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The Doctrine of the Everlasting Covenant in the
Writings of Ellet J. Waggoner

The Development of the Covenant Doctrine

Although the early church fathers mentioned the doctrine of the covenants, none of them such as, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, nor Augustine, really emphasized it.4 There was not much consideration given to the idea until the Protestant Reformation.5 This change was based upon the switch of emphasis from the "mechanical theories" of the Catholic church, such as the sacraments as a means of salvation, to the "organic and spiritual relation in which man stood to God by virtue of creation."6 This opened the way for the clarification of the covenantal relationship between God and man, and how man is to live from day to day.

De Jong states that Luther and Melanchthon believed in the covenantal base for man's relationship to God, but neither developed it to any great degree because of their strong Christological emphasis.7 Two streams of thought on the subject emerged out of the Reformation, those that followed Calvin, and those that followed the Anabaptist line of belief.8 These two views represent the different approaches that have struggled to apply the commands of God into the practical realm of daily life. The settlers that came to America arrived with elements of these divergent views.9 Thus, one might suggest that the conflict over practical Christian living has been with America from its very beginning. And due to the unique opportunities in the New World, such as the braking with the old ways and beginning with the new, the conflict could take on a new perspective.

The Reformed-Calvinist position that came with the Puritans understood the covenant concept as a tool for stressing conformity and Christian conduct.10 Due to its doctrines of double predestination, limited atonement, unconditional election, and the perseverance of the saints, the Reformed position of the covenants stressed the, "sovereignty of God in the work of salvation."11 God made all the decisions and man was only to respond as he was elected. There was a strong emphasis upon forensic or legal aspect of salvation. Salvation was understood as being a continuum from the fall to the time God restores man to original perfection. This salvation history was connected to the covenant concept by way of the promises made to Abraham. The establishment of the nation of Israel as God's people represents how God still seeks His elected people and how He expects them to live. Thus there was taught a theocratic ideal based upon the covenant made at Sinai that all elected people should become covenantors with God.

The Anabaptists

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Waggoner's View of the Covenants