Did Adam Need a Law?


For my anthropology class in my systematic theology course, one of our assigned readings is Wilhelmus a Brakel’s “A Christian’s Reasonable Service.” I am currently reading the chapter in his first volume that is on the covenant of works before Adam’s fall into sin. I find it to be an excellent read. It is straightforward, clear, and is educating me on this fascinating issue, and I am discovering that I am fairly ignorant of the vast details of this doctrine. Since I enjoy it so much, I will share the bits that I have found striking, enlightening, or stimulating, and I won’t limit it strictly to things found in this chapter

This first post will piece together two select quotes that I think succinctly show Adam’s need of a law. It shows that mankind’s natural knowledge or rationale does not determine what is good, nor is it knowing that something is good is that which makes it good. Also, by virtue of Adam’s dependency upon God, not only for his physical existence and sustenance, but especially for his rationale and will that moves him, a law was necessary.

p. 356

“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. [emphasis mine]

“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 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.”

p. 357-8

“…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.”

One of my professors translated a Brakel’s volumes- Here is his site: http://www.abrakel.com/


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