Archive

Archive for January, 2016

A Critique of R. Scott Clark’s Covenant Theology

January 30, 2016 13 comments

Synopsis: The historic reformed argument for paedobaptism (see Calvin Inst. 2.10-11) is that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New are all the same covenant. Clark rejects this and holds to the subservient covenant view instead. He acknowledges that the temporary, typological, national, ethnic Israel of the Old Covenant finds its source in the Abrahamic Covenant. Thus the Abrahamic and the New are not, in fact, one and the same, and his appeal to Abraham to justify paedobaptism thereby fails.


Recently R. Scott Clark spoke on the Calvinist Batman podcast about covenant theology and baptism. He also has A Curriculum For Those Wrestling Through Covenant Theology And Infant Baptism, a 5-part series called Some of the Differences Between Baptists and Reformed Theology on the New Covenant, as well as a printed booklet called Baptism, Election, and the Covenant of Grace. [For a response to his new podcast series, see here]

I greatly appreciate Dr. Clark’s work in defense of justification by faith alone. He sees quite clearly how much of the professed reformed church has been infiltrated by a false gospel. He sees it for the threat that it is and he speaks loudly against it. I stand beside him in that and I am thankful for his work in that respect. The critique I offer below should not take anything away from that. I offer it in an effort to sharpen iron and edify the church.

The critique is long, but I think you will find it worth your time. I appreciate your patience.

Summary of Clark’s View

Clark has offered this concise summary:

The Abrahamic covenant is still in force. The administration of the Abrahamic covenant involved believers and their children (Gen 17). That’s why Peter said, “For the promise to you and to your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). That’s a New Testament re-statement of the Abrahamic promise of Genesis 17 and in the minor prophets (e.g., Joel 2). Only believers have ever actually inherited, by grace alone, through faith alone, the substance of the promise (Christ and salvation) but the signs and seals of the promise have always been administered to believers and their children. It’s both/and not either/or.

When Clark addresses this issue to baptists, he is addressing a very wide spectrum of baptists. Therefore much of what he says isn’t always applicable to confessional baptists. There is a great deal of agreement between Clark and confessional baptists. We agree that a proper understanding of the antithetical nature of the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace is essential for properly understanding the law/gospel antithesis, and thus the gospel (something many, including professed reformed, do not). We agree that all men throughout history have only ever been saved by God’s sovereign work through the Covenant of Grace.

Where differences start to emerge is on the nature of the Covenant of Grace. Clark believes that 1) the Covenant of Grace, including its membership, exists on two levels: its substance and its administration, and 2) all of the post-fall covenants are administrations of the Covenant of Grace.

Regarding 1), Clark notes

As part of his [Olevianus’] education he learned the traditional Christian appropriation of the [Aristotelean] distinction between the substance of a thing, i.e., its essence, and its accidents or external appearance… The substance of a thing is what makes it what it is, the thing without which it doesn’t exist. The accidents or circumstances are the administration of the covenant of grace.

This applies to membership in that

there has always been different ways of relating to the one covenant of grace at the same time. The OT prophets and the Apostle Paul clearly distinguished between those who had only external, outward relation to the covenant of grace and those who had an outward and an internal or inward or spiritual relation to the covenant of grace.

So what is the substance of the Covenant of Grace?

At first glance, the phrase “substance of the covenant” might seem nebulous but it isn’t. It’s the most practical thing: free acceptance with God and being gradually conformed to Christ’s image… How did the Olevianus and others define the substance or essence of the covenant of grace? “I will put my law in your midst, and I will write my law in your heart and I will be your God and you will be my people.” Embedded in this prophetic articulation of the covenant of grace is essentially or substantially the same promise he had made to Adam, after the fall (Gen 3), to Noah (Gen 6), and to Abraham (Gen 17).

The Abrahamic Covenant is the Covenant of Grace, in substance, and since Abraham gave the covenant sign to his children in the administration of the covenant (even though they were not all partakers of the substance of the covenant), Christians today should give the covenant sign to their children (even if they do not all participate in the substance of the covenant) because the covenant sign was never revoked. It only changed its outward appearance (circumcision turned into baptism). Ergo, paedobaptism.

Moses not Abraham?

The primary point Clark tries to drive home across his writings is that baptists are confused because they fail to distinguish between the Mosaic Covenant (which is contrasted with the New and has passed away) and the Abrahamic Covenant (which is the same as the New and has not passed away).

The contrast, then, in Jeremiah 31 is not between Abraham and the new covenant but between Moses and the new covenant. The novelty or newness of the new covenant is measured relative to Moses, relative to the national covenant made with Israel at Sinai, and not with Abraham and the covenant promise God gave to him: I will be a God to you and to your children. That promise remains intact. The promise is not Mosaic, it is not old, it is Abrahamic. (On the New Covenant)

He notes that “If our Baptist friends can turn Abraham into Moses, then they can be done with him and with the problem of continuity between the New Covenant and the Abrahamic.” Thus to answer the baptists, Clark argues “We distinguish Abraham from the old covenant because Paul does so consistently.” In fact, he really drives the point home.

Moses and Abraham they operate on utterly different principles. The law, the Mosaic covenant, says “do and live.” The Abrahamic covenant says, “Receive freely, through faith alone, benefits you have not earned but that were earned for you by another.”

…Thus, Paul in Galatians 3 and 4 juxtaposed the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, in that way, as reflecting different principles.

…The old covenant was such that it could be broken, but the new covenant cannot be broken.

The very nature of the Mosaic Covenant and the Abrahamic Covenant are opposed and distinct. That must mean the substance (“what makes it what it is” i.e. its nature) of the Mosaic Covenant and the substance of the Abrahamic Covenant are opposed and distinct.

By analogy, the model for the new covenant is the Abrahamic covenant. The Mosaic covenant was intended to nothing more than to serve as a historical footlight, to bring attention to the covenant of grace. More than that the substance of the new covenant is the Abrahamic covenant.

The Abrahamic and New Covenants are of the same substance, but the Mosaic is not.

Remember, Paul reckons the Mosaic, Sinaitic, old covenant as a temporary, national, pedagogical, typological arrangement superimposed upon the Abrahamic covenant of grace. (On the New Covenant)

 

The comparison and contrast is not between Abraham and the new covenant but between Moses and the new covenant. The covenant that God made with Abraham was a covenant of grace, the covenant he confirmed with the “blood of the eternal covenant” (Heb 13:20). (Moses was not Abraham)

That’s quite the contrast. The Mosaic Covenant was not a covenant of grace. The substance of the Mosaic Covenant did not save anyone. Instead, they were saved by the Abrahamic Covenant. “The Abrahamic covenant was operative under and during the temporary, typological Mosaic covenant.”

In short, Abraham was not Moses.

In a 2007 series on republication, Clark put it this way:

[T]he covenant of grace, the Abrahamic covenant is the administration of God’s saving grace. It was and remains a covenant of grace… [T]he Mosaic Covenant is finished… It was a legal covenant not relative to salvation or justification but relative to Israel’s status as the temporary national people of God. In Exod 24, Israel swore a blood oath that she, as a national people, would keep the law and it was on this legal basis that Israel was ultimately expelled from the promised land and on which basis she lost her status as the national people of God… Israel was under a typological, not soteriological covenant of works. It’s a post-lapsarian, typological covenant of works… [T]he type of covenant under which Israel lived as national entity was formally legal, it was a suzerain-vassal treaty. Those same families also lived under a royal grant covenant that was wholly gracious relative to salvation and justification…

God made a temporary, national covenant. That temporary national covenant expired. The spiritual covenant, the covenant of grace, does not expire. The covenant of grace was temporarily administered through and alongside a national covenant… The Mosaic covenant, insofar as it was a distinct covenant, was a national, external, temporary covenant…

Is it not sufficient to say that the covenant of grace, the Abrahamic covenant, was administered through the Mosaic and yet the Mosaic as such, as a distinct epoch in the history of redemption, is also unique in certain aspects (e.g. as a republication of the covenant of works)?…

The Mosaic covenant, insofar as it was a distinct covenant, was a national, external, temporary covenant. At the same time, however, the spiritual, internal, Abrahamic covenant of grace continued and those in the Mosaic covenant who were elect, were also children of Abraham as well as children of Moses.

Re-Publication of the Covenant of Works (1) and Republication of the Covenant of Works (2) and Re-Publication of the Covenant of Works (3)

Or is he?

What’s very interesting to note is that other paedobaptists are deeply concerned by Clark’s argument (which has been referred to as “republication” but historically is known as the subservient covenant view). Matthew Winzer warns

The modern idea destroys the typological element and introduces confusion as to the gracious nature of the Mosaic covenant. It also undermines the continuity of the covenant of grace so far as the inclusion of infants is concerned, because that inclusion depended upon their national citizenship; if that citizenship was a part of the covenant of works, there is no grounds for their inclusion in the NT administration of the covenant of grace.

Winzer refers to Clark’s position as “the modern idea.” Clark explains what this refers to.

One of the great questions between Reformed and Baptist theology is the question of how to interpret Scripture. The Reformed have tended to let the New Testament not only interpret the Hebrew (and Aramaic) Scriptures but also to provide a pattern for how to interpret the typological revelation. Thus, not only do Romans, Hebrews, and Galatians give us specific direction about specific passages but they also demonstrate how other typological passages not specifically addressed in the NT ought to be interpreted. Reformed theology has not always been consistent in the application of this principle. In the 17th century many Reformed readers were chiliasts, i.e., they believed in a literal 1000-year reign of Christ on the earth. Before the late 18th-century, most Reformed folk were also theocratic, a position that is very difficult to square with the hermeneutical theory which underlay the Reformed critique of the Romanist reinstitution of the Mosaic cultic system. It is also quite difficult to square the earlier Reformed theocratic ethics with the equally early Reformed understanding of the history of redemption. In other words, until the modern period, there were unresolved tensions in Reformed theology. Gradually, the covenant theology worked out in the 16th and 17th centuries acted as a sort of leaven and most Reformed folk resolved those tensions in favor of their covenant theology that recognized the Mosaic covenant as a temporary, typological overlay upon the permanent and fundamental Abrahamic covenant of grace. (On the New Covenant)

According to Clark, the reformed tradition held to contradictory beliefs for several centuries that were only resolved when they adopted his view that the Mosaic Covenant was a temporary, typological covenant differing in substance from the Covenant of Grace (the subservient covenant view). Until then, as Winzer references, the old divines believed in a gracious Mosaic Covenant that was just as much the Covenant of Grace as the Abrahamic was. Calvin established the basis for this view using the substance/administration distinction.

But what he adds is not without some difficulty, — that the covenant of the Gospel was proclaimed on better promises; for it is certain that the fathers who lived under the Law had the same hope of eternal life set before them as we have, as they had the grace of adoption in common with us, then faith must have rested on the same promises. But the comparison made by the Apostle [between the old and new covenants] refers to the form rather than to the substance; for though God promised to them the same salvation which he at this day promises to us, yet neither the manner nor the character of the revelation is the same or equal to what we enjoy. If anyone wishes to know more on this subject, let him read the 4th and 5th chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians and my Institutes. (Hebrews 8 commentary)

Recall that, for Clark, the Abrahamic and New Covenants are the same in substance, but not the Mosaic, which is contrasted with the Abrahamic/New. Israelites were saved by the Abrahamic Covenant working underneath the Mosaic Covenant, which did not save. In Calvin’s Institutes (2.11) we find the following (referencing Hebrews 7-9):

Five points of difference between the Old and the New Testaments. These belong to the mode of administration rather than the substance… I hold and think I will be able to show, that they all belong to the mode of administration rather than to the substance…

Here we are to observe how the covenant of the law compares with the covenant of the gospel, the ministry of Christ with that of Moses. For if the comparison had reference to the substance of the promises, then there would be great disagreement between the Testaments. But since the trend of the argument leads us in another direction, we must follow it to find the truth. Let us then set forth the covenant that he once established as eternal and never-perishing. Its fulfillment, by which is is finally confirmed and ratified, is Christ. While such confirmation was awaited, the Lord appointed, through Moses, ceremonies that were, so to speak, solemn symbols of that confirmation. A controversy arose over whether or not the ceremonies that had been ordained in the law ought to give way to Christ. Now these were only the accidental properties of the covenant, or additions and appendages, and in common parlance, accessories of it. Yet because they were means of administering it, they bear the name “covenant,” just as is customary in the case of other sacraments. To sum up then, in this passage “Old Testament” means the solemn manner of confirming the covenant, comprised in ceremonies and sacrifices. Because nothing substantial underlies this unless we go beyond it, the apostle contends that it ought to be terminated and abrogated, to give place to Christ, the Sponsor and Mediator of a better covenant [cf. Heb 7:22]; whereby he imparts eternal sanctifications once and for all to the elect, blotting out their transgressions, which remained under the law. Or, if you prefer, understand it thus: the Old Testament of the Lord was that covenant [the eternal covenant/the covenant of grace -BA] wrapped up in the shadowy and ineffectual observance of ceremonies and delivered to the Jews; it was temporary because it remained, as it were, in suspense until it might rest upon a firm and substantial confirmation. It became new and eternal only after it was consecrated and established by the blood of Christ. Hence Christ in the Supper calls the cup that he gives to his disciples “the cup of the New Testament in my blood” [Luke 22:20]. By this he means that the Testament of God attained its truth when sealed by his blood, and thereby becomes new and eternal.

Notice that Calvin speaks of “the covenant” in the singular. He is clear: The Old and New Covenant were the same covenant. They did not operate on “utterly different principles.” They were the same in substance. They differed only in their outward appearance, the manner of revelation, the ceremonies, the accidents – in sum, the administration. This is what it means for the Mosaic Covenant to be an administration of the covenant of grace: they are the same covenant with the same promises and the same means of obtaining the promise, but are simply administered in different ways outwardly.

Westminster Assembly

After Calvin, theologians continued to wrestle with this perplexing issue, with the vast majority following Calvin. A few disagreed and argued that the Mosaic was not the same in substance with the Covenant of Grace. Writing in The True Bounds of Christian Freedom 1645, Samuel Bolton surveys the various solutions offered, focusing here on two:

There are two other opinions which I will here mention. [1] Some men think it neither a covenant of works, nor a covenant of grace, but a third kind of covenant distinct from both. [2] Others think it a covenant of grace, but more legally dispensed.

[1] Those who consider it to be a third covenant speak of it as a preparatory, or a subservient covenant, a covenant that was given by way of subserviency to the covenant of grace, and for the setting forward or advancing of the covenant of grace. Those men who hold this view say that there are three distinct covenants which God made with mankind – the covenant of nature, the covenant of grace, and the subservient covenant.

The covenant of nature was that whereby God required from the creature as a creature perfect obedience to all divine commandments, with promise of a blessed life in Paradise if man obeyed, but with the threat of eternal death if he disobeyed the command, the purpose of all this being to declare how virtue pleased, and sin displeased God.

The covenant of grace was that whereby God promised pardon and forgiveness of sins and eternal life, by the blood of Christ, to all those that should embrace Christ, and this was purposed by God to declare the riches of His mercy.

The subservient covenant, which was called the old covenant, was that whereby God required obedience from the Israelites in respect of the moral, ceremonial, and judicial laws. Blessings in the possession of Canaan were promised to obedience, and curses and miseries to those who broke the covenant, and all to this end, that God might thus encourage their hearts in the expectation of the Messiah to come.

This subservient or old covenant is that which God made with the people of Israel in Mount Sinai, to prepare them to faith, and to inflame them with the desire of the promise and of the coming of Christ;…

If it be neither a covenant of works, nor a covenant of grace, then must it of necessity be a third kind of covenant: and it must needs be such a covenant as does not stand in opposition to grace, nor is inconsistent with the covenant of grace, for if this be not so, then God will have contradicted Himself, overthrown His own purpose, and repented of His own promise which He had given before. Hence it is called a subservient covenant. It was given by way of subserviency to the Gospel and a fuller revelation of the covenant of grace; it was temporary, and had respect to Canaan and God’s blessing there, if and as Israel obeyed. It had no relation to heaven, for that was promised by another covenant which God made before He entered upon the subservient covenant. This is the opinion which I myself desire modestly to propound, for I have not been convinced that it is injurious to holiness or disagreeable to the mind of God in Scripture.

[2] There is, however, a second opinion in which I find that the majority of our holy and most learned divines concur, namely, that though the law is called a covenant, yet it was not a covenant of works for salvation; nor was it a third covenant of works and grace; but it was the same covenant in respect of its nature and design under which we stand under the Gospel, even the covenant of grace, though more legally dispensed to the Jews. It differed not in substance from the covenant of grace, but in degree, say some divines, in the economy and external administration of it, say others. The Jews, they agree, were under infancy, and therefore under “a schoolmaster”. In this respect the covenant of grace under the law is called by such divines “foedus vetus” (the old covenant), and under the Gospel “foedus novum” (the new covenant): see Heb. 8:8.

Samuel Bolton (0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00). The True Bounds of Christian Freedom (Kindle Locations 1211-1215). Kindle Edition.

Bolton very accurately describes Clark’s view of the Mosaic Covenant and labels it the Subservient Covenant view, noting that is the view he personally agrees with. However, he distinguishes it from a second view which believes the Mosaic Covenant was the Covenant of Grace. It only differed from the New in external administration, not in substance or in principle. He is describing Calvin’s view and he notes this is now (1645) the majority opinion held by the most learned divines. After debating various views, the Westminster Assembly sided with Calvin.

7.4. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.

5. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament.

6. Under the gospel, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed, are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fulness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.

Another Assembly minister, Anthony Burgess, who served on the committee that drafted chapter 19, said

Wee have confuted the false differences, and now come to lay downe the true, between the law and the Gospel taken in a larger sense.

And, first, you must know that the difference is not essential, or substantiall, but accidentall: so that the division of the Testament, or Covenant into the Old, and New, is not a division of the Genus into its opposite Species; but of the subject, according to its severall accidentall administrations, both on Gods part, and on mans. It is true, the Lutheran Divines, they doe expresly oppose the Calvinists herein, maintaining the Covenant given by Moses, to be a Covenant of workes, and so directly contrary to the Covenant of grace. Inded, they acknowledge that the Fathers were justified by Christ, and had the same way of salvation with us; onely they make that Covenant of Moses to be a superadded thing to the Promise, holding forth a condition of perfect righteousness unto the Jewes, that they might be convinced of their owne folly in their self-righteousnesse.

(Vindication of the Morall Law, 241)

David Dickson, a Scottish Presbyterian who wrote one of the first commentaries on the WCF, had the following to say in a later work:

How the external dispensation of the Covenant of old, differeth from that which now is under the Gospel.

… 4. In the wilderness at mount Sinai, that the Lord might make evident the necessity of justification by faith in Christ to come, he did repeat the law of works; and to them that did acknowledge their sin, he did set forth Christ their deliverer, under the veil of sacrifices and levitical types, and the very same is the covenant now, whereunto Christ and his ministers, laying aside the veil of the ceremonies, did openly invite their hearers, that acknowledging their sins, and renouncing confidence in their own power and worth, they should cast themselves into the arms of Christ the Saviour, that through him they might obtain justification and life eternal. We see here indeed a diverse manner of dispensing, and outward managing the making of the covenant with men, but the covenant was still the same, clothed and set forth in a diverse manner, and did no other ways differ then and now, but as one and the self same man differeth from himself, clothed suitably one way in his minority, and another way in his riper age. (THERAPEUTICA SACRA)

The Old and the New Covenant are one and the same. They are the same man wearing different clothes.

You may ask how Samuel Bolton could disagree with the Confession and publish his disagreement, and yet be a member of the assembly and a member of the clergy. First, the assembly debated a number of issues. Not everyone wound up agreeing with everything in the Confession.

It is certainly true that there was a great debate among the Puritans as to the nature of the Mosaic Covenant. Moreover, Reformed Presbyterians have continued the debate. However, this does not imply that the Puritans themselves did not come to a majority consensus. As we have already noted, the exhaustive research of E. F. Kevan concludes that they did: “The outcome of the Puritan debate was that, on the whole, it was agreed that the Mosaic Covenant was a form of the Covenant of Grace; and this view was embodied in the Confession of Faith.”

The Puritans debated church government. There were Presbyterians, Erastians, and Independents at the Assembly. Nonetheless, the Presbyterian view prevailed as is indicated by the text of the Confession itself. The section on church government is simply intolerant of any view other than Presbyterianism. The same is true concerning the nature of the Mosaic Covenant. (In Defense of Moses)

Second, the confession was meant to govern public preaching. It did not require ministers to personally agree with everything in it. See here, here, and here.

Writing in 1680 in defense of the Subservient Covenant view, John Owen, like Bolton, states the majority view of reformed divines on the Mosaic Covenant (specifically footnoting the section in Calvin we looked at above), then argues why it is wrong, noting that he is more in agreement with the Lutherans on this question.

Suppose, then, that this new covenant of grace was extant and effectual under the old testament, so as the church was saved by virtue thereof, and the mediation of Christ therein, how could it be that there should at the same time be another covenant between God and them, of a different nature from this, accompanied with other promises, and other effects?

On this consideration it is said, that the two covenants mentioned, the new and the old, were not indeed two distinct covenants, as unto their essence and substance, but only different administrations of the same covenant, called two covenants from some different outward solemnities and duties of worship attending of them. To clear this it must be observed, —

1. That by the old covenant, the original covenant of works, made with Adam and all mankind in him, is not intended; for this is undoubtedly a covenant different in the essence and substance of it from the new.

2. By the new covenant, not the new covenant absolutely and originally, as given in the first promise, is intended; but in its complete gospel administration, when it was actually established by the death of Christ, as administered in and by the ordinances of the new testament. This, with the covenant of Sinai, were, as most say, but different administrations of the same covenant.

But on the other hand, there is such express mention made, not only in this, but in sundry other places of the Scripture also, of two distinct covenants, or testaments, and such different natures, properties, and effects, ascribed unto them, as seem to constitute two distinct covenants. This, therefore, we must inquire into; and shall first declare what is agreed unto by those who are sober in this matter, though they differ in their judgments about this question, whether two distinct covenants, or only a twofold administration of the same covenant, be intended…

The judgment of most reformed divines is, that the church under the old testament had the same promise of Christ, the same interest in him by faith, remission of sins, reconciliation with God, justification and salvation by the same way and means, that believers have under the new. And whereas the essence and the substance of the covenant consists in these things, they are not to be said to be under another covenant, but only a different administration of it. But this was so different from that which is established in the gospel after the coming of Christ, that it hath the appearance and name of another covenant. And the difference between these two administrations may be reduced unto the ensuing heads: —

1. It consisted in the way and manner of the declaration of the mystery of the love and will of God in Christ…

2. In the plentiful communication of grace unto the community of the church…

3. In the manner of our access unto God…

4. In the way of worship required under each administration…

5. In the extent of the dispensation of the grace of God;…

Sundry other things are usually added by our divines unto the same purpose. See Calvin. Institut. lib. 2:cap. xi.; Martyr. Loc. Com. loc. 16, sect. 2; Bucan. loc. 22, etc.

The Lutherans, on the other side, insist on two arguments to prove, that not a twofold administration of the same covenant, but that two covenants substantially distinct, are intended in this discourse of the apostle.

1. Because in the Scripture they are often so called, and compared with one another, and sometimes opposed unto one another; the first and the last, the new and the old.

2. Because the covenant of grace in Christ is eternal, immutable, always the same, obnoxious unto no alteration, no change or abrogation; neither can these things be spoken of it with respect unto any administration of it. as they are spoken of the old covenant…

4. These things being observed, we may consider that the Scripture doth plainly and expressly make mention of two testaments, or covenants, and distinguish between them in such a way, as what is spoken can hardly be accommodated unto a twofold administration of the same covenant. The one is mentioned and described, Exodus 24:3-8,Deuteronomy 5:2-5, — namely, the covenant that God made with the people of Israel in Sinai; and which is commonly called “the covenant,” where the people under the old testament are said to keep or break God’s covenant; which for the most part is spoken with respect unto that worship which was peculiar thereunto. The other is promised, Jer 31:31-34, 32:40; which is the new or gospel covenant, as before explained, mention Matt 26:28, Mark 14:24. And these two covenants, or testaments, are compared one with the other and opposed one unto another 2 Cor 3:6-9; Gal 4:24-26; Heb 7:22, 9:15-20…

5. Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than a twofold administration of the same covenant merely, to be intended. We must, I say, do so, provided always that the way of reconciliation and salvation was the same under both. But it will be said, —and with great pretense of reason, for it is that which is the sole foundation they all build upon who allow only a twofold administration of the same covenant, —’That this being the principal end of a divine covenant, if the way of reconciliation and salvation be the same under both, then indeed are they for the substance of them but one.’ And I grant that this would inevitably follow, if it were so equally by virtue of them both. If reconciliation and salvation by Christ were to be obtained not only under the old covenant, but by virtue thereof, then it must be the same for substance with the new. But this is not so; for no reconciliation with God nor salvation could be obtained by virtue of the old covenant, or the administration of it, as our apostle disputes at large, though all believers were reconciled, justified, and saved, by virtue of the promise, whilst they were under the covenant.

As therefore I have showed in what sense the covenant of grace is called “the new covenant,” in this distinction and opposition, so I shall propose sundry things which relate unto the nature of the first covenant, which manifest it to have been a distinct covenant, and not a mere administration of the covenant of grace: —…

This is the nature and substance of that covenant which God made with that people; a particular, temporary covenant it was, and not a mere dispensation of the covenant of grace…

 

Hence he says of it, Ouj kata< th>n, —”Not according unto it;” a covenant agreeing with the former neither in promises, efficacy, nor duration. For what is principally promised here, namely, the giving of a new heart, Moses expressly affirms that it was not done in the administration of the first covenant. It is neither a renovation of that covenant nor a reformation of it, but utterly of another nature, by whose introduction and establishment that other was to be abolished, abrogated, and taken away, with all the divine worship and service which was peculiar thereunto. And this was that which the apostle principally designed to prove and convince the Hebrews of.

Owen on Hebrews 8:6, p. 84

For more on this see D. Patrick Ramsey’s In Defense of Moses as well as Lee Irons’ The Subservient Covenant. Note: Though it may have taken presbyterians centuries to realize the error of their position, 17th century congregationalists (including baptists) quickly understood the error and rejected the position.

Because more and more presbyterians are adopting the Subservient Covenant view, the OPC GA has established a study committee to determine if it is “consistent with the doctrinal system taught in the confessional standards of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.” In the midst of this debate, Robert B. Strimple, President emeritus & Professor emeritus of Systematic Theology, Westminster Seminary California, Escondido, CA wrote a memo to the faculty specifically addressing Clark’s writings in particular. He emphatically states

[A] distinction must be made between the moral law of God and the purpose it served before the fall (“as a covenant of works”), and the moral law of God and the purpose it serves after the fall (see sec. 6), for which purpose it was delivered upon Mount Sinai (see sec. 2); i.e., as “a perfect rule of righteousness.” The Confession says that the moral law that God gave to Adam as a covenant of works is the “very same law” (Dr. Clark) that continues to be a perfect rule of righteousness for us; and it was that law (I shall refer again below to the force of the “as such” in section 2) that “was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai.” But that law does not continue as a covenant of works for us, and it was not delivered upon Mount Sinai as a covenant or works for the children of Israel. This is what the Confession teaches. It may not be what some on our faculty would like it to teach. But it is what the Confession teaches.

The “modern view” (Subservient Covenant) is contrary to the Westminster Confession (which means Clark’s primary objection to the Baptist reading of the Old & New Covenants was rejected by Westminster). However, because the OPC holds to system subscription instead of full subscription, the debate is over the systematic implications of the view for the theology put forward in the Westminster Confession. And the systematic implications of covenant theology is what we’re interested in here. Winzer, representing the old view, warns that if the Subservient Covenant view is true, then paedobaptism is false. He echoes Westminster divines like George Gillespie, who warned

The analogy betwixt Jewish & Christian church, little question of that little question… If this faile, the argument of Baptisme from circumcision will faile also… For that we must not looke to the state of the Jewish church, is only a warrantableness for the analogy of the Old Testament & New, granted. The brother that spake last said before we must cut loose the argument of Jewish church; [for] but how shall we prove pedo-Baptism?

(Btw, that’s why Gillespie was a staunch defender of the theocratic views Clark denounced above. Gillespie was a better systematic theologian than Clark. He understood that to do away with theocracy is to do away with the Jewish model of the church, which will do away with infant baptism – but that’s a subject for an upcoming post).

But of course Clark objects and says that the opposite is true. If Abraham and Moses are continuous and united, as Calvin, Dickson, Gillespie, and Westminster argued, then baptists can demonstrate that any temporary aspects of Abraham tied to Moses pass away with Moses.

It seems to me that that those who deny republication do so partly because, in reaction to the Baptist error, they conflate Moses and Abraham. In so doing they’ve actually agreed with the Baptists who do the same thing. (Re-Publication of the Covenant of Works (3))

So which view is right? They both are. The “old” view is right that removing the Mosaic Covenant from the Covenant of Grace undoes the continuity of the Covenant of Grace not just with regards to Moses, but Abraham as well, as Moses is rooted in Abraham, and thus undoes the argument for paedobaptism. The “modern” view is right that if Moses and Abraham are substantially one, then the New is substantially distinct from both, per the New Testament, and thus paedobaptism is false.

How Abraham & Moses Relate

Back to Clark:

There are genuine connections between the Abraham and Mosaic covenants. Both are both administrations of the covenant of grace. Both are typological. God promised to Abraham a land and a seed (Gen chapters 12; 15; 17). As I have argued (see the essays above) the land was a type of heaven (Heb 11:10) and the seed promise was fulfilled in Christ (Gal 3:16) and we who, by grace alone, through faith alone, are united to Christ are his seed (Rom 9:7–8; Gal 3:29). In the history of redemption, the land and seed promises came to be administered through and under the Mosaic covenant but that Old Covenant administration was distinct from the Abrahamic…

Because Abraham and Moses both belong to the typological period, to that time in redemptive history before the reality, Christ and his kingdom, had come—not to say that they were not present in any way. They were present under types and shadows—they share certain characteristics and features. (Clark, Abraham, Moses, and Circumcision)

Clark’s essay Abraham, Moses, and Circumcision attempts to clarify his view of the matter, but causes some confusion. Here he explains that the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant share certain typological characteristics and features. There is overlap between the two of them with regards to typology, particularly the land and the seed.

However, he then tries to make some kind of distinction between the Mosaic types and the Abrahamic types. It is not at all clear what he intends by the distinction. He says “the land and seed promises came to be administered through and under the Mosaic covenant but that Old Covenant administration was distinct from the Abrahamic.” It is unclear what exactly this means. He elaborates

Previously I have argued that everything that is distinctively Mosaic in the history of redemption is fulfilled by Christ and has expired or has been abolished. Thus, the 613 Mosaic commandments, i.e., the civil and ceremonial laws are fulfilled and expired. They have been abrogated and are no longer in force. The ceremonial aspects (e.g., the Saturday Sabbath, the land promise) of the Mosaic expression of the moral law, which itself is not grounded in Moses and is permanent, is temporary and has been fulfilled and abrogated. That the Mosaic covenant (sometimes denoted in the NT as “the law”) was inherently temporary and inferior and is now expired and abrogated has been a basic principle of Christian theology and hermeneutics since the 2nd century.

Here he lists “the land promise” as “distinctively Mosaic” and therefore “inherently temporary.” How is the land promise distinctively Mosaic in contrast to Abrahamic? Previously he said the typological land promise was something the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants shared in common. He categorizes Mosaic elements as “distinctively” temporary and thereby seeks to distinguish them from things that are not “distinctively” Mosaic, and therefore not temporary.

This leads us to a necessary corollary to the principle of Mosaic inferiority: The typological period of redemptive history and revelation pre-existed the Mosaic covenant. All of those types and shadows have also been fulfilled and have been expired but that there were typologies (pictures of the coming reality in Christa) under Adam, Noah, and Abraham does not make them Mosaic. In other words, not all types are Mosaic. This is an important distinction. The Mosaic covenant, strictly speaking, the Old Covenant, was typological but not all types and shadows are Mosaic. The Mosaic covenant was unique…

Now we are told that we must distinguish between Mosaic and non-Mosaic types, but we are also told that both Mosaic and non-Mosaic types are temporary and have “expired.” How is “not all types and shadows are Mosaic” an important distinction if all types and shadows, Mosaic or non-Mosaic, were temporary and have expired? Just because something is Abrahamic does not mean it is not obsolete. What matters is whether or not it was a type.

In the end, the Mosaic/non-Mosaic distinction is irrelevant to the point Clark seeks to make since he argues that there are Abrahamic types that have expired. His specific point is that there is a typical aspect of circumcision that has expired and a non-typical aspect of circumcision that has not expired.

contra the assumption made by many under the influence of the broadly Baptistic paradigm, it is not infant initiation that is typological under Abraham but the shedding of blood.

The Mosaic/non-Mosaic issue is a bit of a non-sequitur smoke screen in this regard. The real issue is determining which aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant are typical and which are not. On this point, Clark is not consistent. He will say on one hand that the Abrahamic and Mosaic share a common typological promise of land and seed, but on the other hand he will say only the anti-typological promise of land and seed is actually Abrahamic, and thus the Abrahamic and New are identical.

Mike writes,

I would only ask, if the children of the believer (Abraham), were in, when the promises were given, and they (the children) were included in the temporal, fleshly, conditional, out working of the old covenant, for blessing or curse.

… The NT appeals consistently to Abraham and to the promise given to Abraham, not in earthly terms but in spiritual terms. not with respect to the land promises (which has expired with the expiration of the national covenant with Israel) but it consistently regards Abraham as our spiritual father in the faith. Abraham was looking forward to the heavenly city…

Mike says that the Abrahamic promise was “earthly” and “temporal,” and to be sure Abraham was given a land promise but please note carefully how Hebrews interprets the life and faith of Abraham. Hebrews interprets Abraham’s life and faith not in terms of the land promise. Hebrews categorically denies the very interpretation that Mike gives because it denies the very interpretation that the Judaizers were giving. Hebrews does not concede that Abraham was looking for an earthly city…

Paul’s argument is that new-covenant believers have the same faith as Abraham. Paul explicitly rejected the notion that the covenant made with Abraham or the promises given to him were merely earthly or temporary. (Moses Was Not Abraham)

These comments would be fine if Clark was arguing that the Abrahamic Covenant received a two-level fulfillment and so we should not limit its fulfillment to the earthly and temporal. But that is not what he’s arguing. He is arguing the promise was only anti-typical. It was only spiritual. Notice this bizarre exchange on the Calvinist Batman podcast. The host was making a statement against the baptist interpretation of Acts 2:39, assuming Clark would be in agreement, only to hear Clark reject his interpretation of the Abrahamic Covenant:

@29:20 Host: That’s exactly what I’m saying. In the Covenant with Abraham, God declares a generational covenant, that his “far off” were his descendants in time, not a physical location, as in, down the road there are people who are Gentiles that are not saved. That’s why I bring it up.

Clark: Yeah, see, I don’t accept that assumption, because if you look at the progress of the way the covenant is expressed in 12, 15, and 17. You’ve got a land promise. You’ve got a seed promise. And then you have the institution of the sacrament of infant circumcision in 17. So no, this is the problem, there’s always this attempt to sort of materialize the promise that God made to Abraham. But what do the Prophets do with it? The Prophets forecast the future in terms of the Abrahamic promise. Whether it’s Joel, or whether it’s Jeremiah. And the New Covenant picks that up and sort of explains what Jeremiah 31 means. Paul does it in 2 Cor 3. Hebrews does it really extensively in Hebrews 7, 8, 9, and 10. And then Paul does it, of course, in Galatians 3 and Galatians 4. So the Abrahamic Covenant in the New Testament is never construed the way you just did it, in sort of purely material, literal, genealogical terms.

Since I’m on the Calvinist Batman I can talk about an evil criminal conspiracy. This is sort of the hermeneutical conspiracy, if you will, to turn Abraham into Moses. And Abraham isn’t Moses. Moses is temporary. Moses is national. Abraham is not national. The seed promise that God made to Abraham in 12 and 15 is a promise that the nations will all come out of Abraham, and that’s what begins to happen in the New Covenant. When Peter says “the promise is to you and your children,” he’s saying that the fundamental essence of the Covenant of Grace that God made with Abraham is still in effect. And so, when you ask about infant baptism, that’s how we see it, that the Covenant of Grace still has to be administered outwardly and through this administration, God is going to call his elect from all the nations. And he’s doing that. So the New Covenant is really the fulfillment of the promises that God made to Abraham. And Jesus, Paul says, is the seed, in Galatians 3:15-16, and we, then, he says later on in Galatians, are seeds in Christ.

Whoops. According to Clark, the paedobaptist reading of the Abrahamic Covenant as a generational covenant is part of a hermeneutical conspiracy to materialize the promise God made to Abraham. The seed God promised to Abraham was only Christ and the land God promised to Abraham was only heaven. The Mosaic Covenant was national, but the Abrahamic is not. Perhaps this is what Clark meant earlier when he said “the land and seed promises came to be administered through and under the Mosaic covenant but that Old Covenant administration was distinct from the Abrahamic.” The temporary, typological application in the Old Covenant of the promises God made to Abraham were not actually derived from Abraham. They were something added to the Abrahamic Covenant.

The promises of the Abrahamic covenant, which had already been expressed relative to the land and a national people (see Gen chapters 12 and 15; there are national and land promises in chapter 17 also) came to expression in a temporary national covenant inaugurated at Sinai. That national covenant, however, does not exhaust the covenant promises of God. The Apostle Paul says (Gal 3; see below) that the national, Israelite, Sinaitic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, was a temporary addition, a codicil, added to the Abrahamic promises. That temporary national covenant expired with the death of Christ (see also all of Colossians and Hebrews)…

Remember, Paul reckons the Mosaic, Sinaitic, old covenant as a temporary, national, pedagogical, typological arrangement superimposed upon the Abrahamic covenant of grace. (On the New Covenant)

So the typological land (Canaan) and the typological seed (national Israel) are only Mosaic. They are not Abrahamic. Moses is not Abraham. They were added to the Abrahamic as a way to explain and picture the Abrahamic promises, which were only  spiritual and eternal. But

Even though there were typological (land) and even national elements in the promises given to Abraham (Gen 12 and 15) they were only temporary expressions of the more fundamental promise to send a Savior. (Is There a Covenant of Grace?)

So which is it? Are the typological land (Canaan) and typological seed (national Israel) part of the promises God made to Abraham or not? Clark is inconsistent. Consistency on this point would undermine his argument. If the typological promises were Abrahamic, then at least some of the Abrahamic promises are obsolete. Clark admitted above that there is at least an element of circumcision (the blood sacrifice element) that is typical and therefore obsolete. Likewise, there is at least an element of God’s land and seed promises to Abraham that were also typical and therefore obsolete.

Abrahamic Dichotomy

In his 2007 series on republication, Clark actually argued that exact point.

I keep hearing that Meredith Kline invented the doctrine of republication. In a word: nonsense… Richard posted this nice bit from Hodge (who also antedates MGK and WSC):

It is to be remembered that there were two covenants made with Abraham. By the one his natural descendants through Isaac, were constituted a commonwealth, an external community; by the other his spiritual descendants were constituted into a church, [invisible of course, since, at that time, the only formal organization was that of the law.] The parties to the former covenant, were God, and the nation; to the other, God, and his true people. The promises of the national covenant, were national blessings; the promises of the spiritual covenant (i.e. the covenant of grace) were spiritual blessings, as reconciliation, holiness, and eternal life. The conditions of the one covenant [the old] were circumcision, and obedience to the law; the conditions of the other were, and ever have been, faith in the Messiah, as the seed of the woman, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. There cannot be a greater mistake than to confound the national covenant with the covenant of grace, [that is, the old covenant with the new] and the commonwealth founded on the one, with the church founded on the other. When Christ came, the commonwealth was abolished, and there was nothing put in its place. The church [now made visible] remained. There was no external covenant, nor promise of external blessings, on condition of external rites, and subjection. There was a spiritual society, with spiritual promises, on condition of faith in Christ.” “The church is, therefore, in its essential nature, a company of believers, and not an external society, requiring merely external profession as the condition of membership. (Princeton Review, October, 1853)

Fellow paedobaptists commented on his post, stating “How these views – of Hodge in particular – don’t surrender the fort to the baptists, I don’t see… I think I would be happy to understand exactly how the baptist gains no ground thereby.” Clark defended Hodge.

Hodge is perfectly right to say that God made a temporary, national covenant with Moses. That temporary national covenant, which expired with the death of Christ, was the outworking of the land promises and the promise of a national people made to Abraham… [I]s it not the case that we should distinguish the land/inheritance promise from the spiritual promise (“I will be your God and your children’s God?”). If we can make that distinction then we can connect that aspect of the promise to Abraham to the national covenant in Moses. In other words, Hodge’s language, however incautious, is attempting to account for a real distinction.

I could stop right here. Clark has “surrendered the fort to the baptists.” But I will unpack the implications more clearly.

Contra dispensationalism, this typical, earthly, “material” aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant is obsolete. Contra dispensationalism, and in agreement with Clark, Christ’s spiritual kingdom made up of believing Jew and Gentile, is the fulfillment of an Abrahamic promise. But contra Clark, both Moses and Christ are offspring of Abraham. Both the Old and the New Covenants flow from Abraham (re-read Galatians 4:21-31). There is a duality to the Abrahamic Covenant. Many “modern” paedobaptists have acknowledged this truth. It was Meredith Kline’s primary argument against Dispensationalism.

As the kingdom promises come to fulfillment in two successive stages, each is identified as a divine remembrance of Abraham or of the covenant made with him…

We have found that in the course of biblical revelation two distinct levels of fulfillment, one provisional and prototypal, the other messianic and eternal, are clearly distinguishable in the king promise given to Abraham…

The issue between covenantal and dispensational hermeneutics is not one of spiritualizing versus nonspiritualizing interpretations of the second level kingdom. For, contrary to a common allegation, the covenantal system as well as the dispensational allows for the geophysical dimension of that kingdom. The basic question at issue is rather how to construe the relation of the two levels of the promised kingdom of the Abrahamic Covenant to one another. This amounts to the question of the relationship of the old covenant with Israel to the new covenant with the church, particularly as that comes into focus in the typological connection which the Scripture posits between them.

Note that it is precisely this understanding of the Abrahamic Covenant that turned 19th century Scottish Presbyterian James Haldance into a baptist. Augustine recognized this two-level fulfillment as well:

[T]he people were settled in the land of promise, so that, in the meantime, the first promise made to Abraham began to be fulfilled about the one nation, that is, the Hebrew, and about the land of Canaan; but not as yet the promise about all nations, and the whole wide world, for that was to be fulfilled, not by the observances of the old law, but by the advent of Christ in the flesh, and by the faith of the gospel…

And it was fulfilled through David, and Solomon his son, whose kingdom was extended over the whole promised space; for they subdued all those nations, and made them tributary. And thus, under those kings, the seed of Abraham was established in the land of promise according to the flesh, that is, in the land of Canaan, so that nothing yet remained to the complete fulfillment of that earthly promise of God, except that, so far as pertains to temporal prosperity, the Hebrew nation should remain in the same land by the succession of posterity in an unshaken state even to the end of this mortal age, if it obeyed the laws of the Lord its God. But since God knew it would not do this, He used His temporal punishments also for training His few faithful ones in it, and for giving needful warning to those who should afterwards be in all nations, in whom the other promise, revealed in the New Testament, was about to be fulfilled through the incarnation of Christ. (Augustine: Proto-1689 Federalist)

Circumcision

Recall Hodge’s previous articulation of this point.

The promises of the national covenant were national blessings; the promises of the spiritual covenant, (i.e. of the covenant of grace) were spiritual blessings, reconciliation, holiness, and eternal life. The conditions of the one covenant were circumcision and obedience to the law; the condition of the latter was, is, and ever has been, faith in the Messiah as the seed of the woman, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world.

Notice Hodge’s recognition of where circumcision belongs: to the first-order typical fulfillment. Clark tries to deny this by severing the first-order typical fulfillment from Abraham entirely, arguing it is only Mosaic. Abraham was not Moses, remember? But such a division between Abraham and Moses is impossible. Moses flows from Abraham. Mosaic circumcision is Abrahamic circumcision. Circumcision was a typical ordinance, not just in terms of bloodshed, but in terms of its recipients as well. Who was circumcision applied to? To “believers and their children”? No. To Abraham’s natural descendants – the same people who constitute the typical, national, genealogical first-order fulfillment of the Abrahamic seed promise (note Gen. 17:8).

Samuel Rutherford, representing historic Presbyterianism, understood quite well that circumcision was given to Abraham’s seed according to the flesh and was national in character.

God commands not Abraham only to circumcise his sons, but all parents descended of Abraham to circumcise their seed: the seed of Abraham carnally descended to all generations…

[M]any must be circumcised as these to whom the Lord gave the land for a possession were Abraham’s seed according to the flesh. But the land was given to the most wicked of Abraham’s seed (so Ch. 8:3).

That all the children of the wicked are circumcised is clear (Josh. 5), because Joshua at God’s commandment circumcised the children of Israel (Josh 5:2-3,7) whose wicked parents the Lord had consumed because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord, unto whom the Lord swore that He would not show them the land which the Lord swore to their fathers. Of that generation the Lord said (Heb. 3:10), ‘they do always err in their heart, and they have not known my ways,’ there was in them an evil heart, a hard heart, an unbelieving heart (Heb. 3:13,15,18), and yet God commanded Joshua to circumcise their children.

Therefore there was no more required of the circumcised but that they were Abraham’s seed according to the flesh… This is so true, that circumcision is put for the nation of the Jews (Acts 11:2; Rom. 2:26,27; Gal. 2:7; Gal. 6:15)…

1. The children of the most wicked were circumcised (Josh. 5:2). We desire to know whom God forbade to be circumcised that were carnally descended of Abraham?  Or show us example or precept thereof in the Word.

2. What God required in the parents, whose infants the church might lawfully and without sin circumcise, was that they were born Jews. O, says Mr. Best, they were behooved [required] to be members of the church, whose infants might lawfully be circumcised.  I answer: that is ignotum per ignotius [unknown per the unknown].  Show me one person being a born Jew whose child the Lord forbid to circumcise?…

For being born of the holy nation, they are holy with a federal and national holiness, Rom. 11:16.  If the root be holy so are the branches.

On the Baptism of the Children of Adherents

As Clark acknowledges “The typological period of redemptive history and revelation pre-existed the Mosaic covenant… Because Abraham and Moses both belong to the typological period… they share certain characteristics and features.” The Covenant of Circumcision was established with ordinances in the typological period, the time of the first-order promises, and they were given to the first-order seed according to the flesh. This seed was not the church. It was a type of the church. Israel according to the flesh was a type of Israel according to the Spirit. Abraham’s natural offspring were a type of Abraham’s spiritual offspring. Just like Kline above, many other paedobaptists have acknowledged this truth as well.

The whole nation of the Jews. They were a typical people; their Church-state being very ceremonial and peculiar to those legal times, (Therefore now ceased and abolished) did adumbrate and shadow forth two things.

  1. Christ himself; hence Christ is called Israel, Isa. 49.3. By Israel is meant Christ, and all the faithful, as members of him their head.
  2. They were a type of the Church of God under the New Testament. Hence the Church is called Israel, Gal 6.16 and Rev 7. The twelve tribes of Israel are numbered up by name, to shew forth the Lord’s particular care of every one of his people in particular. That place is not meant properly of Old Israel, because it relates to the times of the Antichristian locusts; compare cap 7. with cap. 9.4. The analogy lies in this, that they were a peculiar people to the Lord, chosen and singled out by him from all the world: So is Christ the Lord’s chosen, Behold my servant whom I have chosen, mine elect in whom my Soul delighteth: So are all the Saints, 1 Pet 2.9. A royal nation, a peculiar people, gathered from among all nations, Rev 5.9. Hence the enemies of Israel were typical enemies; as Egypt and Babylon under the Old Testament, types of Antichristian enemies under the New: And the providences of God towards that people of Old, types and shadows of his intended future dispensations towards his people under the New; as you will see further when we come to speak of typical providences.

Samuel Mather on Israel as a type of the Church

 

The persons with whom this [new] covenant is made are also expressed: “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah.”… Wherefore this house of Israel and house of Judah may be considered two ways:

[1.] As that people were the whole entire posterity of Abraham.

[2.] As they were typical, and mystically significant of the whole church of God.

Hence alone it is that the promises of grace under the old testament are given unto the church under these names, because they were types of them who should really and effectually be made partakers of them…

In the second sense the whole church of elect believers is intended under these denominations, being typified by them. These are they alone, being one made of twain, namely, Jews and Gentiles, with whom the covenant is really made and established, and unto whom the Mace of it is actually communicated. For all those with whom this covenant is made shall as really have the law of God written in their hearts, and their sins pardoned, according unto the promise of it, as the people of old were brought into the land of Canaan by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham. These are the true Israel and Judah, prevailing with God, and confessing unto his name.

John Owen, Hebrews 8:8 commentary

 

Let it then be observed, that men are said to be sanctified or made holy in very different senses. Sanctification, for the distinction, though an old, is not a bad one, is either real or relative.

…That separation from other nations, in which the holiness of the Jews chiefly consisted (r), was not spiritual, resulting from rectitude of heart and a correspondent behavior; but barely external, resulting from certain sacred rites and ceremonies different from or opposite to those of other nations, and confined to certain places and persons (d). The middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles, was the ceremonial law (e), which was neither necessary nor fit to make a spiritual separation  In fact, it did not separate between good and bad men among the Jews: but between the house of Israel  and the fearers of God or devout persons in the heathen nations (f). For which reason, though Cornelius was one that feared God, gave much alms, and prayed to God always, Peter was afraid of being polluted by intercourse with him.

(a) Lev. xxi. (b) Exod. xix. 6. (c) Exod. xix. 5, 6. Num. xxiii. 9. Deut. xxvi. 18, 19. (d) Lev. xx. 24,—26. Deut. xiv. 21. (e) Eph. ii. 14, 15. (f) Pial. cxviii. 4. A6ls xiii. 16, 26. xvii. 4, 17.

…as things were termed unclean, which were types or emblems of moral impurity, so the Jews were termed holy, not only because they were separated from other nations, but because they typified real Christians, who are in the fullest and noblest sense a holy nation, and a peculiar people (a). Types are visible things, different in their nature, from the spiritual things which they typify. If then the Jewish dispensation was typical, we may safely conclude, that the holiness of the Jewish nation being intended to typify the holiness of the Christian church, was of a different nature from it. And it is for this reason, that the Jewish dispensation is called the flesh and the letter, because persons and things in that dispensation, typified and represented persons and things under a more spiritual dispensation. (a) 1 Pet. ii. 9.

John Erskine’s “The Nature of the Sinai Covenant” (17-21)

Clark himself actually believes this as well, though he doesn’t recognize the implications.

God disinherited his adopted, temporary, national “son” Israel as a national people precisely because God never intended to have a permanent earthly, national people… their chief function was to serve as a type and shadow of God’s natural Son, Jesus the Messiah (Heb 10.1-4). It is the argument of this essay that Jesus Christ is the true Israel of God and that everyone who is united to him by grace alone, through faith alone becomes, by virtue of that union, the true Israel of God. (Israel of God)

In arguing against dispensationalists, paedobaptists apply typology consistently and often make statements inconsistent with paedobaptism. They are unaware of how sharp their hermeneutic against dispensationalism is. It’s a sword that cuts both ways.

Israel according to the flesh is a type and shadow of the true Israel of God, the church of Christ. Circumcision was given to the type, not the antitype. Clark is clear that the typical fulfillment of the land and seed has expired. Owen agrees, and rightly ties that seed to Abraham, not simply Moses.

That this privilege was temporary, having a limited season, time, and end, appointed unto it, the very nature of the thing itself doth demonstrate; for upon this actual exhibition [of Christ] in the flesh, it was to cease… It is true, they were the children of Abraham according to the flesh: but on that account they can have no other privilege than Abraham had in the flesh himself; and this was, as we have showed, that he should he set apart as a special channel, through whose loins God would derive the promised Seed into the world. In like manner were they separated to be a peculiar people, as his posterity, from amongst whom He should be so brought forth. That this separation and privilege was to cease when the end of it was accomplished and the Messiah exhibited, the very nature of the thing declares; for to what purpose should it be continued when that was fully effected whereunto it was designed?… Seeing, therefore, that their other privilege was come to an end, with all the carnal ordinances that attended it, by the actual coming of the Messiah, whereunto they were subservient, if they did not, by faith in the promised seed, attain an interest in this of the spiritual blessing, it is evident that they could on no account be considered as actual sharers in the covenant of God… It is true, the former carnal privilege of Abraham and his posterity expiring, on the grounds before mentioned, the ordinances of worship which were suited thereunto did necessarily cease also… (1.) The carnal privilege of the Jews, in their separation to bring forth the Messiah, then failed; and therewith their claim on that account to be the children of Abraham. (2.) The ordinances of worship suited unto that privilege expired and came to an end. (The Oneness of the Church)

 

Was Circumcision a Sign of Law-Keeping?

If you recall above, in reference to the first-order of the Abrahamic Covenant, Charles Hodge noted that “The conditions of the one covenant were circumcision and obedience to the law…” tying circumcision in with law-keeping on the basis of passages like Galatians 5:3, Acts 15:10, 1 Cor 7:19, and Romans 2:25-26 “For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.” Clark already agrees that the Old Covenant operates upon the principle of obedience to the law (“the Mosaic covenant, says ‘do and live.'”). We have already demonstrated that circumcision does not take on a new meaning in the Mosaic Covenant, since the Mosaic is rooted in, not severed from, the Abrahamic. Does that mean that the Abrahamic Covenant operated upon the principle of obedience to the law? Note what John Murray says

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… At the outset we must remember that 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. (The Covenant of Grace)

Murray is referring to passages like Gen 17:1-2, 9-14; 22

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”…

And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”…

And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

These passages led Meredith Kline to conclude

How Abraham’s obedience related to the securing of the kingdom blessings in their old covenant form is a special question within the broad topic of the role of human works under redemptive covenant… His faithful performance of his covenantal duty is here clearly declared to sustain a causal relationship to the blessing of Isaac and Israel. It had a meritorious character that procured a reward enjoyed by others…Because of Abraham’s obedience redemptive history would take the shape of an Abrahamite kingdom of God from which salvation’s blessings would rise up and flow out to the nations. God was pleased to constitute Abraham’s exemplary works as the meritorious ground for granting to Israel after the flesh the distinctive role of being formed as the typological kingdom, the matrix from which Christ should come… The obedient Abraham, the faithful covenant servant, was a type of the Servant of the Lord in his obedience, by which he became the surety of the new covenant.

In other words, the first-order typological elements of the Abrahamic Covenant operated upon the same principle of works that the Mosaic did. And circumcision represented this. Nehemiah Coxe explains

It is noteworthy that in this transaction of God with Abraham we first meet with an express injunction of obedience to a command (and that of positive right) as the condition of covenant interest. It is all ushered in with this prologue (Genesis 17:1), “I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be perfect.” First in these words, the all-sufficiency of God is revealed for the ensuring of the promises. Then a strict and entire obedience to his precepts is required in order to inherit the good things that were to be given by this covenant. In this mode of transacting it, the Lord was pleased to draw the first lines of that form of covenant relationship in which the natural seed of Abraham was fully stated by the law of Moses, which was a covenant of works with its condition or terms, “Do this and live.”

 

I will be a God to you and to your children

What about Clark’s argument that God’s promise in the Abrahamic Covenant to be a God to Abraham and his children is the same promise of the New Covenant – that is, a promise of “Interior Piety”? Samuel Rutherford, representing historic Presbyterianism, disagrees.

If the former be said it will follow that God speaks (Gen. 17) only to Abraham and his sons by faith (according to the promise) and only to believers.

But God speaks to all Abraham’s sons according to the flesh:

Because [otherwise] God should speak an untruth: that He were a God by real union of faith to all that are commanded to be circumcised.  For He commanded thousands to be circumcised to whom He was not a God by real union of faith.

On the Baptism of the Children of Adherents

Like the other Abrahamic promises, this too has a two-level fulfillment. Were Israel according to the flesh God’s people under the Old Covenant? Yes they were. Was that a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham? Yes it was. “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:8 ESV) Were they therefore God’s people in the same way that Israel according to the Spirit are? No they were not. See Ex. 2:24-25; 6:6-7; 19:4-6; Ezek 16:8; Deut 4:32-40; 29:10-13; Ps. 147:19-20; Amos 3:1-2; Hosea 1:9; cf Heb 11:16; 8:10; 1 Pet 2:9-10; Jer 31:31-34).

That such appellations as God’s people, God’s Israel, and some other like phrases, are used and applied in Scripture with considerable diversity of intention… And with regard to the people of Israel, it is very manifest, that something diverse is oftentimes intended by that nation being God’s people, from their being visible saints, visibly holy, or having those qualifications which are requisite in order to a due admission to the ecclesiastical privileges of such. That nation, that family of Israel according to the flesh, and with regard to that external and carnal qualification, were in some sense adopted by God to be his peculiar people, and his covenant people… On the whole, it is evident that the very nation of Israel, not as visible saints, but as the progeny of Jacob according to the flesh, were in some respect a chosen people, a people of God, a covenant people, an holy nation; even as Jerusalem was a chosen city, the city of God, a holy city, and a city that God had engaged by covenant to dwell in. Thus a sovereign and all-wise God was pleased to ordain things with respect to the nation of Israel…

That nation was a typical nation. There was then literally a land, which was a type of heaven, the true dwelling-place of God; and an external city, which was a type of the spiritual city of God; an external temple of God, which was a type of his spiritual temple. So there was an external people and family of God, by carnal generation, which was a type of his spiritual progeny. And the covenant by which they were made a people of God, was a type of the covenant of grace;

Jonathan Edwards on the Nation of Israel as a Type of the Church

 

Conclusion

 

[1] If Abraham is, as God’s Word says, the father of all believers, and [2] if God promised blessings to believers and to their children, and [3] if he commanded the initiation of covenant children, [4] and those covenant promises and command remain in effect, [5] then we must initiate children into the covenant community just as father Abraham did. (On the New Covenant)

[1] He is, but that is not all he was. He was also the father of a typical seed.

[2] He did not.

[3] He did.

[4] They do not, typically, though they have been fulfilled anti-typically.

[5] We must not because we are not the fathers of Israel according to the flesh, and because the Abrahamic Covenant community is not the New Covenant community.

Clark’s attempt has been to divorce the Mosaic Covenant from the Abrahamic Covenant entirely and thereby to remove all typical elements from the Abrahamic Covenant, insisting that it contained only spiritual, anti-typical promises. But as we have seen, and as Clark has himself acknowledged, this cannot be done. Moses was not Abraham, but he was his offspring. The Mosaic Covenant was a fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. And we can say that the Old Covenant is inclusive of the Abrahamic Covenant to the extent that the Abrahamic Covenant shares with the Mosaic Covenant (notice everything listed in Rom. 9:4-5 as belonging to Israel according to the flesh).

Dr. Clark objects and argues that in the New Testament, the Abrahamic Covenant is identified with the New Covenant and thereby contrasted with the Old. That is true, but that is because, to quote Bryan Estelle, by the time we reach the New Testament “Israel’s disobedience has triggered the curse sanctions. Therefore, the new covenant context has essentially changed matters here… What was prototypical [life in Canaan] has been eclipsed by what is antitypical [eternal life].” The fact that the New Testament focuses on the anti-typical fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant does not mean there was not a typological level to the dichotomous Abrahamic Covenant. It is impossible to severe Abraham from Moses. Listen to Ligon Duncan (representing the Westminster position)

So as far as Moses is concerned, there is no radical dichotomy between what God is doing with His people in the time of the Exodus and what God promised to Abraham.  In fact, he says that the reason God came to His people’s rescue was because He remembered the promise He had made with Abraham.  And if you will remember back to our study of Genesis chapter 15, God went out of His way to tell Abraham about the oppression of Israel in Egypt and about the fact that He was going to bring them out of Egypt as a mighty nation, and that He was going to give them the land of Canaan.  And so, Moses goes out of his way in both Genesis 15 and in Exodus 2 to link the Mosaic Economy with the Abrahamic Covenant, so that the Mosaic Economy isn’t something that is replacing the way that God deals with His people, under Abraham; it is expanding what God was doing with His people through Abraham.

Clark argues that Galatians 4 teaches a separation and contrast between Abraham and Moses. But read carefully, 4:21-31 demonstrates precisely what we have said: both the Old and the New Covenants flow from Abraham, as Paul demonstrates using an allegory of Abraham’s two sons. This passage was foundational to Augustine’s understanding of covenant theology.

Wherefore just as that divine oracle to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the other prophetic signs or sayings which are given in the earlier sacred writings, so also the other prophecies from this time of the kings pertain partly to the nation of Abraham’s flesh, and partly to that seed of his in which all nations are blessed as fellow-heirs of Christ by the New Testament, to the possessing of eternal life and the kingdom of the heavens.  Therefore they pertain partly to the bond maid who gendereth to bondage, that is, the earthly Jerusalem, which is in bondage with her children; but partly to the free city of God, that is, the true Jerusalem eternal in the heavens, whose children are all those that live according to God in the earth:  but there are some things among them which are understood to pertain to both,—to the bond maid properly, to the free woman figuratively. (Gal 4:22-31)…

what we read of historically as predicted and fulfilled in the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, we must also inquire the allegorical meaning of, as it is to be fulfilled in the seed of Abraham according to faith…

This interpretation of the passage, handed down to us with apostolic authority, shows how we ought to understand the Scriptures of the two covenants—the old and the new… Both, indeed, were of Abraham’s seed; but the one was begotten by natural law, the other was given by gracious promise. (Augustine: Proto-1689 Federalist)

As Clark agrees, the Old Covenant is different in principle/nature/substance from the Covenant of Grace. It is not the Covenant of Grace. To the degree that the Mosaic flows from the Abrahamic, it too is different in principle and substance from the Covenant of Grace. The Abrahamic Covenant is not the Covenant of Grace. As Robert M’Cheyne said “this was a type of the covenant that was to be afterwards.”

Clark argues that “Paul makes Abraham the pattern for new covenant faith.” He certainly does. But the conclusion to be drawn is not that the Abrahamic Covenant is therefore the Covenant of Grace. The Abrahamic Covenant never promised regeneration, faith, and forgiveness of sins. It promised that the Messiah would be born from Abraham and would establish the Covenant of Grace in his blood to grant regeneration, faith, and forgiveness of sins. Reflecting on this in Hebrews 8:10, Calvin concluded “There is yet no reason why God should not have extended the grace of the new covenant to the fathers. This is the true solution of the question.” In the same way that Clark thinks the Abrahamic Covenant operated under the Mosaic to save saints in the Old Covenant, the New Covenant actually operated under the Abrahamic Covenant to save Abraham. As Clark admits “The evidence is that the new covenant is substantially identical with the covenant of grace.” Augustine agreed, which is why he said

As then the law of works, which was written on the tables of stone, and its reward, the land of promise, which the house of the carnal Israel after their liberation from Egypt received, belonged to the old testament [covenant], so the law of faith, written on the heart, and its reward, the beatific vision which the house of the spiritual Israel, when delivered from the present world, shall perceive, belong to the new testament [covenant]… I beg of you, however, carefully to observe, as far as you can, what I am endeavouring to prove with so much effort. When the prophet promised a new covenant, not according to the covenant which had been formerly made with the people of Israel when liberated from Egypt, he said nothing about a change in the sacrifices or any sacred ordinances, although such change, too, was without doubt to follow, as we see in fact that it did follow, even as the same prophetic scripture testifies in many other passages; but he simply called attention to this difference, that God would impress His laws on the mind of those who belonged to this covenant, and would write them in their hearts, (Jer 31:32-33)… These pertain to the new testament [covenant], are the children of promise, and are regenerated by God the Father and a free mother. Of this kind were all the righteous men of old, and Moses himself, the minister of the old testament, the heir of the new,—because of the faith whereby we live, of one and the same they lived, believing the incarnation, passion, and resurrection of Christ as future, which we believe as already accomplished. (Augustine: Proto-1689 Federalist)

Owen said

I have showed in what sense the covenant of grace is called ‘the new covenant,’… The greatest and utmost mercies that God ever intended to communicate unto the church, and to bless it withal, were enclosed in the new covenant. Nor doth the efficacy of the mediation of Christ extend itself beyond the verge and compass thereof; for he is only the mediator and surety of this covenant.

In his commentary in Hebrews, Owen worked out in detail what this meant for all the other post-fall covenants.

That which before lay hid in promises, in many things obscure, the principal mysteries of it being a secret hid in God himself, was now brought to light; and that covenant which had invisibly, in the way of a promise, put forth its efficacy under types and shadows, was now solemnly sealed, ratified, and confirmed, in the death and resurrection of Christ. It had before the confirmation of a promise, which is an oath; it had now the confirmation of a covenant, which is blood. That which before had no visible, outward worship, proper and peculiar unto it, is now made the only rule and instrument of worship unto the whole church, nothing being to be admitted therein but what belongs unto it, and is appointed by it. This the apostle intends by νομοτηετεο, the “legal establishment” of the new covenant, with all the ordinances of its worship. Hereon the other covenant was disannulled and removed; and not only the covenant itself, but all that system of sacred worship whereby it was administered…

When God renewed the promise of it unto Abraham, he is said to make a covenant with him; and he did so, but it was with respect unto other things, especially the proceeding of the promised Seed from his loins. But absolutely under the old testament it consisted only in a promise… The νομοτηετεο, or full legal establishment of it, whence it became formally a covenant unto the whole church, was future only, and a promise under the old testament

Since the Covenant of Grace during the time of Abraham worked “invisibly” and “had no visible, outward worship, proper and peculiar unto it,” circumcision was never an ordinance of the Covenant of Grace. Like all other pre-Christ types, circumcision has passed away and is obsolete. Instead, Christians are commanded to observe New Covenant ordinances according to New Covenant commands. Therefore we are to baptize all those who profess faith in Christ, and no others.

In sum, Clark said that “The Reformed have tended to let the New Testament not only interpret the Hebrew (and Aramaic) Scriptures but also to provide a pattern for how to interpret the typological revelation… Reformed theology has not always been consistent in the application of this principle.” He argues that a consistent application requires one to acknowledge that the Old and New Covenants “operate on utterly different principles,” that “the old covenant was such that it could be broken, but the new covenant cannot be broken,” and “that the Mosaic covenant was inherently temporary and inferior and is now expired and abrogated.” And just as Winzer and the “old” paedobaptists warned, consistency in Clark’s position nullifies infant baptism.

A consistent application of the reformed hermeneutic leads to credobaptism.

RScottClarkvsRScottClark

 

See Also:

Les & Tanner Talk Baptism Again

January 27, 2016 3 comments

Back in October I wrote a post in response to an episode of the Reformed Pubcast about baptism. Les said he appreciated the post and the fact that it understood his position, but he did not interact with it (to my knowledge) – nor is he obligated to.

Shortly thereafter I received a message from Tanner asking for help in better understanding the issues involved. I recommended that Tanner study the resources available at 1689federalism.com, including the books listed at the bottom. He told me that he would not have time to do that until after he graduated from med school, but he still wanted to talk on Skype to do the best he could to understand things in the meantime. I told him I’d reach out after I was back in town.

So I reached out to see when he wanted to talk. I never heard back from him, at all.

About a month later Tanner became a paedobaptist. In a recent Pubcast episode, Les & Tanner spend a few minutes discussing it. Tanner says he “studied hard.” I beg to differ. Tanner said he had to “do my due diligence in this.” I don’t think he did. Tanner said he felt he had “sussed out both sides as best he possibly could.” Given the above, that’s not true, unless it’s qualified with “as best he possibly could while in the middle of med school.” Tanner admits “I don’t have a ton of time to get into the nitty-gritty of all this.” As someone who has been studying this issue for 10 years, the nitty-gritty is precisely where the debate lies.

Les & Tanner are nice guys. I’d love to hang out with them. I’d love to talk covenant theology with them. I don’t want to be too hard on Tanner here. I know I certainly couldn’t take the kind of public pressure that comes from being in the position he is, so I don’t want to add to that in a negative way. He has a full plate and everyone is called to do the best they can with what they have, and the reality is you necessarily have to hold to either one position or the other before you’ve fully studied both. But hopefully this gives some perspective to his decision to follow the lead of his best friend and elders (he has been attending a Presbyterian church and sitting under their preaching).

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the Pubcast is not Reformed Forum. They never presented the baptism issue as a balanced presentation of opposing views (did they invite Samuel Renihan on after R. Scott Clark? Did Tanner email him questions after he was on the show?), so I won’t hold them to that kind of standard. It’s an entertaining podcast put together by two brothers in Christ who share what they go through theologically… while they drink beer. I praise God for the two of them, as I know many have been blessed by the podcast.

To those of you who have time to study the nitty-gritty, I encourage you to do so. The resources at 1689federalism.com are a good start (note the “Additional Resources” link at the top). My last post summarizing the baptist reference to Owen’s covenant theology is also a good place to start. I haven’t been in the Reformed Pub in 3 months or so, but if you have any questions, feel free to comment below (or anywhere else on the blog).

Categories: baptism

A Summary of Why Baptists Appeal to Owen

January 27, 2016 7 comments

In published works (see here, here, here, and here), baptists have pointed out that Owen’s covenant theology, as articulated in his commentary on Hebrews, departs from Westminster Federalism and aligns very closely with 1689 Federalism.

However, as this information has begun to reach wider audiences and become general knowledge, many people have not taken the time to understand the claims. For example, I continue to see people post links to Owen’s tract on infant baptism and to Lee Gatiss’ articles at Ref21 (the ones he wrote against Denault’s book without bothering to read Denault’s book), thinking that this addresses the claim. None of these people demonstrate they understand why baptists reference Owen, yet they are content to dismiss any such appeal as unfounded.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 18:2

I am disappointed by this, not simply because I want to win an argument, but because I genuinely value the opportunity to discuss with people I disagree with. Iron sharpens iron. But a discussion requires both parties to listen when the other speaks. Please take the time to listen to this summary. If you are then interested in discussing the claim, please take the time to read the published works. If you don’t have time, please don’t bother forming an opinion on the matter.

(Some have attempted to engage with the actual claims regarding Owen, which I appreciate. See my responses here.)

  1. Both 21st century baptists and 17th century baptists know that John Owen was a paedobaptist. No one has claimed that Owen was ever a baptist, even secretly.
  2. Owen self-consciously departed from the Westminster/Calvin/reformed view of covenant theology. Baptists appeal to him because he demonstrates that Westminster federalism, following Calvin, is unbiblical.

    1. Owen denied that the Old and New Covenants were two administrations of the same covenant. “Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than a twofold administration of the same covenant merely, to be intended… This is the nature and substance of that covenant which God made with that people; a particular, temporary covenant it was, and not a mere dispensation of the covenant of grace.”  p.85-93, 105 PDF; v6;2 OUTLINE
    2. Owen denied that the Old Covenant (Mosaic) was the Adamic Covenant of Works and said it was instead a covenant of works limited to Israel’s temporal blessing in the land of Canaan. “the covenant of works, absolutely the old, or first covenant that God made with men. But this is not the covenant here intended… This covenant [Sinai] thus made, with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. All that lived under the administration of it did attain eternal life, or perished for ever, but not by virtue of this covenant as formally such. It did, indeed, revive the commanding power and sanction of the first covenant of works; and therein, as the apostle speaks, was “the ministry of condemnation,” 2 Cor. iii. 9; for “by the deeds of the law can no flesh be justified.” And on the other hand, it directed also unto the promise, which was the instrument of life and salvation unto all that did believe. But as unto what it had of its own, it was confined unto things temporal. Believers were saved under it, but not by virtue of it. Sinners perished eternally under it, but by the curse of the original law of works… when our apostle disputes against justification by the law, or by works of the law, he does not intend the works peculiar to the covenant of Sinai, such as were the rites and ceremonies of the worship then instituted; but he intends also the works of the first covenant, which alone had the promise of life annexed to them… The covenant of works had its promises, but they were all remunerative, respecting an antecedent obedience in us; (so were all those which were peculiar unto the covenant of Sinai)… he moreover prescribed unto them laws, rules, and terms of obedience, whereon they should hold and enjoy that land, with all the privileges annexed unto the possession thereof. And these are both expressed and frequently inculcated, in the repetition and promises of the law… So did God exercise the right, and power, and authority of a husband towards a wife that had broken covenant. And herein, as in many other things in that dispensation, did God give a representation of the nature of the covenant of works, and the issue of it…” p.74, 83, 94, 103, 101, 160 PDFv6;2.2, v9;3.1.5 OUTLINE
      1. Implication of 1 & 2: Contra Westminster, there are more than two covenants in Scripture. Therefore the claim that every covenant after the fall must be the Covenant of Grace is incorrect (according to Owen).
    3. Owen said the New Covenant alone is the Covenant of Grace. “I have showed in what sense the covenant of grace is called ‘the new covenant,’… The greatest and utmost mercies that God ever intended to communicate unto the church, and to bless it withal, were enclosed in the new covenant. Nor doth the efficacy of the mediation of Christ extend itself beyond the verge and compass thereof; for he is only the mediator and surety of this covenant.” p.93, 147 PDFv6;2.2.3.1.2 OUTLINE
    4. Owen said the New Covenant/Covenant of Grace existed only as a promise during the Old Testament era and never as a covenant. “it was always the same, as to the substance of it, from the beginning… But for two reasons it is not expressly called a covenant, without respect unto any other things, nor was it so under the old testament…absolutely under the old testament it consisted only in a promise; and as such only is proposed in the Scripture, Acts 2:39; Hebrews 6:14-16.” p.89-90 PDFv6;2.2.3.1.2.1 OUTLINE
      1. This was the central crux of Owen’s 150 page exegesis of Hebrews 8:6-13, not a passing comment that can be dismissed.
    5. Owen said the Abrahamic Covenant was not the Covenant of Grace, though it was related to it. “When God renewed the promise of it [the Covenant of Grace] unto Abraham, he is said to make a covenant with him; and he did so, but it was with respect unto other things, especially the proceeding of the promised Seed from his loins. But absolutely under the old testament it consisted only in a promise… The νομοτηετεο, or full legal establishment of it, whence it became formally a covenant unto the whole church, was future only, and a promise under the old testament” p.90 PDFv6;2.2.3.1.2.1.1 OUTLINE
      1. Implication: Membership and ordinances of the Abrahamic Covenant do not determine membership and ordinances of the Covenant of Grace.
    6. Owen said the Covenant of Grace operated “invisibly” as a promise prior to its legal establishment in the death of Christ, at which point it took on visible ordinances of worship unique to it. “This is the meaning of the word νομοτηετεο: “established,” say we; but it is, “reduced into a fixed state of a law or ordinance.” All the obedience required in it, all the worship appointed by it, all the privileges exhibited in it, and the grace administered with them, are all given for a statute, law, and ordinance unto the church. That which before lay hid in promises, in many things obscure, the principal mysteries of it being a secret hid in God himself, was now brought to light; and that covenant which had invisibly, in the way of a promise, put forth its efficacy under types and shadows, was now solemnly sealed, ratified, and confirmed, in the death and resurrection of Christ. It had before the confirmation of a promise, which is an oath; it had now the confirmation of a covenant, which is blood. That which before had no visible, outward worship, proper and peculiar unto it, is now made the only rule and instrument of worship unto the whole church, nothing being to be admitted therein but what belongs unto it, and is appointed by it. This the apostle intends by νομοτηετεο, the “legal establishment” of the new covenant, with all the ordinances of its worship. Hereon the other covenant was disannulled and removed; and not only the covenant itself, but all that system of sacred worship whereby it was administered. This was not done by the making of the covenant at first; yea, all this was superinduced into the covenant as given out in a promise, and was consistent therewith. When the new covenant was given out only in the way of a promise, it did not introduce a worship and privileges expressive of it. Wherefore it was consistent with a form of worship, rites and ceremonies, and those composed into a yoke of bondage which belonged not unto it… The νομοτηετεο, or full legal establishment of it, whence it became formally a covenant unto the whole church, was future only, and a promise under the old testament; for it wanted two things thereunto:… (2.) This was wanting, that it was not the spring, rule, and measure of all the worship of the church. This doth belong unto every covenant, properly so called, that God makes with the church, that it be the entire rule of all the worship that God requires of it; which is that which they are to restipulate in their entrance into covenant with God. But so the covenant of grace was not under the old testament; for God did require of the church many duties of worship that did not belong thereunto. But now, under the new testament, this covenant, with its own seals and appointments, is the only rule and measure of all acceptable worship. Wherefore the new covenant promised in the Scripture, and here opposed unto the old, is not the promise of grace, mercy, life, and salvation by Christ, absolutely considered, but as it had the formal nature of a covenant given unto it, in its establishment by the death of Christ, the procuring cause of all its benefits, and the declaring of it to be the only rule of worship and obedience unto the church. So that although by “the covenant of grace,” we ofttimes understand no more but the way of life, grace, mercy, and salvation by Christ; yet by “the new covenant,” we intend its actual establishment in the death of Christ, with that blessed way of worship which by it is settled in the church.” p.78, 91 PDFv6;1.2.1.9.2.2.2.1.2 OUTLINE
      1. Implication: No ordinances in the Old Testament (i.e. circumcision) were ordinances of the Covenant of Grace. The only ordinances of the Covenant of Grace are the ordinances of the New Covenant.
    7. Owen said Abraham had a two-fold privilege that corresponded to a two-fold seed. “Two privileges did God grant unto Abraham, upon his separation to a special interest in the old promise and covenant [of grace]: — First, That according to the flesh he should be the father of the Messiah, the promised seed; who was the very life of the covenant [of grace], the fountain and cause of all the blessings contained in it… Secondly, Together with this, he had also another privilege granted unto him, namely, that his faith, whereby he was personally interested in the covenant, should be the pattern of the faith of the church in all generations; and that none should ever come to be a member of it, or a sharer in its blessings, but by the same faith… Answerably unto this twofold end of the separation of Abraham, there was a double seed allotted unto him; — a seed according to the flesh, separated to the bringing forth of the Messiah according unto the flesh; and a seed according to the promise, that is, such as by faith should have interest in the promise, or all the elect of God.” p.175 PDF (from Heb. vol I introduction, 1668 – 12 years before his Hebrews 8 commentary)
    8. Owen said this two-fold seed were mixed for a time. “both these, — namely, the carnal and spiritual privileges of Abraham’s covenant, — had been carried on together in a mixed way for many generations, coming now to be separated, and a trial to be made (Malachi 3) who of the Jews had interest in both, who in one only” p.175 PDF
    9. Owen said the privilege of the carnal seed, and the worship associated with it, ceased at the coming of Christ. “That this privilege was temporary, having a limited season, time, and end, appointed unto it, the very nature of the thing itself doth demonstrate; for upon this actual exhibition in the flesh, it was to cease… It is true, they were the children of Abraham according to the flesh: but on that account they can have no other privilege than Abraham had in the flesh himself; and this was, as we have showed, that he should he set apart as a special channel, through whose loins God would derive the promised Seed into the world. In like manner were they separated to be a peculiar people, as his posterity, from amongst whom He should be so brought forth. That this separation and privilege was to cease when the end of it was accomplished and the Messiah exhibited, the very nature of the thing declares; for to what purpose should it be continued when that was fully effected whereunto it was designed?… Seeing, therefore, that their other privilege was come to an end, with all the carnal ordinances that attended it, by the actual coming of the Messiah, whereunto they were subservient, if they did not, by faith in the promised seed, attain an interest in this of the spiritual blessing, it is evident that they could on no account be considered as actual sharers in the covenant of God… It is true, the former carnal privilege of Abraham and his posterity expiring, on the grounds before mentioned, the ordinances of worship which were suited thereunto did necessarily cease also… (1.) The carnal privilege of the Jews, in their separation to bring forth the Messiah, then failed; and therewith their claim on that account to be the children of Abraham.
      (2.) The ordinances of worship suited unto that privilege expired and came to an end.” p.175 PDF

      1. Implication: The relationship of Abraham’s carnal seed to Abraham has no relevance after the coming of Christ.
    10. Owen said only the spiritual seed remained and new ordinances were established fit for them. “(3.) New ordinances of worship were appointed, suited unto the new light and grace then granted unto the church.” p.175 PDF
    11. Owen said only the spiritual seed is the church of Christ. “Now, it is evident that it is the second privilege, or spiritual seed, wherein the church, to whom the promises are made, is founded, and whereof it doth consist, — namely, in them who by faith are interested in the covenant of Abraham, whether they be of the carnal seed or no… And in the covenant made with him, as to that which concerns, not the bringing forth of the promised Seed according to the flesh, but as unto faith therein, and in the work of redemption to be performed thereby, lies the foundation of the church in all ages. Wheresoever this covenant is, and with whomsoever it is established, with them is the church; unto whom all the promises and privileges of the church do belong. Hence it was, that at the coming of the Messiah there was not one church taken away, and another set up in the room thereof; but the church continued the same, in those that were the children of Abraham according to the faith… But the foundation of their [carnal seed’s] plea was taken away, and the church, unto which the promises belong, remained with them that were heirs of Abraham’s faith only.” p.175 PDF
      1. Implication: Abraham’s carnal seed, as such, have never been the church.
    12. In 1668 (“Oneness of the Church”) Owen said this two-fold privilege of the two-fold seed both came from the Abrahamic Covenant, with one expiring and one remaining. In 1680 (Hebrews 8) Owen clarified that the carnal privilege & seed belonged to the Abrahamic Covenant, while the spiritual privilege & seed belonged to the Covenant of Grace/New Covenant. “When God renewed the promise of it [the Covenant of Grace] unto Abraham, he is said to make a covenant with him; and he did so, but it was with respect unto other things, especially the proceeding of the promised Seed from his loins. But absolutely under the old testament it consisted only in a promise… The νομοτηετεο, or full legal establishment of it, whence it became formally a covenant unto the whole church, was future only, and a promise under the old testament” p.90 PDFv6;2.2.3.1.2.1.1 OUTLINE
      1. Implication: The idea that the Abrahamic Covenant, in its substance, was made with the elect, but in its administration it was made with non-elect (Rom 9:6), is incorrect. The substance of the Abrahamic Covenant was made with Abraham’s carnal seed. The two Israels of Rom 9:6ff refer to two different covenants.
    13. Owen said that Abraham’s carnal seed (Israel) was a type of Abraham’s spiritual seed (the Church). “The persons with whom this covenant [new covenant] is made are also expressed: “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah.”… Wherefore this house of Israel and house of Judah may be considered two ways: [1.] As that people were the whole entire posterity of Abraham. [2.] As they were typical, and mystically significant of the whole church of God.Hence alone it is that the promises of grace under the old testament are given unto the church under these names, because they were types of them who should really and effectually be made partakers of them… In the second sense the whole church of elect believers is intended under these denominations, being typified by them. These are they alone, being one made of twain, namely, Jews and Gentiles, with whom the covenant is really made and established, and unto whom the grace of it is actually communicated. For all those with whom this covenant is made shall as really have the law of God written in their hearts, and their sins pardoned, according unto the promise of it, as the people of old were brought into the land of Canaan by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham. These are the true Israel and Judah, prevailing with God, and confessing unto his name.” p. 142 PDFv8;7.1.2 OUTLINE
      1. Implication: Israel was not the church.
    14. Owen said that the New Covenant, unlike the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenant, is made with the elect alone. “The principal efficient cause of our learning the knowledge of God under the new covenant is included in this part of the promise… There is added the universality of the promise with respect unto them with whom this covenant is made: “All of them, from the least unto the greatest;” —a proverbial speech, signifying the generality intended without exception… Obs. XVIII. The instructive ministry of the old testament, as it was such only, and with respect unto the carnal rites thereof, was a ministry of the letter, and not of the Spirit, which did not really effect in the hearts of men the things which it taught. —The spiritual benefit which was obtained under it proceeded from the promise, and not from the efficacy of the law, or the covenant made at Sinai. For as such, as it was legal and carnal, and had respect only unto outward things, it is here laid aside… The proposition is universal, as to the modification of the subject, “all;” but in the word aujtw~n, “of them,” it is restrained unto those alone with whom this covenant is made… Obs. XXIV. Where there is not some degree of saving knowledge, there no interest in the new covenant can be pretended… Obs. XXVII. Persons destitute of this saving knowledge are utter strangers unto the covenant of grace; for this is a principal promise and effect of it, wherever it doth take place… [T]he whole church of elect believers is intended under these denominations, being typified by them. These are they alone, being one made of twain, namely, Jews and Gentiles, with whom the covenant is really made and established, and unto whom the Mace of it is actually communicated. For all those with whom this covenant is made shall as really have the law of God written in their hearts, and their sins pardoned, according unto the promise of it, as the people of old were brought into the land of Canaan by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham… Obs. X. The covenant of grace in Christ is made only with the Israel of God, the church of the elect. —For by the making of this covenant with any, the effectual communication of the grace of it unto them is principally intended. Nor can that covenant be said to be made absolutely with any but those whose sins are pardoned by virtue thereof, and in whose hearts the law of God is written; which are the express promises of it.” p.191-204, 144 PDFv8;7.2, v11;7 OUTLINE
      1. Implication: The nature of membership in the Old and New Covenants differs. The idea of a two-sided membership in the Covenant of Grace, founded upon a substance (elect)/administration (non-elect) view of the Abrahamic and Old Covenants (Rom 9:6), is incorrect.
    15. Owen said that faith is a blessing/fruit of the New Covenant, not a condition of it. “The promises of the covenant of grace are better than those of any other covenant, as for many other reasons, so especially because the grace of them prevents any condition or qualification on our part… But those promises, namely, of the pardon of sin and writing of the law in our hearts, which the apostle expressly insisteth upon as the peculiar promises of this covenant, do take place and are effectual antecedently unto our covenant obedience. For although faith be required in order of nature antecedently unto our actual receiving of the pardon of sin… But in the description of the covenant here annexed, there is no mention of any condition on the part of man, of any terms of obedience prescribed unto him, but the whole consists in free, gratuitous promises… It is evident that there can be no condition previously required, unto our entering into or participation of the benefits of this covenant, antecedent unto the making of it with us… It is contrary unto the nature, ends, and express properties of this covenant. For there is nothing that can be thought or supposed to be such a condition, but it is comprehended in the promise of the covenant itself; for all that God requireth in us is proposed as that which himself will effect by virtue of this covenant… It is evident that the first grace of the covenant, or God’s putting his law in our hearts, can depend on no condition on our part… And this is the great ground of them who absolutely deny the covenant of grace to be conditional; namely, that the first grace is absolutely promised, whereon and its exercise the whole of it doth depend.” p.83, 162-6 PDFv6;1.2.1.9.3.2, v10.2.3 OUTLINE
      1. Implication: We enter the Covenant of Grace/New Covenant in the effectual call. See New Covenant Union as Mystical Union in Owen.
    16. Owen said that, unlike the Old Covenant, the New Covenant cannot be broken. “So did God exercise the right, and power, and authority of a husband towards a wife that had broken covenant. And herein, as in many other things in that dispensation, did God give a representation of the nature of the covenant of works, and the issue of it…‘This was the issue of things with them with whom the first covenant was made. They received it, entered solemnly into the bonds of it, took upon themselves expressly the performance of its terms and conditions, were sprinkled with the blood of it; but they “continued not in it,” and were dealt withal accordingly. God used the right and authority of a husband with whom a wife breaketh covenant; he “neglected them,” shut them out of his house, deprived them of their dowry or inheritance, and slew them in the wilderness.On this declaration, God promiseth to make another covenant with them, wherein all these evils should be prevented. This is the covenant which the apostle designs to prove better and more excellent than the former… That covenant was broken, but this shall never be so, because provision is made in the covenant itself against any such event… the covenant which God would now make should not be according unto that, like unto it, which was before made and broken…”   p.160-2 PDFv10.2.3 OUTLINE
      1. Implication: There are no such things as covenant-breakers in the New Covenant, as there were in the Old (Mosaic and Abrahamic).
    17. Owen said that all Old Testament saints were saved by the New Covenant working invisibly (as promise) prior to its legal establishment in the death of Christ. “This covenant [Sinai] thus made, with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. All that lived under the administration of it did attain eternal life, or perished for ever, but not by virtue of this covenant as formally such… it directed also unto the promise, which was the instrument of life and salvation unto all that did believe… Obs. XVIII. The instructive ministry of the old testament, as it was such only, and with respect unto the carnal rites thereof, was a ministry of the letter, and not of the Spirit, which did not really effect in the hearts of men the things which it taught. —The spiritual benefit which was obtained under it proceeded from the promise, and not from the efficacy of the law, or the covenant made at Sinai. For as such, as it was legal and carnal, and had respect only unto outward things, it is here laid aside…”  p.104, 200 PDFv6;2.2.4.5, v11;6.2 OUTLINE
      1. Implication: Appeal to the Old Covenant to answer questions about union with Christ is unbiblical and inappropriate.
  3. Owen continued to affirm paedobaptism.
    1. Owen never published his “Of Infant Baptism” tract. Owen scholar Dr. Crawford Gribben notes “The only thing we can be sure of about “Of Infant Baptism” is that Owen did not publish this tract within his own lifetime, that it did not circulate as representing his thinking on this issue for almost 40 years after his death when it appeared in a volume alongside many other texts reconstructed from sermon notes taken by an auditor.” The statements in this tract do not reflect Owen’s mature, meticulously argued published work on covenant theology. Whatever value this tract of dubious origin may have, it does not have precedence over his Hebrews commentary, which must be dealt with. Please listen to Dr. Gribben’s lecture.
    2. Owen’s “Of Infant Baptism” contradicts his Hebrews commentary.
      1. “Of Infant Baptism” speaks throughout of “the covenant” in the singular. In his Hebrews commentary, Owen rejects this approach and proceeds to distinguish between post-fall covenants in great detail.
      2. “Of Infant Baptism” refers to the Mosaic Covenant as “the covenant [of grace] in its legal administration.” In his Hebrews commentary, Owen rejects this view.
      3. “Of Infant Baptism” says the Covenant of Grace was confirmed and sealed in Exodus 24:7-8. In his Hebrews commentary, Owen denies that the Old Covenant was the Covenant of Grace.
      4. “Of Infant Baptism” says the Covenant of Circumcision was the Covenant of Grace made with Christ mystical. In his Hebrews commentary, Owen distinguishes between these two and denies the Gen 17:7 covenant was the Covenant of Grace made with the elect, though it contained a promise of it.
      5. “Of Infant Baptism” says the circumcision of Abraham’s offspring was a spiritual privilege of “the covenant.” In his Hebrews commentary, Owen says that the Covenant of Circumcision pertained to the “carnal privilege” given to his “carnal seed,” not the “spiritual privilege” given to his “spiritual seed” (in the Covenant of Grace).
      6. “Of Infant Baptism” says the privilege of carnal offspring has never been revoked. In his Hebrews commentary, Owen says the privilege of Abraham’s carnal offspring ceased at the coming of Christ.
      7. “Of Infant Baptism” says the sign of circumcision was never revoked, only changed. In his Hebrews commentary, Owen says the carnal ordinances came to an end/ceased and were replaced by new ordinances.
      8. “Of Infant Baptism” says according to the law of creation, children have a right to the privileges of whatever covenant their parents are in. In his Hebrews commentary, Owen says Abraham’s carnal offspring never had any spiritual privilege because they were his carnal offspring, and that this was the great mistake of the Jews – though they did have carnal privileges. He also says that anyone destitute of saving knowledge is an utter stranger unto the covenant of grace and without saving knowledge there is no interest in the New Covenant, unlike the Old.
      9. “Of Infant Baptism” argues that God’s promise to be “a God unto Abraham and to his seed” refers to the carnal offspring of believers. In his Hebrews commentary, Owen explained that Abraham had a two-fold seed and that his carnal seed’s status as set apart unto God ceased at the coming of Christ, while his spiritual seed (those who have his faith) alone remained – and that the two seeds have a type/anti-type relationship. He also said “This is the general expression of any covenant relation between God and men, ‘He will be unto them a God, and they shall be to him a people.’ And it is frequently made use of with respect unto the first covenant [old covenant], which yet was disannulled. God owned the people therein for his peculiar portion, and they avouched him to be their God alone.” p.185 PDF
    3. Owen affirmed paedobaptism elsewhere in his Hebrews commentary.
      1. “they are the “people of God” that are interested in this sabbatism. And the apostle makes use of this description of them upon a double account: — 1. Because their being of “the people of God,” that is, in covenant (for where a people is God’s people, he is their God, Hosea 2:23), was the greatest and most comprehensive privilege that the Hebrews had to boast of or to trust in. This was their glory, and that which exalted them above all nations in the world. So their church pleads with respect unto all others, Isaiah 63:19, “We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; thy name was not called on them;” — that is, they were never called the people of Jehovah, because never taken into covenant with him. This privilege whereunto they trusted, the apostle lets them know belongs as well to them that believe under the new testament as it did to them under the old. Abram was now become Abraham, “a father of many nations.” And as those who were his carnal seed of old were the people of God, so God had now a people in and of all those who were his children according to the faith. They may see, therefore, that they shall lose nothing, no privilege, by coming over to the gospel state by faith in Christ Jesus. Upon a new account they become “the people of God;” which interests them and their children in the covenant, with the seals and all the ordinances of it, even as formerly. For this name, “people,” doth not firstly respect individuals, but a collective body of men, with and in all their relations. Believers, not singly considered, but they and their seed, or their children, are this people; and where they are excluded from the initial ordinance of the covenant, I know not how believers can be called “the people of God.” 2. He proceeds further, and shows them that indeed this privilege is now transferred over from the old estate and Canaan rest unto them that shall and do enter into this rest of God under the gospel. Hence, instead of losing the privilege of being “the people of God” by faith in Christ, he lets them know that they could no longer retain it without it. If they failed herein, they would be no longer “the people of God;” and as a signification thereof, they would become “no people” at all.” p.407 PDF (Hebrews 4:9)
        1. Notice carefully what Owen affirms here. He maintains his position that there was a two-fold seed of Abraham with a two-fold privilege. The Hebrews were in covenant with God on account of their being Abraham’s carnal seed. That privilege has ceased (“could no longer retain it”). They may still be considered “the people of God” but “on a new account”: faith. Owen’s argument for infant baptism here reduces to the meaning of the phrase “a people.” He argues that the Hebrews would not have to change their conception of what it means to be “a people” because “a people” must necessarily be taken in an earthly sense (even though referring to believers) and therefore must include physical offspring. But there is no reason why “a people” cannot be read in a spiritual sense as referring to Christ’s spiritual kingdom – and every reason why it must be.
      2. “And is it possible that any man should be a loser by the coming of Christ, or by his own coming unto Christ? It is against the whole gospel once to imagine it in the least instance. Let it now be inquired whether it were not a great privilege of the people of God of old, that their infant seed were taken into covenant with them, and were made partakers of the initial seal thereof? Doubtless it was the greatest they enjoyed, next to the grace they received for the saving of their own souls. That it was so granted them, so esteemed by them, may be easily proved. And without this, whatever they were, they were not a people. Believers under the gospel are, as we have spoken, the people of God; and that with all sorts of advantages annexed unto that condition, above what were enjoyed by them who of old were so. How is it, then, that this people of God, made so by Jesus Christ in the gospel, should have their charter, upon its renewal, razed with a deprivation of one of their choicest rights and privileges? Assuredly it is not so. And therefore if believers are now, as the apostle says they are, “the people of God,” their children have a right to the initial seal of the covenant.” p.409 PDF (Hebrews 4:9)
        1. This is a continuation of the above argument (2 pages later). Two things to consider. First, recall that Owen refined his view of the Abrahamic Covenant 6 years later (1674 -> 1680) in his commentary on Hebrews 8, noting that although the Abrahamic Covenant contained a promise of the future establishment of the Covenant of Grace (Abraham’s spiritual privileges), it was formally a covenant concerning Abraham’s carnal privileges. Second, Owen previously explained that the inclusion of Abraham’s carnal seed in his covenant was only a carnal privilege, not a spiritual one. “It is true, they were the children of Abraham according to the flesh: but on that account they can have no other privilege than Abraham had in the flesh himself; and this was, as we have showed, that he should he set apart as a special channel, through whose loins God would derive the promised Seed into the world. In like manner were they separated to be a peculiar people, as his posterity, from amongst whom He should be so brought forth.” (Oneness of the Church p.175 PDF). So there never was a privilege given to believers to have their children included in covenant with them and thus no privilege has been lost. There was only the carnal privilege given to Abraham to have his children included in his carnal privilege. Finally, note in the previous quote that Owen says Abraham’s carnal seed were “a peculiar people” by virtue of their carnal descent alone, apart from faith – which has now ceased.
      3. “he lets the Hebrews know that in the gospel state there is no loss of privilege in any thing as to what the church enjoyed under the law of Moses… And this is enough to secure the application of the initial seal of the covenant unto the infant seed of believers. For whereas it was granted to the church under the old testament as a signal favor and spiritual privilege, it is derogatory to the glory of Christ and honor of the gospel to suppose that the church is now deprived of it; for in the whole system and frame of worship God had ordained “the better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” p.516-17 PDF (Hebrews 4:15)
        1. As above, according to Owen’s explanation of Abraham’s two-fold privilege corresponding to a two-fold seed, there was never any spiritual privilege given to believing Abraham to have his children in covenant with him. That was a carnal privilege given to Abraham according to the flesh, which has now ceased. That privilege was never given to the church.
      4. “For whereas there were two sorts of persons that were baptized, namely, those that were adult at their first hearing of the gospel, and the infant children of believers, who were admitted to be members of the church; the first sort were instructed in the principles mentioned before they were admitted unto baptism, by the profession whereof they laid the foundation of their own personal right thereunto; but the other, being received as a part and branches of a family whereupon the blessing of Abraham was come, and to whom the promise of the covenant was extended, being thereon baptized in their infancy, were to be instructed in them as they grew up unto years of understanding. Afterwards, when they were established in the knowledge of these necessary truths, and had resolved on personal obedience unto the gospel, they were offered unto the fellowship of the faithful. And hereon, giving the same account of their faith and repentance which others had done before they were baptized, they were admitted into the communion of the church, the elders thereof laying their hands on them in token of their acceptation, and praying for their confirmation in the faith. Hence the same doctrines became previously necessary unto both these rites;–before baptism to them that were adult; and towards them who were baptized in infancy, before the imposition of hands. And I do acknowledge that this was the state of things in the apostolical churches, and that it ought to be so in all others.” p.70 PDF (Hebrews 6:1-2)
        1. See above.
      5. “Parents bless their children by endeavouring to instate them in their own covenant-interest. God having promised to be a God unto believers, and to their seed in and by them, they do three ways bless them with the good things thereof: first, By communicating unto them the privilege of the initial seal of the covenant, as a sign, token, and pledge of their being blessed of the Lord; secondly, By pleading the promise of the covenant in their behalf; thirdly, By careful instructing of them in the mercies and duties of the covenant.” p.390 PDF (Hebrews 7:1-3)
        1. See above.
      6. “Obs. III. Divine institutions cease not without an express divine abrogation. — Where they are once granted and erected by the authority of God, they can never cease without an express act of the same authority taking them away. So was it with the institutions of the Aaronical priesthood, as the apostle declares. And this one consideration is enough to confirm the grant of the initial seal of the covenant unto the seed of present believers, which was once given by God himself in the way of an institution, and never by him revoked.” p.530 PDF (Hebrews 7:12)
        1. See above. God never gave circumcision to the seed of believers and Owen said carnal ordinances ceased along with the carnal seed.
      7. “He [Moses] found himself circumcised, and so to belong unto the circumcised people. Hereon God instructed him to inquire into the reason and nature of that distinguishing character. And so he learned that it was the token of God’s covenant with the people, the posterity of Abraham, of whom he was. It was a blessed inlet into the knowledge and fear of the true God. And whatever is pretended by some unto the contrary, it is a most eminent divine privilege, to have the seal of the covenant in baptism communicated unto the children of believers in their infancy; and a means it hath been to preserve many from fatal apostasies.” p. 182 PDF (Hebrews 11:24-26)
        1. See above. Circumcision was given to the carnal posterity of Abraham on account of Abraham’s carnal privileges, which has ceased.
    4. Owen affirmed paedobaptism in True Nature of the Gospel Church (which was written sometime in the latter half of his life and published posthumously).
      1. “(3.) Children do belong unto and have an interest in their parents’ covenant; not only in the promise of it, which gives them right unto baptism, but in the profession of it in the church covenant, which gives them a right unto all the privileges of the church whereof they are capable, until they voluntarily relinquish their claim unto them. (4.) Baptizing the children of church members, giving them thereby an admission into the visible catholic church, puts an obligation on the officers of the church to take care, what in them lieth, that they may be kept and preserved meet members of it, by a due watch over them and instruction of them. (5.) Though neither the church nor its privileges be continued and preserved, as of old, by carnal generation, yet, because of the nature of the dispensation of God’s covenant, wherein he hath promised to be a God unto believers and their seed, the advantage of the means of a gracious education in such families, and of conversion and edification in the ministry of the church, ordinarily the continuation of the church is to depend on the addition of members out of the families already incorporated in it. The church is not to be like the kingdom of the Mamalukes, wherein there was no regard unto natural successors, but it was continually made up of strangers and foreigners incorporated into it; nor like the beginning of the Roman commonwealth, which, consisting of men only, was like to have been the matter of one age alone.” (Kindle Locations 417-427).
        1. See above. Here Owen acknowledges that carnal privileges via carnal generation have ceased. God’s promise to be a God to Abraham’s seed has a two-fold fulfillment: one to each of his two seeds. As Owen has said above, Israel was made a peculiar people to God on account of their carnal descent from Abraham, not on account of spiritual descent from Abraham, and that privilege ceased at the coming of Christ.

 

That is why 17th century and 21st century baptists have appealed to Owen’s covenant theology while knowing full-well he was still a paedobaptist.

“And if our opponents think Dr. O. injured (as they are apt to clamour to that purpose) for our improvement of his words to our advantage…we say, that they are at liberty to reconcile his words to his practice if they can, to do which they have need of a considerable stock (but they are seldome unfurnisht) of artifice, and distinction, to help at this dead lift.”

Edward Hutchinson, A Treatise Concerning the Covenant, 1676, quoted in Samuel Renihan’s JIRBS 2015 article “DOLPHINS IN THE WOODS”: A Critique of Mark Jones and Ted Van Raalte’s Presentation of Particular Baptist Covenant Theology, a must read for anyone studying this debate.

There are strong tendencies in Owen’s thinking on the Covenant of Grace to restrict it just to Christ and his elect. Owen is a paedobaptist. But there is a lot in Owen’s thinking that I think pushes in a Baptistic direction. For Owen, the visible manifestation of the Covenant of Grace is not entirely clearly worked out in terms of children being embraced (as I read him). It’s not an area I have looked at in great detail, but I see tendencies in Owen’s ecclesiology and his understanding of the covenants that push it in a Baptistic direction.

-Carl Trueman, “Session 5 – John Owen on the Holy Spirit” @31:00

Paedobaptists may be shocked by how bold Owen’s statements above are with regards to the establishment of the New Covenant. He says that

When the new covenant was given out only in the way of a promise, it did not introduce a worship and privileges expressive of it… That which before had no visible, outward worship, proper and peculiar unto it, is now made the only rule and instrument of worship unto the whole church, nothing being to be admitted therein but what belongs unto it, and is appointed by it. This the apostle intends by νομοτηετεο, the “legal establishment” of the new covenant, with all the ordinances of its worship… But so the covenant of grace was not under the old testament; for God did require of the church many duties of worship that did not belong thereunto. But now, under the new testament, this covenant, with its own seals and appointments, is the only rule and measure of all acceptable worship.

The knee-jerk reaction is that baptists must be reading Owen wrong. There is no way he could mean what he said. That would entirely undermine the grounds for infant baptism. However, an alternative perspective is that Owen meant exactly what he said, but the issue of baptism was not his primary concern. If it was, he would not have stated things so boldly. However, as a Congregationalist, Owen’s primary concern at this point was to demonstrate that the government of the church of Christ is to be found in the New Testament, not in the Old via Israel.

This was the divide between Presbyterians, who modeled the church after Israel, and the Congregationalists, who said we may not. The Five Dissenting Brethren (Congregationalists) at the Westminster Assembly wrote “we do professedly judge the Calvinian Reformed Churches of the first reformation from out of Popery, to stand in need of a further reformation themselves. And it may without prejudice to them, or the imputation of Schism in us from them, be thought, that they coming new out of Popery (as well as England) and the founders of that reformation not having Apostolic infallibility, might not be fully perfect the first day.” During the debate that ensued, the Presbyterians warned the Congregationalists that

The analogy betwixt Jewish & Christian church, little question of that little question… If this faile, the argument of Baptisme from circumcision will faile also… For that we must not looke to the state of the Jewish church, is only a warrantableness for the analogy of the Old Testament & New, granted. The brother that spake last said before we must cut loose the argument of Jewish church; [for] but how shall we prove pedo-Baptism? (See Goodwin vs. Gillespie: An Old Testament Debate for Church Polity).

But the Congregationlists ignored the warning and pressed on, insisting that the New Testament must determine the government of the church. It is in this vein that Owen, held captive to the Word of God in Hebrews 8, declared “That which before had no visible, outward worship, proper and peculiar unto it, is now made the only rule and instrument of worship unto the whole church, nothing being to be admitted therein but what belongs unto it, and is appointed by it.”

Ergo, credobaptism.

Samuel Mather on Israel as a Type of the Church

January 13, 2016 4 comments

Yesterday it was announced that J. I. Packer’s Rare Puritan Library Now Digitized to Be Read Online for Free. One of the books is Mather, Samuel. The figures or types of the Old Testament: by which Christ and the heavenly things of the Gospel were preached and shadowed to . . . 1705. 2nd. ed. Read online / Catalogue record

Samuel Mather was the eldest son of Richard Mather. He was born at Much Woolton, near Liverpool, Lancashire, on 13 May 1626. His father took him in 1635 to New England, where he was educated at Harvard College and graduated M.A. in 1643, becoming a fellow of the College. He was the first fellow of Harvard who had graduated there.[1]

Having already become a preacher, Mather returned to England, and in 1650 was made one of the chaplains of Magdalen College, Oxford, under the presidency of Thomas Goodwin, the Independent… (Wikipedia)

Samuel’s youngest brother was Increase Mather, a prominent figure in congregational New England and son-in-law of John Cotton, the preeminant New England congregationalist (see my post The Half-way Covenant). Their other brother Nathaniel was also a pastor in England. All three were strongly Independent/Congregational. Even Increase was heavily involved in Presbyterian/Independent disputes in England when he traveled to England for several years representing his colony to the king (see his autobiography). After the Great Ejection when Puritans were forced out of the Church of England, Samuel went back to Dublin and gathered a congregation, which met at his house till a meeting-house was erected in New Row – for which he was arrested and imprisoned. When he died (1671), his brother Nathaniel took over as pastor of the congregation in Dublin. Nathaniel joined the “happy union” of 1691 between Presbyterians and Independents, but was a leader in its disruption, owing to the heresies of Daniel Williams (1643?–1716), D.D. (see my post Neonomian Presbyterians vs Antinomian Congregationalists?).

The Mathers were thoroughly Independent, and as such, they were willing to acknowledge certain truths in Scripture that Presbyterians would not. As I noted in my post Neonomian Presbyterians vs Antinomian Congregationalists?:

During the Assembly debate, the Dissenting Brethren (Independents) argued that we cannot look to Israel and the Old Covenant as a foundation for church government because in the Old Covenant there was a mixture of church and state. If we follow the New Testament pattern, we see churches organized by voluntary congregations of visible saints called out of the world. The Presbyterians pointed out that if the Jewish model of the church is given up, paedobaptism goes with it. But the Congregationalists did not budge.

The Congregationalists were willing to see the biblical discontinuity between Israel and the Church while Presbyterians were not. Samuel Mather’s book on typology is a great demonstration of this fact. In the Preface, Nathaniel (who published his brothers’ book post-humously) notes:

It is not expected that every one, much less critical and captious Heads, will subscribe to everything which they may here meet with. In so diffuse and vast and withal so obscure a subject, and so untrodden a path, it is no wonder if every one will not tread in just the same steps with him; for there are some things wherein he departs from the sentiments of some other learned and judicious persons. His making some of the old legal ordinances types of the instituted church, and ordinances under the New Testament and our ordinances the antitypes of theirs, it may be some may not assent unto, following therein Ames Prol. in Ps. 2. and Mr. Jeans, who (Exam. Exam. p. 241) cites CHamier tom. 4. 1. 9. c.II. Sect. 13. 15. pag. 515. Tilenus Syntag. Part. ult. Disp. 63. Sect. 12. Ames. Bellarm. Enerv. tom. 3.1.4.c.7 to which he might have added those words of this tom. 3. lib.1 cap.4. Thes. 13. and lib.2.cap.4.Thes.4. But others there are who go with this our author. See Beza on 1 Cor 10.6. and on 1 Pet. 3.21. and Mr. Cotten, Holiness of Church-Members, cap.2 sect. 12 and 13. Not to mention any of the Schoolmen, or the elder Writers among Christians, who are very frequent and very express to this purpose. Nor can it be denied that there is a common nature wherein their institutions and ours agree, the one being a shadow or darker adumbration, the other a more lightsome and lievely image of the same things. And it is beyond all contradiction, that the Holy Ghost himself doth frequently intrust us in our duty, with reference to our institutions, from theirs under the Old Testament, with relation to their typical ordinances. As for his calling our institutions the antitypes to theirs, tho there should be a truth in that observation, Theologi Graeci Typum & Antitypum promiscue usurpant pro iisdem, pro re significat nunquam. Jodoc.Laren. apud Twiss. Animadv. in Corv. Def. Armin. cont. Tilen. pag. 280. yet there is a strict and proper acceptation of the Word, wherein it may be said that our institutions are the antitypes of theris: vid. Jun. Animadv. in Bell. Contr. 3. lib. 1. cap. 9. not. 25. and in that sense the Holy Ghost useth it, 1 Pet. 3. 21. Nor needs any one stumble at our author’s using it in somewhat a different signification; for usage is the master and rule of language; Loquendum cum vulgo, sentiendum cum Doctis.

Nathaniel notes that Samuel did not necessarily work out all the details and implications of these points because he delivered these writings as sermons and died (1671) before he could refine and edit them for publication.

With that long introduction out of the way, here is some of what Samuel Mather had to say about Israel and the Church.

Definition of a Type

First, he defined a type:

… a type is a shadow of good things to come, Hebr 10.1. The law having a shadow of good things to come, Col 2.17. Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.

There be three thing included in this Description.

  1. There is some outward or sensible thing, that represents some other higher thing.
  2. There is the thing represented thereby, which is good things to come, which we call the Antitype.
  3. There is the work of the Type, which is to shadow forth or represent these future good things.

…A type is some outward or sensible thing ordained of God under the Old Testament, to represent and hold forth something of Christ in the New.

Then answered how we may know something is a type:

Here ariseth a Question. How may we know when a thing is a type, and that the Lord did ordain and design it to that end and use?

The Answer is. We cannot safely judge of this but by the Scripture.

  1. When there is express Scripture for it…
  2. When there is a permutation of names between the type and the antitype, this is a clear indication of the mind of God. As for instance, Christ is called David, Ezek 34.23 and 37.24, Hos. 3.5. this shews that David was a type of him and Christ was the true David.

    So Christ is called Adam, the second Adam, Cor 15.45.So he is called Israel, Isai. 49.3.He is called that Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world, John 1.29 and our Passover that is sacrificed for us, 1 Cor 5.7. this shews that the Paschal Lamb was a type of him.He is called the Bread of Life, and the true Bread from Heaven, Joh. 6. 32, 35. this shews that the manna did relate to him.

    So the Church of the New Testament is called Jerusalem, Gal 4.26. but Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the Mother of us all – Rev 21.2. I saw the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of Heaven. We may hence conclude that Jerusalem was a type of the Church.

    So it is said, that the odours or incense are prayers of the saints. Rev. 5. 8. Incense therefore was a type of prayer.

    The Gospel-Church is called Israel, Gal 6.16. Peace be on them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. Therefore that people were a type of the Church of God under the New Testament.

    Gospel-Ministers are called the Sons of Levi, Mal. 3. 3. the Prophet there speaking of the coming of Christ, he saith, He shall purifie the sons of Levi, that is, raise up a purer Ministry.

    There is nothing more frequent in the Scriptures, than for the Antitype to be called by the name of the Type. And sometimes on the other side, the Type bears the names and the titles belonging indeed and more properly to the Antitype.

…Sometimes the types are not so explicitly taught, but implied; and then a thing may be known to be a type by diligent observing and comparing the phrase of the Prophets in the Old Testament, and of the Apostles in the New.

Men must not indulge their own fancies, as the Popish writers use to do, with the allegorical senses, as they call them; except we have some Scripture ground for it. It is not safe to make any thing a type meerly upon our own fancies and imaginations; it is God’s prerogative to make types.

p. 51-55

Israel as a Type

The whole nation of the Jews. They were a typical people; their Church-state being very ceremonial and peculiar to those legal times, (Therefore now ceased and abolished) did adumbrate and shadow forth two things.

  1. Christ himself; hence Christ is called Israel, Isa. 49.3. By Israel is meant Christ, and all the faithful, as members of him their head.
  2. They were a type of the Church of God under the New Testament. Hence the Church is called Israel, Gal 6.16 and Rev 7. The twelve tribes of Israel are numbered up by name, to shew forth the Lord’s particular care of every one of his people in particular. That place is not meant properly of Old Israel, because it relates to the times of the Antichristian locusts; compare cap 7. with cap. 9.4.The analogy lies in this, that they were a peculiar people to the Lord, chosen and singled out by him from all the world: So is Christ the Lord’s chosen, Behold my servant whom I have chosen, mine elect in whom my Soul delighteth: So are all the Saints, 1 Pet 2.9. A royal nation, a peculiar people, gathered from among all nations, Rev 5.9. Hence the enemies of Israel were typical enemies; as Egypt and Babylon under the Old Testament, types of Antichristian enemies under the New: And the providences of God towards that people of Old, types and shadows of his intended future dispensations towards his people under the New; as you will see further when we come to speak of typical providences.

p. 118

 

Moreover, not only the temple, and the priests there,but the whole land of Canaan and the people of Israel, were a typical land and a typical people; (as hath been formerly and shall be further shewed) all the fruits of the land had a typical holiness; the first fruits being virtually the whole, they were a typical dedication of the whole.

p. 276

 

The use of these precious stones [on the priest’s garments] was for the writing of the names of the twelve children of Israel in them, that the High Priest might bear them upon his shoulders for a memorial before the Lord: See Exod 28. 9, 10, 11, 12. Now the Priest being a type of Christ, and the people of Israel a type of the whole church of God; their being born thus upon the shoulders of the High Priest clothed with this sacred Ephod intimated three things.

  1. The Lord Jesus Christ his supporting of this church and people, and bearing them up, as upon the shoulders of his power and grace and government, Isa. 9.6. the Government shall be upon his shoulders: So he is said to do with the lost sheep Luke 15.5 Isa. 46. 3, 4. hearken unto me, O House of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are born by me form the belly, which are carried from the womb, and even to your old age, I am he, and even to boary hairs I will carry you, I have made you, and I will bear, even I will carry, and will deliver you…

To unfold the mystery of these things a little more particularly.

  1. The precious stones, with the names of the Children of Israel, signifie all the saints, the whole church and people of God. Israel was a typical people; therefore the whole church of God is called Israel, Gal 6.16. As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them and mercy, and upon (or even upon) the Israel of God. Hence the same Apostle distinguisheth of outward Jews and inward Jews, Rom 2. two last. And Christ calls Nathaniel an Israelite indeed, John 1. 47…

p. 505-8

Mosaic Covenant

Samuel does not fully work out the implications of these statements for things like the Mosaic Covenant. However, he perhaps takes a step towards the progress and development of later congregationalists (like Petto and Owen) who argue the Mosaic covenant operated on a works principle when he says the Mosaic Covenant or dispensation was a type of the Covenant of Works. See pages 92-93.

Abrahamic Covenant

In his discussion of circumcision, Mather does identify the covenant of circumcision as the covenant of grace. However, he also makes statements such as

If we consider Abraham as the head of the covenant to that church and people: So he is a type of Christ, the head of the second Covenant. You know God covenanted with Abraham for his seed: So he doth with Christ for all his elect. God’s promise to Abraham was to give a seed to him, and an inheritance to his seed, viz. the land of Canaan, the land of Promise: So God did promise to Jesus Christ, that he should see his seed, Isai. 53. 10, 11. and to bring them to Heaven, Heb 2. 10 – Jesus Christ is the true head of the second covenant, he engageth and undertakes for all his seed: Abraham was but a typical head thereof.

p. 82

Mather runs into some trouble here because in his discussion of the covenant of circumcision (pg 176) he argues there are only two covenants: the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. It wasn’t the Covenant of Works, so it must be the Covenant of Grace. But here he distinguishes between the Covenant of Grace, of which Christ is the head with the church the members, and the covenant of which Abraham was a head with the nation of Jews the members (which were a type of the church). The solution that Owen later expounded upon is that there are more than two covenants in Scripture. The Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants are neither the covenant of works nor the covenant of grace, but typical covenants related to typical people and blessings.

Noahic Covenant

Noah’s Covenant and the rainbow the sign thereof, was a type of the covenant of grace, Gen 9.12, 13. It is a question whether there was any rainbow before? It may seem not: Because it had been small comfort and assurance to the new world, to see that which they had seen before, and to have such a sign of the covenant. Therefore some think that the rainbow was not from the beginning: But as the Lord gave a new promise; so he created a new thing for a sign thereof.

But how may it appear that the Covenant of Grace was here held forth? See Isa. 54. 9, 10. This is unto me as the Waters of Noah, etc. Ezek 1. ult. As the appearance of the Bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain: so was the appearance of the brightness round about – Rev 10. 1 and 4. 3.

Well, if the Noahic Covenant was a type of the covenant of grace, then it was not the covenant of grace. It was also not the covenant of works. Therefore it must be a separate covenant and there must be more than two covenants in Scripture. If that is the case, then Mather’s argument that the covenant of circumcision is the covenant of grace fails.

Conclusion

In sum, as a Congregationalist, Mather was willing to note Scripture’s clear teaching that Israel and the Church are not one and the same but are instead related by way of type and antitype. The baptists grasped the implications of this most clearly.

See my post Blood of bulls and goats : blood of Christ :: physical Israel : spiritual Israel for more.

Simple Online Privacy Measures Everyone Should Be Taking (But Aren’t)

January 1, 2016 Leave a comment

I encourage you to read a post I just wrote at RL called Simple Online Privacy Measures Everyone Should Be Taking (But Aren’t).

Categories: politics Tags: