Calvin's Covenantal Pronomianism
Calvin on the Covenant
Calvin's views on the covenant are sometimes distinguished from those of his heirs. It is said that Calvin was not a Calvinist and that his theology is not covenantal.  No doubt, Calvin's view of the covenant is less developed than the view of the Westminster theologians, for example, expressed in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. But this does not mean that the covenant was unimportant for Calvin's theology. On the contrary, as Osterhaven explains, the difference between Calvin and the Calvinists has been exaggerated:
In particular the concept of the covenant provides Calvin with his doctrine of the unity of the Scripture,  and was a foundational emphasis in his theology  affecting systematic as well as practical issues. Calvin pointed out that differences between the Old and New Testaments "do not erase the fundamental unity of the Scripture, and he supported this with his doctrine of the covenant. He argued that the covenant with the patriarchs 'is so much like ours in substance and reality that the two are actually one and the same. Yet they differ in mode of dispensation.'"  This means that the covenant God made with Israel is basically the same as the new covenant. In Calvin's words:
What this means for Calvin's view of the religion of the Old Testament is well expressed by Balke:
In short, Calvin taught one covenant, one covenantal religion of the people of God, one unified covenantal Holy Scripture. Thus, no consideration of Calvin's view of the law of Moses is adequate which ignores his understanding of that covenantal unity of Scripture. As Osterhaven explains, "[T]he entire Old Testament was meaningful to Calvin in an unusual manner. Since Christ was the foundation of the covenant and both Testaments found their meaning in Him, that which was said by God to Israel was said to Calvin and us as well. The law was written to us, he is fond of saying in his explication of the Old Testament in commentaries and sermons." 
In his first sermon on Deuteronomy Calvin emphasized that very point:
Viewing the law as a continuation of the covenant with Abraham meant viewing it as part of God's grace to His people: "All this is true also of the Mosaic law itself. The latter belongs integrally to the covenant which God concluded with His servant Abraham. . . . Moses is not the founder of a so-called religion of law but the prophet of the covenant God, witnessing to God's mercy and loyalty." 
Calvin's understanding of God's covenant grace and blessing upon His people is also essential to his view of history. In the Institutes Calvin, responding to Anabaptists who viewed the religion of the Old Testament as unspiritual, stressed the fact that the patriarchs suffered many trials for their faith.  They did not merely live for the blessings of this life. When Calvin teaches the book of Deuteronomy to his congregation, however, he repeatedly draws attention to the fact that obedience to God's covenant brings the blessings of this life on both the individual and the whole church of God.  Calvin exhorts his congregation without ceasing, "Wherefore let us show this zeal, if we will have our Lord to bless and prosper us."  His sermons on Deuteronomy 27 and 28 make it abundantly clear that he understood God's sovereign rule over the nations in history as covenantal rule. The sanctions of the covenant are Calvin's basis for understanding the historical process. 
Finally, although Calvin himself never makes a systematic statement of the eschatological implications of his view of the covenant, it has been pointed out that, "Calvin seems to enjoy reflecting on the divine intention to make Abraham and his posterity a blessing to all the families of the earth so that there would be a spread of the gospel everywhere, for he alludes to it often."  Nowhere does Calvin refer to God's blessing upon the whole world more than in his prayers. In more than half of Calvin's 200 sermons on Deuteronomy, the prayer ends with the formula, "That it may please him to grant this grace, not only unto us, but also to all people and nations of the earth."  When we remember the place that Calvin assigned to prayer in the Christian life and the fact that his view of prayer was decidedly covenantal, we cannot regard Calvin's prayers as insignificant for understanding his outlooks on history and theology:
In summary, Calvin's view of the covenant argues for the continuing
validity of the law of Moses, for in essence the new covenant does not
differ from the Mosaic. Furthermore, God is controlling history today
just as He did in the days of Moses -- through His covenant. When His
people obey the covenant from their hearts, they are blessed and they
prosper, both in this world and in the next. When they break His law,
He disciplines them to bring them back to the way of obedience. In the
end God will bring about the salvation of the world according to the
covenant grace He promised to Abraham: "In thee shall all the nations
of the earth be blessed." This view of the covenant is the basis
for the Reformed approach to theology seen clearly, for example, in
the the doctrine of baptism. In fact it affects virtually every area
of doctrine. Calvin's worldview is a covenantal worldview that calls
for the application of all of God's Word to all of life.
 See the discussion in: Paul Helm, Calvin and the Calvinists (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982), esp. pp. 5ff.
 M. Eugene Osterhaven, "Calvin on the Covenant," in Donald K. McKim (ed.), Readings in Calvin's Theology (Grand Rapids, Baker: 1984), pp. 90-91.
 "Calvin based the unity of Scripture on the doctrine of the covenant." William Balke, Calvin and the Anabaptist Radicals (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 315.
 "The unity of the covenant that God established with mankind in Abraham and confirmed in Christ is a major emphasis in Calvin's teaching." Osterhaven, "Calvin on the Covenant," p. 98.
 William Balke, Calvin and the Anabaptist Radicals (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 310.
 Calvin is commenting on Jeremiah 31:31-32, Commentary on Jeremiah, vol. 4, pp. 126-27.
 William Balke, Calvin and the Anabaptist Radicals (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 310-311.
 Osterhaven, "Calvin on the Covenant," p. 103.
 SD, p. 4, italics added. See also pp. 133, 180-81, 797, etc.; Calvin expresses this view in too many places to refer to them all: "Moreover it is true, that in substance God maketh no other covenant with us nowadays, than He made in old time with the Jews: but yet He speaketh much more familiarly unto us; He sheweth Himself to be our God and our Father, and hath made us a far greater assurance thereof in our Lord Jesus Christ, than the Jews could have under the shadows and figures of the law. Indeed the ancient fathers were saved by no other means than by that which we have, to wit, that they were the people of God; for this betokeneth as much as that God held them for His children: and they had their salvation grounded in Christ Jesus, as we have: but that was after an obscure manner, so as they beheld the thing afar off which was presented unto them. As for us, seeing God is come so near unto us in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we be united unto Him and have the truth and substance of the ancient figures: we be so much more the sure that God maketh us to say that we are His people, and that we make Him to say that He is our God. And how doth He make us to say it? Truly altogether of His own good will, without being tied or bound unto us. For God having adopted us for His children, certifieth us that the inheritance of heaven is made ready for us, and behold He giveth His own Son unto us for a pledge of His love, and whatever our Lord Jesus Christ hath is all ours, with all the fulness of riches which we read was given unto Him."
 Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, p. 94.
 Cf. Institutes, II: VIII, IX, X. See Gary North, Westminster(IU(Js Confession, pp. 62-64.
 Gary North deals with this subject at length in the "Publisher(IU(Js Preface" to John Calvin, The Covenant Enforced: Sermons on Deuteronomy 27 and 28 (Tyler, Tex.: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), pp. ix-xxv. He also discusses Calvin's view of covenantal sanctions in Westminster's Confession, pp. 62-70.
 SD, p. 760.
 In contrast with many modern Calvinists! See, Calvin, The Covenant Enforced.
 Osterhaven, "Calvin on the Covenant," p. 97.
 It occurs 66 times in the first 100 prayers. SD, pp. 12, 24, 30, 36, 48, 54, 66, 72, 84, 90, 103, 109, 121, 127, 145, 159, 164, 176, 182, 193, 205, 212, 224, 229, 241, 247, 253, 265, 271, 277, 390, 296, 309, 315, 320, 333, 339, 352, 359, 371, 379, 392, 406, 419, 425, 438, 445, 451, 463, 470, 475, 481, 494, 506, 513, 526, 533, 539, 552, 558, 572, 578, 584, 596, 602, 620.
 Commentary on Hosea, pp. 460-61.
 Commentary on Daniel, p. 332.
[ Calvin's Covenantal Pronomianism Index | Introduction | Calvinism in America Today | Calvin on Natural Law | Calvin on the Covenant | Calvin on the Judicial Law of Moses (Part 1) | Calvin on the Judicial Law of Moses (Part Two) | Conclusion ]