Owen and Boston on the Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace vis-a-vis Sinai

Thomas Goodwin has an excellent post describing John Owen’s position (and Thomas Boston’s in the process) on whether the Sinai covenant was a covenant of works or a covenant of grace (or both).

Reply to Wilson

His blog doesn’t like long comments. Therefore, I am going to have to post my response here.

Well, DW, I would have to say that a lot of the issue (it seems to me) depends on the definition of “visible.” Does the church have to be immediately seeable in the present in order to count as visible? We have lots of history books that allow us to see the visible church of the past. Therefore, the visible church is always visible to us, if not by immediate vision, at least with the eyes of history. Yeah, sure, it takes some digging and reading. But we can attain a vision of the visible church of the past. Otherwise, why would seminaries teach church history? Now, I know your next comment (maybe): “you used the term ‘history’ to describe the visible church: therefore ‘historical’ is better. The main problem with using (exclusively, for the distinction itself is perfectly legit) the historical/eschatological distinction is that it does not describe the present church as mixed. Now, to be fair, you have described the historical church with considerably more careful qualifications than other FVers have (I am especially thinking of Wilkins here). However, if one uses this distinction exclusively, the mixed character of the church will be obscured. Think of the parable of the dragnet, for example (Matthew 13:47-50). The term “historical” simply doesn’t capture the essence of that parable, imo. The terms “visible” and “invisible” do a much better job here. It describes explicitly the fact that there are fish now in the historical church, and that there is trash now in the historical church. The term “historical,” all by itself, indicates to me more the undifferentiated nature of the visible church, while the visible/invisible distinction (which is a different distinction, btw) indicates the mixed nature of the current church. Therefore, I would hesitate (to put it mildly) to use the term “clunky” to describe the visible/invisible church distinction.

DW, you have not dealt adequately with Andy’s point about LC 65: only members of the invisible church enjoy union and communion with the living God. They are, after all, special benefits. That word means “applying only to that particular group.” This is one of the most powerful arguments against the FV. Members of the visible church who are not elect do not enjoy union and communion with God.

My Brother’s Announcement

I rejoice with joy only slightly less than Adrian’s own. (Of course), Susan’s announcement is quite a bit more colorful. Get a load of Adrian’s marriage proposal there: quite amusing.

Baptism and the Trinity

I found a fascinating thought about baptism and the Trinity while reading a’Brakel last night. In the section in question, a’Brakel is laying out the reasons why the Christian needs to meditate on the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is so important that a’Brakel says “the entire spiritual life of a Christian consists in being exercised concerning this mystery, and is thus distinguished from the practice of civil virtue and natural religion” (vol. 1, pg. 176). Now, a’Brakel defines the doctrine of the Trinity in such a way that it implies or points to the entirety of soteriology. And this is true. The Father plans our salvation, the Son accomplishes our salvation, and the Holy Spirit applies our salvation to us. So, a’Brakel is right. n this context, a’Brakel also gives reasons why the Christian needs to meditate on this doctrine. Here is what he says about baptism: “Baptism also obligates us to worshjip these three Persons and to seek to be blessed by each of them” (vol. 1, pg. 177). The reason for this, of course, is that we are baptized into the name (notice the singular here!) of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So, in addition to all the other things baptism obligates us to do, it also obligates us to the study and meditation of the Trinity.