Perkins on the Two Covenants in Gal 4:24-25

William Perkins(HT: Particular Voices) The two testaments are the Covenant of works and the Covenant of grace, one promising life eternal to him that does all things contained in the law; the other to him turns and believes in Christ. And it must be observed that Paul says “they are two,” that is, two in substance or kind. And they are two sundry ways. The law or covenant of works propounds the bare justice of God without mercy. The covenant of grace or the Gospel reveals both the justice and mercy of God, or the justice of God giving place to his mercy.

Secondly, the law requires of us inward and perfect righteousness both for nature and action. The Gospel propounds unto us an imputed justice [resident]1 in the portion of the Mediator.

Thirdly, the law promises life upon condition of works. The Gospel promises remission of sins and life everlasting upon condition that we rest ourselves on Christ by faith.

Fourthly, the law was written in tables of stone, the Gospel in the fleshy tables of our heart (Jer 31:33; 2Cor 3:3).

Fifthly, the law was in nature by creation. The Gospel is above nature and was revealed after the fall.

Sixthly, The law has Moses for the mediator (Deut 5:27) but Christ is the mediator of the new testament (Heb 8:6).

Lastly, the law was dedicated by the blood of beasts (Exod 24:5) and the new Testament by the blood of Christ (Heb 9:12).

Here against Paul sets down two properties of the Testament of works or of the law. The first is it came from Mt Sinai. And her lies the difference between the law and the Gospel: the law is from Sinai, the gospel from Zion or Jerusalem. For there it was first to be preached and thence conveyed to all nations (Micah 4;1; Ezek 47:1).

The second property of the law is that it genders to bondage because it makes those bond men who look to be saved and justified thereby. And this it does by revealing sin and the punishment thereof, which is everlasting death and by convincing all men of their sins and of their condemnation. In this respect it is called “the ministry of death” (2Cor 3:6) and Paul says that he knew his sins by the law. He died and the law was the means of death unto him (Rom 7:10).

Here is another difference between the law and the Gospel. The law genders unto bondage, the Gospel genders to life. For it is an instrument of the Spirit for the beginning and confirming of our regeneration and salvation and so is not the law, which is no cause but only an accession of the grace of God in us.

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1. Perkins used “resient” an obsolete word meaning “resident.”

2 comments

  1. I’m new to the site, so you may have covered this before. I’ve been wondering how people outside the covenant of law like the Egyptians in Exodus and Abimelech and Hagar can recognize the Lord when He appears.
    Is this based on the image of God in them, or some other aspect of the Spirit?
    Paul Austin

    • It’s not so much about “recognizing the Lord when He appears.” God is well able to reveal His glory and His authority when He appears.

      It’s about understanding from God’s testimony in our hearts, as God’s image bearers, that it is morally wrong to mistreat other human beings, such as by enslaving them (as the Egyptians did) or by sinning as Abimelech (or insert other name here) did. (Since there’s more than one Abimelech in the Bible, I’m not sure exactly who you meant).

      Jesus said that whatever we do to the least of God’s children, that we do to Him (Matt. 25:40). So whether we talk about the B.C. period or the A.D. era, people have been either seeing God’s goodness (or ability to do good) in others and treating them accordingly as God desires, or they are mistreating people while also offending God. That will be the basis of God’s judgment. Explicit rejection of the gospel is added to the sin of not loving God and our fellow man, especially now that Christ has been revealed in the flesh.

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