Violating the Covenant of Works by Herman WitsiusCovenant Theology - God's Master Plan to Give His Son Jesus Christ a Bride
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Of the Violation of the Covenant of Works on the part of Man.
I. As the scripture does not declare, how long this covenant, thus ratified and confirmed, continued unbroken, we are satisfied to remain in the dark. And we would have a holy dread of presuming rashly to fix the limits of a time which is really uncertain. It is however evident, that man, wickedly presuming to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, incurred the guilt of violating the covenant. Nor ought that to be deemed a small sin, (as the apostle, Rom. 5. calls it, the offence, disobedience, and transgression) because it may seem to have been committed about a thing of no great importance: For the meaner the thing is, from which God commanded to abstain, and for which man despised the promise of the covenant, makes his transgression of it the more heinous; as may be illustrated by the profaneness of Esau, which was so much the greater, as the mess was of so little value, for which he sold his birth-right, Heb. 12.16. In that sin, as divines generally observe, there was, as it were, a kind of complication of many crimes. But it is our chief purpose to shew, that this was the violation of the whole covenant: for not only that tree, as we proved above, was a sacrament of the covenant, the abuse of which ought to be looked upon as a violence done to the whole; not only the precept concerning that tree, which was the trial of universal obedience; but likewise the covenant in its whole constitution, was violated by that transgression; the law of the covenant was trampled upon, when man, as if he had been his own lord and master in all things, did, in defiance of his Lord, lay hold on what was not his property, and throw off the yoke of obedience that was due to God: the promises of the covenant were set less by than a transitory gust of pleasure, and the empty promises of the seducer; and that dreadful death which the author of the covenant threatened the transgressor with, not considered and thought of in all its dreadful effects, but he presumed to act in opposition to it. And thus Adam transgressed the covenant, Hos. 6.7.
II. Though Eve had the first hand in this crime, yet it is usually in scripture ascribed to Adam: by one man sin entered into the world, according to Paul, Rom. 5.12. whom ver. 14. he declares to be Adam: For Adam was the head of the covenant, with whom, even before the creation of Eve, God seems to have transacted. Adam was the root of all mankind, and even of Eve herself, who was formed out of one of his ribs; neither is it customary to deduce a genealogy from a woman: nor was the covenant judged to be entirely broken, till Adam also added his own crime to that of his wife’s. Then it was that the Creator, first acting in the character of a judge, summoned to his bar the inconsiderate pair, already condemned by their own conscience. But we are not to think that this inheritance of sin was so derived from our father Adam, as to excuse our mother Eve from that guilt: for as by marriage they were made one flesh, so far they may be considered as one man. Nay, Adam is not considered as the head and root of mankind, but in conjunction with his wife. To this purpose is what Malachi (ch. 2.15.) says, that God, seeking a godly seed, made one: one pair, two into one flesh.
III. It was doubtless a wicked spirit who seduced man to this apostacy, and who, tormented with the horrors of his guilty conscience, envied man his happiness in God, and God the pleasure he had in man, and sought to have the wretched consolation of making one a partaker of his misery. And, the more easily to insinuate himself into man’s favour by his ensnaring discourse, he concealed himself in the serpent, the most subtle of all animals, and at that time not less acceptable to man, than the rest of the obsequious creatures. The great du Moulin, disput, iii. de Angelis, � 44. conjectures this serpent was of a conspicuous form, with fiery eyes, decked with gold, and marked with shining spots, so as to draw the eyes of Eve to it, and that he had before that time more than once insinuated himself by his soothing sounds, into Eve’s favour, in order that having preconceived a good opinion of him, she might be brought the more readily to yield to him. In fine, he was such, that what Moses says of the subtilty of the serpent must be applied to him only, and not to the whole species. To this conjecture it is also added, that Eve, perhaps such was her simplicity, did not know whether God had bestowed the use of speech on any other animals besides man. Laurentius Camirez in his Pentecontarch, c. i. (quoted by Bochart, Hierozoic, lib. i. c. iv. p. 30.) goes a step farther, and feigns that Eve was wont to play with the serpent, and adorn her bosom, neck, and arms with it; and hence at this day the ornaments for those parts have the resemblance of serpents, and are called ofeis, serpents, by the Greeks.
IV. But all this is apocryphal. We are not to advance such romantic things without any scripture authority. Whether this was the first, or the only apparition of the serpent, as having the use of speech, I shall neither boldly affirm, nor obstinately deny. But what we are told as probable of some extraordinary serpent so curiously spotted and set off, and now made familiar to Eve, by an intercourse repeated several times, are the pleasing amusements of a curious mind. The subtilty of serpents is every where so well known, that among many nations they are proposed as the distinguishing character and hieroglyphic of prudence. Bochart in his Hierozoic, lib. i. c. 4. has collected many things relating to this from several authors. To this purpose is what our Saviour says, Matt. 10.16. Be ye wise as serpents. It is also injurious and reproachful to our mother Eve, to represent her so weak, and at so small a remove from the brutal creation, as not to be able to distinguish between a brute and a man, and to be ignorant that the use of speech was the peculiar privilege of rational creatures. Such stupid ignorance is inconsistent with the happy state of our first parents, and with the image of God, which shone so illustriously also in Eve. We are rather to believe, that the devil assumed this organ, the more easily to recommend himself to man as a prudent spirit, especially as this looked like a miracle, or a prodigy at least, that the serpent should speak with human voice. Here was some degree of probability, that some spirit lay concealed in this animal, and that too extraordinarily sent by God, who should instruct man more fully about the will of God, and whose words this very miracle as it were seemed to confirm: for that serpents have a tongue unadapted to utter articulate sounds, is the observation of Aristotle, de Part. anita, lib. ii. c. 17. See Vossius de Idol. lib. iv. c. 54.
V. As this temptation of the devil is somewhat like to all his following ones, we judge it not improbable, that Satan exerted all his cunning, and transformed himself, as he usually does, into an angel of light, and addressed himself to Eve, as if he had been an extraordinary teacher of some important truth, not yet fully understood. And therefore does not openly contradict the command of God, but first proposes it as a doubt, whether Adam understood well the meaning of the divine prohibition; whether he faithfully related it to Eve; whether she herself too, did not mistake the sense of it; and whether at least that command, taken literally, was not so improbable, as to render it unnecessary to think of a more mysterious meaning. And thus he teaches to raise reasonings and murmurings against the words of God, which are the destruction of faith.
VI. Next, he undermines the threatening annexed to the command; Ye shall not surely die, says he; God never meant by death what you in your simplicity are apt to suspect. Could death be supposed to hang on so pleasant and agreeable a tree? or do you imagine God so envious as to forbid you who are his familiars and friends to eat the fruit of this delicious tree, under the dreadful penalty of death? this is inconsistent with his infinite goodness, which you so largely experience, and with the beauty of this specious tree and its fruit; and therefore there must be another meaning of this expression which you do not understand. And thus he instilled that heresy into the unwary woman, the first heard of in the world, that there is a sin which does not deserve death, or, which is the same thing, a venial sin. The false prophet, the attendant on Antichrist, who hath horns like a lamb, and speaketh as a dragon, Rev. 13.11. does at this very day maintain this capital heresy in the church of Rome, and nothing is still more usual with Satan, than by hope of impunity, to persuade men to sin.
VII. He adds the promise of a greater happiness; your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. He presupposes what in itself was true and harmless, that man had a desire after some more perfect happiness; which he made to consist in his being made like to God, which John affirms to be, as it were, the principal mark of salvation, that we shall be like God, 1 John 3.2. He says farther, that this likeness was to be joined with the opening of their eyes, and a greater measure of knowledge. Now this is not unlike the doctrines of the scripture, which affirm that we shall see God, and that as he is, and shall know him, even as we ourselves are known. And thus far indeed it might appear, that Satan spoke not amiss, blending many truths, and those evident to the conscience, with his own lies, the more easily to deceive under the appearance of a true teacher. But herein the fraud lies concealed: (1st.) That he teaches them not to wait for God’s appointed time, but unadvisedly and precipitantly lay hold on the promised felicity. Man cannot indeed too much love and desire perfection, if he does it by preparation, and earnest expectation; preparing himself in a course of holy patience and subjection to the will of God, desiring not to anticipate, even for a moment, the good pleasure of God. (2dly.) That he points out a false way, as if the eating of that tree was either a natural, or, more probably, a moral mean to attain the promised bliss; and as if God had appointed this as a necessary requisite, without which there was no possibility of coming to a more intimate communion with God, and a more perfect degree of wisdom; nor, in fine, of obtaining that state, in which, knowing equally good and evil, they would be no longer in danger of any degree of deception. And it is most likely he perverted the meaning of the name of the tree. But all these were mere delusions.
VIII. At last this disguised teacher appeals to the knowledge of God himself; God doth know. Most interpreters, both Jewish and Christian, ancient and modern, interpret these words, as if Satan would charge God with open malignity and envy, as if he forbade this tree, lest he should be obliged to admit man into a partnership in his glory. And indeed there is no blasphemy so horrid that Satan is ashamed of. But we are here to consider whether such bare-faced blasphemy would not have rather struck with horror, man, who had not yet entertained any bad thoughts of God, than recommended itself by any appearance of probability. For why? is it credible, that a man in his right senses could be persuaded that the acquisition of wisdom, and a likeness to God, depended on a tree, so that he should obtain both these by eating of it, whether God would or not? and then, that God, whom man must know to be infinitely great and good, was liable to the passion of envy, a plain indication of malignity and weakness; in fine, that there was such a virtue in that tree, that, on tasting it, God could not deprive man of life: for all these particulars are to be believed by him who can imagine, that out of envy God had forbid him the use of that tree. It does not seem consistent with the subtilty of Satan to judge it adviseable to propose to man things so absurd, and so repugnant to common notions, and the innate knowledge which he must have had of God. May it not be made more proper, to take that expression for a form of an oath? as Paul himself says, 2 Cor. 11.11. God knoweth. And thus the perjured impostor appealed to God as witness of what he advanced.
IX. Some think that Adam was not deceived, and did not believe what the serpent had persuaded the woman to, but rather fell, out of love to his wife, whom he was unwilling to grieve; and therefore, though he was conscious of a divine command, and not exposed to the wiles of Satan, yet that he might not abandon her in this condition, he tasted the fruit she offered; probably believing, that this instance of his affection for the spouse whom God had given him, if in any measure faulty, might be easily excused. To this they refer the apostle’s words, 1 Tim. 2.14. “For Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, was in the transgression.” But this carries us off from the simplicity of the divine oracles; the design of the apostle is plainly to shew, that the woman ought not to exercise any dominion over her husband, for two reasons which he urges: (1st.) Because Adam was first created as the head, and then Eve, as a help meet for him. (2dly.) Because the woman shewed she was more easily deceived, for being deceived first, she was the cause of deceiving her husband, who was likewise deceived (though not first) but by her means: for we commonly find in scripture, that some things seem to be absolutely denied, which we are to understand only as denied in a restrictive sense: John 6.27. and Phil. 2.4. are instances of this. Nor can we conceive how Adam, when he believed that what be did was forbidden by God, and that if he did it he should forfeit the promised happiness, nay, incur most certain death, (for all this he must know and believe, if he still remained uncorrupted by the wiles of Satan,) would have taken part in the crime only to please his wife. Certainly if he believed that the transgression of the divine command, the contempt of the promised felicity, and his rash exposing himself to the danger of eternal death, could be excused only by his affection for his wife, he no less shamefully erred, nor was less deceived, if not more, than his consort herself. Nor can it be concluded from his answer to God, in which he throws the blame, not on the serpent’s deceit, but on the woman whom God had given him, that the man fell into this sin, not so much by an error in the understanding, as giving way to his affection; for this subverts the whole order of the faculties of their soul, since every error in the affection, supposes some error in the understanding. This was doubtless an error, and indeed one of the greatest, to believe that a higher regard was to be paid to his affection for his wife, than to the divine command. It was a considerable error to think that it was an instance of love to become an accomplice in sin; because it is the duty of love to convince the sinner, and as far as may be restore him to the favour of God, which certainly Adam would have done, had he been entirely without error. In whatever light therefore we view this point, we are obliged to own that he was deceived: the only apology Adam would make, seems to be, that his beloved consort had, by her insinuations which she had learned from the serpent, persuaded him also, and that he was not the first in that sin, nor readily suspected any error or deception by her, who was given him as an help by God.
X. It cannot be doubted, that providence was concerned about this fall of our first parents. It is certain that it was foreknown from eternity; none can deny this, but he who sacrilegiously dares to venture to deny the omniscience of God. Nay, as God by his eternal decree laid the plan of the whole economy of our salvation, and preconceived succession of the most important things, presupposes the sin of man, it could not therefore happen unforeseen by God. And this is the more evident, because, according to Peter, “He (Christ) was foreordained before the foundation of the world,” and that as the Lamb whose blood was to be shed, 1 Pet. 1.19,20. which invincible argument Socinus knew not how otherwise to elude, but by this ridiculous assertion, that “after men had sinned, Christ indeed came to abolish their sins, but that he would have come, notwithstanding, though they had never sinned.” But as this idle assertion is unscriptural, nay, antiscriptural, so it is not apposite to this place; for the order of Peter’s words obliges us to interpret them, concerning Christ’s being foreknown as a Lamb to be slain, and to shed his blood to be the price of our redemption. And he likewise speaks, Acts 2.23. of this determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, according to which Christ was delivered into the hands of wicked men. Since therefore Christ was foreknown from eternity, as one to be slain for the sins of men, man’s sin was also necessarily foreknown.
XI. And if foreknown, it was also predetermined; thus Peter, in the place just quoted, joins together the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. Nor can God’s prescience of future things be conceived, but in connection with his decree concerning them.
XII. From all this may be inferred by a plain consequence, that man could not but fall on account of the infallibility of the divine prescience, and of that necessity which they call a necessity of consequence; for it is inconsistent with the divine perfection, that any decree of God should be rendered void, or that the event should not be answerable to it. It is the prerogative of Jehovah to say, “My counsel shall stand,” Isa. 46.10. “His counsels of old are faithfulness and truth,” Isa. 25.1. God himself has ratified the stability of his purposes by an oath, the more certainly to declare the immutability of his counsel, Heb. 6.17. “The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand,” Isa. 14.24.
XIII. The infallibility of the event, as to man’s sin, may be proved by another argument; if we only attend to that subordination, by which all creatures depend on God, in their operations. For, it is not possible that God shall by his almighty concurrence, influence any creature to act, and yet that creature suspend its acting. And if God shall not influence to the moral goodness of that natural action, the creature cannot, without that influx, perform that action morally good. This is evident from the nature of God and the creature; as he cannot ineffectually influence his creatures to act, so they cannot but act, when under his influence. These things being supposed, as they are evident to any person of attention, it is impossible that man can abstain from reasoning, willing, and eating, where God influences to these acts by his almighty concurrence. Nor is it any more possible that man can reason, will, and eat in a holy manner, if God by his almighty concurrence does not influence the holiness of it. Supposing therefore, that God had afforded his influence to the natural act of reasoning, willing, and eating, as he actually did, but not the moral goodness of those acts, as he did not; it could not otherwise be, but that man should act at that time, and perform his action wrong. All this holds true, not only of this first sin of man, but of all other sins. I see not, therefore, why we may not boldly maintain these things, as they are most evidently true, and more especially as they tend to the glory of God, and to demonstrate his supereminence, and the absolute dependence of the creatures upon him, as much in their operations as in their existence. Should those of the contrary Pelagian sentiments pervert these truths, it will be at their peril. Nor ought we so much to regard that, as on their account to conceal the truth.
XIV. However, it will not be amiss to insist a little longer on this subject, that all the apparent harshness of this doctrine may be entirely removed by an evident demonstration of the truth, which we think we shall be able to effect, by beginning with the more evident truths in one continued chain of arguments, flowing from each other, in such a manner as to gain the assent even of the most obstinate.
XV. And first, I think it will be readily granted, that there is but one first cause; that all other causes so depend upon that, both in existing and acting, as without it to be able neither to exist nor to act. Paul inculcated this upon the Athenians, Acts 17.28. “in him we live, and move, and have our being.” Nor indeed can the most powerful monarch in the world, such as the Assyrian was, in the time of Isaiah, any more move without God, than “the axe without him that heweth therewith, or the saw without him that shaketh it,” Isa. 10.15.
XVI. Reason in this concurs with scripture. For if there was any cause besides God, which could act independently of him, it would follow, there were more first principles than one; as Thomas Aquinas reasons well in his Secundo sentent. distinct, xxxvii, qu�st. 2. art. 2. whose reasoning, as it is both solid, and very much to the purpose, we shall not scruple to give in his own words: “It is, says he, essential to the first principle, that it can act without the assistance and influence of a prior agent; so that if the human will could produce any action, of which God was not author, the human will would have the nature of a first principle.”
XVII. Though they endeavour to solve this, by saying, that notwithstanding the will be of itself capable of producing an action, without the influence of a prior agent, yet it has not its being from itself, but from another; whereas the nature of a first principle is to be self-existent. But it seems inconsistent to say that what has not its being of itself, can yet act of itself; for, what is not of itself, cannot continue of itself. For, all the power of acting arises from the essence, and the operation from the power. Consequently, what has its essence from another, must also have its power and operation from that other. Moreover, though this reply denies that it is simply the first; yet, we cannot but see, that it is the first agent, if its acting cannot be referred to some prior agent as the cause. Thus far Thomas Aquinas.
XVIII. Nor does God only concur with the actions of second causes when they act, but also influences the causes themselves to act. Because the beginning of actions depends if not more, at least not less on God, than their progress. This opinion is not unhappily expressed in the Roman Catechism, published by the decree of the council of Trent, at the command of Pope Pius V., part I. on the first article of the Creed, No. 22. to this purpose; “But God, not only by his providence, preserves and governs all things that exist; but he likewise by a secret energy, so influences those that move and act, to motion and action, that though he hinders not the efficiency of second causes, yet he prevents or goes before it; seeing his most secret power extends to each in particular; and, as1 the wise man testifies, reaches powerfully from one end to the other, and disposes all things sweetly. Wherefore it was said by the apostle, when declaring to the Athenians the God, whom they ignorantly worshipped; he is not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being.”
XIX. Moreover, as a second cause cannot act, unless acted upon and previously moved to act, by the preventing and predetermining influence of the first cause: so in like manner, that influence of the first cause is so efficacious, as that supposing it, the second cause cannot but act. For, it is unworthy of God to imagine any concurrence of his to be so indifferent, as at last only to be determined by the co-operation of second causes: as if the rod should shake him who lifts it up; or, as if the staff should lift up what is not wood, Isa. 10.15. for so the words properly run. And the meaning is, that it is highly absurd to ascribe to an instrument of wood, the raising and managing of what is of a more excellent nature, namely spirit. By this allegory is intimated the absurdity of that opinion, which makes God to be determined in his actions by the creature.
XX. Didacus Alvarez, de Auxiliis divin� grati�, lib. iii. disput. 21. p. 163. makes use of the following argument against this: namely, the manner of concurring by a will, of itself indifferent to produce this or the other effect, or its opposite, is very imperfect; because, in its efficacy, it depends on the concurrence of a second cause; and every dependence imports in the thing which depends, some imperfection and inferiority, in respect of him on whom it depends; and therefore, such a manner of concurrence cannot be ascribed to God, or agree with his will, which is an infinite and most perfect cause.
XXI. And then this insolvable difficulty likewise remains; if the second cause determines the concurrence of God, in itself indifferent; in that act of determination, it will be independent of God; and so become the first cause. And if in one action it can act independently of God, why not in a second? If in the beginning of the action, why not also in the progress? Since the transition from non-acting to acting is greater than the continuing an action once begun.
XXII. As these things are universally true, they may be applied to those free actions of rational creatures, in which there is a moral evil inherent: namely, that creatures may be determined to those actions by the efficacious influence of God, so far as they are actions, according to their physical entity. Elegantly to this purpose Thomas Aquinas, in the place just quoted. Since the act of sin is a kind of being, not only as negations and privations are said to be beings; but also as things, which in general exist, are beings because even these actions in general are ranked in that order, and if the actions of sin [as actions] are not from God, it would follow that there would be some being, which had not its essence from God: and thus God would not be the universal cause of all beings. Which is contrary to the perfection of the first being.
XXIII. Neither does God only excite and predetermine the will of men to vicious actions, so far as they are actions; but he likewise so excites it, that it is not possible, but, thus acted upon, it shall, act. For, if upon supposition of that divine influx, it was possible for the created will not to act, these two absurdities would follow: (1st.) That the human will could baffle the providence of God, and either give to, or take from the divine influx, all its efficacy. (2dly.) That there could be some act in the creature, of such weight as to resist the divine influence, and be independent of God. Nor do I imagine, they will say, that God concurs to the production of that action, whereby his influx is resisted. But we have already refuted any concurrence as in itself indifferent, to be determined by the free will of the creatures.
XXIV. Further, the free will of man excited to actions cannot, according to its physical essence, give them a moral and spiritual goodness, without the divine providence influencing and concurring to that goodness. This is evident from what has been said. For, as moral goodness is a superior and more perfect degree of entity, than a physical entity alone, and man in the physical entity of his actions depends on God; so it is necessary he should much more depend on God, in producing the moral goodness of his actions, that the glory thereof ought to be rendered to God as the first cause.
XXV. If all these truths thus demonstrated be joined and linked together, they will produce that conclusion which we laid down � XIII. For if all creatures depend on God in acting; if he not only concurs with them, when they act, but also excites them to act; if that excitation be so powerful, as that upon supposing it, the effect cannot but follow; if God, with that same efficacy influences vicious actions, so far as they are physical; if the creature cannot give its actions their due moral goodness without God; it infallibly follows, that Adam, God himself moving him to understand, will, and eat, could not but understand, will, and eat; and God not giving goodness to those actions, man could not understand and will in a right manner. Which was to be proved.
XXVI. But it does not follow, that man was obliged to what was simply impossible. For, it is only a consequential and eventual infallibility and necessity, which we have established. God bestowed sufficient powers on man, even such as were proper for a creature, by which he could have overcome the temptation. But then he could not proceed to action without presupposing the divine concurrence. Who shall deny, that man has a locomotive faculty, so sufficient in its kind, that he requires no more? For, will any affirm, that man, by that locomotive faculty, can actually move independently of God, as the first cause, without discovering his ignorance both of the supremacy of God, and the subordination of man? In like manner, we affirm, that, though God granted man such sufficient abilities to fulfill all righteousness, that he had no need of any further habitual grace, as it is called; yet, all this ability was given him in such a manner that he should act only dependently of the Creator, and his influence, as we hinted, chap. ii. � XIII.
XXVII. Much less should it be said, that man, by the above-mentioned acts of divine providence, was forced to sin. For, he sinned with judgment and will; to which faculties, liberty, as it is opposed to compulsion, is so peculiar, nay essential, as to be neither judgment nor will without it. And when we affirm, that God foreordained and infallibly foreknew, that man should sin freely, the sinner could not but sin freely; unless we would have the event not answer to the preordination and prescience of God. And it is so far from the decree of God, in the least to diminish the liberty of man in his acting, that, on the contrary, this liberty has not a more solid foundation than that infallible decree of God.
XXVIII. To make God the author of sin, is such dreadful blasphemy, that the thought cannot, without horror, be entertained by any Christian. God, indeed created man mutably good, infallibly foresaw his sin, foreordained the permission of that sin, really gave man sufficient powers to avoid it, but which could not act without his influx; and though he influenced his faculties to natural or physical actions, without influencing the moral goodness of those actions, all which appear from the event; yet God neither is, nor in any respect can be, the author of sin. And though it be difficult, nay impossible for us, to reconcile these truths with each other; yet we ought not to deny what is manifest, on account of that which is hard to be understood. We will religiously profess both truths, because they are truths, and worthy of God; nor can the one overturn the other; though in this our state of blindness and ignorance of God, we cannot thoroughly see the amicable harmony between them. This is not the alone, nor single difficulty, whose solution the sober divine will ever reserve for the world to come.
XXIX. This is certain, that by this permission of sin, God had an opportunity of displaying his manifold perfections. There is a fine passage to this purpose in Clemens, Strom. lib. i. which with pleasure we here insert. “It is the greatest work of divine providence, not to suffer the evil arising from a voluntary apostacy, to remain unuseful, or in every respect to become noxious. For it is peculiar to divine wisdom and power not only to do good (that being, to speak so, as much the nature of God, as it is the nature of fire to warm, or of light to shine) but much more, to make the evil devised by others, to answer a good and valuable end, and manage those things which appear to be evil to the greatest advantage.”
XXX. It remains now lastly, to consider how, as Adam, in this covenant, was the head of mankind; upon his fall, all his posterity may be deemed to have fallen with him, and broken the covenant of God. The apostle expressly asserts this, Rom. 5.12. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
XXXI. To illustrate the apostle’s meaning, we must observe these things: (1st.) It is very clear to any not under the power of prejudice, that when the apostle affirms that all have sinned, he speaks of an act of sinning, or of an actual sin; the very term, to sin, denoting an action. It is one thing to sin, another to be sinful, if I may so speak. (2dly.) When he affirms all to have sinned; he under that universality likewise includes those who have no actual, proper, and personal sin, and who, as he himself says, have not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, verse 14. Consequently these are also guilty of some actual sin, as appears from their death; but that not being their own proper and personal sin, must be the sin of Adam, imputed to them by the just judgment of God. (3dly.) By these words ef wpanteV hmarton for that all have sinned, he gives the reason why he had asserted that by the sin of one man death passed upon all. This, says he, ought not to astonish us, for all have sinned. If we must understand this of some personal sin of each, either actual or habitual, the reasoning would not have been just and worthy of the apostle, but mere trifling. For, his argument would be thus, that by the one sin of one all were become guilty of death, because each in particular had, besides that one and first sin, his own personal sin: which is inconsequential. (4thly.) The scope of the apostle is to illustrate the doctrine of justification he had before treated of. The substance of which consisted in this, that Christ, in virtue of the covenant of grace, accomplished all righteousness for his chosen covenant people, so that the obedience of Christ is placed to their charge, and they, on account thereof, are no less absolved from the guilt and dominion of sin, than if they themselves had done and suffered in their own person, what Christ did and suffered for them. He declares that in this respect, Adam was the type of Christ, namely, as answering to him. It is therefore necessary, that the sin of Adam, in virtue of the covenant of works, be so laid to the charge of his posterity, who were comprised with him in the same covenant that, on account of the demerit of his sin, they are born destitute of original righteousness, and obnoxious to every kind of death, as much as if they themselves, in their own persons, had done what Adam did. Unless we suppose this to be Paul’s doctrine, his words are nothing but mere empty sound.
XXXII. The last words of this verse, efw panteV hmarton,are differently explained by divines, because the Greek phraseology admits of various significations. The principal explanations are three: (1st.) Some render them, in so far, or, because all have sinned. For, it is allowed, that ef w frequently admits this sense; and thus it seems to be taken, 2 Cor. 5.4. ef w ouqelomen ekduasqai, “not for that we would be unclothed;” as if written, as Frobenius prints it, epeidh, though Beza here greatly differs. (2dly.) Others observe, it may be explained, with whom, i.e. who sinning, all have sinned. For epi in a similar construction denotes a time, in which something was done. Thus we say in Greek, ep emoimeirakiw toto gegone, when I was a boy this happened, and epikuni in the dog days; and the apostle Heb. 9.15. epi thprwth diaqhkh, under the first testament. And then the meaning would be, that upon Adam’s sinning, all are judged to have sinned. (3dly.) Augustine, and most of the Orthodox have explained it, in whom. Which Erasmus in vain opposes, saying, that epi when signifying upon, or, in, is joined to the genitive case; as epkaisaroV oikou kaiepi thV cwraV; also when denoting time, as epi kaisaroV ‘Oktabiou. In all this he is strangely mistaken. For, not to say any thing now of time, it is certain, that epi when joined to the dative denotes in: as Matt. 14.8. epipinaki, in a charger; and in this very context of Paul, verse 14. epi twomoiwmati, in the similitude. And which is more, to ef w, cannot sometimes be otherwise explained, than by in which, [or in whom]: as Matt. 2.4. ef wo paralutikoV katekeito, wherein the sick of the palsy lay, and Luke 5.25. araVef w katemeitotook up that whereon he lay. Nor is it taken in this light, in the sacred writings only, but he might learn from Bud�us, Commentar. ling f. Gr�c. p. 506. that Aristotle used this phraseology in the same sense, ef wmen h qhleia, epi qaterw deo a rhnepwazei, on the one the female, on the other the male broods. However, we reckon none of those explanations to be impertinent as they are almost to the same purpose; yet, we give the preference to the last, because most emphatical and very applicable to the apostle’s scope; it is a bad way of interpreting scripture to represent it as declaring what is the least thing intended. For, the words are to be taken in their full import, where there is nothing in the context to hinder it.
XXXIII. Grotius really prevaricates, when he thus comments on the passage before us. It is a common metonomy in the Hebrew, to use the word sin, instead of punishment; and to sin, instead of to undergo punishment, whence extending this figure, they are said, by a metalepsis, afjto sin, who suffer any evil, even though they are innocent, as Gen. 31.36. and Job 6.24. Where afj is rendered by duVprage into be unhappy, Ef w here denotes through whom, as epi with the dative is taken, Luke 5.5. Acts 3.36. 1 Cor. 8.11. Heb. 9.17. Chrysostom on this place says, On his fall, they who did not eat of the tree, are from him all become mortal.
XXXIV. This illustrious person seems to have wrote without attention, as the whole is very impertinent. (1st.) Though we allow, that sin does sometimes metonomically denote the punishment of sin, yet we deny it to be usual in Scripture, that he who undergoes punishment, even while innocent may be said to sin. Grotius says, it is frequent, but he neither does nor can prove it by any one example; which is certainly bold and rash. Crellius confuting his book on the satisfaction of Christ, brings in the saying of Bathsheba to David, 1 Kings 1.21. I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders; that is, says he, we shall be treated as offenders, or, be ruined. But a sinner, or even sin and to sin are different things. The former is said of Christ, 2 Cor. 5.21.: but not the latter on any account. Moreover, to be a sinner, does not signify, in the passage alleged, to undergo punishment, without any regard to a fault or demerit, but to be guilty of aiming at the kingdom, and of high treason, and as such to be punished. The testimonies advanced by Grotius are so foreign, that they seem not to have been examined by that great man. For, neither in the Hebrew do we find afj to sin, nor in the Greek version, duspragein; nor do the circumstances admit, that what is there said of sin, or mistake, can be explained of punishment. It is necessary therefore to suppose, that either Grotius had something else in his view, or that here is a typographical error. (2dly.) Though we should grant, which yet we do not in the least, that to sin sometimes denotes to undergo punishment, yet it cannot signify this here; because, the apostle in this place immediately distinguishes between death, as the punishment, and sin, as the meritorious cause, and death by sin. And by this interpretation of Grotius, the apostle’s discourse, which we have already shewn is solid, would be an insipid tautology. For, where is the sense to say, “So death passed upon all, through whom all die.” (3dly.) Grotius discovers but little judgment in his attempt to prove, that ef w signifies through whom: certainly Luke 5.5. epipw rhmati sou, does not signify through thy word, but at thy word, or as Beza translates, at thy command: And Heb. 9.17. epinekroiV does not signify through the dead, but when dead, and rather denotes a circumstance of time, Acts 3.16. is alleged with a little more judgment; and 1 Cor. 8.11. not improperly. But it might be insisted, that ep emoieVi signifies, it is owing to me, that the meaning shall be, “to whom it was owing that all sinned.” Which interpretation is not altogether to be rejected. Thus the sholiast, efw Adam, dion. And if there was nothing else couched under this, I would easily grant Grotius this explanation of that phraseology. (4thly.) It cannot be explained consistent with divine justice, how without a crime death should have passed upon Adam’s posterity. Prosper reasoned solidly and elegantly against Collater, c. xx. “Unless, perhaps, it can be said, that the punishment, and not the guilt passed on the posterity of Adam, but to say this is in every respect false; for it is too impious to judge so of the justice of God; as if he would, contrary to his own law, condemn the innocent with the guilty. The guilt therefore is evident where the punishment is so, and a partaking in punishment shews a partaking in guilt; that human misery is not the appointment of the Creator, but the retribution of the judge.” If therefore through Adam all are obnoxious to punishment, all too must have sinned in Adam. (5thly.) Chrysostom also is here improperly brought in, as if from Adam he derived only the punishment of death, without partaking in the guilt; for the homily from which the words are quoted begins thus: “When the Jew shall say, How is the world saved by the obedience of one, namely, Christ? you may reply, How was the world condemned by one disobedient Adam?” Where it is to be observed, [1st.] That he supposes the miseries of mankind to proceed from God as a judge, who cannot justly condemn but for sin. [2dly.] That he compares the condemnation of the world by Adam’s disobedience, with its salvation by Christ’s obedience. But this last is imputed to believers, and deemed to be theirs, and therefore Adam’s sin is in like manner imputed to all. As also Gregory of Nazianzen, quoted by Vossius, Hist. Pelag. lib. ii. P. ii. p. 163. said, that Adam’s guilt was his. “Alas! my weakness,” says he, “for I derive my weakness from the first parent.”
XXXV. But we only understand this of Adam’s first sin. We no wise agree with those who absurdly tell us, that Adam’s other sins were also imputed to us; for Paul, when treating on this subject, Rom. 5. every where mentions transgression in the singular number; nay, expressly verse 18. one transgression, by which guilt passed upon all; and the reason is manifest, for Adam ceased to be a federal head when the covenant was once broken, and whatever sin he was afterwards guilty of, was his own personal sin, and not chargeable on his posterity, unless in so far as God is sometimes pleased to visit the sins of the fathers on the children. In which Adam has now nothing peculiar above other men. So much for the violation of the covenant by man.
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)
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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)
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