When a Monocovenantal Scheme Isn’t

From Robert Rollock, Questiones Et Responsiones Aliquot De Foedere Dei (Edinburgh, 1596), 3:

Q. Quotuplex est foedus Dei cum homine percussum?

R. Duplex est: foedus naturae sive operum, et foedus gratiae. Gal. 4.24

[Question: How manyfold is the covenant of God struck with men?

Answer: It is twofold: the covenant of nature or of works, and the covenant of grace. Gal 4:24]

As he continues it becomes clear (as in the Tractatus), that, for Rollock, “the covenant” is one with respect to the promise (eternal life and glorification) but it is two with respect to the conditions.1 The condition of the covenant of works is, well, works. It is perfect righteousness or conformity to God’s law. The “condition” of the covenant of grace is faith in another who has done those works for us: Christ.

If we want to speak of “one covenant” this way, fine. This is very different from the sort of “galawspel” monocovenantalism parading itself today as Reformed theology. Yes, I get cranky when I read sources because, though there was diversity of expression, there was a real unity in Reformed federal theology. I get cranky when I see what a mess some have made of covenant theology and especially when it’s all so unnecessary. 1596 was a long time ago. He addressed a lot of the questions some folk treat, in our age, as “cutting edge.” If we knew this stuff in 1596, when did we forget it?

Rollock was perfectly clear about the law/gospel distinction, sola fide and the rest of the Protestant essentials. Good stuff. There’s no reason to make the Reformed federal theology more complicated than it is.

1 Q. Quid est foedus naturae, sive operum?

A. Est foedus Deu, in quo ipse promittit vitam aeternam homini, sub conditione operum bonorum ex viribus naturae profiscentium, homo autem conditionem illam bonorum accepit. Levit. 18.18. Rom 10.5.  Gal 3.12. (p. 3-4)

Q. Quod est fundamentum foederis operum?

R. Natura bona, sancta, et inetegra, qualis fuit in hominis creatione. Nisi enim Deus initio fecisset homiem ad imaginem suam: hoc est, natur sapientem (page 4)

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