A Commentary on The Westminster Confession of Faith With Scripture Proofs by A.A. Hodge
From Chapter 7:
The analysis of a covenant always gives the following elements: (a) Its parties. (b) Its promise. (c) Its conditions. (d) Its penalty. As to its parties, our Standards teach - In the first covenant that concerned mankind God dealt with Adam as the representative of all his descendants. The parties, therefore, are God and Adam, the latter representing the human race. That Adam did so act as the representative of his descendants, in such a sense that they were equally interested with himself in all the merit or the demerit, the reward or the penalty, attaching to his action during the period of probation, has already been proved to be the doctrine both of our Standards and of Scripture. (Ch. 6., ss. 3, 4.) As to the further nature of this covenant, our Standards teach-The promise of it was life, the condition of it perfect obedience, and the penalty of it death. (L. Cat., q. 20; S. Cat., q. 12.)
This covenant is variously styled, from one or other of these several elements. Thus, it is called the "covenant of works," because perfect obedience was its condition, and to distinguish it from the covenant of grace, which rests our salvation on a different basis altogether. It is also called the "covenant of life," because life was promised on condition of the obedience. It is also called a "legal covenant," because it demanded the literal fulfillment of the claims of the moral law as the condition of God's favor. This covenant was also in its essence a covenant of grace, in that it graciously promised life in the society of God as the freely-granted reward of an obedience already unconditionally due. Nevertheless it was a covenant of works and of law with respect to its demands and conditions.
(1) That the promise of the covenant was life is proved-(a) From the nature of the penalty, which is recorded in terms. If disobedience was linked to death, obedience must have been linked to life. (b) It is taught expressly in many passages of Scripture. Paul says, Rom. 10:5, "Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which does those things shall live by them." (Matt. 19:16,17; Gal. 3:12; Lev. 18:5; Neh. 9:29.
That the life promised was not mere continuance of existence is plain-(a) From the fact that the death threatened was not the mere extinction of existence. Adam experienced that death the very day he ate the forbidden fruit. The death threatened was exclusion from the communion of God. The life promised, therefore, must consist in the divine fellowship and the excellence and happiness thence resulting. (b) From the fact that mere existence was not in jeopardy. It is the character, not the fact, of continued existence which God suspended upon obedience. (c) Because the terms "life" and "death" are used in the Scriptures constantly to define two opposite spiritual conditions, which depend upon the relation of the soul to God. (John 5:24; 6:4; Rom. 6:23; 11:15; Eph. 2:1-3; 5:14; Rev. 3:1.)
(2) That the condition of the covenant was perfect obedience is plain from the fact-(a) That the divine law can demand no less. It is of the essence of all that is right that it is obligatory. James says, that "whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in onepoint, he is guilty of all." James 2:10; Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26. (b) That the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, relating to a thing indifferent in itself, was plainly designed to be a naked test of obedience, absolute and without limit.
(3) That the penalty of this covenant was death is distinctly stated: "In the day thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die." Gen. 3:17. This denoted a most lamentable state of existence, physical and moral, and not the cessation of existence or the dissolution of the union between soul and body, because-(a) It took effect in our first parents hundreds of years before the dissolution of that union. (b) Because the Scriptures constantly describe the moral and spiritual condition into which their descendants are born, and from which they are delivered by Christ, as a state of death. (Rev. 3:1; Eph. 2:1-5; 5:14; John 5:24.) This death is a condition of increasing sin and misery, resulting from excision from the only source of life. It involves the entire person, soul and body, and continues as long as the cause continues.From Chapter 19:
These sections teach the following propositions: - 1. That God, as the supreme moral Governor of the universe, introduced the human race into existence as an order of moral creatures, under inalienable and perpetual subjection to an all-perfect moral law, which in all the elements thereof binds man's' conscience andrequires perfect obedience. 2. That God, as the Guardian of the human race, entered into a special covenant with Adam, as the natural head of the race, constituting him also the federal head of all mankind, and requiring from him, during a period of probation, perfect obedience to thelaw above named, promising to him and to his descendants in him confirmation in holiness and eternal felicity as the reward of obedience, and threatening both his wrath and curse as the punishment of disobedience. 3. This law after the fall, and the introduction of the dispensation of salvation through the messiah, while it ceased to offer salvation on the ground of obedience, nevertheless continued to be the revealed expression of God's will, binding all human consciences as the rule of life. 4. That this moral law has for our instruction been summarily comprehended, as to its general principles, in their application to the main relations men sustain to God and to each other, in the Ten Commandments, " which were delivered by the voice of God uponMount Sinai, and written by him in two tables of stone; and are recorded in the 20th chapter of Exodus. The first four commandments containing our duty to God, and the other six our duty to man." L. Cat., q. 98...
(2.) The Ten Commandments teach love to God and to man; and on these, the Savior said, hang all the Law and the Prophets. Matt. xxii. 37 -- 40. (3.) Christ said, that if a man keep this law he shall live. Luke x.-25-28...
The Mosaic institute may be viewed in three different aspects: - (1.) As a national and political covenant, whereby, under his theocratic government, the Israelites became the people of Jehovah and he became their King, and in which the Church and the State are identical. (2.) In another aspect it was a legal covenant, because the moral law, obedience to which was the condition of life in the Adamic covenant, was now prominently set forth in the Ten Commandments and made the basis of the new covenant of God with his people. Even the ceremonial system, in its merely literal and apart from its ceremonial aspect, was a rule of works; for cursed was he that confirmed not all the words of the law to do them. Deut.. xxvii. 26.