A Bibliography of Dispensationalism: Part 4 -- By: Arnold D. Ehlert

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 101:404 (Oct 1944)
Article: A Bibliography of Dispensationalism: Part 4
Author: Arnold D. Ehlert


A Bibliography of Dispensationalism:
Part 4

Arnold D. Ehlert

(Continued from the July-September Number, 1944)

Dispensationalism from the Reformation to 1825

This is the period during which the larger doctrine of ages and dispensations had its beginning and unfolding. By 1825 there was a considerable literature to be found on the subject, and the doctrine was well established as a theological concept. It is a strange phenomenon that almost without exception dispensational writers since that date, however, have ignored this body of literature.

William Gouge (1575/78–1653) presents the earliest system of dispensations to come to our attention from this period. Gouge was educated at St. Paul’s in London, at Eton, and at King’s College, Cambridge. At Cambridge he became fellow and lecturer. In 1643 he was made a member of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, and was chosen to write the Assembly’s annotations on 1 Kings to Job. He was counted “the father of the London ministers.” His great work was his commentary on Hebrews, finished just before his death and published by his son afterwards.

Gouge’s scheme of dispensations, while he does not call them such, is based on the ancient sex-millennial tradition. The specific advance that he makes over the mere division of time into six periods consists in this, that he views them in relation to the development of God’s program of redemption. Therein lies the distinction between the terms ages and dispensations. A theological dispensation has two major aspects: a time-period aspect, and a redemptive-program aspect. Either alone is not dispensationalism.

In his notes on Hebrews 1:1, commenting on the phrase,

“in these last days,” Gouge recalls Augustine’s outline of the ages and links them up with the so-called covenant of grace as follows:

I. Adam to Noah, the covenant first made to man

II. Noah to Abraham, the covenant renewed

III. Abraham to David, the covenant appropriated to Abraham and his seed

IV. David to the captivity of Israel, the covenant established in a royal line

V. Captivity to Christ’s coming in the flesh, the covenant revived by Israel’s returning

VI. Christ’s first coming in the flesh to his second coming in glory, even to the end of the world, in which the covenant was most firmly and inviolably established1

William Cave (1637–1713) shortly after Gouge’s death...

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