From Death to Life

A sinner is not always aware of the time when he crossed from death to life. What initially seemed to be preparation may later prove to have been salvation. The regenerating work of the Spirit is a mystery; we must acknowledge that the wind blows where it pleases and we do not see it (John 3:8).

 

Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 450.

Covenant Count

The question... is whether we may speak of the Abrahamic covenant (singular, so the Reformed) or Abrahamic covenants (plural, so the Baptists). The antipaedobaptists had to speak of two covenants made with Abraham: works and grace. By doing so, they were able to argue that circumcision belonged to the Abrahamic covenant of works and not to the Abrahamic covenant of grace.

 

Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 740.

The Davidic Covenant

Reformed theologians typically included the covenant made with David in their works on the history of redemption because of the abundant revelations made to David. These revelations include Christ’s eternal sonship; His threefold office of prophet, priest, and king; His incarnation, His mediatorial sufferings, and death; His resurrection, ascension into heaven, and enthronement at God’s right hand; the rise, progress, and success of His church and kingdom in the earth; His appointment to judge the world at the last day; and His eternal glory, in which all who belong to Him are destined to share.

 

Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 271.

X Sided Covenant

Thus the covenant of grace was made unilaterally by God; it is called a “one-sided covenant” (foedus monopleuron), given to fallen sinners apart from any consideration of their natural ability to respond or to fulfill the terms of the covenant. However, the covenant of grace is conditional in that it requires faith in Christ on man’s part, and so may be also called a “two-sided covenant” (foedus dipleuron).5


5
Thus, John Ball argues: “The Covenant of Grace is that free and gracious Covenant which God of his mere mercy in Jesus Christ made with man a miserable and wretched sinner, promising unto him pardon of sin and eternal happiness, if he will return from his iniquity, embrace mercy reached forth, by faith unfeigned, and walk before God in sincere, faithful and willing obedience, as becomes such a creature lifted up into such enjoyment, and partaker of such precious promises.” A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace … (London, 1645), 14–15.
 

Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 260.

Justice over Will

...according to Owen’s revised understanding, God’s justice has priority over His will; to pardon sin, God must act in a manner consistent with His nature.

 

Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 243.

The Spirit Anointed Christ With Graces

...Second, Christ received gifts and endowments to aid Him in His work, namely, the infusion of habitual graces into His human nature (Isa. 11:2–4). This point was carefully highlighted by several Puritan writers. John Owen makes perhaps the most explicit comment: “The only singular immediate act of the person of the Son on the human nature was the assumption of it into subsistence with himself.”96 Moreover, Owen insists that the Spirit is the “immediate operator of all divine acts of the Son himself, even on his own human nature. Whatever the Son of God wrought in, by, or upon the human nature, he did it by the Holy Ghost, who is his Spirit.”97 The graces wrought upon the human nature were, therefore, a result of the Spirit’s work in Christ. This concept plays an important role in Thomas Goodwin’s Christology. Like Owen, Goodwin maintained that the Spirit sanctified the human nature and constituted the incarnate Son as the Christ. The Spirit anointed Christ with graces (Isa. 11:2).

Thus the graces manifested in Christ’s human nature are to be attributed to the Spirit as the “immediate Author of them.”98 Goodwin adds that “although the Son of God dwelt personally, in the human nature, and so advanced that nature above the ordinary rank of creatures, and raised it up to that dignity and worth; yet all his habitual graces, which even his soul was full of, were from the Holy Ghost … and this inhabitation of the Holy Ghost did in some sense and degree concur to constitute him Christ.”99 So, for Goodwin, in the hypostatic union, the divine nature acts not immediately, but mediately through the work of the Spirit. And, in connection with Gillespie’s point above, the Spirit equips Christ for the work of mediation.

Gillespie next shows that not only did Christ receive the Spirit to assist Him, but He also received promises from the Father to encourage Him (Isa. 42:4; 49:1–3).


96
Owen, Discourse on the Holy Spirit, in Works, 3:160.
97
Owen, Discourse on the Holy Spirit, in Works, 3:162.
98
Goodwin, Of the Holy Ghost, in The Works of Thomas Goodwin, D.D. (1861–1866; repr., Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 6:50:"The graces of Christ, as man, are attributed to this Spirit, as the immediate author of them; for although the Son of God dwelt personally in the human nature, and so advanced that nature above the ordinary rank of creatures, and raised it up to that dignity and worth, yet all his habitual graces, which even his soul was full of, were from the Holy Ghost."
99
Goodwin, Of the Holy Ghost, in Works, 6:50.
 

Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 248–249.

Covenant, not Natural Propagation

Because of Adam’s sin, all men are polluted and guilty before God, “and liable to all the curses and penalties due unto them for breach of that Covenant.”162 Anthony Burgess also makes the case for the covenant of works based upon the guilt of Adam’s sin being imputed to his posterity. This could only happen by way of covenant and not natural propagation, otherwise Adam would be “no more to us than our parents … which is contrary to the Apostle, Rom. 5, who chargeth it still upon one man.”163 At bottom, Adam’s position as the federal head or covenant representative of humanity in the covenant of works finds its most compelling exegetical argument in Romans 5.


162
Edmund Calamy, Two Solemne Covenants, 2
163
Burgess, Vindiciae Legis, 120.
 

Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 235.

Covenantal Perseverance

Whatever graces Adam received from God, he did not receive the grace of perseverance in the covenant of works. Samuel Rutherford recognizes that Adam was in fact predestined to eternal life, but he was not “predestinate to a law glory [viz., a glory attained to by law-keeping], and to influences of God to carry him to persevere [in his state of original righteousness].”139 Instead, Adam was predestined not as a public person, but as a individual, elect in Jesus Christ. His fall, however, was as a public person, and so involved his descendants in his sin and its consequences (WCF, 6.2–3).


139
Rutherford, Covenant of Life Opened, 2.: Adam in his first state was not predestinate to a law glory, and to influences of God to carry him on to persevere: Nor could he blesse God, that he was Chosen before the foundation of the world to be Law- holy, as Eph. 1. 3. What? Was not then Adam predestinated to life eternall, through Jesus Christ? He was: But not as a publick person representing all his sons, but as another single person, as Abraham, or Jacob: for Gospel predestination is not of the nature, but of this or that person: Therefore were we not predestinat to life eternall in him, but in Christ, Rom. 8. 29, 30.
 

Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 232–233.

Jus Creationis

Aware that Reformed divines generally refer to the covenant of works as the covenant of nature (foedus naturae), Goodwin prefers instead to call it the law of creation (jus creationis). 34


34
Thomas Goodwin, Of the Creatures, and the Condition of their State by Creation, in The Works of Thomas Goodwin (1861–1866; repr., Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 7:23.
 

Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 221.

Prayers, not Charms

Device 8: The devil encourages us to fight him with charms and sacred objects. But Scriptures written on jewelry or clothing are nothing compared to Scripture that is written on our hearts. Satan is not disturbed by holy water and incantations, though he may at times give them false success to spur on superstition.75

Remedy: Spurstowe wrote, “Do not think that these things will frighten the devil; rather look up to God.” He urged, “Be abundant in the use of prayer,” and quoted Bernard of Clairvaux, who said, “Satan’s temptations are grievous to us, but our prayers are more grievous to him.”77


75
Spurstowe, The Wiles of Satan, 72.
 

Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 197.

The Polisher

Stephen Charnock wrote, “The goodness of God makes the devil a polisher, while he intends to be a destroyer.”30 This polishing makes our metal shine. Indeed, God’s wisdom rules over Satan’s schemes so that the devil accomplishes God’s plans.


30
Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, in Works, 2:364.
 

Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 193.

Francis' Bacon

...Francis Bacon (1561–1626), father of the scientific method, cured warts by rubbing them with bacon, then hanging the bacon in a window facing south.

 

Joel R. Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 179.

Medicine is for the Diseased

If a person with these qualifications hesitates at the Table because he feels he has “a corrupt and rebellious heart,” Perkins said, “thou art well disposed to the Lord’s Table, when thou art lively touched with a sense of thy crooked disposition.” Medicine is for the diseased.76


76
Perkins, A Golden Chaine, in Works, 1:76.
 

Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 752–753.

Union with Christ: Justification Does Not Cause Sanctification

Union with Christ is the ground of both justification and sanctification, and Christ is the meritorious cause of both. Just as sanctification does not cause justification, so justification does not cause sanctification, understood in terms of the order of salvation. Sanctification would be utterly impossible, apart from having been justified. But that does not mean that justification, as an applied benefit, can cause another applied benefit. Rather, the peace that we have with God because of our justification enables us to live out the sanctified life as a child of God.

 


The Holy Spirit in the Life of Christ

When certain Reformed pastors and theologians speak of Christ being “placed under a covenant of works” (as the second Adam), we might be tempted to think that Christ was left to his own abilities to obey the law of God for us. Without question, the obedience offered by Christ from the cradle to the grave was his obedience. But he was obedient in the power of the Holy Spirit. He never uttered a kind word, nor thought a good thought, except in reliance upon the Spirit of holiness. There was a perfect synergy involved in Jesus’ human obedience and the Holy Spirit’s influence as he “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). A careful analysis of Christ’s life reveals that at the most significant points in it (e.g., his conception, birth, baptism, preaching ministry, death, and resurrection) the Holy Spirit was present, enabling him in all that he was required to do.

...He, like us, relied upon the Holy Spirit for his holiness (Isa. 11:2)...

 


Owen and the New and Old Covenants and Republication

The old covenant referred to in Hebrews 8:6 does not have reference to the covenant of works, according to Owen, because the old covenant (diatheke) "was such a covenant as was a testament also." A testament requires a death, which explains a fundamental difference between the covenant of works and the old covenant. Accordingly, for Owen, the old covenant is "not a covenant properly and strictly so called, but such a one as hath the nature of a testament also [ ... ] the first covenant made with Adam was in no sense a testament also." Owen identifies, as the majority of Reformed theologians did, certain parallels between the covenant of works and the old covenant, and he even maintains that the old covenant "revived, declared, and expressed all the commands of [the covenant of works] in the decalogue."92 However, he indicates that the moral law was revived declaratively and not covenantally at Sinai.93 If the Israelites had been placed under the covenant of works, as Adam was, the promise given to Abraham would have been annulled (Gal 3: 17). All of this suggests that the old covenant operated alongside of the covenant of grace and, unlike the covenant of works, was also a testament. Owen aims to remain consistent and therefore argues that the new covenant is not strictly co-extensive with the covenant of grace. During the Old Testament, beginning with the protoevangelium (Gen 3:15), the covenant of grace consisted only in a promise. The "full legal establishment of it, whence it became formally a covenant unto the whole church, was future only." The law given at Sinai became a covenant only with the blood of sacrifices. In the same way, the covenant of grace did not have the formal nature of a covenant or a testament (Heb 9:15-23) until the death of Christ. He adds that the "covenant of grace" implies salvation; "yet by 'the new covenant,' we intend its actual establishment in the death of Christ." This manner of understanding the various covenants in Scripture helps explain not only Owen's position, but also why this debate has historically been covered in confusion.

For Owen, all persons indefinitely considered are guilty before God by virtue of the federal nature of the covenant of works. But, for the elect, they are saved according to the fulfilled promise of the covenant of grace. Framing it this way, Owen advocates a dichotomist reading of redemptive history. However, he also maintains the view that the old and new covenants are real covenants, that is, they are also testaments. Neither the covenant of works nor the covenant of grace, considered simply as promises in the Old Testament, is a testament. Thus there are, properly speaking, only two covenants mentioned in Scripture, the old and the new. The old covenant was confirmed by the death of sacrificed animals; the new was ratified by the death of Christ. Understood this way, one can understand why Owen persists in the opinion, even if it runs counter to the majority, that the old and new covenants "can hardly be accommodated unto a twofold administration of the same covenant." Reconciliation could never come by virtue of the old covenant since it lacked the death of an atoning sacrifice, and was never intended to save the church. Believers in the old covenant were therefore "reconciled, justified, and saved, by virtue of the promise, whilst they were under the [old] covenant." In terms of covenant-testaments, Owen is a dichotomist. In terms of soteric principles, only two covenants could ever save, the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The idea that Owen holds to a trichotomist reading of redemptive history only works if one allows that the covenant of grace flowers into the new covenant whereas the old covenant is abrogated by the new covenant and remains distinct from the covenants of works and grace.


92
Exposition of Hebrews, 23:77. The idea that the old covenant was "in some sense" a revival or renewing of the prelapsarian covenant of works was widely held among the Reformed orthodox. What they generally had in mind was the idea that the moral law engraven on Adam's heart was "republished" at Sinai on tables of stone. This seems to be the intent of the Westminster Confession of Faith (ch. 19).
93
Exposition of Hebrews, 23:77. Note his comments elsewhere: "God did never formally and absolutely renew or give again this law as a covenant a second time. Nor was there any need that so he should do, unless it were declaratively only, for so it was renewed at Sinai." Justification by Faith, 5:244. Goodwin likewise argues that the old covenant "was truly the promulgation of the covenant of nature made with Adam in paradise (in the moral part, the ten commandments)." The work of the Holy Ghost in our salvation, 6:354.
 


Anthony Burgess and the Ceremonial Law in the Covenant of Grace

In addition to the moral law, the ceremonial law also provides evidence that the old covenant was part of the covenant of grace. Burgess makes the point that all divines reduce the ceremonial law to the moral law, "so that Sacrifices were commanded by vertue of the second Commandment."48 The sacrifices, according to Burgess, did not oppose Christ, or the grace of God, but included them, a point that carried a lot of significance for confirming him in his opinion. Moreover, the ceremonial law foreshadowed Christ's person and work; "it typically pointed further [ ... ] to Christ."