The Covenant of Life

by Josiah Audette

Dominion ManQ. 20 (Q. 12 in the Shorter Catechism): What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created? 

A.: The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death. 

INTRODUCTION

It is my impossible task today to give complete justice to and glorification of God’s providence. Despite my utter inability to fulfill such demands, I hope give at least some inspiration today with the Words of God on his most holy, wise, and powerful special acts of providence towards us. Providence, as I concluded with my last message, should imbue us with an awareness of our independent worth in the eyes of God. True understanding of Providence, an understanding which bridges the gap of the acknowledgments of our mind with the affections of our heart, will demystify and clarify the purposes God has summoned us toward. Providence will both encourage and edify the disposition of our mind and the deportment of our actions in the Christian life. The Christian therefore ought to always recall God’s providential acts, that they might preserve themselves from the grumbling and murmuring spirit we read of in Exodus of the forgetful nation of Israel. Providence gives us mastery over that melancholic angst which, if not fought, would otherwise keep us laid up in the slough of despond. So today we review the first and a foremost special act of God’s providence, The Covenant of Life. God gloriously revealed this gracious act with our first father and representative, Adam in Genesis 2. Within this first covenant, God establishes five institutions which are central to the development of His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

INSTITUTION OF PROPERTY

The first institution established by God was that of private-property. “Placing him in paradise… putting the creatures under his domain.” Christians today, influenced by neoplatonic dualism, have often mistakenly disowned the material as a “fleshly” form of bondage to the spiritual man. This is far from the original intent of God who by his exclusive and active role in creating all things physical imbued within them His signature of worth, beauty, and significance. Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that therein is; the world and they that dwell therein.” God’s first special act of providence was to establish physical property, together with its commodities, provisions and fruits, flora and fauna, as the instrument man would utilize to fulfill the Covenant of Life. Property was given as the infrastructure of Christendom, the implement of dominion, and the milieu for the accomplishment of the Covenant. “Then the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, that he might dress it, and keep it.” “Let us make man in our image according to our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heaven, and over the beasts, and over all the earth, and over everything that crept and moveth on the earth.” We read also “The heavens, even the heavens are the Lord’s: but he hath given the earth to the sons of men.” Ps. 115:16.

INSTITUTION OF WORK

The second institution of God by his decree and example in the Covenant of Life was work.   “Appointing him to dress it.” Work in a much neglected sense, is God-like. Because God directed this precedent by His own working in the acts of creation and providence. Furthermore distinguished by his subsequent rest from work. In addition to being instituted by way of precedent, it is also established by way of command to, “dress it, and keep it.” In this sense we must be earthly minded to be of any heavenly good. We were created as stewards of creation, trustee’s of God’s property, representative servants of our master. Contrary to popular opinion, work, specifically physical labour, is a blessing instituted in the pre-fall garden and not a curse of the post-fall. We deceive ourselves when we consider the mundane, physical labor of a “blue-collar” job to be far beneath the grand and glorious enterprise of the dominion mandate. Contrarily, the dominion mandate, the garden of Eden, and the Covenant of Life, ascribe nobility and dignity to the accomplishments of the manual labourer, the blue-collar worker, and the average layman. There is no greater substantiation to the principle of the dignity of manual work than in God’s own selection for Adam’s vocation, namely, agriculture. Of all the vocations, callings, tasks, and accomplishments which God could easily ask of Adam, the prevailing, pertinent, and positive venture He required was that which is the most elementary, laborious, and average to our human experience. Consider just for a moment the unbelievable precedent the Creator of the Universe established in appointing the representative of humanity to the position of field labourer. Consider for a moment the incalculable worth and preeminence that manual labor has been endowed with by such a decree. Then rejoice and look at your own callous hands, and reconsider just how much pride and joy you have every right to claim in your glorious vocation. The whole tenor of Scripture, with its examples, its hero’s, and its exhortations are not given to the aristocratic, the fortuned, the noble, the mighty, but given to the lunchpail worker. God has and does build economies, nations, Christ’s own family line, Christ’s own vocation, and societies from that same manly labor, that intelligent labor, and that independent labor of our forefather Adam. Manual work is dominion work. E.C. Wines notes the effect of the centrality of manual, agricultural labour in Hebrew society, “It is the nurse of the human rase… It is the nurse of health, industry, temperance, cheerfulness and frugality; of simple manners and pure morals; of patriotism and domestic virtues; and, above all, of that sturdy independence, without which a man is not a man, but a mere slave… In a word, this great business, the cultivation of the earth, lies, so far as any branch of human industry can be said to lie, at the foundation of all that is important and valuable in civil society.” Thus it is by work, productivity, procreativity, and dominion that the totality of a man’s life reflects the likeness of God’s ultimate work, creation, and sovereignty.

INSTITUTION OF PATRIARCHY

“Then the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, that he might dress it, and keep it.” The institution of dominion work was inherited by the institution of the godly patriarch to which all the men here today are a part of, and at some point us sons as well. We have received, or will receive, a noble and high calling. By nature we all have this dominion passion, this dominion orientation. But if you are as myself, you wonder how being just an average layman in the church and a lunchpail worker in society can amount to anything in the scope of the dominion mandate. This doubt is only reinforced when we hear of great, historic men in the church and in nations who changed the course of history for the glory of God and are are only left with a profound sense of smallness, maybe emptiness or even futility in our own lives. Unfortunately, men have been confused about the inherent worth of their calling in life by the Roman Catholic influence of dualism. Where the sacred and the secular are placed in opposition one to another and you are left either with selecting a sacred vocation in life or a secular vocation in life. Furthermore we are wrongly informed that in order to be a part of the dominion work our professions have to be validated by the appropriate authorities. We have to be validated by the church bishopric if we are to pursue a sacred vocation. Or we have to be validated by the government bureaucracy of schooling institutions to rightly pursue a secular calling. This marginalizes a vast majority of Christian men with neither church or state validation and who know not whether to pursue a secular or sacred calling. Who are now discouraged from labouring in the church and in the nation due to this artificial distinction. The great doctrine from the Reformation of the priesthood of all believers shattered these myths. We can now boldly declare because of the priesthood of all believers that all men, noble or peasantry, are peers in Christ. All men can join the dominion work and serve God and serve him honourably in their professions. The success of the institution of patriarchal manhood pivots upon the right understanding of the institution of dominion work. Dominion men conduct dominion work in primarily four areas as Geoffrey Botkin acutely observes. Firstly, dominion men are family men. They are managers either their inherited or personally pioneered family estates of physical and spiritual capital for their future multi-generational succession to enlarge upon. Dominion men are also churchmen of militant, Kingdom oriented local churches. None are devoid of responsibility within the church as they are either to be officers in it or bold supporters of her officers through prayer and active service. Dominion men are thirdly statesmen who start in their community. They are nation builders who reconstruct godly order in their communities starting in the home, to the church, to the community, to the community of nations. Dominion men, lastly, are businessmen. Stewarding and enlarging every physical and spiritual asset which makes the dominion work possible. They are business resource developers and service providers to a free economy. The average man who seeks first the Kingdom simultaneously in these four areas will advance the dominion of Christ. These spheres are small and limited but they are monumental in transforming nations. Greatness does not constitute a dominion man, rather a dominion man is what constitutes true greatness.

INSTITUTION OF THE MULTI-GENERATIONAL FAMILY

The centrality of the patriarchal, multi-generational family within the dominion work is a theological fact with an eschatological framework. “Be fruitful and multiply.” In God’s Kingdom the first shall be last and the last shall be first. First in God’s dream-job list, and last in human consideration, is manual labour. Similarly, first in God’s government authority, and last in human tendency, is the family unit. Church, state, and self-government are indeed additional establishments in Scripture, but none so central as the basic family unit. God bestowed the high calling of the dominion mandate and bequeathed property with its social power and material provision to Adam and his family. By way of precedent, God has thus established the family and its future succeeding generations, not the church or state, as the primary institution responsible for the work of dominion. This established the family in two areas. Firstly it established the family, not individuals or social classes, as the basic unit of social government. As dominion labouring families our first and foremost mandate is a family government of holiness. Without holiness we cannot accomplish our covenant job. Similarly, without pursuing our covenant job, holiness cannot be fulfilled in our families. Dominion thus means holiness, and holiness in return means dominion. The dominion family is a holy family, you cannot have one without the other. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be ministered unto you.”  Secondly, the family was also not only established as the centre of government, but as the centre of industry, the basic economic unit. Family estate provided the family with power to govern society in holiness and provided the family with material provisions to invest in dominion. Wealth and gain were to be cultivated from the land and retained in the family estate and improved upon by succeeding family generations. This God designed centralization of power and property in the family is the highest safeguard to tyranny and the greatest asset to the dominion work. The average family who is seeking first the Kingdom in the areas of family holiness and family estate and family enterprise can and will extend the crown rights of King Jesus. Godly families command the future as they command the children, estate, enterprises, inheritance, welfare, and education in their homes. Our families may be little things but they are colossal in transforming nations. It was not to aristocratic associations, nor to political societies, nor to corporate boards, nor even to church elders that was given the trusteeship of God’s earthly property or the responsibility of building a godly society on earth, it was the family. We will lead empty houses and abandoned estates and dwindling generations if we fail to recapture this responsibility. It will require us critically rethinking all areas of life and thought from this perspective. Geoffrey Botkin so beautifully stated, “The home is the incubator of Christendom, the engine of renewal and reformation, the centre of dominion and warfare, a powerhouse of discipleship, ministry, and evangelism.”  When parents are shortsighted in this, and forget the centrality of the family in God’s society, the duties of the family in godly work and generational fruitfulness, and the future of the family in rebuilding culture we rob our children of purpose, our communities from blessing, ourselves from joy, and God from glory.

INSTITUTION OF FEMININITY & MARRIAGE

“And ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself.” Another institution of God’s special providence is the marriage between the patriarch and his help-meet. “It is not good that the man should be himself alone: I will make him an help meet for him.” The very reason for the establishment of this institution and the foremost quality of it has been forgotten in the main. Marriage and femininity were founded upon the exact same objective as patriarchy and that is namely, work. Marriage was created for work. Femininity was designed for work. As much as Adam, our representative patriarch, received the noble calling of dominion labor, so too was Eve’s high calling to help assist him to this very end. Contrary to our Jane-Austen-like perception of femininity, Eve was not created just as a decorative ornament of beauty in the garden, nor as an idle accessory to Adam’s lifestyle, nor as an adornment of life accomplishment for Adam. In our day where the greatness of femininity is evaluated based upon how greatly removed a woman is from manual labour it is difficult to recognize that God’s design for femininity was the very manual labour which it so despises today. Inour culture, depictions of the great-age-of-femininity during the Victorian period in shows such as Road to Avonlea, Pride & Prejudice,  Mr. Selfridge, or Dowton Abbey present to us a state of womanhood that was characterized by being objects of delicacy, household ornaments of daintiness, practically useless, economically burdensome, and humorously unhelpful to a man’s work. Sure, we celebrate the notion that they were stay-at-home mothers and daughters but we are completely oblivious to their absolutely deplorable way of living, or better stated lack of living, in the home. Historian Frank Dawes writes of femininity in the Victorian era, “Women of the Victorian and Edwardian middle classes regarded a life of complete idleness as being essential to maintaining their position in life. If they put a piece of coal on the fire, lifted a duster or answered a doorbell, they were ‘letting their husbands down.’ Or worse, depriving a needy person of employment. So, during the Great Age of Servants, a whole class of women was reared that was incapable of performing even the simplest domestic services for itself. These gentle mistresses never had to make a pot of tea, wash a cup, darn a sock, post a letter, or even brush their own hair.” Obviously we do not live to such a extreme degree, but nonetheless we can have a misguided tendency to be attracted and even aspire to such an idealized feminine deportment. We may even begin to despise or devalue our own manual work in the family, home, and estate. We may begin to instead hold our past-times as more woman-like than our times of productivity. In the Biblical Hebrew society where femininity was defined by its industriousness and gain, fathers received monetary payment for their daughter’s hands in marriage from the suitor. This was a fair and understandable recognition of a daughter’s economic profitability in the family unit and just compensation for taking her away. This Biblical principle was foisted on its petard during the Victorian era where fathers now had to pay suitors to take their daughter’s hands in marriage. The moral of the story is this, when women are of no economic value because they do not participate in the dominion work of the family you can’t even give them away, literally. In Biblical femininity there is no distinction between stay-at-home and work or between the home and the workplace. Because in the family economy work and the workplace is within the home. By home I mean more than the walls of a residence, I mean within the family enterprise whenever that work may be conducted geographically. As you may begin to see, all of these institutions created as a special act of God’s providence are homogeneously tied together. The institution of marriage and femininity was created as an integral advantage to the institution of patriarchy, the fruit of which is the institution of the multi-generational family to whom was given the institution of property that the institution of dominion work could be fulfilled. If femininity is segregated or isolated from the institution of work or the institution of the family or any of the other institutions, or vice versa, the covenant falls apart and these institutions are destroyed.

PRESENT STATUS OF THE COVENANT OF LIFE

While a covenant by nature is eternal, there are elements obviously of this covenant which have changed as we are all well aware of. Firstly, the human race is no longer on probation. Our  first father and representative Adam broke the “Condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge” by   eating “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.” However there are elements an institutions of this covenant which remain and our binding upon us today. Obviously marriage, patriarchy, property, family, and dominion work were not abrogated by the fall. Furthermore that intimate communion with God which our forefather Adam experienced still remains for those who live in terms of the Covenant of Life. As a matter of fact the terms of the Covenant of Life are still in existence to this day of “personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience.” The pledge of this covenant, the tree of life, also still exists awaiting the covenant keepers. But as we are all painfully aware, we broke the covenant and destroyed the institutions in Adam. While the pledge, the blessings, and the benefits of the covenant remain we cannot attain to them for our transgressions and the transgressions of our First Adam. However, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by that obedience of that one, shall many also be made righteous.” God executed yet another special act of providence in the representative, mediator of Jesus Christ to restore us from the position of covenant-breakers to covenant-keepers. Once again we are re-established in the work of godly dominion. Once again we have the responsibility to resume the mandate given to Adam to subdue the earth to the glory of God. At the Lord’s Table today let us remember our restoration to covenant keeping, our receiving the benefits of the covenant, our duty to restore the institutions of the covenant, and how Christ has won this for us to His glory.

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