Witsius: Sinai Was A Repetition Of The Covenant Of Works

A Repetition of the Law of the Covenant of Works. In the ministry of Moses, there was a repetition of the doctrine concerning the law of the covenant of works. The Mosaic Covenant, then, seems to be a sort of republication of the covenant of works. Of course it is not identical to the prelapsarian covenant, but there is that condition «by which formula, the righteousness, which is of the law, is described, Rom. x. 5. And the terror of the covenant of works is increased by repeated comminations; and that voice heard, cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them, Deut. xxvii. as the requirement of obedience was rigid under the ministry of Moses, the promises of spiritual and saving grace were more rare and obscure, the measure of the Spirit granted to the Israelites, scanty and short, Deut. xxix. 4. and on the contrary, the denunciation of the curse frequent and express; hence the ministry of Moses is called, “the ministration of death and condemnation,” 2 Cor. iii. 7,9. doubtless because it mentioned the condemnation of the sinner, and obliged the Israelites to subscribe to it.

—Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man: Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity, trans. William Crookshank, vol. 2 (London: T. Tegg & Son, 1837), 187.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this. It’s wonderful, clear, and simple. I still think you need to publish a compendium of quotes (such as this one) on Covenant theology and the Law and the Gospel. Have it hard bound with a good essay/introduction on each category.

    Thanks for being such a great professor.

  2. So can we say that republication is a consistent reminder that there IS a covenant of works and in the OT it must be viewed as someday to be fulfilled and in the NT as finally fulfilled? It that the point of this whole debacle? Yes, there’s a COW but it is Christ in view, not the persons or the church?

    • Hi Rob,

      Yes, absolutely we should say that republication is a “consistent reminder that there is a covenant of works” and “it must be viewed as someday to be fulfilled…”

      Christ, as the last Adam, fulfilled the covenant of works and therefore salvation is found, for sinners, only in the covenant of grace by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, who is the only mediator of the covenant of grace.

      For those who are united to Christ by grace alone, through faith alone the moral law continues as the abiding norm in the covenant of grace. Our obedience to the covenant of grace comes by way of gratitude, the Spirit helping us, as an obligation consequent to the grace received.

  3. Thanks. That was what really irked me about all I’ve keep hearing about republication. It makes sense that, in a lasting sense the COW remains, but that it’s a fulfilled demand. Most times, it really sounds as if there’s some need to apply it so us as if we’re not free. All I’ve read of Paul says we are free. Sends me back to Romans 7 except people tend to take away the part of v. 25 where “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

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