Genesis 12 in Nehemiah Coxe’s Covenant Theology

In 2005, RBAP modernized and republished Nehemiah Coxe’s 1681 work on covenant theology. This reprint has been very helpful for many as they have studied covenant theology, whether from a systematic standpoint or simply for historical-theological research. One of its strengths is the modern updating of language and style so that it can be read easily by a 21st century reader.

Recently, a helpful question was raised in a Facebook forum about the wording of one particular section of the modernization of Coxe’s work. The question was,

Coxe writes:

“The covenant is said to be mercy to Abraham and truth to Jacob (Micah 7:20). This intimates that the beginning of it with Abraham was of mere grace and mercy, though once made with him, the truth and faithfulness of God was engaged to make it good to its succeeding heirs. The covenant of grace made with Abraham was not the same for substance that had been more darkly revealed in the ages before, but it pleased God to transact it with him as he had not done with any before him.”

When Coxe says, “The covenant of grace made with Abraham was NOT THE SAME FOR SUBSTANCE that had been more darkly revealed in the ages before,” is Coxe differentiating between THE Covenant of Grace which had been promised in Genesis 3:15 and the Abrahamic covenant, which was, in a sense, “a covenant of grace,” since it was undeserved?

This is an important question because it affects the way that one understands Coxe’s entire argument. I have examined the original, compared it with the modernization, and suggested a revision. The results of this brief study can be found by clicking on this link.

To answer the original question here, the modernization is incorrect on this point (though very good everywhere else). The name of Coxe’s chapter is “Of The Covenant of Grace, as Revealed to Abraham.” Coxe’s argument is that based on Galatians 3-4 interpreting Genesis 12, what is found in Genesis 12 is God revealing the covenant of grace to Abraham and making Abraham a paradigm of belief (a father of believers). All who desire to be members of the covenant of grace must be Abraham’s children, i.e., they must believe as he did. So then, Coxe is saying that Genesis 12 contains the same covenant of grace for substance (there is only one) as found before and after this passage of Scripture, but it was made known to Abraham in a special way unlike any other example in the Bible.

And just a note of clarification. When Coxe says that the covenant was “made” or “transacted” with Abraham, he is saying that God stipulated the promises of the gospel to Abraham, and Abraham restipulated with faith. Thus the covenant is “made” with him, as it would be for any and all believers. Coxe is clear that Abraham was not a federal head in the covenant of grace, and that the covenant was not established itself or “filled up with ordinances” until Christ’s death and resurrection. The promises of salvation were simply made known by God and believed by Abraham.

 

Updated Resources Page

Updated Resources Page

On this page I keep a collection of all known copies of Particular Baptist literature that are publicly available. These are few in number. Most of the Particular Baptists’ books are available through Early English Books Online, but this requires access to an institution with a paid subscription to the EEBO database. One might think that EEBO has the rights to all these books. In fact, they only have rights to the digital scans in their database. Thus, the only way to get literature like this into the hand of the public is for libraries to scan their own copies of these books and make them available. It would seem that the British Library is in the process of doing so, because I have recently found (through their online library catalog) that they have made several of their own books available to the public. Some of these copies have been rebound, and perhaps they were digitized at that time, given that photography is easier when there is less pressure to preserve the original binding.

Whatever the reason, we can all benefit from their work now. I have made an initial search of their Particular Baptist literature and added links to the page linked above, marking out the copies from the British Library, which are in color! The copies marked “Google Books” are the same books as the British Library scans, but in black and white. The British Library has many more Particular Baptist books than what they have digitized thus far, but it seems that over time more and more should be added to the corpus of public access material.

The crown jewel of these scans, in my opinion, is the 1695 Baptist Catechism, though readers may enjoy Nehemiah Coxe’s Vindiciae Veritatis or Hercules Collins’ The Temple Repair’d. Another special addition is Benjamin Keach’s The Child’s Delight which is the book he was famously put in the stocks for. This book was hard to get a hold of for a long time, partly because it was ordered to be destroyed. Now anyone can read it. Note also two works by Keach on the covenants, digitized and made available from J.I. Packer’s library. Their quality is exceptional.

If you find any more resources like these, or if you have any trouble with the links, please let me know.

Enjoy!