Covenant - A Coin with Two Sides
The New England Antinomian Controversy
"I'm for free grace and you're just a legalist." ... "No, I believe that growth in grace is a necessary consequence of true faith in Christ and you just want a license to sin." Such sentiments are common among evangelical Christians today. Indeed the debate over the relationship between free forgiveness and the call to discipleship has been a concern throughout much of Christian history. It also bears directly on the subject of "covenant," namely in what way is the covenant of grace unilateral ("one-sided"-the focusing on sovereign grace) and in what way is it bilateral ("two-sided"-the focusing on human responsibility under grace).If you have a current subscription or current on-line account please log-in here to read the rest of this article.
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] For a good discussion of the basic issues at stake, see Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology
, new edition with introduction by Richard Muller (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 262-301. For an excellent discussion of the soteriological issues at stake, the reader is also encouraged to read the works of Jerry Bridges published by NavPress. For a discussion of the Lordship of Christ debate and a good bibliography for classic and present works, see Michael Horton, ed., Christ the Lord
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994).
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] See, for example, the following: Emery Battis, Saints and Sectaries: Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy in Massachusetts Bay Colony
(Chapel Hill, NC: 1963); Philip Gura, A Glimpse of Sion's Glory: Puritan Radicalism in New England, 1620-1660
(Middletown, CT: 1983); David Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England
(New York, 1989); Lyle Koehler, A Search for Power: The 'Weaker Sex' in Seventeenth Century New England
(Urbana, IL: 1980); David Lovejoy, Religious Enthusiasm in the New World
(Cambridge, MA: 1985); Edmund Morgan, The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop
(Boston, 1958); Emil Oberholzer, Delinquent Saints: Disciplinary Action in the Early Congregational Churches of Massachusetts
(New York, 1956); Amanda Porterfield, Female Piety in Puritan New England
(Oxford, 1992); Darret Rutman, Winthrop's Boston: A Portrait of a Puritan Town, 1630-1649
(Chapel Hill, NC: 1965); William K. B. Stoever, "A Faire and Easie Way to Heaven": Covenant Theology and Antinomianism in Early Massachusetts
(Middletown, CT: 1978); Selma Williams, Divine Rebel: The Life of Anne Marbury Hutchinson
(New York, 1981); Larzar Ziff, Puritanism in America: New Culture in a New World
(Oxford, 1973); J. Rodney Fulcher, "Puritan Piety in New England: A Study in Spiritual Regeneration from the Antinomian Controversy to the Cambridge Synod of 1648 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony" (Ph.D. dissert., Princeton University, 1963); Norman Brooks Graebner, "Protestants and Dissenters: An Examination of the Seventeenth Century Eatonist and New England Antinomian Controversies in Reformation Perspective" (Ph.D. dissert., Duke University, 1984); James W. Jones, III, "The Beginnings of American Theology: John Cotton, Thomas Hooker, Thomas Shepard, and Peter Bulkeley" (Ph.D. dissert., Brown University, 1970); Michael Joseph Schuldiner, "The Doctrine of Spiritual Growth and Church Polity in Early America" (Ph.D. dissert., Kent State University, 1979); and, William G. Wilcox, "New England Covenant Theology: Its English Precursors and Early American Exponents" (Ph.D. dissert., Duke University, 1959).
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] For a fine discussion of Puritan Covenant theology, see John von Rohr, The Covenant of Grace in Puritan Thought
(Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986.)
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] Two prominent books devoted to Cotton are Ziff, The Career of John Cotton
that treats his life chronologically, and Everett Emerson, John Cotton
, revised edition (Boston, 1990) which examines Cotton's theology through his published writings. David Hall, "Historical Introduction," in the Antinomian Controversy, 1636-1638: A Documentary History
(Durham: Duke University Press, 1990), 14, hereafter AC. Hall's source for this information can be found in "Boston Church Records," Collections of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts
, 39: 12-18. John Winthrop, History of New England
, James Savage, ed. (Boston, 1825), 1:144. Also see Edmund Morgan, Visible Saints
, 98-100, and David Hall, "Historical Introduction," in AC
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] "The Examination of Anne Hutchinson," in AC
, 336-37 hereafter "Examination of AH."
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] During the examination she never fully censured the other elders for preaching a "covenant of works" as the way of salvation, and when Cotton was asked what he recalled of a private conversation between Hutchinson and some of the elders (including himself), he could only state: "I do remember that she looked at them [the other clergy] as the apostles before the ascension.... You do put me in remembrance that it was asked her why we cannot preach a covenant of grace? Why, saith she, because you can preach no more than you know.... Now that she said you cannot preach a covenant of grace [at all] I do not remember such a thing." "Examination of AH," in AC
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] See Gura, 242-43: "Hutchinson's establishment of a private religious meeting itself was not enough to warrant her condemnation, for the practice of organizing conventicles ... formed one of the most important components of Puritanism's extraparochial organization." Nevertheless, she did face consternation from the elders and the magistrates over her teaching of men. See "Examination of AH," in AC
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] Thomas Shepard, Autobiography
, Nehemiah Adams, ed. (Boston, 1832), 386.
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] "Way of Congregational Churches Cleared," in AC
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] John Cotton, The Covenant of Grace
(London, 1671), hereafter TCG
. In this instance, the quotation is taken from the subtitle in the preface of the 1654 edition.
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] All references in this paragraph are from Thomas Shepard, The Parable of the Ten Virgins
(Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Reprints, 1990), 82, hereafter Parable
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] All references in the preceding two paragraphs are from TCG
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] All references in this paragraph are from TCG
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] All references in this paragraph are from TCG
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] All references in this paragraph are from Parable
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Issue: "Through One Man Sin, Through One Man Righteousness" July/August 2000 Vol. 9 No. 4 Page number(s): 38-44
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