Of the Covenant of Works
Genesis 2:16-17
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat:…


1. For His own glory, which is the supreme end of all His actions. More particularly —

(1) To display the lustre of His manifold or variegated wisdom (Ephesians 3:10).

(2) To show His wonderful moderation. For though He be Sovereign Monarch of the world, and has absolute power over all creatures to dispose of them as He pleases, yet, in covenanting with man, He sweetly tempered His supremacy and sovereign power, seeking, as it were, to reign with man's consent.

(3) For the praise of the glory of His grace. It was free condescension on God's part to make such a promise to man's obedience.

(4) For venting His boundless love in the communications of His goodness to man.

(5) For the manifestation of His truth and faithfulness in keeping covenant with His creature, which could not otherwise have been so gloriously discovered.

(6) That He might be the more cleared and justified in resenting the injuries done Him by the disobedience of His creatures, with whom He had condescended to deal so graciously. For the more condescension and goodness there is on God's part, the greater ingratitude appears on man's part in trampling on the Divine goodness, But —

2. God condescended to enter into covenant with man for man's greater good.

(1) That thereby He might put the higher honour upon him.

(2) To bind him the faster to his duty. The Lord knew man's mutable state, and how slippery and inconstant the heart of man is, where confirming grace is not vouchsafed; therefore, to prevent this inconstancy incident to man, a finite creature, and to establish him in His obedience, He laid him under a covenant obligation to His service.

(3) That his obedience might be more cheerful, being that unto which he had willingly tied himself. God chose to rule man by his own consent, rather than by force.

(4) For his greater comfort and encouragement. By this he might clearly see what he might expect from God as a reward of his diligence and activity in His service.

(5) That He might manifest Himself to him, and deal with him the more familiarly. The dealing by way of covenant is the way of dealing betwixt man and man that hath least of distance in it, and most of familiarity, wherein parties come near to each other with greatest freedom.


1. See here the great and wonderful condescension of God, who was pleased to stoop so low as to enter into a covenant with His own creature.

2. See what a glorious condition man was in when God entered into a covenant with him.

3. See that God is very just in all that comes on man. He set him up with a good stock, in a noble case, making him His covenant party. He gave him the noblest undeserved encouragement to continue in his obedience, and told him his hazard if he should disobey. So that falling he is left without excuse, his misery being entirely owing to himself.

4. See the deplorable condition of all Adam's posterity by reason of the breach of this covenant. They are under the curse of the law, which is an universal curse, and discharges its thunder against every person who is naturally under that covenant, and has not changed his state.

5. This serves to humble all flesh, and beat down the pride of all created glory, under the serious consideration of the great loss we have sustained by Adam's fall, and the sad effects thereof upon us. We Have lost all that is good and valuable, the image and favour of God, and have incurred the wrath and displeasure of a holy God.

6. See the unsearchable riches of Divine grace, in providing a better covenant for the recovery and salvation of fallen man.

7. There is no wonder, that however little good is wrought in the world, yet working to win heaven is so frequent. We have sufficient evidence of the covenant of works being made with man as a public person, seeing it is yet natural to us to do that we may live, and to think that God will accept us for our works' sake.

8. See your misery, all ye that are out of Christ. This covenant is your way to heaven, which is now impossible. Tell not of your good meanings and desires, your repentance, and your obedience, such as it is; and think not to get life, salvation, and acceptance thereby. For the covenant ye are under admits of no repentance, no will for the deed. It requires nothing less than perfect obedience, which ye are incapable to give.

9. Therefore give over this way of seeking life by the broken covenant of works, and come to the Lord Jesus Christ; lay hold on the better covenant, and come up to Christ's chariot (Song of Solomon 3:9, 10), which will drive you safely to eternal life and glory. That chariot which the first Adam drove, went not far till it was all shattered, and made unfit to carry any to heaven. It breaks with the weight of the least sin; and so you can never think it will drive to heaven with you (Romans 8). But come into the chariot of the covenant of grace, and ye will be safely carried in it to the land of eternal rest and glory.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

WEB: Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;

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