Part III: Anthropology (Man) and Covenant Theology
Chapter 17 - The Covenant at Sinai: Law or Grace?
Puritans agreed that there is a distinction between the covenant of works and that of grace, and that the covenant of grace has several manifestations, described last time. But they did not agree on how the Mosaic covenant related to this - is it a part of the covenant of grace or republishing the covenant of works?
Most Puritans saw two covenants: works and grace. Sinai's covenant is part of the second. But how does this fit with Paul's contrast of works/law with faith/grace in 2 Corinthians 3 and Galatians 4? The Puritans distinguished between the law taken strictly as a rule of righteousness (how Paul speaks of it), and taken more generally and focusing more on the promises and blessings attached (Exodus 19:1-9; 20:1, for instance). The Ten Commandments are given after redemption, with that redemption in mind. It speaks of God showing mercy. How could God deal with sinful Israel at all if it was a relationship of "obey or die"? The sacrifices point to mercy given.
"Law and the gospel are opposed concerning the doctrine of justification, but agree regarding the doctrine of sanctification.... for those who are justified (through faith in Christ) the law becomes a friend" (286).
Some Puritans saw three covenants: works, grace, and Sinai. Sinai is a separate covenant, under the covenant of grace. It serves grace by leading Israel to trust Christ, more than conveying the life of faith itself. This is a disagreement of emphasis: is Sinai so different that it's a separate covenant from the covenant of grace?
Lurking under the discussion is a disagreement in how opposed law and gospel are. Congregationalists (simplifying, here) saw them as opposed everywhere, all the time, so couldn't see Sinai as a version of grace. Presbyterians saw them as opposed in our justification but working together in our sanctification, so they could see Sinai as a version of a gracious covenant.