Publication of the Postlapsarian Covenant of Works

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Puritan Board Doctor
Robert Lewis Dabney said this about the status of the Covenant of Works after Adam's transgression:

The obvious statement is this: The transgression has indeed terminated the sinner’s right to the sanction of reward; but it has not terminated his obligation to obey, nor to the penal sanction.

Is there - rather than a Republication of the Prelapsarian Covenant of Works in Moses- a Publication of the Postlapsarian Covenant of Works in Moses?


Staff member
Read James Durham's little response on this from pages 53 to 55 in his Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments. It is really good. He did mention that we keep building up wrath if we are under the Condemnation of the Covenant of Works. But he did not believe that the Covenant of Works was reconstituted in the Mosaic. That is my brief understanding of it.

I am also doing some work on around Galatians 3:17 to Galatians 4:7. I will give you more of a heads up on this later. I do not see any Covenant of Works in this passage. I will explain more later. I do plainly see the whole Mosaic Covenant being referenced. It is kind of reminding me of the book of Hebrews.


Puritan Board Doctor
I think since the CoW, in the sense explained by Dabney, still stands since the Fall, the exposition of the CoW is part of the Gospel and part of the CoG, but the encouragement of people to seek salvation by the CoW is never part of the Gospel.

I don't believe that the people of Israel were encouraged to seek typological Heaven in the Land by a CoW, because, apart from anything else, the type is meant to correspond to the reality, and this would cause spiritual confusion in their hearts and minds.

The transgression has indeed terminated the sinner’s right to the sanction of reward;
This means that the continued and prosperous tenure in the Land by the Israelites could only be by grace through faith.

but it has not terminated his obligation to obey,
The moral law which was the (ultimate) moral standard of the CoW was published at Sinai.

nor to the penal sanction.
The typological penal sanction of the CoW - which would fall on the Israelites collectively in being excluded from the Land, and individually in the peculiar use of the death penalty in Moses - was applied when individuals or the nation neglected God's grace revealed to them in Moses.

The CoW - as explained by Dabney - still stood after the Fall, but could only be picked up by Christ, not by the Israelites, and the Lord didn't instruct the Israelites to pick it up, because it was only hypothetically available to them, being sinners.

We have similar things going on in the New Testament except the types of the childhood Church are removed.

I am also doing some work on around Galatians 3:17 to Galatians 4:7. I will give you more of a heads up on this later. I do not see any Covenant of Works in this passage. I will explain more later. I do plainly see the whole Mosaic Covenant being referenced. It is kind of reminding me of the book of Hebrews.

I've now read Venema on The Law is not of Faith which was very enlightening. I've never got round to reading the whole of TLNF, but I should sometime DV.


Staff member

Here is James Durham on this topic. I will let him speak.

Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments
James Durham
The Covenant of Works and the Law
pp. 52-55

Our purpose is not to aim at any great accuracy, nor to multiply questions and digressions, nor to insist in application and use, but plainly and shortly (as we are able) to give you the meaning of the law of God. 1. By holding forth the native duties required in every commandment. 2. The sins which properly oppose and contradict each commandment, that by these we may have some direction and help in duty, and some spur to repentance, at least a furtherance in the work of conviction, that so by it we may be led to Christ Jesus, who is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes (Rom. 10:4), which is the principal intent of this law, as it was given to Israel.

To make way for the exposition, we shall:
I. Lay down some conclusions, which arise from the preface.
II. Give you some ordinary distinctions.
III. Clear and confirm some rules or observations useful for understanding of the whole law.

1. The first conclusion that we take for granted is, that this law (as it is moral) ties even Christians and believers now, as well as of old. Which appears from this, that he who is God the Lawgiver here, Acts 7:38, is the Angel Christ, and it is his word, as is clear, vs. 30-31. As also, the matter of it being connatural to Adam, it did bind before the law was given, and that obligatory force cannot be separated from its nature (though the exercise of right reason in nature be much obliterated since the fall). Therefore Christ was so fa4r from destroying this law in its authority, and Paul so far from making it void by the doctrine of faith, that our Lord tells, he came to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17), and Paul shows that his preaching of faith was to establish it (Rom. 3:31). Which truth being confirmed by them both in their practice and doctrine shows that the breach of the holy law of God is no less sinful to us now, than it was to them before us.

The second conclusion is, that though this law (and obedience thereto) lie on Christians, and be called for from them, yet it is not laid on them as a Covenant of Works, or that by which they are to seek or expect justification. No, but on the contrary, to overturn self-righteousness, by this doctrine, which manifest sin, and of itself works wrath. Which is also clear, in that he is here called, Our God, which he cannot be to sinners but by his grace. And also it appears from the Lord’s owning of this sinful people as his, and his adjoining to this law so many ceremonies and sacrifices with point out and lead to Christ; and from his adding the law on mount Sinai, as a help to the covenant made with Abraham (Gen. 17 – which was a covenant of grace, and was never altered as to its substance), in which the people of Israel, as his seed, was comprehended. Therefore it appears that this was never the Lord’s intent in covenanting thus with his people, that they should expect righteousness and life by the adjoined law, but only that it should be useful in the hand of grace to make the former covenant with Abraham effectual. So then, though we are bound to obey the law, we are not to seek righteousness or life by the duties therein enjoined.

Skipping page 54 to section II on the bottom of the page.

II. These conclusions being laid down as necessary caveats, we shall propose these distinctions for clearing of them.

1. We would distinguish between a law and a covenant, or between this law considered as a law, and as a covenant. A law does necessarily imply no more than: (1) To direct. (2) To command, enforcing that obedience by authority. A covenant does further necessarily imply promises made upon some condition, or threatenings added, if such a condition is not performed. Now, this law may be considered without the consideration of a covenant, for it was free to God to have added or not to have added promises, and the threatenings (upon supposition that the law had been kept) might never have taken effect. But the first two are essential to the law; the last two are made void to believers through Christ. In which sense it is said, that by him we are freed from the law as a covenant, so that believers’ lives depend not on the promises annexed to the law, nor are they in danger by the threatenings adjoined to it. Hence we are to advert, when the covenant of works is spoken of, that by it is not meant this law simply, but the law propounded as the condition of obtaining life by the obedience of it, in which respect it was only so formally given to Adam. This then is the first distinction between the law and the Covenant of Works.

2. [We would] distinguish between these ten commandments simply and strictly taken in the matter of them, and more complexly in their full administration, with preface, promises, sacrifices, etc. In the first sense they are a law having the matter, but not the form of the covenant of works. So Moses by it is said to describe such righteousness as the covenant of works requires, yet he does not propound it as the righteousness they were to rely on, but his scope is to put them to a Mediator, by revealing sin through the law (Rom. 10:3). In the second sense it is a covenant of grace, that same in substance with the covenant made with Abraham, and with the covenant made with believers now, but differing in its administration.

3. [We would] distinguish between God’s intention in giving and the believers in Israel, their making use of this law; and the carnal multitude among that people, their way of receiving it, and corrupt abusing it contrary to the Lord’s mind. In the first sense, it was a covenant of grace. In the second it turned to be a covenant of works to them. And therefore it is that the Lord rejects (as we may see, Isa. 1:13; 66:2-3; Jer. 7:22) their sacrifices and services as not commanded, because rested on by them, to the prejudice of grace, and contrary to the strain and scope of this law complexly considered.I

Rich Barcellos

Puritan Board Freshman
foul, Mr. Moderator!
4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (Gal*4:4-5*NAU). "I am far from thinking that the mount Sinai dispensation was a covenant of works to Israel, as if the design and intention of God therein had been to afford eternal life to Israel upon their own doing; but yet it is called the law, Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:10, 13, 17, even in way of opposition to the promise, verse 12, yea, verse 8, God preached before the gospel to Abraham. Here the covenant with Abraham is expressly called gospel, and that in constradistinction from the very Sinai dispensation, which is called the law; undeniably he speaks of the law, not as given to Adam before the fall, (for then man himself must have been the door for life, and not another for him), but as given at mount Sinai, four hundred and thrity years after that promise to faithful Abraham, verse 17. So that the covenant of grace is rightly distinguished by legal and evangelical, for the Holy Spirit here gives us both parts of the distinction, speaking expressly of that at mount Sinai as one member of it; yea, he makes these so opposite, as he says, verse 12, and the law is not of faith, and so is not the covenant of grace; but yet the Sinai law appertains and refers to it, viz. as holding forth the condition thereof to be fulfilled by Jesus Christ." The Mosaic covenant "n general, ...was a covenant of works, as to be fulfilled by Jesus Christ, but not so to Israel." ~ Samuel Petto. I agree with Petto.

Rich Barcellos

Puritan Board Freshman
Concerning Dabney's statement, praise God that Christ was no sinner and earned the reward of eschatological life for us as the only other public person possible who could have earned such! In Adam, all die. In Christ, all shall be made alive.


Staff member
FOUL? LOL. You are too sensitive you Joker! BTW, you are older than I am. Maybe I should listen to my Elders?

Sorry I am so slow getting back to you. I slept in today. Aint done that in a while. My mind is fresh old man. BEWARE! LOL!!!!

I think James Durham addressed what the law was in the above statement and why it wasn't, "a Covenant of Works," in the Mosaic.

I am going to deal with the passages you quote above in more depth soon (but don't have it done yet). I have with some of them as Roman's 10:5 and Leviticus 18:5. I believe Paul is addressing how the Israelites turned the law into something it wasn't intended on being. As I have noted in a few places, "we can turn the New Covenant into a Covenant of Works if we wanted to even when that is the farthest thing from God's mind." I believe St. Paul is addressing two issues concerning the law and in the broader context reveals that the law exposes the Gospel. Even Jesus and the author of Hebrews states that the gospel was preached in the Mosaic Covenant.

(Luk 24:27) And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

(Joh 5:46) For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
(Joh 5:47) But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

(Heb 4:2)
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
(Heb 4:3)
For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

"I am far from thinking that the mount Sinai dispensation was a covenant of works to Israel, as if the design and intention of God therein had been to afford eternal life to Israel upon their own doing; but yet it is called the law, Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:10, 13, 17, even in way of opposition to the promise, verse 12, yea, verse 8, God preached before the gospel to Abraham. - Samuel Petto

Yes, the Law used as a legal means to obtain a right to something can be considered here. That is precisely the problem that St. Paul is confronting. When the Law is used outside of faith it becomes a task master. But the Law in context with this passage was to be more than something that can dissannul. The following passages reveal this. It is a schoolmaster that was to take the Israelite's somewhere. God gave them circumcision as a sign of His Covenant of Grace toward them. They turned it into an instrument by which something was appropriated instead of a sign and seal of the promises annexed to it. They turned obedience to perform duties into something it wasn't intended to do. Performing duties is good. But the motivation behind those duties can make them null and void. Thus, they did exactly what the law (The Mosaic) in it's function here was not intended to do. They used it in a way that was opposing God's purpose. God's purpose was to make it a schoolmaster that took them to faith by shadows in light of reality. In all reality the Gospel is not opposed to the law or the law opposed to the Gospel. How we use the law is. In fact we are being conformed back into the image that will have us being restored fully into sinless creatures that will reflect the law perfectly again. The Gospel is bringing us back by faith into being what we are going to be. I agree that the law cannot dissannul the promises. But the condemnation that the Covenant revealed was in effect from Adam. Not from the Mosaic. The Mosaic is only something that reveals that Covenant and taught by shadows faith in propitiation and expiation.

The Law is not in opposition to the Gospel and the Gospel establishes the law (Galatians 3.:21 and Romans 3:31) . The Law being in opposition to the Gospel is something that is being presented way too much now days. This is bad thinking in my estimation and an over reaction to the opposite end of the problem presented here in the Galatians (and Hebrews) situation. And NO! I am not a neonomist. The Galatians were being coaxed to turn to circumcision (which is the context of this letter) for justification before God. Fulfilling the rights of passage were being touted as the way one gained favor with God instead of by faith. As I noted above, "Even we can turn the New Covenant into a Covenant of Works." The Church through the centuries has done this with Baptism also. Same situation, different ordinance. The Law being referenced here is not just the Decalogue but the (over 600) commands of ordinances and regulations that were imposed upon the Israelite's. Circumcision being included in that group and the main contention of this letter.

I disagree with Petto and those of his vein of thought now. The Law was intended to be a schoolmaster and it is not in opposition or against the gospel as noted in Galatians. The way the Israelites were using it was. It wasn't intended to do that. The carnal mind just is opposed to faith and submission to the Person and Work of Christ. And Paul is trying to show the real purpose of that Law.

I discuss the Leviticus 18:5 and Romans 10:5 passages in context with something that Patrick Ramsey wrote. I will post Ramsey and if anyone desires they can read my blog comments also in the following link.
Paul’s Use of Lev. 18:5 in Rom. 10:5
Pastor Patrick Ramsey

The following is (I trust) a simple but not simplistic explanation of Paul’s use of Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5.

In 9:30-10:5 Paul explained the reason the Jews did not attain righteousness even though they pursued it. They mistakenly pursued it by works (9:32). Hence, they stumbled over the stumbling stone (9:33). They sought to establish their own righteousness (10:3). Ignorant of the right way to righteousness, although they should have known better, they zealously pursued life on the basis of their own obedience to the law.

In Rom. 10:5 Paul describes this wrong way of pursuing life (righteousness) from the OT, namely Leviticus 18:5 (see also Neh. 9:29; Eze. 20:11, 13, 21): “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.” Now the fact that Paul appeals to Moses to describe the wrong way, or if you will, the Pharisaical way of pursuing righteousness, is somewhat perplexing. As a result, this verse, along with its counterpart in Gal. 3, is quite controversial among commentators and theologians.

Here is the difficulty from three different perspectives. First, in 9:32, Paul had said that the law itself did not teach that righteousness was based on works or obedience to the law. The Jews pursued the law as if it led to righteousness. The Jews, as the NT says elsewhere, misread the OT. And yet Paul seems to be saying in vs. 5 that the OT did in fact teach and exhort the people to pursue life/righteousness by keeping the law. How then can Paul (or the rest of the NT) condemn the Pharisees for seeking righteousness by works if that is what Moses told them to do?

Second, in vs. 8 Paul will quote Deut. 30 and later on he will cite Isaiah and Joel in direct contrast to Lev. 18:5 to describe the right way to find life and righteousness. So then it would seem that Paul pits Moses against Moses and the OT against the OT.

Third, the context of Lev. 18:5 doesn’t seem to support the way Paul uses it in Rom. 10:5. Moses exhorts Israel to keep God’s commandments in the context of redemption and covenant. Verses 1-3 highlight the point that Israel already belongs to God as his redeemed people. These verses are very similar to the prologue to the Ten Commandments, which teaches that salvation precedes obedience. God didn’t give Israel the law so that they might be saved. He saves them so that they might keep the law. In short, the context of Lev. 18:5 speaks against the idea that it teaches legalism or a work-based righteousness. Yet, that is how Paul is using this verse!

Now some have sought to solve this difficulty by saying that there is no actual contrast between verses 5 and 6. The “but” of vs. 6 should be translated “and.” The problem with this, however, is that it doesn’t fit the context of Paul’s argument. The apostle, beginning in 9:30 is contrasting two ways of seeking righteousness—works and faith—and this contrast clearly continues in vs. 5. This is confirmed by the fact that Paul speaks of works righteousness or righteousness based on law elsewhere (Gal. 3; Phil. 3:9) in a negative way.

So then how are we to understand what Paul is saying in vs. 5 (and in Gal. 3)? Well, Paul is citing Lev. 18:5 according to how it was understood by the Jews of his day; and no doubt how he understood it before his conversion. The Jews of Paul’s day saw obedience to the law (which included laws pertaining to the atonement of sins) as the source of life and as the basis of salvation. Keeping the law was the stairway to heaven. The way to have your sins forgiven and to be accepted by God was to observe the law. Lev. 18:5 provided biblical support for this Pharisaical position. And it is not hard to see why they would appeal to this verse since it says that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.

In Rom. 10:6ff Paul refutes this works-based righteousness position including the Jewish appeal to Lev. 18:5. Now he doesn’t do it in the way you or I might think of doing it. We might tend to respond to the Pharisee and say: “Look, you have completely misunderstood what Moses is saying in Lev. 18:5. The specific and general context of that verse indicates that your interpretation is incorrect…” Instead, Paul uses a technique that was quite common in his day. He counters their interpretation of Lev. 18:5 by citing another passage: Deut. 30:12-14. In other words, Paul is saying that Deut. 30 demonstrates that the Jewish understanding of Lev. 18:5 is incorrect. We of course sometimes use this type of argument today. For example, some people today appeal to James 2 to prove that we need to obey the law in order to be justified. One way to disprove that interpretation would be to cite Paul in Romans or Galatians. So Paul is not pitting Moses against Moses in vv. 5-6 or saying that Moses taught salvation by works. Rather the apostle is using one Mosaic passage to prove that the legalistic interpretation of another Mosaic passage is wrong.

The Mosaic Covenant, same in substance as the New? - Blogs - The PuritanBoard

(Gal 3:11) But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

(Gal 3:12) And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

(Gal 3:13) Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

(Gal 3:14) That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

(Gal 3:15) Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.

(Gal 3:16) Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

(Gal 3:17) And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

(Gal 3:18) For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

(Gal 3:19) Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

(Gal 3:20) Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

(Gal 3:21) Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

(Gal 3:22) But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

(Gal 3:23) But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

(Gal 3:24) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

(Rom 3:27) Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

(Rom 3:28) Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

(Rom 3:29) Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

(Rom 3:30) Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

(Rom 3:31) Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
I am raising more questions and making statements about the Mosaic Covenant and this topic over here.

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Puritan Board Doctor
I agree that no-man can be saved by keeping the CoW, and that there was no confusing typological lesson for the children of Israel about prosperous tenure in the land being obtained by works, but rather by grace producing faith producing works which were in turn graciously rewarded.

But if we go to a lost eternity it is because of breaking the Covenant of Works, and if we have been in the administration of the CoG and have neglected that grace, this just exaggerates our sin of breaking the CoW (?)

Was this presented in a special way to the Israelites?

The CoG involves a gracious presentation of the post-Fall status of the CoW in order to lead people to Christ.

(a) The moral law has to be presented.

(b) The hypothetical nature of the CoW for almost all men -apart from Christ - has to be presented.

(c) The penalty for sin (breaking the CoW) has to be presented in the CoG.

How was this done under Moses, and how is is this done in the NT?

This may be the door that the Republicationists are knocking on in an erroneous manner (?)
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