THE FEDERAL THEOLOGY OF NEHEMIAH COXE: The Covenant of Works
Coxe’s treatise discusses God’s covenants with Adam, Noah, and Abraham. It is constructed in a linear-historical trajectory from creation, to fall, to redemption in typical federal fashion.
Covenant of Works
Coxe holds a robust federal view of the covenant of works. He called it the covenant of creation, covenant of works, covenant of friendship, and a covenant of rich bounty and goodness. Coxe held that God created Adam in his image with the law written in his heart. It was the sum of this law that was promulgated on Mount Sinai and delivered more briefly by our Lord “who reduced it to two great commandments respecting our duty both to God and our neighbor…” Added to this moral law was “a positive precept in which he charged man not to eat of the fruit of one tree in the midst of the garden of Eden. The covenant of works or creation was not co-extensive with creation but an addition to it. Coxe says:
In this lies the mystery of the first transaction of God with man and of his relationship to God founded on it. This did not result immediately from the law of his creation but from the disposition of a covenant according to the free, sovereign, and wise counsel of God’s will. Therefore, although the law of creation is easily understood by men (and there is little controversy about it among those that are not degenerate from all principles of reason and humanity), yet the covenant of creation, the interest of Adam’s posterity with him in it, and the guilt of original sin returning on them by it, are not owned by the majority of mankind. Nor can they be understood except by the light of divine revelation.
It is not from any necessity of nature that God enters into covenant with men but of his own good pleasure. Such a privilege and nearness to God as is included in covenant interest cannot immediately result from the relationship which they have to God as reasonable creatures, though upright and in a perfect state.
Adam had “the promise of an eternal reward on condition of his perfect obedience to these laws.” The tree of life functioned sacramentally as “a sign and pledge of that eternal life which Adam would have obtained by his own personal and perfect obedience to the law of God if he had continued in it.” Adam’s violation of the positive precept of Genesis 2:17 was also a violation of “that eternal law that is written in his heart.”
 For an outline of Coxe’s treatise where this can be observed easily see Richard C. Barcellos, “Appendix One: Outline of Coxe” in Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 313-15.  Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 39, 46, 49, 53, 58.  Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 45, 49, 53.  Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 49, 51. This seems to be dependent upon Cocceius.  Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 49.  Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 43. For a brief survey of the highly nuanced view of the functions of the Decalogue in redemptive history in Reformed orthodoxy see my The Family Tree of Reformed Biblical Theology: The Method of and Contributions to the articulation of Redemptive History of Geerhardus Vos and John Owen (Owensboro, KY: RBAP, 2010), 277-297.  Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 43.  Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 49.  Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 36.  Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 44, 51. Coxe gives three proofs with discussion for the promise of an eternal reward on pages 45-46.  Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 45. Coxe justifies this function of the tree of life as follows: “The allusion that Christ makes to it in the New Testament (Revelation 2:7). …The method of God’s dealing with Adam in reference to this tree after he had sinned against him and the reason assigned for it by God himself [i.e., Genesis 3:22ff.]. …This also must not be forgotten: that as Moses’ law in some way included the covenant of creation and served for a memorial of it (on which account all mankind was involved in its curse), it had not only the sanction of a curse awfully denounced against the disobedient, but also a promise of the reward of life to the obedient. Now as the law of Moses was the same in moral precept with the law of creation, so the reward in this respect was not a new reward, but the same that by compact had been due to Adam, in the case of his perfect obedience.” Here Coxe is articulating Owen’s (and others’) view of the function of the covenant of works under the Mosaic covenant.  Coxe and Owen, Covenant Theology, 43, 51.