Colquhoun: What The Covenant Of Works Requires

Although the law in its covenant form requires of all who are under it since the fall perfect obedience as the condition of life and full satisfaction for sin in their own persons, and at the same time, upon the revelation and offer of Christ in the gospel as Jehovah Our Righteousness, commands them to believe in Him as such; yet as is the case in various other instances of duty, it requires the one of these only on supposition that the other is not performed. The law as a covenant of works requires that all who are under it do present to it as the conditions of eternal life perfect obedience and complete satisfaction for sin, either in their own persons or in that of a responsible surety. So long, then, as a sinner, unwilling to be convinced of his sin and his want of righteousness, cleaves to the law as a covenant and refuses to accept and present in the hand of faith the spotless righteousness of the adorable Surety, that sinner continues “a debtor to do the whole law” (Gal. 5:3). He keeps himself under an obligation to do, in his own person, all that the law in that form requires and also to suffer all that it threatens. The righteous law, accordingly, goes on to use him as he deserves. It continues to proceed against him without the smallest abatement of its high demands, requiring of him the complete payment of his debt both of perfect obedience and of infinite satisfaction for his disobedience. As it accepts no obedience but that which is absolutely perfect or fully answerable to all its demands (Gal. 3:10–11), so the acceptance of a man’s person as righteous according to it will depend on the acceptance of [Christ’s] obedience (Matt. 5:18; Rom. 10:5).

John Colquhoun | A Treatise on the Law and Gospel (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books), 19.


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  • Tony Phelps
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    Tony grew up in Rhode Island. He was educated at BA (University of Rhode Island) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He worked in the insurance industry for ten years. He planted a PCA church in Wakefield, RI where he served for eleven years. In 2015–18 he pastored Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Colorado Springs. He is currently pastor of Living Hope (OPC). Tony is married to Donna and together they have three children.

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