The development of the Federal theology of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries was a significant transformation in Reformed theological thinking. According to the Federal theologians, all of human history could be described using the rubric of a series of covenants, or foedera, beginning with a `covenant of works' in the perfection of Eden and concluding with the new covenant fulfilled by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The new covenant
was in effect the conclusion of the `covenant of grace', and it was this which united the Old and New Testaments into one continuous epic of God's grace and mercy. While John Calvin and many earlier Reformers discussed the importance of the postlapsarian covenant of grace, they never taught the Federal
theology with its key identifying feature of a prelapsarian covenant. This book traces the prelapsarian covenant idea in Reformed theology from its first use by Zacharias Ursinus in 1562 to its flowering in 1590. Besides its origins, the implications of the Federal theology for Reformed thinking are made clear, and it is shown that the idea of covenant could have important implications for areas such as church and state, the sacraments, the Puritan doctrine of conversion,
the Christian Sabbath, and the doctrine of justification and Christian ethics. The Federal theology is of considerable historical importance in intellectual history and forms the framework for much of the Reformed theology in the English-speaking world for three centuries. The
doctoral thesis out of which this book developed won the Frank S. and Elizabeth D. Brewer Prize of the American Society of Church History.
`without doubt a milestone in the dogma-historical research on the covenant. ... The bibliography is superb, and is updated till 1989. It is helpful not only for students of covenant theology per se, but also for related topics, such as Puritanism, Ramist influence in Calvinist thought, and the sacraments in Reformed theology. This bibliography alone already makes the book invaluable! ... The study is, in various ways, stimulating and perhaps even
provocative. ... Weir has presented us with a stimulating and carefully researched study.'
Teh Evangelical Quarterly
` Although this work will not be the last word on the subject, it certainly is the latest word and no future discussion of this important topic will dare ignore it. ... Because of Weir's solid relationship, there is hope that a consensus on this important subject can be reached in the relatively near future.'
Journal of Religious History.
'Professor Weir has performed a valuable service ... The author provides a plain and accurate account of the doctrinal distinctives of covenant theology.'
Paul Helm, The Banner of Truth
'a fine example of the genre of historical theology ... Weir's thorough and careful scholarship has produced an essential book for students of Reformation thought, especially for those who wrestle with the problem of the covenants.'
Dewey D. Wallace, Jr, George Washington University, American Historical Review, December 1991
'This is a useful work.'
John Van Engen, University of Notre Dame, The Historian
'David Weir's volume on the origins of federal theology offers a useful ... survey of the early Reformed discussion of a prelapsarian covenant. The volume provides a most valuable bibliography, and it offers what is probably the most extended treatment extant of early Reformed discussion of the covenenant of nature, covenant of works, and related terms.'
Richard A. Muller, Fuller Theological Seminary, The Journal of Religion
'I am seldom as engrossed after reading the first few pages of a book as I was upon first picking up this fascinating book. From an historical point of view I found this book very informative and useful, and highly stimulating.'
Stephen C. Perks, Calvinism Today, Vol. III, No. 4, October 1993
The lexical and biblical evidence; the background to the first proposal of the prelapsarian covenant in reformed theology; the prelapsarian covenant as proposed by Zacharias Ursinus; the early federal theologians; the second stage in the development of the federal theology. Appendix: bibliography of the federal theology and the covenant idea before 1750.