The Covenant of Works
In the eighth chapter we have depicted Adam in his eminent, holy, and glorious nature. We shall now speak of him as being in covenant with God—the covenant of works. Acquaintance with this covenant is of the greatest importance, for whoever errs here or denies the existence of the covenant of works, will not understand the covenant of grace, and will readily err concerning the mediatorship of the Lord Jesus. Such a person will very readily deny that Christ by His active obedience has merited a right to eternal life for the elect. This is to be observed with several parties who, because they err concerning the covenant of grace, also deny the covenant of works. Conversely, whoever denies the covenant of works, must rightly be suspected to be in error concerning the covenant of grace as well.
The Covenant of Works Defined and its Existence Verified
The covenant of works was an agreement between God and the human race as represented in Adam, in which God promised eternal salvation upon condition of obedience, and threatened eternal death upon disobedience. Adam accepted both this promise and this condition.
Question: Was such a covenant between God and the human race represented in Adam?
Answer: Our answer is an unequivocal “Yes!” In order to consider a matter in an orderly fashion, it is necessary first to determine whether the matter exists and then to consider its nature. In this situation, however, we need first to consider the nature of this covenant, since the truth of the existence of such a covenant must primarily be proven from its nature. In that way we must seek to arrive at a conclusion.
Proof #1: If God gave Adam a law which is identical in content to the ten commandments; promised him eternal life (the same which Christ merited for the elect in the covenant of grace); appointed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for him as a means whereby he would be tested and the tree of life to be a sacrament of life to him; and Adam, having accepted both the promise and the condition, thus bound himself to God—then a covenant of works between God and Adam existed. Since all of this is true, it thus follows that such a covenant existed.
We shall first consider the one party and His engagement, and subsequently the other party and his engagement. The one party is God who, in this covenant, manifests Himself as follows:
(1) as being the foremost, eternal, supreme, and sovereign Lord, who has power over His creatures to prescribe, command, and promise as He pleases. He is the “one Lawgiver” (James 4:12).
(2) as being holy and righteous, not being able to be pleased with anything other than holiness in His rational creatures, and cannot allow unholiness to remain unpunished.
(3) as being infinitely good, having a desire to communicate His goodness to man. His participation in the covenant consists of the issuance of a law, the promise of felicity and the threat of damnation, and the appointment of a sacramental tree and a probationary tree.
The Covenant of Works and the Law of God
The first matter to be proved is that God gave a law to Adam, this being such a law which in content is identical to the ten commandments. The law is given of God to be a regulative principle for man as far as his inner man and actions are concerned. It declares what is good and evil, and by virtue of its divine authority obligates man to obedience.
Man’s rational intellect, be it ever so perfect and capable of a proper perception of the requirements of the law, is not a rule for good and evil. A matter is neither good nor evil merely because a proper perception determines it to be so. A proper perception does not obligate man to obedience; it is merely a means to know and acknowledge both the law and one’s obligation. The divine law and its divine authority are the rule for good and evil, and obligate to obedience.
As I previously remarked, God gave a law to man. It is only His prerogative to do so.
Question: Are the laws which God issues the expression of His nature or of His free will?
Answer: They proceed from His will in harmony with His nature. They do not arbitrarily proceed from the will of God, as if God were able to command that which is contrary to Himself: to hate God and our neighbor; or that wrath, envy, hatred, vengefulness, and other sins would be holy in nature—God being able to promise eternal felicity upon the commission of sin. All of this would be contradictory to God’s nature and thus also to His will. It would also be contradictory for Him to let a rational creature exist without a law.
That God gave Adam a law is confirmed as follows:
First, “… these (the heathen), having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts” (Rom. 2:14–15).
If men even after the fall have a law written in their hearts and are thus a law unto themselves, be it imperfectly and in obscurity, much more so would Adam in the state of rectitude have had a law. The reason for this conclusion is that the law of nature proceeds from the knowledge of God. Since Adam, after the fall, had a far superior and clearer knowledge of God than the heathen, he therefore also possessed the law in a far superior way. Knowledge of the law and conformity to it is a perfection of man’s nature. He, who after the fall has the most knowledge of and is most conformable to the law, is superior to others. Since Adam was perfect, he consequently was superior in knowledge of and conformity to the law, and thus a law was given to him.
Secondly, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3–4).
The apostle concludes that there is a law which pertains to all men, this law having the inherent potential to justify a man which it finds to be perfect. He declares, however, that the law is weak, and that it is impossible for the law to justify, the reason being that through the flesh, that is, through sin, it has become weak. Wherever there is transgression of the law, it cannot acquit from transgression, for the law is truth. If the law has become weak, it implies that at one time it was strong. This however was never the case subsequent to the fall, and therefore was true prior to the fall, when sin was absent.
Thirdly, the nature of God as well as the nature of Adam requires that Adam have a law.
By virtue of His nature God is the foremost and supreme Lord who is worthy to be honored and served. As soon as a creature appears upon the scene, He stands above that creature and the creature is subordinate to Him. This is also true for man as a rational creature, not merely because He has created man or has entered into a covenant with him or even because man has sinned, but more particularly due to God’s nature, since He is Jehovah. Adam, being a creature, was of necessity dependent upon His Maker in all things, for otherwise, he would be God himself. One cannot view the nature of the creature as being anything but dependent.
If Adam is dependent upon God, this is not only true for his being, but also for his motions. This is not merely true in relation to the motions he has in common with the animals, but also relative to his rationality enabling him to function intelligently. If God by virtue of His nature is supreme and independent, worthy to be honored, served, and feared (“Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to Thee doth it appertain”) (Jer. 10:7), and since man is dependent in his nature, activities, and intellect, then man in his perfection had a rule by which his nature and activities had to be regulated, that is, a law. This law was embedded in Adam’s nature so that he did not have to search for it as one who was ignorant of his obligations, or be concerned that being weak he would be led astray by his lusts to do otherwise. Knowledge of and conformity to the law were embedded in his nature.
Objection #1. “The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient” (1 Tim. 1:9).
Answer: The law can be viewed as a desirable, obligatory rule, or as a tool of coercion to generate fear and terror in view of punishment. The righteous view the law as a desirable, obligatory rule, and acknowledge with joy that they are subject to it. They are free from terrifying coercion, for, “… perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18). The unrighteous, however, are subject to the terrifying coercion of the law, which demands punishment upon their deeds. Oderunt peccare boni virtutis amore; oderunt peccare mali formidine poenoe; that is, the good, out of love to virtue, desire not to sin, but the evil refrain from sin out of fear for punishment.
Objection #2. Adam had a perfect love for God and thus there could not have been a law since he did everything spontaneously, voluntarily, and naturally.
Answer: (1) The law is love (Mat. 22:37–39). If Adam had perfect love, he necessarily had the perfect law.
(2) The law is liberty. “… the perfect law of liberty …” (James 1:25). Being in a state of holy liberty, Adam was thus subject to the law of liberty.
(3) There is no contradiction between doing something naturally and doing it in harmony with a law. The heathen also by nature do those things contained in the law.
(4) Is not the violation of love a sin and unrighteousness? Therefore, the law is intrinsic in perfect love.
(5) In the state of perfect love, Adam was threatened with death; whenever there is a threat upon transgression, there is a law. It thus follows that Adam had a law.
The question now presents itself, What law did Adam have?
My response is that Adam, except for the prohibition pertaining to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, had, as far as content is concerned, the Law of the Ten Commandments.
First, Adam doubtlessly had the most perfect law.
The most perfect law is the law of love, however, and that is the law of the ten commandments (cf. Mat. 22:37–39). Adam therefore was in possession of the law of the ten commandments.
Secondly, all agree that the law which is embedded in the nature of the heathen and is a remnant of that law that Adam had embedded in his nature, is identical to the law of the ten commandments.
Thus, Adam’s law is the law of the ten commandments.
Thirdly, this is confirmed in Romans 8:3, which has already been quoted.
Paul speaks there of a law, referring to it as “the law” without any further description. Without a doubt “the law” is the law of the ten commandments. This law Adam possessed in full strength, which after the fall had become weak, as has been demonstrated. Adam was thus in possession of the law of the ten commandments.
Fourthly, there is but one holiness, for holiness is the image of God, which is singular in nature.
The law is thus also singular in nature, for man’s perfect conformity to the law of the ten commandments is holiness. Therefore, as far as content was concerned, Adam in his perfection had the ten commandments as his law.
In addition to the law of nature God gave Adam a command which in His sovereignty He could or could not have given: the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the name of which we have referred to previously. This may readily suggest the question,
Why did God give this commandment to Adam? Had God not given this commandment to him, he would not have sinned.
My response is:
(1) That it does not necessarily follow that he then would not have sinned. Adam was holy, but mutable, and thus he could also have sinned in a different situation.
(2) God does not always give an account of His deeds. If anyone wishes to meditate somewhat upon this commandment, it will become evident that much is comprehended in this commandment. It declared that God alone was the Lord and thus entitled to command Adam as He pleased, and that Adam was thus required to obey blindly without asking why.
(3) In it was also comprehended that man should desire nothing else but the will of God, and that everything should be defined as desirable or undesirable in relationship to God only.
(4) This commandment comprehends man’s felicity consisting in the enjoyment of God Himself—an enjoyment not to be found in anything outside of Him. Therefore, Adam had no need of what would seem to be most desirable, but could do without it.
(5) It also implies that man was to be satisfied with the present degree of perfection which God was pleased to confer at that moment. The question, Why did God give such a commandment? cannot be answered by man other than by saying, “It was God’s sovereign good pleasure.” We have thus observed that Adam had a law.
The Covenant of Works and the Promise of Eternal Life
The second matter which must be proven is that Adam had the promise of eternal felicity.
First, this is confirmed by contemporary heathen.
As God has impressed upon the human heart that He exists, as well as the manner in which He wishes man to conduct himself, it has likewise been impressed upon the heathen that there is a reward for them that are good and punishment for those that commit evil. The diaries of seafaring men confirm this. When they came into heathen territory where Christians had never been, such heathen, by gesturing either upward or downward with their hands, would indicate that those who are good would go to heaven and those who are evil to hell. Paul testified that the conscience of the heathen either accuses or excuses them (Rom. 2:15). If the heathen have knowledge of the fact that reward and punishment are related to their behavior as measured by the law impressed upon their hearts, how much more is this true for Adam who had a perfect knowledge of the law and the promises of reward.
Secondly, in the foregoing we have shown that the law given to Adam was the law of the ten commandments.
The law of the ten commandments has the promise of eternal life appended to it, as can be observed in Matthew 19. A young man asked, “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Christ answered, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mat. 19:16–17). This is also confirmed in the following texts: “Ye shall therefore keep My statutes, and My judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them” (Lev. 18:5); “The commandment, which was ordained to life” (Rom. 7:10); “… and in keeping of them there is great reward” (Psa. 19:11). Thus Adam had the promise of eternal life.
Thirdly, this is confirmed by the fact that Christ has merited eternal life for the elect by subjecting Himself to the law, satisfying it by bearing the punishment of the law and by perfect holiness in both nature and conduct.
This is evident in Romans 8:4, where the apostle declared that by virtue of Christ’s satisfaction “… the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us (the elect).” This is also stated in Galatians 4:4–5: “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Notice that here reference is made to a law—the same law Adam had. To this law the Lord Jesus subjected Himself, and in doing so He merited redemption and adoption of sons for the elect. “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ … that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17). Thus, eternal glory necessarily follows upon obedience to the law. Consequently, Adam, having the same law, had the promise of eternal felicity.
Fourthly, the same life which is granted upon the receiving of Christ by faith is promised upon perfect obedience to the law.
Since eternal life is granted to the elect upon faith in Christ, this is likewise true for perfect obedience to the law. The apostle confirms that the same promise applies to both matters. “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart … thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:5–6, 9). “… The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them” (Gal. 3:11–12). Here is one and the same promise: life, eternal life. This is stated in Matthew 19:16–17 as explained above. Concerning faith it is stated in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” The apostle demonstrates that there are two ways by which this goal can be reached, one being the law, and the other faith. From this follows that Adam, having the law, had the promise of eternal life, which now is obtained by faith.
Fifthly, this is confirmed by the threat. “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
Death is threatened here without any limitation. Someone who insists that here death is limited to temporal death must prove that this is necessarily so. He will never succeed in doing so, as no trace of such evidence is to be found. Moreover, it is common knowledge that;
(1) death refers to eternal damnation as well as to temporal death. “To the one we are the savour of death unto death” (2 Cor. 2:16); “There is a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16); “On such the second death hath no power” (Rev. 20:6);
(2) the death threatened was a punishment upon sin. The punishment upon sin is not only temporal, however, but also eternal death, which is placed in contradistinction to eternal life. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23); “These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Mat. 25:46);
(3) the apostle states expressly that by eating from the forbidden tree condemnation has come upon all men: “The judgment was by one to condemnation … by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation” (Rom. 5:16, 18). No one can deny that this offense was the eating from the forbidden tree. Upon this eating, however, condemnation would follow, and thus condemnation was threatened by the word “death.” Let us reverse this argument. If upon transgression Adam was threatened with eternal condemnation, then, by applying the rule of opposites, eternal life was promised upon obedience. This threat of death contained in it the promise of life if he did not sin. This reason is all the more credible, for who is able and would dare to think that a good God would threaten eternal punishment upon disobedience and not at the same time promise eternal felicity upon obedience? Who would dare to think that His judgments are incomprehensibly greater than His goodness?
The Covenant of Works and the Tree of Life
Sixthly, this is also confirmed by the tree of life.
Here two trees are contrasted with each other. Since the one symbolizes eternal death, why would the other one not symbolize eternal life? The name also indicates this, for it is expressly called the tree of life. What else can be deduced from this than that it was a sacrament, that is, a sign and seal of life? There is not the least indication that the meaning here is limited to corporal life, and thus we may not do so either. Moreover, if Adam lost corporal life, he at once also lost the spiritual life which he possessed. Therefore, by the word life we must understand both the corporal and spiritual life which he then possessed, as well as eternal felicity which generally is comprehended in the word “life,” even though the word “eternal” is not added to it. “If thou wilt enter into life …” (Mat. 19:17); “Narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life” (Mat. 7:14). This is stated in many other texts as well. For this reason, after Adam had lost this life, the Lord no longer wanted him to be a partaker of this seal of eternal life. By means of an angel the Lord expelled him from Paradise, “… lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” (Gen. 3:22).
When he had sinned by eating from the one tree, which he had no right to do, God was not willing that he should also eat from the other tree. Would he have lived eternally if he nevertheless would have been able to gain access to this tree and have eaten from it? Most certainly not, for there was no inherent power in this tree to restore the spiritual life and communion with God which had been lost. Adam certainly knew this. What could corporal life have benefited him without spiritual life? Neither was there any inherent power in the tree to nullify and rescind God’s threat, “Thou shalt surely die.” Even if he were able to preserve his corporal life, Adam knew very well that he would not be able to do so.
Why then did God say, “… and live forever”? My response is that this is a rebuking and reprimanding manner of speech, as is evident in that same verse, “Behold, the man is become as one of us” (Gen. 3:22). It is as if God said, “Behold the man, who thought that by eating of the forbidden tree he could become as one of us. Behold, how he now resembles us!” God said as it were, “How he has been deceived in his objective, for instead of becoming like one of us, he has become unlike us.” This is also the manner of speech in the phrase, “and live forever,” meaning, “for he would again be deceived in his objective and opinion, if he were to think that by eating of this tree he would live forever.” “And live forever” therefore refers to that which he would imagine, as if after having sinned this tree would continue to be a sacrament of life. God did not want him to abuse the sacrament since he had forfeited the matter itself, that is, eternal life. It was the Lord’s will that he would now turn away from the broken covenant of works, and, being lost in himself, would put all his hope in the seed of the woman, which was promised to him immediately after the fall.
Adam’s Acceptance of the Conditions and Promises of the Covenant of Works
We have thus observed the activity of the one party: God giving the law to Adam, which in content was identical to the ten commandments, promising him that same eternal felicity which Christ has merited for the elect and grants unto them upon faith. We have observed that God gave the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as a sign of a probationary nature, and the tree of life as a sign of a sealing nature. Thus all the required conditions have been shown as far as the one side of the covenant is concerned.
We must now in addition bring into view the other party and his engagement, this being a prerequisite for a covenant transaction.
The other party is the human race in Adam who was adorned with the image of God, consisting of a flawless knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness. He therefore certainly knew both condition and promise, and was capable of fulfilling the condition. Since nothing is written concerning this, the question is, “Did he acquiesce in this covenant?” My response is that even though it is not expressly stated in Scripture, it can nevertheless be clearly deduced from it.
It is evident that Adam accepted the condition and the promise.
First of all, it occurs in Scripture that the promise of the covenant is mentioned relative to one of the parties, even though the reference is to the entire covenant.
For Genesis 3:15 states, “It (the Seed of the woman, Christ) shall bruise thy (the serpent’s) head.” It is certainly known that the covenant of grace was established here, and yet there is not one word mentioning Adam and Eve’s acceptance of this covenant. Since all the conditions of a covenant are mentioned as far as the one party is concerned, this necessarily implies the acquiescence of the other party.
Secondly, Adam was perfect and therefore, since God could rightfully command, and Adam, due to his perfect obedience could not refuse, he could not do otherwise than accept this condition and promise.
Could a rational creature, having a perfect knowledge of communion with God in a lesser degree, be anything but in love with and desirous for a higher degree of this most blessed communion? He could not do any differently—unless he were dehumanized through loss of intellect and love for his own well-being. Therefore, when such matters were promised to him, he could not but delight in, desire, and embrace them with all his heart—matters which, as we have just observed, were indeed promised to him. This is likewise true for the condition, for this was not only the way leading to felicity, but was his present felicity itself. This consisted in a perfect love for a most amiable God and subjection to a sovereign Lord who was worthy of obedience. This Adam possessed and this was his love, joy, and delight. Since he could not but accept the promise for the reason just mentioned, he also could not but accept the condition, since the promise and the condition did not differ in essence but merely in degree.
Thirdly, this is also evident from the conduct of all men.
Human nature teaches us to speak as follows: “I approve of the law as holy, just, and good. I approve of it; I conclude that I am obligated toward it, and acquiesce in this obligation, and deem this to be my duty. I willingly obligate myself to it, embracing the promise that upon obedience I shall receive heaven. Thus in seeing that natural man after the fall as yet acquiesces in both the promise and the condition, therefore much more could man in his perfection not do otherwise than accept both condition and promise.
Fourthly, the fact that Adam and Eve accepted the promise and condition is also evident in their refraining from and refusal to eat from the forbidden tree, the Lord having forbidden them to do so.
When there is obedience in response to a prohibition and a refusal to transgress, there is an acceptance of promise and condition. Such is the case here, as is evident from the history in Genesis 3. Consequently Adam and Eve accepted the condition and promise, and it therefore follows that there was a genuine covenant between God and man.
We may thus draw the conclusion which we have sought for and found. Whenever there is a law as a condition, promises related to the fulfillment of that condition, signs of a probationary as well as a sealing nature, namely, the acceptance of both condition and promise, there is then a covenant. All of this is true here, and thus there was a covenant between God and Adam. We make no mention here of Paradise nor the Sabbath, since we do not acknowledge either of these, nor the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, to be sacraments.
Additional Proof to Verify the Validity of the Covenant of Works
Proof #2: Having established the former, the following proof is that much more clear.
We base our proof on Hosea 6:7, “But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.” Here mention is made of a covenant—a covenant with Adam—and the breaking of a covenant. Two difficulties must be removed here: whether the word “Adam” ought to be translated as “man” here, the reference not being to Adam but rather to other men, and whether the word ברית (Berith) should not be translated as “law”; so that there is no reference to a covenant here at all.
My response to the first difficulty is as follows: Since the word “Adam” can be and frequently is translated as “man,” it does not, therefore, follow that it must be translated in such a manner here. Whoever insists on this must prove it, and this he will not be able to do. We maintain that in this text the word “Adam” is the proper name of the first man.
Our reasons for this are as follows:
(1) If one were to translate it with the word “man,” it would take away the emphasis of this text, for the words “as Adam” are added here to maximize rather than minimize the crime. What force of emphasis, yes, what purpose would there be to state that they had broken the covenant like other men who also are but members of the covenant. In order for them to transgress a covenant, they of necessity must be in the covenant; that is, they would have to transgress the covenant as they or their fellow members of the covenant did. This certainly makes no sense, and therefore Adam here refers to the first man.
(2) Frequently in the first book of Moses, and in Deuteronomy 32:8 and 1 Chronicles 1:1, the Holy Scriptures use the word “Adam” as the proper name of the first man, and we find this coalescence especially in Job 31:33. “If I covered my transgressions כּאדם (ke Adam) as Adam …” This is an express reference to Adam’s covering up his crime, and since the reference is to the first man, the proper name Adam must be used here. Since the reference in Hosea 6:7 is to a sin which Adam had committed, that is, a sin of a similar nature, why then not translate כּאדם (ke Adam) as “Adam”?
(3) The original text also does not present any reason to prevent us from using the proper name. No ה (emphaticum, a symbol for emphasis) may be placed next to a proper name. If, however, this word means “man” it is frequently accompanied by an ה. An ה is not used here, which would be most appropriate if the reference were to other men, whereas the word “Adam” is used with great emphasis here.
(4) The matter in question is true in regard to Adam. He was involved in a covenant as we have observed above. He has broken the covenant, and therefore we must maintain that the reference is to Adam as long as necessity does not compel us to conclude otherwise.
(5) It fits the context very well. It is God’s intent to demonstrate the magnitude of the sin of Judah and Ephraim by identifying the origin as well as the example for this sin. This sin was not only evil in and of itself, but it also had an evil origin, which made it all the more evil. This also amplified David’s sin, as is recorded in Psalm 51. This breach of covenant was a sin proceeding from the original covenant breach in Adam, and therefore all the more abominable. Having been abundantly blessed both corporeally and spiritually, Adam lightly, recklessly, and faithlessly broke the covenant. They, whom God had blessed so abundantly in body but also in soul by granting His Word and all the means of grace, followed in the similitude of Adam’s transgression by treacherously breaking God’s covenant. Thus, the words “as Adam” cause us to focus upon the first covenant breach of Adam, which is referred to here in order to amplify the sin of Judah and Ephraim.
The second argument, namely, that ברית (Berith) can be translated as “law” is also invalid, for we cannot logically conclude the actual meaning of a word from a possible meaning. Apart from this, however, I deny that the word Berith means “law.” Until this moment I have not encountered any example of this, although I do admit that it is called a covenant, viewing the law as a rule of the covenant. To my knowledge, however, this word never means “law.” This, therefore, confirms that the reference here is to covenant—a covenant which has been transgressed as Adam transgressed the covenant. Hence there was a covenant between God and Adam.
Exhortation to Reflect upon the Covenant of Works
Meditate frequently upon this covenant, in order that you may perceive to what a blessed state God had appointed the human race—and thus also you as far as your original state was concerned. How perfect, fitting, and even desirable are its conditions! How glorious are the promises, and how glorious it is to be in covenant with the all-glorious and infinitely good God! The dimensions of this are infinite.
Then proceed to the breach of the covenant and the needless, reckless, and wanton nature of the same. What an abominable deed it was!
From this perspective proceed to the righteousness of God and let the punishment and rejection of such covenant breakers meet with your approval. When considering the glory of this covenant, seek to amplify your actual and original sins. This beautiful covenant has now been broken, and an unconverted person who as yet has not been translated into the covenant of grace is still in the actual covenant of works. Therefore, as often as he sins, he breaks the covenant by renewal, remains subject to its curse, and increases it time and again.
Therefore look away from the covenant of works. It has been broken and salvation is no longer obtainable by it. This exhortation is necessary since even God’s children are often inclined to dwell upon their works, and accordingly, are either encouraged or discouraged. The unconverted are always desirous to perform something, being of the opinion that all can be made well with prayer and reformation; however, in this way, they shall be deceived. Let the covenant of grace be precious to you. Turn to the Mediator of this better covenant. Enter into this covenant, give heed to it, and consider the first man to be dead.
Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service