Brakel: If You Deny The Covenant Of Works, You Will Not Understand The Covenant Of Grace

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Truly one of those rare and precious quotes suitable for framing. Can’t repeat it enough!

  2. Dr. Clark—
    One wonders what Herman Hoeksema might have made of this; he (and by extension, the PRC churches) do in fact object to “covenant of works” language, do they not? It may be semantics, but I think that Hoeksema maintained that this language made wrong inferences/unwarranted assumptions about God’s attributes, or disposition towards man—

    • David Engelsma writes about this in his book, Federal Vision: Heresy at the Root. He claims that Hoeksema “saw the covenant as a living relationship of love and friendship, rooted ultimately in the love-life of the blessed Trinity. He did reject the traditional doctrine of the covenant as a covenant of works in the sense that Adam, by his obedience, could have merited the highest life possible for man, which Jesus Christ earned and obtained for the new human race incarnation, lifelong obedience, and especially his atoning death.” p. 196. He goes on to say that this is unlike the FV who teach that Adam might have matured into the higher life be faithful obedience, which is a conditional covenant, Hoeksema maintains that the true covenant of grace demands that only Christ, by His unique obedience, could merit it. He claims that in this this way the the imputation of Christ’s active and passive righteousness is maintained. I still think this is problematic considering Paul’s teaching on the two Adams. 1Cor. 15: 22

    • The idea seems to be that, while Adam might have lived forever in an earthly existence, with his offspring, if he had obeyed God, only Christ could obtain glorification for His people, given to Him by the Father, through His unique obedience.

  3. I realize that this affirmation of the covenant of works (which I share) is offered to correct a few FV notions floating about. However, in another direction, I have seen Wilhelmus a Brakel’s name asociated with “Dutch Pietism”. Some of his emphases seem very congruent with the “experimental godliness” of some of the Puritans–the latter having been seen as laying the groundwork for Wesley’s work. Could it be, then, that the movement known as Pietism, while it did go off in some unhealthy directions, nonetheless sprang from pure motive? Perhaps the Pietistic stress on practical and “heart” religion, when coupled with a love of sound doctrine, is actually a rather good thing?

    • Peter,

      There were connections between the “experimental” piety of Brakel and Dutch Pietism but it’s also the case that Brakel and others actively resisted aspects of the Pietism, e.g., the Labadists, whose conventicles and mysticism threatened to replace the church, Word, and sacrament. It was a complicated relation fraught with tensions.

Comments are closed.