The Covenant of Works in Dutch and German Reformed Theology

Essential Truths in the Heart of a Christian (Classics of Reformed Spirituality) Wilhelmus Schortinguis was a pastor who served in German and Dutch Reformed churches until he died in 1750.  Though not all of his work was widely accepted and read, his booklet that summarized the Christian faith in catechetical form was quite popular.  The title of this booklet is Essential Truths in the Heart of a Christian.  Here are a few of his questions and answers that have to do with the covenant of works and covenant of grace. 

What is the covenant of works?  The agreement of God with the righteous man [Adam] in which God promised life and threatened death, with the stipulation of perfect obedience to his law.  If man met the stipulation, he would enjoy eternal life (Hos. 6:7, Job 31:33).

Did man have the ability to fulfill these demands?  Yes, indeed; because he was created in God’s image (Gen. 1:31, Ecc. 7:29), he was perfectly good and completely upright.”

What do you learn from this covenant?  1) The happiness of the first man in the original state; 2) the privilege of the believer, who now lives in another, unchanging covenant; 3) never to seek salvation in a covenant of works, but as a miserable sinner to seek it in Christ in the covenant of grace (Matt. 11:28, Prov. 18:10). 

What does God promise and demand in the covenant of grace? He promises all the essential benefits here and especially for eternity.  He promises: ‘I shall be a God to you (Jer. 31:33).  And he demands faith and conversion (Acts 16:31; Ezek. 33:11), both of which he promises to provide (Eph. 2:8, Ezek. 36:27).

William Schortinghuis, Essential Truths in the Heart of a Christian, p. 56-57, 66.

rev. shane lems

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