Wilhelmus à Brakel: No such thing as a national or external covenant

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Jerrod Hess

Puritan Board Freshman
Evasive Argument: In the Old Testament the covenant was external, national, and typical. Circumcision and the Passover then also served other purposes: as an acknowledgment that they were Abraham’s seed and as a commemoration of their exodus from Egypt. Therefore one cannot by way of the Old Testament sacraments draw conclusions about the New Testament sacraments.

Answer: The covenant of the Old Testament was not an external covenant, but was none other than the covenant of grace, having the promise of both this present and future life, that is, of both spiritual and temporal benefits, such as is presently the case. If one wishes to refer to this as a national covenant, one is merely saying that the covenant of grace was established with that nation. That it is called a typical covenant is in consequence of it typifying the entire ministry of the coming Messiah. If one wishes, however, to refer to this covenant as a typical in reference to the church of the New Testament, our proof is further confirmed by their own argument. If the use of the sacraments was so essential in the typical context, this is much more so in the anti-typical setting. Allow that circumcision and the Passover also served other purposes. However, they were never used, nor were they permitted to be used, for such purposes only; that is, distinct from their function relative to the covenant of grace, which irrefutably was the most significant objective in the administration of the sacraments. Other matters were but subordinate and were comprehended in it. We are of the opinion that the other aspects were in a certain respect elements of the covenant of grace. To belong to Abraham’s seed was to be partaker of God’s covenant with Abraham — “to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen 17:7).

If the unconverted were but externally included in this, then this was true as far as individual persons were concerned, as is likewise in the New Testament church. The exodus from Egypt belonged to the spiritual deliverance wrought by the Messiah (1 Cor. 10:1-11). For this reason the Lord Jesus is called the Passover (1 Cor. 5:7). It can therefore be observed that this objection is unfounded and thus our proof derived from the sacraments of the Old Testament stands, as well as our proof derived from the New Testament.

Wilhelmus à Brakel — The Christian’s Reasonable Service (Reformation Heritage Books), vol. 2 pp.64-65
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Freshman
Personally I think that's a rather poor answer that relies on vague language and thinking.

The exodus from Egypt belonged to the spiritual deliverance wrought by the Messiah (1 Cor. 10:1-11).

What does that even mean? What does it mean to "belong to the spiritual deliverance wrought by the Messiah"? Does it mean that whomever was freed from Egypt during the Exodus was also spiritually redeemed by the Messiah? Of course not. The two things are distinct. So what does he actually mean? This is the type of vagueness I have in mind.

(For 1 Cor 10, see https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2017/04/23/1-cor-101-5-an-exposition/ and https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2017/04/23/1-cor-101-5-paedobaptist-false-inferences/ )

For this reason the Lord Jesus is called the Passover (1 Cor. 5:7).

For what reason? Jesus is called the Passover because He functions for believers analogous to the way that the Passover lamb functioned for the Israelites in Egypt. Thus the Passover lamb was a type of Christ. From that analogy it does not in any way follow that the Old Covenant was therefore the Covenant of Grace.

To belong to Abraham’s seed was to be partaker of God’s covenant with Abraham — “to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen 17:7).

Yes, but that does not mean the Old Covenant was the Covenant of Grace. "To be a God unto thee and thy seed after thee" did not refer to spiritual salvation. It referred to Abraham's carnal offspring and God's dwelling and ruling in their midst in the land of Canaan. http://www.1689federalism.com/scriptureindex/genesis-177/


The covenant of the Old Testament was not an external covenant

Consider how Brakel's view differs from the standard Presbyterian view (such as articulated by Bannerman) - see page 5ff in vol 2. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/a-brakel-on-the-visibleinvisible-church/
 

Jerrod Hess

Puritan Board Freshman
Hey Brandon, thanks for checking out the post. You can find more of Wilhelmus' treatise of the CoG in the first volume of his systematic. Blessings
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
Jerrod,

This discovery was utterly revolutionary for my spiritual life. It's great to cast my eyes on it again here and there. Thanks for sharing.
 
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