Rollock: Covenant Of Works Founded On Nature And Republished To Israel

Now, therefore, we are to speak of the Word, or of the covenant of God, having first set down the ground, that all the word of God appertains to some covenant; for God speaks nothing to man without the covenant. For which cause all the scripture, both old and new where in God’s Word is contained, bears the name of God’s covenant or testament.

The covenant of God generally is a promise under some one certain condition. And it is twofold; the first is the covenant of works; the second is the covenant of grace. Paul (Gal 4:24) expressly set down two covenants, which in the Old Testament were shadowed by two women, as by types, to whit, Hagar, the handmaid, and Sarah, the free woman; For saith he,”These be those two covenants.” Let us then speak something of these two covenants; and first of the covenant of works. The covenant of works, which may also be called a legal or natural covenant, is founded in nature, which by creation was pure and holy, and in the law of God, which in the first creation was engraven in man’s heart. For after that God had created man after his own image, pure and holy, and had written his law in his mind, he made a covenant with man, wherein he promised him eternal life, under the condition of holy and good works, which should be answerable to the holiness and goodness of their creation, and conformable to his law and that nature thus beautified with holiness and righteousness in the light of God’s law, is the foundation of the covenant of works, it is very evident for that could not stand well with the justice of God to make a covenant under condition of good works and perfect obedience to his law, except he had first created man pure and holy, and had engraven his law in His heart, whence those good works might proceed. For this cause he, when he was to repeat that covenant of works to the people of Israel, he gave the first 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. For, as touching the covenant of works, there was no mediator in the beginning between God and man, that God showed in him, as in and buy a mediator, make his covenant with man. And the causes that there was no need of a mediator was this, that albeit there were two parties entering into a covenant, yet there was no such breach or variance betwixt them that they had need of any mediator to make reconciliation between them; for, as for the covenant of works, God made this covenant with man, as one friend doth with another. For in the creation we were God’s friends, and not his enemies. Thus far of the ground of the covenant of works.

—Robert Rollock (c.1555–99), A Treatise of God’s Effectual Calling in Select Works of Robert Rollock, ed. William M. Gunn , 2 vol. (Edinburgh: Woodrow Society, 1849), 1.33–35

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  1. Hello Dr. Clark,

    I’m a relatively new reader at the Heidelblog, and I recently enjoyed listening to your three-part series about republication in the Mosaic covenant on the Heidelcast back in 2013. A lot of the quotes you’ve been posting in the last few days seem familiar from those podcasts and seem to address that topic. I was wondering if the recent book review of “Merit and Moses: A Critique of the Klinean Doctrine of Republication” by Stephen Myers over at Reformation 21 might have been what stirred you up on the subject. But more importantly, I was wondering what your thoughts are about that book review and especially the book itself.

    Blessings in Christ


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