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The Covenant of Works by Thomas Watson

Covenant Theology - God's Master Plan to Give His Son Jesus Christ a Bride

Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.

Check out these books on Covenant Theology.

A Simple Overview of Covenant Theology

When dealing with Covenant Theology “simple” is a good thing. After the Bible, this work is the FIRST that you should read, or one that you should introduce to a friend if they are struggling with covenant concepts.

Covenant Theology Made Easy

When dealing with Covenant Theology, making doctrine easy to under is important. This work is a great follow up to the “Simple Overview of Covenant theology” book.

A Masterful Work on Baptism

There is no better succinct, concise, precise and exegetically irrefutable work on infant baptism than Harrison’s work. It is not just about baptism – it’s about infant inclusion in the covenant of grace. It’s about church membership.


Question 12: What special act of providence did God exercise towards man, in the estate wherein he was created?

Answer: 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.

“And the Lord God commanded the man—You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17.

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 permission to eat of all the other trees of the garden. God did not envy him any happiness; but said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” because he would test 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.” 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, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” 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, “When you eat of it you will surely die;” Hebrew, “In dying you shall die;” that is, you shall die both a natural death and an eternal, unless some expedient be found out for your 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 covenant.

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

[1] The form of the first covenant in innocence was by WORKS. “Do this and live.” Working was the ground and condition of man’s justification. Gal 3:12, “How different from this way of faith is the way of law, which says—If you wish to find life by obeying the law, you must obey all of its commands.” 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 Christ. “It is God who works 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. Just 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 of the works. “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 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 law. “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything 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 would 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:

(1.) See 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 favor.

(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. 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 favorite 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 honor abides not,” lodged not for a night. 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 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. 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 power of standing; in the second we have an impossibility of falling finally.

(6.) Whoever they are, who 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 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 labor 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.

Question 14. What is Sin?

Answer: Sin is any lack of conformity to the law of God, or transgression of it.

“Sin is the transgression of the law.” Of sin in general:

Sin is a violation or transgression. The Latin word, 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 7:12. It is just, there is nothing in it unequal. It is holy, nothing in it impure. It is good, nothing in it harmful. 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. Sin is the distillation of all evil. The Scripture calls it the “accursed thing.” It is compared to the venom of serpents, and the stench of sepulchers. The apostle uses this expression, “sin might become utterly sinful,” Rom 7:13, or, as it is in the Greek, “Hyperbolically sinful.” The devil would paint sin with the pleasing color 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?” 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 who commits sin is of the devil.” Satan was the first actor of sin, and the first tempter to sin. Sin is the devil’s first-born.

II. The evil nature of sin.

[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,” and to a “plague-sore.” Joshua’s filthy garments, in which he stood before the angel, were nothing but a type and hieroglyphic of sin. Sin has blotted God’s image, and stained the orient brightness of the soul. Sin makes God loathe a sinner; and when a sinner sees his sin, he loathes himself!

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. Duties of religion are 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. Sin turns a man into a devil. “One of you is a devil!” John 6:70.

[2] Sin is grieving God’s Spirit. “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” 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 Spirit 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 rebellion against God; a walking direct opposite to heaven. “If you will walk contrary to me.” A sinner tramples upon God’s law, crosses his will, and does all he can to affront, yes, to spite God. The Hebrew word for sin, Pasha, signifies rebellion; there is the heart of a rebel, in every sin. “We will do whatever proceeds out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven.” Sin strikes at the very Deity. 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 ingratitude and unkindness. God feeds the sinner, keeps off evils from him, be-miracles 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 favor, plotted treason against him. Like the mule, who kicks the mother after she has given it milk. “Is this your kindness to your friend?” God may upbraid the sinner. “I have given you,” he may say, “your health, strength, and estate; but you requite me evil for good, you wound me with my own mercies! Is this your kindness to your friend? Did I give you life to sin against me? Did I give you wages to serve the devil?”

[5] Sin is a disease. “The whole head is sick;” Isa 1:1. Some are sick with pride, others with lust, others with 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,” tastes bitter to him; he puts ‘sweet for bitter.” 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 sinner prefers 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 a 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 labor to pursue their sins. How do they tire themselves in doing the devil’s drudgery! “They weary themselves to commit iniquity.” What pains did Judas take to bring about his damnation! 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.” Not enjoy their lusts—but serve their lusts. Why so? Because not only of the slavery in sin—but the hard labor; 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. The only thing which which draws forth the keenness of God’s hatred, is sin. “Oh, do not this abominable thing which I hate.” 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 such a viper in his bosom! Until sin is 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 your 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 of sin. Oh what an accursed thing is sin, that Christ should die for it! The evil of sin is not so much seen in the multitude who are damned for it, as that Christ died for lt.

IV. Sin is evil in its EFFECTS.

[1] Sin has degraded us of our honor. 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 11:21. This was spoken of Antiochus Epiphanes, who was a king, and his name signifies illustrious; yet sin degraded him, he was a vile person.

[2] Sin disquiets the peace of the soul. “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” Isaiah 57:20-21. Whatever defiles, disturbs. As poison corrupts the blood, so sin corrupts the soul. Sin breeds a trembling at the heart; it creates fears, and there is “torment in fear.” Sin makes sad convulsions in the conscience. Judas was so terrified with guilt and horror, that he hanged himself to quiet his conscience. In order to ease his conscience—he threw himself into hell.

[3] Sin produces all temporal evil. “Jerusalem has grievously sinned, therefore she is removed.” It is the Trojan horse, which has sword, and famine and pestilence, in its belly. Sin is a coal, which not only blackens–but burns. Sin creates all our troubles; it puts gravel into our bread, and wormwood in our cup. Sin rots the name, consumes the estate, buries loved ones. Sin shoots the flying scroll of God’s curses into a family and kingdom. 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 which breeds in the rose is the cause of its perishing; just so—the corruptions which breed in men’s souls are the cause of their damning. Sin, without repentance, brings the ‘second death,” that is “a death always dying,” Rev 20:14. Sin’s pleasure will turn to sorrow at last; like the book the prophet ate, sweet in the mouth—but bitter in the belly. Sin brings the wrath of God, and what tears can quench that fire? “It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell—the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9:45-46

Use one: See how deadly an evil sin is, and how strange is it that anyone should love it! “How long will you love vanity?” Psalm 4:2. “The people have turned to other gods, and love flagons of wine.” Hos 3:1: Sin is a dish which men cannot refrain from, though it makes them sick. Who would pour rose-water into a filthy kennel? What pity it is, that 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 which 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 rip in a coat—but sin a stab at the heart. In affliction there is some good—in this lion there is some honey to be found. “It is good for me that I was afflicted.” Psalm 119:71. Augustine, “Affliction is God’s flail to thresh off our husks. Affliction does not consume—but refines.” There is no good in sin; it is the 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.”

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 taken away your sins.” Zech 3:4. If you had a disease on your body—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 tree; that sin, though it live, does not reign—but the elder serves the younger; sin the elder—serves grace the younger.


Question 15: What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?

Answer: That sin was eating the forbidden fruit. “She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband.” Gen 3:3. Here is implied,

1. That our first parents fell from their estate of innocence.

2. The sin by which they fell, was eating the forbidden fruit.

I. Our first parents fell from their glorious state of innocence. “God made man upright—but they have sought out many inventions.” Adam was perfectly holy, he had rectitude of mind, and liberty of will to good; but his head ached until he had invented his own—and our death! He sought out many inventions.

1. His fall was voluntary. He had a power not to fall. Free-will was a sufficient shield to repel temptation. The devil could not have forced him unless he had given his consent. Satan was only a suitor to woo, not a king to compel; but Adam gave away his own power, and allowed himself to be decoyed into sin; like a young gallant, who at one throw loses a fair lordship. Adam had a fair lordship, he was lord of the world. “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves.” But he lost all at one throw! As soon as he sinned, he forfeited paradise!

2. Adam’s fall was sudden; he did not long continue in his royal majesty.

How long did Adam continue in paradise before he fell?

The most probable and received opinion is, that he fell the very same day in which he was created. So Irenaeus, Cyril, Epiphanius, and many others. The reasons which incline me to believe so are,

(1.) It is said, Satan was a murderer, “from the beginning.” Now, whom did he murder? Not the blessed angels, he could not reach them; nor the cursed angels, for they had before destroyed themselves. How then was Satan a murderer from the beginning? As soon as Satan fell, he began to tempt mankind to sin; this was a murdering temptation. By which it appears Adam did not stay long in Paradise; soon after his creation the devil set upon him—and murdered him by his temptation!

(2.) Adam had not yet eaten of the tree of life. “And now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat; the Lord sent him forth of the garden.” This tree of life, being one of the choicest fruits in the garden, and being placed in the midst of Paradise, it is very likely Adam would have eaten of this tree of life soon, had not the serpent beguiled him with the tree of knowledge. So that I conclude, Adam fell the very day of his creation, because he had not yet tasted the tree of life, that tree that was most in his eye, and had such delicious fruit growing upon it.

(3.) “Man being in honor, abides not.” Psalm 49:12. The Rabbis read it thus, “Adam being in honor, lodged not one night.” The Hebrew word for abide, signifies, “To stay or lodge all night.” Adam then, it seems, did not take up one night’s lodging in Paradise.

Use one: From Adam’s sudden fall—learn the weakness of human nature. Adam, in a state of integrity, quickly made a defection from God, he soon lost the robe of innocence and the glory of Paradise. If our nature was thus weak when it was at the best, what is it now when it is at the worst? If Adam did not stand when he was perfectly righteous, how unable are we to stand when sin has cut the lock of our original righteousness! If purified nature did not stand, how shall corrupt nature? If Adam, in a few hours, sinned himself out of Paradise, how quickly would we sin ourselves into hell—if we were not kept by a greater power than our own! But God puts underneath his everlasting arms. Deut 33:27.

Use two: From Adam’s sudden fall—learn how sad it is for a man to be left to himself. Adam being left to himself, fell. Oh then, what will become of us, how soon fall, if God should leave us to ourselves! A man without God’s grace, left to himself, is like a ship in a storm, without pilot or anchor—and is ready to dash upon every rock. Make this prayer to God, “Lord, do not leave me to myself! If Adam, who had strength, fell so soon—how soon shall I fall who have no strength!” Oh! urge God with his hand and seal. “My strength shall be made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9.

II. The sin by which our first parents fell was eating the forbidden fruit; where, consider two things:

[1] The occasion of it was the serpent’s temptation. The devil crept into the serpent, and spoke in the serpent. Consider:

(1.) The subtlety of Satan’s temptation. His wiles are worse than his darts. Satan’s subtlety in tempting; (1.) He dealt all along as an impostor, he ushered in his temptation by lies.

1st Lie. “You shall not surely die.”

2nd Lie. That God did envy our first parents their happiness. “God knows, that in the day you eat, your eyes shall be opened.” That is, “The reason why God forbids you to eat of this tree—is because he envies your felicity.”

3rd Lie. That they would be thereby made like unto God. “You shall be as gods.” Here was his subtlety in tempting. The devil was first a liar, then a murderer!

(2.) In that he set upon our first parents so quickly, before they were confirmed in their obedience. The angels in heaven are fully confirmed in holiness; they are called stars of the morning, Job 38:7, and they are fixed stars; but our first parents were not confirmed in their obedience, they were not fixed in their orb of holiness. Though they had a possibility of standing, they had not an impossibility of falling; they were holy—but mutable. There was Satan’s subtlety, in tempting our first parents before they were confirmed in their obedience.

(3.) His subtlety in tempting was, that he set upon Eve first, because he thought she was less able to resist. Satan broke over the hedge where it was weakest; he knew he could more easily insinuate and wind himself into her, by a temptation. An expert soldier, when about to storm or enter a castle, carefully observes where there is a breach, or how he may enter with more ease; so did Satan tempt the weaker vessel. He tempted Eve first, because he knew, if once he could prevail with her, she would easily draw her husband. Thus the devil handed over a temptation to Job by his wife. “Curse God and die.” Job 2:9. Agrippina poisoned the Emperor Commodus, with wine in a perfumed cup; the cup being perfumed and given him by his wife, it was the less suspected. Satan knew a temptation coming to Adam from his wife would be more prevailing, and would be less suspected. Oh bitter! sometimes relations prove temptations. A wife may be a snare, when she dissuades her husband from doing his duty, or entices him to evil. “Ahab sold himself to work wickedness, whom his wife Jezebel stirred up.” I Kings 21:25. She blew the coals, and made his sin flame out the more. Satan’s subtlety was in tempting Adam by his wife; he thought she would draw him to sin.

(4.) Satan’s subtlety in tempting was in assaulting Eve’s faith. He would persuade her that God had not spoken truth: “You shall not surely die.” Gen 3:4. This was Satan’s masterpiece, to weaken her faith. When he had shaken that, and had brought her once to distrust: then “she yielded,” she presently put forth her hand to evil.

Satan’s CRUELTY in tempting. As soon as Adam was invested in all his glory, the devil cruelly, as it were on the day of Adam’s coronation, would dethrone him, and bring him and all his posterity under a curse! See how little love Satan has to mankind; he has an implacable antipathy against us; and antipathies can never be reconciled. So much for the occasion of Adam’s sin, or his being tempted by the serpent.

[2] The sin itself. “Eating the forbidden fruit.” This was very heinous, and that appears three ways:

(1.) In respect of the person who committed it.

(2.) The aggravation of the sin.

(3.) The dreadfulness of the effect.

(1.) It was very heinous in respect of the person who committed it. Adam had excellent and noble endowments; he was illumined with knowledge, embellished with holiness; he knew his duty, and it was as easy for him to obey God’s command, as to know it; he might have chosen whether he would sin or not; yet he willfully did eat of the forbidden tree.

(2.) The aggravation of Adam’s sin.

Why is Adam’s sin so great? It was but the seizing of an apple! Was it such a great sin—to pluck an apple? “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Genesis 3:6.

It was sin against an infinite God. It was a voluminous sin, there were many sins twisted together in it. As Cicero says of parricide, “He who is guilty of it, he commits many sins in one;” so there were many sins in this one sin of Adam. It was a big-bellied sin, a chain with many links. Ten sins were in it.

(1.) Unbelief. Our first parents did not believe what God had spoken was truth. God said, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” They did not believe that they would die; they could not be persuaded that such fair fruit had death at the door. Thus, by unbelief they called God a liar; nay, which was worse, they believed the devil rather than God!

(2.) Unthankfulness, which is the epitome of all sin. Adam’s sin was committed in the midst of Paradise. God had enriched him with variety of mercies; he had stamped his own image upon him; he had made him lord of the world; gave him of all the trees of the garden to eat (one only excepted). And now to take of that tree! This was high ingratitude; it was like the dye to the wool, which makes it crimson. When Adam’s eyes were opened, and he saw what he had done—well might he be ashamed, and hide himself. How could he who sinned in the midst of Paradise, look God in the face without blushing!

(3.) In Adam’s sin was discontent. Had he not been discontented, he would never have sought to have altered his condition. Adam, one would think, had enough; he differed but little from the angels, he had the robe of innocence to clothe him, and the glory of Paradise to crown him. Yet he was not content, he would have more; he would be above the ordinary rank of creatures. How wide was Adam’s heart, that a whole world could not fill it!

(4.) Pride, in that he would be like God. This worm, which was but newly crept out of the dust, now aspired after Deity! “You will be like God,” said Satan, and Adam hoped to have been so indeed; he supposed the tree of knowledge would have anointed his eyes, and made him omniscient. But, by climbing too high, he got a dreadful fall!

(5.) Disobedience. God said, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil;” but he would eat of it, though it cost him his life! Disobedience is a sin against equity. It is right we should serve him from whom we have our existence. God gave Adam his allowance, therefore it was but right he should give God his allegiance. How could God endure to see his laws trampled on before his face? This made him place a flaming sword at the end of the garden.

(6.) Curiosity. He meddled with that which was out of his sphere, and did not belong to him. God smote the men of Bethshemesh for looking into the ark. I Sam 6:19. Adam would be prying into God’s secrets, and tasting what was forbidden.

(7.) Wantonness. Though Adam had a choice of all the other trees—yet his palate grew wanton, and he must have this tree. Like Israel, God sent them manna, angels’ food, ay—but they had a hankering after quails. It was not enough that God supplied their needs, unless he should satisfy their lusts! Adam had not only everything for necessity—but for delight; yet his wanton palate lusted after forbidden fruit.

(8.) Sacrilege. The tree of knowledge did not belong to Adam—yet he took of it, and did sacrilegiously rob God of his due. It was counted a great crime in Harpalus to rob the temple, and steal the silver vessels; so it was a great crime in Adam, to steal fruit from that tree which God had peculiarly enclosed for himself. Sacrilege is double theft.

(9.) Murder. Adam was a public person, and all his posterity were involved and wrapped up in him; and he, by sinning, at once destroyed all his posterity! (if free grace did not interpose.) If Abel’s blood cried so loud in God’s ears, “The voice of your brother’s blood cries unto me from the ground,” how loud did the blood of all Adam’s posterity cry against him for vengeance!

(10.) Presumption. Adam presumed of God’s mercy; he blessed himself, saying he would have peace; he thought, though he did transgress, he would not die; that God would sooner reverse his decree, than punish him. This was great presumption. What a heinous sin, was Adam’s breach of covenant!

One sin may have many sins in it. We are apt to have slight thoughts of sin, and say “it is but a little one.” How many sins were in Adam’s sin! Oh take heed of any sin! As in one volume there may be many works bound up, so there may be many sins in one sin.

[3] The dreadfulness of the effect. It has corrupted man’s nature. How deadly is that poison—a drop whereof, could poison a whole sea! And how deadly is that sin of Adam, which could poison all mankind, and bring a curse upon them—until it be taken away by him who was made a curse for us!


Question 16: Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?

Answer: The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself—but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him, by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in his first transgression.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12

Adam being a representative person, while he stood, we stood; when he fell, we fell, We sinned in Adam; so it is in the text, “In whom all have sinned.”

Adam was the head of mankind, and being guilty, we are guilty, as the children of a traitor have their blood stained. “All of us,” says Augustine, “sinned in Adam, because we were part of Adam.”

If when Adam fell, all mankind fell with him; why, when one angel fell, did not all fall?

The case is not the same. The angels had no relation to one another. They are called morning-stars; the stars have no dependence one upon another; but it was otherwise with us, we were in Adam’s loins; as a child is a branch of the parent, we were part of Adam; therefore when he sinned, we sinned.

How is Adam’s sin made ours?

(1.) By imputation. The Pelagians of old held, that Adam’s transgression is hurtful to posterity by imitation only, not by imputation. But the text, “In whom all have sinned,” confutes that.

(2.) Adam’s sin is ours by propagation. Not only is the guilt of Adam’s sin imputed to us—but the depravity and corruption of his nature is transmitted to us, as poison is carried from the fountain to the cistern. This is that which we call original sin. “In sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5. Adam’s leprosy cleaves to us, as Naaman’s leprosy did to Gehazi. 2 Kings 5:27. This original sin is called,

(1.) The “old man.” Eph 4:22. It is said to be the old man, not that it is weak, as old men are—but for its long standing, and for its deformity. In old age the fair blossoms of beauty fall; so original sin is the old man, because it has withered our beauty, and made us deformed in God’s eye.

(2.) Original sin is called “the law of sin.” Rom 7:25 Original sin has the power of a law which binds the subject to allegiance. Men must needs do what sin will have them, when they have both the love of sin to draw them, and the law of sin to force them.

I. In original sin there is something privative, and something positive.

[1] Something privative. The lack of that righteousness which should be ours. We have lost that excellent quintessential frame of soul which once we had. Sin has cut the lock of original purity, where our strength lay.

[2] Something positive. Original sin has contaminated and defiled our virgin nature. Original sin has poisoned the spring of our nature, it has turned beauty into leprosy; it has turned the azure brightness of our souls, into midnight darkness.

Original sin has become natural to us. A man by nature cannot but sin; though there were no devil to tempt, no bad examples to imitate—yet there is such an innate principle in him that he cannot forbear sinning. 2 Pet 2:14. We cannot cease to sin, as a horse that is lame, cannot walk without halting. In original sin there is,

(1.) An aversion from good. Man has a desire to be happy—yet opposes that which would promote his happiness. He has a disgust of holiness, he hates to be reformed. Since we fell from God, we have no mind to return to him.

(2.) A propensity to evil. If, as the Pelagians say, there is so much goodness in us since the fall, why is there not as much natural proneness to good as there is to evil? Our experience tells us, that the natural bias of the soul, is to that which is bad. The very heathens by the light of nature saw this. Hierocles the philosopher said, “it is grafted in us by nature to sin.” Men roll sin as honey under their tongue. “They drink iniquity as water,” Job 15:16. Like a person who thirsts for drink, and is not satisfied; they have a kind of drought on them, they thirst for sin. Though they are tired out in committing sin—yet they sin. “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” Ephesians 4:19. “They weary themselves to commit iniquity”; as a man who follows his game while he is weary—yet delights in it, and cannot leave it off. Jer 9:5. Though God has set so many flaming swords in the way to stop men in their sin—yet they go on in it; which all shows what a strong appetite they have to the forbidden fruit.

II. That we may further see the nature of original sin, consider,

[1] The UNIVERSALITY of it. It has, as poison, diffused itself into all the parts and powers of the soul. “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint.” Isa 1:5. Like a sick patient, that has no part sound, his liver is swelled, his feet are gangrened, his lungs are withered; such infected, gangrened souls have we, until Christ, who has made a medicine of his blood, cures us.

(1.) Original sin has depraved the intellectual part—the MIND. As in the creation “darkness was upon the face of the deep,” so it is with the understanding; darkness is upon the face of this deep. As there is salt in every drop of the sea, bitterness in every branch of wormwood, so there is sin in every faculty. The mind is darkened, we know little of God. Ever since Adam ate of the tree of knowledge, and his eyes were opened—we lost our eye-sight! Besides ignorance in the mind, there is error and mistake; we do not judge rightly of things, we put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. Isa 5:20. Besides this, there is much pride, disdainfulness and prejudice, and many fleshly reasonings. “How long shall your vain thoughts lodge within you?” Jer 4:14.

(2.) Original sin has defiled the HEART. The heart is deadly wicked. “The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Jeremiah 17:9. It is a lesser hell. In the heart are legions of lusts, obdurateness, infidelity, hypocrisy, sinful lusts. It boils as the sea—with passion and revenge. “The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live.” Ecclesiastes 9:3. The heart is “the devil’s workshop,” where all mischief is framed.

(3.) Original sin has defiled the WILL. Contumacy is the seat of rebellion. The sinner crosses God’s will, to fulfill his own. “We will burn incense to the queen of heaven.” There is a rooted enmity in the will against holiness; it is like an iron sinew, it refuses to bend to God. Where is then, the freedom of the will, when it is so full not only of indisposition—but opposition to what is spiritual?

(4.) Original sin has defiled the AFFECTIONS. These, as the strings of a violin, are out of tune. They are the lesser wheels, which are strongly carried by the will, the master-wheel. Our affections are set on wrong objects. Our love is set on sin, our joy is set on the creature. Our affections are naturally as a sick man’s appetite, who desires things which are noxious and hurtful to him. So we have impure lustings, instead of holy longings.

[2] The ADHESION of original sin. It cleaves to us, as blackness to the skin of the Ethiopian, so that we cannot get rid of it. Paul shook off the viper on his hand—but we cannot shake off this inbred corruption. It may be compared to a wild fig-tree growing on a wall, the roots of which are pulled up, and yet there are some fibers of it in the joints of the stonework, which will not be eradicated—but will sprout forth until the wall is pulled in pieces. Original sin comes not, as a lodger, for a night—but as an indweller. “Sin which dwells in me.” Rom 7:17.

It is an evil spirit, which haunts us wherever we go. “The Canaanite would dwell in that land.” Josh 17:12.

[3] Original sin retards and hinders us in the exercise of God’s worship. Whence is “all that dullness and deadness in religion? It is the fruit of original sin. This it is, which rocks us asleep in duty. “The good that I would, I do not.” Rom 7:17. Sin is compared to a weight. Heb 12:2. A man who has weights tied to his legs cannot run fast. It is like that fish Pliny speaks of, a sea lamprey, which cleaves to the keel of the ship, and hinders its progress when it is under sail.

[4] Original sin, though latent in the soul, and as a spring which runs under ground, often breaks forth unexpectedly. Christian, you can not believe that evil which is in your heart, and which will break forth suddenly—if God should leave you. “Is your servant a dog that he should do this monstrous thing?” 2 Kings 8:13. Hazael could not believe he had such a root of evil in his heart, that he should rip up pregnant women. “Is your servant a dog?” Yes, and worse than a dog, when that original corruption within is stirred up. If one had come to Peter and said, Peter, within a few hours you will deny Christ, he would have said, “Is your servant a dog?” But alas! Peter did not know his own heart, nor how far that corruption within would prevail upon him. The sea may be calm, and look clear; but when the wind blows—how it rages and foams! So though now your heart seems good—yet, when temptation blows, how may original sin reveal itself, making you foam with lust and passion. Who would have thought to have found adultery in David, and drunkenness in Noah, and cursing in Job? If God leaves a man to himself, how suddenly and scandalously may original sin break forth in the holiest men on the earth!

[5] Original sin mixes and incorporates itself with our duties and graces.

(1.) With our duties. As the hand which is paralyzed cannot move without shaking—as it lacks some inward strength; so we cannot do any holy action without sinning—as we lack a principle of original righteousness. As whatever the leper touched became unclean; such a leprosy is original sin; it defiles our prayers and tears. We cannot write without blotting. Though I do not say that the holy duties and good works of the regenerate are sins, for that were to reproach the Spirit of Christ, by whom they are wrought; yet this I say—that the best works of the godly have sin cleaving to them. Christ’s blood alone, makes atonement for our holy things.

(2.) With our graces. There is some unbelief mixed with our faith, some lukewarmness mixed with our zeal, some pride mixed with our humility. As bad lungs cause shortness of breath, so original corruption has infected our hearts, so that our graces breathe very faintly.

[6] Original sin is a vigorous active principle within us. It does not lie still—but is ever exciting and stirring us up to evil; it is a very restless inhabitant. “What I hate—that I do!” How came Paul to do so? Original sin irritated and stirred him up to it. Original sin is like quicksilver, always in motion. When we are asleep, sin is awake in the imagination. Original sin sets the head plotting evil, and the hands working it. It has in it, a principle of restless activity; it is like the pulse—ever beating.

[7] Original sin is the cause of all actual sin. It is the kindling-wood of sin; it is the womb in which all actual sins are conceived. Hence come murders, adulteries, rapines. Though actual sins may be more scandalous—yet original sin is more heinous; the cause is always more than the effect.

[8] Original sin is not perfectly cured in this life. Though grace does subdue sin—yet it does not wholly remove it. Though we are like Christ, having the first fruits of the Spirit—yet we are unlike him, having the remainders of sinful flesh. There are two nations in the womb. Original sin is like that tree, in Dan 4:23, though the branches and the main body of it were hewn down—yet the stumps and root of the tree were left. Though the Spirit is still weakening and hewing down sin in the godly—yet the stump of original sin is left. It is a sea that will not, in this life, be dried up.

But why does God leave original corruption in us after regeneration? He could free us from it if he pleased.

(1.) He does it to show the power of his grace in the weakest believer. Grace shall prevail against a torrent of corruption. Whence is this? The corruption is ours—but the grace is God’s.

(2.) God leaves original corruption to make us long after heaven, where there shall be no sin to defile, no devil to tempt. When Elijah was taken up to heaven his mantle dropped off; so, when the angels shall carry us up to heaven, this mantle of sin shall drop off. We shall never more complain of an aching head—or an unbelieving heart.

Use one: If original sin be propagated to us, and will be inherent in us while we live here, it confutes the Libertines and Quakers, who say they are without sin. They hold to sinless perfection; they show much pride and ignorance; but we see the seeds of original sin remain in the best. “There is not a just man lives and sins not.” And Paul complained of a “body of death.” Though grace purifies nature, it does not perfect it.

But does not the apostle say of believers, that their “old man is crucified;” and they are “dead to sin?”

(1.) They are dead spiritually. They are dead as to the guilt of it; and as to the power of it; the love of sin is crucified.

(2.) They are dead to sin legally. As a man who is sentenced to death is dead in law, so they are legally dead to sin. There is a sentence of death gone out against sin. It shall die, and drop into the grave; but at the present, sin has its life lengthened out. Nothing but the death of the body can quite free us from the body of this death.

Use two: Let us lay to heart original sin, and be deeply humbled for it. It cleaves to us as a disease, it is an active principle in us, stirring us up to evil. Original sin is worse than all actual sin; the fountain is more than the stream. Some think, as long as they are civil, they are well enough; ay—but the nature is poisoned. A river may have fair streams—but vermin at the bottom. You carry a hell about you, you can do nothing but you defile it; your heart, like muddy ground, defiles the purest water that runs through it. Nay, though you are regenerate, there is much of the old man in the new man. Oh how should original sin humble us!

This is one reason God has left original sin in us, because he would have it as a thorn in our side to humble us. As the bishop of Alexandria, after the people had embraced Christianity, destroyed all their idols but one, that the sight of that idol might make them loathe themselves for their former idolatry; so God leaves original sin to pull down the plumes of pride. Under our silver wings of grace, are black feet.

Use three: Let the sense of this make us daily look up to heaven for help. Beg Christ’s blood to wash away the guilt of sin, and his Spirit to mortify the power of it; beg further degrees of grace. Though grace cannot make sin not to be—yet it makes it not to reign; though grace cannot expel sin, it can repel it. And for our comfort, where grace makes a combat with sin—death shall make a conquest of sin.

Use four: Let original sin make us walk with continual jealousy and watchfulness over our hearts. The sin of our nature is like a sleeping lion, the least thing which awakens it, makes it rage. Though the sin of our nature seems quiet, and lies as fire hidden under the embers—yet if it be a little stirred and blown up by a temptation, how quickly may it flame forth into scandalous evils! therefore we need always to walk watchfully. “I say to you all—Watch!” A wandering heart, needs a watchful eye!

4. Man’s Misery By The Fall

Question 19: What is the MISERY of that estate into which man fell?

Answer: All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” Ephesians 2:1-3.

Adam left an unhappy portion to his posterity—Sin and Misery. Having considered the first of these, original sin, we shall now advert to the misery of that state. In the first, we have seen mankind offending; in the second, we shall see him suffering. The misery ensuing from original sin is two-fold.

I. Privative. By this first hereditary sin we have lost communion with God. Adam was God’s familiar friend, his favorite; but sin has put us all out of favor. When we lost God’s image, we lost his acquaintance. God’s banishing Adam out of paradise, hieroglyphically showed how sin has banished us out of God’s love and favor.

II. Positive. In four things.

1. Under the power of Satan.

2. Heirs of God’s wrath.

3. Subject to all the miseries of this life.

4. Exposed to hell and damnation.

[1] The first misery is, that by nature we are under the power of Satan, who is called “the prince of the power of the air.” Before the fall man was a free citizen, now he has become a slave of Satan. Before the fall man was king on the throne, now he is in fetters. And whom is man enslaved to? To one who is a hater of him. This was an aggravation of Israel’s servitude. “Those who hated them ruled over them.” By sin we are enslaved to Satan, who is a hater of mankind, and writes all his laws in blood. Sinners before conversion are under Satan’s command; as the donkey at the command of the driver, so he does all the devil’s drudgery. No sooner Satan tempts—but he obeys. As the ship is at the command of the pilot, who steers it which way he will, so is the sinner at the command of Satan; and he ever steers the ship into hell’s mouth! The devil rules all the powers and faculties of a sinner.

(1.) He rules the UNDERSTANDING. He blinds men with ignorance, and then rules them; as the Philistines first put out Samson’s eyes, and then bound him. Satan can do what he will with an ignorant man; because he does not see the error of his way, the devil can lead him into any sin. You may lead a blind man any where. Every sin is founded upon ignorance.

(2.) Satan rules the WILL. Though he cannot force the will—yet he can, by temptation, draw it. “The lusts of your father, you will do.” He has got your hearts, and him you will obey. “We will burn incense to the queen of heaven.” When the devil spurs a sinner by a temptation, he will over hedge and ditch break all God’s laws, that he may obey Satan. Where then is free will, when Satan has such power over the will? “His lusts you will do.” There’s not any member of the body but is at the devil’s service: the head to plot sin, the hands to work it, the feet to run the devil’s errand. Satan is the worst tyrant; the cruelty of a cannibal, or Nero, is nothing compared to his. Other tyrants do but rule over the bodies, but Satan over the conscience. Other tyrants have some pity on their slaves; though they work in the galley, they give them food, let them have hours for rest; but Satan is a merciless tyrant, he lets them have no rest. What pains did Judas take! The devil would let him have no rest until he had betrayed Christ, and afterwards imbrued his hands in Christ’s own blood.

Use one: see here our misery by original sin; enslaved to Satan. Satan is said to work effectually in the children of disobedience. What a sad plague is it for a sinner, to be at the will of the devil! Just like a slave, if the Turks bid him dig in the mines, hew in the quarries, tug at the oar—the slave must do it, he dares not refuse. If the devil bids a man lie or steal, he does not refuse; and, what is worse, he willingly obeys this tyrant. Other slaves are forced against their will: “Israel sighed by reason of their bondage,” but sinners are willing to be slaves, they will not take their freedom; they kiss their fetters!

Use two: Let us labor to get out of this deplorable condition into which sin has plunged us, and get out from under the power of Satan. If any of your children were slaves, you would give great sums of money to purchase their freedom; and when your souls are enslaved, will you not labor for their freedom? Improve the gospel. The gospel proclaims a jubilee to captives. Sin binds men—but the gospel looses them. Paul’s preaching was “to turn men from the power of Satan to God.” The gospel star leads you to Christ; and if you get Christ, then you are made free, though not from the indwelling of sin—yet from Satan’s tyranny. “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” You hope to be kings to reign in heaven, and will you let Satan reign in you now? Never think to be kings when you die, and slaves while you live. The crown of glory is for conquerors, not for captives. Oh get out of Satan’s jurisdiction; get your fetters of sin filed off by repentance!

[2] The second misery is, by nature we are “the children of wrath.” By children of wrath, the apostle means heirs of wrath, exposed to God’s displeasure. God was once a friend—but sin broke the knot of friendship; now God’s smile is turned into a frown; we have now become children of wrath. “And who knows the power of God’s wrath?” Psalm 90:2. “The wrath of a king is as the roaring of a lion.” How did Haman’s heart tremble, when the king rose up from the banquet in wrath! But God’s wrath is infinite, all other wrath, is but as a spark compared to a flame! Wrath in God is not a passion, as in us; but it is an act of God’s holy will, whereby he abhors sin, and decrees to punish it. This wrath is very dreadful; it is this wrath of God which embitters afflictions in this life, for when sickness comes attended with God’s wrath, it puts conscience into an agony. The mingling of the fire with the hail made it most dreadful. Exod 9:24. So mingling God’s wrath with affliction, makes it torturing; it is the nail in the heart. God’s wrath, when but in a threatening (as a shower hanging in the cloud), made Eli’s ears to tingle; what is it then, when this wrath is executed! It is dreadful when the king examines and judges a traitor; but it is more dreadful when he causes him to be set upon the rack! “Who knows the power of God’s wrath?”

While we are children of wrath, we have nothing to do with any of the precious promises; they are as the tree of life, bearing several sorts of fruit—but we have no right to pluck one leaf. “Children of wrath.” “Strangers to the covenants of promise.” The promises are as a fountain sealed. While we are in the state of nature, we see nothing but the flaming sword; and, as the apostle says, “There remains nothing but a fearful looking for of fiery indignation!” While children of wrath, we are “heirs to all God’s curses.” How can the sinner eat and drink in that condition? Like Damocles’ banquet—who while he sat at table with a sword hanging over his head by a small thread, could have little stomach to eat; so the sword of God’s wrath and curse hangs every moment over a sinner’s head. We read of a flying scroll, written with curses. Zech 5:3. A scroll written with curses goes out against every person who lives and dies in sin. God’s curse blasts, wherever it comes. There is a curse on the sinner’s name, a curse on his soul, a curse on his estate and posterity, a curse on the ordinances. Sad, if all a man eats should turn to poison; yet the sinner eats and drinks his own damnation at God’s table. Thus it is before conversion. As the love of God makes every bitter thing, sweet; so the curse of God makes every sweet thing, bitter.

Use one: See our misery by the fall. Heirs of wrath. And is this estate to be rested in? If a man is fallen under the king’s displeasure, will he not labor to re-ingratiate himself into his favor? Oh let us flee from the wrath of God! And where should we fly—but to Jesus Christ? There is none else to shield off the wrath of God from us. “Jesus has delivered us from the wrath to come.”

[3] The third misery is, that by nature we are subject to all outward miseries. All the troubles incident to man’s life, are the bitter fruits of original sin. The sin of Adam has “subjected the creature to vanity.” Is it not a part of the creature’s vanity, that all the comforts below will not fill the heart, any more than the mariner’s breath can fill the sails of a ship? “In the midst of his sufficiency he shall be in straits.” There is still something lacking, and a man would have more; the heart is always restless; it thirsts—but is never satisfied. Solomon put all the creatures into a crucible; and when he came to extract the spirit and quintessence, there was nothing but froth, “all was vanity.” Nay, it is vexing vanity; not only emptiness—but bitterness. Our life is labor and sorrow. We come into the world with a cry—and go out with a groan! Psalm 90:10. Some have said, that they would not live the life they have lived over again, because their life has had more water in it than wine; more water of tears, than wine of joy. “Long life is merely long torment.” Augustine.

“Man is born to trouble.” Everyone is not born heir to land—but he is born heir to trouble. As well separate weight from lead, as separate trouble from man. We do not finish our troubles in this life—but change them. Trouble is the vermin, which is bred out of the putrid matter of sin. Whence come all our fears, but from sin? “There is torment in fear.” Fear is the plague of the soul—fear sets it shaking; some fear poverty, others alarms, others fear loss of relations; if we rejoice, it is with trembling.

Whence come all our disappointments of hopes, but from sin? Where we look for comfort—there is a cross; where we expect honey—there we taste wormwood. Whence is it, that the earth is filled with violence, that the wicked oppresses the man who is more righteous than he? Hab 1:13. Whence is there so much fraudulence in dealing, so much falseness in friendship, such crosses in relations? Whence is it, that children prove undutiful, and they that should be as the staff of the parents’ old age, are a sword to pierce their hearts? Whence is it, that servants are unfaithful to their masters? The apostle speaks of some who have entertained angels in their houses; Heb 13:3; but how often, instead of entertaining angels in their houses, do some entertain devils! Whence come all the mutinies and divisions in a kingdom? “In those days there was no peace to those who went out, nor to him that came in.” All this is but the sour core in the apple which our first parents ate—the fruit of original sin! Besides, all the deformities and diseases of the body—are from sin! There had never been a stone in the kidneys—if there had not been first a stone in the heart!

Yes, the death of the body is the fruit and result of original sin. “Sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” Adam was made immortal, conditionally, if he had not sinned. Sin dug Adam’s grave! Death is dreadful to nature. Louis, king of France, forbade all who came into his court to mention the word, ‘death’ in his ears. The Socinians say, that death comes only from the infirmities of the body. But the apostle says, Sin ushered in death into the world: by sin came death. Certainly, had not Adam ate of the tree of knowledge, he would not have died. “In the day you eat, you shall surely die;” implying, if Adam had not eaten, he would not have died. Oh then, see the misery ensuing upon original sin! Sin dissolves the harmony and well-being of the body, and pulls its frame in pieces.

[4] The fourth misery is, that original sin without repentance, exposes to hell and damnation. This is the second death. Rev 20:14. Two things are in it:

(1.) Punishment of LOSS. The soul is banished from the beatific presence of God, in whose presence is fullness of joy.

(2.) Punishment of SENSE. The sinner feels scalding vials of God’s wrath. It is penetrating, abiding, John 3:36, and reserved, 2 Pet 2:17. If when God’s anger is kindled but a little, and a spark or two of it flies into a man’s conscience in this life, it is so dreadful; what will it be when God stirs up all his anger? In hell there is the worm and the fire. Mark 9:44. Hell is the very epitome of misery! In hell, there is judgement without mercy. Oh what flames of wrath, what seas of vengeance, what rivers of brimstone—are poured out there upon the damned! Bellarmine is of opinion, That one glimpse of hell-fire were enough to make the most flagitious sinner to turn Christian; nay, live like a hermit, a most strict mortified life. What is all other fire compared to the fire of hell—but painted fire? To bear it will be intolerable, to escape it will be impossible! And these hell torments are forever, they have no end put to them. “They shall seek death, and shall not find it.” Origen fancied a fiery stream in which the souls of sinful men were to be purged after this life, and then to pass into heaven. But the miseries of hell are forever! The breath of the Lord kindles that fire; and where shall we find buckets to quench it? “And the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night.” We can thank original sin for all this misery.

Use one: What dreadful thoughts should we have of original sin, which has created so many miseries! What honey can be gotten out of this lion? What grapes can we gather off this thorn? It sets heaven and earth against us. While we choose this bramble to rule, fire comes out of the bramble to devour us!

Use two: How are all believers bound to Jesus Christ, who has freed them from that misery to which sin has exposed them! “In whom we have redemption through his blood.” Sin has brought trouble and a curse into the world: Christ has sanctified the trouble, and removed the curse. Nay, he has not only freed believers from misery—but purchased for them a crown of glory and immortality! “When the chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive an unfading crown of glory!”

Taken from Watson’s Body of Divinity.

Covenant Theology Poster

The Puritans made many posters, even in their day, to aid church members in understanding Scriptural truth. I created this new poster to cover the Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace.

Check Out these Books on Covenant Theology

Presumptive Regeneration, or, the Baptismal Regeneration of Elect Infants by Cornelius Burges (1589-1665)
A Discourse on Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism by Cuthbert Sydenham (1622-1654)
Infant Baptism of Christ’s Appointment by Samuel Petto (1624-1711)
Covenant Holiness and Infant Baptism by Thomas Blake (1597-1657)
The Manifold Wisdom of God Seen in Covenant Theology by George Walker (1581-1651)
The Covenant of God by Thomas Blake (1597-1657)
A Chain of Theological Principles by John Arrowsmith (1602-1659)
The Covenant of Life Opened by Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661)
The Covenant of Grace Opened by Thomas Hooker (1586-1647)
The Covenant of Redemption by Samuel Willard (1640-1707)
The Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace by Edmund Calamy (1600-1666)
The Doctrine and Practice of Infant Baptism by John Brinsley (1600-1665)
God’s Covenant and Our Duty By Samuel Willard (1640-1707)
God’s Glory in Man’s Happiness by Francis Taylor (1589-1656)
Infant Baptism God’s Ordinance by Michael Harrison (1640-1729)
Jesus Christ God’s Shepherd by William Strong (d. 1654)

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Reformed Theology at A Puritan's Mind