Today I will be reviewing Richard Barcellos book The Covenant of Works: Its Confessional and Scriptural Basis from the Recovering Our Confessional Heritage series. You can pick the book up from Reformed Baptist Academic Press for a very good price.
To begin, this is a very good little book. It’s short, coming in at only one-hundred and nineteen pages all together including the “Further Reading” section, but don’t be fooled this small book is packed full of solid work. I was able to read it in a day, and was very edified by doing so.
Barcellos begins in the first chapter by laying a foundation by discussing the hermeneutics of the Particular Baptist and how they were hermeneutics drawn from Scripture rather than being imposed upon it (This comes to play in Chapter 4 when he gives Biblical arguments for the Covenant of Works). I found this chapter to be extremely helpful in regards to exegesis. This chapter also lays a nice foundation for pastors and exegetes. Barcellos nicely lays out that the Holy Spirit is the best interpreter of Scripture, and goes on to establish the biblical basis for utilizing the Analogy of Scripture, Analogy of Faith, and the Scope of Scripture as primary hermeneutics. Barcellos also strongly demonstrates that the affirmation of these hermeneutics ought to lead us to seeing and using the Bible as the primary tool for the task of exegesis rather than utilizing other tools as a primary means.
In the second chapter, Barcellos gives a Confessional defense of the Covenant of Works and demonstrates thoroughly that the Particular Baptists held to the same articulation of the Covenant, even though article 7.1 from the Savoy and Westminster didn’t make its way into the Second London Baptists seventh chapter. He goes on to ably prove that the teaching of the Covenant of Works is found and taught in various places in the 1689.
In the third chapter, Barcellos spends time addressing common arguments used against the Covenant of Works. Barcellos ably dismantles the word-concept fallacy constantly used to justify denying the Covenant of Works.
In the fourth and last chapter, Barcellos gives a Biblical defense for the Covenant of Works. This was the pièce de résistance of the book. Barcellos of course lays out a convincing argument from Hosea 6:7, but he also goes to other places in Scripture to establish this doctrine as well. He also points out that the use of Yahweh in Genesis is God’s Covenantal name that is only used and revealed to God’s Covenant people. This is an important argument to consider. The divine Covenant name was revealed and given to Adam, which strongly points to the reality of a covenant being in place. I don’t want to give away the rest of the arguments from the chapter. Readers of this review can buy and read the book.
I highly recommend this book, especially to those looking for a short readable work on the topic of the Covenant of Works. I gave it 5 stars because of the solid content present and because it was an easy read. If someone ever asked me for a book on the Covenant of Works that’s not overwhelming, this will be the book I will point them to. This book will whet your appetite for Barcellos’ much anticipated “Getting The Garden Wrong” that should be coming out at some point in the future.