Saturday, February 13, 2016

The covenant of works, or of the law, is this..." - Dickson and Durham

The Sum of Saving Knowledge, written by David Dickson and James Durham, uses "covenant of works" and "law" interchangeably when considering the "chief general use of Christian doctrine." Dickson, along with two others, was also appointed by the Scottish Kirk to write the Directory of Publick Worship. This treatise (Sum of...) was bound together and originally published with the Westminster Standards in 1650 as an explanation of the doctrines found in the Standards and it continued to be published together at least well into the 19th century. It was universally accepted as orthodox. Although never reaching official confession status, it was considered an accurate exposition of Christian doctrine as found in the Westminster Confessional Standards at the time of the first publication of those standards and still so today.
THE chief general use of Christian doctrine is, to convince a man of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, John xvi. 8, partly by the law or covenant of works, that he may be humbled and become penitent; and partly by the gospel or covenant of grace, that he may become an unfeigned believer in Jesus Christ, and be strengthened in his faith upon solid grounds and warrants, and give evidence of the truth of his faith by good fruits, and so be saved.
The sum of the covenant of works, or of the law, is this: "If thou do all that is commanded, and not fail in any point, thou shalt be saved: but if thou fail, thou shalt die." Rom. x. 5. Gal. iii 10, 12.
The sum of the gospel, or covenant of grace and reconciliation, is this: "If thou flee from deserved wrath to the true Redeemer Jesus Christ, (who is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God through him,) thou shalt not perish, but "have eternal life." Rom. x. 8, 9, 11.
For convincing a man of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment by the law, or covenant of works, let these scriptures, among many more, be made use of...


  1. I don't think we need to speculate about Adam's ability t in order to maintain the justice of the imputation of guilt to Adam's children. Law is not based on ability. It's Pelagian to say that law given means ability given. So why that law to Adam is "only possible" if Adam "could have". In other words, no should have without "could have". This is not to get into a discussion about Adam before the fall, but to question the linking of justice to ability.

    Scott Clark---"The covenant of works was possible, on the Augustinian and Reformed scheme, precisely and only because Adam was still in his original state of integrity, righteousness, and holiness. In the Augustinian and Reformed view, after the fall, Adam and we in him became spiritually dead in sin and entirely unable and unwilling to “do this and live."

    1. Clark is stating standard orthodox Reformed doctrine. If you disagree, then you disagree.