Wednesday, November 16, 2011

J. L. Dagg on the Covenant of Works

I’ve been making my way through Greg Nichols’ Covenant Theology: A Reformed and Baptistic Perspective on God’s Covenants (Solid Ground, 2011). One interesting mark of the book is that Nichols does not have a chapter on “The Covenant of Works” in the body of the text but includes this topic in an appendix as “The Adamic Covenant” (pp. 321-358). This got me thinking about how other Baptist theologians have handled this subject. Here is J. L. Dagg’s take:

As the term covenant is sometimes applied to a free promise, in which no condition is stipulated; it is proper to characterize that which was made with Adam as a covenant of works. It was a law, with a penalty affixed. “Of every tree of the garden, thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die” (Gen 2:16-17). No promise was given, that Adam would continue to enjoy the divine favor if he continued obedient; but this may be understood to be clearly implied. Whether higher favor than he then enjoyed, would have been granted on condition of his persevering in obedience through prescribed term of probation, we are not informed. We have reason to conclude, that a continuance in well-doing, would have received stronger marks of divine approbation according to its progress; and, from what we know of the power of habit, as tending to establish man in virtue or vice, (a tendency which it has, because God has so willed it) the conjecture is not improbable, that, had Adam preserved in his obedience, he would, after a time, have been confirmed in holiness. But, where the Scriptures are silent, we should not frame conjectures to make them articles of faith.

Manual of Theology (The Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1857): p. 145

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