Home         Articles         Study         Library         History         Heresy         Blogs

 

CHAP. VI. - Of the Sacraments of the Covenant of Works.

I. IT hath pleased the blessed and almighty God, in every economy of his covenants, to confirm, by some sacred symbols, the certainty of his promises, and, at the same time, to remind man in covenant with him of his duty: to these symbols ecclesiastical practice has long since given the name of Sacraments: this was certainly appointed with an excellent design by the all-wise God. For, 1st. What God has known concerning his covenant, is, by this means, proposed to manís more accurate consideration; since he is not only once and again instructed in the will of God by a heavenly oracle, but frequently and almost daily beholds with his eyes those things which by heaven are granted him as pledges of the greatest blessings: what believers see with their eyes, usually sink deeper into the soul, and leave deeper impressions of themselves, than those only which they hear with their ears. Elegantly to this purpose says Herodotus, "men usually give less credit to the ears than to the eyes. 2dly. These symbols also tend to confirm our faith. For, though nothing can be thought of that deserves more credit than the word of God, yet, where God adds signs and seals to his infallible promises, he gives a twofold foundation to our faith. "Thus he more abundantly shews unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible For God to lie, we might have a strong consolation," Heb. vi. 17, 18. 3dly. By means of this institution, a holy man does, by the sight, touch, and taste, of the sacred symbols, attain to some sense of eternal blessings, and accustoms himself under the symbols, to a contemplation and foretaste of these things, to the plenary and immediate fruition of which he will, one time or other, be admitted without any outward signs. 4thly, and lastly. The man has in these something continually to remind him of his duty: and as, from time to time, they present to his thoughts, and give a foretaste of his Creator, so at the same time they put him in mind of those very strong obligations, by which he is bound to his Covenant-God. And thus, they are both a bridle to restrain him from sin, and a spur to quicken him cheerfully to run that holy race which he has so happily entered upon.

II. God also granted to man such symbols under the Covenant of Works; concerning which we are now to speak, that nothing may be wanting in this treatise, and, if I mistake not, were four in all which I reckon up in this order: 1. Paradise. 2.The Tree of Life. 3. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. 4. The Sabbath. In speaking of each of these I shall distinctly shew first, What good they signified and sealed to man, with respect to God. Secondly, What duty and obligation they reminded him of.

III. But I must previously observe, that it is altogether foreign to this treatise, and out of its place, to propose such significations either of Paradise, or of the Tree of Life, or of the Sabbath, as relate to the gospel, the grace of Christ, and to glory, as freely given to the elect by the Mediator and Spirit of grace. For here, I observe, that men of learning in other respects, have stumbled, who, when explaining the nature of those Sacraments, too uncautiously blend things belonging to a quite different covenant. Nothing is here to be

brought in which does not belong to the covenant of works, the promises of that covenant, and the duties of man under the same: all which are most distinct from the covenant of grace. Here we are to say nothing of Christ, nothing of justifying faith in him, nothing of our ceasing from our own works as impure, nor any thing of that rest after the miseries of this life. All these belong to another covenant. I do not however refuse, that the unsearchable wisdom of God did appoint and order these symbols in such a manner, that the remembrance of them after the fall might be able to instruct man in many things relating to the covenant of grace and its Mediator. As that according to Paul, the first Adam himself was a type of the second: Eve, curiously formed out of Adamís rib while asleep, was a type of the church, as it were, taken from Christ in virtue of his death, and that the first marriage represented that great mystery which regards Christ and the Church. These things, however, were neither known nor thought of in the state of nature; nor to be mentioned in a discourse on the Sacraments of the covenant of works. Having premised these things, let us now enquire into each particular with all the care possible, beginning with Paradise.

IV. It is far from our design, elaborately to enquire into the situation and topography of Paradise. Let it suffice to observe, that it was a garden, and a most agreeable enclosure, planted by God himself, toward the east, in Eden, a most fertile region, and abounding in all kinds of delights, as very learned men think, near Haran, the mart of Arabia, at the conflux of the Euphrates and Tigris, not far from Mesopotamia; which was watered with four rivers, washing, by many windings and meanders, the most fertile orchard. When man was formed from the earth without Paradise, be was introduced by God as a new guest to till the ground, and give an account of his stewardship and care. Here was every thing that could contribute to the proper pleasures of this life, God frequently revealing himself to man, and familiarly admitting him to the sweetest fellowship with himself. Moses also mentions the gold and the precious stones of that country, as of the best kind and in the greatest plenty. And what now was the meaning, or mystical signification of all these things?

V. First. In general, the pleasantness of this place, which every moment set before man the most profuse bounty of the Deity, exhibiting the same to the enjoyment of all his senses, assured him, that he was to expect another residence far more noble and grand; where he should not, as now, enjoy his God through and in the creatures, but immediately delight in his Creator, to his being fully satisfied with his likeness. For if God now conferred upon him such things while here, before the course of his appointed trial was finished; what might he not, nay, what ought he not to promise himself from that immense munificence, after he had acted his part well, when he had acquired a right to come with boldness to his rewarder, and ask for his most ample recompense? Was not the Lord amidst this abundance, that lacked nothing pertaining to this animal life, [as it were] frequently addressing him, How shall I one day place thee among my sons, if thou constantly continuest obedient to my voice? If there is so much sweetness in these created rivulets of my goodness, in which now thou swimmest with so much pleasure; what will there not be in myself, the unexhausted fountain, and the most plentiful spring? Ascend, O man, by the scale of the creatures, to me the Creator, and from a foretaste of these first fruits, conclude what I have prepared for thee against that time, when I myself shall be "thy exceeding great reward." And certainly, unless we suppose

Adam to have been stupid and devoid of all divine light, such thoughts must needs have arisen in his mind.

VI. The scriptures declare, that by Paradise is signified a place of perfect bliss, when they call heaven, the habitation of the blessed, by the name of Paradise, Luke xxiii. 43. 2 Cor. xii. 4. A manner of expression commonly used by the Holy Ghost, by which the names of the sign, and the thing signified, of the type and antitype, are mutually exchanged. The Jews themselves saw this, with whom it is usual to call the place of absolutely perfect happiness, Nde and Nede Ng Eden and the garden of Eden; and no wish was more frequent among them, than this, Let his rest, that is, the place of his rest, be Eden. There is also a most suitable analogy between Paradise and heaven, which we are now more expressly and particularly to shew.

VII. 1st. Paradise was a garden planted by God himself, to that life which is really and emphatically so. 6thly. Man being first created in the earth was translated into Paradise, as the better residence. For, if I mistake not, the words of Moses intimate this, Gen. ii. 8. "And there he put the man that he had formed." Compare Gen. iii. 23. where after his sin, he is said "to be sent forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken." In like manner also, man was in due time to be translated from that natural and animal state in which he was created, to another altogether supernatural and heavenly: of which this desirable translation from earth to Paradise reminded him, which Zanchius also observed on Gen. ii. 15. as also Musculus. 7th1y. Had not man been innocent, he would have had no place in Paradise. This garden did not suffer him when once tainted with sin. So nothing that defileth can enter into heaven, Rev. xxi. 27. that being the habitation of Godís holiness and glory, Isa. lxiv. 15. 8thly. In Paradise man enjoyed the familiar fellowship of his God: and in this sense Paradise might also be styled the garden of God, as God dwelt there, delighting himself in the work of his hands, and especially in man himself. As it was a pleasure to man to be thus near and familiar with his Maker, so it was a delight to God. But in heaven the habitation of his Majesty, God will be always present with man, and give himself, in the most familiar manner possible, to be seen and enjoyed by him.

VIII. As Paradise might set forth all these things to man, so in like manner the use of this pledge reminded him of several duties. And, first, he might hence learn that he ought not to seek for his good and felicity in any thing upon earth, which, when appearing even most perfect, discovers its own imperfections; thus, this animal life in Paradise was to be recruited continually with meat, drink, and a succession of sleeping and waking. By which means he was taught to aspire after a greater happiness, namely, the immediate fruition of his God; in the seeking after this happiness the principal holiness of a traveller consists. For, you love God above all things, if you ardently pant after an intimate union with him.

IX. Secondly. As this Paradise was given man to be cultivated and kept, the Lord thereby reminded him, that he took no pleasure in a lazy idleness, but in an active industry. His will was, that man should employ his labour and care upon the garden, that he might have something to do, in which he might continually experience the goodness and providence of

his Creator. He did not choose that angels themselves should be idle, whom he made ministering spirits. And so he assigned man the care of cultivating and keeping Paradise, that he might have something to employ himself in the works of God; just as a kingís son has some office assigned him, lest he should become indolent by an excess of pleasures, honour, and riches. Thus it became him to be conformed to his God by a most holy diligence, and be employed about the very work of Godís hands, till he should come to enjoy an eternal sabbath with himself.

X. Thirdly. This also had a further respect to himself. For 1. As Paradise was the pledge of heaven, so the careful keeping of it reminded him to have heaven continually in his thoughts. 2. The labour and culture of Paradise taught him, that only he that labours and does that which is acceptable to God, can get to the heavenly habitation. 3. He was also instructed to keep his soul for God as a most pleasant garden cultivated like the Paradise of God, and shew forth those trees of virtues, which God planted as producing the most excellent fruits; that is, works proceeding from good habits: that so the Lord might come into this his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits, Cant. iv. 16. 4. It pointed out to him that he should, above all things solicitously keep his soul, that garden of God, lest any wild beasts of depraved passions should break in to lay every thing waste. And when God said to him, Keep this my garden, may he not at the same time be supposed to say, Keep thy heart with all diligence, or above all keeping, Prov. iv. 23. 5. The keeping of Paradise virtually enjoined him, of all things to be anxiously concerned not to do any thing against God, lest as a bad gardener he should be thrust out of the garden, and in that discern a melancholy symbol of his own exclusion from heaven. We then conclude, that when man was, with joy and exultation, admitted into Paradise, he was bound, and was willing to be bound, to perform all these things to God; and so upon entering into Paradise, he bound himself as by a sacrament to these duties.

XI. We now proceed to consider the Tree of Life: but whether a single tree, or an entire species of trees, is a question among the learned. Some think that the former, which is indeed the common opinion, is founded on no probable reason: and suppose it more suitable to the goodness of God, that such a beautiful, useful tree should be in the view of his favourite, in as many parts of the enclosure as possible. They also allege the divine benediction, Gen. i. 11, 12. by which God conferred on all trees the virtue of multiplying themselves. But they chiefly insist on Rev. xxii. 2. where John pitches the Tree of Life on each side of the river, which they compare with Ezek. xlvii. 12. Others, on the contrary, do not think it probable that it was an entire species: First, Because the universal particle lb all, is not added as before when Moses would express many things of the same species, or many species themselves. Next, Because it is said to have been placed in the middle of the garden, so as to have the other trees surrounding it in order. To the passages alleged from the Revelations and Ezekiel, they answer, that John speaks only in the singular number, both in that place and Rev. ii. 7. and that one tree could properly be said to stand in the midst of the street, and on both sides of the river, because the river run through the midst of the street, and because that single tree extended its roots and branches to each side, so that there was no defect on either side. They likewise conclude from its being a type, that it must be a single one; because Christ is one.

But Ezekiel saw many on the bank of the river representing the church militant; because, though one Christ quickens the church, yet it is by several means he now communicates life to the elect. These are the arguments on both sides: if any should desire our judgment, we are of opinion, that the arguments of neither side have the force of a demonstration: but from the consideration of its being a type, we rather incline to the more common opinion.

XII. Whether this Tree was endowed with a singular virtue above others, so as perfectly to cure the disorders of the body, who, with certainty, can either affirm or deny? To ascribe to it a medicinal virtue against diseases, does not appear suitable to the state of innocent man. For diseases and such like infirmities are only the effects of sin. But nothing sure is more ridiculous than the paradoxical and altogether untheological assertion of Socinus, that Adam, by the benefit of that food, would have prolonged his life to a much longer time than God chose he should, had he not been deprived of the opportunity of reaching forth his hand to that Tree. As if God, when he expelled man out of Paradise, and said, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the Tree of Life and live forever, Gen. iii. 22. was apprehensive, that man upon tasting again of that tree should live for ever, notwithstanding his will and threatening, which is downright blasphemy. For by these words, God only intended to restrain the vain thoughts of man, now become such a fool as to imagine that, by the use of that Tree he could repair the loss he had sustained by sin; or, as if the use of the sacrament, or the opus operatum as it is called, could be of any advantage without the thing signified. And by driving man from that outward sign of immortality he cut him off from all hopes of salvation by that covenant, of which that Tree was a symbol. However, there must be some great reason why that Tree obtained this designation, which we will now enquire into.

XIII. The Tree of Life signified the Son of God, not indeed as he is Christ and Mediator, (that consideration being peculiar to another covenant,) but in as much as he is the life of man in every condition, and the fountain of all happiness. And how well was it spoken by one, who said, that it became God from the first to represent, by an outward sign, that person whom he loves, and for whose glory he has made and does make all things; nay, "to whom he sheweth all things that he doth, that he may also do likewise," John v. 19. as the author of life to man; that man even then might acknowledge him as such; and afterwards, when he was to be manifested as his saviour and physician, Adam and his posterity might bring him to remembrance, as exhibited by a symbol at the very beginning. As in fact it has happened, that they who believe Moses, the Prophets, and the Gospel, avow, that in the beginning there was no life but in him, for whose glory, to be displayed in the work of salvation, the earth was also made. Wherefore Christ is called the Tree of Life, Rev. xxii. 2. What indeed he now is by his merit and efficacy, as Mediator, he would have always been, as the Son of God, of the same substance with his Father. For, as by him man was created and obtained an animal life, so, in like manner, he would have been transformed by him and blessed with a heavenly life. Nor could he have been the life of the sinner, as Mediator, unless he had likewise been the life of man in his holy state, as God; having life in himself, and being life itself.

XIV. The fruit of this Tree, charming all the senses with its unparalleled beauty, signified the pleasures of divine love, with which happy man was one day to be fully regaled, and which

never cloy, but, with their sweet variety, do always quicken the appetite. In this sense, wisdom is said to be a Tree of Life to them that lay hold of her, Prov. iii. 18. because the study and practice of true wisdom, fill the soul with an ineffable pleasure.

XV. Moreover, it vas manís duty: 1st. Attentively to consider this tree as pleasant to the eyes, Gen. iii. 6. and to contemplate therein the perfections of the Son of God, whose brightest vision was one day to complete his happiness. 2dly. By the use and enjoyment of this tree, to testify his communion with the Son of God, and acknowledge him as the author of the life he longed for; which, though innocent, he was to seek after, not in himself, but in God as a liberal rewarder. 3dly. He himself, in imitation of the Son of God, and as in communion with him, ought to be as a tree of life to his wife and posterity, by giving them holy advice and example, as a plant of the garden of God, a partaker of the divine life, and as ministering to the life of his neighbour. "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life," Prov. xi. 30.

XVI. Besides the tree of life, Moses speaks of another tree, deriving its name from THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL, concerning whose name and use we began to speak, chap. iii. ß XX, XXI. That it was designed for manís probation is undoubted: but whether it was also a symbol of the covenant is disputed. I freely own I see no reason why this should be denied. For all the requisites to constitute a symbol of a covenant here concur. We have an external and visible sign instituted by God: we have the thing signified, together with a beautiful analogy; we have, in fine, a memorial of manís duty: all which fully constitute the nature of a sacred symbol or sacrament.

XVII. The external sign was a certain tree, "in the midst of the garden, good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise," Gen. iii. 3, 6. The use of this sign was twofold: 1st. That it might be attentively viewed and considered by man, while he carefully meditates on the mystical signification of this tree. For that end it was so beautiful and so desirable to the view, and placed in the middle of the garden, where man most frequently resorted. 2dly. That from a religious obedience he should abstain from eating of it, and thereby acknowledge Godís absolute dominion over him, and his expectation of another world, in which he should be forbid nothing truly desirable.

XVIII. The thing signified was in like manner twofold, the sealing both of the promise and the threatening of the covenant. For its being called the tree of knowledge of good, intimated, that man, if from a principle of love he obeyed this probationary precept, should come to the knowledge, sense, and fruition of that good which is truly and excellently so, and the full knowledge of which is only obtainable by sense and enjoyment. On the other hand, when called the tree of the knowledge of evil, thereby is signified, that man, if found disobedient, should be doomed to the greatest calamity, the exceeding evil and wretchedness of which he should at last know by experience. And even they, who, in other respects, would not have this tree called a symbol of the divine covenant, do confess,

XIX. There was here a very plain memorial of duty. For this tree taught, 1st. That man was sincerely to contemplate and desire the chief good, but not to endeavour after it, but only in the manner and way prescribed by heaven; nor here to give in to his own reasonings, how plausible soever they might appear. 2dly. That manís happiness was not to be placed in things pleasing to the senses of the body. There is another and a quite different beatifying good, which satiates the soul, and of itself suffices to the consummation of happiness. 3dly. That God was the most absolute Lord of man, whose sole will, expressed by his law, should be the supreme rule and directory of all the appetites of the soul, and of all the motions of the body. 4thly. That there is no attaining to a life of happiness, but by perfect obedience. 5thly. That even man in innocence, was to behave with a certain religious awe, when conversing with his God, lest he should fall into sin. To these add what we have already observed, chap. iii. ß XXI.

XX. That very accurate and great divine, Hieronimus Zanchius, after giving a history of these trees, expresses their mystical signification in these words; de creat. Hom. lib. i. c. i. ß 8. "Moreover, these two trees in the midst of Paradise, and near each other, were very evident types of the law and gospel, or of Christ. The law declares what is good, and what is evil: Christ is the true and eternal life. Both were in the midst of Paradise, because the law and Christ, in the midst of the church, are always to be proposed to the posterity of Adam. One near the other, because the law leads to Christ." I cannot fully express what regard I pay to this great divine, whose commentaries I exceedingly prefer to the new-fangled comments, with which the minds of students are at this day distracted and led astray. Nevertheless, these expressions seem to be more ingenious than solid and judicious. For under the covenant of works, Adam neither had, nor was it necessary he should have any sacraments which respected Christ, the gospel and grace. This however may be said in excuse of these and the like things, which often occur even in the most learned authors, that though these things were not proposed to man at first in innocence in order to represent to him the grace of Christ, yet they were so wisely ordered by God, that man, by reflecting upon them, could after the fall discover in them the dark resemblance of those things which God afterwards, by a new promise, was pleased to reveal.

XXI. Other learned men have not thought proper to reckon the tree of knowledge among the symbols and seals of the covenant of works, for these following reasons: 1st. Because all sacraments are given for use, but man was forbid the use of this tree. 2dly. Because sacraments are signs of a blessing which they seal to those who use them in a proper way; but this tree sealed no blessing to any who should use it, but rather a curse. These considerations, however, are not of that weight that we should therefore depart from the more received opinion. And it is easy to answer both these arguments, not only from the truth of the thing itself, but also from the very hypotheses of these learned men.

XXII. It is indeed true, that all sacraments were given for use; but it is also certain, that the external use of all sacraments is not after one and the same manner; all are not granted to the mouth and palate. There are sacraments whose use consists in the contemplation of the sign, and meditation on the thing signified. Some learned writers maintain, that the rainbow was

not a symbol only of the oecumenical, or general covenant with the whole earth, but also of the covenant of grace in Christ, and they think that the colours of the rainbow, the red, the fiery, and the green, denote, that by blood, holiness and mercy are united. But we can conceive no other sacramental use of the rainbow, besides the contemplation of it. In like manner, they place the brazen serpent among the sacraments of the Old Testament, whose use consisted only in the beholding of it. Nay, they are of opinion concerning the tree of life itself, that it was not promiscuously to be used by man, since "to him alone that overcometh, it is given to eat of the tree of life," Rev. ii. 7. "Whence," say they, "it does not appear that Adam touched it before the fall; nay, the contrary is rather evident." And yet they say, that it was the first and most ancient representation of the Son of God, and of the life to be possessed through him. Why then may not the tree of knowledge also be called a symbol of the covenant, though proposed only to be looked at by man, though he was never to eat of it?

XXIII. I go a step farther, and say, that there is no absurdity, should such a sacrament be appointed whose use should consist in a religious abstinence. Nor should those learned men, if consistent with themselves, be averse to this opinion. The deluge, say they, from which Noah was preserved, must needs be reckoned among the types. But the use of the waters, in respect to Noah, consisted in this, that they were neither to touch him and his, to their hurt, nor force themselves into the ark in which he was shut up; the waters of the Red sea likewise signified the same thing in the same manner to Israel. Nay, what may seem strange, these learned men say, that the first sacrament of the covenant of grace was "the ejectment of Adam out of Paradise, and the barring up his access to the tree of life:" or, as one is pleased to express himself, "the first sacrament was the tree of life, which, though at first it regarded the covenant of works, and the exclusion from it was the punishment of fallen man; nevertheless that very exclusion was at the same time a sign of the grace and goodness of God." I would beg of those very learned men, to explain in what the sacramental use of the tree of life was to have consisted under the covenant of grace, after man was expelled Paradise, and that tree was no longer to be in his view. There is here no other use but a mystical abstinence and deprivation. And thus we imagine we have fully answered the first argument.

XXIV. Let us now consider the second, and we say, it is not inconsistent with the nature of sacraments, to seal death and condemnation, to those who unduly and irregularly use them: for the covenant of God with man is ratified, not only by the promises, but also by certain threatenings belonging to it; but sacraments are the seals of the whole covenant, not excepting the threatenings to the profane abusers of them. When a man partakes of the sacraments, he comes under an oath and curse, and makes himself liable to punishment if he deals treacherously. To say nothing of the sacraments of the covenant of works, the very sacraments of the covenant of grace are the savour of death unto death to hypocrites and profane persons, who in the bread and wine of the Eucharist eat and drink damnation to themselves, 1 Cor. xi. 27, 29. But it is not true, that the tree of knowledge sealed only death; for it also sealed life and happiness. It was the tree of knowledge, not only of evil but of good. As these learned men themselves acknowledge, while they write, that "had Adam obeyed, he would upon his trial have come to the knowledge and sense of his good to which

he was called, and had a natural desire after, even eternal life and consummate happiness." Whence we conclude, that notwithstanding these reasonings, we may justly reckon the tree of knowledge among the sacraments of the covenant of works.

 

 

Copyright © 2008 [www.seeking4truth.com]. All rights reserved .Revised: 05/17/2009