John Calvin (1509-1564) taught a single covenant established after the fall, and maintained the essential unity and consistency of the Old and New Testaments, which are both mediated through Jesus Christ and operate on the basis of grace (i.e. the covenant of grace). In a previous post we looked at Bullinger’s bilateral concept of the covenant, which can be accessed below:
Rather than Bullinger’s bilateral covenant, Calvin regarded the covenant as a unilateral promise resting on God’s redemptive act in Jesus Christ:
“[A]ll whom, from the beginning of the world, God adopted as his peculiar people, were taken into covenant with him on the same conditions, and under the same bond of doctrine, as ourselves; but as it is of no small importance to establish this point, I will here add it by way of appendix, and show, since the Fathers were partakers with us in the same inheritance, and hoped for a common salvation through the grace of the same Mediator, how far their condition in this respect was different from our own. For although the passages which we have collected from the Law and the Prophets for the purpose of proof, make it plain that there never was any other rule of piety and religion among the people of God; yet as many things are written on the subject of the difference between the Old and New Testaments in a manner which may perplex ordinary readers, it will be proper here to devote a special place to the better and more exact discussion of this subject… let us consider what resemblance and what difference there is between the covenant which the Lord made with the Israelites before the advent of Christ, and that which he has made with us now that Christ is manifested.
It is possible, indeed, to explain both in one word. The covenant made with all the fathers is so far from differing from ours in reality and substance, that it is altogether one and the same: still the administration differs… What we propose to insist upon here may be reduced to three heads:—First, That temporal opulence and felicity was not the goal to which the Jews were invited to aspire, but that they were admitted to the hope of immortality, and that assurance of this adoption was given by immediate communications, by the Law and by the Prophets. Secondly, That the covenant by which they were reconciled to the Lord was founded on no merits of their own, but solely on the mercy of God, who called them; and, thirdly, That they both had and knew Christ the Mediator, by whom they were united to God, and made capable of receiving his promises.”
– John Calvin (1509-1564), Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.x.1-2