G.H. Kersten on the Covenant of Works

Though probably not one of the top 10 most popular books on Reformed Dogmatics, G. H. Kersten (d. 1948; an influential leader early in the history of the Netherlands Reformed Church [the Gereformeerde Gemeenten]) wrote a helpful two volume work, Reformed Dogmatics: A Systematic Treatment of Reformed Doctrine trans. J. R. Beeke and J. C. Weststrate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980).  This work was completed by Kersten in 1947.  Though I haven’t yet read both volumes (which are not too tedious or lengthy), I noticed that the section on the Covenant of Works sounds just like an earlier Dutchman, W. a Brakel (d. 1711) (and, of course, as I showed earlier, Bavinck and Kuyper).  This robust affirmation of the CoW is found throughout Dutch Reformed history:

“The right doctrine of the covenants is of very great significance for the church, both of the covenant of works and of the covenant of grace, as was very clearly evident recently when that covenant-enervating [weakening, debilitating] doctrine was again brought to the fore [perhaps Kersten is referring to Schilder here].  Both of these covenants of which Scripture speaks are in an unbreakable relationship to each other.  Who then will rightly understand the covenant of grace if he does not know the covenant of works?  Who can rightly speak of Christ that does not teach the truth about Adam?”

More: “From olden days all the Reformed have seen the great significance of the pure doctrine of the covenants, and stressed it with all their power.”

Both quotes taken from volume I, page 192. 

shane lems

sunnyside wa

1 thought on “G.H. Kersten on the Covenant of Works”

  1. “Who can rightly speak of Christ that does not teach the truth about Adam?”


    Rom. 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

    “Therefore” (Dia touto). Hmmm.

    Rom. 5:11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

    I wonder if how we understand the gospel forces us to understand properly the covenant of works, and if we fail to properly understand the covenant of works, if the gospel falls apart. I wonder if this “dia touto” has anything to do with that. I just wonder.

    Of course, I’m no Greek scholar, and I’m told that this “through this” is like a reverse “therefore”, as in what follows supports what comes before.

    But I don’t know. It seems like if we accept the gospel, we must accept the covenant of works.


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