re-post from May 07. Part 1 is here.
As a follow up to the post of 16 January of this year. We’re discussing the doctrine of the “republication” of the covenant of works at the Puritanboard. Kevin asked about a quotation from Samuel Rutherford which seems to deny any possibility of republication:
Samuel Rutherford, said it this way, in his book, The Covenant of Life Opened, “But the truth is, the Law as pressed upon Israel was not a Covenant of Works. The law as the Law or as a Covenant of Works is made with perfect men who need no mercy; But this covenant is made with sinners, with an express preface of mercy, I am the Lord thy God that brought thee out of the land of Egypt, &c. It is made with stiff-necked Israel Deut. 29 Deut 30.c. 31. c. 32. and that is called a covenant from the end and object, as motions are denominate from their end: for the end of the Lords pressing the law upon them was to bring them under a blessed necessity to seek salvation in their true city of Refuge Christ Jesus, who redeemed them out of spiritual bondage of sin.”
To which I respond (with some minor modification):
It depends upon which use of the covenant of works is in view. It was widely (and rightly) held that the covenant of works was abrogated as an actual way of justification for sinners. When the older theologians spoke of republication I understand them to have been saying that the covenant of works was republished in the pedagogical use of the law to teach Israel the greatness of his sin and misery and drive him to faith in Christ. Thus, by “republication,” they were saying the same thing Rutherford is saying in substance. Given the sense in which Rutherford used “covenant of works” (as in WCF ch 7 and ch 19)
I think we agree that the fall creates a major in change in the way Israel could relate to the law.
Clearly other writers in the same period did speak of republication of the covenant of works. Indeed, it’s republication was a major proof of the initial covenant of works. It’s always, however, mutatis mutandis – with the changes having been changed.
I’m proposing that, because of her one-off, absolutely unique, typological, temporary, national covenant status, Israel had an additional, typological relation to the law relative to the land. As I tell our congregation, national Israel was a sermon illustration. Israel’s relation to the land was a great drama and the formal, legal basis for his forfeiture of the national covenant was disobedience grounded in unbelief.
Israel was under a typological, not soteriological covenant of works. It’s a post-lapsarian, typological covenant of works.
I think all civil entities are in an analogous covenant of works. I may be merciful to the city and not prosecute them for their every failure to discharge their duties, and a cop may let me drive 40 in a 35, but we could and do sometimes hold each other accountable on a works basis. If the city’s failures become chronic, I take them to court. If I don’t mow my yard, the city fines me and I have to pay up or go to jail. Now, is my relation to the city legal or gracious? Well, it’s merciful (but not gracious — it is withholding punishment but not imputing righteousness) right up to the point it isn’t any more and I go off to jail or they have to begin performing their duties.
That’s something like the way national Israel related to the covenant of works relative to their national status. In strict justice, God might have executed the sanctions of the covenant of works immediately against Israel but, for the purposes of the giant, historical, temporary, sermon illustration, he was gracious. Nevertheless, the type of covenant under which Israel lived as national entity was formally legal, it was a suzerain-vassal treaty. Those same families also lived under a royal grant covenant that was wholly gracious relative to salvation and justification.
This is a good way to account for all of the conditional legal language found throughout the Pentateuch and for the conditional language inherent in the 10 words themselves: “that your days may be long in the land…”
The national, legal covenant was a ritual. Jesus ritually re-enacted at least aspects of Israel’s history. Unlike Israel, Yahweh’s adopted son, the true Son Jesus did meet the qualifications to be under a covenant of works. Israel was 40 years in the desert, Jesus was 40 days (without food). Israel gave in to temptation to grumble, Jesus did not. Jesus was the true Israel. He went down to Egypt and “out of Egypt have I called my Son” (Matt 2). Israel (like Adam) polluted God’s holy temple, but Jesus sanctified it and chased the devil out (twice!). Israel (like Adam) made false covenants with the nations and went after their gods. Jesus kept covenant with his father and called the nations to repent and believe. He fulfilled not only the terms of the covenant of works with Adam (as the last Adam) and the terms of the pactum salutis (John 17) but also the terms of the national covenant. He kept the law, he served and loved God with all his faculties and his neighbor as himself. He obeyed and offered a right sacrifice.
One other thing. I keep hearing that Meredith Kline invented the doctrine of republication. In a word: nonsense. He modified it but he did not invent it. Just recently someone wrote to me with a post that credited WSC with inventing the doctrine of the covenant of works too! (So, WSC faculty were the pseudonymous authors of Oecolampadius’ theology, of Ursinus’ Summa theologiae, Wollebius’ Compendium, and WCF chapters 7 and 19?) Richard posted this nice bit from Hodge (who also antedates MGK and WSC):
It is to be remembered that there were two covenants made with Abraham. By the one his natural descendants through Isaac, were constituted a commonwealth, an external community; by the other his spiritual descendants were constituted into a church, [invisible of course, since, at that time, the only formal organization was that of the law.] The parties to the former covenant, were God, and the nation; to the other, God, and his true people. The promises of the national covenant, were national blessings; the promises of the spiritual covenant (i.e. the covenant of grace) were spiritual blessings, as reconciliation, holiness, and eternal life. The conditions of the one covenant [the old] were circumcision, and obedience to the law; the conditions of the other were, and ever have been, faith in the Messiah, as the seed of the woman, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. There cannot be a greater mistake than to confound the national covenant with the covenant of grace, [that is, the old covenant with the new] and the commonwealth founded on the one, with the church founded on the other. When Christ came, the commonwealth was abolished, and there was nothing put in its place. The church [now made visible] remained. There was no external covenant, nor promise of external blessings, on condition of external rites, and subjection. There was a spiritual society, with spiritual promises, on condition of faith in Christ.” “The church is, therefore, in its essential nature, a company of believers, and not an external society, requiring merely external profession as the condition of membership. (Princeton Review, October, 1853)