(Of the fall of man, and the Covenant of grace)

 

Before we can proceed to the articles which follow, it is requisite that we should entreat of one of the greatest works of GodŐs providence that can be, because the opening of it giveth light to all that ensueth. And this work is a preparation of such means whereby God will manifest His justice and mercy. It hath two parts: The just permission of the fall of man, and the giving of the Covenant of grace.

 

1.

Touching the first, that we might rightly conceive of manŐs fall, we are to search out the nature and parts of sin. Sin is anything whatsoever is against the will and Word of God. As St John saith (1 John 3:4), Sin is the transgression of the law. And this definition Paul confirmeth when he saith (Rom. 3:20), By the law comes knowledge of sin, and (Rom. 4:15), Where no law is there is no transgression, and (Rom. 5:13), Sin is not imputed where there is no law.

 

In sin, we must consider three things: the fault, the guilt, the punishment.

 

(1) The fault is the anomie or the disobedience itself, and it comprehends not only huge and notorious offences, idolatry, blasphemy, theft, treason, adultery, and all other crimes that the world cries shame on; but every disordered thought, affection, inclination; yea, every defect of that which the law requireth.

 

(2) The guilt of sin is whereby a man is guilty before God, that is, bound and made subject to punishment. And here two questions must be scanned: Where man is bound? And by what? For the first, man is bound in conscience. And hereupon the conscience of every sinner sits within his heart as a little judge to tell him that he is bound before God to punishment. For the second, it is the order of divine justice set down by God which binds the conscience of the sinner before God; for He is Creator and Lord, and man is a creature, and therefore must either obey His will and commandment, or suffer punishment. Now then, by virtue of GodŐs law, conscience binds over the creature to bear a punishment for his offence done against God; yea, it tells him that he is in danger to be judged and condemned for it. And therefore the conscience is as it were the LordŐs sergeant to inform the sinner of the bond and obligation whereby he always stands bound before God.

 

(3) The third thing which followeth sin is punishment, and that is death. So St Paul saith (Rom. 6:23), The stipend of sin is death; where by death, we must understand a double death, both of body and soul. The death of the body is a separation of the body from the soul. The second death is a separation of the whole man, but especially of the soul from the glorious presence of God. I say not simply from the presence of God, for God is everywhere; but only from the joyful presence of GodŐs glory. Now these two deaths are the stipend or allowance of sin; and the least sin which a man committeth, doth deserve these two punishments. For in every sin, the infinite justice of God is violated; for which cause there must needs be inflicted an infinite punishment, that there may be a proportion between the punishment and the offence. And therefore that distinction of sin which papists make, namely that some are in themselves venial and some mortal, is false, and hereby confuted; otherwise in respect of the divers estate and condition of men, sins are either venial or mortal. Venial they are to the elect, whose sins are pardonable in Christ; but to the reprobate, all sins are mortal.

 

Nevertheless, we hold not all sins equal, but that they are greater or less according to the diversity of objects and other circumstances.

 

 

This much of sin in general; now we come to the parts of it. The first sin of all that ever was in man is the sin of Adam, which was his disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit. In handling whereof, sundry points are to be opened, but let us begin with the causes thereof:

 

The outward efficient cause was the devil. And though he be not named by Moses in the history of the fall, yet that is not to trouble us, for we must not conceive otherwise of the serpent than of the instrument and mouth of the devil. For it is not likely that it being a brute creature should be able to reason and determine of good and evil, of truth and falsehood. Now in the temptation, the devil shews his malice and his fraud. His malice is that whereas he cannot overturn God Himself, yet he labours to disturb the order which He hath set down in the Creation, and especially the image of God in the most excellent creatures on earth, that they may be in the same miserable condition with himself. His fraud, first in that he begins his temptation with the woman being the weaker person, and not with the man, which course he still continues; as may appear by this: that more women are entangled with witchcraft and sorcery than men. Secondly, he shews his fraud in that he proceeds very slyly and entangles Eve by certain steps and degrees. For first, by moving a question, he draws her to listen unto him and to reason with him of GodŐs commandment. Secondly, he brings her to look upon the tree and wish to view the beauty of the fruit. Thirdly, he makes her to doubt of the absolute truth of GodŐs Word and promise, and to believe his contrary lies. Fourthly, having blinded her mind with his false persuasion, she desires and lusts after the forbidden fruit, and thereupon takes it, eats it and gives it to her husband.

 

The inward cause was the will of our first parents, even in the testimony of their own consciences, as Solomon saith (Eccl. 7:29), This have I found, that God made man righteous, but they have found many inventions. But it may be objected that if Adam were created good, he could not be the cause of his own fall, because a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. Answer: Freedom of will is fourfold: First, freedom to evil alone, this is only in wicked men and angels, and is indeed a bondage; the second is freedom to good alone, and that is in God and the good angels by GodŐs grace; the third is freedom to do good in part, joined with some want of liberty by reason of sin, and this is in the regenerate in this life; the fourth is freedom either to good or evil indifferently. And this was in Adam before his fall, who though he had no inclination to sin, but only to that which was acceptable to God; yet was he not bound by any necessity, but had his liberty freely to choose or refuse either good or evil. And this is evident by the very tenor of GodŐs commandment, in which He forbids Adam to eat the forbidden fruit; and thereby shewing that he being created righteous, and not prone to sin, had power to keep or not to keep the commandment; though since the fall, both he and we after him cannot but sin. Wherefore Adam being allured by Satan, of his own free accord, changed himself and fell from God. Now then, as the good tree changed from good to evil brings forth evil fruit; so Adam by his own inward and free motion changing from good to evil, brings forth evil.

 

As for God, He is not to be reputed as an author or cause any way of this sin, for He created Adam and Eve righteous, endued them with righteous wills; and He told them what He would exact at their hand and what they could perform. Yea, He added threatenings that with the fear of danger He might terrify them from sin. Some may say, whereas God foresaw that Adam would abuse the liberty of his will, why would He not prevent it? Answer: There is a double grace: the one to be able to will to do that which is good, the other to be able to persevere in willing and doing the same. Now God gave the first to Adam and not the second; and He is not to be blamed of us, though He confirmed him not with new grace, for He is a debtor to no man to give him so much as the least grace; whereas He had already given a plentiful measure thereof to him. And God did hold back to confer any further grace upon just cause:

 

(1) It was His pleasure that this fact should be an occasion or way to exercise His mercy in the saving of the elect and His justice in the deserved condemnation of impenitent sinners. And unless Adam had fallen for himself and others, there should have been found no misery in men, on whom God might take pity in His Son, nor wickedness which He might condemn; and therefore neither manifestation of justice, nor mercy.

 

(2) It was the will of God in part to forsake Adam, to make manifest the weakness that is in the most excellent creatures, without the special and continual assistance of God.

 

(3) There is a double liberty of will: one is to will good or evil. This belongs to the creature in this world and therefore Adam received it. The other is to will good alone. This he wanted, because it is reserved to the life to come. And though we knew no cause of this dealing of God, yet is it one step to the fear of God for us to hold that good and righteous which He appointeth or willeth; and not to square the works and judgments of God by our crooked reason.

 

And yet to come to reason itself; Who can here complain of God? Can the devil? But God did not cause him to tempt or deceive our first parents. Can Adam and Eve? But they fell freely without any motion or instigation from God, and their own conscience accused them for it. Can the posterity of Adam? But the elect receive more in Christ than they lost in Adam; and the reprobate, overwhelmed with the burden of their own sins, and thereupon receiving nothing but due and deserved damnation, cannot find fault. But some may further reply and say, He that forseeth an evil and doth not prevent it, is a cause of it. But God did foresee the fall of man, and did not prevent it. Answer: The rule is generally true in man, that the foreseer of an evil not preventing it, is in some sort a doer of it; for it is the sentence of the law of God, to which man is bound from the first creation. But God is above all His laws, and not bound to them. He is an absolute Lord and lawgiver, and therefore His actions are not within the compass of moral laws, as menŐs are. Whereupon it follows that though he did foresee manŐs defection, yet is He free from all blame in not preventing it. For with Him there be good causes of permitting evil.

 

And though God be no cause of manŐs fall, yet must we not imagine that it came to pass by chance or fortune, whereas the least things that are, come to pass with GodŐs providence. Neither was it by any bare permission without His decree and will; for that is to make an idle providence. Neither did it happen against the will of God; He utterly nilling it; for then it could not have been, unless we deny God to be omnipotent. It remains therefore that this fall did so proceed of the voluntary motion of Adam, as that God did in part ordain and will the permitting of it, not as it was a sin against His commandment, but as it was further in the counsel of God a way to execute His justice and mercy. Against this which I say, divers things are objected:

 

(1) First, that if Adam did that which God in any respect willed, then he did not sin at all. Answer: He that willeth, and doth that which God willeth, for all that, sinneth, unless he willeth it in the same manner with God, and for the same end. Now in the permitting of this fact, God intended the manifesting of His glory; but our first parents, intending no such thing, sought not only to be like, but also to be equal with God.

 

(2) Secondly, it is alleged that Adam could not but fall necessarily, if God decreed it. Answer: AdamŐs fall, that came not to pass without GodŐs decree, and therefore in that respect was necessary; was nevertheless in respect of AdamŐs free will contingent and not necessary; GodŐs decree not taking away the freedom of will, but only ordering it.

 

(3) Lastly, it is alleged that GodŐs will is the cause of AdamŐs will, and AdamŐs will the cause of his fall, and that therefore GodŐs will shall be the cause of the fall. Answer: It must needs be granted that GodŐs will is a moving cause of the wills of evil men; yet, mark how: not as they are evil wills, but as they are wills; and therefore when God inclines the evil will of His creature to His good purpose, He is nothing at all entangled with defect or evil of His will.

 

 

Touching the time of the fall, the received opinion in former ages hath been that our first parents fell the same day in which they were created, and therefore Augustine writes that they stood but six hours. And though we cannot determine of the certain time, yet in all likelihood it was very short. For Moses presently after that he had set down the creation of man, without the interposition of anything else, comes immediately to the fall. And considering the nature of the devil is without ceasing to shew his malice, no doubt he took the first occasion that possibly might be had to bring man to the same damnation with himself. And our Saviour Christ saith (John 8:44) that the devil was a manslayer from the beginning not of the creation of the world, or of time, but of man. And Eve saith (Gen. 3:2), We shall eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, it may be, insinuating that as yet she had not eaten when the devil tempted her.

 

 

Touching the greatness of manŐs fall, some have made a small matter of it, because it was the eating of an apple or some such fruit. But we must not measure the greatness or smallness of a sin by the object or matter whereabout it is occupied, but by the commandment of God, and by the disobedience or offence of His infinite majesty. And that this act of Adam and Eve was no small fault, but a notorious crime and apostasy, in which they withdrew themselves from under the power of God, nay rejected and denied Him, will evidently appear if we take a view of all the particular sins that be contained in it:

 

The first is unbelief, in that they doubted and distrusted of the truth of GodŐs Word which He spake to them. The second is contempt of God, in that they believed the lies of the devil rather than Him. For when God saith, In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shall die the death (Gen. 2:17), it is as nothing with Eve; but when the devil comes and saith (Gen. 3:4), Ye shall not die at all; that she takes hold on. The third is pride and ambition; for they did eat the forbidden fruit that they might be as gods (Gen. 3:5), namely, as the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. The fourth is unthankfulness. God had made them excellent creatures in His own image, that is nothing with them to be like unto Him, unless they may be equal with Him. The fifth is curiosity, whereby they affected greater wisdom than God had given them in creation, and a greater measure of knowledge than God had revealed to them. The sixth is reproachful blasphemy, in that they subscribe to the saying of the devil, in which he charged God with lying and envy. The seventh is murder; for by this means they bereave themselves and their posterity of the fellowship and graces of GodŐs Spirit, and bring upon ther own heads the eternal wrath of God. The eighth is discontentment, in that they sought for an higher condition than that was in which God had placed them. In a word, in this one single act is comprised the breach of the whole law of God. And we should often think upon this, that we may learn to wonder at the just judgments of God in punishing this fall, and His unspeakable goodness in receiving men to mercy after the same.

 

And here we must not omit to remember the largeness of AdamŐs fall. Sins are either personal or general. Personal are such as are peculiar to one or some few persons, and make them alone guilty. General are such as are common to all men; and such is AdamŐs fall. It is a sin not only of the person of one man; but of the whole nature of man. And Adam must be considered not as a private man, but as a root or head bearing in it all mankind; or as a public person representing all his posterity, and therefore when he sinned, all his posterity sinned with him; as in a parliament, whatsoever is done by the Burgess of the shire, is done by every person in the shire. As Paul saith ((Rom. 5:12), By one man sin entered into the world, and so death went over all for as much as all have sinned. And here lies the difference between AdamŐs fall and the sins of men, as CainŐs murder, which makes not the posterity of Cain guilty, because he was never appointed by God to be the root of his posterity as Adam was; and therefore his sin is personal, whereas AdamŐs is not. Yet this which I say must not be understood of all the sins of Adam, but only of the first.

 

 

From the fall of Adam springeth original sin, so commonly called not only as a fruit thereof, but also as a just punishment of it. And after the aforesaid fall, it is in Adam and his posterity, as the mother and root of all other sin; yet with this distinction: that actual sin was first in Adam, and then came original; but in us, first original sin and then after follows actual.

 

Original sin is termed diversely in Scripture as flesh, the old man, because it is in us before grace; concupiscence, sin that is ready to compass us about, the sinning sin; and it is termed original, because it hath been in manŐs nature ever since the fall, and because it is in every man at the very instant of his conception and birth, as David plainly saith (Psa. 51:5), Behold, I was born in iniquity, and in sin hath my mother conceived me; not meaning properly his parentŐs sin (for he was born in lawful marriage) but his own hereditary sin, whereof he was guilty in his motherŐs womb.

 

But let us a little search the nature of it. Considering it hath place in man, it must be either the substance of body or soul, or the faculties of the substance, or the corruption of the faculties. Now it cannot be the substance of man corrupted; for then our Saviour Christ in taking our nature upon Him, should also take upon Him our sins, and by that means should as well have need of a redeemer as other men; and again the souls of men should not be immortal. Neither is it any one or all of the faculties of men; for every one of them, as namely, the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of body or soul were in man from the first creation; whereas sin was not before the fall. Wherefore it remains that original sin is nothing else but a disorder or evil disposition in all the faculties and inclinations of man whereby they are all carried inordinately against the law of God.

 

The subject or place of this sin is not any part of man, but the whole body and soul. For, first of all, the natural appetite to meat and drink, and the power of nourishing is greatly corrupted, as appears by diseases, aches, surfeits, but specially by the abuse of meat and drink. Secondly, the outward senses are as corrupt, and that made David to say (Psa. 119:37) that God would turn his eyes from beholding vanity; and St John to say (1 John 2:16), Whatsoever is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life. Thirdly, touching the understanding, the Spirit of God saith (Gen. 6:5; 8:21) that the frame of the heart of man is only evil continually; so as we are not able of ourselves to think a good thought. And therefore withal, the will of man and his affections are answerably corrupt; and hereupon the doctrine of Christ is that we must renounce our own wills. Lastly, all menŐs strength to good things is nothing out of Christ.

 

The propagation of this sin is the deriving of it from Adam to all his posterity, whereby it runneth as a leprosy over all mankind. But in what manner this propagation is made, is hard to define. The common opinion of divines is that it may be done two ways:

 

The first is this: God when He created Adam in the beginning, set down this appointment and order touching the estate of man, that whatsoever Adam received of God, he should receive it not only for himself, but for his posterity, and whatsoever grace of God he lost, he should lose not only to himself, but to all his posterity. And hereupon Adam, when he sinned, he deprived first of all himself, and then secondly all his posterity, of the image of God; because all mankind was in his loins when he sinned. Now then upon the former appointment, when the souls of men are created and placed in the body, God forsakes them, not in respect of the substance of the soul or the faculties, but only in respect of His own image, whereof the souls are deprived; after which follows the defect or want of righteousness, which is original sin. And God in depriving man of that which Adam lost, is not therefore to be thought to be the author or maintainer of sin, but a judge. For this deprivation of the image of God, so far forth as it is inflicted by Him upon mankind, it must be conceived as deserved punishment for the sin of Adam and all men in him, which punishment they pulled upon themselves.

 

The second way is that the corruption of nature is derived from the parents in generation by the body; for as a sweet oil poured into a fusty vessel loseth its pureness, and is infected by the vessel; so the soul created good, and put into the corrupt body, receives contagion thence. And this conjunction of the pure soul with the corrupt body, is not against the goodness of God; because it is a just punishment of the sin of all men in Adam.

 

It may be this which hath been said will not satisfy the minds of all; yet if any will be curious to search further into this point, let them know that there is another matter which more concerns them to look into. When a manŐs house is on fire, there is no time then to enquire how, and which way, and whence the fire came, but our duty is with all speed and expedition to use all good means to stay it. And so considering that our whole natures are really infected and poisoned with the loathsome contagion of original sin, which is a weight sufficient to press down the soul to the gulf of hell, it stands us in hand a thousand fold more to use the means whereby it may be taken away, than to dispute how it came.

 

Some may allege against the propagation of sin that holy parents beget holy children, which are void of original sin; because it stands not with reason that parents should convey that to their children which they themselves want, namely, the guilt and the punishment and the fault of sin in part. Answer: Men are not in this life perfectly holy. For sanctification is but in part, and therefore they cannot possibly beget children pure from all sin.  Secondly, parents beget children as they are men, and not as they are holy men; and by generation they derive unto their children nature with the corruption thereof, and not grace, which is above nature. Take any corn, yea, the finest wheat that ever was, winnow it as clean as possibly may be; afterward sow it, weed it also when it is sown, reap it in due time, and carry it to the barn; when it is threshed, you shall find as much chaff in it as ever was before. And why? Because God hath set this order in the creation, that it shall spring and grow, so oft as it is sowed, with the stalk, ear, blade and all. So likewise though the parents be never so holy, the children as they come of them, are conceived and born wholly corrupt, because God took this order in the creation, that whatsoever evil Adam procured, he should bring it not only on himself, but upon all his posterity; by virtue of which degree, the propagation of sin is continued without any interruption, though parents themselves be born anew by the Spirit of God.

 

And here we must not omit to speak of the quantity or greatness of original sin, for the opening whereof we must consider three points:

 

(1) The first, that original sin is not diverse, but one and the same in kind in every man, as the general and common nature of man is one and the same in all men.

 

(2) The second, that this sin is not in some men more, in some men less, but in every man equally, as all men do equally from Adam participate in the nature of man, and are equally the children of wrath. Some, it may be, will say that this cannot be true, because some men are of better natures than others are; some of disposition cruel and severe, some against gentle and mild; some very licentious and disordered, some very civil. Answer: The differences that be in men wanting the fear of God, arise not of this, that they have more or less original corruption; but of the restraint and limitation of manŐs corruption. For in some God bridleth sin more than in others, and in them is found civility; and again in some less, and in such the rebellion of nature breaks forth unto all misdemeanour. And indeed, if God should not keep the untoward disposition of men within compass, otherwhiles more, otherwhiles less, as shall seem good unto His majesty; impiety, cruelty, injustice and all manner of sins would break out into such a measure that there should be no quiet living for men in the world, and no place for GodŐs church. And thus it is manifest that although all men be not equal in the practice of wickedness, yet there is no hindrance but they may be equal in the corruption of nature itself.

 

(3) The third point is that original sin is so huge and large every way, that it may truly be termed the root or seed, not of some few sins, but of all sins whatsoever, even of the very sin against the Holy Ghost. We must not imagine it to be an inclination or proneness to one or two faults, but a proneness to all and every sin that is practised in the world; and that in all persons young and old, high and low, male and female. It is a most horrible villany for a man to kill his father or mother, or his child; yet some there be that do so; at the hearing whereof we used to wonder, and to testify our dislike by saying that the doers thereof were wicked and devilish persons, and it is truly said. Nevertheless we must understand that although we abstain from such heinous practices, yet the very root of such sins, that is, a disposition unto them, is found in us also. Julian the Apostate both living and dying blasphemed Christ. Herod and Pontius Pilate and the wicked Jews crucified Him, and Judas betrayed Him. Men used to say that if Christ were now alive, they would not do so for all the world. But let us better consider of the matter. The same natural corruption of heart that was in them, is also in us, we being the children of Adam as well as they; and by force of this corruption, if Christ were now living on earth, thou wouldest if like occasion were offered, either do as Judas did in betraying Him, or as Pilate did, deliver Him to be crucified, or as the soldiers, thrust Him through with their spears, or as Julian, pierce Him with all manner of blasphemies, if God withheld His graces from thee, and leave thee to thyself. In a word, let men conceive in mind the most notorious trespass that can be, though they do it not, nor intend to do it, and never do it; yet the matter, beginning and seed thereof is in themselves. This made Jeremiah say (Jer. 17:9), The heart of man is deceitful, and wicked above all things, who can know it? It is like a huge sea, the banks whereof cannot be seen, nor the bottom searched. In common experience we see it come to pass that men, Protestants today, tomorrow papists; of Christians, heretics; now friends, but presently after foes; this day honest and civil men, the next day cruel murderers. Now what is the cause of this difference? Surely, it is the hidden corruption of the heart that will thrust a man forward to any sin when occasion is offered. This point must be remembered and often thought upon.

 

From original sin springeth actual, which is nothing else but the fruit of the corrupt heart, either in thought, word or deed.

 

 

Thus much touching manŐs fall into sin by GodŐs just permission. Now follows the good use which we must make thereof:

 

(1) First, by this we learn to acknowledge and bewail our own frailty. For Adam in his innocence being created perfectly righteous, when he was once tempted by the devil, fell away from God; what shall we do then in like case which are by nature sold under sin, and in ourselves a thousand times weaker than Adam was? Many men there be that mingle themselves with all companies; tell them of the danger thereof, they will presently reply that they have such a strong faith that no bad company can hurt them. But alas; silly people. Satan bewitcheth them, and makes them to believe falsehood to be truth; they know not their miserable estate. If Adam, saith Bernard, had a downfall in Paradise, what shall we do that are cast forth to the dunghill? Let us therefore often come to a serious consideration of our own weakness, and follow withal the practice of David, who being privy to himself touching his own corruption, prayeth to God in this manner (Psa. 86:11): Knit my heart to thee, O Lord, that I may fear thy name.

 

(2) Secondly, we learn hereby to submit ourselves to the authority of God, and simply to resolve ourselves that whatsoever He commandeth is right and just, though the reason of it be not known to us. For Eve condescended to listen to the speech of the serpent, and without any calling, she reasoned with it of a most weighty matter, and that in the absence of Adam her head and husband, namely, of the truth and glory of God; and hereby was brought to doubt of GodŐs Word and so overturned.

 

(3) Thirdly, if all men by AdamŐs fall be shut up under damnation, there is no cause why any of us should stand upon his birth, riches, wisdom, learning, or any other such gifts of God. There is nothing in us that is more able to cover our vileness and nakedness than fig tree leaves were able to cover the offence of Adam from GodŐs eyes. We are under the wrath of God by nature, and cannot attain to everlasting life of ourselves. Wherefore it doth stand every one of us in hand to abase ourselves under the mighty hand of God, in that we are become by our sins the very basest of all the creatures upon earth, yea utterly to despair in respect of ourselves, and with bleeding hearts to bewail our own case. There is no danger in this; it is the very way to grace. None can be a lively member of Christ till his conscience condemn him, and make him quite out of heart in respect of himself. And the want of this is the cause why so few perceive any sweetness or comfort in the gospel; and why it is so little loved and embraced nowadays.

 

(4) Lastly, if all mankind be shut up under unbelief, the duty of every man is to labour in using all good means whereby we may be delivered from this bondage, and to pray to God with David (Psa. 51:10), Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. And cry out with Paul (Rom. 7:24), O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death? And we must never be at rest till we have some assurance in conscience that in Christ we have freedom from this bondage, and can with the Colossians (Col. 1:13) give thanks that we are delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of Christ. This should be the affection of every man, because the spiritual thraldom under sin is of all miseries most loathsome and burdensome. And in this respect the day of death should be unto us most welcome, because it doth unloose us from this miserable estate in which we do almost nothing but displease God. For this is the greatest grief that can be to such as are indeed the children of God, by their sins to offend their merciful Father. As for those which feel not the weight of their natural guiltiness and corruption, but lie slumbering in the security of their own hearts, they are therefore the more miserable, in that being plunged in the gulf of all misery, yet they feel no misery.

 

 

2.

Thus much of the permission of the fall of man. Now we come to the Covenant of grace; which is nothing else but a compact made between God and man touching reconciliation and life everlasting by Christ. This covenant was first of all revealed and delivered to our first parents in the garden of Eden, immediately after their fall, by God Himself, in these words (Gen. 3:15), The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpentŐs head; and afterward it was continued and renewed with a part of AdamŐs posterity, as with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David etc.; but it was most fully revealed and accomplished at the coming of Christ.

 

In the Covenant I will consider two things: The parties reconciled, between whom the Covenant is made, and the foundation thereof.

 

(1) The parties are God and man. God is the principal, and He promiseth righteousness and life eternal in Christ. Man again binds himself by GodŐs grace to believe and to rest upon the promise. Here it may be demanded, why man is more in covenant than the angels? Answer: The will of God in this point is not revealed, unless it be because angels fell of themselves, not moved by any other; but man did fall by them. Again, it may be asked, whether all mankind were ever in the Covenant or not? Answer: We cannot say that all and every man hath been the church of God, and hath by faith embraced the Covenant; as Paul plainly announceth (Gal. 3:22), The Scripture (saith he) hath concluded all under sin, that the promise of the faith of Jesus Christ should be given [not unto all men but] to them that believe. Without faith, no man can please God (Heb. 11:6); and therefore God makes no covenant of reconciliation without faith. Again, since the beginning of the world there hath been always a distinction between man and man. This appears in the very tenor of the words of the Covenant made with our first parents, where God saith He will put difference between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15); meaning by the seed of the woman, Christ with all the elect whom the Father hath given unto Him, who shall bruise the serpentŐs head, and tread Satan under their feet (Rom. 16:20). And by the seed of the serpent He meaneth wicked men that live and die in their sins, as St John saith (1 John 3:8), He that committeth sin is of the devil. And according to this distinction in times following was Abel received into the Covenant and Cain rejected. Some were the sons of God in the days of Noah (Gen. 6:2), some the sons of men. In AbrahamŐs family (Gen. 17:21), Ishmael is cast out, and the Covenant established in Isaac. Jacob is loved, and Esau hated (Rom. 9:13). And this distinction in the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Paul approveth when he maketh some to be the children of the flesh, and some other the children of the promise (Rom. 9:8). And again, the Jews a people of God in the Covenant, the Gentiles no people. For Paul makes it a privilege of the Jews to have the adoption, and covenant; and the service of God, and the promises (Rom. 9:3,4) belonging to them, whereas he saith of the Ephesians (Eph. 2:12), that they were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and were strangers from the covenants of promise, and had no hope, and without God in the world. And the same may be said of the whole body of the Gentiles excepting here and there a man who were converted and became proselytes. And this is manifest in that they wanted the Word and the sacraments and teachers. And this saying of the prophet Hosea (Rom. 9:25), I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved, is alleged by Paul to prove the calling of the Gentiles.

 

Objection 1: Some do allege to the contrary, that when the Covenant was made with our first parents, it was also in them made with all mankind, not one man excepted; and that the distinction and difference between man and man ariseth out of their unbelief and contempt of the Covenant afterwards.

 

Answer: Indeed in the estate of innocence, Adam by creation received grace for himself and his posterity; and in his fall he transgressed not only for himself, but for all his posterity. But in receiving the Covenant of grace, it cannot be proved that he received it for himself and for all mankind; nay, the distinction between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, mentioned in the very first giving of the Covenant, shews the contrary; for if, after the fall, all and every part of mankind were received into the Covenant, then all men without restraint should be the seed of the woman, bruising the serpentŐs head, and the serpent should have no seed at all. And again, all men cannot be charged with unbelief and contempt in respect of the evangelical Covenant, but only such persons as have known it, or at the least heard of it. And therefore sundry heads of the nations may be charged with unbelief, as Cain, Ham, Japheth, Ammon, Moab, Ishmael, Esau, Midian, for they being near to the fathers, heard the promises concerning Christ, offered sacrifices, and observed external rites of the church, but afterwards fell away from the sincere worship of the true God to idolatry and all manner of wickedness, and became enemies of God and His people. But we plainly deny that there was or could be the like unbelief and contempt of GodŐs grace in their posterity, which for the most part never so much as heard of any covenant; their ancestors endeavouring always to bury and extinguish the memory of that which they hated.

 

Objection 2: It is objected again that the Covenant was made with Abraham and with all mankind after him, because (saith the Lord) thou hast obeyed my voice, in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (Gen. 22:18).

 

Answer: Paul gives a double answer: first, that the place must be understood of many nations; secondly, that it must be understood not of all nations in all ages, but of all nations of the last age of the world. For saith he (Gal. 3:8), The Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed.

 

Well, to conclude this point, in the making of the Covenant there must be a mutual consent of the parties on both sides, and besides the promise of GodŐs part, there must also be a re-stipulation on manŐs part; otherwise the Covenant is not made. Now then, it must needs follow that all unbelievers condemning grace offered in Christ, are out of the Covenant, as also such as never heard of it; for where there is no knowledge, there is no consent; and before the coming of Christ, the greatest part of the world never knew the Messiah, nor heard of the Covenant, as Paul saith to the learned Athenians (Acts 17:30), The time of this ignorance God regardeth not, but now he admonisheth all men everywhere to repent.

 

 

(2) The foundation and groundwork of the Covenant is Christ Jesus the Mediator, in whom all the promises of God are yea and amen, and therefore He is called the Angel of the covenant (Mal. 3:1), and the Covenant of the people (Isa. 49:8) to be made with all nations in the last age.