The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

A Confessional question

with 8 comments

Chapter 20 of the 1689 Confession of Faith (“Of the Gospel, and of the Extent of the Grace Thereof”) opens with the following statement:

1. The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life, God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, as the means of calling the elect, and begetting in them faith and repentance; in this promise, the gospel, as to the substance of it, was revealed, and [is] therein effectual, for the conversion and salvation of sinners.

To all you 1689rs (and others) out there, a question about the opening words: “The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life . . .”

Do you read that as a statement of consequence? Would an acceptable paraphrase be something like, “Because the covenant of works was broken by sin, and so made unprofitable to [not able to grant] life . . .” as if the covenant of works could and would have been profitable to life had it not been broken?

Or, if our confessing forefathers had wanted to say that, would they have said, “The covenant of works being broken by sin, it became unprofitable unto life, so God . . .”? In which case, what is the sense of the phrase as it stands?

A minor point, but interesting. Grateful for any thoughts in the comments. Thanks in advance.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 26 March 2014 at 10:27

Posted in Theology

8 Responses

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  1. I had to re-read both options a few times but in the end, I didn’t like “, “The covenant of works being broken by sin, it became unprofitable unto life, so God . . .” because it (CoW) *was* profitable unto life for the Second Adam.

    This is true, ” “Because the covenant of works was broken by sin, and so made unprofitable to [not able to grant] life . . .” … the covenant of works could and would have been profitable to life had it not been broken”

    I would agree with those that say thee First Adam was in a probationary period and that “the threat of death implies a promise of immutable life and heavenly reward”.

    Enrique Duran

    Wednesday 26 March 2014 at 12:13

  2. Jeremy, I think you are correct. A very quick and incomplete survey of 2LCF suggests to me that an example of a similar construction might be found at 6:4 “From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil …” where the last phrase might be rendered “and so wholly inclined to all evil . . . .” There are probably other examples but time is pressing.

    IRBSPROF

    Wednesday 26 March 2014 at 13:45

  3. Option A seems to fit best with how our 17th century Baptist forefathers spoke of this in other context.

    On a side note, when I took some time to study the confession deeper it was chapter 20 got me side tracked into more our its source history (The Savoy more than the Westminster! to my surprise). This all happened cause this is one of those paragraphs that isn’t in the WCF http://sovjoy.com/1689-source-history-unity-through-humility-sunday-july-7th/

    Jason Delgado

    Wednesday 26 March 2014 at 13:53

  4. This statement, “… the covenant of works was broken by sin, and so made unprofitable to [not able to grant] life . . .” … the covenant of works could and would have been profitable to life had it not been broken” is consistent with 19:1 in the WCF, Savoy, and 1689.
    This is 19:1 form the 1689, “God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart, and a particular precept of not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.” http://www.proginosko.com/docs/wcf_sdfo_lbcf.html#LBCF19

    Junior

    Wednesday 26 March 2014 at 14:25

  5. I take “The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life,” as an introductory clause which is explanatory to “God was pleased to give forth the promise of Christ …” That the promise of life was no longer ‘on the table’ after the fall is the platform from which the Covenant of Grace is promised in the promise of Christ. The Covenant of Works held forth only the penalty of death after the fall. The Promise of Christ in Genesis 3:15 is the New Covenant promised,

    Bob

    Tuesday 1 April 2014 at 23:12

    • I agree that it is certainly an introduction to how the the gospel promise was introduced in history.
      It is however worth noting that the statement “The covenant of works being broken by sin, and made unprofitable unto life…” should not necessarily be understood to be causative (“because of the fall God gave the gospel”) but could simply be understood: “The fall having brought condemnation, God gave the promise of Christ.” The statement is not infralapsarian per se.

      Johan Mortensen

      Tuesday 8 April 2014 at 14:36

      • The sequence outlined in Chapter 20 of the 1689 is an element of logical progression (as in the ordo salutis) and not a chronological progression in the mind and will of God. The promise of Christ is logically founded upon the elect portion of Adam’s posterity being considered as subject to defaulting in the Covenant of Works. In the goodness of God through the Covenant of Grace the promise of Christ (in logical sequence) follows, resulting in the salvation of all of the elect from Adam’s posterity

        Bob

        Tuesday 8 April 2014 at 19:56

  6. Thank you, one and all.

    Jeremy Walker

    Monday 7 April 2014 at 15:17


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