In chapter 7 of From Shadow to Substance, Dr. Renihan points out an important distinction in the covenant theology of Nehemiah Coxe. Concerning Nehemiah Coxes’ book A Discourse of the Covenants, much is dedicated to the Abrahamic Covenant, more specifically, the dealings with Abraham’s natural offspring within this covenant, the sealing of the covenant of circumcision in Genesis 17 that had been developing for many years prior, as well as the “foundation of the Mosaic covenant in years to follow.”
“Beginning in Genesis 12, Coxe pointed out that alongside of the heavenly promises of the covenant of grace God gave an earthly promise to Abraham, the multiplication of his offspring. In Genesis 13:14-17 God added the promise of a fruitful land in which the multiplied offspring would dwell. Expanding on this promise in Genesis 12 and 13, Coxe drew attention to God’s oath to Abraham in Genesis 15 that his descendants would surely inherit the land of Canaan. He pointed out that ‘these things are expressly said to have been transacted in a way of Covenant with Abraham.’ Coxe was building a case that God’s covenantal dealings with Abraham were progressive, and one must take them all into account to get a complete picture of the covenant in view.”
I placed an emphasis on the word “progressive” in this passage, as this is something that for me, my Paedobaptist friends struggle to deal with.
Dr. Renihan continues…
“At last Coxe arrived at Genesis 17, the ‘hinge of the controversy.’ Referencing Acts 7:8, he consistently referred to this covenant as the covenant of circumcision, explaining this name to mean ‘that Covenant of which Circumcision was the Sign or Token; or that Covenant in which a Restipulation was required by the Observation of this Rite.’ Here Coxe noted that whereas God had primarily covenanted promises to Abraham thus far, here ‘we first meet with an express Injunction of Obedience to a Command (and that of positive Right) as the Condition of Covenant Interest.’ Though God vouchsafed ‘for the Ensurance of the Promises…a strict and intire Obedience to his Precepts is required in order to the Inheritance of the good things that were to be given by this Covenant.’”
The covenant of circumcision and the covenant of grace promised to Abraham are important factors in the federal theology of the Particular Baptists. Missing out on the distinctions between the two, namely the covenant of works that the covenant of circumcision was (failure to comply with the command of circumcision would result in disinheritance), and the covenant of grace that existed in promise form (not turning the Abrahamic Covenant into the actual covenant of grace), ultimately lead to a faulty view of the covenant made with Abraham.
If you want to read more about the Covenant Theology of the Particular Baptists I encourage you to check out this excellent work.