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a testament ; so it is here called. It was such a covenant as was a testament also. Now there can be no testament but there must be death for the confirmation of it; Heb. ix. 16. But in the making of the covenant with Adam, there was not the death of any thing whence it might be called a testament; but there was the death of beasts in sacrifice, on the confirmation of the covenant at Sinai ; as we shall see afterwards, And it must be observed, that although I use the name of a covenant, as we have rendered the word diatheké, because the true signification of that word will more properly occur to us in another place : yet I do not understand thereby a covenant, properly and strictly so called ; but such a one as hath the nature of a testament also, wherein the good things of him that makes it are bequeathed unto them for whom they are designed. Neither the word used constantly by the Apostle in this argument, nor the design of his discourse, will admit of any other covenant to be understood in this place. Whereas, therefore, the first covenant made with Adam was in no sense a testament also, it cannot be here intended.”-Owen on Heb. vol. vi. p. 74.
We have an unexceptionable witness in Dr.Macknight himself, who says: “I acknowledge that in classical Greek diatheké commonly signifies a testament.” And I believe I might add, that suntheké is invariably used for covenant, or a deed to which there are two or more parties. But this proves nothing; for the Hebrew word bereth is by the LXX. (except in Deut. ix. 15) invariably rendered by diatheké; which is the only word in the New Testament to express either testament, covenant, or bereth, when quoted from the Old Testament.
Gill on Heb. ix. 16 gives some curious information. He says, “ The covenant of grace, as administered under the Gospel dispensation, is a testament, or will.” He adds, “The Jews have adopted the Greek word here used into their language, and pronounce it pinut, and by it understand a dying man's last will and testament." He goes on,
“ The covenant of grace is properly a covenant to Christ, and a testament or will to his people.”—Gill in loco.
I have thus given the several views of divines on the subject, at considerable length; being anxious that the fact, of our not having yet received the new covenant, should be inferred rather from the conflicting opinions concerning how we are under it, than that, in the first place, it should be inferred directly from Scripture. For thus is shewn the real difficulty to be overcome; and not simply, that, in order to establish peculiar tenets, a plausible gloss is proposed in the place of some equally probable interpretation. It will also be shewn, that these discordant views may in great measure be reconciled, by an interpretation more according to common sense respecting the nature of a
covenant, and more analagous to the common faith respecting the nature of the testaments.
In the first place, it does not appear that Adam was under a covenant of works. His conformity was a conformity of holiness, and not of righteousness ; a conformity to the Divine image, and not to an arbitrary law. Bishop Hopkins says : “ Holiness is not the same with righteousness, strictly and properly taken ; for righteousness, properly, is rather a denomination arising from the conformity of actions to their rule, than either the principle or substance of the actions themselves : for that is righteous which is right; and that is right which is agreeable to the rule by which it is measured. Even in Adam, whose holiness was perfect, yet was there this difference between it and his righteousness, at least in our clear conceptions: that his grace, as it was conformable to its pattern, viz. the purity of God, so it was his holiness; but as it stood in conformity to the law of God, so it was his righteousness. For, in strict propriety of speech, the rule of holiness is different from the rule of righteousness : holiness is measured by similitude to God, righteousness by conformity to the law.”- Bishop Hopkins, Prelim. Obs. to the Covenants.
Now Adam's law of righteousness was a negation, Thou shalt not eat :” and indeed it appears to me of great consequence to notice this, in considering the origin of evil. Had Adam's transgression proceeded from a breach of holiness, it would shew that God had not “ created man in his own image, very good,” or upright. And this would give sin an efficient, and not only a deficient cause; thereby charging God foolishly, in making him the author of sin. And hence we find Adam's transgression was a breach of righteousness, in a law that did not affect holiness, or the image of God in his attributes. Then, with Adam before the fall I do not think it can be said there was a covenant : “For where an obligation to a duty is natural subordination, there it cannot be strictly and properly fæderal, or arising from a covenant.”— Bishop Hopkins, Introd. to the Covenants.
Roberts, who, as far as I can discern, expresses the common opinions, says, “ God covenanted with Adam, not explicitly, but implicitly. In the explicit threat of death in case of disobedience, was an implicit promise of life in case of obedience: of which the sacramental trees were symbolical ; the one for confirmation in obedience, the other for exploration of obedience."--Roberts, &c.
But to their view I cannot accede : for, First, here is an inference drawn which by no means appears a necessary consequent: a threat in case of disobedience, in no way implies a reward of obedience. The converse of the threat of death, is
no more than the retention of the life he had in present possession. As Roberts himself well expresses it, “ Adam was immortal in innocency, not by an inability of dying, but by an ability of not dying.....Adam before the fall had an immortal life....bis soul being in itself immortal, and his body....having a remote capacity of dying, and yet an immediate ability of not dying
Secondly, here is an assumption which appears equally unfounded ; namely, that a threat and promise compose a covenant, without consulting the option of the parties. Riccalton opposes the general notion in a manner to which I can fully subscribe: “ It has been, I know not how, in a manner taken for granted, that, after continuing for some time under probation (how long none have pretended to say, but some time or other), he (Adam) should have been transplanted into a state much like that, if not the very same, which believers in Christ have the well-founded prospect of. We may surely say, that all this is mere guessing, as there is not the least shadow of any promise or grant of life, much less of such a life, found in the record. He needed no grant of the life he was in possession of. But even that, he had no promise of being continued to him, except what was implied in the terms on which he held it. But in the denunciation solemnly made to him, That in the day he should eat of the fruit he should be subjected to death, there seems to be a plain enough 'intimation, that his present happiness was not to be perpetual; as we are sure, by the event, it was never designed it should be." --Riccalton's Works, vol. ii.
60. I do therefore affirm, that this test of negative obedience cannot be called a covenant of works. Nor can it be considered synonymous with the law of works; “ The man that doeth these things shall live by them.” And, indeed, in their very nature a law and a covenant appear to be opposed: the one is the command of a superior; the other, if not a mutual agreement, is at least a voluntary obligation.
I rather incline to believe, that by eating the tree of life was intended an eternal confirmation in the state in which he was ; either of sinless perfection, prior to the fall ; or of eternal condemnation, subsequent to the fall. Adam might have united
. himself to the “ Word” “ in whom was life," as a head of sustentation, as did the elect' angels. And was in mercy kept from eating the tree of life after transgression'; as, had he done so, he must have remained in eternal condemnation; as “the angels who kept not their first estate.” His eating “ the tree of knowledge of good and evil," was unfolding the law of righteousness in its power and positive precept. The very existence of a law implies the experimental knowledge of good and evil : as the devil most truly said, “God doth know that in the day ye eat VOL. 1.NO, 11.
thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, , knowing good and evil,” Gen. iii.5; and this the Lord confirms ver. 22. They therefore, prior to the fall, did not know good and evil; were not susceptible of evil; their natural bias was to good only. Here again Riccalton is my support: “ Adam had no such law given him as was afterward, when sin had entered ; no duties either of religion or morality enjoined him. He needed none, for he was a law to himself. He needed only follow the dictates and inclinations of his own perfect constitution, which would naturally determine him to all those offices of love to his great Friend and Benefactor, which would of course have brought all other duties along with it.”—Riccalton's Works, vol. ii. p. 64.
However, I will not involve this with the present question, but refer those who may differ to my former quotation from Owen, to prove that the old covenant could not mean the covenant with Adam.
I hold, in the next place, that the covenant of grace is no distinctive term. The Creator cannot covenant with the creature for the performance of that for which he has not given the creature a capacity: it would be “charging God foolishly;" it would be saying, “I knew that thou wert austere, reaping where thou hast not sown,” &c. Of course, by saying “God cannot," I mean, It is impossible with God to “act contrary to his attributes--that he cannot do contradictories; is not impotence, but power and perfection.” (Polhil's Divine Truths, p. 100.) Then, if God only demands that for which he has given a capacity of performance, all promised reward in case of obedience is of grace: if he bind himself to obligation, it is of grace; for “ after we have done all, we are unprofitable servants; we have only done that which is our duty to do.” There is no such expression in Scripture as the covenant of grace; but, apparently, it is so called to be opposed to the law of works ; which is made a covenant of, and called a covenant of works : then the covenant of grace is called the new covenant ; and the Mosaic testament is called the old covenant, and so confounded with the law of works before the fall. Thus by fallacy within fallacy the present system of the covenants is upheld.
But I would say further, that there is no such covenant as that intended by the term “ covenant of grace," but only the covenant called by divines the covenant of redemption. For this I have the direct support of Dr. Gill, in Heb. vii. 22: "Jesus was made surety of a better testament.'
It is a testament.... which was confirmed, and comes to God's children by the death of Christ, the testator : and a covenant, it being a compact or agreement made by the Father with Christ, as the representative of all the elect." And again, speaking of the present dispensation, which he calls the new covenant, he says:
“ Respecting its original constitution, it was made from eternity ; Christ, the Mediator of it, and with whom it was made, was set up from everlasting," Heb. viii. 8. And again : “ The covenant of grace is properly a covenant to Christ, and a testament or will to his people. Heb. ix. 16.” Now in this sense I do not deny that there was a covenant; but this, I believe, is usually distinguished from the “ covenant”. (so called) “ of grace,” by the term "covenant of redemption."
Charnock, in discriminating between the two, makes use of these distinctive terms. “ This covenant between the Father and the Son, was a transaction between them concerning man's recovery, consisting of articles to be performed by both parties ; something to be performed by Christ to the Father, something to be performed by the Father to Christ; something the Father required of him; something the Father promised to him.... Though this covenant of redemption be not the same with the covenant of grace, yet something in this covenant of redemption did concern the seed of Christ. Upon the account of this covenant, God is the · God of Christ' (Ps. lxxxix. 26, and xl. 8); and you have Christ calling God' his God,' Rev. iii. 12, no less than four times in that verse. He is the Surety of the covenant of grace*. There was then some other previous treaty, whereby Christ entered into terms of suretyship.-2. Christ is said to be faithful, Heb. iii. 2. As obedience implies a precept, so faithfulness implies a trust and a promise, whereby a man hath obliged himself to perform that trust, according to the direction given to him. And Christ is said to trust God, Heb. ii. 13. As a precept is a formal object of obedience, so a promise is a formal object of trust: as he had a command, so he had a promise ; both which (or the two together) imply a covenant.-3. Christ's prayer....seems to run altogether upon a covenant strain; which must suppose some agreement and promise on the Father's part. A claim implies a promise preceding, annexed to a condition to be done by the party to whom the promise is made; which being performed, gives a right to demand the reward."
P. 260, he says: “ Some make this covenant of redemption the same with the covenant of grace : but they
That is, the New Testament; for the Apostle is speaking of the priestly office: and this is Charnock's own meaning; for he says, p. 263, “ If the covenant of grace and that of redemption were the same, then Christ should be both the testator and a party. Christ is the testator of the covenant of grace; a testator makes not a will to bequeath legacies to himself. And further, the covenant of redemption is the foundation of the covenant of grace. In the covenant of grace, Christ, or God in Christ, is the object of faith. Christ had not been the object, had not such an agreement between the Father and the Son preceded. How is Christ the object of faith, but as dying."