Title Page   Contents   Previous Chapter

Of the Covenant God made with man in
the state of Innocency.

IT hath pleased God to deal with the reasonable creature, by way of Promise and restipulation, that is, by way of Covenant: In which God himself is one party covenanting and promising, and the whole reasonable creature, the other restipulating and obeying. The thing holden out by God is eternal life with all immediate blessings, the condition on the part of the reasonable creature is free, ready and willing obedience, whether from nature or grace. The causes why God made choice to deal with the reasonable creature in this manner are principally three. First, that the creature might know what to expect from the Creator, into whatsoever state cast. Secondly, that the same creature might always recognize, and acknowledge what to retribute. Thirdly, Such manner of dealing suits best with the nature of the reasonable creature, and his subordination to the Almighty. But passing by what might be spoken of the Covenant with reasonable creatures, both men and Angels: we will only consider what Covenant God hath made with mankind, because the knowledge thereof doth in special manner concern us, and in the unfolding thereof the Scripture is most plentiful. We read not the word Covenant betwixt God and man, ever since the Creation, both in Innocency, and under the fall: but we have in Scripture what may amount to as much. As in innocency God provided and proposed to Adam, eternal happiness in the present enjoyments, and calls for perfect obedience: which appears from God's threatening, Gen. 2:17. For if man must die if he disobeyed, it implies strongly that God's covenant was with him for life, if he obeyed. And after the fall, it is most evident, God was pleased to hold this course with man, in all ages and conditions, but with some alterations, (p7) as seemed best in his infinite wisdom, and best fitted the present condition of the creature. In this maner hath God afforded both the prime and secondary good unto man under Covenants and seals, that he might have the greater assurance, so long as he walked in obedience: and herein God was pleased to condescend to man's weakness, and for the confirmation of his faith to add Seals to his Covenants, in all times to bind the bargain. The Covenant in general may be described, a mutual compact or agreement betwixt God and man, whereby God promiseth all good things, specially eternalhappiness unto man, upon just, equal and favourable conditions, and man doth promise to walk before God in all acceptable, free and willing obedience, expecting all good from God, and happiness in God, according to his Promise, for the praise and glory of his great Name.

The Author of the Covenant is God, not God and man, for God doth enter into Covenat with man, not as his equal, but as his Sovereign, and man is bound to accept of the conditions offered by the Lord. There can be no such equality of power and authority betwixt God and the creature, as that he should indent with the most High, but he must accept what the Lord is well-pleased to offer and command. The Covenant is of God, and that of his free grace and love: for although in some Covenant the good covenanted be promised in justice, and given in justice for our works: yet it was of grace that God was pleased to bind himself to his creature, and above the desert of the creature: and though the reward be of justice, it is also of favour. For after perfect obedienceperformed according to the will of God, it had benn no injustice in God, as he made the creature of nothing, so to have brought him unto nothing: it was then of grace that he was pleased to make that promise, and of the same grace his happiness should have been continued. The parties covenanting are God and man: for God promiseth unto man upon condition, and man promiseth unto God what he requireth. In respect of God's promise the Covenant is called his: but in respect of the conditions, it may be called man's.R God promiseth freely to recompence the good of obedience, which is already due, and might be exacted without promise of reward; man promiseth to pay that debt of duty, which he oweth to the Lord, in respect of the manifold relations, wherein he stands obliged unto him. The (p8) form of the Covenant stands in a Promise and restipulation, wherein the Lord, though he might have required the whole debt of obedience, without promise of reward, in respect of the good things already bestowed upon the creature, yet to the end that man might yield cheerful and free obedience, he first bound himself to reward the obedience of man, before he bound man unto him in obedience.N

The Subject of this Covenant in general is man not differenced by special respects: for as the Law was given, so the Gospel is revealed to man. Man in this or that special consideration is the subject of the Covenant, as it is divided for kinds, or altered for circumstances, and degrees: but man is the subject of the Covenant without such particular considerations. The Lord having respect to the mutability and weakness of man's nature, was pleased, as to try his obedience by Symbolical precepts, so to evidence the assurance of his faithful promise by outward seals: but when the creature shall grow to absolute perfection and unchangeableness, such symbolical precepts and outward seals shall cease as needless. The good promised is eternal blessedness with all good things that do accompany it, or belong thereunto: the good required is obedience to the just and righteous Commandment of God, whihc he as our Sovereign Lord doth claim and call for, according as he shall prescribe and appoint. The end thereof is the glory of God, viz. the praise of his wisdom, justice and bounty. And in all these things the Covenants howsoever divided in kinds, or varied in degrees and circumstances, do sweetly consent and agree. But seeing the Covenant is not one, but manifold, both in kinds and degrees, we must distinguish it, and weigh more diligently what doth agree to every kind, and wherein they agree, and wherein they differ one from another. Some distinguish thus, the Covenant is either of Nature, or of Grace, or subservient to both, which is called the Old Testament. Others thus, the Covenant is Legal or Evangelical, of works, or of grace. The Covenant of works, wherein God covenanteth with man to give him eternal life upon condition of perfect obedience in his own person. The Covenant of Grace, which God maketh with man promising eternal life upon condition of believing. And this distinction is one for substance with the former: and with that which may be taken from the (p9) special consideration of the subject with whom it was made, scil. the Covenant made with Adam in the state of Innocency, or with man after the Fall. We read not in Scripture, the Covenant of works, or of grace totidem syllabis: the nearest we come to it is Rom. 3:27. the Law of works opposed to the Law of faith; which holds out as much as the Covenant of works, and the Covenant of Grace. For there the Apostle is disputing about justification, and by consequent eternal Salvation, which is God's part to give under a Covenant. But of this hereafter. The Covenant which God made with our first parents, is that mutual contract or agreement, wherein God promised eternal happiness to man upon condition of entire and perfect obedience to be performed in his own person.

The Author of this Covenant was God his Creator and Sovereign, who had bestowed many and great blessings upon man, furnished him with excellent abilities, and enriched him with singular privileges. This Covenant God made in Justice; yet so as it was of Grace likewise to make such a free promise, and to bestow so great things upon man for his obedience. God did in strict justice require obedience, promise a reward, and threaten punishment: but yet as bountiful and gracious unto his creature, entire and perfect, if he should so continue. God did in justice proportion the reward and the work, the weight of the blessing promised, and the work of obedience required: but yet I cannot think it had been injustice in God to have given less, or not to have continued so great things to man, so long as he continued his obedience: No, God was pleased to manifest his goodness to man continuing in obedience, no less than his justice, as formerly in creation he head showed himself exceeding gracious to man, above other visible and corporal creatures.

This Covenant God made with man without a Mediator: for there needed no middle person to bring man into favour and friendship with God, because man did bear the image of God, and had not offended: nor to procure acceptance to man's service, because it was pure and spotless. God did love man being made after his Image: and promised to accept of his obedience performed freely, willingly, entirely, according to his Commandment. The form of this Covenant stood in the special Promise of good to be received from justice as a reward for his work, (p10) Do this and live: and the exact and rigid exaction of perfect obedience in his own person, without the least spot or failing for matter or manner. The good that God promised was in its kind a perfect system of good, which was to be continued so long as he continued obedient, which because it might be continued in the eye of creating power for ever, we call it happiness, life, and everlasting happiness. But upon a supposition of Adam's persisting in a state of obedience, to say that God would have translated him to the state of glory in Heaven, is more than any just ground will warrant; because in Scripture there is no such promise. And if we must not presume above what is written, we may say, Adam should have continued in that blessed estate in which he was created, but as for his translation after some number of years spent on earth, we read it not. In this state and condition Adam's obedience should have been rewarded in justice, but he could not have merited that reward. Happiness should have been conferred upon him, or continued unto him for his works, but they had not deserved the continuance thereof: for it is impossible the creature should merit of the Creator, because when he hath done all that he can, he is an unprofitable servant, he hath done but his duty.R The obedience that God required at his hands was partly natural, to be regulated according to the Law engraven in his heart by the finger of God himself, consisting in the true, unfeigned and perfect love of God, and of his Neighbour for the Lord's sake: and partly Symbolical, which stood in obedience to the Law given for his probation and trial, whether he would submit to the good pleasure of God in an act of itself merely indifferent, because he was so commanded. Though God had put many abilities and honourable privileges upon man, yet he remained his Sovereign, which by an act of restraint, he was pleased to make man thus exalted to know, which he did by requiring and commanding his creature to abstain from one fruit in itself pleasant to the eye, and good for meat. This was man's Homage-penny, a thing before the command indifferent, unto which he had a natural inclination, from which he was now to abstain, because God (who had before given to man as part of his patrimony, and not as reward of his obedience to this particular reastraint, liberty to eat of every tree of the Garden) here interposed himself and reserved this as an Homage unto himself. (p11) God in his Sovereignty set a punishment upon the breach of this his Commandment,R that man might know his inferiority, and that things betwixt God and him were not as between equals. The subject of this Covenant is man entire and perfect, made after the Image of God in Righteousness and true holiness, furnished not only with a reasonable soul and faculties beseeming, but with divine qualities breathed from the whole Trinity, infused into the whole man, lifting up every faculty and power above his first frame, and enabling and fitting him to obey the will of God entirely, willingly, exactly, for matter and measure. Whether this was natural or supernatural unto the first man, is a question needless to be disputed in this place, and peradventure if the terms be rightly understood, will be no great controversy. Only this must be acknowledged, that this was Adam's excellency above all the creatures, and that in the fallen creature this quality is supernatural. Unto this mutual Covenant God added a seal to assure the protoplast of his performance and persisiting in Covenant with him, and further to strengthen his obedience, with the obedience of his posterity, which upon his breach with God was made void. The Covenant of works made with Adam should have been the same unto his whole posterity, if he had continued; as in all after Covenants of God, they are made with Head and Root, reaching unto all the branches and members issuing from them, Rom. 5:17, 1 Cor. 15:22,47. The proportion holding in Abraham to Christ, till the Covenant be rejected in after comers. But this Covenant was so made with Adam the root of all mankind, that if transgressed, his whole posterity should be liable to the curse temporal and eternal, which entered upon his fall. This Covenant was a Covenant of friendship not of reconciliation; being once broken it could not be repaired; it promised no mercy or pardon, admitted no repentance, accepted no obedience, but what was perfect and complete. If Adam had a thought after his breach, that he might have healed the matter, it was but vain presumption, and lest he should rely upon a vain confidence in eating of the tree of life, God drove him out of the Garden. But this Covenant was not peremptory, not the last nor unchangeable. Woe to all the posterity of Adam, if God should deal with them according to the sentence here denounced. When man had plunged himself into misery, it pleased the Lord to reveal his abundant (p12) Grace in the Covenat of Grace, of which hereafter.

The end of this Covenant is the demonstration of God's wisdom, bounty, goodness and justice, both rewarding and punishing: and it made way for the manifestation of his rich grace and abundant free mercy brought to light in the second Covenant.

Three questions may be moved here, not unprofitable, nor impertinent.  Question 1. Why in the Covenant of nature (as it is called) God doth not expressly require Faith, but Obedience and Love. And the answer is, That only by consequent Faith is required, and not expressly in this Covenant, because there was not the least probable cause or suspicion why man should doubt of God's love, for sin had not as yet entered into the world: but in the Covenant of Grace it was contrary, for that is made with a conscience terrified with sin, which could be raised up by none other means, but by the free Promise of mercy, and Faith embracing the Word of Promise, freely and faithfully tendered, and to be received by faith only.

Again, in this Covenant is considered, what in exact justice man doth owe unto God: (but he oweth justice and Sanctity:) but in the Covenant of Grace what God reconciled to man in his Son, would offer, and that is bountifully offered.

Question 2. How that Faith, which presupposeth exact justice in the Covenant of Nature, differs from that Faith which is required in the Covenant of Grace?

Answer. Faith, which the exact righteousness of man in the Covenant of Nature, doth presuppose, agreeth with faith which is required in the Covenant of Grace in this, that both are of God, both is a persuasion concerning the love of God, both begetteth in man mutual love of God, because if faith abounds, love abounds; languishing, it languisheth; and being extinct, it is extinguished. But they differ first in the Foundation. For Faith which the Righteousness of nature presupposeth, leaneth on the title of entire nature, and therefore after the fall of Adam it hath no place; for although God love the creatures in themselves, yet he hates them corrupted with sin. No man therefore can persuade himself, that he is beloved of God in the title of a creature; (for all have sinned) nor love God as he ought. But the Faith, of which there is mention in the Covenant of Grace, doth lean upon the Promise made in Christ. Secondly, when both are of God, yet (p13) that faith which exact righteousness presupposeth is of God (as they speak in Schools) per modum naturae: But the faith required in the Covenant of Grace, is of God, but per modum gratiae supernaturalis. Thirdly, the righteousness, which the faith of nature begetteth was changeable; because the faith whence it did flow, did depend upon a changeable Principle of nature: But the Sanctity, which the Faith of the Covenant of Grace begettteth, is eternal and unchangeable, because it comes from an eternal and unchangeable beginning, the Spirit of Grace.

Objection. But if the Faith and Holiness of Adam was changeable, how could he be secure, or free from distracting fears; the answer is, the mind of Adam, which was wholly fixed, and set in the administration and sense of God's goodness, could not admit of such thoughts; such cogitations could not creep into it.

Question 3. Whether the Covenant of works stand on foot in the posterity of Adam, though not in respect of life and happiness, yet in respect of the things of this life? To this some answer affirmatively, because many of them, from some remainders of the forementioned abilities, did many good things for the good of bodies politic wherein they lived, Rom. 2:13,14,15,16, which God retributes with good things in this life, to some more, to some less, but to all some. And it cannot be denied; but some remainders of God's Image or notions of good and evil, are to be found amongst the Heathen: and that these things, in them who lived without the pale of the Church, have been increased by culture of nature under Discipline, by Arts and Exercises, and might receive improvement by vicinity to the Church; from which they might learn some things to enrich them in this trade: And that God hath bestowed many and great blessings upon them pertaining to this life: But it may be questioned, whether these things come from the compact of works, or be gifts of bounty and God's righteous administration, for a time respiting the sentence denounced against man for breach of Covenant; and vouchsafing unto him some temporal good things for the use and benefit of human Society. Yea, it may be worthy consideration, Whether these things be not granted unto them in Jesus Christ, according to the Covenant of Grace, which was made upon the very fall: by whom not only the Elect, but the whole frame of nature received benefit. In the Creation God raised up a great Family, (p14) wherein he made Adam the head, and all his posterity inhabitors, the frame of Heaven and Earth his domicile, the creatures his servants, this Family upon the fall was broken up, the present Master turned out of his employments, the children beggared, the servants returning to God their Sovereign, and the whole frame of the creature under attainder. God thus defeated, (if I may so speak) sets up a second Family, called the Family of Heaven and Earth, wherein Jesus Christ, the woman's seed, Gen. 3:15, is the Head, Matth. 28:18, Ephes.1:22, Col.1:19, 20, styled the second Adam, Lord of all things in Heaven and Earth, and that with more sovereignty and amplitude of enjoyment than ever the first Adam had; the whole creature being put under his feet. The children of this Family are the faithful, who be the adopted Brethren, Rom. 8:15, sometimes called the seed. The servants be the wicked, and those of two sorts, either such as attend in the Church, nearer about Christ's person, or further off, as in farmhouses for baser offices. The creatures, by a second ordinance from their former Master free, are stated upon Christ, though they bear some brands of evil from the sin of their former Master: the domicile, though not so beautiful, returns to Christ. So the Covenant of Grace, entering upon the breaking up of the former Family, investeth Christ with all as purchaser of the lost creature from revenging justice, and as Lord of all things in Heaven and Earth, who freely conferreth the heavenly inheritance upon the adopted sons and brethren, and vouchsafeth earthly blessings, and some spiritual common gifts to the wicked, which may be called servants, both those that more nearly attend his person, and those that be further off. But of this more hereafter. 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧

Go to Chapter 3



[Footnotes for Part 1 Chapter 2: when clicking on a link the point to which the note refers should be the first appearing on the screen.]

Zech 9:11. In the blood of thy covenant. Sept. diathekes su<BACK>

To will and to nill the same things is the sure bond of all amity and friendship. Now because the communion betwixt God and us is of infinite disparity, therefore his will is a Law to us, and our obedience is true love to him<BACK>

Luke 17:10<BACK>

Gen 2:16<BACK>





The 7 web pages of this e-text (mostly prepared in the 1990s) contain the first 59 pages of this 350 page book, provided by
Peter & Rachel Reynolds - Used Christian books
who have thousands of second-hand Christian books available for rapid despatch direct from Scotland to your home, with very reasonable shipping costs, similar to those charged by US dealers to US customers.

In July 2006 Peter & Rachel Reynolds published a print-on-demand facsimile of the whole book, priced at 」15 or $28.

Click to view the book

A Treatise of the
Covenant of Grace

by John Ball

Go to Chapter 3