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Chapter I, Section I
The nature of the covenant of works.
Evan. The law of works, opposed to the law of faith, (Rom 3:27),
holds forth as much as the covenant of works; for it is manifest, says
Musculus, that the word which signifies covenant, or bargain, is put for law: so that
you see the law of works is as much as to say, the covenant of works; the which
covenant the Lord made with all mankind in Adam before his fall; the sum whereof
was, "Do this, and thou shalt live," (Lev 18:5); "and if thou do it not, thou
shalt die the death," (Gen 2:17). In which covenant there was contained first a
precept, "Do this"; secondly a promise joined unto it, "If thou do it thou shalt
live"; thirdly, a like threatening, "If thou do it not, thou shalt die the death."
Imagine, says Musculus, that God had said to Adam, Lo, to the intent that thou mayest
live, I have given thee liberty to eat, and have given thee abundantly to eat: let
all the fruits of paradise be in thy power, one tree excepted, which see thou
touch not, for that I keep to mine own authority: the same is "the tree of knowledge
of good and evil"; if thou touch it, the meat thereof shall not be life, but
Nom. But, sir, you said, that the law of the ten commandments, or moral law, may be said to be the matter of the law of works; and you have also said, that the law of works is as much as to say the covenant of works, whereby it seems to me, you hold that the law of the ten commandments was the matter of the covenant of works, which God made with all mankind in Adam before his fall.
Evan. That is a truth agreed upon by all authors and interpreters that I know. And indeed the law of works [as a learned author says] signifies the moral law; and the moral law, strictly and properly taken, signifies the covenant of works.1919 The moral law is an ambiguous term among divines. (1.) The moral law is taken from the decalogue, or ten commandments, simply. So the law in the ten commandments is owned to be commonly called the moral law, Westm. Confess. chap. 19, art. 2, 3. And thus our author has hitherto used that term, reckoning the moral law not the covenant of works itself, but only the matter of it. (2.) The moral law is taken for the ten commandments, having the promise of life, and threatening of death annexed to them; that is for the law, or covenant of works. Thus the moral law is described to be, "the declaration of the will of God to mankind, directing and binding every one to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto, in the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul and body, and in performance of all these duties of holiness and righteousness, which he oweth to God and man, promising life upon the fulfilling, and threatening death upon the breach of it." Larger Catech. Quest. 93. That this is the covenant of works, is clear from Westm. Confess. chap. 19, art. 1, "God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it." And this our author owns to be the sense of that term, strictly and properly taken; the reason whereof I conceive to be, that the moral law, properly signifying the law of manners, answers to the Scripture term, the law of works, by which is meant the covenant of works. And if he had added, that in this sense believers are delivered from it, he had said no more than the Larger Catechism doth, in these words: "They that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works," Quest. 97. But, in the meantime, it is evident he does not here use that term in this sense; and in the next paragraph, save one, he gives a reason why he did not so use it.
Nom. But, sir, what is the reason you call it but the matter of the covenant of works?
Evan. The reason why I rather choose to call the law of the ten commandments the matter of the covenant of works, than the covenant itself, is, because I conceive that the matter of it cannot properly be called the covenant of works, except the form be put upon it; that is to say, except the Lord require, and man undertake to yield perfect obedience thereunto, upon condition of eternal life and death.
And therefore, till then, it was not a covenant of works betwixt God and all mankind in Adam; as, for example, you know, that although a servant2020 Not a hired servant, for there is a covenant betwixt such an one and the master, but a bond-servant, bought with money, of another person, or born in the master's house, who is obliged to serve his master, and is liable to punishment in case he do not, but cannot demand wages, since there is no covenant between them.
This was the case of mankind, with relation to the Creator, before the covenant of works was made. have an ability to do a master's work, and though a master have wages to bestow upon him for it; yet is there not a covenant betwixt them till they have thereupon agreed. Even so, though a man at the first had power to yield perfect and perpetual obedience to all the ten commandments, and God had an eternal life to bestow upon him; yet was there not a covenant betwixt them till they were thereupon agreed.
Nom. But, sir, you know there is no mention made in the book of Genesis of this covenant of works, which, you say, was made with man at first.
Evan. Though we read not the word "covenant" betwixt God and man, yet have we there recorded what may amount to as much; for God provided and promised to Adam eternal happiness, and called for perfect obedience, which appears from God's threatening, (Gen 2:17); for if man must die if he disobeyed, it implies strongly, that God's covenant was with him for life, if he obeyed.
Nom. But, sir, you know the word "covenant" signifies a mutual promise, bargain, and obligation betwixt two parties. Now, though it is implied that God promised man to give him life if he obeyed, yet we read not, that man promised to be obedient.
Evan. I pray take notice, that God does not always tie man to verbal expressions, but doth often contract the covenant in real impressions in the heart and frame of the creature,2121The soul approving, embracing, and consenting to the covenant; which, without any more, is plain language, though not unto men, yet unto God, who knoweth the heart. and this was the manner of covenanting with man at the first;2222The covenant being revealed to man created after God's own image, he could not but perceive the equity and benefit of it; and so heartily approve, embrace, accept, and consent to it. And this accepting is plainly intimated in Eve's words to the serpent, (Gen 3:2,3), "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." for God had furnished his soul with an understanding mind, whereby he might discern good from evil, and right from wrong: and not only so, but also in his will was most great uprightness, (Eccl 7:29); and his instrumental parts2323Executive faculties and powers, whereby the good known and willed was to be done. were orderly framed to obedience. The truth is, God did engrave in man's soul wisdom and knowledge of his will and works, and integrity in the whole soul, and such a fitness in all the powers thereof, that neither the mind did conceive, nor the heart desire, nor the body put in execution, anything but that which was acceptable to God; so that man, endued with these qualities, was able to serve God perfectly.
Nom. But, sir, how could the law of the ten commandments be the matter of this covenant of works, when they were not written, as you know, till the time of Moses?
Evan. Though they were not written in tables of stone until the time of Moses, yet were they written in the tables of man's heart in the time of Adam: for we read that man was created in the image or likeness of God, (Gen 1:27). And the ten commandments are a doctrine agreeing with the eternal wisdom and justice that is in God; wherein he hath so painted out his own nature, that it does in a manner express the very image of God, (Col 3:10). And does not the apostle say, (Eph 4:24), that the image of God consists in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness? And is not knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, the perfection of both the tables of the law? And indeed, says Mr. Rollock, it could not well stand with the justice of God, to make a covenant with man, under the condition of holy and good works, and perfect obedience to his law, except he had first created man holy and pure, and engraven his law in his heart, whence those good works should proceed.
Nom. But yet I cannot but marvel that God, in making the covenant with man, did make mention of no other commandment than that of the forbidden fruit.
Evan. Do not marvel at it: for by that one species of sin the whole genus or kind is shown; as the same law, being more clearly unfolded, doth express, (Deut 28:26, Gal 3:10). And, indeed, in that one commandment the whole worship of God did consist; as obedience, honour, love, confidence, and religious fear; together with the outward abstinence from sin, and reverend respect to the voice of God; yea, herein also consisted his love, and so his whole duty to his neighbour;2424That one commandment was in effect a summary of the whole duty of man, the which clearly appears, if one considers that the breach of it was a transgressing of all the ten commandments at once, as our author afterwards distinctly shows. so that, as a learned writer says, Adam heard as much [of the law] in the garden, as Israel did at Sinai; but only in fewer words, and without thunder.
Nom. But, sir, ought not man to have yielded perfect obedience to God, though this covenant had not been made betwixt them?
Evan. Yea, indeed; perfect and perpetual obedience was due from man unto God, though God had made no promise to man; for when God created man at first, he put forth an excellency from himself into him; and therefore it was the bond and tie that lay upon man to return that gain unto God;2525God having given man a being after his own image, a glorious excellency, it was his natural duty to make suitable returns thereof unto the Giver, in a way of duty, being and acting for him; even as the waters, which originally are from the sea, do in brooks and rivers return to the sea again. Man, being of God as his first cause, behoved to be to him as his chief and ultimate end, (Rom 11:36). so that man being God's creature, by the law of creation he owed all obedience and subjection to God his Creator.
Nom. Why, then, was it needful that the Lord should make a covenant with him, by promising him life, and threatening him with death?
Evan. For answer hereunto, in the first place, I pray you understand, that man was a reasonable creature; and so, out of judgment, discretion, and election, able to make choice of his way, and therefore it was meet there should be such a covenant made with him, that he might, according to God's appointment, serve him after a reasonable manner. Secondly, It was meet there should be such a covenant made with him, to show that he was not such a prince on earth, but that he had a sovereign Lord: therefore, God set a punishment upon the breach of his commandment;2626The punishment of death upon the breach of his commandment touching the forbidden fruit. that man might know his inferiority, and that things betwixt him and God were not as betwixt equals. Thirdly, It was meet there should be such a covenant made with him, to show that he had nothing by personal, immediate, and underived right, but all by gift and gentleness: so that you see it was an equal covenant,2727That is, an equitable covenant, fair and reasonable. which God, out of his prerogative-royal, made with mankind in Adam before his fall.
Nom. Well, sir, I do perceive that Adam and all mankind in him were created most holy.
Evan. Yea, and most happy, too: for God placed him in paradise in the midst of all delightful pleasures and contents, wherein he did enjoy most near and sweet communion with his Creator, in whose presence is fullness of joy, and whose right hand are pleasures evermore, (Psa 16:11). So that if Adam had received of the tree of life, by taking and eating it, while he stood in the state of innocency before his fall, he had certainly been established in a happy estate for ever, and could not have been seduced and supplanted by Satan, as some learned men, do think, and as God's own words seem to imply, (Gen 3:22). 2828 The author says, that some learned men think so, and that the words, (Gen 3:22), seem to imply so much; but all this amounts not to a positive determination of the point. The words are these, "Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever," &c. Whether or not these words seem to imply some such things, I leave to the judgment of the reader, whom I incline not to entertain with mine own or others' conjectures upon this head; but three things I take to be plain, and beyond conjecture, in this text, (1.) That there is no irony nor scoff here, as many think there is; but, on the contrary, a most pathetic lamentation over fallen man. The literal version and sense of the former part of the text runs thus: "Behold the man that was one of us," &c., compare for the version, Lamentations 3:1; Psalm 3:7; and for the sense, Genesis 1:26, 27, "And God said, Let us make man in our image.—So God created man in his own image," &c. The latter part of the text I would read thus, "And eat that he may live for ever." Compare for this version, Exodus 4:23; 1 Samuel 6:8. It is evident the sentence is broken off abruptly; the words, "I will drive him out," being suppressed; even as in the case of a father, with sighs, sobs, and tears, putting his son out of doors. (2.) That it was God's design, to prevent Adam's eating of the tree of life, as he had of the forbidden tree, "lest he take also of the tree of life"; thereby mercifully taking care that our fallen father, to whom the covenant of grace was now proclaimed, might not, according to the corrupt natural inclination of fallen mankind, run back to the covenant of works for life and salvation, by partaking of the tree of life, a sacrament of that covenant, and so reject the covenant of grace, by eating of that tree now, as he had before broken the covenant of works, by eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (3.) That at this time Adam did think, that by eating of the tree of life he might live for ever. Farther I dip not here in this matter.
Chapter I, Section II
Nom. But it seemeth that Adam did not continue in that holy and happy estate.
Evan. No, indeed; for he disobeyed God's express command, in eating the forbidden fruit, and so became guilty of the breach of the covenant.
Nom. But, sir, how could Adam, who had his understanding so sound, and his will so free to choose good, be so disobedient to God's express command?
Evan. Though he and his will were both good, yet were they mutually good; so that he might stand or fall, at his own election or choice.
Nom. But why then did not the Lord create him immutable? or, why did he not so over-rule him in that action, that he might not have eaten the forbidden fruit?2929These are two distinct questions, both of them natively arising from a legal temper of spirit: and I doubt if ever the heart of a sinner shall receive a satisfying answer as to either of them, until it come to embrace the gospel-way of salvation; taking up its everlasting rest in Christ, for wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
Evan. The reason why the Lord did not create him immutable, was because he would be obeyed out of judgment and free choice, and not by fatal necessity and absolute determination;3030 Immutability, properly so called, or absolute unchangeableness, is an incommunicable attribute of God, (Mal 3:6, James 1:17); and mutably, or changeableness, is so of the nature of a creature, that it should cease to be a creature, or a dependent being, if it should cease to be mutable. But there is an immutability, improperly so called, which is competent to the creature, whereby it is free from being actually liable to change in some respect; the which, in reference to man, may be considered two ways. (1.) As putting him beyond the hazard of change by another hand than his own. (2.) As putting him beyond the hazard of change by himself. In the former sense, man was indeed made immutable in point of moral goodness; for he could only be made sinful or evil by himself, and not by any other. If he had been made immutable in the latter sense, that immutability behoved either to have been woven into his very nature, or else to have arisen from confirming grace. Now God did not create man thus immutable in his nature; which is it that the first question aims at; and that for this very good reason, viz: that, at that rate, man would have obeyed by fatal necessity and absolute determination, as one not having so much as a remote power in his nature to change himself. And neither glorified saints, nor angels, are thus immutable; their immutability in goodness entirely depending on confirming grace. As for immutability by confirming grace, which is it that the second question aims at, it is conferred on glorified saints and angels; but why it was not afforded to Adam at his creation, our author wisely declines to give any reason. "The reason, says he, why the Lord did not create him immutable was, because," &c.; but why he did not uphold him with strength of steadfast continuance, that resteth hidden in God's secret counsel. and withal, let me tell you, it was not reasonable to restrain God to this point, to make man such an one as would not, nor could not sin at all, for it was at his choice to create him how he pleased. But why he did not uphold him with strength of steadfast continuance; that resteth hidden in God's secret council. Howbeit, this we may certainly conclude, that Adam's state was such as served to take away from him all excuse; for he received so much, that of his own will he wrought his own destruction;3131That is, he received so much strength, that it was not of weakness, but willfulness, that he destroyed himself. because this act of his was a willful transgression of a law, under the precepts whereof he was as necessarily and righteously subject, if he transgressed: for, as being God's creature, he was to be subject to his will, so by being God's prisoner, he was as justly subject to his wrath; and that so much the more, by how much the precept was most just, the obedience more easy, the transgression more reasonable, and the punishment more certain.
Chapter I, Section III
The sinfulness and misery of mankind by the fall.
Nom. And was Adam's sin and punishment imputed unto his whole offspring?
Evan. Yea, indeed; for says the apostle, (Rom 5:12), "Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned"; or, "in whom all have sinned," that is, in Adam. The very truth is, Adam by his fall threw down our whole nature3232That is, all mankind. headlong into the same destruction, and drowned his whole offspring in the same gulf of misery,3333With himself. and the reason is, because, by God's appointment, he was not to stand or fall as a single person only, but as a common public person, representing all mankind to come of him:3434By virtue of the blessing of fruitfulness given before the fall. therefore, as all that happiness, all those gifts, and endowments, which were bestowed upon him, were not bestowed upon him alone, but also upon the whole nature of man, and as that covenant which was made with him, was made with the whole of mankind; even so he by breaking covenant lost all, as well for us as for himself. As he received all for himself and us, so he lost all both for himself and us.
Nom. Then, sir, it seemeth by Adam's breach of covenant, all mankind were brought into a miserable condition?
Evan. All mankind by the fall of Adam received a twofold damage: First, A deprivation of all original goodness. Secondly, An habitual natural proneness to all kind of wickedness. For the image of God, after which they were created, was forthwith blotted out; and in place of wisdom, righteousness, and true holiness, came blindness, uncleanness, falsehood, and injustice. The very truth is, our whole nature3535That is, all mankind. was thereby corrupted, defiled, deformed, depraved, infected, made infirm, frail, malignant, full of venom, contrary to God; yea, enemies and rebels unto him. So that, says Luther, this is the title we have received from Adam: in this one thing we may glory, and in nothing else at all; namely, that every infant that is born into this world, is wholly in the power of sin, death, Satan, hell, and everlasting damnation. Nay, says Musculus, "The whirlpool of man's sin in paradise is bottomless and unsearchable."
Nom. But, sir, methinks it is a strange thing that so small an offence, as eating of the forbidden fruit seems to be, should plunge the whole of mankind into such a gulf of misery.
Evan. Though at first glance it seems to be a small offence, yet, if we look more wistfully3636That is, earnestly. upon the matter it will appear to be an exceeding great offence; for thereby intolerable injury was done unto God; as, first, His dominion and authority in his holy command was violated. Secondly, His justice, truth, and power, in his most righteous threatenings, were despised. Thirdly, His most pure and perfect image, wherein man was created in righteousness and true holiness, was utterly defaced. Fourthly, His glory, which, by an active service, the creature should have brought to him, was lost and despoiled. Nay, how could there be a greater sin committed than that, when Adam, at that one clap, broke all the ten commandments?
Nom. Did he break all the ten commandments, say you? Sir, I beseech you show me wherein.
Evan. 1. He chose himself another God when he followed the devil.
3. He took the name of God in vain, when he believed him not.
4. He kept not the rest and estate wherein God had set him.
5. He dishonoured his Father who was in heaven; and therefore his days were not prolonged in that land which the Lord his God had given him.
6. He massacred himself and all his posterity.
7. From Eve he was a virgin, but in eyes and mind he committed spiritual fornication.
8. He stole, like Achan, that which God had set aside not to be meddled with; and this his stealth is that which troubles all Israel,—the whole world.
9. He bare witness against God, when he believed the witness of the devil before him.
10. He coveted an evil covetousness, like Amnon, which cost him
his life, (2 Sam 13), and all his progeny. Now, whosoever considers what a nest
of evils here were committed at one blow, must needs, with Musculus, see our
case to be such, that we are compelled every way to commend the justice of
God,3838That is, to justify God.
and to condemn the sin of our first parents, saying, concerning all
mankind, as the prophet Hosea does concerning Israel, "O Israel, thou hast
destroyed thyself," (Hosea 3:9).
Chapter I, Section IV
No recovery by the law, or covenant of works.
Nom. But, sir, had it not been possible for Adam both to have helped himself and his posterity out of his misery, by renewing the same covenant with God, and keeping it so afterwards?
Evan. No, by no means; for the covenant of works was a covenant no way capable of renovation.3939The covenant of works could by no means be renewed by fallen Adam, so as thereby to help himself and his posterity out of his misery, the which is the only thing in question here; otherwise, indeed, it might have been renewed, which is evident by this sad token, that many do actually renew it in their covenanting with God, being prompted thereto by their ignorance of the high demands of the law, their own utter inability, and the way of salvation by Jesus Christ. And from the same principle our legalist here makes no question but Adam might have renewed it, and kept it too, for the after-time; only, he questions whether or not Adam might thereby have helped himself and his posterity too, out of the misery they were brought into by his sin. When he had once broken it, he was gone for ever; because it was a covenant between two friends, but now fallen man was become an enemy. And besides it was an impossible thing for Adam to have performed the conditions which now the justice of God did necessarily require at his hands; for he was now become liable for the payment of a double debt, viz: the debt of satisfaction for his sin committed in time past, and the debt of perfect and perpetual obedience for the time to come; and he was utterly unable to pay either of them.
Nom. Why was he unable to pay the debt of satisfaction for his sin committed in time past?
Evan. Because his sin, in eating the forbidden fruit [for that is the sin I mean]4040That being the sin in which all mankind fell with him, (Rom 5:15). was committed against an infinite and eternal God, and therefore merited an infinite and eternal satisfaction; which was to be either some temporal punishment, equivalent to eternal damnation, or eternal damnation itself. Now Adam was a finite creature, therefore, between finite and infinite there could be no proportion; so that it was impossible for Adam to have made satisfaction by any temporal punishment; and if he had undertaken to have satisfied by an eternal punishment, he should always have been satisfying, and never have satisfied, as is the case of the damned in hell.
Nom. And why was he unable to pay the debt of perfect and perpetual obedience for the time to come?
Evan. Because his former power to obey was by his fall utterly impaired; for thereby his understanding was both enfeebled and drowned in darkness; and his will was made perverse, and utterly deprived of all power to will well; and his affections were quite set out of order; and all things belonging to the blessed life of the soul were extinguished, both in him and us; so that he was become impotent, yea, dead, and therefore not able to stand in the lowest terms to perform the meanest condition. The very truth is, our father Adam falling from God, did, by his fall, so dash him and us all in pieces, that there was no whole part left, either in him or us, fit to ground such a covenant upon. And this the apostle witnesseth, both when he says, "We are of no strength"; and, "The law was made weak, because of the flesh," (Rom 5:6, 8:3).
Nom. But, sir, might not the Lord have pardoned Adam's sin without satisfaction?
Evan. O no! for justice is essential in God, and it is a righteous thing with God, that every transgression receive a just recompense:4141(2 Thess 1:6), "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God, to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you."—(Heb 2:2), "Every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense." and if recompense be just, it is unjust to pardon sin without satisfaction. And though the Lord had pardoned and forgiven his former transgression, and so set him in his former condition of amity and friendship, yet having no power to keep the law perfectly, he could not have continued therein.4242But would have sinned again, and so fallen under the curse anew.
Nom. And is it also impossible for any of his posterity to keep the law perfectly?
Evan. Yea, indeed, it is impossible for any mere man in the time of this life to keep it perfectly; yea, though he be a regenerate man; for the law requireth of man that he "love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and might"; and there is not the holiest man that lives, but he is flesh as well as spirit in all parts and faculties of his soul, and therefore cannot love the Lord perfectly. Yea, and the law forbiddeth all habitual concupiscence, not only saying, "thou shalt not consent to lust," but, "thou shalt not lust": it doth not only command the binding of lust, but forbids also the being of lust: and who in this case can say, "My heart is clean"?
Ant. Then, Nomista, take notice, I pray, that as it was
altogether impossible for Adam to return into that holy and happy estate wherein he was
created, by the same way he went from it,4343 Walking back by the way of the covenant of works, which he left by his sinning.
Object. "Do we then make void the law," (Rom 3:31), leaving an imputation of dishonour upon it, as a disregarded path, by pretending to return anther way? Ans. Sinners being united to Christ by faith, return, being carried back the same way they came; only their own feet never touch the ground; but the glorious Mediator, sustaining the persons of them all, walked every bit of the road exactly, (Gal 4:4,5). Thus, in Christ, the way of free grace, and of the law, sweetly meet together; and through faith we establish the law. so is it for any of his posterity; and therefore, I remember one says very wittingly, "The law was Adam's lease when God made him tenant of Eden; the conditions of which bond when he kept not, he forfeited himself and all for us." God read a lecture of the law to him before he fell, to be a hedge to him to keep him in paradise; but when Adam would not keep within compass, this law is now become as the flaming sword at Eden's gate, to keep him and his posterity out.
Chapter I, Section V
The covenant of works binding, though broken.
Nom. But, sir, you know, that when a covenant is broken, the parties that were bound are freed and released from their engagements; and therefore, methinks, both Adam and his posterity should have been released from the covenant of works when it was broken, especially considering they have no strength to perform the condition of it.
Evan. Indeed it is true, in every covenant, if either party fail in his duty, and perform not his condition, the other party is thereby freed from his part, but the party failing is not freed till the other release him; and, therefore, though the Lord be freed from performing his condition, that is, from giving to man eternal life, yet so is not man from his part; no, though strength to obey be lost, yet man having lost it by his own default, the obligation to obedience remains still; so that Adam and his offspring are no more discharged of their duties, because they have no strength to do them, than a debtor is quitted of his bond, because he wants money to pay it. And thus, Nomista, I have, according to your desire, endeavoured to help you to the true knowledge of the law of works.
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