Cartwright: The Covenant Of Grace Is Not A Covenant Of Works

Jer. chap. 31:31 Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, with the house of Judah, 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, the which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them, says the Lord. 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, After those days, says the Lord, I will put my Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord:’ for they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sins no more.

What follows to be spoken of?

The covenant of grace.

Seeing by the covenant of works life everlasting is propounded, what need is there that the covenant of grace should be set before us?

Because, as has been said, the covenant of works cannot through the infirmity of our flesh give life to any: And therefore if God should justify any by it, he should be unjust, as one that should give the kingdom of heaven to wicked men.

Seeing the nature of a covenant is to reconcile and join those together which are at variance; as we see in the example of Abraham, and Abimelech, Laban and Jacob: why is this called the covenant that can make no reconciliation between God and us?

Although it be not able to reconcile us, yet it does make way to reconciliation by another covenant: neither is it meet strictly to bind God’s covenant with men, to the laws or covenants of one man with another; for among men the weaker seeks reconciliation at the hand of the mightier: but God neither able to be hurt or benefited by us, seeks unto us for peace.

What is the covenant of grace?

That God will give us life everlasting through Christ, if we believe in him.

How are they convinced by the giving of this covenant, which seek righteousness in the law or old covenant?

Because thereby they make God unwise, that would enter into a new and second covenant, if the former had been sufficient.

Of how many sorts is this?

It is either the old or new Testament.

What is the old Testament?

It is the covenant of God, under shadows to give life everlasting by faith in Christ that was to come.

What is the new Testament?

It is the covenant of God, without shadows to give life everlasting by faith in Christ that is come.

Are these Testaments divers?

They be in substance the same, but in manner they differ.

What are the parts of this covenant of God?

Two: the one is the covenant that God makes with us; the other is the covenant that we make with God.

What is the sum of that covenant God makes with us.?

That he will be our God.

—Thomas Cartwright, A Treatise of the Christian Religion (London, 1611), 123–27 [Spelling and punctuation modernized].

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  1. Thanks so much; you have us on tenterhooks: What, then, does Thomas Cartwright say is the Covenant that we make with God? Let me guess: That we will be His people? or that He will be our God? or are we allowed both?

  2. I wish I really responded with real gratitude for God’s grace in Christ, seeing how much I owe Him. But if I did, would it be me making a covenant with God??? I don’t see it. Clearly you’re not Thomas Cartwright, but can you explain, or are you as puzzled as I am?

  3. Hi Prof. Clark,
    youv’e really been cranking out these republication posts, by the end of the year there should be no excuse for anybody in the Reformed English speaking western world who has access to the internet from denying the Doctrine of the Republication of the covenant of works.

    It’s interesting that God should make an emphasis on the 3rd use of the Law when prophesying of the coming New Covenant.

    • Thank you Robert for drawing attention to that aspect of Jeremiah 31:33. I never thought of that verse as being about the 3rd use of the Law – It is, of course.
      It’s only recently hit me that our Lord Jesus didn’t just obey the Law by nature, but also by conscious decision, i.e., He, as our pattern, employed the Law in its 3rd use. How incredibly dim I am not to have understood this years ago! That’s what a lot of the 119th Psalm is about, after all!

    • Your welcome John, I only just picked it up myself recently, it’s the kind of text
      that ties the antinomian dispensationalists into knots, with there multiple
      fulfillments of this verse & the like, had a look at Things to Come, Chap VIII
      pg 117-118 and Dwight was quoting Ryrie’s The Basis of the Premillenial
      Faith pg 112-14, where Ryrie says ” as far as the Old Testament teaching
      on the new covenant is concerned, the covenant was made with the Jewish
      people. Its period of fulfillment is yet future…” they seem to be clueless,
      also noticed that the words Old Testament & Jewish had a capital letter,
      whilst the words new covenant didn’t, sort of judaizing by grammar!

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