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Hypothetical and Universal Covenant of Grace: An Early Source

November 8, 2007

1) –In and for itself then it was the entire fallen race of man which God made the object of His gracious revelation, when He resolved to present to humanity as a gift of grace the lie which it had forfeited. This is the eternal testament of the Father, “the immutable will of God to give an inheritance to the believing”, and the eternal decree of the Father Himself, according to which He has promised the whole of humanity, so far as it accepts His grace with penitence and trust, righteousness and eternal life as an inalienable inheritance of grace.

Note the essentially universalistic basis upon which the idea of the covenant of grace rests. COCCEIUS introduces his exposition of the doctrine of the covenant of Grace (De foed. IV, 74), by declaring that of course God might at once have punished man with all evils. But the height of wisdom and power aided Him in His glorious plan for exercising mercy on man. Accordingly He resolved (1) to unfold His inexpressible mercy “in vessels of mercy”, and (2) “to employ an ineffable kindness and longsuffering towards the entire human race”.

–Similarly EGLIN (De foed. grat. 40): The “impelling cause of the covenant of grace” is the “love of God for the world, i.e. for the whole human race, which by the act of Satan had fallen into misery”. For this “common lapse” of the human race God had ordained in Christ a “common remedy.” Now a distinction must be drawn between “God’s general decree” and the “particular decree of election“. The former is (43) the “covenant of grace including the whole human race and by the counsel of His will planning for all indefinitely in Adam, on condition that man should repent and believe.” The latter on the contrary is the covenant according to which God “Himself graciously fulfills the condition required in those whom He has assigned to Christ from eternity”. As regards the former (44) the “promise is general by an outward calling“; as regards the latter we can only speak of an “effective application of the promise in accordance with the special promise of grace”.

Source: Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1978), 371-372.

2) –OLEVIAN (30 f.): “The heavenly Father resolved so to execute the decree of His love as to satisfy perfect justice. As it is essential to Himself He can no more deny it than He can deny Himself. So in the actual execution of the righteousness the greatness and strength of His love in the Son and of His perpetual mercy sworn from the beginning had to shine fort”. Even in the Redeemer’s work of reconciliation its essentially universalistic side must be acknowledged. Hence EGLIN (54) declares that it must not be said that God did not send His Son into the world “to be the common Saviour of the whole world, conditionally set forth”. Only, the circumstance that not all attain to faith and blessedness must not give rise to the view, that “in proposing a common remedy” God had failed of His purpose (51): (i) “The things which. He decreed as ex hypothesi and conditionally must be estimated conditionally and (2) “in those whom (the Father) willed to give to Christ, fulfilled the requisite condition gratuitously”. But above all it must be insisted that it is not true to say that Christ accomplished nothing for the reprobate: “he broke and abolished the whole lapse of Adam, the whole curse of the whole law, in short, the one same enemy of all, Satan”. Undoubtedly therefore we may say (63) with Scripture, that “as regards all-suffciency of merit Christ made purchase even for the reprobate, and even for them paid the lutron of death in full considered by itself, although it is not applied to them by the saving attraction of faith”.

Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1978), 373.

3) The single ground of the covenant of grace is God’s compassionate love for all men and the free Trinitarian counsel of God. EGLIN (De foed. grat., 40): “The impulsive cause of the covenant of grace has been, God’s love for the world, that is, for the entire human race fallen into misery by Satan’s cunning”

Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1978), 384. Full name: Raphaelis Eglini Iconi Tigurini (Zurich, Marburg) c1614.

[Cf., Zwingli and Bullinger, here.]

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