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The Distance between God and the Creature

After having created Adam in his image and placing him in the Garden of Eden, God entered into a covenant with him (Gen. 2:16–17). In Westminster Confession of Faith 7.1, the divines wrote,

The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.

There are several important things to note in this passage. First, upon creation and prior to the establishment of the covenant, Adam already knew God and owed him obedience merely from the fact that he was created in God’s image. God did not owe Adam anything, and Adam could in no way place God into his debt. Second, the type of fruition that the covenant affords is that of God as “blessedness and reward.” Adam already owed God personal, perfect, exact and entire obedience, though God voluntarily condescended to establish the covenant of works by which Adam could consummately come to know God in glory. In other words, he could ascend God’s holy hill (Psalm 24) through the gratuitous means God provided.

Westminster Confession of Faith 7.1 is not describing covenant as the means by which God ontologically or metaphysically condescends to creation. God does not assume new properties, attributes, or characteristics to do so. Neither does the confession speak of the covenant as the means by which Adam comes to know God generally—as if Adam would not even know that God existed apart from a covenant. The covenant is the means by which he may come to know God specifically as his blessedness and reward.

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