Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Francis Turretin on the topic of Formal Republication within the Mosaic Covenant

However, we recognize only two covenants mutually distinct in species (to wit, the covenant of works, which promises life to the doer; and the covenant of grace, which promises salvation to believers). Although we confess that the Sinaitic covenant as to mode of dispensation was different from both, still as to substance and species we deny that it constituted a third covenant and hold that it was nothing else than a new economy of the covenant of grace. It was really the same with the covenant made with Abraham, but different as to accidents and circumstances (to wit, clothed as to external dispensation with the form of a covenant of works through the harsh promulgation of the law; not indeed with that design, so that a covenant of works might again be demanded with the sinner [for this is impossible], but that a daily recollection and reproaching of the violated covenant of works might be made; thus the Israelites felt their sin and the curse of God besides hanging over them and acknowledged the impossibility of a legal righteousness; driven away from that hope, they so much the more ardently thirsted for the righteousness of redemption and were led along by the hand to Christ), Hence in it there was a mixture of the law and the gospel: the former to strike terror into sinners and press upon them the neck of the stiff-necked (schlerotragelou) people; the latter to lift up and console the conscience contrite and overpowered by a sense of sin.

[Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology (trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison Jr.; Phillipsburg, P&R publishing, 1994), 2: 263]

Here we see Francis Turretin teach a formal pedagogical republication of the Covenant of Works in the Mosaic Covenant, as well as the Law/ Gospel distinction.


David Rothstein said...

I am not sure that his use of the term "form" proves your case. By definition a "formal republication" of the covenant of works is an *essential* republication (because matter plus form equals essence, right?) whereas a material republication is not. But Turretin here is *denying* an essential republication and, on the contrary, insisting that the connection to the CoW is in fact accidental. (In the form/essence dichotomy, form is accidental.) Thus, his position is actually material republication (I think) despite his terminology.

PuritanReformed said...


No, by definition, a "form" is not matter. The form/matter distinction is, in Aristotelian terms, the substance/ accident distinction. "Substance" = "Matter"/ "Essence"; "Form" = "Accident."

Turretin's position is thus formal republication, not essential republication. Turretin is a Reformed scholastic, and thus he defines "form" scholastically.

David Rothstein said...

Daniel, Thanks for your response. But I did not say that form is matter. Let me try again: If the matter of the covenant of works (i.e., the moral law) is present and the form of the covenant of works is also present then the covenant of works is essentially present in the Mosaic covenant. But Turretin is clear that he did believe that. Rather, he argues that the Mosaic covenant is essentially the covenant of grace, albeit, "clothed with the form of the covenant of works," meaning that the connection with the covenant of works is accidental, not substantial (or essential).

PuritanReformed said...


the matter IN the Covenant of Works (i.e. the Law) is the same in the Mosaic Administration as in the Adamic Administration. But the matter OF the Covenant of Works (i.e. the substance of the covenant) is different from the Mosaic Covenant.

That is why Material Republication is the material republication of the Law IN the Covenant, NOT material republication OF the Covenant. We do not and should not hold to a Material Republication OF the Covenant of Works in the Mosaic Covenant, for that would be to say that the substance of the Mosaic Covenant is works-salvation.

Prepositions are important, and precision matters. The matter IN the covenant of works is present, but the matter OF the covenant of works is not present in the Mosaic Administration.

David Rothstein said...

Daniel, I agree of course that prepositions are important, but in this case it looks to me like you've created a distinction w/o a difference. Are you aware of any Reformed scholastics making this particular distinction?

Following is what I take to be a fairly typical example of form/matter language (from The Marrow of Modern Divinity, chapter one, emphasis mine):

Nom. But, sir, you said, that the law of the ten commandments, or moral law, may be said to be the matter of the law of works; and you have also said, that the law of works is as much as to say the covenant of works, whereby it seems to me, you hold that the law of the ten commandments was the matter of the covenant of works, which God made with all mankind in Adam before his fall.

Evan. That is a truth agreed upon by all authors and interpreters that I know. And indeed the law of works [as a learned author says] signifies the moral law; and the moral law, strictly and properly taken, signifies the covenant of works.

Nom. But, sir, what is the reason you call it but the matter of the covenant of works?

Evan. The reason why I rather choose to call the law of the ten commandments the matter of the covenant of works, than the covenant itself, is, because I conceive that the matter of it cannot properly be called the covenant of works, except the form be put upon it; that is to say, except the Lord require, and man undertake to yield perfect obedience thereunto, upon condition of eternal life and death.

And therefore, till then, it was not a covenant of works betwixt God and all mankind in Adam; as, for example, you know, that although a servant have an ability to do a master's work, and though a master have wages to bestow upon him for it; yet is there not a covenant betwixt them till they have thereupon agreed. Even so, though a man at the first had power to yield perfect and perpetual obedience to all the ten commandments, and God had an eternal life to bestow upon him; yet was there not a covenant betwixt them till they were thereupon agreed.

PuritanReformed said...


yes, it is confusing. To some extent, I wish the discussion could be clearer.

The "matter of the covenant of works" can be interpreted as either an objective genitive ("matter in the covenant of works") or a subjective genitive ("the covenant matter of the covenant of works"). The former I affirm, the latter I deny.

It seems to me that, assuming your quote is correct, "Evan" is equivocating on the term "matter" and the entire phrase. It is manifestly unhelpful when meanings switch in the middle of sentences.