QUESTION II. What ground we have to speak of “God’s covenant with Adam,” and to call it “a covenant;” there being no mention of it here in the text, nor elsewhere in scripture do we read of “God’s covenant with Adam.”
ANSWER. However the name be not here, yet the thing is here and elsewhere, comparing scripture with scripture. It is a nice cavil in Socinians to call for the word “satisfaction;” others, for the word “sacrament;” others, for the word “Trinity;” others, for the words “faith alone justifying;” others, for the word “sabbath” for Lord’s day, etc.; and thence to conclude against satisfaction, sacraments, Trinity, justification by faith alone, and sabbath, for want of express words, when the things themselves are lively set down in other words. So, in this case of God’s covenant with Adam, we have:
- God’s command, which lays man under an obligation.
- We have God’s promise upon condition of obedience.
- We have God’s threatening upon his disobedience.
- We have their understanding it so, as appears in Eve’s words to the serpent. ( Gen. iii. 3.)
- We have the two trees as signs and symbols of the covenant.
- We have a “second covenant” and a “new covenant;” therefore there was a first and old covenant: a covenant of grace supposes one of works.
OBJECTION. If any shall say, “By ‘first and old covenant’ was meant God’s covenant with Israel, and not with Adam; and so, by ‘covenant of works’ the same is meant; namely, that which the Lord made at Mount Sinai:” (Heb. 8:7—9:)
ANSWER. Hereunto I answer, There is a repetition of the covenant of works with Adam in the law of Moses; as in that of the apostle to the Galatians: “The law is not of faith: but, The man that does” these things “shall live in them.” (Gal. 3:12) So likewise to the Romans: “Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, That the man who does those things shall live by them.” (Rom. 10:5.) Thus it was with Adam principally and properly: therefore he was under a covenant of works, when God gave him that command in my text.
QUESTION III. Wherein, then, does this covenant of works consist? What is the nature, tenor, and end of it, as such?
ANSWER 1. This covenant required working on our part, as the condition of it, for justification and happiness; [and is] therefore called “a covenant of works.” Thus before: “The man that does” these things “shall live in them.” (Gal. 3:12) Working, indeed, is also required under grace now; but, (1.) Not to justification; (2.) Not from our own power; (Eph. 2:8) (3.) Not previous to faith, which “works by love,” (Gal. 5:6) and lives by working; (James 2:20;) but man lives by faith.
2. A second characteristic sign of the covenant of works is this,— that in and under it man is left to stand upon his own legs and bottom, to live upon his own stock and by his own industry; he had a power to stand, and not to have fallen. This is meant, when it is said, “God created man in his own image.” (Gen. 1:27) And again: “Lo, this only have I found, that God made man upright.” (Eccles. 7:29)
3. In the first covenant, namely, that of works, man had no need of a mediator; God did then stipulate with Adam immediately: for, seeing as yet he had not made God his enemy by sin, he needed no daysman to make friends by intercession for him. After man’s creation God said, he “saw every thing which he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31) And after the covenant made in Gen. ii., it is said, “They were naked, and were not ashamed:” (verse 25:) that is, they had not contracted guilt by committing of sin, from whence only arises shame. Therefore under the covenant [of works] there needs no mediator. And hence Moses’s law was not properly a covenant of works, because that law was given “in the hand of a mediator.” (Gal. 3:19)
4. The covenant of works once broken, God abates nothing of his justice, no, not upon repentance; but the soul that sinned, died. Mark our text: “Thou shalt die the death;” by which doubling of the words in the Hebrew idiom of speech, is meant vehemency and certainty; which was effected, and so had continued inevitably, without the help of another covenant, hinted in that first promise, Gen. 3:15. For the first covenant gives no relief to a poor sinner, when he hath broken it; but leaves him hopeless and helpless, under “a fearful expectation of” wrath “and fiery indignation.” (Heb. 10:27)
5. The Lord in the covenant of works accepts the person for the work’s sake: that is, he mainly looks at the work, how adequate it is to the command and rule; which he so exactly heeds, that upon the least failure his justice breaks out in wrath, neither can any personal excellency in the world salve the matter: “Cursed is he that continues not in all the words of the law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen;” (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10) a doleful Amen! And, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:1) Note that “whosoever;” God respects no man’s person in that case.
6. The covenant of works, in performance of the condition, leaves a man matter of boasting and glorying in himself, and makes God a debtor to him: “Where is boasting? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay.” (Rom. 3:27) As if he had said, “The covenant of works affords matter of boasting to him that workS to justification by his own personal power and righteousness.” “Now to him that works is the reward reckoned, not of grace, but of debt;” (Rom. 4:4) that is, it obliges God to pay it him as a due; which is the language of Pharisees and Papists; which were justly challenged and claimed, (1.) Were we indeed under a covenant of works, and not of grace; (2.) Were our works perfect; (3.) Did we not lie at God’s mercy, for our guilt:—all which declare man impotent, and grace necessary; and, withal, Jews and Papists to be enemies to the cross of Christ and covenant of grace, and under a covenant of works, of which more anon.
7. The covenant of works leaves a man still in doubt while resting in it, in that state; because it is a mutable state at best. He had all in his own hands, and then Satan cunningly rooked him of all. God puts him into a good bottom, and leaves him to be his own pilot at sea: the devil assaults him, and sinks him. And therefore the second covenant takes all into God’s hands, that it may continue safe under his fatherly care and custody; (1 Peter 1:4, 5; John 10:28, 29) and so gives the soul good security against death and danger, which Adam had not while he stood: much less can any rich or honorable man, in his fool’s paradise here in this world, say, his mountain is unmovable, his glory unchangeable; seeing it “passeth away” as a “pageant.” (1 Cor. 7:31) If Adam’s Paradise was so mutable, much more theirs: if he stood not in his integrity, how shall they stand in their iniquity?
8. The covenant of works was made with all men in Adam, who was made and stood as a public person, head and root, in a common and comprehensive capacity; I say, It was made with him as such, and with all in him:
[Quo mansit remanente, et quo pereunte peribat; “He and all stood and fell together.” For even the elect may say, “We are all by nature the children of wrath, as well as others;” and that of St. Paul: “We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Rom.3:19) But the covenant of grace is a discriminating thing; it takes-in some, and leaves out others. Christ is not a head in covenant with all, as Adam was; but of his elect only: for we find many in the world under the headship of Satan and antichrist and old Adam, who are out of Christ; not only because unconverted, as saints themselves are before regeneration; but out of Christ in the account of God’s election, donation, and covenant; who have none of his special love, nor ever shall have.
Thus I have briefly opened the distinguishing characters of the covenant of works; which might have been more enlarged by those of the covenant of grace, which is easily done by way of opposition and comparison one with the other….
—Samuel Annesley (1620–96), The morning exercises at Cripplegate 1679–81, ed. James Nichols (London: Thomas Tegg, 1844), 5.96–99. [Spelling and Punctuation modernized]