Heard & Seen
Chapter 4.2, Part Two
ii. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.
As we conclude our study of the Confession's teaching on creation, we should note how focused the divines were on the redemptive message of the Bible. We rightly distinguish between the Bible's teaching on creation and redemption, but the Confession reminds us how they are related.
In this respect, the Confession first reminds us of Adam's spiritual and moral ability prior to the Fall. He was "endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness." What a fitting covenant head Adam was for the human race! Adam and Eve had "the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it." Our first parents were able to obey God and to live without sin. Reading these words, we are reminded of all that we have lost through the calamity of sin! The Fall was possible because Adam and Eve had "a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change."
Reformed theology strongly rejects the Arminian doctrine of free will, except when it comes to Adam. Prior to the Fall, Adam was created with a truly free will, since he had the ability both to honor God through obedience and to rebel against God in transgression. After the Fall, man in sin possesses only the latter (see Eph. 2:1-3). In Adam, we also see the relationship between righteousness and happiness. While Adam and Eve kept God's law, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures." So it is for God's people today, that having been restored to spiritual ability by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, we now find happiness through lifestyles that are obedient to God's Word and experience at least a partial restoration of the dominion which Adam lost (see 2 Cor. 3:18).
The Confession particularly wants to emphasize that Adam was not in covenant with God only in a general sense but also in a specific covenant. While God's Covenant with Man falls under the heading of chapter 7, it is impossible fully to treat man's created state without noting the Covenant of Works: "Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (see Gen. 2:16-17) All of history was shaped by Adam's disobedience of this command, with the subsequent Fall of the human race into the condemnation and corruption of sin. Between mankind today and the blessings Adam and Eve once enjoyed in the Garden stands the historical reality of the Fall.
All the rest of the Bible presents God's grand redemptive plan to overcome the Fall into sin and its consequences. To undo what Adam did in sin, mankind will need a new covenant head, the Lord Jesus Christ, who did not break God's commands and who perfectly fulfilled God's covenant of works, so that through union with Christ in faith believers may be saved from Adam's sin and our own (see Rom. 5:18-19). In this life, believers in Christ receive a righteousness gained by Christ and a partial, though increasing, restoration of our natures in knowledge and true holiness. When Christ's covenant of grace has fully achieved its harvest work, Adam's offspring will experience in Christ the fullness of the blessing that God intended through Creation as we enjoy the new heavens and the new earth in the return of the Second Adam, the Lord Jesus.
As we consider all that Adam lost through sin - "knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness" after God's own image - we are reminded of the glorious restoration that we are now experiencing through faith, and we are motivated to enter more fully now into the blessings appointed by God for those who are in Christ.