Puritan Board Sophomore
Dear Rev. Bradley,
Thankyou for taking the time to paste and type the quotations you regard as relevant to this issue.
No problem, my pleasure... Thank you for your patience and for taking the time to interact with me on this.
I don't know what to make of Owen's covenant structure seeing as he allows for substantial and not merely circumstantial changes between the old and new covenants; on that basis I pass him by as something of an anomaly. If one adheres to this peculiar position he certainly has the great theological genius of Owen to support him, but I doubt seriously if Owen was exercising great theological genius in defending this peculiar position. If the new covenant is substantially different because it is made only with the spiritual children of Abraham, or believers, then one wonders on what basis baptism can be administered as a sign of the new covenant to any but "believers."
Wouldn't the basis for baptism be the same as it was for Abraham with circumcision since Abraham was given the sign prior to the giving of the Law at Sinai?
Herman Witsius and Louis Berkhof explicitly deny the Sinai covenant was a covenant of works. Witsius: "The covenant made with Israel at mount Sinai was not formally the covenant of works." Berkhof: "But the covenant of Sinai was not a renewal of the covenant of works; in it the law was made subservient to the covenant of grace."
I think they denied that the Sinai covenant was a formal renewal of the CoW in the exact same sense as it was given in the Garden, but held that it was republished in the sense they speak about. For instance, what was said here and quoted previously (underlining mine):
He [Witsius] argued that the curse of the covenant, stated in a passage like Deut. 27:26 (and quoted by Paul in Gal. 3:10) “undoubtedly contained the sanction of the covenant of works.”16 Witsius regarded the Old Covenant as “typical or shadowy.” When the New Testament asserts the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old, “a better covenant is opposed to that Israelitish covenant, which is not formally the covenant of grace, but is only considered with respect to typical or shadowy pomp” (p. 336). Notice that Witsius regarded the Mosaic Covenant as “not formally the covenant of grace.” It was a “national covenant,” in which “God promised the people, that, if they performed the obedience, he would accept and reward it,” although in the end, “they broke the covenant by their apostacy [sic] … and God refused to be called their God.” However, this pertained only to the typological level, for “the elect among Israel … besides their engagements by the Sinaitic covenant, were joined to God by the covenant of grace which he had solemnly renewed with Abraham.”
With Berkhof, I think the same thing could be said. Namely, that he didn't hold to a formal renewal of the CoW in the exact same manner as with Adam, but rather a republication in this sense:
The Sinaitic covenant included a service that contained a positive reminder of the strict demands of the covenant of works. The law was placed very much in the foreground, giving prominence once more to the earlier legal element.
and going on to then say:
It is true that at Sinai a conditional element was added to the covenant, but it was not the salvation of the Israelite but his theocratic standing in the nation, and the enjoyment of external blessings that was made dependent on the keeping of the law, Deut 28:1–14 .
I'm not sure how to evaluate Hodge's simplistic explanation. In his Systematic Theology (2:122), he states the matter with more precision: "In the obvious sense of the terms, to say that men are still under that covenant, is to say that they are still on probation; that the race did not fall when Adam fell." He proceeds to state that all men stood their probation in Adam, and do not stand each man for himself.
In light of his commentary on 2 Cor., I'm not sure what to do with this either, except to note that he did hold that the Mosaic covenant was a national and temporary covenant as it pertained to the earthly promises and threats. What he states in his systematics seems to be dealing with the matter of the CoW more narrowly.
Personally, I think this idea of making typological elements pertain to the covenant of works effectively destroys the nature of a "type." The type fails in each and every instance because it looks forward to the antitype for its fulfilment. On this basis it might be argued that all types are institutions of the covenant of works, seeing as they all look forward to Jesus Christ as the one who was made under the type to fulfil it on the elect's behalf. But this obscures the fact that the believer under the OT also looked forward to the type's fulfilment in Christ and thereby partook of the benefit of the covenant of grace.
I am still left asking the question as to how one can maintain the distinctive teaching of WCF 7:5, that the types are an administration of the covenant of grace, whilst asserting that the land was a type instituted under a covenant of works made with the nation of Israel?
I believe this can be maintained by affirming that the older (law) shall serve the younger (grace/gospel). The elements of the law in the Mosaic covenant are indeed subservient to the CoG. And at the same time, the conditional earthly promises of blessing (conditioned upon obedience, which Israel ultimately failed to secure) point us again to fulfillment by Jesus as the last Adam.