12 comments on “Owen on the Mosaic Covenant (Part I)

  1. At first glance, I find this fairly close to what I would say – or at least part of what I might say, I think. I’ll have to think about it some, and perhaps read through the primary sources. Primarily national in scope (I think Dabney also makes some suggestions in that direction, explaining why the national/political dimensions of the Old Covenant are no longer operative). Because of that national, temporal focus, its applicability outside the Jewish nation (e.g., the church today which is transnational) requires some theological filtering. And arguing it is not of continued covenantal force (though of course it includes many good and useful things, from which we can draw many lessons), seems most permissible if I understand his suggestion. I won’t, however, suggest he was a closet dispensationalist!


  2. How could the Mosaic cov’t be other than part of the cov’t of grace?! Sure, there are national elements included, but that doesn’t remove it for the CoG.


  3. Here is my view from my essay Tables of Human Hearts:

    ii. The Mosaic Covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace and was not an administration of the covenant of works or a reviving thereof but is simply republished that the terror of its demands may provoke men to flee to Christ for mercy. This is the same reason it is republished in the New Testament with such scriptures as Gal 3:10, 12, and Rom 10:5.

    Herman Witsius:
    “And first, we observe, that, in the ministry of Moses, there was a repetition of the doctrine concerning the law of the covenant of works. For both the very same precepts are inculcated, on which the covenant of works was founded, and which constituted the condition of that covenant; and that sentence is repeated, “which if a man do he shall live in them,” Lev. 18:5; Ezek. 20:11, 13 by which formula, the righteousness, which is of the law, is described, Rom. 10:5. And the terror of the covenant of works is
    increased by repeated comminations; and that voice heard, “cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them,” Deut. 27:26. Now the Apostle declares, that this is the curse of the law, as the law is opposed to faith, or the covenant of grace, Gal. 3:10, 12 . . . Secondly, we more especially remark, that when the law was given from mount Sinai or Horeb, there was a repetition of the covenant of works . . . Thirdly, we are
    not, however, to imagine, that the doctrine of the covenant of works was repeated, in order to set up again such a covenant with the Israelites, in which they were to seek for righteousness and salvation . . . The Israelites were, therefore, thus put in mind of the covenant of works, in order to convince them of their sin and misery, to drive them out of themselves, to show them the necessity of a satisfaction, and to compel them to Christ.
    And so their being thus brought to a remembrance of the covenant of works tended to promote the covenant of grace.”[13]

    Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man,
    2:182-84 from In Defense of Moses: A Confessional Critique of Kline and Karlberg by
    D. Patrick Ramsey


  4. Dr. Sanders, if you haven’t already completed your reading list for this summer, I highly recommend Coxe & Owen’s “Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ.” Great introduction to 17th century Particular Baptist thought in line with the 1689 LBC. I think you’d enjoy it!

    Tim, what do you believe the implications/consequences are from considering the Sinai Covenant as formally distinct from the CoG made with Christ? Owen believes that Hebrews 6 and Galatians 4 quite clearly posit a stark distinction between the Sinai & New Covenants, in terms of substance, mediator, form, etc.

    Drake, how do you define “administration of the covenant of grace”?


  5. What has been typical in rejecting the Mosaic covenant from the COG is antinomianism which historically goes right along with hypercalvinism.


  6. Drake, I was looking for a bit more than a synonym for administration.

    “What has been typical in rejecting the Mosaic covenant from the COG is antinomianism which historically goes right along with hypercalvinism.”
    Assertion. Are you implying that I am an antinomian and/or hypercalvinist?


  7. Pat

    “Drake, how do you define “administration of the covenant of grace”?”

    It is an external/visible order in which the visible Church functions to display to men, whether by prophet, priest or elder – depending on the dispensation- certain promises of God, prophecies or preaching of the word, sacerdotal functions, sacraments, emblems and ordinances, which foresignify something of Christ held out and through which grace and salvation which Christ accomplished in the covenant of redemption are applied to the elect.


  8. Pat

    “Assertion. Are you implying that I am an antinomian and/or hypercalvinist?”

    Well the savoy declaration under the influence of owen says in Chapter 21

    “but under the New Testament the liberty of Christians is further enlarged in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, the whole legal administration of the covenant of grace, to which the Jewish church was subjected”

    That sure sounds antinomian to me.


  9. Drake, you do realize of course that observing that the Sinai Covenant was not the Covenant by which men are saved does not mean that the CoG wasn’t in effect, don’t you?

    And do you really think that either Owen or myself teaches that there is no need to obey God’s commands, since one is saved through faith apart from works? Or perhaps you define antinomian differently. And what about the hyper-Calvinism bit?


  10. Well the whole point is the definition of God’x commands. Do you believe that the same ten commandments that were given to Moses (obviously there were other) and the moral principles underlining the case laws are commensurate with the new testament morality and part of what we know as God’s law in this dispensation?


  11. Drake, read Chapter XIX of the Savoy Declaration to find out what Owen thought. Does that sound antinomian to you?

    I believe that the Ten Commandments written in stone at Sinai were an expression of how the eternal moral law of God was to be observed by Israel. The Ten Commandments do not bind Christians for the Ten Commandments’ own sake, but the moral law of God (summed up by Christ into two commandments) is eternal and binding upon all. If this explanation needs further clarification, I’d be happy to try.


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