant never had anything to do with the true saving covenant promised to Abraham which runs parallel to the Mosaic and certainly includes the remnant as I am sure we agree. (5) It is not denied by my understanding that the Mosaic although very distinct ontologically from the new is a well matched type/anti-type of the new. The Old is only physical and temporal in nature while the new is spiritual and eternal. (6) The covenant was kept or broken corporately by the nation and was not binding on individuals as to their eternal state spiritually.


As I read your post we are not eons apart in observations. I do though see the covenants(Mosaic and New) as being two totally different covenants with different objectives. I see the new in the promise to Abraham not Moses. Respectfully I must say that your reply on Hebrews does not deal with the language denoting 2 covenants. This Idea of the " the New is really the old just administered differently" does not do justice to the writer of Hebrews. Thank you again for indulging me.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I wrote in another thread, what I'm about to repeat here:
that there are two basic "approaches" to take to the Bible, or "stances". And our exchange here is more evidence of that difference. One approach starts in Genesis, and reads "through". (I am not necesarity speaking "literally", but the "manner" of approach.) Such is my approach. The other starts in the New Testament, and begins with certain assumptions presumed from it, and proceeds to read the OT in light of those. Such is the baptist approach, generally.

For example: The idea that the NC is spiritual/eternal, the OC is physical/temporal. My understanding is that this notion would have been utterly incomprehensible to any true believer, under any covenant administration in the Old Testament. An OT Israelite, someone who shared the faith of Abraham, living during (for instance) King Uzziah's term, would have rejected this concept upon his first hearing it (per Heb. 11:13-16). The covenant he belonged to as an Israelite would have taught him something completely different.

But if one starts with the idea (perhaps drawn from this text or that in the NT) that the NC is "spiritual" and that makes it different from the OT, then the OC must be physical. Take the Hebrews 8 text. It says that in the NC God will write his law on their hearts, and that no one will teach his neighbor "Know the Lord!" for they all will know him. So, perhaps at first glance one thinks "this is what MAKES the NC new." Is it? If you were saved in the OC, it had to be by regeneration, by the renewal of the law in the heart. Moreover, we live in the NC age today. Do we need the exhortation of the Word, "Know the Lord!"? Most assuredly. So on both these counts, the NC cannot be distinguished by a superficial reliance on these "markers".

Furthermore, since the new covenant is the same in substance with Abraham's covenant, how is it new with respect to the Siniatic when in substance it predates it? Wouldn't that make it an "older" covenant? After all, that is essentially what Paul says, Gal. 3:17. Abraham's covenant was "new" to the previous. Moses' was "new" to Abraham's. David's was "new" to Moses'. Every time God renews and refreshes his covenant it's *new*.

So what makes the new covenant new? We're back to the same question I was providing an answer for above. Hebrews 8:8 tells us what the problem was: "Finding fault with them..." THEY were non-regenerate, non-elect persons. Not all of them, but most of them. God could and did set up a covenant with them, a covenant which spiritual significance was hidden to most of them, because God did not give them new eyes to see, nor a heart to believe.

What is new about the new covenant? Simple. The majority/minority are flipped. The remnant is now the main body. I don't have search high and low under every pew in the church to find one, just one true brother in Christ.

And the Spirit of God is not being offered in an eydropper, but poured out like a waterfall. Its a copious rain. Note Ezek 36:26,27; 37:14,26,27; and of course Joel 2:28--These are parallel texts to the Jeremiah 31 passage cited in Hebrews.

And Christ brings in fulfillment. In a sense that is the "newest" factor of all, the fact that we look backward as well as forward. The fact that in him all things are NEW (Rev. 21:5). Actually, I think that the writer to the Hebrews has a much bigger context in mind than the keynote text he selects. Alone, it doesn't answer all the questions it raises, and it was never meant to. To fully answer the questions, the rest of Scripture (in particular the Scripture he possessed, the OT) must be brought to bear upon it, as I believe he intended. Only that kind of thinking will "do justice" to the writer of Hebrews, in my opinion.

Thank you. Blessings.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Hi Kevin,

I try to give a sketchy account of this on my site, in the theses on covenant theology. I don't want to repeat those here.

Prof. Clark, I would like to know how you understand the earlier Reformed literature in light of their practical application of national covenanting. I think their practice lends a great deal to the interpretation of their principles.

For Example, the National Covenant of Scotland comes in view as well as the Solemn League and Covenant. Robert Rollock being party to the first and the Westminster Divines also, from Scotland, who were instrumental in WCF ch.19.

There's no question that our forefathers were theocratic and that the Scots held to a national covenant. As I've said many times here and elsewhere (e.g., on the De Regno Christ blog and on the HB) I think that any attempt to establish an extra-canonical national covenant is a mistake.

I don't know that WCF 19 logically requires a national covenant.

I agree that the the Scottish National Covenants were not a republication. They understood that they were not national Israel.

Whatever criticisms I have of American Presbyterianism on worship and subscription, I agree with that tradition re the national covenant.

Would you conclude that the WCF republishes the covenant of works in new testament times. I do not believe it is so, yet I do believe that the national covenanting which did exist, and will exist in the future, is basd upon promises of scripture as quoted above.

No. That's the point of ch. 19. Republication was part and parcel of the temporary, typological, national Israelite covenant.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Polo,

No, I have not a shred of support for the so-called New Covenant Theology. I've made that clear here many times on this board.

It seems to me to exist principally to release Christians from obligation to the 4th commandment, a position I heartily reject.

You can hear a sketch of my approach to the Sabbath in the January WSC Faculty Conference lectures. They're available from the WSC bookstore

NCT may not actually be antinomian and dispensational but it is certainly on the same trajectory.

As for the Mosaic Covenant as a typological covenant of works being difficult, I agree that it is, but there is no approach to this question that is no problem free.

That's why I tried to make it clear that there are two parallel covenants operating in history simultaneously and that Israelites participated in BOTH at the same time. As I read Witsius vol 2 (not vol 1 as I said earlier) he makes the same point.

Some folk accuse anyone who identifies any strong discontinuity between Moses and Christ of being dispensational. This, of course, is nonsense.

In that case the writer to the Hebrews and Paul are dispensationalist for calling the Mosaic/Old Covenant inferior and fading etc.

Anyone who affirms the substantial unity of the covenant of grace from Gen 3:15 forward as I have done for years is not a dispensationalist.

rsc


Dr Clark,

If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that the land promise in the Abrahamic covenant was gracious in nature, while the land promise in the Mosaic covenant was legal in nature? Can you elaborate on that? What do you think of the typological element (earthly kingdom) in the Davidic covenant?

To me, it seems the land promise in the Mosaic covenant was an extension/fulfillment of the land promise in the Abrahamic covenant, I don't see a fundamental difference between the nature of the land promise in the two...

I don't think you are a NCT proponent, but it seems the "republication of CoW in typological sense" language has led to many misunderstanding, leading even to charges of dispensationalism. What do you think are the benefits of this view over the other view? Sorry for my imprecise language... :p

Blessings,
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Good summary Rev. Buchanan.

Bruce (Breunig) - this is a Confessional board. There's good reason for that. I used to wonder why folks were stodgy about that - thinking that "...why I believe the Scriptures but they trust in their Confession...."

I now view it as: "I confess the Scriptures along with the Church...."

That is, while I should understand the Scriptures and study them - my study is not done on a desert island but in the context of the Church who has been gifted with Pastors and Teachers whose job it is to teach and bring us all to the unity of the faith (i.e. a common Confession).

NCT is un-Confessional and hence, in my view, novel and un-Scriptural. Those who trust their own interpretations of the Word above the centuries-old testimony of the Church will never understand that the two statements are complementary.

I'm saying this to be clear: we do not promote un-Confessional theology here. Not only is NCT un-Confessional but the men that teach it ought to repent and learn that it's not "me and the Bible" but the "Church confessing the authority of the Bible".
 

Catechist

Puritan Board Freshman
Dear Prof. Clark,

I appreciate your patience with me.

I think the point I am making, is that Israel was not included under the curse in the same way which was peculiar in the covenant of works, if they sinned but in the least instance.

Samuel Rutherford, said it this way, in his book, The Covenant of Life Opened, "But the truth is, the Law as pressed upon Israel was not a Covenant of Works. The law as the Law or as a Covenant of Works is made with perfect men who need no mercy; But this covenant is made with sinners, with an express preface of mercy, I am the Lord thy God that brought thee out of the land of Egypt, &c. It is made with stiff-necked Israel Deut. 29 Deut 30.c. 31. c. 32. and that is called a covenant from the end and object, as motions are denominate from their end: for the end of the Lords pressing the law upon them was to bring them under a blessed necessity to seek salvation in their true city of Refuge Christ Jesus, who redeemed them out of spiritual bondage of sin."
 

A5pointer

Puritan Board Sophomore
Good summary Rev. Buchanan.

Bruce (Breunig) - this is a Confessional board. There's good reason for that. I used to wonder why folks were stodgy about that - thinking that "...why I believe the Scriptures but they trust in their Confession...."

I now view it as: "I confess the Scriptures along with the Church...."

That is, while I should understand the Scriptures and study them - my study is not done on a desert island but in the context of the Church who has been gifted with Pastors and Teachers whose job it is to teach and bring us all to the unity of the faith (i.e. a common Confession).

NCT is un-Confessional and hence, in my view, novel and un-Scriptural. Those who trust their own interpretations of the Word above the centuries-old testimony of the Church will never understand that the two statements are complementary.

I'm saying this to be clear: we do not promote un-Confessional theology here. Not only is NCT un-Confessional but the men that teach it ought to repent and learn that it's not "me and the Bible" but the "Church confessing the authority of the Bible".


Sir, I appreciate this site for learning and discussion and thank you for welcoming me. I do not want to be out of bounds of the guidelines here. If you are telling me that it is a problem to discuss or defend non-confessional views I will abide. Please make it clear to me if this is forbidden.

Having said that you say "NCT is un-Confessional and hence, in my view, novel and un-Scriptural." Do you and others here really feel this way about the relationship of truth/confessions/scripture? Kind of shocking.

Respectfully, Bruce
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Hi Kevin,

It depends upon which use of the covenant of works is in view. It was widely held that the covenant of works was abrogated as an actual way of justification.

When the older theologians spoke of republication I understand them to have been saying that the covenant of works was republished in the pedagogical use of the law to teach Israel the greatness of his sin and misery and drive him to faith in Christ. Thus, by "republication," they were saying the same thing Rutherford is saying in substance. Given the sense in which Rutherford used "covenant of works" (as in WCF ch 7 and ch 19)

I think we agree that the fall creates a major in change in the way Israel could relate to the law.

Clearly other writers in the same period did speak of republication of the covenant of works. Indeed, it's republication was a major proof of the initial covenant of works. It' always, however, mutatis mutandis - with the changes having been changed.

I'm proposing that, because of her one-off, absolutely unique, typological, temporary, national covenant status, Israel had an additional, typological relation to the law relative to the land. As I tell our congregation, national Israel was a sermon illustration. Israel's relation to the land was a great drama and the formal, legal basis for his forfeiture of the national covenant was disobedience grounded in unbelief.

Israel was under a typological, not soteriological covenant of works. It's a post-lapsarian, typological covenant of works.

I think all civil entities are in an analogous covenant of works. I may be gracious to the city and not prosecute them for their every failure, and a cop may let me drive 40 in a 35, but we could and do sometimes hold each other accountable on a works basis. If the city's failures become chronic, I take them to court. If I don't mow my yard, the city fines me and I have to pay up or go to jail. Now, is my relation to the city legal or gracious? Well, it's gracious right up to the point it isn't any more and I go off to jail or they have to begin performing their duties.

In strict justice, God might have executed the sanctions of the covenant of works immediately against Israel but, for the purposes of the giant, historical, temporary, sermon illustration, he was gracious. Nevertheless, the type of covenant under which Israel lived as national entity was formally legal, it was a suzerain-vassal treaty. Those same families also lived under a royal grant covenant that was wholly gracious relative to salvation and justification.

This is a good way to account for all of the conditional legal language found throughout the Pentateuch and for the conditional language inherent in the 10 words themselves: "that your days may be long in the land..."

The national, legal covenant was a ritual. Jesus ritually re-enacted at least aspects of Israel's history. Unlike Israel, Yahweh's adopted son, the true Son Jesus did meet the qualifications to be under a covenant of works. Israel was 40 years in the desert, Jesus was 40 days (without food). Israel gave in to temptation to grumble, Jesus did not. Jesus was the true Israel. He went down to Egypt and "out of Egypt have I called my Son" (Matt 2). Israel (like Adam) polluted God's holy temple, but Jesus sanctified it and chased the devil out (twice!). Israel (like Adam) made false covenants with the nations and went after their gods. Jesus kept covenant with his father and called the nations to repent and believe. He fulfilled not only the terms of the covenant of works with Adam (as the last Adam) and the terms of the pactum salutis (John 17) but also the terms of the national covenant. He kept the law, he served and loved God with all his faculties and his neighbor as himself. He obeyed and offered a right sacrifice.

rsc

Dear Prof. Clark,

I appreciate your patience with me.

I think the point I am making, is that Israel was not included under the curse in the same way which was peculiar in the covenant of works, if they sinned but in the least instance.

Samuel Rutherford, said it this way, in his book, The Covenant of Life Opened, "But the truth is, the Law as pressed upon Israel was not a Covenant of Works. The law as the Law or as a Covenant of Works is made with perfect men who need no mercy; But this covenant is made with sinners, with an express preface of mercy, I am the Lord thy God that brought thee out of the land of Egypt, &c. It is made with stiff-necked Israel Deut. 29 Deut 30.c. 31. c. 32. and that is called a covenant from the end and object, as motions are denominate from their end: for the end of the Lords pressing the law upon them was to bring them under a blessed necessity to seek salvation in their true city of Refuge Christ Jesus, who redeemed them out of spiritual bondage of sin."
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Sir, I appreciate this site for learning and discussion and thank you for welcoming me. I do not want to be out of bounds of the guidelines here. If you are telling me that it is a problem to discuss or defend non-confessional views I will abide. Please make it clear to me if this is forbidden.

Having said that you say "NCT is un-Confessional and hence, in my view, novel and un-Scriptural." Do you and others here really feel this way about the relationship of truth/confessions/scripture? Kind of shocking.

Respectfully, Bruce

Hi Bruce,
Please allow me to try and nuance what Rich has said. We use the (several) Confessions here as parameters for our discussion. None of us want to be guilty of placing man-made documents on par with the Scripture.

Having made that point clear, by relying on the Confessions (which do contain certain differences, noticably on baptism) we are "in conversation" with the church's interpretation of Scripture in history. So the basis for our discussions NOW are a frame of generally agreed-upon theology. So when Rich (or anyone else here) says that some non-Confessional view is, in his opinion, unScriptural he's really saying no more than "the Confessions are RIGHT in their interpretation/expression of the correct meaning of the Scripture in this area."

In other words: there are more-vital and less-vital areas of every Confession. These days, a man can often hold non- or anti-Confessional views on eschatology, and yet those views may not appear to challenge the fundamental integrity of the Confessional interpretation of Scripture as a whole. So what about NCT? Well, all the Reformed Confessions rely to one degree or another on the Covenant Theology/History of Redemption hermeneutical stance, growing out of the Reformation. A fundamental agreement of all these Confessions--even the Baptist--is that there is ONE Covenant of Grace, though it is administered differently at different times.

NCT certainly bears similarities to Confessional Baptist covenant theology, but it also draws from disparate sources/wells as it presents its "picture" to the world. I'm not as familar with the whole movement as are some of the Confessional Baptists, who are much closer to its sphere. But clearly some of NCT's influences come up from non- and anti-Confessional roots, and so deviate from the basis-for-unity that we've tried to establish here.

I hope this clarifies some.
 

A5pointer

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hi Bruce,
Please allow me to try and nuance what Rich has said. We use the (several) Confessions here as parameters for our discussion. None of us want to be guilty of placing man-made documents on par with the Scripture.

Having made that point clear, by relying on the Confessions (which do contain certain differences, noticably on baptism) we are "in conversation" with the church's interpretation of Scripture in history. So the basis for our discussions NOW are a frame of generally agreed-upon theology. So when Rich (or anyone else here) says that some non-Confessional view is, in his opinion, unScriptural he's really saying no more than "the Confessions are RIGHT in their interpretation/expression of the correct meaning of the Scripture in this area."

In other words: there are more-vital and less-vital areas of every Confession. These days, a man can often hold non- or anti-Confessional views on eschatology, and yet those views may not appear to challenge the fundamental integrity of the Confessional interpretation of Scripture as a whole. So what about NCT? Well, all the Reformed Confessions rely to one degree or another on the Covenant Theology/History of Redemption hermeneutical stance, growing out of the Reformation. A fundamental agreement of all these Confessions--even the Baptist--is that there is ONE Covenant of Grace, though it is administered differently at different times.

NCT certainly bears similarities to Confessional Baptist covenant theology, but it also draws from disparate sources/wells as it presents its "picture" to the world. I'm not as familar with the whole movement as are some of the Confessional Baptists, who are much closer to its sphere. But clearly some of NCT's influences come up from non- and anti-Confessional roots, and so deviate from the basis-for-unity that we've tried to establish here.

I hope this clarifies some.

Bruce thank you, I suppose more vital/less vital can be very subjective. I don't see discussion on covenant view doing final violence to essentials. As I have said I am compelled by the biblical arguement of NCT. It seems to be a new lable and has a few faces. I believe you will find Carson and Moo amoung subscibers to forms of it. If I am reading Mr. R.Scott right he seems to lean that way. I hope he comments. As far as discussion of covenant the ones who seem to go wild are the sabatarians as NCT throws the yoke of the decalouge off in favor of the law of Christ alone, love the lord your God and your neighbor. I desire to be teachable in pursuing the truth, I just am not persuaded that covenentalism fits biblical theology ot he texts. R. Scott any thought on this?
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Bruce,

I think this is the second time I've said this in this thread:

I repudiate NCT as quasi-dispensational antinomianism.

I am totally committed to the sabbatarian theology of the Westminster Standards.

rsc

Bruce thank you, I suppose more vital/less vital can be very subjective. I don't see discussion on covenant view doing final violence to essentials. As I have said I am compelled by the biblical arguement of NCT. It seems to be a new lable and has a few faces. I believe you will find Carson and Moo amoung subscibers to forms of it. If I am reading Mr. R.Scott right he seems to lean that way. I hope he comments. As far as discussion of covenant the ones who seem to go wild are the sabatarians as NCT throws the yoke of the decalouge off in favor of the law of Christ alone, love the lord your God and your neighbor. I desire to be teachable in pursuing the truth, I just am not persuaded that covenentalism fits biblical theology ot he texts. R. Scott any thought on this?
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Sir, I appreciate this site for learning and discussion and thank you for welcoming me. I do not want to be out of bounds of the guidelines here. If you are telling me that it is a problem to discuss or defend non-confessional views I will abide. Please make it clear to me if this is forbidden.

Having said that you say "NCT is un-Confessional and hence, in my view, novel and un-Scriptural." Do you and others here really feel this way about the relationship of truth/confessions/scripture? Kind of shocking.

Respectfully, Bruce

Bruce,

What is shocking these days, actually, is the number of people that call themselves "Reformed" that are shocked by the idea that "me and the Bible-ism" is not what Sola Scriptura actually means. Please read again carefully what I wrote and what Rev. Buchanan wrote.

Here is a good article by Rev. McMahon on the same subject:
http://www.apuritansmind.com/Creeds/McMahonSolaScriptura.htm

The current issue of Modern Reformation also takes up the proper understanding of Sola Scriptura.

We are brethren within a Confessing Body of believers. The Church is not to be a collection of individuals with as many confessions as there are members.

My intent here is to teach and edify. If you want to learn what it means to be Reformed, this is a good place to start. Many of the major controversies today are desires for novelty and unwillingness to submit to the Church's role to testify to the Truth of the Scriptures.
 

Catechist

Puritan Board Freshman
God is Come to Prove the Elect

Dear Prof. Clark,

Thank you for your respectful dialogue.

Hi Kevin,

It depends upon which use of the covenant of works is in view. It was widely held that the covenant of works was abrogated as an actual way of justification.

Agreed. Rom 3:20,21 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets

When the older theologians spoke of republication I understand them to have been saying that the covenant of works was republished in the pedagogical use of the law to teach Israel the greatness of his sin and misery and drive him to faith in Christ. Thus, by "republication," they were saying the same thing Rutherford is saying in substance. Given the sense in which Rutherford used "covenant of works" (as in WCF ch 7 and ch 19)

Agreed in part, if by Israel you mean elect Israel, then we are agreed (WCF 7:5). The pedagogical use of the law was made specifically for the elect.

Rutherford markedly singled out this argument in the Covenant of Life Opened (I Cor. 10:1-4, Heb 11:13), distinguishing them from the reprobate, “Who persecute the Godly the sons of promise, so is the Law as it was in Adams dayes, and now is to all the Reprobate; so the Godly are not under the Law and the Covenant of Works. The Covenant urged upon Believers is to prove them, when they stand afar off and tremble, Ex.20:20, Fear not (saith Moses) God is come to prove you (not to damne you) and therefore Calvin solidely observeth that Paul, (2 Cor. 3), speaks with less respect of the Law and the Prophets do, for their cause, who out of a vain affection of the Law ceremonies, gave too much to the Law and darkened the Gospel….but as it was used by the Lord to prove them, Exod. 29:20, and chase them to Christ.”

I think we agree that the fall creates a major in change in the way Israel could relate to the law.

From what I understand from various writers, the fall created a major change in the way elect Israel related to the law. Reprobate Israel related to the law in the same way Adam did, as Rutherford noted above. And (WCF 7:3) “Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second.” Nor were the accidents of the law peculiar to the Mosaic economy only, for circumcision was first commanded to Abraham and his house, for the sake of the elect. The elect obtained the promises by approaching the law from afar-off (Heb.11:13). Israel at large had a relationship to the covenant of works that had prescribed law as law, bondage and death, as seen also in Adam.

As to the terms and nature of the covenant of works, it was not republished as to obtain life through works of sincere obedience nor ever changed its terms and nature as to require anything less but perfect obedience. Rutherford writes, “this covenant was made with Israel only, Exod. 20, Deut 5.c.6. Deut6:5, 6:7.12. The Covenant of Works is made with all mankind.” A clear distinction that agrees with the law as prescribed to elect Abraham and Israel in WCF 7:5, along with the pedagogical use and intent of the law.

Clearly other writers in the same period did speak of republication of the covenant of works. Indeed, it's republication was a major proof of the initial covenant of works. It' always, however, mutatis mutandis - with the changes having been changed.

But I propose that these changes were made for the elect’s sake. For Christ is the second Adam, not the second Moses. The nature of the covenant of works is peculiar to Adam and all of mankind, not just Israel republished. Moses was a mediator, a type of Christ. Neither does the covenant of works command any ceremonies, sacrifices, or any type of a mediator at all. If the covenant of works were republished, it no longer retained anything due to its nature with such changes.

Rutherford asserts, For the Lord expressly tells them, when he took them by the hand as his married people, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage, Exod. 20. He meant no other covenant then he made with Abraham, of believing, Gen. 15, and of walking before him and being perfect, Gen 17:1,2., which is somewhat more legall, as Moses and the lord expones it, Exod 2:24, Exod. 3:6, Exod. 20. 1,2. And he shows them, Lev 26, if in their enemies land they repent and shall come out and meet the rod, and their uncircumcised heartsshall willingly accept of the punishment of their inquity Lev 26:42: then (saith the Lord) I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember, there is no word of the subservient Covenant with Israel in Sinai. Except that when he mentions the one he excludes the other. For to walk before the Lord required in Abrahams covenant Gen 17:1 is to walk in the ways of the Lord, to fear and love him. Deut 10:12-13 and Samuel, I Sam. 12:22, Joshua, Josh 24:22,23, 24, 25. And Mary, Luke 1:55, And Zacharias, ver. 70,72,73 refer to the covenant made with Abraham, and Deut 6. the Covenant at Horeb, the Lord made with Abraham to give Canaan to his seed.”

I'm proposing that, because of her one-off, absolutely unique, typological, temporary, national covenant status, Israel had an additional, typological relation to the law relative to the land. As I tell our congregation, national Israel was a sermon illustration. Israel's relation to the land was a great drama and the formal, legal basis for his forfeiture of the national covenant was disobedience grounded in unbelief.

I understand Rutherford to apply the typological relation of the law relative to the people of the Jews, all of which signified Christ to come, for the elect. As WCF 7:5 states, “under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignfying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the spirit, to instruct and build up the elct in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament.”

The law as pressed upon Israel was not the covenant of works.

Israel was under a typological, not soteriological covenant of works. It's a post-lapsarian, typological covenant of works.

The covenant of works WCF 19:2, “This law after the fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and as such, was delivered by God upon mount Sinai in ten commandments…” But such a covenant of works cannot be applied to the elect of Israel, as in 19:6, “Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works…” The administration of the covenant shadows are interpreted in (WCF 7:5) for the elect, inclusive of circumcision (Gen:17).

I think all civil entities are in an analogous covenant of works. I may be gracious to the city and not prosecute them for their every failure, and a cop may let me drive 40 in a 35, but we could and do sometimes hold each other accountable on a works basis. If the city's failures become chronic, I take them to court. If I don't mow my yard, the city fines me and I have to pay up or go to jail. Now, is my relation to the city legal or gracious? Well, it's gracious right up to the point it isn't any more and I go off to jail or they have to begin performing their duties.

If the law be fulfilled by grace, we are justified by works. Nor are we in bondage to the dominion of the condemning law. But if we submit ourselves to every lawful ordinance of man for Christ’s sake, then we do well.

Rutherford, “For there can be none under the covenant of works, and also under the covenant of grace, for they are contrair dispensations, and contrair wayes of salvation.”

In strict justice, God might have executed the sanctions of the covenant of works immediately against Israel but, for the purposes of the giant, historical, temporary, sermon illustration, he was gracious. Nevertheless, the type of covenant under which Israel lived as national entity was formally legal, it was a suzerain-vassal treaty. Those same families also lived under a royal grant covenant that was wholly gracious relative to salvation and justification.

I understand that Israel gained temporal merciful benefits because of God’s promises to the elect which were in Israel. When contrasting the covenant of grace with the legal civil covenant of works, Rutherford states, “There is no more reason to say, it was a civil covenant made with Abraham, because it distinguished Abrahams seed from other nations, and an earthly Covenant, because Canaan was promised to them, not to us, then to say there be two covenants of works, one made to Adam, with promise of an earthly Paradise, and another covenant of works to the Jews, with an earthly Canaan; and a third to these who in the gospel time are under the covenant of works.”

This is a good way to account for all of the conditional legal language found throughout the Pentateuch and for the conditional language inherent in the 10words themselves: "that your days may be long in the land..."

But to Israel at large, the conditional language was but a stumblingblock, The righteousness of faith is clearly distinguished from the righteousness of Law-doing. For so Paul, Rom 10:5-7 and Moses, Deut 30:11-14.

Rutherford, “The covenant of works taught nothing of the way of expiation of sin by blood typifying the ransom of blood that Christ was to pay for our sins, as this covenant, all along had sacrifices and blood to confirm it. Exod. 24:8. And Moses took, the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, behold this is the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you, concerning all these words. Now the words were the Ten Commandments. See Heb 9:18-24.”

The national, legal covenant was a ritual. Jesus ritually re-enacted at least aspects of Israel's history. Unlike Israel, Yahweh's adopted son, the true Son Jesus did meet the qualifications to be under a covenant of works. Israel was 40 years in the desert, Jesus was 40 days (without food). Israel gave in to temptation to grumble, Jesus did not. Jesus was the true Israel. He went down to Egypt and "out of Egypt have I called my Son" (Matt 2). Israel (like Adam) polluted God's holy temple, but Jesus sanctified it and chased the devil out (twice!). Israel (like Adam) made false covenants with the nations and went after their gods. Jesus kept covenant with his father and called the nations to repent and believe. He fulfilled not only the terms of the covenant of works with Adam (as the last Adam) and the terms of the pactum salutis (John 17) but also the terms of the national covenant. He kept the law, he served and loved God with all his faculties and his neighbor as himself. He obeyed and offered a right sacrifice.

I do not necessarily see how you’re good words, as written here above, speak to a republication of the covenant of works for Israel at large. Israel (like Adam) is under the original terms and nature of the covenant of works without any requirement to republish another (WCF 19:2). Christ fulfills the covenant of works as our kinsmen redeemer for his elect as promised under various accidents.

Rutherford, "And when God made the covenant with Abraham, Gen 17 and renewed the same, Deut. 29, he made it with these who were not yet standing, vs. 14,15, not with you only, &c, but virtually, radically with us Gentiles, who were not then born, as touching the substantials, for Priesthood, Law service, Types, Sacrifices, Circumcision, yea Baptism, the Lord's supper. Pastors, Teachers, Elders to rule, Deacons, were all accidents, to the substance of the Covenant, to wit, to believe in Christ and to obtain righteousness and Life by Christ."
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Kevin,

Is it your understanding that the only category in which we can speak of the covenant of works is soteriological?

What was Israel's function as a national, corporate entity, in the history of salvation?

rsc


Dear Prof. Clark,

Thank you for your respectful dialogue.



Agreed. Rom 3:20,21 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets



Agreed in part, if by Israel you mean elect Israel, then we are agreed (WCF 7:5). The pedagogical use of the law was made specifically for the elect.

Rutherford markedly singled out this argument in the Covenant of Life Opened (I Cor. 10:1-4, Heb 11:13), distinguishing them from the reprobate, “Who persecute the Godly the sons of promise, so is the Law as it was in Adams dayes, and now is to all the Reprobate; so the Godly are not under the Law and the Covenant of Works. The Covenant urged upon Believers is to prove them, when they stand afar off and tremble, Ex.20:20, Fear not (saith Moses) God is come to prove you (not to damne you) and therefore Calvin solidely observeth that Paul, (2 Cor. 3), speaks with less respect of the Law and the Prophets do, for their cause, who out of a vain affection of the Law ceremonies, gave too much to the Law and darkened the Gospel….but as it was used by the Lord to prove them, Exod. 29:20, and chase them to Christ.”



From what I understand from various writers, the fall created a major change in the way elect Israel related to the law. Reprobate Israel related to the law in the same way Adam did, as Rutherford noted above. And (WCF 7:3) “Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second.” Nor were the accidents of the law peculiar to the Mosaic economy only, for circumcision was first commanded to Abraham and his house, for the sake of the elect. The elect obtained the promises by approaching the law from afar-off (Heb.11:13). Israel at large had a relationship to the covenant of works that had prescribed law as law, bondage and death, as seen also in Adam.

As to the terms and nature of the covenant of works, it was not republished as to obtain life through works of sincere obedience nor ever changed its terms and nature as to require anything less but perfect obedience. Rutherford writes, “this covenant was made with Israel only, Exod. 20, Deut 5.c.6. Deut6:5, 6:7.12. The Covenant of Works is made with all mankind.” A clear distinction that agrees with the law as prescribed to elect Abraham and Israel in WCF 7:5, along with the pedagogical use and intent of the law.



But I propose that these changes were made for the elect’s sake. For Christ is the second Adam, not the second Moses. The nature of the covenant of works is peculiar to Adam and all of mankind, not just Israel republished. Moses was a mediator, a type of Christ. Neither does the covenant of works command any ceremonies, sacrifices, or any type of a mediator at all. If the covenant of works were republished, it no longer retained anything due to its nature with such changes.

Rutherford asserts, For the Lord expressly tells them, when he took them by the hand as his married people, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage, Exod. 20. He meant no other covenant then he made with Abraham, of believing, Gen. 15, and of walking before him and being perfect, Gen 17:1,2., which is somewhat more legall, as Moses and the lord expones it, Exod 2:24, Exod. 3:6, Exod. 20. 1,2. And he shows them, Lev 26, if in their enemies land they repent and shall come out and meet the rod, and their uncircumcised heartsshall willingly accept of the punishment of their inquity Lev 26:42: then (saith the Lord) I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember, there is no word of the subservient Covenant with Israel in Sinai. Except that when he mentions the one he excludes the other. For to walk before the Lord required in Abrahams covenant Gen 17:1 is to walk in the ways of the Lord, to fear and love him. Deut 10:12-13 and Samuel, I Sam. 12:22, Joshua, Josh 24:22,23, 24, 25. And Mary, Luke 1:55, And Zacharias, ver. 70,72,73 refer to the covenant made with Abraham, and Deut 6. the Covenant at Horeb, the Lord made with Abraham to give Canaan to his seed.”



I understand Rutherford to apply the typological relation of the law relative to the people of the Jews, all of which signified Christ to come, for the elect. As WCF 7:5 states, “under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignfying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the spirit, to instruct and build up the elct in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament.”

The law as pressed upon Israel was not the covenant of works.



The covenant of works WCF 19:2, “This law after the fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and as such, was delivered by God upon mount Sinai in ten commandments…” But such a covenant of works cannot be applied to the elect of Israel, as in 19:6, “Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works…” The administration of the covenant shadows are interpreted in (WCF 7:5) for the elect, inclusive of circumcision (Gen:17).



If the law be fulfilled by grace, we are justified by works. Nor are we in bondage to the dominion of the condemning law. But if we submit ourselves to every lawful ordinance of man for Christ’s sake, then we do well.

Rutherford, “For there can be none under the covenant of works, and also under the covenant of grace, for they are contrair dispensations, and contrair wayes of salvation.”



I understand that Israel gained temporal merciful benefits because of God’s promises to the elect which were in Israel. When contrasting the covenant of grace with the legal civil covenant of works, Rutherford states, “There is no more reason to say, it was a civil covenant made with Abraham, because it distinguished Abrahams seed from other nations, and an earthly Covenant, because Canaan was promised to them, not to us, then to say there be two covenants of works, one made to Adam, with promise of an earthly Paradise, and another covenant of works to the Jews, with an earthly Canaan; and a third to these who in the gospel time are under the covenant of works.”



But to Israel at large, the conditional language was but a stumblingblock, The righteousness of faith is clearly distinguished from the righteousness of Law-doing. For so Paul, Rom 10:5-7 and Moses, Deut 30:11-14.

Rutherford, “The covenant of works taught nothing of the way of expiation of sin by blood typifying the ransom of blood that Christ was to pay for our sins, as this covenant, all along had sacrifices and blood to confirm it. Exod. 24:8. And Moses took, the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, behold this is the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you, concerning all these words. Now the words were the Ten Commandments. See Heb 9:18-24.”



I do not necessarily see how you’re good words, as written here above, speak to a republication of the covenant of works for Israel at large. Israel (like Adam) is under the original terms and nature of the covenant of works without any requirement to republish another (WCF 19:2). Christ fulfills the covenant of works as our kinsmen redeemer for his elect as promised under various accidents.

Rutherford, "And when God made the covenant with Abraham, Gen 17 and renewed the same, Deut. 29, he made it with these who were not yet standing, vs. 14,15, not with you only, &c, but virtually, radically with us Gentiles, who were not then born, as touching the substantials, for Priesthood, Law service, Types, Sacrifices, Circumcision, yea Baptism, the Lord's supper. Pastors, Teachers, Elders to rule, Deacons, were all accidents, to the substance of the Covenant, to wit, to believe in Christ and to obtain righteousness and Life by Christ."
 

Catechist

Puritan Board Freshman
National, corporate Israel

Kevin,

Is it your understanding that the only category in which we can speak of the covenant of works is soteriological?

What was Israel's function as a national, corporate entity, in the history of salvation?

rsc

Prof. Clark,

I think it's a mistake to divorce the entity from the interwoven purpose of the entity, and how it applies to the covenanted parties of the entity, within the function of national, corporate Israel.
 
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