A Body of Divinity
Page A Body of
Covenant of Works
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
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: I6, I7: '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.í 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?
(I.) 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 Adamís 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.í 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;í Heb. 'In dying thou shalt die;í that is, thou shalt die both a
natural death and an eternal, unless some expedient be found out for thy
Why did God give Adam this law, seeing he foresaw
that Adam would transgress it?
(1.) It was Adamís 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: -
 The form of the first covenant in innocence
was working; 'Do this and live.í Working was the ground and condition of man's
justification. Gal 3: I2. 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: I3. 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.
 The covenant of works was very strict. God
required of Adam and all mankind, (I.) Perfect obedience. Adam must do all
things written in the 'book of the law,í 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.í Gal 3: 10. Thus it was very strict.
There was no mercy in case of failure.
 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 manís 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 Adamís heart, as he had no
security given him that he should not fall from that glorious state.
 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 (I.) 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 Godís mind, and
had his heart. He not only enjoyed the light of the sun in paradise, but the
light of Godís countenance. This was Adamís condition when God entered into a
covenant with him; but this did not long continue; for 'man being in honour
abideth not,í 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 Adamís 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 savedí; 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
Q-14: WHAT 1S SIN?
A: Sin is any want of conformity to the
law of God, or transgression of it.
 Sin is the transgression of the law.'
I John 3: 4. Of sin in general:
|I] 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.
 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: I2. 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
íaccursed thing.' Josh 7: I3. 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: I3, 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.í 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.
[I] 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,í Isa 30: 22,
and to a 'plague-sore.í I Kings 8: 38. Joshuaís 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: 43.
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.í 2 Cor 7: 1. Sin stamps the devilís
image on a man. Malice is the devilís 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.
 Sin is grieving Godís Spirit. 'Grieve
not the Holy Spirit of God.í 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?
 Sin is an act of contumacy against
God; a walking antipodes to heaven. 'If ye will walk contrary to me.í
Lev 26: 27. A sinner tramples upon Godís 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.í Jer 44: I7. Sin strikes at the very Deity;
Peccatum est Deicidium. [Sin is Godís 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.
 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: I7. 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?'
 Sin is a disease. 'The whole head is
sick;í 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: 10, 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.
 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
 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:
s. 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.í 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.í 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
 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 Godís hatred, is sin.
'Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.í Jer 44: 4. And sure, if
the sinner dies under Godís 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
III. See the evil of sin, in the price
paid for it. It cost the blood of God to expiate it. 'O man,í says
Augustine, 'consider the greatness of thy sin, by the greatness of the
price paid for sin.í All the princes on earth, or angels in heaven,
could not satisfy for sin; only Christ. Nay, Christís 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.
[I] 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 kingís 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.í Dan 11: 2I.
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: 2I. Sin breeds a trembling at the
heart; it creates fears, and there is 'torment in fear.í I John 4: I8.
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?
 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.í
 Sin unrepented of brings final
damnation. The canker that breeds in the rose is the cause of its
perishing; and corruptions that breed in menís souls are the cause of
their damning. Sin, without repentance, brings the 'second death,' that
is mors sine morte, Bernard 'a death always dying,í Rev 20: I4. Sinís
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. Rev 10: 9. 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.í Mark 9:
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?í Psa 4: 2. 'Who look to other gods, and love flagons of
wine.í 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.í 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.í Amos 2: I3.
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.í 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;í 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