I appreciate the work of Richard Muller. Here is part of the reason why: He said,
The identification of the covenant of works as a consequent doctrine [in protestant scholasticism] surely accounts for:
1) The varied terminology (covenant of works, nature, creation, innocence), associated with it
2) For its absence from some of the major Reformed theological systems of the 17th century
3) For the intimate relationship in which the doctrine of the covenant of works stands with the central soteriological topics in Reformed theology.
“The protestant orthodox recognizes that a distorted perspective on a logically consequent doctrinal locus could, all too easily, become the basis of a retroactive misconception of a primary or logically prior doctrinal locus.”
Amen. Well said! Don’t miss the importance of Muller’s note. To put it in other words, the covenant of works wasn’t the main doctrinal point of the reformation/reformers – it was a secondary or derivative doctrine, drawn from the examination/comparison of a series of biblical loci (sedes doctrinae). Yet, it was not unimportant or “tossable;” it was part and parcel of Reformed theology. Because it wasn’t the main emphasis of reformers, it is called different things (as noted above), and it is not in every single protestant theological document, but it is woven in to the very fabric of Reformed theology. If you pull this string out of the woven fabric of Reformed theology, the whole comes unraveled. Muller is spot on here – just because it wasn’t clearly mentioned in every Reformed document doesn’t mean it is dispensable. Muller’s above italicized quote is exactly the reason why Bavinck and others said so boldly: if you deny the CoW, you will certainly err on the CoG.
The quote is from Muller’s “The Covenant of Works and the Stability of Divine Law in Seventeenth-Century Reformed Orthodoxy: A Study in the Theology of Herman Witsius and Wilhelmus a Brakel” Calvin Theological Journal, 29 (1994): 75-6.