Robert Rollock’s works have just been reprinted. Buy them. Rollock has been terribly neglected by the scholarly world, although that picture is changing. Muller has drawn attention to Rollock recently. However, the above-mentioned reprint should be instrumental in getting Rollock’s name back on the map of important post-Reformational thinkers. Rollock lived from 1555-1598. He was involved in some ecclesiastical controversies, where it was thought that he sided too much with the king (see the excellent biographical introduction in the two-volume set by Andrew Woolsey). Andrew Woolsey thinks that this is the reason why he has been unfairly neglected (p. 20).
However, Rollock’s influence in British theology is much like George Whitefield’s influence on Methodism, unrecognized but pervasive. Woolsey goes on to mention Gunn’s appraisal of Rollock: “It is Rollock’s greatest glory that he introduced into Scotland the expository system, which had already so much benefited religion on the Continent” (ibid.) Furthermore, it was his several commentaries that provided inspiration for the later Scottish commentaries by David Dickson, George Hutcheson, James Ferguson, and Alexander Nisbet (p. 21).
There are 17 sermons in the first volume, and 56 in the second volume, which volume is entirely taken up with the passion of Christ. Woolsey’s opinion is that Rollock’s sermons most closely resemble Beza and Calvin (p. 21). It is to be noted that Beza thought very highly of Rollock’s works, calling his Ephesians and Romans commentaries “a treasure most precious” (p. 9).
Undoubtedly, however, the greatest impact Rollock has had in the history of theology is in the doctrine of the covenant. In this theology, he closely resembles Ussher, who is one of the precursors to the Westminster Assembly’s theology (p. 16). He advocated a firmly bi-covenantal theology, wherein the principle by which Adam would have obtained eternal life was works, though he (as well as most other Reformed theologians) did not deny the presence of grace before the Fall. Christ then stepped in to Adam’s brokenness, and merited eternal life by fulfilling the covenant of works. This righteousness is then imputed to the believer by faith in justification (see pp. 11-16, 33-51). In short, if you want to know where Westminster’s theology of covenant came from, you have to study Rollock. Highly recommended. It is to be hoped that his commentaries will shortly be reprinted as well. I imagine that will depend on how well the two-volume works sell. So buy them!