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Adam and his posterity from liableness to sin. The life of purity and peace and communion with his Creator, which he enjoyed before his trial, would have been continued to him for ever. There would have been no darkness in his understanding, no disorder in his affections, no sorrow, no fear, no regret for the past, no anxiety about the future. The soul would have enjoyed perpetual sunshine, the body would have never suffered infirmity and decay, and nature around him would have bloomed with unfading beauty. He would have eaten the fruit of the tree of life, and been immortal. In a word, the great promise of the first covenant was eternal life, as it is of the second. This is evident from those passages of Scripture in which the terms of the first covenant are repeated." The man that doeth those things shall live by them.” “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."* This is not a new promise, for God has never entered into any new stipulation to reward man, on the ground of his obedience; it is the promise which was made from the beginning, and shews us what Adam was taught to expect, if he should obey the law of his Maker.
It remains to speak of the seals of the covenant. A seal has been defined to be the visible sign of invisible grace, and may be more generally described as an institution of which it is the design, to signify the blessings promised in the covenant, and to give an assurance of them to those by whom its terms have been fulfilled. Seals are posterior, in the order of nature, to the making of the covenant; and although, from the first, they may serve as motives and encouragements, the use of them is conceded to none but those who have obtained an actual claim to the promise. Some have maintained that there were four seals or sacraments of the covenant of works, paradise, the Sabbath, the tree of knowledge, and the tree of life ; but the common opinion is, that only the two latter sustained this character. I hope to convince you, that neither of these statements is correct. Paradise has been pronounced to be a seal of the covenant.
It was a garden of delights, adorned by the hand of God, and was a fit emblem of a still more glorious habitation, where Adam should contemplate the unveiled glory of his Creator, and be made supremely happy in the immediate fruition of his love. It is acknowledged that heaven is called paradise more than once in the New Testament; but it does not follow that the earthly paradise was originally a type of it. It is more reasonable to think, that the one has been made the image of the other since the fall, to intimate that, by redemption, we are put in possession of all the felicity which man enjoyed in his primitive state. * A greater Man has restored us, and regained the blissful seat," from which , we were expelled. It is, I think, a conclusive argument against paradise being a seal, that Adam was placed in it immediately after his creation, and dwelt in it during the time of his trial. But this is contrary to the nature and design of a seal, which is not administered till the terms of the covenant be fulfilled. No man will say that a person may be baptised and admitted to the Holy Supper before he has believed ; it is acknowledged that faith must precede. It is equally preposterous to suppose that, if paradise was an emblem and a pledge of the abode of man in a higher world, lie was allowed to enter it, while it was yet uncertain whether he would perform the obedience, on which his title to the promise was suspended.
The Sabbath has been represented as another seal of the covenant. To Adam, it has been said, it was a symbol that when he had finished his labour upon earth, he should be translated into a place far more lovely than paradise, and should enjoy a rest much more delightful. When at certain seasons he suspended his daily employments, and gave himself wholly to the service of
• Rom. x. 5. Matt. xix. 16, 17,
his Maker, was not this an earnest and a prelibation of the time when, freed from all care of this animal life, he should hold immediate communion with God, mingling with the choirs of angels, and engaging in their exercises ? The same objection may be urged against this seal as against the former, that the use of it was permitted to Adam, and enjoined upon him, before his trial commenced. The first Sabbath immediately followed the day of his creation. It is a conjecture destitute of all probability that he fell on that day. The narrative of Moses contradicts it, according to which the Sabbath was past before the covenant was made ; and a review of the events of the sixth day will convince us, that there was neither time nor opportunity for the temptation. Adam thus spent one Sabbath, and for ought we know, many Sabbaths in paradise. He repeatedly enjoyed this sacred rest during his probation, which could not, for the reason alleged, be a seal of the covenant. Can we suppose, that God would confirm a promise to him to which he had not yet established his claim, and all interest in which he afterwards forfeited ?
By Divines in this country, these two seals are generally discarded. But many of them assign this place to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, if possible, I think, with still greater impropriety. We need not spend time in inquiring into the reason of its name. It may have been so called, because God would by its means put man to the proof, whether he would retain the moral goodness with which he had endowed him, or would become evil by the abuse of his liberty. Thus, he is said to have tried Hezekiah, that he might know what was in his heart.* It may have been so called, because, by abstaining from its fruit, Adam would come to the possession of the highest good, but, by eating it, would involve himself in the greatest evil. It is only in this last view that it can be considered as a seal, being thus significant of the consequences of obedience and disobedience; but it is worthy of observation, that, contrary to the design of other seals, it confirmed the threatening as much as the promise. Except in this case, seals are always understood to be appended to the promise ; and the common relation of the tree of knowledge to both the promise and the threatening, may justly make us doubt whether it was really such. To assign this use to it is to confound two things, which, in all other covenants, are perfectly distinct, the condition and the seal. Here the same thing serves both purposes. That which tried man's obedience is made the seal of the reward of his obedience. But, while the trial was going on, it could seal nothing to him, because it was uncertain what would be the issue; and if the trial had ended happily, it does not appear that the tree of knowledge would have been of any further service. t is much more simple and rational to consider it merely as the subject of the condition of the covenant, and not to invest it with two contradictory characters ; and besides, it should be remembered, that the only ground for supposing it to be a seal, is a particular interpretation of its name, which is matter of conjecture, and for which another may be substituted with equal probability.
Lastly, The tree of life has been considered as a seal of the covenant, and in this opinion I concur. I believe it was a seal, and the only one which God was pleased to appoint. I reason in the first place from its name. It was called the tree of life, to signify, I apprehend, that it was a symbol of the lise promised to obedience. This interpretation is justified by the figurative use of the name, in reference to the happiness of the world to come. “ To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”+ We know that this paradise is heaven, in which there is literally no tree of this or any other description; and therefore, as it denotes eternal life in this application, we are authorised to conclude, that it was a symbolical representation of it in the earthly paradise. The idea that • % Chron. xxxii. 31.
| Rev. č. 7.
it is called the tree of life, because it possessed a virtue to render the body immortal, is absurd, and much resembles a Jewish or Mahometan fable. Can any one tell what he means, by ascribing such virtue to it? Has he studied in the school of the alchemists, who amused themselves and the world so long, with the hope of discovering the elixir of life? Is it conceivable that immortality could be imparted by the physical process of swallowing and digesting a material substance? I reason, in the second place, from the words of God: “ 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,”* he must be expelled from the garden ; for these, or words to this purpose, must be supplied to complete the sense, the passage being elliptical. The words have been supposed to have been spoken in irony, and certainly God might have treated with derision man's impious attempt to rise to an equality with him; or they are merely a statement of what was his design, or what was his hope in which he had miserably failed. But, whatever is the import of the words, “ Behold the man is become as one of us to know good and evil,” the meaning of those which follow is easily perceived. Adam, whose understanding was darkened, as his affections were corrupted by sin, might entertain the notion which has been embraced by some of his posterity, that the fruit of the tree of life would make him immortal, and in this foolish expectation might stretch out his rash hand and seize it. To prevent this act, he was driven out of the garden. This was done, not merely that he might not delude himself with this false hope, but that he might not profanely appropriate what did not belong to him.—There was no reason why a precaution should be used against his eating the fruit of this more than of any other tree, if it had not been a seal ; but if it stood in this relation to the covenant, Adam had no right to it, and it was fitting that he should be forcibly hindered from taking the symbol of eternal life, both for the glory of God, whose sacred institution was not to be profaned, and that he might be made sensible of the full extent of his misery. The pledge of eternal life was denied him, that he might feel how dreadful was the loss which he had incurred by transgression.
From these arguments it will appear, that we are authorised to regard the tree of life as the seal of the covenant. I trust that you are also satisfied, that the other seals which have been mentioned are imaginary. This illustration has extended much farther than I had anticipated, but I have still some observations to make upon the covenant and its consequences.
Covenant of Works, continued-How far it still subsists—Effects of Adam's breach of it upon
his Posterity— The imputation of his Guilt, and Original Sin-Proofs of these Doctrines, from Scripture and Experience.
After the account which has been given of the covenant of works, it remains to inquire whether it still subsists, or has been disannulled by the violaLion of its terms. I apprehend that the ideas of some on this subject are inaccurate, or at least that they use language which is not consistent with truth. I do not mean those who, from ignorance of the true design of redemption,
• Gen. üi. 22.
imagine that God has made a new covenant of works with us, which, on account of its mitigated terms, they are pleased to call a covenant of grace, but Divines sound in the faith, who firmly maintain that our own works are in no sense the cause of our salvation, but yet speak as if the first covenant still continued, offering eternal life upon condition of obedience, and object to the idea of its being antiquated or abrogated.
I observe, in the first place, That the law of the covenant, as we may justly call the moral law, of subjection to which the command respecting the tree of knowledge was a test—that the law retains all its authority. Man might renounce his allegiance to God, but he could not withdraw from his dominion, which is founded in the nature of things, and undergoes no alteration, whatever changes may take place in the circumstances of his subjects. A rebel does not cease to owe obedience to his lawful prince, or it would follow, that he was punishable only for his revolt, but not for the crimes which he might subsequently commit. It has been said, that God could not claim obedience from man, because he was no longer in covenant with him; of which objection this is the import, that Adam was not bound to obey his Creator but by voluntary consent, or was not bound to obey him without the stipulation of a reward.' It is hardly possible to conceive an opinion more clearly stamped with the characters of folly and impiety. As for the assertion, that God could not justly require obedience from man after he had become incapable of performing it, it will deserve attention, only when it is proved, that his sin was not voluntary, and that it was not himself, but his Maker, that put him in a state of moral inability.
I observe, in the second place, That the penalty of the covenant is in force against all who are under it. It began immediately to be executed upon Adam, who lost the image and favour of God, became subject to pain and sorrow, and was liable to death : and it has been executed upon the successive generations of his posterity. God did not revoke the penalty, or substitute a milder punishment, when he introduced the new dispensation; he only provided the means by which man might be delivered from the original sanction. There was now a possibility of escaping the consequences of sin, if they would cordially accept the proffered salvation ; but, in the mean time, they remained in a state of condemnation, the heirs of all the misery which their first parents had entailed upon them. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them,"'* is the sentence pronounced upon the descendants of Adam.
I observe in the third place, That the covenant itself is abolished, by which I mean that, although it still demands obedience to its precests, and executes its penalty upon transgressors, it does not promise life to the obedient. There is now no federal transaction between God and man, according to which he engages to give life to the keepers of the law. It is indeed often said, that, if men could fulfil the demands of the law, they would be entitled to happiness ; but this is a mistake. The constitution upon which alone man's title could be founded was disannulled, and has not been re-established. That it was disannulled will be perfectly evident, if you reflect upon the nature of a covenant. It is an agreement between two parties upon certain terms. If the terms are not fulfilled, the agreement is dissolved, and the penalty, if one was proposed, takes effect. The promisee cannot come forward at some future time, and say to the promiser, I will now do what was prescribed. The latter is no longer bound by his promise, may reject the offered service, because the season when he wanted it is gone by, and has a right to exact the penalty. In consequence of the sin of Adam, the agreement which his Creator had made with him came to an end. He had violated the condition, lost all claim to the promise, and
• Gal. iii. 10.
fallen under the penalty. There was no clause in the covenant providing him with an opportunity to retrieve his fault, and still holding out the hope of the reward after he had failed. His eternal interests were suspended upon one trial, and if it terminated fatally, his doom was fixed for ever. You will observe that, if what has been now said is true in respect of Adam, it is true also in respect of his posterity, who were identified with him, and placed in the same circumstances by the covenant. It cannot be, therefore, that a promise of life is still made to them upon condition of obedience, for no such promise was made to him after the fall. His hope was founded upon a new promise, a promise of mercy through the seed of the woman, and God gives no other hope to his posterity. Let it not be imagined, that there is a proposal of two ways of obtaining happiness in the world to come, the one by the works of the law, and the other by faith. Men may dream of the former, but they only dream, for, besides the utter impossibility of the thing, God has never come under a new obligation to reward their obedience. The covenant of works is superseded by the covenant of grace, and the promise of life belongs to that covenant alone. It is an error, therefore, to represent men in a natural state, as under the covenant of works, when it is meant that they are required to perform perfect obedience as the condition of life. Perfect obedience is demanded from them, but not as the condition of life ; for never since the fall did God promise life upon such terms. The first covenant, as a covenant, no longer exists. Nothing remains of it but the precept and the penalty; the promise is cancelled.
It may be alleged that this doctrine is not in accordance with Scripture, in some passages of which the original tenor of the covenant is expressed. “ 'The man that doeth those things shall live by them."'* “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”+ But does any person seriously think, that this is a re-enactment of the covenant? Did God intend to teach the Israelites, or our Saviour the young man who was inquiring the way to heaven, that future happiness was still promised to human obedience ? No; the design in both cases was to convince the self-righteous of the impracticable nature of the task which they had undertaken; to shew them that there was an insurmountable obstacle to the attainment of their hopes; to remind them that, according to their own plan, there was required an obedience too pure and extensive to be performed by such power as man possesses in his fallen state. Such passages do not import that there is still a constitution by which obedience and life are connected, but proceeding according 10 men's own notions of the matter, they demonstrate the folly of their expectations, from the unconquerable difficulty of the enterprise.
Let us now inquire what are the consequences of the first sin to the posterity of Adam. If it were true, as Pelagians maintain, that he was not the representative of his children, and that God dealt with him as an individual, it would also be true that none was affected by his sin but himself; but if a cov. enant was made with him, the consequences are necessarily the same to him and his descendants. It follows from the nature of a federal transaction, that the interests of both were identified, so that the evil which he incurred is transmitted to them as their inheritance. There is no possibility of getting rid of this conclusion, but by refuting the arguments produced to prove that the transaction with Adam was of a federal nature.
We say, then, in the first place, That by his sin his posterity became liable to the punishment denounced against himself
. They became guilty through his guilt
, which is imputed to them, or placed to their account, so that they are treated as if they had personally broken the covenant. I do not see in what other sense we can understand the words of the Apostle, “ By one man's dis. Rom. X. 5.
† Matt. xix. 17.