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 are in a PDF below.

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.

Coxe on the CoG Revealed to Abraham

 

How to Read Logos’ Baptist Covenant Theology Collection

How to Read Logos’ Baptist Covenant Theology Collection

With the release of Logos’ Baptist Covenant Theology Collection (17 vols.) I thought it would be helpful and important to offer a few tips for those who are diving into these books.

If you are like me, it’s exciting to spend time in the writings of the Particular Baptists. Every now and then you feel like Indiana Jones looking for the lost Ark. There are even Nazis (Daniel Featley and Thomas Edwards) trying to kill you. This excitement and nostalgia, combined with your desire to find what you seek, may lead you astray in your reading of the sources. So, if this is your first foray into 17th century writings in general, and those of the Baptists in particular, then you should keep in mind at least the following things:

1. Keep in mind that you are from the 21st century. They are from the 17th century (except Isaac Backus, he’s from the 18th century). Their world was similar to yours, but also very different. Many of the debates, ideological shifts, philosophical currents, and other intellectual factors that we take for granted today were not a part of their lives. Surely they dealt with problems in their own time, battling the currents of thought in their day, but the point of this reminder is to realize that the questions you may be asking may not be the questions that they were asking. Read them on their own terms, following their own questions and their own arguments. Don’t read them anachronistically, reading into their thoughts the categories and ideas that you think are important due to your own modern concerns (however valid they may be).

2. Keep in mind the context in which the authors are writing. Why did the authors write these works? Most of them serve a polemic purpose. What the authors say and what they do not say are important. Think about the Reformers. They wrote extensive exegetical and systematic works. Subsequent generations often made summary reference to those works, but did not go into as much detail. Why is that? Is it because later generations were less committed to the truth, or did they disagree? Certainly not. To the contrary, they were relying on the work of their predecessors, assuming that they would continue to be read and taught. However, did later generations go into considerable detail about peculiar topics when the situation demanded it (i.e. controversy, disagreement, or pastoral concern)? Most assuredly.

So then, what will you NOT find much of in the Particular Baptists’ covenantal writings? You will not find comprehensive treatments of covenant theology that take on the topic from beginning to end. Why not? Because they agreed with much of the macrostructure and interpretation of their paedobaptist brothers. Where did they go into detail? They went into detail on the relationship between the covenant of grace and the Abrahamic covenant and other related questions. (Nehemiah Coxe holds a special place because he discusses the building blocks of covenant theology in more detail than other Particular Baptists. In fact, in his preface he says that he is intentionally avoiding approaching the topic in the standard polemic fashion, though he has polemical purposes.)

The danger here is that if we reduce the Particular Baptists’ covenant theology merely to these writings, thinking that this exhausts their views, we will have a very skewed and incomplete picture of their beliefs in this area. It may also cause us to overemphasize and misrepresent the similarities and differences between the Particular Baptists and their paedobaptist brothers.

3. Keep in mind that some of the authors later abandoned the faith. Paul Hobson and Samuel Fisher became Quakers. That does not make their writings useless or wrong. But it should at least raise some flags in our mind. Don’t assume uniformity in these writings, and read each author on his own terms before comparing him to others.

4. Keep in mind that just because Baptist A held X belief, it does not mean that all Baptists, or any other Baptist held X belief. You have to read them in concert. Benjamin Keach and the Anonymous author of “Truth Vindicated in Several Branches” denied the covenant of redemption. Keach was aware that this set him apart from others.
Benjamin Keach, The Display of Glorious Grace, iv

5. Keep in mind that there are other works on covenant theology from the Particular Baptists. This is just a reminder that these works do not comprise the whole of Particular Baptist thought on covenant theology. That being said, this is a good start.

6. Keep in mind that some of these authors are not Baptists, though their works support Baptist principles and the Baptists appealed to them. Little is known about Andrew Ritor. He may not have been a Baptist. Writing in 1642, the Particular Baptists were in their infancy, so to speak. Once again, this means reading him in his context on his own terms. Henry Lawrence was not a Baptist. However, both of these works were appealed to by Particular Baptists and played a role in the debates of the day. So they remain quite useful.

7. Anyone who reads through Samuel Fisher’s work in its entirety deserves an award. I feel very sorry for the person who had to transcribe his book. You should see it…

P.S. This is Sam Fisher, but not Samuel Fisher the Baptist-turned-Quaker…
4346068-6257921355-tom-c

Newly Discovered Work by Nehemiah Coxe on Covenant Theology!

Newly Discovered Work by Nehemiah Coxe on Covenant Theology!

If you’ve read Nehemiah Coxe’s work on Covenant Theology, you probably read or browsed the preface. Coxe says some important things in it, such as:
Nehemiah Coxe, A Discourse, Preface-0

Ok, Nehemiah, you’ve got my attention. Go on.

Nehemiah Coxe, A Discourse, Preface-1

That sounds like a great idea, Nehemiah. I can’t wait for it to be published.

Nehemiah Coxe, A Discourse, Preface-2

I don’t like where this is going.

Nehemiah Coxe, A Discourse, Preface-3

Wait, WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Nehemiah Coxe, A Discourse, Preface-4

Very funny, Nehemiah. VERY FUNNY. “Happily prevented?” I think not.

Y U DO DIS

Seriously though…

A Few Thoughts for Consideration in the Modern Republication Debate

These thoughts are directed primarily at members in the OPC and PCA.

For those contra republication:

  1. The view that the Mosaic covenant was a covenant of works is a view found among Reformed divines in the 17th and 16th centuries.
  2. The Westminster Confession of Faith is not the exclusive expression or boundary of Reformed orthodoxy.

For those pro republication:

  1. The fact that a given divine at the Westminster Assembly held to a given view does not mean that the Confession itself either reflects, includes, or accounts for their view. They debated many things. The conclusion of the debates was a majority vote in one direction, not a unanimous vote.
  2. A covenant of works and a covenant of grace are as different as wood and stone. They are different “substances.” If the Mosaic covenant is a formal covenant of works (not just containing a remembrance of Adam’s covenant) it cannot be the covenant grace. See John Ball, A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace (London: Printed by G. Miller, 1645), 93-95. Ball is discussing John Cameron’s view that the Mosaic covenant (the old covenant) is neither the covenant of works nor the covenant of grace but a legal covenant for the nation of Israel to live life in the land of Canaan. Ball concludes that this view makes the old covenant differ from the new in substance. See also John Owen, A Continuation of the Exposition of the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (London: Printed for Nathaniel Ponder, 1680), 324-42. Owen considers the majority view as expressed in the WCF and rejects it because he views the Mosaic covenant as a works covenant for life in the land. This is the result of the simple logic of substance as applied to covenant theology.

For both groups:

  1. The Westminster Confession was originally intended to be used as a government-backed, fueled, and promoted public standard of teaching and preaching in England, a standard not to be contradicted. Its limited function means that divines could participate in its making, and even live with its final form, so long as they did not overturn the status quo. In England, the Confession of Faith never got off its feet. The Independent-controlled government edited its proposed form in key ways, and the restoration of Charles II neutered any force the confession would have had. Scotland was another story. See https://pettyfrance.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/confessional-subscription-and-the-westminster-assembly/ and https://pettyfrance.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/the-textual-history-of-the-westminster-confession-of-faith/
  2. How your church uses the Westminster Confession of Faith may be quite different from its original intent and design. Whereas its original function may have permitted the flavors of Reformed theology to coexist, the function that your church is assigning to it may not. You have to deal with that. If you are another “flavor” than the WCF but your view was found among the Westminster divines or Reformed theology in general, that still does not mean that your church’s use of the WCF permits you within its boundaries.
  3. You’re probably not using the term “administration” correctly or accurately.
  4. Vindiciae veritatis preface

 

 

Particular Baptists and the Substance/Administration Distinction (Part 2)

Some time ago, I posted a lengthy piece intending to offer some balance to the strong push with which “1689 Federalism” was being put forward. The point was to make it clear that there were some Particular Baptists who held to a more “Westminster” style of federal theology. As the examples of this other flavor I mentioned Robert Purnell, Robert Steed/Abraham Cheare, and Thomas DeLaune.

I want to reevaluate some of the thoughts in that post for three main reasons:

  1. I missed some vital elements of argumentation in those authors’ writings which yield a somewhat different picture of their federalism.
  2. I want to remind readers to be careful with the language of “administration.”
  3. I want to reaffirm that a more “Westminster” style of federalism was present among PB’s.

I consider these reasons to be “live” issues because of some recent blogs by an internet-friend of mine, Enrique Junior Duran:

I intend this post to be a friendly reply, and a help, to him. A reply because I think we both have not understood Steed/Cheare correctly, and a help because I’m adding another author that I think Junior would find a lot of agreement with.

The first source I want to return to is Robert Steed and Abraham Cheare’s “A Plain Discovery of the Unrighteous Judge and False Accuser” (1658). [The pertinent sections have been transcribed by Junior, in this document.Thanks!]

In Steed and Cheare’s work, it’s very important to keep in mind their twofold definition of the covenant of grace.

First, they define the covenant of grace “singly, and universally” as “That great mystery of the mercy of God in Christ, wherein the Father hath established Jesus Christ his Son, the head of all things, and given unto him a blessed seed of the Sons of Men, to be by him, and with him heires of the glorious inheritance of the grace of God, and the blessed consequences thereof, against all possibilities of miscarriage, according to this eternal purpose.” Still working from this aspect of the definition they go on to say, “This covenant God calls his everlasting Covenant, being still one and the same immutable from everlasting to everlasting.”

Second, they define the covenant of grace with reference to “the manner of its administration, according to divine institution” as “The whole and every part of that instituted worship whereby God doth ordinarily bring about, the purposes of the everlasting Covenant, that is, to set Christ upon his throne, and to gather to him the seed given him by his Father: And the covenant of grace under this acceptation is not one and the same alwayes, but hath passed under many great alterations and changes: the Lord suiting his ordinances and appointments, to the persons, seasons, and workes, which he had to doe, as it seemed good to his heavenly wisdom: and therefore all the force and authority of the Covenant of grace, considered under this head, to wit, according to the administration of it, dependeth intirely upon the law of its institution, and is in force as that law directeth, and not otherwise.”

Basically it boils down to 1. The benefits of the covenant (salvation to the elect), and 2. The ordinances of the covenant.

As they work with the 1st definition, they speak of the covenant “renewed and ratified” “after divers manners under divers signes, figures, and types, by promises and prophecies.” Given that they are operating under the first definition at this point, they are simply stating that the benefits of salvation were made known to and obtained by the elect in many ways at many times. As they stated in their definition of the covenant of grace, considered singly, the covenant of grace is immutable in this sense. It never changes. There is no disagreement on this point among the PB’s or paedos of a confessional sort. We can put that aside, then.

Moving on to their discussion of the administration of the covenant of grace, they speak of two times: prior to Christ’s ascension, and after Christ’s ascension. On page 10, as they discuss the “ministring before Christ” they mention that this ministry “for the nature of it,” was “the same with the law of Moses, and proportioned to it, and afterward fell in with it.” Later they say, “This administration of the Covenant of grace is usually called in Scripture the old Covenant, or…the law.” On the next page, they say, “This covenant while it stood, although it were very glorious, yet the Spirit of God never exalted it in dignity above the degree of an Handmand, appointed for the time being to minister to the everlasting Covenant.” They then use Galatians 4 to contrast the bondage covenant and the free covenant, the law and the gospel.

Steed and Cheare are saying that the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic covenant were “one in nature.” How so? Both were legal covenants that gave the fleshly seed a claim to the covenant via circumcision. This covenant was temporal, temporary, and subordinate to the everlasting covenant. I.e., their argument is that the covenant of grace was wrapped up in a covenant of works. It could be argued that this is similar to a view that this is the covenant of grace “legally administered.” However, it’s important to note that they call the two administrations two covenants. Which is to say, the covenant of grace gets wrapped up in another covenant (or covenants).

On page 12, as they come to the time of Christ, they state, “There ended that Covenant; there expired the law, the force and authority upon which that administration stood. And there was the prophesie of casting out the seed according to the flesh (never more to claime a priviledge upon that account) absolutely accomplished and fulfilled.” For a time, the children could make real claims to a real covenant. But that ended. Were they making a real claim to salvation? No. However, were the ordinances/administration through which they made a claim to the legal covenant the same ordinances/administration through which believers participated in the blessings of the covenant of grace? Yes. Because the covenant of grace was wrapped up in a temporal and temporary covenant, it shared the ordinances. Circumcision for a believer and circumcision for an unbeliever would have meant different things because one participated in both the temporal and eternal aspects (believer) while the other participated in only the temporal aspects (unbeliever).

The objection then raised, paraphrasing, is, “Well if the legal covenant gives way to the gospel covenant, how does that change anything?” Or put another way, “This just means that Israel’s children laid claim to the covenant by the legal covenant, and so our children now lay claim to the covenant via the gospel covenant.”

How do Steed and Cheare reply? They state, “The Covenant of the law, and the covenant made with Abraham, in the letter of circumcision, had with them an eminent renovation, and ratification of the everlasting covenant; yet were both of one and the same nature, authority, and use.” They already argued this point on page 10. They are repeating the point that the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants were legal covenants, “of another nature.” Something that is “of another nature,” marked out as “legal” in contrast to “gospel” is a distinct contrast.

When they arrive at “The ministry of Christ” they say, “The last administration of the covenant of grace, usually called the new covenant…was altogether of another nature to that which went before it. This was not a covenant ministring or serving to any doctrine above or beyond it self, as was the other. But this was the mystery of the grace of God it self plainly administred.” Notice again that this new covenant is “altogether of another nature to that which went before it.” It is no longer wrapped up in another covenant and another covenant’s ordinances, but is fully unveiled in its purity.

Now, when I originally read this work I read it too quickly and assumed that it was basically defending a Westminster-ish position. Upon reevaluation of that conclusion, I was wrong. To the contrary, their federalism is very similar to their other Particular Baptist brothers. It is a standard PB move to argue:

  1. The Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic covenant were legal covenants involving temporary and temporal promises for fleshly descendants.
  2. Believers under those covenants participated in the benefits of the CoG, not just by believing promises, but also through the very ordinances of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. In that sense the ordinances belong to the CoG also.

This same argumentation gets carried through Edward Hutchinson. His views will be helpful to flesh out the details and confirm our interpretation of Steed and Cheare.

In 1676, Edward Hutchinson wrote, “A Treatise Concerning the Covenant and Baptism Dialogue-wise, between a Baptist & a Poedo-Baptist.”

Hutchinson says on page 22, “Know then that the Covenant of grace is to be considered, either of the promise of eternal life and salvation, made to all the elect in Christ, the which remains one and the same in all ages, though variously adminstred, in the times of the old and new Testament. Or else of the manner of its Adminsitration, in which sence, its now (in respect of the old Testament administration) which was a distinct Covenant in it self (for the time being) called the new Covenant.”

Hutchinson is operating under the same definitions and parameters. The benefits of the covenant of grace never change and have always been available after the fall. However, the covenant of grace existed under an “old administration” which was “a distinct covenant in it self.”

This is where we must be careful about how we use the word “administration.” It is necessary to ask, “is the author referring to the administration of the benefits (the CoG considered in the 1st sense) or the administration of ordinances (the CoG considered in the second sense)?” Hutchinson said that the covenant of grace remains one and the same in all ages, “though variously administered.” He is referring to what Steed and Cheare argued when they said that the covenant of grace considered in the first sense was “renewed and ratified” through promises, types, etc. Once again, there is no disagreement here between confessional baptists and paedobaptists. But, we must be careful not to assume that any Particular Baptist who speaks of the covenant of grace administered differently in the Old and New Testaments is adopting a Westminster federalism. It is possible, and likely, that they are speaking in the sense of the administration of benefits.

Returning to Hutchinson. On page 27, he calls the Abrahamic covenant a “mixt covenant” because it contains gospel promises and temporal blessings. This is a standard Particular Baptist distinction between temporal and eternal blessings present in the covenantal dealings with Abraham.

On page 93, when asked what he thinks about the covenant with Abraham, Hutchinson says, “But surely that Covenant made with Abraham, and his natural seed called the Covenant of Circumcision, or Covenant of the Law was not the Covenant of Eternal life and salvation, which was made with all the elect in Christ upon the condition of faith: but a distinct covenant of it self concerning the worship and service of God, and so may be called a covenant of works, rather than a Covenant of grace; though there was also grace in it, as there was in all the Covenants that God ever made with men–yet we say, it was a distinct covenant, and therefore called the old Covenant, and the Covenant of grace the new Covenant.
And if you say the Covenant of grace was the same in all ages under various administrations, we confess it, and say that the Covenant was made to Adam after the fall, to the Patriarchs, and to Abraham, before the Covenant of Circumcision was mentioned, and is the same to us now.”

Notice once again that Hutchinson says on the one hand that the Abrahamic covenant was a covenant of works (i.e. legal covenant) and was in it self a distinct covenant from the covenant of eternal life and salvation. Nevertheless on the other hand, Hutchinson plainly states that the covenant of grace was the same under various administrations.

Hutchinson helps us to understand Steed and Cheare. When they speak of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants as being “legal” and “of a different nature” than the eternal covenant, they are calling them covenants of works, pregnant with the covenant of grace. When Christ came, the covenant of grace was born from the old covenant, quite literally. In all ages, the administration of the benefits of the covenant of grace remained the same, though being obtained through various means. And for a time, in subservience to the covenant of grace, believers were under the administration of the old covenant, participating in the ordinances of the earthly covenants while also participating in the benefits of the heavenly covenant.

The next writer to revisit is Thomas DeLaune. In 1677 he wrote, “Truth Defended” in which he defended Edward Hutchinson from Joseph Whiston. What were Whiston’s arguments against Hutchinson? DeLaune says, he “charges Mr. Hutchinson with some Contradictions and Absurdities, as his calling the Covenant of Grace and its administration two distinct covenants, and his saying that circumcision is a covenant of works, from which (says Mr. Whiston) it will follow, that a Covenant of works may be the administration of the covenant of grace, which is incongruous.”

Whiston saw Hutchinson’s view as self-contradictory. How are two administrations of one covenant actually two covenants with distinct natures? DeLaune’s defense was to copy, word for word, the majority of Steed and Cheare’s work on this point (though not mentioning their names, interestingly). DeLaune says, “To which I reply. It is before demonstrated (I hope undenyably) that the Covenant of Grace is immutable and everlasting — That in respect of its various administrations under Law and Gospel it is called two Covenants, New and Old — That the Covenant of works (so called, under the Law administred to the Covenant of Grace in Types and Figures, of which circumcision, being the head Ordinance, was synechdocally called the Covenant. And that the covenant of Grace is now under the Evangelical Dispensation administred in that purity and spirituality Typed out by the Law. Therefore, what incongruity and absurdity is to be hereon chargeable is to me unknown.”

In a way, DeLaune’s defense merely repeated the very argument that Whiston was critiquing. However, you can see DeLaune’s own interpretation of Steed, Cheare, and Hutchinson. The benefits of the covenant of grace came through an earthly covenant of works in the old testament, and now are unveiled and enjoyed in their fullness in the new covenant (the old temporal covenant having been removed).

So what? Well, if Steed, Cheare, Hutchinson, or DeLaune are to be appealed to as examples of Westminster federalism, they do not fit the mold. In fact, they contradict it because they all asserted that the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants were earthly covenants of works. They spoke of the administration of benefits and the administration of ordinances. The first never changed. The second did, wrapping the covenant of grace up in an earthly covenant of works for a time. This is most certainly not the view of the Westminster Confession where the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants are the covenant of grace, without any distinction other than the change in ordinances.

While not having time to revisit Robert Purnell in detail, it would seem that his federalism is much closer to Westminster than the authors I had placed at his side previously. I assert this primarily because when asking whether the covenant of grace is the same under the Old and New Testaments he says that the covenant of grace was “given by Moses and made with the Jews.” It is important to raise the question in which sense Purnell is thinking of the covenant of grace: the administration of benefits or the administration of ordinances. Purnell seems to conflate the two (as do the paedobaptists), which makes the most sense of the way that he makes his arguments. I need to go back and read him more carefully.

So then, our three reasons for talking about this were:

  1. I missed some vital elements of argumentation in certain authors’ writings which yield a somewhat different picture of their federalism.
  2. I want to remind readers to be careful with the language of “administration.”
  3. I want to reaffirm that a more “Westminster” style of federalism was present among PB’s.

As to the first, I have shown that while Steed, Cheare, Hutchinson, and DeLaune speak of the covenant of grace under two administrations, they are not following a “Westminster” style of federalism.

As to the second, I have laid emphasis on the twofold definition of the covenant of grace used by the authors, and thus spoken about the administration of benefits and the administration of ordinances. If a Particular Baptist speaks of either of these, he is not necessarily endorsing a “Westminster” style of federalism. There is universal agreement on the administration of benefits. And many Particular Baptists speak of the Old Testament as an administration of the covenant of grace because they see it wrapped up in and sharing the ordinances of an earthly covenant of works.

As to the third, I have not changed my opinion of Robert Purnell, and I would take this moment to add Thomas Hardcastle to the list of those with a “Westminster” flavor covenant theology. Hardcastle was a university trained man, and an elder at the Broadmead Bristol Church from 1671-1678. In 1676 the Broadmead Bristol church asked William Kiffin, Nehemiah Coxe, and three other London pastors to ordain Hardcastle when they came nearby, but they were unable to oblige due to the pressing nature of their travels (dealing with Thomas Collier).

In a manuscript copy of his exposition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism he asks, “Were those under the old Testament; the Jews under a Covenant of works?” And answers, “No, Adam was under a Covenant of works, but the Jews were under a Covenant of grace, Adam was under a covenant of works, Do this and live, the Jews were under a covenant of grace, which was obscured [i.e. revealed darkly] by types, sacrifices, and figures which did signifie and prefigure Christ, and those sacrifices was the gospel they had, through this they did look to a Christ to come, through the type they could behold the antitype, through the blood of beasts they would see the blood of the lamb, though many of them very obscurely: the Spirit applyeth redemption by uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.”

Later he asks, “How many covenants did God make?” And he answers, “Two, a covenant of works and a covenant of grace, the covenant of works that was made with man before the fall, pray observe it, the tenor of that was do this and live, oh beloved there would have been no life without doing, and here let me add this: what a sad condition would poor creatures be in now, if God should deal with them by a covenant of works, if you should have no more than you earned would be a poor miserable life if you had no more than you wrought for.”

And he explains further, “There is a covenant of grace, and there is a twofold administration of this covenant of grace. There’s the old administration which is called the old testament. The new administration which is called the new testament; both one the covenant, though called old and new, though called two commonly but one covenant: although the old administration was such, as made it to be looked upon (the outside of it) as a covenant of works, if you look to Mount Sinai, there you find nothing but working: if you look to the sacrifices there you have a glimpse of some relief by a Savior; it is a great dispute whither the law that was given upon Mount Sinai was a covenant of works or of grace, I shall not trouble you with Arguments on either side, only this seems to be clear: those that will have it a covenant of works, yet confess there was the relief of a Savior at the end of it, and those that will have it a covenant of grace, yet confess it was clothed like a covenant of works, so the dispute will not seem to have much difficulty.” (Side note: Hardcastle’s reference to disputes on the issue of the Mosaic law is most likely referring to the state of covenant theology in general, not Particular Baptists. However prominent and politically fueled and armed the Westminster Confession may have been, it in no way commanded a consensus on the issue.)

And there you have it. Particular Baptist covenant theology was not monolithic. There was a clear majority on certain issue, but not on all issues. I would conclude by repeating something from my first post on this issue: While the confession positively supports the notion that the old and new differ in substance and not just in administration, it is probable that it also remains broad enough to accommodate some of the variety within Particular Baptist federal thought.

John Humfrey, Animadversions and Considerations, Titlepage-1