Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why Was the Covenant of Works Republished at Sinai?

nomista: But, sir, were the children of Israel at this time better able to perform the condition of the covenant of works, than either Adam or any of the old patriarchs were, that God renewed it now with them, rather than before?

evangelista: No, indeed; God did not renew it with them now, and not before, because they were better able to keep it, but because they had more need to be made acquainted what the covenant of works is, than those before. For though it is true the Ten Commandments, which were at first perfectly written in Adam's heart, were much obliterated by his fall, yet some impressions and relics thereof still remained [both with him and them]; and Adam himself was very sensible of his fall, and the rest of the fathers were helped by tradition; and, says Cameron, 'God did speak to the patriarchs from heaven, yea, and he spake unto them by his angels'; but now, by this time, sin had almost obliterated and defaced the impressions of the law written in their hearts; and by their being so long in Egypt, they were so corrupted, that the instructions and ordinances of their fathers were almost worn out of mind; and their fall in Adam was almost forgotten, as the apostle testifies saying, 'Before the time of the law, sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law' (Rom. 5:13—14). Nay, in that long course of time betwixt Adam and Moses, men had forgotten what was sin; so, although God had made a promise of blessing to Abraham, and to all his seed, that would plead interest in it, yet these people at this time were proud and secure, and heedless of their estate; and though 'sin was in them, and death reigned over them,' yet they being without a law to evidence this sin and death unto their consciences, they did not impute it unto themselves, they would not own it, nor charge themselves with it; and so, by consequence, found no need of pleading the promise made to Abraham; (Rom. 5:20), therefore, 'the law entered,' that Adam's offence and their own actual transgression might abound, so that now the Lord saw it needful, that there should be a new edition and publication of the covenant of works, the sooner to compel the elect unbelievers to come to Christ, the promised seed, and that the grace of God in Christ to the elect believers might appear the more exceeding glorious.

So that you see the Lord's intention therein was, that they, by looking upon this covenant might be put in mind what was their duty of old, when they were in Adam's loins; yea, and what was their duty still, if they would stand to that covenant, and so go the old and natural way to work; yea, and hereby they were also to see what was their present infirmity in not doing their duty: that so they seeing an impossibility of obtaining life by that way of works, first appointed in paradise, they might be humbled, and more heedfully mind the promise made to their father Abraham, and hasten to lay hold on the Messiah, or promised seed.

Edward Fisher, The Marrow of Modern Divinity (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 2009), 82—83.

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