Creation, Condescension, and Redefinition of Covenant Merit


The doctrine of God’s voluntary condescension goes hand in hand with the distinction that developed in Reformed theology between “covenanted” merit and “strict” or “proper” merit. Covenant merit is assigned to Adam in the covenant of works, whereas strict merit is assigned to Christ in the covenant of grace. What is the difference between the two? Covenant merit is a lesser category of merit when compared to strict merit. Adam’s merit is said to be “improper” when it is measured against the standard of Christ’s “proper” merit. This designation of covenant merit reflects the ontological considerations which pertain to Adam’s status. It seeks to take into account the Creator creature distinction and God’s act of condescension (WCF 7:1) to enter into covenant with Adam. According to the Confession, the establishment of the covenant of works is God’s appointed means of condescension, so that man as mere creature may know and enjoy God as his ultimate blessedness and reward.

…The merit of Christ, in contrast to Adam’s “covenant” or “improper” merit, falls uniquely into the category of “strict” or “proper” merit. Adam was a mere creature, and was dependent on God’s voluntary condescension to enter into the covenant of works. Jesus Christ, the second and last Adam, is uniquely set apart in his role as the Mediator of the covenant of grace. In the incarnation, Jesus is by nature true God as well as true man. He possesses a sinless human nature, which would qualify him (like Adam) to perform perfect and personal obedience. Christ was able to merit eschatological life in more than the “covenanted” sense. Our Savior, being the divine Son of God, is uniquely qualified to merit eternal life in the covenant of grace in the “strict” or “full” sense of the term.

This truth is implicitly taught in the Westminster Confession, where Christ is said to satisfy the justice of God and “purchase” (i. e., “merit”) the eschatological reward of the covenant for his people.

  The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, has fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for those whom the Father has given unto Him (WCF 8:5).

The [Klinean] republication view teaches that man was in covenant with God at the very moment of creation. This is an important shift from the traditional viewpoint. Ontological considerations demand that there be at least a logical distinction (rather than a chronological or historical sequence) between God’s creating man and his entering into covenant with him. The [Klinean] republication teaching now erases this confessional distinction (which is based upon the “great disproportion” between the Creator and creature), and thereby turns God’s providential work of establishing the covenant into an aspect of the work of creation. Thus, we may say that the two distinct acts have been conflated or collapsed into essentially one act in this new view. For all intents and purposes, the relationship between God and man is not first that of sovereign Creator over his finite creature, but is from the point of creation a relationship of “God-in-covenant-with-man.” For Professor Kline and those who have followed his lead in the republication position, it is improper to even consider man’s existence apart from covenant. Thus, man’s covenantal status seems to “trump” his creaturely status. Professor Kline makes this clear in Kingdom Prologue.

Man’s creation as image of God meant, as we have seen, that the creating of the world was a covenant-making process. There was no original non-covenantal order of mere nature on which the covenant was superimposed. Covenantal commitments were given by the Creator in the very act of endowing the mancreature with the mantle of the divine likeness. …The situation never existed in which man’s future was contemplated or presented in terms of a static continuation of the original state of blessedness (Kingdom Prologue [2000], p. 92).

…The obliteration of the distinction between creation and covenant is extremely significant for laying the foundation of a new paradigm of merit—one that is divorced from ontological considerations.

We have already observed that the Creator-creature distinction lies at the center of the doctrines of God, man, and of the covenant in the history of Reformed theology. This distinction is also central to the traditional understanding of merit, as the differences between Adam’s covenant merit and Christ’s strict merit rest on ontological factors. It is apparent that the adherents to the Republication Paradigm have followed Professor Kline in their departure from the tradition in this regard.

… In this redefined view of merit, there is no longer any need or place for the previous distinction made between Adam’s covenant merit in contrast to Christ’s strict merit. In  terms of the definition of merit, Adam and Christ can equally earn the rewards of their respective covenants according to the principle of simple justice.

It is also important to note another ramification of this new paradigm. Just as the respective obedience of Adam and Christ would be deemed equally meritorious according to the definition of “simple justice,” so also the works of others, beyond (or between) the two federal heads, may equally be counted as meritorious. The [Klinean] Republication Paradigm allows for only one category or definition of merit (“covenant merit”) which is applied equally to Adam, to Christ, as well as to other figures after the fall (such as Noah, Abraham, and Israel). This explains why meritorious works of obedience are possible for sinners between Adam and Christ in this new paradigm. The redefinition of merit “allows” God to make another meritorious arrangement outside of the ones made with the two Adams. After the fall, in the Mosaic covenant, for example, God may decide to make an arrangement in which he promises temporal-typological blessings on the basis of Israel’s imperfect, sincere, national obedience, instead of the perfect, entire and personal obedience which was required of the two covenant heads.

The redefinition of “covenant merit” does not require any ontological considerations. In fact, it does not even require moral perfection on the part of man. Thus, the fact that Israel’s works are those of fallen sinful creatures is completely irrelevant. They are meritorious because God says so. All that matters is that they fulfill God’s covenant Word, which alone defines and determines what constitutes merit and justice in any given covenantal arrangement.

Booklet on Merit
portions from pp. 32-42

Moses and Merit

Follow up post after this one.

“Further problems arise once this basic departure is discerned. One begins to see a metaphysical reworking of the categories of grace and justice in relation to the “covenant of nature.” Instead of a providential dispensation (see Shorter Catechism question 12), the covenant of works is turned into a creational entity which characterizes the natural relationship between God and man. Human morality is, in its very essence, made a covenant of works. Grace is only operative where sin abounds.”  Rev. Winzer


Peter Martyr Similarities and Differences Between the Old and New Covenants


The following is taken from Peter Martyr Vermigli’s Common Places, published in English in the year 1574, and translated by Anthonie Marten. Much of the spelling has been modernized for easier reading, and the sentence structure has been slightly modified from time to time. In no place have I willingly or knowingly altered the sense of his statements. Vermigli’s locus on the covenant comes in part 2, chapter 16, and is entitled all the likeness and unlikeness of the old and new league or covenant. The work as a whole (in its original type) can be read here. Just go to page 207 in the PDF file for the section on the covenant. I have only made it part way through this transcription, and am currently trying to complete it. However, I figured that even part of it would be better than nothing. You can read the whole chapter in the link above, but this should be a little easier going for you who can’t read older English very well. Not only are the words spelled differently, the type is hard to read, too! I hope ye haue a goode tyme reeding thys updayted texte.

I did not write this or Translate it. I borrowed this from the site link below. I have done this before with the authors permission. Just trying to get the word out.
Randy Martin Snyder

Of The Likeness and the Unlikeness of the Old and New Covenants

The word league, in Latin foedus, is derived from the verb Ferire, “to Strike,” because the ambassadors of each party killed a pig, from which etymology perhaps the Hebrew word Berith differs very little. By which outward sign also, they wished by prayer the destruction of that part which should violate the covenant. We may gather this out of Livy, in his first book after the building of the city: and as the same author writers in his fourth book De bello Macedonico. There are three kinds of leagues [or covenants].

  1. The first kind is where the conquerors make laws unto those they have conquered, in punishing and commanding them in such things, as they will afterward have them to do.
  2. The second kind is, when things being yet in their own state and neither party overcome, they agree together, that such things, as are taken from each party, may be restored, and that covenants of peace may be established.
  3. The third kind is, where there hath been no war between the parties; and when certain cities or princes are joined together by some covenants either to live the more peacably, or else to take some public affairs in hand.

These things being on this wise declared, let us show what a league [covenant] is. A league [covenant] is that bond between men, whereby they testify, both by words and signs one to another, that they are bound to perform certain things, so long as they deal faithfully either towards the other.

And it be a bond, and pertain to relation, it is grounded upon human actions; and I referred to those things, which the parties confederate ought to perform one towards another. It is expressed by words, and for the most part, signs are added, When God made a covenant with mankind, after the flood, he not only set forth the form of the bond by words; but he also put the rainbow in the clouds as a witness [pg. 583] and in the covenant, which he made with Abraham, he put the sign of circumcision. Furthermore, in the same, which was made by Moses at Mount Sinai, there were twelve pillars erected, and the people were sprinkled with blood. Joshua also, when he should die, erected by a very great stone; thereby as it were to sign the league renewed between God and the people. And what the promises were, which should be kept by each party, the Scripture often times teaches. For God promised, that he would be the God of his people; namely, that he would be with them, to help them, to deliver them, and by all means (as touching all kind of good things) to bless them. The people again promised, that they would count the Lord Jehovah for their God, in believing, worshipping, and obeying him. And Christ was in the league [covenant], as the mediator between each party. This is the exposition and nature of the covenant between God and man.

The League [covenant] is divided into the new, and into the old. Which division is not of a general thing, into special things; but of the subject into accidents. Forsomuch as in either league, the thing itself, and the substance, is utterly one and the self-same: only certain qualities do vary. For the old league was made with only one nation of the Jews, and had certain things annexed; I mean the possession of the land of Canaan, the kingdom of the Jews, and the priesthood of Aaron, and also the promise of the Messiah, according to the birth of the flesh. Moreover, it had very many signs of ceremonies, and sacrifices very fit for that age. It also were mysteries of salvation, and promises of eternal life; although far more obscure than they were afterward taught to us. And on the other hand, in the new league there are properties, in a manner contrary. For it pertains not to any one certain nation, but two all nations, however far the world is extended: neither is there any peculiar civil administration joined to it.

Furthermore, there are but very few ceremonies and outward signs, and they are very plain and simple, annexed unto it. And (to conclude) all things are contained more openly, plainly, and manifestly in the new testament, than they are in the old. By these qualities both the old and new league [covenant] differ from one another: however, the thing itself, and the substance remains one and the same. For as Jehovah would then be the God of the Hebrews: so has he now decreed to be the God of the Christians. And that also, which they in those days promised; namely, that they would believe in the true God, and obey, and worship him as he hath prescribed; we also ought to perform. Christ comes between both parties as a mediator: and forgiveness of sins; yea and eternal life also is promised by him. Also, the moral laws remain the very same now, which they were then.

Paul, in the eleventh chapter to the Romans, has very well declared, that the league of the fathers in old time, and ours, is all one; when he compares the church with the tree, which hs Christ as it were the root. Then he adds that from such a tree certain branches were cut off; namely, the Hebrews, who did not believe; and we who are Gentiles, were planted in their place; that is to say, we were chosen into the same league [covenant] wherein they were comprehended. The same tree is affirms to remain, into which some are grafted in by faith; and from the which other some, because of the incredulity, he cut off. Wherefore, each league [covenant] contains both the law and the Gospel. And there be in either of the testaments, the self-same sacraments: as it is declared in the first epistle to the Corinthians, the tenth chapter: for, the fathers were all under the cloud, and were baptized into the sea, and did eat the same spiritual meat, and drank of the spiritual rock following them, and the rock was Christ. Furthermore, we grant, that as touching outward signs, there is some difference between their sacraments and ours: which nevertheless, as concerning the things signified by the sacraments, is found to be nothing at all.

Otherwise, the argument of Paul might not have persuaded the Corinthians, to be subject unto the same punishments that the Hebrews were. For they might have said, that they had far better sacraments than had the Hebrews; and that therefore they should not so much need to fear, lest they should suffer the like; forsomuch as the excellency of the sacraments might put off those misfortunes, from which the Hebrews could not be delivered by the sacraments of the law. So as the apostle took away this shift from them, and makes our sacraments and their equal and alike, as touching the things themselves. He writes also to the Romans, the first chapter, concerning the Gospel; that it was in the old time promised by the prophet in the holy Scriptures [Rom. 1:2]. And in the third chapter he speaks on this wise; But now is the righteousness of God made manifest, being testified by the law and the prophets [Rom. 3:21].

Neither may you say to me, that these things were indeed promised in the holy Scriptures of the old testaments; but not that they should be performed unto the men that lived in those days. For the apostle does very well show the meaning of this place, when he [pg. 584] says; that Every aw doth speak to those men, which live under it. And it is not to be doubted, but that the fathers were justified after the same sort that we are now at this present. For even they were no less justified by faith only in Christ, than we are. Wherefore it is written in the book of Genesis of Abraham, that he believed, and the same was counted to him for righteousness. John also testified that Christ said of Abraham, that he had seen his day, and rejoiced. The epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 13, affirms that Christ was yesterday, and today, and remains forever. Wherefore, even as we are said now to be saved, not by works, but by the meer mercy of God, through faith in Christ: so was it with the fathers at that time; for they were justified by no merits, but only by faith in Christ. Furthermore, what obedience so ever the fathers had toward the commandments of God, and also faith in the promises: those things were not derived from their own strength and power; but (even as it also happens unto us) they came unto them by the grace of God and Christ.

It is true indeed, that Jeremiah, in the 31st chapter (as it is also alleged in the eighth chapter to the Hebrews;) thatThere must be another league made in the name of God, not as it was made in the old time with the fathers. And among other things he says, God would give his laws in the hearts and inward parts of men; so that none should need any more to teach his neighbor: because all, from the least to the greatest, should have the knowledge of God. And further it is said, in the person of God; I will be merciful unto their sins, and will no more remember their iniquities, etc. As touching those words, both of Jeremiah, and also of the epistle to the Hebrews, we must understand; that they prove not that there is any difference between the testaments, as touching the substance and the thing itself; but touching the properties and qualities: as we have before said. Neither must we think, that the old fathers (who in obeying the commandments of God, and in right faith, worshipped him purely) could perform those things of their own strength or natural power. For, unless they had had the laws and promises of God written in their hearts and minds, by the Holy Ghost; and also a will, bu the grace of God, ready to obey his commandments: they had never been able to perform such things.

They wanted not therefore the light of God, which shined before their eyes, to make them believe: yea and their sins were forgiven them through Christ. So then they had also the fruition of those things, which god promised to give in the new covenant. The only difference herein was touching the largeness, and perspicuity. Far at that time, those gifts were kept within the compass of a few; but now they are everywhere communicated to the Gentiles. In that age, they were somewhat obscure, but to us they are made evident and clear, that we have no more need of the old discipline. Hereby it manifestly appears, how they err from the truth, who affirm that the old league [covenant] had promises only for possessing the land of Canaan, and for worldly felicity; and that the people of the Hebrews were bound only to an outward observation of certain rites and works, and not to show forth good and perfect motions of the mind towards God. The prophets do not interpret the matter to be in such wise; nay rather, they deny that God esteems any outward works without inward godliness: and they pronounce in every place, that the ceremonies, which be void of faith, and of the fear of God, are a most grievous burden; and so troublesome, as he cannot abide them.

Yea, and the law itself makes express mention of the circumcision of the heart; and God every where requires, that we should hear his voice: which is nothing else, but to deal with him by faith. Wherefore, the faith of the promises and commandments of God, ought to be counted as the root and foundation, which always abides: when as outward sacraments, and visible rites, should at the length be changed. So that it is very manifest, that God would not have them for their own sakes. Howbeit, they endured so long, as men were indued with a childish spirit; as Paul speaks to the Galatians, while they lived as yet under tutors, and as yet differed very little from servants. But when they received a more full spirit, then were the sacraments and childish rites (as Augustine says) taken away. It is manifest therefore, that the difference between the two covenants must not be taken of the thing or substance; but of the qualities and properties.

Let them therefore forsake their soul error, which think, that God in the old law only promised earthly things, as though at that time he only provided for the bodies, and not for the souls: as do shepherds, ploughmen, and hogheards; which only have a care of the bodies and carcasses of their sheep, swine, and oxen; neither endeavor they any thing else, but to make those beasts strong and fat. We must not so imagine of God, who in such sort made a league with the gathers, as he promised them the chief felicity, which specially appertains unto the soul. Also it is written in Ps. 144:15, Blessed are the people, which have the Lord for their God. In Deut. 30:6 also, God took upon him to bring to pass, that they should walk in [pg. 585] his commandments. But what more? Our Savior, out of the words of the old league [covenant], has most aptly taught the resurrection of the dead. For when the Lord said, that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (and they were then dead;) Christ inferred, that they were not then dead, but that they still lived, and that their bodies should be resuscitated; namely, in the blessed resurrection. Hereunto pertains that which God asserted to Abraham; to wit, that he himself would be his reward (Gen. 15:1). Which words plainly teach us, that in that covenant were not promised carnal and earthly good things alone.

Undoubtedly, it were a great shame, even for kings and princes, which (being compared unto God) are but flesh and blood; if they should be counted to govern the public weales, in respect only of the bodies of subjects; seeing they profess, that they provide for the outward commodities, quietness, and peace of their citizens; because they may live happily, and according to virtue. So then, if earthly princes provide goods of the mind for their subjects, is it not fit, that God himself did provide far more excellent things for the public weale of the Israelites, whom he faithfully governed? Furthermore, I say not how foolish it is to believe, that the forefathers, by the league (covenant), bound themselves only to outward rites, and visible ceremonies, whereby they would worship God; seeing the very Ethniks (Gentiles) were not ignorant: but rather, they have most planly testified, that the worshipping of God does not consist in those things. For Plautius in Rudentewrites thus; they think that they please God with figts and sacrifices, but they loose both their labor and cost. I will not declare those which Plato writes in his Alcibiades concerning this matter. Yea, and (as I have taught before) the law itself and the prophets declare, that the things was far otherwise.

We will note also, that the fathers made a league (covenant) with God; not only for themselves, but also for their posterity: as God again, for his part, promised that he would be God not only to them, but also to their seed and posterity. Wherefore, it was lawful for them to circumcise their children who were yet infants. And in like manner it is lawful for us also to baptize our little children, when they are yet infants; inasmuch as they also are included in the league [covenant]. For they, who already have the thing itself, there is nothing that may lett, but that they should receive the sign. It is plainly written in Deuteronomy 29 that “the covenant was made, not only with them, which were present, but also with them who were absent, and not yet born.” But some doubt, whether the posterity may be bound by their forefathers. We do answer: we must look whether the things which were promised to our forefathers were just and honest; then we must consider whether these promises pertained unto civil things, or unto godliness. When they are made for civil things, the bond is firm; because it is not lawful for the posterity to infringe the contracts of their forefathers: such as are buyings, sellings, bargains, and things like these. Provided that they contain nothing that is shameful, dishonest, and unjust. But if the bonds and covenants belong to godliness, or to a right faith, then the obligation is of full strength, because we are all bound to true godliness, and to a sound faith, although there were no covenant to bind us. But if the forefathers have bound themselves and their posterity, unto dishonest and wicked things, it is no bond at all. But whereas God so humbled himself, as to enter in league [covenant] with men, that comes of his own mere mercy and good will; to stir us up thereby more and more, to do those things, which otherwise is our duty to do.

But some affirm that Paul takes something away from the Old Testament, when in 2 Corinthians he calls it “the ministry of death.” And to the Galatians he writes, “you have begun in the Spirit, take heed that you do not end in the flesh.” And in the same epistle he shows that whose who are under the law do persecute those which belong to the Gospel. But in such places as these, Paul speaks of the Old Testament as it was thrust upon them by the false apostles—without Christ and without faith. Then it is as if you should take away the very life from it, and leave nothing remaining but death and offense of the flesh. But when the apostle speaks of the law by itself, he writes far otherwise. To the Romans it is written: “The law is indeed spiritual, a holy commandment, just and good; but I am carnal, etc.” And to Timothy: “For we know that the law is good, if a man uses it lawfully.” Wherefore, when as it seems that the law is diminished or reproved by Paul, that is not said in respect of itself, but for our fault’s sake. For it meets with those who are defiled, and endeavor to resist it, then it breeds those discommodities. Or else (as I have said) he speaks thereof, so far as the false apostles severed Christ from the same [the law]. Perhaps you will affirm that the false apostles did not take away Christ, but rather preached the law together with him. But nevertheless, seeing that they taught that he was not sufficient unto salvation, no doubt they took him away. For he that has need of the law to save man is not [pg. 586] the true Christ that was promised.

But because Paul said out of the testimony of Isaiah that “this is a testament,” and that we read the same thing in Jeremiah 31, that “the new covenant herein cnsists, that the deliverer should come, and be merciful to iniquities,” there arises a doubt, whether the new testament be diverse or not. Concerning this matter I have spoken a little before, but now I intend to treat it more largely. At first sight they seem to be altogether diverse, sot that the one is altogether distinguished from the other. For in Jeremiah it is said that “there should be a new covenant, and not according to that which he made with the fathers.” And the Epistle to the Hebrews adds, “When it is said, a new, then that which is old is abolished.” But does not see, that if one thing abolishes and makes void another thing, it differs altogether from it. There is also another argument, for (as they say) in the Old Testament, there was no forgiveness of sins. For the epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 10, says that “the blood of goats, and of oxen, and of calves could not take away sins.” But in the New Testament, no man doubts that there is remission of sins: so as no man will say, but that the things, which in so great a matter differ, are diverse.

Yet this on the other side is to be considered, that that faith, in which justification consists, is all one in either testament. Moreover, the Mediator is one and the same, namely, Christ Jesus. And the promise of remission of sins, and of eternal life through him, are all one. The commandments (at least those which are moral) are all one. The signification of the sacraments is all one. The root and plant our which some Jews were cut off and into which we were grafted in their place is all one. All these things plainly declare that either testament, as touching the substance or essence (if I may so call it) is all one thing. Although there must be granted some differences, by reason of the accidents. These are that Jesus Christ was there known, as he who was to come, but with us he is known as he who has already come. Also, their signs were different from ours in form, but of like strength in signification, as Augustine says. Moreover they had certain and assured public wealth, for the preservation whereof, they had civil precepts delivered to them, which we do not have. And finally, unto the promise of remission of sins by the Messiah, there were in old time added a great many other promises, as of the incrase and preservation of their posterity, and of the possession of the land of Canaan, which promises we do not have. And besides all this, our sacraments are easier and fewer in number, and are also more manifest and extend much further, seeing that they are not shut up in a corner, as theirs were in Jewry; but are spread abroad throughout the whole world. Wherefore we may affirm, that the New Testament and the Old are indeed all one, as touching the substance; and differ only in certain accidental things, which we have now mentioned.

But now it remains to answer the two arguemtns which were brought forth before concerning the remission of sins. We do not deny that the same [remission of sins] was in the Old Testament, seeing that if we consider the promise, which there also was of force, the old fathers were justified by the same. For it was said of Abraham, “He believed God, and it was imputed to him to righteousness,” as the apostle has declared. And David says, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Ps. 32:1). Yet if we look upon the sacraments or ceremonies, they did not pardon sins, as touching the work; neither yet do our sacraments have strength to do so. But whereas Paul says to the Hebrews that “the blood of goats, oxen, and calves could not take away sin” (Heb. 10:4), we do not deny this to be true. But yet in the meantime, neither does Paul deny that the faith of the old fathers (whereby they had a respect unto Christ, and embraced him in the signification of those sacrifices) did justify and obtain remission of sins. Doubtless the blood of those sacrifices washed not away the sins of the world, but the the blood of Christ alone, as he himself said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you, and for many for the remission of sins” (Luke 22:22).

But whereas we are said to be baptized into the remission of sins, the meaning whereof is that by the sacrament is remission of sins is sealed and signified unto us, which we have already obtained by the blood of Christ. This same thing is also done in the Eucharist. And faith always ought to go before the receiving of the sacraments, if we receive them rightly, and the order not be inverted. For just as without faith men eat and drink unworthily, so also without faith baptism is unworthily received. Yet this must be understood concerning those who are of full age. Concerning how it is with infants, we will declare elsewhere. If faith, then, goes before [the sacraments] it is manifest that sins are forgiven, because the sacraments that follow seal and also confirm us concerning the will of God. And when they are set forth unto us, they oftentimes stir up faith; no otherwise than the word of God does, when it is heard.

So that is not possible but that faith, being [pg. 587] newly stirred up is apprehended more and more, justification is apprehended more and more, and new strength of restoring is laid hold upon. And therefore, whereas Chysostom (interpreting these words, “When I shall take up their sins”) says upon the same: When they were yet uncircumcised, when they did not yet offer, and when they did not yet other things pertaining to the law, their sins were taken away. Certainly he must no be so understood to mean that the fathers in ancient times, when they did these things and by them exercised their faith (because they saw Christ to be signified in them) had not thereby fruit as we have. But rather, he meant that these things now after Christ has suffered are unprofitable, and that in ancient times they did not give grace by the work itself, as the Jews dreamed. Wherein also in our day the sophistical Divines are deceived concerning our sacraments.

But concerning the other argument, that in the Epistle to the Hebrews it is said that “The Old Testament is abolished, and made void, the new taking its place”; and whereas Jeremiah says (31:33) that “God would make a new league, not according to the league he made witht he fathers, when he brought them out of the Land of Egypt,” we answer as follows. There the league is taken for the law, and is distinguished from the Gospel. This is clear because he said that he will write his laws in their hearts, and ingrave them in their inward parts. But that thing is not agreeable with the law, which only shows sins, condemns and accuses. Neither does it give strength; yea, it rather after a sort commands infinite things, and lays such a burden upon us that we are not able to bear. And therefore the prophet there says that “They did not abide in his covenant.” So as this word league, or testament, is not there so taken as we now take it. For as where here intreat of it, it comprehends both the Law and the Gospel. And in this respect there is no difference between the old testament and the new, but only as we have declared.

And if you will say that the prophet there also understands this word “testament,” in such a way as we now speak of it, we may then grant that by the coming of Christ, some abrogation is made, seeing that theose accidents, conditions, and qualities, which we have shown in the old testament, are now abrogated. Wherefore, therein is used the figureSynechodoche; whereby a thing is perfectly or absolutely said to be abolished or made void when it is only taken away as touching some part of it. The Jews are wonderfully troubled with this sentence of the prophet, and can scarcely tell what to say. For while they seek to defend the old law, and so to defend it, as they say nothing of it is to be changed. And they reprove us because we have changed circumcision into baptism, and the Sabbath day into the Lord’s Day, and have rejected many other things. How can they affirm that a new league shall be made, and not according to that which was made, when they were brought out of Egypt?

Here they can scarce tell which way to turn themselves. Howbeit, lest they should seem to give place, they say, that only the manner shall be different, and think that the league, as concerning the thing itself, shall be all on: but that under the Messiah it shall be more firmly and more surely established. But we may more truly say that this was done at the beginning of the church, when so great an abundance of the Holy Spirit was poured out into believers; that not only they spread abroad the Gospel throughout the whole world, but also no torments, no persecutions, were they never so horrible, nor death, though it were most sharp, could cause them to depart from the league which they had now through Christ made with God. And as many as are faithful indeed, do willingly and of their own accord cleave to this truth, and unto holiness. And forasmuch as here is made mention of the league, let this be understood; that it is for the most part of the Latins calledTestamentum; of the Grecians diatheke; of the Hebrews Berith, all which words do fitly express it.

But here again rises a doubt: because if the thing be all one as well as on the one part as well as the other, in the sacraments of both testaments, how may ours be said to be greater in power and vertue [efficacy]. Furthermore, how could it be that they did eat the flesh of the Lord, seeing that the Son of God had not yet taken the same upon him. To the latter question I say: in the Apocolypse it is written, that the Lamb was slaine fromt he beginning of the world (Rev. 13:8; cf. 1 Cor. 10:4). For to the foreknowledge of God all things are present, though they be never so far off. Wherefore, Christ, seeing he was to come, and was to be offered for us upon the cross, in this respect was comprehended of the fathers by faith, and was food for their souls unto eternal life. For those things which be furthest off from us, the same does faith make present. So that they took hold of the same Christ which we at this time do enjoy. But the difference stands in the time: for they believed that he should be born, and we that he is already born. They affirmed that he should die, and we affirm that he has died.

Wherefore Augustine, in his 16th book Against Faustus, says, that he vehemently errs, who thinks that the sacraments of the Jews ought to be retained in the Christian religion; seeing that God has now finished what he would have [pg. 588] to be done. And it was necessary that other signs should be ordained. Neither ought this to seem absurd. For when we signify anything that is done, or that is to be done, we use many different manners of speech. He writes the very same thing unto Ianuarius, to Optatus, and elsewhere. Neither is that any left, which the same father, upon the 73rd Psalm, speaks on this way: Their sacraments promised salvation, ours declare a Savior. The Papists wonderfully boast about these words, and cry out: “our sacraments give grace, which the sacraments of the Hebrews could not give.” Howbeit, what Augustine’s mind was in that place, they cannot tell. He meant nothing else, but that which he taught against Faustus, namely, that our sacraments do give and exhibit Christ. That is, they testify and bear record that he is given and exhibited. For he adds: I say not, that it has now salvation, but because Christ is now come. And if Augustine at any time says that the thing, which is now unto us, and that was in times past promised unto the Jews is not all one, undoubtedly he deals concerning other things, and not touching that which was principal in the promises of God. For in them, besides Christ, there was promised an earthly kingdom. Also the country of Canaan, which was a land flowing with milk and honey, and other such similar things were promised, which are strange and different from the promises of the Gospel. But Christ is common, both to us and to them, and is to us no otherwise than he was to them.

Now I come to the former question, in which it was asked, “How can our sacraments be of no more power, if the thing is one on both parts?” To this I answer: whe the self-same thing is set before us, of which one man takes more than another, there is difference in the thing itself, but in the instrument whereby it is taken. As if so be that a heap of money is set before any man, from whence it may be lawful for every one to take as much as he is able to hold in his hand; the larger and stronger are anyone’s hands, so much the more may he take from the money set before him: even so, seeing our faith, by which we comprehend Christ is greater and stronger than was that of the Jews, so we take more of Christ than those in the old time did. But you will say, “How can our faith be greater than the faith of the Jews?” Here it is necessary to answer warily. For there were some among the Hebrews endowed with excellent faith, namely, the prophets and patriarchs, of which many gave even their lives for the sake of religion. Neither is there any more believed by us than was by them, seeing that there Church and ours is all one, & Christ is ours alike. But the difference is in the perpecuity of the things believed. For to us in these days all things are more clear and manifest than they were to them. Unto us Christ is born, is dead, is risen out of the grave, and is taken up into heaven: all which things they also had, but more obscurely, and as it were in a shadow.

Seeing therefore that these things are more bright and manifest to us, our faith also may be called greater and more sure, because it is more stirred up by things that are clear, than by things that are obscure. For this reason in the past the faith in Christ was barely [“verie smallie”] advanced beyond the borders of Jewry, whereas at this day it is spread over all the world. And when I say that our faith is greater than the faith of the Jews, I mean that conerning their universal state, and as it happened for the most part and in most places generally. I do not mean it concerning particular persons. For I dare not affirm that the faith o fany man was more steadfast than the faith of Abraham, of David, of Isaiah, and men like them. For Christ testified of Abraham that

Old Posts on the Mosaic Covenant / the New Reformed Paradigm


Old Posts on the Mosaic Covenant vs. the New Reformed Paradigm

Why I was drawn into this.

Dr. Robert Strimple on Republication and the Mosaic Covenant

It isn’t about disctinctions it is about dichotomy

A Very Good Discussion on R. Scott Clark’s 7 point Summary of Republication /  He mistakenly thinks

The Marrow of Modern Divinity and the Recent Republication Issue

The Covenant of Grace, the Sinaitic and the New

OPC Special Committee Report

OPC Presbytery Northwest Debates Republication: Merit, Grace, and the Mosaic Covenant. Vote to send it to General Assembly

OPC Video – Session Two – Presentation on Particular view of Republication

WCF 19

Republication Beeke / Jones

Lutheran and Reformed Differences in the Divines.

Mosaic Covenant and the modern justification / sanctification controversy

The Mosaic Covenant same in Substance as the New Covenant

THe Modern Day Controversy justification / Sanctification

Depraved Christianity might be antinomian Christianity

Samuel Rutherford the Covenant of Life opened.

James Durham the Covenant of Works and the Mosaic

Vindication of the Law and Covenants Anthony Burgess

Skirting the Issue  / Clark

Dr. R. Scott Clark is not teaching the Broad View of the Westminster Divines

I know Dr. Clark seems to get a lot of attention here.  It isn’t because I have some personal vendetta.  Dr. Clark is accessible and easy to reference since he writes and contributes often in the world of modern media.

Typology and Republication (Patrick Ramsey)

“Two Kingdoms” Propositions and some Responses

Modern Day Reformed Thought and Two Kingdoms

Sundry Quotes from Solid Reformed Men on Law and Gospel



I am somewhat satisfied with the final report.  It should prove and settle the problem that some of our Modern Popular Professors and Authors are teaching contrary to the Scriptures and the Westminster Standards when it comes to the Mosaic Covenant.


Confusion in the Camp / Merit and Reformed Theology


Confusion in the Camp

Merit and Reformed Theology

In the Reformed Church, there has been much debate in the past decade over issues such as Natural Law, The Two Kingdoms, the Law-Gospel distinction, Justification and Sanctification, the Covenant of Works, the Covenant of Grace, and even the definition of the Gospel.

In the past few years, it has come to the attention of some ministers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church that doctrinal confusion has arisen over the doctrine of republication. The heart of the issue lies in a particular formulation of the Mosaic covenant, including the notion that Israel as a “corporate Adam” is under a typological arrangement which entails meritorious works on the temporal level. This confusion is coming to the forefront in OPC Presbyteries when licensure and ordination exams are being conducted. As I understand it, these issues are having far reaching consequences as the church pursues its peace, purity, doctrinal integrity, and practice.

In April of 2012, an Overture was proposed to the Presbytery of the Northwest OPC. This overture called for the 79th General Assembly to establish a study committee to examine teachings propagated in a publication, The Law is Not of Faith, edited by Bryan D. Estelle, J. V. Fesko, and David VanDrunen. Overtures are proposed requests for consideration of doctrinal matters or how things should function in the church. At the April 2012 meeting of the Presbytery of the Northwest OPC, the motion to approve the overture was replaced with a motion to establish a Special Presbytery Committee to study the issues concerning the doctrine of Republication as presented in the teachings of Meredith Kline and the book The Law is Not of Faith. This teaching has far reaching implications concerning the doctrines mentioned in the first paragraph.

Three Ministers from the Presbytery of the Northwest OPC (Randy Bergquist, Andy Elam, and Rob Van Kooten), have submitted their own study regarding the presbytery committee’s new proposed overture for all to review. The study first sets out to give some historical background for the publication the The Law Is Not Of Faith. It discusses the motives and reasons that are stated in the book itself. Next, it analyzes the covenant theologies of John Murray, Norman Shepherd, and Meredith Kline. The authors of the study booklet believe that these three men are the main reasons that this issue of Republication has come to the forefront in recent theological discussion. Their teachings are examined in light of the Westminster Confession of Faith and historic Reformed thought. Part 2 of the booklet turns to a critical examination of the doctrine of republication. Its basic thesis can be summarized as follows: ….the Republication Paradigm (ie., the views of Kline and The Law is not of Faith) uses traditional language and concepts, but redefines them in the service of its own paradigm. Not only do these new definitions fail to harmonize with those contained in the Westminster Standards, they may lead to other systematic changes in our confessional theology.” I would also note that when there are systematic doctrinal changes, there will also be changes in how we apply the Scriptures and practice our faith.

All three ministers are graduates from Westminster Seminary California from which most of this controversial teaching is emanating. A pre-presbytery discussion will be held on September 26, 2013 at First OPC in Portland, Oregon.

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.