« PreviousContinue »
eating of it he rejected the sweet yoke of God, and took on that of the devil.
2. The nature of the obedience that was the condition of this covenant. It behoved to be perfect.
(1.) In respect of the principle of it. So the law requires men to love the Lord with all the heart.' It required not only external obedience, refraining from the thing forbid. den; but internal obedience, which behoved to proceed from a disposition of soul bent towards God, in which there was no blemish, and altogether free and unconstrained without any reluctancy from within. And this implies, that the glory of God behoved to be man's chief end in all bis actions, without having the least squint look to any other as his chief end.
(2.) Perfect in parts extending to all the commands of God whatsoever that were given him, Gal. iii. 10. with respect to his thoughts, words, and actions. He was to do nothing that God prohibited, and to omit nothing that he commanded." He was to fulfil all righteousness, and his obedience was to be as broad as the law. Every commandment, without the least exception as to one title, was to be obeyed to the fullest extent.
(8.) Perfect in degrees. He was to love the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind,' Matt. xxii. 37. Every act of obedience behoved to be perfect in degrees, wanting nothing of that perfection which the law required. Every action performed by him behoved to be screwed up to the pitch determined in the law, without falling short of it in the least punctilio. All that was lower than that height required, was to be rejected as sinful; and the least flaw spoiled the whole.
(4.) Perfect in duration or continuance, without interruption, while God should have kept him in the state of trial, Gal. iii. 10. This state could not have been for ever, without rendering the promise of life fruitless ; for to make a promise necessarily implies that a time is set for obtaining the reward promised to the obedience; and if Adam was to continue in a perpetual state of trial, he could never have obtained the reward of his obedience. The time of this probation is not mentioned in the Bible. Probably it was not to be very long. And perhaps the devil, knowing the benignity and goodness of the Creator to his upright creature man,
that he would not keep him long in a state liable to mutability, was incited to attack him so very early as on the day of his creation, in order to prevent his confirmation in an upright estate.
This and no less was the condition of that covenant. On no other terins could he attain to eternal happiness by it, or be justified in respect of his state before the Lord, though he might in respect of particular actions.
Hence it appears, that sincere obedience could not have been accepted, if it was not altogether perfect ; nothing could be accepted, but an obedience altogether without fault or blemish; and that there was no place for repentance under this covenant ; no sorrow for transgressing in the least instance could be admitted : for the threatening was peremptory, 'In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. Such a positive denunciation cut off all hope, and rendered repentance of no avail.
3. Adam's power to perform the obedience required. He was able to answer all the demands of that covenant, being made upright, Eccl. vii. 29. and in the image of God. There was light in his understanding, sanctity in his will, and rectitude in his affections; there was such an harmony among all his faculties, that his members yielded to his affections, his affections to his will, his will obeyed his reason, and his reason was subject to the law of God. Had he not then - sufficient knowledge of his duty ? and was he not invested with full power to perform the obedience required of him ? Besides, it was not consistent with the justice and goodness of God to have required that of his creature, which he had not given him power to perform. The case is quite otherwise with respect to us in our lapsed state, for we have lost the power of yielding obedience to God's law in Adam. But let it be remembered, that though we are utterly unable to obey, yet God has not lost his right to demand obedience; which should induce us to betake ourselves to the second covenant, where every thing is freely given, and the will accepted for the deed.
Third!y, The promise of the covenant was life, and there. fore it is called the covenant of life. Now, a threefold life was promised.
: 1. Natural life, consisting in the union of the soul with the body, which should have been continued without death, if Vol. I.
he had not sinned, Gen. iii. 19. Though man's body was made of dust, yet, by virtue of the covenant-promise, it would have been secured from mingling with its original materials. As it was created without any principle of death, so it was not susceptive of any hazard from that quarter, as long as the covenant should be observed. His natural life would have remained in constant vigour, without lanquish. ing or decay: And he would have enjoyed the comfort of this life pure and unmixed without any of those evils, miseries and inconveniencies, which now overspread the world.
2. Spiritual life, consisting in the union of the soul with God. Man's soul was, and is in its own nature, immaterial and immortal, not liable to dissolution. It was endowed with spiritual life at its creation, living in union and communion with God, and adorned with his image, consisting in sighteousness and holiness. This image of God would have been continued in him. His knowledge of God and his duty would not have failed; nor would the righteousness of his will, or the purity and regularity of his affections Irave decayed. He would still have been the friend of God, and the favourite of heaven; and would never have been witbout the most lively marks of the love and friendship of his covenant God. He would have had ready access to God, without any eclipse of the divine favour; and the utmost pleasure and satisfaction in doing his duty, which would have been a continual feast to him.
3. Eternal life, or the glorious happiness of heaven. He should have been confirmed in his holy and happy estate bean yond the hazard or possibility of sinning, or forfeiting it.Though he was created mutable, and mutability is woven into the very nature of the creature, yet having finished the time allotted for his probatiou, he would have been secured from aetual liableness to change for ever. His body would have been absolutely and for ever secured against hazard of death, or hurt from external accidents or injuries. He would have been confirmed in the love and favour of God for ever, without any hazard of falling out of it. The sun of favour from God would have shone upon him, without ever setting. And after the time of his trial was over, he would have been transported, soul and body, into the heavenly paradise, there to abide for ever. He would not have always lived in the
earthly paradise, where he was to eat, drink, and sleep, but have been carried to the celestial paradise, where the happy inhabitants live as the angels of God. This is plain, if he con sider that application of the covenant of works, Matth. xix. 16, 17. if thou wilt enter into life, keep the command ments.' Here Christ holds forth eternal life as the promise of this covenant, to be had on the performance of the condition. The weakness of the law to give eternal life now, ariseth only from the flesh, that is, the corraption of na: ture, whereby we are unable to fulfil the condition of it, Rom. viii. 3. It was eternal life that Christ purchased for his people, and that as he was made under the law, by which he obtained that very life to them, which otherwise they should have had, if man had not sinned, Rom. viii, 3, 4. Gal. iv. 4, 5, Besides, eternal death was threatened ; and the goodness of God uses not to propose greater punishments than rewards. And if it had not been so, man had nothing to expect more than he had when created, and set down in paradise.
Fourthly, The penalty of this covenant, in case of disobe dience, was death; natural, consisting in the separation of the body from the soul; spiritual, in the separation of the soul from God, a death in trespasses and sins, Eph. ii. 1; and eternal, in the separation of both body and soul from God for ever in hell, Matt. xxv. 41. Man's body had never died had he not sinned, for the wages of sin is death,' Rom. vi. ult. and far less his soul, which would have flourished in all the beauty of spiritual verdure and vigour for ever. But it may be asked, 'How was the threatening accomplished, when Adam lived so long after his fatal transgression ? I answer, That day that he sinned he died spiritually. His soul was divested of the image of God that was stamped upon it at its creation; his understanding became dark, his will rebellious, and his affections impure and irregular. He lost the favour of his Maker, and he was exposed to the wrath of God, as a mark at which the arrows of the di. vine displeasure were to be levelled. That this spiritual death was indicted upon man immediately after his foul trans gression, is evident from those gripes and throws of conscience that seized him, which made him hide himself from God amidst the Htrees of the garden. And this of course would have actually terminated in eternal death in
hell, had not a Mediator been provided, who found man bound with these cords of death as a malefactor bound to the exection. And as for his natural life, that day he sinned, he got his death's wounds, of which he afterwards died; that day he became mortal, and his body liable to sickness, disease, pain, and every other harbinger of death. The crown of immortality, which he held of his Creator, by virtue of the covenant made with him, fell from off his head, and he became a subject of the king of terrors. He became liable to all those cords wherewith death binds his prisoners
. So that he was as sure a dead man as if dead already, though the execution of the sentence was delayed, because of his posterity which were in his loins, and because another covenant was prepared, by which the life and happiness forfeited by the breach of the first covenant, was to be recovered, and that with great advantage.
Fifthly, We may consider how the covenant of works was confirmed. It hath pleased God to append seals to his covenants with men; and this covenant seems not to have wanted some things intended sacramentally to confirm it. Among which may be reckoned,
1. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Gen. ii. 1% What sort of a tree it was, the scripture does not determine But whatever it was, it was not so called, as having any virtue or power to inake men wise.; that was the devil's die vinity, Gen. iii. 5. who told Eve, that if they eat of it, they should be as gods ; but he was a liar from the beginning, John viii. 44.; but it was called so, because by it they knew to their fatal experience the happy state they fell from, and the woful misery that fall plunged them into. It obtained that name, because it was a warning-sign to them to beware of the experimental knowledge of evil, as they knew good. They had special acquaintance with good in all its charming kinds; and this tree was set before them as a beacon to warn them from looking after the knowledge of evil, which, like a dangerous rock, would dash them to pieces, if they split upon it. And it served to confirm the covenant, and the happiness of their primitive state ; inasmuch as in the threatening relative to this tree was included a promise, that as long as they kept from eating of its prohibited fruit, they should never die.' And hence we may gather, which is no improbable opinion, that our first parents could fall by no