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  • WORKS OF ARMINIUS - THE FIRST COVENANT BETWEEN GOD & MAN


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    DISPUTATION XXIX

    ON THE COVENANT INTO WHICH GOD ENTERED WITH OUR FIRST PARENTS

    I. Though, according to His right and power over man, whom he had created after his own image, God could prescribe obedience to him in all things for the performance of which he possessed suitable powers, or would, by the grace of God, have them in that state; yet, that he might elicit from man voluntary and free obedience, which, alone, is grateful to him, it was his will to enter into a contract and covenant with him, by which God required obedience, and, on the other hand, promised a reward, to which he added the denunciation of a punishment, that the transaction might not seem to be entirely one between equals, and as if man was not completely bound to God.

    II. On this account, the law of God is very often called a Covenant, because it consists of those two parts, that is, a work commanded, and a reward promised, to which is subjoined the denunciation of a punishment, to signify the right which God had over man and which he has not altogether surrendered, and to incite man to greater obedience.

    III. God prescribed this obedience, first, by a law placed in and imprinted on the mind of man, in which is contained his natural duty towards God and his neighbour, and, therefore, towards himself also; and it is that of love, with fear, honour and worship towards a superior. For, as true virtue consists in the government or right ordering of the affections, (of which the first, the chief, and that on which the rest depend, is Love,) the whole law is contained in the right ordering of love. And, as no obedience seems to be yielded in the case of a man who executes the whole of his own will without any, even the least resistance, therefore, to try his obedience, that thing was to be prescribed, to which, by a certain feeling, man had an abhorrence; and that was to be forbidden, towards which he was drawn by a certain inclination. Therefore the love of ourselves was to be regulated or rightly ordered, which is the first and proximate cause that man should live in society with his species, or according to humanity.

    IV. To this law, it was the pleasure of God to add another, which was a symbolical one. A symbolical law is one that prescribes or forbids some act, which, in itself, is neither agreeable nor disagreeable to God, that is, one that is indifferent; and it serves for this purpose that God may try whether man is willing to yield obedience to him, solely on this account, because it has been the pleasure of God to require such obedience, and though it were impossible to devise any other reason why God imposed that law.

    V. That symbolical law was, in this instance, prohibitive of some act, to which man was inclined by some natural propensity, (that is, to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil,) though "it was pleasant to the eyes and good for food." By the commanding of an indifferent act, it does not seem to have been possible to try the obedience of man with equal advantage.

    VI. This seems to be the difference between each [of these kinds of] obedience, that the first (Thesis I) is true obedience and, in itself, pleasing to God; and the man who performs it is said truly to live according to godliness; but that the latter (Theses 4 and 5) is not so much obedience, itself, as the external profession of willingly yielding obedience; and it is therefore an acknowledgment, or the token of an acknowledgment, by which man professes himself to be subject to God, and declares that he is willingly subject. Exactly in the same manner, a vassal yields obedience to his lord, for having fought against his enemies, which obedience he confesses that he cheerfully performs to him, by presenting him annually with a gift of small value.

    VII. From this comparison, it appears that the obedience which is yielded to a symbolical law is far inferior to that which is yielded to a natural law, but that the disobedience manifested to a symbolical law is not the less serious, or that it is even more grievous; because, by this very act, man professes that he is unwilling to submit himself, and indeed not to yield obedience in other matters, and those of greater importance, and of more difficult labour.

    VIII. The reward that corresponds with obedience to this chief law, the performance of which is, of itself, pleasing to God, (the analogy and difference which exist between God and man being faithfully observed,) is life eternal, the complete satisfying of the whole of our will and desire. But the reward which answers to the observance of the symbolical law, is the free enjoyment of the fruits of Paradise, and the power to eat of the tree of life, by the eating of which man was always restored to his pristine strength. But this tree of life was a symbol of eternal life, which man would have enjoyed, if, by abstaining from eating the fruit, he had professed obedience, and had truly performed such obedience to the moral law.

    IX. We are of opinion that, if our first parents had remained in their integrity by obedience performed to both these laws, God would have acted with their posterity by the same compact, that is, by their yielding obedience to the moral law inscribed on their hearts, and to some symbolical or ceremonial law; though we dare not specially make a similar affirmation, respecting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

    X. So, likewise, if they had persisted in their obedience to both laws, we think it very probable that, at certain periods, men would have been translated from this natural life, by the intermediate change of the natural, mortal and corruptible body, into a body spiritual, immortal, and incorruptible, to pass a life of immortality and bliss in heaven.

    COROLLARY

    We allow this to be made a subject of discussion: Did Eve receive this symbolical command about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, immediately from God, or through Adam?

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