Sunday, August 19, 2012

John Downame on Covenant and Justification.

Was reading John Downame today and came across this gem, which among other things reminds us that the Reformed orthodox did, in fact, distinguish between the law and the gospel -- and for good reason. Enjoy.

"The condition of these two covenants differ: the Law or the Covenant of works offereth salvation, under condition of perfect obedience: the Gospel or Covenant of Grace, under the condition of faith, that is to say, if we believe in Christ, who hath done it for us.

Of both these covenants, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace, Jeremie [Jeremiah] speaketh in his one and thirtieth Chapter, and Paul to the Galatians sheweth, how they were shadowed by two women, as by two types, that is to say, by Hagar the bond, and Sara the free-woman: for these women (saith he) are the two Covenants. You may see further touching them both, Phil 3. Rom 9. Rom 10. Gal 3. And these two being the only means, whereby true happiness may be attained, are so contrary one unto another, that where the one is, the other cannot be: neither can salvation come in part by the one, and in part by the other. Whereupon the apostle useth to dispute that we are justified by works only, or by faith alone. This is the sum of the whole argument in the three first chapters of the Epistle to the Romans: Either we are justified by Works or by Faith. But not by Works, neither of the Law of Nature, nor of the moral Law, neither Gentile, which is without the Law written, nor Jew which hath it. Therefore by Faith. So he saith, Gal 3.17. For if the inheritance be by the Law, then it is not any more by promise, making it impossible and absurd, that both should concur together in the act of justification."

John Downame, The Summe of Sacred Divinitie Briefly and Methodically Propounded: More Largely and Clearly Handled and Explaned (London: Stansby, 1625), pp. 307-308.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Post-Reformation Digital Library

This website is, quite simply, a gold mine for anyone interested in Reformation and/or post-Reformation research. 

Memorize the url. Better yet, add it to your bookmarks.

Post-Reformation Digital Library

Lucas Trelcatius, Jr. (d. 1607) and the Covenant

Lucas Trelcatius, Jr., is (at least in our day) a little known Reformed theologian of the early orthodox era. Succeeding his father, Lucas Trelcatius, Jr., he served as professor extraordinarius at Leiden -- alongside both Gomarus and Arminius -- from 1602 until his death in 1607. Published in 1604, his major work was a mid-level theological text: Scholastica, et Methodica, Locorum Communium S. Theologiae Institutio, Didactice & Elenctice in Epitome explicata: in qua, Veritas Locorum Communium, definitionis cuiusque, Loci per Causas suas Analyst asseritur: Contraria vero Argumenta, imprimis Bellarmini, Generalium Solutionum appendice refutantur. This work epitomizes early Reformed orthodoxy (ca. 1565-1640), and evidences the use of a revised scholastic method for academic instruction during the era.

My interest in reading Trelcatius stems from the work of Richard Muller, who not only cites Trelcatius throughout his four volume Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, but who has also analyzed Trelcatius' doctrine of God [see Richard A. Muller, "Unity and Distinction: The Nature of God in the Theology of Lucas Trelcatius, Jr.," Reformation & Renaissance Review 10/3 (December 2008): 315-341]. I am currently reading his loci on the office of Christ and the doctrine of the covenant.

Given the significant debate in recent years over the nature of the mosaic covenant, and specifically whether or not or in what way that covenant is a republication of the covenant of works, Trelcatius' exposition of the covenant and its historical administration is illustrative of one of the number of ways in which historic Reformed theology delineated the relationship between the covenant of grace and its various administrations.

Having distinguished the covenant from that general covenant that God made with nature (a universal and temporal covenant, he says), as well as the covenant that God made with man in his state of innocence, Trelcatius states that the covenant with which he is concerned is "that covenant, which God entered into with man after his fall, by his special grace." This covenant is one only, he says, for there is only one way of salvation. Yet, this covenant is diversely administered. He thus distinguishes between the substance of the covenant and its diverse forms of administration made known "from the outward manner and circumstances."

The covenant that God entered into with corrupt man is, according to its substance, "the free disposition of God, whereby he promises eternal salvation, by the death of his Son, to the glory of his grace." After making a number of distinctions in an effort to further define the covenant, Trelcatius gets to the business of delineating the various administrations of this one covenant. Generally, the covenant is distinguished according to its times into two periods: the one of Christ to be exhibited, the other of Christ already exhibited. In this first period, the covenant was administered in diverse ways, or according to the manner of three ages.

  1. According to the manner of promise. From Adam's fall to Abraham, "God expounded no less evidently than briefly, the whole manner of the covenant in that promise" of Gen 3:15.
  2. According to the manner of covenant. From the time of Abraham to Moses, the promise published in Gen 3:15 was restrained to Abraham and his posterity.
  3. According to the manner of a testament.
This third age, argues Trelcatius, consists of the time from Moses to Christ's coming, "when God in a more special manner disposed, declared, and confirmed that covenant, into the form of a testament." This testament -- or this outward form/administration of the covenant -- has two parts, the one being subordinate to the other. The first, subordinate part is "legal and conditional, requiring of man perfect obedience to the law, and under condition thereof, promising life eternal; which part was, as it were, a preparation unto the other, according as the Law is the school-master unto Christ." The second part of this testament was the evangelical doctrine "concerning man's reconciliation with God, and his deliverance from his misery, by the death of Christ, which part was shadowed forth with diverse types and ceremonies."

By his death, moreover, Christ abrogated this old testament and brought in the new testament. Trelcatius, in fact, argues that Christ abrogated both parts of the old testament: the first because the Law's requirement of perfect obedience is removed, the second because "the body succeeds the shadows; the truth, the figures; the thing signified, the signs, and sacrifices." In these two ways the Law (or old testament) is abrogated by the Gospel (or new testament).

Clearly the old testament or the Law (Trelcatius' terms), or the old covenant, or the mosaic covenant -- or whatever you want to call it -- is unique. While it is an administration of God's single covenant of grace, it is also subordinate to that covenant, both pedagogically and typologically. What is more, while Trelcatius does not use the term republication, the terminology he employs to describe the "legal and conditional" part of the "old testament" echoes his earlier description of that "special covenant" which God entered into with "our first parents in that state of integrity." This covenant contained "a special trial or examination of obedience," to which was attached "both the promise of a life supernatural, and a threat of a double death." Such a covenant was addressed to our first parents in their state of integrity, and thus a strict republication after the fall is impossible. Nevertheless, the publication of the same law, the same condition of perfect obedience, the same promise of life, and the same threat of death after the fall, to sinners in the state of corruption, is intended, not to be a trial or examination of obedience, but rather to serve as a schoolmaster to Christ, thus serving the ends or purposes of the covenant of grace. That is, on Trelcatius' terms, the Law, including its legal condition of perfect obedience and its promise of eternal life, is intended to drive sinners to Christ, who alone by his death has satisfied the condition and earns the promise.

Somewhere in all of this is a lesson for Reformed Christians today. Regardless of what one thinks of the doctrine of republication, Moses isn't the end of the story...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Up from the (ph.d.) grave he arose...

Well, I'm back...maybe. After approximately four years away from the blog, I have decided to give this another try. I cannot promise a great deal of activity right away, since I have just moved from Grand Rapids back to the Seattle area and have a couple of academic deadlines. Nevertheless, I hope to pass along various insights on all things Reformed Baptist in the not too distant future. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ordinary Means -- UPDATED

Sorry for the inactivity on the Confession stuff, but I've been holding down the fort while my co-pastor is on vacation.

I will return soon to the Confession (though I myself will be on vacation in the coming weeks), and I will be doing a follow-up post to the Cultural Christianity thread that caused quite a ruckus. Here's a foretaste: I've been reading David Wells's new book, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in a Postmodern World (Eerdmands, 2008), as well as a collection of essays by Carl Trueman entitled, The Majority Report: Unpopular Thoughts on Everything from Ancient Christianity to Zen Calvinism (Christian Focus, 2008). Both men have quite a bit to say on this whole matter of the evangelical and emergent tendency to appeal and adapt to the culture at large. I will simply pilfer from them.

But the real reason I am posting under the title, "Ordinary Means," is that I have been asked to join Matt Bohling and Shaun Nolan -- two PCA pastors -- on the ordinary means podcast for the month of May. We will be recording this Thursday (5/22), and I imagine the podcast will be available shortly thereafter.

You can find the website here:

The blog can be found here:

We will be picking up the discussion from the March podcast on the issue of Baptists and Presbyterians. My understanding at the moment is that they wish to ask me how Reformed Baptists handle convinced Reformed paedobaptists seeking membership in a Reformed Baptist church. If you want my answer, listen in.

That's all for now.

UPDATE: podcast won't be until next tuesday, 5/27. I'm still not sure when it will be posted; I'm assuming sometime later that day. I'll let my rabid fan base know as soon as I do...