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1. The Covenant Of Works

Q-12: I proceed to the next question, WHAT SPECIAL ACT OF PROVIDENCE DID GOD EXERCISE TOWARDS MAN IN THE ESTATE WHEREIN HE WAS CREATED?

A: When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him upon condition of perfect obedience, forbidding him to eat of the tree of knowledge upon pain of death.

For this, consult with Gen 2:16, 17: ‘And the Lord commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat; for in the day thou eatest of it, thou shalt surely die.' The subject of our next discourse is this covenant of works.

I. This covenant was made with Adam and all mankind; for Adam was a public person, and the representative of the world.

For what reason did God make a covenant with Adam and his posterity in innocence?

(1.) To show his sovereignty over us. We were his creatures, and as he was the great Monarch of heaven and earth, he might impose upon us terms of a covenant. (2.) God made a covenant with Adam to bind him fast to him: as God bound himself to Adam, so Adam was bound to him by the covenant.

What was the covenant?

God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of knowledge; but gave him leave to eat of all the other trees of the garden. God did not envy him any happiness; but said, ‘Meddle not with this tree of knowledge,' because he would try Adam's obedience. As King Pharaoh made Joseph chief ruler of his kingdom, and gave him a ring off his finger, and a chain of gold, but said he must not ‘touch his throne.' Gen 41:40. In like manner God dealt with Adam. He gave him a sparkling jewel, knowledge; and put upon him the garment of original righteousness; only, said he, touch not the tree of knowledge, for that is aspiring after omniscience. Adam had power to keep this law: he had the copy of God's law written in his heart. This covenant of works had a promise annexed to it, and a threatening. 1. The promise was, ‘Do this and live.' In case man had stood, it is probable he would not have died, but would have been translated to a better paradise. 2. The threatening, ‘Thou shalt die the death;' Heb. ‘In dying thou shalt die;' that is, thou shalt die both a natural death and an eternal, unless some expedient be found out for thy restoration.

Why did God give Adam this law, seeing he foresaw that Adam would transgress it?

(1.) It was Adam's fault that he did not keep the law. God gave him a stock of grace to trade with, but by his own neglect he failed. (2.) Though God foresaw Adam would transgress, yet that was not a sufficient reason that no law should be given him; for, by the same reason, God should not have given his written Word to men, to be a rule of faith and manners, because he foresaw that some would not believe, and others would be profane. Shall laws not be made in the land, because some will break them? (3.) Though God foresaw Adam would break the law, he knew how to turn it to greater good in sending Christ. The first covenant being broken, he knew how to establish a second, and a better.

II. Concerning the first covenant, consider these four things: -

[1] The form of the first covenant in innocence was working; ‘Do this and live.' Working was the ground and condition of man's justification. Gal 3:12. Not but that working is required in the covenant of grace, for we are bid to work out our salvation, and be rich in good works. But works in the covenant of grace are not required under the same notion as in the first covenant with Adam. Works are not required for the justification of our persons, but as an attestation of our love to God; not as the cause of our salvation, but as an evidence of our adoption. Works are required in the covenant of grace, not so much in our own strength as in the strength of another. ‘It is God which worketh in you.' Phil 2:13. As the teacher guides the child's hand, and helps him to form his letters, so that it is not so much the child's writing as the master's, so our obedience is not so much our working as the Spirit's co-working.

[2] The covenant of works was very strict. God required of Adam and all mankind, (1.) Perfect obedience. Adam must do all things written in the ‘book of the law,' and not fail, either in the matter or manner. Gal 3:10. Adam was to live up to the whole breadth of the moral law, and go exactly according to it, as a well-made dial goes with the sun. One sinful thought would have forfeited the covenant. (2.) Personal obedience. Adam must not do his work by a proxy, or have any surety bound for him; but it must be done in his own person. (3.) Perpetual obedience. He must continue in all things written in ‘the book of the law.' Gal 3:10. Thus it was very strict. There was no mercy in case of failure.

[3] The covenant of works was not built upon a very firm basis; and therefore must needs leave men full of fears and doubts. The covenant of works rested upon the strength of man's inherent righteousness; which though in innocence was perfect, yet was subject to change. Adam was created holy, but mutable; having a power to stand and a power to fall. He had a stock of original righteousness to begin the world with, but he was not sure he would not break. He was his own pilot, and could steer right in the time of innocence; but he was not so secured but that he might dash against the rock of temptation, and he and his posterity be shipwrecked; so that the covenant of works must needs leave jealousies and doubtings in Adam's heart, as he had no security given him that he should not fall from that glorious state.

[4] The covenant of works being broken by sin, man's condition was very deplorable and desperate. He was left in himself helpless; there was no place for repentance; the justice of God being offended set all the other attributes against him. When Adam lost his righteousness, he lost his anchor of hope and his crown; there was no way for relief, unless God would find out such a way as neither man nor angel could devise.

Use one: See (1.) The condescension of God, who was pleased to stoop so low as to make a covenant with us. For the God of glory to make a covenant with dust and ashes; for God to bind himself to us, to give us life in case of obedience; for him to enter into covenant with us was a sign of friendship, and a royal act of favour.

(2.) See what a glorious condition man was in, when God entered into covenant with him. He was placed in the garden of God, which for the pleasure of it was called paradise. Gen 2:8. He had his choice of all the trees, one only excepted; he had all kinds of precious stones, pure metals, rich cedars; he was a king upon the throne, and all the creation did obeisance to him, as in Joseph's dream all his brethren's sheaves bowed to his sheaf. Man, in innocence, had all kinds of pleasure that might ravish his senses with delight, and be as baits to allure him to serve and worship his Maker. He was full of holiness. Paradise was not more adorned with fruit than Adam's soul was with grace. He was the coin on which God had stamped his lively image. Light sparkled in his understanding, so that he was like an earthly angel; and his will and affections were full of order, tuning harmoniously to the will of God. Adam was a perfect pattern of sanctity. Adam had intimacy of communion with God and conversed with him, as a favourite with his prince. He knew God's mind, and had his heart. He not only enjoyed the light of the sun in paradise, but the light of God's countenance. This was Adam's condition when God entered into a covenant with him; but this did not long continue; for ‘man being in honour abideth not,' lodged not for a night. Psa 49:12. His teeth watered at the apple, and ever since it has made our eyes water.

(3.) Learn from Adam's fall, how unable we are to stand in our own strength. If Adam, in the state of integrity, did not stand, how unable are we now, when the lock of our original righteousness is cut. If purified nature did not stand, how then shall corrupt nature? We need more strength to uphold us than our own.

(4.) See in what a sad condition all unbelievers and impenitent persons are. As long as they continue in their sins they continue under the curse, under the first covenant. Faith entitles us to the mercy of the second covenant; but while men are under the power of their sins they are under the curse of the first covenant; and if they die in that condition, they are damned to eternity.

(5.) See the wonderful goodness of God, who was pleased when man had forfeited the first covenant, to enter into a new covenant with him. Well may it be called foedus gratiae, a covenant of grace; for it is bespangled with promises as the heaven with stars. When the angels, those glorious spirits, fell, God did not enter into a new covenant with them to be their God, but he let those golden vessels lie broken; yet has he entered into a second covenant with us, better than the first. Heb 8:6. It is better, because it is surer; it is made in Christ, and cannot be reversed. Christ has engaged his strength to keep every believer. In the first covenant we had a posse stare, a power of standing; in the second we had a non posse cadere, an impossibility of falling finally. I Pet 1:5.

(6.) Whosoever they are that look for righteousness and salvation by the power of their freewill, or the inherent goodness of their nature, or by virtue of their merit, as the Socinians and Papists, they are all under the covenant of works. They do not submit to the righteousness of faith, therefore they are bound to keep the whole law, and in case of failure they are condemned. The covenant of grace is like a court of Chancery, to relieve the sinner, and help him who is cast by the first covenant. It says, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and be saved'; but such as will stand upon their own inherent righteousness, free-will and merit, fall under the first covenant of works, and are in a perishing estate.

Use two: Let us labour by faith to get into the second covenant of grace, and then the curse of the first covenant will be taken away by Christ. If we once get to be heirs of the covenant of grace, we are in a better state than before. Adam stood on his own legs, and therefore he fell; we stand in the strength of Christ. Under the first covenant, the justice of God, as an avenger of blood, pursues us; but if we get into the second covenant we are in the city of refuge, we are safe, and the justice of God is pacified towards us.

Q-14: WHAT 1S SIN?

A: Sin is any want of conformity to the law of God, or transgression of it.

[1] Sin is the transgression of the law.' I John 3:4. Of sin in general:

|1] Sin is a violation or transgression. The Latin word, transgredior, to transgress, signifies to go beyond one's bounds. The moral law is to keep us within the bounds of duty. Sin is going beyond our bounds.

[2] The law of God is not the law of an inferior prince, but of Jehovah, who gives laws as well to angels as men; it is a law that is just, and holy, and good. Rom 7:12. It is just, there is nothing in it unequal; holy, nothing in it impure; good, nothing in it prejudicial. So that there is no reason to break this law, no more than for a beast, that is in a fat pasture, to break over the hedge, or to leap into a barren heath or quagmire.

I shall show what a heinous and execrable thing sin is. It is malorum colluvies, the complication of all evil; it is the spirits of mischief distilled. The Scripture calls it the 'accursed thing.' Josh 7:13. It is compared to the venom of serpents, and the stench of sepulchres. The apostle uses this expression of sin, ‘Out of measure sinful,' Rom 7:13, or, as it is in the Greek, ‘Hyperbolically sinful.' The devil would paint sin with the vermilion colour of pleasure and profit, that he may make it look fair; but I shall pull off the paint that you may see its ugly face. We are apt to have slight thoughts of sin, and say to it, as Lot of Zoar, ‘Is it not a little one?' Gen 19:20. But that you may see how great an evil sin is, consider these four things:

I. The origin of sin, from whence it comes. It fetches its pedigree from hell; sin is of the devil. ‘He that committeth sin is of the devil.' I John 3:8. Satan was the first actor of sin, and the first tempter to sin. Sin is the devil's first-born.

II. Sin is evil in the nature of it.

[1] It is a defiling thing. Sin is not only a defection, but a pollution. It is to the soul as rust is to gold, as a stain to beauty. It makes the soul red with guilt, and black with filth. Sin in Scripture is compared to a ‘menstruous cloth,' Isa 30:22, and to a ‘plague-sore.' I Kings 8:38. Joshua's filthy garments, in which he stood before the angel, were nothing but a type and hieroglyphic of sin. Zech 3:3. Sin has blotted God's image, and stained the orient brightness of the soul. It makes God loathe a sinner, Zech 11:8; and when a sinner sees his sin, he loathes himself. Ezek 20:42. Sin drops poison on our holy things, it infects our prayers. The high priest was to make atonement for sin on the altar, to typify that our holiest services need Christ to make an atonement for them. Exod 29:36. Duties of religion in themselves are good, but sin corrupts them, as the purest water is polluted by running through muddy ground. If the leper, under the law, had touched the altar, the altar would not have cleansed him, but he would have defiled the altar. The apostle calls sin, ‘Filthiness of flesh and spirit.' 2 Cor 7:1. Sin stamps the devil's image on a man. Malice is the devil's eye, hypocrisy his cloven foot. It turns a man into a devil. ‘Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?' John 6:70.

[2] Sin is grieving God's Spirit. ‘Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.' Eph 4:30. To grieve is more than to anger.

How can the Spirit be said to be grieved? For, seeing he is God, he cannot be subject to any passion.

This is spoken metaphorically. Sin is said to grieve the Spirit; because it is an injury offered to the Spirit, and he takes it unkindly, and, as it were, lays it to heart. And is it not much thus to grieve the Spirit? The Holy Ghost descended in the likeness of a dove; and sin makes this blessed dove mourn. Were it only an angel, we should not grieve him, much less the Spirit of God. Is it not sad to grieve our Comforter?

[3] Sin is an act of contumacy against God; a walking antipodes to heaven. ‘If ye will walk contrary to me.' Lev 26:27. A sinner tramples upon God's law, crosses his will, does all he can to affront, yea, to spite God. The Hebrew word for sin, Pasha, signifies rebellion; there is the heart of a rebel in every sin. ‘We will do whatsoever proceedeth out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven.' Jer 44:19. Sin strikes at the very Deity; Peccatum est Deicidium. [Sin is God's would-be murderer]. Sin would not only unthrone God, but un-God him. If the sinner could help it, God would no longer be God.

[4] Sin is an act of disingenuity and unkindness. God feeds the sinner, keeps off evils from him, bemiracles him with mercy; but the sinner not only forgets God's mercies, but abuses them. He is the worse for mercy; like Absalom, who, as soon as David had kissed him, and taken him into favour, plotted treason against him. 2 Sam 15:10. Like the mule, who kicks the dam after she has given it milk. ‘Is this thy kindness to thy friend?' 2 Sam 16:17. God may upbraid the sinner. ‘I have given thee,' he may say, ‘thy health, strength, and estate; but thou requitest me evil for good, thou woundest me with my own mercies; is this thy kindness to thy friend? Did I give thee life to sin? Did I give thee wages to serve the devil?'

[5] Sin is a disease. ‘The whole head is sick;' Isa 1:5. Some are sick of pride, others of lust, others of envy. Sin has distempered the intellectual part, it is a leprosy in the head, it has poisoned the vitals. ‘Their conscience is defiled.' Tit 1:15. It is with a sinner as with a sick patient, his palate is distempered, the sweetest things taste bitter to him. The word which is ‘sweeter than the honey-comb,' Psa 19:90, tastes bitter to him, he puts ‘sweet for bitter.' Isa 5:20. This is a disease, and nothing can cure this disease but the blood of the Physician.

[6] Sin is an irrational thing. It makes a man act not only wickedly, but foolishly. It is absurd and irrational to prefer the less before the greater; the pleasures of life, before the rivers of pleasures at God's right-hand for evermore. Is it not irrational to lose heaven for the satisfying or indulging of lust? As Lysimachus, who, for a draught of water, lost a kingdom. Is it not irrational to gratify an enemy? In sin we do so. When lust or rash anger burns in the soul, Satan warms himself at this fire. Men's sins feast the devil.

[7] Sin is a painful thing. It costs men much labour to pursue their sins. How do they tire themselves in doing the devil's drudgery! ‘They weary themselves to commit iniquity.' Jer 9:5. What pains did Judas take to bring about his treason! He goes to the high priest, and then after to the band of soldiers, and then back again to the garden. Chrysostom says, ‘Virtue is easier than vice.' It is more pains to some to follow their sins, than to others to worship their God. While the sinner travails with his sin, in sorrow he brings forth; which is called ‘serving divers lusts.' Tit 3:3. Not enjoy, but serve. Why so? Because not only of the slavery in sin, but the hard labour; it is ‘serving divers lusts.' Many a man goes to hell in the sweat of his brow.

[8] Sin is the only thing God has an antipathy against. God does not hate a man because he is poor, or despised in the world; as you do not hate your friend because he is sick; but that which draws forth the keenness of God's hatred, is sin. ‘Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.' Jer 44:4. And sure, if the sinner dies under God's hatred, he cannot be admitted into the celestial mansions. Will God let the man live with him whom he hates? God will never lay a viper in his bosom. The feathers of the eagle will not mix with the feathers of other fowls; so God will not mix and incorporate with a sinner. Till sin be removed, there is no coming where God is.

III. See the evil of sin, in the price paid for it. It cost the blood of God to expiate it. ‘O man,' says Augustine, ‘consider the greatness of thy sin, by the greatness of the price paid for sin.' All the princes on earth, or angels in heaven, could not satisfy for sin; only Christ. Nay, Christ's active obedience was not enough to make atonement for sin, but he must suffer upon the cross; for, without blood is no remission. Heb 9:22. Oh what an accursed thing is sin, that Christ should die for it! The evil of sin is not so much seen in that one thousand are damned for it, as that Christ died for lt.

IV. Sin is evil in its effects.

[1] Sin has degraded us of our honour. Reuben by incest lost his dignity; and though he was the first-born, he could not excel. Gen 49:4. God made us in his own image, a little lower than the angels; but sin has debased us. Before Adam sinned, he was like a herald that has his coat of arms upon him: all reverence him, because he carries the king's coat of arms; but let this coat be pulled off, and he is despised, no man regards him. Sin has done this, it has plucked off our coat of innocence, and now it has debased us, and turned our glory into shame. ‘And there shall stand up a vile person.' Dan 11:21I. This was spoken of Antiochus Epiphanes, who was a king, and his name signifies illustrious; yet sin degraded him, he was a vile person.

[21 Sin disquiets the peace of the soul. Whatever defiles, disturbs. As poison tortures the bowels, corrupts the blood, so sin does the soul. Isa 57:21. Sin breeds a trembling at the heart; it creates fears, and there is ‘torment in fear.' I John 4:18. Sin makes sad convulsions in the conscience. Judas was so terrified with guilt and horror, that he hanged himself to quiet his conscience. And is not he like to be ill cured, that throws himself into hell for ease?

[3] Sin produces all temporal evil. ‘Jerusalem has grievously sinned, therefore she is removed.' Lam 1:8. It is the Trojan horse, that has sword and famine, and pestilence, in its belly. Sin is a coal, that not only blacks, but burns. Sin creates all our troubles; it puts gravel into our bread, wormwood in our cup. Sin rots the name, consumes the estate, buries relations. Sin shoots the flying roll of God's curses into a family and kingdom. Zech 5:4 It is reported of Phocas, that having built a wall of mighty strength about his city, there was a voice heard, ‘Sin is within the city, and that will throw down the wall.'

[4] Sin unrepented of brings final damnation. The canker that breeds in the rose is the cause of its perishing; and corruptions that breed in men's souls are the cause of their damning. Sin, without repentance, brings the ‘second death,' that is mors sine morte, Bernard ‘a death always dying,' Rev 20:14. Sin's pleasure will turn to sorrow at last; like the book the prophet did eat, sweet in the mouth, but bitter in the belly. Ezek 3:3.. Sin brings the wrath of God, and what bucket or engines can quench that fire? ‘Where the worm never dies, and the fire is not quenched.' Mark 9:44.

Use one: See how deadly an evil sin is, and how strange is it that any one should love it! ‘How long will ye love vanity?' Psa 4:2. ‘Who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.' Hos 3:1: Sin is a dish men cannot forbear, though it makes them sick. Who would pour rose-water into a kennel? What pity is it so sweet an affection as love should be poured upon so filthy a thing as sin! Sin brings a sting in the conscience, a curse in the estate; yet men love it. A sinner is the greatest self-denier; for his sin he will deny himself a part in heaven.

Use two: Do anything rather than sin. Oh, hate sin! There is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest bodily evils that can befall us. The ermine rather chooses to die than defile her beautiful skin. There is more evil in a drop of sin than in a sea of affliction. Affliction is but like a rent in a coat, sin a prick at the heart. In affliction there is aliquid mellis, some good: in this lion there is some honey to be found. ‘It is good for me that I was afflicted.' Psa 119:71. Utile est anima si in hac area mundi flagellis trituretur corpus. Augustine. ‘Affliction is God's flail to thresh off our husks; not to consume, but to refine.' There is no good in sin; it is the spirit and quintessence of evil. Sin is worse than hell; for the pains of hell are a burden to the creature only; but sin is a burden to God. ‘I am pressed under your iniquities, as a cart is pressed under the sheaves.' Amos 2:13.

Use three: Is sin so great an evil? Then how thankful should you be to God, if he has taken away your sin! ‘I have caused thy iniquity to pass from thee.' Zech 3:4. If you had a disease on your body, plague or dropsy, how thankful would you be to have it taken away! Much more to have sin taken away. God takes away the guilt of sin by pardoning grace, and the power of sin by mortifying grace. Oh be thankful that this sickness is ‘not unto death;' that God has changed your nature, and, by grafting you into Christ, made you partake of the sweetness of that olive; that sin, though it live, does not reign, but the elder serves the younger; sin the elder serves grace the younger.

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