Rutherford: Adam Was In A Temporary, Legal, Covenant Of Works

God intended a Law-dispensation but for a time. 2. Adam, how he was ordained for a Law-life. 3. How predestinated to glory in Christ, how not. 4. That the heathens have no more universal grace than devils. 5. No ground for such grace.

It is apparent that God intended not a Law-dispensation in paradise to stand for ever. For

  1. nothing is spoken of Adam, after the fall, but of his procreating of children, of the patriarchs, of Adam’s dying and of his acts before the fall, the place of paradise being scarce well known, which says the Lord had a farther design to lay aside the transient Law-dispensation and to set up Christ.
  2. The Lord, of purpose, gave a positive Law, forbidding eating of such a tree, added a threatening thereunto particularly, suffered the serpent to tempt, and foresaw what frail nature would do, that he might deal with man, in a dispensation of free grace.

Object. Did not God ordain that Adam should have life and righteousness, if he should continue in obedience.

Answ. That was a decree conditional of things, (“the man that does these things shall live”) and shows the equity and holiness of the Law, but it was not a decree of persons, by which God predestinated Adam to a Law-glory, as the end, and to Law-obedience as the effectual means leading to that end.

Q. Was not Adam chosen?

Ans. Adam, according to the Lord’s design, finaliter and objective (finally and objectively) was created in the state of predestination to glory and grace in Christ, as touching [his] person, but according to his inherent condition, he was created in a legal dispensation, which was a gracious inlet to Christ; And according to his Law-state as he represented all mankind, he was created as a lubric [slippery] and frail copy of weak nature.

Many who are such as are not chosen are created and live under a covenant of works, having only some concomitant favors of the Gospel, as the preaching thereof. 2. Common grace, inward warnings. 3. Protections of providence and forbearance, in regard they are mixed with the elect. The heathen cannot be said to have any inward calling to grace and glory, because there be some remnants of the image of God left in them, which no more can be called universal grace, then the same sparkles that are left in devils can be called Gospel grace, for they believe, “There is one God and confess the Son of God,” (Jam. 2:19; Luk. 4:34. Mark 1:24). Only if this be called grace, that the nature of man is so capable of Gospel mercy, and the nature of the fallen angels morally not so. 2. The offer is made to them of Christ; not so to devils, we shall not contend. Reason may seem to say that all should have a share of Gospel-grace, but it may be replied to reason, why should it seem to be a part of the goodness and bounty of God to will and desire all and every one to be saved, and not to institute such a dispensation, as all and every one should actually be saved? 2. How should that stand, (“he has mercy on whom he will”) if free-will of the creature absolutely dispose of salvation and damnation? 3. How is it that the calling, adoption, and the offer of mercy is restricted to few, and was confined to the Jews only of old? But we are more ready to call the Lord to a reckoning, for his dispensation of grace to others, then to use our own, as becomes us. 2. We cannot judge aright of God and of his goodness, except he be God our very way. 3. It is a matter of no small difficulty to make right use of the Lord’s freedom of grace, and for clay humbly to adore Sovereignty, and not to stumble at the highness of his ways, who, in these points, has ways and thoughts above ours, “as the heavens are above the earth” (Isa. 55).

—Samuel Rutherford, The Covenant of Life Opened (Edinburgh, 1654), 13–15 [Spelling and punctuation modernized].

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