Covenantal Merit in the 1689; Form & Matter + Promise & Promulgation = Particular Baptist Federal Theology [Sam Renihan]

The book by Andrew A. Woolsey that is mentioned
The book by Andrew A. Woolsey that is mentioned

In the last four Particular Voices post, Sam Renihan serves up a lot of info on Covenant Theology and our Confession of Faith [1689] from the voices of the past, as well as his takeaways. The first of these four post is Covenantal Merit in The Confession of Faith:

Recently I have been reading this excellent work by Andrew Woolsey. In one section on the primary sources behind the Westminster Confession of Faith, Woolsey shows the strong influence of John Ball on the confession in general and chapter seven in particular. What I want to point out is the concept of covenantal merit at play in paragraph one of the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession. The two confessions are very similar here.


One of his takeaways:

Narrowing our focus to the London Confession, the confession confesses that God promised the reward of life to man through covenant. There was no other way man could have earned it. In other words, chapter seven confesses the covenant of works. Trace the reward of life in chapters 6, 19, and 20 and you will find this assertion further substantiated.

The following three post are more inter-related. He begins in the fourth and most recent post:

In the previous two posts, we have looked at the distinction between form and matter. The first post dealt with this distinction in relation to the republication of the law of the covenant of works in the Mosaic covenant. The second post dealt with this distinction more broadly, and showed the direction that the Particular Baptists would take this distinction in order to say that though the promise of the new covenant (the gospel) was made known in all of redemptive history, it was not formally established as a covenant until Christ’s death.


To refresh, in light of the formal/material distinction, just because the law is present in a given covenant, it does not mean that this covenant is the covenant of works. Conversely, just because the promise (the gospel) is present in a given covenant, it does not mean that this covenant is the covenant of grace.


In this post, I want to continue along similar lines in order to show the differences between Particular Baptist federal theology and that of their Paedobaptist brothers. I want to do this by showing how the same argumentation was employed, only with completely opposite arguments.

Here are the three post:

Formal and Material Republication in the Confessions of Faith

Form and Matter in Covenant Theology

Form and Matter + Promise and Promulgation = Particular Baptist Federal Theology

The Covenant of Created Supernatural Special Saving Effectual Grace [Particular Voices]



In this post from Particular Voices, Sam Renihan uses John Norton’s meticulous definitions of the word grace to highlight the differences between Paedobaptist and Credobaptist covenant theology.

In case you missed it, maybe this will help:

  • Increated Grace: God willing Spiritual gifts to men.
    • –Special: Election
    • –Common: Spiritual gifts not restricted to the elect
  • Created Grace
    • –Created Natural Grace: The image of God at creation (The grace of nature is the remainder of the image post-fall)
    • –Created Supernatural Grace: Gifts unattainable by nature (thus supernatural) after the fall.
      • –Created Supernatural Common Grace: Gifts that are unattainable by nature but are not saving in efficacy. They are simply capacities beyond the natural fallen condition of man, and are not peculiar to the elect. Some are pure; some are fallen.
      • –Created Supernatural Saving Grace: Efficacious grace merited by Christ as Savior and applied by the Holy Spirit, enabling the soul to obey the commands of God
  • Free Grace refers either to Increated Free Grace which is Election or Created Free Grace which is the effects of Election (salvation applied).

What happens when we get these definitions wrong? Does God help us to earn our salvation? We must maintain the “special” character of saving grace or else the covenant of grace is not the covenant of grace.

Particular Voices Roundup [Antichrist, Grace, Covenant Theology + More]

Sam Renihan’s blog Particular Voices has been living up to its tagline in delivering, “Interesting bits and pieces of 17th century literature.” Here is a round-up of what we haven’t gotten around to posting in the last couple of weeks:


Thomas Beard on the Pope as the Antichrist


This man is one in number, at one time, but varying in succession.

From Thomas Beard’s “The Pope of Rome is Antichrist” (1625).

David Dickson on the Antichrist in the Westminster Confession of Faith

From David Dickson’s commentary on the WCF, “Truth’s Victory over Error.”

Thomas Manton on “The Man of Sin”

From Thomas Manton’s “18 sermons on the second chapter of the second epistle to the Thessalonians.”

Covenant Theology:

The Mosaic covenant saved no one

The covenant of grace was revealed through it, but it was not the covenant of grace. It never perfected anyone’s conscience. It effected quite the opposite, in fact.

Isaac Watts, Orthodoxy and Charity United, 132

From Isaac Watt’s “Orthodoxy and Charity United.”

The covenant of works and the covenant of grace in the old covenant

Paul uses the old covenant to illustrate the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. But the old covenant, though it be a covenant of works, is not the covenant of works, nor is it the covenant of grace.

The covenant of created supernatural special saving effectual grace

…Perhaps we should follow this rubric to get some clarity on the covenant of grace. As Reformed Baptists, we should demand that we talk about the covenant of created supernatural special saving effectual grace. Anything less than that, and what do you have?

Covenant GraceIf you’re going to talk about the covenant including the non-elect and giving non-efficacious blessings and benefits to those non-elect within the covenant, you must speak of the covenant of created supernatural common and saving grace. So then, which is it?


The Pure Gospel is Foolishly Relevant

Should we “temporize” so as not to offend? Isaac Watts answers that we should “stand up for the defence of the Gospel in the full glory of its most important doctrines, in the full freedom of its grace, and in its divinest and most evangelical form” because “the cross of Christ, by the promised power of the Spirit, may vanquish the vain reasonings of men.”

Thomas Beard, Antichrist the Pope of Rome, 10

This principle can be applied in a variety of ways. For example, for a certain concept to be present in a text, the word or name that sums up that concept does not have to be present. As one former professor of mine used to say, “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a cow. Not.”

From Thomas Beard’s “Antichrist, the Pope of Rome.”

The Law is Not of Faith [Keach]


One huge question central to any debate over covenant theology is whether or not the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace whereby sinners are saved (let alone the question of what an “administration” actually is). While many modern Reformed Baptists say yes, the Mosaic covenant was substantially the covenant of grace, Benjamin Keach disagrees, as we see in this post from Sam Renihan at Particular Voices.

UPDATE 9/23/2013: More from Keach on the covenants, administrations, and such can be read here.

Definitive Sanctification and the Ordo Salutis [Particular Voices]





At Particular Voices, Sam Renihan brings us an extended passage from George Downame (chaplain to King James; not a Particular Baptist) dealing with the nature of and relationship between our effectual calling, regeneration, justification, and sanctification. Here’s a quote from Sam:

Passages like this help us to understand confessional language that speaks about sanctification in connection with effectual calling and regeneration. LBCF 13.1 “They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are alsofarther sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

There is no danger in speaking of sanctification in our regeneration, as long as we understand how this language was used and how the distinctions were maintained. Downame couldn’t be clearer that sanctification always follows justification, and yet there is a first act of “sanctification” in which we are definitively broken from the state of our sinful nature in regeneration through the effectual call of the ministry of the word. We are first conceived anew, then born anew.

Check out this post here.

Thomas Collier on Covenant Theology [Particular Voices]

At the Particular Voices blog, Sam Renihan gives us some background on Thomas Collier, a “Particular Baptist gone wrong.” While unfortunately holding to some heretical views, Collier’s writings on covenant theology reflected the same atmosphere and arguments of the seventeenth century Particular Baptist tradition in which he was surrounded.

Given these factors, why post something from him on covenant theology? Well, the true paradox of Collier’s life and theology is that at times he seemed to be the picture of Particular Baptist orthodoxy, and at times he was as far from that as could be. In fact, there was evidence to the Particular Baptists that at times he had repudiated his heresies. But in the long run, that did not prove to be the case. In light of this intriguing historical background presented in snapshot form, the following excerpts from one of his 1659 works are to be taken as another piece of a larger whole. They provide more perspective and information for the portrait of Particular Baptists and their articulation of covenant theology. Indeed this work very much represents the standard Particular Baptist arguments on covenant theology. But he should not be elevated or praised in any way for having hit the mark in this area…

There is no theological denomination or historical portion of Christianity devoid of error and heresy. We must all beware our own hearts and examine ourselves and our theology in light of the word of God. We ought also to be humble and subject to the iron-sharpening of our brothers and reject a Maverick approach to theology. Collier may have got these portions right, but to all human judgments his soul was lost. The fact that he published his own confession of faith and rejected the confession of “upwards of 100 baptized congregations” is telling evidence of his own heart. Let us not be so individualistic or prideful as Collier, lest we too follow our own sinful hearts down the paths they would love to tread. Let this be a double lesson to all of us, first to be humble and circumspect in the light of the scriptures and the corrections of our brothers, and second, to articulate covenant theology faithfully so that our practices are built on sound doctrines.

You can read this interesting historical-theological post here.

Bunyan Describes the Antichrist [Particular Voices]

John Bunyan (not the antichrist)


The Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, chapter 26, section 4 reads:

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

Many interpret this section of the Confession as a dogmatic, specific identification of the office of the papacy as the Antichrist. This unfortunately leads many modern Particular Baptists who hold varying views on eschatology to reject the Confession, or at least take exception to this section or phrase. However, Sam Renihan at Particular Voices has provided a section from the writings of John Bunyan which would seem to indicate that the historic Particular Baptists used the terms antichristman of sin, and son of perdition in a broader sense, so that the papacy may be considered merely a representative of the spirit of antichrist, not to the exclusion of other antichrists.

Read Bunyan’s comparison of Christ and Antichrist here.

Are the Republicationist & Coxe/Owen Views of the Mosaic Covenant Related?

A couple of weeks ago, Junior asked Sam Renihan the following on Facebook:

In your opinion, what is the relationship between the Republicationist view of the Mosaic Covenant and the Coxe/Owen view of the Mosaic Covenant? Same? Similar with some differences? or Different altogether? In other words, can I agree with one and not the other, or if I agree with one do I automatically agree with the other?
In your opinion, what is the relationship between the Republicationist view of the Mosaic Covenant and the Coxe/Owen view of the Mosaic Covenant? Same? Similar with some differences? or Different altogether?
In other words, can I agree with one and not the other, or if I agree with one do I automatically agree with the other?

Given the last podcast and the interest in this subject I thought Sam Renihan’s reply would be helpful to point out here [note that I wrote out their abbreviations.] Sam’s reply below:


While the majority of Particular Baptists agree that the Mosaic Covenant is a Covenant of Works, how it relates to the original Covenant of Works varies in their thought. Some state in the strongest terms that it IS the original Covenant of Works reapplied to Israel. That would make eternal life possible through the Mosaic Covenant itself, a point that Coxe and Owen would have disagreed with (and I disagree there too). Coxe makes a brief but helpful comment here:

Nehemiah Coxe on the Mosaical Oeconomy


The Mosaic Covenant is a covenant of works, but is not THE Covenant of Works. It republishes Adam’s covenant, but for different ends. I REALLY like the way Isaac Watts puts it (albeit not a Particular Baptist [the Isaac Watts portion is quoted by Isaac Backus who was indeed a Particular Baptist]) here:

Isaac Watts on the Mosaic Covenant

Isaac Watts Orthodoxy and Charity 50


Keach is also more balanced in saying that while the Mosaic Covenant was a covenant of works, it was not intended to give eternal life (and quotes Owen in support):

Benjamin Keach on the covenant of works with Israel

 Keach Everlasting Covenant 8

Abraham Booth also calls the Mosaic Covenant a Covenant of Works but directs it to life in Canaan:

Tenure in Canaan is not the same as tenure in Christ 

Abraham Booth, Kingdom of Christ, 27


You will get stronger stances from men like John Bunyan, Philip Cary. Christopher Blackwood seems to adopt both (that it’s for “life in Canaan and heaven thereafter”).

Christopher Blackwood on the Old and New Covenants

Christopher Blackwood on the Old Covenant


If you agree with Coxe, you are agreeing that the Mosaic Covenant is a Covenant of Works in subserviency to the Covenant of Grace. It looks back to Adam and forward to Christ. Given that Republication has become such a broad term, you would be subscribing to some of its notions, but in a specific way, not as a whole.

Other sources could be brought into this question. But keep in mind the Particular Baptists common thread to argue that the Abrahamic covenant is a covenant constituting the Jews a national people. They then link the Abrahamic to the Mosaic through circumcision, etc. So most of them are going to see the Mosaic covenant as a further development of a national covenant consisting of national promises in Canaan.

I should also mention that the subserviency mentioned by the authors above is not promoting “The Subservient Covenant” view. Bolton argued for that view because the Mosaic Covenant was neither a covenant of grace or covenant of works. It was a tertius quid, a subservient covenant. That’s close to the views of Coxe/Owen/Keach but needs to be distinguished from them based on the fact that these authors will indeed call it a covenant of works.


[source: Facebook]

The Faulty Covenant & Better Covenant – Particular Voices



In the latest post from Sam Renihan at Particular Voices, an anonymous Particular Baptist borrows one of John Owen’s arguments to show how the new covenant is distinct from the old.

…though many of Israel that were under this Covenant went to Heaven, yet there was not one of them that went to Heaven by virtue of this Covenant, but by virtue of the Covenant of Grace; if this Covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second; this Covenant is a better Covenant, established on better Promises; Promises That God will write his Law in their Hearts, that he will forgive their Iniquities, and remember their Sins no more. If these are the better Promises that the New Covenant is established upon, then they were not in the first, for if these Promises had been in the first Covenant, that Covenant would have been as good as the second, and the same Promises would have been as good in the first Covenant as in the second…

Read the rest of this post here.


The End is Better than the Beginning – Robert Purnell – Particular Voices

Although the loss was great when Adam fell, the blessings gained for us by Christ far surpass what was lost. Robert Purnell comments on the superiority of the Second Adam in this post from Particular Voices, which can be read here.



Richard Barcellos has written a greatly edifying book concerning these things, entitled Better than the Beginning: Creation in Biblical Perspective.

Listen to our podcast interview with him here:

Abraham Booth on the Two Kingdoms – Particular Voices

Software: Microsoft Office

What is the kingdom of Christ? Where does it come from? What does it look like on earth? What is its relation to the many kingdoms of this world? The answers to these questions are still a topic of much debate in some circles. In this post from Particular Voices, Abraham Booth comments on Christ’s claim that His “kingdom is not of this world.”

You can read what Booth has to say about Christ’s kingdom here.


More from Abraham Booth:


More on the Two Kingdoms:

In Defense of Hercules Collins – Steve Weaver

So we all had a good laugh at Hercules Collins “…less persuasive arguments for credobaptism…” posted at Particular Voices. The quote was from Francis Mence’s “Vindiciae Foederis” and it turns out that Francis Mence was known to misrepresent Hercules Collins.


Pastor/Historian Steve Weaver sent us the following:


“In Defense of Hercules”


Last Friday (July 12, 2013) on the exceptional blog “Particular Voices,” a quote from Hercules Collins was posted that on the surface appears to be a quite silly argument for believer’s baptism.



The citation on the blog was actually from a book by an opponent of Collins named Francis Mence. In his Vindiciae Foederis (a paedo-baptist critique of Collins’ writings on baptism), Mence poked fun at Collins statement. Given that Mence was known for misrepresenting Collins (once falsely charging him with believing in the damnation of all children), I decided to see if Collins had indeed said what Mence accused him of. He had. The context of the quotation, however, puts a slightly different light upon the matter.

The original quote was from Believers Baptism from Heaven, published in 1691 (p. 88). It occurs in the midst of a 14 page chapter that contrasts infant and believers baptism in parallel columns.

In context it is one of many examples listed showing that infants can’t do what believers in the New Testament are commanded, implied, or assumed to do when baptized. The select quotation cited by Mence was in contrast to the statement: “Believers rejoice and shew their full Consent when they are baptized, Acts 8.” (see below)

Believers Baptism from Heaven

Notwithstanding his tongue-in-cheek comment, Collins point remains. Infants do not rejoice and show their full consent when baptized, instead their response is largely weeping. Although Collins left himself wide-open to the wisecrack made by Mence about circumcision, his point stands regarding infants being unable to give consent or rejoice (since rejoicing would imply understanding on their part). In context, I don’t think Collins statement was as foolish as it initially seemed. It was only a small part of a much larger argument.

Thanks for the info Pastor Steve!

Steve Weaver Hercules Collins Funny Though

Steve Weaver is pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church. He and his wife Gretta have six children.  He is a graduate of Liberty University (BS, 2002), The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv, 2005) and currently pursuing a PhD in Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The major part of his research and writing is focused on the 17th century British Particular Baptist Hercules Collins (c. 1646-1702).

If you would like to learn more about Pastor Steve you can visit his web blog at: and follow him on Twitter at:


He is also one of the editors of “Devoted to the Service of the Temple”: Persecution, Piety, and Ministry in the Writings of Hercules Collins”, which is a book exploring the spirituality of 17th century Baptist pastor Hercules Collins. In stock at Reformation Heritage Books and available for order from the publisher here.

Friday Funny: Hercules Collins FAIL! “One of the less persuasive arguments for credobaptism…”

Sam Renihan points out a Hercules Collins quote in his blog titled, “One of the less persuasive arguments for credobaptism…”:


Come on Hercules Collins, you can do better than that!

Also, I think that infants did have more reason to weep in the Old Covenant…

[source: Particular Voices]

Perhaps he should have included some pictures in his book:




sad baptism baby

Or better yet, make a meme… I mean, just look how persuasive they are!