Backus struggled with the issue of baptism, studied Scripture, rejected infant baptism, and was baptized by dipping on August 22, 1751. He set out to refute the anti-pedobaptist position by first turning to the Bible, and then to the claims of Baptist scholars in England that infant baptism was a corruption brought into the Christian church in the 2nd or 3rd century. What he found surprised him.
Next, Backus examined the Covenant Theology which lay at the heart of New England Puritanism. The relevance of this theology to Backus was mainly its effect on the church-state issue:
First, “[T]he Jewish church was clearly a national church, a theocracy in which Moses and Aaron ruled together, and thus the Puritans were able to utilize the covenant theology to justify their ecclesiastical laws and their system of territorial parishes and religious taxes. Second, the covenant theology provided the Puritans with justifications for the Halfway Covenant, thus polluting the purity of the mystical body of Christ. And in the third place the covenant theology, by emphasizing that grace ran ‘through the loins of godly parents,’ that the baptized children of visible saints were somehow more likely than others to obtain salvation, thereby established a kind of hereditary spiritual aristocracy; it also undermined the sovereignty of God by implying that God was bound by this covenant to save certain persons rather than others. [Etc.]”
The Puritans supported the unity of the Abrahamic Covenant in Romans 11.17.
“Here, the apostle Paul spoke of the Christian covenant as being grafted on to the Jewish covenant as a branch is grafted on to an olive tree, from whence the Puritans ‘argued the right of professors now to baptize their children, because the Jews circumcised theirs.’ This Backus rejected as misinterpretation. ‘The Jews were broken off thro’ unbelief, and the Gentiles were grafted in, and stand only by faith.’ Faith was essential to baptism. What Puritans stressed as organic continuity, Backus and the Baptists stressed as a complete break.”
Backus concluded that the Separates must explicitly reject the Covenant Theology, the whole conception of the corporate Christian state, which the Puritans had so painstakingly constructed in the wilderness of New England. Backus decided against infant baptism and was baptized. “[H]e rejected the Covenant Theology of the Puritans by arguing as the Baptists had long done that the Bible contained two covenants, the old Covenant of Works made with the Jews, and the Covenant of Grace made with those who believe in Christ….” “[T]he Puritans had confused the gospel of grace with the doctrine of works and transformed the gospel church of visible saints into a national church with a birthright membership.” “Backus and the Baptists stressed the discontinuity, the antithetical nature of the two, the complete and distinct break between the past and the present dispensations. That Americans were ready to grasp this new outlook after 1740 and to pursue it to its logical conclusions marks the real break with the Old World, the medieval mind and the Puritan ethos….”
 Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, Volume 2 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, Previously published by Backus Historical Society, 1871), pp. 108-111.
 William G. McLoughlin, Isaac Backus and the American Piestic Tradition (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1967), pp. 61-63.
Although they differed from the Church of England and others on some doctrines, “[t]he Puritans brought 2 principles with them from their native country, in which they did not differ from others; which are, that natural birth, and the doings of men, can bring children into the Covenant of Grace; and, that it is right to enforce & support their own sentiments about religion with the magistrate’s sword.”
John Cotton was called upon to arrange the civil and ecclesiastical affairs of the colony. They set up a ecclesiocracy in which no one could hold office who was not a member of an approved church. “The civil laws were adjusted to the polity of the church, and while nominally distinct, they supported and assisted each other.”
“‘It was requested of Mr. Cotton,’ says his descendant Cotton Mather, ‘that he would from the laws wherewith God governed his ancient people, form an abstract of such as were of a moral and lasting equity; which he performed as acceptably as judiciously…. He propounded unto them, an endeavour after a theocracy, as near as might be to that which was the glory of Israel, the peculiar people.’”
The goal of the Puritans was to build “city on a hill.” Two modern day Covenant Theologians and historical revisionists wrote:
“They determined to change their society in the only way that could make any lasting difference: by giving it a Christianity that worked. And this they set out to do, not by words but by example, in the one place where it was still possible to live the life to which Christ had called them: three thousand miles beyond the reach of the very Church they were seeking to purify.
“[T]he legacy of Puritan New England to this nation, which can still be found at the core of our American way of life, may be summed up in one word: covenant…. [O]n the night of the Last Supper, to those who were closest to Him, Jesus said, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins….”
To the contrary, covenant cannot be found, as understood by the Puritan theologians, now or anytime in the past, at the core of our American way of life. The idea of covenant at the core of our American way of life was that of the Baptists as expressed by the Warren Association at the close of the War for Independence:
“The American Revolution is wholly built upon the doctrine, that all men are born with an equal right to what Providence gives them, and that all righteous government is founded in compact or covenant, which is equally binding upon the officers and members of each community…. And as surely as Christianity is true, Christ is the only lawgiver and head of his church….”
Nor is there a Bible principle that allows a nation to covenant with God contrary to the principles laid down in God’s Word. The Puritans incorrectly believed that every nation is in covenant with the Lord to enforce both His spiritual and earthly principles. They misunderstood the biblical teachings that God gives every nation a choice as to whether to follow His rules, and that nowhere in Scripture is there authority for a nation to initiate a non-biblical covenant with God. God alone initiated the Old Testament covenants to which He was a party, thereby, among other things, establishing Israel as a theocracy, and He made no such covenant with any other nation. All other nations called Gentile, and are judged by God primarily based upon their treatment of Israel.
Covenant Theology asserts that there are only two covenants, or three, in the Bible, with the other covenants which came after the Covenant of Grace being only a continuation thereof. The Covenant of Law, according to the covenant theologian, was made in the Garden of Eden. Covenant Theology superimposes the New Testament over the Old. Herein lies some of the fatal flaws in this interpretation of the Bible. In the Puritan formulation of those covenants, the principles and practices of the nation Israel and the Jewish religion were applied to the church and state. As has been shown, this presents irreconcilable conflicts with Old and New Testament teachings concerning law and grace and the relationship of church and state.
God permits a mutual compact or covenant between a ruler or the rulers and the people—a covenant that does not include God and His principles and that is not initiated or ordained by God. God allowed even the people of the theocracy of Israel to reject Him and, like the Gentile nations, to have a king. Isaac Backus taught as follows:
“Now the word of God plainly shows, that this way of mutual compact or covenant, is the only righteous foundation for civil government. For when Israel must needs have a king like the rest of the nations, and he indulged them in that request, yet neither Saul nor David, who were anointed by his immediate direction, ever assumed the regal power over the people, but by their free consent. And though the family of David had the clearest claim to hereditary succession that any family on earth ever had, yet, when ten of the twelve tribes revolted from his grandson, because he refused to comply with what they esteemed a reasonable proposal, and he had collected an army to bring them back by force, God warned him not to do it, and he obeyed him therein. Had these plain precedents been regarded in later times, what woes and miseries would they have prevented? But the history of all ages and nations shows, that when men have got the power into their hands, they often use it to gratify their own lusts, and recur to nature, religion or the constitution (as they think it will best serve) to carry, and yet cover, their wretched designs.”
The Puritan ideal is disproved by correct interpretation of the Word of God, by biblical history and prophecy, and secular history, including the history of the colony of Massachusetts. Israel, populated by God’s chosen race, was directly under God, yet the Israelites rejected His theocracy so that they could have a king like all the other nations. Israel fared ill when they did things their way and were ruled by kings. Under both God and king, Israel refused to do things God’s way, and rejected his commandments and statutes. After the death of King Solomon, the nation divided in two. All of the kings of the northern kingdom, Israel, were bad. The southern Kingdom, Judah, had twenty kings—eight were good and twelve were bad. Both Israel and Judah, in accord with God’s philosophy of history, experienced religious apostasy, moral awfulness, and political anarchy. They failed to keep the commandments and statutes of God and were taken into captivity as a result.
The Puritans failed to correctly interpret both the Old and New Testaments and secular history which clearly show that all nations that have ever existed have been judged by God, are in the process of being judged by God, or will be judged by God. They misinterpreted prophecy concerning the end times to say that the church, working hand in hand with the state will establish the kingdom of heaven on earth. Oh, had and would they (have) realize(d) that the New Covenant for the church had so much better promises and procedures than the Old Testament covenants. “But now hath he [Jesus Christ] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.”
The Puritans wrongly, but truly, believed they could build the Kingdom of God on earth, in their lifetime—all they needed, they felt, was “the right time, the right place, and the right people” who “were willing to commit themselves totally.” The Puritans did not realize that the philosophy of history in the Bible and the basic nature of man rendered their goal impossible. God describes the cycle of every civil government, Jewish and Gentile.
“The book of Judges is a philosophy of history. ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people’ (Proverbs 14.34).”
“We see that philosophy in the book of Judges. Israel at first, for a short time, served God. Then they did evil in the sight of the Lord and served Baal and Ashtaroth. The anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of their enemies. Israel then entered into a time of servitude. Israel cried out to God in their plight and distress. They turned to God and repented. God heard their prayers and raised up judges through whom they were delivered.
“This cycle was repeated over and over. The book of Isaiah opens with God giving his philosophy of history. Isaiah outlines three steps that cause the downfall of a nation: (1) spiritual apostasy, (2) moral awfulness, (3) and political anarchy.”
“Every nation goes down in this order: (1) religious apostasy; (2) moral awfulness; (3) political anarchy. Deterioration begins in the [church], then to the home, and finally to the state. That is the way a nation falls.”
“In Judges 17-21, we have presented that philosophy of history [that was mentioned above]. In Judges 17-18, we see spiritual apostasy. In Judges 19, we see moral awfulness. In Judges 20-21, we see political anarchy. This period ends in total national corruption and confusion. ‘In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21.25).’
“If you want to know just how up-to-date the book of Judges is, listen to the words of the late General Douglas McArthur: ‘In this day of gathering storms, as moral deterioration of political power spreads its growing infection, it is essential that every spiritual force be mobilized to defend and preserve the religious base upon which this nation is founded; for it has been that base which has been the motivating impulse to our moral and national growth. History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual reawakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster.’”
The Puritans felt that they were dedicated to serving the Lord and to doing things His way. They believed that they could set up a civil government modeled after biblical principles. They did not realize that even had they been upright in God’s eyes, future leaders would depart from the faith and lead the church and the civil government downhill into depravity just as happened in Israel and in all church-state marriages starting with the Catholics and up to the established churches after the Reformation, including the Church of England from which they were fleeing.
 Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, Volume 1 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, Previously published by Backus Historical Society, 1871), pp. 34-35.
 Roger Williams and Edward Bean Underhill, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered (London: Printed for the Society, by J. Haddon, Castle Street, Finsbury, 1848), p. xii.
 Backus, p. 35; Williams and Underhill, pp. x-xi.
Ibid., footnote 8, pp. xii-xiii, citing sources.
 Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory, (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1977), p. 146.
 Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, Volume 2 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, Previously published by Backus Historical Society, 1871), pp. 265-266.
Covenant Theology has had clear consequences. Roger Williams pointed out, concerning religious persecution based upon Covenant Theology: “He [that is, the established churches] that kills and he [those defined as heretics by the established churches] that is killed, they both cry out, ‘It is for God, and for their conscience.”[i] Only one side can be right, and the Bible shows that side to be the persecuted Baptists. Both protestants and papists, Williams continued, “pretend they have spoke with Moses and the prophets, who all, say they, before Christ came, allowed such holy persecutions [and] holy wars against the enemies of holy church.”[ii]
It is impossible for a Gentile nation prior to the return of Christ to operate as a true theocracy. As seen in Section I, Chapter 6 of God Betrayed (which is published online in an edited version), a theocracy is a “Government of a state by the immediate direction of God; or the state thus governed.” All alleged “Christian” theocracies (church over state, state over church, or a combination of church and state; called ecclesiocracies by the author) are only poor imitators of the one true God-ordained theocracy in Israel. God never told the church to work with the state, over the state, or under the state.
Israel, the only theocracy which has ever existed, operated as a theocracy only until the Israelites rejected God and demanded a king, and God acted on their request and gave them King Saul. In the theocracy, all ten of the commandments were enforced. While operating as a theocracy, Israel was directly under God, and God initially spoke directly to the leaders of the nation of Israel. After God allowed Israel, at Israel’s request, to be ruled by a king, the Jewish religion and the civil government no longer worked together, although God spoke to the kings of Israel through his chosen prophets.
God no longer speaks directly to leaders of civil government, to the leaders of church government, or to others. He speaks to believers, led by the Holy Spirit, through His Word, the Bible. This is consistent with the fact that He only ordained one theocracy, Israel, prior to the second return of Christ. Yet Covenant Theology united church and state, with the church taking the place of God in speaking directly to the civil government. As a result, the “church” used the strong arm of the state to enforce its own particular brand of religion, or the state itself enforced its preferred religion. The only way to justify such a union is to use a false interpretation of Scripture, an interpretation which, since it is based upon Satan’s principles, must have been developed by Satan himself and implemented either by his children or by children of God who were not walking in the spirit according to knowledge.
The most noticeable and atrocious consequence of all church-state and state-church unions has been the confiscation of property, dissemination of lies about “heretics” as defined by the state-church, and other persecutions such as the beating, torture, imprisonment, and killing of untold millions of people who have dissented from the views of the state-church. The ultimate result of church-state or state-church alliances is always the same—the alliance of church and state called for by a perverted interpretation of Scripture forces others to profess allegiance to the doctrines of the official church under penalty of persecution, thereby attempting to stamp out those who practice free will. The state-church or church-state enforces its own peculiar doctrines including all of the Ten Commandments among which are the first four commandments which deal with man’s relationship to God. In effect, it requires many to be dishonest with both man and God. Since no one can be forced to choose to believe a particular religious belief in their heart, a lot of religious hypocrites are thereby created.
[i] Roger Williams and Edward Bean Underhill, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered (London: Printed for the Society, by J. Haddon, Castle Street, Finsbury, 1848), p. 33, First published in 1644.
This lesson will discuss some shortcomings of Covenant Theology and give a few examples of the exposure of the Puritan Covenant Theology by colonial dissenters. Some of the quotes are quite long, so the lesson is not as condensed as in other lessons in this short course.
As one Puritan preacher, in an attempt to remove objections of some against partaking of the Lord’s Supper because of fears of not being born again, preached in order to persuade them:
“The children of those who are members of the visible church are, by the constitution of God, from their first coming into existence, members of his kingdom in common with their parents. So it was under the Jewish dispensation; and so it is now, [under the Christian] if there is any validity in one of the principal arguments, by which we vindicate our practice, in baptizing the infants of those who are members of Christ’s church.”[i]
According to Covenant Theology, the main promise God made in the Covenant of Grace was: “I will … be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee (Ge. 17.7);” and “includes the following promises: temporal blessings, justification, adoption, eternal life, the Spirit of God with His many ministries, and final glorification.”[ii] Establishment of religion in Christianity depends upon this covenant. Isaac Backus taught, “All establishments of worship by human laws, that ever were erected under the Christian name, were built upon calling the covenant in Gen. xvii the covenant of grace.”
Mr. Backus goes on to point out that “Those who have seen the nature of original sin, cannot tell how to keep up the idea of children’s being born in the covenant of grace, without some regard to grace in their parents. And in the same chapter where the unbelieving consort is said to be sanctified by the believer, a widow is required to marry only in the Lord….” [He then refers to a parable wherein to make his point the author thereof describes a church which advised a member to marry a certain woman of grace in the church rather than a woman he loves who is not of grace. Of the woman of grace, the church says:]
“As to some trifles, which a carnal man would object to, it becomes you as a spiritual man, to make no objection. It is true, she is of a mean family, and a very weak understanding; she is peevish and fretful to the highest degree; her shape is semicircular; she is what the world calls monstrous ugly; every feature is adapted to mortify carnal desires, which is much better than to have them gratified; she is the queen of sluts, and without any polite education. But she has grace, saving grace; she is regenerated; let your grace wed with hers, and a sweet bride she will be. Moreover, she is past the flower of her age, and we suppose need so requires.”
Backus goes on to say that this parable can be applied to no church on earth, but says “[H]ow mean and spiteful it is to treat the Word Grace [in the manner treated by Covenant Theologians]! Affixing the word to the covenant of circumcision, where God never put it, is the source of [a difficulty of a church at Stockbridge where to be sanctified by the believer, a widow is required to marry only in the Lord].”[iii]
Most Covenant Theologians have divided postfall history into two dispensations, the Mosaic dispensation sometimes called the “Old Covenant,” and the Christian dispensation, usually called the “New Covenant;” and they claim that the Covenant of Grace, although administration of that covenant differed between the dispensations, exists throughout these dispensations. “[E]ach dispensation or covenant named in the Bible is simply another stage of the progressive revelation of the nature of the Covenant of Grace.”[iv]
First its “ultimate goal of history[, also discussed supra, the Glory of God through the redemption of the elect,] is too narrow…. Second, Covenant Theology denies or weakens some of the distinctions which are in the Bible by insisting that distinctions are simply different phases of the same Covenant of Grace…. In addition, Covenant theology denies the existence of distinctive gospels in the Bible…. Covenant Theology insists that there is no essential distinction between the Mosaic Covenant (the Law) and the New Covenant…. Covenant theology also denies the distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church.… Third, Covenant Theology is mistaken when it teaches that each of the biblical covenants is a continuation and newer phase of the Covenant of Grace…. Fourth, Covenant Theology’s unifying principle is too limited or narrow. [First, Covenant Theology is too limited in that it unifies history through the Covenant of Grace from either the fall of man or the time of Abraham. It is too narrow because it deals only with God’s redemption of the elect, and it does not unify the program of redemption with all God’s other programs.] Second, … it does not unify prefall history with postfall history, which a valid exposition of the biblical philosophy of history must do…. Fifth, in order to make its system work, Covenant Theology must employ a double hermeneutic (a double system of interpretation)….”[v]
According to the Covenant Theologian, “the idea of dual covenants functioned as a warning against reliance on good works for salvation.” The Covenant of Works required obedience for salvation. According to the Covenant of Grace one could only be saved by faith in Christ.[vi]
Yet, the Covenant of Works remained in effect.
“This meant, first, that New Englanders whom God had not yet called effectually into salvation remained entirely under a covenant of works and subject to its moral restraint. It meant also, according to Cotton, that the burden of moral expectation should drive the sensitive conscience to Christ. It was ‘the usuall manner of God to give a Covenant of Grace by leading men first into a Covenant of works.’ Living under the covenant of works, Shepard explained, they would discover their sinfulness, and their ‘terrors, and fears, and hopes’ would turn them to Christ. And it meant, third, that even Christians safely within the covenant of grace remained subject to the moral substance of the first covenant. Abolished as a ‘covenant of life,’ Shepard said, the law still remained a ‘Rule of Life.’ These were the traditional three uses of the law in Reformed theology; covenantal language provided a lively way to restate them.”[vii]
Covenant Theologians teach that God’s commands are “too severe even for Adam in innocency, and that grace[, through the covenant of circumcision and its successor, baptism,] gives an exemption from that severity,” under the Covenant of Grace.
Covenant Theology, which does not recognize or correctly analyze the roles of the Old and New Covenants, is at odds with a correct interpretation of the Bible on this issue. Isaac Backus, in exposing the New England Puritan theology, explained:
“[The law is holy, just, and good]; it [is] spiritual; but [man] a carnal slave to sin, instead of having such high dignity and liberty as he before imagined he had…. A false imagination of good in the forbidden fruit, drew our first parents into rebellion against God; and such imaginations are the only source of sin in all their children. James i. 14, 15. Good is still their pursuit, but they have lost the knowledge of who can give it, or of what it is; but the regenerate soul knows both, and this is the precise difference between them. Psalm iv. 6, 7. Who does not know that debtors and criminals are not fit judges in their own causes? [Y]et that is the case with all reasoners against the truth and perfection of God’s written word…. And to hear many speaking evil of things they know not, but what they know naturally as brute beasts, and in those things to corrupt themselves; to see them tread down the good pastures, and foul the deep waters, and thrust others with side and shoulder, serves to confirm believers in the truth of revelation, and in the hope of a speedy deliverance from such evil beasts. Jude 10. Ezek. xxxiv. 18, 25.”[viii]
To show that God has “disannulled the national covenant which he made with Abraham,” Backus offered the following insights:
“First, Abraham had no right to circumcise any stranger, until he had bought him as a servant for money. Gen. xvii. 12, 13. But God says to his children, Ye are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of men. I Cor. vii. 23. And he says to his ministers, Feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood. Acts xx. 28. He also says, Ye have sold yourselves for nought, and ye shall be redeemed without money. And this is the gospel of peace. Is. lii. 3, 7; Rom. x. 15. Thus do the apostles explain the prophets. Secondly, The children of Israel had no right to receive strangers into the church by households, until the day in which they came out of Egypt, when the Passover was instituted. And then God said, Every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. Exod. xii. 44—48. Circumcision and the Passover were as binding upon servants as children; and both ordinances pointed to the blood of Christ, which he was to shed for his people. And in reference to that, God said, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. Jer. xxxi. 31, 32. And an inspired apostle says, In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. viii. 7—13; x. 9. And can old and new, first and second, mean but one covenant? Surely no. Thirdly, Circumcision is the name which God gave to his covenant with Abraham. Acts vii. 8. And though Jews and Mahometans are still zealous for it, yet all Christians allow that circumcision is repealed. But after the apostolic age, men took away the name which God gave to that covenant, and added the name Grace to it; and they held that dominion is founded in grace. And from thence the nations have made merchandise of all the vanities of time, and of slaves and souls of men. But the plagues of Babylon will come upon all men who add to the word of God, and take away from the words of his book, if they refuse to come out of that practice. Rev. xviii. 4—13; xxii. 18, 19. And there is not a word in all the Bible for bringing any child to baptism without his own profession of faith in Christ, nor for forcing any man to support any religious minister; and all national churches are built upon these two superstitions. Fourthly, Circumcision was the shedding of human blood; and when Abraham received it, it was a seal of righteousness of the faith which he before had in Christ, in whom believers are justified by his blood. Rom. iv. 11, 23; v. 9; Gal. iii. 16; Gen. xv. 6; xvii. 24. It was a seal to him; but neither circumcision nor baptism are ever called seals to any other person in the Bible. But God says to true believers in Christ, In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise. And he also says, Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Eph. i. 13; iv. 30. After believing in Christ, the Holy Spirit seals the merits of his death, and the promises of his grace to the soul. And all believers from the beginning, looked through the bloody ordinances which God appointed, to the blood of Christ for justification. And after the beast arose out of the bottomless pit, God said, All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Rev. xiii. 8. Force and cruelty is the general character of the beast; but Jesus, who is the root and offspring of David, will cause all evil beasts to cease out of the land. Ezek. xxxiv. 4, 25; Rev. xxii. 16. Fifthly, the believing Jews were suffered to go on in circumcision for a number of years past the death of Christ, and then God said to them, If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. …. Whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace. Gal. v.2—4. So far was the covenant of circumcision from being the covenant of grace. That bloody sign not only pointed to the death of Christ, but also to the death of all true believers in him. Therefore Paul says, I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. … The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s, have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts. Gal. ii. 19, 20; v. 22-24. Adam and Christ are the only two public heads of mankind, as to the great affairs of the soul and eternity. For as by one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous. Rom. v. 19. For parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, is of infinite importance; but we can find no warrant for any to bring them to baptism without a personal profession of faith in Christ….
“God said of Abraham, I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. Gen. xviii. 19. He will and They shall, was the language of God’s covenant with Abraham; but I will, and They shall, is the language of the new covenant, since the death of Christ. Heb. viii. 10; x. 9. It was the will of God that the visible church should continue in the line of Abraham’s posterity, until Christ came and died for his people, and then the holy spirit was given, and believing Jews and Gentiles were united in his church. And they never were called Christians, until believing Gentiles were received into the church without circumcision….
“[T]he holding that the children of believers are born into the covenant of grace, or that baptism can bring them into it, without their own knowledge or choice, is such a confounding of grace and works together as holds multitudes in blindness and bondage.”[ix]
We should look at the Dispensation of Grace to find the duties of believers today.
Who are the true seed of Abraham? Mr. Backus again correctly divided the Word of Truth in answering this question:
“Circumcision was only for males, but females are equally the subjects of baptism, which proves an essential change of the covenant. And our Lord gave the gospel commission to the eleven, who were all born again; and he said to them, Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy ghost; teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matt. xxviii. 16—20. This promise is only to his children, in the way of obedience to all his commandments. And as the covenant of circumcision gave Israel a right to buy the heathen for servants, and circumcision was only for the males, the gospel says to believers, Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s then ye are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal. iii.26—29. Abraham was an eminent type of Christ, and none are his spiritual seed but believers in Christ.” (, pp. 370-371).
[i] Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, Volume 2 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, Previously published by Backus Historical Society, 1871), p. 171.
[ii] Renald E. Showers, There Really Is a Difference: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology (Bellmawr, New Jersey: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1990), p. 14, citing Berkhof, p. 277.
[iii] Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 2, pp. 238-241.
[iv] Showers, pp. 14-16, citing Berkhof, pp. 282-283 and Ernest Frederick Kevan, “Dispensation,” in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, editor-in-chief, Everett F. Harrison (Grand Rapids; Baker Book House, 1960), p. 168.
[v] Showers, pp. 19-25 citing Berkof, pp. 298, 300; Bernhard W. Anderson, “The New Covenant and The Old,” in The Old Testament and Christian Faith, ed. by Bernard W. Anderson (New York: Herder and Herder, 1969), p. 232; and Johannes Behm, “kainos,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. III, ed. by Gerhard Kittel, trans. and ed. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965, pp. 447, 448, 449. See Showers for a more detailed explanation of the deficiencies listed.
[vi] E. Brooks Holifield, Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Sheridan Books, 2003), p. 40.
This chapter will not examine Covenant Theology in detail, but some explanation is necessary. Some information will repeat some of the concepts already discussed. This study is primarily concerned with Covenant Theology, as practiced in the American colonies by established churches and the resulting unbiblical practices including persecution of dissenters.
Covenant Theology is “a system of theology which attempts to develop the Bible’s philosophy of history on the basis of two or three covenants,” the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. Covenant Theology began as a system in the 16th or 17th century and was introduced into America primarily through the Puritans.[i] One version of Covenant Theology combines the Covenant of Redemption with the Covenant of Grace. Covenant Theology teaches that God established the Covenant of Redemption in eternity past when God determined to provide redemption during the course of history for the elect. This Covenant placed requirements on the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father gave the Son the responsibility of paying for the sin of Adam and His elect (those the Father had given Him). He could do that by keeping the law thereby assuring eternal life for His children.[ii]
According to Covenant Theology, the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace came after God created man. These covenants are deduced by Covenant Theologians and are not specified in Scripture. The Covenant of Works was established between the creation and fall of man. It required “implicit and perfect obedience of Adam.”[iii] Adam broke the Covenant of Works after which God established the Covenant of Grace.
The Covenant of Grace has been defined as “that gracious agreement between the offended God and the offending but elect sinner, in which God promises salvation through faith in Christ, and the sinner accepts this believingly, promising a life of faith and obedience.”[iv] God is the first party to the covenant, and, depending upon the theologian, the second party is the sinner, the elect, or the elect sinner in Christ. Some people who never become regenerate are included in the Covenant of Grace since it exists as both ‘a communion of life’ experienced by only the regenerate and as a ‘purely legal relationship’ experienced by both believers and their children.
The children of believers experience the Covenant of Grace as a legal relationship in four ways: They are in the Covenant (1) “as far as their responsibility [to repent and believe] is concerned;” (2) “in the sense that they may lay claim to the promises which God gave when He established His covenant with believers and their seed;” (3) “in the sense that they are subject to the ministrations of the covenant;” and (4) “as far as the common covenant blessings are concerned.” A person who is a child of the regenerate is regarded as a member of the covenant even if he does not enter into the communion of life aspect through a confession of faith.[v]
[i] Showers, pp. 7-8; Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pp. 183-184.
[ii] See, e.g., Renald E. Showers, There Really Is a Difference: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology (Bellmawr, New Jersey: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1990), p. 9.
[iii] Showers., p. 10; see also, Ryrie, pp. 188-189.
[iv] Showers, pp. 10-11; see also, Ryrie, p. 184 citing Berkhof, p. 277.
In order to understand religious liberty and the history of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (freedom of speech, press, association, religion (or religious liberty); conscience; soul liberty; separation of church and state; and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances), one must understand Dispensational Theology and Covenant Theology. This is because proponents of these two theologies fought a spiritual warfare in the colonies which led to the adoption of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Puritans were Covenant Theologians. Historic Baptists were Dispensationalists in belief, although the term Dispensational Theology was not coined until sometime in the last few hundred years. These two theologies clashed in the English colonies of America, the Baptist view prevailing at the federal level with the adoption of the First Amendment.
Christian and Secular Revisionists, as always, continue to deceive the general population in America with a revised history of the First Amendment. The contrived version of “Christian” revisionist history predominates the American Christian landscape.[i] The historical section of these studies will summarize the true history, which true scholarship has recorded from the colonial period until this very day.[ii] Contemporary Christian Revisionists use the same techniques as did their Calvinist forefathers. As Isaac Backus noted, concerning the revisionism and lies of the leaders of the established churches in the colonies:
“[I] appeal to the conscience of every reader, whether he can find three worse things on earth, in the management of controversy, than, first, to secretly take the point disputed for truth without any proof; then, secondly, blending that error with known truths, to make artful addresses to the affections and passions of the audience, to prejudice their minds, before they hear a word that the respondent has to say; and thirdly, if the respondent refuses to yield to such management, then to call in the secular arm to complete the argument?”[iii]
See Isaac Backus Quoted in God Betrayedto get a little understanding of the importance of his efforts and writings in the colonies for the cause of separation of church and state and religious liberty. The first major threat to the colonial establishments was instituted by Roger Williams in New England. His activities and writings forcefully revealed fallacies of certain Puritan (Calvinist) theology and Puritan persecution of “heretics” and led the founding of the first civil government in history with any lasing influence with religious liberty. See Roger Williams: Quotes and Other Information from God Betrayed.
Baptists in the colonies fought the Puritan and Anglican establishments. Isaac Backus came out of the Congregational (Puritan) Church, became a Baptist, and fought against establishment of churches, infant baptism, etc. He obviously disregarded the Calvinist allegorized interpretations of Scripture. He still called himself a Calvinist, but rejected much of classic Calvinism. Through his extensive writing and activities, he fought for separation of church and state, baptismal regeneration, and other issues in the colonies. These studies, especially the advanced studies, extensively quote Isaac Backus, and others such as Roger Williams—another hero of the faith who arrived in Massachusetts from England in the 1630s. It is obvious from their writings that these men took a literal view of Scripture and rejected the allegorized interpretation of Catholicism and Protestantism. Their writings totally dismantled the teachings of Puritans such as John Cotton. At the same time, Cotton and other Puritans, true to form and according to their theology, lied and misrepresented truth as always. They justify lying based upon false interpretations of Scriptures such as those dealing with Rahab the harlot and the midwives in Egypt.
The warfare between various biblical theologies continues and will continue until the kingdom of heaven is established by our Lord. Most “Baptists,” not to mention members of denominations and religions, have unknowingly succumbed to false religious beliefs and philosophies as end-time prophesy unfolds as foretold in Scripture.
This and the next few teachings will, in a nutshell, explain Dispensational Theology and Covenant Theology, distinguish them, and will be invaluable in one’s quest for understanding of the biblical principle of separation of church and state and the American application thereof. To fully understand these matters will not be the goal; only the most important matters will be covered, and those in summary form. see the citations and references for more in depth analysis and study.
Covenant theology allegorizes and spiritualizes Scripture and teaches union of church and state. Covenant theology applies selected principles regarding the theocracy of Israel to Gentile civil government and the church. Dispensational theology is based upon a literal belief in Scripture which accordingly teaches separation of church and state. Although many biblical principles run from Genesis to Revelation, the rules for church and state and for the Jewish religion-state are not the same. Under Judaism (the Jewish religion as ordained by God), religion and state operated hand-in-hand under God; that is, the religion and state were unified by God, both religion and state instructed by God to work together directly under God for the same goals.
Keep in mind that there are many variations of Covenant Theology. Likewise, Dispensationalist systems of theology deviate, some alarmingly, from accurate and literal understanding and teaching on Scripture. God will not call every believer to totally understand these systems. The best thing a believer can do with God’s Word is to study it, believing what it says. When one does that, he will by definition be a dispensationalist. The important thing is that the believer read his own Bible and verify any Bible teaching. It is a serious mistake to blindly follow anyone, especially traditional Calvinist, Reformed, Catholic, Charismatic, JW, Mormon, or similar cultic teachings and teachers.
[i] See the History of the First Amendment or The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus which also explains why those revisionists lie about history and seek to intentionally deceive Christians.
[ii] See, List of Scholarly Resources which Explain and Comprehensively Document the True History of Religious Freedom in America
[iii] Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 1, p. 150. This comment followed and preceded illustrations of how those in favor of church/state marriage, infant baptism, etc. advance their cause. On pp. 151-152, Mr. Backus illustrated how those in favor of infant baptism argued their position, pointing out the fallacies of their arguments. Their tactics have not changed, although in America, due to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, they no longer can call upon civil government to enforce their beliefs. Click here for Quotes of Isaac Backus in God Betrayed.
As these studies have already shown, God, the Supreme Ruler, ordained civil government and the church at different times, for different purposes, and for peoples with different natures. God ordained the state, the civil government, to deal with earthly matters, and the church to deal with spiritual matters. When church and state combine, the earthly combines with the spiritual and trouble lies ahead, as history proves.
God desires that both civil governments and churches choose to be under Him, to operate according to His principles. At the same time, God desires separation of church and state—that is, He desires that neither the church nor the Gentile state work with or be under the other. A church who does not understand this proper relationship will be easily influenced to take earthly benefits from the state in return for forsaking her purely spiritual status and calling under Christ. Most American churches have corporate 501(c)(3) legal status; both combine church and state for earthly temporal legal reasons. Such churches are established churches, legal creatures of the state.[i]
It is the responsibility of every church, not the state—regardless of all persecutions by the state, by the church-state alliance, and/or by the world in general—to be a light and stand for and proclaim truth. This is so because a church is the only institution made up of people privy to God’s spiritual insights, and is “the pillar and ground of the truth.”[ii] Generally speaking, those who run civil government cannot know spiritual and ultimate truth since most leaders in civil government are unregenerate (or, in rare instances, Christians who are usually spiritual babies).
Catholicism was the original church to be united with the state through the law of civil government in the early fourth century. Catholicism, most notably Augustine and much later Aquinas, developed the theology which unifies church and state through the laws of a nation. This theology justifies the persecution, torture, and murder of heretics. Established Protestant churches continued to practice this heretical theology. Church state establishments have always viciously persecuted and murdered those whom the established church has labeled to be heretical.[iii]
Established churches in the American colonies—notably, the Puritans and Anglicans—continued to persecute heretics, although due to constraints by England, not as severely as in the Old World. As always, faithful Bible stood spiritually, not physically, against the establishments. Due to the circumstances in the colonies, those heroes of the faith ultimately prevailed when the First Amendment was ratified and added to the United States Constitution.[iii]
The Covenant Theology of the Puritans, a modified form of Calvinism, which is a modification of Catholic theology, spiritualizes and allegorizes much of the Bible. Calvinism teaches union of church and state and requires the persecution of heretics.
The main opponents of Covenant Theology, union of church and state, and persecution of “heretics” in the colonies were the Baptists. The writings and history, for the most part have survived. Unlike the Old World where Protestantism and Catholicism before that successfully destroyed the books, writings, and teachings of “heretics” new forces came together in the colonies which allowed the brilliant history and writings of men such as Roger Williams, Dr. John Clarke, Isaac Backus, and other to be preserved. Sadly, Christian Revisionism, not to mention secular revisionism, has tried to blot out or pervert and hide that history and those writings.
This section will examine:
Covenant Theology versus the theology of the dissenting Baptists in the colonies;
some distinct differences between the church and the state which render them mutually exclusive;
Christ’s statement concerning Caesar and God and the false interpretation of Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2.13 and some other verses which are often cited out of context to support unlimited submission to the state in all earthly matters, and in all spiritual matters, with the possible exception of preaching salvation;
the Bible doctrine concerning the relationship of church and state.
[ii] 1 Ti. 3.15. Many earthly relationships and behaviors involve the application of spiritual insights. For example, God teaches, in His Word, the responsibilities of husbands to wives, wives to husbands, parents to children, children to parents, civil government to marriages and the men and women joined in marriage, civil government to children, and so forth. Although these are spiritual teachings, they are to be applied in earthly relationships to which there is a spiritual parameter. In other words, God is involved in all relationships and has outlined the ultimate consequences for behaviors, and therefore, everything is spiritual even though it may have an earthly dimension. The trouble comes when man tries to exclude God and His principles, an impossible task.
Also, every sphere of ordained government has its own God-given jurisdiction. God desires the state to stay out of family affairs unless criminal acts are involved. He wants civil government to stay out of church affairs, and the church, as an institution to stay out of state affairs. At the same time, he wants Christians to be in authority since only Christians can apply His principles in the realm of government (of course this has almost never happened). Likewise, a church has no God-given jurisdiction over a family.
Churches under Christ Ministry of Charity Baptist Tabernacle of Amarillo, Texas. A Christian Lawyer explains how a church in America can remain under the Lord Jesus Christ and Him only. "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church" (Ephesians 1.22).