What is Republication of the Covenant of Works?


Here is a portion of a book ‘A Puritan Theology Doctrine For Life’ that everyone should read to understand what is being discussed in Modern Circles today.   Dr. Joel Beeke’s and Mark Jone’s book “A Puritan Theology Doctrine for Life” should be read if you want to know if Modern Day Reformed Thought is being historically accurate with how they define their positions and understanding on issues concerning Covenant Theology.  Read Chapters 16-18 and you will notice a difference between them and the Westminster Divines on some things.

The Modern Reformed Thought does not hold to a position that the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant are of the same Substance as the Westminster Divines defined things. They also define Republication of the Covenant of Works a bit differently than how the Divines of the Westminster Assembly used this terminology.  Modern Day Reformed Thought holds to a position that the Mosaic Covenant administers both a Covenant of Grace and a Covenant of Works.  They hold to what is known as a Minority Position and it is defined in the book also.  It is not Westminsterian.


Anthony Burgess likewise comments that the law may be understood largely, “as that whole doctrine delivered on Mount Sinai,” or strictly, “as it is an abstracted rule of righteousness, holding forth life upon no terms, but perfect obedience.”75 In the former sense, the law belongs to the covenant of grace; in the latter sense, the law was not of grace, but of works, which helps explains Paul’s polemic against the law in his New Testament writings (e.g., Galatians). These distinctions also help to explain the idea found in many Puritan authors who speak of the Mosaic covenant as republishing the moral law first given to Adam, written on his heart, engraved on tablets of stone as the Decalogue. For the most part, theologians who spoke in this way, whether dichotomists or trichotomists, made a number of careful qualifications in order to show that the moral law was republished not as a covenant but as a rule of righteousness for those in covenant with God. In other words, the moral law was not republished at Sinai to serve as a means of justification before God. For example, John Owen made clear in his work on justification by faith that the old covenant was not a revival of the covenant of works strictly (i.e., “formally”). Rather, the moral law was renewed declaratively (i.e.,“materially”) and not covenantally: “God did never formally and absolutely renew or give again this law as a covenant a second time. Nor was there any need that so he should do, unless it were declaratively only, for so it was renewed at Sinai.”76 The concept of republication of the moral law does not make Sinai co-extensive with Eden in terms of strict covenantal principles. If the moral law is abstracted “most strictly,” to use Roberts’s language, then Sinai certainly was a formal republication of the covenant of works. But, as Ball tried to argue, that certainly was not the intention of the old covenant. In the end, Ball’s position, which had been argued during the Reformation by Heinrich Bullinger, Peter Martyr, and John Calvin, clearly influenced the Westminster divines.

Accordingly, chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession, “Of the Law of God,” begins by asserting that the moral law was first given to Adam, and goes on to say, “This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness, and as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables” (19.2). The Confession further asserts, “The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof” (19.5), and is of great use to believers “as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty…discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature…together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience” (19.6). Chapter 19 concludes that for a believer to do good because the law commands it or to refrain from evil because the law forbids it, “is no evidence of his being under the law, and not under grace. Nor are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it” (19.6–7).

Likewise, the Confession declares that the covenant of grace was administered “in the time of the law…by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances…all fore-signifying Christ to come.” Such outward forms were “for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation” (7.5). Hence it follows that “the justification of believers under the Old Testament was…one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament” (11.6).

p. 270-1

75. Burgess, Vindiciae Legis, 223.
76. Owen, Justification by Faith, in Works, 5:244.

Beeke, Joel R.; Jones, Mark (2012-10-14). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Kindle Locations 10634-10647). . Kindle Edition.

For more on the subject of Modern Reformed Thought go to these links.



You can also read my comments on the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 19 here.