The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity,upon condition of perfect and personal obedience. - WCF 7.2
We affirm that Adam was in a covenant of life with the triune God in the Garden of Eden, in which arrangement Adam was required to obey God completely, from the heart. We hold further that all such obedience, had it occurred, would have been rendered from a heart of faith alone, in a spirit of loving trust. Adam was created to progress from immature glory to mature glory, but that glorification too would have been a gift of grace, received by faith alone.
We deny that continuance in this covenant in the Garden was in any way a payment for work rendered. Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by disobedience, but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam's moral exertions or achievements. In line with this, we affirm that until the expulsion from the Garden, Adam was free to eat from the tree of life. We deny that Adam had to earn or merit righteousness, life, glorification, or anything else.
Periodically, great Homer nods and I believe that is the case here. While there is no necessary problem with the doctrine, the Westminster divines have badly named this covenant. To call this covenant with Adam a covenant “of works” leads people to confuse it either with the Old Testament economy, or with pharisaical distortions of the law. This misunderstanding is evident in the scriptural reference given for this point. To call it works opposes it, in the scriptural terminology, to grace. But the covenant given to Adam prior to the Fall was in no way opposed to grace. It would be far better to call this pre-Fall covenant a covenant of creation. In this covenant, life was promised to Adam and his descendents as the fruit of perfect and personal obedience. But notice the word fruit—as a covenant of creation, grace is not opposed to it, and permeates the whole. If by “covenant of works” is meant raw merit, then we have to deny the covenant of works. But if this covenant made with Adam was inherently gracious (as many Reformed theologians have held), then the only problem is the terminological one. And, with regard to whether the covenant was gracious, a simple thought experiment will suffice. If Adam had withstood temptation successfully, would he have had any obligation to say “thank You” to God. If not, then it is not a gracious covenant. If so, then it was. (Source Link)
There are some crucial things here. The name "covenant of works" is dangerous because the Scriptures use the terms to define Pharisaical and legalistic "works righteousness". These ideas and concepts should not be found in God's covenant with Adam since Adam had no righteousness he needed to "merit". these perversions are opposed to the grace of Christ while Adam's covenant was founded in the predestined lamb of God.
I love the language of "fruit of perfect and personal obedience". I think this is consistent with the New Testament writers calling believers to produce fruit in a non-legalistic manner. The beauty of repentance is that it brings forth a renewal of the Adamic state and a call to produce in the garden God has given us.
My discussion of the Covenant of Grace is going to slip into September. Hopefully the long break doesn't make everyone forget all the good stuff.
Joshua Torrey is the sole proprietor of Torrey Gazette (don't tell Alaina) and the fullness of its editorial process. That means everything wrong with TG can legitimately be blamed on him.