Guest blogger Andy Hynes is a PhD candidate at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Follow him @ABHYNES on Twitter.
While studying the English Puritans many interesting ideas pop out. One of the main ideas was their understanding of a salvific process. That process began with three salvific covenants. The first was the Covenant of Redemption or (Pactum Salutis). They ended up giving credence to the doctrine in their Westminster Confession of Faith, 8.1
It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only-begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and men, the Prophet, Priest, and King; the Head and Saviour of his Church, the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world; unto whom he did, from all eternity, give a people to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justifies, sanctified, and glorified.1
In the salvific process of God, three covenants existed according to the Puritans. The first, the Covenant of Redemption, involved the Trinity. Joel Beeke and Mark Jones wrote, “The Reformed orthodox in particular used the covenant of redemption as an argument for the ad intra Trinitarian grounding for the ad extra work of salvation. Therefore, this doctrine provides the starting point of any discussion of God’s soteric purposes in the history of redemption.”2 Before creation the Father and Son covenanted together to carry out redemptive purposes, but involved the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.3 The covenant displayed the eternal nature of God’s plan for redeeming those whom He elected to salvation and displayed the foundation of the whole of salvation.
It demonstrated that God did not have an afterthought, or second thought concerning the means by which the elect would be redeemed. The beauty of the covenant was the harmony within the Trinity to bring about the plan. The Puritans preached that God the Father appointed the Son to take care of the requirements for salvation. They preached with great freedom, knowing that Christ’s death was sufficient.
The covenant stressed the “total agreement between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the plan of salvation.”4 The responsibility of each among the Trinity included the Father as the master planner, the Son sent by the Father through the incarnation, and then the Holy Spirit; the one who applied the work of Christ to the individuals for salvation.5 In this, God the Son agreed to pay the full penalty for the sins of the elect, therefore the temporal Covenant of Grace could be applied to the individual without any payment. Christ paid the full price. Neither the Son nor the Spirit objected to the plan, and therefore agreed in unison to rescue the elect. Flavel said,
The Father, Son, and Spirit (betwixt whom was the council of peace) work out their design in a perfect harmony and consent: as there was no jar in their council, so there can be none in the execution of it: those whom the Father, before all time, did chuse; they, and they only, are the persons, whom the Son, when the fullness of time for the execution of that decree was come died for, John xvii. 6 . . . And those for whom Christ died, are the persons to whom the Spirit effectually applies the benefits and purchases of his blood: he comes in the name of the Father and Son.6
John Owen wrote that God promised, “to protect and assist him in accomplishment and perfect fulfilling of the whole business and dispensation about which he was employed, or which he was to undertake.”7
The Father vowed to be faithful to the Son in upholding Him through the duration of His time on earth. Through all the trials, circumstances, and temptations Jesus would face, the Father provided every need.
The Covenant of Redemption was viewed, as the Godhead making their intentions purposeful and complete, and the Covenant of Grace could not exist otherwise, for it demands the willingness of the Son to assume the role of the scapegoat.
Thus the Covenant of Redemption “may be looked upon as the procuring cause of the Covenant of Grace: it opened the door to it, removed the obstructions that would else have impeded it, and made the way for God to be gracious to poor sinning man, and save him, without injury done to His justice, or violence offered to his law.8
The Covenant of Grace was founded upon the Covenant of Redemption in which salvation has been obtained for mankind; and that salvation is applied to the elect only through the Covenant of Grace.9 The Covenant of Redemption held that Christ offered Himself for fallen man. According to Perry Miller, “God covenanted with Christ that if he would pay the full price for the redemption of believers, they should be discharged. Christ hat paid the price, God must be unjust, or else he must set thee free from all iniquite.”10 The Puritans imagined a scene in heaven of immense jubilation when the covenant was ratified. Thomas Goodwin said,
And now our reconciliation being brought to this blessed issue by God the Father and his Son, their greatest delights have been taken up with it ever since . . . There was never such joy in heaven as upon this happy conclusion and agreement. The whole Trinity rejoiced in it, they not only never repented of what they had resolved upon . . . but further, their chiefest delights were taken up with this more than in all their works . . . God’s heart was never taken so much with anything he was able to effect; so as the thoughts of this business, ever since it was resolved on, became matter of greatest unto them.11
- The Confession of Faith: The Larger and Shorter Catechism (Inverness: John G. Eccles Printers, 1976), 45-6. ↩
- Joel Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 237. ↩
- R.C. Sproul, What is Reformed Theology? Understanding the Basics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 108. ↩
- Ibid., 108. ↩
- Ibid., 108. ↩
- Flavel, The General Nature of the Effectual Application Stated, 21. ↩
- John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, vol. X of The Works of John Owen, ed. William Goold (1850-53; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1978), 168. ↩
- Perry Miller, The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: The Belknap Press, 1939), 406. ↩
- Ibid., 187. ↩
- Ibid., 406. ↩
- Thomas Goodwin, Christ our Mediator, (Grand Rapids: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1971), 31-2. ↩