Patrick Gillespie: Moses Was A Pedagogical Republication Of The Covenant Of Works

2.Then there could be no Covenant of Grace, in that Sinai covenant, for a covenant cannot be called subservient to itself; but it is abundantly proved and at great length by others, that the Sinai covenant was a covenant of grace, so that I need not here insist upon it. Fourthly, the Sinai covenant may be considered, either more largely, for the whole economy and dispensation of the covenant by Moses, as it taketh in the ceremonial law with the moral, or more strictly that dispensation which we call the moral law; yet with the preface, promises and threatenings added to it. And in either of these respects, it was certainly a covenant of grace, which tendered righteousness and life to sinners by faith in Christ, though the giving of that covenant was legal, as to the manner of it and very much in the form of a covenant of works, for the humbling of that stubborn self-conceited people, and for preventing the turning of the grace of God into wantoness, in all after ages.

Or it may be considered most strictly, understanding by the Sinai covenant, the mere preceptive part of the law, which commanded perfect obedience, and left them who observed it not under the curse of the law and the broken covenants. And in this sense, the draught of the law of nature, as it hath necessarily affixed blessing or curse to the obedience or disobedience thereof or the law as it was given upon Mount Sinai, in an abstract consideration of from the rest of Moses his economy, even in the decalogue is called a covenant (Deut 4:13) “And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform even the ten commandments.” Jer 11:3,4. “Cursed be the man that obeys not words of this covenant, which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying ‘Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall you be my people, and I will be your God.” And in this respect it may be called a legal covenant of works, wherein I am the more confirmed, that the describing of the covenant of works is asserted of Moses’ doctrine (Rom 10:5) “For Moses describes the righteousness of which is the law that the man which does these things, shall live by them.” Not that God intended to set that way before them, as a possible way of righteousness and life, but that pressing upon them the commander of the law and perfect obedience under pain of the curse of the covenant of works, he might convince them of their sinfulness and the utter impossibility of getting life without Christ and thus the use of the covenant of works or of the mere draught of the law of nature revived, explicated and reinforced, and made subservient to the covenant of Grace….

—Patrick Gillespie, The ark of the testament opened, or, The secret of the Lords covenant unsealed in a treatise of the covenant of grace, wherein an essay is made for the promoving [sic] and increase of knowledge in the mysterie of the Gospel-covenant which hath been hid from ages and generations but now is made manifest to the Saints .. (London, 1681), 154–55. [spelling and punctuation modernized]

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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16 comments

  1. Hey, Scott, I noticed the review of Moses and Merit posted over at Ref 21, and I wondered if you or anyone at WSCal had reviewed the book.

    • Hi Fowler,

      On the HB I speak only for myself. I don’t represent the seminary nor do I speak for the seminary. I don’t know what anyone else plans to do. My plan is to continue exploring and explaining the history of Reformed theology. I’ve written extensively on the history of covenant theology in print and online and I’ve provided extensive evidence as to the existence and nature of the various approaches to the doctrine of republication in the classical period of Reformed theology.

  2. I saw the review of Moses and Merit as well, and it puzzels me that the authors could claim that republication originated from M. G. Kline in the face of all these recent posts of evidence from Reformed orthodoxy. It’s a “puzzelment!”

  3. This debate seems to be misunderstood because of terminology.

    Moses and Merit authors (and John Murray, O.Palmer Robertson etc) affirm republication in the most basic sense (Material republication of the COW as Gillespie describes above), if not even some versions of Formal Republication (Pedagogical, Hypothetical Salvation). The debate isn’t about affirming or rejecting republication “in some sense”. It’s about which version of republication is affirmed or rejected.

    If we are to take Brenton Ferry’s dissertation & chapter 3 in The Law Is Not of Faith as correct, then we must distinguish between Material and Formal Republication and Between Dr. Kline’s version of Typological Formal Republication and the other 4 versions of Formal Republication. This is a debate between Dr. Kline’s version of Typological Formal Republication and those who hold to the other 4 versions and perhaps some who only hold to Material republication.

    Everyone holds to Material Republication of the Decalgoue (moral law) to Moses in the 10 commandments. Therefore, everyone holds to “republication in some sense.” If you see someone write “I reject republication” notice that they are not rejecting Material Republication (or even some versions of Formal) but Dr. Kline’s specific version of Typological Formal Republication (which is being simply called “republication” by its proponents).

  4. David, if you understand what I wrote above, then you can see why people are claiming “republication” began with Dr Kline. They aren’t referring to Material republication but to Dr. Kline’s specific version of Typological Formal Republication. Since Dr. Kline’s advocates simply call his view “republication” or “republication in some sense,” their critics are using the same terminology.

  5. Notice in the Ref21 article, the terminology being used is not taking into account the Material/Formal republication views but is addressing the proponents of Dr Kline’s Typological Formal Republication in their own language. Since they do not call their view “Dr Kline’s version of Typological Formal Republication” but simply “republication” or “republication in some sense,” their critics are using their same language.

    …republication is the belief that “the Mosaic covenant [is] to be considered in some sense a republication of the Adamic covenant of works.” (p.1)

    This does not mean their critics reject Material Republication or even other Formal Republication views.

    • Psyche,

      It is not accurate to say that no one opposes every form of republication. I am personally aware of intelligent, well-regarded Reformed theologians who are opposed to every possible notion of republication.

      Remember, there are a plenty of folks who are opposed to the very notion of a covenant of works. It is not at all uncommon for ministerial candidates to take exception to WCF ch 7. All those, presumably, are also, in principle, opposed to republication since they can hardly deny the covenant of works and then affirm its republication.

      As to MGK. His views go back to Shaw, Buchanan, and arguably Hodge. Whether they are in fact rooted in a 17th-century tradition, is a matter of debate.

      The fact that some critics are not distinguishing which views of republication they are rejecting makes their rhetoric inherently ambiguous. You may be correct in your interpretation but you may not be.

      • Dr. Clark,

        I am very concerned that much of this debate seems to be caused by terminology confusion and people just talking past one another without actually understanding the terms being used.

        POINT 1:
        As far as I am aware (willing to be corrected), the debates are not between Reformed who “oppose every form of republication” and Reformed “who uphold republication “in some sense.”” Those who affirm the Decalogue, affirm “republication of the moral law” (Material republication). They affirm “invisible republication” from the days of Adam down through today (as God’s moral law) and it’s “visible republication” at Mt Sinai in the tablets of the 10 commandments. Thus, they all affirm “republication in some sense” – the moral law sense – known as Material Republication. Thus, it would be incorrect to say these individuals “reject republication in every sense.”

        Now you bring up that some today *presumably* reject “republication of the COW” since they reject the COW itself. But this is not necessarily true. What does such a phrase “republication of the COW” mean to the one rejecting it? It could have at least 3 different meanings. We must determine which of the 3 meanings is being referenced in order to understand what is being rejected or else we risk misrepresenting our brothers in Christ.

        MEANING 1: Historically, our Reformed brothers have called the “republication of the Decalogue/moral law” (above belief) “republication of the Covenant of Works” EVEN THOUGH they only meant “republication of the moral law.” Thus, they called Material Republication “republication of the COW.”

        MEANING 2: Other Reformed theologians used “republication of the COW” to refer to one/more of the Formal Republication views. So “republication of the COW” was used to refer to either Material or a version of Formal Republication.

        MEANING 3: Today, “republication of the COW” usually refers not to Meaning1 or Meaning2 but to Dr. Kline’s specific version of Typological Formal Republication. This means someone who rejects Dr. Kline’s specific view is NOT necessarily rejecting Meaning1 or Meaning2. In fact, many of these individuals actually affirm Meaning1 and/or Meaning2.

        Example: John Murray has long been said to “reject the republication of the COW.” But which of the 3 meanings was he rejecting and which did he affirm? Certainly, we would admit he affirmed Meaning1 “republication of the moral law/Decalogue.” So it would be incorrect to say he “rejected republication” when he affirmed Material Republication at the very least.

        Denying the COW or the COW terminology, does not mean one denies the Decalogue and the “republication of the moral law” (Material republication).

        POINT 2:
        The debates (as judged by the articles/books) are between those who “uphold republication in some sense” and those who “uphold Dr. Kline’s version of Typological Formal Republication (with some differences/nuances/variations).” Dennison’s Kerux article, Merit and Moses, Venema, Jones etc are all critical of Dr. Kline’s version of Typological Formal Republication. They are not criticizing Material republication or even some versions of Formal Republication. They actually affirm and agree with many of our Reformed theologian’s own Formal Republication views. Example: Many would not have a problem with Turretin’s Material and Formal Republication views (Hypothetical Salvation and Pedagogical Use).

        If “those who oppose every sense of republication” are writing articles, please give us an example. But these individuals must reject Material republication.

        • Psyche,

          I don’t think this is matter of misunderstanding. Your analysis ignores the massive influence of Karl Barth, who changed the playing field for many. For the first half of the 20th century very few Reformed theologians were willing to affirm unequivocally the teaching of WCF 7 and, consequently, ch. 19. One cannot simply sweep aside that reality as “terminological.”

          You don’t accept the my claim that some (perhaps most) of the opponents of republication oppose it in all its forms. Fine. We disagree.

          As for examples, you have already given them. You have already conceded that the the critics don’t often/alwqys/usually say which form they deny. You suppose that they deny only one form but that is a supposition.

          My point here is not to defend MGK or the typological republication, except to say that it’s within the boundaries of orthodoxy. As I’ve said repeatedly that is not a hill upon which I’m prepared to die.

          I’ve proposed a formula that should be acceptable to most:

          http://heidelblog.net/2014/08/seven-short-points-about-republication/

          My historical point is make sure that we all understand that various versions of republication have been taught by orthodox Reformed theology since the 16th century. I think I’ve demonstrated that sufficiently here so perhaps my work is done.

    • Psyche, in a few sentences can you put forth where you see Kline as clearly “leaving the reservation” as contasted with others who have held to an acceptable Formal republication version in some sense. Thanks…

  6. Hi Jack, I personally have made no determination as to whether Dr. Kline has “left the reservation” in his Typological Formal Republication view. I am still studying and learning about his teachings and other versions of Formal Republication.

    In attempting to understand the debate, I understand his critics raise the following concerns:
    1) Some of Dr. Kline’s followers claim his specific view is critical to upholding justification by faith alone and therefore, anyone who rejects this view is “implicitly” rejecting justification by faith alone. This means theologians who hold to Material Republication or other versions of Formal Republication may be accused of “implicitly” rejecting justification by faith alone. Thus, everyone but Dr Kline’s followers are “implicitly” rejecting justification by faith alone.
    2) He turns the COG into a COW “in some sense” or possibly a subservient covenant (see Lee Irons’ website) and the emphasis on law is so strong that “the substance” of the MC is truly no longer gracious but legal;
    3) They take issue with his teaching that man’s obedience “merits” from God (see Merit & Moses & Ref21 article) in Mosaic Covenant (and also Noah, Abraham etc); and especially that the “good works” of unbelievers can merit from God earthly blessings; and “in some sense” man is entitled to heaven
    4) John Murray is misread and gets mistakenly blamed for causing FV
    5) Dr. Kline had at one time rejected Voluntary Condescension (WCF 7.1) and most of his followers reject any grace before the fall.

  7. Psyce, may I ask you for a definition of Formalism? What is the modality of Formalism that separates it from the Matter and Principium? How are the two distinguished and united?

    The principal problem lies in this, specifically the covenant is the structuralism of a certain modality. To think one can separate the moral law from its functionalism is to miss the point altogether. To believe in a republication of the COW in any sense is to embrace the formal structuralism of the COW.

    If there is a republication of the COW as the divines cited entail, it is a Structural view of the Mosaic oikoinomia. This is not rocket science. The problem lies in the incipient Neo-Kuyperianism/Calvinism of the various “schools” of Reformed thought today, which inherently de-scholasticize Reformed theology like John Murray desired. To use the distinction between formal and material is itself against their biblicist desires. And this is not pejorative, this is a term they like. Hence, they don’t use your distinctions or see the need to.

    To use sharp distinctions is Roman Catholic or worse Dispensational, as so many of the interlocutors seem to think.

  8. Hi Brighton, actually I’m using the definitions “Material” and “Formal” Republication from the book The Law is Not of Faith. See Brenton Ferry’s Chapter 3 or his dissertation.

    I have heard your argument elsewhere but even if you remove Material-only Republicationists (if they exist?), this doesn’t prevent the debates from still being between “some who hold other versions of Formal Republication” and “those who hold to Dr. Kline’s particular version of Typological Formal Republication.”

    Some men who hold to Pedagogical Formal Republication, Hypothetical Formal Republication and even some form of Typological Formal Republication still take issue with Dr. Kline’s particular view. My point isn’t to argue one view is more correct, but simply to (in line with the 9th commandment) honestly and truthfully explain Dr. Kline’s critics’ position with helpful terminology distinctions. The majority of people coming into these debates have mistakenly thought that the majority of Dr. Kline’s critics reject all forms of republication and are shocked to find out this isn’t the case. How can one address their critics or understand the different positions if they don’t even understand the categories?

  9. Thank you Psyche for your cordial conversation. It is appreciated in our day. Thank you from one ole’ stodgy Anglican to you!

    Yes, my point is that the distinction between Material and Formal is helpful only if you know what they are existentially “doing.” And, for all my concerns, I have yet to see this in those who are in either camp.

    There is ALWAYS a Formal Structure to the Matter of the Law. Needless is the distinction, if the some in the conversation do not understand its metaphysical properties. It is insufficient to use the terms in a biblical theological manner, if their metaphysical/provisional weight is ill-informed or neglected.

    The argument comes down to what Kind of Formal Structuralism existentially guides the Law’s use and telos. Those who oppose Kline’s view don’t have such an eye to the discussion. What is more properly at stake is the Doctrine of God. This is the underlying assumption. What kind of God do we worship?

    For the theonomist, the conception of provisionality in terms of Covenant and Structure as well as the Matter is inconceivable, to do so is to make God unjust and immoral. To give a law that doesn’t inherently relate to the nature of God is capricious.

    The same can be said on the Murray end of the discussion. To see the Mosaic Law as other than an administration of Grace in either Form or Structure is to conceive of God as an immoral Law-Giver who requires of man something in the Mosaic Covenant nothing short of perverse.

    Nature and Grace are at the heart of the discussion. How does man relate to God as homo religiosus/adorans? Where does the penetration of the natural and supernatural end reside? How does this relate to him as the imago Dei? These incipient questions are missed entirely, because we are far too modern in categories and conceptions of the heuristic nature of the theological task.

    Neo-Calvinism in all its stripes does not see the inherent Trinitarian debate that underlies what is on the surface being debated, hence R. S. Clark’s citation of Karl Barth in this string.

    In this, at least, Karl Barth was right — a reintegration of the Doctrine of God to the Doctrine of the Covenants is in order.

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