Posts Tagged ‘Covenant of Works’

Reading through Turretin’s section on the ‘Covenant of Grace and Its Twofold Economy’ has been simply brilliant. Speaking of the Mosaic Law, he picks up the idea of the “spirit of bondage” (Rom 8:15):

This bondage, the spirit of bondage attended (adjusted to the servile economy, Rom. 8:15), which commonly wrought a servile fear of God, the judge, and a dread of punishment. From this continual anxiety and solicitude as it were by the law and its threats sounded daily in their ears (more than alacrity) by the doctrine of grace preached sparingly and somewhat obscurely; not that believers were absolutely destitute of the spirit of adoption…, but because it excited emotions suitable to that condition, in which the heir being still a child did not differ much from a servant.

Hence rigor and severity arose from the legal discourses frequently mingled and the promises of grace repeated somewhat rarely and obscurely; also through compulsion, by which they were impelled to duty through fear of punishment rather than from the love of God and of righteousness; Moses continually like a hard master with his rod, not so much persuading as extorting obedience. Here belongs the terrible apparatus under which the law was given, by which not only the people, but Moses himself also is said to have been terrified. That rigor was not without purpose; the wantonness of Israel could hardly otherwise be thoroughly tamed, whom moses and the other prophets so often reproached for its hard neck and adamantine hearts.
Institutes of Elenctic Theology, volume 2, Section 12, p. 229.

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Excerpt taken from an article entitled Beyond Probation:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, the light of the first day of the new creation dawned. Something deep within the fundamental fabric of the cosmos changed. The Son of God reclaimed his former glory and the world has never been, nor will it ever be, the same again. The exaltation of Christ commenced with his glorious resurrection as the Firstborn from the dead. Forty days he showed himself to his disciples with convincing proofs until he was received by the Shekinah cloud of the divine glory. He ascended into heaven, approached the Ancient of Days to receive his kingdom, took his seat at the right hand of the Father, and broke the seals of the scroll of history. He now reigns from heaven, with all authority and dominion, waiting until all his enemies are made his footstool. And he will come again to judge the living and the dead, to present to himself his Bride, the church, bodily transformed into his likeness without spot or wrinkle. The exaltation of Christ began at the resurrection and it continues eternally into the future.
– Lee Irons

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gardenThis is a great question. Some would say there is, and that therefore we can’t speak (as does the Westminster Confession) of there being a covenant of works with Adam in the garden before the fall.  They hold, rather, that God was gracious already to Adam, before he sinned, by virtue of his creating him, endowing him with uprightness, and offering him life and friendship in the very good garden.

Is this how we should look at it? Horton picks up the question here:

Grace before the fall is entailed by the denial of the covenant of works. Many interpreters think that they observe a contradiction in the federalism of the Westminster Standards on this point, where the divines speak of God’s relationship to Adam in terms of “voluntary condescension.” However, this is not the same as grace; a term that would have been used if that is what was intended. The divines knew exactly what they were doing (and Ursinus defended every one of their points before the Assembly ever met). “Voluntary condescension” is hardly grace. Why is that so? In the first place, the former simply means that God was not compelled by any necessity to create: it was a free act. Second, by pronouncing his benediction (“It is very good,” not just “good”), God was approving Adam’s standing. But upon what basis was Adam currently acceptable before God? On precisely that basis indicated by the benediction: his intrinsic worthiness as a loyal son and servant.

Third, to conflate “voluntary condescension” and “grace” is to empty grace of its most precious scriptural meaning. Scripture nowhere speaks of this relationship as gracious, and with good reason: grace happens to sinners. Friendship, condescension, familiarity, goodness: these in no way entail graciousness on God’s part, since the relationship was not yet marred by sin. Grace is not treated in scripture as merely unmerited favor, but as demerited favor, God’s favor toward sinners despite their having deserved the very opposite. In that sense, grace and mercy are interchangeable terms, just as the “covenant of grace” has sometimes been called the “covenant of mercy.” God cannot be regarded as gracious or merciful to creatures who as yet do not deserve otherwise,. “Goodness” and “condescension” are not equivalent to grace and mercy.

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Injection NeedleDarryl G. Hart at Old Life talks about our propensity towards unbelief in the shape of moral effort before God.  Oh how insidious an unbelief this is.  For, not only are we acclimated to it by nature, we’re infected and intoxicated by it as well.  And if ever we start to think we’re not works-righteousness prone, it’s probably a good sign we very much still are. We generally don’t realize we’re still infected by the W1R1. That’s how messed-up this sin virus really is.  Darryl Hart explains.

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Tboston“The gospel method of sanctification, as well as of justification, lies so far out of the ken of natural reason, that if all the rationalists in the world, philosophers and divines, had consulted together to lay down a plan for repairing the lost image of God in man, they had never hit upon that which the divine wisdom had pitched upon, viz: that sinners should be sanctified in Christ Jesus, (1 Cor. 1:2), by faith in him, (Acts 26:18); nay, being laid before them, they would have rejected it with disdain, as foolishness, (1 Cor. 1: 23).

In all views which fallen man has towards the means of his own recovery, the natural bent is to the way of the covenant of works. This is evident in the case of the vast multitudes throughout the world, embracing Judaism, Paganism, Mahometanism, and Popery. All these agree in this one principle, that it is by doing men must live, though they hugely differ as to the things to be done for life.

The Jews, in the time of Julian the Apostate, attempted to rebuild their temple, after it had lain many years in ruins, by the decree of heaven never to be built again; and ceased not, till by an earthquake, which shook the old foundation and turned all down to the ground, they were forced to forbear, as Socrates the historian tells us. But the Jews were never more addicted to that temple, than mankind naturally is to the building on the first covenant: And Adam’s children will by no means quite it, until Mount Sinai, where they desire to work what they do work, be all on fire about them. Oh, that those who have been frightened from it were not so ready to go back towards it!”

– Boston, Thomas.
From the preface to Marrow of Modern Divinity (p. 9-10)

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485px-Charles_Haddon_Spurgeon_by_Alexander_MelvilleCovenant theology might not be something one necessarily expects from a Baptist preacher.  But it is apparent that at least this Baptist preacher had an extremely high regard for the doctrine — even to the point of distinguishing a covenant of works from a covenant of unconditional grace.  Read my friend, and drink to your heart’s rest, peace, and joy.

“If anything in the world can make a man praise his God it is the covenant, and the knowledge that he is in it. I will leave off preaching and ask you to think over the love of God in the covenant. It does not belong to all of you. Christ is not the Shepherd of the whole herd of men; he is only the Shepherd of the sheep, and he has not entered into any covenant for all mankind, but for his sheep alone. The covenant is for his own people; if you believe in him it is a covenant for you, but if you reject him you can have no participation in that covenant; for you are under the covenant of works, which condemns you. But now, believer, just sit down for a moment and think over this exceeding mercy. Your God, the everlasting Father, has entered into a solemn compact with Christ on your behalf; that he will save you, keep you, and make you perfect. He has saved you; he has performed a large part of the covenant in you already, for he has placed you in the way of life and kept you to this day; and if, indeed, you are his, he will keep you to the end. The Lord is not as the foolish man who bedpan to build and was not able to finish. He does not commence to carry out a design, and then turn from it. He will push on his work till he completes it in you. Can you really believe it? With you, a poor puny mortal, who will soon sleep in the grave—with you he has made an everlasting covenant! Will you not say with our text, “To whom be glory.” Like dying David you can say, “Though my house be not so with God, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure.” I am sure you will joyfully add, “Glory be to his name.”

Our God deserves exclusive glory. Covenant theology glorifies God alone. There are other theologies abroad which magnify men; they give him a finger in his own salvation, and so leave him a reason for throwing up his cap and saying, “Well done I;” but covenant theology puts man aside, and makes him a debtor and a receiver. It does, as it were, plunge him into the sea of infinite grace and unmerited favor, and it makes him give up all boasting, stopping the mouth that could have boasted by filling it with floods of love, so that it cannot utter a vainglorious word. A man saved by the covenant must give all the glory to God’s holy name, for to God all the glory belongs. In salvation wrought by the covenant the Lord has exclusive glory.”

“How I wish Christ’s ministers would spread more and more of this covenant doctrine throughout England. He who understands the two covenants has found the marrow of all theology, but he who does not know the covenants knows next to nothing of the gospel of Christ. You would think, to hear some ministers preach, that salvation was all of works, that it was still uncertain who would be saved, that it was all a matter of “ifs,” and “buts,” and “peradventures” and if you begin to give them “shells,” and “wills,” and purposes, and decrees, and pledges, and oaths, and blood, they call you Calvinistic. Why, this doctrine was true before Calvin was born or thought of! Calvin loved it as we do, but it did not come from him. Paul had taught it long before; nay, the Holy Ghost taught it to us in the word, and therefore we hold it. The bringing back of this truth to the front will be a grand thing for the church. From the mouth of this cannon the Lord will blow the Pope and all his myrmidons into a thousand shivers, but no other doctrine will do it. By God’s good grace, we must live this doctrine as well as preach it, and may he that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will. Then will he have glory through the covenant and through you, both now and for ever. Amen and amen.”

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Taken from, “The Blood of the Covenant”. Delivered on Lord’s-Day Morning, August 2nd, 1874
Full sermon can be found here: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1186.htm

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