The "Novelty" of Republication…in 1597?

For this cause, when he was to repeat that covenant of works to the people of Israel, he first gave the law written in tables of stone; then he made a covenant with his people saying, “Do these things and ye shall live.” Therefore the ground of the covenant of works was not Christ, nor the grace of God in Christ, but the nature of man in the first creation holy and perfect, endued also with the knowledge of the law

Robert Rollock | Select Works, 1.34.


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  1. The doctrine of republication is more thoroughly worked out in Rollock’s 1596 Quaestiones et responsiones aliquot de foedere Dei. And if you wanted an even earlier instance of the same teaching, there’s Amandus Polanus’ 1589 Snytagma theologiae Christianae: “The covenant of works is a bargain of God made with men concerning eternal life, to which is both a condition of eternal life adjoined, to be performed by man, and also a threatening of eternal death if he shall not perform perfect obedience (Gen 2.17). The repetition of the covenant of works is made by God (Exod 19.5, Deut 5.2, I Kings 8.21, Heb 8.9), and that chiefly for four causes…” Polanus’ proof-texts leave little doubt about when, in his judgment, God made this ‘repetition of the covenant of works’.

  2. Hi Aaron,

    Good to hear from you. Yes, I’m working on a history of covenant theology and I’m actually planning to work on Rollock’s little catechism today. I started through Polanus last week but have to finish today or tomorrow.

    I’m interested in the 1589 date for the Syntagma. He would have been 28 years old! My copy was published in 1612 and I can’t find a copy published before 1605. Are you thinking of the Partitiones, which were published in ’89? Eric Bristley has a terrific encyclopedia entry on him that I just found today.

    This quotation is even more interesting because his section on the covenant of works in the Syntagma, at least what I’ve found so far, is so brief. I’m working with a fiche, however, and it’s hard to get an overview with those stupid things. I keep hoping it will show up on the DLCP. Thanks for the lead and the simulus!

  3. ps. The republication theme is also very strong in Olevianus. He consistently links the natural law or the natural covenant with the “legal covenant,” which most often is the way he refers to Moses. It’s clear that by “foedus legale” he doesn’t mean to suggest a different way of salvation — -he is after all the great proponent of a unified covenant of grace (iDe substantia foederis) so, in that context his repeated use of that language and the connection between the two is interesting. The ideas of the covenant of works. How people can deny that the idea of republication is a basic and standard Reformed teaching is beyond me. They may not like it but it has a strong Reformed pedigree.

    One caveat in re Bristley’s essay. He quotes Good (Eric spend time in the German Reformed churches where people still read J I Good — who is actually pretty good) and Letham re Polanus’ Ramism. There’s no “there” there. Ramus didn’t substantially change anything in Reformed theology. At the end of the day all he did was to divide up things into twos. That’s it. As far as I’m concerned he was a wacko. Eric’s essay hints that Ramus was some kind of a proto-presuppositionalist. I don’t know if that’s what he intended but that’s how it sounds. Nonsense. He was a wild-eyed self-promoting lightweight. He cribbed his definitions from Aristotle’s categories and he’s become a vehicle for mischief ever since.

  4. Scott,

    Yep, sorry, I did mean the Partitiones from ’89. I was quoting from the 1595 English translation, which is available on EEBO (for what it’s worth, a 1591 Latin edition of the Partitiones, printed in London, is also available on EEBO). His comments on the covenant of works are brief in that work as well.

  5. Dr. Clark, Hello.

    “For this cause, when he was to repeat that covenant of works to the people of Israel, he first gave the law written in tables of stone;”

    Do you understand by this that God is establishing a covenant of works with the people or nation of Israel?


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