We are still examining the allegation of MM concerning the instability that arises from seeing both works and grace in the Mosaic covenant. Not only does seeing a works principle in the context of the post-Fall Mosaic covenant cause a dangerous theological instability, the authors argue, but such an interpretation of the Mosaic covenant is “a clear departure from the confessional conception of the Mosaic covenant as a pure covenant of grace in its substance” (MM 100, emphasis added). On this reading, the WCF explicitly rules out of bounds anyone who does not agree with them that the Mosaic covenant is a “pure” covenant of grace. This is precisely what they claim:
The Standards are consistent in maintaining the gracious character and nature of the covenant of grace in every epoch, which, by definition, excludes any element of meritorious obedience (MM 99).
But by this standard, a good number of Reformed theologians, widely recognized as orthodox, would be excluded—not just Kline. I hope to demonstrate that point by means of a few quotes from representative Reformed theologians below. I am not claiming that all of these Reformed theologians held to Kline’s precise formulations. Kline himself would not agree with every nuance or way of putting things. He would likely want to word things differently or introduce additional biblical-theological frameworks (especially his two-layer metaphor and his own concept of typology). I’m not claiming these theologians were Klineans before Kline. In fact, these theologians do not even agree with each other in every particular. However, they do think that the works principle originally seen in the pre-Fall covenant of works is in some way republished in the Mosaic economy. Therefore, MM’s narrow interpretation of the Westminster Confession cannot be correct if it would exclude and cast out these men from the circle of Reformed orthodoxy.
Amandus Polanus would be cast out, since he thought the Mosaic covenant was a repetition of the Adamic covenant of works:
The covenant of works is that in which God promiseth everlasting life unto a man that in all respects performeth perfect obedience to the law of works, adding thereunto threatenings of eternal death, if he shall not perform perfect obedience thereto. God made this covenant in the beginning with the first man Adam, whilst he was in the first estate of integrity: the same covenant God did repeat and make again by Moses with the people of Israel (quoted in The Marrow of Modern Divinity, 59).
Samuel Bolton would be cast out, since he thought the Mosaic covenant was neither a covenant of grace nor a covenant of works but a subservient covenant:
If it be neither a covenant of works, nor a covenant of grace, then must it of necessity be a third kind of covenant: and it must needs be such a covenant as does not stand in opposition to grace, nor is inconsistent with the covenant of grace .... Hence it is called a subservient covenant. It was given by way of subserviency to the Gospel and a fuller revelation of the covenant of grace (The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, Puritan Paperbacks, 99).
Thomas Boston would be cast out, since he thought both the covenant of grace and the covenant of works were delivered on Mount Sinai:
Wherefore I conceive the two covenants to have been both delivered on Mount Sinai to the Israelites. First, the covenant of grace made with Abraham, contained in the preface, repeated and promulgated there unto Israel, to be believed and embraced by faith, that they might be saved; to which were annexed the ten commandments, given by the Mediator Christ, the head of the covenant, as a rule of life to his covenant people.
Secondly, the covenant of works made with Adam, contained in the same ten commands, delivered with thunderings and lightnings, the meaning of which was afterwards cleared by Moses, describing the righteousness of the law and the sanctions thereof, repeated and promulgated to the Israelites there, as the original perfect rule of righteousness, to be obeyed (Boston’s notes to The Marrow of Modern Divinity, 56).
Francis Turretin would be cast out, since he didn’t believe the Mosaic covenant was a “pure” covenant of grace. He thought it was a covenant of grace, to be sure, albeit one administered under a rigid legal economy that included a new promulgation of the covenant of works:
It pleased God to administer the covenant of grace in this period under a rigid legal economy .... A twofold relation ought always to obtain: the one legal, more severe, through which by a new promulgation of the law and of the covenant of works ... he wished to set forth what men owed and what was to be expected by them on account of duty unperformed. In this respect, the law is called the letter that kills (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, P&R edition, 2.227).
Herman Witsius would be cast out, since he didn’t believe the Mosaic covenant was either a covenant of grace or a covenant of works, but a national covenant of sincere piety that supposed both:
What was it then? It was a national covenant between God and Israel, whereby Israel promised to God a sincere obedience to all his precepts, especially to the ten words; God, on the other hand, promised to Israel, that such an observance would be acceptable to him, nor want its reward, both in this life, and in that which is to come, both as to soul and body. This reciprocal promise supposed a covenant of grace .... It also supposed the doctrine of the covenant of works, the terror or which being increased by those tremendous signs that attended it, they ought to have been excited to embrace that covenant of God. This agreement therefore is a consequent both of the covenant of grace and of works; but was formally neither the one nor the other .... If any should ask me, of what kind, whether of works or of grace? I shall answer, it is formally neither: but a covenant of sincere piety, which supposes both (Economy of the Covenants, P&R edition, 2.186).
I could go on with many more quotes from orthodox Reformed theologians who thought the works principle of the Adamic covenant was repeated in some way in the Mosaic economy, but these are sufficient to make my point. These theologians did not all agree on the precise way in which they saw the works principle in the Mosaic economy, but they surely did see it there somehow. This contradicts the claim of the authors of MM that their view of the Mosaic covenant is the only permissible view. They claim that “the blessings and the curses of the law in the Mosaic covenant do not function in any way as a covenant of works” (MM 95, emphasis added). But many sound, orthodox, mainstream Reformed theologians thought the blessings and curses of the Mosaic covenant did function in some way as a covenant of works. The above quotes prove that they did not agree with the position of MM that the covenant of works can only exist pre-Fall and can never be seen as republished in any way in the post-Fall Mosaic economy.
It is ironic that the extreme position advocated by MM banishes even their beloved Turretin along with Kline from the circle of orthodoxy. For even Turretin, who viewed the Sinai law covenant as, in itself, an administration of the covenant of grace (which is not something Kline would be able to say), recognized that “it pleased God to administer the covenant of grace in this period under a rigid legal economy” that included within it “a new promulgation of the law and of the covenant of works.”