The history of the covenant doctrine can be traced through successive publications, though the following list represents merely the limits of my own reading. Undoubtedly further research in the welter of seventeenth-century religious literature will discover other treatises.
It is highly improbable that the English Puritans originated the fundamental idea of the covenant, which, after all, is found in the Old Testament in a sense not too remote from that in which they took it (Cf. Sir James George Frazer, Folk-Lore in the Old Testament, London, 1918, I, 391-429, III, 93-111). The English were in the vanguard of the movement, but they were also participants in an international development of European Calvinism. Sibbes could write as early as 1623, on the supposition that his readers were already familiar with the doctrine: "It supposeth a reader grounded in the knowledge of the nature and properties of God, or Christ and his offices, of the covenant of grace, and such like" (Preface to Ezekiel Culverwell, Treatise of Faith). The Covenant of Grace was, of course, an old catchword in theology, which had long served as a descriptive for the scheme of redemption; more concretely, it had been used to signify an agreement made between God and Christians in the sacrament of baptism. Richard Hooker employed it in the conventional sense when he said that baptism implied "a covenant or league between God and man," wherein God bestows remission of sins, "binding also himself to add in process of time" sufficient grace for the attainment of life hereafter. But however the idea first became transformed from this loose concept into the specific doctrine of the federalists, it is certain that the English theologians were active in the process and that the three great names in the early development were Perkins, Ames, and Preston. Perkins wrote no one treatise directly upon the doctrine, but passages can be found throughout his Workes, published in three volumes, 1609- 1617, and again 1626-1631. Ames contribution must be extracted from the pertinent sections of the Medulla Theologiae of 1623 or its English translation, TheMarrow of Sacred Divinity