Anybody Keeping Count?

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Steven Wedgeworth sent me a couple quotes from A.A. Hodge that I would like to pass on for your general edification.

“Now, the covenant of works is so called because its condition is the condition of works; it is called also, and just as legitimately, the covenant of life, because it promises life; it is called a legal covenant, because it proceeded, of course, upon the assumption of perfect obedience, conformity in character and action to the perfect law of God. And it is no less a covenant of grace, because it was a covenant in which our heavenly Father, as a guardian of all the natural rights of his newly-created creatures, sought to provide for this race in his infinite wisdom and love and infinite grace through what we call a covenant of works. The covenant of grace is just as much and just as entire a covenant, receiving it as coming from an infinite superior to an inferior” (Popular Lectures, p. 195).

“Now, it would have been an infinite loss to us, an inconceivable danger, if God had determined to keep us for ever, throughout all the unending ages of eternity, hanging thus upon the ragged edge of possible probation, and always in this unstable condition, this unstable equilibrium, able to do right, and liable also to fall; and therefore God offered to man in this gracious covenant of works an opportunity of accepting his grace and receiving his covenant gift of a confirmed, holy character, secured on the condition of personal choice” (Popular Lectures, p. 197).

A couple comments. Hodge nails it here. It is called a covenant of works because its condition was one of works, not because its nature was one of works. The nature was of grace — coming as it did from God’s “infinite wisdom and love and infinite grace.”

On this matter, the debate between FV advocates and our critics is not over whether Adam had to obey, or over whether his future happiness was conditioned on that obedience. It is really over the setting, and that question cannot be answered apart from an understanding of what God is like. Place the covenant of works in the wrong setting, and everything is out of joint. The words can be technically right, but they are not “fitly spoken.” “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Prov. 25:11). Place it in the right setting, and everything is back in order.

And is it all right to wonder how many of our fathers in the Reformed faith have been jettisoned by this point, and all in the name of preserving Reformed orthodoxy? Is anybody keeping count?

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