Wednesday, July 29, 2009

0 Marrow Theology: More from a Brakel

In Wilhelmus a Brakel's The Christian's Reasonable Service, the author makes several helpful comments regarding the existence of the covenant of works (as distinguished from the covenant of grace, or as some monocovenantalists would like to say "the covenant of God", wherein they do not distinguish between Adam's covenant situation and ours) in two chapters primarily dealing with the subject.

He first lays down this particular, wherein the existence of the covenant of works is made evident:
"If God gave Adam a law which is identical in content to the ten commandments; promised him eternal life (the same which Christ merited for the elect in the covenant of grace); appointed the tree of knowledge of good and evil for him as a means whereby he would be tested and the tree of life to be a sacrament of life to him; and Adam, having accepted both the promise and the condition, thus bound himself to God -- then a covenant of works between God and Adam existed. Since all of this is true, it thus follows that such a covenant existed." (p. 356, volume 1, The Christian's Reasonable Service)
These things a Brakel then demonstrates in the chapter which follows this introduction. He writes concerning the law given to Adam:
"First, '...these (the heathen), having not the law are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts (Rom. 2:14-15)'. If men even after the fall have a law written in their hearts and are thus a law unto themselves, be it imperfectly and in obscurity, much more so would Adam in the state of rectitude have had a law. The reason for this conclusion is that the law of nature proceeds from the knowledge of God. Since Adam, after the fall, had a far superior and clearer knowledge of God than the heathen, he therefore also possessed the law in a far superior way." (p. 357, volume 1, The Christian's Reasonable Service)
The moral law, in summary form at least, was certainly in Adam's heart if it is in the heart of the native of deepest, darkest Africa. This was given to Adam in creation, as is apparent from the plain rendering of Scripture - and therefore was given, along with the specific covenantal test of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Most importantly, perhaps, is the question of whether Adam had eternal life promised to him that was in character different and higher than his earthly life in the garden. I have seen and heard this objected to by several different people whose sympathies lie with the Federal Vision (not that it is part of the standard FV teaching, though rejection of the covenant of works is) and have never understood it at all. Neither does a Brakel:
"The law of the ten commandments has the promise of eternal life appended to it, as can be observed in Matthew 19. A young man asked, 'What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' Christ answered, 'If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.' (Matt. 19:16-17) This is also confirmed in the following texts: 'Ye shall therefore keep My statues, and My judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them.' (Lev. 18:5); 'The commandment, which was ordained to life" (Rom. 7:10); '...and in keeping of them there is great reward' (Psa. 19:11). Thus Adam had the promise of eternal life.
the same life which is granted upon the receiving of Christ by faith is promised upon perfect obedience to the law. Since eternal life is granted to the elect upon faith in Christ, this is likewise true for perfect obedience to the law. The apostle confirms that the same promise applies to both matters. 'For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart...thou shalt be saved" (Rom. 10:5-6,9) "...the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth them shall live in them" (Gal. 3:11-12). Here is one and the same promise: life, eternal life... The apostle demonstrates that there are two ways by which this goal can be reached, one being the law, and the other faith. From this it follows that Adam, having the law, had the promise of eternal life, which is now obtained by faith." (pp. 360-361, volume 1, The Christian's Reasonable Service)
Part of the difficulty monocovenantalists have with the covenant of works, I think, stems from one primary problem - their inability to accept the principle of perfect holiness and complete obedience as rightly being met with life eternal. They apply what is clearly observable now, post-fall, wherein we all sin and are sinful from conception, to the garden, where Adam was created very good - flawless, and in communion with God. Our human condition is thus thrust upon Adam, and therefore since we cannot merit any acceptance with God in our condition, therefore so it is with Adam, in their eyes - he was unable to be declared righteous based on his work of obedience. This is a highly flawed position.

Adam was accepted by God, and righteous - and had he obeyed, his righteousness would have been maintained, declared, and confirmed. He would rightly have passed into eternal life, into a state of non posse peccare - inability to sin - just as we will be after Christ returns and glorifies His church. To argue from the basis of our inability to be anything but unprofitable servants in the world POST fall, that Adam could therefore also be nothing but an unprofitable servant PRE fall, is a category error. Adam, PRE fall, was NOT tainted with original sin. We are. The reason we cannot be declared righteous based on our obedience is a condition we have that Adam did not prior to his fall.

Finally, a Brakel gives this helpful exhortation to study the covenant of works and be edified by it; a few choice pieces from that paragraph close my comments:
"Meditate frequently upon this covenant, in order that you may perceive to what a blessed state God had appointed the human race -- and thus also you as far as your original state was concerned. How perfect, fitting and even desirable are its conditions! How glorious are the promises, and how glorious it is to be in covenant with the all-glorious and infinitely good God! The dimensions of this are infinite. Then proceed to the breach of the covenant and the needless, reckless, and wanton nature of the same. What an abominable deed it was! From this perspective proceed to the righteousness of God and let the punishment and rejection of such covenant breakers meet with your approval. When considering the glory of this covenant, seek to amplify your actual and original sins. This beautiful covenant has now been broken, and an unconverted person who as yet has not been translated into the covenant of grace is still in the actual covenant of works. Therefore, as often as he sins, he breaks the covenant by renewal, remains subject to its curse, and increases it time and again. Therefore look away from the covenant of works. It has been broken and salvation is no longer obtainable by it. This exhortation is necessary since even God's children are often inclined to dwell upon their works and accordingly, are either encouraged or discouraged." (p. 367, volume 1, The Christian's Reasonable Service)



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