Charles Spurgeon is a beloved Calvinistic baptist preacher, but he was also very confessional.
Benjamin Keach, minister of Horse-lie-down meeting, London, was among the subscribers in the Preface to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith. Founded in 1650, that church (the place name is now spelled Horselydown) later became the New Park Street Church, where Spurgeon was called, and then moved to the meeting house of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Although Dr John Gill later produced a summary Confession to be read at each Lord’s Supper gathering, the congregation continued to regard 1689 as the defining document for ‘Baptists denominated Calvinists’.
When the Metropolitan Tabernacle was built under Spurgeon’s pastorship, the foundation stone was laid on August 16, 1859, beneath it being placed a Bible, the Baptist Confession of Faith, Dr. Rippon’s Hymn Book, and a declaration by the deacons of the church.
With that in mind, here are several statements from Spurgeon’s sermons in regards to the weekly Sabbath. I recommend reading the sermons in full. I am here only excerpting the portions directly relating to the Sabbath as a weekly rest, but we must heed Spurgeon’s emphasis on the true eternal Sabbath rest.
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”—Hebrews 4:9.
HE Apostle proved, in the former part of this and the latter part of the preceding chapter, that there was a rest promised in Scripture called the rest of God. He proved that Israel did not attain that rest for God sware in his wrath, saying, “They shall not enter into my rest.” He proved that this did not merely refer to the rest of the land of Canaan; for he says that after they were in Canaan, David himself speaks again in after ages concerning the rest of God, as a thing which was yet to come. Again he proves, that “seeing those to whom it was promised did not enter in, because of unbelief, and it remaineth that some must enter in, therefore,” saith he, “there remaineth a rest to the people of God.”
“My rest,” says God: the rest of God! Something more wonderful than any other kind of rest. In my text it is (in the original) called the Sabbatism—not the Sabbath, but the rest of the Sabbath—not the outward ritual of the Sabbath, which was binding upon the Jew, but the inward spirit of the sabbath, which is the joy and delight of the Christian. “There remaineth therefore”—because others have not had it, because some are to have it—”There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”
Now, this rest, I believe, is partly enjoyed on earth. “We that have believed do enter into rest,” for we have ceased from our own works, as God did from his. But the full fruition and rich enjoyment of it remains in the future and eternal state of the beatified on the other side the stream of death. Of that it shall be our delightful work to talk a little this morning. And oh! if God should help me to raise but one of his feeble saints on the wings of love to look within the veil, and see the joys of the future, I shall be well contented to have made the joy-bells ring in one heart at least, to have set one eye flashing with joy, and to have made one spirit light with gladness…
II. And now, yet more briefly, and then we shall have done. I am to endeavor to EXTOL this rest, as I have tried to EXHIBIT it. I would extol this rest for many reasons; and oh! that I were eloquent, that I might extol it as it deserves! Oh! for the lip of angel, and the burning tongue of cherub, to talk now of the bliss of the sanctified and of the rest of God’s people!
It is, first, a perfect rest. They are wholly at rest in heaven. Here rest is but partial. I hope in a little time to cease from every-day labors for a season, but then the head will think, and the mind may be looking forward to prospective labor, and whilst the body is still, the brain will yet be in motion. Here, on Sabbath days a vast multitude of you sit in God’s house, but many of you are obliged to stand, and rest but little except in your mind, and even when the mind is at rest the body is wearied with the toil of standing. You have a weary mile perhaps, many miles, to go to your homes on the Sabbath day. And let the Sabbatarian say what he will, you may work on the Sabbath day, if you work for God; and this Sabbath day’s work of going to the house of God is work for God, and God accepts it. For yourselves you may not labor, God commands you to rest, but if you have to toil these three, these four, these five, these six miles, as many of you have done, I will not and I must not blame you. “The priests in the sanctuary profane the Sabbath, and are blameless.” It is toil and labor, it is true but it is for a good cause—for your Master. But there, my friends, the rest is perfect; the body there rests perpetually, the mind too always rests; though the inhabitants are always busy, always serving God, yet they are never weary, never toil-worn, never fagged; they never fling themselves upon their couches at the end of the day, and cry, “Oh! when shall I be away from this land of oil?” They I never stand up in the burning sunlight, and wipe the hot sweat from their brow; they never rise from their bed in the morning, half refreshed, to go to laborious study. No, they are perfectly at rest, stretched on the couch of eternal joy. They know not the semblance of a tear; they have done with sin, and care, and woe, and, with their Saviour rest.
The Perpetuity of the Law of God
“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18)
It has been said that he who understands the two covenants is a theologian, and this is, no doubt, true. I may also say that the man who knows the relative positions of the Law and the Gospel has the keys of the situation in the matter of doctrine. The relationship of the Law to myself, and how it condemns me; the relationship of the Gospel to myself, and how if I be a believer it justifies me–these are two points which every Christian man should clearly understand… We are not under the law as the method of salvation, but we delight to see the law in the hand of Christ, and desire to obey the Lord in all things.
Jesus did not come to change the law, but he came to explain it, and that very fact shows that it remains, for there is no need to explain that which is abrogated. Upon one particular point in which there happened to be a little ceremonialism involved, namely, the keeping of the Sabbath, our Lord enlarged, and showed that the Jewish idea was not the true one. The Pharisees forbade even the doing of works of necessity and mercy, such as rubbing ears of corn to satisfy hunger, and healing the sick. Our Lord Jesus showed that it was not at all according to the mind of God to forbid these things. In straining over the letter, and carrying an outward observance to excess, they had missed the spirit of the Sabbath law, which suggested works of piety such as truly hallow the day. He showed that Sabbatic rest was not mere inaction, and he said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” He pointed to the priests who labored hard at offering sacrifices, and said of them, “the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless.” They were doing divine service, and were within the law. To meet the popular error he took care to do some of his grandest miracles upon the Sabbath-day; and though this excited great wrath against him, as though he were a law-breaker, yet he did it on purpose that they might see that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, and that it is meant to be a day for doing that which honors God and blesses men. O that men knew how to keep the spiritual Sabbath by a easing from all servile work, and from all work done for self, The rest of faith is the true Sabbath, and the service of God is the most acceptable hallowing of the day. Oh that the day were wholly spent in serving God and doing good! The sum of our Lord’s teaching was that works of necessity, works of mercy, and works of piety are lawful on the Sabbath. He did explain the law in that point and in others, yet that explanation did not alter the command, but only removed the rust of tradition which had settled upon it. By thus explaining the law he confirmed it; he could not have meant to abolish it or he would not have needed to expound it.
Spurgeon’s Puritan Catechism
48 Q. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor they cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
49 Q. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requires the keeping holy to God such set times as he has appointed in his Word, expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to himself (Lev. 19:30; Deut. 5:12).
50 Q. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
A. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days (Lev. 23:3), and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship (Ps. 92:1-2; Isa. 58:13-14), except so much as is taken up in the works of necessity and mercy (Matt. 12:11-12).
Abram and the Ravenous Birds
In company with these foul vultures, fly those ravenous birds called worldly thoughts, which spring from the force of habit. The wheels have been running the last six days in this direction; it is not quite so easy to reverse the action, and to make them go the other way. We have been sinking, sinking, sinking in the miry clay of daily business; it is not very easy for the soul that lies cleaving to the dust, to rise at once towards Heaven! It is no wonder, when you have so many things to think of in this age of competition, that the ledger should lie there in front of the pew instead of the Bible, and, that at times, the daybook should come in when your hand holds the hymnbook, or that you should be thinking of a bad debt, or of a long account which is rather precarious, instead of meditating upon the faithfulness of God, and of pardons bought with blood. These traffickers molest the very Temple, and we have not always the scourge of small cords to drive them out, nor the commanding Presence of the Savior, to say, “Take these things hence, it is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” How many a mother comes here with all her tribe of children on her shoulders? How many a father comes here with thoughts of where he shall apprentice his eldest son, or what shall become of his younger daughter? How many a merchant comes in, and every wind that makes the windowpanes rattle reminds him of his ships at sea; how many a farmer is thinking of his land, and the fitful gleams of sunshine and returning showers make him remember his cattle and his crops? Shops and stalls, bushels and
scales, silks and cottons, horses and cows, and even meaner things intrude into your house, O King of kings!
Brothers and Sisters, how often do some of you indulge in them? I hope there are none of you who keep your account books on Sunday, and yet how common is this in London! There are some who shut up their shop in front, and keep it open at the back, as if they would serve the devil and cheat the Lord! If you register your ledgers on Sunday, why not open your shop? You might as well be in the shop as in the country house, for the sin is just the same; only you now add hypocrisy to it, by pretending to serve God when you do not! Yet how many there are, true Believers in Christ, who would scorn to look at the ledger on Sunday, and yet their mind is hampered with accounts, and debtor and creditor will be striking balances continually in their brain! Some professors on the Sabbath afternoon will be talking about the state of the markets, and asking, “What do you think of the rise and fall of Consols?” “When will this terrible American war be over?” “When is it likely the Manchester factories will obtain full employment by the arrival of ship loads of cottons,” or “How will Louis Napoleon pay his debts?” When they come up to the House of God in the evening, they wonder how it is they do not get on with the preacher! The preacher might wonder how he could be of any service to such hearers! They wonder that the Sabbath is not a refreshment to them; but, how is it likely to be when they still continue in their worldly employments, really giving their hearts to the world, though they profess to give their bodily presence to the service of Christ?…
You have heard persons say, “I would sooner wear out than rust out.” There is no occasion for either, if we would but keep this day of rest as a perfect rest to our heart and soul; but, that we can never do unless we love Christ, for a Sabbath is an impossibility to an unconverted man! If we would but, as
Christians resting in Christ, keep this first day of rest, giving our souls thorough ease, there would be no fear of the brain giving way. We would labor on, even to a good old age, and then die in peace, and our works would follow us. I cannot expect you to believe me if I should say, you can carry on your business all the days of the week without care, without diligence, without very earnest thought. We must be “diligent in business,” and you must put both your hands to the wheel if you would make it go! But do leave the wheel alone today. Now, have done with it. You will madden yourself, or, if it comes not to so sad a climax as that, you will destroy your comfort, destroy the acuteness of your mental powers, if you do not give them rest today. I am no preacher of the old legal Sabbath; those who are teachers of the Law insist upon that quite enough. As for me, I am a preacher of the Gospel, and rejoice that Believers are not “under the Law, but under Grace.” A worldling is under the Law, and it is his duty to remember the seventh day, to keep it holy, for so runs the Law which is his taskmaster! But I am not under the Law, and therefore I keep this day—not the seventh, but the first day of the week, on which my Savior rose again from the dead—keep it not of Law, but of Grace—keep it not as a slavish bondage, not as a day on which I am chained and hampered with restraints against my will, but I keep it as a day in which I may take holy pleasure in serving God, and in adoring before His Throne! The Sabbath of the Jew is to him a task; the Lord’s-Day of the Christian, the first day of the week, is to him a joy, a day of rest, of peace and of thanksgiving. And, if you Christians can earnestly drive away all distractions, so that you can really rest today, it will be good for your bodies, good for your souls, good mentally, good spiritually, good temporally and good eternally!…
Time is the ring, and these Sabbaths are the diamonds set in it! The ordinary days are but the walks in the garden, hand trodden and barren; but the Sabbaths are the beds full of rich choice flowers! This day is Care’s balm and cure, the couch of time, the haven of Divine calms. Come, my Soul, throw yourself upon this couch; for now the bed is long enough, and the coverlet is broad enough—rest and take your ease—for you have come unto Jesus, to a finished Sacrifice, to a completed Righteousness, and your soul may be satisfied in the Lord, and your spirit may rejoice in the Lord your God. This is to keep Sabbath!
An unconverted man or woman cannot do this; and there are many of you, I fear, here present who never knew what Sabbath means—never had a Lord’s Day in your lives! In vain do you keep the day, unless, your hearts keep it too. Oh, may your hearts know how to find in Christ a perfect rest! Then shall
the land have rest, and shall keep her Sabbaths. May God give you Divine Grace to know your sin, and enable you to fly to the Savior, and find in Him all your soul needs! May He enable you to rest in Christ today, and then you shall keep Sabbaths on earth till you keep the eternal Sabbath before the Throne, “For thus says the Spirit, ‘They rest from their labors.’” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” and you shall have rest. Trust Him, and so shall you be saved, and your spirit shall be at ease.
Rest in the Lord
Brothers and Sisters, the Lord, as if to show us that He would have us rest, has been pleased to speak of resting, Himself! It is inconceivable that He should be fatigued! It were profanity to suppose that He who faints not, neither is weary, and of whose understanding there is no searching, can ever be in a condition to need rest! And yet He did rest, for when He had finished all the works of His hands in the six days of creation, the Lord, “rested on the seventh day and sanctified it.” When afterwards that rest was broken because His works were marred, we find Him further on smelling a “sweet savor of rest” in the sacrifice which was offered unto Him by Noah, whose very name was rest.
These two facts are highly instructive and teach us that God rests in a perfect work and that when that work is marred the Lord rests in a perfect Sacrifice, even in the Lord Jesus Christ! He has a rest there and He speaks of our “entering His rest” as it is written, “they shall not enter into My rest.” There is a rest of God, then, and there remains a rest unto the people of God. And of that rest, not in its highest development in Heaven, but in its present enjoyment on earth, we are about to speak. “Rest in the Lord.”…
Beloved, may the Lord, by His Holy Spirit, grant you abundantly, from this day forward, to enter into this which is man’s first, man’s last, man’s sweetest, truest rest—the rest of the sinner coming to Christ—the rest of the saint abiding in Heaven! This is the only real rest that can be found on earth or Heaven—rest in the Lord! God grant it to us by faith, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Recovering a Covenantal Heritage is a collection of essays on Covenant Theology from a Confessionally Reformed Baptist perspective. It was published in December, 2014 by Reformed Baptist Associated Press. 527 pages. Edited by Richard C. Barcellos.
Reading the book stirred up a love for and worship of the Lord. It thoroughly developed in me a desire to see the church reformed according to the Word of God (Ch. 4) because, as Michael T. Renihan notes in Chapter 6 “The recovery of right baptism was Tombes’ personal, yet godly, obsession. He was concerned with the right practice of this ordinance for the good of man’s soul, not to win a theological point. The debate that raged in the seventeenth century was more than the mere academic production of print on paper. Tombes really believed that the right doctrine would have major repercussions in the church-at-large. I believe that Tombes was right on target. These ripples still affect the churches of our day.”
James Renihan’s very helpful Introduction helps readers to understand how this rich covenantal heritage was lost to baptists in the 20th century through the combination of revivalism, modernism, fundamentalism, and dispensationalism.
Chapter 1 “A Brief Overview of Seventeenth-Century Reformed Orthodox Federalism” places particular baptist covenant theology directly in that stream by demonstrating that throughout the seventeenth century, covenant theologians built upon one another while refining various points. Coxe retained these orthodox advancements while refining them through his understanding that revelation was “progressive and Christo-climactic.”
Chapter 2 (“Covenant Theology in the First and Second London Baptist Confessions”) does a marvelous job of showing how central covenant theology was to both confessions as a whole, rather than simply the focus of one or two paragraphs. James Renihan also demonstrates that these confessions were reluctantly accepted as orthodox even by those looking for any excuse to persecute the baptists. A hidden gem in this chapter is footnote 21, which states “21 Much of the following material is taken from or based upon my yet unnamed, forthcoming exposition of the 2LCF.” This work will be a blessing.
I did take exception to Renihan’s brief comment on LBCF 7.1 (69). I do not believe the Confession is stating that God’s condescension in establishing the covenant of works was rooted in God’s incomprehensibility. I did not find this explanation in Coxe. Rather, I believe the Confession is simply pointing out, per it’s proof text, that man owed obedience to God as image bearers and could not expect any reward for that obedience. Thus the reward of eternal rest/life for perfect obedience was a benevolent, or “condescending” (that is, something God was not obligated to do) offer to man. Coxe: “It implies a free and Sovereign Act of the Divine Will, exerted in condescending Love and Goodness; it is not from any necessity of nature that God enters into covenant with men, but of his own good pleasure.”
Chapter 3 (“By Farther Steps: A Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist Covenant Theology”) is a very encouraging chapter. When baptists today have struggled to work out all the knots of covenant theology, mostly unaware of historic formulations, it is exciting to work through this chapter and see how seventeenth century baptists had already thought through and answered these difficulties. The distinction between revealed and concluded, or “promise and promulgation” does not simply help baptist covenant theology make sense, it helps Scripture make sense. Much of the New Testament’s commentary on the Old Covenant, which continues to puzzle many covenant theologians, becomes rather crystal clear.
That said, make sure to take note of Richard Barcellos’ note in the preface: “It in no way pretends to be a fully worked-out Baptist covenant theology. It contains essays by thirteen different authors who do not necessarily advocate the fine details of every contribution, something that is quite common with multiple-author works.”
For example, in Chapter 3 (“By Farther Steps: A Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist Covenant Theology”) Pascal Denault explains “Samuel Petto considered that the Old Covenant did not have the same function for Israel as for Christ. For Israel it was a national covenant by whose conditions she received blessings and curses in its land (Deut. 28). For Christ, it was a covenant of works for which he had to accomplish righteousness actively and passively (Rom. 5:18-20; 8:3-4; Gal. 3:13; 4:4-5).” And goes on to note “This explanation from Petto demonstrates how he himself, and most of the Particular Baptists, considered that the covenant of works was reaffirmed with a different goal than at its first promulgation.”
While on the other hand, in Chapter 16 (“Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology and Biblical Theology”) Micah and Samuel Renihan are clear that “tenure in the land was what was in view in the Mosaic law [and all of the Old Covenant]” (not eternal life). And in Chapter 7 (“John Owen on the Mosaic Covenant”), Thomas E. Hicks, Jr. clarifies that Owen “did not believe that the Mosaic Covenant extended the promise of spiritual or eternal life at all… The Mosaic Covenant contained a reminder of the covenant of works, announcing the terms that belonged not to itself, but to the original covenant of works with Adam… what was promised to the Israelites for their faith, love, and obedience under the Mosaic Covenant was not eternal life (spiritual reality), but temporal, earthly blessings, including land and physical prosperity (physical picture).” And thus, Christ did not fulfill the terms of the Old Covenant for believers. Christ fulfilled his own covenant of works, the Covenant of Redemption.
[Note: Most particular baptists expressed agreement with Owen on this point, rather than Petto. Pascal Denault has since changed his stance on this. See the Q&A session of his recent lectures on 1689 Federalism for the Reformed Baptist Seminary.]
Jeffery D. Johnson holds to Petto’s view, yet his excellent Chapter 9 (“The Fatal Flaw of Infant Baptism: The Dichotomous Nature of the Abrahamic Covenant”) is written broadly enough to be interpreted in light of either view, depending on how one views the typology of the Abrahamic Covenant.
For more on this point, google Republication, the Mosaic Covenant, and Eternal Life 1689 Federalism.
In Chapter 4 (“The Puritan Argument for the Immersion of Believers: How Seventeenth-Century Baptists Utilized the Regulative Principle of Worship”), G. Steve Weaver, Jr. helpfully places the particular baptists within their proper context as Puritans, not Anabaptists (see Chapter 5 fn 54 “It also shows some adaptation on the part of the author to antipaedobaptist concerns. Therein is found a repudiation of the prejudicial use of alleged connections between Continental Anabaptists and Antipaedobaptists”). As Weaver notes “These Baptist pastors sought to apply the regulative principle more thoroughly than had Calvin or Burroughs and the Reformed/ Puritan tradition which they represented.”
An interesting note not mentioned by Weaver is that the Westminster Assembly voted 25-24 in opposition to requiring immersion. Wright, D. F. (2007). Infant Baptism in Historical Perspective (250–252) notes the debate that ensued for 3 days, with comments such as “if we say dipping is necessary, ‘we shall further anabaptisme’ (John Ley, and John Lightfoot).” Again, Puritan baptists were operating within the stream of theological discourse of their day, not outside of it.
Chapter 5 (“The Antipaedobaptism of John Tombes”) from Michael T. Renihan presents a very interesting history of figure I knew nothing about. Renihan notes that “The recovery of right baptism was Tombes’ personal, yet godly, obsession. He was concerned with the right practice of this ordinance for the good of man’s soul, not to win a theological point.” What is interesting is that Tombes remained a non-separating Purtian his whole life, while urging the Church of England to abandon the practice of infant baptism through the publication of thousands of pages of argument and response, which nearly cost him his livelihood, save for God’s providence. He responded to every objection he was given, going to great lengths to find answers, including moving to London specifically to have access to people and books that could help answer his quest for the practice of true baptism. The result was that he laid much of the theological foundation for particular baptists to build upon.
Chapter 6 (“The Abrahamic Covenant in the Thought of John Tombes”) summarizes Tombes’ voluminous work under the foundational argument expressed in syllogism:
Major premise: That which hath no testimony in Scripture for it, is doubtfull.
Minor premise: But this Doctrine of Infant-Baptisme, hath no testimony of Scripture for it;
Conclusion: Ergo, it is doubtfull.
Chapter 7 (“John Owen on the Mosaic Covenant”) from Thomas E. Hicks, Jr. demonstrates that Owen does not easily fit into existing categories of covenant theology, and certainly not into Ernest Kevan’s claim that all covenant theology fits into two groups: those who affirmed the Mosaic Covenant was a covenant of works and those who affirmed it was a covenant of grace. Owen denied the Mosaic Covenant offered eternal life, and thus it was neither the covenant of works nor the covenant of grace, but was a separate covenant concerning tenure in the land of Canaan – rejecting Calvin and the Westminster formulation of the Mosaic Covenant as of the same substance as the covenant of grace.
Hicks is right on the money when he notes that “In systematic theology, the nature of the Mosaic Covenant is relevant to the doctrine of justification. If the Mosaic Covenant is strictly a covenant of grace and if justification is a verdict rendered on the basis of one’s conformity to the terms of the covenant of grace, then theologians may find sufficient warrant to conclude that it is reasonable to include good works in the verdict of justification. On the other hand, if the Mosaic Covenant is a covenant of works, and if Paul and others are arguing against justification by obedience to that covenant, then an argument against justification by good works clearly emerges in the scriptural corpus.”
I would also love to see another of his comments teased out: “Careful study of Owen’s doctrine of the Mosaic Covenant could be useful in clearly delineating his political theory and explaining some of the theological motivation for his political action.” Though I am not certain this would be the case because Owen’s defense of certain political views appear to be refuted by his more mature views on the Mosaic Covenant.
In Chapter 8 (“A ‘Novel’ Approach to Credobaptist and Paedobaptist Polemics”), Jeffrey A. Massey recounts the history of the nineteenth century use of fiction as a polemic in the debate over baptism. As a filmmaker myself, his account of the debate over the proper use of fiction to advance biblical truth was particularly relevant to me. However, upon reading his summary of the novels written to defend various views of baptism, I can say I am thankful that none of the authors of this volume resorted to such methods.
Chapter 9 (“The Fatal Flaw of Infant Baptism: The Dichotomous Nature of the Abrahamic Covenant”) by Jeffrey D. Johnson helpfully presents the biblical data showing that the Abrahamic Covenant was a single covenant with two dimensions. This is similar to, yet different from Kline’s Two Level Fulfillment, and was articulated by seventeenth century particular baptists. His comments regarding circumcision symbolizing full obedience of the law from the heart (Deut 30:6) was particularly helpful.
He correctly notes “Importantly, the Mosaic Covenant did not replace, alter, or add to the condition placed upon the physical seed of Abraham in Genesis 17. It merely gave clarity to what was already required by circumcision. In other words, the Mosaic Covenant grew out of and codified the conditional side of the Abrahamic Covenant.” This is a point that is ignored by modern paedobaptist proponents of republication. On the other hand, John Murray (note mentioned in the chapter) recognized that “The obedience of Abraham is represented as the condition upon which the fulfilment of the promise given to him was contingent and the obedience of Abraham’s seed is represented as the means through which the promise given to Abraham would be accomplished. There is undoubtedly the fulfilment of certain conditions… the idea of conditional fulfilment is not something peculiar to the Mosaic covenant. We have been faced quite poignantly with this very question in connection with the Abrahamic covenant. And since this feature is there patent, it does not of itself provide us with any reason for construing the Mosaic covenant in terms different from those of the Abrahamic.” Murray greatly erred in transferring this principle to the New Covenant, yet he was faithful to the Old Testament text.
As mentioned above, I would take issue with Johnson’s statement that “the gospel that was promised in the Abrahamic Covenant was contingent upon the fulfillment of the law of the Mosaic Covenant,” depending on how it is interpreted. I do not believe Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Covenant, but rather the Covenant of Redemption. The moral law was foundational to both covenants, but I do not believe the Mosaic Covenant itself offered the reward of eternal life for obedience.
Chapter 10 (“The Difference Between the Two Covenants”) from John Owen is a helpful addition to this volume. Though it can be found in the Coxe/Owen volume, placing it here may force people to deal with his presentation within the context offered by the other chapters. I still have not seen any paedobaptists actually deal with Owen’s argument. Most seem to be entirely unaware of his unique contribution.
I thoroughly enjoyed Jamin Hubner’s two chapters (13 and 14) on Acts 2:39. He successfully demonstrates that the history of reformed exegesis of this passage has simply been loyalty to Calvin’s eisegesis, driven by a desire to defend infant baptism. I agree when he says “As a result, the Abrahamic Covenant and its features such as the recipients of circumcision are imported entirely into Acts 2:39 without any consideration as to what promise is being talked about in Acts 2:39, what the fulfillment of that promise looks like in the New Covenant, and what argument is being made in Acts 2 and how that argument is not altogether the same as Acts 3, and so on and so forth. In short, “The Paedobaptist ear is so attuned to the Old Testament echo in this text that it is deaf to its New Testament crescendo.”77 The attitude is “promise of the Spirit, Abrahamic Covenant, covenant of grace, it is all the same thing,” and “children, seed, same idea” when it comes to interpreting Acts 2:39.” In sum “An interpreter’s interest in hearing Old Testament overtones should not overthrow exegesis of the actual text.”
[Note, Hubner interacts with Owen’s exegesis of this passage at one point. It should be noted that the work quoted was written by Owen in 1644 – more than 30 years before he wrote his commentary on Hebrews 8.]
[Note again: A quote from Sam Waldron that Hubner references includes a comment that Paul did not believe the Mosaic Covenant was a covenant of works. Obviously this is in disagreement with the rest of the volume. That was not particularly the part of the quote Hubner was referencing.]
Richard Barcellos’ Chapter 15 (“An Exegetical Appraisal of Colossians 2:11-12”) was extremely helpful in making sense of the passage. He clarifies that the fulfillment of physical circumcision is circumcision of the heart, that is, regeneration. However, he then demonstrates that the baptism mentioned here is not water baptism, but spiritual baptism, which we access through faith. This spiritual baptism (vital union with Christ) is distinct from regeneration. “Baptism does not replace circumcision as the sign and seal of the covenant of grace. We have seen clearly that spiritual circumcision, not baptism, replaces (better, fulfills) physical circumcision. Baptism in Colossians 2:12 (i.e., vital union with Christ) is a result of spiritual circumcision (i.e., regeneration)… Paul does not say or imply that the sign and seal of the covenant is baptism… If it implies anything about water baptism, it implies that it ought to be administered to those who have been circumcised of heart and vitally united to Christ through faith as a sign of these spiritual blessings.”
Finally, Micah and Samuel Renihan’s Chapter 16 (“Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology and Biblical Theology”) is a fitting way to end the volume. The brothers cogently summarize the particular baptist covenant theology of the volume by interacting with more modern works, appropriating their insights where valid and drawing them to the correct conclusions. “The New Covenant is the final and full accomplishment of the covenant of redemption in history” and “The covenant of grace is the in-breaking of the covenant of redemption into history through the progressive revelation and retro-active application of the New Covenant” while “The Old Covenant is coextensive with and collectively representative of theocratic Israel, defined by the Abrahamic, conditioned by the Mosaic, and focused by the Davidic Covenants. The Old Covenant, and thus each of these three covenants, differs from the New Covenant not merely in administration, but also in substance.”
And there you have it. I recommend that you purchase the book, and read it too.