The Marrow Surveys 17th-Century Opinion On Republication

Nom. And do any of our godly and modern writers agree with you on this point?

Evan. Yes, indeed. Polanus says, “The covenant of works is that in which God promiseth everlasting life unto a man that in all respects performeth perfect obedience to the law of works, adding thereunto threatenings of eternal death if he shall not perform perfect obedience thereto. God made this covenant in the beginning with the first man Adam, whilst he was in the first estate of integrity: the same covenant God did repeat and make again by Moses with the people of Israel.” And Dr. Preston, on the New Covenant, (p. 317.) says, “The covenant of works runs in these terms, “Do this and thou shalt live, and I will be thy God.” This was the covenant which was made with Adam, and the covenant that is expressed by Moses in the moral law.” And Mr. Pemble (Vind. Fid. p. 152.) says, “By the covenant of works we understand what we call in one word, “the law,” namely, that means of bringing man to salvation, which is by perfect obedience unto the will of God. Hereof there are also two several administrations: the first is with Adam before his fall, when immortality and happiness was promised to man, and confirmed by an external symbol of the tree of life, upon condition that he continued obedient to God, as well in all other things, as in that particular commandment of not eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The second administration of this covenant was the renewing thereof with the Israelites at Mount Sinai: where, after the light of nature began to grow darker and corruption had in time worn out the characters of religion and virtue first graven in man’s heart,u God revived the law by a compendious and full declaration of all duties required of man towards God or his neighbour, expressed in the decalogue; according to the tenor of which law God entered into covenant with the Israelites, promising to be their God in bestowing upon them all blessings of life and happiness, upon condition that they would be his people, obeying all things that he had commanded; which condition they accepted of, promising an absolute obedience, (Exod. 19:8.) “All things which the Lord hath said we will do;” and also submitting themselves to all punishment in case they disobeyed, saying ‘Amen’ to the curse of the law, ‘cursed is every one that confirmeth not all the words of the law; and all the people shall say Amen.’ ” And Mr. Walker on the covenant, (p. 128.) says, that “the first part of the covenant, which God made with Israel at Horeb, was nothing else but a renewing of the old covenant of worksv which God made with Adam in paradise.” And it is generally laid down by our divines, that we are by Christ delivered from the law as it is a covenant.w


u.That is, had worn them out, in the same measure and degree as the light of nature was darkened; but neither the one nor the other was ever fully done, Rom. 2:14, 15.
w. But not as it is a rule of life, which is the other member of that distinction.

—Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: An Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 7 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1850), 200–01.

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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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