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obey his precepts or prohibitions, in order to give his will the form and force of law. There can be no precept nor prohibition, without a penalty expressed or implied. The penalty is the sanction
of a law, and expresses the whole authority of the lawgiver. The right to command always implies a right to threaten, and a power and a disposition to punish; and this right and power and disposition to punish in case of disobedience, must be directly or indirectly expressed in every law, whether human or divine. It is not necessary, indeed, that the penalty should be so exactly specified as the precept or prohibition. The mere expression of a disposition to punish constitutes a penalty, whether any particular punishment be mentioned or not. But such a disposition must be expressed, in order to give a precept or prohibition any legal force or obligation.
Thus God has an original and independent right, to make his will or pleasure a law or rule of duty to all his intelligent creatures. And whenever he does publish his will or pleasure in the form of a precept, prohibition and penalty, he does actually give law to all to whom his precepts, prohibitions and threatenings extend.
II. It is now easy to show, that God did give a proper law to Adam respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As the Supreme Being, he had an unquestionable right to give law to Adam, whom he formed a rational creature and a proper subject of moral government. And if he intended to give law to Adam he could not have done it in more appropriate and definite words than those in the text: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." These words were addressed to Adam personally ; they contained a precise prohibition, which was sanctioned by a precise penalty. Adam was the very person prohibited ; the thing prohibited was his eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and the penalty annexed was death : “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." This was a proper law in distinction from any covenant, or constitution. It has been taken for a covenant, and styled the first covenant, and the covenant of works. But there appears to be no foundation for this opinion. A law is essentially different from a covenant. When our civil rulers make a law for the people, they do not at the same time and by the same act make a covenant with them. And it is equally true that when God made a law for Adam, he did not at the same time and by the same act make a covenant with him. It does not appear that God ever made any covenant with Adam but the covenant of grace, after his fall. He certainly made no other covenant with him in Paradise. A covenant is a mutual stipulation or agreement between two or more parties, upon certain conditions. But it does not appear that God stipulated with Adam, and Adam with God, respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam did not promise to refrain from eating of that tree; nor did God promise to reward him, if he should refrain from it. There was no form of a contract between God and Adam, which was absolutely necessary to constitute a covenant. But there was the simple and precise form of a proper law: Thou shalt not eat; and if thou eatest, thou shalt surely die. It is rather strange that this law should ever have been mistaken for a covenant.
Some, however, have supposed, that it was neither a law, nor a covenant, but a constitution. It is undoubtedly true that God did form a constitution respecting Adam and his posterity. But the constitution which he formed was only a rule for his own conduct, and not a rule of their conduct. He determined that Adam should be the public head of his posterity ; that he would make his posterity holy and happy, if he obeyed the law respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but if he disobeyed, that he would bring them into the world in a sinful and perishing condition ; and that if they should be involved in sin and misery, he would provide a Saviour for their recovery and salvation. This was the essence of the divine constitution respecting Adam and his future offspring. But this constitution had nothing of the nature of law in it. It was merely a rule of God's own conduct, of which he gave no notice to Adam. It does not appear from any thing he said to Adam before his apostacy, that he let him know that he had placed him as the public head of his posterity ; that he had determined to suspend their holy or unholy state, upon his obedience or disobedience; or that he had determined to provide a Saviour for them, in case his disobedience should involve them in guilt and
We derive our knowledge of God's constitution respecting Adam and his posterity, not from the words of our text, but from subsequent parts of scripture, which inform us of the ruinous consequence of Adam's first sin to his posterity, and of the remedy which God graciously provided for their recovery and salvation.
It now appears, I trust, that God did give a proper law to Adam, respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which was neither a covenant nor constitution. This should be understood and retained in the mind, in order to have a clear view of the subject before us. Much error and confusion have arisen, from not distinguishing the law forbidding Adam VOL. IV.
to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, from any prior constitution, or subsequent covenant. These are totally distinct, and should never be blended together. But many have believed and taught that the law given to Adam in Paradise was a covenant or constitution. So we have been taught from our earliest days, in the Assembly's Catechism. The question is there asked, “ What special act of providence did God exercise towards man in the state wherein he was created ?" The answer is, “ When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience, forbidding him to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death." But where we find that God promised to give life to Adam, upon condition of obedience? or where do we find that Adam promised to be obedient? We find no such promise on the part of God, nor upon the part of Adam.
of Adam. We find nothing more than a proper law, forbidding Adam to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.
III. I am next to show wherein this law of Paradise was like all other divine laws. Here it is easy to mention several important points of resemblance.
1. It was like all other divine laws in its nature. Every divine law which was given to Adam, and which has ever been given to his posterity, has required the heart, or internal holiness. God gave other laws to Adam besides that concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He required him to dress and keep the garden of Eden, and to name and govern the animal creation. These commands respected the heart, and required truly benevolent and pious exercises, or internal as well as external obedience. God commanded Noah to build the ark, and after he had built it he commanded him to go into it with all his family, and with some of every species of the lower animals; and these commands respected the heart, and required that very faith and love which he exercised in obeying them. In the ten commands which God gave to his people at Mount Sinai, he required them to love him supremely, and their fellow men as themselves. This, our Saviour said, was the true meaning of the Mosaic law. Indeed, this is the meaning of every divine law. When God commands any rational creature, he implicitly says to him, “Give me thine
And when he commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he required something more than a mere external abstinence from the forbidden fruit
. Adam would have violated the divine prohibition if he had only thought hard of God, or inwardly murmured and repined, that he was forbidden to eat of the tree which appeared so pleasant and desirable, even had he never put forth his hand to touch it. The law of Paradise was precisely like all other divine laws in its nature. It was a holy law, requiring internal, as well as external obedience.
2. The law respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was like all other divine laws in its extent. It extended to all who were specified in it, and to no others. This is true of all other divine laws. The command given to Abraham to sacrifice his son, extended to him, and to him alone. The command given to Christ to lay down his life and take it again, extended to him, and to no other person in the world. The coinmand which he gave to his seventy disciples to go and preach the gospel, and work miracles in his name, extended to them, and to no other disciples. So the command given to Adam to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, extended to him, inclusive of Eve, and not to any of his posterity. As he, and not his posterity, was specified in the law, so it extended to him, and not to them. There' is no reason to suppose that, if he had remained obedient until Cain and Abel had arrived to years of discretion, they would have been bound to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, by virtue of the prohibition given to their parents. The prohibition specified and bound their parents, without respect to any of their posterity. Like all other precepts or prohibitions, it extended to those, and to those only, who were specified in it.
3. The law of Paradise was like all other divine laws in regard to its condemning power. Every divine law has a condemning power; that is, a power to condemn those who are bound by it, and actually transgress it. And the law given to Adam, respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, had the same condemning power, and did actually condemn those who were guilty of eating the forbidden fruit. But some suppose that it had the power of condemning not only those who actually transgressed it, but millions and millions of those who never could transgress it. They suppose that the threatening to Adam, in case of disobedience, extended not only to him, but to all his posterity, and did actually condemn them, as well as him, for his first transgression. This is to suppose, either that his posterity did actually eat of the forbidden fruit before they existed, or that they were condemned for a transgression which they never did, nor ever could commit; each of which suppositions is absurd in the extreme, and barely to mention it is sufficient to refute it.
But it may be of service here to point out the source of this absurdity. It arises from blending the law given to Adam, respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with a supposed covenant, or rather, constitution. It was the divine constitution, and not any divine law or covenant, that connected the moral character of Adam with the moral character of his posterity, or laid the foundation of their being brought into the world in a state of moral depravity and condemnation, in consequence of his first transgression. When our first parents transgressed, they, and they only, were condemned to die. But God had formed a constitution which was totally distinct from the law given to Adam; and according to this constitution, he determined that his posterity should become sinful or depraved, in consequence of his first sin. This constitution was neither expressed nor implied in the law respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and there is no reason to suppose that Adam knew any thing more of God's constituting him the public head of his posterity, than of his providing a Saviour for him and for them, in case of his disobedience. The law of Paradise, therefore, which was totally distinct from any covenant or constitution, had no power to condemn any but those who transgressed it; and in this respect, it was exactly like all other divine laws. This leads me to show,
IV. Wherein the law respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was unlike some laws which God has given to mankind. And here I can think of but one point of difference worthy to be mentioned; and that is, in respect to duration. This law was given to our first parents, to try their love and obedience; and as soon as it had answered this purpose, it ceased of course to have any legal force or obligation. After they had sinned, and were banished from the garden of Eden, it was only the tree of life of which they were forbidden to eat. The command given to Abraham was designed to try his faith and obedience; and as soon as these were tried and approved, he was no longer bound by it. The prohibition to our first parents was like this command to Abraham, in point of duration; and herein it differed from the law of love, and many other divine laws, which continue in force after they are obeyed, and after they are disobeyed. Men are bound to love God after they have hated him, as well as before; but our first parents were not bound to refrain from eating of the forbidden fruit, after they had once violated the divine prohibition. It now remains to show,
V. What punishment the law threatened to Adam, in case of disobedience. The words of the law are plain and explicit. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” There can be no question whether this law