Reformed theology is covenantal, but many modern Baptists are not. What about the Baptists of generations past? Were they covenantal? Did the seventeenth century Particular Baptists believe in the covenant of works? 

Covenant theology is an indispensable distinctive of Reformed theology, historically associated with it such that the two are inseparable. It coheres in the very system of theology, as B. B. Warfield asserted, who called covenant theology the “architectonic principle” of the Westminster Confession and its theology.[1] Samuel Renihan points out that it was the outgrowth of the Reformed understanding of the law and the gospel.[2] He asserts that “at the heart of the Reformation was an inviolable contrast between the law and the gospel as two opposing paths to a right standing with God.”[3] Renihan demonstrates that the basic construct of the law-gospel antithesis as two opposing principles in the way of justification came to redemptive-historical expression and dogmatic formulation through the covenants of works and grace.[4] The covenant of works represents the way of righteousness based on the principle of works. The covenant of grace is the way of righteousness based on the principle of grace, entailing the vicarious fulfillment of righteousness imputed through faith alone. Though diverse Reformed divines formulated the specifics of these covenants in diverse ways, the fundamental law-gospel rubric remained basically the same, characterizing Reformed theology as a whole.[5] It is part and parcel of what it means to be Reformed.

The Particular Baptists of seventeenth century England inherited and accepted this basic framework.[6] Notwithstanding, the question has sometimes arisen as to whether they believed in the Adamic covenant of works as formulated by the consensus of Reformed divines in the 17th Century.[7] Considering the integral unity that the dogmatic construct of the covenant of works has with the Reformed system of thought, this issue is pertinent to the contemporary Baptist movement that identifies with Reformed theology. Did their forefathers among the Particular Baptists affirm the Reformed construct of the covenant of works? If so, what did they affirm about it? In interaction with these issues, this paper argues that the Particular Baptists during the period of High Orthodoxy in seventeenth century England[8] embraced the Reformed orthodox view of the Adamic covenant of works along with its dogmatic implications with no significant alteration.

The Covenant of Works Defined

As we proceed, a working definition of the Reformed view of the covenant of works would be helpful. The question, after all, is not merely whether the Particular Baptists positively affirmed the phrase “covenant of works.”[9] While that is pertinent, the absence of this phrase would not necessarily constitute a negation of the concept, and the presence of it does not necessarily mean that they understood it in the same way as others who used it. What is pertinent is whether they affirmed not only the phrase but the particular theological concepts that inhere in that phrase as understood and confessed by their Reformed contemporaries.

The Reformed position is summarized in The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 7 and the most pertinent section is paragraphs 1–3, which reads as follows:

I. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he has been pleased to express by way of covenant.


II. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

III. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace…

Though the theology underlying these paragraphs is profound, for practical purposes we can summarize the basic theological concepts that inhere in them as:

[1.] Voluntary divine condescension (WCF 7.1). This covenant relationship does not make God a debtor to man. The Creator/creature antithesis remains intact. God sovereignly and mercifully condescended to enter into this covenant with man.

[2.] Condition of works to receive reward of eternal life (WCF 7.2). To attain to the “reward” (7.1) and to the promised eternal life (7.2), man must keep the law personally and perfectly.

[3.] Adam’s federal headship (WCF 7.2). Adam represented all his posterity who descend from him by ordinary generation and his obedience or lack thereof is imputed to them (see 6.1–3).

[4.] Impossibility of salvation by this broken covenant (WCF 7.3). Since Adam violated this covenant, it is impossible to be fulfilled by those under his federal representation, and now the only way of salvation is through the covenant of grace.[11]

Basing ourselves on this functional definition, we will survey some of the Particular Baptist’s most influential writings to ascertain whether they affirmed the Reformed view of the covenant of works as summarized in these concepts. The following discussion is organized under headings that respectively correspond to each of the aforementioned four points.[12]

Voluntary Divine Condescension (WCF 7.1)

In the Reformed system of thought the transcendence of God is paramount. Thus, the possibility of man’s attaining to the blessedness of communion with God and the reward of eternal life can never be based on creaturely merit alone, because such would make God, in the words of Ursinus, “a debtor to man” (see Rom. 4:4).[13] Man’s perfect obedience cannot oblige God’s reward because keeping the law is nothing more than the necessary duty that man owes to his Creator (Luke 17:10). Calvin comments, “Indeed, we do not deny that the law of God contains perfect righteousness. For even though, because we are bound to perform everything it requires, we should have yielded full obedience to it, still ‘we are unprofitable servants.’”[14] Therefore, works of supererogation are excluded (see WCF 16:4).[15] The covenant of works is foundational to this concept. God’s sovereign prerogative and gracious condescension to initiate the covenant of works was a lynchpin in the Reformed construct of the doctrine, safeguarding their theological system from all forms of nomism (and consequently from the implications such nomism would have for the doctrine of justification).[16] This seems foundational to the Reformed construct of covenant, going all the way back to Augustine.[17]

If the Particular Baptists are to uphold the covenant of works as taught by the consensus of the Reformed, we would expect them to uphold this underlying graciousness of the covenant. This is precisely what we find in 2LCF 7.1, which adopts the verbatim wording of WCF 7.1. Given the literary interaction between the Particular Baptists and the Reformed during the seventeenth century along with their extensive quoting of Reformed sources, it is fair to assume the Baptists were fully aware of the Reformed understanding of this concept and adopted it with this conscientious and intentional knowledge in mind.[18]

Baptist leader Nehemiah Coxe confirms this. He defines a divine-human covenant as, “A declaration of his sovereign pleasure concerning the benefits he will bestow on them, the communion they will have with him, and the way and means by which this will be enjoyed by them.”[19] This definition includes the covenant of works, which Coxe expounds upon in the proceeding context of the following chapter of his work. Thus, the covenant of works is by God’s “sovereign pleasure.” He clarifies,

“It implies a free and sovereign act of the divine will exerted in condescending love and goodness. It is not from any necessity of nature that God enters into covenant with men but of his own good pleasure…for the Lord does not owe to man the good promised in any covenant he makes with him previously; but his first right in it is freely given to him by the promise of the covenant.”[20]

Coxe is unequivocal—the covenant of works is set within the framework of God’s unconstrained and undeserved goodness.[21]

This principle of gracious condescension undergirds God’s covenant with the first Adam and his covenant with the last Adam. By undergirding the first divine-human covenant, the same principle underlies all of God’s covenant transactions with man, including the covenant of grace. This principle establishes a logical-theological basis for viewing all of God’s transactions with man as gracious. Hence Benjamin Keach applies it to the redemptive condescension of the Son in the incarnation and the condescension of the Spirit in the church. “Now these are free and voluntary Acts, depending upon the sovereign Will, Counsel, and Pleasure of God, and might not have been without the least diminution of his Eternal Blessedness.”[22] If the bond of communion between God and upright man in the covenant of works cannot be based on obliged or meritorious necessity of nature, much less can the bond of communion forged between the triune God and hell-deserving sinners in the covenant of grace.[23] The covenant theology of the Particular Baptists is a sovereign grace theology.

Condition of Works to Receive Reward of Eternal Life (WCF 7.2)

The covenant of works includes a promise of eternal life that God implicitly communicated through the imperative not to partake of the forbidden tree (Gen. 2:16-17).[24] The fruition of this promise was conditional. To receive the promised eternal life, it was incumbent that man perfectly obey the law of God, which included both the moral law (inscribed on man’s heart) and the positive stipulation concerning the tree of knowledge (communicated through verbal special revelation).[25] This means the promised reward was conditional—it depended on man’s obedience.[26] This contingency upon personal works as the condition of the covenant’s reward means the covenant is essentially one of works and stands juxtaposed in antithetical contrast to the covenant of grace, which contains no such condition.

Nehemiah Coxe teaches all this quite clearly in his Discourse of the Covenants. To relate this to our previous heading, it bears mentioning that he differentiates between the nature of the reward for keeping the law and the nature of the punishment for breaking the law. The objection may arise that if the reward or punishment is based on works, how can the covenant be due to God’s gracious condescension? Coxe says, “For the reward is of sovereign bounty and goodness” but the punishment ensues as “a debt to justice and results immediately from the nature of sin with reference to God.”[27] The reward for obedience was not necessary but proceeds from God’s goodness; the punishment for man’s disobedience is necessary, and proceeds from God’s justice. The reward of life does not make God a debtor to man and the punishment for disobedience does not make God arbitrary or unjust in meting it out. Strict merit-based justice applies to the penal sanction of God’s just judgment for violating the law, not to the reward as such.[28]

Coxe speaks of the state in which Adam stood to God due to God’s relationship to him by way of covenant: “This state was a trial in a way to eternal happiness under a law of works and an exercise of obedience which we cannot conceive of except for the purpose of some reward and highest end.”[29] Coxe says the tree of life was a sacramental sign, ordained by God to confirm the promised reward of the covenant. It testified to “that eternal life which Adam would have obtained by his own personal and perfect obedience to the law of God if he had continued in it.”[30] This covenantal arrangement had an eschatologically-oriented trajectory that would have resulted in an escalated and intensified reward if Adam had persevered in obedience to the conditions of the covenant. “He was capable of and made for a greater degree of happiness than he immediately enjoyed.”[31] This is evident from a number of factors, including not only Adam’s original state of mutability and the sacramental sign-significance of the tree, but also from the “natural inclination of men” whereby they “expect a reward of future blessedness for their obedience,” the allusion of Christ to the reward of the tree of life in Revelation 2:7, and the implicit eschatological orientation of the sabbath ordinance for Adam’s “eternal rest.”[32]

Other Particular Baptist authors also speak of the conditional reward of life. Keach describes the covenant of works as saying, “Do this and live,” which he interprets to mean that perfect obedience to the law results in the reward of eternal life.[33] Philip Cary quotes John Owen approvingly, suggesting that he (along with Particular Baptists William Kiffin, John Harris, Richard Adams, Robert Steed, and Benjamin Keach) accepted Owen’s theology of the covenant of works: “The whole entire Nature, (saith Dr. Owen) of the Covenant of Works, consisted in this; That upon our Personal Obedience, according unto the Law and Rule of it, we should be Accepted with God, and Rewarded with him.” Cary declares, “Herein the Essence of it did consist.”[34]

Adam’s Federal Headship (WCF 7.2)

Though Calvin never used the explicit terminology “covenant of works,” Douglas Kelly points out that “he firmly taught the solidarity of all mankind in fallen Adam.”[35] The Westminster Assembly further developed his theology into the full flower of the seventeenth century Reformed doctrine of the covenant of works and as they did so, the federal headship of Adam retained a prominent place. The Reformed view is well summarized by Witsius, who explains that the federal headship of Adam goes beyond the common human nature he shares with his posterity but entails a covenantal representation such that Adam stands legally in the place and stead of his posterity.[36] This is why Adam’s fall is the fall of the human race. As the eighteenth century Baptist theologian John Gill would say of the imputation of sin, “the ground of this imputation is the federal headship of Adam.”[37] It is central to Reformed theology because the two-Adam framework of redemptive history and the doctrine of imputation is implied in it.[38]

The Particular Baptists followed the Reformed construction of this doctrine.[39] Benjamin Keach is especially articulate. Romans 5:12-21 has historically been the locus classicus of Adam’s federal headship. Keach cites this passage and explains that there is a typologically-correspondent relationship between the two Adams. Commenting on Romans 5, he says:

“There is a certain comparison made between Adam and Christ, which carries rather a disparity than a similitude in it. The protasis, or proposition, is in ver. 12. As Adam conveyed death together with sin to all that were born of him… The apodosis…is not expressly set down, but insinuated…as if he had said, so Christ conveys or communicates life to all those that by faith are given to, and implanted in him.”[40]

All of humanity is subsumed under these two heads—there is no middle ground. Sin and death come to all because of the first Adam, and life comes to all those who are united to Christ. It would seem that covenantal representation is in view in this hermeneutical treatise of Keach. This is not merely inherent sinfulness and inherent righteousness by natural generation or supernatural regeneration, but federal headship is at play. Forensic imputation takes place because of it. Elsewhere in Tropologia, Keach teaches we are all sinners in Adam.[41] He also compares and contrasts Adam with Christ; he describes Christ’s righteousness which is “imputed” in terms of being clothed with the wedding garment of Matthew 22:11–12 and contrasts this with Adam’s nakedness.[42]

Elsewhere he is more perspicuous. Adam broke the covenant of works while Christ fulfills the covenant of grace. “Adam had no Surety that undertook for him in the first Covenant, as a Covenanting Hand, but was entrusted with all his Riches, all being put into his own Hand, which he soon by his Sin lost, and undid himself and all his Posterity, whom he was set up as the common Head and Representative of.”[43] On the flipside, Christ’s benefits issue to the saved because he represented the elect with a federal, forensic, vicarious representation.

Speaking of the covenant of grace made with Christ, he said:

“My Brethren, pray do not mistake about the Nature and Tenour of this great and glorious Covenant: The Father, we say, enters into a Covenant with his Son, and promises Eternal Life unto him, and to all his Elect Seed, upon the consideration of what he, I mean our Blessed Saviour, was to perform in respect of those federal Conditions proposed to him, which he did then undertake on Man’s behalf, or such of Mankind that God did intend to save.”[44]

The “federal Conditions proposed to him” are, presumably, substantially the same as those proposed to Adam in the original covenant of works so that Christ would, “by his perfect Obedience to merit for them Everlasting Life, and to bring them all to Glory.”[45] Not only does Keach acknowledge Adam’s federal headship, but he consistently applies its implications to his doctrine of Christ’s federal headship. His writings demonstrate that he does not merely use the semantics of the Reformed doctrine of the covenant of works but embraces its concomitant terminology and concepts while applying them consistently to his understanding of the structure of redemptive history and soteriology.[46]

Impossibility of Salvation by this Broken Covenant (WCF 7.3)

Since God entered into a covenant of life with Adam, and Adam violated the conditions of this covenant as the federal head of those represented by him, it is impossible that this covenant be fulfilled by those under his federal representation. “If mankind is to be saved, there must be a new and gracious intervention on the part of God.”[47] There must be a covenant of grace. Furthermore, this redemptive covenant must be offered to man on an entirely different condition than the previous covenant (Rom. 3:20). Its reception is by faith alone apart from works.

The Particular Baptists followed suit. Nehemiah Coxe speaks of Adam’s postlapsarian state: “In this condition man was altogether helpless and without strength, being utterly disabled to stand before God on terms of a covenant of works, and incapable to bring himself on other terms. For he was not able to move one step toward a reconciliation with God or the ransoming of himself out of these miseries.”[48] Could God simply make another covenant of works and give man another chance to keep it? No—not directly with any fallen sinner.[49] There is no renewing of the covenant of works for the “same ends” or “in the same manner” as the original covenant of works—that is, for the sake of bestowing upon man the reward of eternal life for keeping the law. Now violated in Adam and imputed to his posterity, the penal sanction of the curse of the law abides and cannot be simply overturned, revoked, or lessened.

This places the Particular Baptists in agreement with the Reformed over against the Socinians, Arminians, and even Calvinist Neonomians (Baxter being the most prominent). There is not now a mitigated promulgation of the terms of the law in a capacity adapted to the impaired abilities of fallen man that would make salvation possible through some form of nomistic evangelical obedience comingled with faith.[50] Keach wrote polemically against Baxter’s Neonomian views. In his Marrow of True Justification, he says,

“The difference betwixt the Law and the Gospel (as all our true Protestant Divines teach) doth not at all consist in this; i. e. that the one requires perfect Obedience, and the other only sincere Obedience; but in this, that the one requires doing, Do this and live; but the other, no doing but believing for Life and Salvation: their Terms differ not only in degree, but in their whole Nature.”[51]

The covenant of works remains violated—it condemns all sinners and its demands cannot be adjusted or softened without doing violence to divine justice. It ever demands, “Do this and live,” requiring perfect, perpetual, personal obedience. The covenant of grace, on the other hand, is not a reissued or softened publication of the covenant of works. The two covenants stand in antithetical contrast as representing two ways of salvation. They must never be confused or comingled. This is the Protestant, Reformed, orthodox view—a view that Baxter had trouble accepting. Keach even appeals to “all our true Protestant Divines,” demonstrating his agreement with their law and gospel construct, which has much in continuity with their conceptions of the covenants of works and grace. Keach’s covenant of works theology undergirds his doctrine of justification, and his doctrine of justification is Reformed and orthodox, in contradistinction to that of the quasi-Reformed Baxter.

In another place, Keach applies this concept to a nomian view of Philippians 2:12 that would deny the implications that justification by grace alone has for the final perseverance of the saints:

“Whoever it is that brings in this Text as an Objection against the Doctrine of the Saints Final Perseverance, you may be sure is a corrupt Person in his Judgment, and one that pleads for a Covenant of Works, or joins the Creature with Christ as a Co-worker in the Salvation of Man. For if it be to be taken in their sense, then it would follow that Man is his own Saviour; for if I procure my own Salvation by Works, or by working it out for my self, I save my self, or am my own Saviour; or I do appropriate part of it to my self, which is the worst part of Popery:They say, that Christ’s Merits, with their own good Works, do justify and save them. And what do the Arminians say less, who join Faith, Inherent Righteousness, and Sincere Obedience, with the Merits of Christ, both in Justification before God, and in the Salvation of their Souls?”[52]

He is insisting on the very theology summarized in WCF 7.3 and applying its implications polemically to views that undermine this distinctive doctrine of Reformed theology. Salvation is impossible by human effort, because the covenant of works in its absolute demands is irreversibly broken. Salvation is by the “new and everlasting covenant of grace,” ordained in eternity past, revealed in promissory form from Genesis 3:15 onward, and fully discovered in the new covenant in Christ’s blood.[53]

Summary and Conclusion

The Particular Baptist view of the Adamic covenant of works is essentially the same as that of their Reformed peadobaptist contemporaries.[54] Not only did they positively affirm the phrase “the covenant of works” in their writings, but they also affirmed the theological framework and particular elements of the Reformed construct of the covenant of works. We have demonstrated this by showing that they employed, alluded to, expounded on, and often presupposed the four elements of the Reformed doctrine outlined above throughout their writings. Insofar as Nehemiah Coxe and Benjamin Keach (and Philip Cary, with whom Keach publicly accorded)[55] can be taken for spokesman of the Particular Baptists, they stood united with the Reformed movement—even in its repudiation of Socianian, Arminian, and Neonomian conceptions of justification that would modify the Reformed construct of the covenant of works.

Contemporary Reformed Baptists who identify with the 2LCF should fully confess the covenant of works if they desire to be confessionally Reformed. The reticence to confess the covenant of works that has been expressed by Reformed Baptists and more broadly Calvinistic Baptists is a reticence that is in discontinuity with the seventeenth century Particular Baptist movement. To deny the theological construct or necessary theological implications of this doctrine would be to stand in stark disagreement with the pervasive tenor of the writings of the Particular Baptists—a tenor that has the theology of the Reformed view of the covenant of works thoroughly woven throughout the structure of its framework in profound ways.

Contemporary interactions between the Reformed and the Reformed Baptists should recognize that the mutually-shared doctrine of the covenant of works unites both camps. It means they stand united in it and in its implications over against other systems of theology. Though the covenant theology of these two camps differs in some important areas, it also has much in common. This should be charitably recognized as they seek to move forward in discussing their differences and working through the implications of such in their common goal to accurately discern the truth as it in Christ, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:13).



[1] Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 260; Benjamin B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: The Westminster Assembly and Its Work, vol. 6 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 56.

[2] “Reformed federalism developed from a common foundation, the distinction between the law and the gospel, and that the unity and diversity of covenant theology in the Reformed tradition derive from the use of this distinction dogmatically, historically, and covenantally.” Samuel D. Renihan, From Shadow to Substance: The Federal Theology of the English Particular Baptists (1642–1704) (Oxford: Centre for Baptist History and Heritage, Regents Park College, 2018), 17-18.

[3] Renihan, From Shadow to Substance, 18; see John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 746–747; Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 442–443.

[4] Renihan, From Shadow to Substance, 17–66.

[5] See the helpful discussions in Herman Witsius, Conciliatory or Irenical Animadversions on the Controversies Agitated in Britain, trans. Thomas Bell (Glasgow: W. Lang, 1807), 179–92; Samuel Bolton, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom (1964; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1964), 77–109; L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1938), 612-14.

[6] Renihan calls the “dogmatic distinction of the law and the gospel…a point of complete connection and continuity with the Particular Baptists.” From Shadow to Substance, 19.

[7] Some modern voices have questioned its presence in the 1677/89 Second London Confession of Faith (2LCF), e.g. Gregory Nichols, Covenant Theology: A Reformed and Baptistic Perspective on God’s Covenants (Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2011); cf. Samuel Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1989), 95. Paul Smalley affirms the presence of the covenant of works in the 1689, but admits, “A first impression is that the Particular Baptists had some reservations about the doctrine of a covenant of works.” Paul M. Smalley, “Reformed, Puritan, and Baptist: A Comparison of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith to the 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith,” ed. Joel R. Beeke, Puritan Reformed Journal Volume 2, no. 2 (2010): 128. Barcellos admits, “There was a time when I thought the 2LCF was substantially different from the WCF and SD on the doctrine of the covenant of works. The reasoning was simple. The 2LCF dos not say what the other confessions say about the covenant of works in Chapter 7…The conclusion was that the Particular Baptists must have held to a different view of Adam in the garden.” He goes on to say, “I now believe I was wrong.” He then argues for the covenant of works as being articulated in the 2LCF. Richard Barcellos, Getting the Garden Right: Adam’s Work and God’s Rest in Light of Christ (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2017), 40. However, Barcellos’ treatment scarcely documents sources from Particular Baptist writings contemporaneous with the 2LCF (as this was not the primary focus of his study).

[8] “High orthodoxy (ca. 1640–1685–1725) spans the greater part of the seventeenth and the first quarter of the eighteenth century.” Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 1: Prolegomena to Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 31.

[9] They did make extensive use of the phrase in approbation of it. A preliminary survey of a number of Particular Baptists found the use of “covenant of works” in Issac Backus, A Short Description of the Difference between the Bond-Woman and the Free, as They Are the Two Covenants, Second Edition Corrected (Boston: Edes and Gill, 1770), 7; Philip Cary, A Solemn Call (London: John Harris, 1690), i; Philip Cary, A Just Reply to Mr. John Flavell’s Arguments, by Way of Answer to a Discourse (London: J. Harris, 1690); Nehemiah Coxe, “Of God’s Transactions with Adam,” in A Discourse of the Covenants That God Made with Men before the Law (J. D., 1681), 22; Edward Hutchinson, A Treatise Concerning the Covenant and Baptism: Dialogue-Wise, between a Baptist & a Poedo-Baptist (London: Francis Smith, 1676), 93; Benjamin Keach, “Sermon II,” in The Ax Laid to the Root, Parts I & II, vol. 1 (London: John Harris, 1693), 12; Benjamin Keach, The Everlasting Covenant: A Sweet Cordial for a Drooping Soul: Or, The Excellent Nature of the Covenant of Grace Opened (London: H. Barnard, 1693), 4; Benjamin Keach, The Marrow of True Justification, Or, Justification without Works (London: Dorman Newman, 1692), 11; Benjamin Keach, “Sermon XVI,” in A Golden Mine Opened: Or, the Glory of God’s Rich Grace Displayed in the Mediator to Believers: And His Direful Wrath against Impenitent Sinners: Containing the Substance of near Forty Sermons upon Several Subjects (London: Printed for the author, 1694), 302–303; see also John Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity: Or A System of Evangelical Truths, Deduced from the Sacred Scriptures, New Edition., vol. 1 (Tegg & Company, 1839), 444. Many uses are in polemical arguments against paedobaptism and refer to the “covenant of circumcision” with Abraham or the Mosaic covenant as covenants of works (or sometimes, recapitulated administrations of the covenant of works in subservience to the purposes of the covenant of grace). To make these arguments, the authors presuppose the legitimacy and theology of an original, Adamic covenant of works.

[10] Westminster Assembly, The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition (Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851), 45–46.

[11] These points closely follow (but are not identical to) the summary points provided by Archibald Alexander Hodge, A Commentary on the Confession of Faith: With Questions for Theological Students and Bible Classes (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1869), 167–168. See his full exposition in pp. 147-182.

[12] It bears clarifying that the theology of the Westminster Standards is more profound and extensive than the four concepts summarized here, but due to space limitations, our survey will necessarily be limited to these four. A larger research project could incorporate addition concepts related to the covenant of works in Baptist writings, such as the concept of lex naturalis and its relationship to positive commandment, the active and passive obedience of Christ, etc. For a fuller survey of the covenant of works in seventeenth century Puritan theology (focusing entirely on paedobaptist authors), see Beeke and Jones, A Puritan Theology, 217–36.

[13] Zacharias Ursinus and G. W. Williard, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company, 1888), 481.

[14] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:810.

[15] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:781.

[16] See the discussion in Beeke and Jones, A Puritan Theology, 229–32. See also Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 242; J. H. Merle D’Aubigné, History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century, trans. Henry Beveridge and H. White, vol. 1, Collin’s Select Library (Glasgow; London: William Collins; R. Groombridge & Sons, 1862), 31; Gerald Bray, “Late-Medieval Theology,” in Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary, ed. Matthew Barrett (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 83–85; K. Scott Oliphint, “Most Moved Mediator,” Themelios 30, no. 1 (2004): 43; Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 3: The Divine Essence and Attributes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 570.

[17] Douglas F. Kelly, Systematic Theology: Grounded in Holy Scripture and Understood in the Light of the Church, vol. 1 (Ross-shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2008), 394–97.

[18] E.g. Keach’s mention of Musculus, Calvin, Beza, and Johannes Piscator in Tropologia: A Key to Open Scripture Metaphors (London: William Hill Collingridge, 1856), 151; his interaction with John Flavel in The Ax Laid to the Root, I and in Tropologia, 590; his mention of Richard Baxter in The Marrow of True Justification, 12; his interaction with Stephen Charnock’s writings in Gold Refin’d, Or, Baptism in Its Primitive Purity (London: Printed for the author, 1689), 128. See summary in D.B. Riker, A Reformed Catholic Theologian: Federalism and Baptism in the Thought of Benjamin Keach, 1640–1704 (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2010), 113–21. The Baptists frequently appeal to Owen and other writers as well; see Nehemiah Coxe, A Discourse of the Covenants, vi. Many more examples could be given. The Particular Baptist leaders were well read and interacted extensively with the Reformed writings available to them.

[19] Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen, Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ, ed. Ronald D. Miller, James M. Renihan, and Francisco Oroxco (Palmdale, CA: Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2005), 36.

[20] Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 36.

[21] See Barcellos, Getting the Garden Right, 47–48; Renihan, From Shadow to Substance, 231.

[22] Keach, “Sermon II,” in A Golden Mine Opened, 92.

[23] A Reformed Catholic Theologian, 82.

[24] Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: An Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 7 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1850), 171. See Witsius’s classic exposition on this promised reward; Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man: Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity, trans. William Crookshank, vol. 1 (London: T. Tegg & Son, 1837), 48–58.

[25] Barcellos summarizes this as taught in the 2LCF; see Getting the Garden Right, 42–45.

[26] A.A. Hodge, A Commentary on the Confession of Faith, 121.

[27] Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 47. See Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants, vol. 1, 53.

[28] Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 47–50.

[29] Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 45.

[30] Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 45. See also Renihan’s comments, From Shadow to Substance, 234.

[31] Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 47. See Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants, vol. 1, 51-52.

[32] Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 45–47.

[33] Benjamin Keach, The Display of Glorious Grace Or, the Covenant of Peace, Opened: In Fourteen Sermons (London: S. Bridge, 1698), 180.

[34] Philip Cary, A Solemn Call (London: John Harris, 1690), 124. Kiffin, Harris, Adams, Steed, and Keach signed their names to the preface to this treatise (“To the Reader”).

[35] Douglas F. Kelly, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, 391.

[36] Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants, vol. 1, 35.

[37] John Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, vol. 1, 470.

[38] Beeke and Jones, A Puritan Theology, 235.

[39] See Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 47–48.

[40] Keach, Tropologia, 226.

[41] Keach, Tropologia, 918.

[42] Keach, Tropologia, 473-76. Keach presents a consistently Reformed doctrine of justification. He also employs the Aristotelian categories often used by the Reformed to distinguish the forensic nature of justification as entailing an act of forensic imputation. He calls Christ’s righteousness as consisting in his active and passive obedience the material cause of justification and the imputation of this righteousness is the formal cause; see Benjamin Keach, The Display of Glorious Grace, 195.

[43] Keach, “Sermon IX,” in A Golden Mine Opened, 202.

[44] Keach, “Sermon IX,” in A Golden Mine Opened, 203.

[45] Keach, “Sermon IX,” in A Golden Mine Opened, 202.

[46] See his extended contrast between the covenants of works in grace in The Display of Glorious Grace Or, the Covenant of Peace, Opened: In Fourteen Sermons (London: S. Bridge, 1698), 177–182.

[47] A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession, A Commentary, 124–125.

[48] Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 53.

[49] Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 53.

[50] A Reformed Catholic Theologian, 73; see A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession, A Commentary, 124–125; Beeke and Jones, A Puritan Theology, 310–12.

[51] Benjamin Keach, The Marrow of True Justification, 21–22.

[52] Keach, “Sermon XVI,” in A Golden Mine Opened, 302–303.

[53] This language is taken from the First London Baptist Confession of 1644; see Renihan’s overview of Keach’s theology of the covenants of works and grace; From Shadow to Substance, 303–307.

[54] Pascal Denault comes to the same conclusion (though it is not demonstrated) in The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeeth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism (Vestavia Hills, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2013), 29. To be sure, there were important differences in the federal theology of these two camps. The Particular Baptists differed with the Reformed on the issue of continuity between the covenant of works and the covenants with Abraham and Moses, and they associated the covenant of grace with the new covenant. They insisted on the ‘newness’ of the new covenant (generally equated with the covenant of grace) in discontinuity with the fulfilled, typologically-oriented old covenant (generally considered an expression of the covenant of works). These differences with the Reformed paedobaptist movement have important ecclesiological implications, but they do not implicate a break with the fundamental federal, law-gospel framework of Reformed covenant theology as a whole. For an overview of these differences, see Denault, The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology; Renihan, From Shadow to Substance; Beeke and Jones, A Puritan Theology, 725–41.

[55] As mentioned previously, to these names we can add the Baptists William Kiffin, John Harris, Richard Adams, and Robert Steed, who all signed the forward to Cary’s polemical treatise on Baptism in which he expounds much on his covenant theology. See William Kiffin et al., “To the Reader,” in A Solemn Call (London: John Harris, 1690), iv.