In my last post, I talked about the Abrahamic Covenant and as much as I didn’t want to start a new blog post series, it sure seems I’m heading in that direction. The better we can articulate the position of 1689 Federalism, the less confusion will exist between paedobaptists and Baptists concerning the matter. Which, right off the bat, leads me to cite a helpful resource: 1689Federalism.com. Also, if you have not already, I encourage you to watch the corresponding video I made concerning the covenant.
While my posts will in no way address every concern, my hope is that these posts will clarify certain important point which have either been points of confusion or points that are typically lost in discussion.
The Old Covenant
The Old Covenant began building during Adam’s generation. That said, it’s easy to become confused as to which covenant someone is talking about when they say “Old Covenant.” Are they talking about the Covenant of Works made by God with Adam in the garden or are they talking about the covenant God made with Moses and the Israelites on Horeb? Perhaps some are referring to the Abrahamic Covenant of Circumcision.
In one sense, however, the Old Covenant is cumulative in nature, and it reaches its fullness or climax on Mt. Sinai. This is why when many say “Old Covenant” they are referring to the Mosaic Covenant.
What is the Mosaic Covenant? There are has been debate amongst paedobaptists and between paedobaptists and Baptists concerning the answer to this question. More importantly, it’s worth noting that there were some paedobaptists in agreement with Baptists on this point, one of them being John Owen.
The problem pertains to the nature of the Mosaic Covenant. Was it a covenant of works or a covenant of grace? Some have fallen to one side or the other, but our position doesn’t answer by simply picking one of those over the other. The Mosaic Covenant contained a covenant of works, but this covenant of works was designed for a different purpose than the original Adamic covenant of works.
Moreover, the Mosaic Covenant could also be called a covenant of redemption in the sense that, with the implementation of the sacrificial system, it was intended to redeem sinners from their sin, or at least reveal the necessary requirement for atonement: sacrifice.
The purpose of the covenant of works imbedded within the Mosaic Covenant, therefore, is to push the people of God toward Christ, realizing that they cannot properly “do this and live,” and also realizing that the blood of bulls and goats cannot sufficiently atone for their sin. They need an Antetype in place of their type in order to be reconciled to God. Pascal Denault helpfully notes:
In agreement with the covenant of works, the Old Covenant demanded a perfect obedience to the law of God, but contrary to the covenant of works, the Old Covenant was based on a sacrificial system for the redemption of sinners.
Samuel Petto, a paedobaptist in agreement with the Baptists on this point, states:
Indeed, I think, one great end of God in bringing Israel under this Sinai covenant, was to make way for Christ, his being born or made under the law, in order to the fulfilling of it for us. I do not see how (by any visible dispensation) Jesus Christ could have been born actually under the law, if this Sinai covenant had not been made; for the covenant of works with the first Adam being violated, it was at an end as to the promising part; it promised nothing; after once it was broken, it remained in force only as to its threatening part, it menaced death to all the sinful seed of Adam, but admitted no other into it who were without sin, either to perform the righteousness of it, or to answer the penalty; it had nothing to do with an innocent person, after broken, for it was never renewed with man again, as before: therefore, an admitting an innocent person (as Jesus Christ was) into it, must be by some kind of repetition or renewing of it, though with other intendments than at first, viz. that the guilty persons should not fulfill it for themselves, but that another, a surety, should fulfill it for them.
Thus, on one hand, to simply call the Old Covenant a covenant of works without qualification is a misnomer because it runs the risk of being identified with the covenant of works made with Adam in the garden. It was not the same, however. This Old Covenant, though being a covenant of works, was a covenant of works with a different purpose, or teleology. It was purposed to show the people of God their need for a Redeemer, an ultimate sacrifice, a final surety.
To wrap this article up, I will summarize the above.
The Mosaic Covenant is that covenant God made with Adam in Horeb.
This covenant was not the covenant of works republished as if nothing had changed from Adam to Moses. Rather, since the original covenant of works was violated, as Petto notes above, it needed to be renewed with different stipulations or “intendments.”
The Old Covenant, or Mosaic Covenant, therefore, is a covenant of works which includes a revelation of future redemption. We could even say this covenant of works is really a covenant of redemption because, though it contains the “do this and live” principle, it points to a way to be redeemed––that way ultimately coming through Christ and His atoning sacrifice for His people. It may even be proper to say that the Mosaic Covenant is a covenant of works which, in virtue of the priesthood, further reveals the promise of the coming Covenant of Grace.