Of Creation | 1689 4:3
- Besides the law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which whilst they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.
The Confession here plants two seeds that grow into important doctrines in later chapters.
The first seed is the mention of “the law written in their hearts.” This is a reference to what is also called the moral law or natural law. In chapter 19 this becomes an important and foundational concept in the Confession’s treatment of the law of God. The Ten Commandments are said to be the comprehensive summary of the law written in the heart. The law written in the heart and therefore passed down to all Adam’s posterity confirms that there is a moral law which forever binds all men in all ages. It is this law which Christ fulfilled and for which He suffered. With the massive confusion in our day with regard to God’s moral law spread by Dispensationalism, New Covenant Theology, and other deviant views, the concept of the law written in the heart is critical. The classic, biblical witness to this law is what Paul writes in Romans 2:14-15: “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”
The Covenant of Works
The second seed planted in this paragraph is the statement that “Besides the law written in their hearts, they received a command …” This is the first reference to the covenant of works in the Confession—a concept vital to Reformed covenant theology and to the vital distinction between law and grace.
This reference to a law “besides” that written in the heart is vital in another respect. It shows that there are some laws of God which are not unchanging. The Confession will teach in a number of laws that there are two kinds of laws: those which are natural and unchanging and those which are “positive”—that is added to the laws written in the heart—which may and do change. The command to keep the seventh day as the sabbath or rest day and the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are two such examples. Because they were positive, the civil and ceremonial laws given in the Old Testament also passed away and are no longer binding on the believer.
This distinction between natural laws written in the heart and positive laws given in addition to nature is vital to understanding what biblical laws now bind Christians and which do not.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.